About two weeks after Marisym had become my apprentice I had come upon a traveling merchant outside the castle walls, one of more than a dozen such merchants that were traveling in a caravan. This one was selling bolts of cloth. I saw a remnant, part of a bolt that was a heavy tweed-like material dyed to a shade of charcoal, nearly black, but with small flecks of forest green embedded in it. It was quite striking although only a dozen shafts (yards) left.
The merchant was quite willing to sell it, although he wanted the crown jewels in return. After some intense bargaining we settled on 3 marks for the bolt, his forbearance duly appreciated by my purse. As he was wrapping the bolt in a piece of old burlap I noticed that traveling with him was a cobbler who had some samples of his work. There was a pair of half-boots that looked like they should fit Marisym. After examining them, I was sure they would fit her well. A bit more bargaining and I was heading home with boots and cloth. I looked forward to the excited expression on my protégé's face.
I had not anticipated sufficiently the excitement on Marisym's face. When I show her the cloth, she grinned so widely her face almost cracked. "For me," she asked, trembling violently. "Oh, Sir ... I've never had such ... I've not..." When words failed her, she clasped her hands together before her chest with an enormous grin on her face. Then, suddenly, her hands were wrapped around my neck, and her warm lips were pressed against mine.
Her lithe body molded against mine for a moment. Then she collected herself. Her face turned white, and her retreat did credit to a professional stage magician. Abruptly, she was half the room away, "Sir ... Uh ... Oh my ... Please, My Lord, Mage ... How can ... Let... " She was crying, her face toward the floor. She looked up at me, "Sir, no one has ever given me anything so ... so ... beautiful."
The next evening, as I was reading in our dining room, under a mage light to assist the setting sun, she bounced out of her bedroom. Bounced is the only word that describes her ebullient movement. She was wearing ankle length breeches, a blouse, and a short jacket. The shirt was of the light white material that servants had available in the castle, the breeches and jacket were of the charcoal denim that I had bought her, I 3was struck again that she was such an excellent seamstress. The breeches fit her like they had been tailored by one of the finest tailors in capitol city. She stood before me, and turned slowly showing off her efforts.
"Sir. I want to thank you again, for this beautiful material. I am going to be the best dressed apprentice in the land."
I set my book aside, and pondered. "I think you are very beautiful, your clothes are the least of your beauty."
She flushed, and gave a little giggle and a curtsey. "Thank you, my Lord, Mage."
I couldn't help it, I stood and placing my hand under her chin, kissed her. She was standing motionless, like a deer caught unawares by a man, in the instant before she starts her mad rush somewhere. All tense attention.
She looked up in my eyes and took a breathe. "Oh ... Sir!"
Then she stepped closer to me, raising her head gently and kissed me. Her arms were around my neck, a few seconds later, she kissed me again, then again. I was dreaming. Her movements were so deliberate, the deer wouldn't have been frightened. She kissed me again, leaning her body in against mine. Abruptly, the spell ended, I blinked my eyes, a shout from the reception area, and boots coming down the hall.
"Sir Mage, please come. Sir Tandoull needs you." It was Amsil; if ever I had been tempted to cast a lightning bolt, it was now.
I turned toward him, stepping to the hallway. "What is the problem, Amsil?"
"Sir, his chest hurts. He's sitting, almost lying on the ground, out by the practice area. He says he can't breathe."
Marisym was abruptly back, carrying a bag that I used for medicines. I told her, "Let's go!"
We hurried down the hall, the stairs. The castle corridor echoed to the snap of our boots, Amsil hurried before us, and opened the door of the castle, we saw the clump of people around the form lying on the ground. "Move aside, let the man breathe, go on, get out of the way!" shouted Marisym.
I knelt beside the old warrior. After listening to his chest, and viewing his grayish complexion, and listening to his laboured breathing, I gave him some powdered herbs in a wine base that I had prepared. A few minutes later, obviously feeling better, Tandoull managed to sit up. Once he sat up, I immediately pushed him back, anxious not to strain his heart. Turning to the sergeant, I asked, "Can you get a litter to carry him?" The man nodded and hurried away, his face a study in concern.
I had noticed that Tandoull was respected by the people of the castle, but the concern on the sergeant's face made me think of love.
A few minutes sufficed to get Tandoull carried into bed, an elderly maid fluttering around offering a cup of tea. Tandoull obviously wasn't interested in tea, his grimace indicated to me that as soon as he could get rid of the maid, he would be up looking for a tankard of ale. Bowing to the inevitable, I countermanded the tea, ordering her instead to fetch some ale. She wasn't sure of the advisability of ale, but she wasn't prepared to argue with me. She went for ale.
Tandoull and I talked for a few minutes about his heart pains, and we discussed the outcome of this episode. The maid returned a few minutes later with the ale. The presence of the ale reminded him that I might possibly know what I was talking about. He was very tired, and after a deep drink of the ale, drifted off to sleep.
A few minutes consulting with the maid, who often sat with sick people, and leaving her a wine based draft for when he waked through the night, I left.
Outside Sir Tandoull's room, I was confronted by nearly a dozen boys and men. Among them was Roblar. His anxious face was contorted with grief. "How is he?"
"He's comfortable. Resting well, no pain." I smiled.
"What has happened to him?" Roblar's anxiety communicated to me, and everyone else waiting in the hallway. I stared grimly at the men waiting. Only a few moments sufficed to persuade them to leave. As I turned to go back to my apartment, a nod of my head caused Roblar to follow.
"He has suffered a heart seizure. The pain, the breathlessness, his heart has been overtaxed. But, he is resting, and will be in no danger tonight. Tomorrow will be another day, but he'll likly live the night. He's seventy, or seventy-five, isn't he?"
"Nearly eighty. But he won't slow down, he works just like he did seventy years ago. What can I do?" Roblar said plaintively. "He could retire. He could take it easy. Relax." More cheerfully.
"Nothing. There is nothing that you can do for him, except to accept his service like you always have. He is Sergeant-Master for the duchy, it's what he is, what he wants. He has nobody anymore. I understand his wife died many years ago, almost a lifetime ago. If you want him to die, if you want to kill him ... well, he has to do his duty ... If he wasn't your Sergeant-Master, I think he'd die in a week."