Monday, October 20, 2014

Story for the Day: The Hunting Lodge

In time for Frewyn's Mean Fomhair, the last harvest of the year, the hunting lodge at Westren begins their hunting season, inviting men and women from all over the kingdom to partake in the grand event:
This is a photo from Chateau Montabello, the inspiration for the text below.
Three hundred Frewyn hunters were gathered, all of them engaged in conversation over the impending event, exchanging pleasantries and inspecting one another’s new pelts, talking of the season, of the harvest, of Mean Fomhair and Seamhir, everything to do with the end of Frewyn’s autumn that could interest, their amiable aspects and good spirits inundating the great hall. Upon entering the lodge, Dirrald and Bhaunbher had expected to be met with one large dining room, fitted up with all the necessary accoutrements, with a few smaller rooms to the side, a state room or an office, but there were no such chambers here: the whole of the interior was one prodigious hall, a spacious cavern decapitated by an impossible ceiling, the walls fashioned from gargantuan brick and dry mortar, whitewashed over and carefully smoothed, the back wall an accomplishment of Westren’s glassworks, large standing panes of double sided glass, opening the prospect of the slope leading to the woods, the line of trees leading to the hunting area just within view, inviting the sunlight and offering a comprehensive view of the sky. The door leading to the kitchen was situated at the far end, its one pane-less window glowing with warmth, the scented smoke of baked pies frothing from iron stoves and billowing forth, mounting the winding stair just beside which lead to the upper floor, where men and women stood on the landing, perched over the railing of a bowed balcony, metalworked and prettily done, and above them within the wall was a bay window, where the nobles from eastern Westren on feriation sat, presiding over the hall entire from their position at the bottom of the spire, which could only be reached by way of the corridor on the upper landing. The dining hall, which claimed the chief of the space, was well furnished with row after row of tables and benches, carved from aged oak, varnished in a deep mahogany hue, complementing the wall of honours to the left as they stepped in, a standing exposition of accomplishment and triumph, plaques tiling the wall, decorated with the names of Frewyn’s premiere hunters, venerating  the kingdom’s ancient huntsmen, like Tirlough and Mharacabhi, and their more recent rivals, Eadmhaird’s name being everywhere that a hart’s antlers were mounted, etched in gold plating, the gilded names of many shimmering lutescent against the rays penetrating the hall from the glass wall beside. Sconces roosted along the close wall, their luminescent counterparts hanging down from the high ceiling, decorated round with unlit candles, the top of the chandelier wreathed with elaborate plageting. Every corner of the hall was adorned with stunning artistry, and every row between the tables were garlanded by hunters, their rural and rugged appearances and animated characters in contrast to quiet elegance of so wondrous an accommodation. Various parties formed, hunters came and went amongst them, joining one table for some minutes and then leaving to join another, all of them exchanging discourse and designs on where their hunt would begin and by what method they should scour the woods, debating their points with fervent animation, inviting their friends to see how wrong their approach was by inviting their their tables to take their meal with them, those in the part already sitting attacking the communal platters of roasted meats and steamed potatoes. Someone called out for more stewed carrots, a cry went up for tea, which garnered its due aspersions for hunters having anything to do with tea when there was grog to be got, a rasping laugh succeeded and surrendered into a ripple of mirth, a symphony of raucous raillery rising and falling in choral undulations of hardy guffaws, their cacchinations of sanguine insobriety pervading the hall, while they leant on one another, embracing each other with a few stout pats on the back, their voices baying in joyous propination, raising their drinks to their fellow huntsmen before calling out for another round.  The serving girls, dressed in their traditional hunting dresses, with ruffled low blouses and corseted pinafores, the tops of their bare breasts bobbing up and down as they conveyed stout and cider from the bar and pasties from the kitchen, their arms laden with treys, their hands furnished with bouquets of full thurindales, their agreeable aspects admired by all those they served, their kind remarks of listening sympathy earning them many a copper, weaving in and out of the crowds on light feet, whilst endeavouring to avoid the  children who were scampering about, hastening in and out of side corridor in a blaze of juvenile excitement, racing to the chapel to beg the Brother for stories and sweetcake, and hurrying toward the farm, to plead the farmer’s permission to ride the new ram just brought in for tupping. The clucks of chickens and neighs of horses echoed down the corridor leading to the coop and stables, and the farmer and farrier talked of crop yields and horses needing to be shod, whilst the groom cleaned his brushes and whispered to new arrivals just bringing in from outside. Men and women issued forth from the corridor to the front desk, where registration slips and hunting licenses were giving away, where keys to the many rooms upstairs hung pendulous from iron hooks, where the proprietor and groundskeeper, dressed in their pristine suits, moved about in a quiet bustle, exchanging salutations and addressing everyone by name, asking visitors if they might not take their coats and hats, greeting everyone hunter with convivial assurances of their usual rooms being just ready for them. To the side of the front desk were the post boxes, some empty and some packed with letters, where the Scoaleigh for the lodge stood, delivering all the messages he had conveyed hither from town, accepting parcels and packages to take on his journey back from the passing gentry, who would have their messages delivered directly, that they might tell everyone on their estate how they all were and that they were all arrived in time for the hunt.  The Scoaligh soon quitted the lodge, passing large vestibule in his way, where pelts and mantles were hung up and swaying with each opening of the door, concealing a small side door, through which the farmhands came and went to reach the back of the lodge, some of them just coming in from having turned the silage, eager to enjoy some of the ale on tap, their stomachs wambling violently as the cook passed by with bowls of bolaig, conveying her trey to the centre of the great hall as quickly as the ravening hunters following in her train would admit. She stopped at the large firepit, lined with stone and piled high with pieces of oak, split and dried, stacked in stooks, the flames from the bonfire waving to everyone as they passed, the smoke from the fire weltering up in black curls and leaving the lodge through the ceiling, by way of a gap in the open fenestration, the hall being well heated by the uncovered and unhindered flame, acting its part and transforming the dining hall into a kiln, warming every huntsman, every visitor, every worker, and proffering cheer to all those who stood about its boundaries and exulted in its amber saltation.The nidor of braised beef, the mellifluous scent of mead, the gaiety of visitors arriving from the village, the aubade of hymns from the church, the crepitation of the fire, the petrichor of the grass still damp with dew—every sound and scent associated with the end of Frewyn’s fruitful year permeated the lodge, and Dirrald and Baunbher stood for some time in awe of the place, glorying in all its minutiae, its garnishings, its trappings and trimmings, its inhabitants and its workers, its main area a paracosm of life regaled, its corridors a trove of spirit and activity.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It's time for our #Halloween #Giveaway!


