#Nanowrimo Day 29: Spangles
Even in the height of celebratory gaeities, Alasdair still finds time to mourn over ostentation:
The reel was over, and the dance was soon over too, everyone resounded in applause, the tonitruous ovation overwhelming the crepitation of the bonfire and the raillery of the older men, and the king and queen were entreated for another round of reels. The skies could not decide whether to rain or clear, but as a few stars were beginning to scintillate through the squalls of passing clouds, everyone would have another dance, they would hear the king and queen play another few jigs and reels. Someone called out for the Wall of Westren, another for the Queen of Brouniedhs, and at last, after a small conference between the musicians, the Wall of Westren was settled on. One of the musicians asked if they could have a small reprieve, to approach the tap counter and retrieve a few drinks, and everyone must wait a few moments before the dance was to begin again. Those who could dance claimed their places and made their four lines, standing two by two and facing one another, and the celebrants thrummed in animated anticipation, eagerly waiting to be played in to the dance.
“I promised you to an old man who would have a song from me, though I see he is now otherwise engaged,” said the commander, as she sidled Alasdair. “I said you would offer your talents in my place.”
Alasdair clicked his tongue and shook his head. “You’re the better singer between us—and don’t pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about. We both know very well that you can sing. Your proclaiming to have a terrible voice is the oldest joke in the keep. I wish you would sing more, but nobody, not even the king of Frewyn it seems, can get it out of you.”
“Though I love you so well, Alasdair, and I would sing for you if you should ask, provided the singing be done with only family and friends present and there be musical accompaniment, there are only two persons in the world whom I should ever sing for without making a fuss: my mate and my father.”
“But your father never presses you because he knows you don’t like to do it, and Rautu doesn’t ask so much as he demands it, and always in the privacy of your bedchamber.”
“There are some things, Alasdair, which we only share with our spouses, and just as you only tell Carrigh of your love of bespangled jerkins, I only sing for my mate.”
Alasdair’s complexion paled and he looked appalled. “I detest spangles on anything,” he said, in a fevered hush. “You know I do. How can you say that? You cannot be serious. You’re not serious. You’re smirking.”
“I’m doing so because you’re having a panic over baubles and sparkles,” she said, her eyes crinkling with smile lines. “I saw the manner in which you ogled the champions outfits, all astonished approbation.”
“Approbation?” he indignantly exclaimed, and then in a softened tone, “I was aghast at the amount of glistening beads that were sewn into that miserable wreck. And the colours were absolutely hideous. How can you even think--?” He stopped, feeling himself falling into a passion. He closed his eyes, inhaled, raised his hand to his brow, besieged by his disturbed sensibilities, and exhaled all his budding frustration. “I was merely—“ he searched for a polite word, “—amazed at how ornamented and oddly coloured their outfits were. Perhaps my tastes are more moderate, but really, I don’t know how—“ he sunk his voice into a whisper, “—I don’t know how those atrocious patterns could be allowable in a competition. They must have blinded the judges, leaping about in such dreadful—I don’t know how anyone can concede to wear something so clashing—even the colours were terribly chosen, never mind the disorderly amount of spangles that adorned the—“ he heaved a sigh. “You’ve done this to discompose me, I know.”
“You make it far too easy, Alasdair.”
Alasdair gave her a flat look.
“I am sorry for it, really,” she said, making no attempt to check her unbridled mirth, “and I love you with all my heart, but your absolute abhorrence of anything that glistens is dreadfully amusing.”
“I should ban spangles, tassels, baubles, beads, and all the rest of it from the kingdom. We had none of it until Frewyn began opening trade routes with everybody. I am tempted to close relations with whichever nation it was who introduced sequins to Frewyn.”
“I think it was Livanon. I don’t think I have ever seen a shining anything on a Lucentian garment, besides expensive stones and gems, of course, and I don’t remember seeing anything of the kind in Marridon, though the amount of ribbons and feathers they wear in their hats is a scandal, to be sure. It must be a Livanese trend, or Sesternese, or perhaps they infected one another. It certainly did not come from Gallei. Their traditional costumes are so abominably dull that a spangle or two should be an improvement.”
“Why did Gallei never pick up embroidery, do you think?”
“It think it must have been something to do with the damp. There is so much of the bog in Gallei that a lady’s fingers, though forever industrious in all she does, will get clumpst and rheumatic in such a climate, making strenuous sewing a drudge. As well, Gallei has, until recently, been a rather poor nation, and dyes and fabrics and threads that are available to them now might not have been available to them before.”
“That’s a fair remark,” Alasdair mused.
“They are fond of brown and grey and green. Perhaps you can begin the trend of Galleisian embroidery. They have their own traditional patterns. I’m sure Carrigh could make something that would suit their tastes and yours, though I know you violently refute wearing grey and ardently protest against its being a colour.”
“It isn’t-- well, it is-- but it is grey because it is devoid of colour. When one’s hair greys, it loses the colour. Grey is the colour of wool, so called because it has no colour when it is not dyed, therefore grey is not really a colour.”
It was said with such hurried agitation that the commander could not but laugh. “You need not tell me, Alasdair,” said she, in a subrisive reverie. “I and your lovely wife agree with you, but you will have to tell the Galleisians that they are mistaken in thinking that grey is an acceptable hue for anything. You might correct it by providing them dyes, or you can rend all the sequins from those hideous outfits and offer them as an ornament to enliven their drab outfits, thus curing Frewyn of this contagion and giving it to Gallei where it will be put to better use.”
Very sincerely did Alasdair consider this, and he postulated and hummed and designed until the musicians returned and Alasdair was obliged to play again. He plucked the strings, listened for any dissonance, and retuned one of the strings while the musicians enjoyed a few rapid delibations, and Carrigh came from her comfortable seat to join her husband and the commander.