Ethylthorpe had promised a town and she delivered a town. It was three times the size of Fencemar, which was really more of a village. There were two inns and three taverns in this new town, which was called Rumplegate, and they all looked warm and cozy. Ethyl insisted though that we stay in the inn called The Rolling Barrel. Apparently, her map had indicated that this was the best of the lot.
The Rolling Barrel was a large three-story building constructed of hewn stone on the ground floor and a combination of pine and cedar on the floors above. By the time that we had seen our mounts, which is to say Hysteria and Acrimony, safely in their stalls at the stables, with clean water, good oats, and the promise of a rubdown, it had already grown quite dark. Stepping into the taproom of the inn revealed a large room, heated by a roaring fireplace and filled with local miners, lumberjacks, and trappers as well as more than a few travelers like us. We took a small table along an inner wall and were immediately approached by a barmaid.
“What can I fetch ya’, luv?” she asked leaning over the table.
She was quite a fetching thing, moderately plump, with licorice-colored hair, coffee-colored skin, and big bright eyes. Her slightly pointy ears told me that she had some elven ancestry, which is to say probably one of her grandparents was an elf or an elf-lover. Her bountiful bosom strained against her blouse, which she wore with the top two buttons undone.
“I have it on good authority that you serve a meat pie for supper,” said I.
“Indeed we do,” she smiled. “I’ll bring out a pair of ‘em right away.”
“And a couple of beers,” I added.
“Tea for me,” said Ethyl.
“And a tea for her,” said I.
“Say, you look familiar,” said the barmaid.
“I am quite famous,” said I. “However, I have never been in this town before. Perhaps you have traveled south to Antriador or Oordport, or perhaps west to Celestria.”
“Not you,” she said. “Her.”
She pointed to Ethyl.
“I’ve seen ya’ in here before. Haven’t I? But ya’ had a different fella with you then. Is one of ‘em your dad and one your uncle ‘en?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Ethyl.
“All right, all right. I ain’t one to pry,” said the barmaid. “Two meet pies, a beer, and a tea, right away.”
“That was two beers,” said I.
She nodded in acknowledgement and headed off toward the kitchen.
“It will be some little while until she returns with our supper,” said Ethyl. “Would now be a good time to tell one of your famous stories?”
“You know it would be,” I replied. “Introduce me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, introduce me to the crowd. Stand up and tell them that I am Eaglethorpe Buxton and they should prepare to listen to a wondrous story. You’ve done it a hundred times before.”
“Oh, yes. I just wasn’t sure because I didn’t know what story you were planning to tell.”
“What story do you think I should tell them? Perhaps Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess.”
“No, not that one,” said Ethyl.
“How about Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Irascible Monkey People?”
“No one wants to hear that,” opined Ethyl, “because everyone knows that there is no such thing as monkey people.”
“Oh, how sharper than a serpent’s tooth,” said I.
“It seems like I’ve heard that before,” said Ethyl. “Why don’t you tell the story of Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Mercenary Warrior Who Ought Not to be a Woman but Secretly Was?”
“I am not in the mood to tell that story. How about Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Werewolf?”
“That sounds promising,” said Ethyl, getting to her feet. “Your attention good folk! Here is Eaglethorpe Buxton, the world’s greatest storyteller, and tonight he will tell you the greatest story ever told! Tonight, he will tell you the story of The Queen of Aerithraine.”
“No, I won’t!” I said. “I do not tell that story anymore. Besides, she’s a beastly hag.”
“But the people want to hear that story!”
“Actually, we don’t much care which story you tell,” said a large man, who looked to be a teamster or involved in some other hardy profession, which is to say, a tough job.
“This here ain’t Aerithraine and we don’t give spit about their queen,” said another, this fellow obviously a farmer, judging by his weathered skin and reddened neck. “You can save that story for when you’s back in Celestria.”
“But it’s a really good story,” said Ethyl.
“Tell us something exciting!” called out a dark-haired woman, sitting on the lap of a mercenary swordsman.
“Yeah!” cried her companion, and the fellow sitting across from him, both of whom looked to be well past the moderately drunk stage, which is to say, the plenty drunk stage, which was no doubt why the woman was with them, as men in the plenty drunk stage are freer with their coin than those in the moderately drunk stage.
“I shall tell you the most exciting story of all,” I told them. “I will tell you how I chased down a vile and deadly werewolf and killed him with this very fork!”
I whipped my fork out of my fork pocket and held it up so that it shone in flickering light of the fireplace and the many hanging lanterns. Everyone in attendance gave a great cheer.”