Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Story for the Day: Gearrog Revisits

Gearrog the Brickmaker is a famous brick and tile maker from a small town in northeastern Westren. He's known in Westren as a master builder, but to the kingdom, and especially to the castle keep, he is known as Vyrdin's saviour. He was the man who reported and testified against Carrighan, the man who made himself Vyrdin's tormentor before Vyrdin came to the keep, and while Gearrog was well-rewarded for his honesty and bravery in coming forward and saving Vyrdin's young life, he still tends his kilns and returns home to Westren for the autmn hunts when he can:

Borras,” Dirrald breathed, gawping at the chandelier and following it upward to the skylight. “I
never thought this place would look like thess. Ah never thought there’d be o’ thess glass. From the outside—well, from where we were standin’—the lodge looks liek it’s maed from brick and stone.”
                “Aye,” said Bhaunbher, in a thrill of wonder. “Ah didnae think this place would be known for its craftsmanship. Ah thought it was just gonna be another huntin’ lodge, with skins and pelts everywhere and o’ that. This is amazin’-- but how does the glass keep in o’ the heat in the winter? True there’s a grand fire in the middle, but near the windows, it must be cold.”
                “Cold?” Edmahrid exclaimed, in laughing astonishment. “You speak like an old maid instead of a fearsome hunter, lad. Here you worry about cold when we must go out and hunt in all weather.”
                “Aye, we dae, but what about o’ these visitors and workers? What about the wee-uns? There are swarms o’ ‘em. Ah didnae thenk there’d be so manae at a huntin’ lodge.”
                “For some of them, the lodge is their home, lad. For others, it is where their parents work, and they join them here for an education in the chapel instead of attending lessons in the town, where they might spend the better part of their day without the company of their mothers and fathers. Other children are frequent visitors, coming with their families from the neaby towns. Their parents watch the hunt and support the local tradesmen, and the children use their time here as a holiday—it nearly is a holiday for the entire villiage. Vendors bring all their wares here for the trading pavilion, musicians travel here to entertain, and even some of the dancers from Hallanys come when they can, to promote themselves and to take in all the regalia. You need not worry about the cold or the children, lad. There is always something to occpy them, for if they are not being looked after by the Brother, they are attacking the caramel apple cart or racing each other through the field, or trying to ride the boar or betting which one of them will be able to milk the goats. Believe me, lad, as one who is often here, I tell you they are busy kept and always warm when there is a fire on. There are pelts aplenty for them to hide under, and many of them will willingly stand beside the oven if it means Deana will offer them bolaig enough to feed a bear.”
                Bhaunbher grimaced and looked doubtful.  “We liek it well enough, but Ah doant thenk a bear-bear would eat it. The smell o’ it cookin’ might repell ‘em.”
                “Aye,” said Bhaunbher. “Dirrald and Ah were cookin’ it once when we were first stationed in the mountains, and the smell aff it near killed yin o’ the brown bears lurkin’ the area.”
                “It did. We watched hem comin’ toward us, and when Bhaunbher took the lid from the pot, the smoke rose up and carried over the mountain side, and when it reached hem, he reared and ran. He as onlae a cub, but Ah thenk we offended his ideas o’ eatin’.”
                Eadmhaird laughed heartily and shook his head. “Bolaig is enough to fill any stomach and offend any tongue. I had never eaten it until I came to the Westren. I admit to not being fond of it at first, but when the snow came to the mountains, I ate more of it than I ever thought I should. A hard working man hungry enough will eat anything which promises to fill him, lad—“ here was a sly smile, “--which would explain the west’s unnatural love for mardeam. All the farmers, horse breeders, artisans and craftsmen in the kingdom must be poor enough and hardy enough to eat something that tastes like salted tar—Isn’t that so, Gearrog?”
                Eadmhaird turned, and just approaching from the corridor was Gearrog, emerging from the teeming crowds with all his usual good nature and hale self-determination.
                “Aye, no denyin’ it,” said he, thrusting his hand forth and clasping Eadmhaird’s, giving it a stout shake, “mardeam tastes like the wrong end o’ the sardine barrel, but it’s good for ye. That’ll put the hair on ye, though—“ eyeing Dirrald and Bhaunbher, “don’t think yous lads need anymore than what yous got. Lucky for yous lads all that hair’s just yer arms. Yous lads don’t got a big ol’ wheat stalk sproutin’ up from yer chest like some o’ these walkin round here.”
                He nodded toward Eadmhaird, glanced cautiously at the top of his chest, where sprouted a dark and brambled tuft,  and Gearrog winked at him and gave his back a hardy slap, and Eadmhaird returned the sentiment, patting Gearrog’s shoulder with the same if not more generous affection.
