Tag Archive: Baxter


Grin Like a Dog

Baxter couldn’t help but smile as he watched the proprietor of the inn chat up the little bard that had come in out of the cold. Bergren was usually shy and reserved around women almost to the point of standoffishness. Today, however, he was as charming and genial a host as he was to the men of the nearby village. Baxter knew what the change was about and welcomed it.

“He likes her,” Columbine said as she picked up a pitcher of ale and several mugs. “She seems to fancy him too.”

“One can hope,” Baxter said. “The elders would be much happier about him if he took a wife.”

“Why?” Nicholas asked. “Do they feel that way about everyone – or just the proprietor?”

“Businesses can be passed down – and taxed – only if the owner has an heir upon his death. Master Bergren was named the late owner’s heir, but that’s not likely to happen again and the town’s leaders would be happier if the inn – especially as prosperous an inn as this one – remained on the tax rolls,” Baxter explained. “The other way of dealing with it would be to try to buy it out from under him – provided that they can find someone with an heir and enough money – which they likely could.”

“That wouldn’t be good though – for us?” Nicholas said softly.

“Very few eldar would employ such a mix of races,” Baxter said. “The fact that I’m only informally trained in brewery would cause me problems too. Master Bergren is the best man for the job – as far as we’re concerned. If he gets a wife, then the village elder hasn’t a leg to stand on, though.” His grin turned slightly feral as he added, “That would upset the apple cart.”

Arthur nodded as he joined them. He smiled slightly before bringing the lovely bard a mug of cider. All in all, he hoped that things worked out well for the pair – and not just for the sake of his job.

Setting out from home was always a scary proposition for Vanni. His father had made a lot of enemies and he’d been raised to be wary and cautious. However, he also felt like everyone around him was controlling him. His life wasn’t his own any more.

Thus he found himself on the road, heading out of town. He realized as he walked that he hadn’t planned things very well. He had no food, no provisions and his clothes and shoes were not made to be traveled in, but to be seen in. He was dressed too finely to be walking along the dusty highway.

He paused. He hadn’t gone far. He could turn back. He could go home and let everyone else decide what was best for him. Then the Galiano pride kicked in again. There was no way he was quitting. He turned his back on the town that he’d grown up in and walked.

Eventually, feet aching, legs tired, he came to a small inn. He slumped into a chair and frowned at his purse. Again, a lack of forethought hit him jarringly. He had about enough money on his person for a night’s stay. Moaning and running his hands through his long blond hair, Vanni slumped back in the chair.

“Problem?” the barkeep said.

“Not really,” Vanni replied. “Just realizing how sheltered I’ve always been. I’m… short on funds,” he admitted.

The barkeep frowned and stepped over, eyeing him critically. “You could get a job. Got any skills?”

“Skills?” Vanni asked. “I can sing, play piano and violin and speak three languages. Math and literature… some magic, that’s more knowledge than skill though.”

“There are some bards in town, maybe you can hook up with them,” the man suggested. “Try it out. We don’t have a musician right now. Piano’s over there. Music brings in the custom.”

Vanni nodded and, weary though he was, he headed over to the piano. In moments he was going through his repertoire. He played the folk-songs he knew. The kind of things that got people tapping their feet. Stuffy chamber music was not on call in this venue.

He was surprised when a small blond man tapped him on the shoulder. The man was grinning and handed him a mug of cider. “Take a break,” he said. “I’m sure you could use a drink.”

When Vanni reached for his purse the man shook his head. “You’ve earned it,” was all he said. Vanni grinned as the man walked away, sipping the beverage. It was the first time he’d worked for something and it felt good.

Can You Hear the Distance

Arthur was always surprised by how mature some lings acted while others acted like the children they seemed to be. The inn staff worked to prepare the inn for a night’s business amid the rumbles and crashes of lightning.

For Columbine, the sounds were a background noise; meant to be ignored, just as they were for Alair and Baxter. However both Mirabelle and Ally seemed terrified of the flashing lightning and rolling thunder. A thought occurred to him and he knelt between the two girls, able to meet their eyes for once.

“You can hear how far away the lighting is, you know,” he said.

“You can hear it?” Baxter said, looking up from the bar. “How’s that.”

Arthur paused, remembering something his mother had taught him many years ago. “When you see a flash of lightning, start counting blue monkeys. Every five blue monkeys is a whole mile.”

“There’s no such thing as blue monkeys,” Mirabelle said, chuckling softly.

