The apprentice stone sha.., p.1

The Apprentice Stone (Shadows of Time Book 1), page 1

 

The Apprentice Stone (Shadows of Time Book 1)
 


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The Apprentice Stone (Shadows of Time Book 1)


  DARRELL NEWTON

  BOOK 1

  IN THE SHADOWS OF TIME SERIES

  . THE APPRENTICE STONE

  Copyright © 2017 by Darrell Newton

  All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

  Published by Firesmyth Press

  First Edition: October 2017

  ISBN: 978-0-692-95809-4

  Visit the author on the web at

  www.DarrellNewton.com

  .

  DEDICATION

  For my wife Kimberly who has put up with me all these years.

  What would you do with a stone

  that healed anything?

  Contents

  Part 1 Kingdom of Castile

  Chapter 1 Francisco

  Chapter 2 Francisco

  Chapter 3 Miyuki

  Chapter 4 Francisco

  Chapter 5 Francisco

  Chapter 6 Miyuki

  Chapter 7 Francisco

  Chapter 8 Miyuki

  Chapter 9 Francisco

  Chapter 10 Francisco

  Chapter 11 Miyuki

  Chapter 12 Francisco

  Chapter 13 Miyuki

  Chapter 14 Francisco

  Chapter 15 Francisco

  Chapter 16 Angelo

  Chapter 17 Ceolwulf

  Chapter 18 Francisco

  Part 2 Almohad Empire Al-Andalus

  Chapter 19 Francisco

  Chapter 20 Francisco

  Chapter 21 Francisco

  Chapter 22 Angelo

  Chapter 23 Francisco

  Chapter 24 Francisco

  Chapter 25 Angelo

  Chapter 26 Ceolwulf

  Chapter 27 Miyuki

  Chapter 28 Miyuki

  Chapter 29 Miyuki

  Chapter 30 Francisco

  Chapter 31 Ceolwulf

  Chapter 32 Miyuki

  Chapter 33 Francisco

  Chapter 34 Angelo

  Part 3 Almohad Empire Al-Maghrib

  Chapter 35 Francisco

  Chapter 36 Ceolwulf

  Chapter 37 Francisco

  Chapter 38 Ceolwulf

  Chapter 39 Francisco

  Chapter 40 Francisco

  Chapter 41 Francisco

  Chapter 42 Angelo

  Chapter 43 Francisco

  Chapter 44 Miyuki

  Chapter 45 Francisco

  Chapter 46 Angelo

  Chapter 47 Miyuki

  Chapter 48 Angelo

  Chapter 49 Francisco

  Chapter 50 Angelo

  Chapter 51 Francisco

  Chapter 52 Miyuki

  Chapter 53 Francisco

  Chapter 54 Miyuki

  Chapter 55 Francisco

  Chapter 56 Miyuki

  Chapter 57 Francisco

  Chapter 58 Miyuki

  Chapter 59 Ceolwulf

  Glossary

  The Eski Poem

  Map

  Part 1

  Kingdom of Castile

  “Courage is the first of human qualities

  because it is the quality

  which guarantees the others.”

  ~ Aristotle (384 - 322 BC)

  Chapter 1

  Francisco

  Las Largas Book Antiqua

  Spring, Year of our Lord 1208

  “YOU TREAT HEALING WORSE than a whore. I’ll never give you the stone.” Papa gave his quiet words the sharp edge of brittle steel. He held the door open a crack and wedged his boot under it so Uncle Bernat could not enter. If papa spoke any louder, the other peasants might hear, and then the rumors would start, and Papa would have to find another sponsor. Francisco and his parents would have to move again for the fifth time in five years.

  Francisco placed a reassuring hand on his father’s shoulder. He respected his father in all ways, except how he let his brother lead him around like a bull on a nose ring. Still, Papa didn’t let Uncle Bernat in this time. He said ‘no,’ and Francisco allowed himself a little hope. This time it will be different.

  “Then at least come with me,” Uncle Bernat said; his words came with an odor of stale beer. “I promise not to touch it. I won’t even look at it.”

  Papa stood, unyielding.

  “You cannot trust him, papa.” Francisco couldn’t keep the anger from his voice.

