“Mam! Mam! Did you hear the news?” Tom Brewer ducked his dandelion of a head under the low beam as he barrelled into the taproom without so much as a good-evening. Heads turned - not too far, you understand. The Brewer lad had been a loud one since he was whelped. The good folk of Underhey were accustomed.
“News, is it?” Hetty Brewer gave her eldest a glance that never had shut him up and never yet would, and it didn’t that evening either.
“Aye, Mam. From Anvil. They say Walder’s back. Good Walder. O-or his shade, like. A real live ghost, they say.”
“That so?” The grey-haired lady jerked her pointed chin towards the kitchen. “There’s washing up for you.”
He bridled at this clear and evident abuse of parental authority. “But… but. A ghost they say. Walked plain as brass into camp and asked who’d got the Virtue to do as Walder ought, a-and-”
“Aye, and he’s doing washing up in back.” Tom wasn’t looking to see the gleam in his mother’s eye, but he caught the chuckle that ran around the taproom easy enough, and his ears burned. “Said he was travelling, headed up to the Golden Downs, to Hay. Came in and asked for a pint of best and a seat at board, and I asked him how he was looking to pay for that. So he’s in back now doing your job for you.”
“Pride’s a Virtue, mother, there’s no call to mock.” Tom drew himself up, or as far up as the ceiling allowed: lad was growing tall as a weed. “The man who’s taken up Walder’s way, they call him Tom like you called me, Tom of Mitwold the way I’m Tom of Upwold, and his tale’s being told through the Marches even as it is written. And thus it shall inspire-”
“It shall inspire you to do the washing up, my lad.” Hetty fixed the boy with a level gaze. “Or did you hear naught of what he was saying, while you learned all of who he was?”
Before the blush could creep from his ears to his face, Tom fled with all the injured dignity his sixteen years could muster.
And stopped dead in his tracks. Because there was indeed a man in back. Thickset and bearded, the sleeves of his plain brown tunic rolled up, suds to his elbows, his back to the door.
And just for a moment, Tom fancied that he could see the washing-up bowl straight through the fellow as he caught the dishcloth.
There’s been a strange rumour that widely beloved Paragon of Prosperity Good Walder - or his ghost perhaps - or maybe just someone very like his ghost - or a ghost like his ghost or … anyway that someone walked into the Marcher camp at Anvil and bold as brass asked for people to come and do Walder’s work.
Then something about a club, and something about miraculous apples, and suddenly we’ve hit Peak Marcher.
You can learn a bit more about these events and this miraculous apple situation here → https://www.profounddecisions.co.uk/empire-wiki/Good_apples
#allthatglitters, #inspiredtodothewashingup, #allitsneedsisafootballreference
(Text by @Ian Horne for those keeping track at home)