A Tale from the White Liar Tavern
"The Legend of Baldur"
A Flintloque Short Story by Tony Harwood
Artwork Conceived and Created by Tony Harwood and Edward Jackson
Throughout the realms of Valon the White Liar Tavern in Broomcoat has a very special reputation for the quality of the ales sold and the tales told. During the cold winter months the landlord brings comfort to his regulars by offering hot mulled brews and spiced pies. With steam rising from their flagons it is customary for patrons to recount their stories...
The landlord of the White Liar looked around his taproom, it was very late and barely any patrons were left and those that remained were themselves on the edge of sleep. It had been a good night though, with many stories and a great deal of ale. As he took down the last of the drained barrels, an old tankard fell from the shelf above the bar and clattered to the floor. He smiled, it had reminded him of a traditional tale, the Legend of old Baldur and his trip to the Beer Keller of the Dead. Feeling there was time for one more story before closing up for the night, he set himself up with a drink, sat at the fire and started telling the tale to any of those left that would listen...
The Great Dwarf Baldur was so heartbroken upon the death of his Blood Kin Baltan that he decided to enter the great Dwarf Drinking Halls of the Dead to rescue him. He trekked for days over land and came upon the foothills of the Great Crag ‘White Helm’. He knew it was guarded by creatures even he could not defeat but he was not just a strong warrior, he was a damned clever one too. He used some worn clothes from a long-dead corpse he had stumbled upon, and tricked his way past the Valkyre, the Gate Guards of the Halls of the Dead, and entered the mountain.
For what seemed like days Baldur made his way down, constantly moving closer and closer to the heart of the ancient mountain. It seemed endless, and he had little food, but he kept on going. Eventually even his resolve began to wane but before he could even consider making the decision to return to the surface he heard a noise. He waited, listening, as the noise grew louder. It was the clamour of olde drinking songs and the raucous noise of Dwarves enjoying their ale. The noise grew and grew, but Baldur was unable to find any entrance that led into the fabled Halls that were so obviously nearby.
He searched for hours looking for any doorway or entrance into the now almost deafening revelry but without success. All the time the aroma of fine Dwarf Ale tantalised his taste buds, increasing his thirst to unbearable levels. The torment was driving him mad – the smell of the Ale but nothing to drink.
It was at this point he uttered the immortal line...
“Beer, Beer all around – and not a drop to drink!”
Sliglthly delirious, Baldur staggered through the ancient hallways and eventually found an old and empty barrel. In a bid to gain some relief from the mocking noise, he climbed into it. Once within the weariness took him and he fell immediately asleep.
Baldur’s sleep was filled with fitful thoughts and interruptions as he dreamt that he was being carried, head high through glorious halls of beautifully carved stone, his stomach full of freshly brewed ale and the heady scent of golden hops and loud singing all around him.
When Baldur eventually awoke, he found to his surprise that he was no longer in the dark, cold tunnels, but in a warm and bright storeroom. A storeroom that was heaped full of strong ale casks stacked in neat, tidy piles.
Overcome with hunger and more importantly thirst, Baldur tried to ‘tap’ the nearest cask but to no avail, they were obviously full but he had no way that he could get a drop of ale out.
Baldur was distraught, what a stupid idea this adventure had been – to enter the realms of the dead. Now after the hours he’d already suffered these casks of ale were teasing him even more. There is nothing more depressing in all of Valon than a depressed Dwarf in a cellar full of Dwarf ale that he cannot drink! And then there was all that singing.
The singing was still to be heard and if anything was louder and much closer.
Baldur held his head in his hands and cried.
Suddenly, a door Baldur had not previously noticed opened and in walked a plump and friendly looking Dwarf with a ruddy complexion, strong bare arms and dressed in a white apron. He picked up a barrel of ale as if it were just a single tankard and turned to leave when he stopped, turned and looked directly at Baldur.
The jovial Dwarf spoke to Baldur as if he were a young child.
“Now there, got lost have we? Come I’ll make sure you get back to the Drinking Halls, Come.”
Baldur followed. After so long alone in the dark and depressing tunnels he was in truth relieved to see another living soul. But even more than that, Baldur felt drawn, compelled to obey the Dwarf. It is unlikely that he could have disobeyed even if he had wanted to.
A short walk later and Baldur found himself in the most beautiful stone vaulted Hall that he had ever seen. The huge columns that held up the roof were carved and decorated in traditional Dwarf themes, while huge lanterns shed a bright golden glow across the huge room. The tables were set with overflowing beer steins and all around sat Dwarves of every age drinking from decorative tankards. At the edges of the Halls were stewards, drawing fresh ale from huge barrels, just like the ones that Baldur had seen in the storeroom.
The Dwarves sang and the room was full of cheering and laughter - the Perfect Beer Keller.
In that Hall Baldur drank and drank, he spent an age just drinking but there was something, something that wasn’t quite right – but what?
One day many weeks later or was it that night – time was strange in The Dwarven Drinking Halls of the Dead, Baldur was enjoying yet another stein of Dwarven Ale when he saw Baltan his long lost kin.
At once his memory was restored and he implored his Dwarven Brother to return to the surface and the land of the living, but Baltan was unmoved and had no recollection of Baldur or the world of the living. Baldur realised that this was the lot of the dead, huge Keller’s with nothing to do but drink ale and sing songs. Baldur knew that he had to return to the surface and allow the dead to remain and enjoy their drinking halls.
He bade farwell to Baltan, and others of his kin he recognised. He made a final salute of drinking a tankard of golden ale and left the Keller through the ornate doors at the far end. No sooner than the door closed behind him the noise, and aroma started to fade away.
The journey to the surface was quick and uneventful, although the hang-over was one that Baldur would never forget. On returning home he found that he still had an ornate tankard, taken from a table in the Keller.
Baldur discovered his Tankard was one of immense magical ability and actually had a number of special abilities. Injured Dwarves who drank from it were instantly healed, others drank and forgot their cares while at Feast days or special occasions the Tankard brought great revelry to the event and was a greatly prized possession. For many years Baldur and later his family were pleased to share the power, but with the arrival of the Darkness in the Frozen Witchlands the rumours that the Tankard held supernatural power fell onto corrupted ears and shortly many of the Star Wraith’s servants attempted to steal the item. Blookha only knew what the Star Wraith would use it for should it fall into his alien hands.
In an attempt to protect the tankard and keep these special powers from the Dark Lord, the Tankard was hidden and although many have sought it out, to this day its whereabouts remains a mystery.”
The landlord looked up, his tale finished, and saw that many patrons had followed the tale with awe, their minds eyes, helped by the closeness of sleep and the volume they had drunk, vividly painting the pictures of the innkeepers tale.
“Where could it be?”, “Where would you hide such an item?” were just a couple of the questions they murmured as the landlord saw them to the door and bade them good night.
Alone in his pub that had given him so much over the years he chuckled to himself and answered the question, safe in the knowledge only the pub itself would hear.
“Why it’s obvious, if I was wanting to hide a tankard, I would hide it in plain sight.”
He looked up at the beams and rafters of the inn, at the many old and very dusty tankards that decorated the roof. His gaze settled on one particular tankard, deep in the shadows, he smiled again and retired to his bed for the night.
Now it's Your Turn...
This article was originally published on Alternative Armies' content portal, Barking Irons, and is reproduced here with permission.