#NaNoWriMo Day 1: Vyrdin's Gift

It's here: NaNoWriMo! Here is out first post, a story about Vyrdin's first gift from the Galleisian War Saga. Enjoy!

He returned to his private apartment with a pained heart. All the privations and cruelty he had endured during his time in Farriage had destroyed his powers at happiness. Where his heart persuaded him to celebrate, his head refuted such a claim. His mind wandered through his reasoning, telling himself again and again why he was unworthy of revelry, ill-suited for camaraderie, and forbidden from closeness. He stood at the centre of his room with clenched fists and downcast eyes, his tumbled hair lumbering over his brow, and his musing carried him through the many times he had begged the man who had made himself his master to share in one meal, one walk through town, one hour by the fire, one day of celebratory bliss, and was denied every humble request. Gifts were never to be mentioned, for he knew that such an appeal would be answered with vicious conduct. His holidays were spent in state of continual consternation, wondering whether he should be beaten for imaginary disobedience or for blatant ingratitude; he had been taken in, he had been sheltered and fed, his only directive was to work until his fingers broke and his hands bled and his body relinquished all claims to strength and forbearance. How dare he expect more than he deserved. Here was a pang: he had been taught to express his appreciation through work and recompense, and here he was standing about and pining after holiday festivities. It was ungrateful, it was unmerited, and altogether he reckoned that he did not deserve to be the object of anyone’s charity or consideration. He took up his slane from the corner of the room, prepared to cut peat from the unfrozen sward for His Majesty’s fire, when King Dorrin walked into the room.
                “Maith Ailineighdaeth, Vyrdin,” said the king, with a most beholden smile.
                Vyrdin instantly lowered his gaze and made a restrained bow. “And you, Your Majesty.”
                The king’s cheerfulness was a little diminished, however, when he noted the slane in Vyrdin’s hand. His countenance grew severe and solicitous, conscious of all the frightened civility that Vyrdin was apparently cherishing. “What is this, Vyrdin?” he said, in a softened hue, motioning toward the slane. “There is no work to be done today.”
                “I was going to cut more turf for your fire, Your Majesty,” said Vyrdin, staring at his feet.
                “Has someone asked you to do this?”
                “No, Your Majesty. I saw that the peat stores were low and I decided to undertake the work. If I cut it now, the peat will dry and be ready for use by the next snowfall.”
                Vyrdin’s sense of enforced obedience wracked Dorrin’s heart. He could not but be sensible of the boy’s indebtedness, but this was more submission than his condolence and commiseration could endure. “A generous thought, Vyrdin,” said he, in a tender accent, prying the slane from his hands and putting it by. “I know that you never think of yourself when you can think of others, but this may be done at anytime.” He paused and remarked Vyrdin’s features, furrowing in the throes of shame and disquiet. “Why are you in here when you might enjoy the festivities around the keep? You were not waiting for me to give you leave, were you?”
                “No, Your Majesty.”
                The king waited for more, but there was nothing to succeed: tense shoulders, tightened fists, disheartened looks, and pursed lips were recommendation enough to Vyrdin’s difficulty. “I see you have something on your mind,” said he, placing his hand gently on Vyrdin’s shoulder. “Come, child,” motioning to toward the chairs, “tell me what’s troubling you.”
                They sat together at the small table, Vyrdin taking the lower chair for himself, and the king sitting in the large armchair beside. Nothing was said between them for a time, the one all affability and compassion, and the other all hesitation and uneasiness, when at last Vyrdin began with, “I was thinking,” but his anxieties assailed him and he could not continue.
                “Go ahead, Vyrdin,” Dorrin entreated, with a significant nod. “Tell me.”
                Vyrdin’s brow bent and he frowned. “I was thinking about my time in Farriage,” he slowly admitted. “I never celebrated the holidays while I was there. I often wanted to visit town, but-“ He stopped, felt his throat tighten and his eyes mist over, and recollected himself before amending with, “I didn’t like being at the orphanage in Amene, but I can remember enjoying the holidays there.”
                “Did you actively participate in celebrations while at the orphanage?”
                Vyrdin shrugged and hung his head. “Sometimes.”
