Story for the Day: Alasdair's Pleasures
Alasdair loves patrolling in his First Captain's uniform. True, many people do recognize him as Frewyn's king, but this only allows him to know them on a more personal level. From the forthcoming book in the series "The Diras Castle Keep", here is Alasdair at his best. Enjoy!
|King Alasdair and Queen Carrigh|
The commander may have laughed at her own suppositions, but Alasdair did not stay to hear it. He was gone and hastening down one of the adjoining lanes before any of the women strolling nearby should attach themselves to him. Eyes peered out of windows and ears turned toward the commander’s unanswerable commands whilst Alasdair slipped away and tucked himself beside one of the outdoor stalls. It was a stall which specialized in erotic fiction, its tables lined with the newest volumes and the shelves beside furnished with illustrated texts. Here was diversion enough: to hide his recognizable features amidst the pages of a book which he would of course not read ought to keep him from gaining any suspicious looks from the those passing by. He checked his well-bred manners and reminded himself not to nod to every woman walking down the lane, took up a random volume from the table, holding it open, and placing his nose between the parted pages.
He had no intention of reading the book, but the moment his eyes fell upon the title header, his mind was alive and rife with curiosity. He half-smiled at the familiar title and looked with wonderment at each chapter header as he turned the pages. “I haven’t seen one of these in ages,” he said to himself in a tone of pleasant reverie.
“That’s the latest one,” said a voice from behind.
Alasdair turned to find the proprietor of the stall, an older yet fashionable woman with cropped crimson hair, gaunt cheeks, and drooping eyes, standing directly behind him. He gave a small start, bowed to honour her, but in so doing had exposed his face. He scrupled for a moment, thought cover himself with the book once more when the woman turned away and began busying herself about her stall.
“Just began printing again now that the press in Westren is running,” said the proprietor, removing a few volumes from the shelves and placing them onto the table. “Many people have been waiting for that series to restart.” And then with a conscious look and raised brow added, “It’s a best-seller for a reason.”
Alasdair must marvel at the volume. A name that had been so well-known to him, that had afforded him many evenings of entertainment and comfort, could not be overlooked. “I used to read these all the time when I was trapped at home and trying to hide from my brother,” he said, taking care to leave out details that might otherwise betray his identity. She seemed to take a but mild interest in his presence, nothing beyond what that of an ordinary customer might occasion. He felt himself safe here, and regarded the table of contents, the first lines of every chapter, and a few of the first paragraphs before deciding, “How much for the one book?”
“On the house, Your Majesty,” said she, with a saucy wink.
Alasdair made an abashed smile. “Please, madam, allow me to pay you.”
But the woman would not be persuaded, not even by the civil entreaties and warmhearted smiles of her king. She shook her head, said “We all deserve to have our secret pleasures,” and went into her small storeroom to retrieve another of the volume that Alasdair would be taking away with him.
She had been so forthcoming and easy with him that Alasdair felt it undue to leave her stall without giving her some reward. To have the King of Frewyn make a personal visit when he could have otherwise sent one of the under servants on an errand may be conceived as reward enough to a mere bookseller, but to Alasdair this was hardly ample compensation. She would tell no one of having seen him or even of his purchase though she could use such information to her advantage to gain more customers or sell more of the particular book which His Majesty so admired. This conduct could not go unrewarded. Such delicacy and attention to his feelings- he must repay her for her abundant generosity, and once the woman was gone, he placed the book into his inside pocket, produced two silver, and placed them onto the counter before hurrying away. He smiled to himself, his heart warming at the notion of the precious article he had chanced to find now in his possession, and he almost leapt with excitement to think of returning to his chambers and sitting by the warmth of the fire with the volume open in one hand and a cup of honey lemon tea in the other.