Bian -24- Chicken Club

Nothing up my sleeve...


Book 2 - The Reluctant Princess

by Erin Halfelven


Chapter 24 - Chicken Club
We did have lunch, or middagaten, in a private dining room behind the common room in the front building of the Green Gosling. The innkeeper himself poured ale and wine for all eight of us, though he looked a bit miffed to have our two hirelings eating at the same table. He didn’t water the wine like the serving girl had back in Molina, but Kilda did the task for herself and for me. Zenner took his wine straight and the others drank ale.

Being small with a teenage metabolism, I didn’t figure it would be wise to drink too much wine but no one here seemed to drink plain water. I remembered reading somewhere that water in medieval cities was not safe to drink without some alcohol added. I didn’t know if that were true but I did know what the city smelled like.

Lunch was fresh-baked bread, roast pork with gravy, barley and lentil soup, baked turnips, boiled cabbage, and raisin pie for dessert. A plate of cheese and another of early greens from the kitchen garden got passed around enthusiastically. No lunks but it all tasted marvelous.

“Are we going to rent a townhouse?” Rotgar wanted to know once everyone had knocked the edge off their hunger.

“Or we could go to the Remice Apartment Building and have the consular staff find us room,” suggested Zenner. Of necessity, part of that was in the Latin-like Remice language since Bloddingr didn’t have words for ‘Apartment Building’ or ‘consular staff’ or Zenner didn’t know them.

“We have family in the city…” Valto began.

“We’re staying here for now,” I cut them all off.

They looked at me. Rotgar smiled, Zenner shrugged and Valto muttered something but amazingly, no one disputed my decision at the moment. “It’s a nice enough place and we have things to work out between us,” I said. “Maybe we don’t all want to stay in the same place for a long time.” They looked at one another warily but still did not disagree.

Lillakatye sniggered. “Three dogs with one bone,” she said.

I started to ask what she meant by that when Hubricht, the innkeeper, appeared at the doorway to the kitchen again. “Um, there are some men here from the North Corner Greenfeast Mootlygt.”

Mootlygt? Oh, committee. Less common words in Bloddish did not always translate immediately in my head.

Everyone at the table grinned at me. Lang and Cordle tried to hide theirs but the rest of them let their amusement show.

“These are the guys that want me to be their High Noble Daughter and run for Princess of the City, right?” I asked. This nonsense had started with the crowd that gathered around us when we entered the city. It was an effen beauty contest.

Hubricht nodded. “There’s a crowd of them but I’ll just let in their leaders.” He turned to go and everyone’s grin got twice as wide.

Except mine. I tried to scowl but feared it came out as more of a pout. I didn’t want to be anyone’s Princess even if I did look the part.

“I don’t want to see them,” I said, trying not to whine. The guys from the Mootlygt could take their idea of running me for Princess of the Greenfeast and stuff it in a pigeon’s carcass then feed the bird to a stray dog. I blinked, realizing I had heard that very expression somewhere. Was I fitting into this world a little too well?

Zenner, Rotgar and Katye grinned at me but Valto rolled his eyes and Kilda looked concerned. Lang and Cordle tried to look like they weren’t listening to the squabbles of the quality folk.

Hubricht had not turned them away, so the three men came into the private dining room of the Green Gosling, a young guy, an old guy and a guy who was even fatter than Hubricht.

“Adelkvinna,” said Hubricht, “please meet Alfhode Orstedd, who is the speechleader of the mootlygt; Alderman Kelvan Apdegrote, representative of the Steddmote on the committee; and Lechsa Vinwold who serves as Gesundwaksa for the princesses.”

Such a mix of Bloddish and Saxon names and offices as to make someone’s head hurt. So, the young guy was Elfhat Famous-in-the-City. The old guy was Senator (roughly) Kelvan Of-the-Four-Pennies, interesting that his personal name did not translate. And the fat guy was Doctor Wool-friend whose job was to be Health-watcher. Or maybe Welfare Guardian?

I frowned at them. Alfhode (I could not think of him as Elfhat without the temptation to giggle) smiled at me and winked. He was a little too good-looking and knew it. Unfortunately, I seemed to know it, as well. Looking at him made me feel uncomfortable in a peculiar way. I glanced at Rotgar who was rubbing his furry chin thoughtfully. Like a lot of younger men I had seen in the city, Alfhode was clean-shaven.

Doc Vinwold smiled while trying to look serious. He put a hand in his own beard and pulled at it which seemed very curious. “It’s Finwald,” he muttered, evidently preferring the more Bloddish pronunciation of his name. Was it wood or wool he was a friend to? He might make me giggle as well, so I quickly looked at the third man.

Senator Kelvan grinned at me, showing his teeth and I realized that this was not a facial expression much used in the city. For an old guy, he had what looked like a full set of healthy choppers. “You were right, Hubricht,” he said to the innkeeper. Then to me, “My dear one, you are a star shining in a winter’s night. The trial is over—you will be our Rijkwyfsteddin...”

I opened my mouth. Rijkwyfsteddin meant Queen of the City.

Kelvan held a finger up and continued, “…sich du will medcommen zint unzwe Hochadelsdochter medstrabe.” If you will agree to be our Princess candidate.

“I’m not anybody’s princess!” I protested again. I stood up and Kilda stood with me. She put an arm around my elbow but I shook her off. Katye and the men at my table stirred and looked at one another.

Kelvan still grinned at me. “Ikka den sich alles wilta dish?” Even if everyone chooses you? His use of Lundenna verb forms was confusing me; they weren’t Bloddish or Saxon, either one.

Alfhode had to stick his oar in, too. “Hochadelsdochter ap Allesin!” Everyone’s princess.

