The nectarine and peach sunset flamed out from the silhouettes of the Georgian stores so that the street lanterns ignited to life. Artists and farmers lined the cobblestone street with paintings on easels and fruit and vegetables on wooden racks. Someone even sold antique books beneath a canopy.
"There is a man with a cast iron pot of stew outside his restaurant," Cairbre pointed to the end of the street until Abigeál's eyes traced the line. "Get something to eat with the boys. I'm going to ask one these fellas about his apples."
Rearden explored the worn spines and titles of the antique books and Eagan remained morose beside him. The seller stared at them with muscular crossed arms and keen eyes as Rearden exclaimed, "Da, look at all these! Some of these are even older than Grandad! Please, may I get one?"
"We don't have the money," Cairbre answered curtly, chilled fists shoved deep into sweatshirt pockets. He drew them out, one gripping a pipe and the other a small tin. He clenched the stem between his teeth as he unscrewed the tin and pinched enough tobacco to drop into the chamber. He slipped the tin back to his pocket and extracted a pack of matches. A flame burst from the end of one when he struck it, ignited the pipe, and shook the flame out. "Get something to eat."
"We should go home and eat, where we at least have a fire," Eagan remarked.
"We will return too late for supper," Cairbre answered around the pipe as the aromas of woods, spices, and a tinge of cherry reached the boys. "Go!"
"But, Da – !" Rearden started, but Eagan wheeled him around by the arm and shoved him into the crowd. He started down the street with shoulders drooped beneath his cranberry sweatshirt and his breath misting ahead of him. He was scarcely aware of the brother in the crimson sweatshirt and the crossed arms on his path until he caught sight of the vendor with the stew.
He stopped short. Their family was nowhere in the vicinity. Raindrops splashed to the cobblestone one at a time as he peered around him in every direction, but he could only see strangers on the street.
"You lost them!" Eagan snapped and gave his brother a shove.
"I can see that!" Rearden shouted back as he regained his balance. "Where could they have gone?"
"Well, if I knew that, I wouldn't be so angry that you lost them, you bloody dope!"
"We should look around," Rearden darted into the crowd with Eagan at his heels, peering up every strange visage that scowled down at him as he jostled against the many people. After fifteen minutes of getting their boots crunched beneath adults and elbows against their cheeks, the boys were spat out at the end of the street. Rearden pivoted around to Eagan with alarm in his eyes. "Well, any one of them would have seen your sweatshirt if they were around! You're a bloody beacon!"
"So what's your answer, Rearden? They were abducted by the wee folk?"
"Shut up," Rearden ran his hands over his eyes.
Artist started removing their remaining paintings from their easels and farmers started stacking their produce onto carts. The crowd started moving along the iridescent cobblestone with gaps as Eagan and Rearden observed with horror at the end of the street.
"They would never leave us," Rearden breathed in awe.
"We may be here a bit," Eagan realized. "Let me get us something to eat."
"But we have no money."
Eagan stared at him a moment and rolled his eyes. "Stay here."
He moved down the street with his clenched fists shoved deeply into his sweatshirt pockets until he came upon a man loading apples and plums onto carts. Eagan came up beside his stand and examined the fruit with an analytical eye. The moment the man returned to the cart, he snatched two apples and slipped one into each pocket before starting back where he came from.
He broke into a sprint down the street, provoking a gasp from several women when he momentarily collapsed on the sleek cobblestones and continued with a staggering gait toward his brother. Rearden leapt behind a corner store and stashed himself in the arched doorway when he saw Eagan approaching.
"Get in here!" he hissed as Eagan rounded the corner. His brother collapsed again with a grimace in the arch and reached into his pocket to extend an apple upward.
"There's a bloody apple."
"You all right?" Rearden crouched down beside him.
"You should never run on a sprained ankle, kid," Eagan snorted with amusement in spite of himself.
"Well, there goes me plans for the weekend," Rearden seated himself against the bricks and crunched into his apple with distant eyes. "I'm getting scared."
"I'm not scared," Eagan proclaimed and straightened up. "I am going to get help."
"No," Rearden caught his arm, "We can't go ask strangers for help. We don't know them."
"I realize that, Rearden. That's what makes them strange."
He started up again, but Rearden pulled him down. "You can't run away if you accidentally ask a scary person. Besides, Ma said that if we ever get lost, we should stay where we are."
"We're not lost, you amadán. I know exactly what street we're on."
Eagan sneaked a glimpse of the pale fingers wrapped around his arm and the shivering frame huddled against the arch. He peeled away his sweatshirt and wrapped an arm around his brother's shoulders, draping it over Rearden like a blanket while using the sleeves over his own arms.
"I'm not leaving you here. Stop fussing; I got you," he assured him, although something in him was concerned Rearden may hear his fiercely beating heart when he rested his head on his shoulder. "I'm gonna get you out of here."
Bats darted beneath the street lamps and the rain. People still traipsed up and down the streets, many audacious and shouting to one another, despite the venders' departure.
The boys were so huddled against the arch that one could not easily see them from the street, although Eagan stared after many shadowed pedestrians with a steel scowl. He could hear the rattling of his teeth and the deep breathing of his brother and rolled his eyes. That muppet could sleep anywhere.
He secured his arm around his shoulders as his heart continued to beat like hummingbird wings. He closed his eyes and breathed as evenly as he could while listening to these same sounds. They would be all right in the morning. He was a dragon, and the arch was his cave. His breathing steadied a minimal degree as he strove to remain fearless despite their circumstances. Rain trickled down the bricks and onto his shoulder as his chin dropped to one side.
After some time, he was vaguely aware of a woodsy spice in the air. Someone gripped his shoulder. He started with surprise and a pair of raised fists, but they were snatched in the air. Cairbre kneeled ahead of them with a smile, and Rearden awakened with a crow. "There you are, Da! We were dragons in a cave tonight!"
"Your Ma and I each thought the other had you," Cairbre stared at his elder son with keen burnt sienna eyes. "You have a tachycardia. Get up so I can deliver you home to your fretting Ma."
"Eagan twisted his ankle," Rearden announced as he detangled himself from his brother's sweatshirt and stood with his arms crossed against the chilled air. He raised his iced tea eyes to the sable sky, whose stars now shimmered visibly. "What time is it, anyway?"
"Two in the morning," Cairbre answered as he reached down to draw Eagan upright by the arms. He heaved his son over one shoulder despite the groan of protest and started toward the car.
When they entered their farmhouse in the same manner, Abigeál greeted them with her mouth covered by her hands. The remainder of her sons peered around her; tears streamed down Liam's cheeks, Alasdair poked his thumb into his mouth from Callum's arms, Gavin smeared his palms across his bleary eyes, and Calder inspected the excited Rearden as he greeted them and the sleeping Eagan.
"They could not sleep," Abigeál explained.
"These two are all right. Eagan slipped in the street and sprained his ankle."
"Get your brothers to sleep," Callum murmured to Alasdair as he dropped him to his feet. He rushed to the cabinet where the first-aid bandages were stashed in the kitchen, while Rearden explained what happened as though it were an epic tale as he led the traipse up the stairs.
When their parents were alone with Eagan asleep, Cairbre gave his son a soft slap on the back and murmured, "I actually sense a spark of pride toward our son."
Street market – "Coffin Ships" by Cruachan
Street market disperses – "Burn the Fleet" by Thrice