This is the oldest part of Harvest Ball. I’ve been working on it for damn near a year, and this is the first full draft I finished. There’s still more to go… But since its sunday, and no one reads blogs on sunday, I figured I could post it here. Robert, William and the Ruddy Ox will probably make more appearances in Rider Fic in the near future. Till then, feel free to leave comments and critiques in the comments.
The “Bar” was at the far end of the barn. Four stalls had been cleaned and converted into a space for serving spirits, beers and wines. The eternity of the space was festooned with dried apples, stalks of wheat and gourds of all shapes, sizes and colors. The only hint of the bar’s previous existence was the hay and sawdust on the floor. The bar itself, and the shelves that held the liquor, were made out of the de-constructed walls that used to keep the animals separate from each other.
Instead of keeping the animals in separate stalls, the bar separated the barkeep from the rest of the Longwell’s guests. The space in front of her was packed with patrons. The barkeep, an attractive woman, her blonde hair braided down her back, dressed in an red and white checkered dress, focused primarily on two men who occupied three stools at the middle of the bar. Men and women from all over Stormwind were trying to vie for her attention, and yet not a single patron tried to squeeze into that one empty space between the men. That is, until Threnn cleared the crowd. She strode to the empty stool and draped on arm around each of the men.
“William and Robert Bell” Threnn said, “Leave poor Marketa alone. She’s not paid nearly enough to deal with this crowd, let alone the two of you at once.”
“Thank you Threnn,” Marketa said. “Although, to be fair to Robert, it was William who was giving me the hardest time.”
Both Bells’ turned to face Threnn, and both Bells broke into terribly mischievous grins. At first glance, they were identical. Bricu looked for clues as to which Bell was which. He said a small prayer of thanks that one of them wore glasses. The Bells even wore identical green and black flannel shirts and matching denim pants. Both of the Bells’ wore their dark hair short, and held it in place with a thick oil. The one on Threnn’s right had his sleeves rolled up to show-off a bevy of tattoos. The one on her left wore horn-rim glasses, but Bricu wasn’t sure if they helped him see or if they were as cosmetic as his brother’s tattoos.
“Threnny!” The one on her right said as he embraced her, “Be a dear and tell Marketa she would be doing us all a great favor if she would just take William back.”
“At least have her give me another glass of apple wine. She’s saying I’m cut off for some imagined slight.” Said the one on her left. When Robert let go of her, William wrapped his arms around her. “It’s good to see you!” he said.
Bricu stood just behind Threnn, waiting for an introduction. Robert gave him the once over. Bricu smiled as best he could, even as Robert sized him up. After a few moments, Robert extended his hand.
It was a firm handshake, but one that brimmed with formality.
“Bricu Bittertongue. Nice t’meet yeh mate.”
Robert narrowed his eyes and clenched his jaw as he smiled, “The pleasure is all mine.” He picked up his cider and nearly drained the glass.
William let go of Threnn and extended a hand towards Bricu. He didn’t bother to smile as he sized Bricu up.
“William.” He said.
“Bricu. Pleasure ta meet yeh.” Bricu said. William, however, had already returned his full attention to Threnn.
“Where’s Anna?” He asked her.
“She’s praying in the Grove tonight. She’s practicing her Darnassian.”
“Praying.” Robert said smiling, “What’s his name?”
“Honestly, I didn’t ask this time.” Threnn said.
“What happened to that other bloke, Miller?” William asked.
“Nothing happened with him, at least, nothing that she told me about. ” Threnn said.
“We’ve been over this Will. She didn’t tell me anything either.” Robert said.
“What, I can’t ask a friend about another friend? Can’t I be curious as to her…”
“Boyfriend?” Threnn said.
“Interests?” said Bricu.
“People that aren’t William Bell?” Robert said.
William’s glare followed each speaker. “Does it take all three of you to come up with one decent joke?”
“Oh give it a rest William. Its all in good fun, right?” Robert said.
“Good fun is it? Well, in the spirit of ‘good fun’, Robert, did you talk to Threnny about the ‘good fun’ you had with Marisol Nimetz?”
“No, he didn’t.” Threnn said. “Marisol?”
Robert, now a shade of red approaching Bricu’s hair, abruptly changed the subject. “Threnny, dad wants you and Bricu to visit him next week, during lunch.”
“Brilliant.” Bricu said, “Did he mention a place he wanted t’go ta?”
“No.” Robert said, still looking at Threnn.
