The Road To Sevendor - A Spellmonger Anthology

 

The Road To Sevendor

A
Spellmonger
Anthology

By Terry Mancour

Copyright © 2012, 2013

 

 

 

Contents:

“Victory Soup”

 

“The River Mists of Talry”

 

“The Spellmonger’s Wedding”

 

“Secrets of the Westwood”

 

“The Wizard of
Birchroot Bridge”

 

“The Road To Sevendor”

 

“The Iron Ring”

Dedicated to my wife Laurin,

who was at the
real
Spellmonger’s Wedding,

on the occasion of our 22nd anniversary.

I wish we could do it all over again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The River Mists of Talry

A Spellmonger Short Story

By Terry Mancour

 

Copyright © Terry Mancour 2013

 

 

 

 

 

“You’re new here, aren’t you?” the girl asked, her eyes narrowing and her freckled nose wrinkling. 

Tyndal clutched the ancient pitchfork more tightly in his hands and nodded, mumbling an assent without looking up.

“I
thought
so,” the girl – about his own age, he couldn’t help but notice – said with an air of satisfaction, as if she had just figured out who killed Duke Sorotor.  “I’ve never seen
you
here before.”

Tyndal hoped she would go away, but when she didn’t, he finally looked up, brushing the shaggy mop of hair the color of the stray he was pitching out of his eyes to see her clearly.  You didn’t need clear vision to muck out stables.  It was actually a handicap.

“I –” he said, and stopped.

She was
beautiful.

Not beautiful in the manner of a high-born lady, like Lady Pentandra or the other noblewomen he’d seen from afar.  This girl was beautiful after the fashion of the peasantry, with a broad face split by a wide smile, and about a thousand freckles fighting for dominance on her pert little nose.  Her hair was dark, the color of the chestnut mare in the third stall, and cascaded over her ear and down her shoulders in a luxurious sprawl. 

She was dressed for town, so she wasn’t a peasant girl, he realized.  Her dress was a well-made, sturdy russet work dress, and she wore boots, not slippers or shoes.  It was two or three grades above what even the prosperous peasants around here wore unless they were on their way to temple or court.  It lacked an apron, so she wasn’t a cook or someone’s wife, he guessed, but the generous way it bulged suggested she wouldn’t be alone long.  It took a great deal of focus for Tyndal to tear his eyes away from her bust, but when he finally made it to her eyes, the trip was well worth the trouble.

The girl’s eyes gleamed bright green, like two fascinating emeralds, and they sparked with intelligence.  A lot of intelligence, he realized, with a start.  Perhaps too much.

“You . . .
what?
” she finally prompted.

“I’m just here for now, temporarily,” he mumbled, hiding his eyes again.  “My mistress hired me out to Master Gonus to tend the stable while his regular boy heals up,” he explained.

“Yeah, I heard Pug fell off that scrawny mare of his,” she snorted, as she wandered into the stall.  “Serves him right, thinking he can ride.”  She eyed him carefully, appraisingly, and it made Tyndal feel uncomfortable.  “I am Ansily.  My father runs the
Four Stags
inn, down the east road in Hoxly Crossing.”  When Tyndal didn’t reply, but kept combing through the straw, she prompted him.  “So what is your name?”

“Tyndal,” he said, exhaling.  He and his mistress had considered giving him a false name, but in the end decided that would merely complicate things.  “Tyndal of Boval Vale.  I’m a stableboy,” he said, even though it should be obvious to anyone with the slightest wit.  “And look to my mistress.”

“And just who is your mistress, Tyndal of Boval Vale?” she asked, making his name into a grandiose title.  Tyndal found it endearing and irritating at the same time.  He stopped, and studied her, brushing his hair out of his eyes once again.

“She is Alya of Boval Vale,” he said, evenly.  “She tarries in Talry to visit her kin, on her way up river.”

“She has kin in Talry?  Who are they?  Perhaps I know them?” she said, inquisitively.  “We innkeepers know just about everyone in a place.”

That was what Tyndal was afraid of.  “She is a distant – and I mean very distant – cousin of the Master Baker, Rinden.  I’m not certain of the relation, in honesty, but her father insisted she look them up.”

