It’s a Mother Flocking Puffin Pt 16
The doorbell on their lazy Saturday in had the brothers upstairs editing the video you had shot earlier that morning before heading out to the orchestra turning to face each other in silent conference of who could that be. Once on their feet after ensuring the video was saved they hurried down to go and check it out. Behind the door however the belly of the eight foot Emperor was in their eye line causing them to tilt their heads back peering up at the dark haired circlet wearing Noldo. Bowing his head he spoke in clear Hobbitish he had been perfecting for when he came here to see you again. “Princes Fili and Kili, it is a pleasure to meet you, might I inquire where my daughter is? She did not answer the door below.”
“No,” Kili blurted out then wet his lips in an anxious twitch.
Fili cleared his throat and replied, “What he means is, no she would not answer, she is at the Erebor Orchestra repairing their instruments. Should return in an hour or so. Depending on how bad off the instruments are.”
“Come eat,” Kili said stepping back allowing the Emperor to duck and pass through the size foot door frame to enter the tall main floor he inspected with outer robe over his dress shirt, vest and slacks tucked into his knee high boots unbuttoned to hang by the door at the cozy warm temperature compared to the chill outside. Every stitch of his clothing though not identical in style gave the clear impression of your bearing the same sense of taste in clothing, patterns and materials. A minimal tour was given along the way and he sat on one of the stools along the counter while the brothers got to whipping up some tea and a snack.
A request of a tour of your room was accepted and impressed he strolled through your floor all to yourself impressed at all the space you had been given. Decorations and random items clearly yours in the midst of the furniture gifted to you were grinned at. Ruffling feathers turned his head and with a bow of his head to Bagheera the Emperor said, “There you are, had a notion you might have followed my Yuula here.”
Kili looked between them in the bird stretching his wings and legs from his nap and Fili asked, “You know Bagheera?”
“That is his name? Yes, he was in the orphanage and then again in Numenor, commandeered one of our open walkways after we covered our windows. Once they were uncovered he moved to the courtyard in a tree beside her bedroom reading window seat.” His eyes lowered to the kitten scaling his boot, “You are new,” bending to lift the kitten at whom he chuckled upon seeing its facial markings. “When did she get you little one?”
Kili, “Found both of them in an organ she was asked to tune. Dwarf tradition of courtship had her in need of a kitten to protect from bad totems.”
“Ah,” he said cradling him in a palm freeing the other to stroke the kitten now purring and flattening out in his path to your mantle where he eyed the pirate ship urn he unfortunately never spent enough time to inspect before now. “There you are,” he muttered in Noldorin and the boys glanced between each other then to Fili’s phone in another check of the time.
Kili, “We’re gonna give Jaqi a call.”
“Alright, I will be fine waiting here, thank you.” Keeping his eyes fixed on the urn as they turned to hurry upstairs to call you granting him some time alone to pay his long overdue respects to your parents. Upon hearing the door close he spoke in Hobbitish again so they might understand him. “I owe you an apology for not paying you mind earlier it was foolish of me not to inspect the ship Yuula had protected so adamantly from being touched. However I might have raised your child in your absence I do hope you find peace in the incredible young woman she has become. I have many faults and regrets on how I might have spared her more suffering. Yet for your peace I might share those behind your murder have been captured and put on death row. While they remain to gather information from the culprits your kin are merely a few hours away and have the intention of meeting and enfolding around our precious daughter. I pray that may bring you peace as this slowly bleeding wound begins to show signs of healing.”
Upstairs, while he turned his attentions to your wedding acorn totem you had mentioned, over speaker the buzz of the dialing phone between the boys repeated again while you dug your silenced phone from your pocket shuffling the tools in your palms to do so. “Hey,” you said finally able to answer the call making sure to talk softly as to not disturb the others back to their meeting. “What’s up?”
Kili, “How much longer do you have?” He asked as you pinned your phone to your shoulder to finish this string hey heard you pluck to test again then tighten it some more.
“About halfway through my second harp, why?”
Fili, “Emperor is here.”
“What? He say why?”
“Nope,” Kili said, “Just dropped in said you were out but he’s insisted on waiting. You never said you grew up with Bagheera.”
“I,” you let out a breath, “I obviously didn’t think it was the same one owls don’t live for centuries.”
Fili, “Well we fed him, the Emperor not Bagheera, we all know the latter only likes to eat fruit from you.”
