Fan mail story: A Trip to Hallanys

I love getting fan mail. A letter from a long-time reader reached me today and I had to make a story out of it.

A Trip to Hallanys

Dear Den Asaan,
You must make a journey with your beloved Commander to come out to the city of Hallanys, then we shall all be properly introduced. It would be my honoured to introduce you to a chocolate trader that is known only to those of us here in the west. This one trader has a shoppe that gives tours where you can inspect them making their wares. We have heard from the owner of Diras Delights how much you enjoy seeing Frewyn’s delights made.
Should you come, you will also be introduced to the Mhisielain Company, a family-run business that produces not chocolate, but a confection of toffee and nuts that is sure to melt in your mouth.
Finally, you will be taken to Hallanys’ Whisper, our signature bakery. You may have to stand, however, as I don't think there are chairs large enough for you. They bake all their own confections and have a chocolate ganache cake that is very sumptuous. Their items might not be as good as Diras Delights’, but I invite you to both come out and see for yourself!
Regent of Hallanys   

    Such was the letter that had come from Hallanys, such it was read and such it was agreed that a venture west was to be made. Although the Den Asaan was not fond of straying far from proclaimed and protected terrain, his mate had given him a gentle persuasion that had swayed his immoveable consciousness.

    “You’ve always held a certain fondness for Hallanys, as I recall,” the commander said after the note was studied. “Ever since that woman gave you chocolate in gratitude for saving her home from the Galleisian invasions during the war, I believe you meant to go back and try every other delight the city had to offer.

    The Den Asaan made a moderate consideration but after a few moments, he nodded to himself in accordance with his wish to go. “Very well,” he quietly said. “Tell your king we will be leaving tomorrow and we will be gone for no more than three days. My brother will take charge of the regiment in our absence. I will inform him.”

    Rautu went to bring word of the report to Unghaahi and the commander went to speak with Alasdair on the matter of their short leave. When she met him in his chamber in the royal quarter, he was assured their stay would be more than just pleasure. The commander had expressed an interest to know of the other regiments in Frewyn and how they were recovered from Gallei’s devastating attack on the west years before. The troops of Westren and Amene had barely time to recoup but she believed that Varralla and Hallanys being more eastward than two former cities had sufficient time to gather more men to their ranks. The commander’s trip would be at a supervisory capacity, first to see the captains and recruits of the west and second to be a source of consolation her easily irritated mate. Although the Den Asaan’s stay in Hallanys had been prolonged during the war, his time there was mostly spent scouting the surrounding areas and the renewed bustle of the once desolate city was certain to rouse excitement and suspicions in the commander’s mate.

    Alasdair agreed to allow them leave with the provision that Unghaahi take their place for the time they were expected to be gone but before the commander could leave to prepare for her journey, a sudden thought struck the king. The notion of a visit to Hallanys had been a significant situation for some time with regard to Carrigh Averleigh. Alasdair’s object of affection was planned to see her mother the week after next when she would be given a week’s holiday from her duties at the castle, but as Sir Pastaddams had returned from his leave, there was little reason why Carrigh should not go now. It was not as thought she required any further training after she has displayed her abilities so beautifully on his favourite jerkin and, as she had nothing more to learn from being perfection in his estimation, he would make a point of her taking one of the small carriages from the stables and joining the commander on her journey. He stood from his place and asked the commander to attend him, wishing to formally introduce the commander to the seamstress as a traveling partner but their walk to the servant’s quarter was slowed when the commander made a fortuitous suggestion. 

    “You could join us very well yourself, Alasdair,” she proposed with a clever grin. “I’m certain you have some curiosity as to who has been in receipt of all your generosity this past while. And, I know you should like to meet the mother of the woman who has utterly destroyed you for the rest of Frewyn’s eligible and charming.” 

    Alasdair made a few protestations about leaving the business of the castle for more than a day’s time but the more he weighed the idea, the more he enjoyed the sound of it. No court for three days, no nobles to astound and forbear, but as he became enthralled with such a prospect, he began to wonder to whom he would leave the care of the kingdom in his nonattendance. He had waved on his advisors when he returned to Diras and he could not leave the seat of Frewyn to the herald. Tomas has said on many occasions that he was a blacksmith and not a leader, Otenohi and Obhantaa could not oversee the dealings of a foreign nation, Unghaahi was otherwise engaged for the three days, and to ask anyone from the noble houses was impracticable. Were the Duchess of Marridon closer, he would have readily entreated her services, but Alasdair resigned to ask the one person he knew would have the determination and resolve for the matters of court.

