Do You Like Honey Tarts?

“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!”

Ribbons & Dresses

Port Melandir
~
“Nana!” Rosomon exclaimed as she ran into Lady Faulkner’s arms.

“Ah, my little Rosomon,” she said, holding the girl tightly. “What have you been up to of late?”

The girl’s nose scrunched as she looked at her grandmother, “Studying, mostly.”

The older woman laughed, “Ah, well best not show your father this, then.” She pulled a wrapped gift from a nearby shelf.

“Thank you,” the girl said before running off to the other side of the sitting room to show Maegi her gift.

“Mother,” Isamina chastised.

“Oh hush now, girl, neither you nor that husband of yours is going to prevent me from spoiling my grandchild.” Sitting down primly on the settee she continued, “I still cannot believe, after all these years, that you were able to convince your father marry you off to that man.”

“Love, mother. Love is how I convinced him.”

She harrumphed, “Money is more like it.”

“Have you heard of this day’s Parliament yet?” Isamina attempted to change the topic.

“Nay,” she said. “But I suspect we will at the Gale’s party tonight. Hah! We are not even in North Pass and they were able to put together an event!”

She looked over at her granddaughter who was in the middle of sorting the gifts and heard her say softly, “Look at this ribbon, Maegi! Here, it matched your eyes!”

~

Rosomon looked around the room crowded with imposing, well-dressed figures.

She felt a hand at her back. “Don’t wander off tonight,” came her father’s voice. They made their way to Viscount Gerald and his family. “Gerald, I was pleased to see you did not yield to Lord Bradford’s demands this time.”

“The man simply does not know when enough is enough,” he replied.

As the men talked, their wives caught up on the day’s ventures. Lady Peronell had found a lovely shop by the harbor with all of the latest imports from Hestralia.

Rosomon’s mind drifted off her gaze wandered. She spotted several other children around, most her age or older. She saw one girl with long brown hair and a pretty red dress. She looked down at hers – her family’s colors – and wondered why none of her dresses were red.

“There you are,” she turned at the familiar voice. “Kirk, you remember Rosomon,” Gunter told him.

“Of course, how could I forget your little thing.”

Gunter chuckled. “How have your lessons been going?”

“Very well. I have been studying the history of Rogalia.” She did not mention that she was mostly learning about where everything was located and other basics.

“Oh? Seems a heavy topic for a girl, especially one so young. What are you now, five?”

“Nearly seven,” Rosomon straightened. “Pardon me.” She turned around and walked a table with an assortment of treats on it with Maegi in toe.

“Those boys do not seem very nice.”

Rosomon looked up to see the girl in the red dress. “You are not entirely wrong,” she said, glancing behind her.

“I am Lady Alexandra Gale,” the other girl said.

“A pleasure to meet you, I am Lady Rosomon,” she replied. She paused for a moment, but could not hold back, “I love your dress!”

The End is Red

Rosomon, all of six years old, started her day as she had for nearly three years, sitting in the solar, focusing intently on the paper before her.

A A A a a a B B B…

At least, she tried to focus. The window kept drawing her attention. It was a beautiful, sunny day. She wanted to go outside and run around – maybe find someone to play with.

Sighing, she turned back to the letters and numbers before her. No fun was to be had here. Still, she wrote and wrote, methodically dipping her quill in the ink before returning it to the parchment.

“Morning!” A hand that was suddenly on her shoulder startled her, and the quill scratched across the paper leaving a large line. She knew she would have to start over, as her father would never accept such a thing.

She straightened address the older boy before her, “Good morning, Gunter. You startled me.” She looked pointedly at the mark on her paper.

“No matter – you can write just fine, so do it again.”

“Indeed, I certainly shall.” She pulled a blank sheet before her and picked up the quill.

A A A a a a B B B…

“You will never believe what I did today,” he said prodingly.

H H H h h h…

“Oh?” she replied without looking up.

M M M m m m…

“Yes…” Gunter went on to tell his story.

Z Z…

“Rosomon!” He grabbed her wrist to jerk her to face him, causing a mark to mar this paper as well. “Were you listening to a word I said?”

“You bested Marcus Olson at swordplay. Then the two of you went to the lake and found a boy catching frogs… and you threw stones at him,” she finished disapprovingly.