  Uncle Bernat’s mask cracked and he shot a look at Francisco. A flicker of hatred flashed across his eyes. He opened his mouth to add to his plea when Francisco pressed his palm to the door and shut it. He looked into his father’s startled eyes and said, “El Cid wouldn’t give in to him.” He closed his hand, gripping his father’s tunic. The coarse fabric tugged around his father’s strong neck.

  Uncle Bernat pleaded through the closed door, “It is they, not I, who require your services.” Even muffled, his voice had an honest lilt, but it was too perfect; a practiced act that had been overplayed. No one trusted him anymore. Uncle Bernat’s schemes had started earning him scorn instead of coin.

  Francisco released Papa’s tunic.

  Papa glanced back at Mama, who had been standing behind him. She crossed her arms over her dress, which drew tightly across her belly. The baby was due in a month, and Papa had been careful not to upset her. She shook her head. Papa shrugged in a what-else-can-I-do manner.

  Francisco sighed and looked away. His empty stomach churned, and the cabbage soup on the brazier lost all appeal.

  Papa lifted the latch and opened the door only enough to peer through. He placed his boot at the door edge. He could easily turn an ox at plow in the fields.

  Francisco peered through the gap. His uncle was a head taller than Papa, broader in the shoulders, and forever smelt of old beer. He was six years younger than Papa but looked three decades older—old enough to be Francisco’s grandfather. His hair was almost entirely gray, his beard jutted out as a point from his chin, and his face wrinkled around his eyes and mouth when he forced a smile. He dressed like someone who lived in the manor, and Mama had even said he used to be a handsome man.

  “I heal for no man’s coin,” Papa said. “Go away.”

  “It’s a little girl,” Uncle Bernat said. “Is it her fault her father is the master tanner?”

  “A girl?”

  “A little one. She is—” Uncle Bernat stopped. He wiped his eyes, but they were dry. “She is in much pain.”

  “Your lies make me sick,” Papa said. At least he still refused to let Uncle Bernat in. His uncle not only had a nicer place than theirs in Toledo, he owned houses in three other cities. This was their house, their home away from people like Uncle Bernat. It wasn’t much, but it was the best in the village. Like the steward’s house, it had two stories and a stone floor instead of dirt.

  Finally, Papa answered. “I’ll come for the girl’s sake.” He shut and latched the door.

  Mama raised her arms and returned to the brazier.

  “Papa!” Francisco blurted. “There are only good and evil people. He’s evil.”

  “He’s my brother,” Papa said above a whisper. “Besides, I have the stone, so he can bare me no injury.”

  “Mama calls him the shepherd of misery and mischief.”

  Papa narrowed his eyes.

  Francisco held up his hands in surrender. “Mother’s words, not mine.”

  Uncle Bernat’s muffled voice slipped through the cracks. “For the love of Saint James, leave me not out here with these peasants.”

  Papa walked to the larder, shooing chickens out of the way. They waited until the last mome
nt to move and then they were all a cackle and a flopping of feathers and dust. Papa pressed the secret spot under the bottom shelf on the wall, and slid it to the side. He pulled out the feeding sacks. Embroidered on each sack were symbols like letters, but not of the Latin alphabet. Papa had taken pride in teaching Francisco his letters. Francisco was the only twelve-year-old he knew who was learning to read Castilian, Latin, and a smattering of Arabic. The healing stone lay on the table in the middle of the room next to his books—his only other inheritance from a once-rich family. The healing stone was plain: gray and the size of an apricot pit, which looked like something he could find along any stream.

  Mama was making dinner over the brazier. She stopped, grabbed a cup, dipped it into the water bucket, and wiped it with the hem of her dress. She held her hand to the small of her back when she walked. Mama set a cup down on the table so hard that water splashed out. Papa grimaced, and Mama crossed her arms. “How many know?” she asked. “People are starting to talk.”

  “No one.”

  “We cannot move again,” Mama said. “It’s too hard on Francisco. He should be taking up a trade. And what about the baby? Each time we move it’s closer to the border with the Moors1 and their fighting. Thinking of Francisco held for ransom by Moors or sold into slavery is enough to make a mother—”

  “We won’t have to move,” Papa said.

