Story for the day: The Earl
The Earl of Sesterna
Marridon, it seems, was in need of an airing, an airing of its Chambers and an airing of its gentry. The courts of Marridon capital were crowded with nobles from Sesterna and Baletrim, two of the Triumvirate’s smaller realms. The Chambers of Marridon city were filled with nobility from all three of the united nations and though many gave some unwanted commentary during the proceedings in the courts, there were none so troublesome in speech as the Earl of Sesterna. He was a pompous and ignorant fellow, fat in his person and equally thick in his understanding. The boredom he expressed while being made to remain in the Chambers for hearings was well catalogued by everyone around him and when his expressions of aversion became unreasonable, the Duchess entreated King Alasdair of Frewyn to improve the Earl’s sense of mainland culture and expose him to some exercise.
Though the invitation was not unwelcome, Alasdair could not help but feel it was imposed out of desperation to rid of the wearisome royal and, as he had many of Frewyn’s gentry who were just as taxing, he was hesitant to acquiesce to the appeal for the removal to Diras. He pitied his friend the Duchess, knowing the trials of rulership, and he consented to have the Earl visit the keep for one week to grant the woman peace in the Chambers. It was expected that the nobleman should make his visit in a few days and it was equally expect that he would be on his best behavior and return with reports of his activity. Alasdair could not wish for the Earl to be agreeable, but he maintained a hope that he at least would be respectable enough not to pester those in his keep and clever enough not to disturb the giants who dwelt within it.
The trade for the Earl was made and Alasdair had the empty apartment in the royal quarter prepared for his arrival. The king waited anxiously for his guest and readied all manner of appeasements in preparation for any foulness of temper but amidst the backed cakes and fine wines laid out for the Earl’s delecation, Alasdair gained the suspicion that any attempts to placate the nobleman would fail. He began to conceive handing over his charge to someone the king trusted with the Earl’s care who would show him quarter and yet not be generous with favor. He had not already wished to be rid of the Earl when they had not yet met but there was matters of stated that required his attention. Alasdair thought it advisable to speak to the commander about relinquishing her duties in the garrison and training yard for the week in exchange for the royal exhibition. She sighed and moaned at first and when Alasdair turned his entreaties into commands, the commander exchanged her calm words for those more assertive.
“Shall I ask why I, out of anyone else in the kingdom, must be his guide?” the commander said with an irritated countenance.
“Because you know him.”
“No, Alasdair, I know of him. One small word makes an infinity of difference.” She scoffed at Alasdair’s beseeching expression and shook her head to convey her disapproval at being given such a task. “He’s an Earl. Place him in Count Ross’ care and the two of them shall go along famously.”
“I need him to be somewhere I can watch him.”
“Very well, then. I shall leave him in the royal parlour, where he may enjoy all the refreshments his fat heart desires.”
Alasdair was about to protest to the commander’s cruel remark but he paused and thought of how secure and quiet the Earl might be in such a situation. “That’s not a terrible plan,” the king supposed.
“Of course it isn’t. Who shouldn’t enjoy being abandoned in room full of cakes?”
Alasdair was moved to agree but could not. His promise made to the Duchess was one kept and while his conscience would permit him to pass such a responsibility onto another, it would not allow him to desert his guest entirely. “As much as I enjoy the idea of locking an irritating noble in a room for a week, I can’t allow it. The Duchess is entrusting me with his wellbeing.”
“Alasdair, she sent him here because she doesn’t want him in the Chambers and she thought a romp with a few vicious giant would cure him of his poor manners,” the commander professed. “Take him to court with you. I’m certain the tedium the proceedings accord will force him into a retreat upon arrival.” She laughed at her declaration and though the king simpered along with her, his smiled turned to a fown and his laughs turned to sighs.
“Please, I am asking you to show him the capital. You do not need to entertain him. You don’t even need to speak to him. Just make certain he returns to Marridon in the same condition he came.”
“And I am to look after him for a whole week?” the commander fleered. “What have I done to warrant such abhorrent behavior against me?”
“It won’t be too terrible,” the king hoped.
“Perhaps not for you.”
“I’ll be in court for the week. I would gladly sacrifice my time there to entertain an Earl. Would you like to hold court in my stead?”
The commander parted her lips to disagree but a fleeting thought curled her lips into a wry grin. “Only if I may bring my giant,” she said, oscillating happily on her toes.
With a hard look from Alasdair, the matter was decided and the commander had lost by default. She was to look after the Earl for a week at the behest of her king and though they had quarreled for some time on the subject, always in playful tenor, the commander could never refuse an order given her by her sovereign.
Two days brought the Earl of Sesterna to Diras and Alasdair was awaiting his presence in the main hall upon arrival. The king was greeted genuine cordiality and excitement on the part of the Earl. He was just as the Duchess’ letters had described and where she found fault in the Earl’s character, Alasdair only found a mind that wished to be diverted. He sensed from the Earl’s eager manner of speaking that his numbed mind only required stimulation for when he received it from seeing his new surroundings, he was pleasant and amicable. His corpulence was overmuch for his fitted tailcoat to the point of nearly bursting at the seams when he laughed but Alasdair decided he rather liked his cheerful comments and his willingness to compliment everything in the keep.
