“So what do you think of the food, Eamonn?” Aaren asked his pupil as he was helping himself to a second helping of the stew he’d made. Usually they ate inside, but seeing that it was a pleasant enough night, Aaren had decided to cook outside and reduce the washing up. Situated perhaps ten meters away from the timber walls of Aaren’s home, the fire was neatly stacked and protected by a small circle of rounded stones to help keep the debris and fire contained while the pot itself was suspended by a forked apparatus. The apparatus had been a gift from one of the cooks from a little town inn after helping deal with some troublesome customers one night. It had two forks acting as stands on either end of the fire, with a rod hanging between the two where Aaren could hang the pot from as it cooked.
Inside, Aaren also had a stove cook top, but he loved the extra aroma and flavour that came with cooking on an open flame. Over the years spent in his little cabin, Aaren had spent some time taking care to ensure that the area was well ventilated and that the fire was kept manageable.
The stew was made using small cut-up strips of beef that he cooked briefly in a pan, then he added the meat along with some cut-up peas, carrots and some potatoes to the pot. There was also a robust sort of gravy that Aaren had made using the left-over juices of the meat as he’d cooked it off and combined it with some onions, red wine and a hand full of additional herbs and spices that went in to create his own home brewed mix. It was the sort of food he always enjoyed on a day like this, even more appetizing was the freshly baked bread he’d made on the coals of the fire.
“Delicious” Eamonn replied, mopping up the left over sauce in his bowl with the last of his bread. He sighed contentedly as he set his bowl beside the small seating arrangement they were relaxing in. The rapidly retreating sun had caught Aaren a little off-guard and he wanted to get dinner going before it got too late, he’d decided they’d have an early start the following morning, so they had forgone the tour for the night and the discussion about Eamonn’s life with Aaren, as such Aaren was forced to delay showing off the house to Eamonn until after they had eaten.
Looking across at Aaren, Eamonn noticed that he was still fairly young. Perhaps ten years older than himself. And when he considered the sort of meal they’d just shared, he noted that Aaren had maintained a lean figure and was well muscled. It didn’t occur to him that it could be from the considerable amount of exercise that Aaren got each day that helped him keep such a trim shape.
“Do we always eat like this?” Eamonn asked. Like Eamonn had done previously, Aaren mopped up the sauce of the stew with his bread, savoring every last bit of the delectable dinner.
“Sometimes.” Aaren confirmed, “It all depends on time constraints, availability of our supplies and of course whether or not lighting a fire will get us killed. We do like to take every opportunity we can get to eat well.”
“I’d take a nice hot meal any day over stone cold rations” Eamonn agreed. During his weeks under Lyverild’s tutelage, he’d experienced the ongoing days of hard work and a cold food regime. After a few days of that routine, he had craved for something warm and filling in his belly.
Aaren had taken down the pot from the apparatus, packing it away into a small kit, “Well you can count yourself lucky, this was the last of my supplies until I head into town sometime over the next couple of days. We’ll also need to go hunting for some small game, though we might not be able to do that for a few days either. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it while it lasted. We’ll need to eat the leftovers tomorrow. Which brings me to another thing, I think it was about time I showed you your room” Aaren said.
He stood up from his chair, emptied the bowls into the flames to get rid of any last dregs, grabbed the pot and walked from the campfire outside, leaving the last of the flames to die down as he moved to show the boy to his room. While they had been preparing their meal, Aaren had given the boy a cursory tour of the place. Thinking that it could always wait, he’d yet shown him his own room. Now, Aaren thought, was the opportune time.
The boy followed Aaren into the lodge. Aaren busily remove the cloak he had been wearing outside and was paying particular attention to his hair. Stroking his short, well-kept hair and gave a few tugs at the small tuft of hair that formed a goatee. Like the rest of it, his goatee was a deep brown colour. Eamonn stepped into the middle of the room, taking in his first proper viewing of what was to be his new home. Eamonn didn’t notice Aaren’s attention to his hair as the older man made sure his hair was well managed, it was something he prided himself on, while the goatee was roughly trimmed and looked like it had been deliberately left to grow, his hair was sleek and straight. When Eamonn thought about it, he found that it added some years to his features.
