Daq paused for a moment before following Pagusel inside, but only partly because he was following the plan. He also had to take a bit of time to puzzle about Pagusel's psyche--the way that what he said could simply whiz by her without stirring up more than just the faintest blush of a reaction. He assumed it was a product of her age, the way her mind had, over the years, created an elaborate defense to compensate with accumulating stress.
He did not pause to think about why no such similar thing had happened to his own mind--that is, Morax's mind, plus whatever spark he had from Daq that enabled him to live. He simply felt wholly impressionable, wholly pliable--defenseless, in other words. It did not occur to him that Morax's 'mind' was the sort that had no need for defenses, or that the imprinting of memories, like the imprinting of emotions, might have been revised or incomplete.
Reaching for the door, he felt the thick wood, worn smooth by many hands. This, he decided as he opened it, was what an aged mind was like, and, as a corollary, was why he felt so prickly, splintering. Things would take time to smooth over. Interrupting his thoughts, the genus and species of the door's wood popped into his head, along with many of the organic molecules involved in the discoloration and smoothing process.
Daq squeezed his eyes shut, opened them again, and turned his focus to the task at hand. Noting how Pagusel had grabbed one of the cues, he followed suit. Taking a look at the tables, he picked one of the 8-ball tables with a game just finishing up and no line. The two men there before him returned to their seats at the bar. He moved in, racked the balls and then leaned against the table, waiting for a challenger.
A tall young man came up to him and nodded in the direction of the table. Daq looked at him--big shoulders, sandy blond hair, and a little chafing around the neck that might have come from wearing armor--unremarkable, except for a little nagging something from the part of his brain that the plant names and chemicals had come from.
"You wanna break?" he asked, before the silence between them could grow awkward. He was still trying to figure out what was setting off alarm signals, though.
"Sure," the young man said. His voice was gravelly, like a smoker's. Daq removed the rack, and his opponent lined up and shot. It was a hard shot that sent balls clicking and clacking all around the table. It pocketed two of the stripes and one solid. "Stripes, I guess," the young man said. Daq nodded.
The young man pocketed a third before fouling by contacting one of the solids first. Daq glanced at him to try to get an indication of whether there were any regional variants in play, and the man gestured for him to take his turn.
There was a slight warping to the edges of the table, as evidenced by the way that few balls seemed to be stuck near the cushions. "Will you hand me the mechanical bridge?" Daq asked, indicating a bridge resting against the wall behind his opponent.
"What?" he said. "The sissy stick?!"
"Yes, the sissy stick," Daq confirmed flatly. The young guy chuckled and handed it to him with a wry grin that slowly sank off of his face as Daq pocketed the solids one after the other, and then, after declaring the corner pocket, lined up the uncomfortable shot on the 8-ball with the bridge and made it. After he'd won, he glanced back up at his opponent, who was frowning and scratching at the sparse stubble on his chin.
The young man's expression finally triggered the click Daq had been waiting for; he remembered this young man talking with Morax, frowning in the same way. He'd been wearing armor at the time--guardsman armor.
"You just got lucky," the guy said. "Let's play another."
"Actually," Daq said. He cleared his throat awkwardly. "I was going to just get a drink."
"You can drink and play. Come on, I'll even buy a round."
"No thanks," Daq said. "I.. uhh..."
"I insist," the young man said. He snapped his fingers and signed for two beers before starting to rack the balls. The barman hopped right to the task of pouring them, in an act of paying the sort of respect that an off-duty guardsman deserves.