Bricu and Threnn have been married now for five years. Why do I play WoW still? Because I play with amazing people.
Bricu arrived at Threnn’s apartment at a quarter past seven, a full fifteen minutes early. He resisted the urge to roll up the sleeves of his red shirt–the same shirt Delion the Tailor had fussed over for nearly an hour–and rolled a cigarette to calm his nerves. He stood outside the apartment and gathered his thoughts. He started chuckling from the first memory.
“You simply do not understand, Bricu.” Delion said, “The difficulties involved with making garments like this. To mar its perfection by rolling up the sleeves is unthinkable. It is simply blaise.”
“But mate, it’ll get fuckin’ hot in the barn.” Bricu said, “An’ now yer sayin’ I need ta wear a shirt underneath this one?”
“Of course you do! You don’t want to perspire through this shirt! Why, you’d be a laughing stock! More importantly, you would make me a laughing stock!”
“Oh, we woudn’t want that.” Bricu said dryly.
“No, we certainly would not. Now, kind of pants are you wearing with this shirt?” Delion asked. He raised his index finger to his mouth and the side of his nose.
“I was gonna wear the linen…”
“Linen!” Delion yelped, “Are you mad? Oh, that would not do.”
Bricu was dumbstruck. “What?”
“Honestly, this is a harvest event. Textiles matter. Cotton at least, probably more of a cotton-wool blend.” Bricu watched as Delion crossed his arm across his chest, then started tapping his nose with his finger. The tailors eyes darted from Bricu to bolts of fabric neatly organized by textile, color and price, and back to Bricu.
“Yes. That would do nicely. Now, when is this again?”
“Tomorrow!” Delion shouted. “Oh why would you wait until the last moment to bring this up?” He rushed foward towards Bricu, measuring tape and pins in hand.
“Because they’re soddin’ pants Del. Strweth, they’re supposed ta be comfortable.”
“Honestly Bricu, if comfort was the driving force of fashion, we wouldn’t get out of bed!”
“While Threnny an’ I might call that a party…”
“Keep your sordid affairs with miss Al’Cair to yourself, please. Neither myself nor the Bells would want to hear such details.” Delion interrupted.
“Och, yeh think I”d kiss an’ tell mate? I’m a holy man an’ Threnny’ is a devout servant o’the Light. Such accusations…” Bricu said.
“Bricu.” Delion cut him off. He stopped measuring Bricu’s waist, letting one end of the tape measure fall to the ground, and stood straight, a half head taller than his client. Delion gave Bricuone of his practiced looks, the kind reserved for disreputable merchants and fashion diasters. Bricu continued grinning.
“Spare me the bluster.” He said after a sighing in resignation, “or I might slip and poke you with this pin. Twice. Now hold still, I’m taking your measurements.”
The rest of the details–picking up the shirt and pants, having a laugh at, or with Del (Bricu wasn’t exactly sure which)–was as immaterial as the last of his cigarette. What mattered was that he was smartly dressed with someplace to go. He crushed the cigarette underneath his boot and smoothed out the front of his shirt before he knocked on the door to Threnn’s apartment. Nerves aside, he flashed the best grin he could muster.
Bricu picked through the bouquet while waiting for Mrs. Stone, the land lady, to open the front door. Threnn explained that Mr. and Mrs. Stone were fixtures in Old Town, even more beloved than the vaunted Pig and Whistle. When Mr. Stone passed away, she converted the top of her house into apartments. Mrs. Stone did this more for the company and comfort of others, rather than a source of income. The Stones had done quite well for themselves after the Sacking, but they never moved from their family home. Threnn and Annalea treated Mrs. Stone like she was their grandmother, and for good reason. She rented her apartment to the Al’Cair girls well below its going rate, had dinner waiting for them on certain nights and always invited them down for cookies or cake. Mrs. Stone even gave Bricu cookies, after he helped her move a new bed frame into her house.
Eventually, he found one rose whose petals were not yet completely open, and held it out for in front of him. By the time she had opened the door, Bricu had the rest of the bouquet behind his back.
“Bricu, don’t you look dapper!” Mrs. Stone said cordially. She took the flower he offered and said, “Oh dearie, how sweet of you! Roses are my favorite!”
“Mrs. Stone,” Bricu said. He bowed at the waist, as per current court fashion. “I’m just here ta escort the lovely Threnn Al’Cair ta the Longwell’s Harvest ball, an truth be told, I’m just tryin’ ta match her. Although, now I’m havin’ second thoughts…..”
Mrs. Stone’s face fell. “What do you mean?”
“Why, Mrs. Stone.” Bricu said with a grin, “Say the word an’ I’ll take yeh in me Threnny’s place.”
As quickly as her face had fallen, Mrs. Stone burst into laughter.
“Master Bittertongue that is quite enough. Now go on upstairs! Threnn and Annalea are waiting for you”
“Thank yeh Mrs. Stone. Cheers!”
Bricu bounded up the stairs for Threnn’s apartment like a boy half his age. When he reached her door he smoothed out his shirt and pants with his palms. He ran a hand through his hair, either to fix the part in his hair or to calm his nerves. Steady yer self yeh fuckin’ wanker. He though to himself. This isn’t your first lady friend nor is it yer first ball. He rapped on her door gently, chastising himself for still having nerves about her.
It was Annalea who answered the door. It was clear from her modest attire that she was not attending the Longwell’s ball. She was dressed in a plain robes of a Darnassian initiate, and her hair was braided down her back. She did her best to look serious and somber. Even dressed like an initiate, she failed miserably.
“Bricu.” Annie said. Her eyes darted to the bouquet he held in his hands.
“Annie.” He said with a nod.
“Were you being chased upstairs?”
“Strewth, was I that loud?”
“Blessed Elune, we thought the Watch was coming to kick the bloody door down!” She said.
“What were doin’ that yeh feared the Watch?”
“Oh, fear had nothing to do with it. You know Pomeroy has a bit of a crush on Threnny…”
“No, I didn’t.” Bricu said. He paused, momentarily taken aback by this news. “It’s a good thing yeh opened the door then.”
“Really, why is that?”
“Cause otherwise, I’d have ta knock the door in meself. So, who’d yeh piss off ta get prayer duty tanight?” Bricu asked.
“I haven’t pissed anyone off, but I am hoping to practice my Darnassian,” Anna said with a grin that screamed mischief. She moved out of the doorway and let Bricu into the apartment. As he walked in, she looked back at the flowers.
“If you give me just one flower,” she said with the same grin, “I’ll tell you which are her favorites.”
“Sorry Annie, I gave the spare ta Mrs. Stone.”
“So you can’t even give me one flower?”
