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Saturday, February 2, 2013

A new Chapter - Book Four

It's really been too long since I posted a chapter from the up-and-coming sequel to The Book of Drachma, which does not yet really have a name, but so far I'm calling it Heir of Drachma, though rather unenthusiastically. And the reason is simply that, for me to post it on, I needed a title. Seems that Sequel to The Book of Drachma wouldn't work. Anyway, here is another chapter, to whet your appetite. And the numbering of the chapters is not firm yet...

                                 Book Four  -  Chapter Six

              With the storm now blowing in earnest, LeGace was glad to step inside. It had been quite some time that he had been away, and now he was here, and the mansion was his. He looked around, and could see that it had been cared for, as he had directed, but still, without anyone living in it, the mansion would need some work, and some live human habitation. As he walked down the long hallway from the entrance, his footsteps echoed unnaturally and he displaced cobwebs as he walked. He dared not light any of the torches, and the old corridor remained dark, as he stepped further down the hallway, and then turned into what had been the master’s study. Here he could see, by the light from a series of high windows that nothing seemed to have been touched.

He would have to see to the necessities of setting up the house again for living, as there would be people staying here. He would have to be discreet is his selection of servants, but that is partly what Guarneri was for. He took off his cloak, and laid his satchel down, and made himself comfortable in the chair behind the great desk. Outside it had turned quite cool from the storm, but inside was reasonably pleasant, though the air was musty.

He heard the bell chime five times in the castle, and so he thought, I told them to be here by half past five, so I shall but wait. He dug around in the drawers of the desk, and was pleased to find some paper. He next pulled out of his satchel a bottle of ink and a quill. He thought for a few seconds, then began writing:

The year of Our Lord, One Thousand, Four Hundred, Ninety Six,
May, the 7th

These then are the particulars of which thou shalt bear the responsibility:
1 – As to the condition of the domicile, it shall be made clean, and shall be so                                               maintained, and shall be made livable.
2 – As to my own suite of rooms, they shall also be made and kept immaculate, and shall be available to me at any such time as I desire.
3 – As to the grounds, they, too, shall be kept tidy, with appropriate tending of the gardens.
4 – As to the kitchen, the pantry, the wine cellar – they shall, at all times be kept stocked, with the freshest possible goods and produce – and thou shalt be ready to produce, upon notice, any and all meals and entertainment which I desire.
5 – Failure of any of the aforementioned conditions shall be grounds for immediate termination, and legal action as deemed appropriate.
6 – Terms and conditions, as well as payment for services shall be decided upon, in accordance with Master Alessandro Guarneri

Signed this date, in the presence of my employer, Count Antoine LeGace, and, acting in his stead, Master Alessandro Guarneri.

He read over what he had written, and then, satisfied, he got up and strode out into the hallway. From there, he made a studious examination of his new abode, starting on the first floor, with its entryway, its sitting rooms, the drawing rooms, the kitchen, the pantry, and the servants’ quarters. From the back of the mansion, he looked out, and he could see the great castle. Its stone turrets, lit up with the flashes of lightning, and then darkened again, within the swirling rainstorm.

Ah, Craycroft, he thought, you know not what awaits you.

He came to the great staircase, and he went up. There he found more suites of rooms, all of them elegantly appointed, but musty from years of disuse. He walked down the corridor until he found the master suite, and here he lingered, noticing the fine furnishings, and the exceptional view. Even with the storm outside, he was able to make out the great castle, and he could feel just what it was that had eaten at Master Reordan all those years ago. And now, here he was, in the master’s own suite, in what was Reordan’s mansion. But now he was the lord of this manor…

He could hear activity down stairs, so he left the master suite, and descended the great staircase. When he got down the stairs he could see that Master Guarneri had brought with him a couple, which he assumed were husband and wife, and a younger lass, of twelve or thirteen years. He looked them over, looked at their dress, their bearing, and he looked into their eyes. They looked back, the terror plain in their faces. Eventually he spoke.

“Now, then, Master Guarneri, I see you have chosen. Well, come this way, then, and I shall talk to these folks. You may take off your cloaks, and leave them here in the hall. Now, come.”