“Counting such silly things is part of the fun,” Arthur said, with a shrug. He noticed Columbine grinning and smiled back. He knew that his mother had told him to count second by using the phrase “blue monkey” because thinking of something so silly would keep his mind off being scared. Counting how far away the lightning actually was also helped. It didn’t seem so terrible once it was given some distance.

In moments both girls were back at work and seemed les frightened of the storm outside. They even began something of a contest, competing with each other to see who could count more lightning strikes. Arthur shrugged and returned to work, not really remembering how the girls had learned the trick but glad that it was reassuring them.

Columbine looked over the room and then at the oldest of her five younger siblings. “Mind the place while I’m gone,” she said. “Everyone is old enough to tell you what they need, if you just ask. Don’t forget to eat lunch. I’ll be home before bedtime.”

“It’ll be alright?” Grais asked softly. He glanced around for a moment. The house was spotless. The leftover ham from the night before had been sliced for lunch. Bread was cooling on the windowsill, also for lunch. Soup was simmering on the stovetop for supper. Everything was ready. That wasn’t what he was asking about.

“We’ll be alright. Do your chores. Read your school assignments and don’t let the soup burn. When Mama comes home from the clinic, you’ll be able to show her how well you can take care of the house,” Columbine assured him.

She nodded at his confident smile and headed out the door. Word had gotten around town that the tavern on the edge of the village, now known as the Tilting Tankard, was hiring. Already they’d hired a server, chef, barkeep and kitchen helper. She hoped they had room for more.

It didn’t take her long to reach the bustling place. Unlike previous times she’d passed the building during daylight hours, the seats were all filled. With just one server, the wait was long however and Columbine hoped that this boded well for her.

When the owner had a free moment, Columbine approached him. He was leaning on a side door and fanning his flushed face. “Excuse me,” she said softly. When he looked at her curiously, she asked, “I wonder if you might be interested in hiring another server.”

The man nodded once and said, “We have roast beef with garden vegetables or country stew. Both are served with bread and a drink of the patron’s choice. Think of it as an interview. Take the tables on the left side of the room.”

Following his gesture, Columbine nodded and scurried off. She was her usual friendly cheerful self with the patrons. With the pace of the common room, she was able to leave behind the stress and worry of the household that usually followed her all day long. In the back of her mind, she realized that the job would do more than give the family much-needed income.

Soon everyone was served and the other waiter looked at her with a grin. “Thanks,” he said softly. “Arthur,” he added, extending his hand. He gestured at the barkeep and said, “He’s Baxter. The chef is Alair and his helper is Celeste.”

“Columbine Carolle,” she replied. “The proprietor is?”

“Bergren Shadowmoon,” the man in question said. “You’re hired Miss Carolle. Welcome aboard.”

“Thank you sir,” she replied.

“Thanks indeed,” Baxter added. “Maybe now I can stay here and keep an eye on the drunks.”

“Maybe,” Bergren agreed with a smile.

Baxter smiled at Kesianna as she scurried around the house, preparing to go to school come fall. She’d finished with the local village school and now was ready to either apprentice or begin working. Their mother had laid aside money for each of them to continue schooling however. Kesianna would be going to Brightfalls Bardic Academy and he was still investigating what he planned to do.

Plans have a way of getting changed however and generally when it is most unfortunate that they are. The siblings were in town gathering supplies when they were summoned by a forester. The man had found the body of a woman who’d apparently been ravaged by a wild animal. Baxter arrived at the man’s hut a moment before Kesi did and pushed her back before she saw the gruesome sight.

“Wait out here,” he said firmly. Then he entered the hut completely and shut the door. A healer was already in attendance but it was obvious the woman, their mother, wouldn’t make it. She had already lost far too much blood.

“Is this your mother?” the healer asked. He sighed at Baxter’s answering nod. “Sorry, lad,” he said. His voice carried sympathy but also a certain weariness. “Looks like tenglers got her,” he said. “I can make her comfortable but not much else.”

Baxter nodded. He waited until the healer had covered her in a light blanket to get Kesianna. “It’s not good,” he said softly.

They waited by their mother’s side until she breathed her last, then Baxter left Kesianna with the forester’s wife so he could make preparations. He was the man of the house now. He knew there would be no further schooling for him. That didn’t mean that Kesi’s dreams of barding were dashed however.

She would go to Brightfalls at the start of term. He would see to that. Meanwhile, he would need a job. He asked around town to find if anyone was hiring. His steps took him to the edge of town. A small bright inn had grown from the rubble of a ramshackle tavern. Perhaps they would need someone to tend bar.

Monica Ferris

an author with many hats

A Land of Curiosity

From the files of Shynian Intelligence

Heather's Fancies

tales from the enchanted gardens and shadow hollow

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