The Brennus family estate
Bernard Brennus ran laughing through the familiar hedge maze of his cousin Brennan’s family manor. His thick shoulder length chestnut brown hair was loose and flying in the wind as he tried his best to lose Brennan in the twists and turns. But it was Brennan’s maze on Brennan’s manor, so he had no trouble staying right on Bernard’s heels. Brennan was two years older than Bernard but the only child of the legitimate heir, whereas Bernard was the baby of six. His closest older sister, Adelaide, was almost six years older than him. Bernard and Brennan had spent a good deal of their childhood together, playing and growing quite close. It was the last day of Bernard’s four week long stay at Brennan’s and they were determined to fit as much play as possible into the few hours they had left.
As they plopped down on the expansive lawn, Bernard pouted. “I wish I didn’t have to leave. Or at least that you were coming with me.”
“You will be going to a new ‘prestigious’ boarding school,” Brennan teased, his short coppery hair looking blindingly bright in the sun.
“It’s only new to me,” Bernard admitted. “Supposedly it’s really really old. For the first time I’ll be only coming home on holidays, and I’m just really nervous to be spending so long away from any family, other than Addie. I always went home on the weekends before, and school was a lot closer to home. This place is all the way in London!”
“Ugh! Maybe Apollo will visit.” Brennan suggested hopefully, mentioning his father’s best friend, who had been an ever present fixture in both of their lives. “He does a lot of business in London.”
“I hope so,” Bernard groused. “It’s bad enough going to secondary for the first time, but to not see anyone I know for months at a time sounds really scary. And dad and my brothers say that we could be at war with Germany any time now. I want to be home, or with you or Apollo if we’re at war.”
“Another war with Germany! Mum came here after the last one, she really doesn’t want to deal with another one.” Brennan grumbled. He then turned to Bernard, “Don’t worry, you’ll probably be bigger than most anyone there, even the teachers.”
“I’m still only eleven.” Bernard moaned.
“Yeah, but you’ll be twelve by the time I see you at Christmas, and you’re already almost six feet tall,” Brennan argued. “Just because you’re a pipsqueak compared to our family doesn’t mean you’re not huge compared to the rest of the world,” he said, playfully pushing Bernard down and easily overpowering him as they began to wrestle.
“Maybe… they’ll… teach me to take… you down,” Bernard answered, struggling against his much bigger thirteen-year-old cousin.
“Doubt they’ll have anyone big enough to teach you how to take me down, unless they train you on a grizzly,” Brennan joked, letting Bernard up.
“Yeah, but that’s life in a miniature world,” Bernard laughed, but his warm brown eyes were sad. “Why do we have to be so big?”
“I don’t know. Our family’s just always been big. Look at our great, great, great, I can’t remember how many greats, grandfather in the painting on the stairs compared to Apollo’s however many greats grandmother. And she was about the same size as the prince she ended up marrying.” Brennan lectured, feeling rather grown-up as he reminded Bernard of their shared history. “Besides, dad’s only a little over six nine.”
“Yeah, but my dad and my brothers are all over seven foot,” Bernard countered, “And unlike you and uncle Brendan, we live just outside of Glasgow. Everyone treats them like they’re freaks until they get to know them. And I’m going to London.”
“I’m sorry. Maybe it won't be so bad.”
“Either way, I’m going to miss you.” he moaned, jumping on top of Brennan. “I need you to practice on.”
Brennan needed only one hand to overpower Bernard and take him down, holding him helplessly.
“Brennan! You do not be mean to Bernard!” Brennan’s mum Millicent chided in a strong German accent as she came across the lawn. “Bernard! Do not get dirty!”
“Jawohl” Bernard teased with a smile.
“It Ja, gnädige Frau,” she corrected with a smirk. “We will miss you,” she admitted as she softened and looked Bernard over, helping him up. In spite of how tall Bernard was, Millicent still had him beat by a few inches. “You will be leaving soon. Get ready.”
“I’m gonna miss you too Ma’am. Especially your cooking,” he said patting his belly.
“We fatten you up yet,” she smiled. “Now brush your hair and get ready. We will drive you.”
The boys ran off to clean up and eat one last time before they left for the train station. They burst in through the back kitchen door and started rummaging through the pantry. Rona, one of Brennan’s servants, came in to see what all the racket was, then began making sandwiches to take with them. She looked tiny compared to the boys, at only five-three and plump. Her dark brown hair was tied tightly back in a bun and her blue eyes were soft and friendly. The boys noisily helped her, laughing and eating as they went.
