The tavern was loaded that night. Babette, the waitress, was running in all directions, hardly keeping up with the orders of the customers. While the dining room was pretty crowded, only five people were sitting at the bar that was also belonging to the tavern. It was called 'Big ol' Tom's tavern – the place where stories are told'. Big ol' Tom's customers had always been telling stories; it had been a year-long tradition. The better part of these anecdotes were tales of love, passion and sex. This evening was no different.
Of these five people sitting around the bar, four were regulars; some of the most attentive listeners to any kind of story. The fifth was a man in his late thirties, sitting in the very corner of the bar, alone, silent, tired looking eyes. The half empty pint before him seemed to be the focus of his interest.
Big ol' Tom was cleaning his last glass as he addressed the lone man: “You look tired, young lad. Just make sure not to damage the mahogany when your head hits the bar.” His thick mustache covered his wide grin, but the deep wrinkles in the corner of his eyes clearly showed that he was obviously joking. “Well... actually, just don't fall asleep before you've paid your bill.”
“Don't worry,” the lone man answered, “there's way too much to care about. I can't fall asleep with a head so full with thoughts.”
Big ol' Tom raised his eyebrows. “Let me guess... A girl?”
One of the regulars expectingly turned his head to big ol' Tom as soon as the word 'girl' had passed his lips. The lone man nodded his head in approval.
“If you consider my 35 year-old wife as a girl, yes,” replied the young man with a faint smile, “or well... You might mean my daughter. Here again, I have to say yes...”
All four regulars now had their eyes fixed on big ol' Tom and the lone man.
“Do you know why this tavern's called 'the place where stories are told?'” big ol' Tom asked.
The lone man shook his head no.
“Ok. So here's the deal: You tell us what's on your mind, build a huge story around it, and you get any drink for free while you're sharing your story with us, starting with this beer,” big ol' Tom said, handing the lone man a freshly filled pint. “It doesn't need to be a real story. It can be as unreal as anything may be.”
“And make sure you fill it with as much detail as possible, we love listening to long stories,” affirmed one of the regulars.
The lone man took his half-empty pint, and hammered it down in one long sip. Then he wiped the remaining foam off his upper lip using his hand.
“All right then,” he started, “it happened...
---------------- ...something like twelve years or so ago
. It was winter time. I was a student about to hand in my master thesis back then. Nothing to get too excited about; not in this story. There was a moment when I was just fed up with paper work and tired of my thesis. Happens to all students at some point, I guess. So a few friends and I decided to go skiing in the Swiss Alps. Just a matter of having a good time. A change of ideas, nothing more.
So there we were. Staying in a youth hostel. Don't say it... Twenty five and spending nights in youth hostels. But what do you expect from a bunch of poor students? Haha. The cool thing is that we were four guys sleeping in a dorm designed to host something like thirty people. We were all alone. It was mid-season. Can you imagine that pillow fight? Probably one of my best memories, I guess. But nothing compared to what happened the fourth and last night of our stay. Oh that night...
So let's just jump to said night. It was a Saturday night. On each Saturday night, there was a party in the hostel. And that Saturday was just the same. People from all over the place came over to the hostel to have a good time that night. We had plans for that night – great plans! Like I just said, it was our last night. So this meant partying, drinking, and see what happens apart from that, right? However, the better part of our group didn't last too long, for we were actually dog-tired from four intense days of skiing... aaand drinking of course.
Nonetheless, we spent that evening drinking, and dancing. There was one drink they called 'exotic kiss'. It was gross, but dirt cheap and way too strong. The guests drank that stuff like water and got insanely drunk in about no time at all. Well, I admit that didn't leave that drink untouched either, but I didn't drink half as much as most of the other guests though. Strapped for cash, poor student, you know. I had to content myself with a comfortable buzz. But turns out not being hammered wasn't bad at all, believe me.
I headed for the bar to order me another drink. The last one that evening, I thought. I was lucky to find an empty stool, for the place was rather crowded. It took you at least ten to fifteen minutes to get served, and that was if you were lucky. So I sat on that stool. To my surprise, the barmaid immediately came over to take my order. I ordered another of these exotic kisses. It was all I could afford with the little money I had left.
