Authors: Andrew Symon
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Once Ossian had stabled the two horses, he rejoined the others.
“I suppose I’ll have to make sure you all get back safely,” he grumbled as he led them around Arthur’s Seat.
Jack saw that they were near the foot of St Margaret’s Street. “I know this street,” he said. “The castle’s up and along to the left.”
“I’m still takin’ you back. I don’t want you gettin’ lost.”
The small group made their way in silence onto the esplanade.
“You lot can get back from here,” said Ossian sullenly. “I’ll take the low road from Cos-Howe.”
“Aren’t you coming in with us?” demanded Rana. “You can take the low road from under the castle.”
“No chance!” Without any further word, Ossian turned and ran off down the road.
Petros organised the four of them into a huddle, and within seconds they were in the Shian square. Jack saw that a light still showed in their house, and glanced nervously at Petros. They had no time to discuss how to get indoors quietly, for just then Uncle Doonya appeared at the front door. He stood silently, staring hard, his jaw clenched.
The youngsters stopped, uncertain what to do next. The decision was taken for them as Grandpa Sandy emerged. He whispered something to Doonya, who took one long hard look before going back inside. Grandpa wordlessly beckoned them in. As they reached the door he said, “It’s late. We’ll discuss this tomorrow. Up to bed, all of you.”
Jack woke with a start.
“Come on, time to get up.” Petros was shaking him by the arm.
Jack forced his eyes open, but that was too much effort.
I've only just got to sleep.
Petros shook his shoulder roughly, and this time Jack forced himself out of bed. Dressing hurriedly, he followed Petros downstairs. Aunt Katie pushed a bowl of porridge towards him as he came into the kitchen.
“You'd better get this down you,” she said kindly. “You have to be at Gilmore's in ten minutes.”
Petros opened the front door.
“Your dad wants to speak to you later,” she continued as Petros slouched off, but he was already through the door, and if he heard he didn't show any sign of it.
Katie turned to Jack and was about to speak, then seemed to think better of it. After a pause, she said simply, “Try and stay awake. A big day today.”
Her mouth was smiling, but Jack thought that her eyes were not really joining in.
“Don't forget your lunch.” Katie held forward a small packet and a satchel.
Jack trudged along the bright square towards Gilmore's house. He would have given anything to go back to bed â he really didn't want to do this. And to think how excited he'd been all year about becoming an apprentice! That meant you weren't a child any more, and learning to be a tailor would open up all sorts of magycks to him. But even this prospect was not enough to cheer Jack up this morning. The best he could do was console himself that he didn't have to face his uncle just yet.
Turning into the small garden in front of the tailor's house, he saw to his astonishment that Fenrig was standing there. The front door opened, and a small, wizened man emerged.
“Come in, come in,” he said matter-of-factly. “The others are through the back.”
They followed him through to the small workshop. A wooden table ran almost the length of the room, and shelves along the back wall all but groaned under the weight of cloth. Entering, Jack saw two Shian youngsters already hard at work.
“Hiya, Jack,” called Freya. “Ready for your first day? Who's your friend?”
Jack smiled back, but wasn't sure how to answer either question. Freya was sitting halfway along the long table, sewing two pieces of cloth together with a silken thread.
“Sit down, sit down,” fussed Gilmore, ushering them towards two stools at the far end. “Now, firstly you need to know who's who. That's Freya there. Her mother is a very talented seamstress. And that's Doxer. You won't get much out of him. He's been here a year, and I've yet to hear him utter more than a few words.”
“Now then,” he continued, “who can tell me why we need tailors?”
Jack looked across at Fenrig, who rolled his eyes to the ceiling.
“To make clothes?” said Jack, feeling that some answer â even a banal one â was required.
“But what sort?” pressed Gilmore. “Don't tell me nobody's told you about special clothes.”
“Clothes so we can make ourselves invisible and play tricks on humans,” said Fenrig, deciding to break his silence.
