Featuring appearances from thirty of the Haanta series' most beloved characters, Tales from Frewyn Volume Two pays tribute to the animals that inhabit the world of the Two Continents. From Mr Cluck, the rooster that refuses to crow, to Tuatha, the stubborn Westren longhorn, the series boasts a multitude of strange and wonderful creatures, including traveling mice, mischievous mares, vicious rats, and eloquent gulls. Join everyone in Khantara Ghaasta, the Diras Castle keep, and the far reaches of Westren and Haantaledhran in honouring their feathered companions and furred friends with this collection of their most daring and delightful episodes.
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Read-Along: The Rat, Pt. 4Alasdair was gone in an instant, leaping out of the library and hastening toward the tailor with all the alacrity that his terror could command. He passed the herald in his way and demanded that the Scoaleigh be sent with a message to the trapper that he was to come to the keep immediately, whilst images of gnashing teeth, slithering tails, and skittering feet plagued his mind. "Carrigh..." he panted, rounding the corner to the servants' quarter. He came to the tailor door, threw the door open, and sitting at her sewing desk was his wife, looking as lovely as ever, mending something of Dorrin's and seemingly not at all in distress. "Carrigh," said Alasdair, hurrying towards her with open arms. "My darling, are you hurt? Did it touch you?"
"Has what touched me, sire?" said she, welcoming his tender embrace.
"The thing that's crawling about the keep."
"You mean the rat, sire?"
Alasdair's eyes flared. "Is it here? Have you seen it? Has it crept under the door? Did it near you?"
"Alasdair," Carriagh laughed, "it has been nowhere in this tailor."
"Excellent. Then we can hide in here until it's caught."
He closed the door and locked it, searched under the sewing table and about the back room, inspected the looming spools and bolts, and when he was tolerably easy, he heard a strange scratching sound and clung to his wife. "Did you hear that?" he said, in a dreadful hush.
Carrigh was all demure smiles. "I hear nothing, sire."
"How can you not have heard it? It sounded as though it was scratching against the door."
"Do you want me to open the door to see if the rat is there?"
"No, don't you dare, my love," Alasdair demanded, pulling her hand back from the handle. "You might let it in here, and it might get lost amidst the fabrics and ruin all your stock." He paused and held to his wife. "...And it might touch me."
Carrigh could not but laugh at this, and she drew his cheek to her breast and rubbed his back, and asked whether his perusal of the new jerkin she had just made would be a pleasant distraction for him.
"Is the one with the design of the wolves chasing one another finished?" said Alasdair, his eyes brightening.
Carrigh's cheeks blushed with smiles. "The embroidery is done, sire. I just have to take the back in. Will you stand for me?"
He would, and she brought out the exquisite piece, its front embellished and embossed with intricate patterns, its back set with smooth black velvet, and Alasdair was never happier.
"It is absolutely stunning," he exclaimed, browsing the fabric with his fingertips.
"It matches one of the bodices I made for myself," said Carrigh, taking up an unfinished bodice from the table. "The pattern here that ends at your waist begins in the same place on my piece."
Alasdair's lips wreathed in a smile. "Will you wear it for me? I'm anxious to see how it looks on you."
A small room with a locked door and his stunning wife standing beside him, with the prospect of watching her and even helping her to undress before him, was the most agreeable circumstance in the world, and after some doting looks, Carrigh began to untie her bodice. Alasdair moved behind her and offered his help in loosening the interlaced ribbons, when the handle of the tailor door suddenly began to wriggle.
"Who is there?" Alasdair called out, quickly standing in front of his wife.
"Sire, is that you?" said a familiar voice, from the other side of the door. "Are you in there with Her Majesty?"
"Yes, Brigdan," said Alasdair, with a sigh.
There was a pause, and Alasdair imagined Brigdan smiling to himself.
"I assume you know that there is a rat in the keep?" said Brigdan.
"Yes, I am aware."
"And are you and Her Majesty quite safe in the tailor, sire?"
Alasdair glanced at his wife, who was in a glow of affection and embarrassment, and he made a sultry half-smile. "Yes, I think we are."
"Very well," said Brigdan. "I'll leave you to your ease."
"Thank you, Brigdan."
Brigdan's footfalls led him away from the door, and Carrigh and Alasdair were left to themselves. Alasdair turned to his wife and was prepared to pull away the front of her bodice when there was a slight rap at the door. They gave a small start, and Alasdair put his hands at his sides.
"Your Majesty?" said a familiar voice, on the other side of the door.
"Yes?" said Carrigh and Alasdair.
"Sire, are you there too?"
Alasdair made an exasperated sigh. "There are too many people in this keep concerned for our wellbeing." He shook his head, and said in a louder hue, "Yes, I'm here, Searle."
"Are you well, sire? You ought to know that there is a rat somewhere about the keep. When I heard, I went to find you in the library, thinking that you were looking over the proclamations, but Commander MacDaede said you had come here. Is everything all right, sire?"
"Yes, Searle. Everything is fine."
"Are you at all in need of anything? You are not trapped in the tailor, are you, sire? If you are, I can have Tomas come by and break the lock."
"No, we are not trapped, Searle. I'm just in the middle of helping Carrigh with one of her pieces."
"Oh, I see, sire. Frightfully sorry for disturbing you." He hemmed. "Is Sir Pastaddams with you, sire?"
"No, Searle," said Carrigh. "He has gone to the market to make an order for a roll of baize. He won't return until later."
"Oh, very well, then. At least he is not here while the rat is about."
There was a silence of some minutes. Alasdair heard no footfalls leading away from the door, and when he looked down at the threshold, he saw the shadow of the thegn's feet looming behind the divide.
