"Sarina's Smith" book 2 in the Sarina Saga

“Sarina’s Smith”  a  Taster

The ‘Sarina’ saga continues with a story of young love amid a community ravaged by terrifying oppression.

Jaxaal Norland’s best friend Rydall hopes to be accepted as an apprentice smith.  Arriving at the Cordale Complex, Rydall finds love but discovers a community oppressed by a terrifying band of renegades. 

Resolving to correct the injustices, he enlists the help of the complex’s apprentices.  They succeed in changing the situation - for the worse. Then Jaxaal, Sarina and a group of trainee Guardians arrive and a solution to the problem is proposed.

 

Introduction

Mekky was a strange little boy, very intelligent but dark and morose with a violent outlook on the world.  His mother, simple being that she was, loved him although he was deformed at birth with a normal sized head but a small withered body.  His blighted body dictated his outlook on life from the very beginning.  When his normal brother was born, right from the start a judicious pinch let the new baby know who was boss in the nursery.  Mekky quickly learnt that he could dominate his larger, normal bodied, sibling with threats of physical violence; by the time the younger boy had grown to be able to defend himself, submission was imprinted.    So it was with the other two brothers who followed.  By the time they had reached their majority at ten turns, Mekky, small and deformed though he was ruled his brothers with a malicious glee.

When hard times came to the land with the fall of the house of Norland and the loss of the support that had previously looked after them, Mekky took charge of the family affairs and led his brothers on raiding parties to their neighbours’ farms and communities in the outlying areas of Western Fameral and pillaged all that they needed.  His greed, and that of his brothers grew with each success and they attracted a lot of other wastrels to their cause.  The Red Cannis, as the renegades called themselves, became feared and loathed by all the outlying communities in the north-west of the island continent who lived in dread of them and their visits.

 

Chapter 1

Rydall became aware of the Complex long before they crested the rise and caught their first sight of the jumble of roofs.  There was something in the air.  It was like the smoke from the fire in his parent’s cottage back at High Tor Farm.  No, not the cottage fire, the fire in the forge when steel was being heated to white heat; there was nothing quite like that metallic tang.  Once he had deduced what the smell was it became much more recognisable and that excited him.  As they approached the last fold in the land before the Cordale valley he could see wisps of smoke blending with the clouds that drifted in the midday sun.

Once the little party had started this, the last decent of his long journey from High Tor, he could see the myriad shapes of the buildings nestling in the valley that made up the Complex.  Rydall had heard of the rows of back to back cottageswhere the foundry workers lived but the reality came as something of a shock.  At High Tor, there were no more than three cottages in any row and they were separate buildings, here there were four banks of cottages side by side and all joined together.  Rydall instinctively felt that living like this must be much worse than the more open rural life at High Tor but the need to have so many workers living in close proximity had a sense of excitement about it.

As they got closer to the Complex he noticed that in front of the rows of cottages there was a square which was surrounded by some larger houses and at the far end, a much larger, more imposing building, the like of which they didn’t have at High Tor.  Beyond the square and behind the large building he could see the roofs of some of the largest buildings Rydall had ever seen.  When they passed the last rise before heading down into the complex he could make out people as they went about their business. 

The women with their full dresses and sparkling white aprons were in sharp contrast to the few men he could pick out for the males all seemed to be wearing three quarter length dark brown smocks held in to their waists with wide leather belts.  There was an air of purpose about everybody he could see; they were all moving on some unknown errand or sitting or standing doing something.  There were the unmistakeable signs of food preparation here and there and the inevitable man with a broom moving a small heap of debris from one place to another.  Rydall was a little disconcerted by the differences that this new life was going to throw upon him; he wasn’t homesick, just unsure of the future.

       As the party reached the outskirts of the Complex their arrival was being broadcast by excited children who ran up the streets shouting into the houses.  Within the low wall that circled the Complex the entrance road passed through a well-maintained orchard where one or two people were working.  Rydall recognised the trimming and pruning that was going on and it reminded him of the orchards back home at High Tor.  Initially the people’s reaction as they reached a square was a little disconcerting, the slamming of doors and the anxious peeping through window shutters was anything but friendly but these tensions relaxed as the travellers reached the centre.  Rydall assumed it was the centre of the town or village; as yet, he hadn’t really assessed the size of the Complex, one thing was certain, it was a lot bigger than High Tor and its village.

