Friday, December 2, 2016

#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.

Friday, November 25, 2016

New book and #BlackFriday #CyberMonday sales!

The holiday season has begun in earnest, and what better way to celebrate the Frewyn High Holidays than with a new book. This Ailineighdaeth (December 23rd), The Ship's Crew, the third in the Marridon novella series, will be released. The book picks up where the Baracan left off, and is the conclusion to the Leaf Flute story.

Speaking of which, beginning this Friday, the Leaf Flute will be on sale for only 0.99$.

The book will remain on sale from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, and can be downloaded at its on-sale price on Amazon worldwide.

Already have the book? You can gift it to a friend for Giving Tuesday, or purchase it now at the on-sale price and schedule a digital gift delivery to a friend or family member for the holidays.

Happy Harvest (Thanksgiving), and happy reading!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Story for the Day: The Election -- Part 2 #Nanowrimo

We all have days-- or months, or years in some instances-- where it seems as though nothing can go right, and through no fault of our own. When this happens, there is only one thing for it: to walk about in the fresh air, lament your life, and let Harrigh the gardener make everything right again.

A change of air would be all Alasdair’s comfort, and with a bow and a quiet “I will tell Harold that we will beginning court a little later this morning,” from Breandan, Alasdair took up the paper, folded it and tucked it into his pocket, and went out, to traipse through the foxtail and fescue in the far field, Could their kings never manage their lords? Could their lords never manage their knights? Must their gentry always degrade and depress? And if Gallei should ever be at peace for more than five minutes together, will its people willingly accept self-sovereignty at last? And could this election begin another war? were all questions which wracked Alasdair’s heart, carrying with him through courtyard and into the garden. He tried to laugh off his fears by blaming Gallei’s national discomfiture on their sartorial sterility and contemptable food, but the threat of another Galleisian insurgence could not be laughed away. Galleisian discontentment had always been aimed at Frewyn’s way of life, and there was no one stopping them from living a life of religious and cultural independence but themselves. They created a needless distance between our people, their jealousy or frustration at being oppressed has caused so much harm to both our nations. Historically, it was always Gallei that began any war, and just as historically, it was always Frewyn who won them. Why did they that Frewyn practicing its freedoms was somehow hurting theirs, and why did they believe that hurting others who had nothing to do with their misery was the way to resolve their problems? Why can’t understand that hurting anyone for any reason is wrong? It doesn’t take an educated man to know that attacking someone who is not doing anything to you is wrong.
and to gratulate in all the succour that the chyrme of daws and the sussuration of nearby trees could offer. The royal monument and the sight of Gaumhin’s osprey kiting about across the canopy of the royal wood did something to soothe his spirits, but the question of why this had happened, why Gallei must forever waver on the precipice of civil unrest, lingered in his mind.
                Alasdair passed the sweep gate, and the statue dedicated to his grandfather caught his eye. You were the beacon of Frewyn’s cultural liberties, was his private lamentation, spoken in silence and directed to the wise and noble head. You brought us to a Golden Era, very few people ever disagreed with you or defied you-- barring Dobhin’s father, of course—but you helped make Frewyn terribly happy. We are hardly richer than Gallei, we have no slavery, no serfdom, no oppressive taxation, and Gallei will hate us. Gallei didn’t hate you, or at least the Galleisians pretended not to. You reigned for sixty-eight years, and they hardly started a skirmish until the end, and that wasn’t your doing.Why are they doing this now? They’re hurting their own people for wanting the same things that Frewyns have always had.Will there be other mobs? Will they just attack anyone they suspect of trying to be more independent of Galleisian law? Will they start locking up their women to keep them from voting? I know Dealeanna and Tris had a difficult time leaving their families in Gallei, and I don’t want to be the cause of more suffering for young girls there. The Gods know they have had more than their share of cruelty at the hands of their nonsensical regulations. But is that it? Are they rebelling only because we think they’re oppressive? As it is, I will have to send the Royal Guard there to protect whomever Rodkin chooses to represent as Regent. I wish he had not decided to step down. I can order him not to give up the position, but that would be taking away his freedom if I did that. He was so well-liked—well, at least, everyone I know of liked him. He is a lord, he is fair and generous, and he certainly doesn’t turn out his workers because he has to start paying them a decent living wage—“Oh, good morning, Harrigh,” said Alasdair, passing the old gardener.