For some reason I can't quite point out, I felt the need to turn my head to the right. God she was gorgeous, gorgeous I tell you! The girl sitting on the barstool right next to me. Her eyes directly found mine. I got lost in those deep green eyes by the instant. This was a sight never to forget. These eyes man, glistening with life, telling volumes about adventures, love, passion.
Her hands were folded over the bar table. I don't know if she took her right hand off her left on purpose or not, but the engagement ring on her left ring finger told that she was already with some other real lucky bastard. I could only see it from the corner of my eyes, for our eyes were tightly locked together as if we were exploring the depths of each other's hearts through the windows to our souls. Have you ever experienced that? When you just know that it can't be coincidence by just looking at your counterpart? Know what I mean?
I could see the barmaid coming back with my freshly filled glass. I was still lost in these fantastic lush green eyes as I raised two fingers and said: “Make it two straws, please.”
I don't know why I said this... Instinct? Good feeling? I mean... She was obviously engaged, and I had a girlfriend eagerly waiting for me to come back home from my prolonged 'dudes-weekend'. The drink came back – with two straws. The barmaid put it between us... smiling. No, not really. Actually smirking a really dirty cheeky grin, that insolent brat.
The girl took one of the straws. “May I?”
I nodded, and let her take a long sip. She softly wrapped her lips around the straw all the while still looking into my eyes. There was fire in her eyes. She smiled when she let go off the straw.
“What's your name?” she asked, letting me hear her angelic voice for the second time that evening.
It took me an artistic second of silence to reply to that question. Well, I just say 'artistic' because actually I was dumbstruck by the moment. I just wanted to buy me some extra time to regain my courage. I don't know, folks... Usually I'm comfortable with any girl, but that one... She just had it, you follow me?
Anyhow... I tried my best not to sound too cheesy: “Jason, but call me,” my voice cracked, “Chase” – mission failed, aaaaand she had to laugh.
“So Chase...” she addressed me again, reproducing the shriek of my cracking voice, “Chase, you're a funny guy.”
Now HER short instant of silent was artistic.
“I'm Michelle, but call me... No, I can't do that without laughing.” She gathered her air before shrieking her nickname: “Elle.”
This time, both of us were laughing.
“Elle, huh?” I said, wiping a tear of the corner of my eyes, “Elle? So you're engaged? Is he around?”
She turned the straw between her fingers, and followed its trajectory until the end with her eyes. She licked her lips, bit them, wearing a little but happy smile as she did so. All her movements seemed so studied as if she was performing an act.
She did smile a happy smile, but looked away from my eyes, as she replied: “Yes, I'm engaged. But he's not here. We'll get married next week, you know? And this is something like my bachelorette party. Only that we've decided to make it a whole week. And before you ask me where all my girls are – because I know that this would be the next question you'd ask – I'm very unfortunate to tell you that some kind of flu runs in our dorm. Luckily I'm over it. I recovered two days ago.”
She made another short break before continuing: “Lucky me I'd say... Otherwise I wouldn't have got a drink with two straws that I could share with such hunk. You got balls, you know that? Ordering a drink for an engaged lady.”
Saying that, her smile remained, but her eyes found mine again. Maybe I was giving her eyes too much significance, but I clearly took it as a sign. I mean... Who fakes a look at you, telling about their 'true love', and almost pierces your eyes again when it comes to you, right? Or am I the only one thinking that way?
However, we spent the next two hours chitchatting and having a good laugh about this 'n' that. Nothing too important, you know. Just about the weather, or maybe how the weather used to be. All kinds of meaningless banalities. Eventually my friends – or better: what was left of them – went to sleep, leaving me alone in the crowd with Elle.
And then suddenly the probably most stupid line ever left my mouth. Well... I thought it to be stupid, and I still think it is, but, believe me, the hell it worked!
“Listen, Elle. We've been talking for over two hours now, and um... I don't think we met on coincidence. How's that: You're the only one from your dorm in the constitution to be sitting at this bar in this very moment. Or... uh... My friends went back to the dorm without me. They didn't even look for me, did they? They probably didn’t even notice I was talking to you.”
Awkward silence. It took me all my courage to point out my next statement: “And every time you talked about your soon-to-be husband your eyes lost mine. They didn't on any other subject so far...”