       A few men appeared and offered to tend to the kertles and then a large man with a smock cleaner than his compatriots appeared and took charge.  He welcomed the travellers and obviously knew Ferdan, the man who had guided them here from the Childe Cut.

       ‘It’s good to see you again Ferdan!’ the big man asked. ‘Did you have a good trip? Didn’t run into any trouble?’

       ‘No, we had a clear run Horrox,’ Ferdan replied, ‘why, have you been bothered already?’

       ‘No, we’re not expecting another visit for a day or two but I’m glad you didn’t run into them,’ Horrox told him.

       This interchange was beyond Rydall and had been spoken in soft voices so he surmised that it was a private matter between the two older men; but it did give him something to think about.  There was more going on than they were letting on.  Horrox looked around and greeted the two other travellers who had been leading heavily laden drays all the way from the Child Cut where Rydall had joined this small caravan.  He pointed them in the direction of one of the larger buildings towards the other end of the Complex and then turned his attention to Rydall.

       ‘Ah, this must be Rydall Brackenstedd!’ he said stepping forward to greet the young man and taking Rydall’s hand in his own giant gnarled grasp.  The roughness of the large man’s hands told of many turns of rough work.

       ‘I’ve heard many good things about you, young man, I’m very glad to meet you at last.’ And he beamed, transforming his austere countenance.  Rydall was a little taken back by this effusive greeting he had not expected anything so fulsome; Jassoon had warned him of Horrox’s gruff exterior and the bluff way he dealt with the world,

‘He’s a hard man, Horrox Spentar,’ the High Tor smith had warned, ‘hard, but fair.  Don’t try to fool him, you won’t succeed.  Just be yourself and you’ll get along fine with the Master Smith.’

Jassoon had been as big an influence on Rydall during his formative years as had his own parents.  Rydall’s father was a master farmer highly skilled and very knowledgeable about arable farming but while Rydall had learnt a great deal from his father, it was Old Jassoon, the Master Smith who had taught Rydall as much as he could about the handling of metal and the way it could be worked.  While Rydall had an affinity with the soil and all growing things and had shown a remarkable ability in organising the farming activity, it was in metal working where his interest lay and for three turns Jassoon had trained him and had become a good friend to his young trainee; he had regaled him with stories of the old House of Norland of which he had been a part before the dissolution.  It was Old Jassoon who had first broached the subject of Rydall travelling to the Cordale Complex to be trained as a Master Smith, the decision that had eventually led to this arrival.

Rydall returned Horrox’s firm handshake and looked him square in the face.  The older man liked what he saw and was quite sure that the young women in the Complex would do so as well when they saw him.  His own daughter, Festera, he knew would make a big thing of welcoming this young man, hoping to add him to her endless list of conquests.  He was glad that he had already arranged for Rydall to be billeted with his second in command’s family.  Welland Quarlin would be a friendly host and Rydall would not have to cope with the whirlwind that was Festera.  Horrox knew that his decision was going to cause him problems with his wife. 

Janteal will be furious with me!’ he thought to himself with a chuckle. Not that he wanted to get involved in the endless matchmaking that went on at this time of the turn, it detracted from the real business of the foundry and metal works which were his real love.

‘I’ve arranged for you to stay with Welland Quarlin and his family.  Welland is my second in command and really manages the day to day running of the Complex; he can give you all the guidance you will need to settle into our little community,’ Horrox told Rydall, ‘Ah, here comes his wife now.’

Both men turned to see an attractive woman approaching followed by a very plain young woman and a lad only a little younger than himself, Rydall guessed.

‘Ah, Magram,’ Horrox said as she came close to the pair, ‘this is Rydall Brackenstedd, the lad Jassoon has sent to us to become a smith.’

‘I thought it must be; the news of travellers arriving ran around the Complex very quickly the moment they appeared on the hill top.  People were worried in case it was, well, other visitors,’ she said in a soft lilting voice.  She turned towards Rydall and gave him a smile that seemed to light up, not only her face, but the whole space around her.

Rydall was immediately drawn to this attractive middle aged woman who seemed so friendly and welcoming.  He realised that she was must have been a real beauty in her youth and you would still call her that now; her rich auburn hair set off her soft complexion and her hazel eyes to perfection.  The turns had been kind to Magram Quarlin.

