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Eight Maids A-Milking

Started by Laurna, January 02, 2016, 11:35:35 AM

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Castle Derry
In the Year of our Grace 1129
Morning of the second day of the new year

"The stables are ready for the new acquisitions, just as soon as they arrive," announced Groomsman Taft the moment the Earl of Derry had entered the barn. The brief but cutting winter wind stirred the fresh straw strewn throughout.

"I see they finished rethatching the barn roof just in time. They say it will snow tonight," Sean O'Flynn commented as he closed the barn door tight behind him. He was impressed his men had even managed to fix that old rusty hinge that had kept the door from fully closing. It was plain to see that he wasn't the only one who was excited about the gift promised from the Duke of Corwyn.  Sean walked the center aisle of the stables, nodding approval at the cleanliness of the eight awaiting empty niches. Only two of Sean's favored warhorses remained at the opposite end of the barn. All his other prized horses had been moved to the lower barn, which still needed rethatching, to make room for His Grace's gift.

On Christmas morning just eight days ago, Alaric Morgan had promised Sean, for his undying loyalty to himself and his family, the herd of Norselandics that he had been presented to Corwyn from the Duke of Eistenfalla, Norseland during a latest entente cordiale. The animals had traveled by sea for more than a month, they were to land in Coroth three days after Christmas and then be walked up the Corwyn Vale to Derry where they needed Sean's caring touch and the good pasture lands of Derry to be fattened and readied for the spring breeding. Morgan would only keep a chosen few of the herd within his own barns.

"They are perfect animals for Derry," His Grace had said. "Oh, and each comes with a filly at her side. So be sure you have a clean, warm place for the girls to sleep."

"I am guessing Morgan kept the mares with the colts to himself," Sean mused to Taft. "He wants to be sure he keeps the breeding rights."

"Well, they are a new breed for Gwynedd, Sir," Taft remarked.  "You cannot blame His Grace for wanting to maintain the breed, especially if they are as nice a palfrey as you say they are."

Sean smiled. "If these animals are half the quality that I have heard tell of the breed, then I can not fault His Grace for that. It is said that Norselandic horses are a hearty, tall pony with a smooth gait. They will be sought after by the court ladies in no time." Sean looked around the empty barn, envisioning it already filled with eight mares and eight feisty fillies.  He sighed, deeply satisfied. Morgan was rewarding him well for years of honorable service. Alaric must have forgiven or at least forgotten the odd prank or two made by Sean over the last years. They had been nothing but small jests between two good friends, such as when he had switched Morgan's prized foal out of Saffra for a working mare's foal that spring morning. Sean had to laugh at that memory. That had been a good day, that April Fool's Day, two years ago.

"Taft, come get me when the Norselandics arrive. I think we can expect them in around noon."

"Aye, sir."

Sean headed out from the barn to his manor house; well in truth it was a castle, but small in terms of a true castle like Coroth or Rhemuth. So Sean considered it more a large private manor than anything more grand. At least the stone walls would keep the winds that came up the vale at bay. The chilled winds were even now pushing the coastal clouds inland. The new animals may come from the cold Norselands and the weather in Derry should be mild by comparison, but certainly when they arrive, they would appreciate Derry's dry, warm barn.  Sean huddled in his cloak. The visibility down the hills toward Coroth was obscured; storm clouds darkened the landscape. Sean hoped the caravan from Coroth arrived soon, well before the snow did.

He had only one day to enjoy his gift and settle them in before he had to leave for the royal Twelfth Night court in Rhemuth. The only way to get to court in time now and not disappoint Kelson was the portal at Dhassa. He hoped Bishop Arilan would be understanding of his need. And he really hoped he could stay calm enough to let the Bishop take him through without being put to sleep first. A small shiver passed the earl's spine, which had nothing to do with the cold wind. He could have avoided that unpleasantness if he had set out for Rhemuth in the company of the Morgan family the day after spending a joyous Christmas in Coroth. That had been his plan, that is until His Grace had told him of his Christmas gift and their impending arrival. After waving goodbye to friends and liege lord, Sean had raced home to Derry to get everything ready. Oh, how this was going to be a great new year! Oh, how he planned to boast about his Christmas gift when he was at the King's Court!

Much later that same day:

"Um... Lord Derry..."

"Yes?... There you are, Taft. Have they arrived?"

"Well... Yes.... and no.... Well, um... the Coroth caravan is here, I have them settling inside the barn. But... I think you will need to have a room prepared for the fillies in the main house."

"A room in the main house? What are you talking about?"

'"You'd best come see for yourself." Taft's eyes were wide, but no further hint did he offer.

Excitement got the better of Sean than caution. He grabbed his cloak and jaunted down the steps, out the main oak doors, across the yard, and to the open barn entrance, where... he stopped!

