Our first few days of travel are uneventful, and the extra coin goes a long way in ensuring that we’re comfortable moving through Mercia. Of course, I can’t have unmitigated good luck, so Ewythr tries to get us both killed at an inn on the road that passes close by the king’s own lands.
It begins simply enough, with me requesting a room for the night and a hot meal for the two of us. The innkeeper reserves our room, and invites us to sit in his common room while we wait for supper to be served.
In this common room, a pair of gritty looking men in worn leather sit at the table nearest the fire, conversing about their day’s travel. To my eye, they look to be respectable men, though it’s likely from the blades at their sides that they make their money as sellswords.
I’m content to sit at a table in the far corner away from the fire while I wait for my food, but Ewythr won’t have it.
“I am cold, child, and I will sit by the fire. It’s the only comfort these bones can afford, and I will not be deprived it.”
“Fine, go sit by the fire then. I’m not going to stop you.” I huddle by myself at the table, and watch idly as Ewythr stands and hobbles towards the two mercenaries. Even as he begins speaking, I get the sinking feeling that this will not end well for either of us, but I stay in my seat. Maybe Ewythr will actually use some tact, or better yet, he’ll just leave the dangerous men alone and sit on the floor by the fire like a sensible person.
As I have learned these past several months, Ewythr is not a sensible person.
What he does, instead of all the things I hope for, is walk up to the men and ask if he can sit with them. When they dismiss him as a crazy old beggar, he says loudly so that everyone in the common room can hear, “I am no beggar! This shirt I’m wearing was a gift, and I’m not about to sit on this filthy floor with it.”
The mercenaries seem briefly bewildered by his outburst, along with everyone else in the inn, but they only try to shoo him away again, apparently not that bothered by the ramblings of an old man.
When the men return to talking over their drinks, Ewythr glances towards me with a wicked grin and then upends their table, spilling their drinks all over them. As you would expect, the men do get angry with Ewythr for this. Steel flashes and then Ewythr’s standing with two swords pointed at his throat.
“Granddaughter, help!” he shouts, and I cringe. I don’t want to be involved in this.
So I sit silently and pretend that I don’t know him.
The innkeeper, a thin pale man, hurries out from his kitchen to see what the commotion is about. “What’s all this then?” he asks the room.
One of the mercenaries, a cleanshaven man, says, “This old fool just turned our table over because he didn’t want to sit on the floor.”
“Because of my clean shirt, you ass! I don’t want to get it dirty,” shouts Ewythr. “Granddaughter! Come here and explain to these idiots why I can’t sit on the floor!” He looks right at me as he says it, and I want to disappear under the table. I briefly wonder if I could magic myself invisible, but everyone’s following Ewythr’s gaze towards me, and now I know it’s too late to not get involved.
I sigh and get up from my seat, calmly walking towards the fireplace where the innkeeper now stands between Ewythr and the mercenaries. “I’m sorry about my grandfather. He’s quite senile, and he forgets that he can’t just walk up to strangers and make demands of them.”
The cleanshaven mercenary looks between me and Ewythr. “You should keep a shorter leash on him, girl.”
“I am not some animal that needs to be restrained!” shouts Ewythr, and he swings at the man. Unfortunately, the innkeeper is in the way, and Ewythr only succeeds in bowling him over. They tumble to the floor, shouting, limbs tangled up. “Let me up,” he shouts.
I help the innkeeper up first, all the while apologizing profusely. “I’m so sorry about that. He’s really not well.”
“I’ll show you not well, impudent child!” Ewythr takes a swing at me as he climbs to his feet, but he goes wide and smacks the innkeeper’s shin instead.
“Grandfather, cut it out!” I say. Grabbing Ewythr by the shoulder, I force him to sit down in a chair.
The innkeeper, clutching at his leg, says, “You’d best get a handle on him, girl. I can’t have someone like this disturbing my customers.”
“I’ll not be handled by anyone!” shouts Ewythr, and he tries to jerk free from me. “I may be old, but I can still give you a good beating, girl.”
I roll my eyes and look at the mercenaries for support. “Be quiet, grandfather. Just apologize to the men for spilling their drinks, and then you can sit by the fire all night if you want.”
“No!” He continues to struggle, but he just doesn’t have the strength to overpower me.
Leaning in close I whisper to him, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“I’m trying to pick a fight,” he replies.
He kicks me in the shin. “Because I want to see what you’ve learned.”
To see what I’ve learned? “You ass!” I say as I slap him across the face.
The cleanshaven mercenary takes a hesitant step towards us. “Is that really necessary, Miss?”
