Vagon was not all that Brynach had imagined it to be. The stories he had heard of the place seemed more grand and mysterious than the worn down Motte and Bailey that met his eye when riding towards the castle behind his lord. But, this was where his father had spent most of his time as a squire and if it had been good enough for Melkin, it was good enough for him too, Brynach decided.
Squire Yraen was walking around the parapet to inspect all the sites that Sir Amig had told him to. The castle’s walls had begun sagging in places. Fortunately lumber was not in short supply in Salisbury, the manpower and silver it would take was however. Renovations couldn’t begin this year, but as Sir Amig had explained it, they would need to prepare anyway so that when funds became available they could begin immediately.
A suspicious guard peered down at them and called out. “Who goes there?” “Sir Deian the Dark,” answered his lord, but the guard stared blankly at them; “Who? I don’t know of any sir Deian.”
Hearing the shouts below, Yraen leaned out to have a closer look. Beneath, in front of the gate, he saw the man who had served as a squire to his “uncle” several years ago and behind him, on a thin nag, rode yet another familiar figure.
“That is Sir Deian of Mayfair, lord to Stag’s home. You should probably open the gate for him,” the young squire suggested.
The guard, being a surly man in the manner of guards found guarding gates everywhere from Hantonne in the south to the Orkney islands in the furthest north, glared at the young squire. For a moment he seemed to consider not opening, but then maybe remembering the previous year and what had happened to Sir Garin. “Alright, alright, hold your horses Sir,” he called down and motioned for the gate to be opened.
His lord got off his horse and turned towards the castle as two figures appeared. Lord Amig, Brynach knew by sight, but the other man he could not recognize. By all logic it should be lord Elad, but the man seemed to small, too frail and too old to be the fierce knight he remembered from his childhood. He looked around and his gaze caught Yraen who was climbing down from the parapet.
With a small uncertain smile, Yraen waved to his opposites as their lords met and spoke with each other. After exchanging pleasantries, the lords told their squires to take care of the horses and to make sure that they were watered and fed. Yraen and Brynach walked towards the stables, leading two horses each. A small silence hung between the boys who hadn’t seen each other for quite some time. Both had grown and started changing into the men that they would one day become. Deciding that it befell him to start a conversation, being the elder by a whole year, Yraen asked “How are your sisters doing? And your family?” One of Brynach’s younger sisters was pretty indeed and Yraen had harbored a boyish infatuation with her for the last few years.
Brynach shrugged, and gave Yraen a half smile. “Ceri’s fine if that’s what you’re wondering.”
Smiling, but unable to act as embarrassed as he perhaps should, Yraen replied ”Well her, but the others too.”
Brynach raised an eyebrow but accepted Yraen’s question. “Mother’s fine, worried about sir Ennis I suppose, but well. The twins are good though Camilnne had the hillfort cough last year. Aquilina is growing fast and Placus too. Always in high spirits those two.” Brynach paused. “Ceri told me your mother died, I’m sorry to hear that, and even more so is she. Ceri loved Brangwen like her own mother.”
Looking haunted for a moment at the mention of the passing of his mother, Yraen became quiet. After a few minutes silence however he turned to Brynach “We all miss mother, both me, my brother and most of all father, I think.” Sighing he continued ”I hope father is doing better when he returns from the fighting in Jagent”.
“Grief is painful fire that we try our best to smother. When father died I think I felt like sir Cadry, or as you do now.”
Nodding mutely, Yraen proceeded to rub down the last of the horses and then sat down on a bale of hay and just stared at Brynach as the younger squire finished up his part of work.
”What is it?” asked Brynach after a while, taking his time to make sure sir Deian’s charger was content. He turned and faced Yraen.
“Do you think the times will ever be good again?” Looking worried and distraught Yraen thought about all the times he had stood quietly behind Sir Amig as councils of war were held in Sarum castle.
Brynach gave Yraen a long look. “You have changed,” he commented. “Worry has always seemed to been the least of your troubles.” He picked up an empty bucket under his arm. “Yes,” he said then as he headed for the well.
“Yes to what?” Losing track of Brynach’s answers, Yraen rose from his seat and followed the younger man.
“Yes, times will get better. Yes, the grief will get better, and yes we will be able to do something about all the mess,” continued Brynach while getting the water.
Changing track completely, as if the previous subject bothered him, Yraen asked “Is Deian treating you well?”
For the first time since the boys had met again Brynach gave a laugh. He held up the bucket and poured the water over himself. “Yes he is,” he said laughing. “Lord Deian is a fine lord, who tells me all about how my father made him run all the strangest errands, from riding through strange paths outside of Tisbury, to hunting bandits in Modron’s forest. How’s lord Amig?”
Thoughtfully, Yraen answered “He is harsh but a good teacher and master. He is getting old though and I get the feeling that he would prefer to be without all the responsibility that he has shouldered.” Leaning against the well he beheld Brynach pouring another bucket of water over himself. “But something changed when Lord Elad came back. Father always spoke of how close Sir Amig was to Sir Elad. Maybe he will quicken once again thanks to Sir Elad’s return.”
“I doubt men like them could give up even if they wanted to. I think that we are all stronger than we know.” Brynach raised his arms yet again. “Heads up,” he said and poured its content over Yraen.
Sputtering from the surprise as much as the cold, he didn’t hesitate but dove straightly for Brynach’s waist and bore him to the ground. “You little fiend, I’ll teach not to sucker punch me while I help you with your work.” Saying so, he threw a punch towards Brynach’s stomach.
“Good help you were,” Brynach groaned and locked his feet around Yraen’s waist, throwing them around in the mud. “What are you? A cat? Afraid of some water?”
A glass later, both boys were standing in front of their masters, several bruises richer and with their clothes covered in mud and hay. They had both received severe reprimands and Lord Amig had assigned a whole heap of menial shores to the two miscreants that would take well into the night to complete as befitted the two young idiots.