Fucking Elfhat. “No! Nicht ikka, noch, nei, undachnichtlig!” I said, not quite shouting at him. No! Not even, never, no, definitely not! He didn’t even wear a hat but had a ton of blond hair only a little darker than my own. I looked away, trying to stay annoyed with him.

“Bedenken mish, da kvinna gert mertalle muckelzun,” said Kelvan with his hand up to his mouth in a theatrical aside to the doctor.

I stared. In the cityspeech, he’d done a fair job of translating a line from Shakespeare. Methinks the lady doth protest too much. He got a laugh from almost everyone but me — and Katye was also looking at him with a hardened expression.

“Onsel tidden ger happensteise…” Katye muttered. Once is happenstance…

“Twassel tidden ger medgerrungen…” I supplied. Twice is coincidence…

“Treisel tidden ger wunderzun?” said Kelvan. Three times is a miracle?

“That’s not how it goes,” I said. I put a hand through my outer gown into the hidden pocket with my Baby Glock. It was there and the shape of it reassured me.

“De treisel bent…” began Katye. She had a hand under the table and I didn’t doubt she had reached for a weapon, too.

Kelvan interrupted, “…de skarma!” Third time is the charm?

“…Feundligheit.” Katye finished what she had been saying in a growl, though enemyness wasn’t a word in English.

My five men at the table suddenly all stood up with hands on their weapons.

Rotgar demanded, “Wad gern dess?” What’s happening? Valto made a noise and Zenner checked with his left hand that his mustache was still there. Lang and Cordle eyed the food on the table but kept their hands on their weapons.

“Nothing,” I said. “But Katye and I need a private meeting with the Senator.”

Lillakatye nodded but Kilda shook her head. “No, chick. He scares you and that can’t be good.”

“You can come too,” I assured her. She turned pale and grabbed my arm. She knew who I really was, even if she didn’t want to think about it. I knew the distinction between myself and the real Alenna had occurred to her, I could read it in her eyes.

“What is the meaning of this?” the doctor wanted to know.

Everyone started talking at once.

Kelvan was looking at my right hand inside the slit in my outer gown. I had the only pocket in the room and, I hoped, the only gun. He changed his gaze to my face and nodded. “We do need to talk,” he said. I couldn’t hear him over the hubbub but I read his lips.

I nodded toward the doors to the rest of the inn then led the way, Lillakatye at my side and Kilda following. Kelvan fell in behind her. I motioned Hubricht over to me. “We need another room, a private one,” I shouted at him when he got close.

He looked at Valto but I reached out and grabbed his beard. “Look at me! I pay the bills,” I told him. “Find us a room where no one can hear what we say.”

Before he could do so, Rotgar and Valto had grabbed him. The room got quieter. They didn’t know who to glare at so Valto settled on me and Rotgar spread it around. “Sister,” said Valto, sternly. “You will include me in any private meeting with anyone! I insist.”

“Do you seriously think I can’t take care of myself?” I asked him. “How many crows lie under the moon and who struck the blows that felled them?”

Rotgar looked half-persuaded by that argument but Valto didn’t give up. “Ikka den sao, ungernichting!” Even so, nothing doing! “I’m your brother!”

I sighed. “Let go of the gutwera, and you can wait outside the door. If any of us raise our voices, you can come in.” Gutwera was a title for respectable shopkeepers, taverners, stablemasters and other temporary upper servants; it meant good man.

He considered that. Rotgar let go of Hubricht and apologized, then started to pry Valto’s grip loose. “Let her have this, Yungwalt. Your dad can’t make her do what he wants, what chance do you have?”

That worked. Sort of. Valto let go of Hubricht, muttered, “Dett ger mish dor,” which doesn’t translate well but means, “I’m sorry.” I wasn’t sure if to me or to the innkeeper.

Hubricht nodded and beamed, this probably was nothing to some quarrels he had witnessed. No one had taken out any knives yet, despite having fingered them longingly. “Denka ungernicht den faschen, ikka,” he said. More or less, think nothing of it. He showed us to another room, this one lined with heavy drapes to keep sound out or in.

I went inside first then Kilda and Katye and we searched the room, feeling the walls behind the drapes to make sure no one else was hiding inside. Kelvan watched us as if he approved.

Valto stopped him before he entered. “Are you carrying any weapons?” he asked.

Kelvan made a motion like Bullwinkle trying a magic trick and pulled a something out of one sleeve. “Nix dach an hohenkugel,” he said. Nothing but a chicken club, what looked like a baked drumstick. Katye and I smiled and I motioned the man to come on in. “Let him in, Valto, and wait outside in case I scream.”

A chicken club? The thought of never having a sandwich at Jack in the Box ever again made me wistful for a moment. I glanced at the breakfast still at the table and noticed that our hire-swords had gone back to eating since the crisis seemed to have passed.

“I’ll come in if it’s too quiet for too long, too,” Valto said. I had to forgive him. He was trying to be a good brother.

“Ikka,” I agreed.

Rotgar waved before shutting the door, pulling a fish face at the last moment to try to make me laugh.

The room had a small table and two benches but none of us sat down. Lilakatye took the chicken leg from Kelvan, sniffed of it then passed it back. “It’s made of wood,” she said, moving an eyebrow sideways. Kelvan disappeared it up his sleeve again with another of those un-citylike grins.

“What can you tell us about who you are?” I asked in English.

His eyes got very wide and he glanced first at Katye then at Kilda. It was obvious that the war wife had understood me and my servant had not.

“Ikka den ikka,” he said in Bloddish. Then, “What do you want to know?” in English.

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