Story for the day: Girl Talk
Bouts of sweet looks and mellifluous words were exchanged between the king and seamstress. They remained in such proximity to suggest their want for one another but never drew close enough to act upon such a desire. Both of them felt their first evening together should be engaging and delicate, and neither Alasdair nor Carrigh would be the ruination of their mutual happiness for the night. They spoke until such time when Alasdair had fallen asleep. Carrigh watched his eyes begin to close and remained silent, allowing him to drift into a pleasant slumber. She observed him for a few moments and when she was assured of his comatose state, she plucked up the courage to touch his well-defined hair. Though it maintained its perfect shape, it was surprisingly soft. She had not expected so resolute a construction to be so pliable. She graced the crown of his head with her fingers and the sleeping king responded with gentle sound and a nestle toward her breast. She bit her lip to keep her laughter from waking him and once she could hold her laughter back no longer, she left their bed and went to the window to simper and watch the sunrise.
Beyond the window sitting on the terrace was the commander. Carrigh perceived how serene and composed she seemed when the bestial sounds that had come from her room suggested her dismemberment and injury. Carrigh became intrigued with such a strange woman and felt it desirable to seek her company in the early morning hours. She walked out onto the terrace from the narrow hallway that joined their two rooms. The wood beneath her feet creaked and the commander turned to greet her. Carrigh made a small bow in respect to the commander's high station but her attempts were waved on and she was invited to sit with her.
Carrigh looked around to make certain they were truly alone. "Commander, are you well?" she whispered, judging the woman's unbroken form.
"Excessively well," the commander said with a pleasant sigh. "A few bruises and a bit sore, but that only makes me all the happier. I heard no felicitous sounds coming from your room."
"Commander," Carrigh whispered, blushing into the curl of her shoulder. "Are you alone? If the Den Asaan were meant to join you, I wouldn't want to intrude."
"My mate is practicing his mediations at this time in the morning so that he can bear all the confusion and cold weather of our kingdom with some measure of forbearance. You're more than welcome to sit with me, Carrigh." The commander gestured for the seamstress to take the seat beside her and her wishes were granted. "I never slept much as a farmer, being pressed to rise with the sun every day, but resistance training as infantry ruined me for any hope of rest."
"What did you have to do?" Carrigh asked, shifted to gain some comfort in her seat.
"Commander Vyrdin would force us to stand during guard duty and when one of us would begin to succumb, he would slap our shins with a quarterstaff." The commander scoffed to think of the torment she endured and laughed at how it had wrecked her for sleep. "I see Alasdair has had little difficulty in forgetting his training. He was one of Vyrdin's favourite victims."
"Oh," Carrigh exclaimed, placing a hand to her mouth in some surprise at what the king was made to endure. "Was much of your training so violent?"
"Vyrdin was a cruel master but he made certain he had the best regiment there was," the commander proudly declared. "The company from Tyfirrem was one of the few that survived the entirety of the Galleisian War, minus Vyrdin himself."
"You must have spent much time with Alasdair then."
The commander recognized Carrigh's delicate allusion with a slow turn of the head and a quirk of her dark brows. She smirked at the demure seamstress and waited for her to ask the question she believed was long in coming.
Carrigh gave the commander some fleeting looks and after a few moments of hesitation asked, "Did you and Alasdair ever . . .?"
"We did," the commander replied, and then amended with a firm, "Once. But is affections made to me were based on a misapprehension of something I had done, Carrigh. When asked by a mutual acquaintance if I would return to Lucentia with him and become his concubine, I declined him."
The two women shared a laugh over the notion of such a creature in the armed forces agreeing to Ladrei's generous offer.
"Alasdair, however, misconstrued my refusal. He had thought I harboured a secret affection for him."
"Had you?" Carrigh asked inquisitively.
"Only the sort of affection that a profound friendship would allow. I never had any interest in him otherwise," the commander assured the seamstress. "You have nothing to fear from me, if that should be why you ask."
"Might I ask what changed Alasdair's mind after you . . . " Carrigh looked away and fidgeted with her fingers.
"Your politeness on the matter is endearing," the commander snickered."The very precarious giant who is now sitting peacefully in the silence of our room forced him to think differently for a while. But a circumstance arose, and I eventually had to tell him there was never an inkling of the kind on my side. I believe, however, he only harboured any hope for me as his queen because I was the only woman he could bear." The commander winked at Carrigh. "And I was the only person he knew. Alasdair was so doted on by his grandfather for the first many years of his life and when King Dorrin died, he was sent to Tyfirrem for schooling. We met at the church and we were the most wretched of enemies. Eventually we became friends when I realized he was only diffident and lonely. He was even more reserved and friendless when I returned from Sanhedhran. It was then I was obliged to tell him of my particular attachment and though he was restful of it then, he is more than a gentleman about it now."
