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The Twelve Days of Christmas: Five Golden Rings

Started by Shiral, December 30, 2015, 12:18:38 PM

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                                                                      The Fifth Day of Christmas: Five Gold Rings

   When the year 1114 was perhaps an hour old, Létald von Horthy, Prince of Tralia and Hort of Orsal, stood on the bottom step of the Grand Staircase to address his Court:    

       "My lords and ladies, I bid you a Happy New Year and a very good night. I pray you to keep eating, dancing and drinking the night away. I'm sure you need not my supervision to enjoy yourselves! The music will play, the wine will flow and the food will come for as long as anyone has a mind to enjoy themselves.  I beg you only to refrain from burning down the Winter Palace in the night."

        Smiling and nodding in response to all the laughter and called good nights and good wishes, Létald retreated up the Grand Staircase, his way lit by two young squires with torches. The two walked two paces ahead of their prince as he headed back to his quarters to rejoin Princess Husniyya. She  had retired shortly after the city's various church bells had finished ringing in the New Year. The merriment below would continue almost until dawn—it always did. Tralians did love their pleasures. And Tralian hospitality was famous throughout the Eleven Kingdoms. It was costly, but it behooved the Prince of Tralia to be particularly generous during the fortnight of Christmas Court.
         Every year I tell myself ' this year I will not eat so much', and each year, I completely forget, Létald scolded himself, feeling the less pleasant digestive effects of his overindulgence. But of course, I cannot insult my cooks when they labor so to outdo themselves each year.  Especially not that old fussbudget, Anatole.

           And then of course, there were the wines served with each course. King Wencit of Torenth had sent the suitably royal Christmas gift of two large barrels of wine from his southern duchy of Lӧrsol. The hearty, fruity red wine had paired particularly well with tonight's roast venison. And then there had been the pale, exquisite white wine which Husniyya had declared was her new favorite.
      Wencit will have had his reasons, of course, Létald thought.  The man never does anything without an ulterior motive. So tomorrow,  my secretary and I will spend half the morning closeted together writing him a thank you letter that will say "thank you for the wine" but which will mean "thank you for the wine, but no I'm not going to break faith with the Haldanes for your benefit."

      Létald enjoyed diplomacy. Without false modesty, he knew he excelled at it, even if he was a merely competent swordsman on the battlefield.  He had learned all the fencing and jousting expected of a prince in his youth, but battle armor made him feel stiff and clumsy. Wencit's predecessor, King Károly III, had  presented almost no challenge when negotiating matters of state.  Létald knew he could have taken shameless advantage of  Károly had he wished, the poor trusting, amiable man. He had never had the heart to do so, however. It had always felt too much like stealing from a child. How a royal family as notoriously subtle as the Furstáns had produced so unworldly a king as Károly still mystified him. But ever since Wencit had been girded with the sword at Torenthály two years ago, he had made negotiations far more challenging, and to be honest, far more interesting, as well.  Keeping Tralia honorably at peace with Torenth while maintaining their centuries-old traditional alliance with the Haldanes was a constant balancing act. 

      Létald was reminded of that while watching the acrobats tonight. One of them had juggled five flaming torches, tossing them  in impossibly high arcs while he balanced flat-footed on a tippy plank resting atop a rolling wooden ball.
Sometimes I feel like I'm doing the same thing, except nobody can see the torches I'm juggling, or realize what a disaster it would be for Orsal and Tralia if I dropped one.

          On pure impulse, Létald turned left down the corridor leading to the nursery to see his children, then felt foolish as soon as he opened the door.   It was dim and quiet in the nursery at this hour, only a small rack of rushlights lighting the two young wet nurses. They sat together  on a bench by a charcoal brazier, each wrapped in shawls with a breast bared for one of the three month-old twins Marcel and Marcelline, partaking of their first meal of the New Year. The girls jumped up as Létald entered, bobbing hasty curtsies when they recognized him.
          Létald smiled and nodded to them on his way over to the four poster bed that his two older sons shared in the left hand corner of the room.  Seven year-old Prince Cyric was spread-eagled on his stomach in the middle of the bed, his outstretched limbs leaving only a cramped corner for the three year-old Prince Rogan, who was a sleeping crescent at the outer edge of the mattress. He had never yet fallen out. Or at least not to Létald's knowledge.

          The five year-old Princess Rezza Elisabet slept in the next bed, her newest doll held in the crook of her left arm, her left thumb in her mouth. It was always a pleasant shock to Létald how beautiful his little girl was. She had the fair hair and skin of the Von Horthys, but she had inherited her mother's dark eyes. With her mostly sweet nature, her health and beauty and her lineage, not to mention the dowry he could give her, little Rezza would be a sought-after royal bride in ten years or so.

      Perhaps for Brion Haldane's boy, Létald mused.  A fine young prince by every account I've heard. But would it be worth so provoking Wencit to ally my family that obviously to the Haldanes? 

       An unanswerable question tonight, since there was no knowing what the political situation would be by the time Rezza was of any age to marry. He yawned and headed for the door, feeling exhausted, all at once.  It had been a long day of festivity and now his chief desire was to join his wife in bed.

