#NaNoWriMo Day 5: The Great Hall
For the Frewyn holiday of Ailineighdaeth (al-i-nay-de), it's tradition for the king to open the castle keep's Great Hall and welcome all of his subjects to dine with him and the royal family. King Dorrin and King Alasdair keep this tradition, and for those like Vyrdin, who have no family and no where else to go for the holidays, the custom is particularly welcome.
A few splashes of cold water, a doting last look at his gift, and Vyrdin was tolerably prepared for his appearance in the Grand Hall. His heart swelled with thankfulness and delight as they walked down the main hall together: the image of the earring, with its fine etchings and pearlescent finish, and the manner in which it was given remained with him until they reached the peristyle. Passing nobles and servants flocked toward the king, all of them wanting to pay their sovereign due honours and wish him good tidings for the day, and though Vyrdin usually would have shied away and recoiled from any added attention to himself, his confidence had been fortified by the king’s goodwill; he had cried on him, he had appealed to his forgiveness with regard to his feelings of unworthiness, and the king had borne it all with true forbearance. There was no one on the Two Continents, no parent or ruler or practitioner, who could rival King Dorrin in Vyrdin’s eyes, and as the king opened the doors to the Grand Hall, ready to receive and greet his guests, Vyrdin’s self-assurance and self-possession only increased by the king’s turning toward him and ushering him into the Grand Hall before himself.
“Take the seat next to my son,” said the king, encouraging Vyrdin toward the upper end of the immense table. “He is expecting you.”
Vyrdin’s eyes flared beneath his tumble of hair. “Expecting me, Your Majesty?”
Dorrin nodded and looked rather pleased. “Asking you here was his idea. I thought it might be much to ask for your first Ailineighdaeth to be spent with us and in such great company. I felt it best to let you go your own way. I feared that you might feel obligated, so I had Ruta prepare a meal for us in your quarters. I thought we might enjoy a holiday dinner together and then you might make your rounds.” He smiled and gave Vyrdin a doting look. “I’m glad my son was right.”
Nothing that Vyrdin could say would convey his true sentiments on the occasion, and without another word, he was encouraged over the threshold, into the Grand Hall, through the crowds assembling at the door to greet the king, and toward the large table, where Draeden sat, perusing the various dishes that were bringing in from the kitchen. The room, though vast and moderately furnished, the walls garlanded with hawthorn and holly, trappings from kings and queens gone by strewn along the ground, garnered a soft amber light from the sconces along the wall, mantling the hall with a quiet cheerfulness despite the bustling din of the many attendees. The scented candles lining the table in the ancient and true style lighted every face and granted a subdued brilliancy to the peace which could not but be acknowledged. It was a consoling display, all good humour and holiday fervency, numinous and softened, muted of every hue, unifying and collecting the animation and volubility. Friends clamoured, the voices of servants resounded in high revel, and over the thrum of festivity was the king, recognizing every familiar face with hardy felicitations, remarking on everything good and great without any semblance of vanity, disparagement, or affected unconcern.
While everyone was disposed to honour the king, a few attendees made their way round the tables to honour Draeden, though he was hardly inclined to be half so attentive as his father. All his attention was for the braised goose and stewed rabbit just laid before him, and though he returned every civil address, he did so with intermittent glances at the steaming plates, eager to be eating and hating to see so many delectable dishes growing colder when they might be enjoyed under the auspices of a perfect warmth. His well-wishes were as long as his growing hunger allowed, and when Vyrdin approached, remarking the prince writhe in the throes of his unrelenting hunger, Draeden burst forth with, “Vyrdin, Maith Ailineighdaeth! I’m glad to see you here. The meal has just arrived and I’m famished. Do sit down. Talking to you will keep me from thinking about my stomach. We’re certain to start as soon as my father takes his seat. If he doesn’t escape his throngs of admirers, who seem determined to oppress him with their good wishes, I shall ravage these dishes without his blessing. I despise having a plate in front of me with nothing to dress it when there are a number of things here I should like to be eating. It’s an affront to Ruta, who worked tirelessly to provide this meal for us.” He scoffed and groaned. “Why does my father linger about when he can address everyone after we have begun eating? He’s even looking me, as though he is lingering on purpose to mock me. He knows I cannot go ten minutes without something. My stomach is rumbling unmercifully. Here is your plate and there are your utensils, if you care to use them. I know I certainly won’t need mine. That goose deserves to be demolished unceremoniously. There you are,” he protested, turning toward Bryeison, who was approaching from the opposing side of the room. “Where have you been? It didn’t take you twenty minutes to remove your armour, surely. What were you doing? Why do you look so coy?”
Bryeison said nothing and sat down beside Draeden.
“Bryeison, you’re smiling far too much not to have done something you know I’m not going to like.”
This accusation was duly ignored, and Bryeison only hummed to himself and filled his glass with some of the barley and borage before him.
“You ungenerous behemoth,” Draeden professed, hanging off Bryeison’s massive arm. “What have you done? Have you prepared a gift for me? Bryeison, I thought we agreed no gifts, because you’re so horrid at receiving them. What have you got prepared? I will have you answer me. Tell me, or I shall stab you with my fork.”
Bryeison shook Draeden from his arm, seemingly without any effort at all, and said his good tidings to Vyrdin, who was reticent to say anything to the foreboding giant. Threats of forks and heated accusations meant nothing to one of his enormity and impenetrability, for though out of his armour and wearing a simple linen tunic and galligaskins, he appeared to even greater advantage than he did when donned in his mountainous pauldrons. Vyrdin, though in the keep for some time, had not yet inured himself to the sight of the colossal Varrallan; he had been used to see him tossing recruits about, swinging a sword the size of a barge, and bellowing deafening roars as he tore across the training field in quest of a target soon to be disintegrated. The dimmed light and large tunic did well to conceal the chief of his overbearing muscle, his countenance was forthcoming and smiling, but his air was so confident, his manner so well-assured, his character so self-governing that his wryness and affability was lost under the intimidating prospect that his overwhelming size and unshakeable self-possession evinced. Vyrdin only nodded his hellos and muttered through his felicitations, and though the Varrallan giant gave him a smile of warm politeness and a nod in return, he could not help but be intimidated by him. He shifted closer to the king’s seat and observed the prince and the giant in circumspection and silence.