A Journey Begins
Sorry this first chapter is so long please bear with me.
Desan’y Janis was packing her meager bag with her few possessions. Her parents weren’t helping her, why would they. She wasn’t getting married and providing them side wealth from a husband, so they no longer considered her worth of their attention. She was happy about where she was going, the college in the capital city was some place most people in the Kingdom were not invited to attend. However she had the top grades in three villages.
It had been so impressive that after the headmaster contacted the college they had sent a royal messenger to inform my family. Thankfully the messenger was informed to go to the Headman’s home first or my parents would have attempted to deny me the right to go. However because the headman knows my parents will not dare to go against what they have said.
I place my last tunic in the bag, it only held three tips and three pants as well as one dress for events requiring them. Because we lived on the outskirts of the village I spent any time not in school out in the garden and fields working hard. I knew how to put up hay, how to grow anything that could be grown in the local soil. I also could cook any meal with any locally available foods. Aside from the required education my parents were required to have me attend they made sure I was properly skilled to be a good wife for some local farm boy.
I was so happy that the kingdom had instituted a rule three reigns previously that stated all children are required to have education till their sixteenth year. Parents are not permitted to keep their children from the required schooling, and all members of the kingdom have to give a portion of their taxes in food for the schools. In an interesting method, the requirement is that under one of the adult women of the towns, and villages the older students cook the midday meal for all the students. This made all of the children to learn how to prepare food to some extent. As while it is required that all of the children need to be able to prepare a very simple meal. If you were bad at cooking then you tended to be on preparation work.
In larger schools the older children were on a rotation for who did the cooking. For my school we cooked every day, and I was the head cook for our age group. The week my cousin visited for the harvest festival last year he was amazed at how good of a cook I was. While visiting family in other towns and villages children were required to attend local schools. It enabled children to have a better understanding of other regions. My aunt had brought some locally grown potatoes and some dried Tydark meat. The tydark are a very large quadruped animal with antlers that almost double their weight. They have very sharp teeth and are omnivorous.
My aunt and uncle always bring us a portion of meat when they visit, taking a portion of vegetables from our fields back with them. My aunt and uncle are traders and they travel through here very rarely. That day we had a lesson on the tydark before the meal, which was good that I knew we would be making that as I had gone to the school early to start simmering the meat for a stew. The baker upon hearing we would be having a rarity for lunch had his son go in early to set up bread for the stew. It was like a festival day and everyone ate their fill. Which was good as I knew a few of the kids only ate while they were in school. Whenever I cook I always sneak them a pouch with something extra for them to munch on the way home. The Headmaster always looked away when the kids would get their portion.
A good many of the kids I grew up with will miss that I will be gone, not because were friends but because I was the best cook in town. Whenever there was to be a town festival with a town wide meal I was always conscripted in to the cooking group. I did enjoy that, but I would prefer to have a job where I could help everyone. I want to help the world be a much better place and I could not do that here.
With my clothes I include my silver hairbrush that my aunt had given to me. She said with hair like mine I should be proud of it and take good care of it. Which lead to an argument with my parents when she gifted me with the brush, my parents wanted to sell it but she had made a point to say that she would stop aiding them if they took it from me. I still don’t know what she had meant by that, but it didn’t matter to me. I did have odd hair for our area, pure white. While it was considered an unusual hair color it was almost never seen in our area. There was a tribe of people in the far north that had white haired wise women. Not that they were old, but they had an innate ability to learn anything. As far as I knew my mother had never been up there, but my cousin had suggested that we had blood lines from there.
Another thing I received in just an odd manner from my aunt was a pendant with an image of a Gynark on it. The giant owl of the North was considered a creature of knowledge. It was pure white, the same color as my hair. She had been here when I was born with my infant cousin, after seeing my hair she had rushed out and came back with the pendant and placed it on me. My mother has been very angry about the pendant, so she requires me to keep it on a long string. As long as she doesn’t see it she doesn’t acre about it, which really makes me think my cousin saying I am descended from that tribe may be right.