“Mr. Bell…” Threnn started
“Threnny, call him JOHN already.” Robert said.
“Mr. JOHN Bell packs his own lunch. He’s been doing it for over twenty years. He doesn’t really leave the shop until he he closes it for the night.”
Bricu nodded, “Still, I’d want ta bring him somethin’. Either o’yeh an idea on what I should bring ta yer da?”
“Something sweet.” Robert said.
“Pastries. He’d enjoy a few pastries.” William said.
“I can do that.” Bricu said. He watched as the Bells exchanged a few quick looks.
“I don’t know if he can bake,” Threnn said, “but my Bricu says he can cook. So far he’s only made one dinner for me.”
“That simply will not do,” William said.
“Exactly! You can’t offer up a talent like cooking and not follow through! Our Threnny deserves better.”
Robert was grinning like a cat who caught a canary. [i]At least,[/i] Bricu thought, [i]they’re getting this out of the way soon.[/i]“We’ve not had all that much time fer a dinner at home.” Bricu said, “We typically end up hittin’ the Pig after a job. We’re ta tired ta do much else after we get….”
“That’s weak.” Robert said.
“I know that being ‘An Adventurer’ is demanding, strenuous work. Hells, I’d go so far as to say that its punishing. But to punish our Threnny with dangerous work AND terrible food?” Said Robert.
Threnn sipped at her cider while the Bells and Bricu bantered. She hid her smile behind the mug.
“Och, the two o’yeh have lived in Stormwind longer than me, an yeh know full well that Kendor plans the meals at the pig. He’s a fine chef.”
“Kendor is a one trick pony in Stormwind!” William said.
“No variety!” Robert said.
“He’s the only bloody Southron chef I’d bother with!” Bricu said. He wanted wince at his own gaff, but he wasn’t about to do it in front of William or Robert.
“Better than boiling the flavor out of the meat and vegetables.” William said.
“Better than frying it all in butter.” Robert said.
“Hell, at least Southron cooks use more than mutton as a meat.”
Robert started to say something, but Bricu cut him off.
“Well that’s true. Northern cookin’ is shite. Uttter, despicable shite.” Bricu said. He watched the Bells exchange another series of looks–looks of confirmation, not shock. This was good enough for him. He smiled and held his glass of cider out for a toast. “I’m sure we can agree on that. Cheers!”
Threnn, Robert and William returned the gesture. The clanking of their glasses was barely audible over the sound of the bar. William and Robert took a small, cursory sips where Threnn and Bricu drank deeply. Threnn’s mug had some cider left. Bricu drained his first mug.
William wasted no time returning to the topic at hand. “So you’re too tired to cook?”
“I don’t have a kitchen in me apartment in the Rose, mate.” Bricu said.
“And you end up at the Pig because of Kendor and his cooking?” Robert asked.
“That an’ it’s where all the Riders go.” Bricu shrugged his shoulders. Thick bastard, he thought yer bein’ set up. It was a trick that Bricu was far too familiar with. Someone–usually Tarq–would take one role why Bricu would take the other. The Bells had perfected this set up, nearly completing each others sentences. For a moment, he began to regret finishing his cider.
“What are you, fourteen and going to a church mixer? ” Robert said.
“Only when we got R&R. That’s when I enlisted…”
“Which makes this ‘company outing’ garbage all the more depressing. You, of all people, should be showing our Threnny a night on the town.” William said, complete with sneer quotes.
“Honestly, when do you get any alone time?” Robert continued.
“Like a proper courting couple.” William said..
“Yeh lads are right. We do need t’get away more often.”
“Of course we’re right.” Robert said, “We’re just looking out for our Threnny. We’re the closest thing she has to brothers.”
“Older brothers.” William stated simply.
“Whatever.” Robert waved him off, “We are looking out for our sister. We look after her, she looks after us.” As if on cue, Robert and William both finished their cider. “Speaking of looking out for us,” William said as he put his empty glass on the bar, “would you be a dear sister and bring the three of us more cider?”
“A sister you’re so eager to get rid of?” Threnn said playfully. “Fine, I got this round. You two, however, owe me.”
“And what does Bricu owe you?” William said.
“Oh, he’ll pay up later tonight.” She took William’s glass from his hand, “Stop teasing Marketa
or ask her to dinner.” Robert handed his glass to Threnn, giving her a truely genuine smile. She didn’t care. Threnn looked him straight in the eye, and leveled a finger in his face. “Just don’t destroy him.” She said, “I’m still fond of him.” She walked around and kissed Bricu on the cheek. “The same goes for you, love. Be nice.”
