Story for the Day: Retribution

Here is the next chapter in the new Haanta novella "Tales from Frewyn: the Opera". Enjoy!


                For twenty minutes did the Den Asaan sit at the door to the theatre, his sword in his hand and his mind rapt in rumination. Those who observed him wondered at whether he were preparing for a duel or if he were saying the Haanta Haakhas in honour of those he was on the precipice of decimating. Some of the spectators watching from the peristyle were unaware of the giant’s tranquilizing ritual, but Teague, Mureadh, Nerri and Connors were more than sensible of their commander’s custom observed. They had just returned from their evening in the capital, and after delighting in an excellent meal at the Wayward Traveler were disposed to return to the keep for a game of Jainsago in the soldier’s mess whereupon entering the castle through the yeoman’s quarter they descried the Den Asaan sitting in his meditative state. They stopped, gave one another misgiving looks, and began to wonder how long it should be before the giant’s forbearance with Marridon’s premiere genius would perish. They watched and waited, fidgeted, raised brows, and when the Den Asaan did not move, they stared at one another in happy amazement.
                “When you said there was an adaptation of how the two commanders met being put on,” said Connors to Teague and Mureadh, “I believed you. But what I didn’t believe is how well he would take it.”
                “This is calm for him,” observed Nerri, frowning in surprise.
                Teague made a roguish grin. “Perhaps their acting abilities aren’t so terrible after all.”
                “What do you mean?” asked Mureadh.
                “Someone had to pacify him, and the commander is not around.”
                “How many people do you think it took to appease him?” asked Connors smilingly.
                “If he’s sitting there and waiting, probably only one. A crowd would have incited him.” Teague laughed to himself and imagined the Frewyn Players scrambling about, some of them cultivating enough chocolate to quiet the giant and others contriving to hide those responsible for the charade. He simpered and shook his head, and beginning to walk toward the main hall said, “He enjoys giving his prey a chance to prove themselves before taking them to the hunting grounds. I only hope that the play is as good as the excuse they gave him to keep him outside, because if it isn’t, he is going to be even angrier than he was before.”
                “Should we notify the commander?” asked Mureadh as he passed with the others into the hallway.  
                Teague looked back, the corners of his mouth curling slightly. “I’m certain she already knows,” he said, and though the chief of his interest still lay in the Den Asaan and the fate of the Frewyn Players, there were pockets to empty and mulled wine to be had, and all his concern soon became how well he would play at his favourite game.
                Mureadh, however, could not be so easy. He worried more for the Den Asaan than he did for the Players, for he believed that whatever insult they wished to rely to his commanding officer was worth all the violent retribution it could produce. His only scruple was in having the whole of the keep watch the giant release his ethnaa as though it were nothing but a mere amusement. He understood the giant’s unbearable affliction and knew its agonies, but where he was sensible of this, many others were not. He felt Rautu justified in any retribution he should see fit to exact and did not wish to have his superior ridiculed and degraded only for doing what he would have done himself.
                Connors as well felt obliged to agonize, and though his concerns were trifling in comparison to Mureadh’s, he could not be rid of them with any tolerable alacrity. He must be the great worrier of the four, and where propriety and duty to the king were concerned, his vexation must follow. He wondered at how Alasdair could allow this to endure, if not for his own reputation than for the queen’s. Carrigh was an understanding an amiable woman, but would not the play offend her to show her husband pining over one for whom he had only ever retained a shadow of interest? He felt for her exceedingly, and was on the point of conveying his concerns to the king when the new pack of cards was broken open, coppers were tossed into the table, and his losses at Jainsago were impending. He must leave the majesties’ fate to themselves, but he would be the first one to answer the king and queen summons should there be one, his heeding them made ever more celeritous by the lightness of newly emptied pockets.  
Martje's stand-in
                News of the perching giant soon spread throughout the keep. Fifteen minutes spent in high expectancy brought with it all the due attention, and once the report had reached Alasdair, he called the commander down to the kitchen. His object was to discuss if they had better not request a few alterations to the play, but when he spoke his apprehensions, Martje ardently refuted such a retraction. She and Shayne had been sitting at the table enjoying a small supper together when the herald had come to give them their invitation, and the instant Martje beheld the image on the card, there was the end to all peace in the business. She laughed and hollered and slapped her knees, her eyes watered with revelrous mirth, and she declared the depiction the most exceptional likeness she had ever seen.  
                “You had better hold onto it, Martje,” the commander said with half a smile. “If my mate doesn’t approve their performance, that invitation shall be your only remembrance of the opera that never was.”
                “Sure, I’m not missin’ this,” Martje asserted with great animation, stabbing a finger at the invitation in her opposing hand. “Shayne is gonna frame this here drawin’ so I can hang it in the larder. I’m gonna ask the Larkins to make a bust out of it, one with a nice space in the mouth so I can change the rose every day. Maybe I’ll ask him to make it a bird bath, one of those with a little fountain and all.”
                “I should very much like to see this article when it is made. The only manner in which my mate shall not destroy it is if you promise to make the fountain a chocolate one.”  
                “Naw, kin. Then the beast’ll be near it all day,” Martje scoffed. “I want it for myself so’s I can admire it and watch the birds enjoyin’ themselves. Maybe I’ll have Shayne put it by the cottage.”
                Shayne looked as though he had little idea of installing anything so obtrusive and odd near their small home in Tyferrim and grumbled something about having another thing about the house to fix.
                Although he did not wish to ruin Martje’s jovial musings, Alasdair felt he must interpose here. “I’m sorry, Martje, but even though we all want to see this production, I think it best to-”
                “You can’t do this to me, Majesty,” Martje begged, holding her hands together in supplication, her eyes wide with the horror of losing her most precious reprisal. “I’ve been gaggin’ for a chance to see that monster get what’s comin’ to him. Please let it go on for one night and please let me see it. He’s been eatin’ us out of house and home since he came here. A poor cook can’t have revenge any other way.”
                “You did try to poison him once,” the commander murmured.
                Martje gave the commander a sharp look. “You never told me he could eat the stuff without so much as a blink!”
                “I didn’t think there was a need to tell you. I am still astonished as to how you tricked him into eating those potatoes knowing that they were made by your hands. Perhaps he knew they were poisoned and ate them to spite you.”
                “Never you mind, kin,” Martje huffed. “I wanna see this here play, and that’s that.” She pouted, stomped her foot, and folded her arms, and would not allow another word to be said that was not one of approbation for the play’s continuance.
                The commander smiled at Alasdair. “I think we must allow for some retribution on Martje’s behalf, don’t you?”
                “Well,” Alasdair began his relent, but he need not finish; Martje was already praising him to the Gods and leaping up and down in exultation.
                “Why don’t we all attend this rehearsal?” was the commander’s suggestion, said with eyes twinkling in arch interest. “It certainly concerns us, and with the fervent demand of the Frewyn King, I daresay we shall all be granted admittance.”
                To have Carrigh see him in so triumphant a pose might be worth the venture. She had already assured him that the play’s subject had not offended her, and therefore if it could now only endear and delight. Alasdair agreed that they should all go, go now and go together, and the instant his decree was pronounced, the commander went to the soldier’s mess to gather those playing cards in exchange for a more exciting diversion, Martje threw off her apron and demanded that that she and Shayne assemble the Cuineills, and Alasdair went to the tailor to find his wife just having tied off the last stitch in the jerkin he was to wear to the threatre.

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