Aaren watched from his position by the fireplace as Eamonn ventured around his new surroundings while he attended to building a fire in the fireplace. It might have been a pleasant enough evening, but Aaren knew the night would still be bitterly cold, it always was until the middle of summer, Aaren thought to himself.
They were in the main living area of the lodge. A varnished dining table was situated in its center, accompanied by a handful of chairs for sitting and eating.
Eamonn walked around the room, from what he saw it appeared to be a fairly standard set up. Still, he found it strange that it reminded him so much of his previous home in Wildwood. There were the two rooms to the left, obviously they would be the rooms for he and Aaren and there were several counters in the far corner where, after a further look through, he saw that that was where the kitchen was located.
Sensing Aaren behind him now, Eamonn turned to see Aaren gesturing to the bedroom on the far end of the room, the door had been left slightly ajar, and the boy peered in through the narrow opening. “This bedroom is yours if you wish, you can put your things in there, feel free to wash up. Then we can talk.” Eamonn did as he was told, and moved his few belongings into the room.
He took his time to check through everything. There was soft bed in the corner, he had expected that much. There was a set of drawers where he could store his clothes as well as a wash basin and an empty jug. No doubt, Eamonn figured he would need to fill it in the morning for himself.
He also noticed a chest where he could store any items he owned. Another feature that he noticed was the obscure work of art on the wall, which displayed some sort of bird of prey set in what looked like the Aylesburian crest, it was the deep blue and purple design that he’d seen numerous times before. Eamonn soon returned to the main room, closing the door as he did so.
Noticing the action, Aaren advised against it, indicating the fireplace. “Leave the door open. If you close it there won’t be enough ventilation throughout the place and it’ll be freezing in there when you go to sleep.”
Aaren had moved back to stoke the fires again, a few plumes of smoke gathered and dispersed above the flames where they helped to keep the air moving. Already Eamonn could feel the increased temperature of the main room. Seeing the sense in Aaren’s words, he nudged the door open slightly again, knowing that it was a smart move. Looking out one of the windows beside his bedroom door, he noticed the moon, shimmering in the night sky and the stars that filled it. The moon’s radiance cast a glow across the plains and hills towards the horizon, it was later than he realised.
Aaren stood erect, confident that the fire would be fine for the time being. He brushed a few specks of wood dust on his shirt front and led the way to the table. Dressed in a simple tunic and trousers, Eamonn realised how much the cloak had hidden from the eye. Aaren’s eyes were a dull green colour concealed under thick eyebrows and a button nose that was small in size along with prominent cheek bones, jaw and a firm chin. There was something about Aaren that told Eamonn that this man was a warrior of the highest caliber.
What’s more the eyes showed innocence and, apart from the tiredness he saw, there also was youth. The eyes though were alert, and there was a look to them that made it clear there would be little that escaped them. "Waiting for me to paint your portrait?" Aaren asked. It was only now that Eamonn had realised that he had been standing there gawping at the man for some time while Aaren had seated waiting for his new apprentice to join him.
Seeing that he was being waited on, Eamonn nodded dumbly as Aaren directed him to one of the seats at the table. “So, I thought we could begin by discussing the tasks required to be carried out in the coming days” Aaren suggested, and again Eamonn merely nodded. The little that Maddox had told him about the man in front of him was enough to pique his interest, now that the discussion lay before him, he found himself eager for it all to begin.
“First things first” Aaren began, he’d noticed that the boy’s thoughts had drifted away again, but quickly regained his attention as the conversation started, that was something they’d need to work on.
“You’ll want to know who I am of course, so I’ll fill you in on some details then I’ll leave the rest for you to pick up along the way.” Again Eamonn nodded.
