Chapter 6. Fortunate

The King lead Terrance to a servants' entrance on the side of the great hall, opening the heavy wooden door. Leaning against the wall just past the door was the Prince, Richard. He looked Terrance up and down and scowled.

"I see he took the offer," the Prince said angrily.

"Yes, he did," the King replied, waving a hand for Terry to go through the doorway. "Show him to the smithery."

Richard cast a dark look at his father, but pushed off the wall and began walking. "Follow me," he gruffly commanded.

Terry paused, as the weight of his decision finally hit him. He had admitted to murder, or at least attempted murder. Though he had no remorse about his actions, he began to understand that the cold reaction the Prince had given him would likely become his daily experience. Who would want to do business with a man who tried to murder his patron lord?

He shook the thoughts from his head. Though he was guilty, and therefore had no innocence to prove, he could at least get his revenge. Being an outcast was a small price to pay in order to reveal Lord Powers for what he really was. He hurried after the Prince.

Richard led him out of the great hall and across the palace grounds in silence. Terry did not mind, as he had never been inside the palace walls, and was amazed by what he saw. He had always known the palace grounds were immense, but now that he was inside, he realized that it held a village unto itself.

The palace rose above all in the middle of the structure, made of heavy stone decorated with sculptures and banners. He had been surprised, when his father had first moved them to the capital city, to find that the King's palace was not as delicately decorated as the holdings of House Tan, but his father had explained to him that the King's palace was much older, and built to be defended, whereas House Tan's castle was on the high cliffs of the coasts, unapproachable by sea and easily defended by land. The King's palace was a target, and had to be fortified. Still, what it lacked in decoration in made up in sheer size, clearly holding hundreds of rooms, with great spires that rose up into the sky.

Around the palace were small fields and gardens, pens and grazing fields for goats and chickens. Houses and shops dotted the landscape, and Terry was able to pick out weavers, shoemakers, and leather workers, among others. He had always thought the palace received everything it needed from the city and surrounding farms, but now understood that it supplemented those supplies with some of its own.

He was lead away from the palace, moving back towards the far side of the surrounding wall. They passed barracks for guards and a small armory - Terry assumed there were likely more scattered in and around the palace. Richard stopped in front of a squat building leaning against the wall.

"This is your new home," the Prince said, clearly trying his best to hold back irritation. "This was the original smith's shop. It has since been moved closer to the armory, but this building was left in case it was ever needed. You will find that it still has the bellows and forge."

Terry nodded, and walked to the little building. It had no door, only a sheet of ragged cloth hung over the entry. He moved it aside, sending out a cloud of dust. He had to duck his head to fit into the small entryway, which opened to an equally small and dusty kitchen. A crumbling fireplace sat in one corner, next to it a cot with rope supports. There was no mattress. The small room lead into a larger work room.

The forge and bellows were complete and in decent repair. An anvil sat in the room, but no tools were to be found. The forge had no coal or wood, either. Terry wiped the dust from the anvil, thick enough to show the smithery had not been used in years. He wiped his hands on his trousers and returned outside. Richard was waiting for him, arms crossed.

"Rations and metal will be provided to you," he said. "Anything else you need is up to you to get. You'll notice you must pass the guards and the entire grounds in order to get to the gate. We will know if you leave. If you try to leave another way, we have other ways of knowing."

"I have no intention to run," Terry said, looking the Prince in the eye. The Prince's mouth twitched with a scowl.

"But," Terry continued, "I have no supplies. I need to go back to my shop and collect them. I'll need a horse and a wagon."

The Prince sniffed. "Then you must borrow one from someone on the grounds. Gates lock at sundown, return by then or you will be sleeping on the streets." With that, he turned on his heel and stormed off.

Terry frowned, watching the Prince leave. He doubted anyone would be willing to lend him a cart and horse without money to pay for it, and he suspected that was the point. The King seemed to have some faith in him, but the King's son did not.

However, the desire for his revenge was stronger than a brief feeling of hopelessness, and he set off across the palace grounds anyways. He did see a cart that was not in use until he got closer to the palace itself. He asked an old woman tending geese for use of her cart and mule, but she waved her crook and shouted at him until he left her alone. He was met with similar reaction from what he assumed was a lumberman.

