Patti and I went to Parker today to do some shopping at Wal-Mart.
Not to exciting, eh. Well ok, here is an other fairly long installment of
The Kings Cudgel.
The door to the inn crashes open and a blast of arctic cold swirls in through the opening bring with it a cyclone of snow that coalesces into the figure of a man covered from head to foot by a long white fir trimmed traveling cloak. Long fingers extend from the ends of the sleeves, the right hand holds a staff of light, strong, Cracle wood with the image of a Galoot’s head carved on top. The large fangs of the Galoot curving down to form a hand guard of sorts. The man raises his left hand to pull back the cowl of the cloak. The face is pale and thin with a long hawkish nose above thin lips stretched across a wide mouth. A heavy red beard covers much of the man’s face below the piercing blue eyes that now peer at the room from under great bushy red eyebrows. The man exhales a long plume of steam as he relaxes in the warmth of the inn. He shakes his shoulders and a small avalanche of snow slides from his cloak and piles on the floor around his feet. The man in white looks over the two Gorogorions and the girl picking herself up from the floor. Then he turns his attention to the fat inn keeper.
“Ha! Quintar you old reprobate! I see no one has burned the cudgel down around you yet! eh?” The man chortles in a dry reedy voice.
“It has been a while since I have been in these parts and I was very pleased to see the old place still standing.”
“Welcome, welcome, Tutorious Falis, It has been a long time indeed,” the inn keeper rumbles. “Where have you been these many years. I thought that the Usurper had captured and imprisoned you. Rumor had it that you were boiled in oil and then hanged and then drawn and quartered..”
Quintar looks aside to the girl. “Show this nice Gorogorion couple to room seven if you please Grenzelat.“
The girl curtsies and extending her hand in the direction of the doorway to the apartments. “This way please”, she says sweetly.
“Ah well” the man in white chuckles, The rumors of my demise Have been greatly exaggerated.
But now old friend, I need a room for the night and some of your famous Galitrop stew.
“I am afraid I will have to disappoint you mate.
The room I have but there will be no Galitrop stew this time of year. They have all migrated south and won’t be back until late spring.” Quintar growls.
“Alas“, sighs Tutorious. “All this long cold days travel I was sustained by the thought of a nice steaming bowl of The Cudgel’s famous Galitrop stew. Through the long cold leagues, breaking through waste high drifts of snow, crossing frozen rivers, I kept the vision of large fatty chunks of orange citrus flavored Galitrop meat floating in a thick purple gravy with those wonderful spicy red mushrooms that the Gorogorions cultivate in their forest fastness and those delicious sour, hairy, blue tubers and that strange bitter green slimy stuff, before me ” Tutorious gushes.
“And Now you tell me there will be no Galitrop stew to revive me after my toils.? I am undone” he moans.
“So now then, my deer innkeeper what meager sustenance do you offer a retched traveler on this cold and snowy night?” Tutorious queries.
Quintar squints his squinty eyes at Tutorious.
“Broiled Gore-rat or bloat sheep, Bugle toad stew, acorn mush, boiled tubers and redeye gravy with fresh red eyes.
“That’ll work” Tutorious replies with finality.
“You’ve grown a bit long winded in the years that have passed” Quintar observes.
“Oh yes,” Tutorious clears his throat and speaks in a low whisper. “Since my rescue from the dungeons at Dragon Roost Prison near the end of the great rebellion, I drifted for many years, cleaning stables, digging graves, doing any kind of work to stay alive. One day I found myself in the great citadel at Car-lump-dour. I had found service with a noble there. He was the bastard son of some beheaded noble I believe. I only know him as Mr. Whipet. As you know the citadel is in the center of the largest metropolis in the realm. Being a large city with thousands of people there is a need for news and communication, so this enterprising young fellow found an old partially destroyed hand operated printing press in a collapsed section of the
old city. He had the press and as much other related stuff that could be found, moved to an abandoned building down near the docks. He rehabilitated the press, figured out how to work the thing and after many false starts began printing of all things, a newspaper. Can you believe it? A Newspaper!” Tutorious shakes his head.
“The first ones were no more that just hand bills. Just one page printed on one side.” Eventually circulation increased to the point where Mr. Whipet could sell advertising. Soon, he had to train another printer and then a staff of writers and reporters. The paper had a circulation of thousands and growing in the city and beyond. He is building a newspaper empire in the north. Now he is having a paper mill built on the Codswallow River. Some people down stream are in an uproar but he is pushing ahead with the project despite them.” Tutorious takes a breath.
“At any rate,” he goes on, I gained employment with his household, in the kitchens to be exact. I’m a great dish washer, you know” he chuckles. “Oh yes, world class ha, ha!. Which reminds me, my old friend, what will it cost me for a nights rest in your delightful inn and some of your delectable food and refreshment, ” he looks at Quintar from under his heavy red eye brows.
“One night and two meals will be one silver chip. Cash!” the innkeeper replies flatly.
“Yes, I see. A-hmm, that will be just fine“ Tutorious murmurs disappointedly and produces a small pouch from somewhere inside the sleeves of his cloak. He shakes it and it tinkles with the sound of a very few coins. Tutorious dumps the contents into his palm, pushes the bits of metal around with his finger tip, comes up with a silver chip and drops it on the bar. He returns the remaining coins to the pouch and with a flick of his hand that could not be seen, the pouch disappears back into the recesses of the sleeve.
“As I was saying” Tutorious continues his story “I was working in the kitchen and eating the meals prepared therein. They were very good meals as this young man had the good fortune to hire as his cook, a girl from Entergoria and everyone knows that Entergorian woman are the best cooks in the realm if not the entire world.” He stops and looks at Quintar for a moment.
