The Blizzard and the Smith
The kitchen was not liver and mustard free, much to Dawn’s chagrin, and she had to fend off several offers from her aged instructor before he would admit that she truly was uninterested. She devoured a sandwich of freshly baked bread and leftover ham and made to retreat from the kitchen.
“A moment, Your Highness?” Lord Felmont called, motioning for Dawn to return to her seat. The Princess obeyed, silently hoping that their conversation would remain short. “I had hoped that, with our lessons out of the way and our lunches very nearly complete, we might go visit the village silver smith?”
“Why?” Dawn retorted. She desperately wished to return to the laboratory with Mel. A quick glance from Lord Felmont jogged her memory and she winced, remembering the broken necklace. “Oh, right.”
“ ‘Oh right’ indeed,” the old man murmured. “I think it unkind to carry such a precious heirloom in so pitiful a state. I do hope you will forgive me, as it is entirely my fault the ornament is so destroyed at the present moment.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Dawn replied, “I’ll just get it fixed tomorrow. I can’t imagine it would take that long anyway.”
“Oh, I am sure it would not take long at all, Your Highness,” Lord Felmont said, opening his arms wide and smiling winsomely. “But why put off for tomorrow what we could so easily accomplish today?”
“Well, there is the weather, for one thing,” Dawn retorted, pointing to a window that rang with the tink-tink of the ice falling outside.
“A common effect of this time of year,” Lord Felmont rebutted. “And besides, I thought you enjoyed adventures into the village? Your mother often says she has been riding out there every day since you could walk to fetch you back. We must not deprive her of her exercise now.”
Dawn opened her mouth to argue, but decided it would be wiser to do as the old man wished. He would get his way in the end, as he always did, and Dawn would have wasted more time fighting than she could ever hope to gain winning.
The two walked and talked back to the great entryway of the castle. Dawn had offered they could leave through the kitchen exit as she had so often done with Eryn, but the ancient wizard insisted that the easiest and, for his old bones, most survivable path would be the one directly from the castle to the village. He led on, swiftly crossing the threshold, through the courtyard, and directly for the already opened drawbridge and gates. Before long they were walking arm in arm down the village’s bustling Maine Street.
Lord Felmont watched as Dawn pointed out the various shops and buildings that rose up on either side of them as they made their way deeper and deeper into the blizzarding village. There was a candy shop that smelled so strongly of pepermint it flooded out into the street, a shoe store with dainty, sturdy, and whimsical looking boots, heels, and loafers sitting in its windows, a general goods mall stretched down an entire alley where passages had been built between the many connected shops to let the villagers peruse their wares without needing to set foot outside. She pointed to the several enormous windmills, far off on the distant edge of town, explaining their role in grinding corn and wheat to cornmeal and flour for use in countless delicious confections.
“Tim Baker told me all about flour,” Dawn informed her now panting travel companion. Lord Felmont was struggling to keep pace with the eagerly accelerating Princess. “He says that it is the most important ingredient in all his breads and pastries.”
“Ah yes, that would be very true,” Lord Felmont wheezed, pausing with Dawn as they reached a fork in the road before them. “When you embark into the sciences of chemistry, you may see why.”
Dawn only half listened. She had been through the village many times throughout her life, but it suddenly dawned upon her that she had no idea where to find the silversmith. She quickly checked a street post, but listed there amongst the multitude of other shops, the title ‘silversmith’ could not be found. She started for one road, stopped, then switched to another, stopping again before turning back to her silently bemused instructor.
“I… have no idea where I’m going,” Dawn admitted sheepishly. “I don’t think I’ve ever been to the silversmith’s before.”
“I don’t imagine you would have!” The old man chuckled, turning on the spot and walking back up Maine street along the path they had just taken. “Follow me. I will get us there. It just so happens we passed the side street that will lead us directly to the jeweler’s only a few minutes ago. And quite a good thing, too. I don’t think this storm is going to remain so pleasant for long!”
“Why didn’t you stop me when we were going past it then?” Dawn asked, blood flushing her cheeks. The cold was beginning to wear on her, and the thought of having lost more time than necessary to this task irked her tremendously.
“If you must know,” Lord Felmont began, blatantly ignoring the anger now painted across her face, “I was so very proud you had learned so much outside the realm of our lessons. I did not wish to discourage you from your learning by interrupting you.”
“So you let us miss the turn because you wanted to hear me talk about windmills and flour?” Dawn inquired incredulously. Her face turned an even deeper shade of crimson and her temper rose. “I could have told you that while we were heading the right way!”
“Too true, but it would have lost us this wonderful learning opportunity!” Lord Felmont beamed, still refusing to acknowledge the anger building within the fuming Princess.
“AND WHAT WOULD THAT BE?”
“There is just as much merit in asking for help as there is in knowing the right answer.”
The Princess’ face contorted, her hands clenched, and for one short moment she thought she just might strike the infuriating old man. Her chance came and went and she remained, fixed to her spot in the road, while Lord Felmont sauntered out of sight with Dawn rushing to regain the time she had seen as lost.
With a good bit of distance between them they walked, neither one addressing the other. The wind began to rise, and the sleet that poured from the sky increased its assault with a fury. By the time they reached the jeweler’s shop a solid inch of ice had coated the ground, and the few villagers who had dared to brave the storm had vanished, now nestled cozily inside their warm, fire-lit homes. Dawn reached out and pushed open the beautifully decorated door and made her way into the tiny shop.
The Princess was blinded by what lay inside.
