by Andrew G. McCann

Konen: A barbarian from the chilly wastelands of Slusheria.
Juma: A mercenary from the wild jungles of kHott.
Blunda: A fat, stupid innkeeper.

(Konen and Juma enter. They are walking, battle-weary, down a medieval-looking
street and carrying crude, notched swords.)

Konen: By R-Krum, the laughing god of Khartoun, killing is thirsty work!

Juma: Aye, indeed it is, Konen my hulking barbarian friend. But now that the battle
outside the city walls is ended, and our side is victorious, what say you we celebrate inside
yon tavern?

K: By Dondhiís blood, you talk my language, Juma my strapping mercenary comrade
from the darkest jungles of shadow-haunted kHott! How I lust for a flagon of mead and a
haunch of roast beast, and perhaps later some supple young wench.

J: Let us enter, then, my savage companion from the intemperate North. (Konen and
Juma enter the tavern and seat themselves at a rough-hewn oaken table next to a large open

K: (Immediately waving frustratedly to a distracted bartender, who takes his time
coming over to the two) Ho, man! (To Juma:) By all the serpents in Shadowia, if this
inkeeper doesnít serve me drink soon Iíll split his head like a ripe melon and serve it to
his wife for breakfast!

J: Relax, my chiseled partner, he is come.

Blunda the Innkeeper: (sneering) Whatíll it be?

K: An enormous skin of wine and a platter of charred meat, you sluggish cur!

J: Iíll have a decaf and a vegetarian burrito, with extra Pehpir sauce! (The barkeep,
scowling, leaves to fetch their food and drink.)

K: Gods, man, what sort of city-bred slop are you having?

J: This morning, before the battle, Cherbono, the witch-man, said I must eat different
foods, for the charms tell him there is too much of the evil spirit Khilestirahl in my blood.

(Konen grunts, and they fall silent. Yet Konen, ever-watchful, sizes up the other
tavern patrons.)

K: I must always be as vigilant as a sleet leopard ó R-Krum knows there could be a
slew of enemies here from my past adventures, or perhaps I will espy some besotted priest
or merchant whom I could plunder as he totters home. My blade may well have slaked its
bloodthirst deeply this day, yet it is still keen enough to cleanly part a fool and his head.
(The barkeep abruptly returns, serves them bulging skins of wine and heaping platters of
meat, throws down the bill, and departs offstage.)

(Konen falls to, stuffing himself like the near-animal he is.)

K: (between mouthfuls and slurps) R-Krumís gonads, I feel ravenous as a were-ape
from the spider-cloistered towers of fabled Skahri-Tuum. Where is that barkeep? I need
more wine, by all the gods in the Mahrvehl Universe, or Iíll spill his guts with a cruel
foot-length of my sure Porcinian sword!

J: You know, Konen, my associate from the chilly frontier, you drink quite a lot for
one man ó even one who is built like a Brikian Shetaus.

K: What? What are you saying, man?

J: I am only averring that, over the years, I have seen you down flagons upon flagons
of the stuff. Yet, as time passes your moods are ever blacker and turbulent. (Pauses) I
was once like that, as you may well recall: After all, it is what made us comrades lo those
many years ago in the terrible, sand-haunted trenches of the War against Szaddham, the
Devil-King of Dezzirt.

K: (intense, thoughtful) How mean you, my partner from the steamy, timeless
swamps of the faraway South? Just what are you driving at?

J: Konen, I . . . I think youíre an alcoholic.

K: R-Krum, no!

J: R-Krum, yes.

K: Hmmm. Yes, my heart tells me you may be truthsaying. Why did I not see this
before? (Konen throws his drink on the ground) Have I been cursed by the Archdæmon
Rhüm himself?

J: No, Konen. Youíre not a cursed person, just a sick person. (Pauses) Listen,
friend, thereís some people Iíd like you to meet, people from all walks of life: merchants,
priests, wizards, mercenaries, even a Nubian slave. If youíll try not to drink today, I can
take you to a place ó a meeting ó where youíll learn more about your habit, and yourself!

K: Yes. Yes, my wise warrior from the hot, trackless depths of the leafy lands. Let us
go then, you and I.

(They stand and gather their gear.)

J: Konen, this repast will be my treat. (He looks at the receipt the innkeeper had
left.) Letís see, two silver pieces.

(Konen pauses, a smile spreads slowly across his face.)

K: Let me get the tip. There, twenty percent should be nice!

(The two grin at each other, slap each other on the back, and walk out.)   

Story and illustration copyright 1994 by Andrew G. McCann

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