Stoick’s Mama spoils Flint, but Stoick doesn’t. Stoick gets in deep trouble for that.
|Flint went first. He was only four and more years to Stoick’s seven, and Stoick knew the steps to Gothi’s hut were challenging his little brother. Flint visited the Plaza and ran small errands for Mama, but he wanted to go to the village outskirts. He had begged, and Mama told him someday. His brother and sister waited for the outskirts, and did he not want to be like them? He nodded, and Mama sent him on an errand.
Mama sat with Stoick and discussed Stoick’s stubborn, annoying, little brother. Stoick grumbled, and she allowed it, then took both his hands; Mama had a habit of telling uncomfortable truths, and he knew one was heading his way.
“Your brother does not desire waiting, does he? It irritates you to see him push for more than you received.” Stoick tried to keep his spine straight, but Flint was the kind of child who inspired slumping. “You wish he would stop pushing when he cannot do as he wants. He will not stop, because Flint is very like his big brother.”
Stoick remained silent—Mama always won these discussions, and he saw no point in saying anything. He couldna control the look on his face, but his mouth was a little easier.
“When you were his age and Brenna seven, you did not like her having new, grown up women’s lessons. She was learning what you could not, and I remember the upset you went through. You thought you would lose her, and it broke your heart.”
“Flint is not heartbroken, Mama. He is pushing and pushing and will not stop, and he is supposed to agree to his limits. I told him this, and he did not listen.” Stoick pinched the bridge of nose, a gesture he learned from Papa. “He pesters all the time, and will not do as you instruct him.”
“Flint admires his big brother, and wants to be like him. You can travel to the docks and beaches and even the forest. He wants to go somewhere outside the village, as Stoick can. That is why he pushes.”
Sleipnir’s knobbly kneecaps, he was frustrated. Flint was a nuisance, refusing to listen and getting Mama on his side. She was going to tell him he must treat his brother kindly, Stoick would do as expected and Flint would win, because his little brother always won.
“Will you take your brother to see Gothi?” Mama asked.
§ § §
“Flint admires his big brother, and wants to be like him. You can travel to the docks and beaches and even the forest. He wants to go somewhere outside the village, because Stoick can. That is why he pushes for it.”
Flint was a nuisance, but he was the littlest, and had Mama on his side. She was going to tell him he must treat his little brother kindly, Stoick would do as expected and Flint would win, because his little brother always won.
“Will you take your brother to see Gothi? She is on the outskirts. It would please me, but if offering kindness to your brother is difficult, you can say no.”
Stoick agreed. He set the standard, helped Papa look after everyone, and was the heir to the Hooligans—he hadna any choice. Brenna was the girl and Flint the baby, and Stoick the responsible one. He didna expect to win, but he wished Mama listened to him for longer.
§ § §
Once Mama told his brother, the headaches started. Flint wanted to go right away, and it was Stoick’s training time. He told his brother to wait until his weapons practice had ended. Flint wanted to watch, Stoick said his brother must wait, and Mama said ‘twould—say it would, Stoick, that is proper—do no harm.
He was seven, and able to train by himself. Training time belonged to Stoick alone, and he didna have to share it with anyone. He heard it from Papa, and Papa never lied. Stoick couldna refuse Mama, but she broke Papa’s promise. Stoick agreed, but when Mama smiled, he didna smile back.
Training with his brother there made it harder. Stoick was supposed to focus on his moves and his grip, but Flint wouldna behave. He was told to be quiet by Stoick and Mama, but he rattled on about everything. When he dragged the pest back and told Mama, she said ‘twas hard for Flint to be quiet, even if she and Stoick told him to still his tongue. He returned to his training area, and Mama held his little brother back for a few minutes.
Flint came chasing him down again, demanding to fight alongside. Stoick led him to a safe location and told him to keep back. “It is not for you to be here fighting. You are not big enough, and you must stay away from me when I practice.”
“I’m big enough to fight. I have the sword Papa gave me.” Flint reached for his brother’s weapon, and Stoick held it over his head.
“Say I am, it is proper.” Freya’s cats, he sounded like Mama. “Your sword is wooden. When you are seven and have an iron sword, you can fight with me. If you are quiet, I will help you with sword work later. Now stay put.”
