Bonus Story: The Parting Glass

on February 24, 2008 in Other Tales

Note: This story follows on the heels of “In The Hall Of The Mountain Kings”

“Well, they seem a friendly enough lot,” Hazel said, as the group of dwarves drifted away from them to go greet the mermaids, newly-arrived to the subterranean party.

Hazel had attracted the dwarves’ attention with a spontaneous performance of a traditional drinking song, and now that it was over, the two gnomes practically faded into the background of the underground chamber.

“They probably could have done without you telling that joke, though,” Honey sniffed.

“I don’t think they were offended,” Hazel said. “They’re lads… and dwarves, besides. Anyway, they laughed hard enough.”

“Maybe they were being polite,” Honey said.

“They’re dwarves,” Hazel said again. “What are you, afraid we won’t get asked back?”

“I don’t know if I’d want to be,” Honey said, looking around at the walls and high vaulted ceiling of cold stone, the carved faces, the smoky torches, and ubiquitous ravens. “This place is not exactly homey.”

“Well, now, at least it’s underground, isn’t it?” Hazel said. “That’s something, after weeks clinging to the top of that mountain they call a hall.”

Honey shivered.

“I know,” she said. “Have you ever looked out our window?”

“Just once,” Hazel said. “It was enough for me.”

“Me, too,” Honey said. “I thought I was going to swoon. I don’t know how other people can stand it.”

“I suppose they get more practice with heights, being up on those legs all day long,” Hazel said. “What’s killing me is the stairs, though I guess I shouldn’t complain. There’s a bloke on the other side with a horse for legs. Wonder how he manages?”

“I can’t begin to imagine,” Honey said. She gave Hazel a dirty look. “Though I can’t help but notice that you’re no longer lugging your own books up and down.”

“She likes to help her friends,” Hazel said.

“You shouldn’t take advantage of the simple,” Honey said.

“Two’s about as simple as counting raindrops before they hit,” Hazel said. “And she’d be hurt if I didn’t let her help.”

“You know, I think I could do with some food,” Honey said. No matter how they quarreled, it wasn’t hard to find common ground.

“Right,” Hazel said. She made a big show of looking around the wide open room, which had several slow-roasted pigs in various states of decimation. “I think somebody said there’s pork around here somewhere.”

“Oh, stop it,” Honey said.

“Come on, then,” Hazel said. She pointed to where the mermaids were now standing by one of the roasting pits, tearing at big hunks of meat with obvious relish. “Let’s go say hi to whatserface with the big droopy pendants.”

“Ugh, such manners,” Honey said.

“Mine or theirs?” Hazel asked.

“Both,” Honey said. “Or rather, neither.”

“Of course we try to eat as much as we can while they’re still alive,” the red haired (and scaled) mermaid Iona was saying to the shirelings’ floor mate, Feejee as the two approached. “But if there’s any leftovers, we drag them up on the rocks and make a fire. Live is best, but roasted is good, too.”

“Oh, you have fire?” Feejee said, enviously. “We have to bring them to the surface and boil the sea around them.”

“Hey there, ladies,” Hazel said, her interest naturally piqued by the subject of food. “What are you talking about?”

The mermaids hadn’t noticed the approach of the two gnomes–who were known to be hard to notice almost on an inherent level–and they started guiltily at Hazel’s voice, turning and staring down at the pair with wide eyes.

“Shellfish,” they both said, after a moment.

“Oh, yeah,” Hazel said with enthusiasm. “I could just murder a giant freshwater crab right about now. We have those, back around the shire… usually takes the militia to bring ’em down, but it’s well worth it. Legs as big and thick around as your own… can you even imagine eating something like that?”

“No,” both mermaids said quickly.

“Hey, Iona, let’s, um…” Feejee said, pulling on the other mermaid’s arm.

“Boys,” Iona said, pointing at a cluster of human men who were playing some variation of darts using chunks of calcium stone. “We should… boys.”

“Yes,” Feejee agreed. “We should.”

“Huh,” Hazel said, watching the two of them hurry off. “I thought she had a fellow already.”

“Maybe she’s given him the night off,” Honey said. “I mean, you didn’t bring your big blonde lady friend tonight.”