  “Tell Bernat you can’t go,” Mama said. “Tell him,” she waved her hand at the bags, “you ran out of paste, or better yet, tell that dog to keep to himself and stay in the city.”

  “It’s a little girl. Would you let her suffer?”

  “I heard.” Mama glared at the door.

  Papa asked Francisco, “What is the rule?”

  “Tell no one.”

  Papa smiled and shook his head. “No, the other rule.”

  “Listen to Mama.”

  Papa glared at him again.

  “Oh. ‘Do no harm, lest you break the charm.’”

  “This stone heals,” Papa said, “but only if you don’t hurt someone. If you hurt someone, it breaks and won’t heal.”

  Francisco snorted. So then, I can punch Uncle Bernat in his fat, red nose? He wanted to say it, but knew it would earn him a lecture. He could never hit him anyway. Uncle Bernat had a way of looking at him that froze his blood.

  Mama placed her hand over the stone when Papa reached for it.

  Uncle Bernat pounded on the front door. It made Francisco jump. “Artal! What is taking you?”

  Papa placed his hand on Mama’s. “You knew about this before we were married,” he said.

  That was a long time ago. Other children on the manor never believed Francisco when he told them he had five brothers and sisters, each old enough to have children of their own. Show us, they would say. I can’t, because they’re all dead, he would answer. See? You’re a liar, they would say. But it was the truth.

  The door banged again.

  Mama lifted her hand, and Papa snatched the stone.

  He slipped it into his boot stocking against his hairy leg.

  “The master tanner is in Toledo.”

  “Toledo?” Mama asked. “You’ll be gone for two days at least.”

  “Bernat brought a wagon. It’s noon now. I should be back by the same time tomorrow.”

  Mama fetched his cloak as he headed for the door. “Here, wear this,” she said. “It will be cold tonight. You rely on that stone too much.”

  He kissed Mama on the cheek and left.

  That night, Mama fell while trying to hang a pot from the rafters. When Francisco helped her to her feet, she noticed the bleeding. It frightened her more than the pain. An hour later, when the bleeding hadn’t stopped, she told him the way to the midwife’s house in the next village. With both the steward and the manor lord gone, Francisco had to cover the distance by foot before it got too dark. He arrived back home hours later by wagon with the midwife and her apprentice. Men from the village clustered around his house, faces drawn and voices low. Francisco rushed past, pushing them aside. Inside, the women gathered around the blood-soaked bed, his mother lying at the center, feeble and pale.

  “Get the boy outside!” The midwife barked the order to her apprentice, a girl not much older than Francisco.

  “I’m not a boy,” Francisco said, trying to get to his mother. “I’m twelve.” He tried to sound manly, but his voice choked with sobs.

  The midwife turned on him, her eyes flaring and forehead wet with sweat. She waved a bundle of herbs at him. “Out! This is woman’s work.”

  “She’s my mother.” Francisco felt tears running down his cheeks. “I was the one who called you here.”

  “And now let us do our work, or Arsendis will die.”

  The apprentice started pushing him out of his own house. Francisco pushed back. He screamed. “Let me pray for her!” If I could just pray the Hebrew verse with Mama, then maybe it would help even without the stone. The girl pushed back. He stumbled. A large hand gripped his shoulder and pulled him out of the house. It was Vellito, the village steward. It seemed the entire village had gathered at the door; seventy of them looking at him with pity.

  “Leave them to their business, Francisco,” Vellito said. “You can see your mother when they finish.”

  “But I need to pray for her,” Francisco pleaded. He was in a haze as if he were standing at an open window watching this happen to someone else.

  Vellito’s wife Beatriu embraced Francisco and whispered in his ear, “God can hear your prayers anywhere.” Her cheeks were wet with her own tears, and she held him tightly until he relaxed and fell into her arms.

  The door opened, and the midwife emerged. She wiped her hands with her apron as she spoke. They were slick with the olive oil herb bath she’d applied on his mother. She spoke in a hushed and frantic pace. The men gathered around her, heads low and ears close. Francisco heard only fragments: “The baby is probably dead. No, Arsendis doesn’t know. She is not faring much better. Bleeding is worse. We need more herbs.”