That was the moment I realized what I had just said. Well... Not really. I only realized it at seeing her eyes open wide, and her facade crumble. So I decided to bring to an more or less proper end what I had already begun: “and... uh... since what I just said was totally bananas and very inappropriate, I think I'm gonna leave you there, and hope you'll never have to see me again. I think this would more or less correspond to...”
That's where she interrupted me. And, believe me, I was expecting a slap so heavy it would make my lips burst, followed by an avalanche of the most vulgar curses known in any human dialect. But instead came a confession...
“...that I won't tell before big ol' Tom's hands me another beer.”
“Ah, c'mon dude!” groaned one of the regulars, telling what probably everyone was thinking.
Big ol' Tom grinned at Jason. He was pleased to have someone over who knew how to make stories worthwhile.
---------------- So where was I?
Ah, yes, exactly... Saying the probably worst thing that I could ever come up with, right? Haha.
So I said she interrupted me with half a confession: “No, you're right. You're totally right.” She paused. “You're totally goddamn right. I um... I don't think... uh... say... do you... um... do you believe in love at first sight?”
I wasn't sure if I had heard right. I really wanted to tell her to repeat these words over and over, as if too damn stupid to grasp them. But it's not something you do in such a moment, right? But well... I had already done tons of things that you don't do that night, right?
Anyway, in that very moment, I started to realize what I had brought myself into... I scanned the whole area for any of my friends. They were all gone.
“I don't know. On one side I don't know a clue about you. But on the other hand I just feel an irresistible urge to fall in love with you. It's... It's just stronger than me.”
These words had just left my lips as Elle took hold of my hand. I felt her engagement ring between my fingers. Her hands were warm and silky. Feeling them sent an easing wave of warmth from my heart to my stomach. She looked down to our entwined hands. Her gaze slowly turned from delighted and enjoyed to sad. As she looked up into my eyes again, hers were glistening from tears that were about to be shed.
“If it were for me, I'd... I'd... But you know... I'm about to marry the man I'm supposed to be in love with. And you... Even though you didn't tell me, I know you have a girlfriend. I can see the guilt in your eyes. And so, even if it kills me to say it...”
“Then don't!” I interrupted her.
She looked at me, her mouth still open. Our hands slid up our arms from alone. My heart was a mess. Warm, pressing, guilty, urging. And so was hers; I could tell that from the look in her eyes. My conscience had blacked out. I felt the presence of her face only inches away from mine. I ignored who was the one who had started to approach the other. What importance does that have anyway? Eyes half-closed we exchanged a shy kiss. Her lips were tantalizing, fleshy. This shy kiss was only the beginning of an upcoming passionate night.
As we parted, I saw these divine lips of hers silently form the words 'it's only for this time'. Elle was obviously trying to calm her heart that was probably just as wrecked as mine in this very instant.
We stood up, and went out. The moon was full. A few snowflakes spoke about an upcoming snowstorm. It wasn’t a long way from the bar to the building where the dorms were. Just about thirty seconds in the freezing night air. The moon dimly lit some footprints, presumably from my buddies – probably all fast asleep already. We walked slowly for it was so cold. And the slower we walked, the more time we spent in the cold. Goddammit, that was a torture I tell you! Our hands were clenched into each other, as if that would ease the cold. Both of us had renounced to take a coat with. It was just a ‘short way’ from the dorms to the bar/restaurant, we had thought. And all of a sudden thirty seconds felt like thirty hours or so…
Well, we eventually made it to the dorms, where the temperature felt like having jumped at least fifty degrees. Once the main door of the building was shut behind us, I pressed her against it. Our lips locked in a passionate and hot kiss. Our hands were looking for a way to get under our clothes. But as soon as I felt her hands brush my bare skin, I broke the kiss. Her hands were so cold.
“How about we find an empty dorm room,” I suggested, “room number twelve was empty this morning, as far as I remember.”
Before I knew it, she had already taken may hand, and ran up the stairs, almost ripping my arm off my shoulder, as she was pulling me with her. Damn she couldn’t wait for it! A jolt of pain shot through my shoulder. But it was pain as sweet as sugar… My head had gone completely blank at some moment. Only the moment mattered. My mind was in frenzy, a storm. I don’t even remember climbing up those stairs. I only remember the renewed temperature shock we felt as we entered the empty room. They didn’t heat empty rooms as a matter to save power. And I can tell you, the air was stone cold. The building was poorly insulated. That room had to be uninhabited for like two months or so. The thick layer of dust lying all over the place told the exact same story. Apparently they didn’t keep the unused rooms tidy. Well... Why should they?
