Friday, January 28, 2011

Amendment to the previous wiki related post

I had clicked the wrong option when I created the wiki--the option that means I have to shell out money to keep the wiki and the blasted thing wouldn't let me change it.

So I exported my pages (links, included), deleted the wiki, created a new one and cut and paste it back up.

So, the new URL: The Epic Ignatius Wiki

I am still adding information to the wiki and am back to writing the story. The other wiki--for the fantasy romance novel--isn't nearly as far along. It might end up as a repository for all my Regency knowledge, however. It's a bit more efficient for this kind of organization than a blog.

Sometimes, technology is wicked awesome.

If you were to do a wiki, what would it be on?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I may have mentioned a few posts ago that a favorite author was putting together a wiki for her entangled series.

I decided to try my hand at doing one as well. In fact, I'm doing two.

The first one (and more complete) is for Iggy. It's so I can keep track of the characters, the settings, and all the little historical bits in a more easily searchable sort of way. I'm linking it here:

Iggy's Wiki

You won't be able to edit anything, but if there's anything you may know or have seen (YouTube clips, links, pictures) that I don't have up, let me know via this blog (and not email, which will be lost and forgotten) and I will gladly add it in. Feel free to explore it.

Also, I'm doing a wiki for that romance novel trilogy I tried to write as well. Will link it when it's further along.

Also: I have got to stop biting my nails this year. I keep getting sick from work and the nail-biting is finally becoming a health problem, which takes away from writing. Any advice?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

This is the last part written during NaNoWrimo for this story. It's not connected to anything else written--though nothing really seems connected at all because hey, no chapters, no transitions--but this scene takes place about twenty years after the end of the last part. 
It's what I call the Backstreet Boys in Tudor England.

Isabel heard a wheedling cry from the next room. The baby, Robbie, had been christened a few days before. Iggy, in his one coherent act of the last week, had asked her to stand as godmother, along with his mother. The baby's godfathers were three-fold: his grandfather Robert, his great-uncle John and Tom Winters, who had been allowed to return to Scour for the baby's christening.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In the humid, stuffy heat of a July day, with warm liquid gushing from between her thighs and pain that gripped her belly and back with an ever more ferocious frequency, Margaret Collins FitzClement prayed, silently and aloud. Her mother had given her her rosary beads to grip. She gripped them so tightly her knuckles were turning white. Margaret gritted her teeth every so often, but even so, she kept the prayers focused.
            St. Mary, Mother of God, please intercede with your beloved son to get me through this ordeal.
            St. Agnes, saint of women, please protect me and watch over me as I go through this woman's time.
            St. Margaret, your namesake asks for your protection.
            The midwife entered the room in a rush. She untied the knots in Margie's braid and the knots in the heavy drapes and bed curtains so the babe would not get tangled in the cord inside and then demanded, in a stern voice, that the maids bring her clean linen, a basin of water, and some ale. Lady Mary took her place beside her daughter.
            "Can we—can we not open a window, please?" Margaret gasped after a particularly hard contraction, her face red and her hair matted with sweat.
            "Hush, child," Mary replied. "If we open the windows, evil vapors will harm you and the child."
            "But—but 'tis July. It cannot be cold. Please," Margie said in a wheedling tone. "I feel as though I should suffocate. It is so stuffy in here."
            "May I, Mrs. Braxton?" Mary asked the midwife.
            "Can't do any harm," the midwife said. "Open it. An oven ain't no good for a laboring woman."
            Mary went to the single window in the chamber, opened the shutters to emit clear sunlight and then unlatched the window. A stale breeze entered.
Ignatius was below in uncle Robert's office, carefully writing out some correspondence. He now acted as Robert's secretary, taking notes, making suggestions on some equipment for the land in Durham, and reading and writing Robert's mounding correspondence.
            He heard a knock at the door and gave an absent, "Come in."
            The door opened. "Iggy?"
            Ignatius glanced up and saw Isabel's face peering in.
            "Hullo, Is. Is anything the matter?"
            "Lady Mary sent me down to tell you that Margaret has begun her labor."
            Iggy put the quill back into its holder and rubbing his inky fingers together, said, "Her time has started?"
            "Aye. But her water's not broken yet. The midwife and Lady Mary are with her."
            "Oh, Lord," Iggy breathed. "Thank you, Isabel. I…I…"
            "Apparently, first births can take many an hour. Finish your letter." Isabel left, closing the door behind her. Iggy reached for the quill, glanced down at the letter, and found that he could not remember what he had been about to write. His wife. His child.
            The door opened again and jubilant uncle Robert walked in, a grin a mile wide on his face. Holding out his arms, he said, "Come away, Iggy. That can wait. Your son is about to be born."
            Iggy rose, equal parts happiness and trepidation. "Isabel just came and told me. Is Margie far along in her labor?"
            Robert shrugged. "I've no idea. Women's business." He gestured Iggy to follow him and led out of the study door, to a sitting room upstairs. "Margie's in the other wing. Your aunt is with her." He found two glasses and a decanter of golden-colored liquid. "Times like these, lad, this needs to be drunk."
            "Is that mead?" Iggy asked, settling down, hands locked together between his knees.
            "No. It is whisky. Imported from Scotland. 'Tis the one thing the Scots do well," Robert remarked dryly, upstoppering the decanter and pouring a small measure in each glass. "They call it something unpronouncable, in their own language. Called uishe beatha. 'Water of life.'" He gave one glass to Iggy and raised the other one. "Sip, don't drink. I give a toast, to my new grandson and for the well-being of my daughter!" Then Robert knocked back the water of life in one fell swoop. Iggy tried to emulate, but his throat began to feel burned as the whisky ran down his mouth and trickled into his throat. He drained his glass at a slower pace than his uncle.
            "So..."Iggy said when he felt able to speak once again. "Is this what one does when one is waiting on a child to be born?"
            Robert considered. "Aye. Go about your business. A first child especially can take a long while to be born. My Bridget was nearly seven hours in the coming. You certainly took a while as a well. Drink. Eat. Read. Go riding. Different men deal with it in different ways."
            "Do you what will be going on in Margie's chamber?"
            Robert shrugged. "Screaming, moaning, bleeding…"
            "Think of it. Squeezing a baby out of her cunny." Iggy cringed. "Exactly, lad. 'Tis a primal business, according to my lady wife. And husbands are not a part of the process. We've done our parts, haven’t we?"
Isabel, as a maiden, was not allowed in the birthing chamber, for which she was profoundly thankful. She's been only a young girl when her sister Eleanor's first children were born. She remembered Martha having to sit outside in the antechamber then just as Isabel was doing now. Every once in a while, the door would open and a maid would go flying out to fetch something. Isabel kept stitching the swaddling bands and the blankets that she, Margie and Lady Mary had been unable to finish.  
            A maid brought some ale for the midwife and Lady Mary and a meal for Isabel. She glanced outside. The sun had been in position for noon when Margie's labor had started. Now it sunk lower, the rays slanting through the window and blinding Isabel temporarily.
            That was when the screaming started. Isabel heard voices on the other side of the door, then a keening. It grew in strength and then gathered, becoming a full scream.
            Isabel pricked herself with the needle. She hadn't done that since she first learned how to do needlework. She continued on, concentrating on the straight stitches she must make, trying in vain to block out Margie's screams.
            If this was the way birthing went, then perhaps Isabel could see why women became nuns. At least, then, they had a modicum of choice in their own lives. Then again, there were women like Sister Benedicta, who made a choice to take vows after giving birth.
            Another scream, this one more harsh, for it sounded as if Margie was running out of voice to scream.
            "Miss," a maid said. Isabel glanced up, blinking her weary eyes. "Supper is being served. Shall I bring a tray up for you?"
            "Thank you. Yes," Isabel said. "Are the men eating?"
            "Yes, they are."
            Isabel gave a nod. "Send up a tray and tell them that the birth seems to be progressing."
            The maid bobbed and went to do as Isabel bid. Through the wooden door, Isabel heard the midwife's voice, urging Margie on. The keening noise continued on. Then another ferocious scream, which seemed to subside only because Margie lost her voice.
            Isabel lit two candles and continued sewing the last of the unfinished swaddling bands. From inside the room came a feeble cry. Isabel looked up and stared at the door. Could it be? Had the child been born, finally? She estimated nine hours, nearly.
            The cry grew stronger and louder in volume. A moment later, the door opened and Lady Mary, blinking, came out, beaming.
            "Oh, Isabel!" She exclaimed. "Go to and tell my husband and Ignatius that a little boy was born."
            Isabel immediately stood, her back protesting. "A son?"
            "Yes," Lady Mary said. "Go! The baby is being bathed now."
            Isabel dropped her sewing, forgetting to secure the needle in the cloth, and lifting her skirts, ran off. She asked a maid where to find the men. The maid indicated the main hall, where Isabel found Robert staring into the empty fireplace and Iggy, reading something by the light of a branch of candles. Both looked up as she dashed toward them.
            "A son! You have a son, Iggy!"
            Iggy stood up quickly. "A boy? How is he?"
            "Lady Mary said they're bathing him at present and from the sounds of him, he sounds right lusty," Isabel reported.
            "My hearty congratulations, lad," Robert said, clearing his throat. He signaled to a servant. "Bring some good wine. We'll toast the newest boy!" The servant quickly returned with a rich Gascon wine and Robert poured some for Iggy, Isabel and himself. Each of them, holding up their goblets, drank to the health of mother and child.
            "Ah, lad," Robert said. "You've done what I could not." Isabel, finishing her measure of wine, disgustedly wondered if all men only wished for boys. Who would birth all the boys to grow into men to wish for only boys, if not for the little girls born?
            Isabel led Iggy and Robert to the antechamber where she had stayed the whole day. The door was still shut.
            "Soon," Isabel told the men and once again, eased herself into a chair and took up her sewing again. Just minutes later, the door opened. Mary, smiling, gestured Iggy inside.
            Margaret was sitting upright on the bed, bolsters supporting her, her hair loose and brushed. But her face was pale, tired and wan. Beside her on the bed lay a naked, red-faced baby on a blanket. Iggy bent over to study him, for the boy had been left unwrapped for his father's approval.
            He was a father. Iggy felt wetness at the corners of his eyes. His son had ten toes and ten curled fingers. His parts looked to be the correct size and in the correct order and places. The child was no longer crying from the indignity of being born, but was glancing around, his eyes a milky blue. A few sparse brown hairs covered the crown of his head.
            Iggy looked to Margie. "Thank you so much, Margie. I can't…I can't tell you how proud I am."
            A faint smile appeared across her face. "He's perfect, isn't he?"
            "He is," Iggy agreed. "What shall we call him? We had a spate of names. Which one do you think he is?"
            Margie frowned. "He looks like a Robbie to me."
            Iggy looked at his son. The boy did, indeed, despite a head that looked red and squished, have a look of his grandfather about the small nose and the rosebud lips.
            "All right," Iggy said. "Welcome to the world, Robert FitzClement."
            Mary wrapped the child up and using the swaddling bands that Isabel had completed only hours before, wrapped the child up into a bundle. Then Sir Robert was allowed in to see his newest namesake.
            Mary held the child close to her husband.
            "A fine boy," Robert finally said. "Even has some hair. Margie was bald as an apple when she was born."
            The men left the birthing chamber to the women then. Isabel visited with her friend and the new baby, cooing to the child. The midwife showed Margie how to put the child to her breast and then, after a payment from Lady Mary, left. Soon, with a maid assigned to the child should he cry, everyone left the room and let the new mother rest.
            Before he went to sleep that night, Iggy wrote two missives.
            Dear Brother Clement,
            I am now a father. My wife has just given birth, at approximately four hours after Vespers, to a healthy baby son. We have named him Robert FitzClement, to be called Robbie.
            Your son,
            Dear Sister Benedicta,
            Mother, I write to inform you that Margaret has given birth this night to a healthy baby son. His name is Robert, called Robbie.
            Your Son,

