Opening Night

Why do people drink alcohol?

If one considers the whole, long list of reasons why one might have cause to drink, it quickly becomes clear that the justifications for drinking are contradictory and vague in nature. Sorrow and pain are causes that justify drinking to forget, but at the same time, we also drink in celebration. Perhaps we consider it a social activity, where one drinks in a group as a matter of bonding. Yet how do we explain the myriad of people who drink on their own, in the privacy of their homes, with no partners around them? If we consider the many conflicting reasons as to why people drink alcohol, it seems that many of them are closer to excuses than actual justifications.

With that in mind, the question that follows is as such: what makes alcohol so alluring, such that mankind makes excuses for the sole purpose of drinking? Alcohol dulls one’s senses and loosens one’s tongue. It lets one forget – however temporarily – one’s troubles and the pressures that society forces on an individual. And in forgetting these pressures, one is better able to express those things which society would like suppressed – those inner thoughts and troubles that plague the mind. The removal of inhibitions further allows one to truly express their joy when it comes to celebrations. Alcohol provides a sensation of catharsis and liberation.

Therefore, if one is to offer a substitute for alcohol, it has to provide that same degree of liberation; it has to provide that same sense of catharsis. However, the allure of alcohol exists precisely because such a sensation is difficult to duplicate through other means – the closest equivalent would be other narcotic substances. The problem of how we were to keep our alcohol-loving customers even when we stopped serving alcohol could be solved by providing an alternative. In our situation, the most readily available alternative was Rosalind’s singing.

The crowd in the tavern fell silent as Rosalind took a step forward in her blue dress. An air of quiet anticipation ran through the tavern, as all eyes fell on her, waiting for her to begin. She took a deep breath in and out, then closed her eyes as the song left her lips.

A night of amber; a night of birth

Two hearts entwined, yet bore no mirth

The sound of tears was that night’s refrain

That night when love was split in twain


Then anger burned and raised its head

Dried up the countless tears they shed

That girl, resolved, no longer cried

Waged war, with vengeance by her side


The world knew not that force she bore

That power which crushed foes on a whim

Across the field of war she tore

Thus sang her cruel battle-hymn


A chorus sung from vengeful curse

A bridge ignoring valor’s worth

A clash of wills thus formed the verse

A coda born on bloodied earth


Then there was left a single foe

Once friends, no mercy would they show

Too deep a rift had since been cleft

Two monsters, fighting to the death


The girl, victorious, claimed her prize

Above all others did she rise

But her heart was discontent

For her lover was her lament


A night of amber; a night of birth

Two hearts entwined, yet bore no mirth

The sound of tears was that night’s refrain

That night when love was split in twain

Though the contents of the song’s lyrics were rather unusual – and morbid – I felt my heart lightening. Rosalind’s voice carried through the tavern, and a quick glance at our patrons told me that they were feeling the same way – many of them had relaxed, and those who had seemed agitated before the performance had calmed down considerably. As the last notes of the song faded away, a comfortable silence blanketed the tavern, as if the patrons were taking time to allow the song to settle in their souls. I, myself, felt my troubles ebbing away – the problem of our finances stayed in the back of my mind, but for the moment, they became a secondary consideration. I had been elevated to a state of peace and clarity of mind that I had been unable to attain even with proper meditation and contemplation.

Such was the power of Rosalind’s voice. Perhaps due to her affinity of Cleansing, hearing her sing cleansed one’s heart of the things that troubled it. She had proven it time and again in the short performances she often gave in the earlier hours of the day to her few patrons, and she had once again proven it in front of the audience gathered in the tavern – her voice had the power to grant a type of peace that no liquor could replicate.

A grin playing around my lips, I began to applaud, the sounds of my clapping echoing throughout the space. After a few seconds, someone else from amidst the crowd began to clap as well. The two sets of applause became three, then five, then ten, and soon enough, every patron in the tavern, man and woman alike, was standing up and clapping fervently. Hearing this, Rosalind’s eyes snapped open, gazing at the crowd with a look tinged with wonder.

As the crowd began to call out Rosalind’s name with excited whistles, the intensity of their applause refusing to die down, I ceased my own applause and instead placed a hand on Rosalind’s shoulder. She turned to me in surprise, her mouth opening to say something, but I shook my head and instructed her.

“Take a bow. Actually, do a little curtsey. That’ll set them off.”

Confusion flitted across her face for a moment, but she splendidly masked it and turned back to the crowd, gracing them with an elegant curtsey, her mouth betraying the hint of an appreciative smile. As expected, the applause renewed in intensity, and the patrons became clearly more excited. I leaned in casually and whispered into her ear, such that she could hear me above the crowd.

