Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Story of the Day: Cabhrin's Curragh - Part 2

We are getting ready to send out our next novella, featuring the full story between Breigh, Cabhrin, and Jaicobh. If you'd like to receive the novella and all the subsequent stories in e-book format, visit out Patreon page here. Enjoy the rest of the story!

A fulmination of sound rushed on him as he ran toward the lake: the susurration of his heels gliding along the grass, the thudding of heartbeat pounding in his ears, the ceaseless rushing of breath flowing in and out as his chest rose and fell—everything agitated and everything distressed him, and
he whipped the high grass from his path, his arms flailing, his feet kicking, his voice crying out in an excruciating sob, flurning at the ground and disdaining the sky, hating everything and everybody, wanting the whole world to collapse on itself before his could collapse further on him. He reached the lake, where sat his curragh bobbing along the water. He sloshed into the water and scrambled into his boat, and cried in an agony of spirits, distraught over having seen his father so helpless, in dismay over having seen his mother so depressed, feeling more distraught over being so powerless to alleviate anybody’s fears or improve the general situation. His father was going to relinquish himself to disability and forgetfulness, and the whole family must shore up for the champion they were about to forever lose. The guiding star of the Donnegal house was being extinguished, the great farmer and lauded father was enduring his last coruscation, and there was nothing he could do to capture and covet such brilliancy. He must resign his hold on his father—they all must in time—he must bid farewell and expect to be seen as a stranger by him in time, and Cabhrin bent his head and wept uncontrollably, pressing his forehead to his knees, never minding the increasing cold or greying skies, never minding the wind cutting over his back, never minding the wrasse pobbling in and around the water, never minding even the sound of someone slowly approaching him.
There was a slight splash, the curragh moved, a weight suddenly pressed down on his shoulders. Cabhrin peered up from between his folded arms, he saw his father’s coat was being draped over his back and arms, and looking higher, he saw his father’s aspect smiling down at him.
“Da?” said Cabhrin, furiously wiping away his tears. His father’s features came further into view, and his spirits mounted. “Da, is that you?”
“No, Cabh,” said his father. “It’s me.”
The form belonging to his father sat beside him in the curragh, and after blinking away the last few tears, Cabhrin’s vision cleared, the image grew more precise, colours were stored and outlines refined, and he was now aware of the blunder he had made: it was Breigh sitting beside him and not his father. The likeness which had been beginning to take form in late adolescence was now so like that of the one whose features would comfort him most that they were hard to distinguish. Breigh had grown so like their father in height and build, air and address that it was becoming too easy to mistake one for the other, barring the difference of years in one and poor health in the other. Cabhrin chided and checked himself: he was sure that his father had been there a moment before, but his eyes had played an unfortunate trick, the youthful features belonging to his brother were become clearer, and there could be no room for farther error now. Breigh was beside him, he was wrapping his arms around his shoulders, he was pressing him against chest, and with a gentle “It’s o’ right, Cabh. You just have it out,” Cabhrin cried on his brother, sobbing out his sundry of woes, covering his face with his hands as though he could bear the thought of the future no more than he could suffer to accept the present. The loss of his father was imminent and inexorable, but one who reminded him so much of him would forever be there to console him: the splendid comfort of an older brother’s embrace, the compassion and leniency afforded, the succour and superior latitude shown would never be equal to anything else. Breigh would be the guardian of his comfort, the soother of every sorrow, and the memory of his father’s coat and the consolation of having a shoulder to cry upon called back his thoughts, taking him from painful reverie to present despondence, and Cabhrin was with Jaicobh again. He was in his arms, he was under his coat, he was crying on his shoulder, and Cabhrin knew not whether to be mortified at having succumbed to such misery on a man whom he had just begun to know, or be relieved at his being there.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Story for the Day: Cabhrin's Curragh - Part 1

We all have those comforts which we run to when distraught. For Cabhrin Donnegal his curragh, the small Frewyn coracle he build with his father, is forever a source of immense appeasement. It was something that he and his father shared which no one else could touch and nothing else could equal, and when his father's illness consumed their family, Cabhrin often returned to his curragh, to sit and be silent and remember a time when his father could still join him in all the little interests belonging to the lake

