Happy birthday, Vyrdin!
Happy birthday to Vyrdin, Bou's commander, Alasdair's uncle, Brigdan's most intimate friend, and King Dorrin's adopted son (and Teipha's hair-chewing object).
Draeden led the party to the capital wall, where they sat amidst the crenellations and presented the cake to Vyrdin in a more official tenor.
“All in line,” Draeden announced.
They formed a line and saluted- even Bryeison, for good measure- and Draeden marched in front of Vyrdin and clicked his heels with grandiose step.
“Captain,” he called out.
Vyrdin lifted his chest and stood with his hands at his sides. “Sir!”
“As it is your birthday, it is your duty to cut this cake and share it as you will. As your commanding officer, however, I demand to be given a larger slice than the one that Bryeison receives.” He opened the box with a grand flourish, and resuming his usual good-natured air, smiled and said a most jovial, “Happy birthday, Vyrdin.”
Vyrdin’s reservations could not but died away at the gesture. His eyes crinkled, his lips wreathed a smile, his perfect teeth gleaming white from beneath the shroud of his dark beard. “Thank you, Draeden,” said he, humbled and resignedly pleased, “and you’re never allowed to do this again.”
“What? You cannot presume to forbid me from doing anything.”
Vyrdin bowed his head and laughed. “You’re ridiculous.”
“I think you mean to say wonderfully conscientious.”
“When we’re off duty, I can pronounce it ridiculous.”
“I’m allowed to want to celebrate your achievements, even if the achievement in question be growing one year older.” Draeden feigned an injured flout and made the cake over to Vyrdin. “Not have a gift or a cake,” he huffed. “What absolute bilge. I daresay come next year, you’ll be nearly as bad as Bryeison. He allowed me to venerate his birthday once and then never again.”
Vyrdin protested against this prognostication. Though he never thought himself deserving of attention, he delighted in receiving gifts, not for objects themselves, but for the consideration that accompanied them. He owned himself happier than his situation warranted, to be in such excellent company with so exquisite a cake, but he checked his outward exultation, fearing that admitting his happiness would invite ill-fortune. “Bryeison,” said Vyrdin, placing the cake on the stile, “would you do the honours?”
Bryeison looked pleased and was glad to be applied to for the office. His hunting knife would not do here, however; only a fabled weapon must be allowed to cut the hallowed and once cake. He took his sword from his back, and with the utmost precision, sliced the cake with the tip of the blade and wiped the edge clean with his thumb and forefinger.
“I do hope you’re going to eat that, because if not it shall be a terrible waste,” said Draeden, groaking at the cake remnants on Bryeison’s hand.
Bryeison grinned and, without a word, shoved his fingers in his mouth and hummed as he licked them clean. “Vyrdin,” his voice bellowed, “May I have the largest piece?”
“No, no, no,” Draeden instantly rejoined, assailing Bryeison with a waggling finger. “He is my captain and he is sworn to obey his commander. And I asked first.”
Here Bryeison made a sly glance at Vyrdin, who was laughing to himself and dividing the cut slices. “I think even while on duty it must be pronounced ridiculous.”
Vyrdin and Bryeison reveled in knowing looks, and Brigdan laughed behind a raised hand.
“You always know how to discomfit him,” said Brigdan, his eyes sparkling with blithesome glee.
Bryeison shrugged. “He doesn’t even notice that I cut four even slices.”
“Which he will be eating most of anyway,” said Vyrdin, doling the first slice to Brigdan.
He gave a slice to Draeden, who said his pouting thanks for being the subject of a shared jape, and laughed as he cut his own quarter in half, placing the divested half into Draeden’s free hand, which was all his instant regale.
“If I have too much of this, I won’t be able to eat anything else for the night,” said Vyrdin, taking his sliver in hand and giving the last quarter to Bryeison.
“Dinner and drinks will be my gift,” said Bryeison, nodding his thanks.
“Is no one to let me pay for anything today?” Brigdan moaned. “Whatever the entertainment be after dinner, payment comes from my pocket, and I won’t allow anyone to gainsay me.”
Bryeison glanced over at Draeden and smirked, watching the prince devour the slices in opposing hands intermittently with equal fervor. “I think you’ll be safe, Brigdan,” said he, raising a brow. “Draeden won’t last through drinks.”“I most certainly will,” Draeden declared, his cheeks full of cake, his lips ridden with crumbs, his mouth painted with icing. He thrummed in rapture, remarking the half slices left with childlike and unmitigated glee, knowing not which of them to finish first.