Story for the Day: The Parcel
The Den Asaan had been the first one awake, as he had been used to practice his meditations at sunrise. He was in the midst of reiterating his passages when he heard the din of light footfalls emanating from the stairway just beyond the door to the main room. His pointed ears switched, his closed eyes cracked open. He was tempted to finish droning his scriptures and was disposed to believe that the sounds of those in the castle coming and going would a customary occurrence during his residency, but when he considered that the commons were the only set of apartments on the floor, he became cautious as to who their visitor could be at this time in the morning. He heard the shuffling footsteps stop outside the door and now he must look to see who dared infiltrate his home.
Rautu came to his knees from his sitting position and placed his trappings around his shoulders to dampen any sound he would make while approaching the door. He doused the small fire in the hearth giving warmth and light to the room and he crouched low to the ground. He titled his head and marked the feet scuffling about on the opposing side of the door. Rautu slipped toward the entrance to the main room in perfect silence and listened for a voice that could assist him in discerning who had come or why. On the islands, visitors to the residence of an Ataas Traala must be invited and unannounced visits were only permitted by those who were close to the particular mates. This intrusion in the Den Asaan’s mind could not be justified. He was willing to forgive the supposed impertinence if their visitor was the king perhaps coming to give them information as to the regiments they would be assigned, but the feet observed in the crack at the bottom of the door were not Alasdair’s and therefore this was an unprecedented affront.
Rautu was certain of their guest being someone he should not like: the shoes of the caller were made of silk, suggesting that it was one of noble consequence preparing an unwholesome speech on the subject of the giant, a foreigner and one of ruthless character, invading their kingdom and imprisoning a helpless woman to be his mate. This must be the case, the Den Asaan surmised, for what other reason could be owing to the person’s hesitance to knock or even enter. He placed on hand on the hilt of his weapon and the other upon the door handle. He watched the visitor’s shadow beneath the door and waited for him to either turn away in cowardice or knock in insolence for the unwarranted visit. When the guest did neither, Rautu prepared for attack. In one swift motion, the Den Asaan threw open the door, raised his sword and roared at the small and sniveling man standing in the entranceway.
The royal herald had been charged with taking all packages and correspondence for the commander and the Den Asaan, and that morning a small parcel had been placed at the front gate addressed to the giant with the instruction that it was to be conveyed to the commons with the utmost celerity. Eager to see the illusive and prowling beast he had heard so much of, the herald agreed to deliver the package immediately, but as he walked through the main hall of the keep, he began to hear pieces of conversations regarding the parcel’s beneficiary. Immense, foul-tempered and hideous were among the first few utterances he caught as he passed the courts, disagreeable and ferocious were the words used as he traversed the servant’s quarter. By the time the herald came to the dark and winding steps leading up to the commons, he was terrified to ascend for fear of what he might find at the top. He mounted each step in tremulous trepidation. The conjurations of his imagination paired with the ominous echoes of his own footfalls surmounted his sensibilities, and by the time he came to the common’s door, the herald had talked himself into a state of horror. He debated between knocking and leaving the parcel at the foot of the door. Should he do the former, he might rouse the beast from slumber, but should he do the latter, the monstrosity might seek him out and punish him for not performing his duties as was expected. Uncertainty and agony assailed the herald and before he could make a decision that would allow him to keep his head and make the giant happy at the same time, the door was pulled open and all of his horrifying thoughts had come to be at once. The beast’s blazing black and violet eyes, the overbearing strength in his arms and chest, the enormous black blade raised over his head, and the petrifying bellow that welcomed him compelled him to drop the package and crumble in fear. He begged the giant not to kill him, claimed he had children in hopes of incurring some remorse, and held his hands to his face to shield him from the impending attack.
Rautu sighed and placed his blade back at his side. His opponent was not the infiltrator that he had expected and was disappointed to see a trembling man at his feet. He leered at the herald and took the package from the ground, warning him to leave his future parcels at the foot of the door. He assured him that he was well trained to hear every insignificant sound, even the delicate shuffling of his silken shoes, and therefore knocking was unnecessary.
Though the Den Asaan’s words were informative, the herald had only heard his firmness and conviction. His profound voice and the manner in which he was commanded how the giant’s correspondence was to conveyed caused him to whimper in supplication. When the giant had done, he thanked him for his life and scurried away to tell the nobles at court that he had engaged the beast and lived.
The commander laughed as her mate closed the door to their residence and brought the parcel over to the table with a thwarted countenance. She had seen the entirety of the event from her place in the bedchamber entranceway, and though she knew the visitation would be harmless, she allowed her mate to be suspicious. She knew the thrill of circumspection and scouting was all his delight and could not bring herself to take his happiness from him. She was only sorry that all the work he put into trouncing his enemy had come to nothing. She came to his side and comforted him by grazing her fingers along the tips of his ears. “I believe you’ve terrified the herald enough for one day,” she said.
The Den Asaan grunted in answer. He examined the direction on the package and noted that there was no sender marked. It could not be from his brothers, as he had only written to them of his new residence yesterday, and the Hakriyaa would not send him so large a parcel without the use of an Ashan for its conveyance.
“It could be from one of the noble families wishing to pay you tribute for your services during the war,” the commander simpered. “They shall probably wish for you to be their personal guardian after hearing of your triumph over the mighty herald.”
Rautu gave his mate a flat look and opened the package. Inside the parcel was a heavy woolen cloak. It seemed as though it had been recently knitted, as the loops were yet tight and the edges had not yet been frayed from washing. Even more curious than the item itself was the note that had fallen from its folds when Rautu lifted it from its paper wrapping. The giant quickly snatched it and read it with a grimacing expression.
“I had thought Rithea would never make you that cloak,” the commander said laughingly, knowing who had kitted it from the Frewyn clasp around the hood. “I’m certain it will look very well on you.”
“I will not wear it,” Rautu simmered.
“I daresay you shall. She went to so much trouble to knit it for you on our return from the Plaines, the least you could do is see how it fits.”
The Den Asaan raised his brow. “You knew of this?”
“I did. I am only surprised she finished it so quickly. She must have completed the hood some time last night and had it sent by post.”
Rautu pursed his lips and returned the cloak to its packaging. “I will not wear this,” he demanded.
“I though your people are forced to accept gifts lest you shame their giver,” the commander said with a sagacious grin.
“I must accept them.” The giant paused and gave his mate a diffident look. “That does not mean I must use them.” He humphed and folded his arms smugly across his chest while scowling down at the cloak. He would not wear it, he repeated, and pouted that he must now have the vile object in his home.
The commander snickered at how disgruntled the giant was over so innocent a gift and promised to tell Rithea that he loved it so the old woman would have cause to make him one in every colour.