 The coat weighing down his shoulders, the clasp from the farmer’s overalls pressing into his chest, the worn and calloused hands browsing his back, and Cabhrin was home again: he was at the lake on the Donnegal lands, he was sitting in his curragh, he was in his father’s arms sobbing out
his sorrows. It had been a miserable day: Aiden and Adaoire had quarreled with one another over something, Cabhrin had quarreled with Aiden and Adaoire, and everyone had been wretched and petulant the whole of that afternoon. Their father’s illness had grown worse, and he had been confined to the house for nearly a week by the time the tempers had risen to such a pitch. Something had gone wrong with the plough, Aiden was bid to fetch the breastplough and begin furrowing the land while Adaoire would take the plough to town to have the share mended, but from Aiden’s insisting that he could fix it himself and of Adaoire’s demanding that the ploughing was not getting done, the sounds of their heated debate reached the ears in the house. Cabhrin was caring for Martje whilst Breigh was feeding Lochan and dressing Shirse, and their mother was in their father’s room, helping him to sit up and drink a tonic the cleric had given them the day before. The shouting had made their mother sigh, had made their father say that he would go out to them and settle them down, but Calleen reminded her husband that he was not to stir out, that he was to remain in the house until he felt himself well enough to walk about. Breigh, the moderator of every argument, offered to settle the business if Cabhrin would look after their younger siblings, but Cabhrin was already gone, gone out to the field to settle the matter himself, tired of their remonstrances and needing an airing from the impression of disease and disorder in the house. Breigh knew that trouble should evince from his going out: Aiden and Adaoire were older and larger than Cabhrin, and being used to reprimands only from their father, a reproach from Cabhrin should only further incite them. A reproof was made them by Cabhrin: he told them to quiet down, as their father was in bed and in want of rest; told them to settle the matter their own way but to be civil about it, and though this reproach had been somewhat mild, Aiden and Adaoire did not like that their younger brother should impose himself in their business. They were united in their dislike of Cabhrin’s intrusion, in their want to get rid of him, and before Cabhrin knew what assailed him, a fist flew at his eye, a knee at his sternum, and Cabhrin was on the ground, bleeding and badly bruised before he was aware. Aiden and Adaoire continued their argument, Cabhrin in his mystery of semi-conscious heart Breigh approach, he felt himself being lifted from the ground, Breigh was saying something to the twins, they were hollering in return, and as Cabhrin was just beginning to understand what was happening, a voice from the house silenced them. They turned, their father was standing at the top of the stairs, his bellowing wrawl carrying from the landing outward, his features flushed, his complexion in a profusion of sweat and violent affliction, his form frail, his chest heaving. He supported himself with the railing and glared at his sons, his countenance in a glow of angry disappointment. To see their father, who was looking very poorly, at the top of the steps, to feel that they had summoned him from the house when she should have been resting, silenced them directly. They stood in a perfect line, their heads down, their eyes low, their expressions ashamed and horrified, their hearts assailed by an awful pang. They had forced their father to come outside, and each of them felt the extent of their humiliation when their father demanded they apologize to one another, which was done directly, all of them acknowledging that their general frustration and impatience had come from their father’s being ill. They were to lose him at latest by the summer, and all the cleric could do for him was to stave off the inevitable a little longer. They hated to see him in such a way, stricken by a condition which had no cure and was being forced on all of them. The apprehension and strain which had been steadily rising had consumed the house, making everyone captious and irritable when they ought to be obliging and understanding. They were all miserable together, but being boys of fifteen, thirteen, and twelve, they knew not how to express their anguish without the angst of adolescence entering into their feelings. Cabhrin was bid to come in the house, Aiden was ordered to fix the plough if he could, Adaoire was told to walk to the southern field and bet the better of his dour humour, and Breigh was asked to clean his Cabhrin’s wound. A violent fit of coughing stopped their father from saying more, and Calleen was instantly at his side to help him back into the house. The twins went in opposing directions to do as their father commanded and relieve themselves of their equal agitation, and Breigh conveyed Cabhrin into the house, bringing him to the hallway where Shirse and Lochan were playing. He was sat down and given a cloth to hold over his eye while Breigh went in quest of some linen gauze, Shirse was hopping up and down demanding to know what had happened, Lochan was frowning at him with all the concern that a child who had no idea of quarrels could furnish, and Martje was lying happily in her crib, croosling to herself as Breigh rocked her back and forth and sat down to clean his brother’s wound.