“Ok,” you whispered, “It shouldn’t be long, then I just have to drop by the office to put the funds in the safe and I can come back.”
Fili smirked with Kili as they both said, “Even better! We’ll meet you there!”
They hung up and you huffed pocketing the phone shaking your head to keep focused. One by one each string was tested and on their next break of silence resting your hip against the handle of the step ladder your weight held with feet on separate steps to be able to play the pair of harps one at a time with the same lullaby. Both tries added to the video one of the members had been taking of your instruments testing that would be airing sometime later replayed from its place posted on their social page. Another display of talent for their Crown Princess who had been aiding the orchestra to be back to show shape and granting in your absence a first try on one piece with the usual players for said instruments smiling at taking them up again after your having fixed them.
100 coppers for the tunings and 30 for the hourly wage was swapped for their receipt and to your car you quickened your pace across the parking lot to hurry back to your office to learn why he had dropped in out of nowhere without notice.
“How would you like to see Jaqi’s workshop?!” The boys asked with a smile that spread to the Emperor’s face in excitement to see your business in action so to speak. A suggestion accepted with the transfer of now napping kitten to the carrier they produced from along the wall on his way to the stairs for the chauffeured drive to said office where their earned uncle’s could get a meeting of their own to help grant you some time to get back without rushing your work.
The eldest Durins readied the clan to gather themselves up in what would be a mingling of casual family time and official business in the meeting of the clans with his being offered a place to stay the night as well in the guest room of your assigned apartment to share with you. All that was achieved would be gone over with some more boxes to check off tonight and the following day with your help to smooth things over. Though again for them the same question came up. Why did he arrive out of nowhere weeks prior to the Feast of starlight without even notifying you? A test. That was suggested by Groin, and all his children promptly agreed taking this matter more serious than ever to be ready for anything.
Outside the Office the trio watched from above the large car the Emperor’s Driver exited to open the door to let them out behind the dark haired eight foot Emperor smoothing his hand over the buttons on the front of his outer robe settling around his body again. Pictures of the visiting Elves had been taken by passers by and the lone photographer who had staked out your days in office for another weekly touching of base with the new Senior Noble. Up the steps he went and following into and out of the lift the first view of your simple office had his grin out again. Tall ceilings had him upright with little reason to hunch unless inspecting things closer.
At his desk however Bilbo eyed the unexpected guest with phone in hand, calming when the Princes came into view behind him on his exit. From the main lounge and office area he strolled for the milky doors to the workshop that in his opening the doors after eyeing the toddler asleep in the playpen he entered. Behind him the brothers waved their hands silencing Bilbo’s silent argument at his entering that area on their way to the windows overlooking the front of the building to see if you could be seen yet. Finishing his call Bilbo stood and hurried to the boys feigning a new cup of tea for the Elf too distracted to care whispering lowly, “Who is that?”
Fili said, “Jaqi’s adopted Adad. Came to surprise her. We’re off to the Palace after this when she arrives. Thought he might like to see her office.”
Bilbo wet his lips, “Should I make some tea?” Turning his head to hurry to the workshop doorway asking the Elf crouching to inspect the name plates and notes on the doors to the lockers after having seen one of your notepads on the workstation he returned to with a spreading smile understanding the system you had set up, “Would you care for some tea, Sir?”
Looking up his soft eyes landed on the Hobbit straightening up in wonder as to the title of said Elf if you were considered a Grand Duchess, “No thank you. I take it you are my Yuula’s first employee. How are you liking it so far?”
Unknown as to why Bilbo nodded and replied after a hasty wetting of his lips, “Very, very much. Yes, Her Royal Majesty was very kind to have hired me in my circumstances and has settled a very handsome deal for my employment here.” After looking over the Elf he stated, “I do apologize for my ignorance as to your proper title to address you properly.”
The Emperor chuckled and replied, “I am Emperor Winge Warbucks of Numenor, although my rank is rather more of financial means than Noble Blood you have not faulted my station, might I know your name in return?”
“Oh yes, Bilbo, Bilbo Baggins. At your service.”
“Would that be your child asleep?”
Bilbo nodded, “Yes, my cousin’s child I was left custody in their passing, Frodo. Your daughter was very kind to allow me flexible hours and to bring him with me to work.”
“It is a good thing,” he said to the sound of the lift chiming at its arrival at the upper floor, “My Yuula being around children. We were unfortunate on that matter in Numenor.”
