Cleaning the floor of The Hanged Man was not the worst job she had to do but it came close. Today was no exception either, the floor stuck to her knees as she crawled across it, she managed to avoid all the truly nasty piles of dried matter and at least today she didn't need the scrapper. She scrubbed at the floor with the rag, if it could really be called that - it was more a scrap, the wooden floor of the inn would never be clean yet she still had to try. Same could be said of the walls, the tables, the stairs and the windows. Light filtered through well enough, it just mixed with the flecks of mud, turning it into a wan pale thing not fit for anything but drinking by.
Zindrafel let out a sigh and threw the rag into the greasy water; she stood, stretched out the pulls in her back and picked the bucket up. She'd not get anything cleaned with it any time soon. Nor would anyone notice her efforts. She crossed the common room, the sticky floor tugging at her thin shoes as she went; it wasn't as bad as before, or didn't seem it at least. She left the bar and walked through the kitchen. She dumped the buckets content into the street before putting it where it belonged. She looked through the kitchen archway to see who was in the bar. It was still early, the sun just kissing four in the afternoon; everyone should be working or going about their business. Not so for those in The Hanged Man. She walked to the bar pushing dusty blond hair back behind her pointed ears and scanned the common room.
Slumped over a dirty table, still asleep from the night before was Mitch, a regular here, often the owner, Corff, didn't bother to kick him out. He always paid for his swill and was a quiet drunk. Sat on a table near him was George, another regular, half way through his first mug of ale. Varric was shoving a poker into the fire, making sure the chill from the open door didn't take over the room and finally there was Alistair. He'd been making himself a regular these past few weeks. There were rumours about him being a traitor from Ferelden but Zindrafel never put much stock in rumour. What did the actions of a Shemlin matter to an elven servant like her anyway? All she wanted was a quiet day at work with no hassle from any of the patrons.
She grabbed a rag from under the bar and began running it over the stained wood, she dare not be caught doing nothing by Corff, who was as bad tempered as the drunks in the bar at the best of times and capable of cutting her meagre wages for the smallest crime, real or imagined. Not that he ever did that to the other girls who worked in this dive but then, she was the only elf there. She looked up as darkness filled the doorway for a moment. It was Norah, one she could almost call friend.
"Good morning." She said raising the rag in salute.
"Hello there." Norah replied crossing the floor and joining her behind the bar, "Eugh, floor's bad this morning."
"I've been over it once," Zindrafel replied, "But I can do it again if you want."
"Might be for the best, you know what Corff is like." She said, "I can watch these while you get it sorted out." Zindrafel nodded and fetched the bucket, fresh water this time and bent back to the floor. It was going to be a long day.
By the time her employer staggered down the stairs, she'd got it mostly clean. A few more of the regulars had drifted in too, adding the stench of sweat to the permanent fixture of stale beer and damp. He grunted at her, looking at the place, seeing if there was something she'd missed. She hadn't. She'd played that game a few times too many. "Might as well do the kick tiles while your down there." He muttered. She just nodded and edged herself to the wall. Long day indeed, it took her three hours to get around the whole building. By the time she'd finished, the cramp in her back was well set, it took her a good minute to straighten up.
"Come one sugar, we're waiting for service here. Ale. Now!" Isabella. Just what she needed. She nodded and walked back around the bar taking her bucket and leaving it in a space.
"Is she being lazy?" Corff snorted.
"Well, I've been waiting for her to get up for at least a minute." Isabella replied, her hands resting on those jutting hips of hers. There was something about this human that really got on Zindrafel's nerves. She swallowed the retort that brewed on her lips however and did as she was told.
"Leave off her Isabella." Varric, "She's been on her hands and knees most of the afternoon without stopping. More work than you've done in a long time."
"Still, doesn't mean she can take a break when she feels like it." Corff said, "I'm taking it out of your pay."
Zindrafel handed over the ale to Isabella and nodded that she'd heard. All in all not a bad week, he'd only taken three coppers from her this week, normally by this time, it was at least five. She'd still have enough to pay everything and have a couple to add to her stash. Soon she would be able to move out of the city, there was a small farming village to the north of Kirkwall. She wanted to feel the grass beneath her feet and see the sky over her head. Smell the clean air and enjoy the winds kiss on her cheek. She and her cousin would be welcomed there. They'd find decent work in the fields and have a measure of freedom that was lacking in the city. In a few short weeks they'd be there. The punishment of the inn she could bare; she would be leaving so very soon.
"Yes Norah?" she asked, turning to face the stern woman.
"It sounds like someone is vomiting in the privy outside, would you go and make sure they ain't dying in there and then sorting out the mess?" it was less of a question and more of an order but she nodded anyway, picked up the bucket and headed outside. The air had been stifling inside the now busy inn and she was pleased for the breath of air, no matter how brief. She followed the muddy path to the privy and knocked on the door. A gruff mutter from behind the battered wooden door told her the occupant was still inside. She turned away and looked up at the stars, willing herself not to hear the retching cough that followed the talk.
After another long moment, the door opened and out stepped Alistair. She rolled her eyes but gave him a smile anyway, "Are you ok?"
"Far from it." He said slumping down on the privy wall. Zindrafel looked inside the ramshackle building before throwing the bucket of water all over it. There wasn't much in the way of mess but the smell was something else.
"You should go home." She said.
"I'm not sure where home is anymore." He replied burying his face in his hands.
"It's Lowtown somewhere, I don't know where exactly though."
"Can I come home with you?" he asked. She looked down at the pathetic excuse for a life at her feet and sighed.
"No. I'm not finished yet." She said turning back to the door of the inn.
"You will be in an hour or so. I can wait around."
"Alistair, you're dead drunk, close to passing out and you are covered in vomit. Go home, it's that way." She said pointing him in the direction of Lowtown. "You know damned well where you live you pathetic excuse of a Shemlen. Now get out of here." she folded her arms and watched him stagger to his feet. He gave her a forlorn look before turning away from her, she watched him stumble down the street, only going back into the inn when he'd turned a corner. He would get home alright, he always did. She dumped the bucket in the kitchen and sighed, her lower back ached from the scrubbing and the soles of her feet were beginning to tingle.
"I'm glad you've got the bucket there, I need the kitchen cleaning for tomorrow." It was Corff. She merely nodded and refilled the pail with a small sigh.
Three hours later, she was standing outside, her few coppers in her hand. She put them inside her leather pouch and shoved it in her dress pocket. She turned for home and walked alone in the dark, like she did every night. She encountered no one on her way until she reached the alienage. There were a few other elves making their way home much as she was, some of them saluted her, most did not. Her own door was unlocked and she walked straight in. The house was dark, Cacil must be asleep already. She crept across the simple room and into the back which was their bedroom and dining room all in one. She climbed onto her pallet and worked at one of the boards underneath it. She took out one of her coppers and added it to the stash that was there already. She replaced the board as carefully as she could before letting her eyes drift shut. Sleep claimed her straight away.