            When Sister Benedicta received the note early the next morning, she laughed, then wept. She, a grandmother. She, who should never have had a bloodline to go on after her, now did. In between the canonical hours and masses, Benedicta went to the altar and lit a candle. As light began to strengthen, she prayed for her little grandchild. She prayed that he was a healthy child, that he would thrive, that he would grow to be as intelligent as Ignatius, that he would grow up to be kind.
            From behind her, several yards down the nave, the church door opened. Though it had been a stuffy week, even for July, so notable that it had been written in the chronicles for the year, a light breeze entered the church. The candles flickered.
            At Collins Hall, Margaret Collins FitzClement could barely open her eyes. When the midwife returned with some herbs to brew a tea, to ease the body back into regular health, she gave a gasp as she turned up the sheet.
            The girl was still bleeding, a slow, ominous trickle of blood, deep red. Womb blood. The afterbirth had come out fine, sliding out as it should have. Perhaps something had torn. The midwife asked for cloths to stopper the bleeding, for some women simply bled a little longer after a birth and they survived to be churched and even go through the ordeal again.
            She was given simple, nourishing broth and mulled wine. Margie had milk, so baby Robbie was able to gain his nourishment as well.
            Iggy visited, sitting on a chair instead of on the bed, for Margie still looked rather pale and delicate.
            "How are you, love?" he asked. He gave his son one of his fingers. The baby grasped it as if he would never his father's fingers go.
            "A bit better," Margie replied. "I should be right as rain soon enough." She glanced at the child. "It took him a long time to be born, but he's perfect, isn't he?"
            "He is," Iggy said in laughing agreement. "But you must be bored stiffless in here."
            Margie rolled her eyes, agreeing. "I asked the midwife to open a window, for it was so hot and gloomy in here. She said it would give us ill humors, but indeed, the ill humors were present already, what with the darkness and all."
            Iggy grinned. "Isabel says confinement is a silly custom. At least the shuttering of the windows part, anyhow."
            "It's been boiling hot all week, according to Isabel and Mother. How did the midwife expect me to give birth and toil away without some air and wind?" She sighed. "I've missed your company a great deal."
            "It may be too soon to say it," Iggy began. "But with the next babe, we'll have to break some conventions."
            "It is far too soon to say it."
            Robbie cooed and snuffled. Margie's eyes drifted closed again.
            "I'm sorry, Iggy. I'm so terribly tired."
            "Of course you are," Iggy said soothingly. He stood and leaned over, kissing her on the forehead. "Rest. I'll see you soon."
            Iggy could not have known that that was the last time he would ever see Margaret alive, ever again.
            It happened slowly, for which later, in reflection, Iggy would be thankful for. The small trickle of blood that had been seeping out of Margaret had soaked the sheets below her. Mary discovered the horrific sight, the sheet below her daughter heavy with thick, red blood.
            Mary, who had suffered stillbirths and miscarriages, had grown immune to the sight of her own blood soaking the rags meant to absorb the viscous, tangy-smelling liquid, but to see her daughter's sheets soaked thus made her gasp, a hand reaching up to cover her mouth.
            This was not in the normal range of post-birth bleeding.
            It came quickly. Margaret fell into a deep sleep. By nightfall, she was gone. Isabel sat beside her friend, the baby in her arms, and cried. Margie had not even had the chance to hear extreme unction.
            Isabel heard rushing feet. Iggy. He sputtered. "Truly? She's gone?"
            Isabel cried harder and nodded. The baby, asleep in his swaddling bands, did not know anything about the grief in the room. Iggy stepped closer. He saw, by the light of a branch of candles, that Margaret was not breathing. She was waxy-looking, eyes closed. Shadows had crept under her eyes and her nose was begininng to look pinched.
            "Why?" Iggy said, his voice breaking. "We were finally…she and I despised each other for so long…"
            Isabel remained silent, rocking the baby.
            "We had a son. We had done something uncle Robert hadn't done: have a thriving son." Iggy wiped his eyes. Inwardly, Isabel frowned. There was too much Uncle Robert this and Uncle Robert that for her liking.
            Lady Mary appeared, eyes red and blotchy. "Come along, son. The women have to wash and sew her into her shrift." She sniffled. "Isabel, would you be chief mourner? We haven't much time in this heat and her sisters will not make it. You were her best friend."
            Isabel nodded, the tears welling up in her eyes again.
            Mary sighed. "Good, that's settled then." She placed her hands on Iggy's shoulders and then urged Isabel, with the baby, up. Ushering them out of the door, Mary said, "Take him to the study. Then write to Father Walter at St. Osana's. The funeral mass must be soon."
            "Yes, ma'am," Isabel said, in a voice filled with grief. "Come on, Iggy," she whispered. Iggy walked the corridors of the house with her, stunned. Sir Robert was in the study, drinking an amber-colored liquid from a tumbler. He did not even look up as they came into the room.
            "Here," Isabel said, offering the bundled child into Iggy's arms. "I'll write to the priest." Iggy stood stock still. "Iggy? Iggy, take the babe."
            He shook, trembling, and then took the sleeping baby into his arms. Isabel quickly prepared a quill and ink, pulled out a fresh sheet of paper, and wrote to the priest. She sanded the message and gave it to a footman, with crisp instructions that it be delivered immediately, even if one had to beat down the good father's door.
            Then Isabel ordered a maid to bring some bread and cheese. They may not have felt like it, but they had to eat something.
            "Oh, God," Iggy muttered. "What will we do with the child? No milk for the baby."
            "Wet nurse," Isabel replied. "Ah, here's the food. Eat."
            The funeral cortege for Margaret Collins FitzClement began with the lead-lined coffin, which had been lying for a vigil in the Collins Hall main hall, being placed on a carriage. Isabel, draped in hastily bought black crepe, as chief mourner, walked behind the coffin. Some of Margie's women followed her, then Lady Mary, Sir Robert, and Ignatius. They processed from Collins Hall through the small strip of cottages and shops in Scour, past the village green and the village well and up the slope toward St. Osana's Church.
            Pallbearers stood ready to take the coffin into the church. They set it down in the nave near the altar, where the priest stood ready. Ignatius felt bleary-eyed, for he had not slept since Margaret has passed.
There were some people there, he registered, besides the procession. He saw the figures of two nuns and a monk standing in the nave. After a few moments of looking at the white habits, Iggy registered that the nuns were his mother and his cousin Agnes, while the monk was his father. Iggy kneeled with the rest of the procession in the nave and crossed themselves before the women stood on one side and the men on the other. In addition to his father, Iggy noticed his uncles Richard and John. His aunt Cecily was standing behind his mother on the other side.
The priest began his homily, quoting in rapid Latin the Gospels, when they spoke about Jesus going to his death at Calvary. His Son had died for the sins of all Christians and now, they gathered here to consecrate their sister and daughter, Margaret FitzClement, to God. The priest briefly mentioned that she had died as many women did, in the most natural act of giving life to a small, defenseless babe.
Iggy thought there was nothing natural about an act that caused so many to lose their lives. Anger, ever present within him, gathered force. Margaret had only turned seventeen; Iggy would be sixteen in a few months. Many women were married, wedded and bedded, by this age, but not all women were the same. Isabel, at fourteen, still had the willowy look of a prepubescent girl. Margaret had been lush; her breasts had been large, her hips wide, it was thought, wide enough, to birth a child.
That was why the bedding ceremony had taken place late last year.
Their relationship had thawed, from tentative friendship that made the best of a situation neither had wanted, to true friendship. Iggy tried to remember the conversations they had had together, the times she had made a joke, or the times, even in the winter, that they had gone riding in the early mornings together. Then there were the nights they had made love--so few times. She had become pregnant quickly.
It was supposed to be a good sign, that.
Iggy shook his head, realizing that the congregation had moved on to the Lord's Prayer. He recited the Latin along with the rest, mumbling the words really, for he did not know if God heard his prayers now. Then, wincing, he sent an apology up to God for his blasphemy. It was wrong to doubt God. He worked in mysterious ways.
But if you had to do this, Iggy thought, could you not have kept Margie and I despising each other? This hurts too much.
God did not answer.
The funeral ended, a lone male solo singing the "Ave Maria" as the pallbearers once again picked up the coffin and moved it along outside. The attendees shuffled out, pooling in the church's porch.

