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...
...With a faint creak the scarred wood of the table bent under the grimy elbows of four Orcs as they bent ever further forward in rigid chairs to see the creature that stood before them. No taller than a hand the tiny creature was a vivid red and while it resembled a rather emaciated Goblin its rapier thin frame and triangular ears marked it as an Imp; a magical creature thought lost to Valon. In the middle of the table top the Imp, with a flourish, produced a copper coin from a folded leather pouch upon its back that served it as a pack and threw it down upon the wooden surface.
‘Well you has convinced me of his pedigree and no mistake. Though, if the little un cooks up groats easy as that, I still does not see why he cannot get you your victuals without us here showing some tin?’
It had been the largest of the Orcs that has spoken and had been speaking since the Imp and its master, a one eyed Joccian Ratman who limped heavily upon a crutch, had been at pains to explain the problem facing the two travellers for some time now. The group of Orcs were course and rough workers who did not give charity easily but then the glint of coin had gotten their attention easily enough. The Joccian breathed in and once more told his tale to the table.
‘Ye see gentleorcs, ma predicament is one of magic and no one of mind. Ah found the wee guy here while I wuz in Al-Garvey wi the 44th Foote. I wuz wounded, lost maist a ma tail and some a ma leg too. He found me and guided me back tay the lines. In return fur ma protection and gitting him oot a the Goblin lands he would give me wan silver piece each day when the sun fell an the night began proper.’
‘So gentleorcs the problem I am faced way is that ma belly is tied in knots, as is the wee guys, as we huv no eaten nor drank all day an its mair than an hour until sun down. If we dinne git some grub afore nicht we will die away for sure. All we ask of ye is a square meal and a few mugs of stout or ale and then upon sun down the coin will appear by magic and it shall be yours and us upon our merry way once more’.
A silver coin was a lot to the four Orcs, indeed the largest of them had one in his pocket right now in return for near a week’s worth of labouring. To get another in return for some small change and only for an hour or so was too good a chance to pass up. Had not the Imp already produced a couple of pennies that now lay on the table? A couple of pennies was not enough for a hearty meal but it proved the point well enough. For an hour and easy reward the four agreed to the terms.
The serving girl, her tusks not yet fully formed, approached the table warily until she saw the coins in the hands of the four Orcs. They would split the cost of the meal and drinks
Under the weight of a pewter tray the girl returned and sat the food down in front of the Joccian who nodded his furred head to the Orcs and then set about eating the steaming lamb shank with gusto. As juices ran from his mouth the Imp skipped to the side of the plate and lifted one small potato which it ate in a single gulp before dropping to the floor at a wave from the Ratman. The Orcs saw this and asked why the Imp did not eat more.
‘He has but a small appetite, the wee guy, so he needs no mair than a tattie. But he retires noo under the table to ready himself fur the effort a making the silver for you kind gentlorcs. It causes him some commotion as ye will see.’
Soon the table began to rattle and shake as the Imp slung itself around the table legs and cannoned off the shins and knees of the sat Orcs who flinched but thought on about their silvery reward.
It took the Joccian near an hour to eat all he could and four times call for more bread and spirits from the bar. He was fully sated and then with a shrill whistle he caused the Imp to cease its cavorting under the table. As the Imp, now bare backed, once more climbed onto the now gravy and ale stained wood the Ratman stood bowed and then placed his crutch back under his arm before turning for the door.
‘Oi, you. Where’s our silver!’
The Orcs made to stand but as they did the Imp belched loudly and then with the grandest flourish and even a small puff of purple smoke laid a small silver coin on the table. The Imp then bowed and followed the Joccian to the door before bowing again as it left into the now dark outdoors.
With one dirty hand the largest Orc picked up the silver coin and chuckled. It was one from perhaps the Otharmann Realms with intricate work upon its faces. In return for a few coppers worth of grub and being unable to cope with hunger for another hour the Joccian had passed up this precious coin which was worth ten times more. The four of them roared with mirth. They would drink deeply this night and with what remained make merry with what wenches they could. The money in their pockets already was just the icing on the teacake. That Joccian was a damned fool!
Outside the Joccian threw away the crutch and then picked up the Imp before walking away at a brisk pace. He smiled down at the Imp, who grinned back at him. Then he reached back and undid the string knot that held his tail against his upper thigh.
‘Well ma little friend another honest hours work eh. Did ye visit upon each of them as I ate?
To establish if it was the case the Ratman patted his coat pocket and noted the bulk and weight of a pouch filled with coin.
‘Aye, I near forgot ye were so blasted fast. Between them I think maybe enough for further passage on our way to Londinium, I will sure no have to eat for a couple a days anyway.’He began to laugh and with a sound like nails down a chalkboard at horses gallop the Imp laughed too.
‘Though I would hate to see their ugly faces when they check their now vacant pockets and then when that serving wench tells em that their silver is nay more than an old tin button fae my uniform hammered flat by tiny fists faster than an eye can follow!’
Behind the pair came the sound of those who con, ached by those far better at it.
Now it's Your Turn...
This article was originally published on Alternative Armies' content portal, Barking Irons, and is reproduced here with permission.