"Why don't you go and see whether Aldus is all right," was Alasdair's pointed suggestion.
"Yes, I think that is an excellent idea, sire. The rat might have gone down to the treasury. Perhaps I should see whether it is not gnawing on the carpet. I sincerely hope not. I just had the ends mended. Are you sure that you are perfectly well, sire?"
"Perfectly well, Searle, thank you."
"And Her Majesty is well?"
"Yes, Searle. Quite well," said Carrigh, marking her husband's rolling eyes and restraining a laugh.
"Very good, then. I'll be by in a short while to see whether you need anything, sire, and you, Your Majesty."
The scroop of Searle adjusting his gloves was heard, there was a hem and a click of the heels, and the thegn glided away from the door.
"He's only being solicitous," said Carrigh sweetly.
"I know he has served my family with unwavering loyalty these many years," said Alasdair, "and he is certainly a part of our family and is a necessity at the keep, along with Aghatha and Pastaddams and everybody who is responsible for our welfare, but he does have a habit of interrupting at the very worst moment. I know he cannot mean to do it, but he does linger sometimes when I would otherwise be alone with--"
There was a knock at the door.
"By the Gods," Alasdair sighed to himself. "Is that you, Searle?"
"No, Majesteh," said a musical voice. "Just Aghatha. A's just come tah see whethah Her Majesteh was o' right."
"I'm well, Aghatha, thank you," said Carrigh.
"A'll be off then. A'll be buseh passin' the soapwort over everythin' what this rat's touched. Trapper's on his way, says Scoaleigh. If you wish meh to pass by with the soap, A'll be in your chambers, pulling off the sheets," and she trundled away, leaving Alasdair and Carrigh to themselves once more.
They waited a few minutes, to see whether anyone else would disturb them, and just as Alasdair had begun lifting Carrigh's bodice over her head, there was a knock at the door.
Alasdair's shoulders wilted. "That will be Gaumhin," said he, in a soft accent, and then in a more audible voice, and trying not to sound too agitated, "Yes, Gaumhin?"
"Oh, syre. Yur in the tailor an' o'?"
"Yes, I am here with Carrigh."
"Aye. Just maekin' certain tha' Her Majestae was o' right."
"Thank you, Gaumhin."
"The rat's no' in there, is it?"
Alasdair looked down. "I hope it isn't."
"Would ye liek meh tae come in an' have a look round, syre?"
"No, thank you, Gaumhin. I don't think that will be necessary."
"As ye will, syre. If yur needin' anaethin'--"
"We will call for you, Gaumhin. Thank you for your concern."
"Mah honour an' dutae, syre. Yur Majestae."
Alasdair imagined Gaumhin taking his parting bow and marching off, and before anyone else could intrude, Alasdair pulled off his wife's bodice and enjoyed a most fervent osculation.
"I needed to do that," said he, eyeing her flushing features with a most admiring aspect. "You are the most beautiful creature in the world. Did you know that?"
"I believe you have told me many times, sire," said Carrigh, colouring and turning aside. "But I think I could be reminded, if you would like to tell me again."
His eyes scintillated with fond affection, and he drew her close. "I am married to the most beautiful creature in the world," he crooned, drawing her arms around his neck and pressing his nose against hers. "You know, I'm somewhat glad this rat has thrown the keep into a frenzy. Now I don't have to go to court, and I may stay very comfortably locked up with you here for the rest of the morning."
He leaned forward and delighted in the mellifluous taste of his wife's lips, his hands climbed her waist and cradled her back, and he began kissing the slope of her nape, when the door handle began rattling.
"I'm not answering," Alasdair whispered, his mouth traveling down his wife's vale.
"It might be Pastaddams," said Carrigh, trying and not trying to push her husband away.
The door handle rattled again, and before Alasdair could ask who was there, the door was being pushed open and someone was entering. Instantly did Alasdair move in front of his wife and put his hand against the door to prevent its opening too far, and there in the crack of the entrance, he saw Dobhin, standing with his foot wedged in the door and his hand on the handle.
"Ah, Brennin, there you are," said Dobhin, with all his usual complacence. "I thought I might find you here."
"Dobhin!" Alasdair sibilated, in a complaining voice. "What are you doing opening this door?"
"I came to tell Her Majesty that there is a--"
"Rat in the keep," Alasdair heatedly interposed. "Yes, thank you. We are very well aware of it. Why didn't you knock, and how did you unlock the door from the other side?"
"Oh, did not you know, Brennin?" said Dobhin, raising a brow. "That lock hasn't functioned properly since His Late Majesty Good King Dorrin's time."
"And may I ask how you would know that?"
Dobhin stood close to the door, and said in a low voice, "You aren't the only one who enjoys skulking about the servants' quarters in quest of a private love-making place, Brennin."
"Yes, well, if you don't mind, my wife and I are having a private moment."
"Is Her Majesty safe?"
"Yes, by the Gods, Dobhin," Alasdair hissed, "she is safe. Now, if you will please, we would like to be alone."
"Very well, Brennin," said Dobhin, all proud self-assurance. "Only do hurry, whatever you're doing. Pastaddams came back not two minutes ago. I'll detain him for as long as I can."
He took his foot from the threshold and was gone, Alasdair closed the door behind him, wondering how they might lock the door from the inside when a touch on the shoulder roused him. He turned to find Carrigh wearing only her broadest of smiles, and decided that he did not care about rats or intrusions: those who would see them would see them, and Alasdair drew his beloved wife against him and deliciated in all her various charms, reveling in her warmth, relishing her supple flesh, glorying in her ripened features, and completely unsuspicious of the rat that was scratching at the door.
About the Author: Michelle Franklin is a small woman of moderate consequence who writes many, many books about giants, romance, and chocolate.
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