By The Story Lover
Preface and dedication: This story may seem familiar to you and there are reasons for that. This story is inspired by “Memories” and “A New Day Dawns” as well as the true life story of our favorite nephews THP. I want to personally thank both ACFan and Gunrunner for allowing me to write this story which infringes upon their copyrighted material. I greatly appreciate them for doing this. This story is a Fantasy it will have Dragons and Elves and sundry other Fantasy Races. It is also being written as a tribute to Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey two of my favorite Fantasy Authors. This story is dedicated to August Christopher as a continuation of his legacy.
THIS STORY IS . DISTRIBUTION FOR COMMERCIAL GAIN, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, POSTING ON SITES OR NEWSGROUPS, DISTRIBUTION AS PARTS OR IN BOOK FORM (EITHER AS A WHOLE OR PART OF A COMPILATION) WITH OR WITHOUT A FEE, OR DISTRIBUTION ON CD, DVD, OR ANY OTHER ELECTRONIC MEDIA WITH OR WITHOUT A FEE, IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED WITHOUT THE AUTHOR'S WRITTEN CONSENT. YOU MAY DOWNLOAD ONE (1) COPY OF THIS STORY FOR PERSONAL USE; ANY AND ALL COMMERCIAL USE EXCEPTING EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS REQUIRES THE AUTHORS WRITTEN CONSENT. THE AUTHOR MAY BE CONTACTED AT: The Story Lover
Chapter Three - The Story of Justin (Just')
From Chapter Two:
"Okay I don't know where to begin..."
"At the beginning" came out simultaneously from the other four.
"My name is Justin Lennox and I was born in Potters Village in Simon's Valley approximately seventeen winters ago."
My name is Justin Lennox and I was born in Potters Village in Simon's Valley approximately seventeen winters ago. I used to hear from my parents and their friends how terrible of a winter it was. It was a Blue Winter; I was told the snow was so deep and it was so cold the snow looked blue. My Father James was the Head Potter in our village under Patent from Castle Highmont to make the Royal Dinnerware. My Mother Elizabet was the Village Teacher until she died several years ago and my father followed her soon after in grief.
I was apprenticed to my father as soon as I turned twelve winters old and my legs were strong enough to power a Potters Wheel. As I learned from my father, my awe of him increased for he was truly a Master Potter. The clay that gave our village its fame was heavily laced with cobalt salts and extremely difficult to work as a result. It was my grandfather who found the secret of the clay by accident and in turn, gave our family the fame it and the village enjoys today.
My Grandfather Michael was the Village Blacksmith and Armorer. He was what is called in the trade an Artisan for not only did he make extremely durable metal works he made extremely elegant ones as well. My Grandfather had discovered the secret of attaching metals of different melting points and strengths together on a single piece of work. Until his discovery of the secret of our clay his work consisted of Shields, Breastplates, Swords and Lances of unmistakable brilliance and durability. The metal inlay and rosettes and other attachments on his shields and breastplates were unsurpassed. Unlike his imitators his attachments and inlays were fused to the underlying pieces and did not break off or fall out.
As good as my grandfather was, his fame was secured the day he tried something new. Until my grandfather tried what is now called "The Grand Experiment" the potters in our village used the abundant cobalt infused clay for only basic breakable items nothing fancy. For fine pottery they had to dig very deep for the richer finer gray clay that made a beautiful cream colored pottery and when fired hot enough made cream colored china. The cobalt infused clay made very poor pottery because the salts in it made the pottery weak when fired. The pottery was very brittle and porous, because of the cobalt salts and the pockets left in the pottery when it was fired.
My grandfather was working on a new dress shield for the King of Erehwon's Birthday and it had a large numbers of raised War Eagle and Dragon Figurines that needed to be anchored during the firing of his secret ingredient that held his attachments and inlays in place forever. As this piece was the most ornate he had ever done, my grandfather borrowed some of the cobalt clay lying around my fathers master's shop. He then applied a layer of the clay over the shield covering the surface and supporting the figurines. My Grandfather figured that the clay would only get more brittle at the temperatures he was going to use, and that it would crack off like a mold. You could have heard the shouting clear up in Castle Highmont nearly thirty leagues away. When my grandfather removed the shield from what he called the annealing furnace instead of the normal dark grayish pottery he expected to see on the shield, there was the most lustrous deepest cobalt blue finish you could imagine. My Grandfather and everyone around him were amazed and stunned! This was a totally amazing and unexpected occurrence. My Grandfather, being the brilliant and pragmatic man that he was, set to work immediately. He took the shield over to the cooling rack and left it to cool. He immediately ordered his head apprentice to bring him the shield that was to be his journeyman project. His Head Apprentice Kyle complained bitterly that it wasn't fair that without that shield he wouldn't make journeyman. My Grandfather wasted no time and turned towards The Lord Mariscal, Duke Campbell and asked "Duke was the shield and lance you picked up last week up to my usual standards?"
"Of course you dolt I wouldn't have paid you a bonus of five hundred crowns if it wasn't" answered the Duke with a slightly bemused look.
"But you paid me the bonus as it was my work, you just did the gilding and the final firings" exclaimed a totally confused head apprentice.
"With the assembled here with my witnesses I hereby proclaim Apprentice Kyle Mikasa as a Journeyman First Class effective immediately that is assuming Kyle is willing to stay and help me develop this new material and method," my grandfather announced to Kyle and the assembled crowd.
"Of course Master, I am no fool" replied a jubilant Kyle.
"Kyle go bring me your Journeyman papers you know where they are and bring the sealing wax also" while my grandfather paused, Kyle ran off to get his papers. "Master Porcel will you sign for the Potters Guild and Duke Campbell will you sign for the Kingdom?"
"If I can be the first one outside of the King to get a shield like this if you can perfect this method. I'll sign anything you put in front of me" replied the Duke with a grin, and then turned serious "It would be an honor."
"I will on one condition" answered Master Porcel.
"And what is that condition?" asked my grandfather.
`That you test it for brittleness first and I get to watch the next test" was Master Porcel's answer.
"Done and done" replied my grandfather. "And to make it a true test we will use my Battle Steel Awl and my hammer"
"KYLE!!!" roared my grandfather just as Kyle came back into the forge.
"I am right here, don't bellow" Kyle replied with his usual cockiness.
