Bou and Rau: Free Hugs
The Church of Diras was holding an event in hopes of bringing in added support to their orphanage. Though the orphans in Diras were few, they were asked to remain at the Church for education and care until there were families who would wish to adopt them or until the elderly age of sixteen graced them, making them eligible for an apprenticeship and therefore rendering them unworthy of further Churchly care. Though Alasdair had given a generous sum of the kingdom's treasury to the Church to stave off their call for contribution, the organization had decided that the care of a few orphans was only second in importance to the expansion of the Nave and used Alasdair's charity to full effect to purchase more pews from the wood maker to accommodate the new attendees on Gods Day each week.
Since it was generally known that orphans retain the powers of persuasion by the mere looks of their soft and flickering eyes, the Reverend Mother resolved that the citizens of Diras would be charmed by their sweet characters and beseeching appearances, bringing in many coins to assuage the cost of the orphans' upkeep. The event was to be a gathering of Frewyn's more becoming denizens, giving away embraces and osculations for the promise of a donation. Many believed that the promotion of such intimacy outside the Church's door inapt and artless but the Reverend Mother declared that if such affections encouraged belief in the Gods and furthered their own work within the community, all could be forgiven in the Gods' blessed names.
King Alasdair was asked to participate in the event but as the good king believed he had already given the Church ample funding to remain away from the structure other than on holidays, he declined the invitation, claiming that business at court would detain him. Although he wished to use the excuse of the summons to escape the throes of the royal courts for one afternoon, to trade one evil for another more substantial was not an appealing choice. Instead, Alasdair bade the commander to go, certain that there were many recruits who would flock to the Churchyard for the chance of gaining the woman's full lips on their cheeks even if they were asked to part with their pay to obtain such a favor.
Though the commander laughed at the king's suggested, assuring the good king that there were not but two men who would wish for her rough embrace, the Den Asaan was livid at the suggestion and roared in condemnation, fervent on the notion that no other man but himself should ever press themselves against the commander's ripened and heavy breasts. The idea of another man of particular age even nearing his beloved woman was enough to cause the giant's eyes to flare in rage and he seethed his protest to the king, asserting that he would challenge him for the right to order his mate about as the king believed he could.
Alasdair's argument was voided and the king backed away in immediate defeat. He realized now that to propose the commander's partaking in such an even an oversight and he apologized, stating his offer was meant in jest for knowing the giant protective would never permit her to attend unless in a supervisory capacity.
"I daresay much in the way of money would be collected if a certain handsome king would attend," the commander said with a suggestive smile.
Alasdair had no fitting retort for the woman other than he would not go based on the principle of the affair and instead sought to find a satisfactory way in which to ensure his barring from the event forever. "I'll go if Rautu goes," Alasdair smartly said.
The Den Asaan gave staunch looks of consternation to the king and flouted him for the suggestion of his attending such farce. But the giant's hateful glares were soon hindered when the commander brought her mate to the side and whispered that perhaps Rautu should grace the Church with his presence to wound Alasdair and therefore forcing him to attend by his own proposition. The giant sighed, wishing to punish the king accordingly for asking his mate to expose herself for their recruits' caprice but not wishing to do so at the expense of his pride. His mate assured him that certainly no one would wish to embrace the ruthless beast and that Alasdair would gain all the embarrassment of kissing old women and being tormented by hideous girls. The giant suddenly felt the need to agree and resigned to attend.
Alasdair stared at the Den Asaan in amazement and began to dread the folly of his own words. Notions of cheek pinching and lip puckering plagued him and he began to dismay, wishing desperately to take back the dire suggestion he had made.
The giant gave the king a terrible grin and just as he was going to huff happily at the king's misery, the Den Asaan found a sign about his neck, placed there by his smirking mate. Rautu looked down to read the warning fixed around him and though he believed it would have cautioned others from approaching the petulant monster instead it tendered people to him, claiming that the giant would give embraces without the need for donation. Rautu lowered his gaze and groaned but obliged his mate in her game as they both still equally believed no one would approach him.
Alasdair, the commander and Rautu left the keep and walked out of the main entrance, trundling toward the Church. There were few attendees giving charity as they passed but none seemed interesting in the promise of closeness until the king had arrived. Suddenly, women of every age and denomination leaped out of crevices and hovels to come and bid their king welcome with coins in their hands and adoration in their eyes.
The eager women crowded Alasdair's view, tossing silver coins into the collection plate for the chance to embrace their king. They wrapped their arms around him and pressed tightly against his chest, crushing him with fervency and eyeing him with provocative glances. The advances of the young and more pleasing women, however, were impeded by the advances of the elder. The older ladies of the peasantry and tradesclass shoved the devoted fledglings out of the way, assailing their young and becoming king with generous coos and comments of him being too thin for a man of stately quality. Many offered to feed him as they pinched his supple cheeks, declaring that they each had the best cooking to offer and the most handsome daughter to marry.
The commander laughed at the king's flock of indulgent elderly women and noted that although Alasdair was being attacked by waves of pinching fingers he did not seem to mind, and even relished the attention he was being paid by so many caring crones. She looked to her mate to see how well he was fairing by her side and observed that the giant was giving threatening looks to one of the small orphans standing a few feet opposing him.
Rautu tapered his gaze at the little girl and growled in a low, rumbling manner to keep her away but the child began to laugh at the Den Asaan's attempts, believing he was only playing with her and responded with a churlish grin. She took a step toward the foreboding giant and Rautu stepped back, watchful of her actions, making certain she would come no closer.