“That's not the first thing I would have said,” stated Gilmore flatly. “We can make all sorts of special clothes, for many different occasions: to make ourselves invisible, or smaller, or able to fly. We can also make special bandages for a host of injuries.” His eyes twinkled. “Now, you may be tempted to try out some of the clothes you make here on humans outside, but that is strictly forbidden. We have to live with humans all around us outside; making fun of those poor creatures is not permitted.”
He indicated two small piles of cloths on the table.
“Take one pile each, and tell me what you can of each cloth.”
“I thought we were here to learn how to make charmed clothes,” complained Fenrig.
“First, you have to know about the cloth,” replied Gilmore gruffly.
He left the new apprentices to their respective piles and went to help Doxer. Fenrig muttered under his breath as he rummaged half-heartedly through his pile. Though exhausted, Jack thought he'd better make the most of it. There were twelve pieces of cloth, all different: some feather-light, others rough and coarse; some non-descript, others silk-like and distinctive. Jack knew he was well below par this morning, but still wasn't sure what to do. After a few moments, Gilmore returned.
“Well, what can you tell me? Fenrig, you first.”
Fenrig waved his hand over the pile of cloths. “They're cloths. That one's green. So's that one. That one's wool. Dunno what
Gilmore made little effort to hide his disappointment at this unenthusiastic attempt.
“I hope that you, Jack, can do a little better?”
Jack started to describe the cloths in front of him, naming colours, textures and possible materials. He had almost finished when Gilmore said, “But what can you tell me about their uses?” Then, seeing the lack of comprehension on both boys' faces, he continued, “This one here is a bandage used to heal someone who's been bitten by a werewolf. That purple one can make even a hideous Shian appear attractive â to a human. And that one there can make you invisible.”
Freya looked up at Jack and smiled knowingly. Even Doxer, as silent as ever, was grinning.
“I hope now you see that there's a lot more to a piece of cloth than its colour or texture. Now, we'll spend the rest of today learning what makes these pieces special.”
To Jack's surprise, the morning went quickly. Gilmore's enthusiasm was infectious enough to keep him awake, even if he wasn't on top form. When it came to lunchtime, he was grateful when Freya beckoned him over. Fenrig pushed past him wordlessly, and left the workshop.
“I should've realised that was Fenrig. I heard yesterday that he'd moved into the square. He's in the house at the end,” Freya added, seeing Jack's puzzled look. “The empty house, remember? The one with the low road entrance. D'you know him?”
“He was at Falabray, with the Brashat. And he was in France yesterday â¦” Jack's voice tailed off.
“It's all right, I'll hear soon enough.” Freya seemed to understand that Jack didn't want to say more for the moment.
They shared their lunch, and Freya filled Jack in on some of the ins and outs of being a tailor's apprentice. When he restarted work for the afternoon, Jack was grateful to see that Fenrig did not return from his lunch break, and he spent a quiet afternoon being shown how to arrange and store the different types of cloth.
“A good start, I think,” said Gilmore happily, when three o'clock came. “I'm sure your friend will feel better tomorrow.”
Jack made his way silently to the door. Gilmore, carefully examining some silken threads, did not see Freya as she winked at Jack and held her forefinger to her lips. Nonplussed, Jack watched as she laid a small piece of black cloth on the table, waved her left hand over it and whispered something. The cloth sparkled briefly, then rose and hovered for a few moments before coming to rest on the table. Freya grinned with satisfaction, but indicated for Jack to go before Gilmore realised what was happening.
Waving goodbye, Jack made his way to the door. Doxer nodded silently as he passed him and continued to work away at a piece of cloth on the table. Jack had the strange feeling of being watched as he opened the door, but when he looked back, Doxer was still staring fixedly at the table.
Jack dawdled, hoping Petros would get home first and draw some of his uncle’s anger. As he entered the house, he heard Rana and Lizzie playing in the front room. Cautiously opening the door, he peered in.
“Hi, Jack! How’d your first day go?”
Jack looked nervously behind him, not sure who else was in the house.
“It’s all right,” continued Rana. “Dad’s gone out with Mum. We got an earful this morning, but Lizzie told them how Ossian didn’t tell us how we could get back, so it was really his fault. They were more worried than angry. Grandpa was OK.”
