“You make so much trouble for him,” Mrs Journ scolded the three female warriors who collapsed into chairs of various tables around the empty dining area of her small inn. With her braided hair bound tall in a silver mountain, the proprietress shook a large wooden spoon at each of them.
“You should be ashamed of yourselves!” she said. “Apologize to Bet right now. Look! Look at what you’ve done! He’s depressed!”
At a table against the wall near a door labeled ‘proprietor’, a strongly-built man sat alone with his arms crossed on the table and face buried in his arms. He was clad in blackened, mud-caked clothes and tattered calf-high boots. His overall appearance gave the impression of being singed.
Since Bet was typically the ray of sunshine among the group, his dejection alarmed Mrs Journ who was fond of him.
The first warrior, Kasey, glanced across at Bet. She wore flattering homemade trousers, a durable top and leather boots all of which were the same hue as her long chestnut-colored hair due to the fine layer of grime clinging to every inch of her.
She snorted with indecorous gratification. “Yeah, we totally did that.”
The second warrior, Roisin, sighed. Sweeping a stray lock of dirty blond hair behind an ear, she climbed laboriously to her painful feet and trudged over to stand beside Bet’s table.
He didn’t lift his head.
“Bet? We, um…” Roisin fidgeted. “We’re sorry the the battle burnt down the mail office where you dropped off your letter, and that your letter is probably ashes now.”
“A-And we’re sorry we disassembled your wagon to build a weapon for the dragons to wield which helped us take out the outer wall of the fort.”
He covered his head with his hands.
Kasey whispered to the third warrior at the next table who then flashed bizarre hand signals at Roisin.
Roisin nodded in understanding. She added quickly, “And we’re also sorry for the accidental destruction of your favorite street food cart, butcher shop, blacksmith–.”
Sobbing, Bet darted into the office and slammed the door behind him. The bolt was thrown audibly.
The third warrior Ava laughed, her voice ringing throughout the dining area. Her warmly complected face, neck, and bare shoulders were covered in superficial scratches crusted black with dried blood. She propped her swollen left ankle on a chair, and dropped the corresponding muddy boot and soggy wool sock on the floor beneath it with a wet sthunk.
“Eh, leave him be.” Kasey sat straighter as the cute cook’s assistant bashfully placed a bowl of fresh fruit and four large forks at her table. Kasey plucked up a fork and helped herself. “He’ll get over it.”
Mrs Journ watched the assistant blush and scamper off when Kasey said thanks. “I think you should ALL go apologize to him,” she said with warning in her voice.
Still chuckling, Ava choked on her own saliva.
“Pweeze,” said Kasey through a generous chunk of melon in her cheek. “Iff figh did dat, heed be shushpishush.”
Roisin sank into a chair at Kasey’s table. “Should we feel bad? We should feel bad.”
“No.” Kasey slurped melon juice dribbling from the corner of her mouth. Pointed a fork at her. “Stahp it.”
Smiling sympathetically, Ava shrugged.
“If that’s how you feel, ladies…” Turning away, Mrs Journ clasped hands at her breast and sighed wistfully. “Then maybe — just maybe — he’ll finally say yes.” She ignored funny looks from the warriors. “He will, I can feel it. After suffering abuse from you three as long as he has, he’ll definitely agree to peacefully exercise his culinary genius as a cook in my kitchen. Your quest should last, what, another year? You’ll survive without him.”
The three warriors exchanged repulsed, aghast glares.
“BET, I LOVE YOU!” bellowed Kasey.
“YOU’RE AMAZING!” screeched Ava.
From behind the bolted door, Bet shouted, “You only love me for my casseroles!”
The warriors sat in silence. Surprised. Guilty. Silence. Then Ava giggled; Roisin lamented; and Kasey popped another melon cube in her mouth with a shrug, saying, “Heesh not wrong.”