Story for the Day: "You are cordially invited"
Chapter 4 in the new Haanta Series novella, "Tales from Frewyn: the Opera"! Enjoy!
“You are cordially invited”
Within a few minutes, the mending work was done, and while Alasdair was at liberty to redress, Carrigh was given the poster for her assessment of how well her king looked. She laughed at its absurdity, declaring that her husband was far more becoming in person than he was in the illustration, for a self-important royal on a white stead would never do for her where a humble king on a chestnut mare had exceeded all of her expectations.
“Does the subject of the opera bother you?” said Alasdair in a caring voice, taking Carrigh’s hand and pressing it to his heart.
“Not at all, sire. It does seem to be a romantic play, but don’t all Marridon operas end in tragedy? This play might offend you ever much more so than it could me, sire. They might show you losing a duel to the Den Asaan.”
“I could win against him if I wanted to,” Alasdair pouted. “I simply choose to fight my battles in a court rather than on a field.”
The defensive conviction must be allowed where Alasdair’s feelings were concerned, and Carrigh only smiled at her husband’s declaration, permitting him to believe as he liked though she knew the truth of the matter. Her attention, however, was soon drawn to the glimmering jerkin that Alasdair’s flamboyant counterpart was wearing in the piece. “Would you really wear something with that much trimming?” was Carrigh’s simpering question.
Alasdair looked almost ashamed. “Well,” said he, turning aside, “I was going to ask if you could make something similar. I’d like to wear it for the opening night.” He observed her surprised countenance and hastily amended, “To keep with the accuracy of the play, of course.”
“Of course, sire.” She giggled and shook her head. She should have taken it as a matter of course that her king would wish to look the part. She postulated, searched about her for the requisite materials, and then said, “I think I have what I need to make something similar. But I refuse to put golden tassels on your shoulders.”
Alasdair feigned a groan of discontent and then smiled and thanked his wife for her generosity in indulging his fancies. He knew it was an unreasonable contrivance, wanting to be the image of so gallant a depiction, but it would only be for one evening and then he may be reasonable again. He left Carrigh to her work and went to find the herald to make his proper warnings to the Frewyn Players, but when he went toward the herald’s office in quest of his messenger, he discovered him just leaving with a stack of what appeared to be invitations in his hands.
“Majesty,” the herald said, rushing toward him. “This is for you.” He forced one of the invitation into the king’s hands, bowed and hastened away before his king could hinder him from his most important task.
“Wait,” Alasdair called after him, but he was already gone and any warning that he could give him with regard to the opera must be relinquished. He looked down at the summons in his hand, read its brief message, and sighed in renewed vexation. “This isn’t going to end well,” he said to himself. He considered having the play disbanded, but his curiosity to see how the production would end overruled his judgment and the opera would go on.
The herald leapt through the whole of the keep, leaving one invitation at the foot of every door in each quarter of the castle. Many thanked him and gave their assenting replies with all due expediency, and though he required only a yes or no with regard to the given addressees’ attendance, there was one attendant’s reply which the herald did not think it worth waiting to receive. Once he had delivered every other invitation, he made his way to the commons. He mounted the winding stair at the end of the main hall and stopped at the foot of the threshold to stare at the closed commons door with a horrified expression. He was sensible of the reply he would receive from the persons behind this door. He considered the pain he might suffer from delivering the invitation here and contrived to set it down and flee as quickly as his legs would allow. He calmed his rapidly beating heart, told himself that the beast usually lurking within was out hunting at this hour, and flung the invitation at the door as soon as he had the courage for it. With the delivery made, he turned to descend the stair, all pride and complacence for having delivered the message without an altercation with the Den Asaan, but the moment he took the first step toward the stairs, he found himself suddenly on the ground. He lay beneath the archway for some minutes before venturing to open his eyes. It felt as though he had bumped into something though he had seen nothing but the winding steps, but in opening his eyes and staring at the Den Asaan’s large and bare feet, he recollected a slight flash of movement from the ceiling of the stair before his landing on the ground.
“Why are you at my door, messenger?” a sonorous voice from above rumbled.
Fear overpowered the herald, and he kept his eyes low in hopes of being spared the Den Asaan’s pointing finger and flouting countenance. “I came to deliver an invitation to you, Den Asaan,” he stammered.
Rautu growled and stepped over the herald’s shivering form to where the summons had landed. He peered down at the direction of the invitation: it was addressed to his mate and himself, had come from the Royal Theatre- certainly not the most abominable place in the world- but the sight most infuriating to him was a small image drawn beside the address of a scowling monster holding a small and swooning woman in one hand while balancing a rose in his mouth. He had little idea who the woman was until he deciphered himself by the molded hair and familiar markings on his skin. His eyes narrowed, his lips tensed, and any anger that such a mockery could excite was beginning to surface. “Leave my home,” he demanded.
