Morning in the capital brought the herald to the king's door, and just after sunrise, the royal messenger slipped a note passed the threshold that had been given him the night before. It was a note from Kai Linaa directed to Alasdair, the contents of which requested his presence in the kitchen for him to have his portrait drawn. It was written in Unghaahi's hand and in his overly refined style, as Kai Linaa had difficulty in writing any item of civility half so well as her mate, but no matter who had sent the letter or who had transcribed it, Alasdair was gratified to receive it.
He gave his affirmative answer directly and prepared himself for the sketch. His hair was molded, his jerkin was pressed, his breeches were steamed, and Alasdair did not leave his quarters until he was the image of tidiness. He emerged from the royal chamber and hopped into the main hall with the object of postponing court for the day. He walked with wide smiles and quick strides, eager to give happy pleasantries to every noble that passed. He called for the herald to adjourn proceedings, and once Alasdair freedom for the day was secured, he skipped down the main hall toward the kitchen whereupon reaching the yeoman's quarter met with the commander.
She was coming from the commons to meet him but upon seeing his cheery appearance so early in the morning, she could be under no mistake as to why Alasdair, who was usually so dismal the day after Gods' Day, was so beaming now. "Coming to see Kai Linaa for your portrait?" she simpered.
"Finally," Alasdair exclaimed. Everyone else in this confounded keep has a portrait done but me."
The commander put her hand to her cheek in feigned demureness. "Are you upset that all the peasants have gone before the king?"
"No," he said with a hateful expression.
The commander must laugh at Alasdair's dour pout and patted him on the back to increase his bitter sentiment. "She has not asked you yet, Alasdair, because you're our king and she's horrified of making something that you shall not like."
"I would like any portrait she would make, especially if it were of me." Alasdair realized how vain he sounded and buried his head in his hand, shaking it in shame.
"You're merely pleased she asked you to sit for her so that you can have your jerkin and your hair captured for all eternity."
"And what's wrong with my hair?" Alasdair remonstrated, instantly forgetting his indignity.
"Nothing at all," she shrugged. "It was simply made to be drawn."
Alasdair understood that he was being mocked for enjoying taking pride in his looks and stomped into the kitchen prepared to sulk through the entire affair. Upon entering the oven room, he perceived Kai Linaa sitting at the breakfast table. He approached and grumbled his hellos but once Martje fulfilled her office as the bearer of breakfast, Alasdair was all smiles again. A sip of coffee, a taste of toast and the king was never happier.
The commander and Kai Linaa shared their feminine mirth over Alasdair's restored character and allowed him to finish his coveted breakfast in peace so that he may be all the more blithesome for when his likeness was to be taken. Kai Linaa made a few preliminary sketches while he was eating to gain the shape of his head and the style of his manner, but even after Alasdair had done his curative meal she claimed she required a few more minutes to capture his nuances. The quirk of his right brow, the situation of his lips, the curl at the end of his hair were all details that must be smoothed out before any seriousness was to take place. At last, she declared herself ready and Alasdair was all attention.
"Now," he said, lifting his chin high, "I want my left side to be more prevalent than my right. My chin looks better from the left. My jaw looks squarer and my cheekbones look more defined." He turned his head slightly to the right to exhibit the features discussed. "I want my earring to show, if possible, and I want the pin on my jerkin to be pronounced. Carrigh made it for me and I want everyone to see it."
Kai Linaa smiled and said what was proper but the dread of taking direction from the king washed over her. She had no idea of Alasdair being so fastidious with his image. She had thought it was only so meticulous with his appearance and therefore could have no scruple in having himself drawn when he looked so exquisite already, but she now must acknowledge that she was quite mistaken. He fussed, he finicked, he would not allow her to begin until he had divulged ever particular she was to follow. She began taking notes of his demands, and when he had done, Kai Linaa was horrified to put her implements to paper.
A few sharp assertions from the commander would be Kai Linaa's remedy. She countered all of his claims, insisting that Alasdair could never look well in the mornings and he should be prepared for the drawing to be only as good as he seemed at present. A few unenthused looks from Alasdair, a cackle from the commander, and Kai Linaa was poised to begin.
It was a shorter sitting than was originally expected, giving Alasdair grief that he would have to reconvene court for the afternoon. The initial drawing took all of an hour and Kai Linaa had only to clean the lines and create a frame, neither of which required her subject being there. She was asked if she was certain of the portrait's completion and before she could give an answer, Alasdair had flown behind her to have a look at what she had done.
"Oh, well," he said in surprise. "I look very well, don't I?" He remarked every feature Kai Linaa had caught and reckoned the rendering even better than he had suspected. He stood upright and looked at the commander with a smug smile.
"Alasdair, you are all perfection," she heartily professed. "The hair especially, which is his majesty's most important feature. The proud nose and striking eyes have little to do with his countenance when all his handsomeness is in the arrangement of his hair."
"I work every hard on my hair, I'll have you know," Alasdair said defensively.
"It's such a model of perfection, I should not wonder that it is all your exertion."
"It took me forever to draw it," Kai Linaa sighed.
"Now you know how long it takes me to fix it," said Alasdair with a firm nod.
Kai Linaa blushed and laughed into her raised hand. "I will appreciate it more every time I'll see it, majesty."
"As you should do. This is hard work."
"Yes, because looking fashionable is so difficult when one has a wife for a personal tailor," the commander huffed. "Very well, we shall have our resident art enthusiast decide." She observed the Den Asaan walking from the training yard to the kitchen and she motioned for him to attend them to give his afamed and decided opinion.
Alasdair groaned and wished to run away but he would only be running to the courts where he would be made to suffer the injurious looks of nobles rather than the harsh convictions of a certain giant.
Rautu entered the oven room and was shown the unfinished portrait. He hummed and deliberated for some time, studying the detail of the lines and the confidence of the hand that created them. "It is an accurate likeness," he decided. "You have improved."
"Did he mean my looks or Kai Linaa's talents?" Alasdair asked the commander.
"If Rautu was telling you that your appearance has improved, should you take that as an offense or a compliment?"
Alasdair made her no answer. His flat looks sufficed where his words would have only dug himself further into the affront he had begun on his behalf. He thanked Kai Linaa immensely for her time and entreated her to have another sitting of himself and Carrigh together. He had almost left the kitchen when he turned back to the commander and said, "Even if I had improved in some way, I know Rautu would never tell me so."
"Alas," the commander simpered, "You are beginning to know your friend better with each passing day spent in his company."
Alasdair made a complacent demand to have the Den Asaan's likeness taken, claiming that someone so irritable and smiling as the giant would not have a portrait nearly half as perfect as his own., but when Alasdair left the kitchen and entered the main hall, the commander begged Kai Linaa to draw her mate if only to proclaim the Den Asaan as the model object of perfection.