Story for the day: Visiting Siblings
Here is a small moment with Mureadh and Teague.
The winter holidays had come again and all of Frewyn was occupied with the festivities of the next two days. While the denizens of Diras were suspending globed lights from fir trees, baking spiced breads and mulling honey wine over fires, Mureadh was walking in the streets and enjoying the falling snows with his sisters gathered around him for warmth. His tender and large family moved through the capital’s lanes in a huddled mass, marveling at the twinkling lights and taking in the exquisite scents pervading cool air.
The thirteen young girls of varying ages and appearances had never seen the delights the capital had to offer. They fluttered around their giant brother, surveying everything their curious minds could absorb. There was everything to interest them and when one wished to go one way, the entire hoard of flittering young women followed. They flocked from side to side, keeping Mureadh at the center of their formation, and when one of the thirteen wished to part from the assembly to venture into a shoppe, the structure of the group shifted to distribute evenly about their source of heat. The women enjoyed the merriment the square and the market had to offer, and when the notion of a meal of suggested by their benefactor, they walked together toward the inn to benefit from the warmth of a fire and the comfort of an excellent lamb stew. The girls leapt through the door, piling into the front room of the inn and therefore freeing Mureadh of his duties, and all found place at one of the large tables before the hearth.
Mureadh, counting heads and encouraging the young ones to take the seat closest to the fire, was standing at the entrance of the inn to make certain all of his sisters had been accounted for when he suddenly caught sight of Teague coming down the lane with two children attached to him on either side. He observed how he walked in a crouch to accommodate for their meager heights. He observed that the two children the thief was leading by the hand were younger than his own youngest siblings, the girl on Teague’s right no more than six and the young boy on his left little more than eight years old. Mureadh smiled to see Teague shielding the two whom he assumed were the thief’s brother and sister with his long cloak by holding the young ones close to his sides. He spoke to them in a hushed and dulcet voice, drawing their attentions to points of interest but they seemed happier just to be in the aegis of their elder brother’s company than they were to be enchanted with the decorated glory of the capital.
Teague emptied his pockets for his brother and sister. There was nothing they did not point at that was not in their hands moments later. Toys were purchased, clothing and shoes more appropriate for the Frewyn climate was bought, and whatever small object caught their eager eyes Teague would have as theirs. He told them stories of his visits to the taverns and bakeries, swung them about by the arms until they laughed, tickled their cheeks until their noses wrinkled and made certain that any question they posed him was answered. It was a felicitous time being with his brother and sister again and there was not a joyless second shared between them. The more they smiled, the more the thief was pleased and though they were both quiet and shy children, rapt with the wonderment the capital had to offer, they were animated and delighted in his company.
Mureadh, still watching them from the door of the inn, began to see a more sorrowful picture as he observed their rapturous state. He had not realized Teague’s brother and sister would be so very young. He had only suspected them of being a few years behind their older brother and was certain they must be able to care for themselves if they lived in Amene, but the looks of aggrandizement they paid the thief told him his accusations were wrong. They regarded their brother as a hero, an unexceptionable man capable of according only the best pony rides and spending every copper of his holiday pay to enhance their way of life. He considered perhaps that he had misjudged Teague’s conduct. He had not been sensible of Teague’s condition and had only seen him as a prisoner being taken from Karnwyl prison, and though Teague had done nothing to promote his evil, Mureadh as the champion of virtue had proclaimed him a man of debatable morals. One of such infamous indulgence could not be the loving and doting brother he beheld before him. Mureadh’s shoulders wilted and he sighed in self-indignation. He recalled the malnourished state in which he had first seen the thief and believed that both of these children were in excellent health in comparison. Perhaps Teague had sacrificed his own interests to save his family, but what a small family it was. Mureadh had been used to being swarmed with relations even after the deaths of his parents and here was a prospect that saddened him: a starving man with two children who had begged for work only to be rejected and forced to steal to keep the remainder of his relatives alive. Mureadh sighed, disgusted for the notions he held against his friend. He noted that though the children had more suitable clothing in their hands, the garments they were currently wearing were unpardonable. Their capes were torn, the leather of their shoes had been eaten away, and if only they had a place to remain for the evening that was better than what could be offered them Mureadh would not feel so penitent. He had done. His sensibilities had overpowered him and he would invite them to stay in the inn for the evening.