He eventually spotted another cart, hitched to a great black clydesdale, next to a newer-looking stone building. Smoke was pouring out of its chimney stack. He knocked on the door, but heard no reply. He knocked again, and heard a muffled voice shout, "Around back!"

He followed the sound around to the other side of the building, which opened up into a small dirt courtyard. A dark skinned young man in trousers and leather apron was swinging a hammer against an anvil with one hand, and holding a pair of tongs, which in turn held a horseshoe, in the other. This, then, was the other smithery.

Terry watched in silence at the young man finished beating the curve in the shoe, then switched out the tongs for a metal stake and added nail holes. When the young man was finished, he selected the tongs again, picking up the shoe and tossing it onto a pile on his workbench. He then wiped his forehead with the back of his hand and turned to face Terry.

"May I help you?" he asked.

"Um, yes, I'm sorry," Terry said, trying his best to sound like a naive country bumpkin. "This is an odd request, but would you be willing to lend me your horse and cart for the day?"

The young man raised an eyebrow. "What do you want with my horse and cart?"

"Well, y'see, sirrah, I've just moved in to the old forge as an extra smith, but I'll be needin' my equipment, and don't have my own horse and cart."

The young man frowned. "I didn't know we had a new smith."

Terry had to think quickly. "Well, y'see, my old dad was tryin' to set me up with my uncle's shop, away on the coasts, but then my dad died and my uncle won't take me. Couldn't find work in the other shops 'round the city, but someone told me to show my swords to a noble, and maybe I'd get some private work, and so I asked 'round and couldn't get private work, but his highness the King somehow heard and was so good to give me work here in the palace, may his rule be ever long and peaceful."

He'd spoken quickly, hoping that if he spoke fast enough, the young man would not scrutinize over every detail. The young man watched him carefully with narrowed eyes, nodding. Terry swallowed, afraid his lie was not believable.

"Alright," the young man said after some thought.

"You'll let me use your horse?"

"No. I was saying alright to the idea of having another smith around. Might make work a bit easier. If you want to use my horse, you'll have to pay for it."

Terry had no money, not after his time in prison. He had not bathed or been allowed a change of clothes in that time, either. An idea came to him as he realized this.

"Sirrah, when my old dad died, I was left in the poor house. I've barely been able to eat, I have no money left."

"Then you can't use my horse."

"What if I gave you something else, instead of money?"

"Like what?" The young man's eyes narrowed again.

"Sirrah, how many shoes do you have to forge today?"

"Thirty," the young man replied slowly, starting to catch on to what Terry was getting at. "I've got ten done, and need to clean the shop before the master smith returns."

"Let me take on half of your remaining workload for the day," Terry suggested. "In exchange, I get to borrow the horse and cart. By my dad's name, I'll have it back before sundown."

The young man scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Alright, deal," he said, holding out his hand. "What's your name?"

Terry clasped the young man's hand, frantically thinking for a name to give. There was no way he could give his own, not after being convicted of trying to kill his patron lord. "Matthew," he said, the first name coming into his mind being that of his brother, living far away on the grounds of House Tan with his mother.

"Jared," the young man replied. "Now get to work, Matthew. There's another anvil and set of tools inside."

Terry nodded, hurrying into the shop. He borrowed a leather apron hung next to the door and set to work. It was easy for him to lose track of time. He had never been as drawn to the forge as his father had, but he had still learned much. When called upon to do so, he would put all of his effort into his craft, and come out with work identical to his father's.

The sun was hanging low in the late afternoon sky when Terry exited the shop and dropped a load of horseshoes at Jared's feet.

"There," he said, breathing heavily. "Fifteen. More than half of what you had left. You can stop working right now, and have a head start for tomorrow."

Jared raised an eyebrow, then stooped down to pick up a shoe. He examined it closely, looking for any flaws. He checked a few more.

"You work fast, but it's not bad work," he said, standing back up.

"So your horse...?"

Jared glanced at the steed, which had been starting to graze at weeds. "It's the master of the shop's horse, not mine," he said slowly, mulling it over. "But... I suppose. Be back before sundown, or I'll have the lawmen set on you."

