The Table Map

AlthorParhurst“You’re probably better off outside them walls; our lovely Lady Mayor’s ribbons don’t take well to your kind, even during the best summers.”

“There’s truth enough to that. Here’s a loaf to go with that mug. Stew will take another minute, but it’ll be out. And stop giving him that look, lad. You ain’t a merchant and you couldn’t pass if’n you tried.”

“Don’t mind the missus, it’s not like you’re a diamond in a goats ass, but we’ve seen plenty around this town. Merchants and caravan folk all summer long, every summer. And you’re a different type all together.”

“Ain’t no merchant. He’s trouble, he is. Got’s that look to him, just ask the ribbons. They’ll be around tomorrow, checkin’ up on him and deliverin’ their message of peace and good will.”

“Prolly, prolly will. But as long as you’re here and you’re payin’ and you stay clear of town for most things, you’ll be given a fair shake, mostly. But word gets out that you’re askin ‘bout the ol’ wizards tower and everyone’ll know their suspicions are in the pink.”

“Al, stop with that talk. Tell him your tale while he eats and send him to bed. He looks like the mountain road has been unkind.”MargotParhurst

“He’s waiting on a meet, woman, and he’s a grown man he don’t need me sending him to bed.”

“Just tell it to him then and let him eat. I don’t like the look he’s getting from those girls and they don’t need anything else distracting them.”

“Well enough, then. As to your question, I assume you’re not asking about the local cubs testing their bravery against the dark. Pissing their pants over the ghost of the warlock and poking sticks into dark holes. There’s been some folks, not unlike you, that’ve come around.”

“Not too many, but a few over the years.”

“Let me tell it, woman, if you want it told.”

“Well, get on then.”

“Years ago, we had some damn crazy fools around here that tried their luck exploring this here Cauldron.”

“Thought they’d find the ol’ warlock’s horde or maybe Laloal’s prison, they did. Idiots.”

“Anyway, they’d come in here, away from the eyes of the Lord Mayor’s ribbons, and compare notes and tell tales.”

“And drink.”

“Sure enough, and drink is what started it, it is. That damn moron, Garard Grayaxe, rest his soul, was trying to describe some area of the wilds he’d been loping about in to the rest of those idiots. Rather than ask for quill and parchment,”

“Or chalk and slate. We’ve got both. Always have.”

“He scratches out his damn map on the top of my table with his damn knife. Who does that? Oh, the man was an idiot and his map was just an X here, a line there, and some sort of squiggly bit that I still don’t understand. But over time they kept coming back to that same table. Sitting around and scratching at it, again and again.”

“They paid for it, I made ‘em. Damn sure, I did.”

“But over time them others started adding bits to their ‘map’. One fella, Monte, I think it was, real artsy-fartsy type, spent a good bit of time prettying it up, their map. So before too long, that table went from something Grayaxe had uglied up with his scratches to a pretty damn good map carved into that whole table top.”

“Didn’t look too bad neither. They’d gone and carved in forests and creeks, some caves, there were even a few ‘ominous’ warnings put in there, all sorts of blither ‘n’ bosh they claimed to of seen. It was pretty impressive.”

“After they all disappeared, it was just a ruined table. A bit of a curiosity, sure, but the thing was too scratched up to even rest a drink flatly. So I had Arne’s son flip the top over and now I got a good table again. You don’t believe me, take a look underneath that table there in the corner.”

“Go on, lad, take a look before someone sits it. We’re not lyin’, it’s there.”CTD011