  Francisco cursed Uncle Bernat, but no one heard. As the night drew on past midnight, he yielded to Vellito’s urging and stayed the night at Vellito and Beatriu’s house in the loft on straw pallets with their three boys. Only yesterday Francisco had been looking forward to his own brother or sister, someone he could see and play with and not dead siblings he only heard about. Now, he not only lost a brother or sister, but maybe a mother.

  He considered taking Vellito’s horse to fetch his father. Would it be steeling? It didn’t matter. It was too dark; being a peasant’s son, he couldn’t ride; and although he knew where Toledo was, he didn’t know exactly where Papa was.

  A tiny window in the bed loft looked down the road where Papa would return. Francisco kept the window unshuttered all night, waiting for him, listening for the wagon Uncle Bernat took him in, and straining to see the flicker of their torchlight in the moonless night. The only light he saw came from his own house: the midwife still plying her herbs.

  Francisco woke in Vellito’s house, late in the morning. He climbed down from the loft and ran back home. On the way, he picked up a small stone like Papa’s healing stone. Inside his home, the midwife and her apprentices had left. Francisco’s mother Arsendis sat motionless, propped up and bound to a chair at the table. Four candles were placed on the table: a gift for the dead. They had prepared her for the wake, as was the tradition. Both the pain that had been on her face after she fell and the baby she had carried were gone. On the floor where she had fallen yesterday, the stone was still dark with blood. Father Martín stood next to the table talking with Vellito. They stopped when Francisco entered. It had become as quiet as a church, and with each step closer to her, it was as if Francisco approached an altar.

  He took her cold hand, and pressed the common stone to her palm. He knelt on one knee and recited the Hebrew verse: “Bekori aneini Elohei Tziddki batzar hirchavta li choneini u’shema tefillati.” He spoke the words tenderly as she used to when he was
hurt, when he had fallen and broken his arm, and again when he burned his hands. Each time she was there, her sweet words bringing healing. His words now sounded so hollow and dead. When he finished, she did not move. Her hand did not warm. Francisco lay his head on her and wept.

  When afternoon shadows stretched across the road and warm, yellow-orange sunlight reached across the front door’s threshold, Papa returned. He did not take the news well that, “Something had gone horribly wrong and Arsendis bled out.” With a face unrecognizable—wracked in pain and tear-streaked—he screamed for everyone to get out of the house. Francisco, who had spent the day at his mother’s side, pleaded to stay.

  Artal’s wild eyes flashed upon him, and his mouth opened, ready to repeat the command. Recognition filled his eyes—recognition of his only living child—and he broke. He took five strides across the room and embraced his son. “I didn’t mean you.” He held Francisco tightly: a cherished embrace full of more meaning than a book full of words.

  Father Martín, the last to leave, closed the door. Papa released Francisco, and they knelt next to Mama.

  Late into the evening, Artal knelt next to Arsendis, sobbing and reciting the Hebrew verse. His arms were draped over her body, and his head rested on her lifeless breasts. His words, chapped and feeble, trickled from his mouth like water from a cracked cistern.

  Yet, she was still dead.

  The four candles on the table had burned down to nubs. Francisco tried pulling his Papa back to a stool, but he refused, pressing the real healing stone harder to Mama’s arm. Francisco gently draped a blanket over his Papa’s shoulders. Papa stopped mumbling. He took in one shuddering breath and said above a whisper, “The stone has kept me alive beyond my natural death. I have lived too long.” He rubbed his eyes as if trying to squeeze the pain out of them. “I was too late, Francisco. God will punish me with the death that the stone and I have cheated.”

  Three months after Mama died, Francisco and Papa read together at the table after finishing chores. Francisco hadn’t realized how much Mama did. The housework made him miss her even more. Papa helped Francisco with the words as the boy read “The Lay of El Cid” out of their favorite book on loan from the manor lord: “The Songs of Heroic Deeds.” Francisco knew not to eat or drink near it, lest he soil it. He loved these times with papa. They had become more frequent since Mama died. No other boy on the manor knew how to read. Papa said that even if their family was no longer in noble court, they would retain their knowledge of books. The flickering fire from the brazier gave the letters in this book life, and the stiff pages felt crisp to Francisco as he moved his fingers under each word.

 
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