`Quiet you impudent young scamp and get me my Number One Awl, yes the Battle Steel one and my Number Two Hammer" ordered my grandfather with a smirk in his voice.
[Battle Steel is similar to Damascus or Water Steel yet slightly harder due to my grandfather's secret forging and quenching techniques. He doesn't think I know but he dips the white hot blade in diamond dust and then quenches it in his special oil. He then reheats the blade to a temperature only he knows and then quickly puts the final finish on the blade]
Kyle brought the requested items to my grandfather and then, without being asked, goes over and gets the shield off of the cooling rack and brings it over to the Master Workbench. While he was getting the shield the other apprentices were covering the bench with the padded hides that my grandfather used to cushion his best works.
"Stand back everyone" shouted my grandfather, as soon as everyone had stepped back, he placed the tip of the awl against the blue pottery surface, and gave it a fairly powerful blow with his hammer. To the amazement of everyone only a small chip of pottery flew off!
"Sacre Bleu" was the only words from Master Porcel as he went and affixed his signature to the scroll, poured a blob of sealing wax onto the surface, and stuck in his guild ring.
Duke Campbell was quickly behind him and followed his actions. However, the Duke reached into his sporran and pulled out another ring and a small ink pot. As he unstopped the ink pot a hush fell over the forge. The Duke added a notation to the parchment, then reached into the sporran once again and brought out a piece of Cobalt Blue Sealing Wax and a piece of Gold Sealing Wax. Grabbing a nearby candle he quickly and efficiently dripped the two colored waxes onto the parchment and then applied the other ring, the Seal of The Kingdom of Erehwon.
When he realized what the Duke was going to do Kyle went into shock. As he started to wobble the other apprentices stepped behind him. When the Duke applied The Royal Seal to his Journeyman Papers, Kyle promptly fainted. Luckily for him, the two apprentices were strapping young lads and caught him easily. Without caring for Kyle's dignity the two apprentices dragged him over to the common water trough and dropped him in.
The two apprentices dragged the now awakened Kyle from the trough, and then stepped away while he shook off the water.
"Thanks I think" mumbled Kyle.
"Master Lennox I will have your Patent1 delivered by Royal Messenger as soon as I return to Highmont.
"Before we go any farther let's see the results of the next test" The Duke looked around at the faces of all who were there.
Kyle and one of the apprentices quickly manned the bellows of the forge, while the other raked the charcoal just so.
As soon as the forge was just below white hot my grandfather took the shield, heated one edge, till it started to glow cherry red. He then removed the shield and placed it on his anvil, and with hammer and tongs, he quickly had a ¼" rim along that side. In the same time that most armorers would have completed only one side grandfather had completed all three.
My grandfather sent my father for more of the cobalt clay, while he was quenching the shields.
"Kyle, add more coke and coal to the blast furnace then man the bellows. I need that furnace almost hot enough to melt the Dragon Rock interior."
While the furnace was heating up, my grandfather, using his special adhesive, quickly placed a few short posts on the face of the shield to help hold the clay in place.
When my father returned, my grandfather took the clay and quickly covered the test shield to a uniform depth.
By the time the clay was spread, the blast furnace was ready. My grandfather then placed the shield on the pillar of Dragon Rock3 in the center of the blast furnace. My grandfather then instructed Kyle and the other apprentice to pump the bellows faster for a few minutes. My grandfather was watching the shield very carefully and then it happened; the clay liquefied instantly for a few seconds. Before the liquid could evaporate it quickly hardened into a lustrous blue surface. My grandfather waited for a few more moments then quickly told Kyle and the apprentice to stop pumping the bellows. He then instructed Kyle and the apprentice to open the front and rear vents while he quickly started pumping the cooling bellows which pumped cooler air into the main furnace rather than across the coke and coal mixture.
When my grandfather decided the temperature was just right he removed the shield from the furnace. He then hesitated on his way to the cooling rack and suddenly changed his direction and headed towards the oil quenching trough. Instead of the cracking sound everyone feared they would hear there were only the normal hissing sounds associated with a hot object being plunged into a cool liquid.
While the shield was cooling, the four men headed outside towards the shade of a large tree that grew outside the forge. While they were outside quenching their thirst with some cool cider, Kyle and the apprentices were cleaning up the remains of the clay and assorted detritus. During the sweeping and dusting, Kyle would walk by the cooling rack putting his hand several inches over the surface of the shield. When the shield was cool enough for Kyle to touch, he headed outside to let the men know it was ready for testing.
My grandfather came in and headed directly to the shield carefully placing his hand over the shield and then touching the shield directly. He picked up the shield and tested its weight and found that it wasn't as heavy as he had feared. This time before he tried hitting it he tried flexing the shield it only flexed slightly and no cracking of the surface occurred. Grandfather then carried the shield over to the short arrow testing range towards the rear of the forge. He then removed the target that was there, replacing it with the shield. Kyle brought over the hammer and awl, my grandfather hit the shield with the hammer first. The surface remained unblemished. Picking up the Awl my grandfather gave it a solid whack, same results.
By now the Duke was grinning from ear to ear. "Master Lennox please let me at it, I have a few ideas."
As a response my grandfather moved out of the way and started putting his tools away.
"Journeyman Kyle, will you fetch my Battle Axe from my steed?"
"At once Duke." While Kyle was fetching the Battle Axe, the Duke walked over to the bench where his new practice sword was laying in its scabbard. After withdrawing the sword, the Duke then walked over to the new shield.
The Duke drew his arms back and with a mighty swing and hit the shield square on with the blade. There was a loud ringing sound. The Duke staggered backwards slightly with the force of the rebound. The shield wobbled slightly and then fell to the floor.
While my grandfather was picking the shield up from the ground, one of the apprentices was straightening the stand as it had been knocked askew.
"Michael!!! I don't believe this but you need to put a new edge on this sword. There is now a large dull spot where it hit the shield!"
Upon hearing this, my grandfather put the shield back up on the stand, and took a very careful look at it. "Sacre' Bleu, there is not a mark on it. Let me see that sword please Charles?"
"Of course Michael, I am as amazed as you are. I have never had a sword blunt so quickly even when hitting another sword." The Duke handed his sword over to my grandfather and then started to inspect the shield. As hard as he tried he couldn't find where he had hit the shield.
