When Alara rejoined them she had a slight frown on her face, but beer in her hands. Soon the whole room was filled with happy people eating and drinking. Sarah was glad for the drink, and she couldn’t help but smile at the revelry. More than once she’d winced when someone pounded her hurt shoulder. Griffon had been the worst offender, but soon he was sitting beside Jason and talking animatedly with Lord Farquad. Even Lady Miriam, once she’d downed two mugs of beer, had begun to relax and didn’t cling to Sarah or jump at every passing man.
Only Alara remained uneasy. Looking towards the door every time it opened she’d curse, or at least Sarah suspected it was a curse. After about the tenth time she finally ventured to ask.
“Are you looking for someone?”
The woman looked to Sarah startled, before managing a slight smile. “My brother, Gwythryn,” she sighed. “Likely gotten himself into trouble, Gods’ know he’s good at it. If he and Caeren...” she let her voice trail off and Sarah could see that behind her anger was worry.
Sarah nodded in understanding and turned back to drinking her beer. For a long while the door remained closed. Alara’s worry deepened as time went on until what sounded like curses came through the door. A smile slowly spread across Alara’s face and she didn’t bother looking when the door burst open. Sarah, however did. The newcomer was burly and would probably have been bushy too, if he didn’t look like a wet rat. Trying hard to stifle her smile and laughter Sarah caused Alara to glance up.
“What happened to you, brother?” Alara asked not bothering to contain her mirth as the man sat down next to her. “Didn’t make it out of the fortress in time?”
Gwythryn muttered a couple choice words making Sarah laugh. He looked up startled and seemed to take note of where he was.
“Ah, Gwythryn,” Jason returned with another round of beer. He set one in front of the man and smiled. “Have you been introduced to Sarah yet?”
“No, I just got here thanks to that ~fuathre~ horse of mine.” the man took the beer and drank deep. He sighed in slight contentment. “So the extraction was successful?”
“Very much so,” Jason replied, “though we’ve gained a few more people, who will want to stay with us, than I would like.”
“So where is this Sarah?” Gwythryn looked around causing Sarah to laugh again.
Jason hid a smile.
“It’s the hair,” Sarah stated as she held an arm across the table. Gwythryn looked at the arm and then at her. “I look a bit more female in a dress, but pants are so much more comfortable.”
“I’ll toast to that!” Alara grinned as Gwythryn shook Sarah’s hand.
Another burst of laughter echoed through the hall along with a shout and, what sounded like, a challenge. Fascinated Sarah watched as the tables from the middle were cleared to make a space. Two men, one young, one middle aged soon stripped themselves of most of their clothing. They circled each other for a while before fiercely colliding to wrestle.
It was easy to get caught up in the spirit of the evening. Beer flowed freely and Sarah had long since given up on keeping track of how many she’d had. Despite the seriousness of the fighters there was an air of revelry throughout the hall.
Of the bits Sarah remembered, it was talking with Alara and Lynn and watching the drunks make fools of themselves and the Skathian’s reenactments of General Wholawski’s death that were the best. The night was filled with contests of strength and even Sarah had ended up part of them. Her first match started due to some insult thrown at Vervellean women. That one she’d won. Then she was pitted against a giant of a woman named Hama. Confusingly enough, despite her loss, all of Skathains cheered for her.
Unfortunately, renewed pain, for she’d forgotten about her injuries in her drunkenness, and exhaustion set in. So, sometime in the wee hours of the morning, once the storm had blown through, Jason led her back to their tirug. The building looked like a permanent tipi to Sarah or one of those ancient round huts she’d seen in her father’s history books.
Inside Jason swooped Sarah into his arms and planted a passionate kiss upon her lips. Letting raw emotion flow between them, they made out for a short while. But even passion couldn’t keep them from passing out, wrapped contently in the each other’s arms.
Morning came too soon for Sarah and she felt the chill as Jason left their bed. She watched as he opened the door, letting in the freezing air. There was at least four inches of snow on the ground. Closing the door, he pulled his shovel out of his pack and assembled it. Sarah rolled out of bed, only to have pain shoot though her leg. Sitting back down with a muffled curse, she sighed.
“See if you can use this,” Jason handed her a long stick, “but you may want to...”
“Yeah,” Sarah winced as she’d tried to place it like a crutch on her injured side.
Switching it to the other side, she took a few tentative steps. It was a bit odd to use crutches on the wrong side of the body, but she managed to get it working. Jason threw a blanket around her before he opened the door again.
“You’re not expecting me to cook breakfast are you?” She looked up at him.
“No, I’m sure the Skathains have their kitchen up and running.” He glanced back at her.
Sarah pulled the blanket about her to ward off the chill. Looking about she noticed there were others busy shoveling and a few Skathains on skis.
“See Jay,” she nudged him, “skis.”
“Oh,” Jason studied them for a moment before he returned to shoveling.