Quentin gulped, "The... Dark... King?" since he could no longer skirt around the subject. The "actual" King whose throne King Nook usurped when he liberated the island had been locked away? From what Quentin had been told, King Nook defeated the villain in a rousing battle. Now that he thought about it, though, the tale ended there. There was no mention of what happened to the former king of the island.
He lightly touched Eliot's back. What did he think about all of this? That strange hooded figure referred to him as the Dark King, and said that he would reclaim his kingdom. Did that mean... Eliot was locked away in a tower? But surely not! Surely he would know! He'd grown up here, hadn't he? He had memories of Chant, being a student, and now being a professor.
"Maybe it was all a prank." Quentin really did hope so, if only for Eliot's sake. "Maybe that hooded creature was... was toying with us. If King Nook locked the Dark King up in a tower, he has to still be there, right?" There had to be guards, surely. And alarms would be sounded if someone like that got out...
"Who do you think?" he asked, tilting his head back forward and looking the deer right in the eyes. How dumb was he? Who did he think was locked up all this time?!
"The actual king," he said, because the other professor wasn't supplying any information, either, which meant he didn't know or he was waiting for Grimalkin to be the bearer of bad news. Tch, not that it ever bothered him to be the one to let people know the bad shit. By now, people all but expected out of somebody with his naturally grouchy visage.
"The king," he elaborated, "that Nook usurped in order to take the throne."
At least he wasn't growling at them...
Professor Grimalkin did growl out something that sounded mysterious and cryptic, but it wasn't directed at them. To Quentin, it sounded like he was musing to himself. Or maybe he was asking them; it was hard to tell. And admittedly, Quentin was nervous and when he was nervous, his brain slowed to a crawl. He had always been one of those thinking types--and sometimes, the over-thinking type.
Now things were moving far too quickly for him to keep up. Quentin looked at Eliot, then back at Professor Grimalkin, who was looking up at the rough-hewn beams supporting the ceiling. Since no one was answering the (rhetorical?) question, he started to put up a hoof. Then dropped it with a self-conscious cough, because he wasn't in class...
"What did you mean about the tower thing, professor? Who was locked away?"
Grimalkin knew what it meant but he wasn't really sure he should be sharing that with these two bumpkins. Sure, he had seen the other professor around but he was flamboyant and given to dramatics. And the little deer stood meekly behind the professor like he would protect him from--what? Did he think Grimalkin was going to breathe fire at him? If he still had a sense of humor, he might have laughed at his own thought. Instead, he removed his hands from the card table and crossed his arms, looking first from the deer to the dog.
"This," he said finally after a moment of silence, "is exactly why you make sure you kill your enemy and you don't just lock them away in a magic tower."
Sighing with the world weariness of an animal that had seen far too much in his life, Grimalkin rested against the seat, his head tilted back as he stared up at the musty old wooden beams of the ceiling.
"But why would they admit something like that?" Grimalkin asked. "Unless they're shit-stirrers trying to cause a panic."
Quentin stayed close to Eliot; luckily Eliot stayed close to him. If he'd stuck any closer, he might have trodden on Eliot's paws but he was so nervous. The back rooms of bars like these usually bred horror stories. Quentin even avoided the one at the Curled Horn, and that was just a private dining area!
Somehow, being with Eliot made him bolder. He would have never thought to enter a place like the Broken Barrel before this! And while it was indeed scary, it was also a little bit exciting. They had a mystery to solve and they were in this together, he felt assured of that. Eliot wouldn't leave him or desert him, and vice versa!
In the back room, he still hovered close to Eliot. Professor Grimalkin seemed right at home... and Quentin didn't know what that said about him. He swallowed nervously and looked behind his shoulder at the closed door. Just in case, he scurried back to lock it and for good measure put a chair under the round knob.
"We were on a hay ride tonight, and some ghosts suddenly attacked us. Or, well... they attacked me. And when Eliot and I ran away, we bumped into someone who got rid of the ghosts. He was very powerful, another void magician like myself." Nervousness made the words come out quickly. Quentin wrung the edge of his jacket. "The magician said something about... bringing back the Dark Kingdom." He edged a glance over at Eliot. Had he given too much away? Quentin didn't say anything about the Dark King business, though...
Eliot glanced at Quentin to check and see if he noticed that sharp eyed look that Grimalkin gave them once the Dark Kingdom was mentioned. Seemed like he knew something, especially since he wanted to speak to them quietly and in private. Still, Eliot was somewhat wary as they followed the half drunk professor to the back room. There were currently no card or dice games going on--probably why Grimalkin had been at the bar in the first place.