"How is my grandson?" Benedicta asked Robert, her face long and her clear blue eye muddled by redness from crying.
"He thrives," Robert replied. "You heard?"
"Ignatius sent me a note to tell me," she replied.
"Ah," Robert said. "He would. He is considerate like that." He glanced down at his hands. "It wasn't childbed fever. She wasn't...feverish. At least that's what Mary says. She merely...bled too long."
"And bled too much."
"Aye," Robert replied. Their brother John, who towered over Benedicta, had approached them. John was Margaret's godfather, the baby having been born the same year that Robert took John out of seminary. It had proven a wise choice, for John had been a conscientious godfather. "Thank you for coming all this way, John."
John nodded. "Of course. My one godchild. Your daughters could not make it?"
"Nay. It was judged that coming from Northumberland and Durham would take far too long, even by water. And with this awful heat..." Robert sighed, wrinkling his nose. "Best it were done quickly."
"It has been beastly hot," John agreed. He threw an affectionate, sad smile in his younger sister's direction. The two had been thick as thieves as children, having spent time in the nursery together. John was only two years older than Benedicta.
"We'll have to find a wet nurse," Robert added. "And baptize the babe."
"And my son? How is he coping?" Benedicta asked, a concerned mother as always.
"He shock. As are we all," Robert replied. "I must go. I..." He shook his head. "I have forgotten what I was going to say." He made the sign of the cross. "Bless me, sister. And bless your son. Pray for him."
"I will," Sister Benedicta replied. She also made the sign of the cross in the air and murmured, "Peace be with you," in Latin. But she doubted that peace would ever have the same meaning for her poor, vulnerable son ever again.
John stayed to visit with his younger sister, the girl he had both watched as a protector and had tormented and teased. They shared bright blue eyes and impish grins. They had both been relegated to the Church by their imperious elder brother. The difference was, at the time, John was sincerely devout, whereas Alice sunk into doubtfulness.
"I feel powerless to protect him," Sister Benedicta said as she and John walked in the kitchen garden, which was green with vegetables and herbs for the priory kitchens. "My poor, poor son. He is only fifteen years old. He should never have had to go through something this horrific."
John continued to stare at his feet. "You think the consummation commenced too early?"
"She is dead, is she not?" Benedicta replied. "I have no power to say anything in my own son's life. I asked Robert not to betroth him so young."
"Robert works in mysterious ways."
Benedicta snorted. "Oh, aye."
"Ally," John said, reaching out for her hand. The use of her childhood name brought a
fond smile to her face. "What's done is done."
            "Yes, unfortunately," she agreed. "You look well. I assume Robert keeps you busy in York."
            "He does," John replied. "I seem to have a business acumen I never suspected in my growing up years. I oversee his interests, what will be your son's interests."
            "They should have been your interests," Benedicta said. "And he could have left my son be."
            John tilted his head and squeezed her hand. "Ally, love, truly. In your heart of hearts, without Robert's sponsorship, where would your poor grieving son be right now? An apprentice? Studying for the priesthood?"
            "Perhaps. Yes."
            "What about Robert are you concerned about?"
            "His control," Benedicta spat out.
            "Your son is a good, honorable boy—all credit to you and his father, for he could have been a hellion or a resentful brat, under the circumstances."
            "Yes, I know."
            "You may be right, sister, in saying that he is facing pain that he is not ready for," John admitted. "With guidance, he will be fine."
            "With Robert's guidance?" Benedicta said in disbelief.
            "His. Yours. His father's. Mine."
            "You I trust," Benedicta replied, squeezing his hand. "Robert, I've never been sure of, yea or nay."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Iggy's betrothal