‘Rydall, this is my son Birstan, who insisted that he be allowed to come and carry your bags.’ Magram said turning towards the young man who accompanied her.

‘Oh mother!’ the young man complained at her indiscretion; Birstan had been looking forward to this stranger’s arrival ever since his father had announced that they were to have a house guest.  A new face about the Complex would be refreshing and the fact he would be staying with them, rather than lodging in the bunkhouse with the other outland apprentices, a real treat.  He might even be able to make some advantage out of it over Morgantz, Horrox Spentar’s bullying son. 

Rydall shook hands with the young man and was pleased by the firm grip he received in return to his own.  He then turned towards the young woman who he guessed was the daughter of the family but she looked down and even moved towards the pile of baggage that had been unloaded onto the floor beside the dray kertle that had carried them.  Rydall’s first impression was that she was ugly, until she looked up and he then saw that she was anything but; she simply made herself appear very plain with a shawl tied tightly about her head.

‘And this is my daughter Shanda, if she’ll let me introduce her,’ Magram said, ‘Shanda, don’t be so rude and welcome our guest, he’ll be staying with us for a while.’

Shanda stopped and turned towards Rydall, duly admonished, ‘I’m sorry,’ she said, ‘we don’t get many strangers here in Cordale,’ and she turned her head up and gave Rydall the benefit of a fleeting smile which had the same dazzling effect that her mother’s smile had done.  She, like her mother, was a strikingly beautiful woman but unlike her mother whose flowing locks of hair cascaded down and shimmered in the midday sunshine, Shanda kept her auburn hair closely combed back and mostly hidden under that tightly-drawn head scarf.  The effect was to make her seem very plain at first glance, which was just the effect she seemed to want to achieve.

‘What Shanda is saying,’ Magram cut in trying to cover her daughter’s apparent rudeness, ‘is that apart from the intake of new apprentices every turn, we don’t see many people way out here in Cordale.  We’re an isolated tight knit little community.  No one comes here by accident; we don’t get passing travellers.’

Between the three of them the young people picked up the few pieces of luggage that belonged to Rydall and followed along in the wake of Magram. They didn’t see the arrival in the square of an austere looking woman who went straight up to Horrox and began berating him.

‘Why didn’t you bring him to meet me, your wife?’ Janteal railed, ‘I would have thought that was much more appropriate than passing him straight into the care of your manager’s family!’

‘Hush woman,’ Horrox said in a low voice, ‘don’t make a fuss out here in the square.’

‘All right,’ Janteal replied, duly admonished, ‘but you wait till I get you home!’ she hissed in his ear.’

Horrox looked despairingly up to the sky and then glanced at the small group as they made their way towards the Quarlin’s house.  Magram was leading the way across the square passing a small pond in the middle of which was a small fountain projecting a jet of water several feet into the air.  Rydall was fascinated by the concept of decorative water; the pond at High Tor was there simply to provide a supply of water, not to be an adornment.  The sound of the splashing water gave a pleasant atmosphere to the square they were crossing.  As his attention came back to where he was going Rydall caught the end of a conversation between Shanda and her mother.

‘I don’t see why he has to stay with us, why isn’t he lodging in the bunkhouse?’ Shanda said in a whisper to her mother.  Rydall’s acute hearing picked up the words which he realised immediately that he was not intended to hear.

‘Because he is not an apprentice, he’s here for assessment, or so your father says, and it’s up to us to make him feel at home.’ Magram replied.

‘But I’m going to be ribbed by the other girls when they find out he’s staying with us.  I dread to think how Festera is going to react.  She’ll have it in for me for sure, she doesn’t really need an excuse.’

‘I’ve told you before, let Festera have her little tantrums, she has a lot to put up with being the Master Smith’s daughter and all,’ Magram replied.  What she really meant was ‘being Janteal Spentar’s daughter.’

‘But I don’t see why she has to take it out on me all the time; this is just going to make things worse!’

Rydall sensed that he was picking up on a long festering feud between Shanda and this Festera, who ever she was.

