Story for the Day: To the Hunting Lodge
Every season, the members of the Brigade, Frewyn's mountain marines, come down from their lofty posts in the Menorian Mountains to take part in the seasonal hunts at the Westren Hunting Lodge in the village of Fharaliedh, There is usually only one mark, and after the men have had their sport, they gather in the hunter's hall, to carouse and make merry with ale and good spirits. The journey to the hunting lodge, however, is not an easy one: the lodge is tucked away on a plateau near the western border, and the members of the Brigade who venture there often have to choose between joining the event or visiting family.
After all the preparatory speeches that Tearlaidh made as to their being sensible and judicious with regard to changing to their ursine forms—advising them with the fond solicitude of aconcerned parent that traveling down the ridge and toward the hunting lodge was best done in their current states while the woods at the base of the mountain were animated with hunters—and after a raisedd brow and a glance from Sile, Dirrald and Bhaunber bade their laird goodbye for three days, or thereabouts, with reassurances that they were “no’ gonnae show ‘emsel’s” without Eadmhaird’s being with them, and that they should remain with Eadmhaird throughout the duration of their time there, to follow his lead, and if not to challenge his right to be called the greatest hunter in the kingdom than to give him some agitation about losing the title to them. Supplies were duly assembled, embraces were exchanged, and with all the eagerness that being to participate in their first hunt could warrant, Dirrald and Bhaunbher left the brigade encampment, as anxious to be in town again as they were to be away from their regiment. They had grown accustomed to the isolation, the reclusive equanimity of Frewyn’s western border, to the soaring majesty of niveous peaks, to the grand gesture of the precipitous slopes, to the rumbling unquietness of nebulous vales: the kingdom’s natural majesty reigning over the eastward realm, the valleys prostrating themselves in supine genuflection to the endless horizon, and being amongst such prepossessing wilderness, such immaculate and untamed serenity, was all their equal veneration. To be the sentries of such an unexceptionable charge—here was gratitude unconscionable, and they stopped at the edge of the encampment to admire the prospect, to own their amazement at their good fortune it having been given so wondrous a station, and wonder at every other solider’s hesitation in joining the Brigade. True though it was that the training was rigorous, the scouting severe, the conditions sometimes unforgiving, but the reward of being with Tearlaidh, of being in the mountains and mantling over the kingdom, of being charged with Frewyn’s security was worthy compensation.
It was six months since they had last been in a town, and where they thought they should miss being amongst the all the bustle and animation and variety of society, they had grown fond of their establishment in the wilds, of their pelts and pavilions, of their commander and all the Brigade’s customs. They did miss—they must miss-- their respective families in town, but correspondence and news of how they all were kept them from worrying about them very much, and as Mrs Cuineill and High Brother Coltas had sent them frequent letters, detailing all the goings-on of Westren City and the municipalities surrounding, Dirrald and Bhaunbher were well furnished with assurances of safety and information enough to make them tolerably comfortable without civilization.They had one another, and with Sile and Tearlaidh to train them and add to their numbers round the fire in the evenings, they never wanted for camaraderie: they did their night exercises and managed the supplies, hunted under the luninata of the moon hanging pendulous amidst the stars, skinned their kills and roasted meat, heard Tearlaidh recant the histories of his younger years, and Dirrald wrote letters and worried for Rosamound, whilst Bhaunbher spent the late night hours under the auspices of Sile’s tent. Surprised were they to discover how well they would do in the wilds, and even more suprised was Bhaunbher to discover how much Dirrald fulfilled the office of brother and family, but though Dirrald was indeed his brother in many respects, he could not replace Tomas. He felt for Tomas exceedingly, thought of him almost every hour, and wondered how he was getting on being alone in the house with only their mother for company. Mrs Cuineill, being resourceful and convivial as she was, fond of conversation and a master of Frewyn codology, was no quiet companion for a silient son like Tomas. Her letters to Bhaunbher confirmed his ideas of Tomas’ lonliness: she never wrote of expressed sentiments or contrition as to how Tomas felt about Bhaunbher’s absence, but the mention of Tomas’ staying within doors, of his only venturing to his apprenticeship under the shroud of evening, of his working at all hours and never going beyond the borders of their land was disquieting. To hear of his brother confining himself was all Bhaunbher’s compunction, his culpability expatiated by seeing Dirrald touch his pocket where Rosamound’s letter was folded away with a distressed countenance.
