“Ai! Bob, c’mere and look at the wee one! He’s downing his grog quick as any else!”
Pogo apparently was drawing quite a crowd. He was currently in one of the dingy bars of a dingy city, filled with dingy people all chatting about their dingy lives with equally dingy grunts. Nothing new.
Pogo never planned to come back to this particular bar. He wasn’t really a big drinker, but he was a good faker, and he loved money. To that end, he was an outstanding actor, and had more than one way to filch a few people out of their money. Especially the dingy ones.
Tim Tiglis was not an average barkeeper. He was rather thin, carried no mustauche, wore bright clothes, and always kept his hair combed. If nothing else, he looked as though he belonged behind a large desk somewhere, perhaps in Customs, checking great big boxes for small little illegal things. But, as luck would have it, the unofficial “caste” system threw him to the bar, and left him to scrounge up a living. He actually made good money, but for this, he forfeited long hours of sleep, and was always in a state of stupor. So, it was rather easy for Pogo to “request” a few pint-mugs and set them up at a table nearby.
After filling them with water and stirring in a little Muggot dust (just to induce believable foam, and provide color), Pogo placed the mugs on a table and admired his work. In the dim light, they looked exactly like six mugs of beer. That, of course, was more than enough for a man of full stature, but for a half-man such as Pogo, that was near suicide. Thankfully, it was just Muggot water.
Dingy people have a remarkable love for games, especially if they involve excessive alcohol, women, money, or chance. Pogo knew he did not appeal to two of those factors, as women never lasted long in a place like this, and there would be no chance of loss in the game he planned for. But, alcohol and money would be very, very present, and one would be transferable.
Pogo called for attention, and asked for the Champion of the Bar. Two people stepped forward. One was sober and humongous, the other was drunk and emaciated. It wasn’t hard to figure out which one was the Fight Champion (a prestigious title, with some bars offering a fixed income), and the Drinking Champion (highly lauded among their own ranks). Gesturing at the Drunkard, Pogo promptly leapt onto the table with an exaggerated labor, and cupped his hands together to shout.
“Ladies and…well, I guess just the Gents, eh?”
A few laughs. It wasn’t really funny, but alcohol made it hilarious.
“I suppose you all in love of fair Drink match, I be right?”
Pogo found it necessary to remove proper grammar from his diction. Otherwise, these drunkards wouldn’t be able to understand them.
“Place your bets. I take this man through me drinking match. First one to floor loses.”
Everyone laughed, thinking the little hobbit had a little too much booze. They did not, however, want to miss this opportunity to earn some cash.
His soon-to-be opponent grinned toothily, and laid fifty pieces on the table. Pogo offered fifty of his own, making the pot one hundred in total. Not an entirely impressive amount, but nothing to scoff over, either.
All of the bets were made. Three people opted for Pogo (probably too influenced to even notice, or care), while eighteen went for his opponent. Two people placed bets on both sides, while one person bet on the stuffed moose hanging on the wall. Pogo collected the money, wrote it down with apparent care, and placed it in the wooden drawer under the table. No one would filch it on his watch, not when he was about to rightfully steal it.
“The game starts now! I take drink, you take drink, first one to pass out loses.”
Figgin reached for one of the Muggot drinks, but Pogo was quick to stop him.
“No, sir. You must get your own. These are my drinks.”
A few in the crowd murmured. Six glasses? Most standard matches were only four. Who had ever heard of a hobbit lasting six glasses, anyway?
Drinks were donated. People like these tended to be generous anyway. In the end, they each had six glasses, filled to a centimeter of the brim, prepared for the match.
Pogo gripped his glass, downed it, and slammed it back on the table. Licking his lips, he relished the Muggot taste as it swirled around his tongue and passed into his stomach. If things went at the extreme, he had to be careful how quickly he drank these things down. Too quickly, and he might be too sick to manage any more.
That wasn’t a problem, though. Figgin went down after four mugs, prompting a murmur of surprise all throughout the crowd. As was ant drunkard’s way, they “focused” their respective attentions on the loudest noise, which happened to be Figgin’s hiccupping body hitting the floor.
No one ever saw Pogo grab his money, along with the bets. Only a few actually remembered their lost money, and they angrily yelled after the hobbit. But, by then, he was long gone, out on the road in search of a new city, with new purses to pester.
Whistling, he patted his coin-bag and laughed all the way down the moonlit road. Drunks were his primary source of income, and he just hit payday.
Pogo liked payday.