Story for the Day: The First in the Series -- Part 2
It is nearly the end of the month, which means our newest novella will be available on our Patreon page within the next few days. While we're all waiting for the final touches on Damson's Distress to be finished, join our Patreon campaign HERE and receive the last twelve novellas for your reading pleasure. This month's novella will feature the full story of Alasdair's failed attempts to gain a copy of Shaman of the West:
Alasdair gave up the point, resigning himself to the unbending determination of his fourforebears, each of them resolved to dissuade him from committing invented literary crimes, and each cherishing a something of secret delight at seeing Alasdair quit the room in quest of Vyrdin’s private library.
“You know what?” said Alasdair, in a careless hue, turning into the hall. “I don’t need to read the second book. Who needs a second book when I have the first? I certainly don’t. No one does. No one needs to read the second in any series. I will simply read the first book and forget the second one ever existed,” and turning into the gallery, he bitterly added, “I should just outlaw books in a series all together. Then there would be none of this first and second nonsense. Tales of Intrigues is a series. There are forty eight of them now—not counting the reprinted classics-- and only some of them have continuing stories, and those are very clearly indicated—Lord of the Hall , Lady of the Hall, The Duke’s Demesne, The Duchess’ Demesne—if I want to read one of those out of order, no one makes a fuss over it. Why should it matter now, whether I read the first or second? It’s the very same thing-- Oh, Pastaddams,” addressing the tailor walking toward him from the other end of the hall. “We’re all in the kitchen, having cake early for Sol’s birthday. Won’t you join us? You’re more than welcome.”
“Sorry, sire?” said Pastaddams, rousing himself from reverie, looking up from the book he was holding to his face. “What was that you said about cake? I am monstrously sorry, but I’m reading, and everything functions on its own whilst my mind is otherwise occupied. I know I should not be reading and walking at the same time-- or reading without a cup of tea in my hand, for that matter-- but you must pretend as though you can forgive me for not acting quite like myself. I am in a passion over this scene and cannot get the better of it. I tell you now, I will rave uncontrollably if the male protagonist is to die. It does not seem likely, but there is a battle beginning, and he is surrounded, and those things never end well.” Here was s heavy sigh. “Oh, and I liked him so very well. One of her better leading males, I absolutely must say. I won’t lose all hope just yet, however. I will persevere and hope he will last to the end of the book.”
Alasdair noted the title. “Is that Shaman of the West?”
“Yes, it is,” Pastaddams replied, in a triumph. “I know I have only just bought it, but I am nearly finished, and I cannot set it down unless I have discovered the fate of the two lovers. There is lovemaking in it, if you want to know, but there always is in her books, which is partly why I read them. I was not so fond of her last, but I have been reading this one since the morning and have never stopped. I know I usually pace myself to properly steep myself in the pages, but with this volume, that will not do. There is far too much action to put it by, and I will not be able to concentrate on anything else until I have finished it. Fortunately for me, I had only needlework to do this afternoon, and Her Majesty was very good and made my tea whilst I was reading. Something must happen soon. I have only fifty pages left, and there has not been much conflict until now. It isn’t really a climax in the traditional sense, but there has been tension and escalation throughout the whole.”
Alasdair turned back to see whether anyone was lurking behind him, and then, in an audible whisper, he asked, “May I borrow it when you’re finished?”
“Oh, certainly, sire, if you should like. I shall probably have done with it later this evening. If I am uninterrupted as I foresee being, since Gaumhin is on patrol for the night, I shall have it finished in two hours, three if I decide to skim my favourite passages again. I certainly will not sleep until I know what happens to the shaman and his lady companion. I do hope they are going to make violent love to each other again. It took them more than half the book to rub elbows together. There was a great passage about her learning about the elements, and the whole time I felt sure of his grabbing her and snudging her with his tusks, or whatever it is these demon creatures in her books do to show affection. The last one sniffed his mate and repeatedly rubbed his forehead against hers. I like the fantastic element to her books, and the prose is unexceptionable to be sure, but I always find her romances wanting in that ardency I love so well.”
“Instant and random romantic encounters only happen in Tales of Intrigues,” said Alasdair, smiling.
“Yes, sire, I suppose you are right. We are rather spoiled for partners and the immediacy of delirious affection, both on the page and at home. And I should forestall you from saying that my love story took the better part of eight years to begin, but it is useless to contend when the story is so generally known.”
