"Well?" said the merchant, "What happened next?" He asked wide eyed at the young monk sitting across the table.
"That's it, actually..." replied the monk with a weak grin, scratching the bandage which covered half of his face.
"What? You call that a horror story?" the merchant threw his hands up and tried to stand up, but the four empty pints of rum in front of him made him slip to the floor instead.
He tried to pull himself back up on his chair to no avail.
The monk stood up with a sigh, helped the merchant up and went back to his seat.
The tavern was almost empty and they were seated at the farthest corner, yet he leaned closer and looked around before he whispered to the merchant.
"The story is meant to be told the way it is, to make you feel like you were in the story itself..."
The merchant's eyes were beginning to droop by then. The monk patted his shoulder to wake him up.
"Hey, I did my part of the bargain," he told the drunken man, "a story for a story..."
"Yeah, yeah..." replied the other, "A good story for another..."
"But I want to know what happens next, Tenebris!" asked a voice from under the table. The monk ducked down and saw a wide-eyed child hiding underneath.
"That's enough, Kit," said his drunken companion, "now go back to the kitchen and help your mother with the dishes!" the kid stuck out his tongue and ran out of reach of his father's hand.
"Little rascal, you wouldn't think he was down with a fever just this morning."
He took the satchel tied around his bulging waist and took out a tattered looking manuscript. "Not that I have any idea what this book's all about. " he dropped it on the filthy table.
The monk quickly picked it up and checked it for stains. "Really, you're lucky that volume didn't find it's way to the privy, it would have been more useful for wipin' someone's ass..."
"Thank you, Sir Vente, I am indeed lucky it didn't end up that way." replied the monk, his visible eye showing genuine gratitude. "But are you sure all you want for this is a single story?"
"Yeah, yeah..." replied Sir Vente, "Our small village is so out of the way that we hardly get any visitors, sometimes it takes years before travelers pass us by.
Stories such as these are hard to get by." he frowned and looked at the book. The young monk was currently tucking it in his own satchel, gently, like a priceless heirloom.
"I was rather surprised when you asked me about it, I almost forgot it was still around. When I was younger I used to look at the pictures and wonder what they meant.
All I remember my dad saying is that his father's great, great uncle brought it from down south in his merchanting days. He thought the maps and drawings would lead to some kind of treasure...
but it seems to be nothing but a book of fairy tales...
the weird writings were no help either, not one of the places he'd been to have ever seen such writing, and believe me, being a well known merchant in his time, he's been to everywhere!"
"Well, in a way, it is a book of fairy tales, of folktales to be precise. I am indeed thankful it didn't end up in the privy." said the priest, his one visible eye showing genuine gratitude.
"What do you plan with that anyways?"
"I am like you, in a way. I collect stories too, old stories, and this book tells the story of a very old group of people." he closed his satchel and smiled sadly at sir Vente.
"I have been looking for this chapter for a while now, I really am indebted to you for giving it to me."
"No, no, we are the ones who are indebted to you. The whole village would have suffered a great loss if not for the medicine you prepared for us.
We never would have known that such humble weeds could break a fewer so easily. More of our people would have died if not for your help."
"It is my job and my pleasure to help people as the lowly messenger of the order of Lord Curatio the Holy Healer." says the priest, his hands together in prayer,
"I am forever seeking people to help."
"Brother Tenebris, is it true then that you will be leaving us soon?"
"Yes, in fact, I am on my way to the next village right now."
"Do you mean the village of Saccharum? I heard a group of armed bandits have ransacked the place and left more than half of it's villagers dead..."
"Yes, I heard of the news this morning, I have decided to go there as soon as I am able and offer all the help I can give."
"Then you should take all the provisions you need, the village is about a day away from here on horseback, I can lend you a horse and my wife can prepare some food..."
"No need, Sir Vende, I am a lowly servant of the healer Lord Curatio, our people eat from the earth as we travel on foot. The land is our home and our sustenance, she will provide for us."
"Are you quite sure? Because when you first arrived here, you dropped in front of the vilage gates due to hunger!"
"Ahaha..." laughed the monk, "It was just a minor complication! A minor complication!
With that, the monk made his way to the town gates past two sleeping guards. "Goodness begets goodness" he said to himself as he held on to his satchel.
"It was lucky of me to come here when I did. The last village with the same sickness got all it's inhabitants wiped out."
"Fool," said a voice "you should have accepted the provisions. After all you did for them..."
"The book is payment enough"