Will didn’t know if it was wise of him to have accepted Gundar’s invitation.
Of course, he couldn’t refuse Gundar when he and his men appeared on his doorstep yesterday morning, telling him how they came all the way from Skandia, so they could ask him and Horace to join them in their feast of brotherhood.
The feast of brotherhood, they told him, was a Skandian tradition. Every year at the third full moon, friends would gather and they would spend the whole night together to cherish their bond.
This year was Will’s lucky year.
They told him excitedly how they hired an Inn in Redmont for tomorrow night and brought Skandian drinks and food with them, so they would still be able to party in Skandian glory.
Will never really was a party animal, but Gundar left him no other choice.
Apart from all the hard work they had done, he told Will that Horace had turned down the invitation, because he was too busy planning his and Cassandra’s wedding.
If Will also turned down, they would have come to Araluen for nothing.
He had no choice but to accept.
This was why he was sitting between a bunch of drunk Skandians, who were currently singing a song about a woman called ‘Big-boobied Bertha’.
Luckily, Will thought, there aren’t any other guests tonight.
He casted a glance at the barkeeper and saw him cleaning his mugs while looking at the partying group in fear.
Will was glad that he didn’t bring his Ranger’s cloak, or the man wouldn’t have knows what hit him.
Will was shaken out of his thoughts by a hard “THUD”. He look in front of him to see a big mug with a foaming liquid in it.
“Will, you musht be sho thirshty. Here, drink thish.” said a drunk Gundar to his left.
Will studied the drink and came to the conclusion that it must be one of the Skandian beers Gundar had brought with him.
He shoved the mug back to Gundar.
“Erm… no, but thank you. I think I’ll order some coffee instead.”
This must have been the wrong answer, because Gundar started yelling.
“WHATH? YOU WANTH TO ORDER SHOME COFFEE WHEN YOU CAN HAFE THISH?” By ‘thish’ he pointed to the mug.
The whole group went silent. Will could hear the barkeeper exiting the room.
Will looked around the table and saw that every Skandian was looking at him with wide eyes and slightly open mouths.
He got very uncomfortable. “Uhm… yes?” he said quietly.
At this, Nils Ropehanger, who was sitting at the end of the table, slammed both fists on the table to get their attention. All eyes shot towards him while he glared at Will. His brow furrowed and the corners of his mouth pointed down.
“Whath ish ith with Rangersh and coffee? You nefer sheem tho drink anythin’ elshe, while thish ish much betther! I think thath we musht teach you a lesshon, a lesshon in drinkin’.”
When Nils finished he wore a proud smile on his face. The others started cheering while chanting: “DURINK ITH UP!”
Will gulped. The mug was shoved in front of him once more.
Gundar hit him on the shoulder. “Come on, Willy-boy,” Some Skandians giggled at that. “I know you can do ith!”
Will looked at the drink again. He knew that Skandians liked strong beer and he was sure that this was such a drink, because the Skandians were gone after their third mug.
He looked around the room, trying to think of an escape, but he came with none.
The chanting came faster and the men started stomping their feet and slamming their fists on the table in the rhythm.
Well, here goes nothing. Will thought as he gripped the mug in his hands and took a big gulp.
It was so bitter. The liquid burned from his mouth all the way down to his stomach. He put the mug on the table and put his head in his hands. He felt a little dizzy.
He heard the Skandians laughing at his reaction, but after that they started chanting again and urging him to drink the whole mug.
After the dizziness was gone, he looked in the mug. There was still three-quarter left.
Let’s see how fast I can drink this…
He took a deep breath,
and downed the mug as fast as he could.
Halt didn’t know what hit him last night.
He was trying to get some sleep, when he heard a faint ‘bonk’ on the door.
While murmuring a few curses under his breath, he stood up from his cosy, warm bed.
He got his Saxe-knife and walked to the front door, carefully avoiding the creaking floorboards, so he wouldn’t wake his wife.
He was almost at the door when he heard someone giggling.
“Hahalth, I know yer in there.” Followed by more giggles.
Is that… Will?
