Author: cleo nightingale PM
Of what use is modern education in ancient Britain? Of none as it seems. All this has to a bad dream, worse then the one back home in the 21st century. Female OC, appearance of all knights with Dagonet and Tristan in leading roles.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Tristan & Dagonet - Chapters: 14 - Words: 64,533 - Reviews: 128 - Favs: 73 - Follows: 142 - Updated: 03-13-13 - Published: 02-14-11 - id: 6744181
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
New day, new try – Tristan thought as he trotted towards his breakfast at Vanora's table. He did not know exactly when he had started this ritual of taking in his morning meals with the fiery redhead and her brood and why. He used to tell himself it was because the kitchen maids at the mess were not up as early as he was or that their porridge always had a bitter after-taste but in fact, he enjoyed the lively bustling at Vanora's table. The kids looked up to him as a respects person but they did not fear him. They made no effort to avoid him or make a wide arc around him. No, they kept hiding behind his legs or stumbling over his feet when chasing each other around. He used to throw them a warning scowl then, but nobody really seemed to take that as a threat. It felt a little like family life, although he knew it was not his own family. Nevertheless it was welcome, that Bors was absent most of these mornings.
Today he had risen from bed early to be on time for the stranger's arrival. He mused she might show up again for a bowl of porridge and Vanora was not the woman to deny someone else that little help. If she indeed turned up, he would at least get an idea from which direction she had come and this might lead him back to her hiding spot. It was not that the woman in particular interested him or he suspected some evil from her side. She was only another stray who tried to survive. It just irked him that she had managed to evade his supervision two times; and he did not like the idea that there might be a place in the fort he did not know of. A blind spot always posed a problem.
When he strode towards the tavern he met Vanora's eldest daughter with a clay jug in her hands on the way to fetch milk. She bid him morning, he nodded in return. When he arrived the other siblings were about to set up the table and he heard Vanora's voice calling out commands. She and Bors had created a small army of their own, a force to be reckoned with when set loose but strictly obeying when under their mother's command. However, the stranger was not among them and a peek into the kitchen told him, she was not here at all. Good. Then he could indeed see from which direction she would approach and due to the early morning hour, he might even be able to track back her foot steps in the street dirt. Waiting for his prey, he seated himself at his usual place at the head of the table and waited while the table was filled with tableware and the benches alongside with children.
With the chatting of the brood in the background it was difficult to hear but if he strained his ears, he could make out women's voices coming from the allay to his right. A moment later Van's daughter rounded the corner with the filled milk jug in her arms and the stray in tow. Seeing the two next to each other, Tristan realised the first time how tall the stranger was, at least one head higher than Van's offspring and Two was not on the short end of the scale either. Her dark hair was tied back and the slightly higher than average cheek bones and the rather narrow than round eyes were more noticeable then before and betrayed her foreignness. Next to Van's blossoming young daughter she looked older. The dark circles under her eyes and her ashen face might age her beyond her years but her youth was definitely gone. She fell silent when approaching the table, clutching a rolled up bundle of fabric to her body and trying to hold her ragged cloak closed. Her eyes first found Tristan, then quickly diverted to the kitchen entrance.
"Ma! I brought Ivy over for a bowl of porridge!" the young red-head was announcing when she entered the kitchen.
"Did you?" came the curt reply.
"She was waiting at the smithy for Dag and had nothing to do and hadn't had proper breakfast and I thought ..." her voice was getting lower and lower, leaving her sounding unsure if her mother would approve.
Tristan rolled his eyes. So the direction they came from would tell him nothing. She had already been at the smithy this early and he still had no clue from where she had come.
Meanwhile Ivy waited timidly, trying to pretend she did not notice the silent knight's mustering stare. She had decided to wear the breeches and not the dress today. It would be far more comfy and practical for work, but it was bound to raise attention. And as her cloak only reached around her shanks, it was easy to notice.
After what felt like a small eternity, she heard Vanora mutter a not very enthusiastic "Fine. Get her a bowl." Soon after, Two emerged from the kitchen with a bowl and a spoon in hand and waved Ivy , making room between her siblings by slapping their shoulders. "Sit here. I need to stir the oats." And in a whirlwind she was gone back to the kitchen to do her duty.
