Story for the Day: Baleigh's Books -- Part 3
Part three of the Baleigh's Books story. Let it never be said that there are those would not fight for the right to read:
If you've enjoyed the stories, join our Patreon campaign so we can keep them going!
They told Aldus the whole, of the Barleigh family’s jubilation, of their willingness toacquiesce to the designs of the kingdom, of all the joy and reconciliation that Aldus and Ros’ efforts had evinced, and Rosamound embraced her husband and kissed his beard, and Aldus’ ancient lips cracked into a smile.
“Really, Your Majesty,” said Aldus, standing from his desk and folding his spectacles down, “I was most happy to renege the man’s building permit, despite his having overpaid for it.” He gave a hardy sniff. “I do not like anyone to garner an income without my being able to tax it. The man owned one of the largest buildings in the market district, and though he did pay all his property taxes on time, and renewed his permits every year, and so forth, the man did not live here most of the year, making all his foreign income nontaxable.”
“I think you’re only happy when you’re collecting dues, Aldus,” said Alasdair.
“It is my profession to account for things, Your Majesty, and where I may collect on the side of the kingdom, I always do. We really must do away with the foreign estate rule. Perhaps you might speak to Her Grace about it? At least for all Frewyn owned estates in Marridon.”
“Father,” said Rosamound, with a gentle touch on Aldus’ arm.
He gave a raucous sigh. “Very well, my dear, I will relent for now, but one day, Your Majesty, when you understand how much is being allowed out of the country for Marridon estates—I still maintain that we should purchase all the estates from the gentry and box them in little houses all the rest of their lives. There is so much money being thrown away.”
“We allow them their estates as long as they pay taxes on what is in the country. As long as they can maintain the expenses without taking credit, they may keep their estates here and in Marridon. If, however,” said Alasdair, with a sly look to Aldus, “you were to somehow discover that they were borrowing money in a foreign country to pay for local land…”
The lirks around Aldus’ mouth deepened, and his eyes crinkled with subdued glee.
“One day, father,” Rosamound laughed. She shook her head at Alasdair. “You encourage him, sire. He would send Teague and Vyrdin to Lucentia if it meant reclaiming a few copperweight.”
“I can only imagine what he would do against the Lucentian moneylenders.”
Vyrdin, who heard it all and said nothing, grinned to himself and wondered when his father-in-law should be asking him to venture north.
“Well, I am glad it’s all settled,” said Alasdair presently. “I’ll give them a few days to rearrange their front room before looking in on their lending section. Maybe Vyrdin would like to go and make a few requests for titles that should on loan?”
Vyrdin should prefer it to anything and was about to say as much, when, from the hallway leading to the stairs, they heard a familiar set of voices approaching.
“I cannot wait until they have their lending section all set up. I have already read every book in the keep library fifty times—and if I must have Brigid gawp at me in that accusatory way, which she always does, one more time—Do you know that she has said Damson’s Distress is not real literature? How horrid of her! It is the very best of the Marridon Classics. Not real literature-- and she said this to me as she was leaning over Monster’s Creation! That is not a book! That is not an anything! It is a collection of epistolary correspondence from someone who never existed to another who was just as cracked in the cobnut as the author. It is nothing more than a fictitious biography!”
A shrug was somewhere expressed. “I enjoyed it.”
“Pff! You will enjoy anything so long as it has the promise of one good passage. I don’t know how you can read any of those Galleisian romances Jutstina lends you. They always end in the same way: there is always an affluent lord and an ill-treated woman of varying distinction, the lady suffers injustice and cruelty, the lord might go through some social or physical trial, and the end of it always is that they marry, despite there being anything to be said for their unhappiness in the match. How you can read them at all, I have absolutely no idea.”
“You don’t mind so much when I read them to you.”
“I listen to you from across the room when you treat me to a passage. That is not the same thing.”
“Just appreciate them for what they are.”
“They are absolute nonsense—they romanticize Galleisian poverty, which is nothing to be romantic about, and the irony there is that those whom their books write about cannot read at all—oh, hello, everyone!” Draeden pronounced, coming to the threshold. “Bryeison, look, everyone is here—well, really only Alasdair and Vyrdin and Brigdan, and of course Rosamound and Aldus are here—but good morning! And what a better morning it is now than it was two hours ago.”