The couple and the lass followed Guarneri and LeGace silently down the hallway to the study. When they were inside, LeGace reached over to the desk, and he picked up the paper, handed it to Guarneri.

“Now, it is up to you, Master Guarneri, to educate these people as to what shall be expected of them, and to have this paper signed, and if they be unable, then sealed with some blood. We need to make certain that all is taken care of before this week is done. I shall then be back, and I expect this place to be immaculate. Is that clear?”

“Oh, aye, m’lord,” said Guarneri, “it shall be as you say. And I shall have an armed retinue seeing to security.”

“Very well,” and so saying, he took his cloak and went out, down the hall, and back out into the rainstorm.

“Now that man,” said Guarneri, “he shall be your lord. His own coming and going shall be at his own discretion. Your task is to make certain that all in this house is in order, according to this edict.” He showed them the paper.

The man said simply, “now, there be no reason to show us that paper, for none of us can read. But what I can tell ye is that whatever it says upon that paper we shall faithfully do.”

“Well, let me ask that you, as head of this household, if you can but sign the paper, or at least make your mark in such a way as to identify that you did hear and understand what it says?”

Guarneri then read the letter to the assembled trio. And the man and his wife both nodded, indicating their understanding, and vowed that they would begin their tasks right away. What Guarneri did was to have the man attest to what had been written down, and to “sign” the form in his very blood, which he produced with his own knife and his forefinger.

“Now, Emile, you have signed with your own blood, which shall also bind your wife and daughter, to do what this writ has said. As to payment for services, you shall be paid monthly the sum of ten shillings.  Just come with me, then, and I shall show you about the place. I shall show you where you may stay, where you may enter, and where you may come only if the master or I am present.”

They followed Guarneri, and saw the kitchen, the rooms for storage, for the wine and ale, for produce. He next showed them their own quarters, and the servants’ entrance. And he informed them that they must not enter the mansion proper except as their duty required, or if they should be summoned. In truth, the first and foremost rule was that as servants, they were to be in the background at all times.

He then informed them that their new master was not to be acknowledged, outside this place, except that, if they were asked, they were to say only that their new employer was a count from France. With that, they were dismissed to do their duty, and to prepare the mansion for the arrival of their new liege lord. They were paid their first month’s wages, which Emile took gratefully, and placed the coins in his little pouch under his belt.

It was much later when Jeremy and his friend Rowan emerged from their hiding place, and hurried off toward the castle, and toward the constabulary. After they left the road that led to the mansion, and joined up with the main road, they felt it safe to speak openly.

“Aye, that was he, for certain, was it not?”

“Oh, aye, it could have been none other. Now, we’ll have to report this to Cayman, for sure,” Rowan said as they hurried through the storm. As the two of them stepped inside the castle, they saw him again, walking toward the village. They paused in their way, and ducked behind a cart, and observed him further, as he went on toward the village, and then he turned into a small side road, which they knew led to Tierney, the blacksmith’s store.

“Well, I think that’s somethin’. Now we shall have to visit old Tierney, I believe, in the mornin’.”

Then the two of them hurried on, and came to the constabulary. As they entered the warmth and the smell of men crowded in from the rain assaulted their senses.

“Ah, Jeremy and Rowan! Now what could the two of ye ha’ been doin’?” The man behind the desk asked cheerfully.

“Me good sir,” Jeremy addressed Dowdell, “what we’ve got to say, we need to say to Captain Cayman, that’s for sure.”

“The Captain? Well, I do believe you’re in luck, me lads. Now why don’t ye take off yer wet cloaks, and have a seat, and I’ll see if he’s still in back. He came back shortly with Cayman.

“Well, Rowan and Jeremy! What brings ye two around on such a wet afternoon? And Dowdell tells me that ye wanted to tell me specially.”

“Indeed, Captain,” began Jeremy. “It is ye that we most need to tell. Ye see, we’ve been sort of on the look out, from somethin’ his cousin told us. He said that he saw a most fearsome man, who has a cane, and was in the company of, he believes, some man what used to be here upon this isle – a master Guarneri. Anyway, we think that this man has somehow gotten hold of the old mansion up the hill.”

“A man with a cane, eh? Could ye be referring to Antoine LeGace?

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