#NaNoWriMo Day 4: Brigdan's Birthday
Happy birthday to Brigdan! Head Captain of the Royal Guard, Lord Protector of the Realm, Lord of the House of UiBrien commander of the Diras regiment, royal falconer, keeper of the ancient beacon at Farriage, Brigdan has acquired a multitude of titles and positions over the course of his life, but there are two appellations that he has always regarded as more important that the rest: that of being Alasdair's uncle, and being Vyrdin's most intimate and beloved friend. Conscious of Vyrdin's situation as an orphan adopted by King Dorrin, Brigdan was always careful never to make Vyrdin feel different or inferior, but Vyrdin, being the steadfast and stubborn man he is, never allowed his friend's scrupulousness to stand in the way of his paying for a birthday dinner.
“Oh, look, they’ve brought the whipped salted butter,” Draeden raved, his mouth packed with bread. “Here, Brigdan. You absolutely must try their whipped butter. It is rather like eating a slightly salty and delectable cloud. I’ll have some on my next slice—thank you, sir,” taking the slice that had just been placed before him and plunging it into his mouth. “Or perhaps on the slice after this. Isn’t this lovely, Brigdan? Everything is done with such ceremony and display, and while I admit that I cannot like being waited on so much, as I dislike anything being done for me that I might do myself, attendants mantling over me, perched and ready to take up anything that falls or any dish that is empty, but what I do like about all this frooncing is if I would like something more to eat, I don’t have to wave down Bettidh or chase after anyone merely to ask for more bread or water—thank you,” taking a third slice from his plate. “Are you not using the satled butter, Brigdan?”
Brigdan had not even looked at the butter, nor had he tasted the bread or anything else that was laid on the table: the pickles, the bacon, the butter, the bread, the lemon ice and water all went untouched as he marked the menu that was tucked neatly under his plate. He glanced only at the section that was visible to him, the pricing of the main courses, and his heart seized, and he could not avoid looking astonished. He pulled the menu out further, trying to screen it from Vyrdin, though Vyrdin would have his own in a moment, and he looked rather dispondant, his chest sinking under all the disappointment in finding that there was not one item on the menu that was under a week’s worth of captain’s pay. Brigdan could justify the expense of such a dinner for himself, for though his father’s fortune was moderate, he had always saved away something for Brigdan to take to Diras with him when he went, a small sum to be used if and when needed, but he would not reason away such an exorbitant expenditure for Vyrdin. His captain’s pay was all he had, there was no inheritance waiting for him, no estate dividends to take from; Vyrdin’s ten silver a week was all in all, and it was monstrous of Brigdan to ask his intimate friend, one who had suffered the immeasurable agony of exploitation and poverty reprehensible for so long, to pay for such a meal. He closed the menu without perusing the selection and said, in a most mortified voice, “I knew this place was known for being expensive,” eyeing the owner and making certain that he was too occupied with the surrounding attendants to hear, “but I did not think it would be this costly.” He leaned over the table and whispered, “Even a basin of coddle is fifty copper.”
He glanced over to Vyrdin, to see how his friend bore the idea of spending the whole of his pay on one dinner, but Vyrdin’s countenance was steady and unchanged. He examined the menu without any apparent distress, and even stroked his beard as he considered his selection. Brigdan looked to Bryeison, but the giant was complacent as ever, tootling to himself about whether he should have as an entrée. Am I alone in thinking these prices are unreasonable to ask for a dinner? I know that Bryeison might afford it, as he never buys anything that is not food or drink of some sort, and Draeden is used to spending all of his money on food anyway, but Draeden will surely be left copperless after eating here. And how can Vyrdin not think this is excessive? I know he will say nothing about it, and will possibly insist on paying as he always does, but how can I allow that? I know what he earns in a week, and though he never spends it, he will squander a month’s wages in one sitting here. I know it is very rude to recommend it, but perhaps we should go somewhere else. I cannot bear the idea of Vyrdin being forced to pay for any of this, and Brigdan was just about to suggest their going elsewhere for the evening, paying what they would for what they had already aet, when Draeden finished his fourth slice of bread and assured Brigdan that the prices were justified.
“The Errant Fox is known for being the best establishment in the kingdom,” said Draeden, taking a slice of roasted bacon from the bowl and gnashing at it. “The place boasts quality, character, but most importantly its authenticity. Thus far together we have only aet at establishments which serve mostly traditional Frewyn meals, but the Fox has dishes from every country across the Continents. All of the ingredients for each dish are imported from their respective countries-- it says so on their certificate at the counter—so Frewyn beet sugar will not be used in Lucentian begira if sugarcane from Lucentia can be got, and so forth, all in the hopes of making everything as genuine as possible for those visiting from abroad. Just as all their ingredients are imported, so to are their different chefs. The Lucentian chef will prepare all the Lucentian dishes, and the Livanese chef will prepare all the Livanese dishes, and so forth. You need not worry about getting your copper’s worth here, Brigdan. Everything is always exceptional, and all the portions are enormous—well, large enough that I only need to ask for a few dishes instead of ordering one of everything on the menu—and every dish comes with a complementary something or other, a soup or a salad or one of their famous sides, and we all get free pressed chocolates at the end. And you are sure to get a small cake with a Lucentian sparkler in it for your birthday—will that not be nice? And the show and presentation are well worth the price. Even ordering a drink is worth the expense, for your drinks are not merely poured, Brigdan, they are done up with show and flourishes—you will see presently, after we have made our orders. You will be easier about it once you see how everything is done—oh, more bread! Thank you.”
Draeden watched the owner slice the second loaf of bread that was brought to the table, and Brigdan sighed as Bryeison and Vyrdin lay down their menus. They had chosen their dinners, and now he must oblige them by doing the same. He took up his menu with a heavy heart, and said,“Perhaps I am only unaccustomed to dine out in a place like this. I suppose being only at my father’s, I am ruined for lavish dinners, for my mother always prepared our meals and we never dined out. The more I see of the various establishments around the capital, the more impressed I am with the Wayward Traveler. Their prices are more than reasonable considering their quality and variety of dishes. I do not mean to complain,” he implored, eyeing the owner of the establishment, who appeared unbothered by his comments, “I could never mean that.” He paused and turned aside. “Perhaps I’m only scrupulous as to how much I spend on dining out, as I never grew up with the custom.”
“The price shouldn’t matter to you anyway,” said Vyrdin firmly. “My present to you is dinner. Order anything you want.”
Brigdan’s complexion paled, and he leaned forward to whisper across the table, “Please, Vyrdin. This place is terribly expensive. I cannot ask you to do that—“
“You aren’t asking me, and I’m not giving you a choice.”
“But it is unfair to you, Vyrdin. For your birthday, you hardly let me pay for anything at all, and Bryeison took the bill for dinner.”
Here was a sagacious smile from Bryeison, who watched the Lucentian carps dancing about in the pond beside them and said nothing.
“Please allow me pay for the dinner,” Brigdan entreated. “It is my birthday—“
“And on your birthday, you are not allowed to pay.”
“But it is not necessary, Vyrdin—“
“It is, and I want to do it,” and it was said with such decidedness that Brigdan was compelled to surrender to the ceaseless goodwill of his friend. He exhaled, feeling dreadful and uncomfortable about the whole business, and said reluctantly,” Very well, Vyrdin. If you are sure you want to do it, and you absolutely insist—“ He was silent when he realized that the owner was standing beside him with a pencil and paper in his hand, waiting to take his order. “Oh, pardon me, sir. I did not know you were waiting for me. I will have the—“ he quickly searched for the least expensive dish on the menu, “—the almond crusted salmon, if you please.”