Read Story: SEASON 1 EPISODE 47
Thor, carrying Krohn inside his shirt, was overwhelmed by the noise as Reece opened the door to the alehouse. A huge group of waiting Legion members and soldiers, crammed inside, met them with a shout. It was packed and hot inside, and Thor was immediately sandwiched in between his brethren, shoulder to shoulder. It had been a long day of hunting, and they had all gathered here, at this alehouse deep in the woods, to celebrate. The Silver had led the way, and Thor, Reece and the others followed.
Behind Thor, the twins, Conval and Conven, carried their prize possession, the boar, bigger than anyone else’s, on a long pole over their shoulders. They had to set it down outside the tavern doors before coming in. Thor took a last glance back; it looked so fierce, it was hard to conceive they had killed it.
Thor felt a squirm inside his jacket and looked down to see his new companion, Krohn. He could hardly believe he was actually carrying a white leopard pup. It stared up at him with its crystal blue eyes and squeaked. Thor sensed he was hungry.
Thor was jostled inside the alehouse, dozens more men streaming in behind him, and he proceeded deeper into the small, crowded place, which must have been twenty degrees warmer in here—not to mention more humid. He followed Erec and Kendrick, and in turn was followed by Reece, Elden, the twins, and O’Connor, whose arm was bandaged from the boar’s slice, but had finally stopped bleeding. O’Connor seemed more dazed than hurt. His good spirits had returned, and their whole group shuffled deep into the room.
It was packed shoulder to shoulder, so tight that there was barely room to even turn. There were long benches, and some men stood, while others sat, singing drinking songs and banging their tankards into their friends’, or banging them on the table. It was a rowdy, festive environment, and Thor had never seen anything like it.“First time in an alehouse?” Elden asked, practically shouting to be heard.
Thor nodded back, feeling like a rube once again.
“I bet you’ve never even had a tankard of ale, have you?” asked Conven, clapping him on the shoulder with a laugh.
“Of course I have,” Thor shot back defensively.
He was blushing, though, and hoped no one could tell, because, in fact, he had never truly had ale, aside from the small sip at the wedding. His father had never allowed ale in the house. And even if he did, he was sure he couldn’t afford it.
“Very good then!” cried out Conval. “Bartender, give us a round of your strongest. Thor here is an old pro!”
One of the twins put down a gold coin. Thor was amazed at the money these boys carried; he wondered what family they hailed from. That coin could have lasted his family a month back in his village.
A moment later a dozen tankards of foaming ale were slid across the bar, and the boys pushed their way through and grabbed them; a cask got shoved into Thor’s hand. The foam dripped over the side of his hand, and his stomach twisted in anticipation. He was nervous.
“To our hunt!” Reece called out.
“TO OUR HUNT!” the others echoed.
Thor followed the others, trying to act natural as he raised the foaming liquid to his lips. He took a sip, and hated the taste, but saw the others gulping theirs down, not removing them from their lips until they finished. Thor felt obliged to do the same, or else look like a coward. He forced himself to drink it, gulping it down as fast he could, until finally, halfway through, he set it down, coughing.
The others looked at him, and roared with laughter. Elden clapped him on the back.
“It is your first time, isn’t it?” he asked.
Thor reddened as he wiped foam from his lips. Luckily, before he could reply, there came a shout in the room, and they all turned to see several musicians shove their way in. They started playing on lutes and flutes, clanging cymbals, and the rowdy atmosphere heightened.
“My brother!” came a voice.
Thor turned to see a boy a few years older than him, with a small belly yet broad shoulders, unshaven, looking somewhat slovenly, step forward and embrace Reece in an awkward hug. He was joined by three companions, who seemed equally slovenly.
“I never thought I’d find you here!” he added.
“Well, once in a while I need to follow in my brother’s footsteps, don’t I?” Reece shouted back with a smile. “Thor, do you know my brother, Godfrey?”
Godfrey turned and shook Thor’s hand, and Thor could not help but notice how smooth and plump it was. It was not a warrior’s hand.
“Of course I know the newcomer,” Godfrey said, leaning in too close and slurring his words. “The whole kingdom is alive with talk of him. A fine warrior I hear,” he said to Thor. “Too bad. What a waste of a talent for the alehouse!”
Godfrey leaned back and roared with laughter, and his three companions joined him. One of them, a head taller than the others, with a huge belly, bright red cheeks, and flush with drink, leaned forward and clamped a hand on Thor’s shoulder.
“Bravery is a fine trait. But it sends you to the battlefield, and keeps you cold. Being a drunk is a better trait: it keeps you safe and warm—and assures a warm lady by your side!”
He roared with laughter, as did the others, and the bartender set down fresh tankards of ale for all of them. Thor hoped he wouldn’t be asked to drink; he could already feel the ale rushing to his head.
“It was his first hunt today!” Reece yelled out to his brother.
“Was it then?” Godfrey replied. “Well then that calls for a drink, doesn’t it?”
“Or two!” his tall friend echoed.
Thor looked down as another cup was shoved into his palm.
“To firsts!” Godfrey called out.
“TO FIRSTS!” the others echoed.
“May your life be filled with firsts,” the tall one echoed, “except for the first time being sober!”
They all roared with laughter as they drank.
Thor sipped his, then tried to get away with lowering it—but Godfrey caught him.
“That’s not the way you drink it, boy!” Godfrey yelled. He stepped forward, grabbed the tankard, put it to Thor’s lips, and the men all laughed as Thor gulped it down. He set it down, empty, and they cheered.
Thor felt lightheaded. He was beginning to feel out of control, and it was harder to focus. He didn’t like the feeling.
Thor felt another squirm in his shirt, as Krohn reared his head.
“Well, what have we here!” Godfrey shouted in delight.
“It’s a leopard cub,” Thor said.
“We found it on the hunt,” Reece added.
“He’s hungry,” Thor said. “I’m not sure what to feed him.”
“Why, of course, ale!” the tall man yelled.
“Really?” Thor asked. “Is that healthy for him?”
“Of course!” Godfrey yelled. “It is just hops, boy!”
Godfrey reached out, dipped his finger into the foam, and held it out; Krohn leaned forward and licked it up. He licked again and again.
“See, he likes it!”
Godfrey suddenly retracted his finger with a scream. He held it up and showed blood.
“Sharp teeth on that one!” he yelled out—and the others all broke into laughter.
Thor reached down, stroked Krohn’s head, and tilted the remnant of his drink into the leopard’s mouth. Krohn lapped it up, and Thor resolved to find him real food. He hoped Kolk would let him stay in the barracks and that none of the Legion would object.