He pulled back to look at her a moment. “That’s right. ‘Bested’ is stating it lightly, though. I doubt he will even have the courage to challenge me again.”

Silence grew for a moment. “Ah! I nearly forgot! I have a gift for you,” he said proudly.

Her head canted to the side. “Truly?”

“I do.” Gunter took a step back to stand tall before her. He reached behind him, then bowed with a dramatic flourish. “My Lady,” he said holding a large rose in full bloom before her.

Her eyes lit up. “It is beautiful!”

“Of course – it is the first of the season.” He straightened and said kindly, “And it is for you.”

She smiled at him as he held it up to her. It was fragrant, and the petals looked soft to the touch. Gunter looked at her expectantly, so she reached her small hand to take the rose.

“Ouch!” She exclaimed as her hand closed around the stem.

A laugh cut through the air.

When she made to let go of the flower, his hands came up to caress hers. The move looked kind, but it exerted pressure to keep her hand closed around the stem and thorns. “Now, Rosomon, you do not want to drop your present.”

Her chin trembled and she felt tears behind her eyes, but Rosomon refused to cry. “Let go,” she said.

Gunter looked at her curiously, “Why would I do that?” The pressure increased slightly.

Knowing it would cut her hand more, Rosomon tore herself free of his grip. With one last glare she moved to leave the room.

“What? You don’t like it? Is it not enough? I can get you more!” He laughed behind her. “Come back.” When she did not follow his bidding, he stormed after her. “Rosomon. Come back. Agh! It was a joke!”

Finally reaching the door, she rounded on him, “There is nothing funny about using thorns or stones to hurt people!”

He froze, aghast, but before he could speak she was out the door. “You are no fun,” echoed after her.

Rosomon’s steps grew more hurried. She did not bother going to her parents – she would find no comfort there. So, instead of the rooms, she headed to the door leading to the garden. It was there she found her solace.

Bent over pulling carrots from the soft soil was Clodagh. The old Dunnick woman was always there for her.

Clodagh turned when she heard footsteps racing toward her; she barely had time to catch the child that flew into her arms.

“Miss Clodagh,” came a tearful voice, slightly muffled from her skirts.

“What ‘tis it then, little lady?” Clodagh stroked the girl’s soft curls.

She held up her hand, realizing that the rose was still clutched in it and little streams of blood trickled down her wrist.

“Ach! Whatever happened?” she asked, pulling Rosomon to a bucket of clean water nearby. She took the flower and set it aside, then began cleaning the cuts that looked too big on the girl’s little hand.

“Gunter played a trick,” she sniffed. Clodagh could see the girl was near tears but trying to keep them at bay.

“Hold fast, Rosomon,” she said encouragingly. “Life is uncertain. One day you get a rose, the next you feel the thorns – but the end result is red.”

Herding Sheep

“Rosomon,” Baron Renauld said sternly, “I have had enough of you running off to Banalis knows where! How many times must I tell you not to go off on your own?”

The young girl before him stood biting her lip and looking up with innocent eyes. She appeared sincere enough when she said, “I am sorry, Father,” but the effect was a bit dampened as she was covered head to toe in mud.

The man rubbed his hand across his face in exasperation and sighed, “Yes, I know you are – you always are. Run along and get cleaned up now, Rosomon.” The girl wasted no time in leaving. He opened his eyes and met his wife’s gaze across the room, “Fine.”

Isamina smiled, “The servant girl has herded sheep her whole life – she can easily herd a girl half her age.”

The Baroness had been trying to convince her husband for months to let her bring in someone to watch over their wayward daughter, who had a penchant for mischief. Isamina had spoken with her mother on the matter; the Faulkner Lady had laughed at her expense saying she ought to find a shepherd.

After thinking more on it, she knew her mother was right. She had heard mention of a girl – Maegi – who was nearing thirteen. The girl was an orphan with no family to speak of, meaning there would be no interference. Isamina had heard the girl was maybe not the brightest, but was humble and biddable. ‘Twould be perfect.

Do You See It?

A warm breeze brushed through the trees scattering freshly picked flowers. It was not strong enough to blow away the ones knotted together, though, as little Rosomon had been set about her task for the better part of the afternoon.