As his guests watched the juggler perform amazing feats on the other side of the hall, Robert leaned casually toward his brother Richard.
            "So," Robert said. "About the Routh girl?"
            Richard nodded. "Yes. Thirteen now." Richard grabbed his cup and took a long sip of the excellent wine. "Time to at least think about her future."
            "Marriage, obviously," Robert replied. "Unless…is there a vocation to the Church there, you think?"
            Richard snickered. "Alice says Isabel's closest friends at the priory are Ignatius and a boy called Tom Winters—lately gone to apprentice in Thirlby. That girl has no inclination to be a nun. If she does, what if she goes the way Alice and Mary did?"
            Robert gave his brother an evil look. He was mildly surprised that Richard did not drop dead right at that very moment.
            "So marriage it must be," Robert said. "And you're right, it's too never too early to look for a husband. Have you anybody in mind?"
            Richard chewed his bottom lip. "Eleanor does. She's most eager to have the girl wedded and bedded. More eager than I, in some respects, for I cannot make too many rich alliances with only one chit."
            "Well, sometimes, you only need the one rich alliance," Robert responded.
            "Truth. I have not anybody specifically in mind, no. Can you think of anyone? You've done brilliantly with all of our marriages."
            Robert took the compliment. Casting an eye about the room, the juggler still entertaining, some dancers moving to a lively tune, he considered the neighbors. No, none of them would bring the sort of alliance Richard wanted—one that, no doubt, included land and an income and someone who would be beholden to Routh in some way.
            "No one is Scour really qualifies," Robert finally said. "Perhaps one of the priory lads? The ones who are sent there for education?"
            "Perhaps," Richard said in a dubious tone. "But are not those lads mostly headed to Oxford or Cambridge? To become priests and monks?"
            "Some. Not all. Some are merely scholars, like our brother Thomas."
            Richard scoffed. "Thomas is paid handsomely, I gather."
            "Well enough," Robert snapped. "I cannnot think of anybody in Routh who could marry the girl and improve her station."
            "I don't want her to rise too far. Perhaps that wool merchant from Thirlby?"
            "Thirlby of Thirlby?" Robert said. "Hmm. He is well-connected."
            "If I can marry her off by the time she is rising sixteen or seventeen," Richard reasoned. "Then Thirlby will still only be in his middle thirties. Time for children yet. And think of it, Routh being connected to the wealthiest wool merchant in Humberside! We've sheep a-plenty."
            "Hmm. It will be useful for me as well and brother Edward," Robert said thoughtfully. "Will you approach him soon? You wouldn't want him to marry someone else in the meanwhile. He is an eligible bachelor in these parts."
            "True," Richard said thoughtfully. "Eleanor's sister Joan, my other ward, is to be married off soon." He paused. "Second cousin of theirs. Apothecary in Hull."
            "Well done."           
            "Ah, 'twas nothing to do with me. The aunt Joan was sent to has been ailing, most severely," Richard said in a tone that implied that he wished the aunt would just die already. "So Joan has been dealing with the apothecary quite a lot." Richard narrowed his eyes. "She's a pretty chit, eh, that Isabel?"
            Robert seeked her out in the gathering. He found her clapping along to a song the musicians were playing, a lively jig. She was dressed plainly, but the dress emphasized her budding shape. Isabel's hip were still boy-straight and Robert rather thought that her bust was still flat as well. But her headcovering disguised what Robert knew was long, flowing blond hair and her skin was milky-white and perfect.
            "She is," Robert agreed. "She should reel in a husband right quick once she is older and more capable of breeding. You said Eleanor was most eager to marry her off quickly."
            Richard made a face. "Eleanor is eager to see her sisters settled into their own lives and out of our pockets—that's what she said."
            Robert gave a silent nod. "Perhaps you could sell her wardship?"
            "Perhaps," Richard said. "Would your earl be willing to take her on? Or perhaps yourself?"
            Robert gave a grin. "I've married my daughters off. I could do the same for her."
            "Yes, you could."
            "When Ignatius and Margaret are officially married, then," Robert said. "Then I will take your wardship of the girl and bring her here to live. Staying cooped up in the priory will give her a frigid, nun-like disposition. Most unappealing."
            Richard grinned. "Not useful for the begetting of heirs."
            Robert wondered if Eleanor wanted her sister away from their money, from their care, for another reason besides money.

            "I despise you," Margaret hissed to Ignatius on All Saints' Day, 1514. She was in the carriage beside her mother, while Iggy and Robert manfully rode their horses on either side of the vehicle. His breath coming out in white clouds, Iggy barely registered Margaret's hissed insults. They were riding to St. Osana's for Mass.
            Besides, since their betrothal, the girl had been telling him that she despised him at least once a day. Haughty bitch.
            St. Osana was near-full. The altar had candles burning, the denizens of Scour and the outskirts gathered in rows: the gentry at front, the others in the back in neat, standing rows. Robert swept down the center toward the front, the ladies and Iggy following.
            Margaret had good bearing. She stood with her back straight, gliding across the floor. Physically, she was attractive: regular features and a ready smile when she felt like displaying it, which was never. She had medium brown hair and wide blue eyes. The dresses she wore were tight about the bust and Iggy had often caught himself wondering about the size and heft of her breasts. But her personality curdled any kind feelings he might have had about her.
            Mass was familiar and mysterious; 'twas the feeling he always had about the Mass. The Latin words, understandable yet lending a mysterious air to the proceedings. The call and responses. Then, the ultimate climax, when the priest raised the host. Iggy's heart pumped harder at the sight.
            As he lined up to take Communion, he eyed the glass window of St. Osana rising from her stone coffin. He no longer feared her story as he had when he was younger.
            After Mass, he had a few brief moments to greet his mother. In her ceremonial white habit with the black overskirt, her cheeks particularly red from the cold, Iggy bowed to his mother and then said, "His sermon was stirring."
            "It should be," Benedicta returned. "How goes it with Margaret?"
            "She hates me."
            Benedicta frowned. "How so?"
            "She told me. Tells me so everyday. 'I despise you,'" Iggy said, the latter in a falsetto.
            "I don't wish my only son to have an acrimonious marriage," Benedicta said. "Be kind to her. Be patient. She is likely as confused about these unwanted circumstances as you are—even more so, because she is a girl and she will, in due time, have to submit to you in order to beget children."
            Iggy pulled a face. Benedicta stifled a laugh.

