Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Story for the Day: The Blue Shirt -- Part 2

It is rare that the king would ever wear anything to cause distress to himself or his subjects, but when his queen chooses his outfit, he can be very sure that everyone is begin to notice:


The nidor wafting up from the table bespoke a sundry of meats prepared for the morning, and when Alasdair perused the table, he found a display of fried rashers and smoked salmon, rye slices and fried farls, garnished with a few soft boiled eggs at the edge of the table, whence Ouryn
was just demurely plucking a slice of salmon and scudding away back to her corner. The children were sat round the table with Hathanta and Varthrasta and their Auntie Linaa, colouring in the few holiday scenes she had outlined for them. Tomas was nestled in the opposing corner, sitting quietly with his mother and Aghneis, Mrs Cuineill well-employed with some impossible piece of knitting, and the blacksmith cutting Aghneis’ salmon for her and quietly encouraging her to eat, as Bilar said it would promote the continuance of her improved health. Ouryn would have sat with the other children, but that her mother was by meant she naturally attached herself to her side. A few encouragements of “Go’wan, now, girly, and sit with yer cousins,” descended from the good old lady, who would see her granddaughter be more intimate with her friends, but leave her mother and father’s side, Ouryn would not. It was Little Jaicobh’s inducement of, “You come to colour too!” and his waving the paper and crayons at her that brought her to the table, and taking a seat between Little Jaicobh and Soledhan, she began to silently apply herself toward their drawings. They had coloured within the lines, and Dorrin had even made a small scene depicting the Ailineighdaeth story in one corner of his page. She sidled Little Jaicobh and peered over his shoulder, to see whether his work were as exemplary as their cousin’s. She rested her chin on his shoulder, when suddenly, he turned round and smiled at her with unabated exultation.
“Here,” Little Jaicobh chimed, with all the eagerness of a devoted friend. He pushed a few crayons and leaves of paper toward her. “You draw too please!”
The crayons were taken up, and without further provocation, Ouryn began to make a few shapeless lines, examining each colour as it was draw across the page.
“That’s very good, Ouryn,” said Kai Linaa. “What are you making? It looks like a starfish—oh, I think that’s me. You made pink hair and a blue and brown circle. Is it me?”
A diffident nod, and Ouryn returned to her paper, to plot out Kai Linaa’s midline in sticks and squares, and try to make her hair look as voluminous as her unsteady hands and crayons would allow.
Being so stelliform and having ears like ray-like lappets was something Kai Linaa had never aspired to, but Ouryn was trying to be more companionable, and Kai Linaa would therefore make no questions as to her drooping right eye or her rectangular breasts. She was drawing, she was sitting with the other children and enjoying their quiet conversancy, and there was all Kai Linaa’s concern. Hathanta, too, was glad to see her so communicative and forthcoming, and he glanced over at Tomas, who was watching his daughter with speaking amazement, surprised to see her going shares in an apple tart with Little Jaicobh, and still more astonished to find her being so conversable with Varthrasta, who was prompting her through a slanted portrait of himself. 
Bhohi, Mivaari Leraa,” Varthrasta purred, handing her an indigo crayon. “Draw me as you will.” Here was a warm smile. “I am eager to see your interpretation.”     
Haa,” Hathanta cooed, his countenance all genial gratulation. “We all wish to see.”