When Petros came in, Rana took great pleasure in telling him that he was only safe until their father returned. After Lizzie had reassured him somewhat, the four cousins sat and discussed their encounter with Tamlina and their travels. The day before had been very full, and both boys could have done with a slow day to recover. Rana and Lizzie had been luckier, with only an hour of tuition from their mother to distract them from play. Jack gave a start as he saw the door open and his uncle and grandfather standing in the doorway. The happy chatter stilled instantly.
Grandpa put his hand on Doonya’s shoulder and said, “I think we could all do with a chat.” He walked in and sat down. Doonya remained standing in the doorway and glowered silently.
“Now, you all know that you should have come straight home from Keldy yesterday.” Grandpa spoke evenly. “Petros, I thought we could rely on you. You’re not a child anymore.”
“But Ossian took us to Cos-Howe, and we didn’t know how to get back from there,” protested Petros.
“You should still have come home by evening. Staying out so late could be very dangerous. Going all the way to France was reckless. And we heard what went on in Claville – a bad business. Shian have to live alongside humans – there and here.” Grandpa spoke evenly, without raising his voice. Doonya, still standing in the doorway, clenched his jaw.
“We’ve not let Jack far out of our sight. I dread to think what might have happened if you’d met any Brashat.”
“But we did,” blurted out Jack. “One of the Brashat boys was in France, and he’s started work with Gilmore today. After the match I saw another one that I’m sure was at Falabray.”
“Do you mean you were with Brashat last night?!” Doonya exclaimed. “Well, that just proves how dangerous it is to go off by yourselves. You know what they did at midsummer. That fire you saw wasn’t the only one. It’s a miracle no one was killed.”
“I’m sorry, Dad,” said Petros. “I know we should’ve been home earlier, but we did send a grig from Cos-Howe. It just seemed a good opportunity to see somewhere different. And we really didn’t know how to get back.”
“The Brashat boy,” said Grandpa to Jack. “Is he about your age, with dark hair?”
Jack nodded. “He’s called Fenrig. I’m sure he was at Falabray. His cousin’s one of the Cos-Howe men.”
“Atholmor is allowing this Brashat boy to start his apprenticeship here.” Grandpa sounded wearied. “He’s moved into the house at the foot of the square with Mawkit. Atholmor must have his reasons, although it’s hard to understand them. The Brashat don’t like the cities – they hate the humans too much. If they’re moving here, that spells trouble.”
“We’ll need to discuss this with the Congress,” stated Doonya firmly. “For the time being, none of you is to go out from the square without an adult, is that clear?”
“You mean, we can’t go out to the High Street?” wailed Rana.
“It’s for your own safety,” replied her father. “I don’t believe for a minute that he’s really here as an apprentice, that just doesn’t make sense. Jack, you keep a close watch on him. If he’s a real Brashat he’ll be a nasty piece of work.”
“Jack,” continued Grandpa, “I think for the time being you’ll have to stay under the castle.”
“Why are they allowed out and I have to stay here?” complained Jack. “That’s not fair.”
“We’ll see in a while how things are. Two weeks, anyway. After that you’ll all be starting your lessons with Murkle and Daid.”
Stay under here for a fortnight?! How boring is that?
“Cheer up, Jack. I know it’s upsetting, but it’s for your own good. So, tell me how you got on today at Gilmore’s. He’s one of the finest tailors in the country. You’ll learn a lot from him.”
Sullenly, Jack recounted his day in the tailor’s workshop. He had to repeat the same story when Aunt Katie came in later, but at least the recriminations concerning the previous day seemed to be over. The new perceived danger of a Brashat boy in the Shian square had downgraded such concerns.
Over the next two weeks Jack continued to go to Gilmore’s workshop, and his life settled down into a steady, if dull, pattern. Learning about different cloths, in truth, was a bit monotonous, and he looked forward to the time when he would be making special clothes.
Fenrig appeared each day but was often late, and always uncommunicative. At three each day he seemed to disappear. Jack never saw him in the square, and Mawkit’s house seemed deserted. If Grandpa had learned Atholmor’s reasons for allowing Fenrig to be there, he wasn’t letting on.