Friday, April 11, 2014

Story for the Day: Goose for a Gander Pt 2

Poor Lochan still making his case for his new friend. He sees a life-long companion, and Martje sees a pie filler.

Lochan held the goose away from his sister. “You gotta have pity on her, Martje,” he pleaded. “How would you feel if you lost your family and had to stay with a stranger till your flock came back?”
“I wouldn’t feel nothin’ ‘cause I’d be baked in a pie,” Martje humphed.
Rautu grumbled something about how Martje should liked being wrapped up in a buteraceous crust, and Alasdair hemmed and pretended not to have heard though the small smile wreathing his lips betrayed his acknowledgement and amusement. 
 “You don’t want to take that bird out, then it’s goin’ in the oven.”
A pout, a fierce look, and Lochan refused to relinquish his friend, tucking her into the bend of his arm and covering her head with his hand. “I don’t gotta do anythin’ the king doesn’t say.”
“I’m not getting in the middle of this,” Alasdair insisted, hiding behind his wife. “Lochan, don’t mention me. I’m not foolish enough to pass judgement on a cook’s dominion. She reigns over this kitchen, and I’m a mere guest in it.”
“You just don’t want to be involved in a sibling rivalry, sire,” Carrigh laughed.
“And if I don’t, it is very well done of me. I would rather do anything than get between a fighting brother and sister, especially when one is holding a goose and the other something to fustigate me with.”
 “Majesty,” said Martje, turning and looking for Alasdair in the crowd, “you’ll pardon me and all, but if you don’t tell Lochan to take that bird outta my kitchen, I’ll kill him right along with it.”
There was a dreadful pause, Alasdair crouching behind his wife, afraid and unwilling to refute either of the Donnegals, and everyone else exchanging chary looks.
Shise shin,” said Martje presently. “I’m gettin’ the cleaver.”
There was an exsibilation at this, the shuffle of feet and fremescence of voices, no body wanting the goose to be harmed but no one eager to defend Lochan while Martje had a cleaver in her hand.
 “Ma!” Lochan called out, looking to Calleen, who was just emerging from the crowd. “Tell Martje she can’t have Jannidhe.”
                “Ma,” Martje huffed, “if you don’t tell Lochan to take the bird outta my kitchen, your gonna have one less son.”
                Calleen, the quiet good old lady, with her kindly aspect and upright figure, came forward and quieted her children with a consoling gesture. “All right now,” said she, all maternal solicitude that her good nature could warrant, “Let’s settle ourselves down. Martje, there’ll be no cleavers against Lochan’s goose.”
                Martje gasped and looked offended, and Lochan gave a firm and defiant nod as she turned away, folded her arms, and makde an audible humph.
                “Loch, darlin’,” Calleen continued, nearing her son as closely as the goose would admit. “You know the rule in the family: no animals at the table or in the kitchen. I know you’re keepin’ that ol’ gal safe and clean, but we still don’t know where she came from and it ain’t sanitary to keep an animal what’s been outside near our plates.”
“But where am I gonna put her, Ma?” said Lochan, breaking off a piece of Beryn’s scone, crumbling it in his hand, and giving it to the goose. “She don’t like anyone else, and she won’t go no where without me.”
“Why don’t we ask Roriegh and Deias to keep her in the stables for the evening? They sure got plenty o’ space now that most o’ the stables are cleared out for the holiday.”
