Story for the Day: A Festive Retribution
While Alasdair might not be allowed to punish his grand nemesis without due cause, that doesn't stop Teague and Mureadh from punishing Rosse for him.
Baronous and Gaumhin returned, bringing with them large bales of straw and hardy salutations for the Baronet and Baronetess. Hands were shaken, good tidings were expressed, when Ennan and Fionnora entered from the main hall. Brigdan’s falcon flew instantly to meet his favourite caretaker, Ennan joined the rest of the boys by the tree with his friend clamped to his arm, and seeing that none of the girls were about, Fionnora skipped off to the kitchen, to see whether all the presents had been finished, that they might be wrapped and beribboned, when Teague and Mureadh appeared on the threshold.
“Careful, Fionnora,” said Mureadh, calling after his niece as she hastened away. “There are many people setting up decorations in the hall. If you run, you might trip and fall.”
“I’m not running, Uncle Mureadh,” Fionnora sang, leaped down the hall. “I’m skipping fast.”
“Fast skipping is also dangerous—“ but she was gone, vanishing behind a flurry of maids at the end of the peristyle, and Mureadh sighed and was disappointed.
“The more you tell her what not to do…” Teague began, but there was no need for more; Mureadh was observing him with a narrowed gaze, and Teague could only grin and be satisfied.
“I know she’s a very bright girl,” Mureadh contended, “but I don’t want her to hurt herself.”
Teague was about to say something about Mureadh being far to scrupulous and overbearing an uncle when Mureadh noted the presence of all his most revered superiors in the hall and instantly bowed and stood at attention.
“Your Majesty!” he announced, with a stout salute, and then proceeded to do the same with his other icons in order of rank. “His Grace.” A bow. “Her Grace.” Another bow. “Lord Regent.” A lower bow. “My Lady Vyrbryn. Sir Captain MacLachlann.” He made formal nods to all of Gaumhin brothers, and then stood silent, with his hands firmly at his sides, his gaze on the wall ahead, his eyes unblinking.
Ever amused by Mureadh’s sense of solemn propriety, Teague inclined his head once to everyone in the room and then knelt down to catch Vyrbryn up, who was running toward him and begging to be flown around.
“At ease, lad,” Gaumhin bellowed, thundered toward his apprentice. “It’s the hoalidae. If Ah wanted yur submission th’dae, Ah’d trounce ye for it.”
“Are ye gainsayin’ meh, captain?”
“Sir! No, sir!”
“Then at ease. Tha’s mah order.”
“Sheft yersel’, Farhayden, an’ help mah sessters with the decorations.”
Without any further opposition, Mureadh marched over to where Blinne and Peigi sat tying the searealta and asked whether the two ladies would like his assistance.
“Ah cannae understaun hem,” said Gaumhin to Teague, in a half whisper. “Connors isnae liek tha’.”
“Nobody is like that,” said Teague, smirking and spying Mureadh across the room.
“When Connors first came here and he’s heard o’ meh from Suilli, if Ah teld hem to be at ease, there wasnae two ways around it.”
“Telling Mureadh to be at ease is like asking him to defend the keep. He’s just as worried about one as he is about the other.”
Gaumhin seemed bemused. “There isnae a way to dae bein’ at ease wrong.”
“There is if you’re Mureadh,” was Teague’s laughing answer. “Even though Alasdair is the most liberal king and an intimate friend, Mureadh is always worried about disappointing his sovereign. I wish Count Rosse would act with the same concern.”
It was said loud enough for Alasdair to hear, and the king melted against the Baronet’s shoulder and gave a few feigned sobs, and Teague simpered and looked sly.
“Mureadh and I saw him arguing with his porters as we left. He was extremely rude to them, some more than most, but when I saw what he was wearing, I knew instantly what I had to do.”
“Please tell me you have a warrant for his arrest, Teague,” Alasdair implored, his features to the sky, his hands together in supplication.
“I have something better than a warrant.” With a flourish, Teague pulled a small scroll from his breast pocket, and with broad smiles handed it over to the king. “Maith Ailineighdaeth, Your Majesty.”
Curious and eager, Alasdair unfurled the scroll and began reading. “Hereby a writ for the sum of one hundred goldweight—Teague,” he exclaimed, his eyes glittering with joy, “is this a fine?”
“For the sum of one-hundred goldweight,” Teague continued, pointing to where the king had stopped, “for the crime of harassment and public indecency. Those involved in the crime have testified, the witnesses were brought forward, and as the accused was absent for his own case—which he is, he’s in Farriage—and as the accused was absent for his own case, the king must give a verdict of guilty as is the law for those who are absent from court without an appointed replacement.”
Alasdair’s elation suddenly diminished. “But there is no court today. I cannot try him withouta jury.”
“No, you cannot, but it’s not an official holiday until tomorrow. The kingdom is still allowed to perform state business today until sundown, and we’re sentencing Count Rosse right now. I witnessed his abuse toward his porters, and he confirmed it by telling everyone of it. He’s not here to deny the claim, so he cannot refute the testimony.” A sagacious grin, and Teague continued to read the writ. “The accused will please to pay the sum of one-hundred goldweight to the orphanage within thirty days of receiving this writ. Failure to do so will result in arrest an imprisonment until the amount is paid in full to the recipients named.” Teague rolled the paper and handed it to Alasdair, who stared at it with unabated exhilaration: it was the greatest day in the world, and Alasdair could not but rejoice.
”Happy, happy Teague,” Alasdair proclaimed, embracing his good friend. “This is the greatest gift anyone has ever given me.”
“I thought you might like even more it if he had to pay it to the orphanage. A little humiliation goes a long way in his case, and I think the children would love his outfit.”
“But do you think he will refute this and claim injustice for the fact that the court is not assembled to pass judgment on his conduct?”
“You have two witnesses here,” pointing to himself and Mureadh. “Roreigh and Dieas certainly heard him, if they didn’t see him, and even if the jury were to rule on it, you can veto merely on the testimony from us alone.”
“Do you think a hundred goldweight is enough?”
“I can always add an extra fee for rude remarks.”
“He did say something rude to Carrigh.”
“What did he say to Her Majesty?” Mureadh demanded, rising instantly, his face colouring in indignation, his chest surging with breath.
“Nothing treasonous, Mureadh. He just made a few indecorous comments on her dress and about Hallanys.”
“And to you, Your Majesty?”
“Nothing beyond his usual nonsense.”
Teague shrugged. “I can always add a warning.”
“I think the fine will be more than enough, Teague.”
“I will personally issue the warning,” Mureadh growled, marking his companion with a heated glare.
“I’ll let Mureadh personally deliver it to the Count at his estate in Farriage,” said Teague, his lips wreathed in smiles. “I think Mureadh is anxious to make certain that His Grace has a pleasant holiday.”
The leather of Mureadh’s gloves cracked, his immense arms contracted, and with a seething, “I would be honoured to deliver the king’s message immediately,” Mureadh took the writ and left the room, his steps echoing down the hall in a brontide of teeming fury.