Story for the Day: An Airing of Grievance - Part 1
Many who join the Frewyn Armed Forces in peaceful times believe they will have an easier time going through training, as there is no war to immediately tend to. They would be wrong, however.
The morning continued well, a brave of gorm hovered majestically overhead, a rogue cloud broke away from its parent and calved off toward the east with uncommon alacrity, the plangent tones of the bells from the church competed with the drumbling steps of vendors in the square, the brontide of heavy carts and the aurulent hue of the sun ascending illuminated the training yard. Vyrdin grunted as he strained, pushing the large casks of fresh water into place behind the barracks, Brigdan went in quest of him as he moved around the latrine, Bryeison stood by the garrison, counting the new recruits and latrating orders for men to clean the basins and scrub the floors, and a collection of fresh cerns congregated to one side, to complain of being asked to do seemingly trival work and lament over Bryeison being as tyrannical as he was large, using his unassailable size and insuperable might to enforce his reign over those who had no means of refusing. They had just had their breakfast in the mess, and Bryeison was already calling out for their cleaning their wooden bowls, scraping their plates, soaking their spoons, straightening their bed clothes and tidying their bunks, washing their blankets and hanging their linens by the far field, while Vyrdin continued shifting the stacked casks onto their sides and rolling toward the back of the barracks.
“I don’t know what they’re complaining about,” said Brigdan, standing beside him and eyeing the cerns in the opposing corner of the yard. “We all have to share the work of caring for the barracks.”
One new recruit was lamenting louder than the rest, and though they were standing far from Bryeison, who had just gone to the garrison, to see whether the armour had been properly burnished the day before, Brigdan could not but think Bryeison must have heard him.
“And the next thing he’ll want us to do is sharpen his sword and clean his boots,” the cern spat. “This is ridiculous. I’ve been here for days and I’ve hardly done anything other than sweep floors and wash walls.”
Brigdan gaped at the recruit, fearing his imminent dismissal or demise, whichever should come first, if he continue this line of condemnation. “Has he been assigned to your regiment?”
“Yes,” said Vyrdin, without turning to look.
Brigdan narrowed his gaze. “I don’t recognize him,” said he quietly, descrying the belligerent young man with suspicion. “Is he noble, by any chance?”
A wince and a gnarling sounds, and Vyrdin hauled the next cask into place. “Not that I know of,” he huffed, shaking the sweat from his hair. “Why?”
“There is a noble in my regiment who complains similarly, but he does it to himself when Bryeison is out of hearing. He is always grumbling over having to do chores which he would never be asked to do at home.”
Vyrdin heaved and lifted one cask on top of another. “You don’t have to be one of the nobility to be spoiled, Brigdan.”
“No,” said Brigdan, in a morfitied voice, “I suppose not.”
“You also don’t have to be a noble to refuse to do hard work.”
Vyrdin dragged another cask from the great number to the side of the barracks, his muscles pulled and contracted, a gloriole of sweat misting his brow. His wiry form bent and laboured, the sweat from his brow cascaded from his brow to his beard, his frame straining away, his knees bending under the weight of the barrel, and an pang struck Brigdan, the pointedness of Vyrdin’s remark suddenly aggrieving him. He repented instantly, however, by holding out his arms and saying, “Would you like me to help you with that?”
Brigdan shifted and looked embarrassed. “Are you certain?”
“Bryeison asked me to do it.”
“That does not mean I cannot help.”
Vyrdin put a cask to the side, cupped his hand in the washing basin beside him, and lapped the water into his face. “I don’t judge you for being a lord, Brigdan,” said Vyrdin stoutly, letting the water trickle down his face, and then motioning to the belligerent cern, he added, “and I don’t judge him either. He’s probably never done a day of hard work in his life, if he thinks washing bed linen and sweeping the floor is torturous.”
“You don’t judge him for speaking poorly of Commander Bryeison?”
