Beanum is a big man. Past his prime, body stiff with the aches and pains of old injuries.
Those aches and pains he tries to ignore. The finger that won’t allow him to make a complete fist. The knee with a huge scar running down the middle of it from a lucky dodge. The steady throb of concussion that rings in his ears from swords beating against his helm. From fists beating against his skull
He pretends none of those exist.
And revels in the stiff back and sore feet he gets from working the bar in his very own tavern.
Every night for the last five years he has stood behind this thick plank of polished oak. It’s not hard work. He likes it. He likes the cooking and cleaning and chatting with travelers about the world outside his doors. The world he walked away from.
But what he doesn’t like are loud soldiers wearing their colors as if they weren’t drinking far from home in a land once at war with their lord.
They make the memories come.
He leans hard against the bar trying to make them fade.
It’s his fault he gave them ale. He allowed them a seat. He gave them refills and food. And now they are comfortable and in their comfort, they have gotten rude.
Ten years ago, he walked a way from his last battlefield. He can smell it all still. The shit and piss and blood of death and stink of coal fire and burning pitch. The moans of the dying too far gone to save.
The cold air ripping through steel armor and ripped useless gloves.
The ungodly wet that seeped through everything and soaked right down to the bone.
He left his sword in the body of his last kill.
Even when standing behind his bar with a holly wood fire burning in his hearth and the smells of the baking bread he mixed and formed with his own hands and the stew bubbling on the stove in his kitchen, it all comes back with every guffaw and bawdy joke from the soldier at the back table
He closes his eyes willing it all away but the surprised face of the squire swims into view. His hand shaking around the hilt of his master’s mace. His brow crunched with intention.
Beanum doesn’t even know if the boy knew he was going to die.
He cleaved through the lads chest from shoulder to hip.
The blade got stuck on his hipbone.
Beanum tried to pull it free but his arms felt useless.
All of his efforts felt useless.
The battle had been long.
Almost two solid days of steady fighting, pulling back and advancing.
Every mucle seemed to vibrate with lack of sleep and the adrenaline of living through it.
He remembers seeing his Lord’s horse grazing on the cusp of the hill. A single boot stuck in the stirrup. A few long bow arrows jutting from the thick leather seat of the saddle.
He trudged across the muddy field slick with blood and viscera and rain, dropping pieces of his armor as he went. In a doublet, leather breeches and skull cap, he mounted the horse kicking free the noble’s boot with his own and galloped away promising to his God he would never pick up steel again in the name of war.
“And the Lord of these lands bought a Muchk arrow” and the table of infantry erupts in laughter.
Beanum slams his heavy fist on to the bar. Mugs and plates fly into the air and crash back down.
“Hey you fucks!” his voice is loud. His anger real. Every face in the tavern turns to him. Every single noise quiets.
His regulars know and look to the soldiers. Four infantry wearing steel breast plates and tricorner hats dyed the purple of Baron Muchk.
Beanum opens his eyes. They seems to glow red.
The oldest of soldiers says, “What captain, just a little laugh before turning in.”
Beanum has forgotten his aches and pains.
He leaps over the bar.
The crowd in the tavern parts for him as he makes his way to the soldiers at their table.
“Nobody gets to laugh, but me,” he says reaching the group and throwing a wicked haymaker that flattens the nose of the oldest soldier.
The other three stand but are met with stiff resistance that leads to them being tossed out into the cold night.
Beanum follows them through the door. The crowd in the tavern is quiet listening to the ruckus outside. One brave soul thinks to take a look, but just as he gets to the door it is thrown open and a smiling Beanum enters, knuckles bleeding.
“Drinks, food, folly and merriment,” and he laughs and the tavern laughs with him and the night resumes like it never stopped.