Story for the Day: How to Repel Women
Draeden always has a bit of a fit when any woman shows him attention. He will often go to great lengths merely to avoid meeting them, as once he is faced with a fine lady, his brain functions cease and all motion or thought becomes impossible.
As neither Suilli nor his generous awns would be joining them for the evening, Draeden was forced to contrive something else that would render the two women obliged to abandon their meeting. His mind was rapidly working as they left the barracks and went to the mess, their regiments quieting and saluting as they passed, mistaking Draeden’s brooding aspect for seething indignation, turning away to conjecture amongst themselves as to what had disturbed their commanding officer enough to make him appear so uncommonly dour.
“You should think about Suilli’s moustache more often,” said Bryeison, his lips pursing in a small smile. He turned back momentarily to gauge the furtive gestures and faces of their subordinates, and continuing into the hall, added, “Even its memory frightens them.”
“If I could but exercise the same ruminatory solemnity with Fallana and Cadeina,” said Draeden, instantly rousing from his deliberations, “I should terrorize them, but I don’t think that either one of them has seen Suilli up close. They have heard him, surely, as anyone in the keep must, but I don’t think they have spent more than a few seconds in his close conversancy, for they are never in the barracks, and he is never out of them. Do you think we could trouble Dieas for a grooming brush, because I think that should do as a tolerable substitute for Suilli’s moustache. We can ask Langliegh for some carpenter’s glue to attach it with and I will wear it very proudly, and I’m sure Cneighsea has a solvent that will unhinge it from my face, regardless of the disapproving looks and remonstrances that securing the solvent will invite.”
Bryeison smirked and raised a brow. “You realize that attaching a brush to your face might cause permanent damage.”
“Do you think it too drastic? If I hold my finger under my nose and wiggle it about very menacingly, I don’t think that the girls will be as terrified enough to warrant their fleeing.”
“They won’t be terrified, but they will question your sanity.”
“Enough, do you think, to repel them?”
The gleam in Bryeison’s eye danced about. “Enough that Cneighsea might let you stay glued to a brush for a few days just to teach you a lesson.”
“If I could get out of this date, I should think his harangues and my looking ridiculous for a day or two a fair trade for our escape.”
Complacency and eyes crinkling with suppressed mirth complemented Bryeison’s fleering aspect and slight shake of the head. “You can pretend to be Suilli for a few days. He’ll be proud that your bainne have finally descended.”
Draeden chirped his tongue, frowned and contracted his brow. “You abominable giant. It was you who got us into this,” stabbing his finger at Bryeison’s nose, “and I am the only one thinking of a way out.”
“There is one, if you’re willing to injure yourself.”
“An injury I should not mind, so long as it not be fatal and not hurt so very much.”
“We can have Teipha kick you,” Bryeison beamed, his lips flourishing in a broad smile.
“I think you mean feign to kick me, because a kick from Teipha is both fatal and unconscionably painful.”
Bryeison stopped and considered and thrummed to himself. “I can pretend to eviserate you.”
“Not a terrible idea upon the whole. We shall have to make it look convincing, however. We can ask Ruta for a pig’s bladder and some intestines, and pretend to spar in the far field. I can hold my abdomen and pretend as though I’m in dreadful pain, and when the girls come near, I can cry out in agony and pretend to pour my innards all over the floor. I’ll make a terrific show of it by wailing and moaning and anchoring my parts as you carry me away. I will have to look rather pale, if I am supposed to be losing immense amounts of blood.” Draeden bowed his head and hummed, stroking the hairs on his chin, his features rapt in earnest contemplation, his smiles growing stronger the longer he deliberated over Bryeison’s plan. “It is nearly time for Ruta to begin dinner. I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy to see if there is any spare offal about. Surely there must be. My father dislikes it so much, and there is no occasion to Ruta to make any bolaig that there must be something by way of a few livers or lungs laying about.”
The excitement of all their schemes saw a return of Draeden’s spirits. He and Bryeison hastened to the kitchen, darting across the hall with all due alacrity, but they had only just reached the threshold when the tinkling sounds of familiar mirth emanated from the servants’ hall adjoining. Agitation struck Draeden’s heart; he knew those sounds, knew to whom that sickening and splendid hilarity belonged, and before they could escape into the warm glow of the oven room, where stood Ruta in command over the range, they caught Fallana and Cadeina turning into the hall from the entrance to the servant’s quarter, and there was an end to all their designs. Fraught under the auspices of his renewed panic, Draeden pulled at Bryeison’s arm, hoping that there was still time to escape through the kitchen and reach liberty in the far field before they were seen, but the sudden call of “There they are!” destroyed all of Draeden’s humble aspirations. Draeden’s heart seized, and he stared at the ground, the threshold of the kitchen and their subsequent freedom before them and yet unattainable now that they had been descried. Perhaps they were only looking in their direction, perhaps they were greeting a few fellow maids walking down the hall behind them, but Bryeison raising his hand and waving to them secured their danger: they were seen, they were being waved to and approached, and all amibitions of escape and deception must not be done away.
“But we were so close,” Draeden sibilated through clenched teeth, refusing to look at the girls, who were slowly advancing. “Quickly, throw me across the threshold and I shall pretend to be hurt.”
“If I throw you into the kitchen,” said Bryeison, his awareness on Draeden but his eyes on the girls, “you won’t have to pretend.”
The girls came further down the hall, and Draeden fidgeted nervously about. “Cneighsea will fix me, whatever the damage,” he insisted, “it is our last chance of getting away.”
“If I throw you from here, you will hit the counter where Ruta is currently standing. I cannot risk the possibility of your hitting her.”
Draeden sighed and lamented that Ruta would always be at her wretched post, peeling and baking and cooking at all hours of the day when she might be gone for ten mintues to bring the dinner to the servants’ hall, leaving Bryeison free to toss him about as he liked. As it was, however, there was no escape, whether by injury or by deception, unless Bryeison concede to stab him for no reason and haul him to the infirmary, but this proposal was vehemently refuted with, “While you are a captain, Draeden, I cannot stab a prince. Throwing you across a kitchen, while incurring Ruta’s anger, is still horseplay, but stabbing you in front of two witnesses would be treason.”
Draeden bewailed his wretched title, thinking that since so few were disposed to consider him a proper prince, there could be no harm in a few stabs, but the girls were gaining ground, and Draeden had no time to argue the point with Bryeison. “Do you think it likely that one of them has a cold and the other should like to stay home and nurse her?”
The two girls were trotting eagerly down the hall, and Bryeison was compelled to say, “I don’t believe so, Draeden.”
“They’re coming closer. Bryeison, hide me!” screening himself with Bryeison’s mantle. “I don’t want to see how absolutely exquisite they look.”
“They’ve already seen you, Draeden. And even if you try hide behind me, they can still see your legs.”Draeden chided himself for contriving things so ill. He continued to consider how a tolerable escape could be made, his mind working incessantly, his genius flickering through every means of evasion, but the moment that Bryeison stepped aside and revealed his position, he could do nothing but stare at the prospect before him: the two girls, just coming into full view, were well-dressed and neatly outfitted, their features outlined and expatiated by creams and colours, their fragrances heightened by lavender and hyssop, their waists contracted by bodices and twine, their hips aggrandized by what pleated skirts and petticoats could do, their breasts spilling over the tops of their blouses, their hair tumbling down their napes in a cascade of wheat and silk, their shoulders bare and complexions pearlescent, and Draeden was suddenly flung into the throes of wretched pleasure