Ivy sat down between a small girl, that flashed her a milk teeth grin with gaps, and an adolescent boy. Still feeling uneasy under Tristan's inquisitive stare, she turned to the girl, who was pulling at her hair. "Le me braid it? I 'ave learned that! See?" She pulled on the braid of her sister next to her, who was completely unaware and let out a squeal. "Eh! Let go!"
Ivy chuckled at that and dutifully untied the thin leather band. When the small girl, not older seven than or eight years, combed her fingers through her length she had to bite back a pained 'ouch' now and then. She could not keep her face from contorting though.
"So soft. Like rabbit fur." the small one admired and finally began to braid the dark mass.
Ivy faced the adolescent boy on her other side in the meantime and stroke up a conversation, where she learned that the children's names were not of hidden meaning but actually what they sounded like: numbers. When the mother of the crowd brought the steaming pot together with Two (obviously the second eldest child), all chatting on the table stopped and everyone relished in the breakfast. The children did not mind, but Ivy had the distinct feeling that something was off with Vanora.
Being back at the smithy after a fulfilling meal, it did not take long until Dagonet appeared. His look was a bit clouded and he was not as talkative as he had been yesterday.
"Good morning!" Ivy greeted him friendly, to which he merely replied with a grunted "G' morrow."
"Is something wrong?" she enquired carefully.
He looked her square into the eyes and she started to fear he would fire her any moment.
"Trouble at home."
'Oh' Ivy mouthed to herself.
"Lucan dislodged his shoulder in training." The tone was a mixture of concern and annoyance.
"He showed me were to get wood and coal and water. I can do his work." Ivy offered quickly.
She felt somehow that Lucan's injury was not the only problem that troubled the smith and also felt his reservation towards her. He too, now? Had she done anything wrong?
Fortunately, this dissipated during the morning. Dagonet showed her how to start the basic wood fire in the furnace, on which he would later build the coal fire. She went to fetch water and wood on her own and then made herself comfy in front of the big wet stone. Her cloak, bundled together with her dress, was stored away in a corner she constantly had in view. With her legs folded underneath her, the box with arrow heads to sharpen on one side and a mug of water on the other side she started her work. The monotonous strokes of metal against stone was relaxing her mind. The only thing that unsettled her was the presence of Tristan, who had come in around noon to discuss some business with Dagonet. They were looking at a lot of metal bars, weighing them in their hands, balancing them, clashing them and listening to the sound … it all looked like quality control. It seemed the silent knight had special wishes.
When Ivy looked up from the wet stone in the most unsuspecting fashion to watch them, she also caught two women standing across the street but clearly watching the smithy. But they were not watching the men. They were looking her way and whispering, shaking their heads when caught watching and then made their way down the street.
Was she the subject of gossip now? They had not even seen her wearing the breeches from this distance.
What drew her attention back to the inside of the work shop was when Dagonet grabbed one of the selected iron bars, which had heated up in the fire, and nodded to Tristan. "About right. Get the hammer." Tristan strode over to the tools, close by Ivy's working place, grabbed a huge sledge hammer and went back over to the anvil. Dagonet had clad himself in a leather apron, whereas Tristan made to remove his ragged tunic and then the worn undershirt, leaving him bare from the naval upwards.
Despite the fact that she had seen countless men in any state of undress (mostly in films, mind you) Ivy could do nothing but watch the play of muscle strings in the sinewy man's back when he got hold on the heavy sledge hammer. Every fibre of his body tensed when he lifted the hammer high and swung it down onto the red glowing iron rod. He hit it alternately with Dagonet, who handled a smaller hammer in his right hand and the pliers to hold the hot metal in the other. The rhythmic clash of metal on metal reverberated through the open work shop, while the scraping sounds of metal on stone under Ivy's hands had ceased completely. Her eyes where still glued to the moving of well-toned muscles in Tristan's shoulders, then travelled down over a back littered with numerous scars. It was a body of a warrior, no doubt. There was no muscle trained, that wouldn't be needed in battle and considering the many reminders that marred his skin, he had seen many battles. It disturbed Ivy greatly to be in the presence of men, who had killed other men. Watching in on TV was one thing, but imagining that men where able to do it by their own hands was beyond her. Never could another life be so worthless to just end it.