“Wasn’t my fault,” Cabhrin remembered saying.
“No one said it was, Cabh,” said Breigh, dabbing Cabhrin’s cut with warm gauze.
The incident was not Cabhrin’s doing, but he did feel that it was, for had he not ventured outside, this never should have happened. Aiden and Adaoire would have fought one another, would probably have stopped after a few blows, and there would have been an end to all the frustration frothing in each of them, but Cabhrin went out, to be sore and angry, and probably to vent some of his own frustrations on them, and he was properly punished. His eyes were turned form Breigh as he cleansed his cut, the sting of which reminded him never again to intrude upon one of Aiden and Adaoire’s arguments, and he turned toward his father’s room, where the door slightly ajar permitted him a view of his mother helping his father to his bed. His father’s motions were painfully slow, his limbs a wreck of shambling agony, and once he was laid down upon the bed, his mother set to work wiping the perspiration from his brow and giving him water.
“You shouldn’t have gone out there, Caoimh,” he heard his mother say, as she dabbed a cloth over his father’s face.
His father coughed and wrenched and hemmed. “Had to do it, Cal,” he rasped. “The boys wouldn’t stop fightin’.”
Calleen shook her head and gave a tearful sigh. “They’re always fightin’ these days. I don’t know what’s got into ‘em.”
Cabhrin saw their father reach for their mother’s hand and place it over his heart. “It’s my fault, Cal,” said he, in a dreadful voice. “They’re fightin’ ‘cause I’m not there to manage ‘em and teach ‘em right.” Cabhrin saw their father raise a hand to her cheek. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, restraining his tears. “I’m sorry this is happenin’, and I’m sorry I can’t do anythin’ to make it better.”
“We’re doin’ what we can,” Calleen muttered, trying not to look at her husband’s face.
Cabhrin caught the hint of his father’s movements turning her face to meet his. “It’s gonna get worse, Cal,” he said quietly, his voice faltering, “a lot worse.”
Tears ran abundantly down his mother’s cheeks, and all she said was, “Here’s yer tonic, Caoimh,” though her aspect was speaking a more meaningful conviction.
Breigh had been saying something about this being a most trying time for everyone and they must all do the best they could for the good of the family, but Cabhrin could not hear; he could only listen to his father’s regrets and solemn apologies. How horrid his mother must feel, how bitterly their father must resent his condition and regret his wife’s having to care for him, and these distressing cogitations working on a defeated mind made Cabhrin quit the house, escaping his brother’s tender palpations and racing down the hall, out the door and hastening down the lane as quickly as his legs would allow. 

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Story for #ValentinesDay: The Bangstraw and the Whistle -- Part 2

Happy Brigid's Day! To honour the Frewyn holiday, which ushers in the coming of spring, we gave a new novella to all our patrons! And now, the second part of a piece featured in the novella, the Bangstraw and the Whistle:

Cabhrin’s whistle was in his hand at last, once he had hardened himself toward accepting it; Breigh’s reception of his gifts assisted Cabhrin in accepting his own, and the more Cabhrin had
distinguished and lauded the instrument, the more he reveled in it, the more indebted he felt. It was a privilege even to hold such an finely crafted instrument, with its elegant design and sleek form, and that it should be his, the overpowering notion of his being allowed to keep it, to play it whenever he chose, to cherish it as a family remembrancer, even to leave it as an heirloom for his nephews in future, was all his happy vexation. He turned the mouthpiece up, twisted it about to investigate for breaks or leaks in the seal, and when he set it to rights, he held the mouthpiece to his lips, and exhaled, his breath reviving the instrument, conjuring attenuated and hirrent notes, the nascent sounds animating the lifeless, the respiration producing multisonous trill in answer to what his fingertips commanded. His fingers fluttered, the twitter and chuttering of shortened notes rang out in vibrant fritinancy, and after treading the scales, he broke out in a tune, his head and shoulders swaying to the rhythm, keeping jig time while his fingers flew about the chamber, his quick changes producing mellifluous notes all in clamourous and harmonious agreement. His foot tapped out measure signature, and his hands followed what his memory would replicate, reiterating melodies and recounting refrains, moving continuously from one tune to another, his breath seamless, his movement constant. He stopped suddenly, to look at the whistle and adjusted the mouthpiece, and then, as though never having ceased, he continued playing, picking up from the very note he left off. The jig was soon finished, and Cabhrin, trilling out his last note with a long exhalation and wavering finger over the chamber, was highly gratified, admiring his gift with such pleasance, such approbation, that no one could doubt his esteem.