“I see,” she nodded, gravely.  “So, where in nine hells is Boval Vale?” she asked, pertly.  “Wherever it is, you are a long way from home.”  She started to move around the gray to follow him, but Tyndal stopped her suddenly with a hand on her shoulder.

“Careful,” he warned.  “That gray is jumpy.  If he thinks you’re lingering, he’ll kick you clear across the stable.  Boval Vale?  It’s hundreds and hundreds of leagues west, in the Mindens,” he said, with a sigh.  “But it’s not important.  I doubt I’ll be returning,” he said, sadly.

“Your mistress’ business will keep you away?” she asked.  Tyndal felt himself feeling compelled to converse with her, for some reason.  Perhaps it was that he had been in Talry for nine days, now, and he rarely spoke to anyone.   Nor had anyone, save Alya, spoken to him at length.

“You could say that,” he agreed, leaning on the pitchfork with practiced ease.  “Why are you so curious?”

“An innkeeper has to keep his ear open,” she shrugged.  “Father and I are in Talry on business, purchasing supplies from the port.  Only the barge we’re supposed to meet is late.  We’ll stay overnight at the
Eel’s Elbow
tonight, until it arrives.  My cousin Gastine owns it,” she said, proudly, her lips pouting a bit.

“It sounds as if you have innkeeping in your blood,” he said.  He had a hard time speaking to her, or at least of thinking of anything interesting to say, but she was just . . . so . . . pretty . . .

“For seven generations,” she said, proudly.  “My grandsires built the first great inn in the Riverlands, the
Oak and Axe
, down in Helanica.  That’s in Frista,” she explained.  Tyndal nodded.  He had never heard of either place, or the inn she was so proud of.  “My father built the
Four Stags
.  Some day I’ll inherit it.  Me and . . . my husband,” she said, swallowing hard and looking away.

“You’re getting married?” he asked, torn between disappointment and relief. 

“Not right now,” she admitted.  “But Father feels like it could happen
any time
. . . should I meet a lad I fancy.”

“May Briga light your journey,” he said, automatically, and returned to his work.

“I mean, the
Four Stags
is a
beautiful
inn,” she said, taken aback by his sudden change in demeanor.  “It would make a princely inheritance for any young man.”

“You sound like it’s for sale,” he grunted.

“No, silly, it’s not.  I’m just saying that the man who marries me, he will get the inn when Father dies, may the gods spare him,” she explained. 

“So . . . you’re selling . . .
yourself?
” he asked raising an eyebrow.    Ansily blushed and looked away.

“I was just making conversation!” she said, irritated.  “I just thought you might like to know who you were talking to.”

“Ansily of Hoxly, innkeeper’s daughter, on the hunt for a husband,” he recited, as if reading it on a sign over her head.  “Yes, I got that.”

“I am NOT on the hunt for a husband!” she insisted, indignantly.  “I just thought it would be polite to tell a cute boy about myself while my father talks with his vendors.”

“I’m just a stableboy,” he said, again, gesturing toward her with the pitchfork to demonstrate.  “I doubt your father wants a son-in-law with horse shit on his shoes.”

“My father will be happy with any man I choose,” she said, haughtily.  “Even if it was Tyndal of Boval,” she repeated, her eyes flashing.  Tyndal could feel the challenge pouring off of her.  “Even if he was simply covered in straw . . . from rolling around in it . . .”

Tyndal swallowed.  Was she . . .?  Really?  He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. 

“I’m just a stableboy,” he repeated, lamely, caressing the handle of his pitchfork.  “I’m nobody.  And I’m not even that cute,” he said. 

“Hmmph,” she grunted, smiling at him.  “Then you are no judge of humanity, Tyndal of Bov—”

“Just ‘Tyndal’,” he interrupted.  “Don’t mention Boval.  No one around here knows where it is, anyway.”

“Anyway,” she said, ignoring him, “you are, indeed, cute.”

Tyndal didn’t know what to say to that.  He’d never been called ‘cute’ before.