“Yes,” Bilbo nodded shifting his fingers around his mug, “She did mention that children are guarded there. Would you like to see the system?”
“Very much so,” he said following the Hobbit out to his desk where he crouched to get the sharing of the basic configuration bolstering his pride even more for all you had achieved especially seeing the smooth interface that had helped you to get this far in this growing career field you seemed to have control over. No competition anywhere close by had been shared by Bilbo and the Princes who shared that those from the Iron Hills and Orcarni had even begun to inquire for shipping their instruments to you for tuning and basic repairs. Fili, “Been nice to hear how having a Hobbit Smith here has helped to build up pride in our Kingdom.”
Kili, “They only build instruments in Orcarni.”
The Emperor asked, “Your kin would still name my Yuula a Hobbit Smith even with Vanyar lineage?”
Bilbo said, “Hobbit Blood is Hobbit Blood.”
The Princes nodded to his approving chuckle then turned with him to face the lift where their uncles exited looking up to the guest they stepped out to bow their heads to, “I am aware one of you two is my son-in-law,”
Thorin stepped forward extending his hand returned to by the Emperor’s for a forearm gripping greeting. “I am Thorin, we were surprised to hear of your arrival Emperor Warbucks, though my clan are eager to meet you at our Palace should you agree to come spend the night with Jaqi.”
“Of course, I would be honored, all the better to face these introductions first before her clan members encircle her. My Yuula shall be requiring all the support we can provide in their approach to include her.”
Bilbo asked, “Yuula, is that Noldor for daughter? It sounds pretty.”
The Emperor stated, “That is my father-name for Jaqi, it means Ember.”
Dwalin asked, “Her clan members will be that harsh to require our support?”
To which he replied, “Not harsh for her, I might have come sooner though the interrogations upon myself and the captured Lord and his accomplices hindered that goal.”
Frerin, “They interrogated you?”
“To inquire upon my own knowledge of her history and family, though were I in their position I would do the same, someone with my wealth commandeering a child lost to their distant kin. Though sharing my nephews’ plots and imprisonment did calm them to any wrongdoing on my part. I bear no ill will to the clan for their worries and I fully believe that once the executions have commenced the impression of danger will cease. Yuula has been safe here under your protection and shall remain so.”
Bilbo muttered, “Executions-,” Walking around the Princes he muttered, “Dwalin, tea, right, I will make you some tea.” Making the Dwarf smirk at his flustered self walking to the kettle uncertain if he should have remained with the group for that conversation.
The Emperor asked softer, “Did I say something?”
Frerin waved his hand and Dwalin replied, “Just the Hobbit nerves. Not used to hearing topics including executions and such. Prince Dwalin son of Fundin, at your service,” he added with a bow of his head.
Frerin did the same introducing himself gaining nods in return from the Emperor who accepted the offer to move to the lounge to wait for you. There he said to Thorin, “To calm you the clans would not try to pressure Yuula, however with my experience of her history on discussing her parents or how they were lost that wound would be pressed, unintentionally or not. And were they to suggest her confronting the remaining Lord or simply confirming his identity her nightmares at the least may return or worsen.”
Thorin wet his lips as Frerin asked, “She has nightmares?”
The Emperor let out a reluctant breath and said, “She was there the night her parents were killed, her recurring dream of the event is a broken memory of what occurred. Through her sketches of it and her sharing with me what happened in the memory was how we found the remaining culprit. He was in possession of her Naneth’s stolen ring her Ada forged as a conception gift.”
Mouths were open and after a dry swallow Thorin inhaled trying to remain calm, “Then why would they require her to confront the culprit?”
“Normally they wouldn’t, however the main identifying image was a reflection of the trio in a window she drew. All of this, is highly excruciating, already there have been journals confiscated from that time from the Lord’s household and even his late wife’s whose already with a basic skim has granted details of his nightly mutterings and his own nightmares. Even the guards around their cells say each of them have night terrors, which is never uncommon for those who have unjustly attacked Vanyar, who are the Valar’s cherished race among our kin. Part of why I believed her to be in need of a good home seeing how her owl would refuse to leave watch of her.”
Fili, “He said Bagheera was with her at the Orphanage and since then.”
“Aule has sent owls to guard orphans before, part of why we ensured he also was given the utmost comfort we were allowed to bestow him. And why I was glad to see him here once the both of them were gone suddenly.”
Frerin, “How long will they be kept alive?”
