He let his fingers pass over the charcoal drawing, and silently cursed himself immediately after for having caused a smudge across
her face. He blurred her cheek, how could he have been so careless? No matter, he had it memorized, he'd fix it later. Tana. She was
beautiful, but her father would never approve... not while he worked for Lord Herldic. Well, he wasn't quite a lord really, but Tana's
father didn't approve of... what did he say? "Those boot-licking dogs in the city."..? Yes, he did believe that was the term he heard. As if
he'd ever licked boots. As if he'd ever stoop so low! And he wasn't a dog!
"Tamil!" He heard the voice shout from down the hallway, and quickly came striding toward his lord's call, "coming" he announced
himself, so his lord wouldn't become cross, wondering if he'd even heard him or not.
He entered his lord's chamber, finding him sitting at his desk, scribing some sort of document with his fountain pen. Ah, that's the
source of the distress. He walked over to his lord, and smiled softly at him, lifting his hands to open the chamber of the lantern to add
more oil, "Not quite light enough, eh, my lord?"
His lord made no move to acknowledge him, but instead muttered to his servant as he continued to write in the dim light from the
window at a dying dusk, " 'Eh' is not a word, Tamil."
"Er, yes, my Lord.. ah, um.."
" 'is it'. It's not quite light enough, is it, my lord. Not 'eh, er, ah, or um'."
Tamil was quite for a moment, afraid that he'd use another two-letter word if he opened his mouth again in the next few seconds.
Finally, when he'd returned from the storage cabinent with the flask of oil, he began to fill the lantern, "My appolagies, my lord." And as
he put the lantern back together, he allowed his eyes to graze over his master's writing - which caused his master to look up at him
from over the rim of his spectacles. "My appolagies, my lord-" he choked out, catching himself when he realized his rudeness, and
quickly turned to make his leave, sweeping his way hastily out of the room to give his master much ado privacy for his writing.
His drawing fell from his pocket, and floated to the floor as he closed the door behind him.
Tana hit the beast square on the nose, "Enough o' that!" The creature snorted it's displeasure, snuffling snot all over her chest. "Oh, I
don't care! You'll not bite again or you'll get another - now take th' harness an' stop complainin'!" The beast thought about biting her
again, but ended up thinking the better of it, begrudgingly taking the harness over it's neck.
She brushed her red hair out of her face, muttering her displeasure at the wind as she picked up the plow that the great and stubborn
beast before her was meant to pull, "All right then, get started." It didn't budge, instead, it just shifted it's head to look over it's shoulder
at her, and snorted a fog of hot air from it's nose. "Go on, git goin'!" and she gave the leather strap a little shake, warning the beast. It
decided it might be a better idea to walk foreward.
They barely got half the little field plowed before her father called her in to wash up for dinner. She dropped the plow, un-strapped the
harness from the beast, and let him out to pasture. She ran toward the cottage, chickens screaming and running in all different
directions to avoid being trampled by her feet.
Once she entered the dimly lit house, she hastened over to the washbasin to remove the dirt from her hands, and sat at the table with
her mother, the supper already set up on the table in their one-room cottage. Stag stew with potatoes and leeks, water, and boiled
carrots. There was even some basil leaf over the whole thing - and they had fresh baked black-bread for dessert.
Her father finally walked in with an armful of chopped wood for the fire, and washed his own hands before snapping up a piece of
paper from the basin's table, and sitting at the dinner-table. "Here," he rumbled in his graveled voice, weathered with years of hard
work, "Some paper that bootlicker had delivered."
"Tamil was here?" she blinked and blushed, taking the paper from the table, unfolding it to see the crude letters scripted across it.
"That his name?" It was a question, but he didn't ask. It was more of a statement that the conversation reguarding the boy was to be
ended. And so it was. Instead, they all ate in relative silence, until her mother began to talk about the silly antics that the neighbor's
pet had been pulling earlier that day, and they all laughed at her tale.
She reguarded the letter with curiousity, happiness, and a bit of sadness... She had never learned to read.
After he had finished preparing dinner for his Lord, and rang the bell to call dinner-time, he disappeared into his master's chambers
while he ate, sweeping the floor, organizing the desk, making the bed, dusting the curtains, and folding his sleeping clothes to
prepare them for the evening.
Once his master had finished with his food and he lumbered back up the stone staircase, he turned to make his leave of the room, to
hustle downstairs to polish off the leftovers (which there was always plenty of with his master - he hadn't even need to cook himself a
separate meal!), but was stopped by his master when he cleared his throat, "Damnable buttons." He turned to watch him fumble with
the buttons on the cuff of his sleeves, and without a second of hesitation strode over to his master and began to help him with the
undressing, humming to himself while he worked.
His master chuckled at his loyalty, and finished the work once the cuffs were undone, "Thank you, Tamil." At that, Tamil considered it
a dismissal, and turned to leave again, but his master spoke once more, "By the way, is this yours..?"
Tamil looked over his shoulder to see his Lord take the charcoal drawing from his vest's pocket, and he turned pale, opening his
mouth to squeak and whisper his next words, "Y-yes, m'lord..." His ears drooped as he spoke, and he instantly felt shamed for it - his
ears were one of the main reasons that they disliked him so, and to have them change direction made them mock him at the market.
At least his master was not so cruel as to jest at him.