I take my worn note book with facts I find interesting written in, I’ll have to find a job so I can add more paper to it soon. Granted it only had two dozen pages in it, but for me to be able to buy paper was almost impossible. I then reach for an unopened package that had come a week ago via a traveler, something my cousin had sent me. I had not opened it yet as if it were worth anything my parents would have taken it. I open it now carefully removing the wrapper so that I can reuse it. I stand stunned glancing at my pitiful notebook and back to a brand new blank one with hundreds of pages in it. The cover was white with a golden boarder. I slowly lift it up and look it over carefully, I note it can be taken apart if I need to add more pages to it and I quickly take the pages out of my old notebook and place them in the new one in the front carefully leaving the first page as it was. As Jamison had written on it, Desan’y I have a feeling you’ll wind up attending the school. So this will be the prefect adulthood gift for my favorite cousin. I mentally roll my eyes, I was his only cousin but that doesn’t matter. He was right, I was going to need a notebook for notes as I progress through the school until I find what I am best at.
I smile and re-wrap the book and place it carefully between my clothes, I take a quick look around and I hear my father growl up at me. “Git yer arse moving girl, that cart won’t wait all day while ye play about.” I shake my head and pick up my bag and head down the stairs to the first floor. Thankfully my room was the closest to the stairs, that way I didn’t have to go far. Even better the stairs lead into the kitchen so I could just go right out of the back door and not bother either of my parents. I quietly go out the door and make my way around to the front of the sturdy farmhouse. My father had built the house when he was young before he had met my mother. It had enough bedrooms for four children and two guest rooms. He had been disappointed that my mother had not gotten pregnant again, which he should know as I had talked with my teacher one day as we walked from the school together.
My mother wasn’t the problem it seems that in my father’s desire to be considered the strong farm man he had tried wrestling a bull one night on a bet from another man in the town and he had been kicked hard in the groin. Thankfully for my mother the kingdom did not permit divorce unless there was violence against one or both members. If he had been violent to my mother the whole town would have known. Now she treated her like a servant since my birth and no other children were born.
I reach the front of the house and I see the Headman looking angrily at the house with a cart and driver next to him. The Headman sees me sneaking around the back and he shakes his head and frowns at the door again. He then relaxes slightly and waves me to the cart and speaks in a quiet voice. “Quickly now, after hearing what your father said I am not surprised you went out of the back door. Did they even give you a meal or two for the road?” I look down at my feet and he sighs deeply and nudges me to the cart again. “I wish I had known they were treating you so badly, I never thought about it; but he only time we saw you have time off was when your family was visiting. That is not right, well they will learn how wrong they were after you are gone. Well I can solve the issue of you eating on the way to college.” He presses a coin purse into my hand and I open my mouth and he holds up a finger. “Take it Desan’y, your parents owe you at least that much because you got into the school. You will need food on your way, this will provide it; if there is anything left over when you make it to school use it on something you want. I am going to keep a better eye on all of the kids in town now, I want all of the children to have good lives even if their parents aren’t giving them one.” I nod my head and I sit in the cart, the driver turns and gives me a smile.
It was the cart shopkeeper, “’ere now Desan’y. You just enjoy the ride, I’ll be taking you to Darkwinter. There will be a carriage there waiting for you, they don’t send them this far out seeing as how we’re on the edge of the Kingdom. I have dinner for us and we’ll be there by morning, so just relax and enjoy the ride.”
I settle in and I notice the basket near me in the cart, I had the feeling that the people of the town might have fought for the right to take me to Darkwinter, as it was a major deal for an outer village to have a child chosen for the college. I just hope I live up to everyone’s expectations.
Darkwinter was a medium sized town it was named for an event that had occurred four hundred year prior. We had a Dark Ruler nearby back then that would raid any nearby kingdoms. They used ice magic and we hadn’t had a growing period for three years, so many people had died and their village was where the first deaths had occurred. The town I grew up in was fairly recent in the span of the Kingdom’s history, it was land that had been owned by the Dark Ruler. From what I had read, that Dark Ruler hadn’t made use of any of the lands they had conquered. They had been left to reforest themselves and animals had returned to those forests.
I step out of the cart and I thank the shopkeeper and he hands me the basket that our meal had been in. “There is still food in there lass, take it with you and enjoy the food from home. Who knows what kinds of meals they’ll be serving ye in that school.” I smile and thank the man as I turn to the carriage. He had parked the cart right next to the fancy carriage, well at least I thought it was fancy. This was the first one I had seen in person. To me it looked like it had way too much useless pieces on it. It did make it look nice, and it was white in color which I thought was a silly color with how often it would have to be cleaned.