“Perhaps you should write a book about it.”
“Oh, no, sire,” Pastaddams disclaimed. “It would be rife with missed glances and long silences, me pining away at how delicious and exquisite soldiers could never love such an old cockleshell, heaving many a sigh over how handsome Gaumhin looks in his armour, and most of the action would be in my running away or panicking over having a nose bleed. No one should ever want to read such a tiresome rag.”
“I wouldn’t mind reading it. I’m sure there are others who would find something to enjoy in it.” The felicity in knowing that Pastaddams received the first wish of his heart in having a husband who would love him as he deserved overwhelmed him, and Alasdair could not but smile when considering how many happy evenings Pastaddams and Gaumhin had spent together since their marrying. “The story does have a happy ending,” Alasdair reminded him.
“Oh, sire,” said Pastaddams, shaking his head, “you will tease me, but I know the story should only interest those involved in it. It is nothing like shamen conjuring pillars of fire in secret valleys and spy organizations hidden in the Marridonian mountains.”
“Is that what happens in that book?”
“That and a great many things more, I can tell you. Give me only a few hours, sire, I will bring you the book. Did Her Majesty let you read Shaman of the East when I lent it to her?”
Alasdair gave the wall beside him a sideways glance. “She told me what happened in the book.”
“Ah, well. In most cases, I would say you must read the first one before reading the second, but if her Majesty told you everything already, I cannot think there is any harm in your reading this one before the other. The two are hardly similar, though there is a shaman in both of them, and in both cases, there is a love interest, but there is really no other semblance between them. True love, familial hardships, sentient whirlwinds all have their place in a romance, I suppose, but I must say this one is less of a romance than the other. Well, since Her Majesty has told you the story of the first book, I will say no more about this one. I will go on about a book, and you want to be going, I’m sure, to return in time for your cake.”
“Oh, I’m only going to Vyrdin’s room. I can be there and back in the kitchen in three minutes.”
“Vyrdin’s room, sire?” Pastaddams seemed circumspect. “Do you mean to say that you’re going to have a peek at his library?”
“I’m going to retrieve a book he wants me to read,” said Alasdair begrudgingly.
Pastaddams tucked his book under his arm and seemed pained. “And would this book that you are going to retrieve…” said he, in a slow deliberating manner, “…be Shaman of the East, sire?”
“It might be. Why?”
A silence succeeded. Pastaddams’ smiles diminished, his complexion paled, and when the realization seized him and valour failed, he stepped back, pressed himself against the wall, and began searching frantically about.
“Where is Master Vyrdin now?” Pastaddams exclaimed, aglifft and repentant. “Is he near? Is he in the training yard, or is he in the kitchen with everyone else?”
“He’s in the kitchen—“
“Then you will please to excuse me, sire, but I believe I will not be able to join the family for cake this evening. I suddenly feel rather unwell and must nurse the headache that has just come over me.” Pastaddams vacilitated toward the servants’ hall, dithering through the corridor, dashing in and out of shadow as though expecting to be attacked any moment, and before he turned the corner into, he turned back, and said, with a look of escape, “And you will forgive me, sire, but I must renege my promise to bring you the book when I am finished.”
“You will forgive me, sire!” Pastaddams cried, scrambling toward the servants’ quarter, “but I absolutely cannot lend it to you until I have your word that you have read the first in the series.”
“But you just said it did not matter—“
“It matters now, sire! It matters a great deal indeed! My life may very well depend upon it!”
And he was gone directly, gone to the servants’ hall and beyond his tailory, confining himself to the comfort and solitude of his private apartment, where he might finish his book without the anguish of knowing the keep’s literary curator was by. As the grand aegis of everything was that was right and just, Vyrdin, a man without compunction or moral validation enough to impede his sense of integrity, should have no hesitation in removing a supernumerary limb or two in answer to the tailor’s crimes. Pastaddams loved his collection of books, but he liked his kidneys more, and he praised the Gods that he had prescience enough to inquire whither the king was going, for he had saved himself from a most grievous error, and the transgression of that unspoken regulation, of never reading a series out of order, had not be committed. If Alasdair would oppose Vyrdin’s decree, it should not be the tailor’s fault, and now if the Inquisitor should call and ask whether he had seen the king on his way to the library, he might tell him the whole history of the meeting without crying very much.