Story for the Day: The First in the Series -- Part 4
There is no greater defender of the realm than Captain Gaumhin. There is also no greater husband.
The door opened, Pastaddams fled under the blankets, and a shadow fell over the teaboard.
“Rauleigh?” said a familiar voice. “Ye o’ right in here?”
“Oh, my darling, darling solider!” Pastaddams proclaimed, leaping out of the bed and toward his husband. He flung himself at Gaumhin, threw his arms around his neck, and sobbed on his chest. “Oh, you handsome and wonderful man, you have come to save me!”
“Save ye?” said Gaumhin, with grave concern. He held his husband against him and browsed the crown of his head with his fingertips. “What’s goin’ oan in here, Rauleigh? Ah heard ye yellin’ at somebodae.”
“Oh, no!” Pastaddams wailed. “I had thought you were someone else, come to punish me!”
“Punish ye? Well, ye usuallae like when Ah dae tha’--”
“Real punishment, not the pleasurable sort!”
Gaumhin held his husband away from him and leaned to look him in the eye. “Who was here? Whose tormentin’ ye? Ye tell meh, and that’s hem done in. Ah’ll brisht his bastard head for botherin’ ye. Who was it?”
Pastaddams sniffed. “Master Vyrdin.”
“Vyrdin?” Gaumhin exclaimed. “Why’s Vyrdin after ye? Ye havenae done anaethin’ wrong.”
Pastaddams timidly turned aside. “I might have revealed some of the plot to Shaman of the West to His Majesty.”
“But he hasnae read it y--“ Gaumhin stared at the far wall as the revolution of mind surmounted him. “…Oh. Well, that’s no’ so bad--”
“And I might have told His Majesty that it was all right for him to read the series out of order while Vyrdin was within hearing.”
A drawn out “…Oh,” was all Gaumhin’s answer, and then, after some consideration, he amended with, “Ah doan’t thenk tha’s a punishable offence. The twa storaes are no’ reallae linked. Ye can read yin before the other—“
“Shh!” Pastaddams sibilated, putting a hand over Gaumhin’s mouth. “Don’t let Master Vyrdin hear you say that! He will flay you alive for suggesting such a thing, as he almost did me!”
“Did he threaten ye’, Rauleigh?” said Gaumhin, his sense of conjugal pride prevailing. “If he came intae mah house and put a haun oan ye, Ah doan’t care who he is, tha’s hem finished.”
“No, no, Gaumhin,” Pastaddams pleaded, drying his cheeks with the back of his hand. “He did not touch me, I assure you. Indeed, he did not do or say anything really. He only stood at the door and imposed his menacing countenance upon me.”
Gaumhin seemed apprehensive. “He just stood there an’ gawped at ye’?”
“He didn’t really even come into the room. He just stayed in the doorway and asked me if anything were the matter.”
“Are ye sure he didnae say anaethin’ unkind to ye, mho ludhan?” Gaumhin purred, giving his husband a doting look. “If he did, doan’t be afraid. Ye just sae.”
“Yes, I am very sure. In short, it was only my own mind really that created the misery. He had come in to see whether I was well, as he saw me galloping down the hall to here, and he only stayed two minutes before leaving again, but he is so very menacing with that resolve and severity of his that he absolutely frightens me.”
“Ah thenk Vyrdin does tha’ by jus’ bein’ hem. Ah doan’t thenk he knows how tae be anae wae else.” The glint in Gaumhin’s eye sparkled. “Ah thenk it’s the beard.”
“That and his hair—both of them are so unruly that they can only be sentient. They look as though they are forever trying to escape his face and attack whomever Vyrdin is addressing at any given moment. It does give him character, I own, but they look as though they have crawled onto his head and embedded themselves into his skin. One of these days, we shall see a conscious mop cringing its way across the floor or a bird laying an egg in a curious black bramble, and Vyrdin will be traipsing about looking like a twelve year old, glabrous and perfectly unrecognizable without his two great tangles.”
“Mind yersel’, Rauleigh,” said Gaumhin, smiling. “He’ll hear ye, or his hair’ll hear ye, which Ah thenk might be worse.”
“Yes, and either his hair or his beard might go on a noctivagant ramble and strangle me in my sleep, or take out an organ or two, and I need my delicate instruments the same as anybody.” He paused and looked despondent. “I do feel dreadfully for His Majesty.”
“He has Vyrdin to contend with every hour of the day. I know Vyrdin is rather an uncle to him, and Alasdair loves him with all his soul, as Vyrdin surely loves him in return, but when the good General has got an idea in his head, there is no refuting him. The Den Asaan is much easier to negotiate with. Throw him a piece of chocolate, and he is as sanguine and impressionable as a sailor with his frippet. I wish Master Vyrdin were not so very officious, especially when it comes to books.”
“Yer nae better when I teld ye Ah want tae read everae option in Tales of Intrigues before choosin’ a path tae take.”
“Because that is not the point of the book, my love. It is meant to be an adventure and meant to be read many times over, with your first reading done on impulse. If you read every option before choosing the right, you will know how half the book’s many endings and lose all the joy of a second or third reading.”
“Ye get yersel’ in a wee gliff when Ah turn the page without consultin’ ye.”
“Well,” Pastaddams hemmed, “when we are reading a book together, I do not like to go ahead on a certain path when we have already read—you are teasing me to get me away from Master Vyrdin, aren’t you?”
Gaumhin made a sly grin, and Pastaddams gave his husband a playful tap on the arm.
“There is a wae tae impress Vrydin, if ye want tae make a truce,” said Gaumhin sagaciously.
“Is that so? Well, do tell me then, that I may exploit it.”
“Get hem a first edition of a book he doesnae have.”
“That is very true,” said Pastaddams thoughtfully. “A new book, and anything old, does seem to quiet his suspicions. But how do I know what he has and what he doesn’t, without invading his library, which no doubt has all sorts of traps to keep invaders out.” He pouted and meditated momentarily. “Perhaps I shall go down to Baleigh’s tomorrow and ask good Mr Baleigh. He ought to know what is on Vyrdin’s shelf better than anybody. He might have something sure to fire Vyrdin’s interests. It will be something by way of penance, and then, you know, he ought to be satisfied.”
It was the thought of the moment, but Gaumhin’s general approbation of the scheme meant it would be carried out. It was no hardship for Pastaddams to visit a bookstore; he needed no other encouragement to go to Baleigh’s beyond what the promise of untouched volumes and new literary adventures could supply. A library always housed a trove of undiscovered friendships and forays, and a bookstore, a place where those temporary connections might become a constancy, must always hold a charm over any scholar’s heart, and a visit thither therefore, a journey into the paracosm of academic delights, whether unpremeditated or intended, required no other encouragement for the tailor. The bookstore, the clothier, and the haberdashery were enough to keep him entertained for a whole morning, and as he seldom spent money on anything that was not the latest fabrics come down from Marridon or a new volume of Tales of Intrigues, he could spend the money on Vyrdin very well. He would consider it a donation to the kingdom, his contribution in making the king’s General feel respected and beloved, and in offering it to Vyrdin in a disinterested and careless way, he might make Vyrdin accept it.
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