The laughter-laced shout blasted through the pub door and nearly made her drop the glass she was polishing.
Ah, Jade thought. Rucksack must be ready for his next pint. She brought a fresh glass to the tap. As she did, The Management’s strange warning rang in her head, the way it did every time Rucksack was around: “This man is dangerous.”
She thought back over the last few months to when the three hooded figures had appeared in the pub. It was just minutes after the letter had arrived and she’d read it. Later that day Rucksack had come in for the first time—but The Management had visited first.
The surprise had made her drop the letter. The Management hardly ever came to the Jakes and Jades in person. Or in being. Or whatever they were. “Why is he dangerous?” she had asked, picking up the sheet of paper. “Who is he?”
“Some say he’s a broken hero,” said the figure in blue and green.
“Some say he’s the world’s only Himalayan-Irish sage,” said the figure in brown and black.
“Some say he’s just a freeloading drunk,” said the figure in silver and gold.
“None of these things has ever been proven,” they all said together. “All we know is that he is an unknown quantity.”
“An unknown quantity?” Jade had said. “What does that even mean?”
“It means he has no destiny. He is as a ghost to us. He is outside of us all.”
“How is that even possible?” Jade had looked at each of the three figures. If they could look sheepish, this was the closest they had ever seemed to it. “What do you want me to do?”
“Your duty has many guises, Jade Agamuskara Bluegold, and some are more dangerous than others. We know little about Faddah Rucksack and far less about his path. Be wary of him but watch him. Learn from him but keep your distance. Stay close but do not get involved. A man without a destiny is a man who might do anything.”
The Management faded away into nothing, as they always did. Jade stood alone, still holding the letter.
She came back to the finished pour. Who are you, indeed? Jade thought. Blinking at the glaring midday sun, she carried the brimming glass out into the bright world.
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