It disgusted Ruto to see how much men could drink. They could brutishly guzzle down pint after pint of ale and claim that they felt as clear-headed and rational drunk as they were sober. She hated how the awful smell of beer and sweat tainted the whole tavern. She despised the lewd conversations and the barbaric groping. Unfortunately, it was the booze that brought in the customers – battle weary soldiers of the Exile resistance. She could relate to them; she was, in fact, one of them, and had it not been for her only child, she might well have been on the other side of the countertop, sitting amongst the men, sipping her share of brew.
“So, he is not here?”
“No. He left with the scouting unit to investigate last night’s attack in the valley.”
Ruto stood off in a quiet corner of the bar area with her hooded patron seated before her. They separated themselves from the activities of the tavern around them, finding in the corner a bit of privacy. Despite their efforts, the two insisted on speaking in whispers to each other, leaning in imperceptibly closer to hear one another.
“Was it you?”
The robed figure looked up slightly from under her hood. A sliver of shadow retreated to reveal a sly smirk cross her cold lips.
Ruto nodded in understanding. She placed her own shock under subjection as not to reveal her guest to the crowed pub. “Was it really necessary? The villagers have been plagued enough by orcs as of late.”
“It was a Society battalion, staged to appear as a merchant caravan. Besides, there was left a survivor.”
“The makes it alright?”
“No… It is – war…”
The two remained under the heaviness of that truth for a time. Patrons entered the tavern and filled their guts with drink and emptied their pockets for supplies. The din of conversation barely rose over the hustle of barmaids and various merchants.
“Ruto, how is your daughter?”
“Tetra? She is frightened, as every child in this country is.” She took a moment to refill the hooded one’s cup with tea. “I, too, am frightened. Not just for my daughter, but for her father, Link, and for Korin and Demitri as well. I think of them as family, brothers even. And you, Zelda, I have always thought of you as my sister, closest to my heart.”
“Thank you, Ruto,” Zelda whispered, sipping her tea. “Sometimes, I wish I didn’t have to do what I did, that I didn’t have to leave you all. But no one would have accepted me back then; I was too dangerous, inexperienced. I would have killed you – all of you… everyone.” She sighed to herself and took another sip of tea, “To think, it has been over five years since I enjoyed a cup of tea. Just tea…”
“This doesn’t have to be the last time.”
“No, it doesn’t, but it may come to that.” She rose and laid an envelope and several bronze pieces on the counter. “You will give this to him, won’t you?”
With a grateful nod under her hood, she turned to leave.
“Until next we meet, if ever… Sister.”