A tender osculation was exchanged, and Hathanta pressed his forehead against his mate’s, nestling and snudging against him, invigilating the children’s progress whilst spying one another with doting looks.
To keep away from the crumble that Shayne was busy dissecting, Alasdair moved toward the table and glanced over Dorrin’s shoulder. “Oh, that is a very good trunk you’ve made,” he observed, admiring the coloured craftsmanship .“Is that a treasure chest?”
“It’s a luggage,” said Dorrin, “like the one you and mother have in your bedchamber.”
“That piece belonged to your great grandfather. It came with him when he came from Sethshire to take his place on the throne. It’s older than Aldus, and in better condition.”
Boudicca smirked and said something about Aldus’ skin being a new sort of leather, and Carrigh laughed and shook her head.
“Is Uncle Aldus really that old?” asked Dorrin.
“How old do you think the luggage is?”
“Two hundred.”
“That’s roughly Aldus’ age,” said Boudicca. “He doesn’t look a day above one eighty nine.”
“Your Uncle Aldus is only in his seventies,” said Carrigh, trying not to laugh. “He looks excellent for his age, I think.”
“He is very well preserved,” Alasdair declared, “pickled by all the heirlooms and relics he safeguards.”
“Grandfather was older than him when he passed on?”
“He was. He was eighty-six, but he didn’t look a day older than sixty.”
“Can I see his luggage later, father?” 
“Of course. We can look at it together. It still has his things inside, like his robe and his favourite tunics and his ceremonial doublet.”
Alasdair’s heart only had time to feel the first intimations of grief over his grandfather when Sheamas entered the kitchen through the larder. He came with all his usual good humour and conviviality, came from his shoppe, eager to enjoy his day off as he was to share the smoked pork he was conveying to the kitchen. A something like impatience rushed on him as he gave the haunches over to Martje: a low rumble shook his stomach, a curmuring followed, and without waiting for Martje to decide which of them was to be aet and which to be hung up, he took a cleaver from the wall, carefully moved Martje aside, and began chopping even slices from the haunch. Somewhere between the downward and ascending motions of the cleaver, the slices vanished, and Sheamas’ wrawling stomach was appeased.
 “I’m always impressed by how much and how quickly you and Shayne can eat,” said Alasdair, spying the prodigious haunch with mild curiosity. “Tomas is only a little taller than you, and yet he doesn’t eat half as much.”
“Aye, that’s Tyfferim folk, Majesty,” Sheamas offered, with a broad grin. “If you don’t eat what Ma puts on the table before it goes cold, it’s goin’ to the pigs.”
“Aye,” said Shayne, “farmer’s way o’ thinkin’, Majesty. Gotta eat it, and gotta eat it all or there mightn’t be anythin’ later.” He shoved half of his crumble in his mouth. “Never know when yer gonna get  chance to eat again, bein’ in the fields.”
“Everyone from the farms is born a barathrum, Alasdair,” said Boudicca. “I never inherited the trait because my mother had never seen butter and bacon before she came to my father’s. I disinherited my Tyfferim birthright to eat everything on my plate by my mother’s atrocious cookery. I’m very sure my father and I ate dirt more times than was allowable for the first few years of my life when we couldn’t escape the dregs of my mother’s disasters to a meal in town.”
“Here, Majesty,” said Shayne, holding out he rest of the crumble to him. “The last piece for you.”
Alasdair stared at it in vehement disdain. “That’s very kind of you, Shayne,” said he, with restrained apprehension, betraying all his mental anguish, “But I’m still quite full from last night. You finish it. I’m sure it will go to waste if you don’t.”
Shayne shrugged and canted his head, and ate the last of the crumble, much to Alasdair’s relief.