“How does it feel? Performing in front of a crowd like this? Being adored like this?”

“It was – is – exhilarating. You can hear my heart, can’t you? You can hear it pounding, right?”

It was true – thanks to our proximity, I could currently tell, even through the background noise, that Rosalind’s heart was beating faster than ever before.

“Yes I can. Did you like the feeling?”

“…I loved it.”

Casting a sideways glance at her eyes, I could see the spark of intoxication dancing in her pupils. She was hooked. What caught her was unlikely to be the popularity – she had enjoyed considerable popularity even before this performance, and had never shown that kind of look. No, rather, this was a look that I knew, a look that I had seen countless times, on foolhardy heroes who loved battle and lived for war. Rosalind was, in a sense, one of those people – she was intoxicated with the thrill of performance.

A voice called out from within the crowd,

“Once more! Sing one more time!”

“Yeah! Once more!”

“C’mon, don’t stop now! Give us one more!”

The call began to spread throughout the crowd, and soon more than half of them, and shortly after all of them, were chanting the same words. Rosalind, her face positively shining, stepped forward, ready to answer to their expectations. However, she found herself restrained by my hand, on her shoulder. She shot me a glare.

“What, you want me to stop now? This was your idea, Ely.”

I chuckled. Her expression was just like that of a battle-loving hero who had been told to retreat. The sensation was almost nostalgic.

“Calm down. You’ll get your chance. But let me say a few things, first.”


Grumbling, Rosalind stepped backward, out of the magical spotlight she had created, and I stepped into it. I cleared my throat and held my hands behind my back, saying nothing, carrying myself with the dignity of a supreme commander. The chanting began to quieten down slowly, diminishing every second, until it finally became a space of silence, where all eyes were focused on me.

“Well then, I suppose that I don’t need to ask you fine folk whether you enjoyed the performance.”

A roar of affirmation rang out. Perfect.

“Now, I hear what you’re asking, and I get it. You want Milady Rosalind to sing again. Truth be told, so do I.”

Another roar.

“But before she does that, there are two things I need you to do. The first is to learn a new word: ‘encore’.”

I deliberately used the word from my own language, rather than using the closest Gam equivalent. A wave of confusion swept through the crowd, and a quick glance backwards showed me that Rosalind was staring at me with an uncertain gaze. A few members of the audience began to test out the word on their tongues, attempts which were met with ridicule by those around them. It was an expected response – though the fact that some members had immediately started testing the word showed exactly how much they desired another song. I decided to do what I could to allay their misgivings.

“Don’t think about it too much – it’s a made-up word we came up with. It means ‘we want another song’. Easier to say one word than four, no? But if everyone shouts ‘encore’ together, Lady Rosalind will understand that all of you want another song. Isn’t that right?”

I abruptly turned to Rosalind. Despite the complete lack of preparation, she adapted extraordinarily quickly and nodded without any visible hesitation, affirming my statement. I could see in her eyes a glint, an expression of trust – she was going to leave this to me. To do as I wished. That was how much she trusted in me.

Well, it could also have just as easily been an accusatory glare, but for the sake of my pride, I assert that it was an expression of trust.

Anyway, I then turned back to the crowd and spoke again.

“So, if you people want to hear Rosalind sing again, then let us hear it! Encore!”


A few people shouted the word, but the vast majority simply looked around sheepishly, trying to see if any of their compatriots were playing along. I shouted again.



More voices this time. People were starting to pick up the call. I could see looks of resolve on several faces – looks like soldiers facing insurmountable odds. They were going to get their second song, even if they had to embarrass themselves to do it. I also noted a few looks of admiration and surprise on the faces of those around them. Just a few more times, then.







“Not enough! Chant it! Encore!”

“””””””””ENCORE! ENCORE! ENCORE! ENCORE!”””””””””

The crowd as a whole took up the chant, repeating the new word in voices that increased in volume and intensity. The sheer zeal with which they chanted was unbelievable – it was as if they were a mob, taking up the chant of freedom and vindication. Unsurprisingly, Rosalind’s eyes widened – their earlier applause was nowhere near as intense as this chanting.

As the chanting reached a high, I leapt down from the stairs and vaulted over the bar counter. From there, I shouted in a voice that rang out strongly for everyone to hear, despite the chanting.

“Well then, that’s the first hurdle cleared! Time for the second! If everyone here buys another drink, Rosalind will sing one more time!”

Even as the chant of ‘encore’ continued to ring out, countless orders were placed, with people rushing to the bar, ordering one, two, five more drinks. Midway through, I hiked the price back up to 50% of its original – it did not matter. In one night, we managed to completely deplete our entire stash of alcohol.