Story for the Day: The God of Fire

No fire in Frewyn is complete without a visit from the God of Fire himself. Of course, it's only natural to think that he would start the fire in the first place. 

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Alasdair remained with the Fire Brigade, along with Gaumhin, Mureadh, Connors, Nerri, and Kai   everything was over and everyone was safe. An air of relief and disappointment pervaded the crowd, for while they were satisfied that all were well, a little more rubble and a few more injuries should have quelled the curiosity that begs for the animation and account of tragedy. No one should be really hurt, of course, but a building reduced to cinders and a heap of grey ash would have told well in the imaginarian’s perspective. The king had saved someone, though that someone seemed not to have noticed who his saviour was, the Captains of the Royal Guard and a few Commanders performed their offices in full regalia, and that was enough to amuse friends and neighbours for one night at least. The crowd slowly diffused into the regular parade of morning in the capital, a few young women lingered to pay the King of Frewyn amorous looks, some remained to sigh over Captain Gaumhin’s unfortunate situation of preference, and if one of the victims might suddenly take ill again, the old women who were milling about the stoops of the shoppes opposite would have something more to offer to their sewing circles at least. The part of the high street was reopened, and after nothing more interesting had happened, praises to the Great God Aoidhe, God of Fire, was offered in the spirit of indebtedness for no one’s being hurt and for the flames not escaping to the surrounding buildings.
Linaa, who were all helping to tranquilize the victims of the fire and disperse the crowd. There was nothing more to see or to wait for: the fire had been extinguished, the building deemed safe beyond the injuries of the garret and third floor,
                These prayers offered to Aoidhe, most of them sincere and many of them unspoken, produced a peculiar effect, for when the chief of the party entered the Traveler, Cioel, the old musician, appeared to be quarreling with someone, though the person he was arguing with seemed absent from the conversation. Betteidh was in the storeroom, preparing a few bowls of roasted almonds and rolling a hogshead from one end of the storeroom to the other, and Armagh was at the bar, raising a dram to his health and thanking the Gods that their well established business had not been damaged by the flames down the street. No one seemed in a hurry to notice that the old fiddler was fighting something off with his bow, grumbling for someone to go away as he sat in his usual seat by the fireplace and tuned his strings. His E was dreadfully flat, and he was desperately endeavouring to correct the pitch when the loose hairs draping down from the end of his bow seemed to attack his face. There was no breeze in the room, no gale that had blown in from the door being opened, and while Sheamas had hastened to the bar to have a few drams for his nerves, he had not run anywhere near the old man. The horsehairs seemed to move on their own, and after two minutes of fighting with his instrument, of trying in vain to blow the loose hairs away from his face, the old man snarled through his toothless gums and cast his fiddle aside.
                Shise shin!” he whistled angrily. “I ain’t playin’ nothin’ till that do-nothin’ of a God’s gone and left me alone!”
                He glunched and flouted and folded his arms, and a red glow suddenly appeared beside him and filled the front room.
                Naw, I ain’t leavin’, said a commanding yet jovial voice. I wanna hear that fiddle what you play so well. I was just coddin’ you for a bit.
                “Well I won’t be codded into playin,” the old man humphed, “so cimonna hashiff and find yerself someone else to fuss.”
                ‘Mon, now, said the voice, in a conciliating tone. Don’t go thrunchin’ over it. I came ‘cause everyone was prayin’ to me. Can’t ignore ‘em when they’re ask so nice. The fire was over before I came, and now that I’m here and all, might as well stay, have an ale, and hear you play.
                “Well I ain’t doin’ it.” The old man took his stout from the table just beside. “Rogue of a god, plaguin’ us auljins. Be aff with yeh, or that’s my shoe come aff at yeh! Go have a peek down Bettidh’s blouse how you always do and leave me outta yer schemin’.”
                He snuffed and frowned into his pint, and as he held it to his lips, a slight force pushed the bottom of the glass upward, spilling the stout onto his lap. The old man looked down and then stared at the bar in hateful silence, while the mirth of a god that would be amused echoed in the seamless expanse.
                “That’s my punishment, aye?” said the old man, putting his pint down. “Ain’t enough you gotta plague me, you gotta spill my pint ‘cause I’m tellin’ you what’s what. Well, if this is how the Great God treats us aul’jins, I sure ain’t askin’ you to come round no more.”
                An air of compunction pervaded the room, the red glow shimmered and faded, and when it reappeared, it brought with the Great God Aoidhe, his form translating from the ethereal plane, his features becoming more discernible, his immense form more substantial, his half-hearted artfulness more apparent.
                “Naw, I ain’t punishin’ you,” said Aoidhe, lounging beside the old man, who had little interest in being sidled even by a God. “We don’t do that. You do that yerselves,  achin’ over thinkin’ we’re takin’ our anger out on you and such. I only visit what I love. I’m only coddin’ you ‘cause I’m gaggin’ to hear you play. Takin’ a year and th’while to tune that fiddle.”
                “Wouldn’t take me five minutes if you left me to it!” the old man spat, moving his chair away. “You lads,” he rasped, pointing to Aiden and Adaoire as they entered the front room. “Don’t Aoidhe belong to you? Take him to yer table and keep him quiet with an ale, or there’ll be no music in here th’day, I’m tellin’ you that.”
                Armagh, who did not think it right to gainsay at God at anytime regardless of careless manner or easy disposition, hid behind the bar with a dram in his hand, fearing a display of divine Splendour coming on, and Bettidh lit the bowl of Aoidhe’s pipe as she passed, conveying the trey of roasted almonds to the counter without offering a word or even a look to the Great God. She was working, and as such could not spare even a moment to admire the God she loved best, who doted on her nearly as much as he did Chune. She put a small bowl of roasted almonds onto Cieol’s table and hurried on, to clean a table for the royal party and tend  to the Gods’ Day regulars, who were sooming and slistering in the corner window and took no notice of the Great God, though they were offering praises to him on account of the house ale.
Cieol took up his bow again, thinking he might try for a tuning, when a tickling sensation attack his cheek. He flailed about, pushing and blowing whatever it was tickling him away, and he turned to see Aoidhe purposely blowing smoke at the back end of his bow, making the loose horsehairs hover beside his face. “Along with you now,” the old man hissed, waving his bow at him in angry agitation, “or I’m prayin’ to the God of Music to smite you.”
                “Naw,” Aoidhe exhaled, “he don’t do no smitin’. Might make you listen to one o’ his songs till yer ears fall aff, but he don’t hurt no one.”
                “Yer kin are here now, so be after ‘em for a bit of attention and let me to my pint.”
“Aye, so I will,” Aoidhe exhaled, a cloud of smoke seeping out from between his lips. “Only cod what I love, and I sure love yer music,” and then, turning to Aiden and Adaoire, he said, “ain’t that right, lads?”
Aiden and Adaoire would rather not have told the old man about the extent of Aoidhe’s affection, which was usually carried out on their land and with Chune bent over before him, and they therefore only looked embarrassed and said a good-humoured, “Oh, aye, aye.”
Aoidhe inhaled, the bowl of his pipe simmered, and with a “Well, then,” he stood and approached the party, who were just being seated across from the bar. There were smiles and salutations for everyone, and with Aiden caught in one arm and Aoidhe in the other, the Great God engulfed the whole of the table into one large and inclusive embrace.