Carrigh's expression grew sorrowful to hear of Alasdair's enforced lonesomeness. She had hopes that with a king for a brother and all the nobility of Frewyn he would be well liked and showered with words of camaraderie and praise, but the situation she desired for him was not so. An ill feeling rose within her and she was repentant she had ever thought to ask the disquieting inquiry. She quickly sought to change the subject and turned the focus to the conversation toward something else that had stirred her curiosity. "Did you meet the Den Asaan's parents while in the north?" she softly asked.
The commander laughed and sat upright, giving the seamstress a look of mirth. "The Haanta notion of parentage is a bit different from what we are accustomed to, but I did not," she said smilingly. "His father is a legendary hero gone missing to the east and the Thellisian woman who bore such an enormity died shortly after birthing him."
"How terrible," Carrigh sighed. The conversation was not boding well for her and she wished to change the topic of discussion again. "Do you often return to Tyfirrem to see your parents?" she asked, hoping the commander's reply would be a positive one.
The commander lowered her gaze and shook her head for the folly of Carrigh's unawareness. "Your choice of subjects, Carrigh, is astonishing," she mused.
Carrigh turned away and after a few moments gathered the sense in the commander's observation. "Oh, I apologize, commander," she said with grave indignity, shading her embarrassed features with her hand.
"You may be sorry only father's account. I most certainly am." She placed hand on Carrigh's shoulder and gave her a sympathetic rub. "I'm not offended, Carrigh. It will take more than an innocent question to rile my sensibilities." The commander was moved to think of how remorseful she was for her father. She attempted to remove the sudden images of his death from her mind but the more she attempted to erase his brutal end and the calling out of her name, the more prevalent the vision became. "My poor father," she sighed, her countenance growing grim. "What a horrid shame. He worked so hard all his life only to be murdered and to have everything he sowed taken away from him. What despicable misfortune to befall him." Her eyes bent for the ignominy of his death and she felt tears begin to form in spite of her peaceful state. "He loved the earth and the consolation planting and harvesting afforded him. Were he alive, I think he and my mate would have done famously for each other," she smiled, wiping the budding tears from her eyes. "Both of them such brooding and quiet men."
"Was he like the Den Asaan?" Carrigh quietly asked.
"In certain respects," the commander replied, collecting herself. "He believed he had found his purpose in life and he reveled in being a farmer. He was the largest man anyone had ever seen in Tyfirrem, which is partly why I believe my mother was so intrigued by him. Many were tentative to approach him but once they knew him, they saw my father had the biggest heart of any man there ever was." She nodded to herself and hummed with fondness for the memory of him toiling away. "He did everything for everyone and never asked for anything in return. I was his only object. There was nothing he wouldn't do for me. He would fend off every attempt he could at my mother trying to sell me off to the highest bidder as a wife. He wanted me to make my own choice in the matter. I daresay he would be shocked to see me now. He would have had kittens if he knew I sold myself to the armed forces."
Carrigh was pleased to hear the commander speak so well of such a laudable man and decided to press her further. "Do you look like him?"
"Yes, I would say look very much like my father, forgiving certain feminine endowments," the commander said, looking down at her large gifts. "He had a pair of blue eyes that I should have very much liked to inherit. They were like no blue I had ever seen."
"Was he a good-looking man?"
"Much more handsome than my mother deserved, certainly," the commander proclaimed. "He
looked quite well for his age."
"May I ask how old he was when he passed away?"
The commander parted her lips and inhaled to speak but stopped when she could not recollect his exact age. "I don't exactly know," she said in astonished bemusement. "He worked so hard he never felt it necessary to stop and celebrate his birthday. I suppose he must have been sixty at least. He looked no older than fifty, but I knew he must be older. When my grandfather died, his mother, I'm told she was quite an old woman."
The commander now wondered the veracity of her father's age. She had been so occupied with admiring him and being his adored daughter that there was little in history or in fact that she could recollect of him. He had always refused to speak of his father and he had said very little of his mother. The commander knew what she did of her grandmother, the one with whom she always believed she ought to get along, due to her father's friends and associates. She realized that her father had done or said little else that had not to do with her or his farm. She began to wonder why he had been so unspoken on the subject and why she had only realized it now when it was too late.
Carrigh noticed that she had touched something rather unsettling for the commander and excused herself from the conversation, fearing that she had ruined her chances of a friendship with her. She was assured all was well and even was given words of hoping to see her at breakfast but Carrigh only murmured a short reply and returned to her room to seek the attentive comfort of her king.
The commander, however, was in an odd humour. The history of her father's family had never been known to her. She was concerned more with her mother's relations and how abominably they had treated her and her father, leaving all notions surrounding the shrouded MacDaedes amiss. She was certain there must be something to remark her father's name and standing in the Tyfirrem registry and she resolved to return to Diras one day early in hopes of discovering the truth in the Frewyn farmsteads along the way.