You walk the quickly darkening dirt streets of Cheltenham, seeking out the ‘Bishop’s Finger’, wondering about Charlie and who the hell Odo is and what he could want. (Not to mention Peffy!) You realize this village must be the manorial seat of some lord as the natives look to be setting up for market tomorrow. Only the manor hubs get the proper King’s licensing for market. Sure enough as you round a bend you see, off in the near distance, the manor house and tithe barn; long and low, centuries old and probably brimming with wool and crops. The manor house is small but fortified and well kept. Someone is doing well here.
Soon you see what you are after: a tavern several stories high. It’s got more stone than some of the other buildings (the entire first floor) and several great chimneys belie the warmth and food within. The windows are glass and some are shuttered but you can see light peeking out from behind a few shutters upstairs. The sign creaks gently in the wind. ‘The old Bishop’s got arthritis’ you think to yourself as you step upon the lintel and let yourself in.
The light and warmth greet like an old friend. It is a welcome sight.
The common room is large, with several long trestle tables along the walls and plenty of roundels around the central hearth, it being circular so everyone can enjoy it’s light and warmth. You realize the other chimneys must be in the kitchens and private rooms. The walls are paneled with dark mahogany and oak and several tapestries are hung, most depicting hunting scenes. Above the bar is a shield with a red crest upon yellow; a reverse chevron with two red circles above and one below. You assume correctly this is the family crest of the local lord.
There are a few patrons, mostly outlying farmers come early for the market. Conversation is quiet and subdued. The place is mostly empty. Mostly. You do notice other ‘travelers’, a few souls who look as if they have been on the road like yourself, each alone but for their thoughts.
Suddenly the kitchen doors burst open and through them comes someone who can only be Peffy. Tall and round at the same time, his great pear shaped bulk moves with apparent lightness as he bustles past you carrying a tray of bread and cheeses and sausages.
He catches your eye as he passes. “Give me a sec, hon’ he says laying a hand on your bicep in the process. “Ooh, goodness,” he says as he lowers his voice and looks at your from beneath his brows, “definitely be back for you”. He winks and is gone.
When he returns a minute later, he fixes his hair and holds out a hand. “Welcome”, he says, “I’m Jeffrey, I’ll be your host tonight… All night… Just me”. He crinkles his nose and smiles.
You explain your conversation with Charlie Wikkens down the road and he had said look up a certain “Peffy”.
With that Jeffrey rolls his eyes, sweeps both hands in a downward motion and let’s out a “Uck, miserable little snot nosed bastard” in total and genuine disgust. “I swear his parents killed themselves just to get away from the little prick. I’ll bet he said ask for the ‘shit sticker’ or the ‘ring raider’”; he continues to look inquisitively at you, “the ‘sausage jockey’, the ‘turd burglar’? No? Maybe the ‘cock gobbler’ or the ‘pillow biter’…. hmmm, ‘mattress muncher’? ‘Fudge packer’? ‘Donut puncher’? ‘knob jockey’?… let’s see, how about ‘butt burglar’? ‘bum driller’? ‘butt pirate’? ‘Chutney ferret’? How ‘bout one of my fav’s: ‘bone smuggler’? No? Really? ‘Brown Piper’? ‘Anal assassin’? ‘the Cockpipe Cosmonaut’?”
Finally you raise a hand and cut him off. “Arse Bandit” is all you can utter.
“Ahhh… should have known! One of his favorites”, he says shyly, looking you in the eye and twisting his hair with his hand while shrugging.
“Aaaaaany- hooo, have a seat and let old Jeffrey get you a drink. Rub your neck? You look awfully tired from the road. I’ll let Odo know another one’s here”. He slowly turns his body and begins to walk away from you while never turning his head or taking his eyes off yours until he‘s walking away and looking at you over his shoulder. “We’ve got baths, you know” he says as he disappears into the other room.