Story for the day: Tyffirem
Alasdair and Carrigh were resigned to remain in Hallanys for the day to purvey Mrs. Averleigh with a healthy supply of daughterly affection in the morning and a pleasant walk beside the king in the afternoon before they were made to leave by the coming of evening. Alasdair was informed by the commander that she and her mate would be parting their company one day early to visit the farmsteads of Tyfirrem. He asked why with so little an inclination or motivation to visit before was there an interest to do so now, but when he was told the reason of her going was to discover a few discrepancies regarding the commander’s father, he encouraged their leave and asked to be sent a report the moment she was able.
The commander and the Den Asaan left the Golden Crown a few moments later with a note of sincere thanks to the regent for her kindly invitation. Many professions were made on the exquisite accommodations, the care taken in regard to their comfort and the excellence of the food they were provided during their stay, and an equal invitation was extended to the regent for a visit to Diras whenever she wished to accept hospitality of the capital.
They traveled toward the east, taking the Western Road out of Hallanys toward the highlands and farmsteads of Tyfirrem. As they began their journey along the Western Expanse, the commander took notice of a sheep cart that was being conveyed from Hallanys and moving in their general intended direction. She asked if her mate would enjoy the cart’s uses, if he would be obliged to benefit from its expediency, and if he should wish to try any perverse notions ha had conjured from their conversation the evening before. Traveling by cart was agreed to eagerly and they hastened toward its owner to pay for a ride. Although the giant’s weight was something to be carried, and Rautu would often leave the cart to carry it himself, when they remained on the bales of hay the commander sitting in her mate’s lap, the ride was altogether quite peaceful. It was slower than would have been traveling on foot but the giant was content to lean back and enjoy the blissful ride with his warm mate for comfort.
To accelerate their journey, the Den Asaan offered to run with the cart with the conveyer and the commander to weigh down the bales. The outskirts of the farmsteads were reached and the cart was sent on its way along the Western Road toward Diras. Rautu and the commander began walking up the dirt roads, weaving through the lands of Tyfirrem Greater.
The giant was careful to mark his mate’s expressions and perceive any sentiment she may articulate in word. He knew she had not returned to her the place of her birth and childhood for a reason and though she would speak freely of her upbringing, she often did so with great affectedness due to the manner in which her farm was destroyed and her father was slain. Her family name was rarely spoken when at the keep but the name given to her by her father was uttered even less. She forbade the use of her first name for the reason of not wishing to recall her father’s death. The name of Boudicca was the last word cried out as the farmer and landowner was murdered. The name of MacDaede has lost its brilliancy when Allande reclaimed most of their family’s lands and so her name became a travesty to her, her given name ruined by the Galleisian marauders and her family name desecrated by the late king she at one time was made to defend.
Rautu was conscious was her treads becoming heavy, her eyes remaining low and averted, and her speech growing quiet. He looked in the opposing direction of his mate’s attention to find a large plot of land overgrown, under tended, and marked by the presence of two scorched buildings waylaid with rubble. He assumed these destroyed structures were once her home and the barn that stood beside it before the Galleisians invaded and razed them to the ground. He said nothing as they walked on. He only stood by her and gave the solace of his presence. When she requested they stop so that she may collect herself, Rautu lifted his trappings and wrapped them around his disconcerted mate, using them as a means to hold her close.
“There is no need to see it any closer than you see it now,” the giant said decidedly.
The commander responded with a grateful look.
“Come, Traala. You will walk beside me and you will look ahead as if it is not there.”
“Your staunch demands are ever a source of consolation, Iimon Ghaala,” she said with a small smile.
They continued along the road toward the assembly hall and the town of Tyfirrem. When the giant asked the means of their mission, the commander replied they were in quest of one of her father’s old acquaintances whom she happened to meet many times on her frequenting town to sell and trade their produce.
“Shayne is a very jovial man from what I can recall,” the commander told her mate. “However, I daresay you may not be very fond of him. He’s quite a loud speaker, overly polite and exceptionally fat.”
The Den Asaan made a few grunts of disapproval on account of their object’s stridency and corpulence and was resolved to remain far from this acquaintance when met.