Teague had not realized his actions were being watched until he and his siblings came to the Wayfarer’s Rest and noted Mureadh standing in the doorway. He stopped, said an awkward hello, and observed Mureadh’s pained countenance. He wondered why he was not with his gaggle of sisters to whom he was forbidden from being introduced. His snide remark was not received with Mureadh’s usual good humour and he thought perhaps something had happened, perhaps his sisters were forced to return to Karnwyl on urgent business, and perhaps Mureadh had been left on his own for the holiday. Teague had no scruple in sharing his time for the space of a few hours but he was soon told that all was well and his sisters were inside waiting for him.
“Well, I won’t keep you away from your horde of admirers,” Teague said with a smile, turning his back to walk away.
“Wait,” Mureadh shouted, casting out his hand.
Teague turned back, swinging his brother and sister about by lifting them in the air.
Mureadh saw how happy the two children were and he calmed his worried heart. “Why don’t you join us so those little ones can dress more warmly,” he said as a statement more than a question.
Teague shook his head and fleered at the invitation. “Aren’t you afraid I’m going taint your precious family? I’m certain there’s no place for thieves like us at your pious table.”
The comment was meant in jest but given the circumstance of Mureadh’s feelings the words shook the woodsman and moved him to regretful tears. His own suppositions being reflected upon him made his realize the extent of his misjudgment and he would not allow his friend to leave until he had rectified his mistake.
“Please,” Mureadh said in a dreadful voice. “Won’t you come inside?”
Teague’s pert smirk faded and his eyes widened to see Mureadh the indomitable so distraught. Though he could not understand the reason behind his apparent distress, he obliged the forthcoming offer if only to have the woodsman return to his usual decent nature. He led his brother and sister into the inn and joined their two parties together.
Upon seeing the thirteen strangers gathered around the large table before the fire of the front room, the two children beneath Teague’s long cloak and shielded themselves from view with his slender legs. They clung to the new woolens in their hands and would not move from their place when they were assailed by the adoring coos of so many keen young women. Teague attempted to assure them that being in the company of so many girls was a blessing and he became an instant favourite. He saw shy blushes grace a few of the cheeks at the table when he had said the word pretty and twenty-six pairs of eyes sparkled when observing him as he greeted them with a cordial smile.
“I’m sorry that Fionnora and Ennan are not here to say hello themselves,” Teague said loudly, intimating the names of the two children hiding beneath his cloak. “But I’m certain they would love to have thirteen very pretty girls as playmates if they were here. I know I wouldn’t miss such a chance. I’ll just have to eat their stew for them.”
He eyed the lamb stew cooking over the fire and at the mention of such a hearty meal, the ears of the two children perked and their heads appeared from beneath their brother’s cloth. They spied the meal with hungry licks of their lips and waited to be asked to the table.
Mureadh laughed at their adorable timidity and knelt down to speak with them. They backed away from him but he assumed their shyness was due to his size and smiled to welcome them. “There’s a place for both of you between Ceara and Aibhan,” he said softly, pointing to the empty space his sisters were currently making.
They looked up at Teague, waiting for approval, and when he gave his consent, they hurried over to the bench, placing their clothes and toys beneath the table and made themselves comfortable. Bowls were placed before them, small spoons were found that would fit their tiny hands and the kindly introductions began. The sisters introduced themselves in order of age oldest to youngest and began to fill the front room of the inn with pleasantry.
Mureadh watched the happy integration and felt reconciled. “Would you like to meet my sisters?” he said quietly to Teague.
Teague half-smiled to see his small family being so well cared for by Mureadh’s and though he was already marking his preferences in the sisters, he looked down and grinned. “I think I’ll wait until Fionnora and Ennan are more comfortable.” He smirked at his friend. “I’ve waited this long to be suffocated by so many women at once. I can wait another few minutes.”
They shared a gracious laugh and Mureadh found two extra chairs for them while Teague surveyed the table. While he found little not to admire in the sisters, he noticed that all of them were radiant in the dim glow of the fire. Their softness of skin and pale complexions complemented their varying eye and hair colours. Their features were similar, some more matured than others, but there was one in particular sitting closer to the fire and away from the others who would not turn her eyes from him. Her river blue eyes gleamed with interest, her long black hair rolled in waves down her back, and her expression was fixed in a clever smile, suggesting that she was more adventurous and devious than the others around her.
Teague turned round to make certain she was not searching for someone behind him and then looked back to find her still ogling him. Her passionate display of attention had gained his and his eyes were prepared to examine her other feminine qualities when Mureadh called Teague to sit beside him. He gave an expectant smile to the young woman and went to sit beside his friend with a silent promise that he would be speaking to her later.