This takes place last Wednesday morning at Aely’s apartment in Stormwind. Many <3’s to Bricu who wrote at least half, if not more of it. As this is a conversation between two Lordaeroners, the accents are thick – if you have trouble with anything, try reading it aloud – the “sounds” should help! If not, leave a comment and I’m happy to clarify!
Sorting vegetables wasn’t exactly the most glamorous of tasks, but as busy work went, Aely was enjoying it. Each of several crates got an armful of potatoes, two jars of pickles, some assorted other vegetables, and a sack of fresh ground cornmeal. The rest of the produce was crated individually.
The better part of a year’s harvest, the sweat and blood and elbow grease of Jol Taborwynn – with a little help for a few weeks in September.
A loud knock at the upper stairway door set Roger off barking, and she brushed her hands off on her shirt to see who was there.
The haggard face of Bricu Bittertongue was unexpected; the smell of breakfast wafting out of the large basket he carried even more so. She sniffed.
He grinned. “Hungry?”
“I…” Her stomach growled, belying her instinct to try to shoo him away. “Rather.”
“I’ve breakfast, if yeh don’t mind?”
She led him down the stairs, shoving Roger out of the way and unstacking crates off the little round table in what passed for the kitchen corner of the little apartment. It wasn’t too dark, especially with the curtains thrown open and several lamps burning.
Bricu set the basket down on the table and started unpacking it.
“So wha’ do I owe th’ honor ay a hand delivered breakfast.” She went to get dishes, only to find him setting two place settings from out of the basket, alongside a pile of raspberry scones, butter, a carafe of hot coffee, and some fresh grapefruit that had been skillfully segmented.
“Och, no hard work till yeh get a proper breakfast. All the tomatoes at the docks were shite, so yer stuck with the grapefruits.”
Aely tucked into a scone before being utterly distracted by the coffee.
“Oi… ‘s damn good coffee.” She leaned back in her chair, relaxing. “Dinna have any yet t’day – ‘s a piss poor mornin’ wi’out it. I owe ye f’r this.”
A moment or two passed, both paladins sitting in half relaxed, half tense silence, the last few days of angry words mollified by the gesture of breakfast and a friendly welcome.
Bricu broke the silence finally.
“Ain’t gonna beat around it. What I said was outta line, an’ I’m sorry. An’ I don’t expect scones t’make shite better right away.”
Aely stopped, mid-scone. Blinked. Swallowed. Took another sip of coffee. “I… an’ I owe ye th’ same. I owt nae lose my temper wi’ folks, ‘specially where others can hear. ‘m sorry f’r that.”
“Bah, never let it be said that I didn’t accept what I had comin’.” Bricu poured himself a cup of coffee before continuing. “With all our folk in the Pig puttin’ their noses where they don’t rightly belong, I’m pretty sure neither one o’us really understands what we said that night.”
“‘s truth enough, I s’pose. Still, we’ve both sore feelin’s nursin’ after that. I’m… well, yeh. I think ye ken why I was so upset.” She shrugged. “I wasna tryin’ t’ “cut out” an’ run off frae anythin’. I dinna think we were gettin anywhere, an’ I figured lettin’ both ay us cool off might help.”
“I shouldn’t have compared yeh t’Jolly, nor should I keep sayin’ that ’bout ‘im. The bastard makes me so bloody angry though.” Bricu sighed.
“… Jol?” Aely peered at him over the edge of her mug. “I dinna remember ye bringin’ him up. Jus’ tellin’ me I w’s runnin’ off like Phileas, an’ tha’ ye dinna blame… well, yeh. That.”
“Och…” Bricu looked up from his coffee. “Lass, makin’ the one crack was bad enough. That was tit fer tat. Comparin yeh t’him… No. Och, t’tell the full truth, I didn’t even know him well enough t’make the first crack. I went for blood ’cause all this talk ’bout how I was disrespectful to Jolly was hittin’ me in teeth, in the gut an’ in the stones. I hurt. So I took a shot I though would hurt back.
“Ye picked well. Apparen’ly we both did.” She sighed. “I ken ye dinna hear th’ whole story ’till after – an’… well, ‘m glad I thought wrong. Muir an’ once this week, I’ve done that. Shootin’ f’r bullseyes, apparently. Jus’ hits closer ‘n I’d e’en really like t’ admit, e’en after all this time.”
“He still figures big in yer head, doesn’t he?”
“Yeh. Cannae do some things e’en still, wi’out fightin’ against bein’ sad an’ angry. Like make coffee. ‘s why I’d nae had any yet. I dinna really have much ay goodbye.” Aely cracked a half smile, rather devoid of humor. “Ye ken how tha’ goes. ‘s like I’m half expectin’ him t’ show back up, an’ f’r everything t’ go back t’ bein’ happy. I dinna /want/ that? Nae now. But ‘s hard t’ chase th’ thoughts away.”