I give Ewythr another backhand. “Sometimes he just needs a little sense knocked into him is all. I’m quite sorry for the trouble.” It feels good, so I hit him once more for good measure.
“Alright, that’s enough now,” says the innkeeper. “You don’t want to hurt him.”
But I really do. All winter, I’ve felt like the peace between us has been forced just because Dad was around, but Ewythr’s been needling in small ways, trying to get under my skin for no reason I can discern. In this moment, surrounded by people I don’t know, I really feel that anger rising up, and indulging in it just a little is freeing. I don’t feel like stopping now that I’ve started. “Wretched man! Why are you always causing me so much trouble? What do you get out of it?” I kick at Ewythr, and he whimpers. “I’m all you have right now, and you constantly spit on my help!” I raise a hand to strike him again, but the cleanshaven man catches it and holds tight.
“Miss, you need to calm down. He’s subdued.”
Instinctively I jerk away. “I’ll calm down when I’m ready.”
The mercenary maintains his grip and shakes his head. “Miss, that’s enough. Now, are you going to stop trying to beat on this old wretch, or am I going to have to restrain you?”
“Restrain me?” I say, glaring at the man. “I’m not the one who flipped a table!”
“No, but you are the one who’s disturbing my customers now,” says the innkeeper.
I look around the room and realize that everyone is now staring squarely at me. Mortified, I relax. “Fine, I’m done.”
The mercenary releases me, and I rub my sore wrist.
I glance at Ewythr, and I can swear that when no one else is paying attention to him, he grins at me. I could kick his teeth in.
“Look, it’s no trouble if you’ll just stop there, but I can’t have you causing a scene when the rest of my guests are just trying to rest from their travels.” The innkeeper nods to the mercenaries. “Are you two satisfied with that? I’ll bring replacements for your drinks, no charge.”
Both men nod. The cleanshaven one says, “Yes, it’s nothing but a bit of wet leather. We’ll just stink a bit more than usual, is all. Hell, the old man can even sit at our table if it’s that important to him.” He turns to me. “Would you care to join us as well, Miss?” He trails off, expecting me to fill in a name.
“No, thank you,” I say. “I think I’d just like a peaceful meal by myself. You can see I’m a little weary from the road, and I need to unwind a bit.” I smile as graciously as I can, but it feels forced, mostly because it is, and then return to the dark little table in the corner where everyone finally stops looking at me.
Ewythr sits with the men and warms himself by the fire, apparently not making any small talk, which seems to suit the mercenaries. I’m rather amazed that he went from having them ready to slit his throat to sharing a table with them when the innkeeper begins serving supper. I might call the whole thing impressive if I weren’t still furious with him.
After dinner, when the innkeeper shows us to our room, I’m sorely tempted to go inside and lock Ewythr out, but he’s done such a fine job of making me look like the menace that I let it go. I still take the bed.
I chose this scene to post primarily because after I finished writing it, Rachael pointed out to me that Erin’s physical abuse of Ewythr might be problematic. By this point in the story, it’s been well established that Ewythr can magically heal any injury, no matter how severe, but he still feels pain like any normal person would. This creates an odd situation where I have a character who is unkillable, but also frail and helpless, so he’s quite susceptible to potential abuse. The fact that he’s supposed to be unlikeable only compounds the problem.
I meant for this scene to show that Erin is getting frustrated with taking care of Ewythr, even though she’s agreed to help him for as long as he needs, and also to take a moment to highlight Erin’s short temper. Up to this point, the way she usually expresses her anger is through lots of angry words directed at whoever she’s frustrated with. The physical element is new, and something that I wanted to do to introduce a shift in Erin’s relationship with Ewythr, but now that I’ve written it and Rachael’s given me her thoughts, I’m wondering if I should retain it. I want Erin to come across as impulsive, but it was never my intention for her to appear abusive. This is an element I’m going to have to think through and consider more in revisions.
In other news, I have not been blogging in a week. National Novel Writing Month has officially consumed all of my creative energy for the time being, but there is hope. I’m less than five thousand words from crossing the finish line (I expect I’ll hit fifty thousand by tomorrow), and once I reach a good narrative break in my novel, I’m planning on taking a break from it to catch up on posts here. Also, it’s the beginning of Thanksgiving break for me, so I have a full week off to catch up on my creative projects, see family and friends, and do a good bit of cleaning around the house to get ready for Christmas.
Anyhow, I’m really curious to see what people think about this scene. It’s probably my least favorite out of everything I’ve written so far this year, and it’s a pretty good candidate for cutting later once the draft’s finished, but I’d still like some feedback if anyone has any. As always, feel free to comment below.