“I don’t need to.” The droplets in Vyrdin’s beard glistened, and his lips twitched in a momentary grin. “What happens to him after Bryeison decides to do something about him is his business. He probably came here thinking he would get all the glory of being in the king’s service without earning it, or he was forced to join by a family that wanted to get rid of him.” He bent his knees and lifted a smaller cask from the pile to the row he was making behind the barracks. “Either way,” he grunted, “he won’t last long.”
“No,” said Brigdan, with a weak smile, “I fancy not.”
“The work that we do here is easy compared to the work I had to do on the farm--” Vyrdin stopped and stared at the barracks wall, his mind in a foray of painful remembrance.
A grimace and firm gowl, and the trepidation which had surmounted Vyrdin began to pass, and once the ill feelings that Carrighan’s cruelty produced had died away, he grew easy, straightening and returning to his work as though nothing distressed him. It would never really leave him, he would suffer the same feelings many times over in the course of a day, but it should never interfere with his service. He was happy to do his work here, happy to be at the keep for any reason, whether it be stacking the casks for the pipes in the barracks, working in the stables with Roriegh and Deias, or arranging the books in the royal library—a job which perpetually held a charm for him-- for the Diras castle keep was not the fallow fields of Carrighan’s farm. He was useful here, cherished and beloved by those who had the best right to his happiness, and while affection was not his most defining feature, he returned it much more than he would ever confess. He had become essential in the daily management of the keep, whether it was taking care of Teipha, saving Draeden time on filing his reports, or performing the regular sloggery that Bryeison assigned. He was a requisite, a model of constancy and dependableness which everyone had grown to admire, and with Brigdan now always with him, Vyrdin could never consider himself as a mere cosset of his commanders or an auxilery in the royal party. Now he had his counterpart, the friend to complement him in every endeavour and share in every pleasure and every hardship. Brigdan, the over-scrupulous and ever solicitous friend, always afraid of giving offense and never interested in receiving it, did genuinely want to help Vyrdin move the casks of water from one side of the barracks to the other, but that Bryeison had specifically asked Vyrdin to do it and that Vyrdin should do it alone granted him a particular pride in the work. Where he was used to dread punishment for not performing his duties, now he championed in every labourious task, and while cerns were complaining of fixing planks and wedging new tiles for the roof, Vyrdin was relishing the ache of sore muscles and gratulating in the compensation that personal achievement could imply.
He resumed his work, stacking the smaller casks atop the larger, and though Brigdan looked anxiously on, desirous to help but not wishing to ignore the wishes of his friend, he was glad of the accomplishment accrued for himself, his straining body and bearded smile performing in high contrast to the languid and lagoubrious lamentations of the cern across the yard.
The cern was still complaining. “This is absurd,” he sibilated, taking a besom from another recruit’s hand and throwing it down. “We shouldn’t be sweeping and burnishing. We should be fighting.”
“He will be fighting soon enough, if he continues as he does,” Brigdan murmured.
Vyrdin heaved the last firkin onto his shoulder. “I wouldn’t mind beating him with the besom he just threw,” he admitted, fitting the cask into place.
Brigdan watched the small crowd beginning to form around the cern, and he grew anxious. “We ought to say something before he riles the rest of the regiments.”
“We don’t have to say anything.” Vyrdin wiped the sweat from his brow and shook out his hair. “Bryeison will do that.”He nodded toward the garrison, whence Bryeison had just emerged, and every head, excepting the one belonging to the griping young cern, turned to acknowledge his gradual approach. A few recruits had been listening to the cern’s admonitions in disdain, some affirming and nodding in accordance with their own feelings, but the moment Bryeison began marching toward them, any intimation of acquisence thus ceased. The cern went on, haranguing the management of the garrison, and a strange silence surmounted the gathered soldiers, fidgets and hems went round, eager nudges and chary looks were exchanged, and everyone endeavoured without trying very much to quiet the orator, while Bryeison watched the invective with smiling interest.