“Are those your new neighbours?” Cerne waved a hand at the lads setting up some speakers next to a barbecue in the garden next door.
Taranis nodded. “They moved in last week. I think they’re sharing the house while they’re at college.” He took a slow sip of his home brew. “I’ve given them the first word, and I’ve let them have a housewarming, and now we see what happens.”
Cerne looked sideways at his old friend, “You just go looking for trouble living next to student housing. I never get any trouble from any of my neighbours.”
“And where’s the fun in that?” Taranis drained the last mouthful of his beer. “This batch of homebrew came out pretty well. It’s much easier to get the ingredients these days.”
Cerne nodded. “I used to have to grow a lot of stuff myself. It’s much better now there is that internet.” He looked down at his glass, filled with golden liquid that glowed in the last of the days’ light. It tasted of summer and sunsets, with spices and lightning as an undertone, and filled a heart with wild wind and thunder and warmth of heaven’s fire. It was a brew for the gods, not frail mortals. “Are these the glasses we stole from that pub in Brighton?”
“I knew we were going to get kicked out anyway.” Taranis stood up creakily. “Especially after those bikers started.”
Cerne caught him eyeing the lads in the garden next door. “Remember, no paperwork.”
“That’s always my motto. Whatever you do, no paperwork.” Taranis wandered into his kitchen and came out again with a couple of bottles of his home brew and a plate of sandwiches, thick with roast pork. “Lisa sent some more pork around, after I sorted out the people parking in front of her house.”
“You had a word with the council, didn’t you?” Cerne said, grinning and throwing some pork to his dog, Garm, who sat patiently next to him.
“And no paperwork,” Taranis said. He poured himself another drink and topped up Cerne.
“Hey, grandpa!” The redheaded lad from next door hung over the fence, far too close to Taranis. “You want to switch your hearing aids off now. We’re going to party.”
The scruffy one with dyed dark hair slouched over the fence next to him. “And my dad’s in the police, so there’s nothing you can do. Just get used to the loud music.”
“It won’t be that loud, will it?” Taranis said, allowing a slight hint of weakness in his normally booming voice.
“This kit cost more than you ever earned in your life, grandpa,” The redhead laughed. “They’ll hear it all the way down to the Estate.”
Cerne put his hand on Taranis’ arm. “No paperw- Bloody hell!” The dark-haired lad had switched on the sound system and it vibrated through the houses and gardens, making Garm yelp in dismay.
The redhead laughed again as he turned the music down, though keeping it at a level that could rattle windows. “We’re starting off quiet, grandpa, but don’t expect it to stay this level.”
“Well I never did.” Taranis sounded frail. “That’s a very loud system.”
“Don’t overdo it,” Cerne muttered to him.
“I tell you what, young man,” Taranis mostly hid his grin from the lads. “Why don’t you have a drink on me? I’m sure we can work things out.”
“Homebrew?” The redhead looked sceptical.
“It’s a bit stronger than average, so take it steady,” Taranis said. There was a brief rumble of thunder, unnoticed by the lads, but Garm hid under the table and Cerne grinned.
“We can manage more than your cocoa, grandpa.” The redhead took a large swig and looked at the bottle. “Hey, this is the good stuff.” He passed it on to his nearest friend.
Cerne watched the redhead. “It’s taking it’s time kicking in.”
“I went for smooth rather than strong,” Taranis said. “It’s not like it’s for a proper feast.”
Cerne checked his watch. “Perhaps it was the ingredients,” he said. “Even with a smoother brew it normally hits quicker. Ahh, there it is.”
One by one the lads started shivering, huddling into themselves and staring at sights that only they could see. The dark-haired lad was rocking slowly to and fro and his blond friend was sobbing. The redhead was noisily sick in a planter next to the patio door.
“Look at me!” Taranis commanded, all trace of the frail old man gone. He waited until all their frightened eyes were turned to him and then pointed at the sound system. With a sharp crack, a bolt of lightning did several thousand pounds of damage and left an echoing silence. “Now go inside, sleep it off, and remember to think of your neighbours next time.”
Cerne watched them slink off. “That was a bit harsh, wasn’t it?”
Taranis fondled Garm’s ears as he slunk out from under the table. “They’ll be fine tomorrow. It wasn’t the really strong stuff, and there won’t be any paperwork.” He fed the huge dog another piece of pork. “Another glass?”
A little warm up to my entry in the Grumpy Old Gods Anthology, out today, which you can find here