As Lord Derry stood frozen in a state of shock, his groomsman came up behind him. "Are you sure His Grace said these animals would be perfect for Derry? Perhaps... he meant ... they would be perfect for dairy, as in milking?" Sean barely heard the quip and ignored the snicker that followed. He stared open-mouthed at eight red and white, deep-chested, long-horned Norselandic heifers. To his utter disbelief, at the side of each cow was a milking maid, girls barely into their womanhood.

The girls looked to be happy, carefree waifs; they cooed and sang to their cows, brushing them and hand feeding them merrily, settling their charges into their new home. Suddenly the mythology of Norselandic cattle settled heavily on Sean O'Flynn's mind.  The cows weren't just beasts of burden, they were sacred beasts from whom divine milk was gifted to mankind.

The Earl of Derry, shook his head. It all suddenly made sense, that queer look Morgan had given him when he had been so enthusiastic to stay behind and see his gift well received. This really wasn't a gift. It was Morgan's way of giving the responsibility of the Norse God to someone else.

Suddenly, Sean had to laugh. He turned to Taft, who was looking at his earl uncertain if he was going to survive the next minute. "If you ever tell Morgan what I originally thought his gift was, I will cut out your tongue," the young lord said, succeeding in holding a serious tone.

"Not from me, Sir. He will never hear it from me."

"Heaven have mercy on me, he will hear from someone else, I am certain. I do believe the debt of an April Fool has been paid in full." With that, Lord Derry clapped his man Taft on the back. "Run, tell my chatelaine we will need rooms in the main house tonight for eight maids a-milking." Lord Derry paused as Taft's snicker turned guttural to a full belly laugh. "Would you rather I called them Fillies?"

"His Grace seemed to prefer that term," Taft could not help but reply.

"Eight Norse maidens in my home? By all the powers of the gods, what possessed the man to give them to me?" Sean nodded his head, knowing exactly what Morgan had been thinking. He was not going to fall for that trap. He was a better man than that. "By the time I return from Twelfth Night court, I will expect you to have placed the girls in good houses around the village, But not so far out that they cannot get to the barn each day, they have their charges to care for, after all. And be sure they attend our school, mind you. If they are to stay in Derry, they will need more skills than milking. Well... Hurry on, my good man, they will need a warm room in the main house for now. Then quick as you can, get yourself back here; we have eight Norselandic heifers to milk."

"A gift indeed," Sean said under his breath, although his smile widened as he moved into the barn. 
May your horses have wings and fly!


Lovely story Laurna. Poor Sean, though he dealt with it very well. I suspect he might not react well though if Morgan offers to get him a cup of milk when they meet up in Rhemuth.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)


At least Derry won't lack for milk, butter, or cheese for years to come! LOL!
"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!


Nice story, Laurna!  Though who would have thought that eight young maidens would be sent to Derry as a "gift."  :)
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


Quote from: Evie on January 02, 2016, 12:48:44 PM
At least Derry won't lack for milk, butter, or cheese for years to come! LOL!

Maybe he can have an expert make some really SMELLY strong cheese, and send a big wheel of it as a gift to His Grace the Duke of Corwyn.  ;)
You can have a sound mind in a healthy body--Or you can be a nanonovelist!


Quote from: Shiral on January 03, 2016, 10:04:09 AM
Quote from: Evie on January 02, 2016, 12:48:44 PM
At least Derry won't lack for milk, butter, or cheese for years to come! LOL!

Maybe he can have an expert make some really SMELLY strong cheese, and send a big wheel of it as a gift to His Grace the Duke of Corwyn.  ;)

That sounds like something Derry would do.  :D
"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.)


ROFL!  too all the comments above.
I rather suspect that Morgan will happily offer that glass of milk on Twelfth Night. That the maidens did come with a few good cheese recipes from their home land. One would be a good Gouda for Kelson (Gouda was first documented in 1184 which meant they could well be making it in 1129) and another would be a Munster cheese for His Grace (on the top ten list of smelly cheeses)  ;D. As for the Eight Maidens?  I rather suspect they will be happy in the village below the Castle of Derry. Perhaps they are why Sean steered away from younger ladies in Maids of Mayhem and enjoyed the company of a more mature Lady, the Contessa Constanza. LOL
May your horses have wings and fly!


Quote from: Shiral on January 03, 2016, 10:04:09 AM
Quote from: Evie on January 02, 2016, 12:48:44 PM
At least Derry won't lack for milk, butter, or cheese for years to come! LOL!

Maybe he can have an expert make some really SMELLY strong cheese, and send a big wheel of it as a gift to His Grace the Duke of Corwyn.  ;)
Like that sardinian cheese that is supposed to have maggots?