#NaNoWriMo Challenge: Story for the Day: The Tavern
I hurt my wrist so the writing is a little slow today. Here is the continuation of the National Novel Writing Month challenge. Enjoy!
The winnings gathered and cloaks got, Teague and Mureadh left the keep and went toward the Wayward Traveler, Teague with a satisfied countenance and Mureadh with a slightly less hopeful expression. A good meal, however, would revive his spirits, and still further a rejuvenation was the beginnings of holiday merriment prevalent throughout the capital square. The glass candles were being fitted up, the Church was buzzing with the hum of the practicing choir, empty carts were being conveyed from the main gate to the marketplace, winter apples were being empties from their barrels into vats of boiled honey and mulled spices, children were hopping along the lanes and regarding the shoppekeepers changing their window displays, the doors of the bakeries were open to air their ovens, and after seeing such a prospect as all this, Mureadh’s spirits could be diminished no longer. This was his favourite of all the Frewyn holidays, and seeing the tender beginning of the festivities brought all the fond memories of spending Ailineighdaeth with his entire family before him: reading the stories of the Good Book to his sisters before the family fire, coming home from a day’s exertion to enjoy his mother’s spiced bread, hunting with his father for their holiday supper of wild boar, geese and conies. He smiled to himself, observing with what cheer all of Diras took its pains to prepare for the holiday, and as they came to the tavern, he found himself only more impatient to see his sisters on the morrow.
The Wayward Traveler was by no means quiet this evening, for it was the night before holiday eve and much in the ways of preparatory inspection and stocking must be done, there was only more of the gaiety and high revel to be enjoyed within the tavern than there was without. Fiddles and flutes played a country dance in the corner, various wenches tittupped around the bar and tables, a glazed boar was roasting in the fire and being turned and basted by the careful hands of a full-breasted cook, pints of ale and mulled cider were being drunk and waved about, happy raillery and banter filled the warm atmosphere, and when Mureadh and Teague took their seat at one of the far tables in the corner, away from the general din and near the fire, the front room of the tavern was in a glow of jovial revelry.
They had only a moment to remark and smile at the goings-on in the tavern before a wench came to serve them. Teague took three silver from his pocket and ordered glazed boar ribs for Mureadh, a hind quarter for himself, garlic and rosemary potatoes, and two bottles of honeyed wine. Mureadh declined the drink as any devout son before the holidays ought to have done, but this would not signify; Teague would drink both and make up for his friend’s limitations.
“Your family is coming tomorrow,” Mureadh said reproachfully.
Teague nodded to the waitress to affirm the order. “A drunken sleep is an excellent one for one who is constantly woken up by your snoring,” he said, grinning.
Mureadh humphed and turned aside. “It’s not my fault that you are bothered by light sounds.
“If your snoring were light, I wouldn’t be forced to pinch your nose closed every night.”
The serving wench giggled into her hand and spied Teague with an eager look, though it was Mureadh who was regarding her and thanking her for her service. She sighed over Teague’s striking looks and quickly flittered away to dispatch the order. Once everything was brought to the table, Teague took up his knife and fork directly and set work upon the hind quarter whilst Mureadh said his graces in a murmuring reverence. Both of them spent the first few moments of the meal remarking on how well everything looked and how tender and well-roasted the meat was, and when the first exclamations of delight had done with them, Teague opened the first bottle of honeyed wine, filled his glass, inhaled its mellifluous bouquet, and drank the better part of it as Mureadh tore into his fine rack of ribs. Both of them hummed in an ecstasy, Mureadh as he licked his fingers of the preliminary mess and Teague as he held the glass away from his lips, his eyes narrowing as he judged the deep hue of the wine.