    On their way to the tailor’s, the king and the commander stopped at Mrs. Cuineill’s door. They knocked and the elderly woman answered immediately. She was in the middle of making some tea and invited them in for some but the offer though generous was declined for it was known that a minute at Mrs. Cuineill’s table meant tea, a conversation, a meal, hours of derisive entertainment, a dessert and possibly a second meal if she felt not enough was eaten on the part of her guests.

    “You’re lookin’ thin, boy-o,” Mrs. Cuineill said to the king. “Sit at the table and I’ll make you what to eat. I don’t care if you’re king or kin, lad. A t’in man is a miserable one, and I won’t ‘ave you workin’ all day in t’e courts wit’out a proper supper. T’at fat woman you got in t’e kitchen don’t feed you right lad.”

    Alasdair always enjoyed the refreshing candor of the old woman and ever appreciated that she treated him more as a son than as a king. “Mrs. Cuineill, that’s very kind of you,” Alasdair began in polite refutation, “but-“

    “Don’t but me, lad,” Mrs. Cuineill rasped. “Sit at t’at table and t’en you can tell me what you came here for.” She pointed to her small table with a gnarled finger and made a sour scowl, cutting her gaze at the king until he would comply with her determination.

    Alasdair was about to sit at the table if only to please the old woman and give her the maternal joy of feeding someone when the commander interposed with the cause of their coming.

    “Mrs. Cuineill,” she said with a satisfied smile, “how would you like to be Queen of Frewyn for three days?”

    The old woman turned her head and gave the commander a suspicious sideways glance. “Go on, girl,” she laughed with a wave of her hand, “you nearly got me.”   

    “Alasdair and I are going on a little excursion to Hallanys and we need someone with a sagacious eye and unbending resolve to guard the kingdom and courts for that time,” the commander went on. “We could think of no person with such astonishing stubbornness and the inclination to make others do what you say other than you. What do you say to it? We shall allow you to feed whomever you like. I fact, I encourage you to hold a dinner in the royal parlour.”

    Mrs. Cuineill pursed her withered lips and noted the seriousness on each of their faces. “You want and old woman to sit in t’e queen’s seat in court and make rules and t’ings of t’e like?” she asked in disbelief.

    “You won’t be making any decisions exactly,” the commander said. “You’ll only be taking everything under advisement. You shall be presented in the court as Bhlarthem Cuineill, Regent of Westren, and you’ll be given lavish apartment in the guest quarter for your troubles. You will be waited on by the king’s personal attendants and you will be permitted to tell the nobility of Frewyn how ridiculous they are just as you ought.”

    The offer was charitable and Mrs. Cuineill sensed that the visit to the west was something of grave consequence otherwise the king would not have been so desperate as to ask such a favor from a peasant. She agreed with the condition that the king would eat first.    

    Alasdair could not refuse and after a meal of fried potatoes, lamb stew, lemon cake and tea, the king had done and was prepared to tell Carrigh of her sudden trip to her mother’s. He left Mrs. Cuineill and the commander to finish their evening together and went to the tailor where he found the seamstress finishing her last stitches for the night. She was surprised to see him so late in the evening and greeted him with eager pleasantness, hoping that he wished a reiteration of their time together a few days prior. Alasdair told her of the commander’s designs on a visit to her home city and insisted that she attend the outing with her at his side.

    Carrigh stopped. She knew she had heard the king invite her to Hallanys but she could scarcely believe that he had meant to go with her. She was pleased and gratified for the idea but worried how she would look returning to her home with the King of Frewyn on her arm. Her cheeks flushed with humiliated excitement and she was moved to ask if the king must insist on his attendance.

    “You don’t want me to attend you?” Alasdair said, misreading her apprehension.