He didn't like it--being alone back there. So Eliot stayed close to Quentin, for some reason feeling protective over him.
Grimalkin found one of the back card tables and took a seat. Then he spread his large paws onto the front of the table, almost as if he were spreading cards across the table. Minus the cards.
"So," he said gruffly. "The Dark Kingdom, you say... What's bringing this up?"
The scent of alcohol was definitely coming off of Professor Grimalkin in waves. Quentin was too polite to put a hoof over his nose but he couldn't help wrinkling it a little bit. The... peculiar smells emanating from this pub were nothing like the pleasant ones from the Curved Horn. In there, it was the gentle scent of lavender and vanilla, from various pouches of potpourri hanging from the rafters--to ward off smells like these.
That and, well, the Curved Horn wasn't full of unwashed, briny sailors.
Quentin was relieved that Professor Grimalkin agreed to speak with them--though not before guzzling down the rest of the drink. His gaze was oddly sharp when Eliot mentioned the Dark Kingdom, which led Quentin to think that he wasn't half as drunk as he appeared. "Thank you, Professor," whispered Quentin gratefully, and this time when he turned around, he didn't smack into the drunk seagull carrying two pint glasses edging past him.
All he wanted to do with his time off was have a drink and here these two came in bursting in on his "fun." If one could call it that. Even Grimalkin himself couldn't exactly say what he was doing was fun. It took the edge off, though, and people might say that Grimalkin was already all harsh edges and sharp angles. Not the way he looked--he was deceptively fuzzy--but the way he acted. He was aware of it; keeping people at bay was kind of his M.O., okay?
But as he side-eyed these two bright eyed ones--he knew Eliot as a colleague and couldn't say he particularly liked him--he let out a noncommittal grunt.
"Good," said Eliot, as if the grunt meant he would give them the time of day. He slid right into the seat beside him and Grimalkin heaved a sigh before drawing his bottle closer.
"Have you ever heard of the Dark Kingdom?"
As soon as he said it, Grimalkin turned a sharp eye on him, then on the student that had come along with him. Quincy or whatever his name was. And he wasn't just sharply side-eyeing them this time. Now he was actually looking at them, head turned and all.
"Let's go in the back," he said, but first he gulped down the rest of his bottle before getting up and leading them away from the bar.
Shy little thing? Quentin almost looked around, over his shoulder, as though the pretty, colorful bartender was talking about someone else. It was him--and she could somehow see right through him without even knowing him. Since Eliot introduced him, he nodded affably and muttered a "Nice to meet you, miss."
And then he exchanged the same look with Eliot, hoping that he wouldn't broadcast their intentions to the pub--which he didn't, because Eliot was intelligent enough to not get flustered in a strange place. Quentin kept his own mouth shut because he was the type to get flustered in a strange place. He nodded to the bartender again once they'd caught sight of Professor Grimalkin, flushed when she winked at him, and then quickly moved off to the back of the pub.
"Professor Grimalkin." Quentin ducked his head politely and hovered before a chair. Should he sit? Eliot wasn't sitting so he didn't feel right sitting and Professor Grimalkin didn't invite him so... So he didn't sit. "Can we have a word with you?"
The turtle that guffawed in poor Quentin's face was a familiar face. Eliot slid a paw around Quentin's back and steered him around him, saying something along the lines of, "Just because you're drunk before you show up doesn't mean everybody is~"
To that, the bartender, a parrot, laughed her musical laugh.
"Eliot," she said. "Long time, no see. And who's this shy little thing you've brought with you?"
"His name's Quentin, he goes to Chant." He took a glance around the dingy pub and caught a glimpse of the cat they were looking for. He looked like he did when he was in class, too. Surly, unimpressed. A bottle was clasped in his big claws and his chin lay on the bar.
"We're here to see a cat about..." He glanced at Quentin. "Well you know, Chant stuff."
The bartender rolled her eyes. "And I'm not a part of it. Yeah, yeah." She went back to cleaning out glasses, but Eliot could feel her watching them as they headed to the very end of the bar, where Grimalkin was steadfastly stationed.
"Hey, there, Grim~" Eliot said with a smile, only to have Grimalkin slide his gaze over to them without moving the rest of his body. He slid his gaze back to his bottle, clearly annoyed by their presence.
"Yeah?" he asked. "What'dya want?"