The Weight of Rubies
I hope the season finds you well, and your travels have been peaceful. My own most recent travels with my companions have taken me far and shown me things that I still can scarcely describe. I’m glad to say I’ve also seen our cousin and spoke with him about the recent unpleasantness between us. Although we still have our differences, there should be no more trouble between us. It’s been too long since I have rested in my old room at the family manor, and I am currently preparing to return and spend some time with Mother and Father, and to see Grandmere, of course. I would enjoy it greatly if you would meet me there for a short reunion. I have another business venture planned and believe that your talents would be most useful. Of course, your usual pay rate will apply, though I hope you will give me a family discount as this venture may take a bit of time. Well, I could go on and on, but hopefully I will see you soon and we will be able to recount all that has passed since we last met. Good travels to you.
The mid-spring weather in the East Redding was almost like a heat wave compared to the cold of the North Redding (where, inexplicably, Broc had returned), and Cassick could ride without hat or jacket and simply enjoy the sun. He passed through farmland with fields planted with crops or scattered with cattle and the spring-born calves. It was strange to think of how recently he had been surrounded by snow and ice, and then surrounded by the gore and stink of Palderton. The thought made him touch the pocket of his vest, where the undelivered letter from the dead bard to Isabel Shal Cavallos was hidden. It was the only dark note in an otherwise pleasant journey to the family estate.
With a tug if the reins Cassick guided his sleek Middle Redding mare onto small side road branching off the highway, unmarked but hard-packed from wagon wheels and horses’ hooves. A few days later he came to a farm house, dismounting and stretching his legs a bit before calling out. “Yves! Lauren! Is there any ale to spare in this house?”. The man who opened the front door was not old, but one could see the weight of years on his face, if not his frame.
“It’s not a bad horse, but I’d expect more from a rich man. I thought you left to make your own fortune.” An axe that never split wood hung from his rather un-farmerlike belt, and anyone looking more closely would see his hand rested on it too comfortably.
Cassick smiled broadly and, for the first time in awhile, honestly. “Ha! But I’m not done yet, Yves. Give me some time.” The two men shook hands and embraced, the older taking measure of the younger.
“Lauren and I keep a small keg in the cellar now, if you’re thirsty. You don’t come home too often anymore, Cassick, you should at least send message of how you are.”
Cassick took a deep breath, almost a sigh before answering. “I’ve been further afield than messengers usually travel, and even further than any Vind Halls, but I’ll keep it in mind. For now some ale would be wonderful. Has Lauren any fresh bread around? Stale biscuits don’t interest me anymore.”
“She’s not here right now, but there’s a loaf or two in the kitchen. Come in already.” The men traded stories over a few mugs of ale and some bread and cheese, sitting and catching up on lost time like an uncle and nephew.
Before the sun had gotten too low in the sky, Cassick bid good night to the guard and made his way down a wide, hard-packed path along the farmhouse, past fields just showing some of their growth. A short ride later the rough wall that marked his family’s property rose up alongside him. Low stone houses spread out amongst storehouses and a large stable, with a few wagons lined up alongside. “You’re back!” called out a matronly woman, surprise clear on her face framed by curly, dark hair pulled back tightly. “Get down from that horse and come here!”
Cassick eased down from the mare, still road-weary, and gave the woman a hug and kiss. “Aunt Helene, how are you? How has business been?”.
“Both are well enough. We’ve been busy, but Marlene’s been helping me keep track of our accounts and goods. She has a knack for doing sums. And you? You haven’t been home in ages.”
“Marlene’s that old now? Then I really have to come back more often…I’ve been well, though I’ve been too far afield, and far too busy, to make it back often. I apologize.”
“Save it for your parents. One can see in their eyes that they have something on their minds, and it doesn’t take a mind reader to know that it’s their children they are thinking about. Go along, then. You should some by the house later for some tea.”
Cassick had a good two weeks to pass with his parents and Grandmere Marguerite (during which he updated his mother and father on the events at Palderton and Crevan’s surprising decision not to run when he could) before the afternoon when his sister rode onto the family estate. Finnella slid from her saddle and hugged him tightly before stepping back to speak. “So what is this new business venture?” she asked, cutting straight to the point, as if she were picking up a conversation that had been interrupted only briefly.