The last brunch ended much as the first one: No one got to try Threnn’s breakfast muffins. This was the first dish she attempted to make for the regular family brunch, an idea that Bricu suggested shortly after his “con” the Temple of Elune. At first Threnn thought he was still suffering from sleep deprivation. A week later, when he ran down the menu for the first brunch: Salmon and capers, corn griddle cakes, fresh breads (sweet and savory), coffee and tea and fresh fruit with cream, she realized how serious he was.
“All the stops are out for this, aren’t they?”
“Aye, they are. I figure since we’re at least talkin’ now, I can at least try an’ get her ta warm up ta me.”
Threnn shook her head, “My mother, lovely as she is, can outstubborn anyone. Even you.” She raised her voice ever-so slightly to keep him from interrupting her. “Love, she’s not going to change. We meet for tea, she sighs, I sigh, we both walk away before we storm off in huffs. That is as good as it is going to get.”
Bricu grinned the same wild grin he used when scheming. “We’ll see love. We’ll see.”
At that first brunch, Bricu made attempts at conversation that were easily parried by Thenia. She was not amused. Threnn watched as her husband became increasingly charming to combat her mother’s increasing polite dismissals.
“More tea, Thenia?” He said, tea pot in hand.
“No thank you.” She replied coldly.
“O’course. Padraig, Thenn?”
Threnn, and her father, assented with slight nods as they watched Thenia and Bricu spar with charm and polite indifference.
Bricu served Thenia first each time. Each plate of food was carefully executed, plated to be as visually pleasing as possible. Thenia ate small, almost ceremonial, bites of each entree. Threnn said how wonderful the fish was. Padraig raved about the pancakes. Thenia, polite as could be, countered Bricu’s charm.
“I thought it was okay. Not as good as they normally make at the Gilded Rose, but almost good enough for brunch.”
Bricu nodded solemnly. “What was wrong with it m’dear?” The hairs on the back of Threnn’s neck stood up. His tone had changed ever so slightly. It was similar to the tone he would use when talking to Tarquin about working with stubborn alliance generals. Their solutions always revolved around “disappearances” and “scandals.”
“Well.” Thenia spoke with the same tone she used when talking to a difficult silk supplier. She ticked off a finger for each point, “The corn cakes were a bit too moist, and the spices in the batter cut into the flavor of the corn. The salmon was dry and you used far too much tarragon. I think you burned the tea as well. The juice had too much pulp in it. It is what I’d expect from something in Old Town: Tarted up to hide a complete failure.”
Bricu nodded in stride. “I see. I see.” He pointed to her barely touched plate, “So bad yeh couldn’t take but one bite each?”
“I’m afraid so. It was a valiant effort but your results were rather lacking.”
Threnn redraped her napkin across her lap, then clenched her fists in anger. She knew her mother was just needling him. She didn’t need to see Bricu to know that he was chosing his words carefully. Threnn tried to calm down enough to rebuke her mother, half expecting Bricu to beat her to it. But the first voice she heard wasn’t her husband’s. It was her fathers.
“Well, I for one thought it was delicious. The corn cakes and salmon were perfectly matched, and I didn’t either runny, dry or too heavily spiced. My tea wasn’t burned nor was my juice too pulpy. By the light Bricu, where did you learn to cook like that?”
Thenia and Threnn both turned to Padraig, mouths agape. He had been quiet for most of the meal, as he was for most meals, but he went beyond simple thanks. He sided with Bricu.
“I learned through my liege, a bloke named Stonewright, an’ though the army. Yeh liked it then?” Bricu said.
“Liked it?” Padraig paused and assessed the situation. Thenia, her lips drawn in a thin line, stared dagger at him. He turned to Threnn, who stared at him in shock. He turned back to Bricu, grinning wildly.
“I loved it enough to finish what my wife didn’t.” Padraig too Thenia’s barely touched plate and continued eating.
“Padraig.” Thenia said softly, “I am quite sure that neither Threnn nor Bricu wants to watch you eat.”
“I’m not done yet” Threnn said as she grabbed more bread off the table.
“What kind o’chef would I be if I didn’t like watchin’ folk eat me food?”
“Honestly, Padraig, Threnody….”
Padraig put his fork down on the plate. “Honestly, Thenia, why would you agree to come if you were going to be a stick-in-the-mud? Mrs. Stone would have love, LOVED, to have come to brunch. She would have had a brilliant time. Me? I’m enjoying myself. Why don’t you at loosen up and try to do the same?” Padraig shoveled another forkfull of food into his mouth to avoid his wife’s withering stare.
“More tea Padraig?” Bricu asked without a hint of smugness. Padraig nodded vigorously.