Story of the Day: An Ailineighdaeth Story

In honour of a certain holiday in July, here is a Frewyn holiday story.

The Ailineighdaeth card sent to me by Twisk
An Ailineighdaeth Story
                The morning before the Ailineighdaeth festivities had come, and while the Diras castle keep was in a bustle of high animation with everyone making the requisite preparations to usher in Frewyn’s most consequential holiday, the commander was in the training yard giving the Diras regiments their last orders before their holiday dismissal. They were, as ever, given the choice of remaining in the keep and participating in the celebration due in the great hall and of traveling to their respective families for the two days the observance commanded. Those with families in the west and far south were to be given an extra day to take traveling time into account, and once the regiments were dismissed, many soldiers decided to take the opportunity to venture to their homes rather than remain and enjoy the succor of the castle maids or the carousing that the capital taverns could provide.
                With the chief of the regiments gone directly and many more to follow throughout the morning, the commander and Den Asaan were at liberty to spend the remainder of the day with Soledhan in hopes of gleaning a few precious and rare daylight hours in his company. Rautu went to perform his morning training as the commander called for her son to join them in the soldier’s mess. There were holiday letters to be written, invitations to be conveyed, but most importantly there was a story to be read.
                Hathanta had come to the soldier’s mess with Soledhan, and the child, though beaming with joy to spend the entire day with his parents, had come to her smiling for another reason: all of the children in the keep had been given a gift in honour of the holiday, and the gift was a book, one famous in Frewyn for being hailed as the representative and obligatory reading for Ailineighdaeth. It was read more as a tradition than as a religious ritual, as the book discussed the general theme of charity rather than any premise of devoutness and piety, and though the book was ages old, its message was unchanging and recollected by everyone in Frewyn who had been used to read it as a child.
                The moment Soledhan crept beside his mother along the bench and placed the book on the table to show her his acquisition, the remembrances of reading the story with her father rushed on her: the sound of the hissing fires in their farmhouse hearth, the scent of spiced bread baking in their iron stove, the comfort of sitting in his lap and leaning against his arms while she governed the turning of the pages; and when her son performed the same motion of huddling in her lap and opening the front cover of the book, a ripple of tender sentiments warmed over her, expatiated by the sanguine look in her son’s yellow eyes.
                “Look, Iimaa,” Soledhan said, pointing to the illustrated images upon the page.
                “Yes, they are rather splendidly drawn,” she agreed, remarking the familiarity of the artwork. “Did Uncle Alasdair give this to you?”
                Soledhan nodded, his white curls tumbling over one another as they moved with his genuflections.
                “We shall have to thank him later with our own gifts.”
                “Iimaa, can you read it to me?” he said in a dulcet tone.
                The commander regarded the remainder of her work and the quill in her right hand, its tip poised against the paper. There were a few more letters to be done, and though she could have given the office of reader to Hathanta or to her mate, she decided to lay her work aside and indulge her son’s request. “You must listen well, Hathanta,” she said to the giant sitting beside her while Soledhan nestled against her chest. “This is what Ailineighdaeth truly celebrates.” She exchanged an arch look with Hathanta, cleared her throat in ceremonious fashion and with a flourish of a hand turned the first page to begin the tale.
                The story depicted the life of a small girl. She was unprepossessing in dress, poor in situation, but charitable in character and pleasant in nature. She had no notion of the gods or of any Frewyn religion, and the only ritual to which she was subject was watching the lights in her village square be lit in honour of the gods ascending to the heavens. Her exulted disposition helped her to forget her meager consequence in life, and her generous person furnished her with the deeds of splitting her daily bread in two with the village beggar, tossing found coppers in the river and offering them in exchange for her mother’s improved health, and giving any assistance she could to those less fortunate than herself.  She was known in the village as Hettigh, as a smiling and wondrous girl who was certain to incur the favour of the Gods but without the powers of understanding as to why. Her last charitable act secured her blessings: on the eve of Ailineighdaeth when Hettigh was to go and see the lights, her mother became violently ill, compelling her to stay at her side and nurse her through the night. She had thought the lights were missed, but when she turn to blow out the candle on her mother’s nightstand once the poor woman had finally fallen asleep, the darkness had gone with the appearance of the shimmering lights pervading their small house. They glittered and hung like stars, forming their constellations and orbiting the bed. Hettigh was struck with wonder, and though she wished to ask how such a miraculous event had come to pass, she remained in silent amazement, happy merely to glory in the gift she had been given. Even more miraculous was the following morning when her mother sat up entirely recovered and baskets of food had been laid at their door. Her mother cried in gratitude, but Hettigh was determined to do as she had always done: she kept enough of the food for her mother and herself and gave the rest to those in greater need, claiming that she had already been blessed and now was the time for others to share her sentiment.
                The commander closed the book and marked her son’s smiling face. “Did you enjoy that story?”
                “Again, Iimaa,” Soledhan declared, turning the book over and opening the front cover again.
                “We can read it again later, my love. I promise,” she said, coiling her son’s curls around her fingers. “And I daresay Utaa will be ecstatic to read Hettigh’s part.”
                Hathanta simpered to himself to consider the Den Asaan reading the lines of a little girl. “That is an excellent story, Amhadhri,” he hummed in approval.
                “It is one of the treasures of our fair kingdom. When Allande plunged Tyferrim into destitution, this story became Tyferrim’s anthem. Many did their utmost to find the joys and blessings in every meager ration, hoping that by their gratitude, the Gods would grant them a pleasanter existence.” She paused and smirked. “Or at the very least a new king.”


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