Story for the day: Instigator
The night suffered from an uncommon and bitter cold. Though Frewyn was the more frigid of the two southern kingdoms, this sort of weather was unprecedented. The atmosphere was damp, the snow on the ground solidified and became impassable, and the howling bluster was more than a few windows could bear. The king decreed that everyone was to remain indoors that night and if by morning the quality of the air had not improved yeomen would be dispatched to bring firewood to every house in the residential quarter. The morning had been mildly tolerable but by mid-afternoon, the frost had grown so insupportable that the markets and shoppes were forced to close and their proprietors confined to their homes.
|Rautu does not like your weather|
It was an unpleasant business, and the first time Diras had been irked by any misfortune of weather. The capital had withstood every blizzard and gale for the past one-hundred years and its people had borne every winter with their usual heartiness and good-humour. The frigid winds froze their teeth and the humid air stung the skin. It was too unbearable to be out and upon feeling the decrease in temperature, Alasdair put his decree to fruition. Firewood was distributed to every household and the people of Diras were ever-thankful to their benefactor and king.
There had been but one oversight. The stock of firewood for the castle keep had been depleted due to Alasdair’s unbridled generosity. This would have meant little if the only person effected by this was himself, but he was inclined to believe that as the members of his keep were always well-cared for this lapse would call forth no disapprobation. He was mistaken, however, and he heard the embellished shrieks of anguish from the royal quarter, the moans of misery from the servants, and the woe begotten cries from the barracks. Connors silenced the ranks by claiming the cold would build character, Mureadh awarded Nerri and Teague with sheepskins from his effects, Bilar and Merra were snug within the walls of the infirmary, Martje and Shayne claimed their ample forms would keep them well while clinging to the last of the kitchen fires, Carrigh hid beneath the covers of the royal chamber, and Unghaahi claimed the cold was no disturbance, giving warmth to his mate just as he had always done. Tomas was quiet, as he and his family where well situated by his coal fire in the blacksmith, and he invited the whole of the keep, or however many would fit within his workplace, to join them in their warmth. The tenants of the keep flocked to the yeoman’s quarter to take the blacksmith’s offer, excepting the commander and the Den Asaan.
They were sitting in the commons before their meager fire, the Den Asaan quietly begging for it not to go out and the commander claiming their multitude of furs would do well for them until some firewood could be obtained. The giant roared in anguish and pined for the warmer weather of the islands. If only the food were more palatable he should have taken the first means of conveyance north, but his decided appetite would not allow for it. He must remain in the frigid damp of the keep but he would not do so alone. He demanded his mate to warm him with her form. The suggestion of Khopra was made to deter complaints and increase body heat but even the giant claimed it was too cold to open his fur cocoon beyond allowing his mate within it.
The commander was struck with horror at her mate’s refusal and admitted that he must be near glacial to decline his favourite joint activity. She took his state as great emergency and sent word for Mureadh to put his woodsman powers and Karnwyl constitution to use in finding firewood for the keep. He was happy to oblige and promised to return within the space of a few hours. He donned his woodsman’s clothes, gathered his axe and hatchet, and ventured toward the royal hunting grounds, leaving the commander to tend to her shivering mate.
To take his mind from the cold, she suggested a diversion they could perform while remaining stationary and in his lap. Allimantau, the Frewyn game of elements, would be their distraction and once the commander procured a playing board from the common’s storeroom, she was pulled into the giant’s fur tent and crushed between his limbs.
“You are forbidden from moving,” the giant growled in her hear. “You will explain the regulations of this game and then you will lose to me.”
“I probably shall,” the commander laughed, fixing herself in her mate’s wide lap. “I haven’t played since my days in training. I would beat Alasdair horribly and then he wouldn’t want to play anymore.”
“He should have persisted and trained his mind to defeat you.”
“Not everyone has the conviction to win in games that you do, Iimon Ghaala. I believe such determination was acquired from years of Otenohi cheating to win and you contriving ways to outwit him.”
The giant hummed, unable to deny his mate’s supposition, and waited attentively for the explanation to the game laid before him.
“The rules are very simple, as they had to be when this game was first made when the clans were formed. There are four colours responding to the elements,” the commander said, pointing to the respective pieces. “Red for fire, blue for water, brown for earth and green for wind.”
“Wind is colourless, Traala,” the giant reminded her.
“I know, but glass pieces are hard to find beyond the borders of a noble’s table. When playing with painted wooden pieces, green is wind.”
“Very well. The object is simple. Match three of the same colour by interchanging two pieces at a time. Only pieces adjacent to each other may be switched. Match four colours to receive another turn. Once the pieces are matched, they are removed from the board and placed into your pile. These pieces can then be used to perform elemental abilities marked on the cards allocated at the start of the game.” The commander reached out of the fur encasement and retrieved the stack of cards from aside the board. “We are given six each and may use them at anytime as long as we have the number of the specific elements marked on our cards in our piles. When there are no moves left, the board is reset.”
“What determines the winner?” the giant asked, growing intrigued with the ancient game.
“We each have fifty points. Each elemental attack we do removes a certain amount of points from our opponent. Whichever of us is left with none loses.”
The Den Asaan was roused to play and eager to beat his mate at her kingdom’s game. He chose his six cards and watched her take the first turn, exchanging one piece for another. He noted that the chief of the cards he picked were marked with earth elements and he therefore made it his object to take as many brown pieces as he could. His understanding of the game and ability to play increased as the diversion continued and before long Rautu had won.
“I defeated you,” the giant triumphantly declared. “I have retaliated. I won at your kingdom’s game just as you won at Otsbhaala.”
“You realize, Iimon Ghaala, that I am not bothered at you destroying me. Have you been holding a grudge all this time?”
The giant was about to form a reply when Otenohi suddenly came into the room. He was sweating and coming toward their cocoon in little more than his warkilt with firewood in his arms. It must be supposed that he assisted Mureadh and was asked to bring their share of kindle to the commons lest anyone else suffer the Den Asaan’s temper in such dreadful weather.
Otenohi had seen the commander’s loss to his brother and scoffed at her as he stood over them. “Your skill at this game is shameful, Amhadhri,” he fleered at the commander.
She glared at him and pointed a finger at his smirking countenance. “You’re a horrid instigator, my dear Otenohi. Now, I shall win just to spite you.”
She did win. She bade Otenohi sit and watch her actions most carefully and he did once the fire in the common’s hearth was renewed. He made no objections to her moves, said nothing to further his brother’s motions, and only smiled while watching and resting his head on his hand.
“This was your design all along,” the commander accused Otenohi as she lay the winning blow.
The inquisitor responded with a sagacious grin. “You see now my ability to encourage and initiate.”
“I have little doubt there are a great many things you’ve instigated for your own machinations.”
“You have won and my brother is angry enough to retaliate. I have fulfilled my purpose.” And with Otenohi’s confession, he stood, bowed and left the room, smiling to himself to think everyone in the keep was so easily misled.