            "Margaret?" Iggy asked quietly, approaching the girl—his betrothed—in a gingerly manner. It was New Year's Day and while the festivities at Collins Hall were still in full swing, Iggy found her in a gallery. The closest people were feet away and would not eavesdrop.
            Margaret turned, the ever-present expression of disdain on her face. She raised a thin eyebrow and said, "Yes, Iggy?"
            His hands shaking behind his back, Iggy smiled, saying, "I…I have a gift for you."
            "Oh. Truly?" Her manner did not become happier or more friendly. Ice queen.
            "Yes," he said and produced the neatly-wrapped package from behind his back and handed it to her. "Happy New Year."
            Margaret took the package and unwrapped it, tugging on the ribbon to undo it. Inside, she found three small things: silk thread for her embroidery, which Iggy had bought in Hull when uncle Robert took his there for business (Iggy bought two of those, one for Margie, the other for Isabel); lute strings, for Margaret was quite accomplished at the instrument; and  two hair ribbons.
            "Thank you," she said and her voice sounded more thawed than usual. "I appreciate it so much. I've a gift for you, too. May I give it to you later?"
            "Of course," Iggy replied. True to her word, later that night, Margaret approached Iggy as he sat at a trestle drinking a flagon of mead with a neatly-wrapped package in hand.
            "Yes, Margie?" Iggy replied. She didn't even flinch when he called her that.
            "This is your New Year's present. As promised."
            "Thank you," he said, taking the package and gently opening it. Three square handkerchiefs were in there, mongrammed in the corner with "I.F." His intials. "Did you embroider these yourself?"
            "I did." She seemed pleased. "Mama suggested it."
            "Then I shall treasure them. Thank you."
            With a friendlier smile than she had ever given him, Margie left him to finish his flagon.

            "I am going to say, Brother Clement, that perhaps the time for education has ended and the time for application has begun," Robert Collins drawled to the monk on St. Joseph's Day in March.
            The frown on Brother Clement's face deepened.
            "Ignatius will turn fifteen soon."
            "I am aware how old my son is, Sir Robert," Clement said, voice clipped, barely disguising anger. "He's young yet, with much to learn."
            "Yes. But how much of that learning will come from books?"
            "I teach him from charters, scripture, maps, illuminated manuscripts and from life," Clement snapped.
            "And you've done a commendable job, Brother, but perhaps it is time to bring Ignatius under my aegis. He needs to learn my lands and my business interests as well as his wife."
            "Your daughter and my son are not married yet, sir."
            "No, but they will be. I intend to have them married before May Day. They've become friends at the very least. The timing is right. So. I'll not send Ignatius up to the priory for lessons anymore."
            That was his first order of business for the spring, to cut Iggy loose from his father and tutor. Robert knew Brother Clement hated him and he suspected that that would, in future, keep his heir apart from Robert. He couldn't have that.
            The next order of business was to buy his brother Richard's wardship of the Routh girl. Before the week was out, before Isabel's fourteenth birthday came about, the wardship had been transferred. Robert personally went to see Isabel the day before her fourteenth year day with Iggy.
            "You are no longer my brother's ward," Robert told her.
            She sat up straighter at that news.
            "You are now my ward. I shall take you out of here and install you with my wife and daughter at Collins Hall. You shall learn the graces of a maid and then we will find a suitable husband. Are you amenable?"
            The wheels moved in Isabel's head. It was true, Richard had been her legal guardian. Was being under Robert's thumb any better? His influence was wider, true, but none of the Collins family were to be trifled with. And Isabel rather liked the priory.
            She watched Iggy, sitting across from her. With him living at Collins Hall, too, at least she could have her friend again. Tom was entirely at the mercy and whims of his boss and though he wrote letters, they were not the same as his presence.
            With great dignity, Isabel said, "I accept, Sir Robert."


Saturday, January 8, 2011

 The third week of May saw Iggy in the city of York. It was by far the largest city Iggy had ever been in and as he and Robert drew near the city's thick ancient walls, he felt his breath expel. It was the closest to home Iggy had been all spring, since they had left Scour for Routh. Now, having reached the tiptop of England--they had gone to Alnwick Castle, where Iggy had been awed by the defenses and riches in Alnwick Castle, home of the Earl of Northumberland. Then they had meandered southwards again, stopping to see Robert's daughter Anne at a country estate belonging to her soldier husband, then further down into Durham--where they had once again stayed with Elizabeth and her family--and now they were back in Yorkshire.
York City was ancient and important. The city walls had a seal carved upon them: the wide-open, white rose of York. Built on the confluence of two rivers, York was the crown jewel of the north of England. Here, Robert said, he owned his most profitable property. He owned two lots in the city marketplace: both of belonging to rich wool merchants--and he also owned a sheep farming property in the York suburbs.
"This is the center of my humble empire," Robert said, though he could not have meant "humble" in the least. Having spent near two months on the road with Robert, touring all that he owned, Iggy was beginning to see his uncle as not only a warrior, a man's man, but a shrewd businessman. 'Twas another quality his real father did not possess.
"York is, uncle?" Iggy asked.
            "Aye," Robert replied. "I make near a half of my money from those wool shops as well as my brother Edward's cloth business in Hull. And my baby brother John lives on the property outside the walls. He's my steward. Sees to the daily business of my property."
            After a quick ride down the main thoroughfare, in front of York Minster—now, this was the biggest building Iggy had ever laid eyes on, never mind Durham Cathedral—they left the city limits and after crossing a bridge, riding down a busy road a little way, Robert turned onto a smaller road, then yet again to smaller one.
            "Here it is," he called back and indeed, there was a smallish house surrounded by grazing land, the grasss dotted with sheep. In front of the house stood a youngish man dressed somberly in black. As Robert and Ignatius dismounted, the man came forward.
            The man's was outstretched. "Hello, brother," he said. "Welcome to your estate." He turned to Iggy and gave a small sort of smile. "Who is this?"
"Our nephew, Ignatius," Robert answered. "The sheep look well. And numerous."
"Aye, they are. As you can tell from the profits," the man said with a wink. He turned to Iggy and introduced himself, saying, "I am your uncle John. Be welcome to York. Have you never been here before?"
"No, sir," Iggy replied.
The man's grin was kindly and rather sweet, instead of calculating. Iggy wasn’t sure where he got that word, calculating, from except that it seemed to rather apply to uncle Richard in particular.
John Collins had been headed for a career as a priest and had gone to seminary until his brother required his strong business acumen for his own ends. John, an easier personality than his sister Alice, had agreeably put aside his own vocation and found that he had a talent for making a penny squeak. As John brought his guests inside and offered them refreshment, he looked at both Robert and at Iggy as he spoke, his blue eyes very vividly blue—and just looking at his uncle's eyes with their laugh lines crinkling forth made Iggy miss his parents, for they were also blue-eyed. He spoke in a similar fashion to Benedicta, the same rural accent, tempered by good education. Iggy realized that John moved his lips the same way that Benedicta did when she spoke. Odd, that.