“They got an empty slot next to Moraig,” said Beryn. “Sure your goose’d like that, Loch. You can stay with her there, playin’ with her in the hay, and she can bother Moraig all she wants.”
“Aye, and that’s Ma’s word on it,” Martje declared. “Put that bird in the stables, Loch, before I make a soup outta it.”
                The goose gave a strident honk and nibbled Lochan’s chin.
“Aye, all right, girl,” he sighed.  “C’mon, then. Let’s go visit Moraig before Martje plucks you clean.”
“Can we come, Uncle Lochan?” ask Little Adaoire.
“Aye, we wanna feed the goose,” said Little Aiden.
“Sure, you can come.”
The children cheered, and Lochan stood from the table, scowling at Martje and holding the goose away from her. He moved toward the hallway, the children following in his train, when Jaicobh returned with his grandson, the former all subrisive affability, and latter hiding his face in his grandfather’s shoulder.
“Oh, now, c’mon, cub,” said Jaicobh, patting the child’s back. “It wasn’t so bad.”
“What happened?” said Sheamas, with all the concern of an anxious father.
“He made me drink the gorse tonic!” Little Jaicobh wailed, frowning and wiping his mouth with his sleeve. “Its tastes like I put my mouth in the bog!”
A fulmination of mirth broke out, and Little Jaicobh grimaced and made a long, “Blehhh.”
“Bog’s not so bad,” said Beryn, refilling his cup. “Coulda been worse. Coulda been forced to lick the frogs how the old tales go.”
“I think I woulda liked that better, Uncle Beryn.” Little Jaicobh slottered and frowned. “The bog taste won’t go away.”
“Go on with Lochan to the stables. Deias’ll give you a bit o’ scrumpy. He keeps some for the horses. That’ll take the taste from your mouth and put hair on your chest.”
“But I don’t want a hairy chest, Uncle Beryn.”
“It’s either the hairy chest or the bog-gob, cub.”
“Aye,” the child sighed. “I’ll take the hairy chest. At least I can’t taste that.”
He leapt down from his grandfather’s embrace and hastened out of the kitchen, to follow the children and his uncle to the stables, but in passing Rautu as he scrambled to the threshold, he suddenly stopped, lurched backward, and gave a great sneeze, the force of which cause him to tumble forward and spray his nasal expactoratant against the giant’s leg.
“Excuse me!” Little Jaicobh chimed, beaming up at the giant.
He hurried away, and Rautu was left to scowl at his leg in vehement disdain, caught between the desire to visit the warm baths in the Haanta quarter of the capital to burn away any lingering infection, or to save himself the trouble of leaving the keep and have Tomas solder off his leg entirely.
“The rapture of maintaining so many nephews, Iimon Ghaala,” Boudicca laughed. “Scolding them is as impossible as is being immune to their diseases. I daresay you will get a cold now.”
“I will not, woman,” the giant demanded. “His infection has already manifested. His disease is no longer contagious,” but a sudden itch began to plague him, the irritation attacking his senses, compelling him to wiggle his nose and sniff, and the giant turned away, determind to get the better of whatever it was that had decided to invade his hale and hardy form. A cat hair must have wandered in, or some of the flour dust whirling about Martje’s kitchen floor must have found its way into his nasal passages. However the discomfort might have got there, it was gone as quickly as it came, and a touch of the nose, an indiscernible sniff, and the giant was well again, turning back to his mate as though nothing at all had happened.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Story for the Day: Goose for a Gander