‘I don’t mind sharing accommodation with the apprentices,’ he said and immediately realised that he had revealed that he had been eavesdropping in on the conversation between mother and daughter.  The truth was the whole point of his coming to Cordale Complex was for him to be assessed to see if he could become an apprentice smith.  If he were to be housed in with other apprentices it might help in that assessment.

‘Not at all, I won’t hear of it,’ Magram said and gave another stunning smile to her guest and an equally furious glare to her daughter.  ‘If Shanda has problems she must sort them out for herself,’ she said.

Rydall felt awkward that he had committed some social gaffe and apologised to them both.  He then saw that Birstan was struggling with a particularly heavy bag and realised it was the one containing his tools and while small, was considerably weighty. 

‘Here, let me give you a hand with that one,’ he said and took one of the carrying straps in his free hand.  Birstan was obviously very grateful for the assistance and beamed at Rydall as the two of them shared the heavy bag between them.

‘You’ve arrived at an exciting time,’ Magram said conversationally, hoping to smooth over her daughter’s discourtesy, ‘tomorrow is the ‘End of Alphen Dance.’  Do you enjoy dancing?’ she asked.

‘Well, yes,’ Rydall replied, ‘although we don’t get that much chance at High Tor.  We only have five dances a turn, one at the end of each bathern.’

‘Oh we have a ‘Start of Bathern Dance,’’ Magram told him.  The next one will be a special event because it is also the day of the ‘Smith’s Inauguration’ when the trainees who have served their three turn apprenticeships and have passed assessment will receive their belts.’

‘Ah yes,’ Rydall replied, ‘Old Jassoon always described himself as a ’belted smith.’  I’m hoping that I will be assessed suitable to become an apprentice.  That’s why I’m here.’

‘How old are you then?’ Shanda asked abruptly, ‘you look too old to be an apprentice!’

‘Shanda!’ Magram exclaimed, ‘don’t be so rude.  You don’t go asking strangers their age as soon as you meet them!’

‘Oh I don’t mind,’ Rydall replied, flashing a smile at Shanda. ‘I’ve just passed my majority, which I suppose is a bit old to become an apprentice but I’ve been training under Jassoon these past three turns.’

‘Most apprentices start when they are just seven turns,’ Magram replied so that they can be belted when they reach their majority at ten turns.’

It was not lost on Magram that Shanda’s body language had changed after she had received Rydall’s smile, ‘ah well, things might become interesting with this new arrival.’ She thought with a private grin.

The party reached one of the large houses that flanked the square and made their way inside.  Each of the five houses on the square, three on one side and two on the side closest to them, was fronted with a formal garden bordered with a waist high decorative wall.  There were paths that led from the square up to the front doors of each of the five imposing houses.

 

 ‘This is our house,‘ Magram told him as they approached one of the two large houses on the nearside of the square, ‘that one is the owner's house.’ She said pointing to their next-door neighbour.  ‘The three other senior managers live in the those houses on the other side of the square.’

Rydall turned to look across the square and realised that there, those  three houses occupied the same space as the two on this side.  As he looked across he saw that the end of the square to his right stood the imposing municipal building that he had seen from a distance as they approached the complex.

As he turned he looked at the house they were about to enter, Rydall guessed that it was almost as spacious as The Farm House at High Tor where Uster, Arianne and Jaxaal had lived.  Birstan immediately led him through the large entrance hall and up the stairs at the far end to the first floor where he guided his guest into a well-appointed room that looked out onto the square.  There was a large bed in one corner and settee against the outside wall under the window.  A large wardrobe was placed against the wall beside the door and a wash stand stood in the other corner.

‘There’s water in the jug on the stand,’ Birstan said, ‘I’ll get one of the maids to bring you up a jug of hot water; you’ll want to wash after your journey.  We’ll be having a light lunch downstairs when you are ready to join us.’

       Rydall had been privy to some such gatherings at High Tor so the prospect did not give him any cause for concern.  He found himself hoping that Shanda would be there.  He decided he would freshen up and change into some clean outer clothes; his travelling britches and jerkin were dust encrusted and needed a good stiff brushing in the open air.  He was just laying out the clothes he planned to change into when there was a tap on his door.

‘Come in,’ he called and continued to select garments from his slender wardrobe expecting the maid to come in, place the jug of hot water on the stand and leave, but she didn’t.  He heard the clatter as she put the jug down but then she just stood.

