Story for the #NewYear: Wagers
The snow fell in abundant squalls, wreathing the keep in a garland of shimmering incanescence, keeping everyone from traveling homeward at a tolerable hour. Notes were sent round to Tyfferim and Farriage, that those who had come to visit for the evening should be staying within the safety of the castle walls until the violent gales diminish and the roads be passable again. Some, however, would venture out, but Alasdair, with all the kind solicitude of a devoted son and doting brother, protested against anyone’s going anywhere. For now, they must all sit by the fire and enjoy the revelry of the children under the power of the holiday’s gaiety, and if the violent winds continue throughout the night, they must all stay in the commons or the guest quarter, giving them leave to enjoy another dram and being more exuberant than the unforgivable weather should otherwise recommend. The quiet merriment of the children acting out the Ailineighdaeth story as it was read aloud must be all their exultation, and as the storm buffeted the battlements and beat against the stone of the outer wall, everyone reclined in their chairs and gloried in felicitous indolence as the children finished their exhibition.
“It is. The one my grandfather use to make.”
“It does smell delightfully.”
Alasdair looked coy. “Would you like some--?”
“No,” said Boudicca firmly, “thank you, Alasdair.”
Alasdair tried not to roll his eyes, though he was sure he did despite his best efforts, and sipped the cinnamon skimming the surface of his drink. “No one will ask you to sing at this hour, though I think you might merely to drown out the howling wind. It is growing quite loud outside. You can have a sip of mine, if you don’t want a drink to yourself.”
A glare, a quirked brow, and Boudicca seemed apprehensive.
“One small sip won’t lower your inhibitions,” Alasdair implored her. “You’ve certainly eaten something, and you cannot think that one small sip of milk and mead will harm you.”
Very charily did the commander take the drink, and after having a mere nobbler full, she thrust it back at Alasdair, spying him already willing to give up his glass to her and finding another one of his own.
“You will finish what is yours, Alasdair. I won’t let you leave that to me.”
“I got you to take a drink,” said Alasdair, rather proud of himself. “I’ll consider that as part of my holiday gift.”
The commander turned aside and gave a decompressing sigh, and while Alasdair simpered and sipped the rest of his drink, she quietly admitted that though she succumbed to try what many would consider the grand philter of life, she did not at all dislike it.
“I’ll give it to you, Majesty,” said Sheamas, who approached to pour himself another cup of lamb’s wool, “I didn’t think I’d ever live to see the day my sister asked for a drink.”
“I did not take my own drink, Sheamas,” the commander insisted. “I only had what was offered me.”
“But you did have it,” said Alasdair, “and therefore, your brother owes me two copper.”
The commander looked aghast. “Did make a bet with my brother that you could get me to drink?”
“Well, I only bet for your having some, not for your insobriety—ow!” Alasdair moaned, shooing the commander’s hand away. “No pinching,” rubbing his sore arm. “You’ll crease my shirt, and Aghatha just pressed it for me.”
“Take that for your wagers, and if you want a bet, Sheamas, I daresay I can get Alasdair to leave his hair unmoulded for a day.”
Alasdair gaped. “No, you can’t.”
“Oh, no? Shall we make a wager?”
“Don’t you dare put anything in my hair.”
“I won’t need to. I’ll simply ask my mate to shave it off while you’re sleeping.”
“You would never do that,” said Alasdair, in a wounded accent. “You love me too well.”
“I do, well enough not to pinch you again at least.”
Jaicobh, hearing the whole of the exchange, smiled at the bottom of his cup and remarked to Shayne that children would be children regardless of their ages, for though they should not be young forever, they should forever be younger than those who raised them.