Her train of thoughts was abruptly ended by Dagonet's voice calling out her name. She focussed her eyes on him, hoping she had not been caught staring … which she hadn't … she had mused … thought about the value of life … never stared.
"We might need more water." He inclined his head to the steaming stone trough next to the anvil. "Tis too warm."
Ivy nodded dutifully, unfolded her legs from under her and stood up. Trying to ignore a sweating Tristan and his disturbing stare from under his shaggy mane, she gathered the two wooden buckets and left with swift long strides. Only halfway down the allay she noticed the passers-by stare at her lower half, her leather clad legs, and she realized she had forgotten her shielding cloak. At least the tunic reached past her hips, covering her rear completely. Going back for the cloak seemed foolish and it was too warm for it anyway. So she steeled herself and proceeded towards the river. The small gate was not guarded at day and she went unhindered. Only allowing herself a short indulgence in fresh water on her face and hands, she stumbled back to the smithy with two heavy buckets. After refilling the stone tray under the scrutiny of four eyes, she went back to her wet stone and took up work again, trying her hardest not to let her gaze stray again.
This evening Arthur's call for a meeting foiled Tristan's plan for another observation attempt. Dagonet had already closed the smithy down for the night when he made it out of the table room and the woman was nowhere to be seen in the tavern. She had probably crawled into her hiding spot already, wherever it might be. It had to wait for another day then.
On the next morning Tristan even had to forgo his porridge in favour of some jerky and an apple from his saddle pack. Arthur had ordered him to scout the northern perimeter and the mining settlements to the east. Letting his dappled grey fall into a leisure walk after their fast pace on the last miles, Tristan pulled out another strip of dried meat and began to chew. His eyes watched the trail sides attentively. Even after Arthur's alliance with the picts Tristan had an uneasy feeling whenever riding north of the wall. Fifteen years of fighting and losing comrades to these people were hard to forget. He did not trust them and they did not trust him, but they were not the problem at hand. It were the slave hunters that plagued the northern territories. As soon as Rome had abandoned the island they had claimed it as their new hunting territory. Nothing to fear from the mighty empire, even welcome to trade their lively goods on its markets, turned many a man to this profession. At first they had kept close to the coast, raiding villages of their strong men and young women and quickly retreating to their ships. But as of late their trips had reached further and further into the heart of the country. The villagers were unable to fend for themselves, the picts army was dissolved or incorporated into Arthur's troops. It was upon Britannias new king to stop this evil. And Arthur being Arthur, fought for every citizen and their freedom with all his might.
For the time being, Tristan had come across no intruders but reports from the villagers on strangers roaming the country side were enough cause for concern. Arthur, upon hearing the news, ordered to reinforce the regular patrols and left it to Tristan to organise a schedule. Tristan's plan to work on his new sword in Dagonet's smithy had to be postponed. He told his old friend that much, when he passed by in his work shop.
Dag had been handling a chain mail and explaining things to his new employee, which dutifully stood next to him, a small hammer dangling from her bony hand. She stood by silently and inspected the rings of the battered chain mail while Tristan spoke briefly to Dag. Leaving the work shop Tristan shook his head at the thought of Dag's actions. Letting a stray scrape some arrow heads on a stone to let her earn something to eat was one thing but he could not be seriously considering her an apprentice. He will make himself the subject of town gossip, if he not already is and it would do his business no good. Tristan shall have a word with him.
This evening, the streets barely lit with the last remnants of twilight, Tristan managed to see Ivy leave the tavern. She had sat on a rather shaky looking bench on the side, her stew long since gone, mumbling away on a slice of bread like a little rabbit in order to look inconspicuous while waiting for the night to come and for the darkness to cover her escape. When she finally saw her chance, she grabbed what Tristan assumed was her bundled up dress, and slipped out onto the allay, throwing glances over her shoulder if anyone noticed her. She however did not notice Tristan leaving the tavern right after her.
When he entered the street Ivy was already rounding the next corner and he had to pick up pace to not lose her.
The little rabbit hurried to find shelter in its burrow.
Keeping himself away from the middle of the street, close to the walls at the side, he followed her turn after turn, small allay after small allay, not taking any short cuts afraid she might slip away through a crack in a wall or a loose plank of a hut. After rounding the fifth corner he decided that she was either not sure of her own destination or she was not directly going there. Not that they were walking in circles, it just seemed to be aimless. Two more turns and they would pass the royal stables again.
