This is pure fluff. Absolutely fluff. I'm serious. This is dustbunnies-that-are-generations-old fluff. You've been warned. Wren and Collin are my creations from the story Congratulations are in Order (hint hint nudge nudge) but everyone else belongs to John Flanagan.
Twins, Will had decided, made a Genovesan assassin look trustworthy.
It was Halt and Pauline's wedding anniversary, and they were having dinner at Jenny's new restaurant as a celebration. Will and Alyss had volunteered to watch Wren and Collin for the night, knowing perfectly well that Halt would only relax if the twins were with someone he trusted unreservedly.
However, Alyss had been held up unexpectedly, and Will was finding that putting two excitable four-year-olds to bed was like wrestling with an octopus. An armed octopus.
"Collin, put that down," he ordered, scooping Wren up before she could fall headfirst out of bed. Collin, who had been brandishing his toy sword at his sister, looked like he had been kicked.
"But–" he began.
"No buts," Will said firmly, raising Wren up to shoulder-level before her tiny hands could get a solid grasp on his saxe knife hilt. "You don't take weapons to bed."
"Daddy takes weapons to bed, but!" Wren squealed, right into Will's ear. He grimaced and began to lower her to the bed, then stopped abruptly as he realised she had made contact with a chunk of his hair.
"He's big. He's allowed to."
"I'm getting big!" Collin puffed his chest out. "Everyone says so!"
"When you're as big as Halt you can take your sword to bed. Until then, they stay out of bed." Will finally untangled Wren's hand from his hair and stepped back before she could latch onto something else. She didn't try. Instead, she smiled up at him angelically. Relaxing, Will smiled back.
There was a suspicious creak from the rocking chair behind him, and he whirled, in time to see Collin, perched on the seat, reaching for the quiver he had set on the dresser at the start of the night.
"No!" He lunged and swept the quiver away, depositing it on the top of the wardrobe. "Collin! What did I say about weapons?"
"Arrows not weapons," he sulked. "Bow's a weapon."
"They're both weapons. Bed!" Will pointed firmly.
"I don't wanna go!" Collin said stubbornly. "Wanna play Skandians and Wargals!"
"I'm a Skandian!" Wren shrilled, grabbing Collin's sword and throwing it at her brother. She missed – she was only four, after all – but it thudded into the side of the wardrobe and knocked the quiver off the top. It rolled off the edge, fell squarely onto Will's head, and clattered across the floor, spilling arrows as it went.
The twins looked at each other, and made a co-ordinated lunge for the arrows. Will stepped forwards and caught one in each arm, lifting them onto his hips and wondering how on earth he was meant to clean up his arrows and keep them away from the twins at the same time.
"Did I interrupt?" a cool, amused voice asked from the doorway.
"Oh thank Gorlog," Will breathed in relief. "Alyss, help me."
Alyss, looking far too much as if she found this entire thing funny, advanced, sweeping arrows aside with her foot. The twins' wriggling had increased tenfold since she entered. Alyss settled herself in the rocking chair and extended her arms. Will handed her the twins and sank back onto the bed in sheer relief, covering his face. "Pauline was right," he mumbled. "We shouldn't have given them little tiny weapons as gifts."
A moment passed, and he peeked through his fingers. "Why aren't they trying to get away from you?" he demanded.
"'Lyss is going to tell us a story!" Wren shrilled.
"Tell us about Daddy and Uncle Will!" Collin added.
"What do you think, Uncle Will?" Alyss asked, smiling. "What should I tell them?"
"I don't know. Greybeard Halt, maybe?"
"I don't think Halt wants his children singing that," Alyss murmured to him.
"Tell them about Morgarath, then." Will lay back and stretched out full length on the bed, covering his eyes with one forearm.
"It's a bit grim…"
"They're four, they don't understand what 'beheaded' means."
"Yes I do it means you take a sword and cut someone's head off and get blood everywhere and it's a pain in the backside to clean out!"
"Wren!" Alyss said, shocked. "Where did you learn that language?"
Wren blinked up at her. "Daddy broke someone's nose and got blood on his shirt and told Mummy it was–"
"If you say that again I'm telling your mother," Alyss said firmly.
The twins exchanged furtive glances, wondering if Alyss would go through with her threat, then chorused, "Sorry Lyss."
"Incidentally, whose nose did Halt break?" Alyss asked Will.
He shrugged. "They're going to have to be more specific."
"Story, Lyss!" Wren chirped. "Story story story!"
"Hm. Alright." Alyss settled back and thought for a moment, then began.
Once, not so long ago, there was a boy who lived in Redmont. His name was Horace.
"I'm sorry, who said we should tell them about Morgarath?"
His name was Horace, and he was an apprentice knight. Now , Horace was incredibly handsome –
- moderately good-looking –
And he was also amazingly brave.
"That's your cue, Will."
"I actually agree with that part."
Horace was so brave that when the evil lord Morgarath threatened Araluen, he was allowed to join the army to fight him, even though he was only a young boy. The nobles and knights, king and his court, faced Morgarath on the plains, and Horace challenged Morgarath to single combat! The problem was, Morgarath was a mighty warrior himself, and it looked like Horace might lose! That would mean Horace would lose his chance to become a knight.
"Lose a sight more than that," Will muttered.
"So will you if you keep interrupting me."
But Horace was so brave that even without a sword or shield he still faced Morgarath. And because he was so brave, Horace won the combat! As a reward, the kind made Horace a knight, and because he was so good-hearted and so moderately good-looking, the king's daughter fell in love with Sir Horace, and married him.
"That's uncle Horace and aunty Cassandra!" Wren said sleepily, her eyes widening in realisation.
"It is. So uncle Horace married aunty Cassandra and they lived happily ever after." Alyss sighed in relief as she realised their eyes were fully closed now. Looking over at Will to comment on it, a broad grin lit up her face. He was fast asleep.
When Halt and Pauline came home two hours later, it was to find Alyss, alone in the sitting room, reading a book. Pauline raised an eyebrow and opened her mouth, but Alyss held her finger to her lips and pointed at the bedroom door. Moving with Ranger stealth, Halt padded over to the door, peaked in, and turned red. Curious, Pauline joined him.
Wren and Collin were on one bed, the covers up to their chins, curled up together back to back, muttering slightly in their sleep. Will lay on the other bed, the blanket up to his waist, clutching Collin's toy sword to his chest, looking so similar to the sleeping four-year-olds that Pauline had to bite her lip hard not to burst into laughter. Halt eased the door closed and they both backed away from it, then turned to look at Alyss.
That was a mistake: all three of them burst out laughing.
"Oh, Alyss," Pauline gasped. "What did you do?"
"I told them a story," Alyss snorted. "It was a bedtime story."