Aden of Aden
I did the right thing. I did not do it on purpose, or by design, but I just wanted to talk with my mother. Father gave me the topic of fashion, so when I went to mother I rattled off about things I saw Princess Endullae wearing, Queen Straekin wearing, and what had been consistent in my own wardrobe. Wanting so much to speak to my mother, I just talked, and talked, and talked. Mother finally just grabbed me, and started crying as she held me. I knew that I had done the right thing when she finally spoke to me.
“I guess there are things we can talk about.”
Her crying made me want to cry, but I guess I sounded angry as I replied, “You raised me by ever talking to me. It is wrong for you to now go quiet.”
She stopped crying, although I felt was holding back tears as her words came out cold. “Mersidda’s children do not appreciate what she tells them.”
“She does not treat her children the way you treat them, or the way you treated me. You want me to go out and make my own future. Well, I’m going. I’m here in Thiminy talking to people from other worlds and dragons. I have been to other worlds, and am going to another world. I have things to talk about, and a mother who raised me to talk to her, but she is not talking to me.”
“That has to be your father in you. That is not me. I however am glad to see it. You keep that spirit, Aden.”
“And what is wrong with there being some of my father in me?”
A grand smile broke out on mother’s face as she said, “He gave you to me. I asked for you, and that is what I got. Berair has done so much for me. Now, Aden, you are trying to do things for me. You are fighting for yourself, but you are fighting for me. Berair did the same thing. He was fighting for himself, but I was his prize and I have always honored him for treating me with honor. He has loved me, and I see that love in you. I told you, Aden, that I will always listen to you. Thank you for talking.”
I froze with fear that she would turn and go away. Seeing her just continue to look at me with a smile on her face did not help my attitude. I however could not think of anything to say, but with fear said the only thing I could come up with.
“It’s the only thing I know to do.”
“Well, we can certainly work on that.”
When Queen Straekin walked in on us to inform us about the time approaching for supper, she found mother instructing me on the arts of courtship. It seemed that there were a variety of tactics a lady could use to test the qualities of a suitor. Most were not really put into practice, as being too rough on a man usually sent a signal that he was not wanted. Queen Straekin spoke of being pleased to see me involved in such a lesson, then assured my mother that further training would be provided to me.
I could only assume that the topic truly pleased the royal lady, as during supper she had Princess Endullae go through some of the very lessons mother had been working on with me. Queen Straekin and her oldest daughter went through the litany in a humorous fashion showing their familiarity with the routines. I believe everyone was pleased with the performance, and I found myself further entertained when Lattalod was drilled on his responses to each of the things in our private social after the meal.
Hearing someone tuning a lyre outside my window, I stepped out on the balcony actually expecting to see Lattalod. The man was lean, but I sensed a strong layer of muscle over his bones. He had dark hair a little longer than I thought proper. Seeing me he almost dropped his instrument, recovered it, then seemed uneasy as he assured his stance before making a bow.
“I am at a loss. Dear lady, I am Nekulda. No one is supposed to be here, but I was told this was the balcony any lady of a prospective nature would have as her own.”
Having just gone through certain lessons, I easily asked, “And where are you from, Nekulda?”
“It is called Felmurkan.” He sat the instrument down, made a more dignified bow, then stood straight as he said more. “I have my own reasons for being here, although I am seeking a bride as well. There are a lot of reasons for turning me down. Since I am not going to go into them, you are more than free to not take me seriously.”
“Why didn’t I see you at supper?”
“Well, because I just got here. You are not supposed to be here. I however had some instructions along with a hundred gold piece dare to do them. When I approached the gates and told that to the guards, they let me in. I guess they knew you were here, although it would have been nice if they would have told me.”
Actually feeling sorry for the young man, I asked, “Your instructions were just to sing?”
“Oh, yes. The tune should be a rather humorous song, actually. It is something to sing to a lady that is not there. I could not win if there was no lady here, so I got the allowance that simply singing a song before this balcony would be enough to gain me the money. I wrote the tune while traveling.”
“Well, go ahead. Cannot allow you to lose that much money.”
“Oh, well – uh, the song really does not work if there is a lady there. I probably should play something proper.” He moved up close to where he was looking almost straight up at me, then said, “I believe a somber ballad where two lost people find each other would be right.”
“Oh, I can pull it off. I have a good voice.”
I watched as he turned to pick his instrument back up. I wanted to call it a violin, but its case was more square. He did pull out a bow, but did some strumming as well. Having been present as Mersidda’s eldest went through the courtship ritual, I expected Nekulda to perform some chatter while tuning his instrument. He did mumble some stuff, but I felt it was only him attempting to assure the lyrics to the ballad. He finally turned to present himself to me, bowed, then started into the song.
He did have a good voice. I felt that he had not practiced the song, but he had learned the words. If I had heard the song in a more public setting, a number of listeners might have tossed him a coin. Feeling that I would still be here tomorrow night, I tried to say something to possibly have me hear his voice again.
“It was good. Now that you know I am here, you might try to present yourself properly.”
“Yes, well, that would force me to be a little more open and forthright.”
A voice that I knew well suddenly demanded, “That will probably be expected of you anyway.”
The young man took off. I heard the guards laughing, but I saw the large form of my father running to the gate. Wondering about the young man, having my door burst open had me prepare for the worst.
