Fyskar: Ch 25

Fyskar: Legend of the Bai book 1 by Chapel Orahamm, antler and crow on pile of skulls with ember and storm

They entered Eoin’s chamber. It was a fourth the size of the prince’s, but comfortable. His pharmacy lay in the room next door to it. He had allowed Fearchar and Seonaid a peek inside. A year since he had seen the inside of those two rooms, and memories flooded him with a sense of loss and need. Most of his herbs would have to be harvested all over again, but it was worth the sacrifice. His short apothecary cabinet rested on the desk. He’d restock the materials the next day.

Fearchar and Seonaid stared around in awe at Eoin’s bed-chamber, twice that of their own house they had left back on the isle. Rugs and pillows covered the bench in myriad colours and patterns. The grate of the window repeated six-pointed stars and squares with intricate bevels and floral cutouts. It overlooked a courtyard with trees and fountains, leaving the chamber cool and sweet-smelling.

Eoin approached the chest stacked on his old clothing trunk. He caressed the swirled carving as he opened the box once more. He pulled from it the leather folio and held it out to the prince. Mirza took the folio and carefully extracted the document. He read through the long sheet slowly. “This land size…” Mirza paused a moment, rereading the dimensions once more, the descriptions of the hills and the coastline, the included docks and pastureland. “It’s larger than the mountain region of my father’s domain,” he breathed out, looking up at Eoin in awe.

Land is nothing without people if one is to rule as sovereign. Eoin shrugged and turned back to the chest.

“I’ll have it stored in the treasury room when we leave here,” the prince muttered. “Your children will surely want this one day.” He slipped the velum sheet back into its leather protection. 

Eoin nodded and sighed before turning back to his trunks. I need to speak with your musicians. I need a bodhran made. He pulled from the chest his white robe and shook it out. Retrieving a long straight staff set with a small hook in the centre from the second room, he slipped the robe over the wood and hung it on a peg, pulling wrinkles from the wool.

Mirza approached the garment, fingering the embroidery along the edge. “You need to find that key first,” the prince muttered in his ear. Eoin glanced at the man before he continued pulling out his kilts. Tossing pillows from the bench, he laid out the immense length of fabric, trying to let the textile relax its creases. “I’ll have a servant take it to the washroom and have someone there straighten it for you.” Mirza approached the fabric.

Really, you don’t need to do that, Mirza. Give it a couple days to air, and it’ll stop being wrinkled. Eoin, unsettled at the action, stood back as Mirza gathered the robes and kilts up.

“You’ll need it for tonight.” The man turned to him.

It’s already night. Eoin pointed out the dusk.

“Just sunset. Even more reason to hurry. Where’s your key?” the prince demanded. Eoin took a step back at the snap and looked around for his duffel. It was sagging beneath a mound of pillows. He rifled through the pack. Near the bottom, he found the strip of leather he had tied the necklace to and pulled it out to show the prince. The man held out his hand for the tiny instrument and ring. Eoin dropped it into Mirza’s hand, a fleeting grimace running across his lips.

The prince looked over the ring, curious at the etching. “It’s like your…” He looked up at Eoin and then looked again. “Where’s…?” The prince touched Eoin’s collar bone, right at the centre of the torc.

“It’s my signet ring, a symbol of my position, same as that document, the crown, my tattoos, my hair. I left my husband and wife’s signet pendant at his grave.” Eoin touched the vacant spot where the prince rested his finger.

“I’m so sorry, my little White Bird. Truly I am,” whispered the prince. Mirza turned and disappeared out the door, calling to a guard.

Eoin popped his head out to witness the guard dash down the hallway. He shrugged and walked back into the room. Before he could protest, a hand settled on top of his head and pulled his crown from his white locks. He looked up at the prince, confused. Mirza?

A servant appeared along with Vasili in his long red robes and squat cylindrical hat. Mirza placed the mass of white wool in the servant’s arms first. “Get this straightened, immediately. Find as many servants who won’t ruin it and get it done, now. Bring it back before the guests start arriving!” He sent the servant running from the room.

Guests? Eoin demanded.

The prince ignored him. Instead, the giant turned to Vasili. He held out the crown to the man along with the key and the ring. He grabbed Eoin’s chain and directed him over to the jeweller, thrusting the chain into the man’s gloved hand. “Get it polished, all of it, and the spare smaller crown he has in that box. Be careful with anything you touch. You have until that servant gets back,” Mirza demanded, walking out the door.

Vasili nodded to Eoin with a happy smile. “So, you have returned! Did the mask work well? My boy was too happy to prove himself on that stitching, and I must say the tip was a joy to manipulate,” the man greeted. Eoin nodded, not entirely sure what was going on anymore.

