Story for the Day: Colds

I have a vehement dislike for colds.

Rautu will not go to court, but he will make soup
                Although the commander’s visits to the royal court were seldom, they were not without their due effects. The incessant hums of the gossip quietly dispersing through the room while Alasdair made his proclamations was merely one affront among many to agitate her: the sharp and various fragrances of the teeming noblewomen, the stares her large breasts incurred from the young and eager noblemen, the collected body heat within the small chamber all gave moderate offense and discomfort, but these occurrences though unpleasant were not as disagreeable as the sore throat and congestion she received from being in the court for more time than was decent.
                 As the proceedings endured, the commander’s symptoms worsened. An aching neck and headache soon surmounted her, and she was compelled to look around the room to find the one responsible for spreading this infection to the rest of the court. A sneeze from one of the count’s sons answered for it, and the commander stood from her place, marched toward the young lord and pointed the end of her sword at him, declaring that if he should decide to visit court while unwell again she would remove his nose to keep him from giving his cold to the rest of the world. She excused herself from the proceedings on account of illness and walked into the main hall where she found Rautu waiting for her.
                Rautu knew his mate would not last in the festering heat of the courts for long. He had been sitting in the main hall of the keep practicing his meditations while determining which would be the reason to make her leave when the doors to the court where thrown open and out from them she came. He went to her side, and before he could ask whose arm he would be breaking for offending his mate, she began grumbling of how inconsiderate it was for one so supposedly well bred to share his contagion with everyone.
                “I abominate colds,” the commander huffed as she stormed toward the courtyard. “If it is not the fever then it is the lack of appetite, sleep and normalcy that ruins me. Hateful, hateful court. Every time I emerge from that crowded, disease-ridden room, I am always the one to be ill. Alasdair is trapped in there every day and yet he escapes with barely a sniffle.”
                “He has become immune to the diseases your nobles carry,” Rautu said with a half-smile.
                “Immune to illnesses but not to the disingenuous remarks or the multitude of offensive ribbons on Lady Robert’s gown. Hateful court. I shall never know how you convinced Alasdair to exempt you from the odious business. I suppose it has something to do with your accosting Count Ross.”
                Rautu replied with a grin of knowing satisfaction.  
                “I’m certain all your fortune comes from you being appointed the king’s guard dog with relation to the royal houses,” the commander said in a bitter tone. She sighed in frustration for having caught so irrefutable an illness. She walked around the whole of the courtyard with the hope that a few minutes in the spring air would restore her former health, but she deceived herself as the headache remained and a chill began to settle in her bones. She swore numerous times, claimed it unjust that Rautu should be allowed to miss court sessions where she should not, and was determined to rid herself of her ailment as soon as possible.     
                Soup became the commander’s first object, and though it was something she disliked, she could not deny its powers when combating illness. She therefore went to the kitchen in quest of Martje’s assistance and entered to find only one of the scullery maids present. She asked if there were any leftover stock from the boiled chickens Martje had prepared the evening previous and she was pointed in the direction of the larder where in the storeroom there was a good amount of chicken stock to be used for her remedy. The commander took the container from the storeroom and looked into it with a grimace and displeased exhalation. “Wretched cold,” she flouted, remarking the bits of fat floating along the soup’s surface.
                Rautu observed his mate’s displeasure and resolved to ease her suffering. “I will prepare it for you,” he said in a low voice, looking awkwardly around the room.
                The commander thought she had misheard him. She asked him to repeat his last phrase, and when she heard it again in a hurried manner as though he was embarrassed to propose such a notion, she scoffed and treated his suggestion with stares of incredulity. His softened countenance, however, betrayed his honest desire to aid her and all of the mockery she had prepared to counter his suggestion was forgotten. She smiled at him and placed her hand on his cheek. “If you do, I shall welcome your efforts,” she said, grazing her thumb along his maw. “I promise not to laugh.”