“Not much longer, along with the ring ample evidence is being gathered, though the offer for her confrontation or identification may yet be the minimum factor. For some who face trauma, confrontations my aid in healing. I doubt that would be true here, I wouldn’t dare to imagine what they might try to say, I would never allow it unless they were gagged to protect her. But the offer must be given, as proof for her if needed.”
Thorin nodded, “We share similar laws for certain crimes. Should she claim to require that we would honor that and be there for and with her, as you would I imagine.”
“I would never leave them alone with her again. Not after what they have done,”
Frerin asked, “Forgive my asking, however, was it brutal? Our kin bear certain rites to honor lost parents that shift on how they were lost we might guide Jaqi through.”
“They used a gas. Relatively quick, a relief for their clans. The only shouts were from the culprits who tried to steal their gems.”
Dwalin nodded, “Yes, Adad did say there was a mighty enchantment on them for those against her kin. Refused to break even in their reforging.”
“Perhaps a memorial ceremony for her to actually remember may bring some solace.” His eyes shifted to Thorin and asked, “I hear you have chosen a cottage already?”
Thorn nodded, “Yes,”
“Good, I should require an inspection of that, there are traditions of garden placements I should like to ensure is seen to before the courtship is at its end and the pair of you move in. Also her clans would be gifting cuttings as well.”
Thorin, “There’s a lovely greenhouse as well to protect those when they are given, part of why I imagined we might agree on that cottage. Also on this trip with your aid we may be able to begin discussions on terms of wedding rings, they take some time to forge to proper degrees.”
“I would enjoy that, perhaps might be able to ease her timid stance on that. Always reluctant on receiving or asking for jewelry, not without reason. Though she does tend to show interest in flashier pieces.”
Frerin chortled, “Next in line for Queen our kin will welcome flashy rings.”
Dwalin, “True, no chance of shaming her for her choice on size of stone count.”
A round of mugs were passed out and Bilbo from his try to settle down beside Dwalin halted to hurry and grab Frodo at his waking grumble ready for his next changing and snack. The Emperor looked to Thorin asking, “Your family would not mind your visiting Numenor sometime, would they?”
“No, I am quite free to travel. Was there a time you had in mind?” Thorin replied.
“Spring time, I could always travel here for her Yule break, I do know she has missed the snow. There is a festival she heads certain traditional roles among King Elros’ court. Part of her compensation for the possible try to bind her to his son, a common tradition for our kin. Although now that you are known as courting she may be exempt.”
Thorin said, “If she wishes to go I would be glad to see her childhood home and some of her roles among your culture. Through summer as well once her second semester is through ample aid in visitations to Numenor will be seen to as well. As for her Vanyar kin-,”
The Emperor shook his head, “No, they would travel here for some time. Vanyar has strict travel bans guarded by the Valar, many a craft has crashed on the way there attempting to break those. However a lengthy clearance period will eventually grant her a trip to her lost motherland. They would not rush that, the bond will be secured first along with trust. I would imagine an invitation for that trip would be arriving well after your official wedding.” After a pause he asked, “Would there be a coronation? Or would that only be when you would become King?”
“There is one for our role, we must honor our future Queen’s rank even without a lineage for Dwarven clans.”
Frerin, “Especially then, and she does seem to be making strides in gaining favor. Answered a question on policy the other day masterfully. Claimed ignorance on the subject then gave an example on another failed Bill to give example of what to avoid which Gramps had used to aid in his final edit of the Bill.”
Dwalin, “Then gave some small bits to share on the courtship to feed the papers after sharing we’d not gotten to official lessons on policy yet and were working social matters and language first to go with the basic courtship terms.”
“That, yes, she has always been skilled-,” he stopped suddenly to look to Thorin and asked, “Yuula mentioned a list of steps for your courtship, there is one concerning a bundle of feathers, that is included, correct?”
“Yes, we have that marked past the next equinox, she mentioned something about the proper alignment of stars to complete.”
“Good,” he replied releasing a breath, “Noldo may skip steps to honor Manwe and Vana, however Vanyar must hold those steps to great importance no matter how small. A crafting skill was mentioned, Love Spoons?”
Thorin smiled, “Yes, I just received them yesterday. I have already begun my sock animals in return.”
“Good, very good. Aule shall be amply pleased.”
Thorin nodded, “Yes, I have the spoons in a display box you may inspect at the Palace. A screech owl left a rough fire opal on my window ledge at dawn marking Mahal’s approval. I do adore the change to my responding gift, in our kin normally I would be set to use stone or metal, jewelry is a common choice. This is much more touching as to be passed down to little ones.”
