Story for the Day: Pardon

Chapter 3 of "Tales from Frewyn: the Opera"! 
The image Twisk is currently working on for the cover. I love it!!

                The early evening sky was beginning to favour the capital with its vibrant hues, and the commander remarked the coming of night from her place in the barracks while discussing with Tomas where the new weapon racks were to be placed along the far wall of the yard. She heard a few of the blacksmith’s quiet and humble words, but the brilliancy of the setting sun made her not much able to attend.
                “I’ll put the light weapons in the corners and keep the wall space for the swords,” was Tomas’ smiling conclusion once he realized the commander was gazing out the window and looking wistfully at the sky. He observed the amber light ebbing out from behind the few clouds and felt all the sanguine reverie the commander exuded. “Makes me feel like I’m home again, aye,” he said in a soft voice, thinking of the small house he and his mother had kept in Westren.
                The commander hummed in agreement and continued to inspect the various linings of the clouds. “There is something about the prospect of a gloaming sky that reminds one of Freywn’s  more verdant downs,” she said, at last turning to the blacksmith. “It is a shame, however, that Frewyn sunsets are so early in the autumn months and can therefore never be properly appreciated when one is busy training young lords to be useful or being bade to cook for a giant of certain distinction.”
                Tomas laughed his diffident chuff, bowed his parting, and turned toward the entrance to the yeoman’s quarter only to discover Teague standing in the archway with a concerned look on his face. He said his quiet hellos, made a polite bow, and caught a glimpse of the image on a certain folded poster being taken from under his arm. Tomas shuddered and rubbed his brow as he passed out of the garrison. “I’m goin’ te have te make a whole new row of trainin’ dummies when this is over,” he murmured to himself, and returned to his smith to tell Shayne of the destruction awaiting the implements in the yard that both of them had just newly erected.
                Teague made a chary approach, wondering how to broach the subject in a manner that would not give offense. He said his addresses to the commander, explained what he and Mureadh had seen, and before he could finish his speech with a solemn regret and apology for the affront on behalf of the Frewyn Players, the commander interposed with:
                “I must have evidence of this travesty,” she said, beaming with glee. “This is far too much suspence.”
                He produced the poster and smiled at the commander’s instant eagerness as she took it into her hands and held it open for a meticulous inspection.
                “Oh, by the Gods, this is glorious,” she exclaimed, remarking the whole of the piece. “I must show this to my mate. I cannot decide what shall anger him most: the violet skin, the overdrawn and yet handsome scowl, the fangs, or the paltry sizes of his sword, kilt, and the article beneath it.” She smirked at such an erroneous interpretation and nodded while her eye glanced over every corner of the page. “This depiction could only be made more marvelous if a rose had been put in his mouth,” she said laughingly. She sighed and her expression saddened. “He shall be disappointed about the size of my chest, however.”
                “I did think that was a little inaccurate,” said Teague, stealing a momentary glance at the deep vale between the commander’s heavy breasts.
                “Little is certainly what I should call those in comparison to what my mate so delights in every evening.”
                They exchanged a smile, and the commander shifted into the light to remark the vibrancy of the colours and the brushstrokes employed in the piece.
                “The palette was well chosen,” she mused. “I rather like my dark red hair and blue eyes.”
                “The Den Asaan’s pink kilt is my particular favourite,” Teague said with a half-smile.
                “Pink is rather his colour, especially with the red eyes and grey hair to match. He’s made me far too becoming and much too small in height and in proportion. I’m rather inclined to think this charade is not even about me, as I am nowhere on this advertisement other than in the title, and even that is ambiguous. My mate is certainly recognizable.”
                Teague simpered. “I recognized him immediately.”
                “I assume that this pristine fellow on the glimmering horse is meant to be our good king.”
                “I believe so, commander. “
                “Well, Alasdair looks rather splendid, as he ought. He shall be quite pleased. Any illustration that portrays Alasdair with such excellently sculpted hair and a fine jerkin is all his delight. Maeve is the one who should be offended. She should never have wanted to be a white horse, or this fat and smiling.”
                Teague chuckled to himself, relieved to see how keen the commander was to oblige this farce, and as she excused herself and hastened to the kitchen to share the news with Alasdair, he hoped that the offense on the king’s side would be as moderate as the commander’s, unlike the expected and vehement tirade from the Den Asaan. Though he did wish to remain within Diras Castle until Rautu should become aware of his demonic representation, there was a dinner to be had and there were friends to be met with, and as he left the barracks to rejoin Mureadh, he had little doubt of hearing the giant’s roaring disapproval from wherever he should be in the capital at the moment of the giant’s discovery.
