Story for the day: Singing
|Has many hidden talents. Hmphing included|
The moment that the sun arose, the regiments of the Frewyn armed forces roused from their bunks in the barracks and began preparations for their journeys home. Some would stay for the celebration planned for the grand hall, but those who had not seen their families since last Ailineighdaeth felt their attention owed to those they left in the west. They said their parting goodbyes, gave their salutes to their commanders, and had gone before the sun gained any power over the snow-threatening skies.
The garrison and adjoining barracks were now tolerably empty: Connors and Nerri had left to prepare the patrol schedule for the Den Asaan’s perusal, Teague was conferring with Alasdair before the short session at court, Mureadh was giving instructions to the stablemaster at the capital gate to inform him of his family’s arrival, and as there was no training to be done for the eve of the holiday, the barracks were at liberty to welcome anyone seeking solitude and retreat from the bustle prevalent throughout the remainder of the keep.
The commander, having remained awake for the whole of the evening, decided to enjoy the rare occurrence of the garrison being freed from its occupants. It was much easier for her to bathe in the snug corner of the garrison than it was to wash in the commons, but Rautu would have his way and therefore would seldom allow her to remove her armor and her underlying tunic anywhere but in the auspices of their home or whilst under his meticulous watch. As her mate was off hunting game for the evening’s celebration, she was left to herself to disrobe and to bathe anywhere she liked. She trotted down the winding stair with soap and washing cloth in hand and thrummed as she skipped by the various maidservants busying about the kitchen and the main hall on her way to the garrison.
Within a few moments, a hot bath was easily contrived, and the commander sat in the basin, screened by the hanging curtain in her corner of the barracks, prepared to do nothing else than enjoy a little cheerful quietness. She reclined in the water, dangling her legs over the side of the wooden basin, and closed her eyes, enjoying the din of the slender rushes, the billowing steam against her skin, and the sensations of her hands wading through the tepid waters. She drifted into a pleasant reverie, succumbing to a wistful state and allowing herself to sing while no one was around. She would not sing so loud as to garner unwanted attention from those in the main hall at present, but a subdued hum and a slight pronunciation of words would be acceptable. She chose a variety of melodies, some Old Frewyn hymns, some arias from Marridon, a cantation or two from Gallei, and though she sang none of them with correctness or propriety with regard to the octaves and range, she recanted their melodies with a blissful smile, asking little more than her fingers tapping against the basin to command the rhythm.
She heard footfalls and clangs enough to make her pause her performance, but when the sounds fell away leaving only silence behind them, the commander was inclined to resume her song. She had the suspicion that someone had entered the barracks probably with some weapons to furnish the new racks, but such an intrusion would not signify; she was free from all judgment and caprice and would stay where she was until the water should turn cold or until her king, mate or son should call for her.
It was in her last bout of melodic revelry that she chose a Marridon ballad to sing. The song was a simple construction, contrived with the purpose of having even the most inefficient and incapable singers of granting it the justice it merited, but when she arrived at the end and repeated the chorus once more to esteem the end of her bath, she was surprised to find that in her unconscious repetition of the lyrics Rautu’s voice was assisting her in finishing the musical phrase. Her eyes flared open to find the giant hovering over her with a bucket of steaming water in his hands. He hummed the last note of the song with a roguish smirk, poured the water into the basin, and joined his mate.
“Iimon Ghaala,” the commander exclaimed in astonishment, “does anyone else know of your vocal abilities?”
“I cannot sing, Traala,” the giant demanded, sitting in the basin and shifting his mate into his lap.
She made a curt laugh. “Of course not, and neither can I, but you do sing just as I do.”
Her comments were largely ignored in favour of the giant nestling his nose against her cheek and remarking the joyous prospect of her heavy breast afloat atop the water’s surface. He hummed, grazing her neck with his mouth. His eyes narrowed and his hands wandered below the screen of the steaming waters.
The commander endeavoured to keep her mind on the subject. She would have him speak of it, even if he had no desire to do so, and though she delighted in his fingers browsing her thighs, she could not help but feel that there was something in all of this that he was attempting to conceal. She gloried in their playful battles, as she was ever the victor, but there was something curious in his silence rather than his retaliation. It was true that she, unclothed and moistened, was distraction enough for his musings, but his disregard was, she was certain, masking an embarrassment of some kind. “Does anyone else know of this hidden talent?” she asked, turning toward him. She paused and was unanswered. She grinned to herself: there was only one sort of humiliation that made the giant so reluctant to remonstrate, and she therefore surmised, “How many times has Otenohi caught you singing in the pools on the islands after a day's training?”
The giant gave her a laconic huff and was silent.
Presently, the commander added, “If I should ask you brothers-“
“They would tell you nothing, woman,” Rautu heatedly asserted.
Here he had given himself away and now she must pester him. “I daresay they would have much to say on the subject. Did you wait for your brothers to leave the pools before trilling like a warbler or did you exercise your powers while they were present to exhibit your vocal superiority?”
“I have done neither. I do not sing and you will not suggest as such to anyone.”
“I need not make such a suggestion when your singing recommends your talent. You should be prevailed upon to sing at the celebration this evening. Your baritone rumblings shall compliment Alasdair and Dobhin's tenor splendidly.”
Rautu scowled and flexed his maw.
“If I admit to my singing, will you admit to yours?”
She was obliged to give up the point though she could have carried it further to her success; he was growing indignant with embarrassment and there were other manners in which to obtain the answer she sought. She might write to Otenohi to ask him what terrible machination he employed as to make his brother so silent on the matter, but the why he refused to speak of it was less intriguing to her than the desire to see his performance repeated. She allowed the giant his silence until their bath together was over, but while he traversed the crevices her body with his lips, his eyes conveyed that his mind was elsewhere. His looks were divided between equanimity and distress, and where vexation became to prevalent, tranquility got the better of him again. She sensed that there was a painful memory, possibly from his time on the islands, that had resurfaced, one from the air and change in the giant’s character had not resurfaced in some time. She would not question him while his mind was being tormented, and she furnished him with as much diversion as ardent osculations could warrant.