Bricu looked over his bouquet. “I’ve got some baby’s breath fer yeh.” Bricu said.
“Information like this is extremely important, and here you go offering me a weed? I’m insulted.”
“Lillies. Threnny likes Stargazer Lilies.” Bricu said, “Theresa said they were out o’season, so she gave me a deal for this one.”
Annie’s grin fell slightly, letting Bricu know he was right on the mark. He bit back his customary gloat and smiled. Annalea, slightly crestfallen, asked, “Did you figure that out or did she tell you?”
“A wee bit o’both. I saw her eyin’ some a few weeks back, so I asked ‘er bout ‘em.”
“That’s clever of you.” Annie said.
“I know. ”
“Threnn has a weakness for clever, but she does not approve of cocky..”
“Annie, lass, that ain’t cocky. That’s confident. Confident an’ clever, that’s she’s with me.” Bricu said.
Annalea grinned again. “That’s not the only reason why she’s with you. I’ll go get her, she was having a hell of a time with her hair…”
“You’re not flirting with my paladin, are you?” Threnn shouted from the back room. “You said you had your eyes on that priest…”
Annie rolled her eyes, then shouted back, “He’s not my type. He’s too clever by half.”
Bricu didn’t answer Threnn either. Instead, he tried to look down the hallway, towards the sound of her voice. When he finally saw her, he held his breath for just a moment. She was wearing a deceptively simple blue and white checker patterned homespun dress. The neckline was a tad more revealing than she would normally wear on one of their outings.
“Threnny” Bricu finally said, “yer brilliant.”
“I helped get her ready…” Annie said, but Bricu had already started to move past her. “Her hair…”
“You’re looking quite handsome tonight.” Threnn said
“I also helped with her make-up” Annie said.
“Och, its nothin’ that Delion didn’t fret o’er fer hours on end.” Bricu said.
“Well he did a fine job. It’s perfect for tonight’s party.” Threnn turned her attention to the flowers, “More flowers, for me?”
“Aye. Well, all but one. I did give Mrs. Stone a rose.”
“You didn’t give me any flowers.” Annie quipped.
“Anna.” Threnn said, handing Annalea the bouquet, “Why don’t you be a dear and put these in some water.”
“Sister-mine, are you trying to get rid of me?”
“Yes. And I’m doing it nicely. Now put those flowers in some water, unless you want to watch me thank my gallant paladin for being so thoughtful.”
Annalea grabbed the flowers from Threnn–pausing to take a brilliant, long stemmed yellow rose for herself–and stormed off down the hallway.
“You could have at least included me in the conversation!” She shouted back at her sister.
“Sorry Annie!” Bricu shouted back. “Yer black hearted villain’ o’a sister seduced the manners straight outta me.”
Threnn took a few steps towards Bricu, eyes cast downward. “Do you really think I’m a black hearted villan?” She asked.
“That depends, love, on how yer plannin’ on thankin’ me fer those flowers.”
In response, Threnn closed the distance to Bricu, standing close enough that Bricu could smell the perfume she had in her hair. Threnn, smiling like her sister, draped her arms around his shoulders. He wrapped his arms around her waist. Bricu leaned slightly, just close enough to whisper.
“This is typically where the villain does somethin’ ta distract our noble hero.”
“Oh, I know what the villain would do, and I could even tell you what this particular villian wants to do.” Threnn whispered back. She nibbled at his ear and kissed down his cheek till she reached his lips. Bricu started to kiss her back, but Threnn pulled her arms off of his shoulders and pushed him away.
“Now that’s black-hearted villainy right there, love.” He said.
“Of course it is. And its all part of my plan. You wouldnt’ to ruin my plans this early, would you?” She asked, grinning wildly.
“That depends.” Bricu said. Threnn was standing at the door, waiting for Bricu to compose himself. He took Threnn’s cloak off its hook and draped it over her shoulders.
“Depends on what?” Threnn asked.
“Depends on how devious yer plans are gonna get.”
Threnn continued walk down the hallway, chuckling all the while. When Bricu caught up with her, just outside the door, she was facing the door way, still smiling.
“Love,” Threnn said, “my plans involve throwing our hapless hero to the villain’s favorite henchmen. You aren’t not afraid of the Bells, are you?”
“I’ve only heard stories on how clever they are. I’m not afraid o’clever blokes.”
“Then my plan is going fantastically.” Threnn said.
“Touche love, Touche. So are yeh gonna tell me ’bout ‘em on the carriage ride then?”
“Only if we have time love,” Threnn said with a wink, “Only if we have time.”
“More o’yer devious plan?”
“You’ll have to escort me to the carriage to find out.” Threnn replied.
Threnn held her arm out for Bricu. He bowed low, in the southron style and said, “Miss Al’Cair, would yeh do me the honor o’hurryin’ t’the carriage? Seems we have a lot ta accomplish in a painfully short time.”
“Master Bittertongue, it would be my pleasure.”
The two paladins walked through the streets of Stormwind, arm in arm, all the while smiling at Threnn’s devious plans.
The gilded carriage Bricu rented wasn’t equipped to handle the rough road that lead divided the Longwell’s property, so the driver dropped Bricu and Threnn off halway between the Longwell’s Orchards and their barn, forcing the paladins to walk the rest of the way. Their path was marked by torches, on long wooden poles, planted by the Longwells earlier in the day. Neither one of them cared the dim light or the length of the walk. It gave them the time they needed to finish the conversation they started halfway through their carriage ride. Threnn’s eyes were watering from laughing, while Bricu cheeks started to ache from his constant smiling.
“Och, love,” he said, “its all true.”
“So Haldvan did it?”
“Aye, he went straight ta Greyson an’ told ‘im that I was by fair the most respectful candidate he’d seen in nearly twenty years! Greyson was fuckin’ furious!”
“You two went through all of that, just to ruin Greyson Shadowbreaker’s day?”
“It didn’t start that way. It started with a conversation ’bout the Holy properties o’Ales an’ Lagers.”
“Holy properties of beers?” Threnn asked.
“An’ Lagers. See love, accordin’ t’Dwarven custom, there’s a beer fer every ailment. Sometimes its boiled, sometimes its chilled, sometimes yeh bathe in it.”
Her giggles finally under control, Threnn tugged at Bricu’s arm and had him stop. “Wait. Bathe in beer?”
“Aye. Fer a fever. Humans can’t really catch it. Accordin’ ta Haldvan, it just makes us sneeze, but it makes a dwarf’s hair fall out an’ their skin gets a silvery color. They have ta bathe in beer ta recover. Somehow, the beer cuts the fever.”
“So when they catch this fever, how often do they have to bathe in beer?” Threnn said.