                Dorrin now understood the slight to Vyrdin’s feelings: he must be vigorously sought after for involvement, for if left to himself, his terrors and willingness to oblige should prevail him and forbid him from enjoying any of the delights the holiday could provide. He thought he should be giving the boy his freedom to choose how he should like to commemorate his first holiday in the keep; he was only come to see whether Vyrdin had gone to the capital to see the lights and had been a good deal astonished to find him still in his room. All would now be rectified, however, and resuming his good natured smile, he said, “Well, here you are free to do as you wish. There is the celebration in the servants hall that you might attend, there will be continual meals in the Great Hall which is open to everyone for the entirety of the holiday, and there is the celebration in the square where the whole of the capital is open to you. The choice is yours, Vyrdin. I only ask that you eat your dinner at my table this evening.”
                “In the Royal Parlour?” Vyrdin charily asked.
                “In the Great Hall, Vyrdin. Will you accompany me there and sit beside me?”
                Vyrdin’s hands trembled and his eyes flickered about: to be given a place beside the king on Frewyn’s most prominent holiday was an honour most distressing. He would accept the king’s generous offer, but his mind compelled him to decline it. For the king’s subjects to see their Lord sitting beside a deprived and humbled waif would surely be a disparagement to one who had only shown him kindness.
                “If you are uncomfortable eating in the Great Hall,” said Dorrin, when Vyrdin made him no answer, “we can eat together here instead.”
                “I cannot ask you to do that, Your Majesty,” Vyrdin cried. “Your subjects will expect you, and I will be taking you away from them-“ A hand suddenly taking hold of his chin and lifting his features to meet the king’s gaze silenced him.
                “They are my people and my friends, Vyrdin, as are you.” Dorrin released him from his tender hold, marking the melancholy and trepidation in Vyrdin’s aspect before he inclined his head and looked down once more. “Join me in the Great Hall, Vyrdin. My son will be there, and I know he is anxious for your happiness.”
                “For me, Your Majesty?” said Vyrdin, astonished. “Why should His Highness be anxious for me?”
                “My son is a champion worrier,” Dorrin simpered. “I, too, worry about many things, about the kingdom, about my people, about you, but I do my utmost to hide my apprehension while in company.”
                “You are anxious for me, Your Majesty?”
                “Of course, Vyrdin.”
                Vyrdin seemed not to understand this. For the king to worry about all of his people was apprehensible, but for him to be concerned for his wellbeing when he had already done everything in his power to secure it was unconscionable. “Why would you be anxious for me, Your Majesty?”
                Dorrin gave him a look of speaking concern. “Are you happy, Vyrdin?”
                “I am happier than I have ever been, Your Majesty,” Vyrdin admitted. “I have work, I have food, a warm bed-“
                “And friendship?”
                Vyrdin was silenced by the force of his indignity and stared at his feet.
                “I know it is difficult for you to be close with others, but attempting to form a friendship is the greatest gift you can give yourself.”
                Vyrdin nodded and refused to look up.
                “As for gifts,” the king began. He reached into his mantle and produced a small box. With one hand on Vyrdin’s back, he placed the box in Vyrdin’s lap and entreated him to take it.
                Vyrdin’s heart seized and his shrouded cheeks were in a glow. “For me, Your Majesty?” he said, in a fevered hush.
                A few eager nods and a kindly look, and the box was in Vyrdin’s hands before he was aware. A thousands feelings of unworthiness rushed on him as he opened the lid, and when he saw what was within, his lips parted in a silent gasp of amazement, his eyes welled with tears, and his hands trembled as he lifted a single silver earring out from the box.
                “My son tells me that you have a desire to be in the forces,” said Dorrin, his eyes crinkling with smile lines. “When you apply and are made a captain, you will receive your issued silver ring, but I wanted this one to be your first piercing. Brave King Breian instated the custom of piercing in the forces to mark not only advancement in the ranks but also personal achievement.”
                Vyrdin sniffed and felt the damp tributaries roll beneath his chin.
                “Wear that well as a reminder to yourself of how much you’ve accomplished since you came here.”
                “Yes, Your Majesty,” was Vyrdin’s sobbing reply.
                Beleaguered by the king’s thoughtfulness and ashamed at his own inability to conceal his artless sentiments, Vyrdin covered his eyes and wept into his hand. It was too much benevolence to be given to one who had asked for nothing and who had received every blessing that life had to offer without believing he had earned it. To be given sustenance and a home where he was safe from the lash had been his only ambition, and here was yet another kindness to discompose him. The make of the earring so exquisite, its intricate design and slender length, he marveled at his gift through the blurred vision of irrepressible tears.