Though Mureadh voraciously enjoyed his meal, Teague was inclined to enjoy it in a more languid tenor: he sighed in the full glory of his tranquil moment, propping his long legs upon the opposing empty chair, his wine in one hand, his fork in the other, and a smile of utmost serenity upon his face. With a pockets full, stomach nearly sated from his first few bites, and drink raised, Teague was forced to consider Nerri’s misfortune. Though she had family, she was not disposed or permitted to visit them for the holidays, and though Ailineighdaeth was never a holiday of consequence amongst the Nnodainya or his own family, he could at least rejoice at being reunited with his brother and sister while she must be divided from her entire clan. That Merra had been invited and Nerri had not was a sting that even Teague had felt. Were he forbidden from seeing his brother and sister, he should have been subject to more despondency than Nerri seemed to express at being forbidden from returning to her parents. He knew that she had not been permitted any attachment to her mother as Merra had been, being the younger and therefore less beloved out of the two, but she must feel some dejection on account of this purposeful and painful exclusion. Here Teague felt the unmitigated wrong of the parents: to not invite both would have expressed their anger at their daughters’ abstention, but to summon only their most cherished back to them was an unfathomable discredit to their clan. He shook his head, and when he realized he had been silent for some time, attributed it to the second glass of wine he had poured during his deliberations. He owned himself a quiet and solemn drinker, when he had occasion for the rare pursuit, and he therefore contrived to have no more while Mureadh still sat at the table. He would finish the remainder of his two bottles later and concentrate on his potatoes at present, but though his appetite had been diverted, his mind still thought of Nerri. He liked her quiet and nervous manner, and he wondered if Muredh’s sisters, with all their inexperience in the world, should possess some similar qualities.“Are women in Karnwyl similar to the Nnodainya?”
“In what way?” said Mureadh, his mouth full and lips covered in glaze.
|Mureadh on the Reporter from Marridon cover|
“Do Karnwyl women have to wait until the eldest is married to speak to men they’re interested in?”
“No. They’re free to talk to anyone they want.” Mureadh had little idea what Teague would be at and nibbled his ribs until the unconscious iteration of the question compelled him to think that his friend had another reason for asking. He stopped eating and turned toward Teague, spying him with a heated glare. “What are you implying, Teague?”
Teague smirked. “Are you going to introduce me to your sisters?”
“If you deserve it,” said Mureadh in a tone of unanswerable obduracy.
Teague laughed and cut another thick slice of the hind quarter. “Have they ever seen a Lucentian?”
Mureadh scoffed. “Of course they have.”
“One who hasn’t been be branded as a heretic?”
He was about to assert that Teague was not a heretic, only misguided and perhaps in need of contrition, when he observed the arch smile curling in the corners of Teague’s mouth. He huffed, forgot his remonstrance knowing that Teague should only enjoy plaguing him for his principles, but as he recommenced his meal, he began to think that perhaps there was something to this inquiry. He had thought previously to hinder the introduction, but that was before he had been acquainted with Teague’s situation or his character. He considered his cleverness and unshakable composure and thought perhaps his temper and disposition might suit his sister Qwynlin. She was of a restless mind and nervous temper, and their parents’ death had only worsened her anxieties. He should not like to merely give over his sister, but he must admit that Teague’s sense of familial duty and personal honour might do for her where nothing else had done. “If there is time,” he said slowly, raising a brow, “I’ll introduce you.”
Teague made a triumphant gesture.
“But it’s an introduction, nothing more,” Mureadh warned, hoping to check some of Teague’s unbridled happiness.
Teague dismissed Mureadh’s threats and disarmed his contention with a wave of his hand.
“I’m serious, Teague. Just an introduction.”
“I wouldn’t think of anything else.” Teague sipped in wine in celebration and smiled, but it was a smile of scheming rather than of victory. He knew women well, had known a few in Eirannean, had been used to while away the hours between shipments for his father’s business talking and laughing with them, but now his connections were become nothing more than a remembrance. It had been years since he sought the company of a woman; his siblings were born and captured all of his time and attention, and though many women had assisted him through his period of privation, they had never seen him as more than a Lucentian beggar, worthy of their pity but hardly worthy of his regard. Frewyn women were most affectionate, but he wondered if they would be able to share the style of love he preferred. His thoughts ceased here. He was drinking again and growing too sentimental for such ruminations. His designs on wooing one of the many bouquet of sisters resumed, and with a half smile, he said, “Are all of your sisters available?”
Mureadh threw down the remainder of his ribs and stabbed a finger at Teague’s nose. “I know Lucentians are allowed to have more than one woman at a time, but that’s illegal in Frewyn.”
Teague held up his hand and gently pushed Mureadh’s finger aside.“I meant, are any of them married, Mureadh,” he said with perfect calmness.
“Oh,” said Mureadh, checking himself. He searched his plate for another rib to clean. “None of them.”
