The Marble Castle – Part II: here
So here I am again, sitting at an old, cracking table (as ancient as my hopes) in anticipation of getting yet another drink.
“Sir, another round, please!”
“Who is going to pay for it this time, my liege?”
“I shall figure something out. In the meantime, do me a favour and keep the brew tight in your wooden glasses, old Frank! You spill half of the brew on your way to my table.”
“If you kept your promises and paid on time, I would be more careful, Sir.”
Excuses, rubbish, rattling and noise is all that I hear today. Excuses upon excuses, as prudent and massive as the fletching of the winner’s arrow. I almost forget Frank’s barbaric behaviour while surrounded by itches of thick smell and presence of the others, familiar looking and behaving barbarians. The place tends to attract crowds specifically on the days when I feel like getting a fresh brew. Only I know when it is served fresh, as sneaky Frank cannot be bothered about the quality and freshness as who else would care? No one would dare even thinking of raising their voice as everyone knows that there is no better brewery in the town to find, so they simply stick with whatever Frank would put on their table. For those guests who would collect moderate amounts of “acidic liquid”, he would purposefully spill as much of it as possible before serving. They would not even notice or care and it was always a joy to the old man to see the drunks tripping over his brew once they leave the place. Some burst out laughing to the point that the walls start trembling and echoing their laughs, while the rest trip over for so long that they start believing they are cursed and come back to get some more brew from Frank to “get back to normal and be able to stand up”. Surely, Frank would glance over his brewery stand and tell the scared guests that he had just the right “potion to lift off the curse of the old witch from them”. The guests were shocked but thankful all the same. While they would sober up from the fear and gulp their “magic potion”, Frank would clean and dry the floor, so the guests would be able leave. While those tricked by him would be sobbing at their tables, the rest, tripping over and falling, would laugh to the point where they stomachs would start hurting and they would resort to crawling outside of the brewery. That made the old man laugh every single time – not that he was an evil, twisted and crooked man. He just had to entertain himself somehow as the old brewery was the only thing that was left to him from his wife. Ironically, she slipped on his brew a long while back and never stood up again, if you know what I mean. I guess that Frank also thinks back on his wife when the other barbarians fall over his alcohol and it makes his day.
“By God, Frank, I told you that I would pay!” I almost shouted when Frank approached me and spilt half of the brew onto my shiny armour. “I’ve just had it polished today – do you know how long it takes for me to take it off?”
“May be that would serve as an incentive for you to pay next time you come by.”
Frank knows how to convince people and make them pay their debts. He has all kinds of brew at his disposal and once you step into his old, spacious, dark-lit stone cave, you better know very well what alcohol to order.
Once upon a time there was a gentleman, who Frank knew owned the silver to one of his friends. The gentleman asked Frank to give him one of his best brews – this not only offended Frank (gentleman inclining that Frank mostly serves poorly made brew, which, frankly speaking, is true) but allowed him to give the gentleman anything that Frank would deem best fitting to the situation. Frank surprised him with dozens of chugs of a “special brew for special visitors”. The man was thrilled and paid Frank back well. Little did he realise what Frank put into that potion. After a couple of blissful brews and many minutes later, a thirsty guest started seeing illusions and later on, hallucinating. The only thing that was real to him was the old man, Frank. The stranger crawled to him, asking about what he put in his drink, to which Frank, proudly, said that it was the best of the brews and that the man was so weak that he could not handle it. The man, in panic, admitted that he was weak and asked for a drink that would bring him back to reality or else he would blame Frank for witchcraft. Frank opened the door of his welcoming brewery and asked him to go ahead and deliver justice upon him. What the gentleman saw behind an open door remained a mystery but Frank could see that whatever theme caught the eyes of the man, it was truly terrifying and made the guest turn pale beyond recognition. He begged the old man to shut the door and not speak ill of him to anyone. Frank obeyed and gave him a condition of paying off to one of his friends who the gentleman owed a few dozens of silver coins. The fear and desperation grew stronger within the visitor and without hesitation he threw a heavy pouch bag onto Frank’s stable. Of course, the old man took his time to close the door and tell the visitor all about how he opened the brewery with his wife that one time ago and how famous his brewery used to be and still is outside of the kingdom. The delusions grew stronger and bigger until the man curled and started foaming from his mouth, trying to bite off his tongue and pouch his eyes out. Frank was only half way through the story, collecting the remaining drinks from the table that he made for the visitor and started cleaning his place. By the time Frank had been done, the guest lay unconscious. Frank only laughed at him and spilt the remedy onto the poor man’s face that woke him up back to his senses. This is why you need to be careful with Frank and anyone who owes him or his friends. This story never left any spectators’ mouths and even the greedy gentleman himself. Since the man asked him for “any” drink, Frank could not be blamed for poisoning him. Even if the guest had brought this to Facalites, they would either not believe his story or be afraid themselves of daring to approach Frank’s brewery.
Although Frank had not tried poisoning me the same way for not being the most frequently obeying drinkers at his place, he would genuinely miss my presence at his place. There was some uncanny and special connection between the two of us. We were almost like grandson and grandfather. I also helped him out once too often that he offered me lifetime brew. However, I started having a bit too much for my own wellness and he started charging me again (hoping that I would eventually run out of bronze and stop drinking as often or may be even become a part of the brewery). The first prediction was on the verge of becoming a reality while the second is far from ever happening. I was well occupied with my sadness those days.
It was a busy night for Frank – the kingdom had celebrated its longest time of peace. It had been 25 years since the last crusade battle. Every man who wanted to celebrate and cheer Frank came to his brewery. Frank was joyful as he was finally able to empty out the old barrels of his elusive brew. He would not sell it on regular days but because every other brewery was packed to the roof, the guests had no choice. It took at least a whole keg to be able to taste the flavour of the brew but once you do, you knew that the old man was up to something and that flavour was one of a kind – you just need to be patient and prepared enough to drink that much. Once you do, you will never forget or find anything similar to that brew anywhere else in the kingdom. Frank felt very festive and cut the price per pint to half, so every kept on throwing coins at him. Literally. Frank was the happiest that I had seen him in a long time.
I, on the contrary, was far from feeling as festive as the rest of the folk. My head was occupied with nothingness and the deepest of the blues. It almost felt like I belonged to no king, no castle, no princess – nothing or anyone. It was a devastating feeling – the longer that I sat and drank brew there, the wider the hole was growing inside of me. As if I were digging my own hole and trying to get out of it at the same time. This is what it felt every time I would stop at Frank’s as I had nowhere else to go, no one to serve, no one to kneel to in my shining armour. However, the old man’s brewery was my only way to remain in touch with the world and besides all the sadness, that was touching the surface of my lonely spirit, I could feel warm and inviting atmosphere that was able to put little patches on the cracks of that lonely spirit of mine. It was one of a kind. Frank knew this and tried to cheer me up at all times. Even on my worst days, the man would always find a way to make me smile. Sometimes, I would not have a choice but to smile as he otherwise would not let me out of the brewery. That trick always worked.
The night was growing thicker and the curtains under my eyebrows were becoming heavier. The cheer within the brewery calmed down as well and I felt that it was a good time to part away from the brew and head out home. I picked my sword and looked around in search for Frank. He was chatting away to another group of newcomers and giving the good old pitch of his handcrafted brew. His introduction followed up with stories of the kingdom, the king, the crusaders, the golden age of the knights and stories of his life. It almost felt like the sun would not be willing to rise the next day just because it would rather stay down, enjoying Frank’s stories. The next day, I could tell, would be darker than any other.