The little girl giggled and tilted her head as she looked up at the irritated creature. "Den Asaan," she said in her tiny voice, "can I hug you?"
"No, Mivaari," Rautu shouted, casting his hand out to keep her away. "You will not come closer. The children of your people have diseases. You will remain there."
The girl ignored the giant's contention and pointed her diminutive finger at Rautu's chest. "But, you have a sign."
"This indication was made to spite your king," the giant grunted. "You will disturb him for an embrace. You will not touch me."
The child rocked from side to side on her toes and then advanced, causing Rautu to leap backward.
"Away, Mivaari," the giant demanded, waving a dismissive hand at her.
The girl giggled and began chasing him about the churchyard on the giant's provocation.
The Den Asaan leaped behind his mate, using her for a shield against the child's outstretched hands and the commander howled in laughter to see the mighty giant overpowered by the simple domination of a child.
"Please, Den Asaan?" the girl said, walking in a circle around the commander. "You look like you need a hug."
The commander could suppress her laughter no longer and cackled at her mate's irked expression. She was told not to laugh as the circumstance was hardly amusing but the commander decided to stand aside and allow the girl to pursue him as she liked.
"Traala, do not leave me with this Mivaari," Rautu worriedly said.
"Excuse me," the commander snickered, "I must laugh loudly behind the Church so I do not bother the festivities." The woman hurried away and cried with mirth as the giant and the girl were left alone.
The child and the Den Asaan stood facing one another, the girl with her arms extended high toward the giant and Rautu with a glowering expression toward her. The girl's sparkling eyes enlarged and twinkled with hope for the giant's embrace, breaking the barrier of his callous exterior with each passing blink she conveyed. The giant shifted with unease, looking from side to side as the child's steadfastness besieged him. His mind would not allow what he knew to be an unwholesome practice to take place and he turned away from the girl only to find her following his glance and repeating the same disparaging tactic each direction in which the giant looked.
The Den Asaan exhaled with profound regret and suddenly knelt, bringing the child into his rough and excruciating embrace. He grumbled for the hopelessness of such a base action and the child bosomed her face into the Den Asaan's neck, tickling herself with the ends of his molded locks.
"You're cuddly," she tittered, tugging on the giant's hair as she stood from him. "Can you come to the Church in the nighttime so I can hug you before I sleep, Den Asaan?"
"No," Rautu said, standing and pushing the child away.
"But, I have trouble sleeping at night and you're comfy. My bed is too hard. Can I sleep in your bed with you, Den Asaan?"
The more the child was denied, the more she persisted in her request for the giant's continued presence. She enticed him with vows of sharing meals and sweets with her, promising to take good care of him if he swore to remain with her but the giant would not have her meager oaths and waved her on. The child would not go so easily and attached herself to his thick leg, hugging it tightly and promising she would be a good girl and behave if the giant would stay. The giant shouted at the child to relent her hold and he peeled her from his shin, holding her away from his body.
The commander, having seen the whole of the battle, sidled the king in the midst of his surrounding women and direction his attention toward the disturbed giant. "I don't believe I've ever seen him scowl quite so hard before."
Alasdair laughed at the sight of the girl endeavoring to touch the Den Asaan as she was dangled from the palm of his large hand. The king was obliged to make a further comment when a thin girl of meek countenance suddenly shuffled nervously toward the king and held out a few coppers for a donation. The king nodded his head toward her and she bowed in reply, blushing as his emerald eyes passed over her mousey face. The crowd parted as she approached and she gave her coins to her king and waited for an embracing response. When Alasdair held out his hands, inviting the woman toward him, she became too apprehensive to proceed and shied away.
"I do not need an embrace, your majesty. I will only torment myself that way. I am one of the orphans," she said in a whisper. "I just wanted to see you closely. I may never get the chance again."
The king immediately gave the woman back her precious coins and wondered by one who seemed to be of age for leaving the church was still here. "I cannot accept these," the king said with care. "This money is going toward creating a better home for you. Did you remained to take care of the other children who need a place?"
"Oh, no, majesty. The Reverend Mother took pity on me when I could not find an apprenticeship and allowed me to stay until I manage to come into some work."
Alasdair's expression grew severe. "You mean to tell me you are not given means when you become of age? All orphans who have not found homes or employment are suppose to be given a living by the Church until they are able to care for themselves."
Judging by Alasdair's growing displeasure, the woman realized she had said too much and stood away from the king. "Well, I have no skills and I only know how to read and write. I cannot expect that anyone would want me as an apprentice, majesty," she murmured in excuse.
Alasdair stood straight and excused himself from the girl's presence. He marched over to the Reverend Mother and began to have a stern discussion with her, which involved much outrange on his part and much cowering on the part of the Reverend Mother. He demanded to know why the funding he had given her had not been used correctly and when he received an insufficient reply, he ordered that anyone of age still living in the Church to be brought to the castle directly where they would be given work and wages for their occupation.
The giant stood beside his smirking mate and the two watching as the Reverend Mother crumpled before their king. Bother were proud of the king's convincing performance and each remarked that had they not come to the event, they would not have rectified the gross mistake made on behalf of the orphans of Diras.
"Where did your new friend run off to?" the commander asked her mate.
The Den Asaan said nothing and only pointed down to his leg where the child in question was happily sitting attached to it. "Remove this," Rautu ordered his woman.
The commander looked down at the girl and she waved, pleased in her new place. "I believe I'll allow her to remain a little longer," the woman said and smiled.