“Oh, don’t you start in on Two again,” Hazel said. “Let’s get our food.”

“Are there any plates?” Honey asked doubtfully, looking around the room.

“Hold on,” Hazel said. She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a thin stack of small paper plates, folded into quarters. She opened it up and pulled two off. “Always be prepared for food.”

“I don’t suppose you have anything like a carving knife?” Honey asked.

“When you get right to it, a knife’s a knife, right?” Hazel said, lifting the hem of her dress and drawing one from a sheath strapped to her calf. Honey, following the movement, let out a gasp.

“What?” Hazel asked, smoothing her floor-length dress self-consciously.

“You shaved your feet,” Honey whispered.

Hazel forced a shrug.

“It’s the look now, among humans,” Hazel said.

“Human prostitutes, maybe,” Honey said.

“No, they all shave their feet,” Hazel said. “Take a look in the shower some time if you don’t believe me.”

“I will not,” Honey said.

“Anyway, do you want some meat or not?” Hazel asked.

“Fine.”

Hazel pulled herself up by grabbing onto an exposed bit of pig flesh and began cutting it.

“Hazel, for goodness sakes, ask somebody to help you,” Honey said.

“Don’t want to be a bother,” Hazel said, falling down as the chunk of meat came free. She put it on Honey’s plate and then jumped up to get another for herself.

“This is so uncivilized,” Honey said.

“Welcome to college life,” Hazel said, landing with a grunt after securing her own meal.

“So, does it seem to you like an awful lot of folks in our dorm are… funny?” Honey asked.

“I think it’s more like the ones who are all hang out together, so you’re more apt to notice them,” Hazel said. “Birds of a feather, and all that. Anyway, I don’t think Two’s like that, if you’re still on about her. She’s just friends with some of them who are.”

“What is she like, then?” Honey asked.

“Well, she talks a lot about that elf in the skirts, sometimes,” Hazel said. “But I don’t think she’s actually keen on him, and I don’t know what it would make her if she was.”

A dwarf with a braided red beard tucked into his belt backed into the two diminutive women and then spun around, momentarily confused.

“Oh, hi there!” he said, mindless of the amber liquid he’d just sloshed all over himself.

“Hello,” Hazel said.

“Didn’t mean to plow into you like that. My name’s Andreas,” the dwarf said. “Son of Andreas, too, of Clan Ironholt.”

“Hazel Willikins, Shire of Logfallen,” Hazel said, putting her plate down on a rocky shelf protruding from the wall. She held out her hand. “Pleased to meet you.”

“The pleasure’s mine, to be sure,” Andreas, son of Andreas, said. “It’s nice to meet a woman who I’m not staring in the knees, so to speak.”

“Does that mean you don’t want to see my knees, then?” Hazel asked. “Because here I was set to show you them.”

“Ha-zel!” Honey said.

“Say, can I get either of you dainty young beauties a flagon of mead?” he asked.

“No, thank you,” Honey said.

“She’ll have water,” Hazel said. “But I wouldn’t say no to a brown ale, if you’ve got one.”

“Lass, you just try an’ name a drink we don’t have,” the dwarf said.

“Oh, could I get a glass of sparkling white zin with that, then?” Hazel asked.

The dwarf stared at her in disbelief for several seconds, then burst into raucous laughter.

“Point, lass!” he said. “I’ll be right back with your brew.”

As he hurried off on the circular path around the room towards a large chunk of conjured ice which bristled with bottles protruding from its surface, Hazel turned an appraising eye towards her cousin.

“Never thought I’d live to see the day that ‘Honey’ Callaway turned down mead,” Hazel said, shaking her head. “I mean, you’re thirty-three and you’re free, aren’t you?”

“I’m only ‘free’ because I gave the sheriff my parole that I’d straighten up and go to college,” Honey said. “And you’re supposed to be here to support me, Miss Hazel Willikins, not to drag me back down.”

“Suit your own self,” Hazel said, shrugging. “I just suspected that you only told Old Grout that so you could get out from under his thumb for a bit.”

“That sort of trick may be common with your family,” Honey said stiffly. “But the word of a Callaway’s still worth something in Logfallen.”

“A kind word’s worth its weight in gold, as my own mother used to say,” Hazel said. “And she was a Callaway.”