“Twice a day fer three t’five days. But Haldvan swore by it. Said he got it once. Had t’bathe in beer fer four days. He said it was the worst time o’his life.”
“So you bathe in it, but you can’t drink it?”
“Aye. Drininkin’ makes the fever worse an’ they can’t wash the beer off. It dries on ‘em an they have t’leave it be. So he smelled like dried, stale beer fer a week.”
Threnn frowned. “That’s terrible. What do they do for it?”
Bricu winked back at her, “They drink whisky toddies. Says it helps with the headaches from the fever.”
Threnn crossed her arms over her chest. Her frown remained, but Bricu could see the hint of a smile forming at the corner of her mouth. “Dearest, this sounds like crap.”
“Love, when I have I ever lied t’yeah.” Bricu said.
“I didn’t say it was a lie, I said this was crap.”
“Love, it’s all true. If it isn’t, may the ground shake an’ the seas boil.”
“I can’t see the seas from here, but my knees are buckling.” Threnn said.
“That’s just the effect I have on yeh.”
“Maybe, isn’t that tree shaking?” Threnn said.
“Love, that’s just yer head spinin’ from me ruggedly handsome self.”
“I hope you’re going to be more clever for the Bells.”
“Are yeh sayin’ I’m not clever?” Bricu asked.
“This is, at best, clever flirting. I think if you tried this with Robert or William, they’re likely to tear you apart.”
“Lass, I only flirted with the quartermaster ta get me squad extra rations. When we pair my Northerman charm ta their Southron wit, I’m sure we’ll come out appreciatin’ each other’s sense o’humor. Strewth, worst case? I’ll treat ‘em like I treat that tosser O’Connough. I’ll just ignore ‘em.”
“Love, O’Connough is neither my friend, nor is he witty. The Bells are both. I’ll have you know that there are thousands of known Southron wits.” Threnn said.
“Are any o’them still livin’?”
“At least two.”
“So t’night I get t’meet the premiere wits o’the Southern kingdoms?” Bricu asked.
“Ayup.” Threnn said.
“Yer friends the Bells?”
“We’ve been over this before, haven’t we?”
“Och, aye, we have. I’m just not entirely sure I’m that scared.” Bricu said.
“Only a fool knows no fear love.” Threnn said
“Southron wit an’wisdom?”
Threnn nodded, “We brought that expression northward, when we brought you peace and civilisation.”
“Yeh know, the Arathi went south, settlin’ Elwynn…” Bricu said.
“So when your wit is outmatched, you turn towards facts?”
“That or outright lyin’.” Bricu said
“So you would lie to me.” Threnn said. He could hear a hint of disappointment in her voice.
“Only if yeh have a very narrow definition o’lie.”
“A lie has a pretty specific definition dearest. Are you going to try and change it?” Threnn asked.
“Och, no, I’m just tryin’ ta clarify it a wee bit. See, there’s a difference between a lie an’ a good story.”
“So its okay to lie if you’re telling as a good story?”
Bricu nodded. “Good stories, good intent, not a lie. Bad story, or bad intent, now that’s an unforgivable lie.”
“Then how many bad stories have you told me?” Threnn asked.
They were a few short steps from the entrance to the barn when they started to hear the music of the fiddles, tin whistles and drummers hired by the Longwells. In this dim light, it was a struggle for Bricu to see Threnn, but he heard worry in her voice. She wasn’t laughing anymore. Bricu tugged on Threnn’s arm to stop her. Then he turned her toward him and looked her in the eyes. Her face was nearly impossible to read. “By my reckonin’,” Bricu said, “none. And I never will. I promise.”
Bricu caught her grin too late. “By my reckoning,” Threnn said, “that story you told me about finding the lost holy book of the gnomes was the most vile lie concocted. Ever.” Her laugh cut through the chill in the air. Bricu stepped back, letting her go to cover his heart with his hands.
“Och, yeh cut me ta the quick. Here yeh start ta sound serious an’…”
“And you fell for it. I got you, Master Bittertongue, like any good villian should.” Threnn said. She held her arm out for Bricu. “Are you coming? I have to throw you to my henchman.”
Bricu let out a mock sigh. “Like any good hero,” he said, “I’ll answer the call .” He took Threnn’s arm in his own. “But I warn yeh love, I mean ta play this game fer keeps Henchmen or no, yer comin’ back home with me..”
“Good.” Threnn said.
He bowed, once more in the southron style, and took her arm in his. Arm in arm, they walked into the Longwell’s barn.
The Longwell’s barn was packed by the time Bricu and Threnn made their entrance. Unlike most Southron parties, it was not a servant that announced the couple. Instead, Josiah Longwell, the heir apparent of the Longwell’s farms and orchards, greeted them the same way he greeted every invited guest: With a mug of cider.
“Threnody! Bricu!” Josiah said. He plunged two mugs into the barrel of the amber liquid. The cider sloshed into the mugs, and the scent of spiced apples grabbed their attention.
“Thank you both for coming.” He handed the first mug to Threnn first, the second to Bricu. Josiah took his mug, topping it off with ladel of cider, and toasted the couple’s health. Threnn and Bricu returned the gesture, careful not to spill any of the cider back into the barrel.
“Thank you for the invite.” Threnn said. She took a healthy swig from her mug.
“Cheers mate!” Bricu said before slamming half of the cider.
“I’m glad you both could make it, although…” Josiah gave Threnn a wink, “Your mother did not say you would be bringing Master Bittertongue.”
“Did Thenia say who my date would be?” Threnn asked. Bricu could hear the irritation creep into her voice. Either Josiah didn’t hear it or he didn’t pay any attention.
“Oh, she had a list. Thomas Maunt was at the top of it. I was in the middle.” Josiah laughed, “No offense Threnn, but your mother has no clue about my tastes. My ‘guest’ is hobnobbing with the gentry.” Josiah nodded to well dressed, man at least ten years older than Bricu or Threnn. He looked back at Josiah frequently. “I mean, we’ve been together for five years. You would think she knows.”
Threnn said, “She knows, she just hopes for something else.” Bricu took another sip of his Cider. Josiah gave Bricu another ladel.
“Yer a brilliant host.” Bricu said. Josiah smiled and winked at him.
“Now tell me” Josiah placed a hand on Threnn’s forearm. “is she going to give you any trouble for bringing our Bricu?” asked Josiah.
“She can’t get pissed if two folk show up t’the same party.” Bricu said.
“Bricu has his own invite…”
“That’s right!” Josiah said, “How dense of me! You helped the family address some … unpleasantness a few months ago. Where are your friends?.”
“They’re indisposed.” Bricu said, sipping at his cider.
“That’s a shame. Give Makarah my best, will you?”