“When am I not nice.” Bricu said.
“And who have we ever destroyed?” William asked.
Threnn waved a free hand at the three men. “Just be here. No black eyes either.” She walked off towards Josiah and the rest of the cider.
Bricu watched Threnn disappear into the crowd, headed for some of the Longwell’s near mythical cider. When he turned back to Robert and William, he noticed a dramatic change in the formerly talkative, welcoming, Bells. William, the quiet one, adjusted his glasses. His laconic smile was replaced with a scowl–as if the last drops of his cider was as bitter as Arathi Brandy. Robert, who had just moments before clapped Bricu’s shoulder like a brother, was staring daggers at him. His arms were placed on the bar, showing off the recent tattoos. He was trying his very best to be threatening. Before Bricu could comment on the ink, Robert voiced his–and his brother’s–concerns.
“If you left now, I think you would be abe to find another harvest ball just in time.”
Bricu sighed, looking from William, to Robert, before responding.
“Och, I figured that when she was outta ear shot, yeh lads might say someth’ bout me bein’ with Threnny…”
William cut him of sharply.
“You don’t get to call her that.”
Bricu kept a straight face, not rising to William’s challenge or trying to goad him on. Threnn told him to play nice.
“Och, an’ why’s that.”
“Bittertongue, we’re not your marks. Threnny is like a sister to us. Her mother might as well have been our mother.” Robert said eloquently.
Bricu nodded at him, letting him finish what he had obviously been practicsing.
“We’ve heard of you and the Riders. We know that our Threnny likes to keep rough company. We’ve seen her army friends. Like that Kaven fellow. You meet Kaven, right?”
“Aye, I have.”
“You know they had a brief history, right?”
“Aye, I know that too.” Bricu said.
“We liked Kaven. He treated Threnn the right way, he seemed nearly smart enough for her and there’s no doubt in my mind that Kaven is a good man. He wasn’t even good enough for our Threnny.”
Robert paused to finish the last of his cider. William continued for him.
“And you, friend, aren’t half the man that Kaven is.”
“So where does that leave you?” Robert said as he set his empty glass down.
Bricu spoke up, cutting off William’s practiced speech.
“Strewth… Boyo, if I had a sister, I wouldnt’ want a bloke like me near her.” He said smiling. Bricu looked each of them in the eyes as he continued. “Hell, I’d even be stupid ‘nough t’challenge ‘im more directly than either o’yeh did.”
“William wanted to puff his chest out more, but I heard about the Blue Recluse.” Robert said.
“Yeh did now?” Bricu looked back at Willam, who was shaking his head, “no.” Robert continued.
“I know on of the fellows you hit on your way down. Hell of a shiner you gave him. How many did you actually deal with before..”
William spoke up, “Robert, we’re talking TOO Bricu, not about him.”
Bricu kept paused, to be polite, but he ignored the brother’s banter.
“As I was sayin’, I should leave. But I’m not gonna.”
“Really?” William said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “Why’s that?”
“Because boyo, I’m fond o’Threnn, an’ I’m a better fer knowin’ her.”
“What, she makes you a better person?” Robert said while laughing. “What is this, some sort of morality play brought to life?”
“Oi, it’s nothin’ so fuckin’ trite.” Bricu looked past Robert, straight at William. When he had William’s gaze, he continued.
“I drink, I curse an I fight dirty. I could list off my sins t’yeh lads, an’ yeh’d end up thinkin’ me souls more stained than yer brother’s arms.”
“Overly dramatic Bittertongue You sound exactly like a paladin in a morality play now.” William said.
“I had hoped yeh southron’s would appreciate a clever turn o’phrase.”
“When you develop a clever turn of phrase” Robert said, “we’ll let you know.”
“Fair enough,” Bricu said. He continued grinning, despite the Bell’s baiting.
“How’s this: Can we all agree that’s she’s a better person than the lot o’us?”
“That we can.” William said.
“Good. Now, it ain’t not like I met Threnny an’ some o’that morality wore off. An’ she’s not scammin’ folk, gettin’ inta bar fights or anythin’ else that I’ve done.”
“We can agree on that as well.” Robert said.
“So we’re not changin’ each other. Not directly. I just want t’do right by her. She doesn’t ask me t’smile more or tell me t’keep me wit in check, nor does she tell me ta leave off a tosser if they have it comin’. She just let’s me be. So now I want t’be be a wee bit better, just t’match her. So I’m not changin’ for her …it’s somethin else entirely.”