“Glad to see you, Gearrog,” said Eadmhaird, in a kindly hue. “Glad to see you anywhere that is not beside your kilns.”
“Aye,” said Gearrog, with an amorous sigh, “Rough workin’ the kilns, so it is, but it’s where I love to be masel’—and someone’s gotta be makin’ all these bricks here anyway.”
“Ye repair the lodge?” asked Bhaunbher.
Gearrog shrugged. “Someone’s gotta. I put in all this new brick here in the entrance just last year. Took me the while to get all the mortar in the archway just right, but,” with a pout of proud conviction, “she’s is holdin’ up right well an’ some.”
“And you have not been here since then,” said Eadmhaird archly, the glint in his eye dancing about. “What do you do in your Farriage workshop that requires to much attention you cannot visit your home oftener? They have no need of your bricks and tiles in the east as we do.”
“Aye, well, sure they don’t have as many brick buildin’s and houses like we do here in the west, but eastern folk sure do know how to break things easier. I’m not hurtin’ for business, mind—folk just stopped breakin’ things. Only took ‘em Gods know how long. I like workin’ as much as the next workin’ lad, but there ain’t bolaig enough in the east to keep me goin’ half so long durin’ the eastern winters: they’re wetter, they’re colder—they’re colder ‘cause they’re wetter—and can’t get anyone to make a decent bolaig out there. They’re always leavin’ out all the best parts, like the sheep livers and pork lard. Glad to be in this here lodge— the place smelled o’ bolaig comin’ up to it. Near ran the last stretch of the way just to have first batch of what the cook was takin’ out o’ the fire.” He closed his eyes, inhaled, and gave a prolonged and gratified exhalation. “Yous lads smell that? That’s the smell o’ Westren, that is. Growin’ up in Hathleidh, that’s anybody ever had, bein’ a village of labourin’ lads.”
“So is that why you’ve decided to visit? Was there no bolaig left in the east?“
Gearrog tapered his gaze, and  Eadmhaird simpered to himself.
 “Finally a break in the work,” was Gearrog’s kind answer. “Finished my last order near two week ago. I says I gotta get home before somebody come and ask me for somethin’ so’s I can enjoy my holiday this year. I was hopin’ to beat the first snow, and hasn’t snowed yet. Had a bit o’ frost, but nothin’ to worry by, nothin’ I can’t travel on. Stayin’ here for the hunt, then goin’ northeast to see the ol’ home. Might be there the while so’s I can do what repairs need doin’ on the house. Yous two lads wanna bring yer kills there, I’ll fire up the kiln and put the potatoes and butter on the spade.”
Dirrald and Bhaunbher glanced charily at one another.
“Ach, don’t worry yerselves, lads,” said Gearrog, waving a hand at them. “We brickmakers cook everythin’ in the kiln. It’s as sanitary as yous lasds cold want. I says when I gotta stay by the kiln for days on end, there ain’t no time to be goin’ back and forth to the house, doin’ the cookin’, mindin’ the stove when I got a kiln to tend.”
“There would be, if you had someone to live with you,” said Eadmhaird.
Gearrog’s face floddered, and he chuffed, waving the hunter off. “Go on way outta that now, “ and then turning to Dirrald and Bhaunbher, “always gotta make it about bein’ unattached. You ain’t attached to nothin’.”
“And so I hope not to be for a long time coming. I am still far too young for that.”
Gearrog gave a dry laugh. “Ha!” he rasped, “Talkin’ all confused now. Yer older than me. Ye might like that autonomy ye got, but can’t say I know any man or women who’d stand the smell aff ye when yer covered in deer fewmets.”
“The animals don’t mind it,” was all Eadmhaird’s defense. “And while they do not assist me in making dinner, they are dinner in one form or another.”
 “Well, I got my shovel and my kiln for cookin’. Yous two lads ever had bacon and eggs from the kiln?”
Dirrald and Bhaunbher shook their heads and seemed suspicious.
“Ach, brigade-folk don’t know what’s good. What’re yous lads learnin’ up in the mountains? Not how to cook right, I says. Yous lads gotta learn efficiency. If yous had a kiln up there—“ Here Eadmhaird stared at the ceiling, silently pining over how Gearrog would be led to talk of kilns and brickmaking if asked, “--If yous got a kiln, yous lads got everythin’ yous’re gonna need: yous got heat, yous got a stove, and yous got a light source what can be covered—and if yer after a bit o’ craic, yous can bring some apples to the boil and harvest a steam cider outta it. Yous just build a kiln from straw and mud, light it, and put yer bolaig or what it is yer wantin’ on a clean shovel, and once that kiln’s burnin’ at full heat, yer bolaig’ll come out roasted. Send the whole mountainside full o’ bears runnin’ away from yous. Well, Borras, I’d go on, but I see the eyes startin’ to go. Ach, it can’t be helped for nothin’. I been at my kilns so long--”  
“That your desire for variety has dragged you away from them at last…” Eadmhaird interposed. He paused and looked sagacious. “With true affection for your profession, I wonder that you can be here so long. You come for the hunts, but you must stay for someone if you mean to be torn from your beloved furnace.”