“Certainly boyo, certainly.”
“How many more were you expecting?” Threnn asked.
“Oh, we invited at least another twenty adventures of various stripe and station.” He looked past Bricu and Threnn to the couple that just entered the barn. “Oh look. Lady Gontaut has yet another new young escort. She’s old enough to be his grandmother. Still.” He dipped two more mugs into the barrel, “Excuse me while I talk the blue bloods up a bit more. You two go enjoy the party!”
“Of course.” Threnn said
“Cheers mate.” Bricu slid his arm around Threnn’s waist and led her away. Josiah gave them a polite nod before greeting Lady Gontaut with the respect due her station.
They waded into the sea of guests and party goers. Bricu craned his neck, scanning the crowd for the infamous Bellsm while Threnn made a bee-line to the bar.
“Yeh see ‘em?” He asked.
“No, I can’t see anything but the back of the crowd. But I know where they’re going to be.”
“An’ where’d that be love?” Bricu pulled his arm from her waist to let her lead the way.
“By the bar. Willliam will be flirting with Marketa Longwell.”
“Sounds smart.” Bricu said.
“It is. This way, he keeps her company and he gets cheaper drinks.”
“What’s Marketa think ’bout it?”
“Usually, she prefers the company, and the flirting is mostly harmless.” Threnn said. She continued to snake through the crowd.
“Oh, they both prefer flirting to actually being with each other.” Threnn said.
“Nothin’ serious then?”
Threnn nodded, “This way they can flirt, keep off underiserables and make each other feel better. It’s a win-win.”
“Sounds clever.” Bricu said.
“It was William’s idea.” Threnn said.
“Yeh’d figure that one o’them wouldn’t be pleased with the idea after they gave it a shot.”
“No.” Threnn said, “Love, it’s hard to stay mad at a Bell for long.”
“Och, I need t’learn their tricks.” Bricu said.
Threnn glanced over her shoulder. “It’s innate love.” She said, “If you haven’t managed to do it by now, I don’t think you’ll ever get it.”
“Strewth, the more yeh tell me ’bout the Bells, the more it sounds like I’m in way o’er me head.”
Threnn smiled back at him, and for the first time that night, Bricu started to feel a hint of worry. “The bar is this way.” She said. Threnn weaved in and out of the crowd, with Bricu following her lead.
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. We had a brief encounter already, an’ 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.
“Friend.” Threnn said calmly, “We’re sorry we bumped you and that Robert’s quip stung so. Let us buy you, and your friends, a round to make up for it, alright?” She eased away from Bricu and made her way to Robert’s side.
William stood up, so Threnn was flanked by both Bells. Bricu looked around the bar: A small, detached crowd was forming around the scene. Marketa moved towards the other end of the bar, motioning for some of the Longwell’s security staff to break up the altercation. The Ruddy man’s crew, each one drunk and angry, stood up as well. Bricu stood up as well, pushing his stool out of the way.
Heartbeats passed. The ruddy man swayed slightly, glaring at Bells and Threnn. He focused on Robert, then leveled a fat finger at his chest.
“The southron woman’s got sense. So Apologize. Then we want ciders. Two fer each o’us.”
“If you get your great fat finger off of my chest, so I can breath, I’ll apologize.” Robert said.
The ruddy man pulled his finger back, but clenched his fists. This time, William noticed what Bricu and Threnn did: The man was still spoiling for a fight. William looked at Threnn, then Bricu, while his brother moved to stand ontop of the bar. He moved aside so Bricu could stand next to Threnn.
“This is goin’ ta hurt.” Bricu whispered to them.
“Maybe he’ll fall and stop himself from saying something stupid.” William said. Threnn ignored them both, and tried to pull Robert off of the bar.
“Ladies and Gentleman, Northmen and Southrons, may I have your direct and permanent attention.” Robert said as he stood on top of Marketa’s bar. The constant push and pull from Threnn and Marketa kept him from swaying while he preached. “I, Robert Bell, have a sincere and powerful apology to make to my friend and comrade, the Great Bald Ox.”
A few in the crowd chuckled. The ruddy ox surged forward, but William stood in his way.
“No, he’ll apologize!” William said. “Just give it a moment, RIGHT ROBERT?”
Robert, from his perch, bowed slightly. “A hundred thousand pardons. It’s just part of the apology, sir. Of which I owe you many. First, I spilled your cider. Longwell’s cider. A sin for sure. In this crowded establishment, with all the merriment and joy, how can one not drop a sip or two? Surely, the laughs and the joy make up for the small amounts of missed cider–but I apologize for making you miss even a drop of this liquid gold. Josiah! Two rounds for my friends here!”
“See,” William said, “Two more rounds. Like he said.”
Threnn moved to shield Robert. She glanced at each of the Ruddy man’s crew, sizing them up. Bricu noticed her hand instinctively went to where she kept her sword. Whether she made a fist out of frustration or preperation, he could not tell. He tried to make his way towards her, but one of Ox’s crew stood in his way. He was shorter than Bricu, with shoulders nearly as broad. This one let his hand fall to his waist, where Bricu could see the outline of a hilt–probably a knife–under his tunic. The man shook his head. Bricu simply smiled.
“Now I owe this man, and his friends, an apology because I miss spoke.” Robert shouted.
William backed up to the bar, doing his best to get distance from Ox. “See, he’s going to continue apologizing.” He looked to Threnn and Bricu, a hint of worry on his face.
“I said that the Northman were only to be trusted when drunk. Not so! My dear sister has a new beau, a Northman, one who I am now quite fond of. And while we can all agree you should not trust a Northman who doesn’t drink, that does not mean we can only trust a Northman while drunk. No, I should have said…”
William smiled at Ox and readied himself for the inevitable punch. Threnn briefly glanced over her shoulder than stood, battle ready, to shield her idiot friend. Bricu cracked his knuckles and pointed at Robert.
“That’s me he’s talkin’ bout.”
Robert’s shout drowned out Ox’s friend’s reply.
“Thank you. I should have thanked him for giving us Southrons’ a new tradition: We take one dumb-as-an Orc Northman, give him enough cider to drown out his foul smell and use your apology to him as an excuse to stand on the bar and call attention to his misshapen skull and inability to have a good time without violence! Mock the Northman!”
Half the crowed roared with laughter, the other half simply roared. Ox was one of those who roared.