“Yes, it was one of her favorites she looked forward to as a child, her Ada chose a Puffin. Rarely brought it out of her trunk from their home, mainly for anniversaries. That is his father-name for her, Snowy Puffin.”
Again the lift chimed and heads turned to the doors that soon after opened for your entrance into the floor. Flashing a quick grin to the group you listened to the Emperor in his suggestion, “Handle your business we can wait, my Yuula.”
You were glad to have him within reach again and nodding you made your way to Bilbo’s desk shifting the piano and harp job over to the finished column. Hearing the kitten in the carrier the boys had brought purring still in his sleep as Bagheera sat on the back of a chair. Into the slot of the safe in the wall you eased the coppers and confirmed the job into the ledger you sealed back into its drawer then moved to set your tool bag into the workshop. A welcoming shriek from Frodo sounded your approach and with a leg raised to settle across the Emperor’s lap a smile melted across his face at your lean into his chest wrapping your arms around his neck. Softly you muttered, “I hug people now.”
Lowly he chuckled in the lacing of his arms behind your back, “Hugs are always welcome whenever you wish.” Switching to Hobbitish he asked, “How was the orchestra?”
Eased back just a bit to remain seated leaning against his chest in his arms now relaxed around your hips and lap smiling still at your hands resting on his arm in front of you. “Good, the piano didn’t need much for tuning it was mostly in the pedals. Harps were twice my size fairly simple though and got it done in some good time giving them time to rehearse a bit on their new pieces.”
Kili pulling his phone from his pocket to the continued buzz of alerts from the guys from the team and he said, “One of the players must have filmed you playing. Got a video on you testing the piano and harps after tuning.”
“That should be fun for people to comment on.”
Fili looked at the comments scrolling down on Kili’s phone, “All seem more curious what song it is you’re playing.”
Looking to Thorin who seemed to be relaxing at how close the pair of you had grown since reconnecting. Asking, “Your appointment go well?”
“Yes,” he answered with a grin, “Very well, the groom seems to be accepting the help for the ceremony finally.”
Emperor, “Wouldn’t anyone want help?”
Dwalin, “Not always, some people want to be able to pull off perfection on their own.”
Frerin, “But we got them talked down to accepting help managing the ceremony and services while he plans the designs and décor to keep his stress down.”
Thorin asked, “Would you like to head to the Palace now?”
In your glance to the Emperor as you moved to stand again he said, “You can ride with me, and I can explain my sudden trip.”
“Okay, just us?”
“There’s room for us all if you like.”
Dwalin said, “I’ll use our driver so he’s not riding alone he lives on the Palace grounds.”
He chose to linger to keep Bilbo company for a bit longer until his shift had ended while the others walked out with you to the large car. Seated between the Emperor and Thorin you looked across to Frerin, Fili and Kili on the bench seat facing yours with hold of the carrier and owl on Thorin’s knee, the view of the rings on your hands had the Emperor gently cradling them to draw them more into view for inspection. From the new vine ring to your wedding band his eyes shifted before falling on the repaired ring of your mother’s, on which his thumb smoothed revealing the mint colored mist inside the center clear stone proving the enchantment was still intact. “Beautiful rings. I do adore the bow tie ring for a wedding band.”
“Thank you, Hobbit tradition for bow ties.”
Cradling your hands in his he let out a breath and said, “I suppose I should start here. The past few weeks I have been in Greenwood at the request of King Oropher to aid in the welcoming of your kin to settle a friendship of sorts,” you nodded and he said, “Yuula, you come from the two eldest ruling lines of the Vanyar people.” Parting your lips and the guys’ at the stunning revelation. “On your Father’s side your Great Grandfather First Born Imin has come with his Wife Iminyë, your Grandfather Isil has traveled here while his sisters remained behind. From his line you are 4th generation of the Eldar. On your mother’s side your Great Grandfather High King Ingwë has arrived with his Wife Ilma with your Grandfather Ingil. Your name to them is High Princess Nique-Puifíní Jaqiearae of the Hobbit Pear Line, now added by Grand Duchess Yuula of Numenor, Crown Princess under the Mountain.”
“That’s a mouthful,” Kili muttered making you remember to breathe again from your stunned stare at your adopted father’s face.
“High Princess?” You whispered.