                Harrigh was perched over the flower beds, humming a Glaoustre hymn to himself. “Mornin’, Yer Majesty,” said he, his voice ebbing out of his wrinkled lips in a strained rale. He waved to the king and turned toward his roses, but Alasdair stopped at the edge of the fountain, to remark his reflection in the water and indulge in pleasanter views, and Harrigh grew anxious for his sovergien’s well being. He crambled toward him, and with a bow and marked concern, he said, “I can’t think of pryin’, Yer Majesty, but oughtn’t you go to see the cleric? Yer Majesty isn’t lookin’ a bit worse for the wear.”
                “What? Oh--” said Alasdair, rousing, “I’m all right, Harrigh, thank you. Just a little fatigued I think is really all.”
                The old gardener’s face glunched, his deep wrines flumping over themselves as he inspected the dark gulleys under Alasdair’s eyes. “His Majesty has got the furrows, if I do say. Is His Majesty not sleepin’ a’tall?”
                “Actually, I slept brilliantly, so much so that I woke up an hour ago and wasn’t tired.” He looked pained and murmured, “I don’t think I’ll be sleeping that well tonight, however.” He would not distress Harrigh by any means; the gardener was as old as some of the stones laid on the battlements, he had been an old man when Alasdair was born, and while his health was exceptional for someone of his age, Alasdair was cautious not to agitate him with any disagreeable news. Everything must be gay and bright for Harrigh: the last relic from his grandfather’s time must not be harassed into fits of fretfulness; his work out of doors and the air of the gardens preserved him, and though Harrigh was not a frangible old fogram, to be kept away from anything that might disconcert him, Alasdair would secure his happiness if he could. He put his hand on the gardener’s shoulder, and said, with gentle earnestness, “Thank you for your concern, Harrigh. If only all of us had your constitution.”
                The old gardener brandished his lone kag, jutting out of his mouth in defiance of his gums. “Bein’ the Majesty’s gardner an’ bein’ in amongst all the fluers and vegetables is what keeps me up to patch,” he proclaimed, his tooth gleaming. “And with Peigi and Blinn here to help me, I never feel the age much. I feel the weather more than I feel my age.”
                Here was a warm smile. “And we’re certainly glad for that,” said Alasdair, patting Harrigh’s back.
                The gardener’s eye gleamed. “Always be here to care for the fluers and vegetables, Yer Majesty, you may be sure.”
                “If only everyone was as kindly and dependable as you, Harrigh,” was Alasdair’s affable dispensation, said with all the fondness of a doting son.
                “Well,” said Harrigh, with a guffaw and a blush, “His Majesty does make it easy to be so concerned of a time.”
                “And I am certainly the better for your concern.”
                Harrigh was all joyous appreciation, and seeing his sovergien’s spirits somewhat revived, he said his goodmornings and noggled away to the cabbage beds, to scour the leaves and examine the loam for loopers, hummings his Glaoustre hymns, perfectly insensible of the anguish Alasadir was still cherishing, an anguish which followed Alasdair to the servants’ quarter. He had meant to return to the kitchen by way of the main hall and take in the view from the gallery, the scent of buttered toast and fresh scones lilting on the gentle morning breeze persuaded him to go to the servants’ hall instead.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Story for the Day: The Election -- Part 1 #NaNoWriMo

While Frewyn is a constitutional monarchy, the crown sometimes does hold municipal elections. Erieaneann, the Frewyn territory in Gallei, recently voted to become a permanent part of the kingdom, and while the result of the election was almost unanimous, there were some who were not so enthusiastic about the result.

