#Nanowrimo : The Rat Pt4
Word of the rat’s presence soon spread throughout the keep, and from everyone’s reaction, the small creature might as well have been a dragon come to roost on the battlement and lay siege to the castle: the nobles locked themselves in their apartments with their card tables and tea, the servants lifted the hems of their skirts and searching about their feet with chariness, the yeoman favoured their various employments to distract themselves from the heightened bustle in their quarter, and though everyone was in some manner aware of the creature lucking about, no one was more sensible of its presence than Alasdair.
The moment that the commander conveyed the news, the king replied with a discomposed “Oh…” and directly stood from his seat in the library, shuddering in disgust. His eye wandered unconsciously under tables, around corners of chairs, even beneath his parchments. “Well,” he said after a moment’s pause, “I’m glad I didn’t eat anything this morning.”
“I daresay, Alasdair, it wandered in from the square,” the commander said, making no attempt to hide her amusement. “It is collection day. It probably came from one of the waste carts.”
Alasdair was instantly horrified. “That makes it worse. That means it’s going to bring its filth here.” He shivered in quiet aguish and stood close to the commander, looking about his feet with a chary expression.
“Diras Castle is the cleanest home on the Two Continents. One rat shall not ruin your reputation as shining master of the grand Frewyn house.”
“It might gnaw on my jerkins and my bow strings,” he exclaimed, ignoring the commander’s attempt to quell his anxiety. The horror of such a statement moved him to quit the library directly and hurry towards his chambers where he might find his tailored garments and his fiddle all in perfect order.
He had been used to neatness more than affluence in his youth, and the notion of the very symbol of refuse hiding in his keep, skulking about every corner, bearing its teeth, nestling within the stone walls, compelled him to call for a trapper the moment he could crawl out from the royal chambers. The call was made, the trapper would come, but his apprehensions could not be assuaged until the creature should be caught. Carrigh should placate his terrors, and he hastened down the main hall in quest of her, pretending not to be terrified and aghast, when observed her coming from the tailor to greet him. He ran toward her in protracted leaps, gathered into the bend of his arm, and before she could ask his meaning by forcing her back into the tailor, he was closing the door and locking it behind them. He sighed in relief and began spying the corners of the small room.
Carrigh regarded Alasdair with a sense of bemusement. “What is it, sire?” she said in a half whisper.
He grabbed her and held her close, and nearly climbing her in terror said, “It’s going to touch me,” with a terrific expression.
She had heard the buzzing of there being a rat in the keep from the commotion in the servants quarter, and while this granted little to distress herself, the news bore a very different character by Alasdair. She held his cheek to her shoulder and dotingly cooed, “Alasdair, it has been nowhere in this tailor.”
“Excellent. Then we can hide in here until it’s caught.”
Carrigh must indulge his horrors, for however irrational they might be, his expression and his clinging to her affright warmed her heart with delight. She must laugh at him, but he would tolerate a little mockery for having trapped her in the tailor. She said her acquiescences, prying him from her and calm him by professing that there were many new doublets and jerkins to be fitted him, and set out to find various diversions for however long they should be caught in the tailor.
A small room with a locked door and his stunning wife standing in the midst of it offering him the perusal of a few new pieces was the most prepossessing object in the world, and after some minutes of trying on a few shirts and having them tucked and tightened, connivance soon has its way and Alasdair’s agitations were soothed, finding added comfort in osculating his dear wife and asking her to try on one of her new gowns without the use of the folding partition to change. His wishes were readily obliged, and with sly smiles Carrigh began to untie her bodice when the handle of the tailor door began to wriggle. They turned to observe their intruder, and before either of them could declare the room locked and occupied, the door was forced open and Commanded Dobhin stood in the entrance.
Carrigh scrambled to retie her bodice, and Alasdair leapt in front of her with an exclamation of, “Dobhin!” in a complaining tone.
Dobhin stepped forward and bowed, knowing he had interrupted something but hardly thinking it worth checking his conduct, as the Majesties were both dressed at not beside one another at present. “I apologize, Your Majesty, for the intrusion,” he said with all his usual complacence, “but I thought you should know there is a-“
“Rat in the keep,” Alasdair heatedly interposed. “Yes, thank you. We’re very well aware of it.”
Dobhin glanced at Carrigh, whose cheeks were in a glow, and then at Alasdair, who was endeavoring to have him gone with conscious looks. He would not leave, however; he must first subject Alasdair to some humiliation for having been caught sulking away with his wife while the keep was in a state of animated trepidation. He had no horror of the rat, but he knew that Alasdair must, given his time in the barracks of Tyfferim Company he had been used to suffer. He gloried in seeing Alasdair terrified, especially over something so inconsequential as a rat when the peace of a kingdom was all his concern. He made a sly grin as Alasdair stepped close.
“May I ask what you’re doing here?” Alasdair said in a fevered hush.
Dobhin seemed affronted. “I came to look after the wellbeing of my king and queen, as a commander of Frewyn should do.”
It was said with a mock dutifulness, but Alasdair would not betray his agitation whilst his wife was present. “Thank you,” he said with forced composure, “but I’m in the middle of something rather important.” He glanced askance at Carrigh, but in looking back at Dobhin suddenly realized, “How did you know I was in here?”
Dobhin smiled and raised his brows. “Where else would you be but in Her Majesty’s arms while everyone else is running about in terror?”
The inference was easily drawn, but how Dobhin had entered without having broken the lock was a matter unsettling to Alasdair. He remarked the handle and hinge intact before he asked, “How did you unlock the door from the other side?”
“That lock hasn’t functioned since His Majesty Good King Dorrin’s time.”
Alasdair regarded him from the corner of his eye. “And may I ask how you would know that?”
Dobhin stood close and said in a low voice, “You’re not the only one who enjoys sulking about the servants quarters and taking advantage of a well-placed sewing table, Brennin.” He made a momentary glance at the large table in the corner and was gone directly.
The king was left with some uncomfortable sentiments to feel: how did he know all the uses for the stationary sewing table? was a question to vex him far more than ideas of rats being near him ever could. He stared at the closed door for some time, contemplating Dobhin’s meaning and making his suppositions, when a touch from Carrigh roused him from his cogitations. He turned to remark her: her bodice was now gone and all of his notions of Dobhin’s intrusion gone with it.