“Seems I must be delicate with your parcels, Niloofar. Would you mind finding the crown Mirza mentioned?” The man released his charge. 

Eoin bit down on his lip to still his desire to curse and turned back to the box, pulling out another wrapped package. Seonaid took the oiled hide from him as he unwrapped a smaller circlet with a deep v incised with birds and fish. The physician handed it to Vasili, who studied it with fascinated appreciation before laying it aside. He reached for Eoin’s chain once more, going for the lock.

“Eoin?” Fearchar asked, coming over to size up the jeweller. Vasili glanced at the muscled redhead, initially dismissing him before the man’s hair intrigued him. He dropped Eoin’s chain and approached Fearchar. Eoin’s bodyguard backed up, his eyes going round. “Who’s yer friend, Eoin?” Fearchar circled, keeping his back from getting pressed against the wall.

Eoin pointed at the bracers. Made, he signed quickly.

“Woah, woah, woah, nae happen’ snipe! Ah ga’ me own.” Fearchar shoved his leather archer’s bracer in the man’s face. The man glanced at it. His eyes went round, and he grabbed it, flipping it this way and that, intrigued with the carefully embossed knotwork scrolled across the dark leather.

“Shite, le’go ye maimy bastard.” Fearchar tugged his hand out of Vasili’s grasp.

Vasili turned back to Eoin. “A quick polish, Niloofar?” the man smiled, no ill will in his eyes. Eoin nodded, puzzled. “All right, all right, come, sit. This will take some time; we must hurry, mustn’t we?” Vasili pulled his chain, dragging him to the bench and forcing him to sit down. Seonaid scuffled away as the men sat down, ignoring her. Vasili pulled from his thick belt a small bottle and a large soft cloth.

“What’s happening, Fearchar?” Seonaid whispered to her husband. Fearchar shrugged, not entirely sure.

“They speak strangely, Niloofar. Henri would have loved to have seen them. I’m sorry to inform you that he passed away in his sleep three days before the Festival of One Hundred Rubies,” Vasili supplied reverently for the dearly deceased. 

Eoin held back sudden tears. He had hoped to introduce Fearchar and Seonaid to his mentor and tutor. Sniffling, he wiped at his eyes. He’d never share a pot of gavheh with the man again. Vasili nodded his head sympathetically. “Tomorrow is the beginning of Nowruz already.”

Eoin stopped him from another monologue with a series of signs. It’s Chahar Shanbeh Soori? Is that why we have everyone here already? I’ve lost complete track of the seasons.

Vasili nodded, catching the gist of Eoin’s rapid signs. “Yes. We’ll get you nice and shined. Henri was blessed by a priest Mirza had brought in. He was buried in the way of his Huguenot brethren. You should visit him in the morning before the rest of the celebrations begin.” Vasili turned to the chain to polish.

Eoin sighed, trying to reign in his scattering emotions. He nodded deferentially. Are his flowers still growing?

Vasili pondered the question. “I believe they are. Tau and Amina kept your medicinal beds in good stead while you were gone. They may have transferred them to your garden for you.”

If they are there, I’ll take a few clippings of his bear’s ear to his tomb.

The smith paused a moment, waiting for his own betraying emotions to abate. He turned to the odd pair the physician had returned with. “You brought them with you?” Vasili moved the conversation away from the well-loved translator. Eoin nodded. His hands were quite close to being tied with the red-robed man rubbing the bracer vigorously, stamping down his ability to talk.

“That’s nice. You were always busy here. It’s good that you have proper help now. Was your journey pleasant? Did you get to see the ocean? I’ve never been to the seaside. It sounds wonderful. Oh! What about a ship? How far did you go?

“You were gone for so long. It was making the prince restless to the point of madness. He couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep. With both you and Henri gone, he wandered the halls at night. Outright startled the cleaning staff more than once.” The man spoke as fast as a flock of birds.

Eoin blinked. The language was not entirely rusty, but Vasili’s accent was heavy enough as it was, let alone when he got to really talking.

The man continued his tirade of commentary and questions as he finished the bracers and the bangles, not waiting for the physician’s reply. Eoin had explained what he could to Fearchar and Seonaid while he had his hands free from the man. Vasili moved to Eoin’s torc, sweeping his hair off it. “Oh, my! What became of that lovely fish pendant of yours? It looks quite strange with it not hanging here.” Vasili touched the empty spot between the terminals of his torc with a gloved finger.

Buried it with my family, Eoin replied.

“Buried what, Eoin?” Seonaid asked. She sat down next to Vasili, allowing Eoin to work around Vasili’s frame a little easier.

