Forward, the Lyte Brigade: Chapter 8

“Oh, Tancred! You look simply marvellous! Have you ever seen such an exquisitely vivacious plaid?”

Last week, the Lyte Brigade got in some practice and recruited a new member.

This week, Tancred buys a fashionable new hat.


Chapter 8

Copyright 2021-2022 J.B. Norman

Tancred has quickly come to regret sharing the news of his acceptance into the Lyte Brigade with his family. His grandfather has been regaling him with long, long tales of the mightiest adventurers in Porthaven’s long, long history, going off on frequent similarly long tangents about how those adventurers tie back to the history of his own family.

How, for example, any given adventurer from a hundred years ago might be tied to Tancred’s great uncle’s nephew’s daughter’s cousin’s sister’s brother’s tutor’s student’s cat’s groomer. Or something.

Tancred stopped paying attention about three sister’s brothers ago.

On the other hand, his mother seems not to grasp the significance of his acceptance into the Lyte Brigade as anything other than an excuse for high fashion. So, of course, she dragged him off to the hairdresser, the cobbler, the tailor, and the haberdasher to find him just the right outfit for his debut in the adventuring community.

“Oh, Tancred!” he hears his mother exclaim. “You look simply marvellous! Have you ever seen such an exquisitely vivacious plaid?”

“I don’t know if vivacious is quite the word I would use,” Tancred answers, as he studies his reflection in the mirror.

The colours staring back at him are not colours meant for the eyes of mere mortals. They are blending together into combinations that swim and dance before his eyes and that he finds his mind barely able to comprehend.

“And those cuffs!” she continues. “Such delicate lacework.”

Tancred glances down at his hands, which he is confident are still in there somewhere among the flowery explosion of laces.

“There isn’t an adventurer in the history of Porthaven that ever cut a more handsome figure for his first guild meeting,” his mother assures him.

Tancred very much doubts that.

His mother stares at him thoughtfully, scrutinising every piece of his ensemble from his ruffled collar to the huge, gleaming buckles on his tall boots. “But it’s missing something, I think,” she decides.

In Tancred’s opinion, his outfit is a sartorial enormity of such magnitude that he cannot imagine what could possibly be added to it.

“Of course!” she declares. “A hat! Just the thing to complete the look.”

“If you say so, Mother,” Tancred mutters with a nervous chuckle.

*

Pela has never gone shopping for adventuring gear before. She is out of her element and in way over her head.

Literally.

“Who puts the Goblin armour on the top shelf?”

Anything Pela can reach is too big, too heavy, or is something she has never even seen before. Anything that might be suitable for her seems like it’s miles above her in the least suitable place for somebody her size. Unless, she muses, the shelves really are several miles tall, and the gear on the top shelf is just so far away that it only looks Goblin-sized.

“Ugh,” Pela groans, deciding that somebody is about to get a sternly-worded letter about this.

Or maybe she’ll camp outside the store with a big sign that says Unfair to Goblins.

No, she realises, that’s a terrible idea.

Both in general, and because she’s a member of a guild now. The Lyte Brigade may call on her at any moment. She doesn’t have time to be protesting unfair stores. She needs to be ready for an adventure at a moment’s notice. Which is exactly why she needs to hurry up and find gear for herself.

Feeling dejected and smaller than usual, Pela makes her way home. She slumps onto the couch and pulls a cushion over her face so she can hide from everything, because everything is awful right now.

“So, how’d it go?” her mother asks.

Pela groans into the cushion.

“That bad?”

Pela gives a muffled agreement.

“I think I might have something for you,” her mother says. “Follow me.”

Cautiously removing the cushion from her face, Pela follows her mother into her parents’ bedroom and watches as her mother hauls a large, dusty trunk out from under the bed. Her mother opens the latch on the trunk and throws open the lid. Pela moves to peer over her mother’s shoulder to look at the contents of the trunk.

“This is my old gear,” her mother explains. “It might be a little dusty, but it should still do the job. It never let me down.”

“Mom. You can’t,” Pela insists. “This should be in a museum.”

Her mother rolls her eyes. “Honestly, Pela. I’m not that old.”

“But you’re famous. And this is your armour,” Pela continues.

“If it’s mine,” her mother notes, “that means I can give it to you.”

“I guess,” Pela admits, nevertheless feeling entirely inadequate and unworthy of such a gift from such a famous adventurer.

“Well,” her mother says, reaching into the trunk. “Let’s see how it fits.”

