Friday, July 22, 2016

Story for the Day: An Invitation of Friendship

The paperback of The Leaf Flute will be available August 8th. In the meantime, if you'd like another new novella to tide you over, join our Patreon campaign to receive the story about Brigdan and Vyrdin's budding friendship. And now, an excerpt from that novella. Enjoy:

Brigdan had one moment to enjoy in his renewed serenity until Bryeison, accosting him with a serious smile, said, “Are you going to tell me what’s bothering you?”
                Brigdan gave a small start and put down his cup. “Bothering me, Commander?”
                “You wanted to speak to me alone, didn’t you? Why else would you be so adamant about having Vyrdin leave the room?”
                Bryeison’s gaze narrowed, and Brigdan’s courage began to fail him.
                “I’m not here, I ain’t listenin’,” said Ruta, shuffling by with a large sac of flour cradled in her arms. “You just go ahead and say what yer wantin’ to say, and I’m over here in the larder just mindin’ myself, not hearin’ nothin’.”
                She fluttered off to the larder, to arrange the grainery and manage about the new shipment of cheeses just come in from town, and though she hummed to herself and riffled through the consignment papers with careless dispatch, Brigdan could not but feel that she was listening to their conversation. Ruta, however, was no one to be suspicious of; she might succumb to idle trinkling, but she would never stoop to gossip. She and Aghatha and Pastaddams and even Searle were the most dependable spies in the world, the standing lesson of constancy in Frewyn, sturdy figures who safeguarded secrets rather than sold them for the price of moral integrity. And Ruta went through the act of hearing but not listening very well, moving about the larder with pretended indifference, shuffling through papers and moving cheesewheels and grain sacks about without any idea of being included in the conversation.
                Brigdan inhaled, noted Bryeison’s expectant look, and with a slight hem, he began his appeal. “It is nothing serious,” he assured Bryeison. “It is only that I want to invite Vyrdin to my father’s house for La Bramlae. I was not going to ask for the day off, but when I heard the men talking about it in the yard, I thought I should like to go to see the first spring flowers, but only if Vyrdin were to come with me. He has never seen the first of the spring flowers—at least, I don’t believe he has, though he did spend part of his young life in Amene—but I don’t think he has ever been to Bramlae during the western spring. I should like him to see it. I have gone every year with my parents, and we have always enjoyed seeing the rambling hills blooming with the first flowers of the year. This would have been the first year I would not have gone to Bramlae, and I was perfectly willing to ignore the holiday, but for Vyrdin.” He glanced at his tea and then at Bryeison, who was remarking him with smiling interest. “I came to you to ask you how I should go about inviting him. I wanted to invite him for Ailneighdaeth, but something in Vyrdin’s look stopped me. He looked as though he knew I was going to make the invitation and was already prepared to say no. I had meant to ask him again for Brigid’s Day—but you know how he is, Commander.”
                “Do I,” said Bryeison, smiling.
                Here was a small sigh. “You know he can be obstinate about propriety and rank.”
                “So can you.”
                “Can I?” Brigdan exclaimed, and then, relenting and lapsing into himself, “well, yes, I suppose. I see how you mean—but that is a very different thing. I keep telling Vyrdin—indeed, I keep telling everybody-- that my rank doesn’t matter, especially now that I’m in the king’s service. Legally I cannot call myself a lord when I am on duty—but everyone will still treat me differently, and Vyrdin will refuse to think me as anything else. I know that I have led a privileged life—that certainly I cannot deceive myself of-- but I cannot think it fair that I should be punished for it or that our friendship should suffer for it. There should be no barrier between us. I do not want him to be uneasy about coming with me to my family estate. I know it might be daunting for him for many reasons, but my father is the most well-meaning man in the world and would have him at anytime. I only want Vyrdin to be perfectly easy and happy when I ask him.” He exhaled, and his shoulders wilted. “Perhaps I as for a miracle in that respect.”
                “You do,” Bryeison fleered.