Even though it was freezing, we were totally mesmerized by that room. The moonlight lit the room enough for our eyes to see about everything. We locked the door behind us. Yes, every room could be locked from the inside. Good for us! There were like fifteen mattresses in a row. We chose the one closest to the window. Each room also had one woolen blanket per mattress as well. We took three of them.
Both of us were shivering in the little we were wearing in relation to the temperature. But still we were so hungry for each other that we got undressed right away, slowly though. Can you imagine that? This moment was so perfect. The moonlight lighting up her outlines. Her skin covered with goose bumps. The tiny hair on her skin, colored silver by the reflection. Her feminine silhouette… She lay down on the cold mattress, waiting for me.
Lying down next to her, I covered both of us with the three blankets I had taken. They weren’t even so itchy as I’d feared. I spooned her from behind, both my arms around her to warm up her trembling body.
My hands steadily traced their way from her belly to her patch of short pubic hair. Her mound was warm and moist. Her hips softly moved to press her mound against my hands. I kissed her neck, and nibbled on her earlobe. She was still trembling. From pleasure or from the cold? I don’t know. Probably a little of both.
She soon lifted her hand to reach for the back of mine, and press my face into her neck. Her breath was becoming more elaborate with every time she in- and exhaled the cold air.
My left hand was now between her legs, directly touching her swollen labia. She was pressing her crotch into my hand with maximum pressure. I felt the first drops of her juices on my fingertips. I slowly parted her labia to find the entrance to her overflowing pussy. Only the tip of my index finger found its way inside. I slowly slid it out again, and traced the way from her entrance to her clit, applying a little pressure. A first moan escaped from between her lips as my index finger gently flicked over her love button. I let my finger circle around it, brushing over it every few turns. Every time I did so, her hips convulsed a little harder, and she commented my actions with hungry moans. Her pussy seemed to flood her crotch with juices. She gasped for breath.
My lips traveled from her neck to her left shoulder, not missing an inch of her skin on their way. Then I ran them over her bladebone. I made her turn around to face me. I kept my hand between her legs not to stop pleasing her. I stopped playing with her clit to plunge my index knuckle-deep in her now dripping wet tunnel. Her body squirmed in pleasure. I steadily let my finger slide in and out of her pussy, making sure I’d apply a fair amount of pressure on her g-spot. Her body shivered as my middle finger joined my index in the depths of her most private parts.
I kissed my way from her neck to her small breasts, leaving tiny stains of saliva on my way. Her nipples were begging for attention, standing up half an inch from her areola. I sucked one of them between my lips, while my fingers were still buried deep inside her. She arched her back, and dug her nails into the mattress we were lying on.
I knew I could make her cum at any given time, but I wanted to tease her more. I wanted to prevent any premature orgasms. I wanted to bring her to the verge of frustration a before sending a thrashing orgasm through her groin. So I quickened the pace of my fingers pressing to her g-spot until she was ready to go. Her voice was begging to be sent over the edge. Her body longed for the great relief. But no, I kept on avoiding sending her to the stars. The occasion was too precious to just give it away.
I still didn’t give in as her nails dug into the skin of my back. I didn’t give in until I felt her nails almost scratching the skin off my body, and leaving red marks all over my back. I flicked my fingers over her g-spot with increased pressure as I felt the skin on my back crack from her sharp nails. This triggered that orgiastic blast she had been craving for. I felt her juices gushing from her flooded tunnel as she squirted all over the palm of my hand. Both of us where screaming: She from the pleasurable feelings caused by her orgasm, I from the pain caused by her nails still dug in my skin.
Her grip loosened as her orgasm subsided. She looked at me, eyes halfway closed. A faint smile passed across her lips. Breathlessly she used the remains of her forces to pull me on top of her. She ran her hands through my hair, and kissed my face. She wanted more, no doubt about that, but first had to recover from her mind-blowing orgasm. Eventually she spread her legs to grant the entrance to my swollen cock.