Those who had lived in the annex for the last few years had been given the same liberties that all Frewyns enjoyed, and there perhaps, not to be disparaging, was the difference. Now every Galleisian in and around Erieneann was clamouring for Frewyn citizenship, and though the current Galleisian
king was a good man with civil disposition and fair principles, the edacity and cruelty of the knights and lords, the unmitigated supremacy with which they governed, was something no king without a conviction to protect his people could vanquish. The people of Gallei were still suffering, and while Uscen and Gallia had returned and had proven themselves to be kindly and beneficent, those who had learned to govern by way of repression would not relinquish the herolatry they had created. The people were dissenting, and they were rebelling in the only way they could: if remaining Galleisian was to remain under the adjuration of officious lords, they would be Galleisian no longer. It was recusancy run mad in a kingdom that was in desperate want of social reform, and instead of amending their doctrines and expanding their rights to those whose birthright was freedom, the peerage of Gallei were pulling the reins. There would be a rebellion at last, and Alasdair tried to acquit himself his compunction and reconcile himself to the notion that he was only giving the people of the annex what they wanted, and if he should be pressed to annul the results of the first election and formally return the annex to Gallei, there would be an immediate upheaval, one which, he could not but own, he had helped create.
                Here was a heavy sigh, and Alasdair went to the kitchen, to sit at the table and welter in silence, to deliciate in the view of the far field under the power of early morning, and ruminate over his tea and toast while considering matters of a more moderate hue, like introducing legislation that would make Count Rosse’s new codpiece a punishable offense worthy of imprisonment.
                Martje was still in her room with Shayne and Maggie, and as there was no one else about in the kitchen and Searle was in the servants’ quarters, managing about breakfast for Rosamound and Aldus, Alasdair filled the kettle and fired the range, pleased at any rate to be allowed to do something for himself without Searle or Martje insisting they do it for him. Why couldn’t the Galleisian king intervene? was the thought uppermost in Alasdair’s mind. Had he so little influence over his own lords? One decree in the House, signed and sealed by His Majesty, should settle the business, but he was too diffident a king, too lenient in his policies, too afraid to offend all the nobility to act. He was more worried about assassination than he was about securing the happiness and wellbeing of his people, and while the quiet and calculated elimination of kings was a celebrated pastime in Gallei, a determined and brazen king was all that Gallei needed to mend its injured society. The lords would lose, but that should be a loss on the right side, and Alasdair, pouring the water into his cup, praised his friends and allies in the Frewyn court, who would always act in favour of Frewyn as a whole when really pressed. He even had a kind word for Count Rosse, who, though disagreeable and victim of habilatory oversight, did not treat his servants with half the derision and cruelty that the Galleisian nobility practiced with their servants and tenants.
                The splendour of a clear morning, the aubade of blackbirds nesting in the nearby copse along the far field did something to assuage Alasdair’s agitations, but as he leaned back in his chair and sipped his tea, forviging all his anxieties and looking out at a sobering scene, Baronet Breandan appeared on the threshold, looking as apprehensive as Alasdair had previously felt.
                “Breandan,” Alasdair announced, righting himself. “You’re here early.”
                The Baronet made his polite bows. “I could say the same for you, sire,” was his quiet reply.
                He seemed unlike himself; the bent brows of apprehension, the parted lips of silent agony besieged Alasdair’s heart, and  Breandan approached, the usual good humour gone from his countenance, and Alasdair stood from his chair, his evil stars prevailing.
                “Have we received a message from Rodkin?” Alasdair asked, his cheeks beginning to flush. “I didn’t hear Scolaigh Norrington’s horse come in—“
                Breandan’s pursed lips and severe stares silenced him. A moment passed, and Breandan, with a hem and half a sigh, took something from his pocket. Alasdair glanced down, the Baronet was unfolding a sheet of paper, one that looked as though it had been torn from a roll at a printing press. Breandan exhaled and examined the sheet, and any hopes Alasdair harboured of the news being less severe than Breandan’s expression implied were all done away.
                “What’s happened?” Alasdair demanded, every agitation returning.
