Hello, Benjamin from Brother’s Campfire here!
Did you ever wonder where the annoying trope of questers meeting at a tavern began? You will soon wonder no more.
When Alexander Zapher rode his trusty steed Bartholomew to the local tavern on a Friday evening, it was apparent that the word got around by all the snickering.
Everyone in town and the surrounding farms knew Alexander inherited a hundred-acre wood at the base of hills haunted by haints, disdainfully called “Pooh” by the locals. Other than who Alexnder’s parents were, It was the juiciest gossip at the moment.
When Alexander dismounted his trusty steed, the giggling stopped. Standing well above the locals in stature, Alexander was a robust man trained in the ways of war and accustomed to working long hours with his mother, a maid. Dairy cows don’t milk themselves and sometimes they need help birthing. Mucking the barns required a strong back as well.
It was one thing to prattle off at the mouth about celebrity and quite another thing when the party involved was bigger than life with weapons of war right in front of you.
Alexander took the heckling in stride and smiled broadly, looking about.
“It’s ok to laugh,” he shouted,
“Everyone needs some snickers!”
No one responded. The townspeople suspected that Alexander might cut someone asunder after the pittance his family gave him as a holding. There was no need to needle a noble to his face.
Alexander pushed open the door and stepped into the tavern.
Inside, a bard tuned a strange instrument Alexander had never seen before. There was to be a party of epic proportions.
As heads turned to see who entered, the typically fun-loving townsfolk became eerily silent.
When armed nobility entered the tavern, it was never a positive experience. a scandal from decades ago came to memory.
It was Alexander, and everyone knew he recently received bad news. Who better to bully than his alleged origin story.
Alexander scanned the room, which was full of patrons, for it was Friday and a bard from faraway was scheduled to play.
His eyes went to the local blacksmith and he looked at the ground. He turned to the local shopkeeper and the shopkeeper found a receipt that needed attention. The barkeep cleaned the same glass over and over. Alexander may as well have been invisible to everyone.
Finally, his gaze met the barkeep’s who hastily set down his towel and poured him a glass of milk and procured a cupcake with frosting. The patronns looked on. They did not know such a dainty dish was on the menu.
Irregardless and regardless, it was time to placate the spurned.
Alexander’s eyes went from cupcakes to the bard.
The bard’s eyes twinkled with mischief and a bit of caution. Alexander looked dangerous.
Taking the opportunity, the bard spoke first.
Are you looking for a song or sword fight?
Rest assured, my blade and words bite.
My lord looks abrupt and fiesty,
Sir, upon yon plate, is a nicety.
Alexander smiled. He looked again at the blacksmith, the shopkeeper, and the barkeep, and then to the patrons.
His eyes returned to the bard. He scratched his whiskers thoughtfully and put his hand on his sword somewhat menacingly.
The tension was broken; the townspeople in the tavern laughed. Alexander was in good spirits; no one was to be cut asunder. It never hurt to be careful.
Bellying up to the bar, Alexander brought the milk to his lips and laughed heartily. He took a bite of the cupcake and a bit of frosting caught his beard.
“Dear townsmen! I have an announcement!”
The tavern was silent. What, exactly, was Alexander’s next move?
Alexander paused and finished his milk, wiping his face with his sleeve. There remained on his beard a bit of frosting.
“My father, Lord Reginald Zapher, ruler of these lands bestowed upon this middle child a prairie dog infested hundred-acre wood, affectionately called “Pooh”.
“As you may know, it is at the base of the hills said to be haunted by haints and such.
Outside, Bartholomew, Alexander’s steed whinnied.
Alexander raised an eyebrow.
“Oh stop Bart, it isn’t that bad.”
Bartholomew disagreed and snorted.
Ignoring the nosey steed outside, he continued.
“I seek an army to join me in quelling the hainted hills. Who among you will leave their winter plowing and join me in my pursuit?”
Suddenly, the blacksmith had an urgent call, the shopkeeper had to fill a weekend order, and everyone seemed to need seats with holes in the frigid outdoors.
In seconds, the tavern was empty save the barkeep, the bard, and Alexander.
The barkeep was furious. “My lord, your coming has ruined business this fine Friday! I have a bard hired for the night at no small expense!”
“You will be fine.”
“No, I will not, I have to pay my rent and I need this event to get by!
“That depends,” drawled Alexander lazily.
‘No .. No, it doesn’t”, Protested the barkeep.
“Actually, It does.”
Out of nowhere, and helping nothing, the bard played an unresolved sustain on his outlandish instrument. It was an unnerving sound mirroring the frustration of the barkeep.
Respectful of his lord, the barkeep waited an unusual amount of time for an explanation.
Exasperated, the barkeep cried, “Depends on what, my lord?”
Alexander cleared his throat. “You want to earn coin to make a living, right?”
“Well, yes, me lord, but you have driven my customers away tonight!”
“Get more customers and you will be just fine.”
“Put a now hiring sign up near the door.”
“That doesn’t make sense. I need CUSTOMERS to hire workers.”
Alexander pulled out a bag of coin from his waistband. “Tell you what, I will pay for tonight’s losses.”
It was a large sum, perhaps enough to buy a small home. The barkeep hastily put the bag in his lockbox and hoped Alexander was serious.
Alexander tossed another at the bard who caught it deftly.
“Thank you son, my heart you’ve won,” replied the bard.
He turned his attention to the barkeep.
“Now, what I would like you to do is put a now hiring sign up and if they are looking for work, refer them to me. I will compensate you handsomely.”
The barkeep was cynical. At a moment’s notice, he could be compelled to return the coin, and he would have to.
The bard was ecstatic. He looked at the barkeep.
“Attention arrested, Alexander invested,
Mettle requesting, will pay for some questing!
Barkeep annoyed, is now better employed.
The hills had eyes in stories poor written, Hills with haints soon to be smitten.”
Alexander left saying nothing further, mounted his trusty steed Batholomew and rode off.
This, my friends, is where the annoying tavern trope of finding a quest at a tavern began.