Story for the day: Infiltration
The Den Asaan’s powers of infiltration had been long boasted of but rarely seen in the keep. It was claimed that since he was so proficient in his art, no one was supposed to know that he was infiltrator every room in the castle, knower of every secretive business, and the listener of every dialogue exchanged. Many of the noblewomen indeed of some truth to their viciously spread rumours should have sought the Den Asaan for information, as he was the knower of all, but their pretentions and predispositions not to mingle with those of decidedly inferior birth hindered them from speaking to the giant. The truth of his powers were known by Unghaahi and the commander, both of whom had seen him permeate a room said to be impenetrable on more than one occasion. It has been his supremacy and proclivity since birth to prowl, to lurk and to overhear every event of note and either write it for his personal record or report it to his superior. No situation and affair of consequence could escape the Den Asaan’s watchful eye and the addition of his messenger gull had made his all-seeing and all-knowing character the bane of every secret that was wishing to remain undiscovered.
|Rautu does not care about your food bill|
Once Alasdair became aware of the Den Asaan’s omniscient prowess, he began to use it to maintain a perfect keep. He asked the giant for a report at the end of each day just as he had done with Otenohi and he began to be surprised with some of the information the giant revealed: the clandestine venture of two scullery maids enjoying the comforts of recruits in the intimacy of the larder storeroom, the laundress’ pinings over the state of the count’s underthings due to his incontinence, Martje’s self-musings of how she wished she was thinner said while eating a round of spiced cheese, and the number of books whose pages were stuck together with a questionable substance all provided interesting material for Alasdair’s evening consideration. Most of the material presented him was harmless but it did not cease to entertain and he heartily shared Rautu’s discoveries with Carrigh to enjoy all the happenings of their keep before the fire with a cup of tea.
The one event that no one could discern without some suspicion was the increasing bill to the butchers and markets when the amount of food that graced the kitchen’s shelves had been at a rapid declination. This circumstance had not been accounted for in the Den Asaan’s report, which led the entirety of the keep to believe it was the giant at fault. The bill was paid to the yeomen and couriers every morning, the kitchen was stocked, the Den Asaan entered after his morning session in the yard, and by the time the evening had reared the larder was nearly empty again. More stock was ordered to compensate, but the more that was ordered, the more disappeared and everyone could be under no mistake as to which giant of certain distinction was to be blamed. Unghaahi’s diet consisted of grains, herbs, fruits and vegetables while Rautu’s consisted of everything else. Everyone knew he had come through the kitchen when everything wholesome had remained untouched, and when asked why he chose to leave in his wake the sum of a few fruits and the entirety of a vanilla cake, he responded with a humph and a complacent smile.
It became poor Martje’s object to catch the imperceptible thief in the act. She commissioned the one whom she knew could possibly seize the Den Asaan long enough for a confession and who was polite enough to agree to such a design. Unghaahi agreed to assist and was more than ready to keep all of the items in his quarters for the experiment. The plan was to keep the larder and pantries empty for a few days. This would supposedly tempt the Den Asaan to search every room in the keep until he would find his prize. Once ensnared by Unghaahi’s inescapable grip, Rautu’s faults would be revealed and he would be compelled to pay the chief of the bill for the kitchen every morning. The Den Asaan, however, was not all to blame. If Martje would not have allowed the giant his own shelves in the larder, he would have little reason to venture within its walls. This mistake would now be rectified and as soon as it was possible, the shipments of marinated meats, fresh breads, and smoked cheeses were conveyed to Unghaahi’s quarters.
When the commander traveled to the kitchen the following morning for some toast before her daily duties, she was surprised to find there was none to be had. The larder was empty, the kitchen was barren and she stood in amazement, laughing and shaking her head at Martje happy expression.
“I see my mate has already been here,” the commander smirked.
“Aye, kin,” Martje fleered. “And won’t he be surprised to see my larder.”
The commander gave the cook a fiendish grin. “I do not mean to be the bearer of unfortunate news but you are very well aware that my mate has other means of obtaining what he wants. He may be brusque in his character but any tavern, inn or bakery will do for him when he is desperate enough.”