            Husniyya evidently had other plans. Surprised by lamplight in their inner bedchamber, Létald parted the curtains to see her combing  her long black hair in her favorite window seat overlooking the city and the sea beyond. She looked unfairly beautiful in her pale silk chamber robe in the golden lamplight.  Létald wondered what this betokened—sometimes it was a bad sign when Husniyya waited up for him for she hated late hours. Negotiating with Wencit of Torenth was one thing, but an angry Husniyya meant he'd be up for a long time, yet.  To his relief, she smiled as he came in.
       "Ya omri, I'd thought to find you asleep already," Létald told her pulling the heavy silk curtain closed behind him. "It's very late."

       "I know, but I cannot wait any longer to give you your Epiphany gift," Husniyya replied beckoning to him.
      "Always so impatient," Létald teased, joining her and taking the seat opposite hers. He noted the five small, exquisitely carved wooden boxes on the  little inlaid table between them. "It's only a few more days before Epiphany now, Niyya."
         "Indulge me," she purred, handing the largest of the five boxes to him.
               "As I always do," Létald joked, opening the satin-smooth wood then almost dropping both the box and the magnificent heavy gold ring it contained.  "Gracious, habibti!"
         "Now this one!" she urged as eager as if she were Rezza's age, handing him the second box.
       When he had finished, five gold rings set with different gems lay on the table between them. Husniyya picked up the first one he'd opened and slipped it onto his left thumb where it felt cool and luxuriously heavy.  It was set with a large oval ruby in a nest of twisted gold strands. "This one represents Cyric," she told him.  Next came a slimmer gold hoop, set with an aquamarine en cabochon which went onto his left index finger. "And this one is Rezza's. And this," she picked up the third ring, which had a small rectangle of lapis in a granulated gold setting, "is for Rogan."  She slid that ring onto his middle finger. 

      "These two," she picked up the fourth and fifth rings, set with three small garnet buttons  apiece, "represent our newest little ones, Marcel and Marcelline." She slid these two onto his ring finger and little finger.  "The twins look so much alike, I thought their rings should, too."  She smiled at him. "Do they please you, azizi?"
          Létald held up his decorated left hand and moved his fingers about, admiring them in the lamplight. "I will treasure them, ya omri," he told her quietly. "As I do their giver, and as I do our children." He held up his bare right hand. "But, what? No rings for this hand?"
        Husniyya giggled as she rose, drawing him to his feet as well, looking mischievous.  "You'll get five more rings when we have five more children!"
You can have a sound mind in a healthy body--Or you can be a nanonovelist!


"If having a soul means being able to feel love, loyalty, and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans."

James Herriot (James Alfred "Alfie" Wight), when a human client asked him if animals have souls.  (I don't remember in which book the story originally appeared.)


Five more?  Poor Princess!

(Remember Cheaper by the Dozen?  The mother said that you'd think that if an efficiency expert was going to have 12 children she'd have at least one set of twins, but noooo. . . .!)


Well, yes, but Husniyya doesn't seem to mind. =o) It's amazing what some household help will do!
You can have a sound mind in a healthy body--Or you can be a nanonovelist!


Quote from: Shiral on December 30, 2015, 01:31:56 PM
Well, yes, but Husniyya doesn't seem to mind. =o) It's amazing what some household help will do!

I wasn't thinking of taking care of the babies after they were born.


Lovely story, Shiral. And hopefully Prince Rogan continues to manage to stay in bed!
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


Lovely story Shiral, I enjoy the way that you evoke the hospitality of Letald's court so well and yet remind us of his political acumen and how much depends on that.   And I notice that Jehana's erstwhile chef did arrive!!
The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.


Lovely story.

"Negotiating with Wencit of Torenth was one thing, but an angry Husniyya meant he'd be up for a long time, yet." Glad to see Wencit put in his proper place.

I love the glimpse of Letald as the truly loving husband and father he is. Husniyya is obviously so much more than just a brood mare to him (maybe why she doesn't mind having all these babies) and his children are individuals not just political pawns.

Just wondering - where can one get these rings from?
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)


"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!


Quote from: Demercia on December 30, 2015, 03:50:39 PM
Lovely story Shiral, I enjoy the way that you evoke the hospitality of Letald's court so well and yet remind us of his political acumen and how much depends on that.   And I notice that Jehana's erstwhile chef did arrive!!

Teee heee!  Yes. I couldn't resist a little continuity between the royal households and the stories. And Letald must have been pretty good at negotiating, to be able to maintain at least a mutual non-aggression pact with Torenth while remaining a Haldane ally all those years.

I also wanted to show Letald and Husniyya as a truly loving couple. As of KKB, they'd added Aynbeth (1121) and Oswin (1124) and Husniyya was pregnant with twins as of the summer of 1128. So they very NEARLY made it to ten kids. =o) 
You can have a sound mind in a healthy body--Or you can be a nanonovelist!


Loved Letald comparing his diplomacy to that of juggling flaming torches while balancing on a ball.  Nice to have the rings which signify each of his children. A reminder of who all that juggling is for.
May your horses have wings and fly!


Loved this visit to the Orsal's court. I was going to reread each of these stories on the appropriate day, but it was like opening a box of my favorite candy, I couldn't stop at just one. I have reread them all and loved each one as much as the first time. I feel fortunate to have access to such wonderful stories by such talented writers. Thanks to all of you for such a treat.
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance


I may be one of the guests to stay up just a few hours after midnight to enjoy The Hort of Orsils hospitality. That sounds like fun and good food too. I love how the prince loves his children. Thank you Shiral for the enjoyable evening.
May your horses have wings and fly!