The herald stood, thanked the giant for his mercy, and fled down winding stair, praising the names of the Gods that his life had been spared and praying that the Frewyn Players should share in his good fortune.
Rautu waited until the herald had gone to take the invitation into his hand. He smelled its thick paper, licked its corners to test for poison, and inspected the meticulous handwriting for any other secret affront contained in the finely made letters. Once he declared the message safe, he turned it over and read thus:
You are cordially invited to attend the first ever Frewyn Players’ production of “The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu: an opera in three acts”, to begin tomorrow evening at sundown, with playbook by Frewyn’s Sealin MacBryde and with songs and direction by Marridon’s own Baronus Tillney.
The invitation went on to list the principle actors and supporting cast, but the phrase you are cordially invited followed by the two names of those most responsible for this censure was all the shamelessness the Den Asaan could endure. Such a slight towards himself was easily recovered from: a challenge might be used to both of the culpable parties and therefore his pride could salvaged, but the insult he felt on his mate’s side, the dishonour of her being portrayed as a weak and swooning damsel, and the further disrepute of being so affably invited to witness it, was an unfathomable wrong. His arms shook at his sides, his fist clenched around the invitation, and he felt his rage overtake him. He would have his revenge for this gratuitous ridicule, he would destroy everyone responsible for such unmitigated debasement, but before he could descend the stair and make his way toward the Royal Theatre, he was stopped by his mate, who upon hearing the bustle outside of the commons, opened the door to the main room where she had been sitting, and drew his attention by saying:
“Did you destroy the invitation before or after you read it?”
Rautu turned to see the commander standing in the doorway of the commons with an invitation of her own in her hand. “How did you obtain that?” he said, calming slightly.
“The herald, though decent in his duties due to your constant and careful teachings, is not perfect, as you well know.”
“He had dropped this on his way to the kitchen to give your friend Martje her invitation to this nonsense.” She paused and smirked at her mate. “You realize we must go if only to jeer at their attempts for accuracy. Normally I would not allow you to exercise your powers of shouting at such an event, but considering the play’s subject, I give you full permission to shout as loud as you should like.”
“Your king allowed this?” Rautu growled, stabbing his finger toward the invitation.
“I don’t think he would have done if he had known about it. Teague and Mureadh made the discovery.” She remarked the illustration on the invitation and shrugged. “I daresay those who were expecting to see Mad Queen Maeve fling herself from the balcony for the hundredth time shall be sorely disappointed when they arrive at the theatre tomorrow night only to find a rather unbecoming man dressed as you squawking professions of love in my direction. I do wonder if they’ll have me hopping about on stage in scanty furs or merely have me topless to keep the eyes of their audience from glazing over.” She simpered and looked up to find Rautu unable and unwilling to share her mirth. “Do you mean to skin everyone responsible for this farce or just the director?”
“Well, you certainly mean to be thorough.”
Rautu plucked the invitation from her hand, and with a firm glower said, “You will not attend this performance, Traala.”
“And why should I not go? I cannot miss you recanting your woes through warbling song. And besides, I want to see the gorgeous and melancholic woman they chose to play my role.”
“Your people will see that and believe it is an accurate representation of you.”
“Iimon Ghaala,” she said sweetly, tugging the ends of his locks. “It’s meant to be a parody, or at least it shall be to the Frewyns who see it. Everyone knows the true story well enough, I think.”
“My people would not do this,” Rautu asserted, his tranquility returning with each pleasing and circular motion his mate’s fingers made. “Our songs and dances honour our legends and our champions. We do not deride those responsible for our wellbeing.” He looked away and said in a quiet voice, “I will not allow them to mock you, Traala.”
The commander gave the giant a tender smile. “Such devotion,” she cooed, her eyes sparkling. “I daresay you would burn down the whole theatre if only to defend my honour.”
“I would.” He observed her with a reverent fondness and pulled her into the bend of his arm. “You will not go until I have seen this performance,” he purred in her ear. “I will judge whether it is acceptable for others to watch.”
“So you shall see Alasdair’s counterpart frolic about on a horse made from a broom? Hardly fair that I should miss it.”
Her remonstrances were silenced by a kiss from the giant, and without another word, he took his sword into his hand, leapt down the winding stair, and thundered toward the Royal Theatre, prepared to acquit or reprove as the situation would warrant.