He got to the door and opened it. Only to get his ex-apprentice, who must have leaned against the door, falling in his arms.
“Will, what are you doing here?” Halt shout-whispered, trying not to lose his temper.
Will pushed himself up against Halt’s chest, stumbled to Halt’s favourite chair and slumped in it.
“Thath’sh a very lon’ shtory, Halth.” he slurred.
Halt’s eyebrow shot up. Will must be very drunk. How did this happen?
“Well, tell me.”
Will took a deep breath and steadied himself.
“I wash with my brothersh. They shaid ‘No coffee for you, Willy-boy’. I got a lesshon and they were cheerin’.” He smiled at that. “Then a man came who shaid ‘Go outh of my Inn’ and shuddenly I wash alone on the shtreeth.”
Halt’s other eyebrow also shot up. Will’s story made little sense to him. How can Will have brothers?
He took a deep breath to make sure he was calm and asked: “Why didn’t you go to your cabin then?”
This must have been a difficult question, because Will frowned and it took him several seconds to come up with an answer.
When he got one, a smile appeared on his face.
He looked at Halt and said: “I couldn’th find my horshe.”
It was very difficult for Halt not to shout at the boy. Instead he said some unpleasant words and rushed outside.
When he was outside, he checked if Tug was in the stables. Tug wasn’t. Halt brought two fingers to his mouth and whistled three short tones.
Right after the third tone, Tug came trotting towards Halt. Halt sighed in relief and made a mental note to scold Will when he would come to his senses again. He patted Tug on the neck and whispered “Good boy” a few times in his ear.
After he had made sure Tug was safe and sound next to Abelard, he went back to his and Pauline’s apartment. He opened the door and saw Will sleeping in his chair.
Halt resisted the urge to wake him and laid a spare blanket over him instead.
“Goodnight, my son.” he whispered.
“Too sick… to eat…” groaned Will. He had just emptied his stomach and wanted to make sure that wouldn’t happen again.
He woke up this morning with a bitter taste in his mouth, pounding headache, dizziness, nausea and little memory of what had happened yesterday night. After he almost drowned himself in water (because he was very thirsty), Halt put him on a chair at the table. Since that moment he is trying to get Will to eat the toasted bread with jam and to drink the beaker of milk he made for him.
“You should eat this, Will. The sugar in the jam will help and the milk should settle your stomach.” Halt said while looking at Will with an expressionless mask.
Will sighed. He knew he couldn’t win this, so he took a small bite of the toast and a small sip of the milk.
Surprisingly, it helped. After he ate and drank it all, his nausea almost totally disappeared and the bitter taste in his mouth was gone.
The headache was still there.
Will groaned again and laid his head in his hands. It felt like Horace was hitting his head with every throb, hard.
He shut his eyes, in hope that the pain would lessen, but it didn’t help.
After ten minutes of sitting still it finally lessened a bit. Will raised his head and opened his eyes. Halt was still looking at him.
Will looked at his hands.
“Um… thank you, Halt.”
Halt’s right eyebrow went up.
“Thank me for what?”
Will looked at him confused.
“Well, for the breakfast of course.”
“I only did that to make sure you wouldn’t throw up in my apartment again.” Halt said.
“Oh…” Will said. He hadn’t expect that. “Then I thank you for taking me in?” His statement ended in a question. He wasn’t sure what Halt would say to that.
Will could almost see a smile forming on Halt’s face.
“I didn’t take you in last night.”
Will frowned confused. “Then how did I end up in your apartment?”
Halt’s almost-smile disappeared. “You woke me up in the middle of the night by banging on my door, because you couldn’t find your horse.”
Will’s face paled. “Did I… lose T-Tug?”
Halt nodded. “You did, sort of. Luckily I found him and put him in the stable next to Abelard.”
Will looked at Halt relieved. “Thank you so much, Halt.”
Halt frowned at him. “I didn’t do it for you. I did it for Tug.”
Will groaned and put his head in his head again. He groaned again as the sudden movement made his head throb worse.
“Halt,” He asked miserable. “why do people do this?”
“Because they are stupid.” Answered Halt before he left, leaving Will to sulk about his deeds.