Her hands softly ran down along my spine, sending short but distinct spasms through my body. She rested her hands on the small of my back, and pulled for my rigid piece of iron to penetrate her honey pot. Our sexes immediately found the right spot. Her pussy walls felt like velvet clad over my cock. She hissed through her teeth pressed together as my first gentle thrust hit her deep. I pulled out the same slow way I had entered her, still leaving my purple mushroom head inside of her. I repeated this procedure over and over. Her hisses became whimpers, her whimpers became moans. Her hands, which were still pressing against the small of my back, pulled on me with all her force. I knew she wanted be fucked right. But I also knew to make her wait, and make things worthwhile.
After a while her moans turned into complaining laments. Her eyes widened in shocked disbelief as I pulled out completely. I turned her around so she lay on her belly. She knew what was about to come, and rose her hips to present a pair of shapely buns to my eyes. The silvery shine from the moonlight only accentuated the silhouette of that heart-shaped ass of hers. The goose bumps on her skin made this beautiful sight picture perfect. I drank in that sight for a while, my mouth hanging open. She wiggled her ass to tell me to finally fuck her good. As she noticed that I was still mesmerized by that sexy sight, she turned her head, and threw me one of those glances. Her lips formed a mock pout.
I adjusted my stiff pole to let it glide in so slowly I was almost torturing myself. She grunted in frustration. Then I grabbed both her forearms, and pulled her towards me. At the same moment I started pounding her like there was no tomorrow. She cried out a loud “oh my god” before her words turned into incomprehensible babbling. I'm positive you could hear the banging outside the room whenever you walked past this room's door. Slap! Slap! Slap! Her moans had now become a continuous scream, only interrupted by each time my loins hit her soft ass cheeks.
Before I could completely dislocate her shoulders, I let go of them. But that didn't mean for her to relax – the hell it did! I only let her come down, and grasp for air a few seconds. That was about the time it took me to take all of her long straight hair into my hands, and start pulling on it. She arched her back to ease the pain, while I resumed fucking her, slower this time. We found a rather slow pace with hard and deep strokes. Every time her body started falling forward again, I pulled her hair harder, causing her to rise again. We kept this position up until both of us felt the urge to release the rising tides of our blasting mutual orgasm.
We didn’t go for it right away, no. We just had to look each other in the eye while reaching our high. There’s nothing sexier in this world than the face of a woman in the middle of a body-shaking orgasm. I pulled out again so she could turn around to lie on her back. Her hands reached out for me. She was happily smiling at me. I could see the anticipation for the upcoming release in her eyes. Her silhouette appeared as if surrounded by a halo in the faint bluish moonlight. It was a sight to behold.
I lowered my head between her legs to just dip my tongue in her rich nectar before I penetrated her again. I planted a short gentle kiss between her labia, and slowly traveled from her sweetest spot upwards, kissing her all the way up to her still smiling face. I could tell she was in heaven.
Before we let our carnal instincts take over again to reach out for the highest bliss, I looked in her eyes, and said: “Are you sure about this?”
She didn’t take long to reply: “Don’t worry. It's OK; I want it!”
I smiled back at her, and entered her for the last time this night. I didn’t wait to glide all the way in, and release the laboriously built pressure. We cried out one last time in the orgiastic highs of our mutual pleasure. She was soon overflowing with our mixed juices that dribbled down my now relaxing shaft.
We stayed in this position for a while, exchanging kisses, and sharing words of love. Yes, I loved her, and she loved me. But we both knew that it was not to be – not back then. We eventually drifted off to sleep in each other’s arms.
The next morning I let her go with an almost unbearable ache in my heart, and eyes swollen as if waiting to burst into tears. We had exchanged phone numbers though.
Luckily it was the last morning of my friends and me, and we had agreed on sleeping late to have enough energy to pack, and tidy up our room. So at seven in the morning I was pretty much the only one to roam around the hallway, except for Elle of course.
During that weekend up in the Alps something significant had changed. It took me a while to realize it, but there it was. It was undeniable. It took me a while to accept it though.
Two months after the incident with Elle, I finally had to admit that she still was on my mind. Whenever I had sex with my girlfriend, it was Elle I was thinking of. Whenever I called my girl, I secretly wished to hear Elle's voice. Whenever closed my eyes, Elle was the first thing to come into my mind. I just felt it with my every breath. It had taken Elle only a few moments to destroy a year-long relationship.