As he nodded his hands cradled yours in a comforting way to Thorin’s hand smoothing over your back, “Which is why they wished to speak to me concerning your childhood and how much I knew of your origins before that orphanage. And why it has been weeks I have been so close and not able to come visit. While they continue to build up proof against your attackers and his accomplices they wished to know more about you. They are eager to meet you, while any trip to Vanyar would be long off still they wish to make a connection. From what they have learned so far they are impressed with all you have earned, and are so content to hear you have had your parents so close.”
“How does this change things? My new title?”
“Not very much, should you wish it we all might aid in your courtship rites and wedding plans once you arrive there. Though only if you ask for aid.”
After a pause you asked, “You said still gathering proof?”
“Yes, to ensure there were no other accomplices,” earning a nod from you. “When we do get to Greenwood by law they will offer you a chance to confront the remaining of the three others, you are not required to accept,” he added to the flinch of fear in your eyes. “Which you are not required to act upon. You are not required to see them ever again, they can easily execute the lot with the proof they have now. Merely a legal requirement to offer that to you.” Again you nodded in the gentle tightening of his grip, “They will not leave their cells until they are to be executed and are under heavy guard, I have looked in on them myself, all self starved and weakened near to failure on their try to play martyr.”
Frerin, “Either way you won’t be alone in Greenwood ever, no harm will find you.”
“I don’t,” you sighed, “That’s not the issue, I don’t know if my parents would want me to see them. And if I did what would I ever say to them?”
Emperor, “I could think of countless unsavory things, ample has been said by your clan in their own interrogations. Would you like to hear about your relatives?” You nodded and he gave you a soft smile beginning to share about your clan in and out of Hobbitish when his vocabulary ran thin.
@himoverflowers, @theincaprincess, @aspiringtranslator, @thegreyberet, @patanghill17, @jesgisborne, @curvestrology, @alishlieb, @jogregor, @armitageadoration, @fizzyxcustard, @lilith15000, @marvels-ghost, @catthefearless, @imjusthereforthereads, @c-s-stars, @otakumultimuse-hiddlewhore, @mariannetora, @shes-a-killer-kween, @ggbbhehe4455, @xxbyimm
Hobbit/LotR – @abiwim, @jotink78, @pastelhexmaniac
x Thorin – @evyiione, @deepestfirefun, @queenoferebor
X all Rich. A - @abiwim, @deepestfirefun, @thestorybookmistress
8 notes · View notes
A Titled Journeyman
Got a few more posts before moving to the new blog (still under construction.) Enjoy the exciting conclusion of The Titled Journeyman’s (title drop!) first year!
Within the hall furthest from the front doors of Westward’s Merchant Guild branch office lay the Hall of Grandmasters. Within this room the Guild’s local leaders conducted their business. A Grandmaster led each branch of the Guild, and on each branch’s Guild Counsel sat them and a representatives from the other three Districts. The similarity between this and the Confederation Council is not coincidental, I’ve read.
Anyway, though in theory the whole Council needed to sit to conduct business, in Westward you could expect the Grandmaster, the representative from the Ducal Cities, and the representative from the Farmlands. The Baronies tended to do their own thing, which I always thought of as ironic since they and the Farmlands formed after the Confederation’s founding.
Having returned from our caravan run, I, Ellen, and a slightly younger apprentice stood before the present members of the Council. Beside us sat three empty chairs, each draped in an apprentice’s brown travelling cloak. Behind each chair stood Sergeant Weber, Braxton, and a journeyman I didn’t recognize but had a bad scar on his left cheek.
Before us sat the Grandmaster of the Guild Branch, a short man many people insisted was half-dwarf. To his right sat a stuffy Master from the Ducal City of Tredger, and to the Guild Branch Grandmaster’s left the lean and worn Master from River Gap Village. Guild Branch Grandmaster Erwin Winthrop IV loudly cleared his throat to get our attention.
“You six stand before the Branch Council,” he declared, “you have learned much as apprentices, and now you are ready to put that skill to use. Whether outside or within the Guild, remember that we shall be there for you as a second family, or a first for those in need of it. Now.”
Grandmaster Winthrop stood up –not that you could tell, really- and the two Masters did the same.
“Do you swear to honor the Confederation with honest work, honest dealings, and fairness to all with whom you deal?”
“I so swear!” echoed through the hall.
“Do you swear to treat the Free Elves and dwarves as you would your fellow man in all dealings?”