                “You have already laughed, woman,” the giant grunted.
                “That was an expression of doubt. Hardly like a laugh at all. I shall not to tease you until after you have given up trying to decipher which end of the pot to use.”
                Rautu gave his mate a flat look and he humphed as he went in search of a pot to use. He scouted the racks in the scullery and after some meditation selected the largest pot that he could find. He placed it over the cast iron stove and began a fire after pouring the entirety of the stock inside.
                The commander sat at the table, attempting to keep her smirks to herself as she watched her mate moved about the kitchen in general confusion. She thought it amusing that for one so well versed in the articles surrounding him that he should be completely lost. He had seen her cook countless times, as he had always enjoyed his position of inspector hovering over her while she roasted meats and fried potatoes, but for him to have retained nothing of what he had seen was an endless source of hilarity. He, usually so meticulous and exacting, fumbled through the rack of spices, and the delights the view accorded her made her symptoms somewhat recede. She shook her head as her mate poured the entirety of parsley vile into the mixture and was moved to break her vows of travesty. “I can always ask Martje to assist you if you’re having difficulty.”
                “No, woman,” Rautu bellowed, livid that his mate would mention his culinary nemesis at such a time. “I will do this myself.”
                The commander rested her arm on the edge of the table and leaned her chin into her hand while she watched her mate toil over a single pot of prepared soup.
                While the Den Asaan was distracted with his task, Unghaahi entered the kitchen from the main hall. He came in search of his mate, believing she would be at the table scribbling away, but instead he found his brother shaking the contents of numerous vials into a large pot. Unghaahi’s eyes widened and he stepped back in astonishment. He had endlessly preached about the necessity of sharing duties with the commander, and though she had always rather preferred Rautu as passive while in the kitchen, Unghaahi had never found this to be acceptable. Here, however, was a change and Unghaahi was mildly horrified. “Brother,” he began, but he knew not what to say next.
                Rautu turned to his brother. He gave him a momentary look of chariness, looked at the spices in his hands and then looked at his mate. “She is ill,” was his paltry excuse.
                The commander waved at Unghaahi and smiled as though nothing were the matter with her.
                Though Unghaahi found the rare occurrence confusing, he allowed it to ensue and said little else. He shifted toward the table and sat with the commander to observe the anomalous event. The notion of his brother cooking was unfathomable yet there he was standing before the range and fighting with the fire.
                “Perhaps we should find your brother a suitable apron,” the commander whispered to Unghaahi. “I daresay he shall be the greatest cook in Frewyn by the time he realizes how to use the stove.”
                Unghaahi lowered his head and blushed with stifled laughter. He promised to say nothing else that would disparage his brother’s kindly efforts and he watched in amazement as Rautu assumed the role of cook.
                Rautu realized his good fortune of having Martje absent and hastened to finish his masterpiece before she could return. He stirred the mixture, tasted it, declared it tolerable, and put out the fire in the range. He called his mate to his side to sample what he had made he waited with expectation for her assessment. He judged her pained expression as she sipped the soup from the bowl of the spoon she was given, and she said made no comment, he said, “And?”
                “Your efforts are astounding, Iimon Ghaala,” she said, visibly dismayed. She fleered and shook her head at her mate’s complacency. “One soup and you have already hailed yourself as a success. Now if you could only perform the task of scullery maid as well. We shall have to find you a mop cap.”
                “You will eat what I have made you and you will not deride me further,” Rautu said firmly.
                Although the soup was far from edible, the commander would oblige the giant, for he had prevailed in spite of himself, which was all her admiration. She thanked him for his arduous work in heating the stock and professed that he had done it so well as to deserve the title of most efficient soup heater in Frewyn. She found some salt to make the soup endurable bit by the time she sat down to eat it, she felt herself well again. She ate the soup regardless of her renewed wellness and thought that perhaps the secret of getting well by soup was not in the mixture itself but in the tenderness that went into making it.