Gearrog  scoffed and folded his arms. “Aye, have it,” he humphed. “G’on, geez it a go and let it all out, pointin’ the finger at me and takin’ the craic out o’ me when ye ain’t got no one yerself. Been just fine these years with nary a trouble and I don’t go lookin’ for none neither, if ye folla me. I life mahsel’ as mahsel’, so I do, don’t mind tellin’ ye. Don’t mind if this lodge was meant as a meetin’ place for all the hoghmagandy in the west. I says I’ll have none of it, and shise shin, so I won’t. I’ll leave it to yous lads,” nodding toward Bhaunbher and Dirrald. “Sure ‘em pelts yous lads got there’ll attach a few minnows to yer lines.”
Dirrald looked as though he had little idea what the brickmaker meant. “Hoghmagandy?”
“Sure.” Gearrog glanced at the balcony above them. “Every hunter in the kingdom comes here for a bit o’ craic before the hunt—and after the hunt too, the afters probably to make ‘emselves feel better for losin’ to Eadmhaird. There are a hundred rooms in this here lodge, not all of ‘em lived in. What yous think all ‘em rooms are for?” He quirked a brow. “Hunters sleep outside when they don’t got company, if yous lads folla me.”
He pointed to the railing above, where stood four young couple, the men seasoned hunters, with their hulking pelts, dark complexions, and defined forms, and the women, their eyes bright and smiles still brighter, reveling in the close conversancy that such familiarity afforded: a delicate touch, a sobering glare, a whispered vulgarity—these were what charmed their few moments away from the great hall and brought them into a hunter’s arms. Dirrald and Bhaunbher looked and looked away, their complexions crimsoning over as they spied vales being fondled, napes being caressed, parted lips looming close to one another.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Story for the Day: The Hunting Lodge

In time for Frewyn's Mean Fomhair, the last harvest of the year, the hunting lodge at Westren begins their hunting season, inviting men and women from all over the kingdom to partake in the grand event:
This is a photo from Chateau Montabello, the inspiration for the text below.
Three hundred Frewyn hunters were gathered, all of them engaged in conversation over the impending event, exchanging pleasantries and inspecting one another’s new pelts, talking of the season, of the harvest, of Mean Fomhair and Seamhir, everything to do with the end of Frewyn’s autumn that could interest, their amiable aspects and good spirits inundating the great hall. Upon entering the lodge, Dirrald and Bhaunbher had expected to be met with one large dining room, fitted up with all the necessary accoutrements, with a few smaller rooms to the side, a state room or an office, but there were no such chambers here: the whole of the interior was one prodigious hall, a spacious cavern decapitated by an impossible ceiling, the walls fashioned from gargantuan brick and dry mortar, whitewashed over and carefully smoothed, the back wall an accomplishment of Westren’s glassworks, large standing panes of double sided glass, opening the prospect of the slope leading to the woods, the line of trees leading to the hunting area just within view, inviting the sunlight and offering a comprehensive view of the sky. The door leading to the kitchen was situated at the far end, its one pane-less window glowing with warmth, the scented smoke of baked pies frothing from iron stoves and billowing forth, mounting the winding stair just beside which lead to the upper floor, where men and women stood on the landing, perched over the railing of a bowed balcony, metalworked and prettily done, and above them within the wall was a bay window, where the nobles from eastern Westren on feriation sat, presiding over the hall entire from their position at the bottom of the spire, which could only be reached by way of the corridor on the upper landing. The dining hall, which claimed the chief of the space, was well furnished with row after row of tables and benches, carved from aged oak, varnished in a deep mahogany hue, complementing the wall of honours to the left as they stepped in, a standing exposition of accomplishment and triumph, plaques tiling the wall, decorated with the names of Frewyn’s premiere hunters, venerating  the kingdom’s ancient huntsmen, like Tirlough and Mharacabhi, and their more recent rivals, Eadmhaird’s name being everywhere that a hart’s antlers were mounted, etched in gold plating, the gilded names of many shimmering lutescent against the rays penetrating the hall from the glass wall beside. Sconces roosted along the close wall, their luminescent counterparts hanging down from the high ceiling, decorated round with unlit candles, the top of the chandelier wreathed with elaborate plageting. Every corner of the hall was adorned with stunning artistry, and every row between the tables were garlanded by hunters, their rural and rugged appearances and animated characters in contrast to quiet elegance of so wondrous an accommodation. Various parties formed, hunters came and went amongst them, joining one table for some minutes and then leaving to join another, all of them exchanging discourse and designs on where their hunt would