The Latrine Tower
Beyond the royal theatre and tucked behind the king's stables was a precarious place of great consequence, one to which no one ever wished to venture yet everyone needed to go. The latrine tower, shielded from general view by the battlements lining the keep, was an odious object that was both keen to the eye and terrifying to the mind. It stood upon a large outcropping at easternmost edge of the keep and there it remained to be admired as a necessity and hated by all. Though it was as elegant as the rest of the castle grounds, its sight gave offence and its pungent aroma was made unfathomable by the heat of the summer. Even though scent of the spire was lessened by the perfume of the stables and dampened by the stagnancy of a Frewyn winter, everyone in the keep did his utmost to avoid it.
The lords and ladies of the royal quarter delighted in having chambermaids to remove from their quarter what was so unclean to them, those in the armed forces preferred the basins kept beneath their bunks, and the numerous yeoman only visited the tower when the smaller and more private means in the servant's quarter was occupied.
It was one morning, however, after a long evening spent in the royal parlour that the king had awoken with a rather horrid pain in his abdomen. The groaning sounds emanating from his stomach suggested he had eaten too much of the cheesecake Martje made in his honour for the celebration the night before. Alasdair knew the Den Asaan would not have touched it, as it was made with what the giant declared to be unnatural cultures, but he thought it advisable to eat more than one piece while the opportunity to enjoy such a rare happiness was presented him. His appetite was small, his stomach delicate, and though he wished he could eat more of Martje's cooking, when he did the result was unkind and unpleasant. The remembrance of the cake's dulcet flavour is what kept the king looking cheerful as he made his way to the tower. He shuffled in an awkward gait, maintaining his countenance as much as was possible when he bowed to the lords and ladies who paid him recognition. He favoured a quick stride as he passed the stables, doing his utmost to circumvent the usual speech with the groom on the subject of Maeve's shoes, and he held his breath as he ascended the tower only to find the commander waiting for him at the top. She said her hellos and the king swore to himself as he was told that the tower was already in use. He asked if she had been waiting long and if he could take the place before her, claiming his business was urgent and could not wait more than a few more minutes.
"By the ominous growls your stomach is making, Alasdair, I'm not so certain I would wish for you to go before me," the commander said, laughing into her hand.
"Please, Boudicca," Alasdair rejoined, rocking and oscillating in place. "I am asking you not to do this to me just now."
The commander smiled and bit her lip to stifle her laughter. "Very well, Alasdair. You may enjoy its uses for however long is necessary. I am able to hold myself for more than a few seconds."
Alasdair stopped dancing in place and gave the commander a flat look.
"Do not give me such a disdainful glare," the commander said firmly. "You were the very same when we were just recruited. You would have to leave your watch every ten minutes and have me in your place simply because you couldn't use the tower at Tyferrim Company."
"I had never seen so horrendous a place in all my life," Alasdair exclaimed, bending over in mild agony. "I have no idea how you bore it."
"Alasdair, I grew up cleaning a barn in which pigs and cows were kept. After one has endured one sort of filth, was has endured them all."
The king could not deny there was truth in the commander's statement but as the pains in his abdomen were descending, he thought it desirable not to speak and concentrate on his breathing to keep himself tolerably sane.
The commander remained with Alasdair for the few minutes he was made to wait and when silence would no longer suffice, she was asked why she did not make use of the facilities in the garrison. "By the gods, no," she exclaimed in disgust. "It's too frigid in there to sit down for any amount of time. The recruits should not care. They have all the comfort of standing and practicing their accuracy."
"I suppose Rautu would call it training," Alasdair surmised, beginning to sweat.
"He would if he ever visited the facilities."
Alasdair stood upright when the pain subsided and looked at the commander with a bemused expression.
"My understanding is that his people bury what is theirs," she intimated.
Alasdair grimaced. "You mean-"
"All over the royal hunting grounds."
Alasdair moaned in renewed aguish. After surviving the shock of where the Den Asaan did was he must, he pounded his fist against the door and threatened whoever was inside by order of the king to remove himself from the chamber. "If he does not come out of there this instant, by the gods-"
"I thought you had chambermaids," the commander said, leaning against the wall with a complacent smile.
"Absolutely not," Alasdair howled. "I will not allow someone to clean my-" But before Alasdair could profess the terrible employments of the chambermaids about the keep, the door opened and the Den Asaan stepped out from inside the tower chamber.
Rautu barely smiled as he eyed the king's pained countenance and bent stance. He stood aside and held the door open for Alasdair to enter. His vengeance for the previous evening's mistake of Alasdair asking Martje to make a cheesecake was exacted and the enjoyment of remarking the king's suffering had been fulfilled.
"Thank the gods," Alasdair cried as he leapt into the chamber. He locked the door and sat on the freezing hole, prepared to be there for quite some time.
The Den Asaan made a few dry laughs when hearing the terrifying sounds resonate throughout the tower. The appalling din of Alasdair's imprudence and misfortune was all his delectation and he humphed, pleased with the king's undoing.
"You were in there this entire time," the commander said, shaking her head.
"I was," Rautu grunted.
The commander heard the vexatious rumbles from beyond the door and began to feel considerate toward the king's plight. "Did you poison that cake?" she asked the Den Asaan.
"I did not need to poison it. The food your fat Mhojhudenri prepares is poisonous anyone who eats it."
"Did you encourage Alasdair to eat more than his lordly stomach was able to abide last night?"
The Den Asaan looked to the side. "Perhaps."
The commander simpered at her mate. "He is not Otenohi, Iimon Ghaala. He will not retaliate in the same deadly manner you so enjoy."
"Yes, I will!" Alasdair shouted, his voice echoing from behind the door.
Rautu responded with a few taunting knocks against the chamber door and grinned to himself as he left the towering, wondering what the king could have in mind for a fitting reprisal.