Home at Last

Emmeline traveled to Cerisey in the company of Kalista. She was anxious to get a first look at how her little manor was coming but she also wanted to catch up with Riok and his wife, as perhaps visit with the town folk a while. She knew the harvest should be very bountiful this year, but if too many young men and women were taken into the legion, she worried about how the crop might actually get harvested.

The sounds of construction were going on at the manor. Two dozen men, perhaps four from the village that she recognized, were working on updating the manor. It was mostly the same structure, but with a new addition for Riok and his wife, and the rest were repairs and a new barn. A dwarf was directing the work.

Given her condition, Emmeline had needed to take a carriage home. It made her nostalgic for the big, heavy duty carriage she and her friends had for a short time last year. Now she opened the door and accepted help from the driver exit it, then she made her way toward the dwarf.

The dwarf was a younger one. He took off his hood and bowed, “My lady. I am Grunkle Stormblower, journeyman mason and partner with Master Stonesplitter. I am at your service.”

“I’m pleased to meet you!” She offered a wide smile born of a genuine happiness to be home. “So much work is going on, I have to thank you for your efforts. Would that be Journeyman Stormblower then?”

He shook his head, “Just a guild title. Mister Stormblower is fine. Or Grunkle. I don’t stand on ceremony m’lady.”

“I’m at the mercy of your expertise. Please tell me, what was your opinion of the mansion’s condition when you began and how do you feel things are progressing?”

“Typical of these parts m’lady. But good foundational stone. Build on an old dwarven outpost looking over the valley. Should hold up with some care. That said, we should be ready by winter’s first snow.”

“I’m pleased to meet you!” She offered a wide smile born of a genuine happiness to be home. “So much work is going on, I have to thank you for your efforts. Would that be Journeyman Stormblower then?”

He shook his head, “Just a guild title. Mister Stormblower is fine. Or Grunkle. I don’t stand on ceremony m’lady.”

Emmeline smiled. “Mister Stormblower it is until you are comfortable calling me Emmeline.”

“I’m at the mercy of your expertise. Please tell me, what was your opinion of the mansion’s condition when you began and how do you feel things are progressing?”

“Typical of these parts m’lady. But good foundational stone. Build on an old dwarven outpost looking over the valley. Should hold up with some care. That said, we should be ready by winter’s first snow.”

“That sounds promising. Will there be any portion ready enough to humbly provide for the Baroness’s visit in a week or so?”

“Yes, if we work from dawn to dusk, we can be ready.” he said.

“And about the barn. I’m hoping for a better than normal harvest this year and we may need it for storage, at least until a new granary is built. Will it be ready for harvest time?”

He answered, “In a week or so.”

“Thank you so much for your hard work, Mister Stormblower,” Emmeline said. “Pardon my interruption. I think I should get out of your hair and find Riok.”

He nodded and Emmeline quickly found Riok working on a hedgerow. He bowed and said, “M’lady. How might I help ye?”

“It’s been a long time already. How are you and your family?” Emmeline asked.

“We fare well m’lady. Rowena and the kids are staying with her mother in town while the work is going on. I’m just doing what I can each day, and weekly supplying Zoe with odds and ends.” he answered.

“Your efforts are invaluable, Riok.” She changed the topic a little bit. “I heard the bread oven was completed. Is it time to think about building a granary here at the manor for Cerisey?”

“We have a flour mill and the old granary on the old dwarven saddlestones, but we could use a new one and given the harvest we are hoping for, a larger one. Shouldn’t cost much to build, not compared to the village oven. Old Jorge Miller, the miller, has some good land by his mill. Him and his sons Raul Miller and Reynerd Fitzmiller have been building a sawmill on the far side of Emily’s Creek right before it gets to the Fairy Pond. That’s two mills they have. A woodcutting mill and a flour mill. I think Old Jorge wants to leave each to a son, so he decided to build another one.” said Riok. “Anyways, he know the most about millin’.”

“That’s good,” Emmeline said. “Lets get a couple granaries started. It should be near the manor so that it is easily defensible and away from either mill since both ground flour and sawdust can easily burn should an accident occur.”

“Oh, Rowena and I were asked by one of the Baroness’ folks to get a fair count of the villagers in Cerisey. We’re almost done. Had a few people move in from Arrisey and the like. All part of the greater manor of course. Freeholders like most the rest of us.” he added.

“Excellent, Riok! I like that you had the initiative to do that. Do we have any candidates for the position of Warden?”

