Autumn – Chapter 13 – 01

                “Is that straight?”  Matt asked from where he balanced precariously on a ladder that was a shade too short for what he was trying to do.  The fact that the banner kept moving and trying to wrap itself around him while he was up there didn’t help.
                Thom titled his head to one side, studying the length of green material for a long moment before he finally nodded.  “Yeah, I think that’s as straight as we’re going to get it.  Make sure those knots are tight.”
                “Believe me, they are.  We’ll probably have to cut the thing down.”  Matt clambered down from the stepladder and stepped back to join Thom.  “It looks good,” Matt said quietly, shoving his hands into his pockets, half-numbed by the wind.  “And it’s certainly going to surprise Mar, but do you have any idea why Phelan said to put this up?”
                After a brief hesitation, Thom sighed and shook his head slightly.  “I have ideas, but most of them are probably wrong.”  He eased forward, fingering the corner of the banner.  It was his standard from the festival, his flag for when he was smacking someone else around with a stick in the lists.  “Maybe I tapped into something subconscious when I sketched this out four years ago and had someone put it together.”
                “What do you mean?”  Matt asked, watching the older man.  Thom didn’t look like he was about to get married in a couple hours, dressed in jeans and a university hoodie.  It was going to happen, though, and Matt was going to be giving his sister away to this man, would be making Thom his brother.  It was an almost frightening idea, one that he’d have balked at a few months before.  Somewhere along the line, he’d either grown up or Thom had changed into the kind of person that Marin deserved.
                Matt was willing to bet it was a little of both.
                Thom shook his head.  “I’m not sure.  Ever since Phelan told me about…my lineage…I’ve wondered about things.  You didn’t see the look on his face when I took out the banner, Matt.  It was like he’d seen a ghost.”
                “He’s had that look a lot lately.  I assumed it was shell-shock from probably killing Vammatar.”
                “It might be some of that,” Thom admitted quietly.  “Did Marin tell you that we’re ninety-nine percent sure that he did?”
                Matt shook his head.  “Nah, it was J.T. while we were making breakfast the other day.  He told me the story.”
                Thom nodded slowly.  “It’s a hell of a story.”
                “Yeah, it was.”  Matt crossed his arms and stared at the banner for another moment.  A Celtic knot twisted around a sword and a rose, all on a green field.  There had been a lot of piecing and stitching involved in making the thing.
                “Who made that for you, anyway?”  Matt asked.  Not Marin.  She doesn’t have that kind of patience.
                “Carolyn,” Thom said, stepping back from it.  “It was a challenge and she enjoyed doing it, but she also said she’d never do it again—ever.”  A wry smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.  “I’ve tried to be careful with it as a result.  It’s practically a work of art.”
                “Not practically,” Matt said.  “It is.”  He grinned and nudged Thom.  “Remind me that when it’s time to make a flag for the village, we should get her to do it.”
                Thom laughed.  “She might kill us.  Anyway, I just kind of assumed we’d use one of the old university flags.”
                A part of me thinks that would be a fitting tribute to the place, but another part of me thinks that maybe that doesn’t do us justice—not now and not in the future, depending on what we become.  His brows knit for a moment, then he finally shrugged.  “We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there, right?  We’ll probably end up putting it to vote in committee anyway.”
                Thom sighed shaking his head.  “When did we get to be a committee?”
                “Around the time one person didn’t take charge of things.”  Matt put his arm around Thom’s shoulders.  “Come on.  It’s your wedding day and you’re not even dressed yet.”
                “I’ve still got a couple hours,” Thom said, half in protest as Matt started to steer him toward the bridge.
                “Yup, and in that time you have to make sure you’ve memorized the vows I know you wrote and make sure J.T. hasn’t lost those rings.”
                Thom’s face flamed.  Two days before, he’d recruited Matt and Rory to help him acquire some wedding bands.  They looked like twists of white gold with a braided pattern to them, and they were all but certain they’d fit.  J.T. was hanging onto them for safekeeping.
                “And you have to make sure your sister shows up at the altar, such as it is.”
                Matt nodded.  There’s that.  “And before I can do that, I have to get dressed.  So no matter how you look at it, a couple hours just isn’t a lot of time.”
                “You’re right.
                “I know I’m right.  I’ve been right before, I’ll be right again, and don’t you forget it.”
                Thom laughed and Matt grinned, reflecting that maybe having Thom for a brother wouldn’t be so bad after all.

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