Recorded from the Tavern Hearthside
Dr. Lissa Goins
This stew reminds me, listen, listen, I bet you haven’t heard this story. There was a small kingdom, well, princedom really, that sat on a good bit of land with a good set of peasants not too far north of here. The castle there was owned then by a young man who’d been an adventurer himself not too long before that, see, he freed the daughter of the previous castle owner from something, but that’s a different story.
Well, nobody really takes too kindly to adventurers taking over castles, that is, locals who didn’t have the straightforward guts to take the castle themselves don’t take too kindly. Most people celebrate, but then, there’s always one or two that say to themselves that they could have done it too. They say the new guy, girl, whatever obviously got lucky.
The story goes that one malcontent named, at the time, Malfric, decided that he was going to trick the new ruler with a simple bit of herbal knowledge that would surely trick the smartest of non-local characters. So, he magicked up some servants and put together for himself one of those fancy traveling parties. He fancied himself up and headed straight to Castle, eh, Castle Something, can’t seem to remember the name. Ah well.
Anyway, Malfric showed up and starts to bow and scrape for the newly married royalty, trying to show how harmless and backwater he is, right? Well, one thing royalty really loves is shows of devotion, and one thing adventurers in particular love is a good banquet. That’s the real moral of the story though, always beware of banquets.
Where was I? Right, yeah. So the king, prince, the adventurer, anyway his friends called him Broth. He wasn’t the most clever fellow, but he certainly didn’t make it to the top by being gullible, so he eyeballed Malfric with a certain level of suspicion. It helped that a travelling bard, not naming any names here, happened to know a poisonous mushroom when he saw one. A bard’s got to be careful what he picks up, you know?
So there I was, eh, I mean there the bard was at the banquet table, right up next to the royals, smelling all of that good food when Malfric unveils his humble and utterly nefarious stew-plot. See, he knew that if you take a will-kill-you-when-raw mushroom and stew it a certain way, it would stop being poisonous so you could eat it safely.
Now, now, how could a poisoner hope to poison when there’s no poison in the pot? Eh?
This is where it gets nefarious. See, it was a good stew. I’m not joking; it was the best. The bard kind of clued in the royalty that the food was dangerous, but Malfric himself ate it, and so did the rest of the court, and nobody died. It was such a good stew it was an instant favorite, that mushroom stew. So Malfric was staying a while at the castle, and the next night he brings out more of that perfectly safe stew and the court goes crazy for it again. At this point, even the cooks were fighting over second servings.
Third day rolls around. Everybody was still celebrating a bit, but a good bard is always busy. Turns out that particular mushroom had a simple antidote, if you had the misfortune of eating it raw, and that good and very much beloved bard handed some to the royals when nobody was looking. Good ol’ Broth, he was a properly suspicious sort, and he made sure to have that antidote handy when Malfric slunk in with dinner that night.
“Sorry, Sorry,” he says. Malfric was a decent actor, I’ll give him that. He made it out like everybody ate so much of the stew that he’d all but run out. He was a sly one. He said next that he’d had just enough to whip up a batch just for the king, fresh and don’t forget how sorry he is for the trouble. “Please enjoy the stew,” he says, doing a good job of seeming sincere.
I wasn’t fooled, of course, and neither was Broth. He smiled though, and ate the stew to the last bite. He said it tasted just as good as before, and when nobody was looking, he downed that antidote like it was going to vanish. Kept smiling, especially at Malfric, who didn’t get the joke but certainly thought he did.
Next day rolls around and Broth is cheerfully sitting on the throne when Malfric rushes in looking like he saw a ghost. Then he stops and looks at Broth, who’s just sitting there, and then old Mal really looks like he saw a ghost.
“Uh,” he says. He looks around, confused. “That, uh, that is…” And then he just kind of wandered out of the throne room. He was planning on acting like Broth’s death was an accident and then consoling the princess, from what we gathered. When we stopped laughing.
So that’s the story of how good ol’ Broth came to be known locally as King Ulfbroth the Unpoisoned. Mad Malfric himself went into seclusion; nobody’s seen him since. Shame. He actually was a pretty good cook.