“Next time I’m makin’ a rhubarb,” Martje grumbled to herself. “Then he woulda bathed in it like he did with the pie I made for his birthday.”
Alasdair was very sure that he would not be bathing in anything half so delicious; to wallow in an abundance of delitous savours, to welter in a perfect crust, to glory in a sumptuous exudation, the pleasures of a rhubarb anything were not to be trifled with, and the splendour and sublimity of a crumble—there was all tremulous agitation, and he writhed in the retreat of his own self discipline, and demanded as Martje passed, “No rhubarb anything, Martje. Do you hear me? Not for the holidays, and certainly not for my birthday.”
“Aye, no rhubarb,” said Martje, in a careless tone, and she went to her husband to collect his plate, murmuring to herself, “Sure, I’ll make it for no reason at all and just leave it in the larder. You’ll never get the monster to eat it for you, and Shayne don’t like rhubarb anythin’, so askin’ him’ll do nothin’.”         
The rhubarb incident, for which Alasdair’s voracity for rhubarb was celebrated much to his shame and indignation, had become a favourite gossiping piece for scandalmongers in the keep. Alasdair’s only advantage and precedence in the case was that Rithea had not been alive to hear of it; she should have spread news of his confectionary demise to the Haven, and from there it should only have been a matter of time before the kingdom knew of it. His secret, however, did not extend beyond the capital walls—or at least, if the dreadful tale of the king being discovered with his face buried in a rhubarb pie had spread into the country, no one talked about it. He would do anything to save himself from the embarrassment of being caught with baked rhubarb filling smattered across his cheeks, and if that meant ordering every farmer in the kingdom to burn his stock, such a decree would be made. Sheamas’ kind offer of a smoked slice roused him from his silent vexations, and though he began with a “No, thank you—“ the glares from his wife told him that he ought to eat something for breakfast. “Well,” he relented, “very well. A small piece.”
“I’ll even put it on a fork for you so you don’t ruin that nice shirt yer wearin’.”
“Are you wearing a blue shirt, Your Majesty?” Kai Linaa asked, craning her neck and narrowing her gaze.
“I am. Do you like it?” Alasdair examined himself and fidgeting with his cravat. “It was Carrigh’s idea.”
She canted her head and pouted in deliberation. “The colours aren’t complementary, but they do match in a strange way. I like it. It’s interesting.”
“I’m very glad it has your approval. I hesitate to tell Pastaddams about it though. I’m afraid he’ll fling himself in a fit over it.” He adjusted his collar and fluffed his cravat. “Where is Pastaddams? Has anyone seen him this morning? We didn’t see him in the tailor as we passed. He’s usually up and in for his tea at this time on the holiday.”
No one had seen anything of the royal tailor all morning, and Alasdair shuffled his feet in growing distress.
“He can’t be very far,” said Alasdair, glancing into the hallway. “He might be in the garden, silently panicking over this combination. He always senses mismatched colours subliminally. He never goes to the royal quarter and yet he crumbles over their poor fashion sense as though every lord and lady wearing a plastron and hoop skirt were traipsing outside his workplace. I think I’ll go look for him. He might have collapsed in the gorse bushes, choking as if upon life, probably slain by thoughts of what Rosse is wearing today.”
“A Bellatrim trepanning is more tolerable than thinking of what horrors the Frewyn royalty are sporting,” said Boudicca. “And you know where Pastaddams is.”
“Do I?” Alasdair asked, his brow furrowing.
Boudicca looked sly. “Where else would he be on a mild holiday morning but admiring the view?”

