When the bill hit the table, the group began clearing their throats and patting empty pockets. They gave sheepish grins and their eyes began darting to one another. Borin, the only dwarf amongst the five adventurers, excused himself to find an outhouse. Promises of returning were mumbled through an unkempt bushy beard. Laenna, a recently widowed young lady who decided to leave her home for a life of danger waved at an unseen person towards the front of the tavern. She apologized, promising to return in a moment to settle the damage, and disappeared into the crowd.
Gerald, a bard who recently graduated from a mostly unknown college, announced his break was definitely over and he must return to entertaining lest he anger the bartender. He clumsily tuned his lute, plucked the strings and grimaced. When his set was over, he would quickly return and settle up his part of the tab. The remaining two listened as the notes drifted closer and closer to the door and then were silent.
Wesley, a young squire who met up with the group somewhat recently, drummed the table with his hands and shifted uncomfortably in the chair. He looked around the room, avoiding eye contact with the bartender who was now paying extra attention to the dwindling table. Wesley opened his mouth to say something but closed it. He again began to talk but the words just drifted off and he slumped his shoulders. Wesley looked at the older man sitting across from him. His weathered face cracked as a smile crept up the corners of his mouth. He looked Wesley in the eyes and nodded towards the door.
Wesley looked at the older man, at the door, and at the bartender who was now heading their way. He got up quickly and pushed his way through the crowds and out into the night.
A big meaty hand slammed down on the table before the older man. A face twisted in anger grunted, “Looks like your friends left you with something.” He reached across the table and stuck a thick sausage-like finger onto the small parchment paper that had items and numbers scrawled across its surface. He slid it before the older man and smiled. “Whenever you’re ready.”
The older man returned the smile and said, “I did not partake in this table’s consumption. Unless I am to pay based on sharing stories and laughter.”
The bartender let out a heavy sigh. “I don’t care what you did. You’re the last one here, so you pay me.”
The old man laughed. “The problem with that, my good man, is that ghosts don’t have a way to pay anything. Couldn’t give you the money if I wanted to,” he chuckled.
The bartender grunted, and proceeded to punch the laughing man square in the face. His fist passed through and knocked the chair back into the next table. The old man, now sitting on nothing, gave a wink and vanished.