The matter of Iggy's betrothal to Margaret had been wavering and unwinding in the background of this progress of two months. After all, Iggy would be the heir, but Margaret must also be married off and her dower lands were an integral part of Robert's small, northern empire. Thus, on the second day of their sojourn in York, Robert left Iggy at the house with John and ventured to the York Minster, a great Gothic pile, which had only been finished and expanded upon in Robert's own lifetime. There, he waited for the Archbishop to receive him. Robert could have waited to speak to the bishop in Hull, closer to home, but he decided to see the Archbishop of the diocese instead. The matter of affinity between Iggy and Margaret, while common enough in the lower orders and in the very upper classes, was close and the Church took cosanguinity seriously. Thus, Robert had asked for a dispensation when he married Mary; he would seek one for his heir and his daughter.
The Archbishop kept Robert waiting and when he was finally called in, the man gave him a signed and sealed parchment with tassels of large seals hanging—the official matrimonial dispensation of one Ignatius FitzClement to Margaret Collins.
Robert carefully rolled the parchment into a tube and then, carrying it under his arm, knelt at the altar and paid to have a candle kept lit for the next two months.
Thus, the moment Iggy and Robert returned to Scour, after spending three days in York, Robert went to the priory with Ignatius, accompanying him to his lessons. While Iggy scampered off to the library, his precious notebook under an arm, Robert went to speak to the prior. After a generous donation of a rather heavy pouch of coins, the Prior agreed to dispense with any objections due to the lines of affinity between Ignatius and Margaret. In truth, the great bulk of that obstacle had been removed at York, in the presence of the Archbishop of York. Thus, the betrothal could go ahead.
Margaret was told about her impending engagement by her mother, in the full fruitfulness of a Yorkshire summer, as she sat in the pleasure garden behind Collins Hall with a small piece of mending. She was not happy about the news; in fact, the girl screwed up her face in frustration, after being reminded that it was her duty and her obligation. She must be obedient toward her father, who knew what was best, and be humbled that a husband was awaiting her. After all, Lady Mary reminded her, this was a woman's lot.
Thus, the betrothal ceremony happened in the Church of St. Osana on a quiet evening in early August of 1514. Iggy was not yet fourteen, while Margaret was nearly fifteen. As they kneeled together in church to receive the blessings of the priests, a few of the priory monks and nuns at the ceremony to stand witness, Iggy and Margaret felt nothing but revulsion for each other.
Iggy found that though the Latin responses poured correctly forth from his mouth, Margaret's rather low-cut dress distracted him. With her eyes demurely downcast, her hands clasped together in prayer, Iggy found his eyes wandering to the expanse of her neck and the visible part of her upper chest.
            There was a celebration of the betrothal at Collins Hall afterwards, but before they left the church grounds, Iggy took his parents aside. Benedicta had her lips pursed and indeed, her normally shining skin looked an angry shade of pink. Iggy wondered if the marks he saw in her bottom lip were from her chewing and biting the lip. Clement seemed unflappable as usual, but as Iggy kneeled down for their blessing as he'd seen other children to in front of their parents, Clement's broad hand rested on Iggy's head for a full minute before Iggy was raised from the ground.
            "Thank you for the journal," Clement said. "I have not examined it yet. And you are to still be tutored by me for a while yet, so work on Plato, son."
            Iggy gave a tremulous grin.
            Benedicta gave a surreptitious look around, then embraced her son. Wordlessly, she held her; wordlessly, she let him go. They would not be attending the betrothal feast. Tom could not come either, as he was under the bidding of his master.
            But Isabel came, wearing a new dress and a recycled head covering.
            Ignatius and Margaret were seated beside each other on the dais in the main hall. Robert and Mary sat on either side, bracketing the two, while Richard Collins sat on the other side of Robert and Eleanor sat on the other side of Mary. Isabel, a guest, sat at one of the trestles, close to the dais. Robert gave a toast with rich, sweet, full-bodied wine, then out came the extra hired servers with platters of food, which they walked past the dais first with a flourish, before bringing it to the trestles. The dais had trenchers and cups with pitchers of wine ready. The two trestles were set up the same, the center cleared for the platters of food to come.
            The first course was laid out: an herb salad, a pottage of rabbit and leeks, and meat pasties. They were warm and when bit into, Isabel tasted spiced, chopped pork on her tongue. Delicious.
            In due time, the next course was set out. A roasted turkey with fennel, chicken with a loganberry sauce, more bread, and then, the centerpiece of the feast: a large roasted cow, providing beef for the entire company.
            Musicians played cheerful music from a corner, the sound of the lute carrying across the voices in the room, heartily drinking Robert Collins' wine and eating his perfect food.
            Even Isabel conceded that the food was excellent and of a quality better than any she had had in her life.
            The third course consisted of tarts: blackberry, strawberry, and blueberry; a blood pudding and bread pudding, which Isabel ate greedily. She eyed the company. Many, she thought, were relations of the family or else people Sir Robert knew. Some were from nearby villages, like Thirlby or Routh. Isabel thought a man at the other trestle was Tom's wool merchant master.
            As the eating ended, the people rose and the music grew louder. The trestles had been arranged so as not to impede a decent-sized dancing floor. Now, wine and ale flowed as people nursed their full bellies.
            Isabel relaxed and looked to the dais. Iggy was picking at the remnants of a tart. Margaret was sitting imperiously, staring straight ahead.
            And Richard Collins was staring directly at her. Isabel turned away.
            The feast had gone down without a hitch. The food was grand. The music was lovely. Iggy was even, by the time the large cow had appeared, able to forget that the feast was celebrating his betrothal.
            His eyes shifted toward Margaret. Though they shared a trencher, she had stringently eaten from her side of the trencher, picking the good bits delicately with her two thin white fingers. She did not say a word to him throughout the meal. She was like a stone, her face expressionless, mouth only opening to address a piece of food.
            Iggy heard his aunt speaking to his other aunt—Isabel's eldest sister—and Robert giving quiet orders to the manservant standing behind his chair. He heard the general hum in the room, of people speaking to one another. Even Isabel, seated at the end of the trestle closest to the dais, was eating and responding sweetly to another priory orphan—not Tom, but another lad Iggy knew well. The air was merry. Except in his place, with this block of a shrewd that was his cousin and his intended.
            A betrothal was a marriage contract. It was as good as a marriage, in fact. An annulment would be required if it was to be broken.
            The celebrations went on into the wee hours of the morning, but Iggy and Margaret were sent to bed—separate beds—toward midnight. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Today I accompanied Sir Robert on his inspections of his Bridlington properties. They are commercial properties and the rents come due on the quarter days. All of these shops relate to Bridlington's greatest trade and export, the sea. At one of the shops, a fishmonger's, I saw clams, oysters, and crabs as well as eels and, of course, mounds and mounds of fish. I made little sketches below of the shellfish to demonstrate their odd shapes.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wikispaces, a New Year and etc.

In between posting the portions of Iggy (I have no title) as I wrote it in November, I have been catching up on the various blogs I follow--finding new blogs to follow (Hello, Reasoning With Vampires)
--slowly (slowly) rewriting Iggy while doing a lot of thinking about it (Should I shorten the time setting? Why can't I ever just focus on, say, five years instead of twenty or thirty?)
--working (inventory this week. Gross)
--making plans with friends I haven't seen in what feels like forever (yay, movie!)
--playing with nieces and nephew
--and spending time with my musician cousin and my fanfic-reading cousin.

Hi, fanfic-reading cousin! *waves*

I'm finding that keeping this story in 3rd person is going to work, but the sheer multitude of characters means that I am using my separating stars (*** as a page break method) frequently. I am typing the various POVs in different colors, though. It's largely to cut down on my own confusion.

Which is where Wikispaces comes in. Sort of. One of my favorite romance authors, Jo Beverley, is putting up a wiki on Wikispaces. She's known for her very long and interconnected Regency stories, The Company of Rogues, and the Malloren family series. The Malloren series takes place in the 1760s and in addition to the actual Malloren family, she has also more recently written a trilogy that weaves in with the Mallorens--and her as-yet-unreleased trilogy is also taking place in that universe.

So she's doing a wiki for her entire Georgian universe. It's full of information on her characters and their settings, but also how the books connect. She also has research of the era up there as well. She is likely doing it to make her world and research organized and comprehensible.

I've been wondering how to make the research for Iggy's story easier to keep track of, as well. Things like linking to Google Books or to Wikipedia or to other links, including pictures, in addition to character bios and a timeline. I have it all written down, but it's not exactly easily searchable, and I have a ways to go in terms of research. Having it all in one place would be cool.

But do I want to go through the effort of a wiki or just write the damn thing?


This is where the journal entries started.