Saturday, March 28, 2015

#NationalCleavageDay: Give to Breast Cancer Research

While Commander Boudicca MacDaede's deep vale is often under scrutiny in the barracks, and often averts eyes and spawns embarrassed discussions, they are exceedingly pleasant to look at, whether you be a bystander or her mate. Born of two delightful mounds, her chest is a grand study in sarcology. Frewyn woman are known for their magnificent endowments, but that doesn't make them immune to the diseases that can claim them, which is why, on this National Cleavage Day, we are making a donation to the Canadian Cancer Society and urge our readers, if able, to do the same. If we all give just a few dollars to our local cancer foundations, we can save many women's lives with the research our contributions will fund.

Here are a few associations that you can donate to:
American Cancer Society
Canadian Cancer Society
Cancer Research UK
Irish Cancer Society

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Story for the Day: The Blue Shirt

There is nothing that distresses a king more than clashing.



A tender osculation was shared, their noses touched, their eyes inspected one another, and
after a moment of fond reflection, each made an amorous sigh and continued to dress. Carrigh tied a hanging ribbon around her waist, and Alasdair straightened his cuffs, and when he turned to smooth his shirt under his jerkin, he paid particular attention to how the colour of his shirt offset his jerkin. Was it varied enough? Was the colour too plain and uncomplimentary? White with evergreen and gold might detract from the whole piece. He was wearing light breeches, which allied with his shirt, and where was the harm in wearing light breeches with a light shirt when there was a darker jerkin to complement?
Carrigh watched her husband agonize in this private committee of habilatory apprehension, and her lips pursed in a smile. “Do you want to change, sire?”
“No. Yes. Possibly.” He thought for a moment, rapt in the vicissitudes of hasty indecision. “Maybe I should wear the light blue shirt as you suggested. I am wearing spring colours anyway. What? I didn’t say I wouldn’t change now. I only said I wouldn’t change for dinner. You put the idea of a blue shirt in my head, and even though all this matches well, it has no distinguishing factors, excepting the jerkin, which might as well be the same since the embroidery is nearly the same as—I’m changing.”
“It would have taken me less time to fix the snag in the other shirt…” she began, but simpers and smiles soon became silence; Alasdair should have been perfectly satisfied in his white shirt had she not persuaded him to the blue, but as she had mentioned it, and she being his wife he trusted her judgment more than anyone else’s, he reasoned he ought to wear the blue if only his wife’s choice. He froonced and folded, tied and tightened, the blue shirt was tucked into place, the green and gold jerkin was donned, and turned toward the mirror, to oscillate and scrutinize himself, to fuss and flump in earnest fabulosity, before he turning to his wife for a more thorough inspection. “What do you think? The difference in colour doesn’t make me a gapenest, does it?”
“No, sire,” said Carrigh, in a serious accent.
Alasdair turned back to the mirror, to study and consider, unable to decide whether he were tolerably prepossessing or absolutely hideous. He began to fidget. “Are you sure? It’s not too blue, is it? It’s blue, but not very blue? Blue with green and gold? Are you sure, my darling. I don’t know. I think the contrast is making me itch.”
“It is very complementary, sire.”
“Are you sure? Well, if you think so,” and as he began tying the matching cravat, he added, “But if Pastaddams has a panic over it, I’m going to tell him it was your idea.”
“I hope you do,” said Carrigh, with playful defiance. “I need an excuse to tell him to be more colourful.”