Robert danced down the bar away from Ox and his crew, dodging reaching arms and hands, all while heaping insults down upon Ox. One of Ox’s crew lunged for the bar. Threnn side stepped him, and landed a quick jab to his kidneys. He faltered at the bar, doing his best to turn around, but Threnn kicked him at the back of his knee. He fell forward, bouncing his head off the bar. She started to call on the light, but someone grabbed her from behind and lifted her off the ground. With her arms pinned to her sides, and not enough breath to Call on the Light, she worked on instinct. Threnn slammed her head backwards, hammering once, twice, three times before the grip slackened. She fell with the one who grabbed her, and rolled to her side. She got to her feet, quick as a cat, and kicked her attack in the side. Confident he would not stand up soon, she looked to Bricu and the Bells.
Ox himself charged towards Robert, ignoring William, who followed his brother’s jig down the bar as best he could. Ox slammed into him, knocking the wind from his lungs and squeezing the life out of him. Williams, pinned by the man’s girth, wrapped his right had around a mug of cider, and brought it crashing into back of Ox’s head. William then slammed his knee into Ox’s groin until Ox passed out on top of him.
The man with the knife under his tunic reached for his blade as fast as he could. Bricu rushed forward and grabbed his wrist, pinning it to his chest. He followed through with a head butt to the bridge of the man’s nose. Blood flowed from the man’s and he started to scream. Bricu spun the man around and with his other arm at his throat pushed him up to the bar. Bricu pulled on the man’s wrist, his hand still grabbing the knife, and holding his elbow, slammed his forearm into the bar. The man dropped the knife and fell to his knees. Bricu looked down the bar and saw Marketa pull Robert from his perch behind the bar. Bricu lept over and joined them.
“That was a wee bit more interestin’ than I figured fer the night.” He said to Robert, “Now, have yeh seen Threnny?”
“She’s fine. Since she knocked Hogarth out, and kicked him, no one has come near her. You need to take Robert outside before the Watch–or less friendly Northman–gets their hands on him.” She pointed to a panel by a series of empty crates and jugs, “Barback’s door. Take Robert there and wait for the all-clear.”
“I get a body guard!” Robert slurred.
“Save me somethin’ special, lass. C’mon Robert. I’ll share me last cigarette with yeh.”
“Another filfthy habit? Let’s go!” Robert said. He crawled towards the panels, and knocked aside the empty crates and jugs. Bricu followed him, setting the jugs and crates aside. He glanced over his shoulder and watched as someone threw a chair into the melee.
“Bloody southrons.” He said.
By the time Threnn made her way to the barback’s door, Robert was kneeling on the ground heaving the contents of his stomach. A half-smoked cigarette was next to him. Bricu stood a few feet away, shaking his head at the mess.
“How much did he drink back here?”
“Not more than the rest o’us.” Bricu glanced at the cigarette, “I think he inhaled the smoke.”
“He doesn’t smoke.”
“He tried it.” Bricu pointed to the vomit on the ground, “I guess he didn’t take ta it.”
“Filthy” Robert said between wretches, “Habit.”
“Guess not.” Threnn said.
“Marketa said yeh took down some bloke.”
“I noticed my knight was fighting someone with a knife. We live in dangerous days when a lady has to defender herself so viciously.” Threnn rubbed the back of her head. “I think I did that wrong.”
“It wasn’t a proper Andorhal Kiss, love, but if he fell, who cares ’bout proper?” Bricu said grining, “Oi, if yeh play yer cards right, I can teach yeh ta box.”
“What kind of card games are we talking here?” Threnn asked.
“Are yeh tryin’ ta figure a way ta shark me now?”
“Of course I am. You suggest to a girl that you’d teach her to box and not expect her to cheat to make sure you DO teach her to box.”
“Never thought o’it like that. I’ve not met ta many women who wanted ta box.” Bricu said.
“Well, you’ve obviously been associating with the wrong kind of women.” Threnn said.
“I’m drunk.” Robert said, “Not deaf. Can you two flirt somewhere else?”
Robert moved away from the pile of sick, and flopped onto his back. “And would one of you two live up to your holy obligations and get me a bit of water?”
“Yer gonna have ta wait a wee bit longer, mate. Not goin’ inside till we get the all clear from Marketa. Yeh don’t want to spend a night in the stocks, do yeh?”
“Or be gutted by a northman?” Threnn asked.
“For the Northman, I’ll just borrow yours. As for going to the stocks, I’m sure one of you could sweet talk the watch…”
“Yeh forget the colors we run with, boyo? They’d sooner see us…”
“Not me.” Threnn said
“They’d sooner se ME rot than provide yeh the smallest comfort.”
“But I’m dying.” Robert whispered. His voice cracked slightly and he covered his forehead with his hand to exagerate his plight
“Shouldn’t you be more worried about your brother?” Threnn asked.
“I’m sure he’s fine. He probably ran out of the bar. The coward.”
“William was shielding you as best he could, while you pranced up and down the bar like a…”
“Right. A bloody poncey git. What were you thinking, Robert?” Threnn asked.
“I was thinking my dear friend and her new beau would save me. And I was right. As for William, I’m sure he’s fine. If he was hurt, I’d feel it. We’re twins.”
“Robert Bell, get your ass up and show some concern for your brother.” Threnn said.
Robert sat up on his elbows, and craned his neck to look at Threnn.
“I saw the bastard that started this fight charge me, and William stopped him. The lug fell on him, he didn’t hit him. If he was hurt, we’d have heard by now. Once the world stops spinning and my stomach stops heaving, I’ll be the first to go in there.”
“Not bloody likely.” Threnn said. “I’m going back to check them. Marketa should call you in shortly.” Threnn turned her back to Robert and Bricu and walked through the barkeep door.
Bricu watched Robert fall back to the ground. Robert had no smart words or clever turns of phrase. He sighed and reached for the cigarette that fell to the ground.
“Maybe I should have gone in.” he said softly.
“Probably boyo. I’ve not seen her so pissed…well, ever.”
“You probably won’t ever see her that pissed unless you stick around.” Robert sighed, “Threnn doesn’t yell, or curse, that much. Only if she’s really pissed and only if she’s really comfortable…”
“So a stern talkin’ ta…”
“Is her way of expressing herself without really caring. You should have heard her the time she yelled at Annie after…”
“Bricu. Robert said as clearly as he could muster, “You’re not as bad as I expected. In fact, you’ve got more potential than a few of the others we’ve met.”
“Oi, figured yeh’d come ’round ta me way o’thinkin’ sooner rather than later.”
“That doesn’t mean I’m going to tell you everything I know about the the Al’Cair family.” Robert said.
“Boyo, it isn’t like I want ta get in an advantage here. I’m not lookin’ ta scam her. Like I said earlier, I’m in this fer the long haul. I can’t make this work if I try an’ cheat it, right?”
“Hell, I almost believe you’re sincere. I’d completely believe you if you didn’t twist my arm to smoke these foul death sticks. Now help me up. We should get inside shortly.”
