“You know, the Redline family is building a rail line down here. It will likely reduce the traffic on this road by up to 30%. With my background in finances I could help you prepare for this too!” The well groomed Verling across from Ferro answered.
“Oh, well. That’s certainly helpful…” It was funny, for the first time in their life. Ferro was conducting a job interview. And they felt just as intimidated by their potential employees as they usually did with their employers. “So… Why do you want to be The Driftwood’s caretaker?” Ferro didn’t know why they bothered asking any more questions. The Verling in front of them was old and responsible. And they just needed someone to run the place while they fucked and got high at Cyan’s. Why would they even care who did it?
They didn’t care. That's what Ferro told themselves as the interview ended and their qualified applicant left The Driftwood. Excited to hear back about the job he most certainly got. All that was left was to clean the counters and keep this place running until they handed the keys over to the caretaker and fucked off.
A sweaty black verling crashed through the front door of the Driftwood. He was younger than Ferro. Barely an adult. “H-hi my name is Coal, I-I had an interview at one?”
“It’s eight. And I already found someone to do it.”
“Oh… Sorry, my ride flaked so I needed to uh… walk here. I should really get going if I’m going to get back to Anchor.” Coal turned for the door.
“Wait…” Ferro took a key from beneath the counter, and slid it across the table. “At least sleep here tonight, you look exhausted.”
The black Verling fidgeted nervously. “I uhh, don’t have the money for that...”
Ferro sighs, “Relax, it’s on me.” Coal comes over and nervously takes the key. Ferro gestures for him to sit down, and they do. “Why did you want to be The Driftwood’s caretaker, anyways?”
“I-I guess it seemed like a nice place to live… It’s hard to admit but… I could use a home right now. And the Inn seems cozy!”
Ferro chuckles politely, “This place is home to me, in such a different way than anyplace I’ve ever lived. I’ve always needed someone else's approval, to have a place to stay. And if it can be taken away like that, is it really a home at all?”
“Yeah, I get that. It’s why I ran away from my folks in the first place. Been bouncing place to place ever since. It’s actually why I ran all the way down here. I kinda need a place to stay right now, and this job would have been perfect…”
Ferro stopped cleaning the counters. Instead they began brewing some tea for them and their guest. “Do you know the history of The Driftwood, Coal?”
The young nervous Verling reels anxiously, “W-was that something I should have researched before coming!”
Ferro couldn’t help but to chuckle genuinely at that. They knew the spot Coal felt they were in so well, “Relax, this isn’t an interview, remember?” Ferro put down two tea cups carefully between them and their guest. Before finally launching into the story Tawny had told them when they were a kid. “A long time ago a Lysca man washed up on these shores floating on broken wooden planks from his wrecked ship. He was miraculously unharmed, but nobody knew who he was. Including himself supposedly. So he made a new life here, and built an Inn he named after the vessel that brought him to shore.”
Trying to calm the tremors from their shaky addict body, Ferro poured tea into the cups. “That’s the end of the story most people hear, but my Aunt has a storied past with The Driftwood too. She had accrued a large amount of debt after running away from home, and debtors were after her. She told her sad story to the Lysca owner of the Driftwood. And when the morning came with Debtors at the door, he refused to let them in. The Debtors thought they could bully the old man, but he summoned a magical lance of pure light, and they ran. My aunt was grateful, but curious for an explanation.”
Coal waited for Ferro to take a sip first, before he started to drink. It looks like he was enjoying himself for what that was worth. Whether it was the Tea, the story, or Ferro’s company he was enjoying. They couldn’t be sure. “The man used to be a Paladin. A person blessed with otherworldly power at birth. To grow up as a Paladin was to be plucked from your parents, abused, broken and indoctrinated into a weapon. He built the Driftwood so people who were never allowed to have a home, like him, could have one, even if it was just for a night.”
Ferro’s voice gets lower, wavering. Low enough that one could hear the crackling of The Driftwood’s hearth beneath it. “My aunt was a lot like me, unloved by her family, abandoned by society as an Anomaly. The Driftwood was made as a home for people without one, so he gave my aunt a job. And years later when he passed, she inherited it. And then I guess...” Tears form under Ferro’s eyes at their realization. “I guess she did the same thing for me, when I didn’t have a home.”
They cast their teary gaze upwards away from their tea and to their guest. Coal’s eyes were large, staring back with such compassion. “That’s amazing, I didn’t know this place meant so much to you!”
Ferro didn’t know either. At least, they didn’t realize until now. They couldn’t hand over it’s care to some old retired banker who’d maximize its profits. That wasn’t why the Driftwood was made, it wasn’t why it was given to them. “The Driftwood will always be a home for those without one… Coal was your name, right?”
“Congratulations, you’re hired!”