You become desperate, trying to hit word count every day :)

In Routh, in the priory's nuns' dormitory, Tom Winters sat across a table from his tutor Brother Bernard and his caretakers, Sisters Benedicta and Catherine. Now fifteen years of age, the lad was well into the higher five-foot range, his body rangy and thin but strong from years of mucking out stalls and exercising horses.
            "Did you have a trade in mind, Tom?" Sister Catherine asked.
            Tom's fifteenth birthday had passed in December. As a baby left at the orphanage, the experienced nuns had figured his age to be about six months. Thus, the prior at the time had assigned the new child the birthdate of December 22.
            Tom folded his fingers together and said, "I thought perhaps with the farrier."
            "A good option," Brother Bernard harrumphed.
            "You are very good with animals," Sister Benedicta said. "I know that there is a wool merchant south of here, in Thirlby, with strong connections to the priory and to Hull. He's looking for an apprentice."
            Tom shifted in his seat. "What sort of business is it, then?"           
            "This man owns some grazing land of his own and sells his own wool, in addition to buying the priory's wool. He also buys the wool from local farmers and transports it downriver to Hull, where he negotiates a good price for the wool to be shipped to the Low Countries," Brother Bernard said. "You already know about sheep shearing, lad, and you can have the care of the man's transport animals. 'Tis a thriving trade, sure enough, and you'll more than earn enough to keep yourself."
            "You could travel," Sister Benedicta pointed out. "You'd be negotiating with farmers for prices for the material and with the wool traders in Hull and the Low Countries."
            It did sound awfully appealing. Every spring, when it was time to shear the sheep, Tom went to the priory lands to help. He liked the process. He loved the horses, but had no need to learn anything more about the animals.
            The wool merchants he had met ranged in attitude and prosperity, but they were all rather well-off to a young orphan boy who now had to make his first adult decisions.
            Which trade?
            "I should like to meet this wool merchant you speak of, Sister," Tom said. "Then I shall make my decision. How long will the apprenticeship be for?"
            "Five to seven years, lad," Brother Bernard. "And it is most intelligent of you to see your potential master before you make a decision. Sound decision-making."
             Tom gave a quiet, tip-of-the-lips smile.
            He walked out of the meeting striding, intending to walk out of the postern wall, into the garden, and then down a path onto some of those many acres the priory owned. It had been raining earlier today, but the sun had peeked through thick, soupy clouds and it now felt even warm. Warm for April, that is.
            Tom wore several layers: his shirt, a quilted doublet, and his leather jerkin over thicken woolen hose. His blue hat lent a bit of color to him. It had quickly become a favorite accessory, for Tom was unfussy and had nearly no material objects.
            He stepped out of the postern, tramped through the garden, and onto the walking path. He would meet the wool merchant Sister Benedicta had mentioned. He would likely agree to be the man's apprentice if he seemed scrupulous and kind enough, if the man could actually teach Tom something. His apprenticeship would start very soon. Then, depending on the contract, five to seven years would be spent working and living with the merchant.
            It was a momentous decision and quite frankly, Tom realized, the one that could color and define the whole rest of his life, however many years God would choose to give him. Yet he was not of a nervous disposition.
            He decided to go see Iggy. Not Iggy his friend, unfortunately, but his rat. The rat lived in a box under Tom's bed, where the creature was fed scraps of cheese that Tom would smuggle away from the meals.
            Tom found Iggy scrabbling about in the box and gently lifted him into his palm, sitting on the cold floor of the boys' gallery. The rat's tail swished and tickled Tom's thumb.
            "Hello, lad," Tom cooed to the rat. "Enjoy the cheese from this morning, did you? Did you?"
            Iggy the rat made a sound of comfort.
            "Oh, lad, I love yo as well," Tom said in his quiet voice. "I was going for a walk down the path. Couldn't very well leave you here, eh?"
            He kept Iggy in his palm and walked downstairs, peeking his head into the study room to see some of the girls rounded about, sewing diligently. Isabel sat with a long piece of what looked like linen—a shirt, maybe?—but she was not sat there with head bent down, sewing, but reading a piece of paper.
            "Hullo," Tom said to the room in general. Isabel glanced up and smiled. "Are you mending?"
            "Aye," she replied. She took the shirt off her lap and rose, letter in one hand. "Has it stopped raining?"
            "For now," Tom conceded. "Iggy and I were going to go on a walk. Join us?"
            The rat trembled in his hand, his soft fur a most comforting feeling. Tom's fingers felt sensitive as the fur brushed his skin. One of the lasses made a face at the sight of the rat. Isabel showed no such disdain and nodded, walking toward him.
            "Just let me get my cloak," she said and disappeared upstairs to the girls' gallery. She reappeared a few minutes later, the brown cloak tied securely around her shoulders. The paper was still in her hand.
            They walked out of the orphanage and past the other priory buildings, past the kitchen, through the postern door and through the kitchen garden. Tom led the way down the path, which was a steeper climb up and down than the front part of St. Osana's hill. Iggy went into his pocket, while Tom offered his hand to Isabel.
            "What's in your letter?" Tom asked.
            "It's from Iggy," Isabel replied in her sweet soprano voice. "He wrote it from my home in Routh. He stopped there on his journey. Writes that his uncle owns land there." She turned frowning blue eyes to Tom. "Apparently, Sir Robert gained it in a game of dice. Against my uncle. My father's younger brother, who owned that land because my father likely signed it over to him to given him some property." She quirked her mouth to the side. "My family has too many children per generation. Half of the East Riding are my relations."
            Tom laughed gently. She was not lying or exaggerating. The hamlet of Routh was verily small. The name of Routh, however, was rather common in this neck of the woods.
            "Iggy's uncle is the squire in Routh now," Isabel said, wistfully.
            "The Collins seem as numerous as the Rouths."
            "Nay," Isabel replied. "Only more ambitious. Richard Collins was my father's Master of the Horse. Largely ceremonial, you know, as our village and our home is—was—quite humble in comparison to others of our station. He became close to my father. Then he married Eleanor and naturally, with no other male heirs except my first cousins, Richard is the first non-Routh to become squire of the village."
            "You sound bitter about it, love."
            Isabel inhaled greatly, then exhaled. "Bitterness will get me nowhere. But it is rather galling!" She sighed. "My humors must be out of order. My emotions are most volatile."
            "What else does Iggy write?"
            "He saw the tower above the house—it's an ancient home and the tower used to be for defense—and he wondered how one gets up there and if I ever sewed there and such." That brought a pretty, gentle smile to Isabel's face. "How he guessed, I will not know, for I did exactly that in the tower when the weather was fine." She pulled a face. "My sisters are rather…of the bicking, squawking types."
            Tom did a fair impression of a squawking chicken. Isabel collapsed into laughter.
            "I just had a meeting with Brother Bernard and Sisters Benedicta and Catherine."
            "Oh, why?"
            Tom drew himself up straight. He felt, in the pit of his stomach, that Isabel would not take the news well. She was right; now thirteen years old, her emotions were volatile. Just yesterday, she had burst into tears at supper for no apparent reason.
            "I'm to be apprenticed out soon."
            "What?!" Isabel exclaimed. She stoppped walking and turned to him. "Apprenticed?" Under her breath, she said, "But of course." In a louder voice, she said, "Where then?"
            "Not sure yet," Tom said. "It may be with the farrier or with a wool merchant out of Thirlby."
            "That's not too far," Isabel murmured. "You a wool merchant?"
            "Won't be for a while," Tom forestalled her, puzzled by her sudden changes in mood. "But, aye, I'll meet with the merchant and see if we can work tolerably well together. I've no desire to stay under the thumb of someone that I despise for five years."
            Isabel gave a small smile.
            "Are you sad, Is?" Tom asked, reaching into his pocket for Iggy the rat. "You needn't be."
            "Iggy's left, you're leaving," Isabel replied. "I am bereft of my friends."
            "Your particular girl friends are still here."
            "Aye, but as we get older, won't we all be married? Or become nuns. I've not much of a vocation for the order, so marriage is my fate." Isabel reached to pet Iggy's delicate fur with a finger. "Becoming an adult seems rather a lot of work."
            Tom laughed gently. "It is. But we've all been well-prepared here. Well taught."
            "Aye," Isabel said. "My sisters do not read well. Eleanor can read a bit better than the other three and her writing is servicable. 'Tis because of the accounts she must keep for the household. But you and Iggy are my dearest friends and you are both moving on—and I am ever left behind." Her voice sounded choked. Compassion ran deeply in Tom and it squeezed his heart now.
            "Oh, Is. You musn't think that. Iggy and I and indeed, even little Iggy here, are your brothers…in priory."
            The platitudes did not seem to help. Yet Isabel reached out her hand, palm up, to take the rat.
            "Would it help you some, Isabel, if I left little Iggy in your care when I become an apprentice?" Tom asked. "I love and adore him, but I'm not sure if I can play and care for him as I can here. I know how much you love him."
            "Truly, Tom?" Isabel replied. "Won't you miss him?"
            "Of course I will," Tom said. "But imagine that the farrier or the merchant doesn't like rats, even ones as docile as Iggy? Certainly any sheep won't like him. No, I'd rather know he was safe and loved here." He waved an arm about, indicating the landscape of the priory. "Will you keep him? I shall visit the both of you when I can."
            With her other hand, Isabel petted the small rat. Then she gave a nod. Then she rushed at him, locking her free arm around Tom's skinny frame and drawing him close. Standing on the tips of her toes, for Isabel was shorter than Tom by a head and a half, she pressed her lips against his.
            "Thank you," she said, so close he could feel her breath against his shocked, suddenly numb, lips.
            The wool merchant was named Thirlby—Edward Thirlby of Thirlby. His business dealt with not only the priory lands of St. Osana's, but the extensive lands of other monasteries and abbeys in the East Riding of Yorkshire and across the Humber in northern Lincolnshire.
            He presented himself to Tom and the sisters of St. Osana at precisely one o'clock in the afternoon.Thirlby dressed in a higher-quality nap of wool, his doublet sleeves slashed to reveal the rich linen shirt he wore underneath. He wore a red cap with a magnificant feather and his hose were decorated with subtly.
            Tom devoured the man's clothes visually. He tried to tamper down the feeling inside—greed, was it? Covetousness? But Tom longed for fine clothes and a jaunty hat and a prosperous, largely carefree life. Well, not entirely carefree, he supposed, but Thirlby seemed to have luxurious cares. The wool merchant had a fastidious look about him. His reddish hair was neat and short, his green eyes assessing and shrewd. He was clean-shaven.
            "So this is the lad you give forward to be my next apprentice," Thirlby said. "Your name?"
            "Tom Winters, sir."
            "Very good. Can you read? Write? Do sums?"
            "All," Tom replied. "I can also read and write some in Greek, but more in Latin."
            Thirlby nodded, a gleam in his eye, assessing, studying, analyzing. "Can you speak French? Dutch? Flemish?"
            "French, yes. Some French, anyhow," Tom answered. "Not so for the others."
            "That is no matter," Thirlby replied. "You'll learn soon enough. I've had two apprentices from this orphanage. One of them has moved on to become a cloth merchant's helper in Lincoln, while the other is nearing the end of his time with me. So, tell me." Thirlby leaned forward. "Do you have an interest in learning this business?"
            "I do, sir."
            "He's attended our sheep shearings every year since he was eleven," Sister Benedicta spoke up.
            "So you know sheep," Thirlby said with an approving measure in his voice. "Jolly good." Speaking to the nuns, he asked, "Is he dependable?"
            "Tom is very dependable and responsible," Sister Benedicta vouchsafed for him. "He's been taught to be both, of course, by the tenets of the Church and of this priory."
            "Of course," Thirlby responded with a flourish and bowing his head. "Discipline, too, I imagine. I'll need an apprentice ready to learn the trade but also to listen to what I am telling them, for their own sake."
            "I understand, sir," Tom replied. Silence reigned.
            Then Thirlby gave a nod. "I like this lad. I shall take him on. Has the Prior written out the contracts as of yet?"
            "He has, sir," Sister Catherine said.
            The contracts were signed and dated, a drip of wax with the Prior's signet—the cross—and Thirlby's signet—a stemmed rose and a quill—made the contract official. Tom would be under the man's care for the next seven years.