‘If you like I’ll arrange to get your dirty clothes washed,’ Shanda said.

Rydall spun on his heel.

‘I’m sorry,’ he stammered, ‘I thought it would be one of the kitchen girls, I didn’t expect you to bring the water up.’

‘Oh they wanted to, believe me, but I pulled rank,’ Shanda said with a nervous little smile. ‘I wanted to apologise for my behaviour earlier.  I didn’t mean to suggest that you are unwelcome here, in fact Birstan and I are delighted that you’re staying with us, well we all are if the truth be known.  Last night mother and father could talk of little else after Horrox came to ask if we would put you up.  I hope this room will be all right for you,’ she said and looked anxiously around checking that things were as they should be.

‘This is a wonderful room,’ Rydall assured her, ‘much bigger than my own at home.’

‘You lived at High Tor farm I believe?’ Shanda asked.

‘Well on the farm, not the Farm House itself, my parents have their own house as members of the Oostedd Fifth,’ he replied.

‘Do you really know Jaxaal?’ Shanda asked.

‘Yes, we were good friends,‘ Rydall replied, ‘but that was before he was declared to be Lord Norland.’

‘Will that make a difference,’ she asked.

‘I doubt it, not to the Jaxaal I knew.  I just hope his new found status doesn’t change him.  I don’t think it will but I’ve not seen him since the day he got married.’

‘Is Janilla, Lady Norland, as beautiful as they say she is?’ Shanda asked as casually as she could.

‘Well beauty is a matter of opinion, but, yes she is a very attractive young woman,’ Rydall replied aware that there was more behind the question.

‘I think it is very romantic, to win the Challenge and ask for a lady’s hand in marriage.’ Shanda sighed.

‘But Jaxaal didn’t ask for Janilla’s hand directly, he asked for his father’s house to be reinstated, marrying Janilla was a political move to heal rifts that had developed between the houses.’ Rydall advised her.

‘That’s what I thought from the reports we heard but it’s much more romantic to think he won the challenge just so he could marry Janilla.

‘I don’t know the actual details and, as I said, I haven’t spoken much to Jaxaal since he left High Tor to enter the Challenge.’ Rydall told her.

‘There are some who wished they could have been in Medland for the Challenge and the Meet so that they stood a chance of marrying the highest lord in the country.’ Shanda said continuing in a dreamy way.

‘Oh I don’t think anyone else stood a chance with Jaxaal.  As I understand it, he met Janilla on the way to Medland, not in the city itself.’ Rydall warned her.

‘Don’t tell Festera that when you meet her; she’s convinced that had she been allowed to go to Medland she would now be Lady Norland,’ Shanda said

‘Festera, that’s Horrox’s daughter I believe?’ Rydall asked.

‘Yes, and not a very nice person,’ Shanda shot back.  ‘Oh I’m sorry, I shouldn’t say anything, it just that, well she’s not one of my favourite people, we have never got on very well,’ she finished in confusion.

‘Don’t worry, I’ll make up my own mind, if I get a chance to meet her,’ Rydall replied, he was not going to be influenced by others opinions, even if he instinctively felt a growing connection with Shanda.

‘Oh you’ll get to meet her; she’ll make sure of that,’ Shanda shot back and again lapsed into an awkward silence.  Rydall said nothing he didn’t want to upset anyone, least of all Shanda.

‘I’m sorry,’ Shanda apologised, ‘I’ll leave you to finish unpacking.  If you bring down anything you want washing I’ll see that it’s done tonight.’   With that she hastily fled back downstairs, all the time silently berating herself for handling the situation so badly.  She was so pleased that this handsome stranger was staying with them but couldn’t stop herself hoping that it would give her an advantage over Festera; how she hated that girl! 

Festera could make Shanda feel so inferior with just a well-aimed phrase or a toss of her golden hair.  Shanda so wanted to prove to herself, if no one else, that she was Festera’s equal.  Her mother was forever saying that she didn’t have anything to prove and to let Festera play her silly little games but that didn’t help.  The two girls had known each other all their lives and even as a toddler, Festera had worked out that she had an advantage in her looks and the way she could wheedle everybody around her little finger. She felt that since her father owned and ran the Cordale Complex she had some status over the other children.  This did nothing to endear her to anyone but she had the force of character to command their respect, whether it was real or feigned.

