Just south of the palace city there was a tavern hewn out of the side of a mountain. It sat along the main road leading to the rest of the kingdom’s villages and was well known as a favorite gathering place for the traveling merchants. It was owned by Mel and his wife Madeline whom everyone called Miss Maddy. They were a jolly couple; a bit rough around the edges but generally speaking honest folk who enjoyed good ale, hearty food and plenty of merriment. Thus was the atmosphere of the tavern. However, on this particular day the place was busier than it had ever been before and the air was filled with an unusual tension. Agitated boots scraped against the stone floors, tin mugs were slammed down in frustration and the sound of conversation was more like the low rumble of a coming storm. In the corner of the room stood a small, much worn oak table with four men huddled round it. The first, who sat sipping ale with sullen expression on his thin face was named Falan. Next to him was a round, clueless looking man named Osbert; to his left was a fellow by the name of Evander with eyes that clearly betrayed the fiery spirit of youth; then the last man at the table, sitting between Evander and Falan, was an Italian merchant called Gitano. He was dressed in a deep red doublet accented with gold and was clearly the cleverest of the group. Now all four men sat discussing the king’s edict. “How in God’s name are we going to find this confounded weaver? We don’t know where to start looking or really even who we are looking for?” shouted Evander. “It’s all a ploy just to double the taxes, that’s what I say.” Falan muttered into his mug. Osbert, who was always quick to deem any task as impossible added “Well whoever it is, the people are protecting her. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have stayed hidden this long. It’s a fool’s errand if you ask me.” “How do you even know it’s a girl?” asked Falan. “I don’t, that’s just what the legends say.” retorted Osbert. Gitano who had been sitting silently during this exchange finally spoke in a calm tone that suggested he already had a plan. “It is obvious that if the weaver exists then someone is protecting her. The key is simply to find out who it is and discover their weakness. Everyone has a weakness and once you’ve found it you can exploit it to get what you want.” “Anything sounds easy if you say it like that” Falan replied sarcastically. Then Evander raised his glass and said “Well, gentlemen we won’t find anything just sitting here talking about it. Let us depart on our mission and may the best man have success!” At that, all four men raised their mugs and said “Here, here!” in chorus. Then one by one they gathered their things and wondered outside the tavern to where the horses were tied up. Each mounted and waved a final farewell but their thoughts were consumed with the task at hand.
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