The three men were quiet for a moment. Bricu met their gazes in turn. William turned into the crowd, looking for Threnn, while Robert finally spoke up.
“What the hell does that even mean.”
“It means, Mr. Bell, that I ‘m not a sappy git that is spewin’ pretty words ’bout how I’m bein’ better fer her. I’m tryin’ ta do better ta reach her level. Whatever’s goin’ on here is real, not some bloody stupid infatuation that end with a broken heart or when someone gets bored. ”
Bricu kept his voice low, and leaned in close to the Bells. “It means that I’m not leavin’ the one woman who I want t’be with. While I can appreciate her two well meanin’ friends lookin’ after her, yeh lot would have better luck gettin’ me t’quit drinkin’ than quit on Threnny.”
Bricu sat back up, military straight, and smiled again.
“You mean to stay.” Robert asked.
“No matter what?” Wililam asked.
“Unless she tells me t’fuck off, aye.”
“Even when Thenia comes calling.” Robert asked.
“Och I’ll buy the o’bird the tea she likes t’drink when she comes callin’ an’ we’ll be just fine. I’ve already met her da. How bad can Thenia be.”
“Bittertongue, you’ve gone from brave to stupid in a matter of seconds.” Robert said.
“If I’m not ‘fraid o’the infamous Bells, I’m not gonna be scared by Thenia AlCair. But I’m not stupid. Instead o’telling yeh lot ta fuck off, I’m asking fer yeh ta give me a chance.”
“And why should we?” William asked.
“Because if yeh don’t try–at least fer tonight–I’ll just tell Threnny that yeh lads tried t’get me t’fuck off on her.”
Bricu smiled wider as he watched both Bells’ faces fall flat. He continued.
“That’s right lads, I’d rat yeh out in a fuckin’ heartbeat. An’ we all know our Threnny is as stubborn lass. She’s full o’fire an’ pride. Women like that are not likely goin’ ta take kindly t’folk meddlin’ when she knows she handle ‘erself an’ her affairs. So if she learns ’bout yer botched chivalry–takin’ her mum’s side over her side–she’ll more’n likely will put yeh lads in yer place…just like she did that Hallow’s Eve years back where yeh scared the piss outta wee Annalea.”
“She told you about that?” Robert asked.
“The haunted house, the fake blood, how yeh conned Jenny Brook t’lie there for hours lookin’ deader than’ a Forsaken, how yeh had her run inta the armoire….”
“Damn.” Robert said . William simply let out a low whistle.
“Was it really the worst fight yeh’ve ever been in?” Bricu said.
“Worse than when you got your arse handed to you in the Recluse.”
“Clever–but not nearly clever enough Robert. Now, yeh thinkin’ she told that story t’Kaven?”
“Hells, no.” Robert said, “If she had, I’m pretty sure he wouldnt’ have asked us to make those armoires without laughing at us the entire time.”
“Exactly. That tell yeh anythin’ bout how our Threnny feels ’bout me then?”
“Maybe.” William said, “but that doesn’t change a damn thing either. You’re going to hurt her.”
Bricu continued to look William in the eyes, “Yer right.” He said. William nodded and started to cut Bricu off. “At some point I’m goin’ ta fuck up. But it wont’ be like yer imaginin’ right now. No, it’ll be somethin’ mundane. I’ll say somethin’ careless or crass an’ hurt her feelin’s, or maybe we’ll just argue like any other couple that tries ta make a romance work.”
“You’re going to…” William started to say.
“I’m gonna do what, squire? Oi, yeh lads have it so clear in yer heads that I’m bad fer her, why don’t yet take it ta her or her folks?”
“Thenia’s planning on talking to Threnn, and Padraig sees our point.”
“Thenia always got somethin’ ta say ta Threnn. An’ Padraig said he isn’t gonna get involved…So while he sees yer point, he’s not sayin’ shite ta Thenia or Threnn, is he?”
Neither William or Robert answered Bricu’s question. He softened his tone and his words as he addressed the Bells.
“Look, lads,” Bricu had his hands out to the Bells, “I know what yer doin’ an it makes perfect bloody sense ta look out after Threnn like this. But I’m speakin’ the truth ta the both o’yeh. I’m completely serious ’bout her. If I wasn’t, yeh think I’d still be here talkin’ ta her infamous brothers?”
“So you’re not leaving.” Robert said.
