I would have shut up, but he gave me the “If you do that one more time I’m gonna murder you” look and I adore dodging homicide. I flashed him a smile over my shoulder, just to let him know we were on the same page.
Then, I faced forward and jabbed my finger into the man’s chest again. “My cousin could hand you your ass. Sir.” Even with just one finger on him, I could tell he was solid under his jacket, twice as wide as I was, and more muscle than loose bulk. He looked down, as all the audacity was my hand’s, and it confused him.
Behind me, Tevan made a sound like a bear being robbed, and I knew he was dropping his head into his hand as he leaned against the bar.
“Look,” the big man said, voice rough, but too low for the challenge I had just delivered. It was fun watching him confine himself. He gestured to my wrist and the fish stamped into the leather there. “I don’t know what island you came from, but–”
“Ederring,” I said helpfully.
Tevan shifted. He probably didn’t approve of my giving away our address.
“This is the mainland.”
“I know,” I said. “We invented charts.”
“We beat you down to wet pulp and threw you off into the salt,” said a second man at the bar.
I leaned my head to the side to get a good look at him past the first man. He was tall, but not any wider. “My cousin can take you, too, friend.”
He glared at me.
“You can’t walk in here and expect every word you hear to feel friendly to you,” the first one said while the second was emptying his cup and turning toward us.
“I don’t,” I assured him. “You can say that we’re spineless and sapless and smell like we crawled out of the ocean’s coffin, but… you don’t think we’re deaf too, do you?”
“Your cousin looks it,” the second man said, pointing to Tevan. I knew that Tevan was studiously ignoring everything except his cup.
“If our bonelessness bothers you so much,” I said. “My cousin would be happy to take your spines out so we can wear them around for a while.”
“Rikkard,” Tevan murmured. I doubted anyone could hear the warning except me.
“And you?” the broad man asked. He took one step forward. “What are you going to do?”
“Brother, I won’t even have time,” I told him, smoothly rocking one step back. “My cousin’ll have you laid out that fast.”
“Shut your fat little m–”
“Gentleman,” Tevan said. Turning, he draped his arm around my shoulder, giving them a tight, patient smile. His hand hung in the air. It dripped with blue-white fire, too heavy to lick the air properly. Instead, it hugged his skin, waved gently, dropped off his fingertips and melted into smoke. It was just close enough to my neck for me to feel the numbing warmth. I could trace the deep black layer of heat that hovered under the shifting icy gleam.
The other two men stared, and froze just where they were. I didn’t for an instant miss the fact that Tevan’s palm was lazily turned toward me.
“I hope we can agree,” Tevan said slowly, elegantly. “That I can hand you your asses, on a silver plate, surrounded by my grandpa’s best apples. And that I have no interest in it.”
They blinked at him. One of them bothered to nod before they turned back to the bar.
Tevan pulled his hand into a fist and the fire snapped into nothing. He tightened his arm around my neck, until he could hiss into my ear.
“All I wanted was a drink.”
“But it’s Festival…”