Story for the day: Between Friends
Just a small moment between Mureadh and Teague.
Teague sat by the fire with Qwynlin and spoke to her in a quiet manner for some time. They made many insinuations and offensive claims in their speech with one another and though no one could hear what was said, the snickers that followed their phrases were enough to discern the denotation of their private conversation. Everyone at the table began to make assumptions toward a certain future attachment until talk of retiring for the night overpowered the discussion.
Rest was advised once the meal was paid and everyone was compelled to agree by Mureadh’s soft entreaties. He lifted his younger siblings into his massive arms and asked that the remainder of the girls go upstairs to prepare their beds in their rented room. Teague was about to say his goodnights and take his siblings to one of the smaller chambers on the main floor of the inn but Mureadh’s chivalrous nature and generous character would not allow for it. The children had made an impression on his sisters and he knew they would be displeased if the three should not join them.
Teague disagreed to the arrangement once or twice, claiming that he was perfectly capable of paying for a room on his own, but he resigned his refusal when he saw Qwynlin looking back at him from her perch on the stair. Her striking blue eyes and full lips parted in an expectant bow as if to implore him into agreeing. He acknowledged from their conversation that she had very little in the way of pleasurable discussion and mischievous company from others. He suspected this was due to the religiosity of Karnwyl and any deviance from the fold was usually quieted or asked to leave their small and devout community. He owned this to the notion that Karnwyl had been nearly untouched during the war and though the village was around a prison and at the edge of Frewyn’s frozen wastes, the inhabitants of Karnwyl had probably believed their piety was owing to their resilience. He saw that Qwynlin believed otherwise. Her impious intimations had been enough to tempt him into thinking that she was different from the rest and perhaps even further that her talents had made her sensible and quelled much of her anxiety. He sensed she felt the pressure of such a society, wanting to love her family but not be subservient to their faith. He wondered how many of Mureadh’s sisters thought similarly and he agreed to share the room with them if only to become better acquainted with the family as a whole and allow his brother and sister more time with their new playmates.
“Will you have a drink with me while these little ones rest?” Mureadh asked Teague as they walked up the steps carrying their respective siblings.
“You? Drink?” Teague scoffed. “Aren’t you the one always telling me that indulgences like taverns and drinking are immoral?”
Mureadh gave a heartfelt sigh. “It’s a holiday, Teague.”
“I wasn’t aware we were exempt from sinning on holidays.”
The woodsman looked at the thief with a flat expression and Teague laughingly agreed to his request. He knew well that drinking in any capacity was not a sin but he decided that since mockery of the Good Book was, he might as well make the intended affront count.
The room Mureadh had rented for the evening was large and commodious enough to fit numerous visitors. The beds had been removed to make way for pelts and sheepskin blankets, the area before the ample hearth was strewn with furs, the large table in the center of the room had been moved to a dim corner, and everything had been outfitted to make the two families feel tolerable comfort. Candles burned for light, the fire billowed and sparked for warmth, and telling signs drowsy eyes convinced Teague and Mureadh to place their small siblings beneath the auspices of the furs for sleep. Mureadh encouraged his other sisters to do the same and as they had traveled far to be with their brother, they agreed to close their eyes and huddle together in a neat row before the fire.
Mureadh and Teague removed the chief of their armaments and sat at the table in the far and darkened corner of the long room. Mureadh was about to call down for some honeyed wine when Teague removed a flask and two small cups from inside his jerkin.
“No need,” he said, pouring the woodsman a cup.
“What is that?” Mureadh said, eyeing the tinged concoction with chariness.
“It will keep you warm, that’s what it is.” Teague poured come into the small silver cup before him and took a sip from the flask before placing it back into his pocket.
Mureadh took what was offered him and sniffed it. He winced and became afraid to try such a potent mixture. “You realize alcohol doesn’t actually warm you.”
“It feels like it does. And besides, I’m not drinking for warmth.”
Mureadh noted the numerous pockets lining the inside of Teague’s garment and placed the drink down into the table in hopes that over time he may have the courage to finish it. “What else do you have in that jerkin?”
Teague looked about his person and felt the lining of his garment. “Dice, cards, knife, rope, mild poison. Just a few essentials in case we ever trapped somewhere.”
“Is that poison anywhere near that flask?”
“I don’t keep either one of them open, you know.”
“Have you ever poisoned anyone?”
“No, but I’ve thought about it just for the amusement of seeing what would happen.”
Mureadh pushed the drink away and Teague laughed at his friend’s perturbed expression. He could see that even at Mureadh’s least virtuous of moments it was difficult for him to release his self-restrictions. He then made it his object to find ways to circumvent Mureadh’s piety and he would have him drink to see how much good liquor the woodsman’s constitution could accept.