She looked up at the happy sounds coming from the other side of the bushes hiding her. She had been so focused that she did not realize the other children had gathered their flower crowns and are now ready to leave. “Maybe next time,” she said quietly, watching them go.

So badly did she want to join them – but she knew better. The last time she attempted as much they ran away before she could even say, “Hello, I am…” Had she scared them? Sometimes children are scared of silly things. She was afraid of that painting in the hall and Mother’s cat and even the pudding that Miss Cladogh loves to make. It was truly terrifying how the candlelight casts a jiggling shadow on the dining room wall! She did not think she was particularly frightening, but maybe they did… Regardless, she would rather learn to make their flower crowns than anything Mother would make her do – so behind the bushes she stayed.

At last, her crown was done. She placed it on her golden curls and scooped up the remaining flowers in her little hands. Making her way up the path toward home, she hummed a song the children like to sing. It was a lively tune, and she began to skip along.

As the house came into view, she noticed the sky beginning to change color. Perhaps she had been away too long?

Ascending the steps, her wrist was yanked on from below sending her stumbling back down. “How many times must I call your name!?”

All she could see are Gunter’s familiar blue eyes bent close to her face. “I am sorry, Cousin,” she replied kindly, already used to his moods.

The eyes narrowed for a moment before he leaned back to stare down at her, still holding her wrist too tightly. A charming smile came to life on his face, “Very well, then. Come… I have something to show you.”

The taller boy charged up the stairs, towing the girl along, headless of her having to nearly run to keep up and clutching flowers to her chest. He continued on, starting and stopping abruptly to vier through the people before reaching another set of stairs. The girl had never gone up the spiraling staircase before – Father had forbade her. She tried to tug away, but the boy simply tightened his grip and hauled her forward.

She did not understand why he insisted upon dragging her everywhere, for she would follow him if he would but ask. But, no, this was always how it was no matter how old they were. She could not remember a time when he did not tow her about. Sometimes he would show her interesting things, but she knew that when he finally let her be her wrists would be sore for the next two days.

They reached the top, and she froze there, forgetting to breathe because of the beauty before her. Everything was coated in red with the setting sun – the leaves, the grass, the stones, the people…

The boy took her closer to the edge and stood beside her, “Look at it all… Do you see it?”

Of course she saw it. What did he mean? He was surely a confusing boy.

She must have not been paying him enough attention, because he grabbed her chin and grinds, “Do you see it?”

Her eyes widen, “Yes.” It was the same as she had seen her whole life. What does he want her to see?

Seemingly satisfied, he let her go and turns to the view, “Did you hear? I will be leaving soon.”

“Oh?” she was having a hard time following his thoughts.

“‘Tis an honor, really. I will train more, and I will fight. I will show those in defiance that they will never win.” The boy stepped closer to the edge. “Do you see it?”

The girl did not like this anymore, but he tugged her to the edge with him before she could step back. “Do you see it?” All she saw was the fever in his eyes as his gaze met hers. “Since you are clearly too simple, I shall tell you. It is mine – everything my eyes land upon. The mountains. You. The trees. That horse. Everything.”

The boys chest puffed out in pride, but his eyes narrowed once again when she did not immediately concur. “Fine – you can just stand here until you can see it…”

At last he let her go and stepped back, but her arms flashed out to balance her trembling frame. In her effort, the crumpled flowers fell from her fist. As she watched them sink to the ground below she thought, This is not silly.

A Thing of Duty

“I expect you will teach him well,” Viscount Gerald told his friend.

“Of course,” Renaurd responded, clasping the young boy on his shoulder.

Gunter was but five years of age. His blue eyes sparkled in excitement as his father attached a wooden sword at his side.

“Take heed and listen well. You are becoming a man – it is your responsibility to learn to protect this domain,” Gerald told him firmly before stepping back.

The men stood talking for a time, and though the boy listened intently, he could not truly follow the conversation at hand.

“Go say goodbye to your mother, Gunter.”

The boy nodded, excited to be able to move. He was not entirely sure what was going on, but he knew that his father and mother would be leaving him here for a time. And he knew his father deemed it important.

He went to join his mother and Lady Isamina who were clustered near the well looking at whatever the lady was holding. They seemed transfixed, cooing at the thing.

“What are you looking at? I want to see,” he said indignantly upon approach.