The holidays are upon us! To begin the autumn holiday season, we are participating in the Spook-tacular Giveaway Hop, hosted by I am a Reader. If you've been waiting to read our newest novella "A Holiday United", now is your chance! A copy of Recollections of Shared Days, which features the novella, is being given away! Click the link HERE to enter, and don't forget to leave a comment for an extra entry!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Story for the Day: To the Hunting Lodge

Every season, the members of the Brigade, Frewyn's mountain marines, come down from their lofty posts in the Menorian Mountains to take part in the seasonal hunts at the Westren Hunting Lodge in the village of Fharaliedh, There is usually only one mark, and after the men have had their sport, they gather in the hunter's hall, to carouse and make merry with ale and good spirits. The journey to the hunting lodge, however, is not an easy one: the lodge is tucked away on a plateau near the western border, and the members of the Brigade who venture there often have to choose between joining the event or visiting family.



                After all the preparatory speeches that Tearlaidh made as to their being sensible and judicious with regard to changing to their ursine forms—advising them with the fond solicitude of a           
concerned parent that traveling down the ridge and toward the hunting lodge was best done in their current states while the woods at the base of the mountain were animated with hunters—and after a raisedd brow and a glance from Sile, Dirrald and Bhaunber bade their laird goodbye for three days, or thereabouts, with reassurances that they were “no’ gonnae show ‘emsel’s” without Eadmhaird’s being with them, and that they should remain with Eadmhaird throughout the duration of their time there, to follow his lead, and if not to challenge his right to be called the greatest hunter in the kingdom than to give him some agitation about losing the title to them. Supplies were duly assembled, embraces were exchanged, and with all the eagerness that being to participate in their first hunt could warrant, Dirrald and Bhaunbher left the brigade encampment, as anxious to be in town again as they were to be away from their regiment. They had grown accustomed to the isolation, the reclusive equanimity of Frewyn’s western border, to the soaring majesty of niveous peaks, to the grand gesture of the precipitous slopes, to the rumbling unquietness of nebulous vales: the kingdom’s natural majesty reigning over the eastward realm, the valleys prostrating themselves in supine genuflection to the endless horizon, and being amongst such prepossessing wilderness, such immaculate and untamed serenity, was all their equal veneration. To be the sentries of such an unexceptionable charge—here was gratitude unconscionable, and they stopped at the edge of the encampment to admire the prospect, to own their amazement at their good fortune it having been given so wondrous a station, and wonder at every other solider’s hesitation in joining the Brigade. True though it was that the training was rigorous, the scouting severe, the conditions sometimes unforgiving, but the reward of being with Tearlaidh, of being in the mountains and mantling over the kingdom, of being charged with Frewyn’s security was worthy compensation.
It was six months since they had last been in a town, and where they thought they should miss being amongst the all the bustle and animation and variety of society, they had grown fond of their establishment in the wilds, of their pelts and pavilions, of their commander and all the Brigade’s customs. They did miss—they must miss-- their respective families in town, but correspondence and news of how they all were kept them from worrying about them very much, and as Mrs Cuineill and High Brother Coltas had sent them frequent letters, detailing all the goings-on of Westren City and the municipalities surrounding, Dirrald and Bhaunbher were well furnished with assurances of safety and information enough to make them tolerably comfortable without civilization.They had one another, and with Sile and Tearlaidh to train them and add to their numbers round the fire in the evenings, they never wanted for camaraderie: they did their night exercises and managed the supplies, hunted under the luninata of the moon hanging pendulous amidst the stars, skinned their kills and roasted meat, heard Tearlaidh recant the histories of his younger years, and Dirrald wrote letters and worried for Rosamound, whilst Bhaunbher spent the late night hours under the auspices of Sile’s tent.  Surprised were they to discover how well they would do in the wilds, and even more suprised was Bhaunbher to discover how much Dirrald fulfilled the office of brother and family, but though Dirrald was indeed his brother in many respects, he could not replace Tomas. He felt for Tomas exceedingly, thought of him almost every hour, and wondered how he was getting on being alone in the house with only their mother for company. Mrs Cuineill, being resourceful and convivial as she was, fond of conversation and a master of Frewyn codology, was no quiet companion for a silient son like Tomas. Her letters to Bhaunbher confirmed his ideas of Tomas’ lonliness: she never wrote of expressed sentiments or contrition as to how Tomas felt about Bhaunbher’s absence, but the mention of Tomas’ staying within doors, of his only venturing to his apprenticeship under the shroud of evening, of his working at all hours and never going beyond the borders of their land was disquieting. To hear of his brother confining himself was all Bhaunbher’s compunction, his culpability expatiated by seeing Dirrald touch his pocket where Rosamound’s letter was folded away with a distressed countenance.
