Much of life can be described as routine.
Most of a person’s life is spent doing the same thing, over and over again, without fail, every day. There are, of course, moments when this routine is broken, when something irregular happens, but it is precisely the deviation from the routine that lends these events lasting impressions or special attentions. Yet, after these events, once the dust clears, all that is left is, again, routine in some form – though perhaps it might be somewhat changed.
A marriage is one such break from routine. The couple, living routine lives, enter into their engagement period, a sum of months to years which displays another routine. At the end of this period, they are married and have their honeymoon – but after the magic of the honeymoon fades, what remains is the routine of married life. Perhaps they then have a child, signalling another break, but shortly after they settle into the routine of parenting. Perhaps one of them should die early, but then the other – after the initial mourning period – settles into the routine of being a widowed spouse.
This cycle of routine-deviation-routine extends to all fields – businesses operate within these cycles, though they recognise it more clearly as the fiscal cycle of boom-recession-boom. Militaries operate within this cycle. Governments operate within these cycles. None are free from the tyranny of routine.
Naturally, this tyranny extends to other worlds, as well.
Everything that had happened to me from the moment I found myself in this world – Rosalind’s hospitality, the start of my work at the tavern, the arrival and departure of Ruth, as well as the subsequent conjecture of her death and Rosalind’s period of mourning – were breaks from routine, a succession of events out of the norm. However, once all that had passed, I quickly gave in to the tendency of humanity and settled into a routine.
Every day started with me waking up at noon. Rosalind was usually already awake and downstairs by then – I had never actually seen her sleep. Donning my work attire – which was invariably laundered and neatly folded on my desk when I awoke – I would make my way down, where Rosalind would greet me with a smile while doing a check on our remaining stocks. The two of us would work together to get the tavern in shape to open in the evening, and when that was done, I would go and flip the little board that sat outside our house from “Closed” to “Open”.
Of course, even though we opened early in the afternoon, nobody would come in for drinks until it started getting dark. As a result, we sat by the counter and chatted for a bit, where I would tell her tales of my exploits and battles in the War of the Six, or otherwise of the life I had left behind in my original world. In return, she would share stories of growing up in this small town and her life here. She would speak with wistfulness about her desire to leave the town and travel around the world, like Ruth, but was unable to do so due to two reasons: first, she lacked the finances necessary to make such a trip. The idea of travelling the country on foot was romantic, but impractical, especially with bandits and thieves roaming the countryside. Even disregarding the added convenience that a vehicle would provide, it was necessary, if one wished to travel in safety, to either hire mercenary escort or to learn the sword. Rosalind had not the money for the former, nor the aptitude for the latter, so this presented an obstacle. The second reason she was unable to leave this town was the Ezov – she couldn’t bear to let this tavern, built on the capital inherited from her parents and supported by the business connections of Ruth, close down. If there was someone she could count on to run it in her place, it would be a different matter, but she lacked the money to hire someone to manage the tavern. Besides, tavern patronage was largely based on familiarity and connections. If Rosalind was to leave, she would likely lose a good number of regulars.
Of course, my presence could alleviate one of these difficulties. I was skilled in combat, and I was more than willing to tag along with her if she should choose to travel the world. After all, it would tie into my own objective of finding out whatever I was supposed to be searching for in this world. If she would only ask, I would accompany her and travel – but that left the problem on the tavern. So even with my presence, she was trapped in this town by her own volition. However, every time we spoke of this matter, she would end the discussion with a resolution that she would make it work somehow – she would make the tavern successful enough to be left to a hire, then travel the world. It was a simple goal, but simple goals were often the best.
Occasionally, while we chatted in this manner, a customer would enter the tavern. Getting off our barstools, we would each set about our duties – I would entertain the guest, while Rosalind would prepare the food. On these occasions, the patron was the only one in the tavern – often, the patron would be in low spirits. After all, to be in a tavern at that kind of timing usually indicated that something untoward had occurred – such as losing one’s job, or perhaps arguing with one’s spouse. It would be a different matter if this tavern were in a big city, where people were constantly coming and going, but in a smaller town like ours, daytime patrons were rare.