“Even if Marketa hasn’t given us the go-ahead.” Bricu helped Robert up, then helped him steady himself.
“Even if. I’m feeling guilty enough as it is. Now never tell that to Threnny, otherwise she’ll think it will work on me.”
“Me lips are sealed. Unless she tricks it outta me. She’s a dastardly cunnin’ one.”
“If she gets you, you’re a feckless bastard.”
“Better than a poncey git.” Bricu walked to the bar back door. “Remember Robert, she only yells at yeh ’cause she cares ’bout yeh.”
Robert, still swaying slightly, extended his middle finger at Bricu.
“I do this because I am now quite fond of you as well, Bittertongue. Don’t fuck it up.”
Bricu bowed low and opened the door for Robert. With a flourish, he welcomed Robert back inside the Longwell’s barn.
Josiah Longwell was slinging drinks as fast as Marketa had been before the fight. Marketa was behind the bar holding a clean, wet bartowel to his forehead. Threnn leaned against the bar, scowling at the back door.
Robert walked in first, hunched over to keep himself hidden from the other patrons. He made his way to William as quickly as he could. He steadied himself by
“Will, look, I’m sorry I didn’t come in sooner.”
William turned his neck slowly to look at his brother. He grimaced in pain and sharply inhaled.
“It’s alright.” He whispered, “you’re here now.”
“About time too.” Threnn said.
Bricu made his way through the door towards Threnn. He saddled up next to her. She barely noticed his presence.
“I’m sorry.” Robert said. “I didn’t know he was so hurt.” Despite his hand on William’s shoulder, he swayed back and forth.
“I am.” William coughed. “Is Bricu here?”
“Aye.” Bricu said. He stood his ground near Threnn and watched Robert sway drunkenly near his brother. He felt Threnn shift–leaning towards the brothers Bell–but he looked towards William.
“Come closer, I can’t see you.” Wiliam whispered.
“Och, I don’t want ta crowd Robert.” Bricu said. He looked to Threnn, who turned away towards the front of the bar, and caught the slightest glimpse of a grin.
Robert, however, moved closer.
“Did you really get hurt?”
“No.” William said softly, “you cost me five gold crowns because you fell for it you sod.” He swung his right hand, balled into a tight fist, into his brother’s thing. Robert fell to the ground, clutching his leg, screaming in pain.
“When the hell did you fall for something so bloody obvious? Honestly, did you think Threnny wouldn’t have dragged your no good ass back into the bar if I was really hurt?”
Robert said nothing intelligible. He writhed on the floor, in drunken agony, clutching his wounded leg.
“Nnnnnhhhh!” He moaned.
Satisified with his brother’s pain, William turned back to Marketa. Neither Threnn nor Bricu could hear them over the wounded Robert. Josiah Longwell turned his back long enough to glare at Marketa, william ans Robert, as well as catch Bricu’s order for two more ciders. Josiah slid the mugs towards the two and Threnn intercepted them. She handed one to Bricu and the clinked their mugs.
“They normally like this?” Bricu asked.
“No, not normally. I think you brought this out of them.” Threnn said.
“I do try ta bring the best outta folk. Reckon it’s a gift.”
“Truly, you are blessed by the Light, a leader of men and women.”
“I know love. I’m just like Lothar ‘imself. As fer me troops…” Bricu pointed at Robert, still writhing on the ground. “When is he gonna give that up?”
“Probably when William gets closer to him, so Robert can hit him back.”
As if on cue, William, still huddled next to Marketa, leaned towards Robert. Bricu could not hear them over the crowd, but he thought Robert was playing possum, clutching his leg far lower than where William had punched him. Robert was also laying in a puddle of spilled spirits and cider, and he was not complaining about this one bit. He gestured with his mug of Cider to Threnn. They watched as William leaned ever closer to Robert. Juast as William was hovering over Robert, Robert took his hands–now dripping with the mix of cider and spirts–and put his fingers into Williams year. WetWilly will need an edit
-Martin Gleason 12/13/10 11:31 AM
“HA!” He yelled. William struggled and pulled away, back to a now giggling Marketa.
“Is this how they normally act in public?”
“Actually, no. Usually the gang up on their target and make them weep. They didn’t try that when I was gone, did they?”
“No love, like I said, we were dsicussin’ the fine points o’Northern Cookin’.” Bricu lied with ease. “I think they liked me from the start.”
Threnn did not respond intially. She scooted closer to Bricu and wrapped an arm around his waist, all the while watching the Bells devolve. They at least had the sense to give Marketa some space, even if they were still horsing around behind the bar.
“Normally, my minions are much more fearsome.” She said.
“I saw the trick robert did ta william. The wet willy is against the Church’s Orders o’War. We could get excommunicated fer such behavior.”
“This is why I employ minions, love. So I don’t have to get my hands dirty.”
Bricu wrapped an arm around Threnn, “I’ve vanquished yer minions love. So now what’s gonna happen.”
“Just wait.” Threnn whispered in his ear. “When the Bells are done showing off for you, we’ll head back home.”
Bricu watched as the Bells tumbled outside the barback door, and Marketa stormed after them. “I am the very picture o’patience, love.” He sipped at his cider, wishing–for the first time he could remember–to get home before the bars closed.
Josiah passed the last two mugs of cider out to Bricu and Threnn as he guided them gently to the door. The rest of the barn was empty–save a few of the hired help, who was currently cleaning the floor of sawdust, cornstalks, spilled cider, and few less-than-polite puddles of liquid–and Josiah had to have Marketa take Robert and William to their coach ride. He walked behind them, gently ushring them out by placing one hand on their entwined arms.
“Consider these parting gifts as my thanks for not getting hauled off by the watch for that…disagreement.” Josiah said.
“S’notaproblem.” Bricu slurred. “S’ourpleasure. Who’d a’e guess’d t’ere’d be a fight with ta Bells? They’re bloody delightful.” Bricu’s accent, more pronounced thanks to his family’s cider, made it nearly impossible for him to understand him.
“Told yeh you’d love’m.” Threnn slurred. Josiah shook his head at Threnn’s bad northern accent. He pushed them ever so slightly forward, towards the open door.
“Yes yes. They are both fantastic. Thank you both for coming and not killing our guests!” Josiah said. He watched as they stood outside, leaning on each other for support, swaying with the wind. He waited a moment before slamming the doors shut and locking them from the inside.
“Cute,” he said, “but it will never last.”
Outisde of the bar, obvilous to the predictions of doom, Bricu and Threnn walked slowly down the well-lit path towards the the carriage station. It was not a long walk, it was just made more complicated by the copious amounts of cider in their blood.
