This deal at The Swine and Claw sets the scene for episode three, A Royal Froggy Problem. The baron is still seething in the aftermath of his big party, and Nora is his weapon of choice.
A Deal at The Swine and Claw
Nora took a sip of ale in the shadowy recesses of The Swine and Claw, waiting on her wizard associate to arrive. With the baron up at the palace, Nora had been left to conduct his more clandestine business in the city.
“Another?” Panna, the faun waitress, asked.
“Sure,” Nora sighed. “Trust a wizard to keep a witch versed in hexes waiting.”
Panna laughed and leaned in close. “I hear his master has been giving him a hard time. In all sorts of trouble over unpaid debts which he seeks magical solutions for.”
Nora chuckled. “If magic could conjure fortunes, the world would be a very different place.”
Panna only nodded and swayed on her cloven hooves back to the bar. It was something of a ritual—these meetings at the only tavern for magical types in the city. Nora did a good trade in secrets and in return learned where she could acquire the more personal effects of those in the baron’s bad books.
A hooded form slid into the chair across from her and Christophe pulled back his cowl. “Nora,” he nodded.
“I was starting to think you weren’t coming,” Nora huffed. “It’s past bedtime for an old woman like me.”
Christophe smirked but remained silent as Panna returned with two mugs of ale. Nora thought it was likely prudent—not much escaped the faun’s notice.
“Now,” Nora cleared her throat. “I’ll need to know how I can get my hands on the toenails of Lord Walters.”
Christophe frowned into his mug. “What has that oaf done to insult the baron?”
Nora sighed. “Insulting the baron is one of his favorite pastimes. But ever since the incident at that shindig the baron hosted…”
“I heard it was spectacularly disgusting,” he took a sip of ale. “You wouldn’t have had anything to do with it, would you?”
“Me?” Nora grinned. “Now why would you even ask?”
The wizard shook his head and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “He keeps a strumpet in the city.”
“Lord Walters?” Nora leaned over the table. “That sounds promising.”
“I’ll have a note sent with the name,” he curled his lip. “I try not to get overly familiar with the details. What do you intend to do with his toenails?”
“Probably athlete’s foot or something. Only persistent enough for him to know it was a hex and not rancid socks.”
“I’ll never understand it,” The wizard narrowed his eyes. “Why do you pursue such frivolous magic?”
Nora pushed her spectacles up her nose. It wasn’t the first time their conversations had veered into wild debates. “At least it’s honest. Every lord and lady in the kingdom knows that trifling with the baron comes with uncomfortable afflictions. Not like the whispers of people disappeared entirely. That there is unconscionable and I wouldn’t stand for it, even with the might of the Wizard Academy at my back.”
Christophe waved his hand, and his shoulder sagged. “Not tonight, Nora. I need more than information this time. I’m seeking an item to put my lord at ease. He fears for his life, and will not eat a bite unless I have studiously examined each and every meal.”
Nora frowned. The wizard looked exhausted. “So go see an alchemist. Toadstones aren’t easy to come by, but they should be able to procure one.”
The wizard rubbed his eyes. “I have been explicitly instructed not to make this request known to the magical circles within the city. He fears his enemies would just find another way to do away with him.”
“So you want me to buy one for you?” Nora blinked.
“I will recompense you for your time. Ten percent of the value of the stone itself.”
Nora sat back in her seat and folded her arms. “Twenty.”
“Fifteen,” he barked.
Nora nodded slowly. Toadstones were valuable, fifteen percent of their worth would be a tidy sum.
“And if anyone hears of it,” Christophe glared, “disappearing will be the least of your problems.”
The wizard stood and stalked out the back of The Swine and Claw, leaving Nora to consider the offer. It made sense he would seek her out rather than leaving the money with a person without magical talent. Those alchemists were slippery, and like as not would sell them a painted rock. She could either go to an alchemist herself… or see if she couldn’t dredge up a giant toad on the baron’s lands herself.
This won’t be the only deal at The Swine and Claw…
And Gretchen will find herself quite surprised with Nora’s familiarity with the notorious tavern. With only three days until A Royal Froggy Problem hits the Amazon store, I hope you’ve got your pre-order ready to go!
Each week a new piece of bonus content will go up on the episode page, so be sue to check back to see what’s next.