Alasdair lifted his chin and tucked in the ends of his cravat. “We cannot all look stunning in bright colours as you to, my darling.”
“But Pastaddams wears hardly any colour at all.”
“That is true.”
 “He’s been wearing the same white shirt and black waistcoat since I met him.”
“I think he must have fifty of the same waistcoat, all with one slight variation, a red satin pocket strip or a blue silk collar—Oh, now I’m overdressed. Do you think I’m overdressed? I look as though I’m going to a dinner in the parlour and not a breakfast in the kitchen.”
“You did say you didn’t want to change for dinner, sire,” was Carrigh’s smiling reminder.
“True, but I will have to wear this all day. Maybe I’ll just take off the cravat and put it on again later.”
Alasdair untied the cravat in a flurry of flailing motions, and Carrigh succumbed to quiet mirth. Alasdair would be Alasdair, and whilst she might contrive to make her husband a little more vibrant in dress, she could not do away his horror of being befrilled.   
“There. I think that looks well.” Alasdair nodded approvingly at himself, and then looked thoughtful and frowned. “I know I wear jerkins often,” he acknowledged, “but I like to think that I’m experimental with my outfits some of the time. Am I?”
“You have a very classical style, sire.”
“I like the Old Frewyn look. It’s not ostentatious, it’s dignified, it’s comfortable-- at least I think so. I don’t know why more young men and women don’t take it up. My grandfather dressed in an even older style, just as Breandan does, and both of them wear—or wore, in my grandfather’s case-- their doublets and robes amazingly well. You wear your pleated dresses beautifully, my darling. I love this transparent spot here in the front you’ve put in, but everything you make always looks well on you.” Alasdair stopped to gratulate, thinking his wife’s talents as a gifted artisan only expatiated her good nature, for while she was an exemplary craftsman, her overpowering loveliness and shining character must always surpass anything that her needlework could invent. Her pieces were always exquisite, but they were made more so because she was exhibiting them. He watched her pull the strings on her bodice, drawing her breasts closer together, and Alasdair gripped the sides of his breeches in feverish exultation, his mind determining to practice gentlemanlike manners whilst his hands would be adjusting her bodice for her. Notions of wrinkles in his holiday attire attacked him, and he instantly drew his hands together behind his back, governing himself with the internal command of, Don’t touch yourself, don’t think of her delightful—don’t!
“Alasdair,” said Carrigh sweetly, “what is it?”
“Oh, nothing,” he hemmed, shaking himself out of his reverie. “Do you need me to do you up in the back?”
They were dressed and ready for their appearance in a few minutes, Alasdair putting his blue cravat aside, Carrigh tying a lace shawl around her shoulders as ornamentation rather than a practicality, and once Alasdair had trained his fringe, cleaned his teeth, and set his collar to rights, he gave himself an appraising look, declared himself tolerably presentable, and led his wife out of the room.
“How maneh tymes did His Majesteh change?” asked Aghatha, spying Carrigh suspiciously.
Carrigh tried not to laugh. “Only once.”
“Well,” Aghatha shrugged, “‘tis bettah than most daehs anehhow. Luckeh His Majesteh daint stand in the mirreh much. He deserves it, if yeh daint mynd meh sayin’, Majestae, bein’ such a well-lookin’ man as he is. Luckeh the glass hasn’t takin’ him in or nothin’ in the kingdom’d evah get done. The governin’ o’ things hinges on whethah his fringe is in ordeh.”
Aghatha gave Carrigh a knowing look and drifted into the bedchamber, the sheets already in hand, her powers at neatness already at work, one hand peeling back and removing the older bedding whilst the other was unfolding and unfurling the new.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Story for the Day: Staying in Bed