"Tristan!" a boisterous voice called out to him. "Sneakin' round in'e dark? Come, grab a beer!"
It was meant as teasing, but the moment Gawain had reached his side and slapped his back he could have strangled him. Did it not occur to him that he was 'sneakin round' for a reason?
Looking past Gawain he saw his prey pause at the far away corner and looking back at them with what Tristan imagined to be frightened rabbit eyes.
Gawain, oblivious of anything, turned around to face the same direction than his fellow knight did, but saw nothing. He remembered having passed by someone only a moment earlier, but being focussed on his well deserved evening ale, he had not really paid attention. When he turned his look back at Tristan, the knight in question scowled at him.
"You up to somethin'?" he inquired baffled.
"Not anymore." Tristan grumbled.
Breaking into a run and hoping to encounter no one else Ivy made for the stables. A last look over her shoulder before she entered the fenced-in area and she quickly crossed the yard. Throwing the watch dog a whispered "Come on boy! Inside!", she paused shortly on the stable doors and listened for any voices. Everything was silent. Thank god! Finally inside, she patted the dog, hastily provided him a slice bread and a disgustingly hard piece of gristle from her supper and climbed the hay loft. Only then a slight feeling of security came over her. Scooting back into the hindmost corner she piled hay to hide behind and rolled into a small ball, intently listening to any sound. But there were only horses and the rustling of hay.
She had been followed, hadn't she? Was she imagining things?
At first she hadn't been sure so she passed by the stable yard and took another round to make certain she was alone. She had looked back when rounding the corners but had seen nobody. And suddenly when she was about to turn towards the stable again there was someone spoken to not far off.
Who had that been? Someone intent to hurt her?
She had identified the tawny haired man who she had come across as one of the knights but to whom he called out she had not seen. It was too dark, too far off and she hadn't understood his callings, but it was clearly someone who had been following her, or taken at least the same route as her. It might have been coincidence but she hadn't seen anyone only moments before, when she last checked.
Keeping her breathing low she listened further for any sounds until finally succumbing to slumber.
The next breakfast at Vanora's table was less awkward then the last, mainly because the spooky knight was absent. She had also offered Vanora to pay for the meal with work but the red-head had dismissed this; saying one head more or less wouldn't make a difference and with a measuring look at Ivy added, she 'only ate like a little rabbit and it wouldn't matter'. The little girl, Seven, braided her hair again, picking out pieces of straw. Ivy made a mental note to more carefully check her hair the next time before leaving the stable. No need to raise suspicions.
When she finally made her way over to the smithy, she was surprised to find Dagonet already there with a saddled up horse.
"Ah, there you are." he greeted.
"Good morrow, Dagonet." she answered politely. "I will hurry with the fire. I did not realize I was late ..." she started to apologize but Dag cut her off.
"No. No fire today. I 'ave to pay visit to the char burner." he started to explain while leading his horse around to mount up. Then he eyed her critically. "I trust that I can leave you alone?"
"Yes. I will make the rings as you showed me yesterday. And there are enough arrowheads to process." She was not sure if Dag was convinced yet, she wouldn't do anything stupid.
"Good." He nodded hesitantly. "Tristan will show up after noon. I put the wet stones he will need in a bucket near the furnace. See to it that he gets them and no one else."
Ivy nodded dutifully. Apparently wet stones were quite valuable tools in a smithy. She would keep a sharp eye on them. As for the announced company, she was less than thrilled. Not that she disliked the man, it was just somehow creepy how he was around without speaking and instead bored his eyes into persons. Namely her.
"I will be back as soon as possible." With that, Dagonet turned the horse and rode off.
She was on her own. The work shop owner had trusted her with his whole business. Not that she would be able to run off and start to sell his hammers and pliers, but wow. That was a lot of trust. And she would honour it, that was for sure. She would prove herself worthy of his trust.
After unbarring the large windows in the wooden wall and letting light into the shop, she filled a clay mug with water of yesterdays trip to the river and collected the tools she would need to make rings. Dagonet had shown her how to cut and bow rings from the thick wire for the chain mail, that needed repairing, and she had turned out to be talented with producing equal sized and perfectly shaped parts. Only the actual repairing and welding would be Dagonet's task and she would see to it that he had enough rings on hand.
