“Heads of cheese will compel the blade.”
Garfan entered the inn, The One Eyed Giant, (the sign had a giant with an eye patch, not a Cyclops) while Lockford stabled the horses. He found a small table in the back and sat down. Clearly the tabletop was unacquainted with a good wipe of a bar rag.
There was a fair scattering of breadcrumbs on the table. Garfan started to sort them into a spiral with the largest crumb in the center.
A barmaid came up and made no effort to clean the table, much to Garfan’s relief, as he wasn’t done with the spiral.
“What’ll it be?”
“A flagon of your best ale and what’s on the menu tonight?”
“We have a shepherd’s pie but I wouldn’t recommend it.”
“Then why bring it up?”
She shrugged, “It’s all we have on the menu.”
He tried his most charming smile, “Do you think you might do me a roasted chicken and some potatoes?”
The barmaid just stared at him, “All we got is the shepherd’s pie.”
Garfan sighed. “Then I guess I’ll have that.”
“I’ll be back with your ale.”
Garfan looked around the inn. It was quiet and he hoped it would stay that way. He resumed arranging the crumbs and saw that the crumbs were of two different kinds, rough dark bread and a lighter, crustier variety. He would have to separate them into two different, but overlapping spirals OR one large spiral, with alternating types of crumbs.
“Oy! Yer sittin’ in my seat!”
He looked up and saw a huge man standing in front of him. He was a flat-faced, big-bellied bully that you could find any tavern in any town, so it didn’t come as a surprise but it did come as an annoyance.
“That’s my regular place, for sittin’ and drinkin’ and such.”
Garfan went back to sorting the crumbs; it would have to be two overlapping spirals. Then the crumbs evaporated by way of the meaty palm that slapped the tabletop.
“Get up! Or der will be trouble, mark my words.” He leaned in a way that made most people move more quickly than they thought they could.
Garfan looked up from his ruined work and straight into the bloodshot eyes of the hefty hooligan.
“Listen, friend, all I wanted was a quiet evening with a meal and a drink or two, now that’s not going to happen. You made sure of that.”
Most nuances eluded the bully — all he knew was this small man was shooting off his mouth and not moving. As a matter of record, he thought of everyone else in the world as a small whatever they were, with the exception of his old dad, of whom he still lived in terror, of due to the rather hands-on method of parenting that he exercised.
“Move or I’ll make you move!” He had never had to say this before, but he had prepared it in the extremely unlikely case of someone not doing what he told them.
“No,” said Garfan, who was prepared for violence after the way the crumbs had been scattered so aggressively.
There is that moment before a bar fight or battle when everyone knows that something terrible is about to happen, but the worst part is they do not know what it is. This time it was interrupted by a slight cough.
“Ahum. Do you know who that is?”
Lockford, as if by magic, stood next to them.
“Look at that sword, the gem of deepest azure set in the pommel. The sigil of a mountain being sundered by lighting on his breastplate. His eyes of grey that exude steely resolve with subtle hints of compassion.”
The eyes of a young man at the bar went wide.
“It’s Sir Garfan!”
There was a pause, then the inn erupted into chaos, questions shouted, apologies made, mostly by the large man who was named, Big Andy, (who turned out to be a quite a fan), and drinks were bought.
Everyone wanted to shake his hand, which he had no choice but to accept with good grace, but in his mind he kept strict count so he knew how long to wash his hand later.
Requests were made for stories of his exploits, which Garfan modestly declined to tell. However, Lockford was more than pleased to recount them. This made Garfan look humble and therefore all the more heroic, but truthfully he disliked public speaking and the trick of picturing everyone in their smallclothes only made him more uncomfortable.
“-And that is how Sir Garfan defeated the three-headed fire serpent of Whispering Sands!”
Garfan pulled Lockford close and said, “I had it under control. Now look at things!”
“It seemed the correct path. It would reflect poorly on your reputation if it were said that the Chosen One killed a tavern bully.”
Garfan shrugged, “It might be considered a public service.”
“To whom?” queried Lockford.
“The people he bullied, I’m sure they wouldn’t miss him.”
“Perhaps, but it seems to have all worked out in the end. And everyone is having a wonderful time.”
“Nearly everyone,” Garfan pouted.
The young man from the bar approached Garfan. He looked bright and full of promise, and like the bully, there was one in every village. Unlike bullies, getting rid of these hopeful beacons of decency was more difficult.
In the past, Garfan would ask such young hopefuls to leave their humdrum lives of toil and mind-numbing boredom and join him on the road, which they knew in their hearts of hearts was full of adventure, both exciting and dangerous. Everyone knew that a farmer’s son or daughter, given the opportunity, could become a hero worthy of song.
Of course, being the son or daughter of a farmer is extremely poor training for a life of adventure, and having a pure heart only makes you more delicious for the many monsters for whom, pure hearts are a rare treat.
So, after leading too many bright young things to an untimely death, Garfan swore not to accept any more sidekicks.
“Sir Garfan, may I introduce myself to you?”
“Yeah, sure,” said Garfan, hoping that being aloof might put him off.
“I am Caliric; I’m going to be an adventurer! Just like you! I mean, not like you, no one could be just like you!”
“Okay, that’s great.” Avoid eye contact, Garfan told himself, that just prolongs conversation.
“But I am the best bowman in the county! I won the archery competition last spring!”
“Good for you,” he replied in a non-committal way
“Do you have any advice?”
This was the point where he had to crush the young man’s dreams. He didn’t enjoy it, but it was better than having to tell some sad-eyed farmer that his child died ‘heroically’ after being swallowed by some monster or transmuted by a mad wizard into a butterfly that was then eaten by an ordinary lizard. (He only left that part in once. It did NOT go over well.)
“Learn a trade and stay at home.”
He looked at Garfan, his face covered in a cloud of disappointment. But then, the sun of misunderstanding broke out and a huge smile spread across his face.
“The bards sing of your bravery and skill in battle but they don’t say anything about how funny you are! Learn a trade! Stay at home!”
The rest of his thought was cut off by the sound of the front door slamming open. Striding in was a tall woman clad in armor, battle-ax in hand. She was beautiful in the same way a tiger was, something to be admired from afar and preferably with something between you, like a bottomless chasm, for example. All the same, she was incredibly attractive; her auburn hair fell in a silken wave over a steel shoulder plate as her azure eyes flashed with purpose and her scarlet lips opened to speak.
“I seek the knight, Sir Garfan!” she shouted.
All eyes turned to him. If only he could’ve finished that spiral.
“So… Have we met?”