"Master Lennox, this is amazing! I can't find a mark anywhere. If it can withstand being hit by my Battle Axe, then you have created something truly awesome and amazing! A work of art that is as beautiful as functional. Imagine Court Armor that is lightweight, beautiful and weapon proof. Only one more test; Journeyman Kyle my Axe" The Duke turned towards the shield on its stand where Kyle handed him the Axe.
As he walked back over to the shield the Duke cautioned "everyone step back please, I am going to use a two handed stroke" The Duke was a big broad shouldered man, who normally used a one handed stroke with his Two Handed Battle Axe. The Duke stood sideways to the shield. He drew the Axe back until it was almost behind him. With a grunt and a mighty swing the heavy razor sharp Battle Axe sped in a blur towards the gleaming blue shield.
With a resounding clang, the heavy Axe crashed against the shield. The tremendous impact sent the shield flying. The impact and the force of the rebound of the Axe sent the Duke staggering backwards a few steps. If it wasn't for the leather strap securing the Axe to the Dukes wrist, he surely would have lost the Axe so strong was the rebound. The Duke quickly secured the Axe and then began carefully checking the edge of his most precious possession.
"Incredible'! Master Lennox the edge is blunted and it usually cuts metal!!"
While the Duke was checking his axe for damage, Kyle and my grandfather were picking up the shield and placing it back on the stand and going over it very carefully.
"Kyle, do you see anything" asked my incredulous grandfather?
"No master I can't see anything wrong with it either."
"Let me see that! It has to be marked!" The Duke pushed his way in front of the shield. Kyle smartly stepping out of the Dukes way and headed towards the furnaces to make sure that they were banked properly. My father and Master Porcel edged as close as they could, to see what had happened.
"This is astonishing, I was sure that your Battle Steel Axe would chip the shield if not cut through it. I know how sharp that Axe is. It is one of my finest creations. It will shave regular steel and cut through a normal shield. This pottery is one of the hardest things I have ever seen" answered my grandfather shaking his head in awe.
"Master Lennox you are right, there is not a scratch on this, let alone a chip. This stuff is harder than granite" was the Duke's response, while checking the shield for the third and fourth time.
"Master Porcel would you like to take a look and verify that the surface is not marred or pitted in any way?" inquired my grandfather of his Guild companion.
"Yes I would and I am sure that my assistant, your son, would also." replied Master Porcel with a smirk.
"Right this way." My grandfather gave a half bow and gestured towards the shield.
"Have you decided what to call this amazing new material?" questioned Master Porcel as he made his way to the shield.
"I haven't had time to think about that yet. I am still trying to figure out what happened. Also why this pottery is suddenly a glorious Cerulean, I mean Cobalt Blue color?" Mused my grandfather as he set about repairing the edge of the Duke's Battle Axe.
"I think I have an answer to both questions father" replied my father.
"What do you think happened and what would you call it?" inquired my curious grandfather.
"Father, Master, Duke, I think it has to do with the salt crystals and the heat you fired the clay at. I think the salts melted in the intense heat and changed the clay into this new material. I think the heat of the blast furnace made the change happen faster, which made the material harder." My father paused and took a look around and saw nodding heads, and the corresponding looks of understanding. This was from everyone except the apprentices. "As to the name I think it should be `CERAMIC', `CER' for cerulean, `A' meaning by or for, and `MIC' for Michael in honor of its creator."
"Rubbish! Absolute Rubbish! It was an accident" mumbled my highly embarrassed grandfather.
"CERAMIC it is! Right Master Porcel, Journeyman Kyle? At theirs "Yes of course" the Duke continued. "Young Master Lennox I think that is a perfect name and I have an idea as to what happened. It makes sense to me, but if this blue is called Cobalt Blue, Why did you use Cerulean in the name?"
"Because it sounded better than `Cobamic'" sheepishly replied my father.
At those words the entire forge broke into laughter and the lingering tension dissipated. Everyone went back outside under the tree for mugs of cider and cool water for the apprentices. After several minutes of relaxed conversation the Duke signaled my grandfather with a look and a nod of his head. My grandfather sent the two apprentices back to the forge.
"You two finish cleaning up and then take the rest of the afternoon off, with pay. Remember you saw or heard nothing here today" my grandfather informed them with a stern look on his face.
The apprentices took one last look at the group under the tree and saw the Duke staring at them and spinning his Axe around and around.
As soon as the apprentices had entered the forge the Duke began speaking. "Masters' Lennox, Master Porcel, Journeyman Kyle; this has been a truly amazing day. A great day for Potter's Village and a great day for the Kingdom. Michael whether it was an accident or not you have created a truly amazing material. In the King's name I request that the second method of firing this new material be reserved only for the kingdom's use. I also request that the method be restricted to the group here; and furthermore that the method be handed down only within the Lennox and Porcel families. With the further stipulation that the method revert back to the kingdom if ever the family lines end. Master Porcel you have a question?"
"Yes Duke Campbell, I have an unusual request but this has been an unusual day already. My family in Roxio has been bugging me the last couple of years to move there and help resurrect the family Pottery Business in that kingdom. I would like to turn over my business here to Young Master Lennox as I feel he is ready for this challenge. I will relinquish all rights to this new material and sign whatever oaths are necessary. This way I can semi-retire and it will also keep the secret only in the Lennox Family. I will be able to enjoy my grandchildren more in my semi-retirement. There is one slight hitch to my plans though." Master Porcel paused for a moment to gage the feelings of the four other men.
"I think I know where you are going with this, and while it is an unusual request I think it will be accepted, as long as his finished piece passes muster" was my grandfather's answer to his guild friend, with a smirk in his voice and a wink to my father.
"James go and get your guild submission piece and bring it here, and we will see if we can resolve my dilemma" Master Porcel instructed my father.
"Whatever you say Master" was the perplexed answer from my father as he hurried to fulfill his master's request.
"Can I assume that we are going to judge Young Master Lennox's piece to decide whether he will succeed in your place" inquired the Duke as the situation began to dawn on him?
"Yes Duke I really didn't want to press the issue but the next Guild Masters Meeting won't be held for another fortnight. With another Royal Patent1 probably being involved, that would add more time to the process. I was hoping we could settle this today so I can be in Roxio within a month" answered Master Porcel.
