Story for the Day: Balane's Curse
Balane's Curse, or a hangover, is so named for the Frewyn Goddess of the Sun, who curses those who drink too much by shining her light on them the following morning. While everyone in Frewyn, being a largely agrarian society, looks forward to a holiday, not everyone-- Aiden and Adaoire especially-- looks forward to the morning after.
bein’ out in the cold
the irreversible and unfortunate condition as their mother joined them at table.
smiled and swatted him with a cloth as she returned to the range.
The table was dressed for breakfast, their places were supplied with cups and plates and utensils, though the violent gurgurlation of their stomach recommended that there should be no time and indeed no need for utensils or napkins until their crapulence were done away and their sense setto rights. Their lips slightly parted, their minds festering in miasma of morning confusion, their brains in an impenetrable fog, their hands found their way to their cups in supplication of tea, a brew by which their condition should be cured, by hanging their heads over their cups, their chins resting in the palms of their hands supported by their elbows leaning in opposition of the table. They were quiet and repentant, reflecting on how sorry they were that they should have fallen asleep without having eaten or had any water to drink before venturing to bed, and pining at the clamour the boys were making as they attacked their mother and aunt with embraces and entreated for more cake than ought to be necessary for such a time in the morning. Aiden and Adaoire shifted their hands from their chins and supported their heads by putting their hands over their ears and staring dismally at one another, and Triskillien could not but laugh.
“Does vis aulvays happen the next morning?” Triskillien asked Dealanna, her cheeks aglow as she smiled. “I have never seen vem vis quiet before.”
Dealanna glanced back at the table, and then turning back to the range, she said, “It’s the only reason I allow Adaoire to drink as much as he likes on a holiday.” She lifted the bacon onto a plate and cracked a few more eggs into the pan. “It is strange to see them so quiet,” she observed, looking askance at the table, “but also satisfying to see them reaping the consequences of too much ale after we warned themnot to stay out too late in the cold.”
Adaoire felt more than saw the look his wife was giving him, felt the meaning of I told you not to drink so much rather than heard it, and he held his aching head between his hands and gave a subtle groan.
“Boys,” said Aiden, in a beseeching tone, “be good lads now and hush up that hollerin’.”
The children paused in their entreaties for cake and looked bemused. “We’re not hollerin’, Uncle Aiden,” they chimed.
Aiden and Adaoire winced and writhed, the clear tones of the children assailing their aching heads in a fulmination of noise and cheer, and they raised a finger to their lips, leaning into one hand, and made a deplorable moan.
“What’s wrong with Da and Uncle Aiden?” Little Adaoire asked his mother.
Dealenna turned the eggs over and smiled to herself. “You might want to ask them yourselves.”
Adaoire mumbled something about might wanting to allow the boys have cake for breakfast.
“Please, Aunt Tris?” the boys begged, with pouts and glistening eyes. “It’s Ailineighdaeth.”
Triskillien, being the only Galleisian in the house, who had been used to celebrate the same holiday in Galleisian style, by fasting and pretending to be repentant for sins she had never committed, looked to Dealanna for an answer. She would give the boys anything they wished, having been denied everything that a joyous life in the Frewyn countryside could offer when she was their age, and as their desperate expressions began to work their powers on a yielding heart, she said, “Can I give vem a small piece?”
Dealanna would have said no, but it was the holiday and they must be allowed something extraordinary to mark the day as exceptional. They were allowed one small slice of cake after their oats and milk were done, and the boys gasped and hastened to the table, and whereupon took their seats between their father and uncle, staring curiously at each as one covered his ears to save himself from any extemporaneous noise and the other covered his eyes to shut out the glare of the morning sun. Dealanna set down bowls for the boys, and Triskillien came with the kettle, filling the teapot and brewing the tea while Dealeanna arranged a basket of various breads, butter and jams, fruit cake and thick slices of wheaten toast with honey. A few minutes saw the end of Aiden and Adaoire’s dismal looks and the triumph of their revived spirits: the tea was ready to be poured, and once Triskillien had famously done the honours, their hands had been furnished with a cup and their mouths busy gnawing at slices of toast, the twins felt themselves almost equal to conversation. Tea, however, must restore them to full health; the telleric scent emanating up from their cups was working its way toward their hearts and restoring their awareness with uncommon alacrity.
