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February 19, 2024

The Aser Stories 33: Legal Torture

By Sand Pilarski

Most of the time you're not allowed to cause discomfort or pain to people around you. But there is one nasty, notable exception ...

The weather has turned cold and my whole party is ready to get in out of the wet and relax at the inn. Oddly, a small band of lizardmen are huddled on the wide porch, almost asleep with the lowering temperatures. Normally you'd find them in front of an inn's fire, hogging the heat and belching mead breath.

"Hail," I say to the scaly cluster. "Is the inn so crowded that you freeze out here?"

One of them opens a sleepy eye and shakes his head slowly. He coughs a little and snuggles closer to his mates.

The door to the inn opens and a couple of cloaked travelers tromp out, hacking like the next best thing to pneumonia, eyes streaming tears. And with them comes the scent of rotted lilies like a vile cloud of poison gas. Oh, no, not one of those, I pray, and holding my nose, peek in the door. My prayers are unheard. At a table in the middle of the room sits a fat woman and her escort, oblivious to the nearly visible waves of odor emanating from her, and equally oblivious to the sneezing and coughing of the few patrons left who can tolerate such quantities of bad perfume. I let the door swing shut, but not before my companions catch a whiff and wrinkle their noses in disgust.

This is one time I'll pick on women with no compunction at all about equality issues. What in the nine levels of Hell are ladies thinking, drenching themselves in perfume so thickly that it causes respiratory distress in passers-by? Do they have no sense of smell themselves? Do they have no sense of hearing to perceive the wheezes and hoicks of those who get within twenty feet? No sense of taste to commiserate with fellow diners whose food is contaminated by the odor?

A person who would not think of squeezing a skunk for a natural odor event will put on enough perfume to make a horse shy or drop a squirrel out of a tree -- how does that happen? And even should a courageous soul inform the smelly woman of the offense of her overpowering scent, the source of the stench will, fifty times out of fifty-one, stoutly refuse to believe that anyone could possibly be affected by the vapor.

The innkeeper comes out onto the porch and shrugs apologetically. "I already accepted a week's worth of their coin for the best rooms," he says. "And I can't force her to bathe."

He lights up a thick black cigar. "You know," he says, "a lot of people don't like smoke, and some of the cities have actually passed laws that say a body can't have a puff indoors because of what it does to them as breathe it in. But nobody wants to take on a woman with too much perfume."

"Except an orc," I nod. "They don't seem to be affected by it. If I were you, I'd offer the next band of them that passes by beers on the house."

The inn door slams open again and a waiter staggers out, coughing and gasping and clutching his throat. When he breathes in, he sounds like a bad accordion. My companions and I can't go any farther along the road tonight; but from observing the purple face and labored breath of the waiter, there are worse things than sleeping with a bunch of lizards.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-10-22
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