“Aye, I’ve prepared for that,” said the plump cook, rocking on her toes. “Told Sheamas this morning to warn the owners about feeding the beast. Hopefully, they’ll all keep their end.”
“You’ve put so much effort into this, Martje, I shall cry to see you fail. I do have one question, however.”
“I’m not telling you where the food is,” Martje objected hastily, pointing her teacup at the commander.
“You will not need to. My mate will find it and stalk it until he has the chance to skulk off with it. My question was what are you going to eat?”
Martje pouted and turned up her nose. “I can stand to lose a bit of weight.”
“Starvation is hardly the method I would suggest. You shall be groaning with hunger by the time evening comes round, and then what?”
“There’s fruit, vegetables and some vanilla cake.”
“You know, my mate will eat vanilla when he’s desperate so you can forget the cake being there for very much longer,” the commander said laughingly.
“Aye, then fruits and vegetables it is for me. I’ll be happy to see the look on that beast’s face when he sees his precious larder empty.”
But there was no look. There was not a scowl or an acknowledgement to the plan. The Den Asaan had not meant to enter the kitchen that day when he saw the morning’s shipment being taken by the yeoman from his perch atop the battlements. He watched the cart be conveyed into the main hall and followed behind it until he reached the guest quarter. He noted the yeoman’s stop at Unghaahi’s room and at first thought it was merely a delivery for Kai Linaa when he observed the entirety of the cart’s contents being emptied into the chamber. Here was an odd situation, one certainly to be noted that evening, and when he left to continue his duties for the day, he bid his gull to sit at Unghaahi’s windowsill and report to him of what exactly was happening. Two hours later, the gull found him training his men in the yard and with an unblinking look and flick of his beak told Rautu what he needed to know.
The Den Asaan decided not to watch the kitchen or the food but Kai Linaa whose wanderings about the castle would be the revealer of their habits. He would track her pattern throughout the keep and follow her into the chamber while she was distracted. His brother’s presence was some cause for concern, as he would be no doubt waiting for Rautu to strike, but his success would only be further testament to his powers. He watched Kai Linaa retrieve some water for their bath. He waited for her buckets to be secured on her shoulders, hounded her up the few steps and maintaining secrecy by way of the shadows case by the sconces, and when Unghaahi opened the door to assist her, he tossed a peg at the foot of the entrance to make certain it would not close or lock behind them. He watched for the edge of the door to bump against it and when he was certain Unghaahi and Kai Linaa were over at the basin by the distance sound of their voices, he crept toward the door.
From the entranceway, Rautu spied the foodstuffs at the foot of the bed and marked his gull sitting outside the opposing window. He signaled for him to flap his wings when the timing was right. The Den Asaan crouched beside the archway and waited. He listened for every minute sound and when someone was passing by in the hall, he leapt up to the supports and hid there until the person has passed. It was a delicate machination but one at which Rautu was determined to succeed.
After Rautu heard the telling sounds of a bath done and Khopra beginning he saw the signal from his gull and prepared to put his masterful designs to fruition. He peeked through the entrance, hidden in the shadow of the doorway, to see his brother mounting his mate. He leered in a cunning manner and watched Unghaahi’s motions most carefully. He observed every eager thrust, every hungry drive, and more importantly he listened to Kai Linaa’s screams of delight. There would be his cover. He heard her whimper louder and made elated hisses until they escalated into shrieks of jubilation. He watched his brother become full engrossed with her arrival and without a sound dashed into the room, making certain to keep low to the ground. He removed his trappings from his back and placed them along the ground. From the happy sighs Kai Linaa made, he judged he had only a few seconds in the dim light to gather what he could and make his escape.
Unghaahi enjoyed Kai Linaa’s rippling sensations and blush of pleasance. They looked at each other as Unghaahi readied himself for his turn at a display of his appetite when he suddenly gained the suspicion something was amiss but when turned around, the food had gone and there was no trace left of the Den Asaan.