Story for the Day: Tales of Intrigues - The Captain
Pastaddams' and Alasdair's favourite series of books is Tales of Intrigues, a choose your own adventure style series that allows the reader to make alliances, form court confederacies, gain favour with men and women of distinction, and of course delight in romantic scandals. Pastaddams has been collecting the series since its first printing twenty years ago. Here is a piece from one of the latest volumes.
She sat beside his chair, and Pastaddams, his book open before him, began reading from where he left off, his teacup poised in one hand and the other scratching the top of Khaasta’s head, all his tranquility thus restored, though the appearance of the snowdrop still silently plaguing him. Of course the cat had brought it to him. Who else could have left it there if not her? And he debated this point in the unconscious recesses of his mind whilst his awareness was deliciating over asking the inimitable and fictitious Lord Iverleigh to abscond with him to foreign parts. He read:
You agree to meet His Lordship in the evening on the ramparts. He is anxious, you can tell, by the manner in which he looks about, as though he is expecting someone to interrupt your meeting at every moment. He expresses his love and his willing to go with you now that you have assured him of your equal affection. Leaving the comfort of the capital and running to a small village where you might live out your lives in peace is easier said than done: you will be leaving your position, he will be leaving the forces, and while you will still have your skills to carry you wherever you deicide to make your new life, he will not. He will be discharged from his regiment, shunned from good society, disowned from his family, and there is always the added fear of his father finding you. You could be arrested by his private guard, tried and hanged for treason: he is a lord, and His Grace the Baron is a powerful man with many connections. He could have you killed, if he wished, for convincing his son to fly with you and thus disgracing the family name. You were sure, however, you promised to be with him and take him away from the dangers of prying eyes, and now it is only a matter of how far from the capital you will go and how you will get there, but all that will be discussed later: His Lordship must go, must pack the few effects he has left, mostly small trinkets of sentimental value, and prepare to leave forever the city that he been his home. You assure him that as long as you are at his side, no harm will come to either of you. He tells you he had prepared for this eventuality, or something like it, and has managed to stow away the monthly allowance his father had sent him. The Baron did not approve his joining the forces, but as he was still a Lord and still an Iverleigh, he should have a few silver pieces on his person at all times to separate him from the common cern. If he must be in the forces—and he was still only a younger son—then they would not abandoned him completely as long as he pretended as though he were being useful to the kingdom. He might have done better for the family and married a lady of some property, but as his inclinations lie another way, they will just have to settle being disappointed. We cannot all be lords and ladies of means, and while you will get your lord, he will be a lord only in theory in stead of fact. Being with you, he relinquishes all rights of birth and situation, relinquishes inheritance and affluent relations, and while he never loved his family, he must give them up too. He relinquished his rank when he became a cern, and though he did make his captaincy, such a salary living away from the keep could not be lived upon when supporting two. You will be his life entire, all his support and associations. Who else can you trust to keep your relationship a secret from his parents? Certainly no one in the nobility. There was Lady Elisia, but she has often let a thing slip or two when the fancy suited her. No, it would be better to keep the situation to yourself—but you will need help if you are to succeed in the scheme. You consider who might be called upon to assist you. You think of your distant relations, who would surely call you mad and do their utmost to disremember you knowing you had run away with a wayward lord, you think of friends in the keep, yeomen and servants who might off some assistance, whether emotional or financial, the former being the more pressing of the two and financial the more sensible. The stablemaster and the blacksmith might help you if there were any coup to settle, but you need someone with political sway—more sway, in fact, than the Baron—to assist you here. You made no friend in the Count when you denied his advances, nor did you secure an alliance with the Duchess. It does seem hopeless—unless His Majesty might agree to help you. The king, you know, would side with you, if you dared to discuss the matter with him, and might be able to help you out of some of your difficulties at least. He might give use of a small cottage on one of his landed estates in the country, or he might give you a living if you begged to remain in his service in a tolerable situation away from the castle. You know the king despises the Baron and would only be too happy to disgrace the Iverleigh family, as long as the youngest son should not mind it so very much. You think this a little over and tell His Lordship of your ideas. He hesitates, but you convince him that pleading to the king might obviate certain difficulties. Do you speak to the king about your circumstance before your leave by nightfall, or are you determined to try for a new life with your captain on your own?
“Oh, good Gods, I am in an agony,” said Pastaddams, in a feverish hush. He sipped his tea nervously, his hands shook, his cup jostled. “The king should be on our side. He is such a kindly man, and the Baron is so disagreeable and officious --and he had the bad sense to wear a shocking outfit while he was haranguing his delightful son, which is a capital offense the king should know of—but if the king betrays us to the Baron, we will be forcibly parted, I will be thrown in the dungeon or I will be flayed by the Baron’s private guard, and my darling captain will be taken away, sent probably to some foreign legion, where he will welter in misery over our separation—oh, I could not suffer it!” He shook his head and pored over the book, trembling in anguish over so imperative a decision. “Oh, this is too bad,” he moaned. He sighed and sipped his tea. “These books will put me in a state—and yet I am sure things like this do happen in courts betimes, and this is the only way we hear of them. I could not endure to be parted from a lover like this, he made to marry some lady of tolerable distinction for money and myself shut away from the rest of the world, shamed out of countenance and out of decent society forever. I am glad I’m not a lord, and that I am not interested in falling in love with one if this be their fate, to be cheated out of love and affection for advantage. Fortunately, the lords all dress atrociously and cannot tempt me in the slightest. But what to do about my captain? What should I do?” speaking to Khaasta, who was gazing up at him expectantly. “Should I speak to the king and risk being reported, or should we run away and possibly succeeded on our own?”
Khaasta’s tail swished along the floor, and she licked Pastaddam’s hand.
“You are no help at all, my dear,” was his playful reproach, “though you are adorable and affectionate.” He sipped this tea and suffered and looked despondent. “Oh, what should I do?”
What should Pastaddams do?