As they were loading the last of the food into a basket, Bernard’s uncle, Brendan, came in, dwarfing the boys. He was a full head taller than Bernard and nearly three times as wide, as both boys were still rather lanky. He had the same coppery hair as his son only muted by the grey sprinkled in, giving it a more blonde look.
“There you two are. I thought I heard a parade of elephants in here,” Brendan teased. “I just wanted to give you a hug before you left. We’re going to miss you. Especially Brennan here. Stay safe, and come back to us with all kinds of stories.” He then wrapped Bernard in a giant hug, his fluffy red beard tickling Bernard’s forehead. “We expect letters from you telling us how horrible school is,” he chuckled as he let go. “You wouldn’t want Brennan to get jealous would you?” he winked.
“I’ll have to look for interesting and exciting things to write about and make it sound as fun as possible. Even if I have to make things up,” Bernard smiled.
“That’s the spirit,” Brendan smiled back. “Milli said she was going to drive you, so I guess I’ll ride along while she drives. I wouldn't want to make an over six foot tall German woman angry with me," he winked. "Seriously though, I plan to see you off, especially as this is goodby until the holidays. I hope you do enjoy school.”
“It’s where Mum and all of my siblings went, and they all survived, so I guess I will too.” Turning to Brennan he teased, “I thought you were the Brennus heir and I was just your illegitimate cousin. Why do I have to be all properly educated and you don’t?”
“Because your Mum’s a lot more noble than I am,” Brendan laughed. “I’m just a small time regional Lord. She’s related to the king, and half his family. My half brother married up.”
“Come back and teach me everything you learn,” Brennan smiled. “And I will continue to teach you everything I learn.”
“It’s a deal.” Bernard promised.
When everything was packed, the three of them stood on the front steps with Bernard’s bags and the picnic basket. Millicent pulled up to the front door in a beautiful convertible maroon Mercedes. Brendan smiled to see the sun dancing golden in her light brown hair as the wind tossed it about. Millicent always kept her hair so neat and controlled, Brendan reveled in seeing it wild, and for a moment unkempt. Millicent quickly smoothed her hair back into the carefully kept style that she always wore it in as Brendan helped the boys with Bernard’s bags.
Brendan climbed into the passenger seat and reached over, ruffling Millicent’s hair. “Leave it love. The wind is just going to mess it up again, and I like it,” he smiled and kissed her on the cheek.
She giggled and blushed, turning the engine over and making sure the boys were situated before taking off.
Millicent was almost a head taller than most of the men at the Thurso station, and strangers gawked at the “giantess” saying goodby to Bernard and mothering him. The majority of the Scotish weren’t used to seeing people as big as the Brennus family (though Millicent had been only a little bigger than normal back home in northern Germany). Brendan and Millicent sat down on a bench hoping that they wouldn’t be as noteworthy. The boys still garnered a lot of attention as they ran and played, looking very much like adults. Brennan was already well over six foot tall and broad shouldered. They were used to it though and didn’t let it bother them in the slightest.
Millicent double checked everything and then some for Bernard when the train arrived. She made sure his hair was neatly tied back and his clothes were still clean. He had on his ring with his mother’s family crest for the first time, so she gave him a refresher on it's importance and power. Brendan made sure all of his luggage made it on the train and he had cash to get food in the dining car. Brennan handed him the picnic basket before he left, "Just in case." Bernard felt smothered but happy, loved, and very reluctant to leave, as Millicent rechecked his ticket for the fifth time. He wouldn’t have it any other way. He hugged Brendan, kissed Millicent goodby and smacked Brennan on the arm, willing himself not to drag him onto the train with him as he boarded. He would give anything for the simple peaceful life Brennan had. No drama, no boarding school, nothing to worry about but harvest and a village that mostly took care of itself. No, Bernard had to go off to London with war looming over them like a menacing shadow. He was looking forward to seeing his parents one last time before being gone for almost four months. And his older brother was home on leave, but Arthur would be leaving at the same time Bernard was, and he was in the infantry. Bernard wouldn’t miss a moment at home for the world.
He sat in the empty compartment on the platform side of the train, looking out the open window and waving. The Brennus’ stood sadly waving goodbye as the train pulled away. He really hoped the war would hold off long enough for him to return over winter break. Maybe all of his siblings, and Apollo, could be there too. Brendan threw the best Christmas parties.