“Miss Clodagh, what is for dessert at the dinner party?” Rosomon asked in excitement as she watched the woman’s gnarled hands knead dough. She and the other staff had been preparing all week. A guest would be visiting, and the entire estate was in a tizzy.
“‘Tis a secret, little Rose.”
Rosomon’s eyes lit up at the nickname, “Mother said not to call me that…”
“Hah!” The woman laughed, “And do you always do what the Lady says?”
The girl’s lips broke into a full smile, knowing full well that she did not.
“Ach, I won’t be telling ye,” she insisted. Looking at the girl a moment she said, “But I will give ye a hint on somethin’ else.” Clodagh set the dough aside to rise again then turned to pull a quill and parchment from a drawer. Rosomon watched her curiously, wondering what sort of hint it would be.
Clodagh returned and handed her a paper, “Here ye are.”
Rosomon looked at the paper:
Hares & Boars
Nuts & Berries
Ye’ll Not Know
What We’re Makin
Til You Figure
Out The Writin
Her eyebrows furrowed, “This is not a hint!”
“Ah, everythin in this life is a hint – ye just need t’ solve the puzzle.” With that, the woman turned back to her craft.
Rosomon hopped off the counter and moved to a stool in the corner as another cook came in to assist Clodagh. She stared at the poem, rereading it over and over. Eventually she went through the side door into the garden. As she paced she noticed the misplaced punctuation makes. At first he had thought them ink droplets, but now they began to seem intentional. Dots, letters, dots, letters – her mind worked to make the connection. How could dots give her a hint?
“Ah ha!” Rosomon ran back into the kitchens to find Clodagh alone again. “Honey Tart!”
She turned to look at the girl, excited eyes and breathing heavily as if she had just run across an entire field. “Aye.” With that, she moved to an oven to pull out a tray. Dishing out the fresh pastries onto a plate before moving back to the girl still standing in the doorway, she bent to kiss the child’s head, “Happy Birthday, little Rose.”
The girl hugged her again for a minute.
“Now, get goin – I’ve got a lot to do and not a lot of time,” Clodagh shoos her out.
Rosomon takes the plate runs back out of the door. She ran across the bailey, hoping to find a cozy place to enjoy the tarts. Not looking where she was going, Rosomon ran into a pair of legs. She followed them up to see a tall man covered by a dark fur mantle. Everything he wore was dark, except for the grey peppered at his temples. His hair was pulled back, and she could not tell how long it was.
“Pardon me,” she said with a smile, still excited about her treat and solving the puzzle.
The man looked down at her curiously but did not look away. She was small, but he thought she may be older than he had initially thought. Flying through the bailey without a care as she had, the man figured she was probably not as demur as her father would have liked.
“Do you like honey tarts?” she queried.
“Pardon?” he replied in a deep voice.
“Honey tarts – do you like them?”
“Indeed – who would not?”
The girl held up her plate to him and said very seriously, “As an apology, sir, I would split them with you. I can assure you, they will be the best you have had.”
His lip tweaked. Sir? What an interesting child. “Apology accepted,” he said as he reached to grab his tart.
She watched him expectantly as he took the first bite, “Well?”
He simply nodded to her.
“Are you visiting? I can show you around.”
“I am, but exploring will have to wait. Can you direct me to the Baron?”
He watched the girl deflate a little, “Of course.” She grabbed his hand and started pulling him along. “Mr. Hayworth, will you please stable this man’s horse?” She did not notice to look in the man’s eyes as he froze watching them pass. “I am Rosomon, by the way.”
They ascended the steps. He opened the door for her, “It is a pleasure, Rosomon. I’m – “
The Baron’s hurried footsteps sounded through the entry. “Count!”