It was not long before Mureadh had his third small cup of Teague’s odd brew. There was some coercion that had happened but the events of which were unclear at present. He had not felt affected but had not stood up to understand the fullness of his slightly inebriated state. He sat with his long legs in languid fashion, allowing the warming sensation of the drink to permeate through him, and though the flavour of the drink was questionable, its effects were mildly pleasing. His conversation was fluid and he was forced to admit that drinking in so fine an amount was somewhat acceptable.
The discourse was quiet and friendly, keeping voices low to allow the two sets of siblings their needed rest. Mureadh spoke of his parents and imparted that as they were people of the Good Book, they felt it their duty to produce as much as their time and fortune would allow, owing to the copious amount of children in the Farhayden family. His father had been a wool farmer and his mother had helped shear their sheep and spin the wool into fine yarn for further use. They had made an excellent living in Karnwyl, as the frigid frost would always assure that wool was needed most of the year. When the summer thaw came, however, his parents were forced to travel to Gallei and Farriage in hopes of selling some of their goods to a larger trade market. This absence was hard on their many children. Three months spent in travel from the east of Frewyn to Gallei’s borders to the west of the kingdom and then south again. It was during this time that Mureadh was expected to guard their family. He had been the eldest by many years, the only son and the largest creature to grace the fir woods of the south. The vision of such a large and smiling man with a hatchet in one hand and axe in the other was enough to keep his sisters protected, but when war came, though Karnwyl was untouched, his parents had the unfortunate business of being on the road and were attacked by Galleisian raiders on their return home. They were murdered and their entire stock was taken, leaving Mureadh with a house near Karnwyl prison and thirteen young girls in need of care. He had been fortunate that the warden of the prison was an old friend from Church and it was through his kindness that Mureadh was given a sizable task, one that would pay well enough to earn a living for his large family. His sisters who were old enough had their profession but he preferred them to keep their earnings and save them for a later time.
Mureadh, though having conveyed the story before, felt obliged to elaborate it now that he had taken a few drinks to bolster his speech, and Teague listened while making passing glances at his siblings, making certain that they were sleeping in comfort.
Mureadh took notice of his friend’s continual worry. “Why don’t you bring you brother and sister closer to the capital?” he asked in a thoughtful tone.
“There’s no room for them at the Diras Church and they’re too young to live on their own,” Teague replied, looking to the side with a repentant sigh.
Mureadh paused and deliberated, stroking his strong chin while tapering his gaze in thought. “Maybe if you appeal to the king, there could be a place for them in the castle?”
Teague was aware of this alternative but he purposely has chosen not to speak to the king on the matter. With the consideration of how much Alasdair had already done for him, he could not and would not ask for more. He had little qualm if he should find courage enough to face the kindly Frewyn King and ask for such an unconscionable favor that he would be given a positive reply, but his pride and immense thankfulness for the pardon and opportunity Alasdair had given him would not allow him to make the request. He knew of Alasdair’s kindheartedness directly and Teague would never seek to take advantage of it. “Fionnora and Ennan know Amene,” was his vague response to Mureadh’s poignant question. “The capital is little intimidating for them without me around to hold their hands. Maybe when they grow older, but they’re too young now.”
Mureadh leaned back in his chair and stared at the table while his finger traced the rim of his cup. “The Church doesn’t seem to do much for them,” he muttered, observing the threadbare shoes of the children warming by the fire.
“They have food, shelter and education. That’s more than I could give them here.”
“Isn’t there any town closer and smaller that would do?”
Teague shook his head and made a few somber and slow nictations.
The woodsman exhaled and raised his cup for another drink. He found it difficult to turn his gaze away from the pour of the drink and was only able to regard his friend’s composed features in the reflection of the cup. He felt the drink beginning to affect him in a manner he did not enjoy. He felt the destitution of the situation, the untoward nature of a beloved brother being separated from two young children who needed his care, and he was unable to take his mind from it. He thought of his own siblings and of how most of them were old enough to take care of themselves, but if they weren’t he would have done his utmost to have them brought closer to his station in Diras. He began to consider that Karnwyl was closer than Amene by at least two-day’s travel. The house his parents had left to him would be no more incommoded by the addition of two young children and he had thirteen young women who would dote on Teague’s brother and sister. The idea of it excited him and he opened his mouth to make the suggestion when Teague put up his hand to hinder him.
“I don’t want your pity,” the thief said firmly, “and I don’t need your charity.”
Mureadh’s open heart sunk in despair. He wished to reason with him and tell his friend that it was not out of charitable feelings or sympathy that he wished to help him. It was a reasonable decision to be made. His siblings had come with no possessions, no toys or blankets beyond what they received today, and though they were conveyed by the safety of the Church’s sisters, Mureadh could see Teague’s family was made to live with nothing. He sighed in indignation for it and pounded the side of his fist into the table. “Please, Teague. Don’t be stubborn.”
“I can do this on my own,” was the thief’s immediate response, but he pondered Mureadh’s hinted proposal and amended with a soft, “I’ll consider it.”