Standing between the crenels of the battlements watching the king lead his visitor through the gallery was the commander and the Den Asaan. They examined the Earl from afar, marking his tight garments and hopping steps, and wished to know whether they should tolerate his presence or not. When the Earl was led into the training yard, the Den Asaan’s eyes flared in horror for the man’s unwholesome appearance.
“What is that?” he said, pointing to the odd noble’s overhanging stomach.
“Laughable, possibly,” the commander replied.
“You will not be forced to guide that, Traala. He will eat you.”
The commander snickered into her raised hand and told her mate to be kind with his remarks until the noble had properly disgraced himself. He made many claims for warriors, how they were to defend their home and not tour it with obese nobles, but his demands were quieted when Otenohi appeared on the battlements beside them.
The inquisitor looked down at the Earl from his high position and narrowed his gaze. “Who has come?” Otenohi said archly.
“A new charge for you, brother,” Rautu said.
Otenohi rubbed his hands together, eager to begin tormenting a new target, and as he went to begin his designs on the Earl’s early death, the commander impeded him to remind him there was to be no blood and no visible marks of any kind on his victim’s body.
“Otenohi, if you insist on torturing the poor fellow, I shall ask that you use mild poison and merely don’t kill him.”
“I would not kill without provocation, Amhadhri,” Otenohi said smilingly with a sparkle in his eye. “If I did, my amusement would be gone.”
“How true,” the commander laughed. She added that his machinations were to take place in the evenings so that the Earl may be absent for dinner and indisposed for anything other than rest.
Otenohi said nothing, but he gave the commander a cruel smile, which told her that he had already figured out his enjoyment for the remainder of the week. Otenohi left and was only see again a few days hence when the Earl suddenly went missing.
Over the course of the first few days of the Earl’s visit, the guest to the keep was delivered through a series of challenges, all of them traps laid out by wily inquisitor. The first day brought the application of a poison as a test of the Earl’s resistances. He had done well to absorb the amount he was given, causing Otenohi to use more ample tactics to incapacitate his prey. The second day forced him to drop precarious objects into the Earl’s path, but though the Earl fell over the numerous traps and was thrown back by the falling stone, his padding saved him from harm and he merely continued on his way as if nothing at all had happened.
The third day came and went and on the fourth day, the Earl was nowhere to be found. He was not in his chamber when the maid came in the morning and he had not arrived when his breakfast was served. The commander waited for him at the front gate so that they may continue their exploration of the capital but the Earl did not appear. Whispers went round the castle of the missing visitor and when many had failed in their search for him, the commander thought to approach Otenohi and quiz him on the subject. She found the inquisitor beside her mate sitting on the well in the courtyard looking far too complacent for him to be innocent.
“I know you’ve done something, Otenohi,” she said as she neared the smug giant.
“He has captured him,” Rautu said, barely smiling.
“That would explain why haven’t seen him this morning. Did you sell him to the traders?”
“No, Amhadhri,” Otenohi purred. “That is too simple a strategy.”
“He has hidden him somewhere underground and he wishes for me to hunt for him,” Rautu clarified.
The commander raised her brows. “You buried him alive?”
“He will not die, Amhadhri. You have my word. I have only placed him there for my brother to find. Rautu is the Den Endari and if he wishes to prove his skill as a hunter, he will find your Bhazara.”
The commander gave a short laugh for the Haanta term but her expression soon returned to the severity of the situation. “Otenohi, you must let him out of wherever you have put him.”
“Leave him where he is, Traala. He will starve for a few days and I will find him when it is time for him to return to his people.”
“As much as that may be helpful for someone in his condition, Iimon Ghaala, I would like you to find him now before Alasdair begins to question me about the Earl’s disappearance. I cannot say I merely lost him, as someone that large is quite impossible to lose.”
Rautu humphed and much to Otenohi’s chagrin went to find the buried noble. His search was short and when the Earl was unearthed in the royal hunting grounds, he did not seem the least bit worried. He was thankful that he had been recovered but returned to the keep in a manner that suggested he was waiting for the next time misfortune should befall him.
The following days brought more stunts in the same style and the more tricks the Earl was made to suffer, the happier he became. He forgot all about meals and began sneaking about the keep as though he were playing a game of hide and seek with Otenohi. The inquisitor was never happier. So willing a subject he had found that by the end of the week, he did not wish for his new friend to leave but when it was time for the Earl to return to Marridon to give his report, so much was said to the king on the interesting happenings of the keep. He exclaimed his sincere enjoyment of everything that was done to delight him from the false kidnappings to the timbering trees alike.
“Please, your eminence,” said the Earl to Alasdair upon his parting the castle, “you must allow me to return. I have had an immense time of it. I was warned that Diras is never without its amusements and I was not disappointed. What a capital time of it. I especially enjoyed having my clothing stolen. I never get the opportunity to run about in such a way lately. I was made to feel young again. What games. What excellent, excellent games.”
The Earl went on for some time about many instances of which he had not been apprised, but seeing how happy his guest was upon leaving, Alasdair decided to say nothing to Otenohi’s designs. The king extended an open invitation to the Earl, which received many hearty words of praise and profuse thanks.