I step up to the door of the carriage and I look to the man in the driver’s seat, “excuse me. Are you waiting on Desan’y Janis?” The driver jumps as if he hadn’t noticed me, which is possible. I doubt anyone that considers themselves ‘important’ notice everyday people unless they need them. The man then looks down at me carefully and then to a piece of paper he was carrying. He looks it over and looks at me again and then after looking at his paper again nods his head. “Ah yes the news student, yes I have been waiting on you. Thankfully I was not waiting long, well climb inside and relax child. We’ll be stopping at night and we’ll take the evening meal with the inn keepers. You will have to arrange something for the other meals.”
I nod my head as I grasp the handle of the door to the inside of the carriage. I set my bag and the basket by my feet, if the man was telling me the truth the basket of food would be welcome in a few hours. I barely feel the carriage start moving as I move the curtain aside so I can watch the town as we drive through it. The town was much bigger than mine, Edgewater. A funny name considering it was on the edge of the Kingdom. There were paved roads down the main roads, my town didn’t have that, we just had dirt roads.
I see a man with a large broom and a pan and he was sweeping every few feet down the road as we travel and then he picks it up and walks back to a metal container on a cart and pours the pan into it. That seemed strange to me, but I guess you have to have someone clean the paved streets. I wonder if the carriage could even go down a dirt road as I notice all the driver does it stick to the paved roads. Then when we reach the edge of the town and I notice that the paved road ends
We stop at a roadside inn as the sun starts to set, the driver hops down and opens the door tot he carriage. “Alright now go on in, the innkeeper will have a room and a bath ready then you can eat and go to bed when ever you wish. I will wake you when it is time to leave in the morning.” I nod my head as he walks around to the horses and starts unhitching them. I pick up my basket and bag and head inside the inn.
I walk in to melodious music and voices and I see a plump woman smiling at me standing near a table by the door. She sees my bag and nods her head, “hey there lass where ye be from?” I blink and look back at the door, “Edgewater Ma’am, why do you ask?” The large happy woman smiles, “because lass you look a wee bit lost. You be that new student then? Well head on up to the second door and set your things down the bath’s in the back of the kitchen. No one’s in there right now so you’ll have it to yourself. After come back here and I’ll get you summat to eat.”
I do as the woman says and I am happy to see a comfortable bed with a side table as well as a table to work on or eat at if I chose to. At least it would be a private room for me. After my welcome bath I walk into the main room and the woman spies me and points to a table near a window, “over there lass and I’ll be right there.” I go and sit down and after I look out at the nearby fields a few minutes the woman comes up with a hot meat pie and a covered basket and a mug of cider. She sets the food down and then eyes me a moment.
“Now lass since ye from so far out let me give you some advise. Your driver isn’t allowed inside the inns themselves because the carriage drivers are working for the school and they have to stay with inn employees. He’s not likely to tell you anything unless it might cause him a problem along the line. Now the rest of the stops you’ll make they won’t take time to make sure you know what is going on. So what you need to do is as soon as you walk into the next inn you ask where your room is. Where the bath is and if it is free, then ask what their dinner options are. They will always have two options, I figgered you’d want the pie being from Edgewater. Now my cleaning girl says ye have a basket of stale food?”
I feel instantly bad and felt embarrassed, the woman pats my hand. “Nothing wrong with being smart lass. I was just going to offer to put some travel food inside it for you. It’ll be something you can eat while traveling, and if you can’t convince the other innkeepers to give you something it’ll be there. I’ll give you a nice breakfast when the driver wakes up tomorrow so you’ll get a decent breakfast tomorrow.” I nod my head and the woman wanders off and I open the small basket and find some still hop fresh bread and my mouth waters. I take a bite of the wonderful bread and I dig into the pie. It was a spring lamb pie with fresh vegetables and a hint of a savory spice blend.
Once I finish my meal the innkeeper comes up with a slice of berry pie and a small glass of a red liquid. She gives me a look when I raise an eyebrow, “listen lass this cordial ain’t gonna harm you and this one glass full will tell you what your body thinks of drinking. I don’t think your blood lines are big on having such things so it’s best you know now than later.” She sets a small pouch next tot he glass, “if you feel any discomfort drinking this take what is in the pouch it will counter any discomfort.” I nod my head and I reach for the drink and the woman eyes me as if expecting something. I lift the glass and I smell the Tynari cherries used in it’s make but I detect an underlying smell that makes my stomach roil even before I can attempt to drink it. The innkeeper snatches it from my hand and shoves the pouch into my hands, “quickly take the herbs. I wanted to be sure of you really being what you appear to be.”
