Arriani Gold entered the kitchen of the Blue Harp inn.
“Arriani!” a woman with grey streaks in her brown hair looked up from a large pile of bread dough, wiped her hands on a floury apron, and came over to the girl. “ I thought you and the band weren’t due till next week.” The innkeeper smiled. “Tim’ll be excited to see you. You know how he loves seeing you all.”
Arriani gave her a hug. “It’s good to be back, Ma Loval. We were going to stay a bit longer in Rianair, but Sir Kilona’s Da wasn’t too happy with us on his fief, so we decided to cut our trip short. And we got word of bandits in the Green-Gold.”
Triana Loval nodded approval. “Oh, we’ve got bandits alright. They got into my beehives just last night, smoked away all my bees and took the honey. Nearly gave poor Bethica Wold over in Green’s Edge a heart attack, robbed her an’ Madder right on the road.” She shook her head.
Arriani grimaced. She hated bandits. “Well, in another day Linasa and her folk will be coming, and we’ll take care of them. Reports said there weren’t too many.”
“Well, that can wait. You’re skin and bones, youngling. Doesn’t Kallin feed you?” There was a reason all of Gold’s edge called Triana “ma.” Arriani laughed.
“We never eat so fine as here. Kallin wants a feast, to celebrate, like.”
Another woman entered the kitchen, her cropped blond hair shining in the spell-light. “Ma Loval, Kallin sent me in to ask about supper. Any chance there’s some of that sweet corn cake Zara likes so much?” Sir Kilona asked, smiling.
“Hmm? Yes, Arriani, be a dear and take that out to your friends.” Ma pointed to a large pan of bright yellow souffle. “I’ve got soup on. Now what’s to celebrate?”
As Arriani left, she heard the Lady Knight explain about a foiled kidnapping and hostage situation.
The main room was nearly empty. Tim Loval, his bright red hair tousled, sat beside Rasime, asking questions that the dark skinned man answered, grinning. Granny Solace, a resident of the inn, sat at a corner table with a mug of honeyed milk, telling stories to a pair of wide eyed village children.
Zara Shieldmaiden and Kallin the Warrior sat on a bench, claiming to square tables for the band, deep in conversation.
Arriani stopped at the water barrel, filling a few glasses with the spring water and balancing them on a wooden tray. Just as she started towards her Band members again, she stopped. Kilona came up behind her, and Ma behind her, laden with bowls of Ma Loval’s famous vegetable chowder.
Kallin was kneeling on the ground before Zara, something shiny in one hand.
“Yes, of course!” Zara said, her eyes crinkled in a grin, one hand pressed to her mouth. Kallin took her free hand and slid the gold ring onto her finger, and then they were in each others arms.
Arriani set down the pan and tray and began to clap, Rasime and Tim looked up from the map the man had spread on the table and joined in. Granny Solace looked over at the two.
“‘S’a ‘bout time!” she laughed. “You’ve been looking at each other like that since you started heroing. Moon bless you both.”
Tim started giggling.