“It’s a great piece altogether,” said Cabhrin, in a blithesome tenor. “Such a clear sound. My other whistle has more storm to it. On some tunes, sounds like she’s tryin’ to put the wind in the sails. This one--” marveling at the silver whistle, “Chune, this one sounds like Westren mountain lark, chirpin’ in the trees.”
“Aye, it’s a beautiful sound,” said Breigh. “Will you play another, Cabh?”
“He’ll play another,” said Jaicobh, leaning back his chair and reaching to the corner of the room, where sat his bangstraw waiting to be played. He laid the instrument on his lap, his left hand caressing the neck while his right plucked the strings. A few awkward notes rang out in a dissonant pitch, and he set to work on retuning, twisting the tuning screws with one hand whilst plucking on the same string continuously with the other. “Here, you start a set since yer practiced,” said Jaicobh, turning the last string.”
“What should I play?” Cabhrin asked, alternately wiping his palms with his thighs.
“Anythin’ as long as it stays in the same key.” Jaicobh strummed the bangstraw, and it gave a metallic and reverberating thrum. “I’m no good at key or rhythm changes. The Majesty plays ‘em all, switchin’ from jigs to reels to some of those impossible tunes he likes playin’ just to show us how terrible we are.”
“Jaicobh,” said Calleen, with playful reproach, “you know the Majesty loves playin’. Sure, his grandda the Good Majesty taught him everythin’ about music, and he’s played since he was a wee-un.”
“Aye. We old folk who learn later in life can’t stand up to practiced folk like him.” Here was a wink at his wife, and Jaicobh plucked out the first few notes of the impending set. “’Mon, Cabhrin-bai, let’s have it, then. I’ll follow you.”
Cabhrin charily began, starting with a slow jig and keeping only to the melody, and then moving faster, his fingers floating along the chamber, the rhythm quickening, his feet tapping with more alacrity, and Jaicobh began to play. He plucked out the tune, letting Cabhrin take a counter melody, the purl of the strings resonating in contrast to the light and skipping sounds of Cabhrin’s playing. He followed well, playing the harmony when Cabhrin took the main, and after a tune was played three times in succession, he did well to follow Cabhrin’s lead, looking at his hands for which note to play next, and beginning to play triplets on tunes he knew best.
They played together for some time, entertaining the party as well as regaling themselves, deliciating in every musical variation, calling out which tune was next to be played, ruining notes and screening errors with alterations, and changing pace and key accordingly, but while Jaicobh and Cabhrin were lavishing one another with an equal and blissful composition, and Breigh was gratulating in the sounds with joyous interest, Calleen watched the performance with a palpitating heart. Her vexation increased as the music endured, but it was a joyous distress on her side, her mind in a thrill of exhilaration over seeing her son and her husband play together. She palpated her chest with her hand, endeavouring to quiet her nerves, but her happiness was too great, the gaiety which their music produced too joyous, her rapture numbing, their felicity a triumph, the blithesomeness of the house entire besieging. Music had worked Cabhrin’s cure: it was a something to draw him out, a something to connect them, a something to attach Cabhrin to Jaicobh, if not as a father then as a friend and confidante. She had been anxious to see them make a better acquaintance, and where she had feared that Cabhrin should never wish to know Jaicobh intimately, here was confirmation of all her ambitions: they had allied over music, rallying in one another and uniting over fipples and frets, and the faster and more unified they played, the more Calleen struggled to compose herself. She was in an ecstasy to see them together, honouring the convergence more than she was esteeming the harmony of their music. Cabhrin might yet harbour feelings of uneasiness toward Jaicobh, but his countenance when he played betrayed no ill will toward the old farmer: each was as cheerful and as amiable as their music allowed, and they played to the enjoyment of one another and to the tearful but blithesome agitation of Calleen.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Story for the Day: The Bangstraw and the Whistle -- Part 1

