Chapter 4: Drinking

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"This is a mistake." Grimbert confessed his doubts as soon as both Hildegund and Father Cristianus had left the shop.

"I can't leave her behind.  She's all I have." Richardt stated matter of factly, sitting across from his friend and nursing a newly filled stein of ale.

"The road is a dangerous place; no place for a girl.  She's going to get us killed." Grimbert took a long pull from his cup hoping that his words would sink in.

After a pause, Richart simply repeated, "She's all I have."

"That's not true, friend. You have your shop, your reputation, your nephews.  Me? What do I have? My mother?"

"You have nephews, too," Richart interrupted, a warning edging his voice.

Grimbert ignored the warning and continued, his words flowing as freely as ale poured from a cask, "Ok, true enough. And a reputation, also, I have one of those as well, just not in the same way you do. I'm a drunken lout who'll forever be a journeyman. Even my mother thinks I'm good for nothing. And I need this pilgrimage. My soul needs cleansing. Absolution."

"I need this, too. You know that." Richart furrowed his brow, and Grimbert could tell he was choosing his words carefully. "My poor Margred. This is for her. Her and-" His voice broke and he turned away. 

Grimbert averted his eyes and stared at the foam sliding slowly down the edge of his cup, waiting as Richart took a deep drink.

"Hil needs this too. She should have this opportunity to honor her mother's memory," Richart continued, thumping his mug down on the table to emphasize his point.

Grimbert waited a moment out of respect for his friend, but he wasn't going to drop it. "But I'm telling you, she's going to get us killed."

"How? How is she going to get us killed?" Richart asked, his voice remaining level.

"You heard Father Christianus. She's going to make us a target for attack."

"She will be disguised as a boy."

"But she will still be a child. No disguise can hide that. And that will still make us look weak, which will attract bandits. Come on, Richart. Bringing her along is a risk. And, when we get attacked, which I promise we will, she will only be a liability. She can't protect herself, you'll go out of your way to protect her, and in the end will all get killed. And what good will that do? I'm telling you, we need to leave her behind."

"You wouldn't understand, you're not a father."

The words stung.

Of every regret Grimbert had, this was his greatest. He'd always expected to start a family. But he'd expected a lot of things. God had had other plans. "What an astute observation, no, I'm not a father, but I am your friend. Need I remind you what you were saying just the other week about that girl who you now say is all you have?"

"I know what I said. I'm not proud of it."

"You called her an embarrassment."

"I said that I remember, it doesn't bare repeating," Richart growled.

"I just don't know why you want to drag that embarrassment across Christendom." He regretted the words as soon as they were out, and before he knew what was happening Grimbert found himself ass on the floor with Richart hovering above.

"No wonder you have no other friends if that's the way you speak to them."

"I went too far, I'm sorry. I meant no harm," Grimbert said sincerely, but Richart continued to stand unflinching and hard as stone. "What are you going to do? Beat me bloody? It's not in your nature, Richart, help me up," Grimbert reached his hand up, and after a momentary hesitation, Richart lifted him from the floor.

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