Lochan has a new friend, and while everyone is disposed to be enchanted by the animals he rears, Martje is always somewhat at odds with a pet that could be placed in the pot.

A Goose for a Gander
                A few strange ululations emanated from the servants’ hall, and when the party entered the kitchen, they were met with the sight of Beryn and Lochan sitting at the kitchen table, Beryn smirking to himself over his tea and wheaten scones, Lochan holding to the goose nestling against him, and Martje looming over her brother with a most displeased expression, her sleeves rolled high, her rasied hand over her head and furnished with a large rolling pin.
                “Don’t stand over her, Martje,” said Lochan, in a plaintive tone. “You’re scarin’ her, wavin’ your pin around.”
                “Loch,” said Martje, in a heated tone, her eyes ablaze with furious anger, “you’re my family and I love you and all, but if you don’t get that bird outta my kitchen, I’m gonna clobber it and cook it.”
Lochan held the goose against his chest and away from his sister. “That’s not nice, Martje. Don’t say things like that in front of her. You’re bein’ unfeelin’. She just lost her flock.”
“And if that bird stays another second in my kitchen, she’s gonna lose her head. Out,” stabbing her rolling pin at the window, “or that bird’s the centerpiece for the evenin’s celebration. Next time you see that goose, it’ll be stuffed and roasted with rosemary and orange.”
“Careful, Loch,” said Beryn, all mirthful complacence. “We got a butcher in the room,” eyeing Sheamas, who was standing in the doorway, “and roasted goose with orange might sound right well to such a big hungry party of folks.”
“Uncle Beryn!” cried the children, spilling over the threshold and attacking his legs with ardent embraces.
“Afternoon, boys,” said Beryn, putting down his teacup and assailing their stomachs with tickling fingers. “Careful around the chairs and table, boys. The Beryn monster doesn’t want you to get hurt.”
“You’re the one doin’ the ticklin’, Uncle Beryn!” Little Adaoire cried, giggling as he crumbled to the ground under the ascendance of Beryn’s flurrying fingers.
“Aye, I’m ticklin’, but that’s what monsters and uncles are supposed to do.” Beryn relented and allowed the children to breathe while taking up his cup once more. “Heard you had a bit o’ craic outside with a pyre.”
“We burned a banner,” said Soledhan, panting and still under the influence of oppressive mirth.
“Burned a banner? That ain’t Alineighdaeth tradition I ever heard of—hold a minute.” Beryn’s eyes narrowed. “We don’t got the whole brood here. Where’s the little and big?”
“Little and Grandfather Jaicobh went to see Bilar,” said Dorrin.
“Aye, I see how it was. You boys try to roast your cousin in that pyre?”
“No, Uncle Beryn,” the children sang.
“Just a bit of a cold,” said Shayne, coming forward to shake Beryn’s hand. “Nothin’ more than a sniffle.”
“Sniffles are dangerous when there are so many Mas around.”
“Aye, Uncle Beryn,” the children moped.
“Ma used to make me eat the coneflowers that grew on the hedge when I had a cold. Wasn’t too terrible.” Beryn shrugged and smiled. “At least I didn’t get the bogbean.”
The twins wrenched, Dobhin grimaced, and Alasdair still maintained that he should rather take bogbean than endure all the agonizing horrors of gorse tonic.
“Oh, Aye,” Beryn eagerly nodded. “Gorse tonic’ll strip the paint off a fence. Just the scent of it sent me runnin’ to my room. Ma brewed it the once and never again. I got a whiff—“ he shook his head. “Made all the hair in my nose melt off. Dannig’s got no hair in his nose ‘cause o’ how much gorse tonic he’s had. A man’ll lose his eyebrows over that.”
“Will cousin Jaicobh lose his eyebrows, Uncle Beryn?” said Little Aiden.
“We’ll see, boys. Might come back lookin’ like a Karnwyl seal, all hairless and polished.”
The children laughed and turned toward Lochan, who was turning away from Martje and holding his friend close to him, looking about for Khaasta and hoping she could provide a distraction for the dissatisfied cook.   
“Who’s your new friend, Uncle Lochan?” said Soledhan.
“This here is Jannidhe,” Lochan announced, stroking the gallineasian’s neck. “She lost her way when she was flyin’ north and the storm hit. Don’t tell her,” whispering behind a raised hand,”but she thinks I’m her gander. Jannidhe don’t know I don’t got feathers and wings and a beak and all.”
“Don’t be namin’ it, Loch,” Martje insisted. “When you name somethin’, it stays, and this here goose is leavin’ this kitchen and it’s goin’ right now.”
Martje raised her rolling pin over her head, but before Lochan could disclaim or anyone could interfere, the goose let out a formidable honk and thrashed its beak at Martje’s apron.
          “No bird what enters this kitchen and snaps at me lives more than a minute after,” Martje seethed, her eyes flaring. “That’s that, Loch. That bird’s goin’ into the pot--”  but the goose squawked and gnashed as Martje drew near, and the cook tapped her pin against her palm in a threatening and slow cadence. The goose would have to go, but how to get it outor even how to get it away from her brother was a matter of growing concern. Animals alive and uncured had never been her greatest friends, and while she could tolerate a rather immense cat, she could not abide something that might otherwise provide an excellent meal for her family waddling about uncooked and unseasoned.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Story for the Day: Caltrops

There is nothing more delightful to a would-be warrior than discovering a new weapon to be used against his adversaries. It is all the more delightful to the would-be warrior to be taught how to use this weapon by his friends.