My husband and wife’s pendant – their seal. I left it back at the grave. I had found it before I got shot. I hung it on my torc. He had to fight tears that he had promised himself he was done shedding.

Vasili continued polishing quite happily. Nervously, he pulled from his belt a small pouch and dropped it in Eoin’s hands. “I always liked that little pendant. It seemed to fit so well. I played with a few spare blanks that I had lying around while you were gone. I thought it might make the prince feel better to have something to remind him of you while you were away, but I never got the courage up to give it to him.” Vasili tried to hide behind his work by taking up yet another piece of precious metal to buff.

Eoin shook the pouch until two tiny thumbprints sized flakes of matched gold fell out. He held one up to look at it in the fading light. Within the engraving sat a long-billed bird on a pond with a blooming water lily. He smiled at the image. It would have made the prince happy.

“Do you want them?” Vasili offered. Eoin nodded, handing the man the tiny pendants. “Well, all right then! Hmm.” Vasili looked at the thin gold necklace that had the key on it and pursed his lips. “You had yours on a good thick leather that could take the wear. A bit thin, if you ask me. Seeing as you sleep in the thing, it would inevitably break.”

Vasili pulled out another leather pouch and produced a pair of crimps to begin pulling the chain apart. Eoin held up his bracers, the thicker chain flashing. Vasili contemplated the loops for a moment. “It’ll make your reach shorter?” the man explained. Eoin shrugged. “If you are sure?” Vasili unlocked the chain and proceeded to pull a short length of links off, relocking the chain. With a bit of work and more than one good poke to the throat and a bruised clavicle, Vasili hung the pendant between the torc’s terminals. Eoin touched the flake, a waiver of a smile kissing his lips. He would give Marduk the other charm later.

Finished polishing Eoin’s immediate jewellery, Vasili turned to the crowns he had carefully set on pillows. “It is quite well done.” He admired the wire wrap of gold before carefully working over the massive antlers and lengths of gold suspended pea-sized freshwater pearls and beryl. The ornate carvings repeated in patterns of swirling triangles and horses.

He turned from the oversized crown when its gleaming surface cast gold spots across the lattice and ceiling and moved onto the smaller crown that Fearchar and Seonaid were familiar with in Eoin’s void. Waves and seagulls flew along the thick wires. “It has been within your family long?” Vasili asked.

Eoin nodded, thrilled to hear the appreciation in the jeweller’s voice. He wasn’t sure how old the crown was. It had been passed down from king to prince. His father had told him he couldn’t list how many years it went back. It had been used before the creation of the deed. His father had loved the shapes on the crown and had decided to establish Eoin’s own torc off the patterns. Vasili rubbed at the gold gently, cleaning oil from creases. With painstaking detail, he buffed scratches from its surface and made it gleam once more.

The man turned to the signet ring. “Cruder carving, and much wear. This is older than your necklace, is it not?” Vasili asked as he looked over the small band.

The ring was provided to my many times great grandmother after assisting Donnchad mac Crinain’s wife and children. My many times great grandfather received the land rights for helping Donnchad achieve a relatively peaceful kingdom. Eoin explained to Fearchar and Seonaid and nodded for the benefit of Vasili.

“That is old,” Seonaid gasped, surprised the ring went back to before the great crusades.

The evening was fully set, and Fearchar had been forced to light the small oil lamp by the time Mirza returned with a harried-looking servant. The servant held a pair of white bolts of fabric, having wrapped Eoin’s kilt and robe about straight pieces of wood.

“Wonderful, Vasili. You always do beautiful work,” the prince commended the jeweller. Vasili, finished with his polishing, presented the antler crown and ring to the prince and bowed his way out of the room. The servant looked about, wondering what he was supposed to do with the fabric. Eoin held out his hands for the bolt. The servant, too happy to be relieved of his duty, handed it off, bowed his way from the room, and dashed down the hall.

“What else do you need?” the prince asked quickly.

“Need? What is going on, Mirza?” Eoin touched the man’s arm. Mirza’s emotions were in an excited tizzy of fear, anticipation, and joy. “Marduk?” Eoin pushed again.

“We are having a banquet for welcoming you home. My father and brothers will all be there. Your young charge has been looking forward to your return for the better part of a year now. I want to present you to them as a fellow king, as royalty, as you are. This feels ceremonial, don’t you think?” The man asked, excited. Fearchar pushed into the void, curious as to what was going on. The prince turned to him. “You know how to help get him ready for a ceremony, right?”

” ‘e i’nae my original clan, sire.” Fearchar shook his head. “If Ah had an example, maybe?”

A slew of memories crowded the glade in Eoin’s void with a wide variety of costumes he had worn through his lifetime. The chaotic jumble stifled all progress. Eoin stepped back from the pack, his heart threatening to constrict the space. 