                “I only want him to be comfortable enough to give me a true answer, not one made out of diffidence or fear. Whenever we talk about my father’s place or even my childhood, he grows uncomfortable and gets rather short with me.”
                “Have you known Vyrdin to be any other way?”
                Brigdan hummed and demurred. “Well, I suppose that is true. I know he always appears somewhat disgruntled, but he is only serious.  I wish others would not punish him for it. Everyone else is so critical of him that when someone is giving him a genuine compliment, he doesn’t believe it or thinks he is unworthy of it. I am afraid he spends much of his time alone during our days off—because he does have a genuine dislike of anyone who spurns him, but also because he does not bother to interact from the idea that nobody wants him around. I know you and Commander Draeden are here and do spend as much time with him as your positions allow, but you know how he likes to go his own way and will be alone for the sake of not bothering anyone else.”
                “I do,” said Bryeison quietly.  
                Brigdan looked into his teacup and fidgeted with his spoon. “I should never wish to take him from his books, if that is how he likes to spend all his time when no one is with him,” he continued. “We do read together, and he does seem sanguine when doing so, but—I am only afraid if I ask him to come with me to my father’s in so direct a line, Vyrdin will immediately say no, and will say no merely for the sake of some invented fears. I am also concerned that Vyrdin might think my invitation belittling, as in the lord asking the orphan to take his meals with him, an so on.”
                Bryeison’s gaze narrowed. “Is it degrading for a lord to ask his friend to sit at his table?”
                “I could never think so,” said Brigdan earnestly. “My father is a Baronet, and yet every Gods’ Day he invites all the parish to our chapel, and we all sit down to the great table and have our Gods’ Day meal together. He had done it since before I was born, and I have never grown up any other way. I have never been taught that I was any different from the gardener or the miller or the farmer. My father is Baronet and a chaplain, and I am a Lord and a cern. If my father’s friends can see him as a chaplain, why cannot Vyrdin see me as just another cern?”
                “Because you’re his friend,” said Bryeison, in a decided tone, “and Vyrdin reveres anyone who gives him due attention.”
                Brigdan was silenced.
                A moment passed. The larks in the cypresses without gave their aubade in praise of the morning, a cask scudded as it was scraped across the stone floor, a melodious bombilation droned out from the bowels of the larder, a few servants tittered to one another as they passed away into the hall, and Brigdan, after a somber delibation, murmured to himself, “If only Vyrdin wasn’t so stubborn— If only he would come to my father’s and see how it all is at our house.”
                “You realize he’s never had one,” Bryeison thrummed.
                “No,” was Brigdan’s woeful reply. “I know that he is even diffident to call the keep his home, though he has lived here nearly three years. I know he feels as though being in the service is his way of earning his keep--but you know how he feels about himself, Commander, and how he will depreciate his own value when anyone he admires is about. You know how he dislikes himself. I suppose—“ He stopped here, fearing he hardly knew not how to better explain himself. “I suppose the chief of the apprehension is on my side, Commander,” he softly admitted. “I fear that Vyrdin will not take my invitation seriously. I’m afraid he will think I am only asking him to my father’s out of pity.”
                “Then why not ask him out of friendship?”
                “I mean to do, certainly, Commander,” Brigdan insisted. “Of course I should never ask him for any reason other than friendship. We are friends in every way, Commander, but he will make me so very aware of my situation, and I hope I am sensible of his feelings with regard to my rank. He might say no for fear of what the men will say-- not to him, he does not care about himself in that way, but to me. I’m sure he will be very angry if he hears anyone disparaging me because I made him an invitation to an estate. What’s so amusing, Commander?”
                A smile on Bryeison’s face broadened throughout the whole of his speech, and when Brigdan had done and looked about, to see whether Ruta were doing something entertaining in the background, Bryeison propped his elbow in the table and leaned his chin onto a raised fist, his aspect in a glow, the glint in his eye dancing about.