“I so swear!”
Looking directly at the three vacant chairs, his gaze lingering on what he must have decided would have been James’ spot, the Grandmaster asked, “Do you swear to remember the lessons of those who came before you, so that others may avoid their fate?”
“I so swear!”
Grandmaster Winthrop nodded once, “Remove your cloaks.”
With a quick flick of a clasp our three cloaks fluttered to the floor. Weber, Braxton, and the Journeyman removed those from the vacant chairs.
“You may don your Journeyman cloaks, accepting with them the privileges, duties, and responsibilities of a Journeyman of the Merchant Guild.”
Taking the black cloak carefully held in our left arms, the three of us did as instructed. The three other men did the task for the chairs.
The snap of the clasp seemed to echo through the hall, and for a long moment Grandmaster Winthrop said nothing. Finally, he smiled.
“Congratulations, all of you. A feast is ready in the dining hall to honor your promotion. I shall see you all there, and look forward to watching your future careers. Before we head to the feast, however, we have one more order of business. Journeyman Gerald Herbert, step forward.”
I repressed a nervous swallow and took a single step ahead of the others. Intellectually I knew what was about to happen, and the weight of it pulled on me, especially considering the empty chairs.
“Due to your brave deeds against a terrible foe of the Confederation and her allies,” Grandmaster Winthrop began, “I hereby ask of you: do you swear to always carry out your duties with the zeal and level-headedness you showed on the day you fought such a foe as worthy of this oath?”
I nodded once, ignoring the lump in my throat as I declared, “I so swear.”
The Grandmaster smiled faintly for a moment, “Then, by the authority of the Senate and Mayor of Westward, and with the blessing of the Church, you are hereby granted the Title of Esquire, with all the responsibility and privilege it entails. Congratulations, Journeyman Gerald Herbert, Esquire.”
Braxton stepped over to me, holding the box that held the saltbox in his hands.
“It is customary for a newly Titled individual to receive an appropriate weapon,” he explained, “rather than a Church sword, we have all agreed you should receive the saltbox you used to slay the foe which earned you the Title in the first place.”
I nodded and accepted the box.
“Now our business is concluded,” The Grandmaster declared, “I shall see you all at the feast, I’m sure.”
The Council, already standing, stepped down from their seats and departed the hall. Braxton collected the black cloaks for James and George, while the other journeyman took the cloak of the third chair, an apprentice who’d died in the Frontier by the Swamplands, I’d heard. With a nod to Braxton and Weber, he left.
Weber sighed, “I need to speak to Grandmaster Winthrop. I still owe him a report of the attack.”
Braxton nodded, “This was the third duster in as many months. If things don’t settle down they may well muster a Regiment.”
Weber nodded, smiled faintly at us three, and left. The younger journeyman left as well, leaving me with Ellen and Braxton.
I looked to Ellen, “So… you’re going to the Bay, right?”
Ellen nodded, “In a few weeks, yes. After being gone for six months, if I don’t stay at home for at least a week I’ll never hear the end of it.”
Braxton smirked, “I imagine they’ll take it well enough, what with you opening up shop down there.”
Ellen smiled, “That’s the only thing that got them agreeable to the idea. That and I think they expect me to settle down with an elf or something.”
“You could do worse,” I remarked.
Ellen smirked and elbowed me lightly, “I know. What are you going to do, Journeyman Gerald Herbert, Esquire?”
“Rest up a bit and get ready to head out before winter settles in.”
Braxton raised an eyebrow, “Oh? Have a route planned already?”
I nodded, “I do, Sir.”
Braxton frowned, “Mr. Braxton. No need to sir me now, remember?”
I nodded again, “Yes, Mr. Braxton.”
Braxton smiled and placed a hand on my head, “It’s a tough thing to live after watching your friends die, but what can we do but move on with things? I’m going to their families tomorrow to deliver their cloaks and wergilds. Would you to like to come along?”
Ellen and I nodded.
Braxton lowered his hand and placed it on Ellen’s, patting it gently as he said, “You’ll both be fine merchants, I can feel it. Now then,” he lowered his hand, “let us eat and drink and all that other revelry related stuff, shall we?”
Braxton walked off toward the dining hall. With a faint smile and a glance my way, Ellen followed. With one last look at the empty chairs, I too went after Braxton. I had a vision for my masterpiece already in mind, and it would take a great deal of work. So I might as well have fun while I could.
1 note · View note