Story for the Day: Storytellin'
Frewyn has a longstanding tradition of storytelling. Westren in particular has a celebrated and dynamic oral tradition and spearheaded the literature movement during the First Golden Age. While the rest of the kingdom enjoys a good yarn now and again and revels in retelling personal stories, folks from Westren revel in the tales about the times of Brennan, the kingdom's old chieftains.
“Make room for yur sesster. Here, Blinne-hen, sit on mah left, and Fei-lad move to mah right. Ossin, ye draw up tha’ blanket tae warm us, an’ Ahll thenk o’ a story.”
“We want a good story,” Irall demanded, wedging himself between his brothers.
“A good story, aye? None o’ the other stories Ah teld ye were good?”
“They were good too,” said Ossin, “but we want a better one.”
“A better yin.” Gaumhin made a deliberating hum and glanced out the window, where the snows were just beginning to tumble down from the skies. “Well, how’s aboot Ah teld yous a story aboot the first Westren snowbrothin’.”
The boys reckoned that this history already promised to be an excellent one, and they huddled together and stared at their brother in anticipation open-mouthed and waiting to catch at any morsel that he might impart. The shifted and shuffled about Gaumhin’s right side while Blinne clung to Gaumhin’s left arm as Peig sat in his lap and rested her head against his chest.
“So,” Gaumhin hemmed as he began, “back when Westren still had Brennan, our chieftains, and we were still livin’ by clan rule, First King Allun came tae plead for Westren’s alliance. He was unitin’ the kingdom, and all our chieftains saw em’sel’s as kings and princes, and so many didnae want tae join hem. The chieftains started fightin’ amongst em’sel’s and called a clan war, tae see who’d side with King Allun and who’d no’. King Allun didnae want tae see a clan die because o’ hem, so he asked tha’ there be nae weapons used in the fight. The chieftains agreed an’ all ‘o’yem went oot tae the fields tae settle their business. It was winter time, and there was snow coverin’ all the lowlands.”
The boys craned their necks and ebbed closer, and Blinne sunk against her brother’s side as his arm wrapped around her shoulders.
“The Brennan threw their weapons aside and were gonnae go at it with their fists, but the king said nae fists neither, so they bent an’ took up a few stones in their hauns, but the king said…”
He paused and gave the children an encouraging nod.
“Nae stones neither!” they chimed.
“Aye. So they bent an’ took up the peat from the guigins on the ground, but the king said…”
“Nae peat neither!”
“Aye. So they bent an’ took their boots from their feet, an’ the king said-“
“Nae boots neither!”
“So they bent an’ had nothin’ else to taek up, but since their feet were cold from taekin’ off their boots, they took up the snow, and the king said…”
The boys parted their lips to answer, but when they discerned Gaumhin’s sly gaze and sagacious simpers, they closed their mouths and inched even close, wondering what it was that First King Allun had said.
“He said, ‘Ah thenk snow will dae.’ ”
Sparkling eyes and impatient smiles went round, and Gaumhin was garlanded with children as he came to the end of his tale.
“So the clans threw snow at each other, neither side winnin’ or losin’, until the king called out, ‘whoever attacks his opponent till the snow turns tae broth is the winner o’ the fight.’ The Brennan lunged at each other, puttin’ all the snow down each other’s pelts, for they ken the onlae wae tae turn the snow tae broth in such cold weather was tae melt it against their skins. They covered each other in snow until they were buried in it, and when they were tae tired tae go ‘naemore, the king said, ‘Then we have a truce,’ and made an agreement with the chieftains o’ Westren that the clans would come taegether tae fight for the king under a united crown.”
The children cheered, and the boys instantly proclaimed “Tell it again, Gaumhin,” and “Again, and this time in Auld Fremhin,” and “Yes, in Auld Fremhin, please?” in such quick succession as to make Gaumhin’s complextion deepen.
He was gratified and mortified all at once, abashed by their instant demand for more for what he deemed only a tolerable retelling and indebted to their delightful sense of childlike ingenuousness that accompanied all their commendation. Surely they should have been asleep by now, but his sensibilities had been worked on by their devoted zeal. “Th’ morra, lads,” said he softly, rubbing their backs and surrendering to disconcerted smiles. “It’s late an’ o’.”
“One more time, Gaumhin,” Ossin pleaded. “Please?”
The boys gawped at him with sparkling eyes and dismal pouts, and Gaumhin had done. There was no resisting such entreaties and plaintive tones, and Gaumhin, sighing in resignation, said, “Aye, yin more time,” knowing full well that another retelling must lead to another two more retellings at least.
Cheers rippled through the family party, the boys whooped and hollered in triumph, Blinne hushed them for fear of their father’s being still awake and able to hear them, and once silence fell over the room and the unquietness of anticipation reigned, the children crowded their storyteller and listened to the history of King Allun and the Westren chieftains again.