Just what is going on here?”
Darin would have had a hard time imagining the plump, friendly woman he knew so well wearing such a frown. He tried to make himself smaller as he looked at the distance between himself and the safety of the underside of Kerren’s bed.
He wilted visibly as Kerren threw a guilty look in his direction. The light that suddenly flooded his back might have been magical given the effect that it had.
He got slowly to his feet as Helna approached him, swinging the lamp gently to and fro.
“Or should I have known?”
“Hi, Helna.” Darin kept his voice as meek and friendly as possible.
“I should have known.” She shook her head, the frown fading just a touch around the comers of her mouth. Darin knew he wasn’t safe yet. “Do you have any idea what time it is, young man?”
“Yes, you do, Darin. You don’t normally wear a nightdress early in the evening. And what’s that you’ve got on your feet? Slippers?”
Why are you asking if you already know the answer? Darin thought. He was wise enough not to say it out loud, for though it was a perfectly reasonable question, it always had the worst possible effect on adults.
“And don’t think,” Helna said to her son as he sidled toward the wall, “that I’ve finished with you yet, either. Darin’s a troublemaker, all right, but he’s his mother’s problem. I wish I could say the same of you.”
Oh, great. Darin thought. Just what we need. Another one of them.
It was just one of those evenings. Jerrald rambled into view, wearing a night robe that his broad shoulders strained against. He was carpenter and blacksmith to the small enclave, but given his size, Darin was always certain that he’d have made a better warrior.
Helna turned to face her husband with a sigh. “More of the same.”
He raised an eyebrow, which was difficult considering he only really had one dark line of hair across the upper ridge of his eyes. “Kerren, have you been troubling your poor mother?”
Kerren gazed awkwardly down at the ground. After a moment he murmured a word of assent and hung his head.
Helna looked at him. “Aye, that he has.” Her lips gentled again, this time into a smile. “But not near as much as young Darin here’s troubling his.”
“Darin?” Jerrald’s broad grin was much less reluctant than his wife’s. “That’d explain a whole lot. What’re you doing here at this time of night, boy?”
“Pretending to be Renar,” Kerren said, with just a hint of spite in his voice.
Darin shot him a dirty look. “Was not. And anyway, I’m better at it than you.”
“Yeah? Well, I didn’t notice you escaping when the bells rang!”
“Well, if you had to learn anything, maybe you would’ve!”