*

Amara spends the last night before the first day of the rest of her life being feted at Darkstone Manor. As the lifelong best friend of the Darkstones’ elder daughter, Amara has essentially become an honorary member of the family. Her triumphs have become their triumphs, so it’s only natural that they would celebrate the official beginning of Amara’s adventuring career.

The Darkstones have even hung up a banner reading Congratulations, Amara!

Amara finds a veritable feast before her and the Darkstones all settle in at the table to share in the feast. Amara takes a seat between her two favourite Darkstones, Kat and her mother Estelle. Dunstana sits across from her, and Dorian, as patriarch of the family, sits at the head of the table.

Normally, a woman of Amara’s status would not associate herself with pirates, but since one of those pirates is her best friend’s little sister, it is rather inescapable. And the other has largely put his piratical career behind him. Nowadays, Dorian Darkstone is known more as a purveyor of various nautical and marine knick-knacks than a fearsome pirate, though he still proudly proclaims himself an Admiral of the Brotherhood of the Coasts.

It is rather less scandalous for Amara to say that she associates with a prominent business family. Happily, for Amara, to do so barely requires stretching the truth. Dorian sells his miscellanea, while Estelle is the current proprietress of the Winfield and Sons Emporium, a long-standing, well-respected pillar of Porthaven’s Outfitting District.

And Kat and Dunstana, of course, are in the business of adventure.

Not the most prestigious company Amara could be dining with, but her lifelong history with the Darkstones puts them among the most cherished.

When they are not reminding her of a barnyard menagerie, that is.

Amara is well-acquainted with the proper rules of dining etiquette: small, sensible bites, elbows off the table, napkin on one’s lap, no slurping.

With the singular exception of Estelle, the Darkstones very much are not.

Although Kat has inherited her mother’s looks, she learned her table manners — which is to say, her abject lack of table manners — from her father, and it is clear that young Dunstana is much the same. Frankly, their ability to eat so much yet chew so little is almost impressive, though it is doing no favours to Amara’s own appetite.

Estelle favours Amara with a sympathetic glance from across the table. It is some small consolation to Amara’s scandalised sensibilities to have one person at the table with social graces.

“So, Amara,” she ventures, setting down her fork. “Tell me about this guild of yours.”

“To hear Nolan tell it, the Lyte Brigade used to be one of the most prominent guilds in the city,” Amara begins, struggling to be heard over the sound of her dining companions’ prodigious appetites and equally prodigious lack of delicacy.

Kat looks up from her plate.

“It’s true,” she notes through a startlingly large amount of food — attainable only through her presumed ability to unhinge her jaw like a snake and devour her prey whole.

“Thank you, Katherine,” Amara says. “Anyway, the guild was disbanded after Nolan’s grandfather retired his Captaincy. Nolan has spent the last few months trying to have the guild reinstated. I understand he’s been working quite hard, and he’s finally recruited the five members he needs to have the guild reinstated. I helped with that, in fact. I reached out to a family friend, and he signed right up. There are six of us now, though he and Nolan are the only ones I’ve actually met so far.”

“We’re all very proud of you, Amara,” Estelle says. “And we’re very excited to hear all about all the adventures you’ll have.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Darkstone,” Amara replies. “I’ll be sure to tell you all about it.” She catches herself and frowns. “Unless I end up making a complete and utter fool of myself.”

“I’ll still be your best friend, even if you’re the biggest fool in Realmgard,” Kat offers.

For once, she speaks with no food in her mouth, though only because she is reaching to heap a mound of seconds — and thirds, and fourths, onto her plate.

“And I appreciate it, of course, Katherine,” Amara says. “Though I’d rather not be a fool in the first place.”

Dunstana stares thoughtfully across the table at Amara. “Guilds sound dumb,” she declares. “You should just be a pirate, like me!”

“I can put in a good word for you with the Brotherhood,” Dorian offers, actually deigning to talk without his mouth full.

“I’ll take that under advisement,” Amara says, forcing herself to favour the pirates with a diplomatic smile.

Dunstana begins unsubtly eyeing Amara’s plate, then even less subtly reaching towards it.

“Hey, Amara. Are you gonna eat that?”


“Vivacious plaid” is one of the best phrases I have ever written…

Also, a reminder that I’m also doing a short story every day in August. Here’s the results of Week 1:

Also also, follow me on WrdPress, social media, or via my email list:

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