“You can let go now.” Rose squirmed in Scott’s arms, wanting to be almost anywhere else.
He pulled his hands out from under the blanket and held them up as if in surrender. “Far be it from me to overstay my welcome.”
Sliding off his lap, she pulled the blanket with her and settled next to him on the couch. “I just want to be clear that overpaying for baked goods doesn’t give you any special rights or privileges.”
A grin flared on his face, then he looked like he was trying to be serious. “I swear on the souls of my parents that I did not intend that silver coin to be paying for anything other than strudel. The cookie was a surprise, and a pleasant one, at that. Honestly, I don’t usually carry copper pieces, and just didn’t want to collect any. I’m surprised that doesn’t happen to you more often.”
Rose blinked a few times, surprised by the admission. “You don’t use coppers? But…”
“My friends and I aren’t poor.” He shrugged and settled his hands on his lap, his fingers laced together. “We’ve been doing this whole adventuring thing for quite some time. It pays well if you survive long enough. From what I’ve seen, you folks get a lot of novices coming through to fling themselves at the legends.”
Kent brought Rose a mug and deposited it into her hands, then he perched on the other
end of the couch. “How do people even hear about the Pit? No one ever lives to tell about it.”
Scott chuckled. “It’s one of those stories that gets passed around over a campfire. The Pit of Brennan, a hole in the ground full of glory and gold for the soul brave enough to dare to plumb its depths. Face monsters and slay them to win the adoration of the buxom young maidens in the town and wealth enough to scoff at the King.”
“Buxom young maidens?” Kent almost looked like he was ready to strap on a sword and shield and give the place a try himself.
Rose smacked him in the leg. “Don’t be daft. You’re my little brother, and I’m not letting you run off to do anything that incredibly stupid.” She shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Don’t you go putting idiotic ideas in his head.”
“That’s what they say about it,” Scott said with a shrug. “I heard about it for the first time when I was as green as new grass, but I wasn’t stupid enough to come until I had some solid partners and experience with this sort of thing. Can I ask you what the history of the Pit is? I really don’t know what’s true and what’s not of all the things I’ve heard.”
“Really?” Rose arched an eyebrow at him. “The people who come through don’t usually want to know.”
“That’s because they’re idiots.” His matter-of-fact manner made her stare at him for a moment. “Well,” he shrugged, “they are.”
“No argument here.” Rose sipped her tea, holding it in both hands to keep them warm. “It started about a hundred years ago. Arthur Brennan was a mage who wanted peace and quiet without people all around him to do experiments and the sorts of things mages do. He put up a tower in the middle of nowhere and did his thing. He was here for a good six months before he got tired of always trekking back to Argead-ri for things he needed. At that point, he convinced a handful of people to come and support him at the tower, in exchange for protection and what goods he could produce by magic.
“A few years later, there was a a village around his tower, as those people attracted other people, and folks brought their families, and that sort of thing. One day, a woman came to the village, asking after the magical goods he made. He was smitten with her from the first, and chased after her when she left.” Rose waved a hand to dismiss the story. “There’s a whole sad love story with a second suitor, it’s not very interesting. Long story short, she chose the other guy and Arthur came home, broken-hearted. After moping around like a twit for a while, he threw himself into his work.
“The tower was lit up with experiments at odd hours, and whenever he went outdoors, he looked awful. His hair stuck out all over, his clothes were rumpled, and he had a mad gleam in his eye. No one is completely sure what exactly he was going, but one day, there was a great shudder in the earth and the tower was sucked down into it. Nothing else in the town was affected, just the tower.
“The Sheriff took some stout men and braved the depths, to see if Arthur could be rescued. They were only in for maybe half an hour before they came running back out, eyes wide, bloodied, and short two men. None of them would talk about what they found, they just forbade anyone from going inside. For the next few decades, no one did, except a few stupid teenagers now and again that didn’t believe the stories and got themselves killed.
“As far as I know, the stories about started because a trader came through right when another group of teens was lost to the place. Here in town, they called it ‘Arthur’s Tower’ at the time, but he saw it was a pit and heard the stories and must have decided to call it Brennan’s Pit because that way people would know where it is and that’s more what it looked like. No one even really knows if there’s actually any treasure down in there. Could be Arthur’s still down there himself. They do say mages live a long time.”
Scott listened to the story, interested and thoughtful. When she finished, he nodded like it explained things to him. “Thank you for the telling, Rose. I appreciate it.” She watched him as he stared off at nothing, something going on in his head. When she sipped her tea again, he noticed her there again and nodded to himself. “I should go. There are probably other, more productive things I could be doing.”
Kent stood up when Scott did, and the two men shook hands. “Thanks for rescuing my sister.”
Rose almost rolled her eyes again, but figured he probably deserved some gratitude. “And thank you for saving my life. I don’t think I’ll be able to repay you with pastries for a little while, though. Even if they get the bakery fixed up today, my supplies aren’t likely to be in a good condition.”
“And that is the true tragedy here.” Scott sighed and inclined his head towards her like she was nobility. “I have a feeling we’ll be around for a little while, so I’ll see you soon.”
“You should come for dinner tonight,” Kent offered as he walked Scott to the door.
“I’ll do that, thank you.”
Rose waited until the door slammed shut behind Scott before fixing Kent with a glare. He didn’t notice.