Story for the Day: The Director
Happy weekend! Here is the next chapter in "Tales from Frewyn: the Opera"! Enjoy!
The evening hum of voices in the keep began to increase. Whispers of where the giant was going and who had merited his wrath excited the general intrigue about the castle. Heads leaned out of open windows, eyes peered over sills, spectators watched from the peristyle, and by the time the giant had reached the double doors of the Royal Theatre, every inhabitant of the Diras castle keep was watching his movements. Here was a feast of entertainment, for what amusement could an opera provide when a giant clad in furs and holding an immense black blade was pounding his fist against the theatre door and roaring for attention. The nobles and yeoman in the peristyle cooed with delight, and some even pretended to be besieged by the sudden desire to visit the latrine tower if only to have the prime view of Rautu’s retaliation. Those who were brave enough to stand near the giant cowered when hearing his strident demands.
“I will speak to the creator of this performance,” he bellowed. He waited a few moments for a reply but none came. With his first and decidedly civil request ignored, his patience with this affair was finally spent. His anger frothed, his mind seethed, and he prepared to slice off the hook lock from the door when a small slit in one of the entrance’s crevices suddenly moved to reveal a pair of wide eyes staring at him in horror.
Trembling on the other side of the door was the director’s assistant. He had been sent to kindly convey that the company would only be admitting herald and similar press agents during rehearsals, but when he had heard the violent wrawl of their production’s true counterpart, all of the assistant’s audacity and self-governance had gone. He debated for some minutes whether to open the door or merely not to respond, but he feared that to keep Frewyn’s tempestuous beast waiting would only bring more mischief. He had therefore opened the slot, and when he saw the giant’s livid expression had instantly thought to close it again when the giant wedged his fingers against the latch to keep it open. He yelped and shook with fright, hardly knowing what to say that would not anger the beast further. “Oh, Den Asaan!” the assistant said, laughing timorously. “How honoured we are to have you here.”
“if you were honoured, you would open this door and greet me with respect,” Rautu growled.
The assistant felt any small measure of courage he may have yet had begin to fail him. he desperately wished to run away, but to leave the door would mean that the giant would surely follow. “I’m sorry, Den Asaan,” he said in a dreadful hush, “but I am forbidden from opening this door to anyone who is not here to advertise the play.”
Rautu’s lips pursed and his hand tightened around his blade. “Bring me your superior. I will speak with him.”
The assistant was acquitted his deleterious duties, and he said his praises to the Gods as he leapt away to retrieve the director. He hastened to the stage where the players were in the midst of rehearsing the third act, and the moment he called out that the Den Asaan was at the front door demanding to speak with the director of the piece, the actors gave one another apprehensive looks and went to hide behind the sets along with the illustrator who had just finished repainting a few of the sets. There was only one among them who was overjoyed at the Den Asaan’s arrival: the director, Baronus Tilney, leapt up from his seat in the front row of the theatre, clapped his hands together in glee, and hurried off to greet the giant. The Frewyn Players and the entire theatre company watched their director hasten up the isle of the orchestra and not one of them held a shred of hope for his safe return.
Baronus Tilney was a flamboyant man: his suit was decorated in the traditional Marridon style, tight and tailored, adorned with watch fobs and ornamented with thin gold chains draping from every little pocket; his hair was swept to one side, his moustache was voluminous and curled; and though he was gangly and made fluid gestures when he spoke, his air was so unprepossessing as to make him excessively unpleasing. He was used to being the most celebrated director in all of Marridon, and though he was no one in Frewyn, the kingdom that could not appreciate opera or any style of high class entertainment in his estimation, he walked about with a complacent countenance and would have his own way in everything. He had never met the commander or the Den Asaan, but felt he knew enough about them from the account Marridon’s chief reporter had given: the woman was an unkempt and clever farmer who happened to be able to fight and command an army by the power of her chest, and the giant was a ferocious ogre who was only calmed when eating chocolate, swinging his sword, and lying atop his woman. He had felt that these were precise descriptions of Frewyn’s uncivilized heroes until he came to the door and through the unopened slot beheld how immense and petrifying the beast truly was. He perceived the furs, the scowl, the judging glare, everything to mark the creature as hostile, but instead of shrinking from the fierce creature, he opened the door and made an ostentatious bow. “Ah, the honourable Den Asaan!” he cried, making a flourish. “How pleased I am that you heard of our little production.” He curled the ends of his moustache and spied the giant with a triumphant smile.
Rautu, somewhat confused by the director’s exultation, stood back when the director opened his arms as though he meant to embrace him. “You will not touch me, Dhargovhari,” he demanded, holding his sword toward the director.
Tilney laughed affectedly. “My, you are just as unsociable as I have heard! I think you’ll find our recreation of you quite correct, but I’m sorry to say, honoured Den Asaan, that the performance doesn’t begin until tomorrow evening. It is the greatest compliment in the world to me that you should be so eager to see our little show, but as of now we are in the middle of rehearsals and I cannot let you inside.”
The brashness of supposing a depiction of himself as accurate was ill-judgment enough, but the self-satisfaction with which it was said and the barring of the Den Asaan from the Royal Theatre was an affront too great to tolerate. The director’s smiling assertions and elegant snideness only heightened his faults, and where others might have permitted such a humour for a director of his apparent distinction, the Den Asaan would make no such allowances. In one swift motion, he grabbed the ends of Tilney’s moustache, twisted them together, and held them up, forcing the director to stand on his toes and make a wincing smile. “You will hear me,” Rautu’s voice rumbled.
“I’m listening to you, sir,” Tilney whimpered, endeavoring to keep his moustache from tearing by dancing about on the tips of his feet.
“You will allow me to see this performance before you show it to the rest of Frewyn. You have chosen to tell the story of me and my mate. She is my chosen Ataas Traala. Therefore, I will make certain that your representation is accurate.”
The director was then released, and after he recurled his moustache and adjusted his fitted suit, he said, “If you will give me a few moments, honourable Den Asaan, I will notify the actors and we can have a mock rehearsal for you.” It was said with condescension, more toward the giant’s supposed inability to appreciate his work and the time requisite to create such a masterpiece of the stage, and less toward the giant’s powers of understanding. He cleared his throat, turned up his nose, retied his cravat and said, “It will not be perfect, but since you insist. Please do be good enough to wait here.” He turned directly and reentered the theatre with a sharp huff and a stamping of his feet.
While others may have harboured considerations of flight for the renewed anger conveyed by Rautu’s vicious countenance, the director took the Den Asaan’s vehement query as a challenge. He marched back to the stage, called out for his actors to attend him, and told them that they were to quickly run through the ending of the play, the director determined to impress with his craft and the company certain to be unequal to such high expectations. They insisted upon changing the names of the principle characters at least, making them some other commander and some other giant, changing the name of the kingdom- or perhaps it would not be a kingdom at all- and changing the king for a knight from Gallei, but no suggestion would do; it must be the Den Asaan, it must be the woman commander, it must be the King of Frewyn, and where the Frewyn Players were once elated to be exhibiting a new piece, they would have gladly traded in every new set and costume to be performing Mad Queen Maeve again. The director’s pride and vanity won, and “The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu: the Opera” would go on.
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