She hadn't noticed at first, when Tristan stepped into the smithy sooner than expected. Concentrating on hitting the wire at the exact place to severe another piece, she was a little shocked to find his looming shadow in the entrance of the work shop. Tristan stared at her and she stared right back and more whispered than spoke a "God day, Sir." He neither acknowledged her nor said anything, not even when she inclined her head.
Are we not the epitome of politeness? Ivy thought wryly. Well, he wasn't saying anything, so she wouldn't either. Shifting her focus back to work, she readjusted the tools to cut another piece of wire off, all the while watching her supposed co-worker for the day out of her eye's corner. He took a step inside and looked around. Ivy knew exactly what he was looking for but deliberately ignored it. He had a mouth after all, he could ask and not treat her like air.
When he had finished his inspection of the smithy without finding what he was looking for he went back to the entrance and paused again.
Ivy was battling her consciousness. Dagonet had her instructed on giving the wet stones to this man and it would be not good to ignore his wishes just to teach a stranger the conventions of civility towards others. With a metallic cling she laid the hammer down on the anvil and sent one pointed look at Tristan that told him 'to speak up'. It stayed silent. He did not move, not even blink. Nevertheless she went over to get the cloth covered bucket where the wet stones were soaking in and put it down in front of his feet. Straightened up to her full height, maybe even puffing up a bit, she was tall enough to look into his amber eyes. "He is at the char burner. Will be back this evening." she answered his unasked question before going back to pick up her work without so much as a glance at him. Unsurprisingly, no words of thanks were spoken.
Tristan's view (starting a bit earlier)
A scowl sent the two gossiping women across Dag's smithy back on their way. It was about time he spoke to his friend about this. Finding the stray and not the smith himself standing at the anvil and swinging a little hammer, he was more than surprised. As if doing this daily, she accurately placed the wire and cut a piece off with hammer and chisel. Satisfied with the outcome, she placed the metal piece to the side and by doing so, jumped a bit when she caught him standing there. She spoke a word of greeting and nodded her head at him. And she kept looking at him. Directly. As if daring him to say something. Even her eyebrows rose and her brow furrowed a bit. Apparently bolder in day light than at night times, the rabbit was challenging him to speak up? When she dared to ignore him after a moment and carried on with her work, he took a step forward. Tristan's further inquisition of the smithy had not the desired result. Dag had not left the tools for him to sharpen his new sword. Good wet stones were hard to come by and he wouldn't leave them out in the open. Back at the smithy's entrance Tristan looked at the woman again, who had deliberately ignored his actions. Dag still hadn't shown. He was leaving her here alone to watch his work shop? Confident man. Stupidly overconfident.
Just as Tristan was about to turn and change his plans for the afternoon, the clang of a hammer let him raise his eyes again. The rabbit was turning to him and exhaled audibly, fixing him with another bold stare. Nothing rabbit-like at all.
Suddenly springing into action, she went around the anvil and grabbed a covered bucket from under a shelf. Coming over to him she placed it directly to his feet, the water inside splashing dangerously high to the rim and soaking the cloth. She straightened up higher than she really was. "He is at the char burner. Will be back this evening." She stated matter of factly and went right back to work.
Taking a quick look into the bucket, he found the wet stones. So Dag had even instructed her on this. She had known all along why he was here and kept silent. Not knowing what to make of this he took the bucket over to a bench in front of the smithy. With the stall for shoeing horses in his back, one side a good overlook over the allay and the other side good insight into the smithy it was the perfect place for Tristan. Unwrapping a sword shaped metal piece from an oiled cloth, he settled down and began to run the coarsest stone along the length, now and then taking a look to his left and to his right.
A/N: Yeah, not much happening here in this chapter. Next one will be equally low profile. Actually I had to split the originally planned one into this and the next one to avoid a very long chapter (and an even longer waiting time for you). There are more tidbits of interaction than I had thought of writing at the beginning but this makes it only better, doesn't it? There will be more in this kind in the next chap to give you even better insight in Ivys character. As cliché as it sounds, in will involve apples. However, the chapter after the next will be a "Whoa, wait! WHAT?" chapter.
And thank you all for the nice reviews and for the traffic you give this story. I also appreciate you non-reviewing lurkers out there. Thank you!