“We did, but they got swept up in the whole war thing. A dozen men have left. I here that the ‘title’ Lord Warden has been taken by the Baroness to designate her senior knights as the traditional lords are for the most part gone. Ours is the son of the Lord Arrisey. But we do have an older man who can do the job of forest warden. Brugo Passat is his name, his son being Michel Passat who left with the Margrave. He is a forester and says he’s met both Zoe once and a ranger from the Dhaoine Faire, you know them bandits of bandits who used to roam the woods looking for monsters. Anyway Brugo is trustworthy.” Riok ended.

“That sounds perfect. Can we set up a meeting with him? I’d prefer to limit my traveling so if he could come to the manor, I would great appreciate it,” Emmeline said.

“Of course m’lady.” Riok said. “I could bring him here now if you wish?”

“Yes, that would be great.” Emmeline looked around and spotted a shady tree. “I’ll just be over there, out of the way of the workmen.”

Riok brought Brugo to Emmeline. When he arrived, he bowed his head and said, “G’day m’lady. I be Brugo the Woodsman.”

“I’m pleased to meet you.” Emmeline showed a smile that grew serious. “I heard your son has left with the legions. Our prayers are with him as well as all our brave people. Mine especially go out to families like yours who I know will miss them terribly while they are away.”

He nodded. “Yes m’lady.”

“Brugo, your family has already given so much I feel guilty asking for more. But as you know Cerisey is without a forest warden. It’s something that really matters not just for public safety but for the health of the natural world that surrounds us. Would you consider taking on this responsibility?”

He answered, “Well, Riok told me about it. I know the wilds here well. I guess I have a couple questions before I answer, if you don’t mind me askin’. The first, if I can say, is that I’d like to know what you see as my duties. Riok said some, but he also said you’d know mores. The second, and I’m sorry to ask this but for my family you know I must, is how much does this job pay?”

“Good questions! And I have the same. As for the duties, I thought that we could visit Lord Arrisey and his warden and ask him to share his experience. That would educate us both on the matter. As for pay, I would like again use our neighbors as a point of reference to find out what pay a forest warden makes. Then I would judge about how much territory must be tended to and figure your base in proportion to that. Then I would add half again to it because I know very well our territory has not been safe and you should be compensated for the risk you must take on our behalf. Also will help pay for things like equipment and arrows you may decide you need. There are other perks I would like to offer as well, but to be frank, I must okay these ideas of mine with the Baroness or the Margrave first.”

“Humbly, m’lady, I understand the role as one of supervising the local foresters like Ned and Old Man Harper and their like. I also understand that I’m to go about preserving the forest and game and apprehending offenders against the law. But, specifically do I have the legal authority to serve in your name then? Can I appoint under-wanrder and should I? That kind of thing. We have only so many people but a lot of forests betwixt ‘dem Cairns and the South Bend. If it please m’lady, there is a holding once held by Jac Baiens, the old Forest Warden from years back. He passed a couple years ago. Its a small place, but has a few tenants freeloadin’ on the lands ever since. Grant me that m’lady and it should do enough for me, the wife, and the little ones, while puttin’ me near the woods edge.” he asked. “I’d need to get a few sergents and a surveyor to help, but me thinks we could get some from the locals – part time that is. Perhaps a couple gold a day each when they be workin’ up to 40 days a year? Somethin’ to consider.” Brugo said, adding, “Sorry to be presumptuous m’lady but I done serve Warden Baiens as an under-warden back in the day, but it was pretty informal.”

Riok nodded, “there are a half-dozen abandoned freeholds in the area you now control m’lady. Me’thinks who you give them to is up to you. Like that one the dirty hag holed up in this past winter. But each can allow an officer of yours to do right by his kin.” He smiled a bit, leaning in to Emmeline and whispered, “I tolds ya, Brugo’s a sound choice.”

Emmeline smiled to Riok and gave him a pleased wink. She told Brugo, “I see what you mean. Yes you would serve in my name. You can appoint under warders, part time ones, but it would need to be worked out with Riok to be sure that we can afford to pay them. I think we will be okay after harvest. Cerisey is no longer broke, thanks to the assistance the Margrave has provided with the manor, and we can focus all our resources on the protection and improvement of the fief.

“And the freehold is yours if that is what you like. Effective now. We can have papers drawn up on it later.”

“Thank you m’lady!” Brugo said.

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