Rydall quickly washed and changed into clean clothes and made his way downstairs; he left the begrimed travelling clothes in his room.  For some reason, he didn’t want to be too beholden to anyone.  He found the family in a small sitting room which as well as comfortable chairs contained a desk tucked away in a corner which was covered in neat piles of parchments.  This, he guessed was where Welland Quarlin carried on some of the administrative work of the Complex.  The head of the house was ensconced behind the desk but rose the moment that Rydall appeared and putting down the quill he had been using, came round the desk to grasp Rydall’s hand in a warm handshake.  He welcomed him and apologised for not being in the square when he arrived.  He guided Rydall to a comfortable settee and sat himself in a large winged chair by the fire.

Rydall was a little saddened that Shanda was sitting very primly on an upright chair on the other side of the room.  He accepted a plate of flatbread and meat and a mug of kandrel all of which he placed on the small table at his side and answered questions about his journey.  He quickly assessed that apart from trade deliveries and collections, the inhabitants of Cordale Complex had infrequent contact with the world outside and relished this chance to question a visitor with knowledge of Fameral beyond their valley.   The fact that he had intimate knowledge of the early life of Lord Norland, the most influential man in all Fameral, made him a bit of a celebrity.   He was asked about his life in High Tor and the nature of the countryside around it.  He would have happily talked about the fields, valleys and woodlands of his home land but his audience quickly moved him on to his visit to Medland for the Fameral Challenge.  Magram was determined to find out about the latest fashions and what the ladies of the five families wore to the Eve of Challenge and End of Meet Balls.  Rydall apologise but explained that he had not been invited to either of the main balls and had only caught glimpses of the high family members as they walked from their carriages to the buildings where the events took place.

Birstan then cut in and asked about the actual Challenge.  Rydall felt on safer ground with this subject and waxed lyrical on the five days of the Challenge competition.  His relationship with Jaxaal was the source of much admiration but he explained that the new Lord Norland was just a boy on the farm where he grew up.  Yes, he had always known that Jaxaal was different, that he’d received private tuition and been taught the high language but he was just a lad of the same age who lived on the same farm.

‘Did you have no inkling that he was more than just Uster Oostedd’s nephew?’ Magram asked.

‘No, none at all,’ Rydall confessed, ‘you always knew that there was something special about him but he didn’t know and never gave any hint that he was destined for better things.’

All we knew was that Jaxaal was Uster Oostedd’s nephew; I thought he was being groomed to inherit the farm so I suppose I knew he was of higher status than the other lads our age. You would never have guessed it when we were together though, Jaxaal is not the kind of person who puts on airs or acts as though he thinks himself better than other people. The older servants used to whisper about him being more than he seemed but I never really understood till he won the Challenge and was acknowledged as Lord Norland. Having grown up together, played together, got into scrapes together, it was hard to think of him as anything other than a friend I’d known all my life. I did wonder if finding out about his true station in life and inheriting the Norland estates would change him but it didn’t, not one bit.

Rydall had been delighted and more than just a bit stunned when Jaxaal had asked him to be his ‘groom’s attendant’ at his wedding service. 

‘I have no immediate family and my only cousin is also getting married so I can’t ask him,’ Jaxaal had said by way of explanation when he had managed to get a chance to talk with him, ‘but besides that Rydall, you are my best friend,’ Jaxaal had said.

‘I’d have loved to be at their wedding, they say Janilla looked absolutely stunning,’ Magram said, hoping to draw out more about the things she was interested in.

‘She did look very beautiful,’ Rydall conceded, ‘but she didn’t make as much of herself as she might have done.  It was a double ceremony because her sister Parina was marrying Darval Ellward at the same time.’

‘I’ve heard that Parina is an ugly woman,’ Shanda said joining in the conversation for the first time.

‘To be honest, she is very plain,’ Rydall agreed, ‘but she has a lovely smile and her wedding gown in soft yellow colours complimented her very well.  She looked lovely on the day, she was so happy.  I think a lot of people had a few tears in their eyes to see her and Darval together.’

‘Was Lord Swenland at the wedding?’ Welland asked, ‘he must have been choking on the shame that he and his son had wreaked on their house by all accounts.’