“Calm thyself, Laird,” Fearchar eased his hand on Eoin’s arm. “Eoin, enough, ye’ll blister us. We can get ye put together. Easy. Think. Yi’ve got yer kilt ‘n yer robe. ‘s there anythin’ else ye’d need?” he asked.

“That entirely depends on everything!” The man paced in the void, his heart thumping against his rib cage. Anxiety mounted. Another hand pressed in on him. Seonaid emerged into his void in time to be overwhelmed with various ceremonial images flashing through Eoin’s head.

“Seonaid, d’ya ken? Prince is presentin’ ‘im ta the uppities t’night,” Fearchar explained quickly.

“You have the most bizarre way of expressing yourself; you realise that, right?” the prince mused, staring at the redhead in befuddlement.

“Aye, ‘e’s rough ’round te gob, but,” Eoin shrugged, still fixated on the images he was flipping through. 

Mirza turned from his physician to Fearchar in horror. “What have you done to my physician?”

“Yer leannan, Mirza. Eh, scared ‘im, made ‘im mad, fecked ‘im, ‘elped ‘im kill aff a ‘ole clan. Dare ya, go make him screamin’ mad. Wait till he star’s cursin’ ye out. His burr drops a’ octave.” Fearchar smiled sweetly.

“Burr?” The man studied his physician as though he had grown a second head.

Eoin turned a mischievous glance at the giant. ” ‘side the point, Mirza. Could ‘a tol’ me ye’re having a party before pouncin’ me. Ye want me dressed? From my homeland, or when I served Egret Nest or yer’s or somethin’ of all it? Someone needs to get out; I can’t handle all three of you in here at once.” Eoin pointed out the warping of the void.

“Keep my lass. She’s more fashionable than me,” Fearchar bowed out.

Eoin turned to Seonaid. “Ye ‘ave anythin’? he was desperate.

“I-” she looked around at the images, startled. She had not anticipated this to be the extent of the conversation. Eoin wiped his face and squished his mouth. He turned from image to image before turning back to Seonaid. “All right, calm down. Don’t panic. We can get you put together in short order. What are you planning for him to do, Mirza?” She turned on the giant.

The giant glanced down at her for a second before moving his eyes away to stare fixedly off in space as he replied, “I had planned on explaining that Niloofar is a king of his people. He did say he had never realised he had ascended from being a prince. Is there a ceremony for ascending to the new title? I was going to present him his crown in court along with the deed with his royal title; that way it would be clear to my family and the servants. I was going to unlock those chains formally. I can have Vasili remove the bracers and the bangles.”

“Nae, leave the jesses. They’re fine where they are. Let me think.” Eoin pondered the images floating through his brain. One stood out more prominent than the others: his wedding day as he handfasted with his husband and wife, his father acting as ritual-bearer. A much younger Eoin had on his pure white kilt and white robe. His soft white cuaran and bright red tassels were not easily replaced. He would go barefoot instead. Stunning against this white costume was his chest and face. Blue spirals and intricate knots had been finely painted across his skin. Vanora clung to his black gauntlet, her wings outstretched. “Symbols, all of them. Long life, good luck, fertility blessings…each knot has meaning. Took through the honeymoon to wash the blasted stuff off. Osla practically bathed me in an ale cask to get the stain off. It got on everything.” Eoin traced a symbol in the air, letting it glow for a moment before fading. Thankfully, the wool had not come to harm from it, giving up the dye rather quickly, as did his hair.

“What is that?” the prince asked. “Can we use it?”

“Woad, which doesn’t grow here, and I used my entire supply consecrating my clan’s grave, so that’ll need to be skipped. I brought home seeds with the hope to grow myself a patch. I will need it for my sons.” He motioned the image away.

“You left indigo and brushes in your pharmacy, did you not? Would that work?” His prince persisted. Eoin turned to look the man up and down. The thought had not occurred to him to deviate from the methods of his homeland. It would take forever to paint on, though.

“Is it only for marriage?” Seonaid asked.

“Nae, well, depends on the intent. Births were signified by painting an opening for a spirit across the brow and nose after their seventh day of life. I mean, there are ones for battle that I am aware of, though Fyskar didn’t raise blade in any battle since the time of Briuis. Funerals for those who died suddenly or violently, we would rub the bodies in ochre and paint the blue spirals to help the spirit journey. Elders who passed on gently were coated in blue. I never saw the ceremony for ascending to Righ, but my father shared with me his memory of when he was crowned. Most are for communicating with the spirits and statements of family and place,” Eoin conceded.

“Show us,” Mirza demanded.

Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.

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