“Och, we should go dancin’.” Bricu said. He took her right hand with his left, and tried to pull her into a spin. Threnn didn’t budge, and Bricu was forced to bend his knees to finish the twirl.
“No.” Threnn said as Bricu spun around, “I’m not going dancing. We just had the Rose Ball.”
“An yeh were great at the ball. But ‘e could go jig er somethin’ less formal. Somethin’ more fun!”
“I have fun planned…justgotta make it to the carriage.”
“Yer Bells’ll be right there, waitin ‘fer us. Awfully sweet o’me ta offer ‘em a ride back.” Bricu said. “Maybe they can convince yeh ta go dancin’…”
“No one is dancing, love.” Threnn said.
They bantered back and forth about dancing. Threnn hinting that her plans were better without dancing, Bricu arguing that dancing made everything better. Bricu continued to demonstrate how he could dance–each step, jig and slide more clumsy than the last–while Threnn grew more tired with each step. By the time they had reached the carriage, they had come to an agreement: They would nap in the carriage, and chose their next step when the reached Stormwind.
At the stand, they saw their driver, whose livery was slightly more disheveled than they remembered, closing the door to the carriage. The slamming door brought them back to their senses, if only for a moment.
“OI!” Bricu yelled.
“Sir!” Threnn yelled.
“Hush!” Robert yelled back. He leaned drunkenly out the window of the carriage. “Bricu, Threnny! Look, William and I are going to take this carriage back. We’ll send him back just after he drops the four of us off…”
“Four?” Bricu asked. As if on cue, William and two other women–both paladins assumed one was Marketa–laughed.
“Yes yes. Four. Now then…just do what lovebirds do in fall, and you will both be fine.”
“The fuck do lovebirds do?” Bricu asked.
“They cuddle.” William said from inside the carriage.
“Robert and william bell, you both get your no good arses out of the carriage, or so help me, I will….”
“An extra five crowns if you leave now, sir!” Williams yelled. The Carriage driver whiped the horses forward.
Robert, still leaning from teh carriage, yelled after them. “You’re both soldiers! Soldier on!”
Bricu bent down to find a rock to whip at him ,but by the time he found one suitable enough, the carriage was too dark to see. He threw the stone for good measure, then turned to Threnn.
“So then. Now what?”
“Well.” Threnn said calmly, “We could dance?”
They stumbled off the well marked path and walked farther into the Longwell’s Orchard. The torchlight from the road faded and soon their only sources of light were the moon and the stars above.
“How do you know where to go?” Threnn asked. She stifled her yawn–and a giggle–as Bricu stumbled forward.
“Course I do. Josiah told me himself that we could stay there.”
“You talked to him before we left?” Threnn asked.
“Long before. It’s a standin’ invite.” Bricu stopped for a moment and looked around the orchard. The trees were organized in perfectly straight rows. He turned right and walked half a dozen steps before turning around and heading in the opposite direction.
“You know where we’re going?”
“Och, I said it…didn’t I?” Bricu said warily. “Besides, there’s a number o’cottages ’round here. Standin’ invite on any o’them”
“Did Josiah give you a key?”
“What’d I need a key fer?” Bricu said.
“How else are we getting into a cabin? You can’t charm a door.”
“Yer right.” Bricu picked up the pace into a clearing. “Yeh knock a door down. Yeh charm a lock.”
“Charm a lock. You sound quite pleased with yourself with that, Mr. Bittertongue.” Threnn said.
“But I am pleased, Ms. Al’Cair. I mean, why wouldn’t I be?” Bricu said, grinning. “Other than the fact that yer friends stole our ride.”
“They only do such dastaradly deeds to impress people they like, love.”
“So they must truly adore us, aye?” Bricu said. He stopped in the clearing, just short of the house that he led them to. Threnn was looking at it–more a log cabin than a house, with shuttered windows and a brightly painted door–when Bricu passed her a flask.
“Oi, Drink up.” he said.
“I’m a bit woozy as it is. I’ll pass.”
“Och, its not more booze love. It’s a preventative measure. Drink up, it’ll be good fer the mornin’.”
“What’s in the morning?” Threnn said after taking a pull. Morning Glory Dew. “This is your preventative measure?”
“Keeps the headaches ta a mild irritation an’ quells the nasuea. Trust a drunk with the ambitions of a gourmand to figure a proper cure.”
“Mr. Bittertongue, I’m impressed. Now then, how are you going to charm a lock?”
Bricu walked up to the door and studied it carefully. The door, which had at least three coats of paint to it, had no knocker. He gave the door a series of three sharp raps. When no one answered, he started to pay attention to the lock itself. A standard Orwell and Tassiter lock was on the front: A simple key and an easy one to pick if one had experienced.
“Strewth.” He said, “Its been years since I’ve done this kind.” He squatted in front of the door to get a better look. If I had light and better tools, he though, this would be so bloody simple.
“You’ve charmed locks before?”
“Love, I wasn’t always a paladin. Fer a while, I was considerin’ joinin’ up with a…let’s say a crew with an enterpenerual bent.”
“How’d that turn out?”
Bricu looked over his shoulder to see Threnn shivering in the cold. She was standing watch, making sure that no one would get to close for comfort. Drunk as he was, the gesture warmed his heart.
“Why bother thinkin’ about how I could’ve fucked. I prefer the way things turned out.”
“Good. Then charm the door. Its bloody cold out here.”
“Got a pin I can borrow, love?”
“Don’t tell Anna that I ruined hours of her work just so you could impress me with your charm.” Threnn reached into her hair and started pulling out all of Annalea’s carefully placed bobby pins. She handed him a handful with a wink.
“Wouldn’t say a word.” Bricu said.
The first two pins broke as he twisted them into the right shape. The third started to bend in the lock itself. It took all of Bricu’s fading, and intoxicated, concentration to get the pin out before it broke. The fourth pin worked, but broke off in the lock.
“Good enough,” he said. Bricu pushed the door open and bowed before Threnn. “Ladies first.”
“Always the gentleman.” Threnn said as walked into the cabin. She did not stop shivering.
“It is a bit warmer in here…Bricu?” She turned around and noted that while the door was still open, Bricu was no where to be seen.
“Where did go?” She asked. Threnn looked about the small one-room cabin noting the hearth, a small table and a rather large four post bed. She stood in the middle of the cabin, swaying slightly from the cider, before remember that the door was still open. She walked to close it and stopped just short of shutting the door in Bricu’s face.
“We’ll need a fire.” He said. Threnn wasn’t sure if he was swaying or if she was.
“You need my help?” Threnn said. She shut the door behind him
“I’ve set fires in a blizzard, after a fight with a gut wound. I’ve been….” Bricu stopped in mid boast while Threnn wrapped her arms around his chest and kissed the back of his neck.
