Mash stood outside the large stone Guild house, a long wooden pipe dangling from somewhere inside his bushy crop of facial hair, plumes of grey smoke spiralling up into the cold air. This far north the snows had come early, covering everything in a thick layer of unbroken whiteness. Mash was reminded of his early life, stationed with the old Raedland Army in distant Erskirad. Those had been good days.
His train of thought was broken as the heavy oaken door behind him opened, breaking the serenity and spilling noise and warmth into the world outside. Spigot strode through and joined Mash.
‘Your woman’s got some pair of stones, eh?’
Mash grunted his assent. He was long accustomed to Esters’ ferocious outbursts.
‘Aye, that she does. Still arguing with the Grand Brewer, is she?’ He didn’t need to hear the words from Spigot to know it was the truth. Odds were, he’d hear all about it later. He sighed.
‘That’s about the size of it.’ Spigot was silent for a moment, staring at the far off, snow covered trees as they shook gently in the wind. ‘Are they all that way, Eisnoran women?’
Mash chuckled. ‘Mostly. But Esters has her own particular brand of fire. She’s more of a handful than most.’
As if to punctuate his point, there was a sudden loud smash as a bottle was shattered. Esters’ muffled voice followed the sound, her powerful lungs bellowing at Tapper. Quaff, who had been contentedly slumbering in a heap of fur next to his master’s feet, rolled over and growled softly.
‘You must be making amends for some devilry in a previous life to be lumbered with her.’ Spigot offered Mash a toothy grin. Mash typically didn’t tolerate that sort of language about Esters, but he decided to let it pass this once.
He knew he’d have to return inside soon, before his extended absence was noted. No sense in burning two bridges this day. Dealing with Esters would be enough of a challenge. Chances were, after the fight she was having, he’d be bedding down next to Q uaff again anyhow. What was this fight with Tapper even about? The last had been over a simple jest about brandy that had gotten way out of hand.
This one was more than likely to be about something just as trivial.
The heavy door slammed open this time, the force blowing ash from the torches into the icy air in clouds of tiny black dust.
‘MASH!’ The sound of her voice was like the roar of a mountain lion.
Inwardly, he cursed himself for not returning to her sooner. He’d definitely be bedding down with the dog tonight for warmth; there would be none in the marital bed.