Frewyn has many national instruments, including the 8-string Frewyn fiddle, the warpipes, and the mandolin, but while there are many instruments that can boast of being in the official running, the bangstraw and the tin whistle, though beloved, are considered to be on the peasant end of the instrumental hierarchy of the kingdom. The bangstraw, which is something like a banjo, was supposedly invented in Marridon by farmers and somehow made its way down to the fields of Sethshire, where it was popularized by farmhands and carried across the country. The tin whistle has a similar story, but was brought to Frewyn by sailors instead of farmers. Both instruments are played in traditional sets, though outside of the kingdom they are disparaged and disregarded as having no merit in the musical community. Those who can play them well, however, must certainly prove these claims wrong:

Calleen and Breigh carried the chief of the conversation, talking of the dairy and of Glaoustre, of the state of the roads from Sethshire to Tyfferim, of the good weather they had coming in to Tyfferim, of how they must have gloried in the sun’s ascent of early morning, Calleen addressing
both her children, Cabhrin hardly saying anything, and Breigh always speaking where his brother was silent. Jaicobh saw it-- he could not but see how apprehensive and reserved Cabhrin was when called on to speak to the table. When speaking to Breigh, Cabhrin could say many things, but when speaking to his mother or to the party as a whole, Cabhrin looked only at his plate, the teapot, and his cup, giving a few chary glances and nervous smiles to Jaicobh, but attending his mother when she spoke while fiddling with his fingers in his lap. He was fearful of saying anything that might offend, or he was anxious for approval, but why Cabhrin should be anxious around Jaicobh was unconscionable to the man who had told Adaoire to make a point of inviting him. Perhaps it was being in a new house that was distressing him, or perhaps seeing his mother loved by someone who was not his father was painful for him. Whatever Cabhrin’s difficulties, Jaicobh should not advance them, and while Breigh was telling his mother of a few new apprentices he was training, Jaicobh inched his chair closer to Cabhrin and said, “Hope you brought yer whistle along.”
Cabhrin spied Jaicobh from the corner of his eye and seemed surprised. “You do?”
“Sure. I was hopin’ you were gonna play a few tunes. Just had my old bangstraw restrung and I got a few new rounds I been practicin’ I wanna try out.”
 “Well,” said Cabhrin, with almost a cautious spirit, “I didn’t know you wanted me to play,” and after a moment’s reflection, he smiled to himself and turned toward Jaicobh with renewed zeal. “Sure, didn’t know you played much, Mr Jaicobh. Didn’t see you play at the weddin’ and all.”
“Well, I kept the ol’ bangstraw at home. I play it for the grandwee-uns when we’re together on holidays, or when we’re playin’ at the keep, but I didn’t think a weddin’ was right for it. I know everyone else brought their instruments, but I’m a rough player. I just pick out tunes once in th’while.”
“Go on now, Jaicobh,” said Calleen plaintively. “Sure, you can play better than anyone. I wanted him to play at the weddin’ but he said the bangstraw wasn’t nice enough.”
“It’s good for the taverns and the farms. I know the boys in Sethshire on the farms play them round the fires at night.”
 “But you never went to Sethshire for farmin’, Mr Jaicobh,” said Cabhrin. “You always stayed here.”
“Aye, Playin’ was somethin’ I picked up from yer great uncle Sheamas.”
Cabhrin looked bemused. “Sheamas? You mean my Da’s old uncle? The one what never had no wee-uns”
“Aye, he taught me a bit,“but I never much played it when he was around. After he and my Ma passed on, I played a bit more, durin’ the evenin’ hours in the winter. I played for Bou when she was younger, and I started pickin’ it up again after Maddie passed on.”
“You sure must know a lot of tunes, Mr Jaicobh,” said Cabhrin, “if you played with my great uncle.”
“Well, I don’t know that many. I just like practicin’ a few. You’ll have to show me some of those sea tunes you know. So,” returning to his first question, “did you bring yer whistle with you?”
Cabhrin looked solemn and hung his head. “No, Mr Jaicobh. I left it on the ship.”
“Good.” Jaicobh instantly stood from the table. “Now I can give you boys yer presents.”
Cabhrin’s brow bent. “Presents?”