“No. I’m not squire.” Bricu continued watching William.
“He’s not taking us seriously, Robert.”
“Ballacks, William. This is more important than me runnin’ inta her da. I woudn’t still be sittin’ here with yeh if I didn’t recognie how fuckin’ important this was. But yer not gonna be scarrin’ me away from her.”
“Then what are we going to do?” Robert said. He had settled inbetween William and Bricu, watching the two of them spar. Neither Bricu or William missed this finer point.
“All I’m gonna ask, William, is yeh give me the same shot Padraig did. Can yeh do that?”
“What about me?” Robert asked.
“Robert, yeh’ve already made yer fuckin’ mind up. Yeh already think I’m worth the shot just ’cause I make William a wee bit crazy.”
Robert waited a heartbeat before answering, “That’s true, but if you do hurt her…”
“I’m well aware o’what I have waitin’ fer me.” Bricu said.
“Fine. Tonight.” William said. “You have tonight, but you’re both wankers.”
“Whose a wanker?” Threnn asked. She was holding four fresh mugs of cider, two in each hand. Threnn eyed all the men, looking for fresh bruises or poorly hidden scowls. Satisfied that no one had thrown a punch, or was in a snit, she passed out the cider.
Once all the ciders were passed out, Bricu stood up and exclaimed–a little too loudly–a toast for Threnn.
“Ta Threnny!” He shouted. “Fer bein’ sweet enough ta get us more o’this brilliant cider! OI!” The Bells, Bricu and Threnn slammed their mugs into each others. Cider sprayed them all, including the man directly behind William. He has a large man, taller than Bricu, bald-headed with a ruddy face. He squinted and scowled at the lot of them, but no one paid him any mind. Threnn had already changed focused their attention to her previous question.
“So whose a wanker?” Threnn asked.
“Daniel Morris.” Robert answered, “you know, the mining magnate’s son?”
“How could I forget him. Mother tried to get me to go for tea with him. He had a list of other women to see, so he couldn’t possibly bother with me.”
“His loss.” William said.
“My gain,” Bricu said. He wrapped an arm around Threnn’s waist, and moved closer to her. She followed suit, wrapping her free arm around him. William’s frown was barely noticeable.
“Yes yes, your gain.” Robert said, “Anyway, we were just telling Bricu that Daniel came into the shop today. Seems that his uncle passed away last night.”
Threnn pulled her arm away from Bricu and blessed her self with her free hand. Bricu made a similiar gesture, but he used the mug of cider.
“Light Bless.” Threnn said finally.
“He wanted a mahogany casket, with truesilver inlays. He also wanted it custom made and to be done within two days.” Robert said.
“We don’t stock mahogany. Its expensive, heavy and more suitable for cabinetry and furniture than a casket.” William said.
“And true silver, on every bloody corner of a mahgony casket…” Robert said.
“Strewth, that’ll be be heavy an’ expensive. How many pall-bearers would that bloke get?” Bricu said.
“He’d need at least eight before the casket.” William said. He waved the concern off with another sip of cider. “Enough about work, that’s for tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow afternoon at the latest,” Robert said.
“We want to know more about you and your Northman.” William said.
“Really mate, there isn’t much ta say.” He took another sip of his cider.
“Modesty.” Threnn said staring at Robert and William, “What have you two done to him?”
“Nothing.” Robert said.
“Love, we were just talkin’ ’bout work.” Bricu said. “It was pleasant.”
“Pleasent?” Threnn asked.
“Perfectly pleasant.” William said.
“Actually,” Robert interrupted, “We need to finish questioning your your Northman about cooking. We have to make sure he is as good as he says he is.”
“Oh no.” Robert said, “We;re not wasting a free evening before you can at least prove you can talk the talk.”
Threnn shook her head. “What do either of you two know about cooking.”
“I can boil water and scrub a pot.” William said.
“Well mate, what do yeh want ta talk ’bout?”
“Vegetables.” Robert said.
“Really.” Threnn said. She glared at Robert
“Right, fair enough. See, Northern folk’ve got more root vegetables an’ gourds in their diet, while the southrons…”
Threnn cut Bricu off, “I’d like to hear what Robert has to say about southron cooking.”
“Well.” Robert said, “In the north, they have to boil their foods longer, as they need to break down the starches and the structure a bit so they can eat it. But we have more greens in our diet, and they don’t need more than a quick blanching, which we can do either by boiling or with a little oil in a skillet.” In the stunned silence, he took a triumphant swing of cider.
