Across the street from a rather average looking neighborhood tavern and between a warehouse and cobbler shop, is an odd looking well. There is no cover over it nor is there a wheel or crank to get a bucket up. It is placed in a spot that a well is really not needed. Not that you could get much water out of it anyway. The well is very small in diameter and a standard bucket could fit down it, but would most defiantly hit and scrape the sides if not get wedged going either up or down. The locals never get water out of it anyway because it is not made for getting water. It is a wishing well.
The sign above it (for those that can read) says:
"Into the well a coin you surrender"
"before the wish that you must whisper"
Every so often someone will come running into the tavern (The One Eyed Goat) all excited and yelling about finding a purse full of coins or a rare manuscript in the trash or some other find of value. They always say that the wishing well really works. Phrases like "Why, just three days ago I dropped a gold coin in and made my wish and here it is!" and "I didn't believe it for a long time but I finally tried it. I'm a believer now!" are typical from the lucky ones coming into the tavern. For days afterwards there will be a lot of talk about the latest lucky guy or gal.
The tavern makes sure that the story of how the wishing well came to be stays in circulation. It is good for business you know. The story is short but to the point. An old man came up the street one day and tripped falling to the ground. Instead of cursing the god of luck he thanked him. To his amazement there was a gold coin on the ground where he lay. Workers showed up the very next day to build the wishing well saying only that an anonymous person paid in advance to have the well dug. The old man was never seen again.
There are a lot of different theories about the proper way to make the wish, all talked about in whispers of course.
What is really happening
Mauk is the tavern owner. He is a former thief of moderate notoriety from another city and came here to avoid a warrant for his arrest. Mauk bought The One Eyed Goat thinking it would be a good way to spend his retirement. There was a small empty spot across the street and after looking at it for close to a year, Mauk came up with an idea.
Understanding the darker world of thieves, he sought out the leader of the thieves' guild (the Switchbacks) to ask permission to build the wishing well. After some hearty negotiation, he contacted a construction crew that the Switchbacks recommended. The price was a little steep but anonymity was assured. Soon the well was being built. While the well was being dug, Mauk had several men working at the tavern on the stairway leading to the cellar. This took several days, a few more than it should have, but no one noticed.
When they were done, a tunnel just big enough for a large man to crawl through, went from a concealed door in the cellar to an underground opening. A wooden tub filled with water was in this opening directly below the wishing well. Mauk checks the tub before he goes to bed each night and collects his money.
For the first three weeks it produced virtually nothing but he expected that. Then, as agreed with the Switchbacks, a 'local' came rambling into The One Eyed Goat bragging up about the full purse he found only hours after dropping a coin into the well. "I just wish I would have dropped a gold and not a silver." he said as he dumped out a purse filled with silver on the bar. This was followed up a week later by a woman having found over two dozen gold coins while digging in her garden. The wishing began in earnest.
Mauk has figured out that every twenty-five to thirty days 'Someone needs to come in and show that the wishing well really works' again. As agreed with the Switchbacks, Mauk makes a payment of 20% plus the 'lucky find' for the next person to a 'delivery man' from the Switchbacks. He is mostly honest with the 20% because he knows that the well gets watched and the guild knows about how much gets dropped into it.
The theories about the proper way to make a wish, are planted and well diverse to provide an excuse for 'Why it didn't it work for me?'
This has turned out to be a moderate but steady income for Mauk and his tavern business increased considerably because of it. He is quite pleased with himself.
The Switchbacks recently have been discussing among themselves about upping the percentage Mauk pays them. They allowed him to build it thinking that it would not work anyway and it was a way to return a favor to Mauk's last guild from several years back. But Mauk is not a paying member of the Switchbacks and may be getting pressed for more money soon.