11. Blood Feud

The Damsel huffed and puffed at a tavern called the Solsbury Shoe.

“Stupid Balin,” the Damsel uttered, drunk and infuriated. “Without Tyrfing, I cannot complete my plan.”

“Balin?” a voice said before her.

She looked up to find a bartender wiping the inside of a flagon with a dirty rag.

“Yes,” she said, huffing a few strands of her golden hair up off her face. “Balin.”

”Yeah, I know that boy,” the bartender said. “He’s that one that done killed that the king’s cousin, Sir MacGilleChrìosd.”

“He has killed another?” the Damsel asked, intrigued. “If that is the case, then perhaps…”

She looked up at the grubby bartender, who would still wiping the cloudy metal flagon as he stared at her.

“What else do you know about him?” she asked him.

“Oh, I know lots about him,” he replied back with a sly grin. “What I really want to know, is more about you.”

When the night had ended, the bartender brought the Damsel up with him up to a bedchamber and they got intimate. As in, they had right good cheer upon his filthy, squeaky little bed.

As they engaged in coitus, the bartender continued to blabber.

“And, rumour has it, King Pellinore—who as you know is King Pellam’s son—is also related to the Bradáns! The Bradáns! How? I have no idea. Some say he’s Lord Bradán granduncle but we can’t know for sure.”

“I don’t c—” the Damsel began, but caught herself before going any further. She cleared her throat.

“I don’t consider that a man of your vast knowledge about the comings and goings of the people of this area would know anything more about Balin.”

“Balin again? I think I’ve told you everything there’s was to know,” said the bartender. “That boy’s an ex-convict that killed—”

“Yes, he killed a knight that was the cousin of King Arthur, yes, I know,” the Damsel replied as calmly as she could as she stroked the bartender’s hairy chest with the back of hand.

“What…” she whispered. “Else?”

“Uh, well,” the bartender said as he grinned stupidly and guided the Damsel’s hand to his nipple. She begrudgingly obliged.

“Well,” he began as he moaned. “Oh! Uh, I hear he’s smitten by Lady Viviane, but she loves his brother, Sir Balan.”

‘Perhaps she could disguise herself as Balin instead of Cade,’ the Damsel thought. ‘And with Balin out of favour with the entirety of King Arthur’s court, she’d swoop in and scoop him up. And they’d travel together back to Dál Riata where she can help her slay her brother Cade.’

“Brilliant,” she murmured to herself, intoxicated off the mead.

“What?”

“You know,” the Damsel said as she leaned against the bartender. “I think, it’d be hard for you to top that last one.”

“Hm?” the bartended replied with his eyes closed, guiding the Damsel’s hand down to his nether-regions.

When he opened his eyes, he found the Damsel holding Tyrfing’s blade up to his forehead in her free hand.

“Which means,” she continued. “You’ve outlived your usefulness.”

“Hm?” he managed to utter before the blade slid through his skull like a silver bream cutting through a stream.

The life left the eyes of the bartender, and the Damsel took her hands off the man’s genitals to push the man’s head off the bed. She cleaned the blade with bed sheets, bloodying up the fabric, before returning the blade to her trick scabbard and locking it back in place by flipping the hidden switch.

‘New plan,’ she thought as she stared at her reflection in Tyrfing. ‘Let’s get Balin kicked out of this one-horse town.’

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