Story for the Day: The Stracht
Stracht is the Old Frewyn word for moustache, but it means more than just that. The word implies facial hair of any stamp which has been carefully cultivated and tended to over a long period of time. Suilli adores his moustache because it has kept him company during the long winter nights, has been a friend to him throughout many a ponderation, and has seen many a war without ever having been marred. Excellent facial hair is also a sign of manliness in the west, as Suilli is so generous to remind Draeden:
Suilli recounted and revered, and Draeden and Bryeison listened, each of them cherishing the resolution of Suilli’s returning home ere long, if not forever than for a small feriation; Westren, beloved as shewas to him, might have been forever in his conscience, but there was a something in his subdued temper that betrayed a remorse, a devotedness, a desperate longing that they could not but acknowledge. They could be under no mistake that Suilli had unrequited sentiments plaguing his mind, the ambition on their side that the woman who had succeeded in bewitching the most callous and unattainable man in the kingdom should be awaiting him upon his return home, and the hope on his that her heart would prove to be as constant and impenetrable as Westren’s walls had long been.
“”Em twa yous mentioned,” said Suilli presently, tapping his pipe upside down against his thigh and emptying the bowl, “they’re ripe hens. Should be glad tae be oot with ‘em, nae bruthurs and nae fathers tae fight by ‘em approachin’ yous first. They’ll be wantin’ a ploughin’ by the end o’ the night, an’ yous should give it tae ‘em, but ye’ll no’ plough ‘em in mah barracks.”
“I’m not planning on ploughing anybody!” Draeden cried, his voice tremulous with panic.
“Aye, yur a bit young for tha’.” A wink and a fleer, and Suilli’s moustache bristled. “Gottae grow a stracht first.”
“We were hoping you would join us so you could frighten them with yours,” said Bryeison.
After recollecting himself and making a few hems, Draeden asked, somewhat cautiously, “Couldn’t you detach it for an evening and lend it to us?”
Suilli folded his arms and looked defiant. “Ahm no’ lendin’ ye mah stracht,” petting his moustache. “Been growin’ it since Ah was seventeen year, an’ Ahm no’ daein’ withoot it.”
Draeden was obliged to think that Suilli had been born with so masterful a cultivation. It perhaps had only appeared during Suilli’s adolescence, but it had always made its home in the nook below Suilli’s nose in theory if not in fact. He began to wonder at what Suilli’s face might be like without its most prominent feature and trembled to consider how his immense and bulbous nose should overwhelm his philtrum and conquer his face. “Have you never shaved it?”
A stout humph and a shake of the head, and Suilli returned his pipe to his beast pocket. “Tae cold in Diras tae dae withoot it. Mah stracht keeps meh warm in the winter here. Sure mah face’d freeze if Ah shaved it. Ah always wanted tae grow a proper beard, liek King Breian, but,” with half a sigh, “mah beard grows in patches. Cannae get a thickness oot o’ yit, an’ what Ah dae grow itches meh somethin’ terrible. Ahm jealous of Hess Majestae for bein’ able tae grow a full yin liek tha’. Ye still cannae grow yin for yursel’?”
“To my great mortification,” Draeden replied, trying not to roll his eyes, “no, I cannot.”
“Well, yur no’ an ol’jin liek meh. When yur bainne grow a bit, yu’ll fill in. Find yursel’ a good bheann an’ plough her till her legs tremble an’ o’. Tha’ll put some hair on ye.”
Bryeison thought it advisable to thank Suilli for his counsel and have done with moustaches and beards for the present; Draeden was growing anxious, and the more vulgarity that Suilli professed, the more Draeden’s complexion crimsoned over with embarrassment. Seventeen should have secured something more than improved height and strength, but as it was, neither Draeden nor Bryeison seemed able to govern their development or summon more hair on their forms and faces than was already there: Bryeison’s skin remained unmarred by all the usual awkwardness that the transition from adolescence to adulthood occasions, remaining perfectly smooth and glabrous, and Draeden maintained his erratic beard as well as he could, forever hoping to reach his father’s powers of cultivation without succumbing to all the agonizing pleasures and pains that Suilli’s suggestion could provide.