A Tale from the White Liar Tavern
A Flintloque Short Story by Tony Harwood
Artwork Conceived and Created by Tony Harwood and Edward Jackson
Throughout the realms of Valon the White Liar Tavern in Broomcoat has a very special reputation for the quality of the ales sold and the tales told. During the cold winter months the landlord brings comfort to his regulars by offering hot mulled brews and spiced pies. With steam rising from their flagons it is customary for patrons to recount their stories.
Visitors from afar are invited to entertain the regular clientele with tales of daring-do and high adventure. On a cold and wet night in late winter a traveller from Catalucia stepped into the warm glow of the main bar and after ordering both food and drink sat and waited. It wasn’t long before the request for 'any tales?' that seemed to emanate from the walls themselves stirred him from his thoughts, he looked into the hearth, eyes focusing on another time and he began to tell this story…
In the mountainous region between North Catalucia and the Armorican borders there are many wild and inhospitable valleys, carved by aeons, the grey stone walls reverberate with every scrabbling pebble or scraped stone. In these remote valleys the legends and folk tales are rich with stories of Giants – Catalucian Giants who terrorise the local inhabitants. One such creature was Carne Bury-Anacht. Carne was large for his kind, a true giant amongst giants but both evil and mean with it. His size and fearsome temper had caused many of the smaller local hamlets to become uninhabited and travellers would take much longer and more arduous routes to avoid his territory.
On one occasion a travelling troop of Gypsees and entertainers were navigating the pass when Carne appeared. Wanting some sport – he teased the visitors with evil jests and vile torture until he spied a beautiful Gypsee girl, dark of hair and clear of complexion. At once Carne was smitten and forcefully kidnapped the young girl, unusually allowing the rest of the group to leave unharmed. As they departed, the young girl, whose name was Angeline, was heard to whisper, “Do not worry my kin, I will see this evil Giant can harm no one else.”
Angeline knew that to survive she would have to play her own game with the Giant and over the next few months allowed Carne to court her with flowers, food and gifts, all the while staunchly remaining aloof. As time went by Angeline devised a plan to rid both her and the World of Valon of this evil creature. As spring came Angeline decided now was the time to enact her plan. She spoke softly to Carne, saying that he was to but show his love for her and she would be his.
“How can I show this love anymore that I have already?” was Carnes reply.
Angelina appeared to consider this for some time as they both walked along the deserted valley and as they passed a huge basin-like hollow in the stone of the cliffs Angelina said, “Carne, my love, if you can fill this hollow with your own blood then you would have more than proven your love for me and I would truly be yours.”
Carne, ever the show-off, proceeded to roll up his right sleeve and allowed Angelina, using a small knife, to cut a gash in his forearm. His deep crimson blood flowed freely from the giants arm and trickled into the hollowed basin in the rock. Minutes went by but it appeared that more blood was needed, and at Carne’s request Angeline enlarged the cut and more blood flowed. Still the basin did not fill fast enough for the Giant and in his rush to become one with the young Gypsee drew his own larger blade and in a single fearsome swoop took off his own arm just above the elbow. More blood flowed now appearing in torrents and he thought the basin stone surely must fill soon.
But no. The basin although covered with deep red blood was not filling up. Long minutes past and the huge Giant was becoming both frustrated and tired. However a Giant the size of Carne was well able to sustain such bloodletting and injury.
Angelina began to cry, stating that it was obvious that Carne did not love her as he had previously stated so strongly, and that she would leave now, never to return. Carne, more frustrated with each passing second, gouged at his flesh with his blade. With these new multiple injuries the loss of blood was at last having an effect and Carne lay down at the side of the crimson stained basin rock, and closed his eyes.
Angelina soothed him by stroking his forehead and cutting some of the long straggly strips of black hair from his head, as Carne began to slip into a fitful sleep, Angelina used her knife one last time and with effort borne of hatred and fear, cut the giants throat in one fell slash. Blood poured from the now exhausted Giant and he passed to the next world, never to know of the trick that had been played on him. The hollowed basin rock had a hole near its deepest part, a hole that opened into the river in the valley below. Meaning all the blood that rapidly flowed into the basin, just as swiftly, ran from it.
Thus the Gypsee rid the World of an evil tyrant and within a few short weeks the valley soon prospered.
The cry from the drinkers and diners of the White Liar was tremendous - it had been a fine tale.
“Ah,” said the traveller, “that is not yet the end.”
The traveller was now enjoying the proffered food and drink, he took a deep draft from his tankard and continued his tale.
“The basin – now known as Carne’s Bowl - is a place of pilgrimage for many Catalucians and it is said that any hero who bathes in the hollow will have eternal and everlasting luck.”
“What good is luck?” came the cry from the locals.
“Luck my friends, is more important to a hero, and particularly a leader, than any other attribute. Without luck – even the best generals will be thwarted.”
As the visitor finished his meal, his forearm and hand were seen by many. His whole arm was blood red - a birthmark perhaps? Or had this stranger truly been blessed with great luck?
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This article was originally published on Alternative Armies' content portal, Barking Irons, and is reproduced here with permission.