“Let me speak to your captain, right now!”

The hulking man stared down at my mother in shock, tomato soup leaving a trail along his pristine white tabard as it slid down past the grand Moran royal seal.

“M-Mom!” I sputtered. My stomach was doing somersaults.

“You must be out of your mind, lady,” the mountain of a man rumbled.

“You must be out of yours!” She snapped back, “I thought chivalry was a thing in the medieval times. And yet here you are, cursing in front of my innocent child.”

My eyes flicked to the knight’s right hand, which danced about the hilt of his broadsword. Likely the only thing staying his hand was the fact that my mother was a woman, a civilian, a resident of the kingdom he swore to protect. Like it or not, had she been a man, he likely would have cut her down in one fell swoop by now. How many lives had that broadsword ended? How many battles had this behemoth seen? And yet my mother was scolding him for his language in a tavern!?

“You mean to scold me for my language? In a public tavern?”

See what I mean?

“Lady, you got any idea who you’re picking a fight with?” One of the knight’s companions peeked out from behind him, a sneer curling the edges of his lips.

“I don’t care if you’re the President! You shouldn’t be using language like that! Not to mention the atrocious way you eat! Were you raised in a barn!?”

He scratched his head at the word “president”. Clearly the word didn’t seem to be translating into their language the way other things mysteriously seemed to. It took a minute, but the latter half of what she said finally set in and his right eye began to twitch. He took another step forward. He was practically on top of her.

“It’s really fine!” I said, stepping to her side and looking up at him. “I wasn’t offended.”

“Yes you were!”

“And I’m sorry about your soup and your tabard! We’ll buy you another bowl. And we can clean your tabard.”

He eyed me curiously. I felt like maybe I was getting through to him

“We most certainly will not!” Mom said, “he hasn’t even apologized. And if he won’t let me speak to his superiors—”

His comrades were all having fits of laughter now.

“Lady, I am the Captain. So if you got a complaint—”

He slowly unsheathed his sword and for the first time, my mother, a blond firecracker at 5”4, finally stepped back.

“—you can make it with this!”

He rested the blade inches away from my mother’s nose. I watched with bated breath. Later, I would find myself thinking back on that moment and being impressed by the control he showed with that blade, despite being in such a tight space. But in that moment, my blood had run cold.

My mother and I may have our conflicts, but she’s still my mother. I still love her, even if I may not always like her. And I absolutely did not want to lose her here, in the middle of a tavern in a fantasy world, over tomato soup and the word “damned twaddlefart”.

Which, I’m still not sure if that is actually a thing or if it’s just another word not translating properly.

Mom’s eyes were still fixed on his. I noticed everyone in the tavern had gone silent. All eyes were on us. She took a firm, deep step back, drew in a deep breath, and yelled as loud as she could—


Scampering erupted behind the bar as a young man darted into the back and the barmaid ducked behind the counter. A second later, the young man returned, frantically coaxing out a short, balding, middle-aged man. His eyes went wide taking in the scene around us. When they landed on my mother, his face fell.

“Y-Yes, Lady Carin?”

“I want this violent man removed at once! As you can see, he’s threatening my daughter and I!”

No, Mom, he’s threatening you.

“M’lady, y-you would have me throw out the captain of the Moran Knights?”

“When they’re behaving inappropriately, absolutely!”

Arlett looked from my mother, who had fixed him with her special brand of death glare, to the captain of the Knights, and back to her. Sweat had begun to bead at his brow.

“Captain Korin, I’m sure there must be some way we can settle this peacefully…”

The captain’s mouth gaped. “Arlett, you can’t be serious!”

The man shrank back, clearly reassessing which person he felt to be the lesser threat. Finally, he fixed his gaze on the captain.

“You’ve only just returned from the battlefront, haven’t you, Captain?”

Korin eyed him. “Yes. Why?”

The man nervously dabbed at his forehead with his handkerchief. “It would probably be in your best interest to let this one go. I would hate for her son to find out and you to wind up in trouble.”

“What?” The captain snorted, clearly in disbelief that this was even happening. “Who the hell’s her son?”

“Lord Lucas Reinhardt the 1st.”

“I’ve never heard of anyone by that name!”