Friday, July 15, 2016

New Book Announcement: I Hate Summer #amwriting

While the final touches are being done for the paperback of The Leaf Flute, there is another book I am currently editing, one which dictates all my animosity for the abomination that is the summer. Anyone who knows me understands that summer and I have a longstanding adversarial relationship. Summer might mean many exhilarating things for others, but summer means heinous allergies, seasonal depression, and profuse sweating for me. I often catalogue my violent hatred for the season on my personal page. Many readers seem to think my anguish is hilarious, and therefore, after much provocation, I've decided to compile my most unabashed misadventures with the wreck of a season into a book. Below is an excerpt. It will be out when this hell of a season is over.

I have just had an argument with a child, which went thus:
The face I make all day, every day during summer
"But I don't want chocolate!"
Instantly, my ear caught the obnoxious sound. It belonged to a child about five years old. The kind woman at the counter was piling ice cream on a cone for her. The mother of the officious little gruffler was hovering near, and the moment the child complained, she slapped a hand over her eyes and gave up on the world.
"I don't want chocolate!" the child whinged.
The woman at the counter glanced at the mother, who was on the precipice of throwing the child into the nearby pond, and then glanced at the cone in her hand. "Okay, then," she conceded. "I'll give you vanilla." She scraped the chocolate off the cone, much to my horror, and said, "Is it okay if I just put the vanilla on this cone?"
"NO!" the child shouted.
"But there's only a little chocolate--"
A drawn out sigh escaped the mother's lips. "She won't eat it," the mother lamented. "She doesn't like chocolate."
This, I felt, was a grave sin, and I looked suspiciously at this little abomination of life.
"I DON'T LIKE CHOCOLATE!" it shrieked.
"That will change," I said quietly to the mother. "She will learn to appreciate it when she gets older."
The mother made a weak smile.
A foot was stamped, the mother went to bang her head against the window, and my patience with this little stain of childhood had done.
I gave the child a fierce look. "Do you want ice cream?"
The child pouted and trumpeted a whine through her nose.
"Then there will be no more foot stamping or whining or all the rest of it."
The child glared at me. "I can do what I want!" it huffed.
"How clever you think you are. You say you don't like chocolate, but don't know you know that the cone has chocolate coating inside of it."
"Then you will have no cone."
"Then you will have to have chocolate inside of it, as there are no plain cones."
"Because life is trying to get you to understand the joys of chocolate."
The child kicked her foot against the counter and glunched. "Chocolate is stupid."
My nostrils flared. "No," I said, "you are."
I leaned down. "No," I seethed. "You."
I returned home to prepare the armada.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Story for #PrimeDay: The Kitchen at the Keep

Today is Prime Day, the day on which those with Amazon Prime download as many books as their devices can hold. Those with Amazon Prime can download the Leaf Flute for free today. For all our other readers, enjoy the comfort of the one place where the whole world congregates: the kitchen at the Diras castle keep:

A moment passed, and Bryeison refilled his cup from the teapot. He lay the cup down momentarily, to turn the page in the herald and look disinterested, and as he took up his cup once more and brought it to his lips, he said, “The kitchen isn’t my domain, Brigdan. You don’t have to wait to be invited in.”
                Brigdan hemmed and seemed embarrassed. “Perhaps, commander,” said he, moving only slightly forward, “but, as this is not my mother’s kitchen, I feel rather as though I’m intruding somehow.”
                “Come on in, son,” Ruta beamed, returning by way of the larder. “Just sit down there, and take a tea with the biggun.”
                The biggun, Brigdan conjectured, was Bryeison, and with a last look to the hall, to see whether Vyrdin were lingering anywhere about, Brigdan entered the oven room and went to the table, creeping by slow gradations, admiring the the small delights of the place as he went. The iron pots and pans suspended above him on a wicker loom, the painted porcelain stacked on the nearby the shelves, the steel range with its large burners all reminded him so much of home that Brigdan began to feel easy about his invasion. The perlieu from the table commanded a much broader view without, and with copses of cypress in the far field to fill his view, complemented by the sight of sliced gingerbread on the counter beside, Brigdan quietly reckoned that he felt more at home here than he did anywhere else in the keep. It was no wonder that Vyrdin rushed down here every morning to have his breakfast here rather than  sit in the soldier’s mess. Would that Brigdan be given permission to enjoy his meals here, he believed he should never eat anywhere else, and he stood by the table for some time, remarking the all minutiae of a place that bore so striking a semblance to a home he had been compelled to leave behind him.
                 Bryeison’s gaze flickered from the page, watching Brigdan from the corner of his eye, and after allowing him to welter in all the modesty of the keep’s kitchen, he sipped his tea and said, “Sit.”
                 Brigdan instantly drew out a chair and sat down, and Bryeison at last put his paper aside.
                “Have you eaten yet?” Bryeison asked.
                Brigdan shifted in his seat. “No, Commander. I have only just left the barracks and came here. I did not stop at the mess in my way.”
                A grin wreathed Bryeison’s lips, and he sipped his tea. “You’re in danger.”
                “Danger of what, Commander?”
                “What’s thishere? Not had a breakfast!”  was the resounding cry.
                “Of that,” said Bryeison, all hardy complacence.
                Brigdan glanced over his shoulder and found Ruta mantling over him.
                “What’s all this here,” Ruta demanded, “about you not havin’ a breakfast?”
                “Well, I mean to, Ms Ruta, if that is your fear,” said Brigdan charily. “I only just came to speak to the commander—“
                “My fear, son, is that someone came into my kitchen without havin’ what to eat and think he can sit while I can hear his stomach from here to Kileen. Here,” placing a few gingerbread slices in front of him, “you just eat that, and you’ve got scones and what else you like in front of you.”
                “Thank you, Mr Ruta, but I could not possibly impose—“
                “What imposin’?” Ruta snuffed. “Sure, what I do is feed what comes into my kitchen. You gonna sit there and be hungry, you won’t be allowed in here for long, son.”
                Brigdan parused the various baked goods furnishing the table and hesitated. “Is it really proper for me to eat all of this, Commander?”
                 “You had better eat something before the real ruler of the kingdom punishes you,” said Bryeion laughingly, gesturing toward Ruta with his cup.
                “Ah, go ‘long with you now, biggun,” said Ruta, waving a hand at him. “Sure, I don’t give punishments for eatin’ a good breakfast. A sour stomach is a punishment in itself. Can’t sit at this table, son, without eatin’. Rules are rules, and if you got an empty plate in front of you, you’ll fill it or not be welcomed here.”
                Brigdan looked down, there was suddenly a plate in front of him, a spoon and spreading knife appirated along with a sundry of jams and curds, a basket of biscuits and muffin were thrust at him, and Brigdan glanced fearfully about, a fierce look radiated from beside him, and when he turned to Bryeison for counsel on how to conduct himself in the king’s kitchen, Bryeison only smiled and looked unassuming, effecting to be more interested with his tea than he was with Brigdan’s sense of propriety.
                 “Do forgive my saying so, Ruta,” said Brigdan, in a plaintive voice, “but I feel somewhat strange taking from the king’s table. As much as I should like to accept your generous offer, this is not my home, and I’m sure that I ought to consider the royal family first.”
                Ruta looked bemused, blinked, and then looked at Bryeison. “What’s he on about, biggun, not wantin’ to eat from my table?”
                “He feels as though he’s stealing from the royal family,” was Bryeison’s kind answer.
                Ruta grimaced and arched a brow. “Ain’t no stealin’ round here when I’m after givin’ you a plate. The Highness steals. He comes slenchin’ in here near every night, groakin’ after the pies and cakes I make for the servants’ hall. What’re you fearin’, son? You afraid the Majesty’ll come in, see you eatin’ here, and be disappointed? The Majesty’s takin’ his breakfast in his room th’day anyhow. Business is keepin’ him well up in his quarters, but he never eats a scone or a biscuit this time o’ day. He likes a biscuit now and then of a gloamin’, but I make all this for everyone else what wanders in to my kitchen. You’re very welcome to it. I made more than usual, ‘cause the biggun told me you were comin’ anyhow.”