"Master Porcel, like our friend Michael said, this has already been an unusual day, so what is one more thing out of the ordinary? As long as his chosen piece meets the Guild Requirements and passes my inspection and the three of yours, I don't see a problem." As the Duke finished speaking my father returned.
My father was carrying a fairly large bundle wrapped in some sort of cloth. It must have been heavy as he was walking with a measured stride. My father set his bundle down gently on the table and started to carefully unwrap the package. As the cloth uncovering the object fell away an object of scintillating beauty emerged.
What emerged was a ewer but one of unusual size and coloring. The Ewer was colored a beautiful lustrous soft white. Yet as the light changed it had a soft blue and emerald green sheen to it. What truly made the piece spectacular though were the proportions. They were perfect, the lines flowed together smoothly. Because of the perfect proportions, the visual size of the ewer was diminished.
"Duke Campbell would you mind inspecting this piece" inquired Master Porcel?
"Master Porcel I can see from here that the Ewer is a fantastic piece of craftsmanship. The finish is impeccable, the lines and proportions are absolutely stunning. I don't need to look any further....."
"I am sorry Duke" broke in Master Porcel "but I must insist that you give it a closer look. Please, also pick it up very carefully as it is much heavier than it looks."
"Master Porcel if you insist, I will although I am already genuinely impressed as far as I am concerned he is a master already. However, I will inspect it more closely since you insist." Was the Duke's measured response.
While this conversation was going on my grandfather and father were trading knowing glances back and forth. As they both knew the Duke was in for a huge surprise.
The Duke walked over to the table and looked the Ewer over very carefully. He then carefully pushed the top of the Ewer and was completely amazed and surprised that it barely budged. "What the ???" mumbled the Duke.
My grandfather, father and Master Porcel were watching with very amused looks on their faces.
"Go ahead and pick it up please Duke, and then try and pour what is inside out without pulling out the stopper." Requested Master Porcel.
The Duke struggled slightly when he first attempted to pour the liquid, as the Ewer was much heavier than he had originally surmised. The Duke picked up the Ewer and attempted to pour the liquid it contained, without removing the stopper. "Sacre' Bleu nothing is coming out" exclaimed the stupefied Duke.
"Duke if you would carefully set the Ewer down I will show you something even more amazing" announced Master Porcel while signaling my father and the look he gave my grandfather sent him into his house for something.
As the Duke carefully set the large Ewer down my father arrived at his side, and began showing the features of the Ewer to the Duke. The Duke was amazed at the seamless way the handle was formed and integrated into the body of the Ewer. "You must be a master mold maker Young Master Lennox" Quipped the Duke?
Master Porcel tried not to laugh but could not control himself, and burst out while laughing out loud "Duke you could not be further from the truth. James couldn't make a decent mold if his life depended on it"
"But then how? It is too large to turn or so I have been told." muttered the Duke now almost speechless.
My father turned a bright shade of crimson, mumbled "I turned it myself Duke on a potters wheel of my own design. I also took two weeks to find the right vein of clay and another week of mixing and kneading it to the right consistency. It took me several weeks to get the vessel you see here just right. The glaze is my own invention, but now I can see I can do better."
As my father finished speaking, he casually reached over and with a twist and an upward motion he pulled the stopper smoothly out of the Ewer. My grandfather arrived just as my father was pulling out the stopper. My grandfather then placed the four wine goblets on the table which caused the Duke's eyebrows to rise questioningly. My father then carefully raised the Ewer and filled the goblets with a superb Vintage Highmont Sangiovese.
Master Porcel raised his goblet "To the King" everyone raised their goblets and responded "The King."
As the Duke sipped his wine, he was amazed at the wonderful bouquet and amazing complexity of the wine. He usually only tasted wine of this quality directly after a barrel was broached. Before the Duke could voice his thoughts Master Porcel raised his goblet again and announced "To CERAMIC" which caused my grandfather to sputter and almost spit out his wine. The Duke slapped my grandfather on his back to prevent him from choking on his wine.
As soon as everything had settled the Duke started questioning my father "James how did you get the stopper to fit so smoothly and keep this wonderful wine from souring?"
"Well it is really simple"
"Simple???? Why has no one else done it, if it is so simple?" was the Duke's bemused question.
At my fathers answer my grandfather and Master Porcel could not control themselves and started laughing out loud as they both knew it wasn't as simple as my father tried to make it sound.
My father continued as if he had never been interrupted "I can tell you how, if you really want to know."
"Yes I do but first we have some unfinished business to take care of. Master Porcel that was a very cruel thing you did to me. You knew all along that James' project was of Master Class if not Master Artisan Class!! Trying to pull the wool over my eyes. Get the documents and I will affix my seal and the kings as well. I am sure he will want a Royal Patent1 issued also.
At which point a huge grin crossed Master Porcel face. "Sorry about that Duke, but now you know why I wasn't worried about leaving Potters Village. I am a good potter in fact a very good potter, but James is a far better potter than I am. And in fact he just keeps getting better. And yes I was going to put him up for Master Artisan status at the next Guild Masters Meeting. Enjoy your wine and James' explanation, while I go and get the necessary documentation. I will also bring back Master Draught the Cooper with me so he can affix his seal and then James will be a Master Artisan like his father."
"Master Porcel you are a sneaky old scoundrel but a good person and I like that in a man. Go ahead and get James' documents and please bring Master Draught back with you. While I find out how James sealed this beautiful Ewer so wonderfully tight." The Duke slapped Master Porcel on the back and then turned to my father "Okay Master Artisan tell me how you sealed this beautiful creation of yours."
"Of course Duke as I started to say it is very...."
"Don't tell me it is simple" snarled the Duke with a huge grin on his face belying his gruff words.
"Well after I got the proportions roughed out, I made the stopper coated the outside lightly with water then a thin coat of beeswax. I then placed the stopper in the neck and while my apprentice held it steady, I then reshaped the neck slightly to tighten the inside to grip the stopper" as my father paused the Duke spoke up again.
"That explains how you made it seem tight fitting, but how did you make it water tight?"
