The Younger Generation

“Caught the end of one of his lessons in the practice room,” a guard can be overheard saying as he scrutinizes a game board. He carefully selects a piece and moves it. “Not bad for a year in. Better’n you, that’s for sure.”

The guard across from him snorts, but agrees, “I’ve seen him with Sir Darrin. Good form. Hard to believe a year ago he was tying fishing net.”

The first guard rubs his chin as he considers the board. “Be caught up with his brother before you know it, I suppose. Though I don’t know anything toward the rest of his education. It can’t have gone too poorly, or we would have heard.


With Time Comes Change

A man nearby holds up a piece of bright cloth, examining it for quality with expert hands. “They’ve left again, have they?”

The seller nods, crossing her arms and watching him examine the cloth like she thinks he’s liable to damage it. “Off to Chesterton, I hear–all three of them, not just Lady Avery. I’ll be back that way next fortnight, might gather some more news then.”

The man frowns and drops the cloth in false disinterest. “More news? We all know what’s going to come of that. Lord Tyre’s going to find himself shut up alone in that big manor with no one to talk to but his aging mother, before long.” The conversation shifts into a heated session of haggling.

Castle Dwellers

The infirmary of Anvard is a long, bright room, a little over half the length of the Great Hall. It is shaped oddly, the northeast and southwest walls curving inward to accommodate the towers on either side. A partition that faces the door out to the inner ward bisects the room, separating the front area where the castle healers work from the back.

Three windows on either side of the door in the southeast wall let in a good amount of sunlight, especially in the late morning, and their sills are cluttered with the pots of several frequently used plants. To the left of the
door stands a large cabinet, and bundles of herbs in various stages of drying hang from the ceiling. There is a long oak worktable to the right of the door, and a desk in the east corner is piled high with half-completed notes and books and other useful documents.

A son of adam with a scarred throat is waiting just inside the door for one of the infirmary attendants to get a free minute. He rubs his elbow, apprehensive and alert, and keeps out of the way.

Elriya enters from the ward. She shows no sign of illness or injury, but carries a single scroll in her hand. She closes the door behind herself and looks around, surveying the activity within the infirmary. Noting the young man, she smiles amiably and nods in greeting as she moves off to the side to wait near where he stands. Continue reading

Little Ones

In the midst of cooks cleaning up from lunch, few servants chat as they work on laundry, hands reddened by the hot water. “That’s right, Lord Dar and Lady Honour are parents now, and of twins no less! A lad and a lass, healthy and all. Their parents’ pride and joy already.”

“What’re their names?” her companion demands as she scrubs at a sheet. “Enise, she came first, and Elan, oh, he looks like he’ll have his mother’s hair! He’s hardly been out and about since, Lord Dar, that is, and who can blame him?”

“I hear, though,” she adds in a lower tone, though still making sure to be heard over the splashing of soapy water, “that he’s been reading them the strangest sorts of bedtime stories. Joya, she was saying she heard something about ducks and where they fly and when the other night, passing by their rooms, and I’ve heard tell that he’s read them an inventory of the castle!” Her friends look skeptical as they gather garments to hang for drying.

Good Things Are Ours in Twos

A servant comes to fetch Lady Elriya to Lady Honour’s chambers.

Dar and Honour’s Bedchamber
This is a well-appointed bedchamber in one of the suites set aside for the use of Anvard’s nobility. A curtained, canopied bed stands on a platform against the wall opposite the door. Two cushioned chairs and a small table sit before a large fireplace, and a warm rug covers the floor. A bank of windows lets in light and provides a lovely view. A door leads out into the suite’s main room.

Honour stands by the end of her bed, one hand on the post and the other on her stomach. She has a strange look on her face, slightly uncomfortable and slightly puzzled looking.

Elriya knocks quietly on the door to announce her entrance, then slips into the room. She pauses just inside the door to survey the scene. Continue reading

A New Squire

A pair of kitchen workers pick over the fruit selection in the Outer Ward, chatting as they prod at peaches. “And then there’s that business with Megren, of course,” says one. “Becoming Sir Darrin’s squire? It’s right foolishness, if you ask me!”

“Foolishness?” The other looks at her, surprised. “I reckon she’s earned it as well as any. I’ll just miss her ‘hellos’ at the gate, she always had a kind word.” The first begins to speak again, but the second woman continues over her. “I don’t see what you’re sore about, she’ll make a kind knight one day, that’s sure!”

Pouting, the first woman makes her purchase and they begin to leave. “Guards becoming knights, what’s next? My little boy all suited up in armor?” “That’s a matter for lords and nobles, not the pair of us. If they’re letting it be, then good on her!” Other market goers crowd into their vacated spot, and the pair are lost from hearing.