                Breandan turned the paper over and offered it to the king. It was the printoff of the morning’s copy of the Herald, the ink smudged from being pulled too soon from the press. “Cumhadh just handed this to me and charged me to show it to you,” said Breandan, in a dreadful hush. “I met him as I was coming in from the stables. He is just gone to Harold, to confirm the reports. Teague should be here soon, to tell you the first hand accounts of the news himself.”    
                “What news--?” was Alasdair instinctive reply, but his eye followed the headline printed across the top of the paper, and his heart instantly seized. “By the Gods…” he breathed, his hand moving unconsciously toward his mouth. He held up the paper and read the headline again. “Is this true, Breandan? Has this really happened?”
                “It seems so, sire,” said Breandan gravely.
                There was a terrible pause. How could this have happened…? was the question uppermost in Alasdair’s mind, a question which, though Alasdair knew the answer, would not be silenced. He read the headline again and again, Alasdair’s conscience acknowledging what his heart must accept despite his tendency to wish for good. He persevered, however, and difficult though it was, he read through the first few lines of the story belonging to the headline, but it was too much even for him to endure. He stopped, banishing goodwill and lamenting false hope,  and he returned to the beginning of the story again, desperate to find some meaning in such evil. He continued reading the story, and he sank into his chair, clutching the paper in his hands, starring at the printed words without reading them. How could this have happenedGalleisians Attack Their Own Outside Church… How could this have happened… but Alasdair could not but be aware of how it had happened. He mantled over the paper, reading the beginning of the story again, with his head in his hand, his eyes low, his sighs immutable:
                Late last night, two men were attacked outside the Galleisian Church in the Frewyn annex of Erieannean. The two young men, a Frewyn, age twenty, and a Galleisian, age twenty one, were leaving the Galleisian church after having volunteered to help sort donations pouring into the annex from Amene and other Frewyn municipalities. They left the church after evening service, and they had nearly reached the high street when they were stopped by a crowd of Galleisians men. Reports claim that two of the men were holding weapons, one holding a wooden plank and the other brandishing a kitchen knife. The Galleisian mob approached the two men coming from the church, shouting that they would not allow their society to be infiltrated by what they termed “heathen Frewyn values”. The two young men turned to run, but the crowd overpowered them and took out their growing frustrations on the two young men, who were said to be “practicing their newfound Frewyn freedoms”. The two men are reported to be romantically involved with one another, and some witnesses claim they were seen leaving the church holding hands. The Galleisian mob beat both men and left them at the steps of the church---
                Alasdair could read no more; his fingers crushed the sides of the paper, and his arms shook. “Why did they have to do this?” said he, sibilating through clenched teeth. “I understand the socio-economic situation in Erieannean is difficult right now, but hurting anyone or blaming anyone for it will do nothing. It’s natural that things will be difficult for the annex for the next few weeks. We’re still in the process of having Erieannean amended--” He closed his eyes and exhaled through his nose. “What happened to the victims?”
                “Fortunately, a few people from the church rescued them,” said Breandan, with a weak smile. “They were brought to the infirmary for immediate care, no doubt another one of the Frewyn Freedoms these Galleisian men do not approve. They are expected to make a full recovery.” Breandan glanced at the paper and then at the king. “My sentiments are very much the same as yours, sire. I cannot understand the reasons for their violence, however justified they might feel. These two young men were doing nothing at all wrong, and yet others felt that their desire to express their preferences has somehow harmed their own—at least, that is what they must believe, if they felt incited to act upon something they deemed to be--” He peered at the paper and read, “—heathen Frewyn values, whatever that might consist of.” A pause here, and Breandan’s brows furrowed, a pang wrenching his heart. “Had either of the two victims been my son—“
                “Vyrdin would have killed the whole crowd,” said Alasdair quietly.
                “That much is certainly true, sire, but had the victim been Brigdan, or had you been the victim of this irrational behaviour—“ Breandan sighed, and pressed his fingers against the bridge of his nose. It was useless to reason; there was no logic in the case, all sense and understanding seemed suspended here.