Gaumhin read: “Perhaps they shall be,” said Danaco.“Perhaps they are all in terror of being trapped in his great blanket fort.”
“Ah want a blanket fort,” cried Paudrig, dandling himself against Gaumhin’s knee in excitement. “Then we can play blanket siege an’ o’.”
“Aye,” Gaumhin laughed, “then we could maek a place for molten metal cauldrons, build a moat, and throw in some caltrops in the entrancewae tae.”
Paudrig canted his head and his nose curled. “What’re cal-trops?”
Gaumhin looked askance and grew nervous. “Mebbe Ah shouldnae’ve said anaethin’,” he muttered to himself, scratching at the back of his neck.
“Shouldnae have teld me what?”
Here was a terrible pause, and Gaumhin hemmed and shifted his weight, looking everywhere else but at Paudrig’s pleading aspect.
“Aw, ‘mon, Gaumhin,” the child moaned, hanging off Gaumhin’s arm, pulling him and swinging about. “Ye said, so now ye haftae tell meh.”
“No, Ah doant,” said Gaumhin stoutly.
“Aye, ye dae.”
“No, Ah doant, ‘cause when Ah teld ye what it is, ye’ll maek ‘em an’ use ‘em against yer enemaes.”
Paudrig blinked. “But tha’s what Ahm supposed tae dae.”
“No’ while we’re here yer no’. We’re no’ at war, and yer safe with friends here at the church an’ orphanage. Ah know ye thenk he have enemaes, but they’re no’ real foes, lad. Galleisian that’re comin’ at ye with pikes and spears’re real foes. Ah woan’t teld ye’ what it is ‘cause Ah doan’t want tae find severed toes all over the place.”
Paudrig was all instant exhilaration. “Cal-trops slice toes an’ o’?”
“No, but they maek yer enemies bleed from the foot.”
Paudrig gasped and cried, “Tell meh, tell meh, tell meh! Please, Gaumhin?”
                A firm shake of the head, and Gaumhin was determined to continue with the story.
                “Bruthur Ciran’s teachin’ meh how tae use the Marridon dictionarae,” Paudrig persisted. “If ye doant tell meh what cal-trops are, Ah’ll look in there.”
                Gaumhin raised a brow. “Ye doant know how tae spell caltrops, lad. Ye’ll be lookin’ till ye surrender.”
                “No, Ah been practicin’ mah spellin’s. Ah know it starts with a C.”
Rather than combat the point by asserting that there were thousands of entries in the Marridon Dictionary beginning with that letter, Gaumhin conceded, foiled by his own lapse in judgement, feeling himself in the throes of sorrowful regret for being to explain what he should never have mentioned. “Aye, o’ right,” he sighed, “but if Ah teld ye, tha’s ye promisin’ no’ tae use it against anaebodae, no’ even Dimeadh and Fionntra.”
Paudrig pouted and looked sullen. “Aye, Ahm promisin’.”
“A real promise.”
“Aye, a real promise an’ o’.”
“Tha’s us shakin’ oan it.”
Gaumhin held out his hand and gave the child a supicious glower.
With one hand slapped inside Gaumhin’s immense palm, Paudrig’s promise was given, and a hardy a shake of the hand secured him an explanation.
“A caltrop is a barbed weapon tha’ looks liek a crow’s foot.” Gaumhin made the shape with his hands, placing his thumb, forefinger, and middle finger spread in three-pronged formation. “It uses the bottom legs tae staun, an’ it’s got one barb that sticks up to attack the person who’s steppin’ on it.”
Paudrig cooed and his eyes glowed with gleeful interest.
“Caltrops were first used in Thellis to take doun horses. Sprinklin’ a few on the ground will get in a horses’ hoof an’ a chariot’s wheel. They were put round the track o’ their arena tae ensure tha’ certain chariots would lose certain races.”
“But tha’s cheatin’!”
“Aye, it’s cheatin’, but they did it anaewae. Some armaes liek the Livanese armae used tae use caltrops tha’ explode when stepped oan.”
Paudrig and his friend "bear".
“Whoa…” Paudrig breathed.
“Aye, but they stopped usin’ ‘em ‘cause their oan men were steppin’ oan ‘em tae.”
“Does Frewyn use ‘em?”
 “No, lad. Sometimes the Brigade use burs and brambles tae maek traps with, but we doant use metal caltrops. They’re tae dangerous tae be lef’ lyin’ around. Animals can step on ‘em an’ get hurt, or hunters can step oan ‘em an’ get poisioned.”
“Aye, lad. Sometimes caltrop barbs are poisoned, so when the enemae steps oan ‘em, the poison goes right intae the foot, so ye’ll no’ die from the wound, but ye’ll die o’ the poison.”
Paudrig’s lips curled in fiendish smiles. “Can we maek cal-trops, Gaumhin? I wanna see how they wurk an’ o’.”
“But tha’s us promised an’ shook oan no’ usin’ ‘em.”
“Ye said no’ tae use ‘em oan mah enemaes, but Ah didnae promise no’ tae maek ‘em.”
“Aye, but who’re ye gonnae use ‘em oan if no’  yer enemaes?”
 “Ye an’ Bruthur Ciran.”
Gaumhin laughed. “Us? Ye doant want tae hurt us, Paudrig-lad.”
“No, but if Ah cannae try ‘em on mah enemies, Ah have tae ask mah friends.”
This reason was sound enough, but Gaumhin knew that Paudrig should never use so malicious a device on anyone he truly loved, and he therefore said, “Aye, later Ah’ll show ye how tae maek ‘em—but nae poison oan ‘em, lad,” and went on reading.  

Friday, March 28, 2014

New publication coming this Easter!

This Easter, Paper Crane Books will be publishing the first in the Frewyn Fables series, short stories featuring the smallest members of the series for all ages to enjoy! Can you guess the title of the new publication? Leave your guess in the comments section, and the first reader to get the correct answer will win a free e-copy of the book!