“All right, I’m cute.  But I’m still just a stableboy,” he said, smiling despite himself.

“So you keep insisting,” she said, even more irritated.  “But tell me, Tyndal the Stableboy, have you never aspired to any higher station?”

“I
like
horses,” he grunted.  “They’re simple.  Beautiful.  And . . .” he said, trailing off, thinking better of what he was going to say. 

“And . . . ?”  she asked, insistently.  “ ‘And’, what?”

He looked directly into those beautiful green eyes and said the last thing he wanted to say to her.  “And
they don’t talk
,” he said.

“They don’t . . . Oh!” she squealed.  “So I talk too much for you, do I?”

“Oh,
I
don’t mind,” he assured her.  “I think you’re kinda . . .
cute
.  But the
horses
might mind.”

She was about to give a retort when he heard someone, probably her father, calling her name.  Instead she turned back to him, after glancing nervously over her shoulder.  “Well, Tyndal the Stableboy, I’ll be at the
Eel’s Elbow
tonight.  Only, since we’re in town, I’ll probably be visiting Ishi’s shrine at midnight to pray for a husband.  Perhaps someone . . . cute, who feels the same of me.  Of course, such prayers should be conducted in private, so I shall probably go late in the evening.”

“Tell Her I said ‘hello’,” Tyndal said, dismissing her. 

“Be sure I will,” Ansily said, her jaw jutting out.  She turned on her heel and strode out of the stable defiantly.

Tyndal watched her walk away, all the way down the cobblestone street, her skirt swishing appealingly after her.  Indeed, he did not take his eyes off of her until she turned the corner, and was out of sight.

“What in the name of all that’s holy are you doing?” he asked himself, when she was gone.  “You idiot!  You’re supposed to be hiding!  Not telling your life story to passing girls!”  He continued berating himself until Master Gonus came along, inspected his work, and told him to go home with the agreed-upon five coppers a day he’d earned. 

Tyndal liked the old man, well in his forties, and didn’t even mind the strange accent.  He thanked his employer and set off down the street toward the great bakery where he was sleeping.  As it was only thirty paces away, he was ‘home’ before his feet were tired.

When Tyndal and Alya had made their way upriver to his master’s father’s home in Talry, it had been easy enough to stay in disguise.  They looked like hundreds of other travelers on the river, and no one had asked them about anything out of the ordinary along the way. 

But they had been moving, then, and a quick lie and a hasty retreat was usually enough to escape attention on a barge.  Now that they were in Talry for the foreseeable future, Tyndal had to find some way of blending in and escaping notice of the Witchfinders of the Censorate until his master sent for him.  And protect his intended bride, who was pregnant with his child, while he did it. 

They had at first thought he could be of use in the bakery, but two days of frustrating labor soon convinced them otherwise.  Tyndal had no talent nor love of baking, and while he could carry wood and flour and such as easy as anyone, he kept getting in the way.  It didn’t help that Master Minalan’s father, Master Rinden, had four apprentices and three journeymen already underfoot – Tyndal’s services just weren’t needed, and the younger apprentices didn’t waste any time resenting him. 

When Master Rinden pulled Tyndal aside to discuss it, he admitted that he was miserable in the hot, stuffy bakery.  When he further admitted that he preferred horse manure to flour, Master Rinden was skeptical, but arranged for the lad to work at Goodman Gonus’ livery stable across the road on the High Street.   Tyndal was a bit nervous around the strangers, but he did know horses.  Once he’d met the liveryman and answered a few basic questions about horseflesh, the pudgy goodman agreed to take him on. 

It wasn’t glamorous work, but he understood it.  The pitchfork had a wooden handle on one end, two iron tines on the other, and even an idiot could use it.  Compared to kneading bread, it was heaven . . . and it had other advantages.  From the stable Tyndal could watch the door of the bakery, which was the other reason he was eager for the change.   He could pay attention to every man who approached the door from the yard of the stable, hard to do when you’re back in the ovens.  From the moment he’d picked up the well-worn iron pitchfork, he had made it his duty to keep a sharp eye out for anyone searching for his master.

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