“Sabhine is the eldest. A few men at the Church have approached me about her but she didn’t seem interested.”
Teague observed Mureadh perusing the empty bones in his plate and waited for him to continue on the subject of his sisters, but when Mureadh would say no more, he realized that he was purposely looking away from him and remaining silent. He gave Mureadh an expectant look, and presently said, “And the others?”
“Qwynlin is the only other one of age,” was the only addition Mureadh would make.
There was a smirk at this: Teague considered the differing ages of consent between Frewyn and Lucentia, and while eighteen was the decent age of a woman’s choosing in Frewyn, in Lucentia the number for what Mureadh called ‘of age’ was far lower. He waited some minutes and then said, “Are you going to tell me anything about these two sisters ‘of age’?”
“What do you want to know?” said Mureadh quickly, focusing upon the meatless bone he had taken up from his plate.
“I’d settle for what they look like.”
“Sabhine is blonde. Qwynlin is raven-haired.”
Teague made a mirthful chuff. “Do either of them share any attributes with you?”
“Do your siblings look like you?” said Mureadh in an agitated voice.
Teague perceived the desperation with which Mureadh was trying to turn the conversation and the deep regret he must be feeling for allowing his sisters to be the subject of their exchange. He would allow him some clemency in hopes of gleaning some information, however, and obliged him with an answer. “They look exactly like I did when I was their age,” in said in a somber accent. Perhaps if he were to ask questions not pertaining to their attributes, his friend might be more easy, and he therefore said, “Do your sisters take care of the family business while you’re away?”
“Sabhine managed most of it anyway. I was busy cutting and delivering wood for the village.”
Although this was some progress, Mureadh still would not look at him.
“And Qwynlin?” Teague said, liking the rarity of the Old Frewyn name.
Though Mureadh had considered Qwynlin for him, he did not like to be attacked with so many inquiries. “What about her?” he demanded, giving Teague a cold look.
“Does she have any employments?”
Teague calmness made Mureadh repent his suspicion, and he softly replied, “She helps care for the three youngest.”
“Why are you asking me so many questions?”
“I need something to discuss with them when you introduce me, Mureadh,” said Teague laughingly. “If I’m the one asking them all the questions, they’ll think that you have never mentioned them to me.”
Mureadh shrugged and wiped his mouth clean. “What’s wrong with that?”
Teague fleered, shook his head, took his glass in hand, and leaned back in his chair. “How many women do you know other than your sisters, Mureadh?”
Mureadh made a quick counting on his fingers. “A few.”
“And have you actually spoken to these women?”
“Some of them.” Mureadh hemmed and averted his gaze. He turned back, however, when he heard Teague chortling to himself. “I didn’t have time for that sort of thing,” he said in a tone half indignant half wounded. “I had thirteen mouths to feed.”
“I was not admonishing your choices, Mureadh,” Teague calmly assured him, “only wondering if you understand how women think.”
Mureadh gave him an apprehensive look.
“Well, you have thirteen sisters.” He paused, but this statement did not produce any understanding on Mureadh side. Teague saw now that Mureadh had probably never spoken to a woman other than his sisters in his life, probably had little idea of how well they enjoyed being boasted of or how well they delighted in an artless and enlightening conversation. He sighed and sat upright, and refilled his glass in preparation of illuminating his friend. “Women feel more comfortable speaking to men who share their interests. There must be something more interesting you can tell me about your sisters other than blonde hair and family business.”
Mureadh grew thoughtful for a moment . “They both have blue eyes,” and then in a graver tone added, “like our mother did.”
The sensibility and barefacedness Mureadh betrayed was enough for Teague leave the conversation there. He would extract nothing from his friend when the matter of his family was so prized to him. He admired Mureadh’s championing ardor, and his desire above all else to guard what his parents bequeathed to him warmed his heart. He would meet them tomorrow and try not to disconcert them with too many poignant questions. He could only hope that Mureadh’s sisters would not look so very much like their brother and that though they would suffer from having been locked away in Karnwyl would tolerant enough to be civil to an errant Lucentian. He was already enjoying the prospect of a raven-haired beauty to linger close to on Ailineighdaeth evening, but if his sisters held the same principles as their brother did, his attempts should be soon stunted.
Enjoy the story? Enjoy the first book in the series: