Story for the day: The Commander's Birthday
The Commander's Birthday
The following morning, the commander was roused from her bed by a brash knock at the door. She quickly dressed and went to receive her visitor, hoping it had something to do with the package she was forbidden from seeing the evening previous, and was gratified in seeing the herald at her door. She greeted him with genial smiles and fluttering eyes, waiting for the information she longed to hear, but she receive none of what she was desirous of attaining. There were no words of illumination given nor was there talk of the parcel he had delivered to her mate. There was only an invitation to commune in the great hall when evening came. There were no other stipulations or terms of entreaty given and when she asked the meaning of this gathering, the herald gave her a look of circumspection as if she should have known why such a meeting was to be held.
The herald left, the commander sighed and decided to remain in the aegis of the common’s den until evening. She had an inclining as to the reason of this assembly she was to attend and she buried her head in her hand at the thought of it. She said many things on the subjects of impropriety and enforced commemorations, and she swore to herself for having ever discussed the date in question with an over-conscious king.
She was successful in evading the majority of low voices and polite stares that accompanied such a day and each time she ventured to the kitchen to find something to eat, the veracity of her suspicions began to improve. There were murmurs throughout the kitchen when she entered and everyone began turning away from her, looking at her when they were failing miserably at pretending not to look. She groaned and marched back toward the commons, pondering the reasons as to why she should go to this planned engagement when everything to demonstrate its disaster was a certainty.
When the Den Asaan had not returned from his training and there was no one lurking about in the winding halls of the keep as was usual for Gods Day, the commander began to deduce that the assembly called would be larger than she would have wished. It was on undesirable object to have a celebration in one’s honour but entirely another to be compelled to share it with every tenant of Diras Castle. Through her musings of vehement dislike for such an ostentatious day, she donned her armour and prepared to brave the hordes gathered in the great hall.
She went alone, and therefore could have defected if she desired, but there was much exertion that had been exuded by the preparations for this gathering and she resolved to bare it if only for a few moments. She stood before the double doors of the great hall and inhaled, mustering the unbidden strength to enter though she wished to do otherwise. She exhaled, pulled the doors open and to her feigned astonishment, the entirety of the keep was assembled within, shouting their approbations and exultations for the commander’s birthday. She was pleased to see everyone so enthused but could not be more averted for celebrating a day of little consequence to her in such a manner.
Everyone of significance was in attendance. The four Haanta stood in one corner of the room, looking bewildered by the overwrought display. Tomas and Mrs. Cuineill stood beside them, the old woman sneering at the young fellows abound and Tomas asking her to diminish her enthusiasm. Loughnas stood near the Cuineills, seeming generally pleased, maintaining her vigil by the back wall. Captain Connors was in the foreground of the hall with Frewyn’s regiments standing at attention behind him. Flittering about the room was Kai Linaa, making certain that every garnishing was faultless and the food table was well stocked and untouched by the hungry masses of men about. Although there were platters of cakes and roasted meat adorning the table, Obhantaa’s khaasta and the gull remained unmoving in perfect conduct. The Den Asaan stood uncommonly close with his brothers, which made the commander smile knowing that he would be immensely discomfited by the presence of so many people he disliked and so much cake he would not be permitted to touch for his appeasement of their company.
At the commander’s side stood King Alasdair. He sidled her quickly once she arrived and entreated her not to destroy him for agreeing to uphold the celebration.
“Who put you up to this?” the commander demanded. “I will have you tell me.”
“Kai Linaa,” Alasdair hastily said, shifting the focus of the blame to the fluttering elven woman. “Well, I mentioned I might have wanted to bother you with a party and she was the one who overpowered my suggestion. She orchestrated all of this, decoration and attendees alike. I only charged Martje with making the cake, chocolate of course.” Alasdair gestured to the largest cake at the center of the table, the only one not adorned with candied fruit, presumably for the Den Asaan’s delectation.
“Thank you,” the commander warmly said, acknowledging her preference. “I know you are a great admirer of vanilla and other tasteless things but my mate and I cannot abide it. You’ve done well by the cake I daresay. The guests, however, are another matter entirely, especially a one king of Frewyn. I hear he is a most disagreeable man, although he is said to be quite handsome. I’m sure I don’t know what the nobility raves on about.”
Alasdair gave the commander a flat look but it was soon forgotten when he understood she was pestering him if only to retaliate for the intrusion.
“I should have known you would conspire against me,” the commander said, remarking the beginning bustle of the celebration.
Alasdair reached over to the table and took from upon it two glasses of wine. “Can I persuade you to have a drink?”
“No. You have already forced me to do enough for one day and I expect you wish me to have one so you can make a wretched toast.”
Alasdair grinned and called everyone’s attention, much to the commander’s loathing. He encouraged everyone to take a glass of honey wine but, recalling that the Haanta mandate forbade toxins, bid the giants to refresh themselves with a glass of water instead. He held his glass up to call forth everyone’s consideration. “My thanks to everyone for attending, and my extended thanks to Kai Linaa for arranging this event.”
Everyone gave mild applause, causing Kai Linaa to blush, and when the ovation was done, the commander began to dread the coming speech.
“I will only say a few words with the sole purpose of forcing the commander to say a few herself to quiet me.” Alasdair looked over at the commander to see her sentiment of revulsion begin to surface. “There are many things a king could say about the courage and pride of his commanders but Boudicca, if she would permit me to say it once, is not only a commander. She is my dearest and most trusted friend-“
“That is quite enough flattery, Alasdair,” the commander intruded, shooing the king with a dismissive wave and gaining a laugh from the regiments. “You all have my sincerest thanks for the display of frivolity and gratuitousness. On such a day as today, one is made to expect supplication and gifts one will never look at again. However, I am vain enough to say that I have everything I could ever want and everything I never believed I’d deserve here in this hall. There is nothing lacking in any aspect and I am only too please to see that you think I warrant such a celebration for such an involuntary day. And if you don’t, I’m pleased at least you attended for the sake of eating everything that was prepared.”
The room erupted in laughter but the commander kept a smirk for herself, knowing there was some truth in her speech whether on the side derision or on the side of pleasantry, she would not differentiate. She bid everyone to begin eating with the warning of leaving the cake until after the meat was gone. She thought to return to her mate but she was expected to make the rounds of greeting and did so while Kai Linaa began passing around party hats.
Many were entreated to wear them and did so readily for the occasion for they were not the traditional sort of conical articles. Parchment made and hand painted, eat hat was carefully designed and no one could refuse them when Kai Linaa admitted she had made them herself. She saved a few of them to give to her mate and the Haanta of the party. When she handed one to Otenohi, he looked at the item with a devious glare and he was warned not to place it on another portion of his body of certain distinction. He ignored her and enjoyed the suggestive nature of the item if only to disturb the prude in attendance. She gave one then to Unghaahi who asked many questions on what the hat symbolized and if it was ceremonial. She replied that the hat itself was only given out at commemorations and though no one was expected to wear it, it always added to the revelry of the celebration at present. Unghaahi smiled and bid her to fix it between his thick braids to he could wear it in proper style. She gave another to Obhantaa and the gentle, white giant was monstrously pleased to wear it, as he was given one in all of his most preferred colours. He crushed Kai Linaa with an embrace and just when he believed he could not be any happier, she produced a small hat for his cat and one for the gull. Obhantaa cheered and placed the tiny hats on each of his companion’s heads.