“She’ll be there,” was Bhaunbher’s calm reassurance. “Her letter said she would be.”
“Aye,” said Dirrald, his fingertips browsing the edges of the letter, his brow bent in consternation. “Her last letter said she’d be at the cabin, and she wasnae there.”
He lowered his head, his aspect growing desperate, and Bhaunbher, sharing in his brother’s anxieties, placed a hand on his shoulder and gave him a determined look.
“We’ll find her,” said Bhaunbher, with firm decision. “Doant ye worrae about it. That letter said she’d be there for the hunts. If she’s no’ there, we’ll hunt for her oursel’es—ye, me, and Eadmhaird. We’re fair hunters by nou, we’d be sure tae find her if she’s near the mountains, and Eadmhaird can find anaebodae, and ye know that. He can track anaethin’ that moves.” The lirks around Bhaunbher’s mouth began to curl. “He found ye out, aye?”
Dirrald almost smiled. “Aye,” said he, in a fond accent, “he did tha’.”
Relief soon surmounted Dirrald, agitation dissipated and exultation prevailed, and with a heavy sigh, feeling ressured of their finding some intimation of Rosamound, Dirrald led the way down the mountain, interweaving with the immense pines, marching through the brushwood, his pelts pressed against him, Rosamound’s letter next his heart.
They were going to find Rosamound, a notion which struck Bhaunbher at his heart. Dirrald of course must be apprehensive and exulted all at once, for they were going to discover the location of his oldest friend, but Bhaunbher’s feelings of a less gratulating character: they were going to find Rosamound, to meet her at least if they could, and they were descending from their elevated post and spending a few days at the hunting lodge—they were going to find Rosamound, and yet Bhaunbher had not seen Tomas in six months. To a disinterested brother, six months when in active service would be reasonable, but Bhaunbher was too much of the devoted and affectionate brother to leave Tomas for longer than his heart would allow. He had a promise to keep with Tomas, that he would visit whenever he should he descended from his post, but here was was attending the hunt, and the lodge was no where near Westren City. His mother’s house was miles off, a four-hours ride from their encampment, but that he was using the day to take part in the hunts rather than travel to see his family—there all Bhaunbher’s grievance lay. He slipped across the downward rolling streams and was silent, ruminating over whether he were neglectful brother by not visiting with Tomas now that he had his first leave of the Brigade, but while he was being permitted to leave the mountains, he was not off duty; the hunts were a Brigade tradition, and his time at the lodge was to be counted as time in active service. He might reason that active duty prevented him from going further eastward, but he could not reason away his guilt at abandoning his brother in some way. Would that Tomas could join him. Would that there were some manner in which Tomas could be prevailed upon to convey himself to the lodge—but Tomas disliked society of any distinction, shying away from community gatherings, crowded markets, and even friendships for the sake of preserving his timidity.  How should he convince him to emerge from his coveted den? He spied Dirrald reaching into his pocket and touching the letter, and here Bhaunbher understood what he must do: he should write to Tomas from the lodge and see whether he might not get him thither. They should be there two days at least—surely his brother would come to spend the day with him even if he refuse to hunt, and they need no stay in the hall if Tomas should not like it; they might go out onto the plateau, or they might walk along the woodlands, or they might sit and stargaze or enjoy one another’s quiet conversancy in one of the private rooms. Tomas’ only difficulty in such a scheme should be travel, but Bhaunbher could have that all arranged. He had been given a few silver at parting to spend at his discretion, and as he did not drink and planned on eating only what was hunted, his expenses should be nothing at all, and he could very comfortably spend a silver or two on conveying Tomas in a carriage across the region. A closed chaise with an excellent horse should do for Tomas, and Bhaunbher was resolved to write and send for his brother once they were settled in the lodge, the notion of which was all his comfort. 

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