“His greatest achievements would be a master leatherworker, as he has fixed anything and everything my father ever asked of him, and a champion sitter and excessive eater. You may be able to outdo him on the eating but the sitting you certainly will not.” The commander promised to make the pleasantries short, the inquiries shorter so that they may continue their quest and return to Diras before Alasdair would arrive there himself.
The town square was quiet at the time in the evening when the commander and Den Asaan arrived. Merchants were cleaning their tables and emptying their baskets, traders were filling their caravans with purchased wares and everyone was retiring to the auspices of their homes with hearty goodbyes and echoing calls across the lanes. A few noticed the commander and recognized her as the daughter of Jaicobh MacDaede but she had so much changed since her time among them that they were hesitant to approach. The looming shadow of the giant was enough to give them pause and they only acknowledged her return with smiles and bows of the head.
Amidst the blacksmiths and metalworkers was Shayne Macbried. He was the very picture the commander had described as a man of moderate age and immoderate weight. He was tall but not upright due to the large and overhanging belly that weighed him forward. His complexion was red and weathered, his hair was the same, but his air was bright and his nature welcoming enough to recommend him as the friendliest creature if not the fattest.
“Gods bless me,” Shayne cried loudly, “if it isn’t herself! How are ya, darlin’? Ain’t seen you around here in a time.”
The leatherworker opened his arms to greet his friend’s daughter and she readily welcomed the unbidden affection. He slapped her back heartily when he embraced her and did not take notice of the Den Asaan’s repulsive expressions at his mate being touched by so rotund a beast.
“Have a stand there, girl. Let me look at you.” Shayne appraised the commander and nodded, his round cheeks reddening as he smiled. “Aye, you’re a sight, girl. Your father would have been proud. His girl savin’ the kingdom, aye.”
The commander felt herself ashamed to admit that her protective father would agree to her life in the armed forces but accepted the compliment with smirk. “Shayne, my father would have murdered me for signing the conscription form,” she politely argued.
“Aye, I can’t argue that but he would have softened like all parents do. So, heard you got yourself a man? Does the mountain shake hands?”
The commander looked back at her mate who was standing a great deal father from the conversation than she had first believed. “Not especially,” she laughed.
“A shy one,” Shayne chuckled. “Well, we crack our shy ones here, don’t we, girl? We’re country folk. There’s no one we can’t break with a good meal and a good chat.”
“A meal, perhaps but you shall have to forgo the chatting if you wish to remain unbroken.”
“A silent one. Just like your father. Ah, Jaicobh,” Shayne said shaking his head, his tone becoming somber. “I miss him. The best of men, he was. Never had a bad word for nobody. There were many time I seen him trade with others. He let go a copper here and a sliver there. Always treated others with kindness, your father. I wish there were ten in the world so much as him. Aye, good times we had.”
The commander looked at the leatherworker with a pained countenance. “I actually come to speak to you about him,” she said softly.
“Ask me anythin’, girl and I’ll tell you if I know it.”
There were many questions in the commander’s recollection but the matter of age was the one that concerned her most. “Shayne, how old was my father before the invasions?”
“Oh, Gods, girl, I can’t tell you,” said the leatherworker, placing his hands on his wide hips. “Your father refused to say anythin’ about his age. Once, me and the lads tried to get him drunk so he would say, but your father never drank a drop. I know he must have been, oh, about twenty when I was a young-un, but even then. Must have been about sixty when the Galleisians first riled us. Never was sure, though. Could never tell with your father. He had a grey hair or two and a few wrinkles but Jaicobh was always the looker out of all of us. Men don’t notice age until our young-uns are tellin’ us how old we are.”
The commander gave a short laugh but the general ignorance on the subject of her father’s age was something she found unsettling. “Did he ever speak about his mother and father?” she warily asked.
“He never said nothin’ to you?” Shayne asked with some surprised.
“No. He always cleverly found a way of distracting my poignant questions. And there was opposition enough from my mother’s parents to keep us excited for a lifetime.”
