I step through the door and find Griff chatting up the matron happily, as though he’s suddenly found the Rosetta Stone for medieval slang, while he shoves more gruel into his mouth.
My stomach grumbles as I recognize the bread I had earlier today has done little toward truly satisfying my need for sustenance. Griff notices me standing awkwardly in the doorway and yells in my direction.
“Hey, kid! Come on over and grab a seat. Agnes here was telling me the story of how she ended up becoming the owner of this tavern. It’s really quite an amazing tale. Did you know women weren’t usually even allowed to own businesses in the Middle Ages?”
“Um, I could have guessed,” I say softly as I sit beside him.
“Woodya care fer sum grull, lass?” Agnes asks me, her countenance suddenly much less grumpy than before. I startle once I realize she’s noticed I’m a girl.
“Oh, don’t worry about that whole girl crap. It’s not like she didn’t notice anything when you slung around our funny money. Besides, she said it’s not the first time she’s had to hide a couple o’ fugitives like us. She’s not too keen on our friend, The Wizard, either.”
“’E’s been a right pain my side, ‘e ‘as.”
“Cool. Um, no gruel, please. Is there anything else to eat?”
“Oi got sum mutton, if ya like,” Agnes says as she walks behind the bar. “It ain’t too old yet.”
“Yes, please. And something to drink, please.”
“Decided to try some beer, kid?” Griff says as he lifts his glass joyfully and drains it quickly.
“If there isn’t anything else, I guess.”
“Sorry, dearie. Oi just used tha las’ o’ tha milk fer tha pottage.”
“Okay. Beer it is then.”
“One ale cummon up, den,” Agnes says happily.
Moving with a speed I didn’t think possible for a woman of such orb-like dimensions, I’m suddenly seated behind a thick hunk of meat which would be unidentifiable had I not been warned what it would be and a mug of a golden beverage heaping over with foam. The meat might be more appetizing were it not lounging in a sludgy brown mess which may or may not have been at one time water.
The decision to try the beer first is not hard to come by. My thirst being what it is, I don’t even take a moment to consider what I’m about to imbibe. It’s not like this is the first time I’ve had beer. It just happens to be the first time I’ve tried it when not sitting on my father’s lap.
I tip the cup to my lips and am instantly greeted with a warm sweet liquid sliding down my throat. The taste is not exactly reviling, but it’s also not a taste I would choose to try again, were it not for how thirsty I am. Without thinking about it, I again tip the cup back and drown my mouth in more of the amber potion. I shudder at the taste as I slam the mug back down on the table.
“Whoa there, kid,” Griff laughs. “I didn’t think you were going to take to the stuff quite so strongly.”
“That’s disgusting,” I say, sputtering as I consider taking another swig.
“Yeah, they could definitely do with a bit of refrigeration around here. Think we should go ahead and invent it?”
I pick up the mug again and down another swallow. The flavor is actually starting to grow on me. Either that, or I’m just really enjoying finally having my thirst quenched, even if it’s with this warm beverage.
“There ya go, kid. Over the lips and past the gums, right?”
“Yeah, whatever,” I mutter in response. The mystery meat is suddenly starting to look appetizing now that I’m feeling less dry and more hungry. Tentatively, I pick off a piece of the dried meat sitting above the water line and place it on the tip of my tongue.
It manages to taste like food, and with only a hint of foot. I picture in my mind a rather dry roast and stab my fork-like utensil into the center of it, lifting it out of its pond carefully as I take a bite.
Agnes stands above me in anticipation of my response. With a mouth full of the mostly edible stuff, I nod my head appreciatively and mumble, “It’s good.”
A smile erupts across her face as I say it and she ambles back behind the counter, pours herself a mug of ale, and sits down across the table from us.
“So, yers gunna tack on Tha Wizzerd, aye?”
I give Griff a startled look.
“Oh, don’t be so uptight, kid. It’s obvious The Wizard ain’t making too many friends around here. We might as well use that to our advantage.”
“Oi, ‘tis a good plan, that. ‘owever, ewe ain’t tha firs’ to attem’ sucha fing. Wha’ makes ewe fink ewe ken dew it?”
“That’s a great question, Aggie,” Griff beams. When did Griff start to understand how the locals speak? “And to be honest, I’m still working out quite a few of the details. The first thing we need to do is find a way to get close to the man. Do you know anyone who’s got The Wizard’s ear?”
“Well, ‘is whittle chap Wyllt come in ‘ere erry now an’ agin. ‘E ain’t so bad a guy ones ewe git ta knows ‘im.”
“You’d think he’d be a bit guarded about his connection with The Wizard,” I offer.
“Oi, ewe’d fink dat, but dat Wizzerd feller ain’t too nice, you unnerstand? Mose folks would turn over on ‘im if tha means is right.”
“So, you think that most people would be willing to help us out if we can convince them we can actually make a change.”
“As long as ewe make ‘em fink ay’ll be safe affer ‘e’s gone, I fink so.”
“Cool,” Griff grins at me. “This’ll be easier than I thought.”
“Yeah,” I agree, “maybe. I still think we might want to check in with Geoffrey on all of this before we go around telling everyone we’re going to take down the bad ol’ Wizard. He seemed to be afraid of there being eyes and ears everywhere. Maybe he’ll have an idea of who is safe and who isn’t.”
“Good point, kid. Course, what’s to say he’s not working for The Wiz?”
“What’s to say Agnes here isn’t?”
“Oi,” Agnes recoils.
“I think it’s safe to say that if Agnes were working for The Wizard, we’d already have a whole host of his minions crowding this place to take us down.”
“That’s my concern. He’s got all these minions, but they’d all be ready to turn on him at a moment’s notice?”
“Yeah, you’re right. Even if Agnes is right and everyone’s ready to oust him, we’ll still have to play it careful to make sure we don’t give the wrong person the right information to get us captured again. We’ll talk to Geoff in the morning and see what he can tell us. For now, why don’t we do another round? Aggie, you got a deck of playing cards? Chelle and I have got a game I think you’d be really good at.”
Go to Chapter Twenty-One