Suffering from a hideous head cold and still not over Sir Terry's passing, I can understand Alasdair's desire to never leave is bed if he can help it. Unfortunately, he cannot help it.



                It was Ailneighdaeth morning, and while Breigh and Cabhrin were on their way to Tyfferim, and Aiden and Adaoire were taking their children to Lochan’s farm in Farriage, everyone at the castle in Diras was rousing from a peaceful and much needed rest. The demands of yesterday and
all its subsequent enjoyments had been just as agreeable as they had been fatiguing, and after propinating and accubating, delighting in good company and excellent music, and enjoying all the usual regalia of the holiday, after a few postprandial drinks and an hour or two spent under the dominion of the bonfire, everyone was glad to find their beds and just as glad to remain in them well after sunrise. An hour after dawn, when the sun had mounted the horizon, illuminating the warp and weft of mares tales whipping across a celestial loom, Alasdair and Carrigh gently roused, rapt in one another’s quiet convenience, the felth of one another’s flesh as their arms rest in a languid mesh, their eyes opening and focusing to the sight of Gaumhin’s osprey circling over the keep, their ears attuning to the sound of the children in the main room of the royal quarters beyond the door, clamouring over who was to be down to the kitchen first. The scent of Martje’s apple tarts pervaded the keep, the fading scent of cinders clinging to the last glow of life lingered in the stones, the clank of pans and pots resounding in joyous reboation from somewhere in the kitchen; the psithurism of Aghatha’s skirts, complementing the rustling from the copse of RoeGaumhin lining the nearby field whispered in silken secrets as she swept in and out of the room; Harrigh’s gentle hullos drifted in guffawing tones and echoed across the garden, amusing every ear within hearing, rising against the purl and pobble of the melting water in the courtyard fountain; the clarisonous clangs emanating from Tomas’ anvil grew louder as they progressed, resonating from the smithy in rhythmic stentoration, complementing the plangent peal of the bells emanating from the church: a symphonial sundry of sounds and voices impelling the castle into gradual animation and out of its immaculate tranquility. A cry from Gaumhin’s osprey caromed through the halls, the raptor banked and dove for its prey, Gaumhin’s broad brogue carried through the far field in praise of his companion, and Alasdair turned over, croosling and draping his limbs ponderously over his wife.
                “Mornmmn,” he miffled, nestling his nose in his wife’s nape.
                Carrigh simpered and her shoulder curled unconsciously toward her ear to defend her neck. “Good morning, sire,” said she laughingly. “And you’re tickling me.”
                Alasdair managed a unintelligible “mmmff” and tried-- or rather pretended-- to fall back asleep, caring little for whether he was titillating his wife and thinking only of how much he loved her. Slumbering in the crib of her shoulder, his mouth grazing her complexion, her warmth rising against his cheek was all his rapturous infatuation, and he would rather be lying with her, rapt in the throes of conjugal felicity, than be anywhere else at present. The blissful confusion of wakefulness soon waned, a pleasance loomed, his wife’s mellifluous scent leading him to the space between conscious and somnolent musings, his thoughts drifting toward her generous vale, her timbre frame, her exquisite aspect, her obliging manner. Carrigh: here was all his wistful exultation, and the image of her soon drew him into a gentle doze, his conscience beginning to sloom, his mind roving and drifting, petering out into the expanse of joyous oblivion. Carrigh, he breathed. An insensible smile wreathed his lips, and Alasdair felt himself being drawn down into the chasm which divides all reverie and all reason. The sun illuminated the dark corners of his waking mind, lighting conjurations of his wife lying in a cradle of pearls and petals, her skin shimmering opalescent, her slender form languishing under a raised arm. Carrigh, he exhaled, and he slipped silently into the conjuration, drowning himself in all her charms and all her pleasures.
Sleep, however, and the pleasant invocations that accompanied it were soon thwarted by the sounds of Dorrin and his cousins, asking whether their Uncle Alasdair and Aunt Carrigh were awake. A few reluctant nications, and Alasdair was shaken from his reverie. The image of Carrigh drifting gloriously in nacreous triumph, faded into the mire of reluctant restiveness, and while Alasdair must admit himself to be awake, he decided to keep his eyes closed, desperately clinging to the last intimations of his wife whilst holding tight against her.
“…Why?” was all he could mumble, his voice muted as his lips pressed against Carrigh’s neck.
                “Because they’re children, sire,” was Carrigh’s smiling answer.
                “Because they’re children,” Alasdair repeated, in a monotonous drone.
                “And we love them.”
                “…And we love them.”
                “And they need our attention.”
                “...But not so early on Ailineighdaeth morning.”
                “Especially then, sire.”
                “Especially then.” Alasdair groaned and raised his head, and then, after moping at his wife, he flouted and buried his face against her chest. “But not just yet.”
                Carrigh smiled and browsed her husband’s features with her fingertips. He was not serious in his professions of wanting to spend the morning without the children; she knew him to well as a husband and a father to question his powers of paternal kindness, and the instant that the children were desirous of his attention, he would give it with all the eagerness and a good grace that his sense of devotedness and responsibility could admit, but he was so elated, so composed and undisturbed, that Carrigh felt herself evil in having him surrender his right to marital felicity in favour of humouring the children. She leaned and whispered in his ear, “You have about ten seconds before they knock on the door.”
                Alasdair folded himself over his wife and kissed her cheek. “Ten seconds of splendid ecstasy.”
                It was actually five seconds before there was a knock at the door. Alasdair jolted, and the question of whether Uncle and Aunt Majesty were awake out rang out in conclamant voices from the main room.
                A decided negative was all Alasdair could consider, though it was given with half-hearted conviction.
                There was a momentary silence. The children discussed how it was that their uncle was asleep if he could answer them, Alasdair groaned into his pillow, and Carrigh smiled and sat up in bed.
                “It’s still the holiday, Alasdair,” was her soft reminder. “We get to spend time with Dorrin, and you don’t have to go to court.”
                Alasdair suddenly looked all the serenity he felt. “I know,” he whispered, grinning to himself in high glee. No court, no Rosse, no vile outfits to pine over, no polite aspersions to combat, no snoaching voices to listen to or diatribes to deflect; he had only to hold his darling wife, look forward to a day being spent in the company of family and friends, and revel in the apricity of the morning light shining numinous through the window.