begin and by what method they should scour the woods, debating their points with fervent animation, inviting their friends to see how wrong their approach was by inviting their their tables to take their meal with them, those in the part already sitting attacking the communal platters of roasted meats and steamed potatoes. Someone called out for more stewed carrots, a cry went up for tea, which garnered its due aspersions for hunters having anything to do with tea when there was grog to be got, a rasping laugh succeeded and surrendered into a ripple of mirth, a symphony of raucous raillery rising and falling in choral undulations of hardy guffaws, their cacchinations of sanguine insobriety pervading the hall, while they leant on one another, embracing each other with a few stout pats on the back, their voices baying in joyous propination, raising their drinks to their fellow huntsmen before calling out for another round.  The serving girls, dressed in their traditional hunting dresses, with ruffled low blouses and corseted pinafores, the tops of their bare breasts bobbing up and down as they conveyed stout and cider from the bar and pasties from the kitchen, their arms laden with treys, their hands furnished with bouquets of full thurindales, their agreeable aspects admired by all those they served, their kind remarks of listening sympathy earning them many a copper, weaving in and out of the crowds on light feet, whilst endeavouring to avoid the  children who were scampering about, hastening in and out of side corridor in a blaze of juvenile excitement, racing to the chapel to beg the Brother for stories and sweetcake, and hurrying toward the farm, to plead the farmer’s permission to ride the new ram just brought in for tupping. The clucks of chickens and neighs of horses echoed down the corridor leading to the coop and stables, and the farmer and farrier talked of crop yields and horses needing to be shod, whilst the groom cleaned his brushes and whispered to new arrivals just bringing in from outside. Men and women issued forth from the corridor to the front desk, where registration slips and hunting licenses were giving away, where keys to the many rooms upstairs hung pendulous from iron hooks, where the proprietor and groundskeeper, dressed in their pristine suits, moved about in a quiet bustle, exchanging salutations and addressing everyone by name, asking visitors if they might not take their coats and hats, greeting everyone hunter with convivial assurances of their usual rooms being just ready for them. To the side of the front desk were the post boxes, some empty and some packed with letters, where the Scoaleigh for the lodge stood, delivering all the messages he had conveyed hither from town, accepting parcels and packages to take on his journey back from the passing gentry, who would have their messages delivered directly, that they might tell everyone on their estate how they all were and that they were all arrived in time for the hunt.  The Scoaligh soon quitted the lodge, passing large vestibule in his way, where pelts and mantles were hung up and swaying with each opening of the door, concealing a small side door, through which the farmhands came and went to reach the back of the lodge, some of them just coming in from having turned the silage, eager to enjoy some of the ale on tap, their stomachs wambling violently as the cook passed by with bowls of bolaig, conveying her trey to the centre of the great hall as quickly as the ravening hunters following in her train would admit. She stopped at the large firepit, lined with stone and piled high with pieces of oak, split and dried, stacked in stooks, the flames from the bonfire waving to everyone as they passed, the smoke from the fire weltering up in black curls and leaving the lodge through the ceiling, by way of a gap in the open fenestration, the hall being well heated by the uncovered and unhindered flame, acting its part and transforming the dining hall into a kiln, warming every huntsman, every visitor, every worker, and proffering cheer to all those who stood about its boundaries and exulted in its amber saltation.The nidor of braised beef, the mellifluous scent of mead, the gaiety of visitors arriving from the village, the aubade of hymns from the church, the crepitation of the fire, the petrichor of the grass still damp with dew—every sound and scent associated with the end of Frewyn’s fruitful year permeated the lodge, and Dirrald and Baunbher stood for some time in awe of the place, glorying in all its minutiae, its garnishings, its trappings and trimmings, its inhabitants and its workers, its main area a paracosm of life regaled, its corridors a trove of spirit and activity.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It's time for our #Halloween #Giveaway!

The holidays are upon us! To begin the autumn holiday season, we are participating in the Spook-tacular Giveaway Hop, hosted by I am a Reader. If you've been waiting to read our newest novella "A Holiday United", now is your chance! A copy of Recollections of Shared Days, which features the novella, is being given away! Click the link HERE to enter, and don't forget to leave a comment for an extra entry!