                Here was a ardent look at Bryeison. “He told you I was coming?”
                “Aye,” Ruta sang. “The biggun always knows, son. You’ll come to get used to it.”
                Ruta gave his shoulder a sympathetic pat and swept away to the larder, and Brigdan was left to wallow in all the misery of thwarted civility. He claimed a biscuit for his plate, and while inspecting the several jams, Brigdan mumbled to himself something about Bryeison always knowing.
                “You were up with Vyrdin until about an hour before sunrise,” said Bryeison, adding warm milk to his tea. “I was up early for the shipment of new cerns. I heard the two of you arguing over your game. I thought you would be here to continue the argument or have another round before training.”
                “Well,” said Brigdan, in a mortified voice, “that idea had crossed my mind, Commander, but I confess that is not why I’m here.” He lavished his biscuit with raspberry jam and clotted cream, and after beginning to eat, the first fulmination of mellifluous bliss burst upon him, and he hummed in rapture, leaning against the table and staring at his breakfast with unmitigated delight. “By the Gods,” he sighed, in an ecstasy, “I have not had a biscuit this lovely in all my life.”   
                “Try the lemon curd on the scone,” Bryeison encouraged him, pushing the material toward him.
                “Oh, this is more than enough, Commander—“ Brigdan began, but the insistent look, the fervent stare told him that Bryeison would not be denied. He did as his commander ordered, and with subversive movements, fearing his extravagance of cream and lemon curd should be seen by fellow officers, he ate one half of a decorated scone, and dissipated in his seat. “That is—really—“ he began, but he checked himself, feeling himself getting lost in all the majesty of baked goods and well-made preserves. “Honestly, Commander,” said Brigdan, recollecting himself, “I understand now why you spend your mornings here. I admit, if I had such a beautiful display to wake up to every morning, I might reconsider my training in favour of offering myself as cook’s apprentice.”
                “You’d be no good to me, son,” said Ruta, taking a ladel down from the wrack above. “A cook’s assistant is no assistant what’s too afraid to eat my cookin’. What you can do for me is best done with a scone in one hand and a spoon in the other so.”
                “I suppose I’ll keep my post then, if I can be of no other use to you,” said Brigdan, smiling. “Did you always spend your mornings here, Commander?”
                Bryeison put his cup down and looked mindful. “Draeden and I have been spending our mornings here since we were fifteen.”
                “Aye,” Ruta chimed, “and I remember the biggun bein’ just as shy about comin’ in here as you were, son.”
                Brigdan seemed amused. “That is very odd. I cannot imagine the commander being diffident about anything.”
                “I had been at the keep only a few days by the time Draeden got me to eat his meals with him,” said Bryeison. “I ate in the stables with Roreigh and Deais until His Majesty invited me to have dinner with him and Draeden. Since then, I’ve been having my breakfast here. Draeden and I only spend time in the mess to show some solidarity with our regiments, but Draeden always comes here when he needs something to eat.”
                “Is that why he slips out of training so often? I confess I thought it was to visit the latrine.”
                Bryeison rumbled in quiet mirth. “If Draeden allowed himself to eat as much as he usually does while at the mess, the entire garrison would go hungry.”
                “The Highness has got to have his meals here,” Ruta insisted. “He can’t be eatin’ no rations when it’s not wartime. He’d die of starvation sure enough.”
                “But I have seen him eat two or three bowls of oats when he is with us in the mess.”
                “That’s just the beginning of his midday meal,” said Bryeison, with an ardent look. “He comes in here throughout the afternoon and eats far more than what he does in the mess.”
                “But, if that is true, Commander,” asked Brigdan, “how did he survive when you went away to the north?”
                “Fifty pounds of dried goods brought him safely to Livanon.”
                “And your survival training?”
                Bryeison bowed his head and smiled. “I have never seen anyone eat so much grass and raw fish. Draeden was nearly green when we came back.”
                “Aye,” Ruta giggled, “he looked like a wild man, with all ‘em twigs sproutin’ from his hair and dry mud cracked over him from teeth to toes. The Majesty was in such a fright over it. I made him such a dinner when you came back.” She shook her head. “Never seen anythin’ eat pork bone stew like that before, bones and all.”
                “Everyone in the keep congregates around this table at some point during their time here.”
                “Aye, even Pastaddams and Aghatha come here for their tea of an evening if there’s none to be got in the sevant’s hall. And Searle will come in when his Majesty is here. Better finish what you can, son,” gesturing to the bread basket. “The whirlwind’ll be here soon, and once His Highness sits at the table, there’ll be nothin’ left for anyone else.”
               Brigdan continued his breakfast, enjoying the rare privilege of soft scones and sweetened stews, but when he looked up from his plate, to ask whether he should be allowed a cup of tea, he found Bryeison offering him a sobering look.      

