For disclaimer and further details see Part 1.
Rating: General, for this part.
Rating: General, for this part.
Day Fourteen – The Head Scribe
Odhrain had finished his work in the Warehouse and was on his way to the Town Hall now, to start working in his second function: as the book-keeper of the Merchants’ Guild. That was his daily routine, ever since the latest book-keeper, old Mistress Eryn, had been murdered for the coin kept in the Guild’s strongbox for daily expenses, some nine years ago. He regularly worked twelve to fourteen hours a day, but that did not bother him very much. The was no-one waiting for him, and he preferred the Warehouse or the office in the Town Hall to the small, bleak room he rented from the Guild in the very same Town Hall anyway.
Unlike the majority of the townsfolk, Odhrain was of Dúnadan descent – well, partially, at least. He was the base-born son of a local nobleman, and this fact was as much his curse as it was his pride.
His mother, who was of the Old Folk, had been a maidservant in the house of Lord Orchald’s bailiff, and like so many such, she bore her master a by-blow. Now, had said master been someone from the Old Folk, he would have maintained the mother decently until she died, and would have had Odhrain taken care of even given him employment in his manor outside the town. According to the customs of the Old Folk, a son was a son, whether in or out of marriage, and could even inherit from his sire. Most people – though not all – still respected this tradition.
In the eyes of the rulers, however, such a son was a bastard who had no rights whatsoever, unless his sire publicly accepted him – which Odhrain’s sire did not.
T’was well within his right to ignore a base-born son, even though such practice was heavily frowned upon – and not by the Old Folk alone. Lord Orchald, then a young man and as just as he was now, strongly disapproved of his bailiff’s actions. But Narmacil was a hard and haughty man, and his lady wife had a heart of stone, and neither of them wanted to have the proof of his weakness in their noble house.
Thus Odhrain’s mother was forced to leave, and she lived with her small child in an abandoned cottage of the New Port, taking whatever work sympathetic people offered her. Fortunately for them both, the school for penniless but talented boys was already founded in the Town Hall by then, with the intent to turn out clerks for the merchants’ and crafts’ guilds, the Warehouse, the few noble households in and around the city, and the town government.
In this school Odhrain came at the age of eight, his apprentice fee paid by Lord Orchald, who was outraged by his bailiff’s hard-heartedness, and there he was taught reading and writing, grammar, calculus, book-keeping and many other tasks useful for a clerk, for almost ten years. His natural pride, inherited from his Dúnadan ancestors, would not allow him to give any less than his best, even though he secretly despised his lowly tasks and dreamed of weapons training and of the life of a wealthy lord.
The Merchants’ Guild became aware of the tireless young clerk with the neat handwriting and the quick wits. They sent him to a higher school in Minas Tirith, where he would learn other languages and other means of writing, as well as more about numbers and how to use them. When he came home, in his mid-twenties, he spoke Rohirric, the Umbarian dialect of Haradric, Sindarin and even a little Quenya, and he could write not Angerthas and Tengwar only, but also the strange Haradric letters that were written with a fine brush, from the right to the left. He was clad like a lordling and behaved like one, too. He had even learned some basic swordplay, not as much as he would like, but enough to defend himself, should the need arise.
But all those achievements did not free him from his debts towards the Guild. He had to sigg a contract that he would work for them for twenty years, in exchange for his costly education. That tied him to the Warehouse for the best years of his life, and when the contract was fulfilled, he stayed there of his own free will. Where else could he have gone? At least in the Warehouse, his authority was unquestioned. He might be a mere clerk, but the other clerks and the Warehouse workers feared him and obeyed him without a question. There, he was almost content. Almost.
‘Til the head of the Guild came in to control how things were going in the Warehouse. A lowly merchant with the blood of the cursed Haradrim in his veins, controlling him, the son of a local nobleman! Well, the balg of a local nobleman, at any rate. The longer he worked for the Guild the more bitterly did he hate Master Suanach, that filthy stranger, washed up the River from Pelargir. What did Suanach have that he did not?
He knew the answer, of course. Suanach and his band of half-Haradrim had wealth. Considerable wealth. More than anyone else in town. And wealth was the second best way to power, right after being a high-born Dúnadan.
Which was the second thing souring Odhrain’s mood regularly. To see his half-brother, the legitimate son of Narmacil in town, bearing all signs of his high birth and position – things that he, too, would have had the right to possess, according the customs of his mother’s people.
Their sire had died some fourteen years ago, and Peredur had taken over bailiff’s duties. They even ran into each other in the Town House, in town business with the Castle. They even looked very much alike… Those chance meetings were very awkward and only served to fuel Odhrain’s jealousy and bitterness – feelings he knew to be useless but could not suppress.
He sighed, turned the oil lamp higher and opened the record book of the Warehouse. This will be burning the midnight oil once again. The workload was brutal, and he had already wasted much time with brooding over things he could not change.
He was so immersed in his work that he did not hear the first knock on his office’s door at all. The second one still barely registered in his preoccupied mind, but he finally did recognize the third one.
“Come in,” he called, putting his quill aside in annoyance. The last thing he could use was some fool complaining about Guild fees or whatnot, when the work was growing over his head.
But the person who entered was a tall, imposing, richly clad nobleman, with a sword on his side. Dark-haired and grey-eyed, with a hawkish face and a neatly trimmed, short beard. His own mirror image, only younger by some ten years.
“Forgive me the disturbance,” said Peredur son of Narmacil, Lord Orchald’s current bailiff, “but I truly believe that we should talk.”
~The End – for now~
Note: to be continued in Day 18 – The Lord’s Bailiff. More about Odhrain’s fate will be told there.