“Aye, girl. Your father was always worried one day they were goin’ to up and take you from him.”
The commander was silent and waited for an explanation to the odd claim, making no subtle moments of the kind.
The leatherworker observed the woman’s sense of revelation and sighed. “Jaicobh never told you why your mother’s family didn’t like him?”
“I always suspected because he was a farmer and they were part of the gentry,” she said in a quavering voice.
“Aye, girl, but that was only part of it. They would’ve help you surely when you fell on rough times after Allande ruined our farms if it wasn’t for-” Shayne stopped when the Den Asaan suddenly neared.
Rautu had heard the extent of the trouble exchange and noted his mate’s stiffened bearing. He came to her side to offer comfort but when the leatherworker refused to speak further and only stared at the menacing giant, the Den Asaan pointed and leered at the fat man. “You will tell everything you know to my mate. You will leave nothing unsaid. I will make certain of your obedience.” He growled, tapered his gaze and placed his hand on the hilt of his massive sword.
Shayne stepped back and raised his pudgy hands, waving them in contrition. “I don’t want no trouble,” he begged the giant. “I said I’ll say what I know and a promise made is one kept.”
Rautu sneered and removed his hand from his blade. He nodded toward the leatherworker to signify his wish for him to speak.
“Bou,” Shayne began, using the affectionate designation the commander’s father had accorded her. “You have to understand that your father was the best of men. The best, you understand me?”
“Did my father do something disreputable?” the commander asked in a dreadful tone.
“No. Well, yes. Not exactly.” Shayne looked to the side, scratching the back of his neck in discomfort. “When I was a young-un, your father was known as a shut-in. He was always a farmer, but I remember there was some talk about somethin’ he may have committed.”
“My father was guilty of a crime? I find that difficult to believe. He was the most docile man to have ever walked these fields.”
“Don’t I know it, girl. But those older than ourselves were none too fond of him. Somethin’ about bein’ asked in court for a murder. I know he was never guilty or nothin’ but someone accused him of killin’ someone.”
The commander was lost in shock and though she wished to ask a multitude of questions, she could only find the power to say, “Who?”
“No one knows nothin’,” Shanye said, dropping his shoulders. “Your father wasn’t guilty so no one questioned it and he never said a word to no one about it. But Maddie’s mother believed Jaicobh was no good because of it. She always thought his reputation would ruin Maddie’s. She thought your father was a murderer.”
“And my father’s parents?”
“Deidra was old when I was a young-un, girl,” Shayne said remorsefully. “She died long before you were thought of. I don’t know anythin’ about your grandfather, Bou, I’m sorry. I only know that he was never here. Never seen him, never heard nothin’ from him. Only person who may know somethin’ is Maddie’s mother.”
“The abominable Mrs. Flagstone,” the commander muttered through clenched teeth.
“Aye, her,” Shayne said, sharing the woman’s disdain. “I never liked her. Anyone who was cruel to your father was no friend of mine, I’ll tell you that. Terrible woman to abandon her daughter and Jaicobh like that. Even if you’re father were guilty of such a crime, he certainly made up for it and, if it did happen, I’m certain it was an accident or a misunderstandin’. Your father never raised a hand in his life.”
“No,” the commander whispered, “he never did, even when he should have.”
“Aye.” Shayne pursed his lips and gave a heavy sigh. “I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful.”
“You have told me much more than I ever expected to hear. I knew nothing of a murder or a trial. It’s all rather a shock to me.” The commander felt her shoulder suddenly weighed down by the application of her mate’s hand upon it.
“Well,” said Shayne, remarking the Den Asaan’s quiet warmth, “you got yourself a good man here, girl. He’ll take right care of any mess that’s in your way, to be sure.”
The commander looked up at the Den Asaan and observed his softened expression. She knew he retained no notion of the projected bond between children and those parents who raised them with affection and patience but she appreciated his wanting to sustain his vigil over her through what may prove to be a trying time. She thanked the leatherworker for his help in illuminating the circumstance as much as he was able and set out for the eastern edge of Tyfirrem Greater where she was prepared to inquisition the abominable Mrs. Flagstone.