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Story for the Day: To Make an Invitation

While we're putting the finishing touches on the paperback version of the Leaf Flute, here is the beginning of a new story, one about the early years of Vyrdin and Brigdan's longstanding friendship:

A day visit to Bramlae was recommended by those who had joined the forces but a few weeks ago. The prolonged winter of the east had not agreed with them; they were unequal to running skirmishes in the snowdrifts, unused to sleep under linens and thatch while there was still frost on the ground; the comfort of a brics homes, the warm and dry kilns of Westren, were wanting here, and the humidity of the capital, the tax of being by the sea, was become a rather a penance than a privilege. Brigdan loved the winter, loved to look at it and gratulate in all its niveous wonders, and while he should always like to see Bramlae under the power of the new season, he should not mind staying at the keep until summer. He would stay in Diras anyway, if only to spend more time with Vyrdin. Vyrdin… He had never seen the fields at Bramlae, nor had he seen any wonders of the west beyond the distinctive architecture of Amene, and as Brigdan began to dress for the day, he wondered whether he might ask for leave on La Bramlae with the object of taking Vyrdin with him. His father would be at the keep the day before, they could all ride back to Varralla together overnight, and they would be in Bramlae proper by midmorning. It might be done, and they could sit in the fields for many hours before riding back to the capital. Certainly it might be done, and Bryeison and Draeden should give them leave for half a day extraordinary if they should ask it, but getting Vyrdin to accept the invitation as an indulgence would be a trail.
                He would not go without Vyrdin, for Vyrdin spent every holiday and Gods’ Day at the keep, either in the company of Draeden and Bryeison or with King Dorrin, and when he was not playing at Fidchell or practicing his music, he was riding Teipha or reveling in in his room under a mountain of books. Of course Vyrdin had companions and employments enough to amuse him, but that Brigdan could only go home to be happy and lavished with attention and affection while Vyrdin was at the mercy of everyone’s availability gave Brigdan unpleasant feelings. His greatest apprehension was that Vyrdin was forced to spend more time alone than he should have otherwise liked. He enjoyed his hideaways, reveled in solitary pursuits when he was not on the field, and though everyone in the keep was inclusive and generous with their time, no one went out of their way for Vyrdin. It distressed Brigdan that Vyrdin might sometimes be forgotten, and as his friend and fellow cern, it was his duty that Vyrdin should never be left only to sulk in the misery of imposed isolation. Compunction and esteem for a friend who deserved as much notice as he shunned persuaded Brigdan to act: he would invite Vyrdin, he would have to come to Bramlae, but how to go about it, how to ask in a way conciliating without seeming condescending was the difficulty. He had meant to invite him to his family estate for Alineighdaeth, he longed to show his new friend everything that was dearest to him, but general diffidence and unfamiliarity had prevented him. He and Vrydin had known each other only a few weeks at that time, but now, having spent many months together, Brigdan was sure an invitation ought to be appropriate now. Too long and Vyrdin might feel slighted that Brigdan should never have asked before, but Vyrdin would be willful and obstinate, would be conscious of Brigdan’s situation when there was nothing to be conscious about. Vyrdin being an orphan of unknown parentage should mean nothing where being as respect cern and the fondling of King Dorrin ought to mean everything. Bridgan thought little of his own consequence, excepting how others related to him because of it, and his rank was rather a curse amongst the regiments when his sincerity of being in the forces was questions. It made it impossible to act with propriety without seeming highborn; even wishing to have a friend join him at his father’s house was a production of will. He would have to resort to invention merely to have Vyrdin accept. Should he ask his father to make the invitation, to keep Vyrdin from feeling as though he were imposing himself upon their household, or should he ask his father to have the king suggest he go with him to Varalla for the day—but there Vyrdin might feel pressed to accept the invitation as a matter of deference. Vyrdin could not refuse the king, and while Brigdan would never deny Vyrdin’s right to refusal, he should like Vyrdin to come with him because he wanted to come, not because he refused to disappoint his loved ones.
                How the business done, how the invitation was to be made and settled, Brigdan would entrust to wiser heads and steadier characters: he would consult Commander Bryeison. If there was one opinion Brigdan valued as much as his father’s, it was Bryeison’s, for though Draeden knew Vyrdin just as well, Bryeison’s composure and consideration recommended him as the best for advise on delecate subjects. There was a sagacity to Bryeison, a quiet consciousness which Brigdan could not but acknowledge, one that would act and contrive for anyone he truly loved. Bryeison played at being disinterested, but behind his perfect equanimity, there was a machination and a beneficence that would work in his favour here. He knew how to rouse the first ardours of Vyrdin’s heart, and though Brigdan still davered about under the auspices of a horrendous sleep, he quitted the barracks and went into the keep on purpose to see his commander.
                Bryeison would be in the kitchen at his hour. It was his usual time for breakfast, and being the great perpetrator of the tea board, Bryeison should be commanding his usual place at the head of the table, with the teapot stationed firmly at his side and his cup and saucer in his hands. Draeden too might be in the kitchen, his face planted firmly in his brined meat and boiled oats, and Vyrdin, Brigdan hoped, would be still in his room, working through the early hours in a slumber before the last furoles of the fire. All his ambition was getting Bryeison alone for a few minutes, but upon reaching the kitchen, his hopes at anything like a private interview were thoroughly disappointed.