AR 1210-05-23 Yari Went a Courtin', He Did Ride
“Oh, it’s you again.”
“Hello, sir. I’d like to rent a room for the night.”
“Really? That’s a first! Usually you just keep my daughter up, chatting her ear off in the common room until dawn.”
“I’m sorry if we’ve been too noisy in the past, sir.” Yari’s voice seemed genuinely penitent as he spoke those words; however, his next sentence was expressed with the all eagerness of a young politician. “I brought you a gift, sir. A token of my appreciation for your hospitality these past few months as I’ve come out to visit Elsie.”
“How is it you speak like an adult, while looking like a child, boy?”
“I’m small for my age, sir; but I did grow a whole inch in the past year-and-a-half!”
The look of supreme pride on Yari’s face for his physical development undid the gruff innkeeper. Man though he was in many areas, the boy before him was still a child, and that somehow made him less of a threat in the worried father’s mind. He rolled his eyes and stepped back from the doorway, allowing Yari to enter his establishment.
“You said you had a gift?” he asked as they walked through the common room to the tavern area.
“Right,” Yari said, and stopped at a table to root through his pack. He produced a package of brown paper and handed it over as though it were a holy relic. The boy’s host undid the wrapping, revealing a large bottle of darkened glass, topped with a wax-covered cork. The side of the bottle showed a circular maker’s-mark, depicting barley sheaves crossed by a single spear.
“From my grandparent’s brewery,” Yari said. “A bottle of their finest ale. It takes six years to age. This bottle’s only about half as old as I am!” he added with a laugh.
The innkeeper still did not like the idea of a boy such as Jarl Hastae coming around, calling on his daughter; however, he could not deny the significance of the gift he was being presented. With equal reverence as Yari, he accepted the bottle with a nod.
“Elsie!” he called out, never casting his eyes from the bottle. “You’ve a visitor!” With that, he disappeared, soon to be replaced by his daughter.
“Yari!” the girl exclaimed, and rushed to embrace him.
Yari was only too happy to return Elsie’s embrace, and he held her for as long as he felt he could get away with. Finally, the girl whispered into the back of his head, “I missed you!”
Taking that as his cue, the boy released his tight hug, but still held her shoulders in his hands. Looking into Elsie’s eyes, he smiled, “I missed you, too. I came back as soon as I could.”
“I understand. Did they catch that awful halfling?”
Yari’s blue eyes had inherited qualities from both his parents. From his father, they had gained a deep, piercing quality that seemed to cut through everyone’s defenses and see them as they truly were. From his mother, they had gained kindness, acceptance, love. But, it was the sadness gained from both of them that Yari’s eyes displayed then. “No. But, I don’t want to talk about that right now.”
He had glanced down as he spoke, and Elsie took his chin in her hand to move his face back up to look at her again. She smiled, softly. “Okay. I’m just glad to see you.”
Another thing Yari had gained from his parents was his father’s impish grin. The moment was too perfect, and while not normally a gambling man, the young boy decided to chance it. He leaned in for the kiss.
At first, she pulled away. He started to apologize, but before he could get two words out, her lips were back on his. Yup, thought Yari, this was totally worth it! Neither child noticed the sound of glass breaking from the direction Elsie’s father had left.
“Dj’ai ev’r tell yoo,” the drunken man stammered, “‘bout th’time mah par’y an’ I t’kon a full-fledged kai-mare-ah?”
“Do you know, Mr. Green, I think you have!” Yari exclaimed good-naturedly, while signaling to Elsie for help.
“N’ah’m s’rrus! Dth’s was a full-fledged kai-mare-ah! Had goa’ head, lie’n head, an’ snake head! Breathed fire, too!”
Elsie was there in a flash, and the two teenagers began to lift Mr. Summers by his shoulders.
“It breathed fire?!” Yari asked in disbelief, for at least the third time. “You don’t say!”
“Nyah do say! An’, le’me tell yoo, young’un,” Mr. Green promptly forgot whatever he was about to say as a wave of nausea overtook him. Luckily, the makeshift bouncers had managed to get him almost to the exit by that point, and Yari sent a silent prayer to Odin that caused the front door to fly open just as the contents of Mr. Green’s stomach fled his body from his mouth.
Suddenly, the weight of the intoxicated patron was lifted from both Elsie and Yari, and they turned to find Elsie’s father hoisting Mr. Green up and tossing him bodily out of the building. “I warned you, Walten!” he bellowed. “You’re cut off until next fall!”
If Walten Green had any parting comments, they were cut off as the innkeeper slammed the front door closed and threw the wooden bar, locking it. Obviously still in a foul mood, he rounded on the two children furiously, before taking a deep breath to calm himself.