I had first thought that it would subside after a while or another. But there she was in my head, in my heart, everywhere. So I broke up with my girlfriend two months after I had returned from the mountains. But I knew that Elle was supposed to be married by that time. And yet still my heart longed for her. She had probably found back to her old life, I figured. So why even bother to call her? No reason.
I tried to comfort myself with that thought. I wanted to get over it, to live on… and I almost succeeded. That was until that one day about half a year after our little incident. I was lying in the sun in a park nearby my apartment, reading some random book. I can’t recall which one or what it was about, doesn’t matter anyway. I felt my cell phone vibrate in my pocket. First I was too lazy to pick it up, but there was this voice in my head, telling me to take this one. I checked for who was calling me – unregistered number, but I picked it up anyway. And there was her familiar voice: Elle.
“Hey… um… Chase,” she stumbled, “how’s it going?”
A few seconds of silence gave me the time to gather my confidence, and really talk to her.
She quickly told me the reason why she was calling. First, well… This is probably the more tragic part of the story. She had left her fiancé the day she had come back from skiing. Can you imagine that? Being left by someone who is supposed to love you a week before you’d marry them? And that for only one night of fooling around with some random dude from the mountains?
And then came the shocking news that changed my life forever:
“Listen, Chase. There is something else I need to tell you…”
I heard her take two or three deep breaths before moving on talking. I felt some pressure building in my chest. As if I already knew that I was expecting something big to happen. Something that would change my life completely. And trust me, these feelings usually are pretty damn reliable.
“I wasn’t honest with you, Chase”, something in her voice already told volumes about unexpected huge news, “I lied to you that night. Well no, actually I didn't. I never told you that I was on the pill, did I? And no, I wasn't…”
A jolt of adrenaline shot through my veins. I can still feel the pressure from that moment like it had happened yesterday.
“I’m pregnant,” she said; only two simple words – or three depending on how you want to put it – and my whole life had changed in a matter of seconds. No need to add that she was expecting my baby.
Well… And this is how things went on. We built up a life together, moved in together, and raised our child, a girl by the way.
“Nice story, dude,”
one of the regulars commented after a rather long moment of silence, “but that still doesn’t explain why you’re so worried, man.”
The young man looked into his glass, and smiled.
“I guess you’re right, but it’s really nothing spectacular… Really… Our baby girl is turning twelve next week, and she wanted to have a sleepover party on that Saturday. Just some stuff kids like to do, you know. And… you know. I’ve been having a tough time with my job the last few weeks. They’re axing jobs in the company, and everyone’s trying to be fitter, happier, more productive… It’s really stupid. And I thought I’d need a calm weekend for once. Just a matter of cooling down. And so, I said no. And of course I gathered a genuine shit storm. And my wife didn’t appreciate it either. Not one bit. So we picked a fight. Real bad fight I tell you. Over literally nothing! So I decided to grab a beer or two, or three, or maybe even four – who knows – and settle down to think and drink it over, and vice versa.”
“You know what dude,” the regular said again, “just fuck that bitch. She has to see you’re right. A man has to recover from his job once in a while, why not that day?”
Before the young man had the time to even think of a possible answer to this rather crude insult towards his daughter, one of the other regulars raised his voice: “No! Don’t you listen to him, you hear me? He’s totally nuts. Knows nothing about girls ‘n’ stuff. Just come here as long as that party’s going, and… maybe share another story with us. You’re a good story teller, you know?”
The third regular cut the young man short this time: “No! A man cannot miss the birthday party of his daughter! You hear me?”
The only thing that was clear was that all regulars were pretty drunk already. Only big ol’ Tom who had been the most passionate listener, as to any of his customers, knew the best advice: “Listen, Chase – if you still go by that name – why don’t you just go home, calm down, and have a good talk about it with Elle, and your daughter. I’m sure you’ll find a fair agreement, huh? And your boss… He’ll understand if you want to take a day off for your daughter. That shows that you care for your family, and he can’t fire people who care, right?”
The young man nodded, and thanked big ol’ Tom for the advice. He knew big ol’ Tom was right. He got up from his chair, put on his hat and his Burberry coat, and walked away towards the door, flipping a coin towards the bar. It hit the spot right before where big ol’ Tom was standing.
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with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.
<a href="http://www.lushstories.com/stories/straight-sex/the-tales-from-the-tavern-i-lied-to-you.aspx">The Tales From The Tavern: I Lied To You</a>