On those occasions, when there were no other customers to worry about and our only customer was feeling down, Rosalind would try to cheer them up with a song. Her beautiful, sweet voice bore with it a special quality that touched the listener’s heart – even if a patron came in with a grim face and frustration in his eyes, if they listened to Rosalind’s song, they would invariably calm down and leave with a lighter step, a more hopeful step. Whenever I heard her sing, I, too, found myself falling into a stupor of serenity. Her voice made me feel like anything weighing me down, all my worries and troubles, were nothing; her song made me feel a sense of hope. It was a bizarre effect that I could only attribute to Rosalind’s magic. Her special magic was one which ‘Cleansed’ objects of stains and taint – perhaps it also ‘Cleansed’ the listener’s heart of worries.
Going back to the routine, when the crowd started pouring in at night, the tavern got livelier by far – people started arriving in droves. The novelty that had caused my first night to be a resounding success had, as expected, worn out after a fortnight, and so the crowds were much thinner on average, but we still did reasonably well. Since I had reached the level where I could cook as well as Rosalind, we started taking 2-hour shifts of cooking and entertaining the guests, allowing us both to hear the stories we desperately wanted to – Rosalind because she wanted to know more about the world, myself because I was constantly listening out for anything which might ignite a spark of recognition. At night, due to the volume of guests, Rosalind did not sing – she was too busy handling orders or speaking with guests to sing. As such, the only people who knew about her beautiful voice and its strange power were the few regulars and the unusual people who visited during the day – and those people preferred to keep that information to themselves. It was, in my opinion, a shame that her voice went unheard, but I, too, could understand the desire to monopolise it. It was a beautiful voice.
Speaking with the guests, many of them came to know me by name, and I came to learn their names in turn. The women seemed especially interested in me, for whatever reason. I might have imagined it, but several of them seemed a bit disappointed to find out I was a woman myself. Still, they shared with me tales of their troubles at home, troubles which I honestly could not sympathise with – being an unmarried woman with no children – but that I lent a listening ear to nonetheless. Many of these ladies joined our group of regulars, amusingly taking turns with their spouses. Their husbands would come in while it was Rosalind’s turn to entertain, and would be replaced by them when it came my turn to mingle.
The last patron usually left the bar at about three or four in the morning, whereupon we cleaned up, had a light drink to celebrate, then retired to bed. Or at least, I retired to bed. Rosalind preferred to spend some time in her room penning down the stories she had heard. It amazed me that she was able to be so energetic while seemingly not getting nearly enough sleep, but I shrugged it off as more magic that I could not understand. Perhaps she ‘Cleansed’ her fatigue, or something similar – that was my belief.
My days passed like this, following this routine. We opened every day of the week. Once a week, we would wake up a little earlier to meet the merchant who supplied us meats. Twice a month, we would go to the market and shop. In this manner, days, weeks, and then months passed. Settling into this routine, before I knew it, a year had passed from the day I arrived in this land. While I had never forgotten my initial objective of trying to figure out what I was supposed to be looking for, the lack of progress was astounding, and I had pushed the matter to the back of my mind, such that I would not fall into frustration at the fact. I was content with this routine I followed, this simple, yet somehow satisfying life. I was always able to hear new, fresh stories, and I enjoyed my work of interacting with the guests. Furthermore, Rosalind and I had bonded and grown into great friends, who took comfort in each others’ presence. Even back in my world, there was nobody I had grown close to in the same way that I had grown closer to Rosalind, and so I was undaunted at the possibility that I would never find what I had forgotten – in its place, I had Rosalind by my side and a fulfilling job, and that was enough to make me content. It was a peaceful life – perhaps it would be okay to simply live quietly in this world, passing my days by working and talking with Rosalind. That was the conclusion I had reached.
Unfortunately, fate is never quite that simple.