"Who is she?"
"Just... Just ah-"
" 'ah' is not a word." His words were firm.
"Just some girl I... I see at the market sometimes." He corrected himself.
"You didn't answer my question."
"Her name is Tana, she sells crops from her father's farmstead." He answered hastily, afraid that his voice might betray him, but it
His master reguarded him with a stern gaze, "I didn't give you permission for this."
"I'm sorry, m'lord." His ears drooped further. Dog. Bootlicker. The words echoed in his mind.
His master handed the drawing to him, and he hesitated in taking it - was it permitted? His master smiled just a little, but continued
firmly, "You'll be going to the market on this Saturday as usual, will you not?"
"Yes." He uttered as he took the drawing.
"Will she be there?"
"... yes..." he hesitated.
"Good. Then she'll be here as our guest for dinner." He stated this as fact, and turned to crawl into bed.
"The light, Tamil." He
Tamil frowned, and turned to snuff out the candles, letting the room be coated in darkness, "Her father... disapproves." He chose his
His master grumbled, "Then I'll pay him for it."
Tamil said nothing.
Herldic said nothing.
They never spoke of that night again, for he belonged to him.
It was Saturday.
Tana loved Saturdays, but her father hated them. He would always grumble at having to load their goods into the cart, grumble at
having to set them up, and grumble about the humans - strutting about, not a speck of dirt on their nails, never known a day of work in
their life, grumble grumble. She would always roll her eyes at his mutterings (but only when he wasn't looking) and watch with a
smile at all the men and women walking about the stone (not dirt, mind you) streets of the human city. Marvel at their colorful dresses,
and glittering jewelry. Marvel at how freely they could laugh. If they didn't know a day of work in their life, how was it they could afford
such wonderful things? She loved the market-day.
Many patrons came to purchase her father's goods, and though he was sleeping in a wooden chair behind the stall (he was just
there to guard her and their goods if things went awry), she was always there to sell with a smile. Just as well, she was better at
counting than he.
Mutton, Venison, and Poultry. Carrots, Potatos, Beets, Turnips, Radishes, and Parsnips. Basil, Rosemary, and Spearmint. She even
had some beeswax candles to sell this time (was there any other kind?) that old lady Magna had asked them to sell on her behalf.
She was too old to go herself, and her son had died last winter, so they were more than happy to do it for her.
Most of the customers were new faces, and even two of them were human! And as usual, one of the customers she recognized by
face and name, blushing slightly as he arrived. He always came to her for their roots, but went to the huntsman, Markus, for the meat.
His master preferred his wild boar, she remembered. Perhaps this time, with Venison to sell, she might be able to persuade him
He walked stiffly this time, as opposed to his usual sweeping stride, and when he arrived at the stall, he pawed over the roots without
looking at her. What was wrong? Was it something in the letter? "Good afternoon, Tamil." She smiled at him with a sweet voice, trying
to hide her worry.
"Eh, hello.." he spoke softly, and then lifted his basket, "I'll need six potatoes, a dozen... that's twelve.. carrots, and three of the smaller
beets.. they're the sweeter kind, right?" he thought over it for a second as she added his request to the basket, "Oh, and um... some of
"How about some venison?" she offered.
"No thank you." His gaze glanced briefly toward the hunter's stall, then he returned to her own.
"It's wild caught, fresh from the forest just this-morning, just a touch of salt.." she urged kindly.
He looked up to her, gave a sad smile, and then submitted, "All-right, we'll try some venison... just one cut, no - from that piece. What
kind was it, anyway?"
She happily sliced a bit of the meat for him, wrapping it in paper to place in the basket, "It was a stag, we've also one of the antlers for
sale if you want, but you... your master... doesn't seem the type to be interested in such prizes."
Prizes, meh... He glanced nervously at her father's sleeping form, "You, you get my letter?"
She blushed, "Yes."
He hesitated, "No... no thoughts?"
"No." she blushed more. She wouldn't ever dare to admit that she couldn't read. Even if she could, she couldn't possibly know that he
was a bad hand, being merely a student in scripting himself. His master insisted that he learn, be above those beasts that swarm
the countryside around the city.
He thought for a moment, pawing over the credits that his master had given him, and considered her for a moment living with them. It
wasn't a bad life, not by any means. All the food he could want, a job, a warm hearth, clothing... He barely even had to break a sweat
during the heat of the day. But then he looked to her face, to her father, thoughts of the other evening, and her father's words echoed
again in the back of his brain, "dog."
He fiddled with the coins in his hands. He got paid one credit every two months. He'd saved up for a long time now, and had
amassed ten credits. His Lord had given him twenty-five to help quell her father... He looked to her face, and in a moment of
inspiration, "Come with me."
The others whispered and murmered their shock and horror at such a crime that had been commited to their neighbor, but Herldic
wasn't surprised at all. How dare that little trollop leave him without permission? He wasn't a slave, true, just a servant, but how dare
he?! Not only that, but he stole hard-earned money as well (a whole twenty-five credits)! Gods only know what else the little
filthy-blooded beast stole!
Herldic just shook his head at their bickering, "I know, I know, but I suppose that's just an opportunity to get some new blood in my
Truly though, he had hoped the boy would never return. He had hoped he'd take the money, that's why he gave him such an amount.
Few were so kind.