A Tale from the White Liar Tavern
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...
It was one of those bitterly cold winter evenings when the frost glistened on the dead leaves and the moon had an eerie chilling glow. Customers of the White Liar were huddled close to the huge roaring fire caressing their mulled wine or warmed beer when Old Tom entered the bar. He had been a regular visitor on market day before his wife had passed, but now his visits were less frequent and his clothes were well worn and bedraggled. He shook of the cold and stamped his boots on the stone floor before stumbling towards the huge oak table that acted as bar and serving platter for the locals. Beckoning the landlord and grunting he was poured a tankard of dark beer which he took with both hands and retired to a gloomy corner to enjoy his solitude.
Very few took any notice of Old Tom – he was considered a hermit and a loaner, keeping himself to himself. Very few had ever heard him utter more than a grunt or received a begrudgingly scowl. This evening all that was about to change…
Three tankards later as the evening was coming to close and regular drinkers were starting to look for their warm coats before taking the cold walk home Tom moved toward the fire and began his unique tale.
"When I was but a lad, I could have drunk any one of you scallywags under the table, so great was my lust for beer and hard liquor. Sometime later on an evening very much like this one, I had consumed more than my fair share of drink and was politely asked to leave." The other customers looked at one another and with knowing nods and unsaid words realised that this was an evening they were going to remember. The landlord knowing a good thing, filled the nearly empty tankards with fresh ale and everyone settled down for the rest of the story.
Old Tom continued telling how he had struggled to find the arms of his coat and pulled on his tattered scarf and cap before wishing everyone well and leaving – what he actually said was too insulting and ‘earthy’ to repeat but the meaning was not lost on those that heard this tale. Blowing a kiss to the landlady Tom tumbling out into the yard and found his mount – a bedraggled mare called Maggie and after a couple of attempts managed to mount her and prod her into a slow walk home to his mistreated and long suffering wife. On the long journey he passed by the ruined church of Alaways where he saw strange lights and heard groaning music. Intrigued by these noises he pulled Maggie to the roadside and slid from her back to peer at the performance ahead of him. There in the ruins of the old church witches, Demons and Familiars were dancing to the sounds of droning bagpipes. Silhouetted against the crackling flames Old Tom saw their naked bodies and stayed to spy on the revellers. He tarried too long and was spotted by one of the witches – a local celebrity called Nannie who screeched at Tom and started to give chase while calling the other participants of the dance to follow her. Tom shocked at being found out and now very much sobered-up bounded towards Maggie and in one very un-Tom like leap was soon on her back and whipping her in to a full trot.
Neither Tom or the chasing coven were in the mood for giving in and the pursuit became a mad dash with no quarter being asked or given. Mile after mile Maggie bore Tom as fast as she could and by shear will or good luck Tom stayed ahead of the chasing Demons with Nannie clothed in unnatural gossamer gown at the lead. This was as chase to the death (or worst) and Tom could now feel Maggie tiring.
He had but one chance, to reach the old bridge and cross it before he was caught, for everyone knew that witches will not cross flowing water. The chase continued as the pursuers gained ground but soon the bridge was in sight. Tom spurred Maggie on and just as they passed over the keystone of the bridge and safety, Nellie grasped at Maggie’s tale and pulled out most of the horse hair. Tom (and Maggie) were safe but Maggie had lost her tail.
Poof, Was the response from the customers of the tavern at this unsatisfactory ending and they made their feeling known with cries of ‘what a poor ending’ and ‘could this ever be true’ – They left with disgruntled comments and derision, but as the last customers exited to bar and passed by Old Tom’s mutt of a horse – they couldn’t help noticing that this horse had no tail, not cropped as is the custom in some societies, but NO TAIL at all...
A retelling of the famous Robbie Burns poem Tam O’Shanter by Robbie Burns which was in turn based on an even earlier story called Witches Tale. I thought it would make a great Flintloque or White Liar tale.
Now it's Your Turn...
An Orcs in the Webbe Original! 'Old Tom' was written exclusively for Orcs in the Webbe and was first published on the 21st December 2023 as the twenty-first entry in that years Advent Calendar.
Tony's original Tales from the White Liar were first published on Barking Iron Online, Alternative Armies' short lived content portal that I ran for them back in 2012-2013. You can read them all on Orcs in the Webbe, if you've not read them (or fancy re-reading them, they are rather good) click on the maroon tag below and to the left.