Bricu closed his eyes and savored another sip of coffee.
“Lass.” He said, his eyes still closed, “The way I see it, yeh got three choices really. Yeh can hate ‘im, yeh can wallow in it or yeh can push t’heal. Yer leanin’ towards the latter, but even folk who push themselves may need a wee push now an again.”
“I… yeh. I ken. ‘s jus’ been a lot goin’ on. Twixt th’ business wi’ th demons, an’ then Arrens, tryin’ t’ grieve f’r Jols an’ then th’ Boss goin’ invisible. ‘s a great mess, an’ I’m spendin’ my time tryin’ t’ push other folk.” She sighed. “After all that, stuff jus’ comes an’ bites ye in th’ arse when y’r nae expectin’ it.”
“Oi.” Bricu shook his head, “It don’t need t’be that disparate. There ain’t much yeh can do for the Boss. Arrens an’ Rosie can handle themselves–an’ they need ta. Lass, they’re not in the Black n’Red. I’m not sayin’ cut ‘em loose by any means, but right now, we need yeh workin’ on Riders things. That mean’s Tarq’s situation an’ him.”
“I’m doin’ my best wi’ Riders things.” She waved her hand at the crates of assorted foodstuffs. “‘s wha’ all th’ veggies are for. ‘s why I’m still stayin’ here in Stormwind, ‘case folk need me f’r anythin’. Nae sure’s owt else I c’n do eyther ‘n be there if folk need.”
“Aely. Some folk have already gotten the idea that the Riders are wounded. That the only thing holdin’ us t’gether was Tarq an’ his northern charm. An’ now that he’s added t’a rather public list o’Riders who aren’t with us anymore. So they’ve started with small things: Checkin’ the books, stonewallin’ or closin’ shops. In a few days, things are gonna get rougher. Thugs are gonna start goin’ for protection rackets. People are gonna get hurt soon. So yeh need t’be ready for it….cause it ain’t like we’re gonna be able t’get after ‘em yet.”
Aely sighed heavily. “So’s ‘at wha’ all th’ business wi’ Rosie was about? Air is tha’ just another symptom? I’ve go’ someplace t’ go if I need, an’ I dinna want t’ stay where it ain’t safe t’ be… but I dinna wan’ t’ run either.”
“Aely, if yeh run, we’re all fucked. I’ve got Naiara in hidin’ an we’ve got plans t’deal with the rougher stuff. But we need folk in Stormwind.” Bricu tapped his finger on the table, “The business with Rosie was somethin’ else. I think. She’s a clever girl, but she’s bein’ secretive. It may have somethin’ t’do with her shite, but I’m also hirin’ her fer work that we can’t rightly do just yet.”
“A’righ – I’ll talk wi’ Bryan ’bout wha’s all goin’ on, if tha’s a’right? I dinna mind bein’ in th’ thick myself, bu’ I dinna want th’ Crosses involved, yeh? I’ve lived here goin’ on two years, an’ I dinna want ‘em gettin’ backlash f’r havin’ me livin’ in th’ basement. What’d ye think’s goin’ wi’ Rosie?”
“Yeh can tell the Crosses that shite’s gonna get rough… We can offer t’pay ‘em for their trouble in some way. We may even have t’go t’barter. I’ve got a stack o’gems we can use fer trade…. But yeh should figure they may have t’turn yeh out ’cause o’the Tabard. Its only a matter o’time ‘fore someone–the sevens, another gang–hits home. As for Rosie…”
Bricu reaches for his tobacco pouch instinctively. He pours himself another cup of coffee instead. “As fer Rosie, she’s a lass with Tattoo’s t’cover up scars an’ a sister who is more loyal an’ vicious than Roger. She’s been through worse. What we’ve got comin’ up, though, is somethin’ that they’ll leave if the gettin’ is too hot. They’re not Riders. So if Lyr is threatened or is held up? Rosie’ll buckle. Right now we need t’focus on things closer t’home…So why are yeh bringin’ up all sorts o’other folk instead o’the shite I’m here t’talk ’bout?”
She laughed. “Cause it’s all tied up t’gether, ‘least f’r me – I care ’bout lots ay folk, nae jus’ those wi’ th’ Tabard, e’en if those air closer, like ye say. An’ ye c’n smoke in here, I dinna mind.” Aely snagged another scone. “This whole thing’d nae come up if things hadn’t gone south wi’ th’ Black an’ Red last week. Y’r here t’ clear th’ air ’bout us arguin’, ‘less I’m sore mistaken oan that too, an’ I figure tha’s pretty much where we’ve gone. An’… well, like y’r lovely wife said – if we dinna hang t’gether, we’ll sure ‘s nether all hang sep’rate.”
