Tavern Plots and Plans

This is the rest of chapter one from my Sepharad story.

more from the infamous Sepharad story

Jaime returned again, hoisting a great platter shoulder high, which he deposited skillfully onto their table, bearing large bowls of thick stew — mostly vegetables with some thin strips of meat — two large rounds of crusty flat bread and two more pitchers of wine. “I anticipate your further thirst, sir,” he addressed Søren, adding to Judah, “but Ottocar says you will pay on your tab before you eat or drink again, Jew.”

“An unfortunately reasonable restriction on his part,” Judah agreed, and as the burly waiter departed, the two fell to their food.

“Good,” Søren grunted after several mouthfuls of savory, spicy concoction. In his pleasure with food, he had accidentally slipped back into his native tongue.

“Pardon me?” Judah glanced up, not quite recognizing the word, and tried a Germanic language. “Did you mean itʼs good, warrior?”

Søren looked slightly apprehensive, then responded in a similar dialect. “Yeah, I spoke in my own tongue which resembles this in some ways. Do you speak German?”

“As well as I can, like you in Aragon. I traveled north and east once, several years ago, and learned over those years I was abroad in Christendom. Languages interest me. I also know Frankish, Romance and Italian — like enough to Aragon and other speeches of Sepharad — as well as some basics of the Slavic tongue.” They were still speaking German.

“Aye. I have traveled myself, obviously. My Frankish works as well as your native tongue here for me, and I gathered Romance as well and three versions of German in addition to most Scandinavian languages among the regions of my birth.”

“A clever man. But my native tongue would be Hebrew and Arabic, the language of my people and of al-Andalus — the southern and larger section of Sepharad.”

“Arabic I must learn yet, knowing only some words now.”

“Do you read or write?”

“I ken the runes of my native tongue, and learned some letters for Christian tongues, although not the rune characters of German, serving in armies for two Frankish princes and lately across the mountains in Provence. I can make out many words but lack skill making the letters myself. I have seen Arabic written, but know naught of such scratching.”

“An educated man of parts, then. Impressive with weapons and with your mind.”

“I assume you both read and write then.”

“I’d be a poor Kabbalist otherwise. I ken Arabic and Hebrew and the Christian letters, though beyond the Romance tongues I only speak German and Slavic.”

“Mayhap you could teach me more Arabic then, little man? Would it be helpful for me to know your language, what did you call it? — Jewbree?”

“Hebrew — a difficult tongue — but strangely like Arabic in many ways…” Judah spooned more stew into his mouth and drank another great gulp of wine. His bright, dark eyes studied the blond man for a few moments. Then he smiled, teeth white between his beard and mustache. “We seem to becoming fast friends, Søren. I hope you can instruct me in Norse and those runes you mentioned. And — sharing this tongue, almost completely unknown in Sepharad — we can speak without fear of others hearing. Would you truly aid me in my illegal quest this night?”

“I have lived outside the law most of my life, Judah. Indeed killing sent me outcast from home long years ago, but a mere stripling. I have survived by my wits and my sword — truly my only possession, although my folk believe such an heirloom belongs not to an outlaw.”

“Shall I tell you, then, of the plot for tonight?”

“Lead on. Explain,” the Norseman assented loftily, pouring yet more cups of wine from the remaining pitcher. “If cash lies at the end, excellent, for we will soon be without drink.”

“A great reward indeed if I can find, obtain and return a certain thaumaturgical charm from the trove of a sorceress who resides in an isolated tower within this crooked section of the city.”

The mention of magic chilled the Northerner’s spine, and he gulped nervously. “I like no magic, Judah, being but a simple warrior and thief.”

“And in that we differ, my new friend, for I practice secret arts myself, being a Kabbalist and a student of mystic sciences of all kinds.”

“Yes,” Søren half-muttered. Now it was his turn to study his new acquaintance. “I had hoped to see no wizards again in my life …though I’d be glad at least once to catch glimpse of a dragon…”

“A dragon, eh? I do not think they exist except in legend, although I have heard in the farthest East there may be such. But no man has traveled so far. Except wizards perhaps.”

“I have met few wizards before, and none have I liked… until you, Judah. But now I wonder…”

“Dark arts there are, Søren, and I know some of such black mysteries, but my training is the Kabbalah, a holy science of the soul and God’s mysteries. It is a skill of letters and numbers for the most part, a study of my native language, which we believe is the Holy Tongue.”

“Perhaps that is why I do not feel about you as I have other mages I have met. But if you go to do a wizardly theft, what good am I?”

“My friend, I have yet to hear of the necromancer that could not be cured by cold steel through the guts. And every wizard’s henchman recognizes the persuasion of a naked blade at his throat. Having seen you fight, I know that you’ll the the most helpful associate I’ve encountered. Now let’s address ourselves to the rest of this meal and whatever dregs of wine you may have left us and then be off upon a hopefully very profitable business.”

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

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