Story for the Day: The Second Month
February, or the Second Month in Frewyn, signals the beginning of spring, and even though most of the country has snow on the ground for another two months, Westren's thaw begins around Brigid's Day, the unofficial first day of the new season. Farmers have a particular relationship with this time of year: it is the end of their holidays and the beginning of their harvest cycle, bringing it with all the agonies of lime and loam and all the joys of reaping what they sow.
It was Brigid’s Day in Frewyn, and while everyone was out enjoying the day, giving chocolates and trinkets to one another, the merchants and traders were still working away, packing and preparingtheir shipments, taking them to the pier and stacking them for the porters, while butchers and bakers took their treys and carts to the square, where morning church services were just letting out and everyone was gathering for the retelling of the Caumharc Na Brigid. The children, having already heard their sermon for the day from Baronous over breakfast, were hastening out, pulling Hathanta and all the rest of the royal party down the path and through the gatehouse, to enjoy the sweets of Frewyn’s informal first day of spring. It was still cold, a ninguid brume drifted along the ground, but the vernal thaw was pending, the ground would soon be ripe for planting, and the warmth pouring over the west and settling in Westren would soon break over the remainder of the kingdom and usher in the first ardrours of spring.
It was a mild morning, bringing the jays and finches from the west to the capital, where they flitted about roe gaumhin, clamouring amongst themselves over cakes and crumbs, and the children sprang down from the high road, tumbling through the open gate house toward the bottom of the walk, where Jaicobh and Calleen were waiting for them. They had come from the assembly hall in Tyfferim, where every farmer in the municipality had gathered, to determine which crops were to be sewn in which fields now that the beginning of the planting season was come. There were a few weeks more until the loam could be turned and tilled, but storehouses must be opened, seeds and grains must be doled, and every bulb that could thrive late winter and deter early vermin must be set out. The twins and Beryn would be along later in the day: they were preparing their fields for fertilizing, and though Beryn had comparatively little work to do, he had offered himself to the twins, to help them with their spring preparations. Brigid’s Day was always a trial for farmers, signaling the end of their holidays and the beginning of their work for the coming ten months, but chocolate and chimes of eager affection from grandchildren will do away all the evils of an early spring. Jaicobh lifted the children into his arms as they flew at him, and he whirled them around, relinquishing himself to the rights of a grandparent and forgetting those of the farmer: a Regent was a watcher and commander at anytime, and being the guardian of the happiness of all those belonging to him, he was sincerely and happily oppressed by the smiles and embraces of those he loved best.
“Maith La Brigid, darlin’,” said he, patting his daughter’s head affectionately.
Boudicca heard a rale in her father’s voice. “Have you talked yourself hoarse this morning?” said she, kissing his cheek.
“Naw, darlin’,” he sniffled. “Think I caught somethin’ from the meetin’. I know it takes a few days for a cold to settle in, but Aul’ Rab had a cough somethin’ tragic. I felt it creepin’ on me when he came to shake my hand.”
“I will never know why you allow harbingers of the plague anywhere near you,” and once she realized what she had done, she added, “nor will I ever understand a man’s propensity to tell you he is ill after he has already infected you.”
Jaicobh could not help laughing. “Just a sniffle, darlin’. It’s already come out, so you won’t catch it.”
“Not this one, but I might contract the plague Old Man Rob gave you.”
Here was a shrug. “Washed my face and hands before I left and took some Connolleigh’s, cleric’s orders.”
“That mixture is absolutely horrendous,” Alasdair murmured, coming forward to shake Jaicobh’s hand.
“Aye, it smells like dyin’ birch and tastes like moulderin’ pine, but it sure suppresses a cold.”
“I think you mean the cold runs away screaming in agony. Cneighsea used to try to force Connolleigh’s on me when I was younger. I would rather do anything than be made to swallow that swill—and holding my nose or coating my mouth with honey beforehand did absolutely nothing to mask that taste. It’s like drinking pine resin.” Alasdair wrenched and shuddered. “Gods, I still remember it,” he moaned, rubbing his brow and staring in to the distant in horror. “It felt as though someone were pouring hot pitch into my mouth, and just as I thought the cooling sensation of the mint would take over, the sting of the camphor oil burned my tongue and made my eyes water. And that taste never dissolves. It stays in your mouth for days afterward, just to mock you for disliking it.”
“Aye, it does,” said Jaicobh, slottering, “but that’s why it works, ‘cause it doesn’t go away.”“I suppose you’re right,” was Alasdair parting injunction, and once he realized he had shaken Jaicobh’s hand, he took a clean cloth from his pocket and wiped his hands.