Kai Linaa had almost done the doling of the festive hats when she had only two left, one for the commander and one for the Den Asaan. She realized her folly in supposing she could make the commander wear one after all of the extension she had done today and therefore Kai Linaa made it her object to give one to Rautu. The giant stood to the side, remaining near his brothers while his comforting mate addressed the party, and when he observed Kai Linaa nearing with the sparkling parchment hat in her hand, he protested profusely and tore it from her grasp. He placed the hat on her head, roaring at her to wear it and leave him be, and when the item refused to be still on Kai Linaa’s silken hair, Rautu attached it to her ear. He enjoyed the humiliation of the sight so well he took the second from her opposing hand and preformed the same action on the other side, making the elven woman appear ridiculous yet satisfied. She paraded herself around in her two hats and the Den Asaan growled in disdain for merriment and unwarranted garnishings.
“You’re enjoying yourself immensely, Iimon Ghaala,” said his mate from behind.
Rautu instantly moved toward her and noted the displeased expression she carried. “I know you do not enjoy celebrations,” he said with concern.
“And I know you had little to do with this, Iimon Ghaala. You would have never designed a gathering of people, your greatest fear in life, and I know you have only agreed to come for the exorbitant chocolate cake, which will no doubt be begun and finished by you.”
They exchanged a small smile but their privacy was soon intruded upon by the Den Asaan’s three brothers, all of them approaching with gifts in their colossal hands. The Den Asaan permitted them to near and he backed away from his mate, allowing them the audience to make their presentations.
Unghaahi was given the first presentation being the highest in rank and he came forward with a low bow of graciousness and civility. “Amhadhri Bhudhiika Anonnaa,” the Den Amhadhri greeted her, “I am aware you do not approve of being excessive. However, I would ask that you allow me to give you a gift on this day.”
“By the Gods, Unghaahi,” the commander simpered with a shake of her head. “I could never refuse you anything with such forcible powers of persuasion.”
Unghaahi smiled and unfurled a long fabric that was folded in his hands. “This is a Jhidhosha,” he said, giving her the long, silken article. “I know you have been only once to our islands and I am aware you prefer never to be seen by others without your armor. However, this is a traditional dress from Sanhedhran I have secured in your honour. They are not given to those who are not Haanta but you are my brother’s Traala and my Anonnaa. You have found enlightenment on your own and this is to be commended. You may not be able to return to our home but I am pleased to be able to bring some of it to you.”
“You are a delight as ever, Unghaahi,” the commander said warmly. “Thank you. I am overwhelmed to receive it. I’m certain my donning of this exquisite item will please your brother greatly.”
“Kai Linaa will assist you in learning how to tie it, if you wish.”
The commander agreed she should like a demonstration indeed and bowed to Unghaahi as he left, allowed Otenohi to continue.
“I am told it is customary to give a gift to you on this day,” Otenohi purred with a wily grin.
The commander raised her brow. “It is customary, Otenohi, not mandatory.”
“Ah, then what I will give you will be sufficient for the practice.” Otenohi reached for the underside of his long braid and pulled from it one white shell, similar to the one the Den Asaan had in his hair. “This is an Otsbholaas, a carved shell from the shores of Sanhedhran,” Otenohi said, placing it in her hand. “I have received many from our women as gifts but this shell I have always used in my games of Otsbhaala with Rautu. I understand he has taught you our game. You must compete with him and use this shell on your side of the board. It has brought me much fortune and I have never lost while using it.”
“Any excuse for your brother to be beaten,” the commander laughed.
“Always, Amhadhri. He must be challenged and you should be the one to continually test him. Do not disappoint me.”
“I certainly shall not. Thank you, Otenohi.”
Otenohi bowed and bid Obhantaa to come forward. The white giant bounded forth with his cat at his side and the gull on his shoulder, happily preening Obhantaa’s grey locks.
Obhantaa drew the commander into his massive arms for a prolonged embrace and then announced, “The Khaasta says her gift is the zhantsa on the table.”
“That is a masterful-looking deer, khaasta,” the commander said, peering at the roasted meat. “My stomach shall be very pleased to enjoy it.”
“These are for you, Gondhaahi.” Obhantaa reached into the folds of his simple kilt and produced a pair of mitts sewed in the shape of gulls. He lifted her hands and placed one on each to make certain they would fit. “The Bhontaa chose them,” he said, remarking then with a great smile. “It is cold in your homeland and he said you need protection for your hands from the white rain.”
The giant’s sweetness of appearance and innocence in character had surmounted her and the commander embraced him again. The willingness of her embrace forced Obhantaa to respond accordingly and he cooed as he lifted her off her feet, bosoming her with tenderness.
“Ghesturaas dan Anaalon, Gondhaahi,” Obhantaa said with immense affection.
The commander patted the giant on the cheek and noted that Alasdair was standing behind him, waiting for his turn to approach. She sighed and nodded him forward as Obhantaa went on. “Do not tell me you have something for me as well after all this,” she said to the king.
“It’s more something to show you.” Alasdair reached into his side pocket and took into his hand a small, silver band. The manner in which it was held and the blushing smiled that accompanied its display suggested that Alasdair had intended to give it to the woman who had ruined his composure. “It was my mother’s, given to her by my father and given to me by my grandfather,” he said quietly.
“It is simple and therefore could not possibly be more stunning or more perfect, Alasdair. Your eternal happiness, a most deserved one, could not be a better gift to me. Is the young seamstress of consequence here? This is a peasant’s party, after all.” The commander winked at her king and he replied with a knowing grin.
“She was invited but she kindly declined. I think she didn’t want to be seen as being favoured.”
“Aye, boy-o,” shouted a familiar, rasping voice. “And won’t you do t’e proper t’ing and make t’at girl a queen?”
Alasdair turned to find Mrs. Cuineill and Tomas in fast approach. The old woman hobbled toward the king with a scowling grimace on her wrinkled face. “Hello, Mrs. Cuineill,” Alasdair mumbled.
“Aye, hullo yourself,” the crone chuffed. “I’m old, lad. Don’t make me wait to see you wit’ someone. I’ve waited enough for t’is one to give me grandwee-uns.” She pointed a crooked thumb at Tomas and the blacksmith sighed and turned away.
“Mrs. Cuineill,” the commander said in howling laughter, “if I ever wished to have a hero, I daresay it would be you. Your churlishness is one I can aspire to.”
“I apologize for my Ma, your majesty,” Tomas said to Alasdair with a small bow. “She’s ‘ad a bit of t’e drink. T’ank you for inviting us. It was very kind of you to t’ink of it.”
“Not at all, Tomas. Mrs. Cuineill, may I escort you to the refreshment table?”
The old woman took hold of the king’s arm and smiled. “Aye, you’re a good lad, just like mine. You’ll do the respectable t’ing.”
As the king led the old woman away, Tomas draw close to the commander. “I made you somet’in’,” he said with a diffident smile. “It’s a bit more sensible than a usual gift.” Tomas took from his apron a small silver bell that seemed as though it was made to be suspended from a loop at the top. “I know your man doesn’t like bein’ disturbed so I made you t’is for visitors to ring instead of knockin’. It ‘as a pleasant chime. I t’ought it would be better.” He held the bell upright and shook it to demonstrate its gentle ting.
“Very much appreciated, Tomas,” the commander said smilingly. “My man, as you so affectionately call him, will be ever gratified.”
“Just come to t’e smit’ and tell me when you’d like me to mount it on t’e wall.”
They were in the midst of a friendly embrace when the call for cake was made. With the commander’s continued requests presence elsewhere, the Den Asaan was beset with restlessness and it was decided that only the richness of chocolate cake could tranquilize him. Mrs. Cuineill was given the honour of cutting the cake on the commander’s request, as only a mother could cut slices fitting enough for growing young lads, and Rautu was assured the first and the largest piece of them all. The giant’s ease was only destroyed by the gull’s incessant cries. He wished to have some of the Den Asaan’s cake and would not relent in his squawks until some was given him.
“Away from my cake, Bhontaa,” Rautu shouted, commanding the gull with a pointing of his finger. “I have allowed you to share my home, my training yard and my meals. I will not share my chocolate.”
The giant continued his row with the gull through his bite of cake and while he was distracted with his two items, Kai Linaa took the chance at placing a ribboned bow in the giant’s hair. She covered her mouth with her hand to keep from laughing and revealing what she had done. She hid behind her mate for protection in case the giant discovered her intended mockery and wish for retaliation. Rautu walked around the hall with no knowledge of the bow at the back of his head or the gentle crumbs adorning his mouth and was permitted to gallivant around the hall, collecting many snuffled snickered and chary looks.
The commander pitied him after a time and took the bow from his hair to show him the source of the travesty that followed him. “You’ve been well adored for the occasion,” she said with a wry grin. “Have you borne as much of this as you can?”
The giant seethed in silence and crushed the bow in his hand, prepared to pummel Kai Linaa for her impudence. His want for retaliation was soon impeded by his mate’s hand gracing his draping locks. She agreed to leave with him, having had enough of the celebration herself, and encouraged everyone to continue the party in her honour while she led the Den Asaan back to the quiet auspices of the commons.
“After all that excitement with that package you refused to let me to see and I receive no gift from you,” she mused as they entered the winding stair.
The Den Asaan explained that she had been under a mistake as to the nature of the parcel. The delivery was indeed for the commander but intended to reach Kai Linaa. Inside were all the necessary items needed to create all the decorations she wished to fashion. The parcel was delivered to the Den Asaan because the elven woman had bid him to order it for her. She believed that by using Rautu’s means of shouting and bellowing, he would receive the package at the requested time. When she had approached the giant with such a plan, he agreed if only to express his powers of influence and receive optimal service from the parchmenter.
The commander moaned for the misunderstand and reiterated her detestation for surprises. She was made to retract her phrase, however, when they returned to the main room of the commons and the giant refused the woman entry into the bedchamber.
“Remain there, Traala, and turn to the fire,” Rautu commanded his mate.
The woman had done for protestations for the day. She complied without a word to gainsay him and waited for his return. His renewed presence was marked with a gentle touch on the shoulder from behind her but when she lifted her hand to greet him, the commander’s fingers grazed the fur now adoring her shoulders. He turned to find her mate draping a long, white wolf pelt along her back, fixing it in place atop her pauldrons with a few looks of approval when her embellishing was complete.
“You have said you disapprove of wearing tabard but do so to protect your body from your kingdom’s unreasonable climate,” the giant said, rubbing the pelt along her arms. “This will be for you as a replacement. It is warmer and it is more suitable for you, woman.”
The commander was not fond of extravagance but realized that furs in Haanta society were customary and common. “Do you mean to say you enjoy seeing me in furs?” she said, teasing the giant in his happy state. “You shall have to join the nobility soon for such extravagant gifts.”
She laughed but was silence by the force of the Den Asaan’s commanding grip suddenly upon her. He drew her forward into the bend of his massive harm and impressed his mouth upon hers to express his sentiment of the day. The fresh scent of the cured hide, the warmth of his mate and the taste of her smiling features soothed any remaining agitation from the celebration and he released her to hear her thoughts on his gift.
“It is wondrous, Iimon Ghaala,” she exclaimed, touched the soft furs. “And it is made even more so because I know you skinned this yourself. I do wonder where it is you found a Thellisian wolf.”
“I asked Otenohi to have one sent from the woods boarding Khantara Ghaasta. It was delivered to the hunting grounds where I hunted it with Obhantaa’s hangaara.”
“I’m glad at least you are able to find some enjoyment in such a day. Fortunately, although I know your birthday, I shall never subject you to such nonsense. I shall only make you promises of copious Khopra and bake you a delightful cake.” The commander’s smile faded in a small stint of bemusement. “Now that the notion graces me, I do that for you nearly every day.”
“And you please me greatly, woman,” the giant hummed.The Den Asaan continued his desire osculations and laid his mate before the fire to give the pleasant remainder of her birthday gift.