                Upon reaching the keep’s kitchen, the commander found Alasdair taking his early evening tea and sitting at the table to read over his proclamations for the day. He seemed equanimity itself now that his presiding in the royal courts for the day had done; leaning back in his favourite chair, with half a glance toward the yard and half toward his papers, his hand in mid-ascension, the teacup pressed against his lips, expecting to be soothed by his first sip of lemon tea, when the advertisement was thrust before him, causing him to replace his cup upon the table and investigate the announcement directly.
                “Oh, this looks brilliant,” Alasdair declared smilingly. “Is this about us?”
                “I daresay it is,” the commander said, pointing to the title of the opera, “although I’m hardly recognizable.”
                “Well, I can tell it’s you by the . . .” Alasdair made a suggestive gesture toward her chest and left his assertion there, returning his gaze to the poster while a small blush crept up his cheek. 
                “Those are far too small to be mine.”
                The size and shape of her magnanimous proportions could be compared, but Alasdair would not look again; he would not be suspected of gawping for pleasure nor would his gentlemanly sensibilities allow him to be baited so easily. “I suppose you’re right,” he said quickly, keeping his gaze firmly upon the advertisement. He seemed bemused, and pointing to the heroic figure in the piece said, “Is that meant to be me on that white horse?”
                “I daresay it is, and I do believe that’s meant to be Maeve.”
                Alasdair raised a brow. “She would be disappointed.”
                “As she should be. What chestnut mare wants to be a white stallion?”
                “And she certainly isn’t that . . .” fat was what he wished to say, but at that moment, Martje had trundled in from the larder and Alasdair was forced to check himself. He said a polite hello and his features flushed with colour to think he had almost said the forbidden word in the plump cook’s presence. “I look very well, though,” he said cheerfully. “My hair is tidy and my jerkin looks very fitting. Those breeches, though, don’t go well with those boots. It would have been better to match them with calfskin boots, not these impossible things. Who would wear boots that low when riding? The fabric would chafe, surely.”
                The commander laughed and shook her head. “Is that all your worry?”
                “Yes, I think so,” he said with stout confidence. He took a moment to regard the remainder of the piece and then decided, “Well, Rautu looks accurate, doesn’t he.”
                “You are too horrid,” she said with a sagacious smile.
                “I’m allowed to say what I want when he’s not here.”
                “You know that he has eyes and ears in every corner of this keep and yet you would ridicule him. You are all bravery, Alasdair.”
                “If he can say whatever he wants to my face, then I think I might be allowed to admire his portrait before demands to kill the illustrator.” Alasdair made a defensive humph and began folding the poster. “Has he seen it yet?”
                “Good. I’ll send the herald to the theatre with the instruction that everyone involved with this production is to leave the capital immediately.”
                “You are the epitome of charity, Alasdair, in giving them such a warning, but I daresay he shall hunt them down and skin them regardless. Will you allow this opera to be performed even though you know its content to be possibly disparaging?”
                Alasdair made an abashed smile and took a last peek at the depiction of himself.  “I wonder if they’ll have me kill Rautu in a terrific duel or if I’ll merely sing him to death.”
                “You know the powers of the Frewyn Players and their ability to depict historical events with perfect accuracy.”
                It was said with such wryness that Alasdair was forced to agree with her; the portrayal of Mad Queen Maeve, though highly entertaining, could hardly be supposed a truthful display when all of Frewyn was aware that her end came from her insanity and not from the edge of an envious lover’s knife as the play might have the uninformed believe. They laughed and sighed, both of them in equal dread and anticipation of what such a piece could depict, and stood from the kitchen table, the commander desirous of telling her mate before he could find out from another quarter and Alasdair wanting to visit the tailor.
                “If they portray my mate as a snarling and murderous beast, he shall make their interpretation an actuality,” the commander warned as they began walking toward the main hall.
                “It could be me who gets trounced on stage.”
                “That is rather impossible, Alasdair. My mate kills his opponents, and as this boasted of being an accurate depiction,” she said, gesturing toward the poster in Alasdair’s hand, “you cannot have been defeated, for you are standing in front of me.”
                “That is true, but I’m certain Carrigh wouldn’t mind seeing me beaten by a giant after I’ve ruined these breeches she just fixed for me.”
                Alasdair looked sorrowfully at his knee where a single thread was out of place along the inner seam. He groaned to himself, cursing the chairs in the royal courts for being unkind to such delicate fabric and fine stitching, but was soon consoled when thinking of being bare before his wife in the privacy of the tailor while watching her mend his garments, her loveliness expatiated by the glow of light pervading the tailor window. He could watch her at her sewing table for hours, her features intent on her work, her delicate and nimble hands creating every stitch. His sighs of mild anxiety became wistful exhalations, and soon he was only too eager to visit the tailor and show Carrigh how heroically he had been portrayed.