A man sat quietly in a far corner of an inn. It must have been a busy day, as it had been the innkeeper who had brought him the plate that contained his dinner. He stared at the seemingly filthy plate with utter disbelief. “How can so many people be okay with that?” He thought. Where he lived, they would clean every single plate, spoon, fork and knife with warm water and soap. In that town, no one seemed to be bothered by eating from a plate someone had used right before. He forced himself to look natural. He forced himself to bring some food into his mouth, trying to avoid direct contact between the fork and his lips.
He had been trained to pass unnoticed, to avoid any attention. He knew how to survive in any situation, if the emergency was grave enough. It sickened him to think of what he was doing, but he did it regardless.
Around him, people ate. Others spoke loudly, and often played strange games that seemed to involve more alcohol than chance. In the other side of the room, there was a man playing mediocre tunes and singing – or attempting to sing – with a voice that hardly ever made the right tone, and yet managed to get tipped. The man guessed it was due to the satirical content of the song, which appeared to be able to entertain those who bothered to listen.
The fireplace burned bright and hot, and smoke escaped from it, filling the ceiling and the lungs of anyone fool enough to stand too tall. Not all the smoke came from the fireplace though, as a reasonable number of people had their own personal sources. They must know they were killing themselves, since there was no way inhaling such smoke could ever do anything other than turn your lungs as dark as the soot that covered the ceiling and walls.
He somehow managed to hear some conversations, despite all the noise. One of them in particular caught his attention. He made sure not to appear to be listening, and focused his mind on the words.
“Hey, did you hear the big news, yet?” a man said, almost yelling, trying to be heard by his companion. “They say the King is dead, killed by an assassin in his sleep.”