They turned toward the table, where Danaco stood amongst the children, mantling over the
“There is your Galleisian fluyt,” Danaco pronounced, holding the ship to the light. “So much for your complaints that the Galleisians were egregiously underrepresented. Well, now we have our ship, but she must have a name and a berth. What shall we call her?”
“How about the Marghilesse?” said Dorrin.
“Aye,” Little Jaicobh chimed. “My ma’d like bein’ a ship.”
“Named after your mother, is it?” said Danaco, with the fondest smile.
“I am very sure she thanks you. It is not every day that a woman has the chance of being named after a such a glorious vessel. Come,” holding the paper ship to the children’s level, “where shall we put her? She has no use of a name if she has no place to put her moorings.”
“In Erieanneann,” said Soledhan, stabbing his finger at board.
“But does your annex have a port? Well, there is an estuary there, I perceive, and as we have built a ship, why should not we build a port? Go on, take it and place it there, and then we shall take her out for her maiden voyage.”
“Mr Captain Danaco sir?” said Little Jaicobh.
“By Myrellenos, so many tender appellations! How they do grow every time you address me. Do call me captain, if you must call me anything that is not Unpalo.”
Soledhan’s nose scrunched. “The Lucentian word for uncle?”
“Well, you are relations, are not you? Houghleidh is rather a son to me, and Cabhrin by association a grandson. I am old enough to be your grandfather twice over, though I do not look it by Frewyn or Marridon standards—and why should not you call me Unpalo? You see me often enough to be familiar with me, and you have other Lucentian and Marridonian cousins, though they are not by blood-- which means just nothing at all—and why should I not be considered an uncle?”
“Aye, Captain Unpalo sir,” said Little Jaicobh, with a hearty salute.
Danaco’s heart warmed at such eagerness. “Captain Unpalo, you say?”
“Well, you have to be a captain if you got a ship and all.”
“Quite so. Very well, Captain Unpalo it is-- but no sirs, I entreat, my darling. Sirs should be reserved for those whom we do not like and are to be used when we wish to pretend that we do. Civility at length does go a long way, especially when apologizing for having to take the toes of one who has wronged you.”
“Can we take a few toes?” Soledhan beamed.
“I daresay your mother would object to my teaching you any such thing, and were she not listening, which she most assuredly ought to be, as mothers can hear the secrets of their children through walls, I should teach you all I know about dismemberment and its many uses if your mother and tutors not disclaim.”
“Disappointment excites passion, my child,” the captain crooned, “and where you are disappointed now, you shall be rewarded a hundred times by the zeal your frustration rouses. Be ardent as you ought, and you shall never be disappointed long.”
“Does that mean you’ll teach us how to take toes eventually, captain?” asked Dorrin.
“Well, we all do grow older,” was Danaco’s sagacious answer, “and you need not wait long to accomplish that.” He exchanged a smile with Hathanta and Baronous, who were smiling to themselves and standing close by, and then placed the paper ship onto the board. “Now, who should like to give the Marghilesse her due? Jaicobh, as His Highness has incurred the honour of naming her, I believe the honour of releasing her to sea is yours.”
The children clamoured about him, ready to move their ships and follow wherever the HRH Marghilesse should take them, and the adults in the library looked on, observing the continuance of the game with devoted aspects.
“It always astounds me that children have no idea of fame and legend,” said Alasdair quietly. “There is the greatest literary marvel of our time, standing and playing games with them, and they only see a man who wants to befriend them and blow their ship out of the water with pirates.”
“I think they understand his majesty, Alasdair,” said Boudicca, “merely due to your infatuation about him or even Vyrdin and Brigdan’s reverence of him, but I think their innocence keeps delightfully unaware of his grandeur. He is a lord, he is the servant of Lamir, he has reconquered his country from false kings and saved it from tyranny, he vanquished countless pirates, marauded ships of their greatest treasures, he has become captain of the Lucentian royal guard, was a guildlord before Ladrei was—his accomplishments alone should garner anyone’s veneration, but he is so revoltingly dashing, especially for his age, with that mane of his and his excellent taste in dress, that he will make even the most distinguished of kings welter in disdain for him.”
Alasdair spied the captain’s silken hair and embroidered waistcoat, and made as slight a hum as he could.
“And he is so wretchedly good with the children.”
“Yes, he is very good with them.”
“And he is such a gentleman every lady that passes his way, treating every one of them as if they were a queen.”
Alasdair could not but know that he was being provoked, but he turned to the commander anyway, to scowl and glare and catch her subrisive aspect before averted his eyes and flouting to himself.
“Danaco Divelima might be many things,” the commander continued, “but he does not look half so handsome as you do when you pout.”
“I’m not pouting,” Alasdair asserted, trying not to flout and look sullen.
“What? Is that all your defense? Alasdair, you can contend far better than that.”
There was a pause, Boudicca smirking to herself and Alasdair glowering at the corner of the room, and then Alasdair, unable to help himself, amended with, “It isn’t fair to compare me with one of the greatest men in the world. Anyone would look inferior by comparison. It’s like trying to compare me with my grandfather.”
“You do His Late Majesty immense credit.”
It was Danaco who had attested to Alasdair’s merits, and it was said with such unanswerable dignity that for a few moments there was no other sound in the room beyond the quiet murmurations of the children. The severe stares, the dignified expression, the defiant manner recommended the captain’s decidedness; he was not to be gainsaid, and so artless and ingenuous was his character that Alasdair turned away, divided between embarrassment and happy humility.
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