“She’ll be there,” was Bhaunbher’s calm reassurance. “Her letter said she would be.”
“Aye,” said Dirrald, his fingertips browsing the edges of the letter, his brow bent in consternation. “Her last letter said she’d be at the cabin, and she wasnae there.”
He lowered his head, his aspect growing desperate, and Bhaunbher, sharing in his brother’s anxieties, placed a hand on his shoulder and gave him a determined look.
“We’ll find her,” said Bhaunbher, with firm decision. “Doant ye worrae about it. That letter said she’d be there for the hunts. If she’s no’ there, we’ll hunt for her oursel’es—ye, me, and Eadmhaird. We’re fair hunters by nou, we’d be sure tae find her if she’s near the mountains, and Eadmhaird can find anaebodae, and ye know that. He can track anaethin’ that moves.” The lirks around Bhaunbher’s mouth began to curl. “He found ye out, aye?”
Dirrald almost smiled. “Aye,” said he, in a fond accent, “he did tha’.”
Relief soon surmounted Dirrald, agitation dissipated and exultation prevailed, and with a heavy sigh, feeling ressured of their finding some intimation of Rosamound, Dirrald led the way down the mountain, interweaving with the immense pines, marching through the brushwood, his pelts pressed against him, Rosamound’s letter next his heart.
They were going to find Rosamound, a notion which struck Bhaunbher at his heart. Dirrald of course must be apprehensive and exulted all at once, for they were going to discover the location of his oldest friend, but Bhaunbher’s feelings of a less gratulating character: they were going to find Rosamound, to meet her at least if they could, and they were descending from their elevated post and spending a few days at the hunting lodge—they were going to find Rosamound, and yet Bhaunbher had not seen Tomas in six months. To a disinterested brother, six months when in active service would be reasonable, but Bhaunbher was too much of the devoted and affectionate brother to leave Tomas for longer than his heart would allow. He had a promise to keep with Tomas, that he would visit whenever he should he descended from his post, but here was was attending the hunt, and the lodge was no where near Westren City. His mother’s house was miles off, a four-hours ride from their encampment, but that he was using the day to take part in the hunts rather than travel to see his family—there all Bhaunbher’s grievance lay. He slipped across the downward rolling streams and was silent, ruminating over whether he were neglectful brother by not visiting with Tomas now that he had his first leave of the Brigade, but while he was being permitted to leave the mountains, he was not off duty; the hunts were a Brigade tradition, and his time at the lodge was to be counted as time in active service. He might reason that active duty prevented him from going further eastward, but he could not reason away his guilt at abandoning his brother in some way. Would that Tomas could join him. Would that there were some manner in which Tomas could be prevailed upon to convey himself to the lodge—but Tomas disliked society of any distinction, shying away from community gatherings, crowded markets, and even friendships for the sake of preserving his timidity. How should he convince him to emerge from his coveted den? He spied Dirrald reaching into his pocket and touching the letter, and here Bhaunbher understood what he must do: he should write to Tomas from the lodge and see whether he might not get him thither. They should be there two days at least—surely his brother would come to spend the day with him even if he refuse to hunt, and they need no stay in the hall if Tomas should not like it; they might go out onto the plateau, or they might walk along the woodlands, or they might sit and stargaze or enjoy one another’s quiet conversancy in one of the private rooms. Tomas’ only difficulty in such a scheme should be travel, but Bhaunbher could have that all arranged. He had been given a few silver at parting to spend at his discretion, and as he did not drink and planned on eating only what was hunted, his expenses should be nothing at all, and he could very comfortably spend a silver or two on conveying Tomas in a carriage across the region. A closed chaise with an excellent horse should do for Tomas, and Bhaunbher was resolved to write and send for his brother once they were settled in the lodge, the notion of which was all his comfort.
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