“Aye, I could eat my dinner offa that,” Adaoire lovingly proclaimed, studying his tea with his nose in his cup and admiring the impenetrable colour. The curls of smoke billowed up in serpentine wafts and titillated his nose, and once he had gloried in it, had admired the drink’s grand history and lauded the efforts of the teamaker, languishing over his affection for tea, its restorative properties and the hand his wife and sister in law had in making it, he raised the cup to his lips, inhaled and enjoyed a prolonged delibation. The terrarian taste attacked and awakened his mind, its richness and sharp tones making a scandal of his senses, the panacea of Frewyn’s farmers washing over and soothing every sensibility baring a semblance to sorrow. He lowered his cup, to give the tea his hearty approbation, and raise it to the Gods with a most gratified sigh. “Borras, that’s a tea,” he declared, with a thankful nod to his cup. “That’ll sure take us to Farriage and back.”
“Aye,” said Aiden, slower to respond but not slower to admire, “tea so thick you could travel on it, sure.”
“Mornin’ Da!” the boys chimed, their mouths full of oats.
Adaoire winced and grumbled, “Mornin’, boys. Let’s try to keep ‘em voices down a bit, aye? Yer Da’s head is in a way to be split.”
“Why?” the boys asked.
“’Cause it feels like yer Da put his head in the coppicin’ block and had an axe taken to it.”
Little Aiden’s nose scrunched.“What’s a copp-in-in block?”
“When all the trees what you’ve coppiced need to be shaved and shaped for usin’,” said Aiden, rubbing the side of his head.
The boys seemed incredulous, wondering what their father and uncle could have been at so late in the evening to make their heads feel like wood shaved and squared off by an axe.
“Why were you up so late and all?” Little Adaoire asked.
Aiden and Adaoire flinched at the high pitched tones, and Adaoire playfully put a hand over his son’s mouth.
“No more o’ that loud, boy,” said he, with a dreadful sigh, “or we’re puttin’ you outside with the gilt and havin’ her sit on you.”
“Why?” asked Little Aiden.
The shrill sounds of a young and unmodulated voice rang through Aiden’s ears. He gave a jolt, carefully put down his tea, and covered Little Aiden’s mouth with the palm of his hand. “Chune agus Aoidhe,” he swore, rubbing his brow, “we’ll have to teach you boys how to whisper proper.”
“We can whisper good,” they proclaimed in an audible undervoice as the hands were removed from their mouths, their tiny voices, though subdued, not quite meeting Aiden and Adaoire’s ideas of a tolerable tone.
They shushed the boys and swatted at their noses, imploring them to diminish their voices still farther, flurning and floddering in grim appreciation, whilst the boys sat musing over what could have happened after they had gone to bed that would make their father and uncle so unwilling to talk and so eager to hide from the sun. The farmers sat back in their chairs, leaning away from the window, whence the suns rays now began pervading the kitchen, and after witnessing their gowls and groans, Little Aiden asked, “Are you and Uncle Aiden sick, Da?”
“Aye,” said Adaoire, refilling his cup of tea, “yer uncle and me caught the mabhrach from
|Sketch of Adaoire, WIP by Twisk|
“Adaoire, don’t tell them that,” was a plea which, though said plaintively and coming from Dealanna, was wholly disregarded.
“You don’t have the mabhrach,” said Little Aiden quietly, glaring at his father.
“Sure this morn we do,” Aiden asserted.
Little Adaoire frowned in suspicion and folded his arms. “If you got it, then where is it?”
“Aye, Ma said the mabhrach is a big rottin’ patch we get from bein’ in the dirt.”
