"Is this man bothering you?" Mack put his paw on the counter and began to shift his weight from the barstool on to his massive legs.

"No, everything's fine Mack." She smiled at the newcomer, a smile that seemed to strike something in his soul and pushed him a step back.

Mack was a bit disappointed. He reveled in the chance to tower over people, putting his full weight behind himself, like a monstrous wall of don't-take-another-step. Mack relaxed back into his seat, and back into his beer.

"What's your name?" Amanda asked.

"Nate," was the reply. The newcomer was built more like a knife fighter than a wrestler, and the two blades hanging off his belt betrayed that fact.

Amanda didn't want any trouble in her bar, not with all the potential property damage she would have to pay for. But it did help to have friends like Mack around, just in case.

She could tell the newcomer would be an easy mark though. Not mark in the sense that he would become one of their victims, but ever since he'd arrived in town, she knew he would make a valuable addition to her own private army of knights. Mack was already among them, and this new guy would probably join them soon too, provided he wasn't just passing by temporarily. Even if he was, Amanda knew how to recruit her soldiers. More than one patron at her bar had once thought they were only passing by, but were now caught in her benevolent web.

It wasn't an army in the traditional sense. Amanda gave no direct orders and had no official power, yet she was well guarded by her knights. Her army consisted of a cast of both regular and non-regular patrons who would do almost anything to protect her. In return, she offered them a refuge from all of life's problems.

Because of the constant presence of her army, her bar became one of the safest locations in town. As a result, it attracted quite a crowd of people looking for a good time and a moment of peace. This led to even greater loyalty for her bar. And newcomers were always greeted with suspicion until they could prove themselves well-integrated into how the place was run.

Nate made his order and Amanda left to put together his drink.

"Easy pickings," she thought.

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