“What…Since when have you known anything about blanching greens?” Threnn said.
“That’s one’ o’the ways ta do it, love.” Bricu said.
Threnn ignored Bricu. Her glare softened, but she continued to stare at him. “Robert, you don’t cook.”
“No, I don’t cook, but do you remember Elly Whitfeld?”
“I remember her cooking for us.” William said.
“The brunette from Westfall who wanted to be a bard?” Threnn said.
“The same. She was a better cook than a bard.” Robert said.
“She’s the one that left him for ‘Shifty’ Livinginston.” William said. A faint smile crept up his face.
Bricu interrupted their reminiscing, “Whose this Shifty?”
“A self important ‘Trader’ who always has a half formed plan for profit playing in his tiny brain.” Threnn said.
“Och, never trust a bloke whose always schemin’.” Bricu said.
Threnn rolled her eyes, “Your plans are fine love.”
Bricu sipped at the cider, a content smile on his face. “No, my plans are brilliant. Go on then, more on this bloke.”
“Obviously, he’s another of our Threnny’s suitors.” William said.
“He was so eager to meet me, even when my dowry was as he put it, ‘far below market value.’” Threnn said.
“Tell me the wanker didn’t say that ta yeh!”
“Every chance he got. He thought he was quite witty. Hells, he even came to our shop to try and ingratiate himself into our good graces, thinking that would help him land Threnny.” William said.
“Strewth, he sounds…”
“Oily?” Robert said.
“Shifty?” Threnn said.
“Like a wanker?” William said.
“That’s it, a right wanker.” Bricu raised his mug to William. He did the same, almost matching Bricu’s enthusiasm. Another spray of cider splashed the party behind William, including the bald, ruddy man. He hunched his shoulders in shock, then turned to stare daggers at William.
“So how’d yeh lads deal with ‘im.” Bricu said. He sat forward, giving the bloke behind William a once-over.
“It was William’s idea.” Robert said.
“Mostly. See, Elly was starting to get serious with Robert. He didn’t know what to do. I mean, he liked her enough to spend a few days with her, but nothing that he considered…”
“…permanent..” Robert said.
“Long term. Anyway, she was asking Robert to go to Darkshire with her. She had some sort of a job in one of the taverns. I just told Shifty that Elly had a very promising career in music, and she need a person to help her manage her finances and keep her safe.”
“That was it?”
“Well.” William said.
“No, it wasn’t it. He also told shifty how much the contract was for.” Robert said.
“Techincally, I mistakenly told him that she was going to be making three gold a week in Darkshire.”
“Gold, silver, what’s the difference?” Robert said, “My brother, who extracted me from a complicated situation with one clever mistake.”
“Ta William, the problem solver!” Bricu raised his glass, the rest followed suit, in yet another toast. Once again, the man behind William turned around and glared at him. This time, Bricu and Threnn both noticed his stare. Threnn stood up and let Bricu move their stools back a few inches. Robert moved up a step, while William scooted his towards his brother. Apparently appeased, the man nodded and turned back to his own group of friends.
“But once again, we’re pulled off topic. We’re spending too much time talking about us and no where near enough grilling Bittertongue.” Robert said.
“Ask away mate, I’ve got nothin’ ta hide.”
“What is it about our Threnny that you love the most?” Robert asked. He grinned, clearly proud of himself and his question. Threnn took a triumphant sip of her cider, smiling all the while. William waited patiently for Bricu to speak. Bricu looked at each in turn, then gave his answer.
“Lads,” Bricu said, “What isn’t there ta like ’bout our Threnn? She’s got beauty, grace, brains an passion. She’s also deviously cunnin’, an’ brilliant when under pressure. Either o’yeh lucky enough ta see her operate that way before?”
“On occasion.” William said.
“Only when she’s dealing with Thenia.” Robert said.
“Och, William, Robert, yeh should’ve seen her the day we met. All o’those qualities came inta play at once.”
Threnn’s smile faltered. “Oh you wouldn’t.” She said.
“Wouldn’t what?” Robert asked.
Bricu paused for sip of cider. He looked at Threnn briefly, before turning back to the Bells. He leaned in to the Bells, his mug of cider in one hand, the other free to gesture.
“I remember it perfectly. Our lovely Threnn was standin’ on the balcony o’the Pig. It was a packed night, yeh see, an’ she was just a few steps from the top o’the stairs. Folk were walkin’ by her, some gettin’ ta close. So I walked near her, just as someone else came up the stairs. She started ta shift her drink an she committed the most grievous sin in the Pig.”