Gleaming glass cabinets sat fully stocked with a fabulous assortment of intricately crafted necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, and even a few tiaras. The gold and silver displayed throughout the tiny room glinted resplendently in the light cast from a swaying chandelier. Once her eyes had adjusted, Dawn crept around the cramped space, examining some of the finer pieces held securely within their invisible boxes.
“Candor, is that really you?” A deep voice boomed out from a darkened doorway behind a large mechanical register. “Can’t be! It’s not nearly late enough for your last minute yule-tide shopping!”
“It certainly is not, Barloc!” Lord Felmont replied, warmly taking the hand of the now emerging metal worker. “The Midwinter festival is still twenty days off! I daresay it would be fool-hardy to start shopping any earlier than eighteen days hence!”
“You certainly are an odd one, Candor. Well if it is not to shop, what can I do you for?”
Lord Felmont beckoned Dawn to come closer and the Princess, begrudgingly, obliged. She withdrew the necklace from her pocket and placed it carefully on the counter. Barloc’s eyes bulged, staring from the broken chain to the old wizard, then to the Princess and then down, again, on the necklace. He spoke again, his booming voice replaced by an unbelieving whisper.
“But this is-!”
“Yes, Barloc,” Lord Felmont interrupted, his tone serious, “it is indeed the Trist’defae.”
“But why does the Princess have it? Isn’t this the Queen’s?”
“It was. But, as tradition dictates, the stone passed from mother to daughter on her fourteenth birthday. It is now the duty of Her Royal Highness, Princess Dawn Anilise Ambrose, to guard the sacred stone.” Lord Felmont finished, a note of finality ringing in his voice. It was clear he would take no more questions on the pendant and its chain.
“Ah, so! We are fourteen now, are we?” Barloc roared pleasantly. “Haven’t seen you since you were a little babe! And I’ll be a fool if it wasn’t for the same reason you’re in here today. Broke one of my chains, did you?”
Dawn fidgeted meekly. The man in front of her was huge, taller and broader than any man she had ever seen before. His face was covered in a great, bushy, black beard and his arms were as thick as her waist. Silently she wondered how someone so enormous could possibly craft a chain of silver so thin and so dainty as the one that lay shattered before them.
“Brings back memories, this does. After you were born, memorable day that was, took weeks to clean up the mess…”
“Barloc, the necklace?” Lord Felmont gently reprimanded, motioning at the chain on the counter.
“Ah yes, quite right,” Barloc snatched up the silver strand, delicately holding it between the fingers of his massive hands. “Sorry, Candor. As I was saying, the party was impressive. Day after next, your mother and father-” Barloc fumbled his words at a sharp ‘tut-tut’ from Lord Felmont, “-er, I mean their Majesties, they come in here with you. Was mighty surprised to see the Queen on her feet so soon after giving birth, but then she tells me she was training swords against our Knight Commander that morning and broke me bloody chain!”
His hands were moving rapidly as he spoke, removing the old damaged clasp and quickly affixing a new one in its place.
“Laughed up a storm I did at that! Still, I fixed up this chain-” he gave a slight twitch of his wrist, bringing Dawn’s attention to the nearly repaired necklace, “-an’ she let me hold you. You were so small you fit in one hand! Still, what with Her Majesty’s temper, I was sure she would be back before long and I’d be scraping together the necklace once again. Still-” he handed the chain, complete once again, back to the Princess, “-testament to my work it survived almost fourteen years on her neck!”
Dawn placed the chain around her neck and breathed a sigh of relief. Barloc’s tale had eased her growing displeasure with Lord Felmont and taught her something interesting. Her mother, too, had broken the necklace, the Trist’defae, as Lord Felmont had called it. All at once the dread she had noticed building after its destruction vanished, replaced by a happy memory of her and her mother sharing a common mistake. She was satisfied by this thought until curiosity stole over her and her eyes fell, once more, to the sparkling diamond at her chest.
Lord Felmont paid the jeweler and he and Dawn quickly made their way back out of the ornate shop front. The sleet seemed to have tripled in intensity during their short stay with the silversmith and the ice bit through Dawn’s pants and coat. Wind whipped around them in violent whirls as the pair pushed through the storm, slowly making their way back to Maine Street and the palace road.
“Lord Felmont?” Dawn shouted, trying her best to make herself heard over the howling of the air.
“What is it, Your Highness?” Lord Felmont replied, barely discernible over a sudden gust.
“You called this necklace the ‘Trist’defae’!” she inquired. “Is it special?”
“Is not any gift of love special, Young Highness?”
“Well, yeah!” she replied, calling over the storm. “But you know what I mean!”
The old man paused and inclined his head against the sleet.
“You are quite perceptive, Princess,” he replied, tugging both himself and Dawn out onto Maine Street. “That necklace is indeed special. It is a key to a door which nothing else can open, made long ago by powerful magic.”
Dawn allowed herself to be pulled against the onslaught of ice. Her mind toiled with the mystery of the newly presented thought. If this was a key to open a door, where could it be? What was behind the door? The kingdom’s treasury? Or, perhaps, something even more interesting than heaping piles of gold?
“What’s behind the do-?”
Her words were cut short by a terrible sight.
Lying in the freshly fallen snow was a man covered head to foot in shining, silvery armor. Dawn rushed past Lord Felmont, knocking his hand askew as he reached out to grab her. She fell with a thump beside the unconscious man, lifting up his visor and recoiling with recognition.
There, in the middle of the open street amidst the terrible blizzard, lay Sir Yldris. His eyes were shut tight, his mouth lay wide open; a perfect view of the black tar that now coated his tongue and lips; the most recent victim of the sleeping sickness.