The Feast

Part of the short stories I'm doing for the holidays :D
Why am I writing so many short stories when I have two books to finish?  Because I must.
Tomas Cuineill

The Feast
                The small holiday feast in the Great Hall of Castle Diras was greatly enjoyed by everyone in attendance. The king reveled in the presence of his intimates and officers, delighting in the honeyed wine that filled his cup, taking pleasure in the soft music played by the minstrels he had commissioned for the event, and laughing at the diverting tales told by each member of the table. He could not remember when he had enjoyed an evening of carousing and camaraderie so well. He harkened back to his days as a captain in the Frewyn armed forces and though he was only made king a few years prior, he realized he missed his post as captain excessively. He was only now coming to admire and adore his place as Frewyn’s king and was rueful that he was forced to give up his positions as captain in favor of a kingship.
                Although as king Alasdair was made general of the Frewyn armies, there was a connection obtained through being amongst the ranks that was lost while being above them. He noted, however, that no matter how lenient the commander was in her rule over her men she seemed to maintain her supremacy over them without the use of harsh words, grueling tutelage or unbearable punishments. Captain Connors always treated her with the utmost esteem and even when regaling their glorious moments of the Galleisian War, he was careful never to outdo the commander though his achievements had been numerous. Alasdair observed that the commander boasted for him, insisting that his part in the Battle of Westren was unparalleled. He noticed Unghaahi’s quiet interest in everything that was shared at the table. He bowed his head with respect when being attentive and never spoke except when entreated for a story of his own, and when the grey colossus recalled an event or battle of great consequence everyone listened and attempted to glean a lesson or moral from his teachings. Alasdair was all pleasure to see how well the men had taken to the immense and sagacious creature given how difficult it was for the men to grow accustomed to the Den Asaan. He studied the ruthless and decided giant as Unghaahi spoke and realized that when his brother would address the present company, Rautu would not eat. He waited until Unghaahi had finished regaling them to recommence his meal and when the Frewyn soldiers took their turn to lecture the table, Rautu’s eyes were low and contemplative as if he were giving them his attention yet pretending to do otherwise. Alasdair marveled at the realization that the Den Asaan was hearing every word and the king began to understand what the commander had meant when she said nothing escaped her mate’s scout ears. The flickering motion of the Den Asaan’s low-kept eyes were fascinating for Alasdair to watch as they conveyed that the Den Asaan had absorbed every sound, from the tinkling of forks and the clinking of cups to the hushed murmurs of those who wanted their late night affairs of the holiday guarded as a secret. Alasdair only now acknowledged how expert the Den Asaan was at his given title and resolved to have him perhaps perform some means of scouting and infiltration when the time had called for it.
                The small meal continued into the late evening. Everyone was finishing the remnants of their plates and preparing for the festivities of the holiday to begin at midnight. Every attendee gave their sincerest thanks to the king for the invitation to the pre-holiday banquet but of those who wished to express their thanks, Tomas Cuineill was the most appreciative and wished to give his due respects in a quiet corner of the room.
                “Majesty,” Tomas said quietly to Alasdair, bending his head in submission from his high stature. “I wanted to t’ank you for t’e meal.”
                “Of course, Tomas,” Alasdair said with a genial smile. He observed, however, that Tomas’ usual serene and forthcoming expression as bent in a grim agitation.
                “I don’t t’ink you understand me, Majesty,” Tomas said, unable to look at Alasdair. “Kings don’t invite blacksmit’s to t’eir tables. Your brot’er would ‘ave never allowed the likes of me and my Ma in a place like t’is. We’re simple folk. I’m a metalworker and my Ma’s my Ma. We can’t really give you nothin’ in return accept our service.” He paused and looked up, shifting nervously in his place. “I wanted to t’ank you especially on be’alf of my Ma. You treat ‘er like you would your own when you’ve no reason to. T’ings have been difficult for ‘er since my brot’er died. She says I’m always ‘er young man,” he said with a small smile, “but not’in’ can replace what Bhaunbher was to ‘er. ‘e ‘ad a chance of givin’ my Ma t’e grandchildren she deserved. She’ll never tell you ‘ow much what you’ve done means to ‘er but she tells me and I’ll tell you. You’ve been so kind to us takin’ us into t’e keep and you don’t even realize all t’e good you’ve done. I think t’at’s what makes you such a good king, Majesty. If you’re not ashamed to ‘ave a blacksmit’ at your table . . .” Tomas was silenced by the firm grip of Alasdair’s hand on his arm.
                “Tomas,” the king said in an earnest tone. “I owe everything to what you would call the simple folk of Frewyn. I was raised among them by my grandfather, learned in the Church with the sons and daughters of farmers and fought in the ranks as a recruit under commanders who didn’t care that I was prince and brother to Allande. When my grandfather died and I was forced to live under my brother’s guidance, it pained me to see how poorly he treated others and it pained even more to know that I wasn’t in a position to rectify his mistakes. I admit I had little idea what I was doing when I was inaugurated but I knew I didn’t want to be the king my brother was regardless of what my advisors at the time had told me. When we returned from Thellis and I gained command of my reign, I made a promise to surround myself with only those who would be themselves an example for me. You are the most skilled blacksmith and metalworker in all of Frewyn and your modesty and stillness are qualities to be admired and emulated. I’m honoured to have you in this keep.”
                Tomas was overwhelmed with appreciation for the praise the king bestowed and though his humble manner wished to refute Alasdair’s testimony, the king’s sincerity made it impossible. Tomas averted his eyes and gave a nervous smile. “I don’t know t’at I’m the best in the kingdom, Majesty, but I’m grateful t’at you t’ink so.” He could say nothing more with a heart so full of indebtedness. He bowed low to Alasdair and walked back toward the table. He resolved that for the traditional gift given for the night of Ailineighdaeth the following evening, something special must be prepared in the king’s honour. He wondered what he could fashion for a man who should have professed to have everything his heart desired, but as Tomas led his mother through the main hall back to their apartment in the servant’s quarter, the something about the kings speech struck him when they came to the wall bearing the tapestry of King Dorrin.
                Tomas stopped and regarded the weave for some time. The artisan who created it had done magnificent work in capturing all the kindliness and gentility Alasdair’s much loved grandfather could grant. He took notice of his armaments. They seemed to be the very ones that Alasdair kept in the armour for his use during ceremonial events. They were the same in size, Tomas fathomed. He remarked the apparent lack of adornments a man in a stately position ought to have but there was one item that may have signified much for Alasdair and he made it his object to recreate it by the following evening. He was thrilled and keen for the prospect of honouring the king with such a handsome notion as the one he harboured and he after placing his mother into her bed, Tomas quickly went to work in his smith where he remained for the rest of the night engrossed in his covert designs.                        


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