“My name is Aaren Fairweather as I said earlier, I grew up in one of the south-west provinces of Aylesbury and I served my apprenticeship in Hailsham, the main town there. After I completed my studies I moved up here to watch over Faraday. In Faraday, it’s my job to keep an eye on the many passes between Aylesbury and the neighbouring countries, in particular the ones leading to Azarowa”. Aaren stopped momentarily, collecting his next thoughts, it would be important, he knew, that Eamonn understood their responsibilities as early on as he could.
“There are two other Ayleserowans who patrol the highways to Normlieth, Litton Myerscough and Fleming Landon are their names. Damian Read is central to Faraday, any of them will be sent in to cover for the two of us when we’re out on missions, just as we will need to cover for them. You’ll meet them in time, Damian I think you’ll get along well with, he’s a little older and more experienced than the other two and I’m sure he’ll help you along if you ever need assistance.” He concluded, seeing the boy was keeping up with the details. While Eamonn mightn’t remember all of this now, he felt there would be points that would stick in the boy’s mind, and the rest he would pick up as they went along. For his part, Eamonn took in what he could, posing questions when he found things weren’t entirely clear.
“Put simply, we help the people, when they need us, we do our best to assist them, many know where we are so it’s not uncommon for them to arrive unannounced, however it is important that we maintain our independence, sometimes we must carry out less-than-pleasant tasks from the King or his barons, in these times, the locals must see that we aren’t to be disturbed. When this happens, it’s important that we communicate with the others, Damian will usually be on hand in these instances.”
Aaren continued on, telling the boy more about many of the other agents and scouts in the area, the conversation halted briefly as Aaren produced some coffee from his pantry, grinded the beans and set them simmering in a kettle with the water on the stove. Then he returned, handing the boy a mug of the hot drink, adding some sugar and milk and went on until he had talked his fill. He let the news sit with the boy for a few moments. Then, when he’d judged the boy had ample time to reflect, he asked “Do you have any questions you had? Was there anything you didn’t understand that you want clarified?”
Eamonn took a few moments to think over what had been said, surprised that the man could say so much so quickly, he shrugged at first, allowing Aaren enough time to stand but followed that up with a query, “How long has it been since you graduated? Have you had an apprentice before?” Aaren was now half way between standing and sitting as he considered the question.
He stood and walked to the coffee pot on one of the counters in the kitchen, poured himself another cup took a deep draught of the beverage and set down his mug by the dish sink before replying. “To be honest, you are in fact my first apprentice, I graduated six or seven years ago so it’ll be a new experience for us both.”
He followed Aaren to the counter, using the tap system. At the time, he’d have assumed that Darcey’s husband was a genius for his water system, having seen how widespread the design was, he was beginning to wonder who had come up with it originally. The boy washed out his mug, putting it on the nearby rack to dry. “Now, I think it’s time to get some sleep…I want to show you some things in the morning. I want you to you up and about nice and early, six o’clock sharp” he said, as he made his way back to the main area. Eamonn sighed audibly at the mention of early mornings and the prospect of rising before the sun had even done so. Seeing his expression, Aaren couldn’t help but grin at the boy. “You’ll get used to it” he said, patting him on the shoulder encouragingly.
From his own experiences, Aaren knew that the first few weeks of training would be the most difficult in his tuition, but there was little Aaren could do to make it any easier for the boy, it all just had to happen, and his philosophy was to do things as early as possible to get used to it.
“One last question,” Eamonn caught Aaren just as he went to retire to his bed. Aaren merely grunted in acquiescence.
“Who do we serve?” It was a good question, Aaren thought.
“You serve and work with me, your allegiance, first and foremost, is to me. I, on the other hand, serve our superiors, but that does not mean they have complete rule over me or you. We are separate and independent for a reason, many will see us as dangerous and others simply won’t trust us, those that know of our importance respect us, and our enemies fear us. Now, time for bed.”