"Well that is my own creation I removed the stopper and then carved a groove into the outside of it. I next carved a similar but slightly shallower groove on the inside of the neck. When I fired both pieces I put a clear glaze on both the inside and outside of the ewer as well as on the stopper. I then mixed the transparent glaze with a few of the crystals from the cobalt clay and re-fired the outsides. That is where the hints of blue and green come from. After the firing I braided thin strips of leather and a cloth rope together into a ring, and then soaked the ring in melted beeswax. I then carefully rolled the ring up the stopper until it lodged in the groove. While the ring was drying on the stopper, I filled the ewer with water to test it for leakage. I left the ewer filled overnight and wrapped the stopper in wax soaked rags to stop the ring from drying out completely.
When I checked the ewer the next morning it was still filled completely. I then unwrapped the stopper and slowly slid it into place. There was a slight pause when the ring slid into the groove inside the ewer. I then stopped pushing the stopper in. I tried to turn it but it barely budged. I carefully picked the ewer up and tried to pour the water out. Nothing came out I was so surprised, I almost dropped the ewer. When I recovered I fetched Master Porcel to verify that the stopper worked. And that is how it happened. My father then turned and looked at the Duke expectantly.
"I think I understand how it works but what keeps the ring locked in the groove when you pull the stopper out" the Duke wanted to know?
"That is why I braided the leather with the cloth rope. The cloth provides the bulk to seal the opening, and the leather shrank just enough as it slightly dried out to hold the ring in. It seems to work well as long as I don't let it dry out completely."
After that explanation my father received his Mastership and Patent1 which would be complete once the documents were registered. Master Porcel started to plan his move to Roxio. The Duke began to leave and reiterated his earlier statement about the Patent's.
"Duke Campbell, I thank you for both my son and myself. You have made this a day that we will remember for a long time. I want to thank you for all of your help and the honors you in the Kings name you have bestowed on our family." humbly replied my grandfather.
The Duke made his goodbyes, mounted his horse and rode off towards Castle Highmont with his men. As they rode off into the sunset my grandfather, father and Master Porcel had a celebratory glass of wine. Master Porcel raised his glass "A toast to "CERAMIC" and my retirement"
"To retirement" was the reply from my grandfather and father.
The two families went their separate ways for supper, my father helping his father check the forges and furnaces before locking up the forge for the night.
The next several days past and things started to return to normal. Master Porcel went to the village council and had the village scribe witness my father's Guild Mastership and the signed paperwork transferring ownership of the Pottery Works to my father.
Things were going quite smoothly with the Porcel Family's preparations to move. In fact within three days they were ready to join their families in Roxio.
On the day before the Porcel were going to move a King's Messenger flying both the King's and The Lord Mariscal's standards rode into the village and headed towards the Forge. The messenger was a young teen aged girl with the proud look of someone on their first major solo assignment.
As the Royal Messenger was dismounting from her horse, Kyle appeared at the door of the forge. "Robb assist the messenger and make sure her horse is stabled comfortably and tell the hostler to give it some grain and the good stuff!
"Thank you for your assistance sir. May I inquire where Master Porcel and Master's Lennox may be found? She inquired, in a formal voice, with just a hint of softness.
"Master Porcel and Olde Master Lennox are at "The Boar's Hound Tavern" for a goodbye dinner for The Porcel Family. Young Master Lennox will be joining me there shortly. I can show you the way if you like?" inquired Kyle.
"And who may you be sir?" Was the cautious reply from what Kyle could see was a squire with the Lord Mariscal's Crest on on her Royal Messenger's Badge of office in addition to The King's. This Kyle realized was no lowly messenger but obviously a very special and trusted messenger, whose age belied her importance.
"Journeyman Kyle Mikasa at your service squire" replied Kyle with a courtly bow.
"Call me Kyle please? Journeyman makes me feel as old as Olde Master Lennox. Plus I have only been a Journeyman for a few days." Interrupted Kyle with a pleading look on his face and in his eyes.
"Since you asked so eloquently and since my messages pertain to you also, you may escort me to "The Boar's Hound Tavern" replied the young squire with a courtly bow which Kyle could never hope to imitate.
Kyle and the squire headed across the town square towards "The Boar's Hound Tavern" halfway across the square they were joined by my father.
"Evening Kyle and squire is it?" questioned my father.
"Squire Witschi at your service and you are" inquired the Royal Messenger?
"Young Master Lennox" was the smirky reply from my father.
"Thank you Master Lennox, I do have messages for you also" smoothly and professionally replied the squire with another perfect court bow.
My father was dumbstruck; here was this young girl who had put him in his place so neatly. He was still in shock.
While my father was pulling himself back together the squire continued "As soon as we meet up with the other masters I can complete my mission and return to the castle."
Kyle recovered his senses and tried to rescue my father. "Nonsense Squire Witschi, you must join us for a meal. I am sure that you are not expected back so soon. We would enjoy your company, especially since you rode such a long way with messages for us."
"Thank you for your kind offer Journeyman Mikasa but if I want to get halfway back before nightfall.................."
"Rubbish! You can stay in The Royal Messenger's Suite upstairs at "The Boar's Hound Tavern". You will still be back at Castle Highmont before the midday meal. Since the room is empty and Kyle is standing for your meal, everything is taken care of. Now please say yes before Journeyman Kyle dies of starvation" my father said as he came to Kyle's rescue.
"Since you put it that way I have no choice but to stay" replied the squire without her normal bow but just a head shake.
"I'll send one the tavern scullions to the hostler with word and to fetch your saddle bags and inform him that you will be staying overnight." Kyle informed the squire.
The three continued chatting as they entered the Tavern. As my father took the squire toward the private room, Kyle stopped at the bar and asked for the message to be sent to the stable. Kyle swiftly joined my father and the squire inside the back room where The Porcel, Lennox and Mikasa families were gathered. Joining the families were The Mayor and his Wife and The Storekeeper and his companion. After Kyle had made the introductions, the squire began to speaking.
