The food was as good as he’d remembered, but eating wasn’t what had Wendell’s attention.
“You okay, son?” Chuck asked.
“What? Oh. Sorry. Just…had Old Terrin tell me a story and it kinda has me wondering about some things.”
“Really? I’m not surprised. That boy can tell a tale like nobody I know.”
Wendell coughed, “Boy? He’s an old man, Chuck.”
The mägo shrugged. “Age is relative.”
“Right. Sorry.” Then, “He told me the Tale of Butter & Rum. Have you every heard of that story?”
Chuck coughed so hard, he hacked food across the table. Grabbing his drink, he gulped down some liquid. “Butter & Rum, eh? Yes, I’m well acquainted with that story. What about it?”
“Well, Terrin made some pretty wild claims that have me wondering.”
Chuck cut into his meat, then took a bite. “Like?”
“Like the University of Magic was hired to create the doors and I’m guessing a lot of the magic around the Black Market.”
The old mans head bobbed around as he chewed. “Wellllll, it was more like private contracting. The actual Mägo Council wouldn’t get their hands dirty, pompous windbags as they are.”
“Did they get the dragon’s horde of gold the Survivor found?”
Again the bobbing of the head as he chewed his food and swallowed. “More like magical do-dads, baubles and a bit of side change. The items just happened to be rare and impossible to come by any other means.”
Wendell leaned forward a bit and lowered his voice, “You seem to know a lot about this story.”
Chewing, “A bit.”
“Terrin also seems to think that Wood is the actual Survivor of the story. That he has to be as old as the Roadkill—which has to be at least what, 200 years old?”
Chuck set his utensils down and pulled back the sleeve of his robe to reveal a blue teddybear watch on his wrist. Touching his fingers to his thumb, he counted silently to himself. Nodding satisfaction, he looked to Wendell and said, “The tavern is 712 years, 4 months, and 12 days old. Give or take a week.”
Wendell’s jaw dropped open. “You DO know about this story!”
The mägo shrugged, “A bit.”
Wendell watched his friend casually work through his dinner, little gnome chipmunk cheeks pulsing as he chewed his food, avoiding eye contact.
But you’re not going to tell me about it, are you?
They continued eating in silence—the questions piling up in Wendell’s mind until he thought h would burst.
“The story hints that the Survivor was told by a Gypsy woman that if he got the help of the mägo, he would have his wife brought back to life.”
Chuck wiped his mouth with a napkin and shook his head. “Not true.”
Wendell frowned. “No?”
“No. That’s where the story’s been deluded. I’d say twisted. I’m guessing to create more mystery, but it’s just a lie.”
“So the Gypsy woman didn’t say the Survivors wife would be brought back to life?”
“What did the woman say then?”
Chuck took another bite of his meal, chewed and swallowed, Wendell on the edge of his seat. “There was no Gypsy woman spouting prophecies.”
“I’m not surprised with this rubbish floating around in the place of truth. It was a mägo who told the Survivor that if he stayed within the walls of this tavern and kept his doors open, one day a mägo, more powerful than any before him, would walk through one of those doors, and that man would use his powers to bring his wife back to him.”
Wendell blinked. “Wait. Back?”
Chuck nodded. “She’s not dead.”
Wendell sat back in his seat, stunned. “How do you know this, Chuck?”
Wiping his hands and setting the napkin to the side of his plate, the mägo lifted his mug of rum and smirked.
“Because that’s exactly what I told him.”