So, where’s the benefit to me, eh? I’m supposed to just sit meekly and tell you all about my blissful childhood and the wonderful times with Momma and Papa all because you happened to show up with quill and vellum? Sod that. My story’s not for telling. And you can stop staring at me, too, unless you want to taste steel.
The tankard’s on your purse, is it? Fine; I’ll drink your beer since it’s already bought, just don’t take that to mean that we’re ‘bout to get chummy. Since you asked, I don’t have family and I don’t have friends, either. That includes you, no matter how many tankards your purse can buy, just so we’re clear. I’m no slack-skirt, but my business is my own.
Look, what’s with all the questions? There’s a lot of pretty girls in here; some pretty boys too, if that’s more to your liking – I won’t judge. I daresay more than a few will tell you what they ate for breakfast last Midsummer’s Day, just for the asking, so why the interest in some hill-country girl like me?
It’s not you. It’s just that I get a lot of men coming up to me that want more than they’ve a right to ask, particularly after they’ve been trading coppers for cups with the barman. Just because I can handle a bit of steel when I need to doesn’t mean I’m like to live long if I get sloppy and stupid. So, you just enjoy your beer like a good lad and you and me will be fine. Speaking of which, I’ll take another if you’re still buying.
Yes, I said the hill-country. Born there, I was, though I was not long raised there. Pretty land? I daresay it is, I suppose, but let’s just say I remember it a little different. Good horse-fields too, some of the best in the north. In fact, I doubt the southern kingdom has any that are better. My father? A joke, and my mother was blind. No, she could spot a raven in a storm cloud at night, and still be blind as a bat.
See, here’s how it works, city rat. If I don’t get to complain about your questions, then you don’t get to complain about my answers. I’m making complete sense if you know the whole story, it’s just that I do and you don’t – and it’s going to stay that way. Another tankard? Sure. Spend away.
Nah, I’m just the filthy get o’ some dirt-scratchin’ hill folk is all. You just learn fast when you have to make your own way when you’ve yet to see your tenth Midsummer. Dead? By the Good Pair, I hope so. I left the farm to try to find a better life. Yeah, at nine – so what? Papa? He made coin enough, I suppose. Drank it, too. Momma, she never complained. Never complained about anything, ever. Blind as a bat, like I said. Never saw a thing.
So, you go right ahead and talk about the pretty horsefields and the gentle, rolling emerald hills like it’s some kind of paradise. It was no paradise for me and I’m glad to have the place at my back. But yeah, I can work a horse. Better than Nelson can to say it all, but no need to say so. Let the boy have his pride, I say. Won’t cost no coppers and I’ve got my own trade so it’s not like he’s digging into my purse.
Ahh, Nelson… no I don’t have that figured out yet. He’s a good lad and I’ll have the tongue of any rat who says different. Of all the folk I’ve ever known, he’s the only one I can say for sure never hurt another soul. That’s worth gold. I just… Look, it’s not easy for me, okay? Now let’s just leave it at that.
Miri, now, she’s never hurt a soul, either. But she’s like to. Why? Because she’s cut from the same cloth as my mother, and just as blind.
Ernie, he’s like a father to me and I daresay he’d like to make that more truth than it already is. He’s a pig, but he’s got the operation, the connections, he’s done the ground work. If I left Ernie, according to him I’d be back to starving in a fortnight, and he’d be right. Unless I wanted to make my living grabbing my ankles – and don‘t think I couldn’t. I see how men look at me. The same way you look at me, by the by. Some women, even. Truth is, I don’t mind that so much. Not that either is likely to happen. People tend to mark me as too dangerous to take to bed, and that’s just how I like it.
Chastain. Now there’s a villain in the making. Has no regard for aught past his own skin. He’d sell us all, Ernie included, if there were a copper’s profit in it for him. I’ve told Ernie, too, but I think he knows it already. The lad’s got skill, though, and not just at music. He could be as successful as Ernie someday if he gets his head right. I just think he’ll end up dead long afore, and you won’t spot any tears on my cheeks.
So, you got some tales out of me after all, city rat. I hope you got your money’s worth. But as I drain this last tankard and put it down on the bar, you need to ask yourself something. How much of what I said is true?
See you ‘round the provinces, city rat.