“Here you are,” Isamina said. She turned the bundle to face him.

“What is that?”

“Tis a babe. Her name is Rosomon.”

The boy moved closer, “It’s hideous!”

Peronell gasped, “Gunter!” She could not believe the child had said that.

“It’s quite alright,” Isamina said as she laughed gently. “She may not suit you now, but one day she will.”

The boy hummed doubtfully.

“Trust my, little Lord, she will. It is her duty. After all, she will be your wife.”

He thought on her words as he stared at the babe wrapped in a blanket. She yawned and shifted, just waking up. “You mean she is mine?”

The women looked at one another and shrugged delicately. “You could say that,” Isamina replied.

“Well then,” he said, pointing at the babe’s face, “you had best do your duty well! I am doing mine.” He was not entirely sure what “duty” was, but the grown ups sure liked to talk about it a lot.

The babe just cooed happily at him and reached for the finger before her, not knowing in the slightest who the boy would become.

Born to Goodly Parents

Men sparred in the bailey, their breaths like clouds in the morning chill. Renaurd felt his muscles tighten as he blocked the onslaught of maneuvers.

“Is that the best you’ve got, Gerald?” he scoffed at his friend.

The other man guffawed, “Nay, it isn’t.” With that, he arched his blade to meet the other.

The men had been up the entire night. It had started out pleasant enough with dinner and cider. The men and their wives enjoyed visiting together during the winter months. With the Lady of the house, Isamina , late into her pregnancy, Gerald and Peronell had made the trip this time.

~

Early last eve, they had all been sitting in the great hall taking turns telling stories of the year’s campaign. It was brought to a halt when Isamina began having shooting pains in her abdomen.

“‘Tis too soon,” she fretted.

“It will pass with no trouble,” Peronell told her.

They eventually realized that it would not pass and sent for the midwife. The women went above stairs to rest. They all waited and waited, but no one came.

“What is this then?” Renaurd demanded of the servant who bore the news.

“Apologies, my Lord…” he drifted off, not having any answer for the man and not wanting to incur his wrath.

An elderly Dunnick woman with grey weaving through her dark red tresses entered from the kitchens. “I believe I can be of assistance, my Lord.”

Looking down his nose, he replied, “Do you now?” Gerald watched the exchange from near the fireplace in amusement. A little boy sat at his feet banging toy soldiers together, and another sat off to the side studying.

“Aye,” she said, confronting his gaze steadily. “Delivered all of m’ grandbarns m’self.”

Renuard held her gaze. When the woman would not look away, he waved his hand dismissively, “Well be to it then.”

He returned to his friend, where they sat and drank until becoming too restless to sit any longer. The boys were taken to bed, and the men moved out of doors to work off some energy on the lists.

~

Their swords met again. “Gah! What is taking so long?” Renuard spat in frustration.

Just then, a servant ran up to them, staying clear of the blades. “My Lord!”

“Finally!” The men stopped their sparring and made their way across the yard to the building with the servant girl trailing behind. Before reaching the door, Renaurd turned on the girl and said, “It is a boy, yes?”

Her steps faltered, “Nay, my Lord.”

“Damn,” he said, walking into the keep.

Gerald laughed at his friend’s expense. “There is always next time,” he said throwing his arm over the other man’s shoulders.

“I suppose,” his mood was dark indeed.

“You have a daughter – and so what? I have sons,” he said proddingly.

Catching on to the man’s train of thought, Renaurd felt his mood begin to lighten. “You are right!”

They made their way up the stairs to his wife’s chamber. Gerald waited outside while Renaurd continued in. Peronell sat on blood coated sheets while pressing a damp cloth to Isamina’s forehead.

“I am sorry, Renaurd,” she said weakly.

He ignored the blood around the room, having seen much of it in his life. “Do not fret, Gerald and I have it sorted. Besides, they’ll be a boy next time.”

“I think not, my Lord,” the old Dunnick woman said from across the room. She held a small infant in her arms, rocking it gently. “The birth was hard on my Lady.” She said nodding to the sheets and piles of soaked linens, all stained red. The woman lying on the bed, nearly unresponsive, should have been evidence enough.

He did not let her words dampen his mood, but felt the need to remind her, “When was there ever a time a Dun knew more of this world…?”