Draeden entered the room, and the moment he marched toward everyone standing at the far end, eyes fell to Draeden’s boots, which, as Draeden had spent the last hour being wrestled and held to the ground by Bryeison, were begrimed and bemired with dirt from the yard. His foot lifted and hovered dangerously over the arras: hearts seized, terror struck the heart of each, Aldus’ nose flared and his eyes blazed, and everyone leapt toward Draeden as quickly as their consternation would allow. A sharp tug on Draeden’s cloak, however, jolted him backward, and an indomitable force held him in the air.
“Bryeison!” Draeden cried, his feet dangling. “Do not snag me like that!”
Aldus exhaled under the force of his relief and held his hand over his heart. “You have my most sincere gratitude, Captain,” he breathed, bowing to Bryeison.
Bryeison inclined his head with all his usual good humour and modesty, and simpered to himself as Draeden kicked about and made a new agonous sounds.
“My poor father is always so delighted to be with us, he doesn’t realize where his feet have been,” said Alasdair, watching Draeden struggle to break free of Bryeison’s grasp.
“Or where they’re going,” Vyrdin added, peering at the arras beside them.
Draeden gnarled and gnashed, trying to pull his cloak free of Bryeison’s grip, but he only tangled himself and got is arms caught behind his head. “Bryeison, you cruel thurse! Put me down this moment!”
Vyrdin smiled under his beard, and Brigdan joined him in the notion that regardless of how many years Draeden and Bryeison had been absent from the keep, nothing at all in their characters had changed.
“Your Majesty,” said Aldus, with a pained look, “At the risk of being indecorous and ungracious to a sovereign, I must implore you please to take His Highness upstairs, that some work might be done this morning which does not involve ringing the bell for Aghatha.”
“Yes, I suppose we ought to all be going,” said Alasdair. “I can feel the Herald looking for me, and I’m sure poor Gaumhin is doing his best to keep him from splitting his seams.”
A last nods of thanks was given to Aldus and Rosamound, and Alasdair walked with Bryeison and Draeden up the steps, Bryeison carrying Draeden the whole way, leaving Brigdan and Vyrdin in the treasury.
Aldus returned to his desk and sighed over the clean carpet, and as he recommenced his calculations and Rosamound went to file away the new deed under kingdom owned properties, Brigdan and Vyrdin stood at the edge of the treasurer’s desk without seeming willing to leave.
“You have something you should like to tell me,” said Aldus, without looking up from his work.
“Sir Aldus,” said Brigdan, with a gallant genuflection.
“Mr Craughliedh will really do, Lord Brigdan, but there is no need for ceremony here. What was done was right to be done, and that is all. The kingdom fortunately has plenty in the treasury. We should be beholden to His Majesty for allowing us to spend it as benefits the kingdom.” His pen stopped and he looked pensive. “His Late Majesty King Dorrin did an excellent thing by raising such a sovereign,” and in a sincere hue, he quietly added, “…an excellent thing, indeed.”
They bid him a good morning, and with the promise of seeing them for dinner, and of having Brigdan’s father join them, they took their leave of the treasury and were nearly at the stairs when Vyrdin was called back again with a, “…General?”
Vyrdin returned to Aldus’ desk, whilst Brigdan ascended the stairs to the gallery. He looked first at Rosamound, and then at Aldus.
“I am never one to inquire after business has been concluded,” said Aldus, laying his pen aside, “but may I know the fate of a certain Marridon businessman?”
Vyrdin tried not to look amused. “He’s alive.”
“Is he operational?”
“I hope he has been made to understand the consequences of trifling with a successful Frewyn-run business and turning Frewyn citizens out on the street?”
“He regrets his actions and realizes now it would have been much better for him to sell the building and leave the Baleighs where they were.”
There was a decisive humph, and after a few mutterings of “Good. It is settled, then,” Vyrdin bid them a good morning and quitted the treasury, his long cloak whipping past the post as he went.
Rosamound stood at the edge of her father’s desk as Vyrdin mounted the stairs, and she heard the words, “…What an excellent thing His Late Majesty did in raising such a devoted and dutiful son…” just articulate, before turning back to her work, thinking how fortunate she was to have a husband whose ferity extended only so far as his passion for books could promise, whose fealty to his family never wavered, whose constancy and conviction never waned.
If you've enjoyed the stories, join our Patreon campaign so we can keep them going!