"My name is Squire Witschi and I bear messages from The King and The Lord Mariscal. First The King's messages to Master Porcel "Best wishes on you retirement and My Goodwill" I am also to present you with The King's Token of Esteem and Goodwill." The squire then reached into her message pouch and pulled out an ornately tooled blue and maroon leather box stamped with The King's Seal stamped on the top. The squire handed the box to Master Porcel who took it in astonishment. "The King's message that goes along with the token is on this Royal Parchment also. The King personally requested that I repeat his words to you before you open the box. "With this token Master Porcel you and your family are granted free and safe passage throughout The Kingdom of Erehwon into perpetuity. Furthermore this token also allows you to stay at The Royal Way Stations and Royal Messenger Suites during your travels in Erehwon. This also includes use of the Royal Stables as necessary. Thank you for the years of service you have provided us. Signed Rafealo Forte Rex." "Please open the box Master Porcel and look at both sides of the token."
Master Porcel opened the box and started to withdraw what was inside, when he stopped and blurted out Sacre' Bleu. His wife quickly rose and supported him while looking on in awe. For what Master Porcel finally removed from the box was not the normal Royal Brass Token but one made of Royal Dragon Gold. The flickering candle and lantern light of the tavern gave the token a warm pinkish yellow glow. The room was silenced by the beauty of the token. However, a much larger shock was yet to come. Once Master Porcel recovered from his shock he announced in a wavering voice "the front side is the Royal Crest"
he turned the token over and as he started to read the inscription he suddenly turned pale and sat down quickly. His mouth kept opening and closing, but nothing but gibberish was coming out. My grandfather reached over and gently removed the token from his friend's hand, while his wife attended to her husband.
"Congratulations Master Potter of The Kingdom of Erehwon" announced my grandfather to his friend and the table.
"But I am leaving" was all Master Porcel could gasp out.
"The King knew that would be your answer and he instructed me to tell you this."Master Porcel the token is due to your countless years of humble and uncompromising service to my family and the kingdom. The quality and consistency of your work has been exceptional and has never diminished. The title is well deserved and could assist you in your future endeavors. Thank you again and may your future be as bright as our sun." The King is sorry that he was unable to come personally, as he and the Lord Mariscal are in conferences with the Elven kingdom, regarding a joint defense pact. The King would have invited your family to celebrate at Highmont, however, Duke Campbell stressed the fact that your family in Roxio was anxious; so rather than delay you he sent me, and this token of his esteem. Duke Campbell has also instructed me to convey his thanks and good wishes. He also sent word that a detachment of the Royal Guard will be arriving tomorrow morning to escort you and your family into Roxio. And before you say it isn't necessary, he said to inform you that this is the replacement detachment for our embassy in Seizaiken. Since some of them are bringing their families it is only fitting that you accompany them. Once they reach Seizaiken, the existing detachment will accompany you to your families' home in Hitachi before returning to Highmont. This will be a mini vacation for both detachments." The squire finished with a bow to Master Porcel who had absolutely no reply.
"Please convey our thanks and appreciation to the King and Duke for our family." Mrs. Porcel finally responded when her husband was unable to form a reply.
After Mrs. Porcel replied, my grandfather rose and, holding his glass of Highmont Sangiovese aloft, toasted "To the Kingdom's Master Potter, Master Porcel, Hear, hear!"
To the cries of "hear, hear" and clapping from those assembled, Master Porcel rose and bowed and then quickly sat back down, still obviously embarrassed by all of the attention.
Squire Witschi rose again and bowed to Master Porcel, and then addressed my grandfather, father and Kyle. "Masters' Lennox and Journeyman Mikasa, the King sends regards and his astonishment. He also concurs with all of Duke Campbell's recommendations and that the promised patents are forthcoming. The following words are a direct quote "Please don't shoot my Duke I need him dearly. His plan to send the patents directly was taken out of our hands, as you will find out on the morrow, 'Roberto'. And now for the Duke's Message, "Michael, James and Kyle, please accept my humblest apologies. Due to circumstances beyond my control I was unable to fulfill my pledge and although this wounds me deeply I have been assured that you will soon receive your patents and Guild Papers. 'Maxmillian'. I have been instructed by both the King and the Lord Mariscal to inform you that your patents will arrive on the morrow. Furthermore I also bear the kings compliments for something called Cer a mic I think"
At the squires last words my father turned a bright red, and while Kyle was slapping him on the back, my mother was looking at him curiously.
My father turned towards my mother "It is nothing it is all your father-in-laws fault."
"Son you tell her the truth or I will!" Was my grandfather's response.
Before my father could respond, our dinner arrived; platters of Roast Lamb and Beef, tureens of grilled fennel bulbs, mashed potatoes and cauliflower, along with another of my father's ewers of Highmont Sangiovese Wine and another of cool mixed fruit juice for the squire, the Porcel' children and myself.
"I have one other message for Young Master Lennox. The Lord Mariscal said to tell you he had to bar his door against the Royal CellarMaster."
As soon as the squire had finished speaking, the room broke into laughter, and my father turned bright crimson.
The squire turned and looked at Kyle with a curious look on her face.
"Don't worry it is an inside joke. I'll explain later" Whispered Kyle into the Royal; Messenger's ear.
After the meal was over everyone thanked the messenger and went on their way. Kyle and the messenger retired to a corner in the Tavern's Main Room.
As Squire Witschi prepared to leave in the morning, with Journeyman Kyle escorting her horse from the Hostler's, there arose screams of cheer and glee from the assorted children in the Town Square. "Dragons, lots of Dragons, Mommy and Daddy, Dragons come see."
Kyle and the Squire turned towards the west and sure enough from the direction of Castle Highmont were flying eight to ten dragons.
The Squire reached into one of her saddle bags and pulled out a leather and metal tube. She quickly stretched the tube out to twice its length and then put one end to her eye. She looked towards the approaching dragons and exclaiming in surprise and consternation. "Mighty Dragons!!"
She lowered the tube and told Kyle "Quick warn the Mayor and Town Council, this is the King and Duke's surprise."
"What do you mean who is on the dragons? The King?" Interrupted Kyle.
"No it is not the King it is worse, much worse." Was the Squire's reply.
"Who, What could be worse?" Asked a now concerned young Journeyman.
"Well for starters The Lord Seneschal, The Royal Chamberlain, The Royal CellarMaster and The Captain of The Royal Guard and Oh No!!!..."
"What, who, what is wrong?"
"It's the Duchess" Was the Royal Messengers shocked reply.
"The Duchess? Which Duchess?"