“Elsie, Mr. Green is not welcome in this establishment for at least eight months. If he gives you problems, come directly to me.”
The man started to walk away, but paused after a dozen steps or so, and looked back. “Good job today, kid,” he said to Yari, making an effort to soften his voice. “Thanks for your help.” Then, he stalked off, leaving Yari and Elsie alone for the night.
“I think he’s starting to like me!” Yari declared brightly.
Elsie snorted, but gave him a quick peck on the cheek.
“No! He didn’t!”
“He did! I mean, I was only partly kidding, but I’ve seen him do dumber stuff and come out on top, so I thought: What the Hel? Let’s do it!”
“So, Wolf actually listened to you and jumped out the window?”
“Not only that, but he almost made it across! I mean, I was seriously impressed!”
The two kids were huddled under a large blanket, on the floor in front of the inn’s hearth-fire. The rest of the building was dark and quiet, and they spoke in hushed tones. Yari’s heart was beating in his throat as he recounted the details of his group’s participation in apprehending the puppet-mage thief, but he did his best to keep calm. Sitting so close to Elsie, alone together with her, was always a very exciting experience.
“Almost?” she quietly exclaimed. “Is he okay?”
“What? Oh, yeah, of course! He caught the edge of the sill and pulled himself up.”
“Wow! That’s amazing!”
“Oh, Elsie!” he exclaimed. “You don’t know the half of it! Y’see, before he pulled himself up, I had about an eternity to think about what I was going to do. Sure, I didn’t actually expect him to jump, but part of me was pretty sure he could do it if he tried – I mean, this is Wolf we’re talking about, here; he’s pretty awesome! – and then when he did…!
“I don’t know, I was just inspired! So, I took a running start and leapt out the window across the street. Part way across – and you have to understand this all happened in less than a couple seconds – I saw the thief had a guard dog with him that was attacking Wolf’s fingers.
“So, still in midair, I sent a prayer to Odin and fired off a bolt of sacred fire at the creature. I mean, it was like time absolutely stopped for me! Next thing I knew, I was slamming into the thief and knocking him over as we both went tumbling to the floor.
“He tried to run, but I got him with my spear, and then Krunch was over and chased him down. That’s when Wolf pulled himself up, and joined Krunch in the chase. I managed to keep the dog’s attention for long enough to let them get out, then I dashed out the door and locked it in the room.”
The young girl’s eyes were wide with excitement as she interjected, “You should write a song about this!”
“Nah, that’s more Rissa’s thing. You remember the Ballad of Stinky the Halfling, right?”
“Oh, yes! Some of the regulars still request it now and then. Your sister wrote it?”
“Yup! And, she gave its first public performance here at this inn!”
“Dad needs to know that! He can use it to draw in more customers.”
“Yeah, I’ll talk to Rissa about it. I’m sure she’d love to do a special concert on our way back through for the Winter Holidays. The Ballad of Stinky the Halfling is one of her favorite compositions.”
Elsie smiled into the fire and snuggled closer to Yari. “I know you said you didn’t want to talk about him, but…”
“He’s dangerous, Elsie!” Yari whispered, cutting her off, all mirth gone from his voice. “I mean it. He’s already had the family of one of our friends killed, just to spite us. Quock never did a thing against him, but he was our friend, so Guido killed all his siblings in order to hurt us.”
In the silence that followed, hanging in the flickering light of the night’s hearth-fire, Elsie felt the small form of Yari quiver, though she never heard his voice break.
“Be careful, Elsie,” he said, his voice calm and even and quiet. “Make sure your dad does, too. I care about you – a lot – and I think Guido knows that. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
She had no response, and the longer she sat in the silence, the more awkward it felt. Finally, she could stand it no more, and decided to embrace the awkwardness. Reaching into her pocket and producing the small plush cat Yari had given her months earlier, she pressed the stuffed animal to his cheek while meowing cutely and making a kissing noise. Yari’s reverie was broken instantly, and he stopped staring into the fire and looked at her.
No further words were exchanged between the two that night. They kissed again, noses bumping from inexperience, and fell asleep in each other’s arms on the floor, sharing a blanket by the fire. Elsie’s father was not pleased to find them together in the morning, though he made no aggressive motions other than to help him gather his things and hurry him out the door.
The sun had yet to breach the horizon, but its radiant energy was already starting to light up the world. Yari took a deep breath of the crisp morning air and held it in contentedness for a long beat. Life was good. There were bad things out there, and he had to be alert and aware of them, but for the thirteen year-old boy in that moment, life was pretty okay. The two large ravens watching him from tree branches seemed to agree, and they let out two great caws before taking flight and flapping away into the rising sun.