“How on earth does one weigh a word?” Honey asked.

“Now, I asked her that very question,” Hazel said. “She told me it was best to hold my tongue until I figured that out.”

“Your mum was odd,” Honey said.

“Pretty much,” Hazel agreed. “She said some fairly daft things, at the end. She sang like nothing else, though.”

“She sang like a Callaway woman,” Honey said quietly.

Andreas returned with two steins, one filled with water from the waterfall and the other with Hazel’s beer.

“There you go, then,” he said, handing them the mugs. He turned to Hazel. “Now, I believe you were saying something about your knees?”

Hazel took a swig of the ale.

“Was it my knees, or my thighs?” Hazel asked. “My memory gets a little fuzzy when I’ve had a bit to drink.”

“Why don’t you have a bit more, then?” Andreas suggested.

“Excuse me, Andreas, but could I just have a small glass of mead, please?” Honey asked.

“Well, I don’t know about that,” the dwarf said. “I could get you a big cup with a little mead in it, though.”

“That would be fine, thank you,” Honey said.

“You falling off the wagon, or just trying to protect my virtue?” Hazel asked as Andreas hurried off again.

Honey shook her head and said nothing.

Mead being plentiful and widely distributed throughout the common hall, Andreas wasn’t gone for long.

“Here you go, lass,” he said. He turned to Hazel again. “Now, then…”

“Could you please excuse us for a minute, Andreas?” Honey asked.

“Oh… er… well, sure,” he said. He winked at Hazel “But don’t you go disappearing on me.”

“I’ll try not to,” Hazel said. She waved a tiny hand as Andreas backed away, colliding with a mail-clad dwarf and touching off a scuffle. Once he was no longer watching, she wheeled angrily on her cousin. “What’d you go and do that for?”

She lost her steam when she saw Honey, staring into space with a far-off look in her eye.

“A toast,” Honey said, raising her stein. “To Johanna Callaway.”

“Johanna Willikins,” Hazel said, lifting her own cup.

“To Johanna Callaway-Willikins,” Honey amended. “My Auntie Joy.”

“My mother,” Hazel said, a tear in her eye.

Honey downed her mead and Hazel took a big swig of her own drink.

Honey wiped her mouth and eyes, then cleared her throat.

“Over…” she croaked. She cleared her throat again.

“Oh, don’t,” Hazel said. “Please, don’t.”

Over in Logfallen,” Honey began again, her voice a little small and tremulous but gaining strength and confidence as she continued. “Many years ago…

“No, seriously, stop,” Hazel said, a larger-than-gnomish droplet spilling down her cheek, but Honey sang on.

…my mother used to sing to me, in tones so sweet and low…

Then Hazel could stand it no longer, and she joined in.

…just a simple little ditty, in her good old shire-ish way, and I’d give the world if she could sing that song to me this day…


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4 Responses to “Bonus Story: The Parting Glass”

  1. pedestrian says:

    There you go gettin maudlin.

    Now I’m going to start bawlin.

    Current score: 4
  2. Maesenko says:

    I’d love to hear/read that whole song.

    Current score: 0
    • WsntHere says:

      Google be yore gud fren, heh
      http://www.eirefirst.com/t.html

      TOO-A-LOO-RA-LOO-RAL That’s An Irish Lullaby

      Over in Killarney
      Many years ago,
      Me Mither sang a song to me
      In tones so sweet and low.
      Just a simple little ditty,
      In her good ould Irish way,
      And l’d give the world if she could sing
      That song to me this day.

      Chorus:
      “Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
      Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, hush now, don’t you cry!
      Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
      Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, that’s an Irish lullaby.”

      Oft in dreams I wander
      To that cot again,
      I feel her arms a-huggin’ me
      As when she held me then.
      And I hear her voice a -hummin’
      To me as in days of yore,
      When she used to rock me fast asleep
      Outside the cabin door.

      Current score: 6
      • WsntHere says:

        Run that title through youtube. A lot of people have recorded it, including Bing Crosby. I listened to a few seconds of it in Gaelic sung by a young lady with brown hair. Nice voice. For me it reads a lot better than it sounds.

        The Gaelic lyrics were under the video in the “More Info” box.

        Current score: 1