Terry bowed his head and thanked the smith, then quickly made his way to the horse. It was a great black mare, old and gentle. He patted its nose, speaking softly to it as he checked the hitching straps. Satisfied that the horse was ready to go, he climbed into the drivers seat and flipped the reins, and the horse started off.

He was given no trouble at the palace gates, but as he drew nearer to his father's shop, he became worried that someone might recognize him. He doubted that his deal with the king had been made public, and did not want to be approached by lawmen assuming he had escaped his sentence. He glanced in the back of the cart, and was glad to find an old sheet of canvas, stained with oils and charcoal. He wrapped it around his shoulders and head like an old peasant, and kept his head low.

His felt a pain in his heart when he rounded the block and saw his father's old shop. Signs of the fire were still visible, the windows charred and the walls blackened with soot. The door was ajar, and his heart sank as he climbed down from the cart and entered the shop. The swords were gone from where they once stood between pegs against the wall. Any food that had been left had been stolen or picked clean by vermin. His father's cot was broken, the mattress slashed and its hay stuffing scattered about the floor. Pots had been broken, every inch of the place looted for gold or weapons. He dared not venture into the loft. He had kept a small chest by his bed pallet, which held the few treasures he had in the world. Most of them had been trinkets given to him by Lady Dana, first little toys she had not longer wanted when they were children, and later handkerchiefs and scarves that smelled of her. He could not bare the thought of those little gifts, no matter how worthless, being stolen.

He held back bitter tears and set to work, happy to find that at the very least, most of the tools had been left undisturbed, likely because they were heavy and worth little on the market. He hefted them out of the shop in a few trips, loading them into the cart. He gave the shop one last, mournful look, before setting a foot on the cart. Before he could pull himself onto the seat, however, a hand grabbed his arm.

Terry wheeled around with a snarl, ready to lash out at whoever had touched him. He came face-to-face with a meek looking man, who immediately began to beg for forgiveness.

The man had a long, narrow face, with a sharp nose and cheekbones. His brown hair hung limp in his face, and his smile was desperate. His dress was odd - he was wrapped in a blindingly orange hooded robe, woven with swirling black patterns. Black beads hung around his neck and wrists.

"Sorry, m'lord, sorry," the man said, patting Terry's wrist while cowering. "D'nah mean t' scary you, m'lord. Only wished to help you, m'lord."

Terry jerked his arm out of the man's grasp. "What do you want?" He growled.

"Nothing, m'lord, nothing. Just to help. I'm a fortune teller, y'see, wanted to tell you your fortune."

"I'm not interested," Terry said, feeling a bit of sympathy. The man was probably a beggar, just trying to get by. However, Terry did not have the time to waste on him, nor the money.

"Oh, it'll only take a minute, sire! I can tell fortunes fast."

"I don't have any money to pay you."

"That's alright, m'lord, this fortune is for free." He grabbed Terry's arm again, and Terry threw the man off. He was beginning to suspect the man of being a thief, someone who lured in targets while his partners laid in wait.

"I said I'm not interested." Terry climbed into the cart and snapped the reins.

"Oh, sir, but the future I see for you is a bright, shining one! You will be famous and rich beyond your wildest dreams!" The man exclaimed, trying to keep pace with the cart.

"If that is the future you see for me," Terry said, "then you are the worst fortune teller in the kingdom." He snapped the reins again, and the horse picked up its pace, leaving the strange man behind them.

Making the horseshoes had taken more time than Terry had planned. The sun was dipping into the horizon, the sky beginning to turn purple, as he hurried the horse back to the palace gates. When they arrived, the gates were closed. Terry cursed and jumped down from the cart, banging on the gates and shouting to be let in. There was no reply. He screamed in anger - at the Prince for forcing him to seek out the cart, at the smith Jared for demanding payment for use of the cart, at the strange orange man for delaying him even the slightest.

He slammed against the gates with the side of his fist, and everything grew horribly silent. Slowly, a sound started to rise out of the silence, a sound like giant beating wings. He looked up at the sky, and saw it was black, though it has still been tinged with twilight just moments ago. The black began to dissolve, breaking apart like clouds after a storm, revealing a blood-red sky. The sound of wings grew louder.

A dark figure dropped out of the red sky, throwing Terry to the ground.