A Season Away

Hearth Room
The hearth room, a large, cheerful room, appears to be the heart of Coghill Manor. Each corner is filled with objects reflecting the everyday activities of the family. A spinning wheel and quilting frame stand before chairs with cushions to ease hours spent over them. In another corner more chairs flank a game table. Low bookshelves house favorite tomes and trinkets. A large woven rug covers most of the wooden floor, and a large fireplace with a stone chimney and hearth keeps the room warm on even the coldest of winter nights. Two comfortable chairs face the fireplace, clearly a place for Lord and Lady to converse with family at the end of the day.

One door leads into Lord Shar’s study. Another leads out to the Dawn Porch.

Elriya sits in her usual chair with her sewing basket on the table beside her. There are several folded pieces of fabric in her lap, along with little piles of thread and other notions, and her head is bent over the basket as she sorts through its contents.

Honour enters the hearth room with two or three books in her hands. “Good day to you, Lady Elriya.” She smiles, opting for no curtsy. Continue reading

Prince Cor’s Return Home

“And then there were two of them, I tell you, and so like one another there can be no doubt. How proud Her Majesty would be if she had lived to see this day. Both of her sons alive and hale.” A member of King Lune’s Palace Guard is speaking to one of his fellows in the barracks as he polishes his weapons to a high gloss. Someone hands him a clean cloth so he will go on with the telling.

Another guardsman, barely old enough for his first shave, looks astonished. “After all these years? I thought-” Another man laughs and slaps his thigh. “‘Tis wonderful, to be sure. I didn’t trust my own eyes until King Lune himself proclaimed that the boy was Prince Cor, restored to us when hope was lost.”

The young guardsman begins to wipe the grime off of his helmet. “Yes, but where has he been all this time?” The answer, when it comes, is met with expressions of shock from the other guardsmen. “Raised by a fisherman in Calormen, or so they say. Fine training for our future king, but nobody asked me about it.”

His Majesty’s Hunting Party

A trio of young women, wearing the livery of castle servants, are industriously hanging some clean linen to dry in the Autumn sun. Taking a break, the older of the two rubs at her back. “Well, it’s not as if we asked for the extra work, but it’s been such a lovey fall there was nothing for it but His Majesty had to call for the Hunt. Bring up the hounds, he says. Send to the noble houses, he says. Well, some of those gentlemen have pleasant enough manners that I don’t mind washing a few extra sheets.”

Catching a tunic that is about to blow away, the second teases, “You think you’ll end up with a fine husband so you won’t have to do the wash anymore, I’ll wager. Well, I don’t blame you, but our lives aren’t straight out of some storybook. I don’t begrudge King Lune any pleasure, poor soul. It’s been so dull here these past years for him without his queen, and he always loved hunting so. And it could be worse…we could be stuck in the kitchens.”

Their friend folds a square of cambric that is just dry enough. “Did you see them riding out yesterday? The Master of Hunt rode out with a few of his men, and I was just so frightened that I’d get trampled underfoot. I was on my way to the seamstress in the Outer Ward, and there they were gathering at the stables. The Hunt isn’t for another few weeks, but His Majesty wants to make sure that the weather stays good and that they find just the right route. It’s excitement enough, I’ll grant you that.” They gather up the rest of the wash and hurry on their way just as the breeze starts picking up in earnest.

The Art of Healing

Still Room
The pungent scent of mingled herbs is strong here, though not unpleasantly so. Bundles of everything from sweet comfrey to aromatic chicory are tied with strips of ribbon and precisely identified. These are hung from the wooden rafters. All along the back wall, clay jars have been neatly stacked bearing handwritten labels. It is cool and dim here, with a minimum amount of light filtering in from the pantry. There is not a mote of dust about, and frequent sweepings have polished the planks of the floor to a luminous shine.

Next to the doorway rests a basket, holding a pair of soft leather gloves and a knife, used to snip plants for drying. A long, single table serves as a workbench, and on this table rests a book, scribed in various hands. Closer scrutiny reveals descriptions and properties of local herbs, along with recipes for their use. Judging by small winepress in the corner, the noteworthy vintages of Coghill Manor have been distilled and bottled here.

Elriya stands beside the work table with a lit candle, a ledger, a quill and inkwell, and several neat bunches of herbs in various stages of drying spread out before her. She is running her finger down a column of figures, glancing at various herb bundles as she does so.

Abrielle walks up from the pantry, singing to herself. It takes a moment for her eyes to adjust in the dimmed light of the room, but she is surprised when they register the fine gown of Lady Elriya. She drops into a curtsy immediately. “Lady Elriya. I am sorry. I didn’t know you were in here, I smelled a candle and wanted to be sure…” She stops. Continue reading