A sharp look assailed Adaoire from its source at the range, and rather than defy the counsel of his wife, which was meant to have the boys fear being sullied, Adaoire furtively placed his finger into his cup, and dotted a splotch of tea onto his arm. “See that patch there?” pointing to the stain, “It’s growin’.”
The boys gaped with interest, and they examined their father’s hand, looking for all signs of
“Adaoire, you’ll frighten them that way,” she said quietly, bringing the eggs and dividing them amongst the plates.
“It’s only a bit o’ coddin’,” said Adaoire. He stole a pinch at his wife’s ample haunch, and she
“But vey will think yoor serious,” said Triskillien.
“Naw,” Aiden crooned, “they know we’re only foolin’ ‘em a bit.”
“But Uncle Aiden,” said Little Adaoire, “you don’t really have the mabhrach, do you? Ma said it can kill.”
“This here is the one day kind,” said Adaoire, winking at his brother. “It’ll get worse before it gets better. I’ll roll around with the pigs a bit, go purple all over, and then I’ll be right as a post. Pass that bread you got over there.”
“Will the bread help?” said Little Aiden.
“Aye, it will. Bread is a cure for many things.”
“Sure, like colds.”
“And like cranky fathers and uncles too,” said Dealeanna, putting a few rashers into her husband’s plate.
Little Aiden looked bemused. “What’s a cranky?”
“It’s a monster what takes over yer Da when he’s hungry,” said Adaoire, staring at the bacon in his plate, the grease glistening in the soft glow of kitchen light, its nidor beckoning him to ravage it. His stomach let out a violent roar, and the children stared at him and straightened in their chairs. “See? That’s the cranky right there, tryin’ to get out.”
The boys made a soft “Whoa…” expecting their father to be devoured any moment, and they watched their father and uncle as they pored over their plates, admiring their full breakfast and honouring the two wives who were generous enough to have prepared it. They said their thanks and afforded them all the commendation that was their due, but the boys, fearful that there was something alive in their father’s stomach trying to devour him from the inside, tapped their mother’s arm and asked, “Da doesn’t really have the cranky, does he, Ma?”
“No, boys,” said Dealanna sweetly, sitting next to her children and fruzzling their hair with maternal affection. “Your father and Uncle Aiden only have Balane’s curse.”
“When the light gives you a headache the morning after too much ale.”
“Do you have a headache, Da?” said Little Adaoire, smiling.
“How d’you reckon?”
“You look like you have a headache.”
“Aye? Well,” Adaoire laughed, his head aching with every guffaw, “since yer doin’ all that narlin’ over there with yer brother and all…” He left off, indulging in his breakfast with all the fervor that so prominent a headache deserved. He barded his bread with a rasher and soaked it in a pool of melted butter, mantled over his plate and ate with an open mouth. He humphed in delight, humming and deliciating in all the satiation that soft-boiled yolks and brined bacon could promise. “Now that I got some bacon in, my ears are workin’ better.”
“Does bacon help yer hearin’?”
“Anything what’s on a plate’ll in front of a man’ll help him listen. Ask yer mother.”
“Does it help girls listen too?”
Adaoire would have said that nothing should ever improve a woman’s hearing beyond what scandal exchanged at a corner in the market could supply, but he checked himself and said nothing, enjoying his breakfast and keeping his eyes on his plate, though he felt a penetrating glare vying for his notice from across the table.
“Do we still have to be quiet?” Little Aiden asked, in a softened hue.
“Aye,” said Aiden, pushing a piece of bacon onto a slice of toast with his thumb. “The ears are workin’ but the head still hurts. Eat yer oats, and then we’ll have a bit o’ that cake.”They finished their breakfast together, the boys slottering through their stewed oats with the ambition of cake in view, and Aiden and Adaoire finished the last of the toast and wiped their plates clean of the remaining butter and eggs while Triskillien and Dealanna ate their scones, with dollops of clotted cream and fresh lemon curd made by Calleen and left for them to finish over the holidays. Headaches subdued, palates were appeased, and clean plates saw the return of good humour and raucous voices.