"THE DUCHESS! Duke Campbell's Mother, the Queen's confidant and defacto Queen Mother! And she is flying the Royal Pennon. We need to move quickly they will be here in less than ten minutes"
"Just' all this ancient history is interesting, but it isn't telling us how you got hurt or who your abusers were" interrupted Joth.
"This is important and I will answer all of your questions shortly. But first I need something to drink, my throat is very dry." was Just's reply.
"Joth be a good boy and go get us some tea and........."
"Don't you Nana me you young scamp! Now go and get the tea I'll take care of Just' for awhile. And while you are getting the tea tell 'Goos' to have Jonah and John give him a bath. That way we can get Jonah clean without a fight. Now Scoot"
Joth meekly replied "Yes Nana." And then carefully untangled himself from Just'.
Rebekah moved over and sat on the bed Joth had just vacated. She then reached over and gently lay Just's head in her lap while stroking his shoulders and whispering "Relax little one, you are truly safe here. No one cares who or what you were before you came here. We just want you to relax and heal. And then you can start a new life with no baggage from the past. Don't worry about Joth's impatience, he just wants to help you and he wants to make sure that whoever injured you can't hurt anyone again. And before you say anything, don't bother, he needs to do this for himself as much as for you. Because the kingdom is peaceful and his father's ministers are very good at their jobs, he doesn't have a lot to do other than show his face in public. Besides training 'Goos' and his private guards he really needs something like this to sink his teeth into. So just relax and let us take care of you and everything, you are loved more than you know"
"Okay Nana I will let Joth be Joth as long as you help me" warmly replied Just' giving Rebekah a huge grin.
"That is a deal little one, now rest until Joth gets back."
As Nana and Just' were talking Joth was heading to get the tea, he was wondering 'Where is Just' going with his story? The history is great but it isn't helping us find out what happened to him. Oh well he obviously thinks it is important, I will listen but when I find out what happened they will pay and wish they had never heard of Joth Crown Prince of Erehwon........'
'Joth enough of that you won't do anything against the King's Justice and you know it! If and when the time comes I will help you deal with those responsible, but only under the law. Now what did you want to tell me?' Gus interrupted Joth's thoughts with his stern talking to and question.
'You're right Gus it is just so frustrating for me I love him dearly, more than anyone but you. I want to help him but I can't yet. I can't even tell him I love him until he is healed, and over the idea that he owes me for his rescue and his life'
'When the time comes he will tell you what you want and need to know. And the time will come for you to profess your love. Now get the tea and get back to Nana and your love. What does Nana want? Gus sent full of love and care causing Joth to feel better than he had in days.
'Nana said to tell you to ask Jonah and John to give you a bath. Of course you are supposed to ask John to wash Jonah at the same time. Take them to Warm Lake, it will do your muscles good after the workout they gave you love.' Joth sent to his friend.
Joth headed to the kitchen feeling better after being set straight by his friend. Upon entering the family's private kitchen he started the kettle and started preparing two teapots. One for him Lance and Rebekah which contained their favorite "Dragon's Gold" which came from her children's mountain top farm retreat. It was a special blend of teas and herbs which was slightly invigorating as well as delicious. In the second tea pot Joth mixed some "Dragon's Gold" with the additional herbs prescribed by Doktor Bazaar. While the kettle was heating, Joth gathered a tray of crackers, fruit and cheeses to tide them over until diner. Half of the tray was for Just' as he needed more food than normal to regain his strength. Joth quickly grabbed a few of the fruity energy bars that Doktor Bazaar had also suggested. These bars were Joth's favorite snack as they were a creation of Nana's and the Royal Cook. When Joth was younger he had come down with a severe illness and had lost a lot of weight. Doktor Bazaar had suggested that Joth eat one of the Army Travel Bars several times a day in addition to his regular meals. The Army Travel Bars were packed with fiber and protein as they were made of several kinds of grains and nuts; they were also fortified with the byproducts of the kingdoms brewers. However, nutritious they were there wasn't a six year old in the world who would eat one as they tasted in Joth's words "like Dragon Hide." Nana tried one and agreed with Joth and got together with the Royal Cook added dried fruits and fruit juices. It took them several attempts but they finally got a bar that held up well and that Joth liked. The Lord Mariscal happened to be having a friendly lunch with Joth's Family in their private dining room. When Nana brought one of the bars to Joth his curiosity was piqued because the bar looked familiar, yet wasn't. The Lord Mariscal asked Nana if the bar was what he thought it was, Nana of course replied 'yes and no". At the Duke's raised eyebrows Nana explained that it was a variation of that bar. The Lord Mariscal asked to try one and Nana gave him one to try. The Duke loved the new bar and promptly asked for some to take with him and if possible the recipe. The bars are now a staple for all of The Kingdom's Military Forces. The bar was renamed the "Joth Bar" but quickly nicknamed the "JB".
Meanwhile back in Joth's suite Just' was relaxing while Nana was telling him humorous stories about Joth's youth.
As Joth headed back to his suite with a large tray Lance came up and took the plates of crackers from the tray Joth was carrying. Joth gave a huge sigh of relief "Thanks Lance I really appreciate the help. I guess I am weaker than I thought"
That is okay Joth you have been working hard helping Just' recover. You know we don't mind helping you" was Lance's gracious reply.
Lance and Joth entered the suite with a nod to Ranulf, who had the day's duty. The two friends paused at the entrance to Joth's Sitting Room where they found a peaceful sight. Nana and Just' had moved from the bedroom to the sitting room as there were tables and a very comfy large couch and Nana's over sized chair, but the surprising thing was Nana sitting on the couch with Just' sound asleep with his head on her lap.
Joth's Erehwonese Mountain Kat Matty was curled up in his usual place in "his chair" Nana's favorite chair. Nana used to share the chair with Matty when she was living in the castle.
Joth and Lance placed their trays on the side table. And while Lance was pouring the tea into the teacups, Joth walked over and carefully lifted Matty up from the chair, staggering slightly under his Kat's weight. As with all members of his breed Matty was very large Kat, but unlike most of his domesticated cousins Matty was all muscle as he traveled with Joth whenever Joth went exploring in the mountains, in addition to climbing all over the castle walls. Joth set Matty down in his own bed, Matty opened his eyes as Joth set him down, the look he gave him said "go away and let me sleep".
Nana carefully woke Just' up and helped him sit up.