“Have you made a fire while distracted?” She asked.
Bricu narrowed his eyes and focused on the kindling at the bottom of the firepit. “Not like this,” he muttered.
“It has to be easier,” Threnn said between kisses, “with a lighter than with a standard issue spark box.”
“Right now, it makes no bloody difference one way or the other. At this rate, I’ll be settin’ me shirt on fire ‘fore I get these bloody sticks to light.”
“I’ll stop distracting you…actually, I can contribute to the cold weather discussion. It’s part of Southron Baisc, you know.”
“Truly?” Bricu said. He tried to steady himself and light a handful of kindling at once, but the kindling simply smouldered.
“I’m not ’bout ta peek.” Bricu said, glancing over his shoulder. He was rewarded with a warning shot–Threnn’s shoe–that sailed just past his nose.
“OI!” He shouted over Threnn’s giggles, “That could’ve…”
“But it didn’t. Now, work on the fire. I’m doing my part.”
Bricu focused on the task at hand. He heard rustling and something fall to the ground. He turned his head slightly, but Threnn yelled, “I have one more shoe, Mr. Bittertongue.”
He grumbled as he focused on the task at hand. He repositioned the logs, moved the kindling and even looked for bits of cloth to use as additional kindling.
“If I’d have known I’d need ta make a fire, I’d have had less ta drink.” He muttered to the fire pit.
“Hmm?” Threnn said from the other side of the cabin. “Oh, you can peek now.”
“Lightin’ fires is harder…” Bricu looked over his shoulder to see Threnn, in the bed, the covers pulled up to her chin. Piled on the floor, next to the bed, were her clothes.
“Light the fire love, then come to bed.” Threnn covered her mouth to yawn, “Its getting late.”
Bricu turned back to smoking but not-yet-sparked-fire and redoubled his efforts.
“Brilliant bit o’motivation there, love.”
“Body heat keeps you warm. At least, thats what we were told in basic.” Threnn yawned a second time and her second shoe dropped to the floor. She laughed it off.
“I’m glad yeh introduced me ta yer Bells, love. Made me week.” Bricu noted a small spark in the kindling. He blew on it to fan it, but it sputtered and went out. “Wee fucker.” He whispered.
“They’ve pestered since Anna said it sounded ‘serious.’”
“That’s what Anna said.”
“Why would yer sister think we were serious?” Bricu said. Another spark came and went, so he readjusted the entire woodpile again.
“Maybe it was the Rose Ball. Or the dress. Or the hair.”
“Or all three?”
Threnn hummed her response.
Another spark in the kindling. This time, Bricu waited till more of the kindling caught. “Well, I’m serious.” He said before gently blowing on the kindling. This time, the sparks kept burning.
“Really now?” Threnn whispered back.
“Aye. I stopped callin’ e’er other woman love an’ I spend far too much o’me time thinkin’ ’bout yeh.”
“An’ tell yeh e’erthin’? Och, not t’night.”
Bricu moved the logs once more, not to position them for the fire, but to stall and get his words in order.
“All I’m gonna say, love, is that yeh make me happier than the Black an’ Red an’ that e’er day with yeh is e’en better than the last. Yeh’ve made me dance. No one’s made me dance in years, an’ I’ve missed that…”
Confident that he had both the right words and that the fire was finally lit, Bricu stood up and turned back to Threnn. He started to finish his thought. “I’m sayin’ that I’m…”
Threnn was rolled over on her side. She was not holding the blankets up to her chin, so he could see the curve of her shoulder. He breathing was deep and regular, though Bricu was certain he could hear the beginning of a snore.
“I’ll wait.” He said quietly.
Bricu opened the door and scrubbed his hands off in the snow. After holding them by the fire to warm them and dry them, he took off his finery and crawled into the bed with Threnn. She cuddled closer to him and he wrapped his arms around her. He fell asleep soon after.
The fire was long dead when Threnn woke up. The smell of the fire had permeated the room, but she did not hear any popping logs or smouldering embers. A moment of panic struck her–why wasn’t she more concerned about a fire in her room. Mrs. Stone’s apartment didn’t have a fire place. Threnn opened her eyes to a vaguely familiar room. A small cabin with a hearth. Her clothes in a pile on the floor. Bricu laying next to her. That alone brought no small degree of comfort.
Threnn rolled over and watched him sleep. Bricu’s face was pushed into the pillow, pulling up the corner of his mouth. One arm was thrown over her, but he was not holding her tight. Threnn ran her fingers over the stubble on his cheek and Bricu didn’t stir. He was sound asleep. She laid there, warm and comfortable, with the one concern in the world.
This was someone else’s house.
Threnn watched Bricu sleep, still as a stone, before giving in to her worry. She kissed him, full on the mouth, to wake him. Her plan worked, possibly too well, and Bricu, now wide awake, kissed her back. He pulled her on top of him with ease, and broke off the kiss.
“Promise ta wake up me like this e’ery mornin’, an’ I’ll make yeh breakfast there after.”
“That’s all it takes?” Threnn said, “I can do that. But for now, we have to go.”
Threnn started to pull herself away, but Bricu held her close.
“There’s no hurry, is there love?” He asked.
“We don’t know who lives her.”
“It’s the Longwell’s cabin.” Bricu ran his fingers up Threnn’s back, sending a pleasant tingle up her spin. She arched her back in response and gave a token effort of pulling away.
“We don’t know when they’re coming back.” Threnn said.
“Later.” Bricu answered. He played with her hair.
“What if its sooner?”
“Love, if its sooner, I can throw a boot–or a shoe–at the door ta tell ‘em ta bugger off.” Bricu pulled her close to kiss her cheek, then her neck.
“We don’t even know what time it is.”
“Do we really care what time it is? S’not like we have a job or somethin’ ta get done t’day, do we? T’day’s our day off.”
“But…” Threnn said.
Bricu stopped kissing her and stopped running his hands down her back. “If yeh want ta leave, we can. Or, we can lie here an’ enjoy our luck an’ each other. Then I promise I’ll the place an’ we can get breakfast somehwere.”
She paused, weighing her options. She started to pull herself away, and Bricu let her go. He shifted in the bed, when Threnn put her hands on his shoulders and held him in place. Threnn kissed him on the mouth, then the neck back up to his cheek. She leaned into whisper in his ear.
“Make me breafkast like you promised, and we have a deal.”
“Every mornin’.” He said.
Threnn put her hands back on his shoulders and looked him straight in the eye. He smiled, then laughed, as he ran his hands down the outside of her thighs.
“I promise. Love.” He said softly.
“I know, Love.” Threnn said.