Story of the Day: Cottage Holliday
Unghaahi and Kai Linaa remained in each other’s private embrace for some time, during which the remainder of the party busied themselves with tasks about the house. Storerooms needed to be filled, cupboards needed replenishing, and certain corners of the cottage required care. A broken hinge, a cracked floorboard, these were the small occupations that engaged their interested and making the home as faultless as possible was an object everyone was pleased with undertaking. Otenohi and Rautu were deployed for fixing the minor imperfections of the house while Obhantaa and the commander were requested to remove any unwanted invaders. The commander politely suggested that her mate be the one to find the small and natural intruders of such a home so close to the wilderness, which caused Otenohi to point and laugh at his brother’s disturbed expression, and the Den Asaan vehemently refused to have any part in such a search though it was proclaimed that he was the best hunter of all of them. Rautu protested that Obhantaa with his gifts of speaking to creatures of every tenor should be the one to remove them from their places.
The white giant readily accepted the task of spider removal for his employment and began scouring the house, in search of those who would soon die by the Den Asaan’s blade before they could finish their webs. He found many lurking in the corners of the cottage. In the darkened places of the storerooms, in the crevices between stones, the clefts between the wooden boards were their nests and breeding ground for horror. Obhantaa whispered his gentle words of entreaty to them, apologizing for his need to remove them from their homes, and he bid them to collect into his colossal hand so that he may find them a suitable dwelling in the forest outside. All the unwelcome creeping creatures from the damp and dark spots of the home crawled into the giant’s open palm and once they were nearly all assembled Obhantaa placed each one of them on its own tree in the woods.
He returned to the cottage to find the Den Asaan working away at replacing one of the cracked stones on the floor of the kitchen. Although Rautu had no notion of how to perform the task of a mason, he supposed the sanding and fitting of stone would not be terribly difficult to contrive, but in his assiduous musings had no occasion to look up at Obhantaa’s fearful expression. The white giant stared at his distracted brother. He knew not how to broach the delicate subject in a manner that would not give anxiety and motioned for the commander’s assistance on the matter.
“Gondhaahi,” Obhantaa Leraa whispered to the commander. “There is an Undu on Ethnaahi’s head. It came from the ceiling. I could not remove it before it touched him.”
The commander saw the tiny spider creep across the Den Asaan’s molded locks. She nodded and discreetly turned her back toward her mate, standing closely with Obhantaa. “You must never tell him it was ever there,” she said in a dreadful whisper. “I will distract him and remove it but I shall have to kill it in doing so.”
“Haa, Ghondhaahi,” Obhantaa said mournfully.
“Iimon Ghaala,” the commander called to her mate. “I require your decided opinion on something.”
Rautu came to his mate’s side and waited for her to point out what needed his disapproval.
The commander smiled and gave no inclination of the spider crawling along his heavy locks while Obhantaa Leraa looked away and attempted to hide his smile. She pointed out of the kitchen window toward the forest and asked an array of questions that would force the giant to turn his head in the opposing direction. Once his attention was drawn to the scene outside the house, the commander reached up and snatched the small spider from his hair. She crushed it in her palm before he turned back and wiped the remnants of the invader on her leather fauld.
The Den Asaan sensed something was amiss due to the arbitrary inquiries and quick motions from his mate. His gaze narrowed, his mouth tensed and he endeavored to decipher what had happened. “What was in my hair?” he growled in a suspicious tone.
“Nothing important,” the commander said unaffectedly. “It was a plump-looking ball of dust.”
“Show me your hands, woman.”
The commander raised her hands and displayed the palms and the backs for the giant’s assessment. He knew something was not quite right with the situation but as the woman’s hands showed no signs of deceit, he could not prove anything beyond what was suggested. He humphed and returned to his task of masonry. The commander winked at Obhantaa Leraa and led him out of the room toward the front of the house where they succumbed to laughter at the Den Asaan’s expense.
Once the work of the cottage was complete, evening was setting over Sethshire. The afternoon had passed in what seemed like mere moments and the question of an evening meal before a portion of the party was to make the return to journey to Diras was discussed. Otenohi made the suggestion of practicing his Laustaa in the small cottage pond but Obhantaa begged for the domestic fish to be left alone for Kai Linaa’s sake. Otenohi amended that he would exhibit his prowess of the Haanta sport along the edges of the Eastern Sea. He was warned the water would be frigid but he insisted upon spearfishing and being lauded at an excellent hunter. He knew Rautu would not follow him into the icy depths of the late-winter waters and would therefore only return triumphant if not for having caught something then for having proclaimed his bravery at making the venture. Otenohi gathered his effects and set off in search of their supper.
“It is quite a shame Leraa cannot simply ask the fish to relinquish their lives for the sake of our meal,” the commander said to the Den Asaan. “If he could, your shame of being excluded from the hunt would be all the greater.” She laughed at her mate’s disgruntled expression and was given a grunt of dissention for her mockery.
“The water is cold, woman,” Rautu shouted. “I am Den Endari. I am the champion hunter of Sanhedhran. You have seen confirmation of my abilities countless times. I not a Laustaari.”
“Perhaps,” the commander said with a wry grin. “However, I’m certain that you would not wish your brother to prove himself the more proficient in the event.”
Rautu had done. He sighed an immense and defeated sigh and he went to attest that he could catch more fish than Otenohi. Permitting his brother to trounce him in a match at Hophsaas he could allow but watching Otenohi be the sole champion of Haanta spearfishing he could not. He had tried to ignore his need to be the expert over his brother in every area and simply wait until his return to denounce his skill but he realized he could not without something to remark his claims.
The two giants returned from their short bouts of spearfishing in the frozen waters with veritable selection of fish. Trout lined their makeshift spears, speckled shrimp and crabs were hauled in their nets. It was established that the Den Asaan was indeed the victor of the event, having caught the most fish and two crabs instead of Otenohi’s one, and upon his return the commander, being the only one among the disposed with any semblance of cooking ability, was applied to for their preparation. Rautu and Otenohi warmed their frigid forms before the fire while gutting their catch where needed and the commander ventured to the town of Sethshire to arrange all the necessary accoutrements for frying.
The scent of breaded and spiced fish boiling in oil called Unghaahi and Kai Linaa from their den upstairs and everyone sat before the hearth in the common room to share in their meal together. Everyone was thanked for their efforts and as a last activity of the evening Haakhas meditations were proposed.
The commander and Den Asaan were asked to lead the observance and placed themselves before the fire. Kai Linaa and Unghaahi sat to right of Rautu and Otenohi and Obhantaa sat to the left while the hangaara cat licked what was left on the spears. The four giants and the commander took their positions and began their ancient droning and Kai Linaa followed in kind. The party spent the remainder of their pleasant evening humming the scriptures of their shared people and listening to the crackling of fires while gleaning the warmth from the flame and the temperateness of the company.