“The funny thing ’bout ropes, lass, is the weight. The more yeh tie things t’gether, the heavier the entire mess gets. Tie the wrong shite t’gether, an’ yeh get far more than yeh can deal with. Ever notice how the ships o’the fleet keep their lines seperate?”
“… cannae say I’ve e’er done, no. I dinna ken much ’bout ships, other than gettin’ from here t’ there.”
“If the lines get tangled up, they don’t have time t’untangle them. They cut the lines. Hack ‘em apart really. Saw it once in a Squall o’er north. If they don’t hack the lines when the seas toss an’ turn, the entire ship is in trouble…All due t’tangled lines. Now then, yeh’ve got him, Jolly, Tarq, me an’ Rosie tangled inta one giant fuckin’ knot an’ we can both see the storm on the horizon. What’re yeh gonna do ’bout it?”
Aely blew out a sigh across the top of her coffee, steam recoiling against her forehead. “Mmrph. Dinna ken – thow I see where y’r gettin’ at. I gotta cut loose, jus’… havin’ trouble wi’ some ay it. Rosie’… tha’s easy enow, ‘specially as I think she’ll be a’right now. Philly will jus’ take time, specially now tha’ folk know an’ it’s nae comin’ up all th’ time. Th’ rest… ” She shrugged. “Th’ rest’s muir complicated. Thow t’ be sure, I’ve less t’ worry ’bout wi’ ye than th’ other twa.”
“Jolly won’t heal in a year.” Bricu said, meeting Aely’s gaze. “It may never really heal at all. We just learn t’live without ‘im. As fer Philly… like I said, yeh can hate, wallow or heal. There’s usually a process ta it. First time fer me, I wallowed then I healed… Mind yeh, I have a very generous definition o’wallow. Wasn’t the same as yeh an Philly. Not at all…”
Bricu trails off, sipping more coffee.
Aely peered at him for a moment before curiosity won out over not being nosy. “So ye lost sommat too, close like, and sudden?
“Aye. Not the exact same way, but it was similar. At least I can assign blame… It was my fault. We were under orders that day–The Bloody Prince earned his name that fuckin’ day–and her folks were sick. I had hoped she’d escaped somehow…”
“Oi – so Stratholme, yeh? I ken ye were there, dinna ken ye’d folks there.”
Bricu has another sip of coffee.
“We were stationed there. Did yeh know the Stackpoles? They ran an Inn on Festival Street.”
“Dinna, no. I dinna actually live in th’ city, bu’ west ay there. W’s only there f’r a time, an’ t’ take oaths, an’ then shipped off southwest.” Aely munched on some of the grapefruit, savoring the tart sweetness of the first of that season’s citrus.
“Strewth, then yer too young t’know how beautiful it was. ‘Bout the size o’the Pig but a better kitchen. Less fancy brews but a better collection o’spirits. The Stackpoles took me in as a Lodger o’the Crown, as our barracks were fer shite.”
She snorted. “Dinna ken wha’ barracks are’na shite. Sommat I think they plan ‘em tha’ way. Anyroad – so ye were stayin’ wi’ folk.”
“They also keep soliders in homes t’keep folk in line. S’ballacks really. Werent’ no family more loyal t’Menethil than the Stackpoles. So I lodged with ‘em an they treated well enough. Not too kind, but well enough. So when me lads–I was a new sergeant at the time–came in for drinks one night, I made sure they kept their shite t’gether. One arsehole, Gerald, got mouthy with Teigue Stackpole, Emmanon an’ Markita’s oldest, an’ she dealt with him in a proper fashion. He got up an’ I did what any good non com did.”
“Hit oan, ‘er?”
“Och, Not at first!” Bricu smiled for a moment, “First r I made Gerald back up with a glare an’ a look. She got me my first free beer that night. Next mornin’, I had breakfast with the family, not just with her brother Tundale.”
She chuckled. “So ye set t’ woo her proper, ‘en. Th’ oldest lass ay a tavern owner in Stratholme.”
“At first, we were just friends. There was another lass I had me on a few towns o’er. But on a night off, I was her bar back, an’ I smitten. We were t’gether–courtin’ proper–fer a short time. Rumors o’the plague an’ what the Army was gonna have t’do made us worried. The the Prince called fer soldiers, my unit was volunteered. We wrote letters, o’course. Rumor has it some o’them were picked up durin’ the last scourge invasion. Her da was talkin’ bout sendin’ Teigue an’ Tundale away. I’m not sure where they went. They weren’t there when Jolly an’ I came back t’Stratholme.”
“Ye ken wha’ happened wi’ ‘em? If they werena there when th’ city burned?”
