#Birthday story: The Herald's Holiday
Birthdays, like ages, are fickle things, and the more we have of one the less inclined we are to acknowledge the other. Twisk and I, as fate would have it, have nearly the same birthday, and each of us cares more for the other's birthday than we do our own. I always end up writing her a new story for her special day, and I usually finish it on mine, but this story might take somewhat longer to be told. Harold the Herald finally gets a vacation away from the keep. He might not be gone for very long, however.
|Harold is the one and only Frewyn Herald|
The business in Erieannan over, the Godstone in Faraleidh recovered and Darran reestablished in the pantheon, the kingdom was in a fair way to being at peace once more. The high holidays over and No one in the keep delighted in a leave more than himself: he could never understand how it was that no one else was disposed to take time away from being in the capital; the incessant thrum of the castle halls, the bustles of busy streets, the ceaseless flow of animation from the port and the gates was enough to convince the Herald that he must go away from Frewyn for a time, long enough that he would miss the place and not long enough that he should wish to relinquish his post and surrender himself to the glamour of the northern sea for the rest of his life.the chief of the late winter birthdays already done through, there was little to do about the keep other than perform the regular duties of everday maintenance, run the courts, care for the royal family, and continue in national tranquility. The annex had a regent that spoke for those living in the new municipality, Rodkin was now in the Fflemin seat at court in place of his sister, and there was nothing else to disturb the renewed serenity of the capital, beyond the occasional squall ebbing out from the Royal Theatre. A new play for a new season was in rehersal, and as everyone was under the charm of curiosity as to which venerated tale the Royal Theatre Company could delabrate next, the Herald, not being one for a play, decided to take his leave of the keep for a while. It would only be a week or two, no one should miss him, Brigdan could take over for him in court, and Searle and the Scoaliegh could deliver the letters very well, and he would set everything in such a way that his presence would hardly be missed.
He had taken a short leave in the early winter, but there he had only planned to visit Farriage, and that was shortened by a day through no fault of his own. A longer personal holiday was called for, one away from the reach of officious giants and vindictive inquisitors, demanding letters and packages at all hours, ruining his equanimity and disquieting japes and nonsense about his not performing his duties exactly as they could wish. There were no complaints from the king, which was all his concern, but the constant threat of the giant’s vigilance, the forevers of looking over his shoulder to see whether the shadows behind moved, afforded him an unquietness he could no longer tolerate. He must go away for his holidays, somewhere that even the king’s network could not reach. He asked the king for his extended leave therefore, and considering all that had happened in the last few months, his request for leave was granted: Searle and Ros and the Scoaleigh would deliver his messages, his duties at court would be given to the Lord Protector, and early the following morning, the Herald packed his clothes and a few trinkets, and a few correspondences he wished nobody to see, and set off for the port in his chaise, leaving it to the king to tell everyone else he was gone.
No one should really miss him; everyone in the royal circle hardly spoke to him anyway, excepting to scold him, and amongst the lords and ladies of the court, few were on an equal footing with his situation. He was born to a royal family, and he was a lord’s son, but he was an ealdorman, a servant appointed by the king, a man of little fortune and good connections, while those in the court were some of the best families in the kingdom. He was well-liked wherever he went, and the gentry were agreeable acquaintance, and he never wanted for company in the evening hours, with dinners and card parties in the royal parlour, but he was a degree too low to be considered eligible by any lady’s means, and he was much above marrying anyone beneath him. Better he had not marry, however; a wife would only cut short his evening pleasures, and there would be duties at home as well as those in the keep to superintend. He was best off as he was, a sanguine agamist, going wherever he liked and doing just as he chose, assistant to the king and servant to the kingdom, and though he had to contend with the invigilant powers of the Den Asaan, he was satisfied with where he was in life.
The aubade of morning ushered his chaise to the docks, and when the first ship from Lucentia came in, he asked whether there were good room for passengers.
“I’ll take you up,” said a young Lucentian, giving his long captain’s coat a flourish.
The Herald narrowed his gaze and tried to make out the captain’s features adist the gloriole of light pouring down on him from behind. He would have shielded his eyes from the sun, but the captain’s hair was in the way.
“And I say,” said the Herald, “are you going to the capital, or are you going as far as the north coast?”
The captain stepped forward, eclipsing the light from the sun, and his features came into view. “My scheduled stop is in the capital,” said he, smoothing his radiant hair, “but I can easily take you to the northern shore, if you mean to visit the white sands.”
“Yes! That is exactly where I should like to go!” the Herald eagerly declared, and he added, in the guarded recesses of his own mind, Precisely where I should like to go, as far away from anyone else as possible…
“There will be an added cost, of course, but I certainly don’t mind taking you there, if you’re willing to pay for the trip. I have other passengers who wouldn’t mind visiting the northern beaches.”
Here was a furtive glance back at the main deck of the ship, and when the herald followed his gaze, he saw no one standing behind him.
“Do you?” asked the herald. “But I see nobody about on your ship but the porters and few members of the crew.”
“They’re below deck,” said the captain, giving a smile which attributed nothing. “There’s no need to worry,” taking up the herald’s bag for him, “they won’t disturb you during the voyage. They’re very quiet.”
“But are you sure there will be good room for me, if your ship is so full, captain?”
The captain assured him that there was room enough for at least ten more in his hold, but as he could see they were to receive a most distinguished guest, would not sir care to take a private room in the gallery? The added cost would be nominal to a servant so well known throughout the kingdom, and as the herald had his gallantry flattered, he certainly would take a private room, away from all the questionable men lurking about the ship.