“Aye, presents. Just because yer older doesn’t mean you don’t get presents. I’m a Grandda. I got present-givin’ rights.”
“Ma,” said Breigh, with gentle reproach, “What this now about presents?”
“You hush yerself now, Breigh,” said Calleen, in a defensive tone. “Yer always sendin’ us somethin’ when we say not to. Now here’s yer own back.”
Breigh and Cabhrin would have demurred, but it was useless to protest against such paternal consideration. Their mother and Jaicobh would insist, and there was nothing they could do but sigh and be grateful. Jaicobh went into the bedchamber to fetch the gifts when Cabhrin suddenly exclaimed, “Wait—how is there a present for me? How’d you know I was comin’?”
“Well,” said Jaicobh, returning with two small boxes in his hand, “we would’ve sent it to you if you hadn’t come, but I figured you show up sometime.”
He shrugged and reclaimed his seat at the table, and after perusing the labels on each of the boxes, he put the larger one in front of Cabhrin and the smaller in front of Breigh.
“Go on, boys,” Jaicobh urged them. “Don’t have to be shy at the table,” and then, quietly to Cabhrin, “You can guess what yers is.”
Indeed Cabhrin had no idea what his present could be, and with profound indebtedness and some bemusement did Cabhrin open the box. He removed the lid and placed it aside, and within was a long and thin article shrouded in a red packing cloth. He touched it, the item’s hard surface shrouded by a silken texture, and when he pulled back the paper, what was his amazement upon finding a Frewyn whistle there, laying in argentine triumph on a red cushion. “This is never for me,” was Cabhrin’s first exclamation, said with a scoff and a look of disbelief.
“Aye, it’s for you,” Jaicobh insisted. “Yer Ma had it made for you.”
Cabhrin gaped at his mother and awaited further explanation.
“Sure, I knew you’d like it,” said she, with a coy sense of satisfaction. “The one you have is good, Cabh, and I know yer captain gave it to you, but if it’s so meanin’ful to you, you oughta have one for carryin’ around and have the other one for safe keepin’. This one you can bring with you whenever you come ashore, or if you don’t want to take it on the ship with you, you can leave it here, to play whenever yer visitin’.”
Cabhrin heard only half of his mother’s speech; he was far too engrossed in his gift to give her all the attention she deserved, its silver sheen and unexceptionable make whelming his senses: its long frame and well crafted fipple, with its smoothed mouthpiece and rounded corners, claimed all his interest,  his fingertips grazing the chamber and smoothing over all the minutiae of its construction. The engraving along the body, the interwoven lines braiding around the holes and joining at the bottom was all his regale, and he breathed in awe and marveled at being the owner of such a treasure. He turned it on its side and examined the back: instead of finding the usual manufacturing line leading from the head piece to the bottom where the metal had been tempered and tapered, there Cabhrin found his own name engraved into the sliver. His fingers followed the imprint while his mind was in a torrent of sanguine misery, overjoyed that such an item should have been so tailored, and in agonies that his mother should have done it, rendering it inconsolable that he should accept it. Affluence had never been theirs as a family; they were always used to lay by as much as they could and live as well as possible on a small income, and though they never wanted for anything as children and scarcely sought material comfort as adults, Cabhrin felt such a gift was a real indulgence. There were houses and businesses between the families, and everyone was very liberal with their resources, the children of the family providing everything in the way of fare and entertainment, and the grandchildren between the two families never doing without, but pleasant relations, kindly conversancy, and appreciation of one another was the currency which purchased affection in their house. Presents, though always given, were fashioned at home and never purchased, and any present Calleen could make to her children had always been made by herself, but here was such a magnificent exhibition of craftsmanship and such an extraordinary piece that Cabhirn could not but feel atrocious for complying with its receipt.
“Do you like it, Cabh?” Calleen asked, looking expectantly across the table.
“It’s silver, Ma…” was all Cabhrin’s answer.
“Well, the one you got on the ship is tin,” said Jaicobh, taking the whistle from the box. “We thought we’d do somethin’ different.”
Jaicobh held the whistle out to him, and it gleamed in the soft light, begging to be picked up and played and recognized. Cabhrin reached out and touch it, but drew back his hand, feeling that if he should take it up, he would be obliged to keep it and purchase all the compunction to compliment his acceptance.