“Oh stop.” Threnn said.
“What did she do?” Robert asked.
“Mate, she ended up spillin’ some o’her drink on the southron war hero, Christoph Faral.”
“She what?” William said.
“It was an accident, mind yeh. Not like an entire mug. Just enough that he noticed. Wet his hair, down his back. Och, it was a wee bit o’a mess.”
“No it wasn’t.” Threnn said.
“Threnny, love, lemme finish for the Bells, aye?”
Threnn responded by taking another sip of her cider. This time, she didn’t smile triumphantly. She briefly stared daggers at Bricu, before turning on the look on the Bells. Neither William, Robert nor Bricu gave it any attention.
Bricu continued, “See lads, that look is the kinda fire that drew me ta her. But she didn’t unleash it on Faral. Yeh know what she did do?”
“What did our Threnny do?”
“It is nothing.” Threnn said.
“She went down ta apologize ta him. Not meek an’ mild, but a proper apology.”
“That is our Threnny,” William said, “Doing the right thing.”
Threnn took another sip of her cider. She continued to glare over her mug of cider.
“I would have just blamed my brother.” Robert said.
William rolled his eyes as he took another sip of his cider.
“But Threnny isn’t the kind o’woman ta blame another fer her own failin’. No, she’s quite serious ’bout these matters. An one would hope that a hero such as Faral would see the intent an’ forgive her. But yeh know what the wanker did?”
“What did he do?” Robert asked. He turned from Bricu to watch Threnn take another sip of her cider. William, for his part, watched Bricu carefully.
“He walked away.”
“NO!” Robert said dramatically.
“The bastard.” William said.
Threnn simply sighed.
“So here’s our lovable Threnny, who committed two terrible sins: Spillin’ her beer on a Southron war hero. Yet she puts on a brave face an’ walks down ta express her deepest apologies. What does the Hero o’the second war do? He brushes right fuckin’ by her. ”
“Ayup. No big deal.” Threnn said.
“Never liked the blowhard myself.” Robert said.
“So this is what drew you to her.” William asked, “A failed apology?”
“Och, yeh don’t get it mate! She has the willin’ness ta go down an apologize. Then he blows her off an’ whta does she do? Threnn doesn’t fold like some milk maid. She hold her head high an’ walks back up with another drink in her hand. It’s not often yeh see a lovely girl who does the right thing with that much fire. It was enough ta ge me attention. Bein’ a generous bloke I was able ta forgive her fer spillin’ the beer, an we all know that spillin’ beer…”
“Is a sin.” William.
“Cardinal at that, boyo. Remember, I’m a servant o’the Holy Light.” Bricu said.
Bricu turned in his stool to look at Threnn, “An’ that’s how I fell fer Threnn Al’Cair. ” When he finished, Threnn leveled a punch square into Bricu’s shoulder.
“That’s for blasphemy.” Threnn said.
“I’m not the one that spilled the beer on the war hero.” Bricu said.
“All this attention over spilt beer.” William said dryly. “It must be true love.”
“Beer is a magical thing mate. Spillin’ it gets attention.”
“Bricu has a point, William. I mean, how much shit did Threnny and Anna give you when your spilled your beer at their house warming party.”
“I will hit you too, Robert Bell.” Threnn said.
William glanced from Robert to Threnn. She held her mug of cider in front of her face as she met his gaze.
“So instead o’forgiveness, yeh gave another man trouble” Bricu said.
“It wasn’t that bad.” Threnn said.
“Not that bad? Robert, what happened at her house warmin’ party?”
“Robert Bell…” Threnn started to say.
Robert shrugged his shoulders. “Well, Bricu, my dear sister doesn’t want me to tell you what happened. Who am I to turn against my oldest friend.”
Threnn narrowed her eyes, waiting for Robert to finish.
‘”So yer loyalty runs that deep, eh?”
“As deep as the great sea.” Robert said. “So don’t push. No matter how hard you try, you will not here the brilliant story on how the Al’Cair girls mocked William out of true love.”
Bricu looked from Robert to Threnn, a look of fake shock plastered on his face.
“This isn’t a love story. This is far more pedestrian. Someone,” Threnn turned toward William, “had far too much to drink and spilled and was nearly sick. The end.”
‘”So why won’t yeh let one o’the Brothers Bell tell that story, eh?”
“Bricu has a point, why won’t you let me tell the story?” Robert asked.
