Excerpt from The Light Bearer

Book Three of The Western Lands and All That Really Matters series

Copyright © Andrew Einspruch, 2019. All Rights reserved.

Chapter 2

Gutrot House


They made it to Gutrot House following Turpy’s directions, but what they found made them question their decision.

“What do you think, Elodrigo?” asked Jerome. “Would you call it ‘stylishly dilapidated’ or ‘modishly disheveled’?”

Eloise feigned artistic consideration. “You have to admire the daring cants and angles of the structural supports, as well as the wavy, swooping slope of the roof.”

“You always did have a soft spot for ramshackle neo-deconstructed cubby-inspired architecture.”

“Oh, you’re right about that. The more bedraggled and neo-deconstructed, the better.”

The innkeeper was a rotted stump of a woman, whose clot of salt and pepper hair, dearth of teeth, and overall lemon-inspired demeanor all suited the rickety facility she ran. She wore an unflattering galley wench’s outfit, complete with gathered skirt and poufy sleeves. Perhaps it had looked cute on her a few decades previously. She filled the lower half of the doorway, standing there rearranging the grease on her hands with a dishcloth that looked like it was about to start wiping itself free of her. “Yes?”

Lorch dismounted and bowed. “Good evening, Mistress. Have you accommodation this evening, as well as sustenance?”

“Youse want grub and a kip?”

“Yes, Mistress.”

“Mistress, is it? Oh, very fancy. Just call me Old Yelper. Everyone does. Not fair, cause I only yelped that one time, but there you go. Rooms are up the top. I don’t have no proper stables for youse three horses, but there’s a lean-to out the back. Extra for that, but you can use it. Don’t go eating my lawn. Find your own grass.”

“Thank you, Mistress Yelper,” said Lorch.

“Not Mistress. Old. Wasn’t that clear?”

“Sorry. Thank you, Old Yelper.”

“Youse go settle then come get your comestibles soon as you can in the salle à manger. I don’t have all night. I got to be finishing early on account of the gout in my great left toe.” She walked back into the falling-down building, leaving them to it.

Jerome looked at Eloise. “Comestibles? Salle à manger?”

“That’s what she said.”

“I’ll get the sock settled in a room,” said Lorch. “Then dinner.”

“Once you unpack us, Kïïït, the Nameless One, and I will find the lean-to and whatever non-lawn grass might be about,” said Hector. “Enjoy your dinner.”

Eloise’s room was easily half a step better than being outside, but not a full step. The nautical decor was odd, given how far from the sea they were. Perhaps it explained Old Yelper’s galley wench get-up. The walls sported a ship’s wheel, a ringed lifebuoy (which might have a splotch of dried blood on it), and three seascape paintings of surprising skill. Eloise glanced at the bed, flinched, then looked away leaving the horror of it for later contemplation. At least the roof did not leak, although it did seem warped into dangerous, unstable curves.

The “salle à manger” was half a dozen tables curtained off from the kitchen by what looked, at first glance, to be two bedsheets hung from the ceiling. When she got closer, Eloise saw they were sailcloth. Lorch and Jerome were already there, sitting at a table as far from the kitchen as possible. “You’ve left the sock alone?”

“Appropriately secured, Princess,” said Lorch.

“To an oversized anchor,” added Jerome. “That might or might not fall on him.”

“I see.”

Old Yelper pushed her way between the two sails, carrying a slab of flat wood and a piece of coal to write with. “What do youse want for your grub?”

“I have an inclination toward soup,” said Eloise.

“This is a brothel,” said Old Yelper.

“I beg your pardon?”

“A brothel. Brothel. Don’t you know what a brothel is?”

“I, uh… Yes.”

“So you know what you can order in a brothel, right?”

“I’m not sure…”

“Broths. I only serve broths. No soups. I got potato broth. Leek broth. Carrot broth. Potato and leek broth. Leek and potato broth. Potato and carrot broth. Carrot and potato broth. Leek and carrot broth. Carrot and leek broth. Potato, leek, and carrot broth. Leek, potato, and carrot broth. And carrot, leek, and potato broth. Broths. On account of this being a brothel.”

“I see,” said Eloise.

“In that case,” said Jerome, “I’d like the carrot, potato, and leek broth.”

“Sorry. Out of that one. But the carrot, leek, and potato broth is to be recommended. Youse might like it. Or not. All the same to me. Hurry up. My great left toe is a’gouting.”

“I’ll have the potato, leek, and carrot broth,” said Eloise.

“Leek, potato and carrot for me,” said Lorch.

“Carrot, potato, and leek,” said Jerome.

“Out of that. I told youse that already. Youse ever been thrown out of a brothel before?”

“No,” said Jerome.

“First time for everything, matey, you keep being cheeky with me. Now, youse gonna order or what?”

“Uh… Carrot and potato broth,” said Jerome. “With a side of leek broth. And if you can pour the leek broth into the carrot and potato broth, that would be great.”

“That would ruin the carrot and potato broth. Why would I do that?”

“I believe that was an attempt at a witticism, Mistress Old Yelper,” said Eloise. “That will be the last one. He’ll have what I’m having.”

“Potato, leek, and carrot it is. Youse want hardtack with that? A coin extra all together.”

“Sure,” said Eloise. “Hardtack for all of us.”

A few minutes later, they were slurping warmth and nourishment. Surprisingly, the leek, potato and carrot broth was distinct from the potato, leek, and carrot. Hungry from the day’s riding, they all had second helpings, dunking the hardtack in the broth to render it edible.

When they were done, Jerome sat back, his tail curled around him, content. “I think I would have to leave a positive Yelper review. That was as good a broth as you’ll find anywhere.”

Old Yelper appeared again from the kitchen. “Youse all having dessert?”

Jerome perked up. “What do you have?”

“Sweet carrot broth.”

His whiskers drooped. “Anything else?”

“Sweet leek broth. Sweet potato broth. To be clear with youse, that’s not made from sweet potatoes or anything yam-like. Normal potatoes, but cooked into a sweet broth.”

“Anything not in the broth department?”

“What did I tell youse earlier?”

“That this is a brothel.”

“Too right. So, youse having dessert or not?”

“I’m sure it’s delicious,” said Eloise. “But I’m full.”

“Me too, Mistress Old Yelper.”


“Youse can wash up your dishes in that pail. I’ve got to go elevate my gout toe.” Then she turned and hobbled through a side door. She closed it behind her and a chair scuffed, then there was a grunt as she sat, and a loud sigh of relief. Then they heard, “For the love of Çalaht, I thought youse was gonna fall off.” 

Jerome wrinkled his nose, and whispered, “Did she just talk to her great left toe?”

“I’m not sure I need that much detail about our hostess’s life,” said Lorch.

“And we’re supposed to wash our own dishes?” said Jerome. “What sort of inn is this?”

“It won’t be hard, and I’m too tired to argue,” said Eloise. “Let’s get on with it.”

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from The Light Bearer. Click here to get your copy.