‘Oh he was there and very subdued,’ Rydall confirmed, ‘some say he got off very lightly considering what he had been trying to do.  But he did what was expected of him in giving his daughters away and gave no sign of the torment he must have been going through.  His son, Neldon, was there for the ceremony but disappeared as soon as the formalities where over.  They say he’s undergoing Guardian training.’ 

‘It will be the making of him,’ Welland interjected, “becoming an apprentice smith would have been as effective a training, the lads here learn just what hard work, skill and responsibility are all about. Nobles never send their sons to learn crafts; if they did perhaps the high families would have more respect for skilled craftsmen.”

‘Are those the things I’ll be learning?’ Rydall asked.

‘You?’ Welland asked in astonishment.

‘Assuming that I’m accepted as an apprentice,’ Rydall cut in quickly, he had obviously said something out of place.  Perhaps he shouldn’t have sounded as if his becoming an apprentice were a foregone conclusion.  It had been his dream for a long time, well not just becoming an apprenticeship but progressing to a point where he then became a Master Smith.  Old Jassoon had spoken as if he stood a very real chance of that happening; he was forgetting that first he had to be assessed to see if he were suitable to become an apprentice.

‘Well, I’m not sure...’ Welland said before he was cut off by his daughter, who leapt to her feet and grabbed Rydall by the hand dragging him out of his seat.

‘We need to sort out the washing you need doing,’ she said as they disappeared through the doorway.

As the door closed behind them Rydall thought he heard Magram say ‘he doesn’t know.’  Any reflection on this was cut short by Shanda who apologised for her father on the grounds that acceptance into the apprentice scheme was one of his pet-beasts. She hurried him through the ground floor to the staircase and led the way up.

Watching her as she rounded a bend in the stairs and stepped up, Rydall was aware that she wasn’t as flat chested as she pretended to be with her tightly drawn tabard making her look as if she had the physique of a man.

They reached his bedroom and she said she would wait outside while he fetched his travel stained garments.  This surprised Rydall still further, she had been quite willing to enter his room earlier.  He emerged with a bundle of clothes which he was grateful to have cleaned.  He had been travelling light and was almost out of clean under garments.  Shanda then led him back down to the ground floor and through to the domestic part of the house.  Here he was introduced to Bridley the head housekeeper who called a kitchen maid to take the bundle of clothes.  He was assured that they would be ready in two days’ time. 

He was very grateful and more than a little bemused by this service.  He was well aware of this sort of facility, it was what Uster’s family had enjoyed at High Tor, but it was just that he had never been the beneficiary of it before.  Rydall tried to not show that this was a new experience.  He would have loved to confide in Shanda but he wasn’t sure that she would respect his confidence; she was a complex personality and he hadn’t got the measure of her as yet.

Birstan came and found them and asked if Rydall would like a guided tour of the Complex.

‘Father says it will be all right, he would join us but he sends his apologies.  He has things to sort out down in the rolling mill.’

‘I’d love to do that,’ Rydall told him, ‘if that’s all right?’ he turned asking Shanda.  She shrugged her shoulders and immediately turned and started sorting clothes that had been freshly ironed into piles.  Rydall was a little perplexed by this reaction and thanked her for her help which generated a grunted reply.

Shanda was definitely a perplexing character, or maybe Rydall was missing something; anyway, his eagerness to see around the Complex took over and he hurried off in Birstan’s wake.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you would like to find out about the way Rydall's relationship with Shanda develops, if it does, and what the mysterious secret that the complex people keep 'hedging' around is all about, you can buy the book as a hard copy or as an eBook by following these links:-

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Paperback:-  http:goo.gl/FYDMXs  from Spiderwize

eBook: -   http:goo.gl/HLfCp9  from Amazon Kindle

 

 

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04.11 | 15:54

Hi Maureen, thanks for the message, nice to hear from you.

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04.11 | 11:20

Sorry no message lately. I seemed to have lost items on my laptop. Aileen keept me posted on your activities and have now picked up your Friday offering

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16.02 | 19:30

Thanks for that, wecerytainly hope to be ther. Bob x

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16.02 | 18:36

Hope you feel better soon and we see you next Wednesday at Nova Scotia Folk Club. Take care. Gina x

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