“William doesn’t need to be embarrassed like that. Again. In front of Marketa. Again.”
“Was Marketa involed last time?” Bricu asked.
“I’m sitting right here.” William said finally. “I’ll tell the damn story.”
He scooted his barstool closer to the Robert, and spoke just above the din of the barn.
“I had a bit too much to drink. I was talking about one of Annalea’s newer friends…”
“Cute brunette from the North.” Robert said.
“My story, brother. Not yours.” William shook his head, “Regardless, I went to talk to her. I sloshed my beer all over her…”
“This is gettin’ ta be a pattern with yeh Southrons. Spillin’ yer beer when yeh should be drinkin’ it.” Bricu said.
“I have no trouble.” Robert said, draining the rest of his cider. He put his empty mug on the table and slid it towards Marketa. She missed it by an inch. It crashed to the ground, shattering into a dozen fragments.
“Robert Fucking Bell!” She shouted. The Ruddy man behind William leaned into say something, but Marketa shook her head. The Ruddy man stared daggers at the Bells, but neither of the brothers noticed. Threnn placed a hand on Bricu’s leg, then nodded with her head. Bricu gave her a wink and a nod.
“Damnit Robert, I am telling a story here.” William said.
“Now wait a second, that was Bricu’s fault for interrupting me and Marketa’s for not catching the mug. I am innocent here..”
“Robert.” Threnn said finally.
“Fine.” Robert said, “Marketa, dear, can I get another drink?”
Marketa, busy with the Ruddy Man, gives Robert a quick nod. The Ruddy man turned with Marketa to glare at Robert. If Robert noticed, he paid him no mind. Bricu and Threnn did notice. Both gestured their apologies, but before either could say a word, the man snorted and turned away. William sat patiently, nursing what was left of his cider.
“Please, William, finish.” Threnn said.
“I’m sure you both would rather hear more about Robert’s antics.” William said.
“Usually, they probably would. But you insisted on telling this one.” Robert said.
“Och, William, I’m listenin’. Don’t let either o’them distract yeh from the story.”
“What’s this about ‘either’ of them?” Threnn said.
“Ta my memory, love, yeh didn’t want William ta tell the story.”
“That’s my memory.” Robert said, “I was truly hurt by the attack on my brother’s person.”
“Now hold on a moment, I was preventing William from being embarrassed by the two of you.” Threnn stated.
“So now my brother is an embarassment?” Robert said.
“Och, ta turn on William like that, love. That’s a cruel cut.”
“Threnn, I expect this from Robert…and I should expect it from the Northman.” William said, nodding to Bricu. “But you?”
“I get you drinks, and this is how you repay me?”
“So now we are friends to be bribed, not brothers to be cherished?” Robert asked.
“I’m an embarrassment you have to pay for?” William said. He leaned forward, his palms up and out, with a plaintive look on his face. “Threnn, how could you?”
“Truly, Threnn, you should be ashamed of yourself. Look at how you’re destroying William.”
William rubbed his eyes. “Please, robert,” he said in sotto-voice, “Don’t draw attention to it.”
“Love, this is a terrible thing yeh’ve done.”
“What I’ve done!” Threnn interrupted, “how is this my doing. How did you turn the Bells against me?”
“And now you blame Bricu, our newest friend? Threnn, maybe you’ve been on the road too long.” Robert said. “You should stay home and relax a while. Maybe Bricu would cook for you.”
“Och, that’s a brilliant idea mate.” Bricu smiled sweetly, “Love, yeh should let me take care o’yeh. Yer obviously stressed ta the point o’breakin’ if yer turnin’ on these wonderful lads.”
Threnn narrowed her eyes and looked at Robert and William. “You two were supposed to help me with Bricu, not turn on me. And you!” Threnn said, turning toward Bricu, “Took away my two dearest friends and turned them on me.”
“Love, a Northman always inspires loyalty in a bar. Its our blood-heritage.”
“It’s true Threnny. I mean, the only way we can trust a Northman is if they’re drunk.” Robert said.
The shattering of a wooden mug interrupted William and Bricu’s responses. The ruddy faced man, sparying everyone near him with the remainder of his cider, held the broken remains of his mug and glowered at Robert.
“Yeh great fookin’ arsehole. Yeh bump me, spill me cider an’ then call me race cra’en drunkards?”
“I didn’t say craven. I said untrustworthy.” Robert said. He did not flinch from the man’s glower, but he had to look up to meet his eyes.