            Iggy held onto the rigging of the boat, growing slowly accustomed to the roiling of the waves beneath the ship.
            He, Uncle Robert, and the servants had boarded a skip earlier in the day from a small fishing village near Skipsea. They were headed north to Bridlington, where uncle Robert was the landlord of a block of homes and shops, then they would travel inland once again, to another chain of more manors and estates before taking another boat ride northwards to Northumberland.
            The skipper had said that the journey would be smooth, provided the North Sea waves were not terribly choppy. Iggy fervently prayed to St. Christopher for a smooth ride. This was his first time on a boat and the vessel and the water it sailed upon, did not seem as placid as the boats Iggy had seen on the River Hull, arriving with supplies, eager for some trade, at the tiny dock at Scour.
            Iggy felt his stomach lurch and he faced downward toward the ocean, praying that he would not puke. Uncle Robert, despite his age, seemed to be as perfectly comfortable upon a roiling boat as on a horse and though the man's biting tongue had calmed somewhat along their progress, he was still likely to comment if Iggy became ill.
            "Come away from there, Ignatius," Robert called. "Looking at the water will make your stomach ill! Come, have some mulled wine!"
            Iggy gave a nod and let go of the rigging, slowly making his way over to his uncle, who sat with a cup of mulled and spiced wine. Robert offered his heir a cup of the same and told him to drink slowly.
            "Wouldn't want to upset your belly. 'Tisn't used to waves, eh?"
            "No, sir."
            Robert clicked his tongue. "So many things you've yet to experience. Ah, to be that young and innocent again."
            It was not a long journey, for which Iggy was profoundly grateful, and they landed at a quay in Bridlington. Robert had lodgings arranged and as the servants unpacked and arranged the rooms, Iggy and Robert went to Bridlington Priory to attend a mass.
            Bridlington was the largest church Iggy had ever been inside of and he stood in awe at the entrance, tipping his so far backwards to see the top of the tower that his hat fell off. It was Gothic, the windows, some of which were filled with stained glass, coming to arched points and the great tower edged by buttresses. Gargoyles, mouths open in terrible horror, were visible in the elaborate carvings.
            How long did it take to make these buildings of God? Iggy wondered. He reminded himself to write that question out in his notebook, to take back to Brother Clement. In the meanwhile, he kneeled to hear Mass, made his appropriate responses in Latin, watched the miracle of bread and wine turning into the Body and the Blood of Christ, and took the Host into his mouth at Communion. Amen.
            When mass ended and as the congregation poured out of the service, Robert said to Iggy, "Have you heard of Agincourt?"
            "Of course, sir," Iggy replied.
            "This is the church where our illustrious Henry V came to give thanks for the victory. Our longbows won that battle. Then, of course, his son goes insane and loses to the House of York. The Yorks, of course, were popular here. When Richard III was killed, the City of York wrote into its records that it was saddened at the death of the king."
            "You were at Bosworth, were you not, sir?"
            "I was." Robert replied crisply. "Come, back to the lodgings. We'll tour my property on the morrow."
            In the room, Iggy opened his notebook, prepared his ink, pared down his quill pen, and then carefully wrote.
            Today I am in Bridlington, Yorks. We arrived by boat this afternoon. Bridlington is on the coast of the North Sea. We attended mass at Bridlington Priory, which was built a great many centures ago. Uncle said that after the victory of the Battle of Agincourt, King Henry V came to that priory to give thanks.
            Also, the order is Augustinian.
            I had wondered, however, how much time a builder would spend in planning and building a cathedral or a large priory as that at Bridlington. Such a massive building cannot be easily done, especially if the building is just younger than the Conquest or the Anarchy.