Leaving Gelta to her well deserved feast the brothers left the dimly lit barn for the glow of the festival preparations. Their path took them passed the tent dedicated to Dwayna the goddess of life and air ant into the collection of Alarik family cottages. Vrabin’s mouth watered as the scent of his mother’s cooking and soon they passed through a gate into a walled courtyard that served as the Alarik’s feast room and kitchen. Vrabin’s eyes were drawn to the table where a hog freshly grilled lay among an assortment of other delectable foods.
At the head of the table Jessica sat between Vrabin’s parents Yosef and Eila. The three of them were jovially discussing some topic Vrabin couldn’t make out. Relatives from all across ascalon ringed the rest of the table engrossed in eating and catching up with one another. Before joining his wife Vrabin made his way around the table greeting his relatives and asking after those that wern’t in attendence. Upon reaching the head of the table Vrabin greeted his mother with a squeeze to her shoulders and a kiss, and then took a seat next to his father. Yosef Alarik had given his children his height, face and eyes though Vrabin, Hans and Sophia could not claim his stocky build.
Yosef clapped his son on the shoulder and laughed his greeting. Vrabin’s response was a broad smile.
“Hans was saying you’ve taken to growing a berry patch old man.” Vrabin said his smile now half a smirk.
“You have a problem with berries?” Yosef asked before tearing into a moa drumstick.
Vrabin shook his head and shoveled a spoon full of mashed kub root into his mouth, “Not berries per se, but a berry patch seems downright domestic for you.”
Yosef laughed, “With Hans running the farm I thought I’d experiment with distilling berry brandy.”
“Ah Ha,” Vrabin said with a sparkle in his eye, “I expect to be invited to the first tasting.”
“Since when have your mother and I kept you away from good food and drink?”
“Never that I recall,’ Vrabin lifted his mug of warm honey mead in a private toast which his father joined.
Seating at the feast was surprisingly fluid as families came and went. A short time after Vrabin arrived Bertram, Yosef’s youngest brother entered flashing his beguiling, lying, smile. He moved directly to the head of the table extending his hand to Yosef as he drew near. Yosef rose and greeted his brother with a hug his large frame engulfing his much smaller brother.
“Welcome Bertram, I’m so glad you accepted my invitation.” Yosef said no hint of falsehood about him.
Bertram’s eyes flickered quickly over his brother’s like a butcher eyeing a particularly ornery bull. “How could I refuse, Yosef, you’ve always been so kind to me. Besides, your invitation couldn’t have come at a better time. My current housing arrangements recently expired.”
Vrabin rose and circled around his father putting himself almost but not quite between the brothers. “Uncle Bertram,” Vrabin said his false smile utterly convincing. “It’s so good to see you, how is the Guild Wars Orphan Charity you were leading treating you these days?”
A flicker of a grimace marred Bertram’s chiseled face, “citizens of Rin are stingier than they appear. The guard even had the audacity to throw me out of the city.”
“How awful,” Vrabin replied his voice dripping with venomous sincerity as he clapped his uncle on the shoulder.
Vrabin’s Uncle smiled back at Vrabin and politely excused himself, but not before Vrabin caught a hint of smug self-satisfaction. Looking between his hand and Bertram who had made his way to the far end of the courtyard Vrabin felt a prick at the back of his neck.
“He’s plotting something dad,” Vrabin said turning to Yosef with a worried look.
Yosef looked a decade older as he sadly watched his brother, “He always is Vrabin, but he can only take trinkets from us, neither our souls nor our soil is within his grasp.”
Vrabin chewed on his tongue for a moment and Yosef sat heavily into his chair. The moment stretched out then it was broken as Jessica’s voice broke into the morose reverie.
“Which dance did Sophia say she was going to perform tomorrow?”
Vrabin blinked and looked down at his wife, “The fifth movement of the War of the Burning Forest.”
“Oh I love that one,” Vrabin’s mother said excitedly, “that’s when Balthazar and Melandru battled the great drake Morzinth.”