Joth gave Just' a mug of his restorative tea and two of the energy bars. Just' looked askance at Joth due to the amount of food he was being given. AS he started to say something Joth beat him to the punch.
"Not a word Just' it is just what the Doktor ordered. Doktor Bazaar says you need to eat often to fuel the body's healing and repair processes."
The four set to eating and drinking their tea and whenever Just' would respond to Lance or Rebekah, Joth would sneak another biscuit or cookie onto Just's plate. When the conversation had started to slow down and Just' was beginning to feel full he took one last sip of his tea and holding his mug up so everyone could see it, declared "My story so far has been leading up to this mug and what it means to me."
Joth, Lance and Rebekah looked at each other with curiosity, because even though they had a little better idea of what Just' was trying to tell them they were still lost.
Joth asked "Just' are you ready to continue in a minute?"
"As soon as you show where the privy is" replied Just'.
"I'll be glad to show you Just' follow me" Lance told Just'.
Just looked at Joth who nodded with a smile.
"Lead on brave warrior and I will follow." Replied Just' with a lilt in his voice.
Poor Joth not expecting such levity so soon from his new friend and hopefully love almost dropped the tray he was carrying. With a clatter and a quick move to stop the mugs and plates from falling to the floor, Joth came to a quick stop and turned to look at Just' and Lance.
Just' totally oblivious to Joth's dilemma was following happily along in Lance's wake.
As soon as Lance and Just' were out of the sitting room Joth turned to Rebekah who was positively beaming.
'Joth what happened why are you so happy?' was the urgent query Gus sent.
'Just' is finally starting to relax among all of us he is smiling and even cracking jokes'
"Cracking jokes from the walking dead just a few days ago. Amazing!' Came Gus's amused reply.
When Just' and Lance returned from completing their business Just' face was glowing as he was so happy that he could finally begin to take care of himself again. Having to rely on other people to take care of his personal needs was embarrassing. Rebekah was curled up in her favorite chair looking out the window watching the clouds sail by. Joth was sitting on the large couch with a furry blanket and a big pillow. Joth waved Just' over to join him on the couch. As Just started to walk over to the couch Matty decided he wanted to sleep in "his chair" and Rebekah's lap, rather than his bed. So Matty got up and started walking over towards Rebekah and "his chair" Just' wasn't paying a lot of attention as he was focused on Joth.
"What in the world is that?" Screamed Just' as he jumped backwards into Lance's arms nearly knocking Lance over.
Joth and Rebekah almost fell out of their seats they were laughing so hard. Poor Just' still had no idea what was going on.
"Well Just' I didn't know you cared so much?" Lance kidded Just'
By then Just' had realized he had overreacted. He looked down at what had caused him to jump and saw the largest Kat he had ever seen staring at him with a look that said "Who are you?"
"Put me down you big lunk" replied Just' as he slightly pushed himself out of Lance's arms. Lance carefully set Just' down on his feet and then kneeled down facing Matty.
"Matty, this is Just' he is a friend, be nicer to him than you are to Joth" Lance then turned to Just' and tugged on his arm to get him to kneel also. "Slowly put you hand out Just' and let Matty sniff it." Lance whispered into Just's ear.
Just very slowly reached out his right hand unsure whether or not he was doing the right thing. What he finally realized must be Joth's pet Kat majestically padded over to Just' and very imperiously sniffed Just's outstretched hand. Satisfied that Just' was okay Matty then lowered his head and rubbed it against Just's hand.
"Gently rub his head" whispered Lance to Just' "he likes you."
Just' started to relax as Matty started to purr. As Matty's purr rumbled up Just's arm he very carefully changed his position from a kneeling one to a sitting one, as the stone floor was hard on his knees. As soon as he had finished changing his position, Matty surprised everyone by flowing onto Just's lap and making himself at home. Just' was so surprised that he stopped petting Matty. Matty looked up at Just' and then lifted his head up rubbed Just's stomach until Just got the message and began petting Matty again. Just' was lost in a different world just sucking up the love and comfort that was flowing from Matty. Here he was a simple Potter sitting in the Crown Prince's Suite being waited on hand and foot by the Prince and his Family, when just days ago he was being beaten to within inches of death. It seems sometimes dreams do come true.
While Just' was off in dreamland Rebekah and Joth along with Lance were totally amazed by the difference in Just'. For the first time since he was rescued his face was finally at peace.
Authors Notes: Well here is the first part of Just's story as promised, sorry I had to stop where I did but this chapter was getting a little long. The second part of Just's story is coming along fine and should be posted in a few weeks time. I would like to thank my good friend Akeentia for his graphical wizardry in creating the Royal Crest. As you may know Akeentia also created the wonderful Cover Page for this story. This story would not be possible with the assistance and support of The Fort Authors Group. Their comments and suggestions have been a grout source of help and confidence. I also want to thank my editor for his tireless work in making this story far easier to read. I did have to buy him a commercial size supply of commas though :) Thanks for reading and please remember comments are always welcome.
Editors Notes: Once again I have run out of commas. I think I used another complete box of them this time around, but I managed to get away with using only one semicolon. Darn, I can't spell very well and that word doesn't look right. I need an editor who can spell. In any case the story is coming along very nicely and I am sure we are all going to enjoy the next chapters as soon as they are finished. TSL makes us really excited about his stories, and the characters really come to life as we get to know each one. I know it won't take long to fall in love with each and every one of them. Ok maybe not EVERY one of them.
I must admit to being very excited about editing the story, since I get to see the chapters a few days earlier than you do. That in itself, makes it worth doing, but I feel a great deal of satisfaction in knowing I helped make the story that much more enjoyable.
Thanks for letting me edit it for you, TSL, and hurry up and write the next chapter.
THE RADIO RANCHER
 Patent - A sign of Royal Favor -- basically Master Lennox is now A Royal Armorer.
 Lord Mariscal -- Field Marshal
 Dragon Rock - Obsidian
 Pronounced -- Inc creh dabley
 Similar in color and texture to Rose Gold and Black Hills Gold.
 Erehwonese Mountain Kat -- Grows to approximately Thirty Five pounds in weight and Twenty Four inches long and Eighteen inches tall.
One final word if you think you see yourself in this story it might be true. :) Don't forget feedback feeds the muse - firstname.lastname@example.org
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