A delicate clearing of the throat was enough to silence the rowdy merriment. Beryl Solstice (24), the princess’s lady in waiting, stood in the doorframe a few yards from Floyd, arms crossed and lips pursed. Her rather cold demeanor contrasted the warm fuzzy lamps illuminating the room, almost pulling at their glow.
Beryl! How can we help you?
You can help me by going to sleep. You’re keeping half the staff awake.
Ah, sorry about that. We’ll quiet down if you want. Or you’re welcome to join us if you so choose.
Ichor once again extended his mug. The blue haired scientist’s demeanor instantly shifted, with her stern features softening.
Well, if you insist, I am in need of a small pick-me-up.
The soldier’s cheered as Beryl took a seat across from Ichor, rolling up her pristine gray coat’s sleeves. She removed a sapphire studded bracelet from her wrist, throwing it onto the table.
I bet my bracelet that I can outdrink you, *captain.*
Oh, you’re on!
But if I win, you have to kiss me right here, in front of everyone.
Ichor regarded Beryl, raising an eyebrow with interest. This was typical rookie behavior, one he had seen with every new soldier he had ever trained. They always picked a fight with the biggest man, just to prove their dominance. He had never backed down, and had never lost as a result, and he wasn’t about to start now.
Alright then, new girl, I see what you’re doing. How about if I win, I get *all* of your jewelry, not just your bracelet.
Beryl smirked, removing her sapphire earrings, a pair of pearl rings and her aquamarine-studded necklace. The captain privately wondered if she had worn all these gems on purpose, whether to show off or in preparation for such a bet. The notion that it could be the ladder made him nervous, though he didn’t show it.
One of the soldiers set a full mug of beer in front of each of them. The tankard was one of the largest cups they had, being reserved for drinking games only. Ichor gripped the cup’s handle, taking a deep breath. He was somewhat taken aback by Beryl’s cocky smirk, which had painted over her previously delicate grin.
Ichor brought the cup to his lips, surprised at how bitter the liquid inside tasted. He could feel it burning as it slid down his throat, creating a fiery pit in his stomach. Beryl calmly downed her drink, taking only three swigs before slamming her empty mug victoriously against the table. Ichor was only halfway done.
Drinking games were quite common back at my village. Now for my reward.
Ichor grinned, his heart burning just as hard as his stomach. At that moment, he had fallen deeply, absolutely in love.
I’m a man of my word.
Beryl tasted like strawberries, his favorite fruit. He wasn’t sure whether or not this was intentional, whether she had been planning this moment since that morning, getting dressed in her finest jewelry and drinking coffee every two hours to stay up until midnight. He wasn’t sure whether she had purposely slipped out of Flora's room under the guise of chastising the rowdy soldiers.
He did know that she tasted like strawberries.