I took the tea and offered my thanks. I didn’t stop to think about where it had been, nestled within those robes, brushing against pale, brittle body hair. Well, I suppose I did stop to think about where it had been, but I still drank it, and the flavour wasn’t noticeably affected. I tried to start conversation as I sipped, but the wizard-king put one finger to his lips while pointing another finger at the unfinished tea. Both fingers were on the same hand, no matter how improbable this seems.
Eventually I began to realise that the cup was somehow replenishing the level of tea as I drank, and that I would never actually reach the end. The wizard-king was testing me with a bottomless beverage, and waiting to see how I dealt with the situation. His eyes twinkled with glee at the situation, or because he was looking at somebody new for the first time after aeons alone with his maddening thoughts. Either way, they sparkled.
I knew that the stalemate could continue indefinitely, due to my resolute bladder, which had never before reached capacity. In my youth I had spent many happy evenings emptying small lakes in this way, in an attempt to locate treasures hidden within. I had found only pennies and frogs, but it stood me in good stead for the task at hand.
As I slurped and swallowed, the twinkle began to dull in his eyes. The mischievous older-gentleman’s whisker-smile drifted from his lips and additional wrinkles appeared on his already wildly wrinkled forehead. I was winning this delicious battle of wits, and he knew it. As an additional bonus, the caffeine present in the tea was making my brain sharper, so if there were any further tests based around mental arithmetic or general knowledge, I had confidence that I could accomplish those as well. However, that proved not to be the case – the wizard-king was satisfied.
“You are as resilient and as brave as the legends said you would be, Toby.”
He blinked, nodded and frown-smiled.
“Come with me. I have something to show you.”
I dropped from my floating prison and landed nimbly on the cavern floor. We walked slowly, comfortably, towards what I assumed was the East.