“Eammon…” Bricu paused. “Markita was beginnin’ t’change. I’d already stabbed Gerald fer breakin’ orders… The entire pub was infected. Except Eammon. I just saved him from bein’ killed by his wife.”
“Ligh’.” Aely set her coffee down. “An’ ye had t’ tell… Teigue?… ’bout that after?”
“I didn’t find her. I thought she died…some o’the scourge were unrecognizible… I just figured she died. So I did what most good northmen did. I wallowed. She, bein’ o’a different sort…an bein’ wronged t’boot… She went with the hate route.”
“An’ ye wen’ oan a bender like th’ one I w’s oan in September.” She shook her head. “Dinna ken, bu’ seems wallowin’ an’ then gettin’ oan wi’ it’s fair healthier, ‘least f’r other folk. Where’d she end up, ‘en, if nae scourged.”
“Oi, lass, not like yeh did. I had the ring I bought fer Teigue, me armor, my service dagger an’ Geralds. By the time I came to, I was in Goldshire. I had rented a room for three weeks. I had me own service dagger an’ a set o’clothes I didn’t remember buyin’. Strewth, I even had a note, ‘Northshire Abbey, sunset.’ It took me almost three years t’figure out what all I did… As fer her, an her brother, they went t’Tyr’s hand an’ joined the Crusade.”
She darkened visibly. “Th’ Crusade? Feckin’ fel-damned viper’s den…”
Bricu shrugged his shoulders. “Those early days were a mess fer all o’us. Everyone had t’find their own way t’live. Can’t really blame anyone fer gettin’ wrapped up in somethin’ that was takin’ o’er by a Dreadlord. They thought they were gettin’ saved….but it didn’t save Tundale. I’m lucky I just wallowed in the drink fer so many years…”
Bricu grinned, “But that’s me an’ mine. I chose to wallow, I learned Teigue coped with a healthy dose o’directed hatred. What are yeh gonna do?”
Aely shook her head. “‘m nae sure I c’n think tha’ far out jus’ yet. Best I c’n offer is doin’ best I can where I’m at. Which… well? ‘m tryin’. Still no’ drinkin’… much. Stayin’ away frae places like t’ make me upset. An’ doin’ whate’er I can f’r this mess wi’ th’ Boss. ‘s why I’ve go’ my apartment stuffed wi’ produce an’ still plannin’ oan stayin’ here.” She paused “So, ye think handin’ out all ‘is stuff frae Jols’ is a good call? Air like t’ do muir harm ‘n good?”
“If yeh do it, or Annie does it, then its good. Ulth or I do it? It’s flat out panderin’. But that’s helpin’ the Riders. Is it really gonna help yeh deal with Phil?”
She chuckled. “I cannae deal wi’ it by workin’. An’ I’ll nae go back t’ drink. An’ I’ve ne’er been one f’r one off trysts. Figure best I can do is keep oan, an’ mayhap th’ winds will change a bit.” She kicked a small wooden crate in his direction. “Those’re f’r ye an’ Threnny. Figure he’d ‘a liked ye t’ have ‘em.”
“Och, leeks.” Bricu eyed the crate suspiciously. “I’ll be makin’ lunch n’dinner with leeks for weeks, then soup fer a month after. Yer gonna have t’come by at least twice then.”
Aely laughed. “Ye c’n freeze ‘em too, cut up, f’r later. They’ll keep a long while. An’ if th’ rest ay y’r cookin’s as good as y’r breakfast, ye dinna have t’ ask twice. I c’n make a meal an’ feed myself, bu’… damn.”
“Lass, Dinner is what I do best, though I think my best was hard tac an’ salted pork with spring greens…”
“Well, then I’ll leave t’ ye t’ tell me when y’r plannin’ oan cookin’ f’r guests, so long’s it ain’t hard tac an’ salt pork. I’ll be fair happy if I dinna e’er have t’ eat that again.” She stood up, carefully brushing away crumbs and packing up the rest of the breakfast.
“Lemme speak with Threnny. We’ve got family obligations…” Bricu set his coffee cup on the table in front of him before getting up. “Lass, whatever yer feelin’ fer Philly is a waste o’yer energy. From where I’m standin’, its all his loss.”
She smiled. “Yeh, I ken. An’ … well, it’s gettin’ better, an’ will only continue tha’ direction. I ain’t wallowin’ anymore – an’ apparently jus’ wasna quite ready for all th’ mess ay th’ last week air so.
She paused. “Thank ye f’r stoppin’ by though. It… well, both means an’ mends a lot.”
“Glad it did some good then, lass.” Bricu said. “But when it stalls–an’ it’ll stall–let someone know. Can’t do shite like that alone without whisky.”
With another nod, Bricu let himself out of her apartment.
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