I open the small pouch and pour it’s contents down my throat and down the remainder of my cider. And I feel my stomach calm down slowly. I look to the innkeeper, “and what do I appear to be Ma’am?” The woman gives me another look, “you are an I’enari lass and from your look you do not know that word. My guess is you are a descendant of one of the scattered portion of the tribes, so I doubt you have your Ien’ie token.” I blink at the unfamiliar word and reach into my tunic to pull out my pendant, “do you mean this? My aunt placed it on my when I was born and my mother demanded I keep it hidden.” The woman blinks and nods her head eyeing my pendant she turns her head and yells to someone in the back. “Jacob bring me a yard of the heavy cordage.”
She then turns to me and looks like she is about to do something sacrilegious, and after setting the glass on a table away from me she reaches out to me. “Please lass hold your Ien’ie token in your hand,” she then takes her work dagger and cuts the cord it is attached to. She holds out her hand and a young boy hands her a piece of black cord, as she hands me the end indicating that I should thread my pendant trough it she speaks. “It should always be over your heart at the lowest lass, when you get to the city you go to a jeweler and demand a chain for it. They will give you one, for free; it is your right.” I feel confused as she takes the end from my hand and ties the new cord around my neck. She gives me a sad look, “I can’t tell you the importance of it lass. Just know that no one is allowed to touch it but you, the fact that your aunt had to give it to you says she has more sense than your mother does.”
The woman then leaves me alone for the night as I ponder what I just learned. I touch my Ien’ie token, it’s obvious that this means something. I know my aunt had insisted I keep it, and my mother did not want to know it existed. I did always have to keep my head covered around my father because of the color of it. There must be more to the I’enari than I had originally thought then. I shake my head vowing to read up on them once I get to school and I head up to bed, noting that my basket was gone.
The next morning I wake up as the sun breaks the horizon and I get up and look out of the window. I watch the sun start to come up and my door bursts open and the innkeeper walks in with a big tray and she smiles seeing me standing at the window. “I should have known you’d be up lass, here tuck into that food the driver should be getting woken up any time now as my stable hand starts making a great deal of noise. I’ll hand you your basket when the driver is ready to leave.”
The innkeeper comes and gets me as the driver head the carriage to the front door with the big smile on her face she hands me my basket. “Now there is a good amount of travel bread, as well as some dried meats as well as a few wedges of cheese. I also gave you some sandwiches for your midday meal.” She holds up a covered pail, “this has some cider and I gave you a travel cup with it. Now remember what I said about the next inn. Also remember to ask for cider, ye don’t want to try to stomach a small ale.” I nod my head recalling the incident with the cordial the previous night.
The trip to the next inn was less eventful than the first one, after I hop out of the carriage as soon as he stops I pull my items out and I head into the inn without looking back at the driver. I stride inside and I look around and find someone who looks like they are supervising the room and I say. “Where is my room and where is the bath located and is it currently free?” The woman who I guess is the wife of the actual innkeeper who stuck his head out of the kitchen looks surprised and stammers out. “The, uh; third door on your left lass and yes the bath is free.” I nod my head, “very well what is the options for tonight?”
The woman blinks as if surprised again and the innkeeper himself speaks, “roasted Tydark with mash and vegetables or you can have a shepherds pie.” I nod my head and respond with, “very well after my bath I will have the roast. Mash will be potato if that is an option and a cider, I will know if it is not a cider.” The man nods his head and I head on up the stairs and once they think I am out of earshot the woman comments, “of course you will you white haired devil.” I hear a crack and a round of clapping as the woman starts crying. The stay at the second inn while not horrible was not as enjoyable as my first inn. The third inn the innkeeper met me at the door like the first one did and smiling she says, “ah I can give ye a bath in yer room lass. Bath is full up and I can leave yer supper there as well. There be a few here who might react bad to one of your kind in the common area even if you are a college student. I can’t lose customers just because they dinnae like you lass.” I nod my head and have a tub brought to my room and have another lovely pie for my evening meal. The girl who brings my food up shakes her head, “I know she needs the business but to treat a student so badly just so she can have enough business isn’t right.” I shrug as she places my food on the table, “did the I’enari people do something bad?” the girl looks surprised then asks, “where are ye from lass?” I blink and tell her and the serving girl nods her head, “that explains it.” She gives me a measuring look, “the last Dark Ruler was a I’enari white haired woman. People think if another were to appear in the lower lands that another Dark Ruler will take over.” I nod my head understanding people’s distrust then. Though I wonder why they would think just because I am a I’enari that I would become a Dark Ruler.