“Lord Lucas is engaged to Her Highness, the 2nd Princess of Moran,” Arlett stuttered.

“And the 3rd,” my mother added proudly.

“And depending on how things go to today, maybe the 4th,” I muttered under my breath, just desperate for this all to end.

The knight took a step back, his eyes wide. “Impossible. the princess-er-princesses could not possibly be engaged to your son!”

Even if this knight had met my brother, I could buy him being in disbelief. Lucas neither looks nor acts like my mother. He has my father’s deep brown hair and tall stature. Even though he shares my mother’s brown eyes, his are brighter, more warm and carefree than hers. And he’s a complete goofball. He can be a funny guy sometimes, and sometimes downright dimwitted. Which is how he almost caused a civil war when he accepted multiple proposals from three of the King of Moran’s six daughters. If the eldest princess hadn’t already been betrothed, he may have started a full-on succession struggle.

But that’s a headache for another time.

“He is. And you had better beg for my forgiveness before the princesses demand your head!”

He stood there in shock for a moment before finally, reluctantly, taking a step back. He lowered his head and drew in a deep sigh before dropping into a deep, low bow.

“Please forgive my, m’lady, for my insolence, disrespect, and foul behavior in the presence of someone so…surprisingly highly ranked.”

He kept his head down, likely to keep his expression hidden, but the blood pooling in his face was making its way to his ears.

“And the cursing?” My mother demanded.

I was pretty sure that was covered in the “disrespect and foul behavior” clause.

“And the cursing!” he grunted.

She watched with a smirk fixed on her face, content to leave him in that position until she was ready for him to get up. I opened my mouth to plead for her to let it go now, but she cut me off.

“Well, as long as you’ve learned your lesson, I suppose I can let it slide, just this once.”

“You are magnanimous in your grace,” the knight said, slowly returning to a standing position, his head still lowered to hide his features. “If there will be nothing else, I’d like to take my leave.”

His speech and manner had changed completely. The abrasive way he had spoken with his fellow knights earlier gave not a hint of his controlled eloquence, even if he needed to grit his teeth to deliver it. And there was something appealing in his face, even contorted in rage. Before I realized it, my own cheeks had flushed red.

“Just one more thing,” my mother said. She licked the tip of her finger and went in to wipe off his cheek. His jaw dropped, as did mine.

“You had a little tomato soup on your cheek, but I got it for you.”

“Th-thank you, ma’am,” he said, clearly not grateful. He turned back to his subordinates. “Come on, we’re leaving.”

He tossed several gold coins on the table as they all shoved their chairs in and lumbered out the door.

My mom tossed the napkin back on the table, still covered in tomato soup. She watched them go and sighed, a look of pride on her face. Muffled laughter rippled throughout the tavern following the knights’ departure and then, finally, the din of conversation returned.

“You know, with a little parenting, I’m sure they could be very nice boys.”

I ignored her and began cleaning up the mess from the tomato soup massacre.

“That captain was cute. Maybe you could get a date with him.”

“N-no way,” I sputtered.

Especially not now.

She rounded on me. “What are you doing, Lacie? That’s for the tavern staff to take care of. That’s what they get paid for, after all.”

I kept cleaning and ignored here. Arguing was pointless. She finally sighed and went back to her seat, where she shouted at one of the tavern staff to bring her a new bowl of potato soup, on the house, because hers had gotten cold.

This is merely a snapshot of how my deepest-held fantasy has turned into a nightmare.

Any dreams of being whisked off to another world to be an overpowered heroine or the center of a reverse-harem have been smashed, replaced by my roll as the foil to my boisterous mother and lovestruck brother.

I’ve always tried to keep my head down, happy instead to live inside my head. It was the one place where no one else could control me or demand my life fit into the neat little box of their expectations.

I’ve lost count of how many times over the years I’ve had to apologize for my mother and the way she can get in public.

But at least back home, it was unlikely to land us on the business end of a sword.

And yet here, my mother can get away with it. Here, she’s treated like a queen and her antics on the level of a royal decree. Not just because of my brother and his royal intrigue. But because it’s her essential oils, placed strategically in diffusers all over town, that are the only thing keeping the hordes of monsters from a nearby mountain at bay.