Stoick sheathed his sword and resumed his drills, warming up on the pells with a padded weapon. He ignored the squirt in favor of getting his strikes in the right places. It was good to take out his annoyance with his brother winning every time, because Mama forced Stoick to please him. He finished his warmup, and spotted his brother. The brat was only two strides away from him, not the nine Stoick had set him before. Stoick grimaced. He would be blamed if Flint got hurt. ‘Twas unfair—Flint shouldna be there at all—but he was supposed to be the example, even if his brother paid no attention and whined to Mama after.
“Go back to where I put you. It is not safe sitting this close to the training spot, and you will not be hurt while I practice.”
“No. Mama said ‘twould do no harm, so I’m safe here. If I get hurt, ‘tis your fault.”
“Say it would, I am, and it is. That is proper. If you do not mind me, you will be in trouble with Papa.”
“Mama doesna correct my speaking, and I dinna plan to mind ye. Ye canna boss me around, brother, not when I’m so small.” He raised an eyebrow at Stoick, daring him to try something.
Stoick placed his hands on the brat’s shoulders. He turned his brother around and gave a small push to his back. “Go.”
“Ye shoved me. You canna do such to me. But,” his expression turned sly, “I willna tell Mama if ye give me yer sword to fight with.” Flint reached for the sheathed weapon. Stoick grabbed the hilt and twisted his body. The motion caught his brother, pitching him forward. Flint slammed into the rocky ground, landing on hands and knees, his breath knocked from him.
Stoick knelt, lifting Flint off the ground and into a sitting position. His brother’s palms were scraped and bleeding, but ‘twas a small bleed. Some sympathy and a clean up would set him right. He comforted the lad, told him it was a nasty thing, and called him tough. “Let us go tell Mama how bravely you took the spill. She and Papa will be pleased at your strength, like the big lad you are.”
“Aye, of course. You are four and more, not a tiny child who cannot stand up and walk after a scraping. We are Haddocks, and Haddocks are strong.” He rose and gave Flint a hand up. “Hand me the padded sword, please. Good job. I knew you could to lift something that big.” He took Flint’s hand, and they walked home together.
§ § §
Mama saw the dirt and scrapes on his brother, and began fussing over him. Mamas always fussed, but she wouldna allow Flint to tell her of his bravery and strength. ‘Twas a blow for his brother, but there was no interrupting Mama when she didna plan to hear ye. Stoick brought water and rags, plus the ointment his brother didna require—they used salve for nasty injuries. ‘Twas a harmless lie. Papa would support it, though ‘twas untrue, to let Flint be among the ranks of Haddock warriors.
Mama wouldna allow Stoick to tend his brother but took the rag from him. He left her to it; he hadna practiced his footwork, but could do it outside the house. The uneven ground made it trickier, and Stoick liked a challenge.
He spotted Brenna and waved. She picked up the pace, and strode up the hill toward him. She needed to hear about Flint’s tumble, and admire him a bit. They were partners in looking out for the youngest, even if he was grown enough for a training weapon. Stoick told her about the tumble their brother took, and had to explain why Stoick wasna training alone.
Brenna shook her head. “My poor brothers. Flint will need to see Papa tonight. Snatching for your sword is folly, and Papa will not allow him to disobey and take that level of risk. It was easier for me, Stoick.” She wore teasing smile. “When I turned seven, I only had sewing needles to injure you with.”
§ § §
“Stoick, Mama wants ye inside.” Flint was acting as Mama’s messenger bird, and Stoick responded to the summons.
“Tell her I am coming directly. Go on, she is waiting for an answer.” He wiped his brow, then scooped water into his hands and splashed his face. He didna want to see his mother filthy; the brief wash improved his spirits, and likely his appearance.
He entered the house. The sharp odor of salve hung in the air, and the room was subtly wrong. Brenna sat stiffly, hands in her lap. She glanced at him, dropped her chin, and clenched her jaw; Stoick read the body language, and waited for disaster to strike. Flint sniffled before ducking behind Mama. Mama shoved him, and he stumbled backwards. She came toward him and gave another shove, not stopping until Stoick’s back was against the wall.
center}§ § §
Flint went first. He was only four and more years to Stoick’s seven, and Stoick knew the steps to Gothi’s hut were challenging his little brother. Flint visited the Plaza and ran small errands for Mama, but he wanted to go to the village outskirts. He had begged, and Mama told him someday. His brother and sister waited for the outskirts, and did he not want to be like them? He nodded, and Mama sent him on an errand.