    “No, sire,” she said with urgency in her voice. “Please, do not mistake me. I only meant that it might be degradation for you to be seen with me in such a way. I know you think very differently of me, sire, but I beg you to reconsider for your own sake.”

    Alasdair stood close with her and took her hands into his. “I’ve already made a blacksmith’s mother queen for three days,” he said quietly, smiling at her. “I can’t very well take it back now.”

    Carrigh gave a slight exhale and turned aside with a blush of happiness for his promised accompaniment.

    “Has your mother ever seen me?” Alasdair asked.

    “No, sire. I don’t believe she has. I think she had seen His Majesty King Allande only once during the war.”

    “Then she shouldn’t know who I am.”

     Carrigh began to understand the king’s scheme and acknowledged it with a small smile. “No, sire. I don’t think she should. But, how would I address you without-“

    “You may call me Alasdair, Carrigh. I think we are familiar enough that we can do away with the sires and madams when in each other’s company.”

    Carrigh was struck to the heart at hearing such permission given to her and at hearing her name uttered so mellifluently by the king. Her breathe was lost, her lips were parted and her eyes were bright and unblinking. She could only find power enough to nod in agreement to his plan and when she began to smile, becoming elated with the impending journey, she was pulled forward and pressed for a kiss.

    When Alasdair at last took his parting from her, his steps lighter and his state ever-content, he returned to Mrs. Cuineill’s to collect the commander and report to her of his intended plan. He wished to take two carriages, one for Carrigh and himself and the other for her and her mate, but this scheme was immediately refuted and with good reason. 
    “Alasdair,” the commander said, raising a brow, “you are asking a petulant giant to travel about in a carriage that is undoubtedly too small for him. I think you’ll find your notions of his compliance for such a mode of travel quite mistaken.”  
    “It will be faster by carriage than on foot,” the king argued.
    “It will also be much more painful on your part.”
    Alasdair rethought his plan and realized it was far more favourable to keep the Den Asaan has happy as possible. “I will take Carrigh in the carriage and the two of you can meet us at Rosealia’s,” he quickly said, amending his arrangement.
    “I believe you mean you shall be meeting us at the inn, Alasdair,” the commander smirked. “No matter how fast two horses can take you in reasonable comfort, my mate on foot can surpass your traveling skills any day.”
    “Rautu cannot outrun two horses.”
    “Carrying a carriage behind them, he can. Shall we make a wager?”
    Alasdair knew the danger in making such a gamble. He believed that good weather and a steady road would be his advantage but as the Den Asaan was a scout, hunter and tracker by purpose and profession, he was hesitant to fall into the commander’s snare. He made the bet with the amusement of seeing it lost and the two parted with a handshake, leaving to ready themselves for the journey in the morning.
    The commander hurried back to the commons to tell her mate of their wager and upon hearing it, the Den Asaan gathered his effects and ordered her to do the same.
    “Your king does not know your land as well as he knows your roads,” the giant scoffed. “He will lose.”
    The commander laughed and admired her mate’s fervency to win the simple bet.
    “He believed the western roads will take him there in the fastest time but that does not mean he will cover the least ground. We will leave tonight and travel through the woods toward Varralla. Once there, we will go north. We will be in Hallanys in two days.”
    The commander agreed and gathered supplies from the storeroom. Once the camp was packed, the giant stood at the door waiting for his mate to attend him. She took one last look about the commons and declared themselves ready to beat Alasdair in their race toward the west.
    “You know, Iimon Ghaala,” the commander said as they began their decent down the stone steps, “Alasdair still has no idea how you and I made it from Amene to Varralla to Westren in less than a day. He has always been astonished as to how you managed to reach the northwest before other regiments that were closer to Allande at the time.”
    “Your people enjoy traveling on roads because they believe it is secure. If they traveled through the woods, they would understand that Varralla to Westren is a straight path,” the giant scoffed. “Your people are concerned with wellbeing on roads when they should be concerned with time.”
    The giant continued his discourse on the mistakes of his mate’s people and the commander listened with all the facility and leniency that traveling beside her mate could accord. There would be hunting, there would be camping, there would be cold nights with warm meals and warmer embraces under furs, and the commander could not have been more pleased.        


  1. And their off! But its a win-win for both! Time with their fav people in isolation in either case.


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