“By grumpin! Your wife is an Entergorian if I am not mistaken,” he cries. “By the way, where is that spirited beauty of yours? I have been here for several minutes now and she has not shown her pretty face or so much as yelled at anyone. Where is the woman? Is she ill?” he asks.
“No“, Quintar’s growl is low and full of pain. “No, she passed on in child birth many years ago” he manages with only a slight quaver in his voice. He starts to say more but the words caught in his throat.
“I am truly sorry for your loss my old friend. Grenzelia was a prize, truly a prize” Tutorious says softly.
“And what of the child?” he asks.
“Oh, she survived and thrives today“ the innkeeper says flatly. She is the young girl that was here when you appeared in our foyer.”
“Ah yes the young beauty. I should have known. She has the look of her mother. You should be proud to be the father of such a lovely and well mannered daughter” Tutorious complements Quintar.
“Pretty, yes. Well mannered? Ha!” She is a lazy retch! and will no doubt end up badly.
“Wasn’t there another girl?” Tutorious asks. “She was about knee high the last time I saw her and cute as a button, as I remember”.
“Yes that would be my Blossom” Quintar replies proudly. “She is over at the fire preparing the evening meal. She inherited her mothers knack with food but sadly she got stuck with my looks”.
“Hmmm, yes, alas,” Tutorious mumbles.
“Well, as I was saying” Tutorious picked up his story again. I was sitting in the kitchen of my masters house expounding to the cook in my most eloquent terms on the epicurean delights that emanate from her humble refectory. I was over heard by the master of the house and was asked to join him in his study. Uncertain as to what I may have done to raise the ire of my employer, I sheepishly followed him up the long stairs from the kitchens to the main body of the house. Little did I know at the time that I was never to work in that kitchen again.”
Mr. Whipet led me to a set of double doors. He pushed open the right hand door, entered and strode across the room to a large polished desk behind which he sat and folded his hands in front of him on its top.
“You have a way with words”, he said. “Do you know your letters then?”
Yes sir, I was educated at the University of Coldpalace where I earned several degrees including; a MA in literature and philosophy, a BS in alchemy, a PHD in astrophysics, a certificate in carpentry and dry wall and a WTF in divination.
“A WTF?” Whipet asked. What kind of a degree is that?
“Obviously you have never taken divination” I replied.
“In short, yes, I know how to read and write,” I continued.
“So then”, he said pulling on his right earlobe, “I take it you have had some training in creative writing?
Of course!”, I replied.
“Well my friend,” Tutorious slapps the bar, “right then and there he offers me a job as a freelance restaurant critic and food writer. Yes sir, I even have my own byline; I am known as Tooty the Foody.”
“We took a little poetic license with my name, you see” Tutorious winks conspiratorially at Quintar.
Quintar clears his throat and shakes his head.
“How the mighty have fallen,” he mumbles to himself.
“Now then, you’ll be needing a room”, the innkeeper announces. “Do you have any preference for an upper or a lower?” he asks.
“The years I spent chained to the damp walls of The Dragons Roost and the years of hard labor after that has left my muscles and bones too feeble to willingly climb ladders, so a lower if you please, kind sir.”
“Right, then! I’ll put you in number eight, next to that nice Gorogorion couple” Quintar tells him.
“Oh, I hope they don’t squeal all night” Tooty whines.
“No problem there my friend, they only rut in the spring, Tee, hee, hee, Quintar laughes.
Grenzelat? Grenzelat!! The innkeeper yells. “Where is that girl?!!”
Tutorious looks at the fat man with an expression of shock on his face.
“Grenzelat? You named her that?” Touorious Falis asks Quintar.
“Why, ah, yes, actually, I did,” Quintar admits sheepishly.
“Does she know what it means?” Tutorious asks in a low whisper.
Of course not, Quintar replies. “She will never know. No one knows the old tongue now a days. There are only a few of us left that were taught in the academy before the rebellion. You, me, maybe a few others, most of us died in the wars that followed or in prisons like The Dragons Roost.”
Just then the girl Grenzelat appears in the doorway to the back rooms.
“There you are, wench. What mischief have you been up to now.?
“Why father, I was just helping the Gorogorions get settled in.” Grenzelat replies sweetly.
“Oh, very well,” Quintar grumbles.
“This Gentleman is an old friend of mine. Show him to number eight and see that he has whatever he needs. Then get back to the cooking hearth and help your sister” he orders.
“The night coach is due in at anytime and there will be at least six hungry customers on board her.” And you stay away from that fellow, Jack,” he adds as an after thought.
“Did you say Jack?” Tutorious asks as he turns to look at the innkeeper.
“Why, yes, yes I did,” the fat man admits squinting at Tutorious. “Do you know him?
“Well no, not exactly, I only know of him. But if what I know about him is true you have no worries about your daughters virtue.” Tutorious assures him.
“My daughters virtue? Quintar laughs. “It’s the young mans virtue that concerns me with these wenches of mine around. Tee, hee, hee Quintar laughs again.
“So he doesn’t like girls eh?”
“Hear that Gren? he don’t like girls so just leave him alone and get back to your chores.”
“Not exactly Quin. I may enlighten you later but your daughter is safe or more to the point, Jack is safe for now.” The man in white bows deeply and follows the girl. The sound of his staff thudding against the floor with every other step as they disappear down the dark hallway.
“Windy old fool ” Quintar mumbles to no one in particular. Then he smiles to himself recalling ancient adventures with the quirky old scholar. Maybe wizard is a more fitting term.
“I wonder who this Jack person really is” he muses.