Story for the Day: Reading Damson's Distress -- Part 1
The various countries of Two Continents have their own classic novels, which everyone is either taught in school or left to discover on their own. One of these great works is Damson's Distress, an adventure novel from Marridon, which details the rebellion at Marridon's centennial. While the work is categorized in the annals of literacy as historical, in the ranks of the clericy it is hailed as a farce, a pastiche and delightful retelling of Marridon's most trying time. Here is Brother Ciran reading it to Paudrig for the first time:
Paudrig scampered into Ciran’s lap, but when Ciran opened the book and passed the title page, Paudrig glanced over his shoulder, first at the fire, and then at his friend the mounted bear resting above the mantelpiece.
“Before we read, can Ah light a fire, Bruther Ciran?” Paudrig chimed. “The bear’s cauld.”
“Cannae have tha’, lad,” said Ciran stoutly. “Better start tha’ fire and bellow it a bit so he can feel it.”
With instant enjoyment did Paudrig hop off Ciran’s lap and skip to the hearth. He piled a few logs in the fireplace, lit the tinder of white birch shavings, and grabbed the small bellows, humming to himself as he watched the nascent flames change from an ocher to amber glow with each successive press.
“There, bear,” said he, placing the bellows back near the grate. “Now ye woant be cauld.”
He hastened back to Ciran, and once he was sitting on the brother’s knees and poring over the open volume, Ciran began reading:
It was Marridon’s centennial, a year that interested scholars as much then as it does interest historians now. Marridon was a well-established entity at the time, enjoying fortune from its many resources and fortuitous alliances, and fame from its great advancesments in weaponry, in techonology, in medicine, and in scholarship. Though Marridon heralded itself as being the most prominent nation on the Two Continents, there was one article that, regardless of Marridon’s triumph over plague and pernicious neighbours, in the course of a thousand years had never been rectified. The monarchy, an unit of gross disproportion, remained on the throne, though the Chambers had been built for legislation, lords given land and power, knights given charge of page and peasantry. This would not have been so grievous a mistake, to leave the monarchy somewhat in charge of affairs, but Marridon’s current king was so disinterested with the dealings of his demense, feeling of little use in the Chambers and of not at all with the knights, that he often retreated to his garden, where he was free to be as foolhardy and as complacent as he liked. He played draughts with himself, wrote cutting letters to the Lord of Balletrim, and pranced around the arena on his mare. While the king and his tiresome pursuits were in general ignored and everything in Marridon got on tolerably well without him, there was one point on which the king could not be dismissed: his duty to marry and provide Marridon with an heir must be upheld, but as the Duke’s daughter was an underhung and cock-throppled fright, and the Grand Duchess was as wrinkled and wrined as a raisin, there was no one he could marry—or no one he would—to fulfill the means of office.
So far there was little to tempt Paudrig’s imagination beyond the drawing of a horse in barding rounding the first line, but his intrigue for the story increased as Ciran went on:
His object was to marry to advantage, whether to the advantage to the crown or to the Chambers, it mattered little, but he would be important, he would have his consequence known, he would be heralded as a good king, a benevolent ruler, who condescended to his people and reigned omnipotent in the court, and thus he contrived to marry for his birthday, for in considering the matter as by way of celebration of Marridon’s one-hundred, under the glamour of the momen, he decalred to himself,”That is what I shall do! I shall have a wife for my birthday. A pretty little wife whom I shall make queen, if she can but read and write.” A woman from the lower ranks, a lady of little fortune, no property, and moderate distinction amongst her peers was his object. She came from Bannantyne, a tolerable village of lords, without much discernment and little splendour, but the king had decided upon this lady because one day, while he was taking his turns in the arena, he had seen her as one of the Duchess’ party, a striking woman of slender frame and stunning feature, and he instantly liked her without speaking to her—or he liked her because he did not speak to her—on account of her beauty. A woman, golden-haired, emerald-eyed, and several degrees lower than himself should be just the doting creature to have as queen, and he instantly devised that he should marry her and kill her.
“He’s gonnae kill her?” said Paudrig, astonished.
Ciran shrugged. “He’s hopin’ tae.”
“Why’s he gonnae marrae her if he’s onlae gonnae kill her? If he kill her first, he doant have tae marrae her.”
“Problem solved, aye, lad?” said Ciran laughingly. He indulged in his hilarity for some minutes and wiped the tears from the corners of his eyes. “Ah, Paudrig-lad,” he sighed, giving a few last guffaws and twinkling away a tear, “mah stomach’s hurtin’ with mirth.”
“Keep readin’,” was Paudrig’s cheerful entreaty. “Ah wanna see if he spears her.”
“Might have yin o’ the knights run her through with his great big lance.”
Paudrig gave an“Ooo!” of some length and jostled Ciran’s arm until he recommenced the reading.