Princess Endullae exclaimed, “Oh, your first runner! Don’t worry about him. Father chased the first one or two that rushed off, but came back with good stories about them.”
I had to ask, “Are they normal?”
“For here? Certainly! I mean, my father has all sorts of stories about him with most being true. You would be surprised how many scared witless men are dared to come here, then rush off after having done enough to satisfy the dare.”
Queen Straekin came in and said, “Terish took off after Berair, so the young man should be all right. I don’t believe it was until Debbish that any got the courage to come back. Chemiana had a few come back. None however advanced far into the courtship.”
I was being entertained by a number of stories of young men who had suddenly decided to flee when my mother walked in. She stayed in the doorway for a moment. Seeing her turn to walk away, I called out to her.
Mother replied, “You are not being reprimanded, Daughter. Still, there are lessons in what you are being told.”
“We are just talking, Mother.” When she simply stood still, I offered a topic. “Did you have any young men turn tail and run on you?”
“A prospective young man could not simply walk through the gates and advance to my window. I did not have a balcony and had a room further up where it was difficult to speak from my window. I know some were refused by my parents, one was arrested by the guards, but by the time one made it to me he had pretty much felt himself able to win my hand. Therlik enjoyed the attention, and when he came to me he was a most cheerful person.”
I definitely would have replied, but the whinny of a horse and the sound of a lady had Queen Straekin and Princess Endullae rush to the balcony. I looked to my mother, then turned to follow. What I saw was the centaur who allowed King Terish to ride her leave through the gate with another mount rushing with her. Queen Straekin tried to wave, then turned clapping her hands in a dignified manner.
“If Menasha was summoned, there will be a chase. We might as well go on to bed and wait for a report in the morning.”
I was pleased to hear my mother ask, “Is that good?”
Princess Endullae replied, “That was a horse from Davelda that was saddled, so that young man was probably from another world.”
Queen Straekin provided an answer for my mother. “Whether it is good or not depends on what one is after for a young man. Still, the fact that he ran tends to mean that he is unsure, or at least not committed to really courting a young lady. While it might be interesting to learn things about the young man, I doubt we will learn that he is serious about actually seeking Aden of Aden for a wife.”
I sensed mother was actually talking to me as she said, “Well, it is something unusual for me. Still, he did not seem intent upon doing harm.”
Princess Endullae yelled out, “Lieutenant Eveld, did that young man ride up to the castle?”
A decorated soldier on the wall loudly replied, “He came on foot, Princess. He was seen moving through town earlier, Princess. He did not come to the gates without some recognition. When he fled he however simply jumped from a place on the road and disappeared. I have never seen your father or anyone else pass through a portal there. I expect King Terish will put new safeguards in place upon his return with Sir Berair.”
Princess Endullae thanked the officer, then turned to us to say, “Mother is correct. We might as well go to bed.”
Queen Straekin spoke to the soldiers about securing the gates and keeping a double watch. They mentioned the draw bridge already being lifted, and a call for certain personnel having been sent. She gave some more orders to the soldiers about what to especially look for, then turned to us.
“Nothing to be anxious about, so we might as well go to bed. A story like this should put us in a cheerful mood in the morning.”
I properly saw them to the door. Pleasant comments passed between us, which helped me feel that nothing bad would happen to any of the missing men. I however looked with pleasure seeing it was my mother who was the last to leave through the door.
She said, “I have no words for you, Daughter. I am sure it was surprising, but that provides only experience and not a lesson. Honestly, my period of courtship was a boring affair. If I can offer you any hope, it is that this castle will provide you with plenty of fresh air.”
“Mother, you are not a boring person. I have enjoyed my years of speaking with you. Just talk.”
“I will not encourage you to pick anyone, or decline anyone, Aden. This is where I failed in life, and where my parents failed me. I however am determined not to fail you. To assure that I will not fail you, I will not speak for or against anyone that calls upon you. You can speak to me, Aden. Always, Aden, you can speak to me, and I will always listen. That is where my parents failed me, and where I will not fail you.”
“No, Mother.” She looked to me as if to scold me, so I quickly said, “If you are going to speak to me, I want you to promise that you will speak to my husband.”
“Not if you tell me not to, Aden. I will not fail you. Therlik was a failure, but my parents never listened to me. I will listen to you, Aden, especially if it means that I stop speaking to or listening to your husband.”
Suddenly the weight I felt my mother was carrying became understandable. She had told me words of that affect, but only now did I sense the true fear within her. I wanted to tell her that I did not want such a man at all, but understood that she did not want such a man for me either. She however had picked such a man. Not wanting to feel such a weight ever in my life, I sought a way to have her release the fear.
“Mother, most people learn from their mistakes.”
“Affairs of the heart never seem to be mistakes. You could not have convinced me that Therlik was a mistake. Honestly, of all those my parents allowed to court me, Therlik was a most joyful man. Berair was not joyful, but confident and honest. In those early days with him, I found that I could trust him. I needed that, and still find that trait of his very gratifying.”
I smiled while saying, “Mother, you just provided advice.”
Her expression stayed somber as she replied, “A reward well earned. Now, Daughter, I bid you a good night.”
There are others for Aden of Aden to speak with.