Tarley’s Tavern sat high on the hill, up and away from the small town of Marcen. The rickety building stood braced against the highland winds for hundreds of years. Over the course of history, some of the realms greatest heroes passed through Tarley’s. Some guzzled ale, many told tall tales, and others sat quietly, wanting nothing more than to be left alone. That was decades ago, and now, the life within was more of a common sort. Rough-skinned farmers, ornery tradesmen, merchants along with restless men and women were seeking a little excitement contrary to the modest settings of the farm town.
The durable and weathered establishments builders were long gone. New faces took the place over the years. Now, within the walls, the current owner, Tuberlous, threw another log on the fire. The embers crackled and a warm glow permeated the room. Nobody noticed. Instead, the dwellers drank, gambled and wagered. The barmaids filled the laps of lavishly clad merchants. Pipe smoke and the smell of cherry tobacco made for a dreamy atmosphere. Within the mist the discreet sulked in the corners while others went on without an ounce of shame about their business. Every once in a while joking, jesting and wild victorious cheers rang out.
A spiral staircase led up to the second story where stiff winds made the rafters groan. The iron candle lit chandeliers quavered time and again. Sitting on that balcony a man sat behind a small desk pouring wine out of a clay carafe. He wore garish robes, uncommon of the people and sullied. The unique garb was laced with intricate patterns and lavish colors. His head was bald, face slender, grey eyebrows arched in peaks. Every move he made was purposed and fluid. His name was Finster. Long ago he was magus of the highest order. Now, he drank. He drank a lot.
A farmer entered the tavern with his cloth hat clutched in his hand. A cold breeze followed him, drawing some unpleasant mutterings from the dwellers. With effort he pushed the door shut, turned and looked up. He caught Finster’s penetrating stare. Rolling his long fingers, Finster, beckoned the man upward. Head down, the farmer shuffled through the crowd and slowly climbed up the stairs.
“Oh, hurry up will you,” Finster said in the voice of an impatient schoolmaster. “I haven’t got all night, commoner.” He looked over the rail. “No, wait a moment.”
The farmer stopped.
“Tuberlous!” Finster shouted down at the barkeeper. “Are you blind? I have a customer!”
Tuberlous slid out from behind the bar with his belly bouncing underneath his greasy smock. He faced the farmer with his hand out. “That’ll be a copper, Varney.”
The farmer handed the barkeep the coin and headed up stairs.
“My rent is paid today!” Finster shouted to the barkeep. “Let that take the grief from your puffy lips.” The farmer wandered down the balcony, glancing over the rail once, before taking a seat on the wooden stool in front of Finster’s desk. Finster leaned forward. “Varney, is it?”
The man nodded. His eyes attached to the bookshelf filled with many leather tomes, potions, vials and other trinkets. His grubby hands wiped the sweat on his lip. “Hello.”
“Aren’t you the chatty one? Hmmm, let me try to figure out what it is you need?” Closing his bright eyes, Finster touched the side of his oblong head. “Let’s see, you need a special seed for your crops, ah, no, that’s not it, oh wait, I see it now, you need a special seed for your wife.” He opened his eyes. “Yes, you’re wife’s crops need fertilization. You have no son’s to help you with labor. Lucky for you, I have just the thing for that.” He reached for his shelf.
“No, that’s not it, I have sons. Many.” The farmer’s eyes slid to the people below them.
Finster slapped the table. “No one is listening to you! Out with it then, what do you need? You’re secrets are safe with me. What we speak of his fully anonymous.” He hiccupped. “Excuse me. I have a strange illness.” He took a swing of wine. “Ah, I’m cured. Now where were we?”
“I need something to help me and, er, the wife, say, find the passion again?”
“So I was on course.” Finster leaned forward with is elbow on the table. “Tell me, Varney, about this wife of yours. Is she ample?” He winked at the farmer. “You know, bosomy?”
“I don’t see how that his helpful?”
“I makes all the difference, farmer. Don’t you come up here and insult me about how to go about my business. Is she ample or not? Come now, I need details.”
“She’s rather full chested.”
Leaning back in his chair and toying with the hairs his chin he said, “Interesting. Very interesting, Varney, seeing how I know that your wife is as flat chested as a twelve year old boy. So, you are desire to fool around, eh, well it’s not my business.”
“You said you’d be discreet.”
“And I will be. If anyone inquires just say you wanted my advice about the harvest. That’s what everyone says.” He reached into his shelve and grabbed a glass vial while saying “Ground mandrake, but remember, ‘Lust is blind but not your neighbors.’”
“Nothing.” He slid the small bottle over table and said, “This is what you want. It’ll be three silvers.”
Varney dirty fingers picked the inside of a small pouch. He slid over three coins.
With his finger, Finster touched two of the three coins. They rose from the table. He stacked on top of the other. “See, a little trick, for free, in case you doubted my powers as a wizard.”
Varney tucked the vial in his sheepskin vest. “You’ll be discreet, right?”
“And dare draw the wrath of a farmer like you? Of course I will.”
Giving Finster a funny look, Varney got up and started to walk away.
“Do you see that strapping young fellow down there, at the bar? Brawny and sandy locked.”
“That’s Plowboy Roy, and just so you know. So, don’t be ashamed about your secret nuptials.”
Varney shook his head. “What are you talking about?”
“Because, young Roy has been plowing your wife’s fields for quite sometime.”
“No, she’s paid a visit to me as well. Perhaps it’s time that the two of you have a long, open, honest and pathetic conversation.”
Clenching his cap, and with anguish building in his voice Varney said, “Why did you have to tell me that. I thought you were discreet.”
“Oh yes, I forgot to mention, that costs extra.” He flicked a silver down at the bar. It landed inside a glass with a clink. “Tuberlous! More wine! Lot’s of it.”
Without warning, the front door of the tavern burst open. Many soldiers, well-armed, dressed head to toe in leather armor, filed through the startled crowd. The hard-eyes of the men scoured the room. One of them pointed up at Finster. It was a tall man in a dark leather tunic that stood out among the rest. He called up to Finster and in an authoritative voice said, “You, sir, are under arrest.”
END CHAPTER 1 – Chapter 2, next week or sooner
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