A Silent Game of Spies

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Ellia swiped a damp rag across the drying pint rings on the bar and eyed the South Fairview workmen seated about the corner table as another burst of raucous laughter erupted from them. They accepted new pitchers from Ellia’s sister Hasley readily, not noticing as the ale slopped over their empty pint glasses. Today marked the end of the workweek for many of the tradesmen and workers, but the workweek at The Brew House was just beginning.

Torchlight flickered throughout the common room as the heavy oaken front door swung open to allow Metz and Ron through. They waved to their fellow friends and apprentices and were beckoned over to join them.

“More pitchers for that crew,” Hasley rolled her green eyes with a half-smile as she tossed her head in the direction of the rowdy corner. She circled behind the bar and set down empty pitchers.

Rowdy hoots of laughter went up from the corner, and one of the men clambered up on the table, tipping dangerously as he did, his balance skewed by ale. Mags poked her head out just then and noted the table. “Time to send Tank over?”

Hasley considered for a moment, but Ellia said, “No, he’s a regular. His wife just had a baby last week. Let him drink while he’s still allowed out of his house.” She smirked as the corner started singing, “Hang from the Rafters and Shout!”

“Ha!” Mags sniffed. “As long as he goes home to his own rafters tonight, we’ll be fine. We only got one room left,” Mags warned them before disappearing behind the waving kitchen doors.

Already? The tavern rooms were usually not full until Sixthday. Hasley threw Ellia a worried glance. When all of the tavern rooms were rented, travelers and customers who wanted to stay the night could sleep on the common room floor, or even in the stable. On the occasion that a drunken customer took offense to the idea of taking his repose on the floor or became belligerent, Tank either discouraged him or threw him out. Tank’s looming stature alone usually dissuaded unruly behavior in The Brew House and Tavern, but he also ended the brawls that broke out now and again with a few well-placed clouts, then threw the stunned and dazed recipients into the street by their collars.

“Mollie!” Mum called, craning her neck behind the bar. “Where is that girl! I need her upstairs!”

“She went to the down to the cellar to fill the pitchers,” Hasley supplied with an apologetic face.

“Ah, sure she did. She knows she’s supposed to be working the chambers,” Mum whirled with frustration and narrowed green eyes. “When she comes upstairs, you send her up to me.”

“But Mum, I’ll work upstairs, I’m old enough now!” called Hasley.

“No, you’re not, girl, you stay down here. You and Ellia stay down here with tables where Tank can keep his eye on you.”

Hasley drew in breath to protest but Mum cut her off with a stern look down her nose and a finger in the air. “I told ya, now, no. And send your sister up to me soon as she comes up.”

Hasley heaved a great sigh of indignation and glared out over the rowdy bar.

“I don’t know why you keep asking,” Ellia shook her head at her sister.

“Shut up, you. You’re not allowed on the floor. You don’t get grabbed and slopped on with ale by the drunks,” snapped Hasley. “I want to go upstairs and work where it’s quiet.”

“Mollie would trade with you, you know that. Besides, she has to clean out the rooms. Chambers, linens.” Ellia wrinkled her nose at the idea of soiled linens and chamber pots. “You can have it. I’d rather work down here.”

“All you have to do is fill up pitchers and tankards and bowls. You just have to stay behind the bar. Just wait ’til Pappy sends you out on the floor. You’ll see,” Hasley’s green eyes sparked with disgust.

Ellia wasn’t allowed out from behind the bar. Pappy always said it was due to her age. She was sixteen, though, and Hasley was out on the floor when she was sixteen, Ellia had often protested. But Pappy had insisted, and once he made his mind up, he stared you down with that stare, and there was no changing his mind. So only when the bar was empty did Ellia come out from behind the bar, to sweep and clean the tables.

And Mags sent her to the Market more often now, though she always sent Ellia out on errands when Pappy wasn’t around to hear. Ellia had the sneaking suspicion that these errands were more designed to get Ellia out of The Brew House and into the neighborhood. Twice she had been sent to the Market Place to pick up vegetables for the stew that she knew Mags had enough of, but she said nothing. Sometimes Mags gave her a little extra coin and told her to get herself a bit of a treat, so Ellia bought some candied orange slices or sugared cherries.

Mum often saw Ellia return but said nothing. She would lean against the frame of the swinging kitchen doors and give Mags one of those indiscernible looks that Ellia knew meant more that she was saying. “What?” Mags would say innocently. Mum would shake her head and smile a bit before disappearing upstairs. Mags would wink at her and tell her, “Ya got to get out there once in a while, haven’t ya, girl?

But for now, Ellia wasn’t going anywhere. Neither the pitchers nor the tankards would fill themselves, and she would keep them full for the sake of the customers, for Hasley’s wrath was not to be taken lightly. Hasley frowned and grabbed two more pitchers for the men singing “Hang from the Rafters and Shout!”

“Hang from the Rafters and Shout”

We can all dance the jig

If they serve pints that are big

We can all send up laughter

Straight to the attic rafter

Oh, hang from the rafters and shout! (Shout!)

Hang from the rafters and shout! (Shout!)

We can all run and dance

If there’s a hint of romance

So string up a fair tune

That we all might prance like loons

Oh, hang from the rafters and shout! (Shout!)

Hang from the rafters and shout! (Shout!)

Let us toast then and sing

Be us stable hand or king

Let us take pints and drink

Tankards and pitchers can’t think

Oh, hang from the rafters and shout! (Shout!)

Oh, hang from the rafters! Hang from the rafters! (Shout!)

Hang from the rafters and shout! Shout! (Shout!)

Oh, hang from the rafters and shout! Shout! (Shout!)

“Hmm!” she sniffed. “I’ll give them something to shout about, just see if I don’t.” And Hasley marched off in their direction, ale sloshing over the sides of the pitchers she carried.

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