It was the year 1414 and I was walking through a forested area to my new work place. Until recently, I had been employed as an apprentice to a blacksmith. The man had been rough in voice and hand as well as stingy in his pay. I had been looking beyond that job for a while now. It wasn't very customary to just switch jobs like this, but I hated blacksmithing. I was… bad at it and it was increasingly frustrating to work for the man I had been working with.
A large house suddenly came into my view. It was a good three stories high and made of stone. Even from here, I could see the fine detailing in the architecture of the building and the strength and elegance of the building itself. My new employer was from a richer family. How he got that way, I had no idea. I supposed you had to be born into it. However, this rich man was in need of a stable boy and was willing to pay more than that blacksmith had been paying me. I considered myself good with horses, so I had asked about, trying to see how to get in contact with this man. As it turned out, the doctor who often made house visits to my mother (she was very ill at the moment and my not being paid well wasn't helping with the doctor bills) knew this noble. Apparently, the noble's wife was expecting, so the doctor was over there all the time.
I looked around for some place to see my reflection. I didn't want to come off as a no-class, foreign peasant. Though, that was exactly what I was.
I saw a good-sized pond off to the side of the house. I continued on up to the house, but instead of the front door, I headed for the pond first. I stood on the edge of dry land and looked myself over. I had shaved that morning, so I looked cleaned up there. I had on my nicer clothes: a brown tunic over a white work shirt. Then, I had on my brown work pants. However, I did look very clean. My dark-blue eyes were alight, as I had gotten plenty of sleep last night. My shoulder-length red hair was groomed back, exposing a straight hairline. I didn't think I looked too bad. However, I wasn't trying to impress myself.
I walked away from the pond and towards the house. The doctor had told me last time that the man (I cursed myself now for not having bothered to remember his name) was waiting for me to come and that he was willing to hire me and have me working immediately, so I didn't really need to impress him to get the job. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
I picked up the knocker on the large, oak door and hit it three times against the door. I was tempted to hit it more as I had never used a knocker on any door as grand as this, but I refrained from doing so, knowing it was bad manners.
A very few moments later, the door was opened up by a very scrawny man with a balding head and too many lines in his face to count. He looked at me nervously and I wondered idly why he seemed so jumpy.
"Yes," he asked me, his voice coming out just as one might expect from such a nervous man. "Who are you? Is Lord Whittington expecting you," he asked me. His English accent was thick to the point of being hard on the ears.
"I am Antony Cordilleras," I answered. "Lord Whittington," I was so relieved he had told me the name, "Is expecting me. I'm… the new stable boy."
The man, whoever he was, looked me over, before finally standing aside and waving me in. I nodded at him and entered the house. The inside was as grand as the outside. The ceilings were tall and arched, painted and finished in beautiful colors. The walls were all detailed with all sorts of finishings for the bottom, for the middle, for the top, and the corners. It was mind boggling how much work had had to be done on just this room let alone the entirety of the rest of the house. My eyes swept over the furniture and I found it to be just as grand as the room itself. This was the entrance room, so it had hardly more than a few chairs around a small table in order to serve guests refreshments and such.
The man who answered the door walked over to me and nodded at me. "You may have a seat while you wait for me to tell Lord Whittington of your arrival."
Not really knowing what other response there was, I said, "Thank you."
The man nodded one more time and then set off towards a different part of the house.
I took another look at the seating and finally took my spot in one of the chairs. I leaned back against the cushions and got comfortable. Suddenly, I heard a high pitched laugh and my head swiveled in the direction of it. I could hear seemingly nonsensical chatter and small giggles marking their entrance before they even entered. When these people came in, I was sitting in the same room as a small group of girls. They were chattering away with one another making so much noise I wondered if any of them even heard one another.
They were all dressed in beautiful, long gowns decorated with beading of various sorts. Their hair was pulled back into long braids. Over the top of their heads were various head dresses of different types each one as fully beaded as the dress the wearer had on.
"Oh," I heard one say and saw her looking at me. That got the other ladies' attentions and soon they were all standing and staring.
"Hello," I tried, waving my hand and feeling very self-conscious as I did. I straightened my posture up, but then settled on just standing to greet them.
One of the ladies giggled. "Who are, ser?"
I put my hands behind my back and shifted my weight from one side to the other. "Not a ser at all," I answered, my voice shaking some. "Just… uh… Lord Whittington's new… stable boy." I paused for a very brief moment before remembering something. "My ladies."
"Just a stable boy, ladies," one of the women said. "He does not concern us."
The women turned up their noses in an arrogant manner and sauntered off. Only after a moment did I notice one of them had stayed. I looked up at her to figure out why it was she had remained behind when the other women had left so abruptly. This lady was remarkably beautiful and very pretty. She looked to be about my age, maybe a year younger. Her face and features were small and delicate, but she was noticeably abundant in curves. She had brown hair braided just as the other women's had been under a mint green headdress. Her dress was the same color green with yellow and pink beadwork. All in all, she was the prettiest woman I had seen and, even from this distance, I felt lost in her eyes.
"I apologize for my cousins," she said, her voice ringing like a church bell. "They come from a very different upbringing." She seemed amused by something and I wondered what it was that had put humor in this angel's eyes. "May I know your name, good sir?"
I nodded, but was silent, not really knowing what to say to her even though it was the simplest of requests.
After another few moments, the girl smiled and put a hand to her mouth when she laughed. "Sir, your name," she reminded me.
I nodded again. "I apologize," I told her, face growing hot. "I am Antony Cordilleras."
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Antony," she said. I savored the way she said my name, clinging to the tone of her voice and holding the sound in my head. "My name is Katherine. Katherine Whittington."
The last name caught my full attention. Whittington. Was she my lord's wife? So many of the fantasies that I had entertained were shattered in that moment.
"It is an honor to meet you, Katherine Whittington," I said, bowing respectfully. I still wasn't sure of the proper etiquette in this situation. However, I had either done something right or Katherine was just following my lead out of kindness, for she curtsied and smiled.
Before anything more could be said between the both of us, the man who had answered the door to me entered the room with another man dressed in very fine clothes. I took the finely dressed man to be Lord Whittington. He walked with pride leaking from his every pore and a really stoic expression on his face. His hair was brown as well as his eyes. His eyes were hard and penetrating. He turned those eyes on Katherine when he saw her.
"Katherine," Lord Whittington said, sharply. "Are you not supposed to be practicing your beadwork?"
Katherine lowered her head. "I am sorry," she said. "I had stopped to apologize to this man for my cousins' crude words." She picked her head up to look at Lord Whittington straight in the eye. "I will join the other ladies at once, Father."
Something similar to relief swept through me then. Not his wife, his daughter. There was hope for me… Though, not much considering our very different social classes.
Katherine left the room shortly after that. I turned my attention back to Lord Whittington and still wasn't sure how I should greet him, so I remained in a nervous silence.
The lord turned to me, finally, and I saw his eyes look me over, the whole 6 feet and 5 inches of me. I was a very tall man and towered over most people I met. Naturally, people felt intimidated by me at first glance, but I had never spoken to a lord so directly before, so I assumed his perception of me might be different to what most people's view of me was.
"Speak," the lord commanded, "What is your name?"
"Antony Cordilleras… my lord," I answered.
The lord looked me over once again, looking almost… disappointed? Indifferent? It was hard to tell. I wondered if he would send me away if I was not what he was looking for.
"You start work immediately," he told me. "Ferdinand will show you your quarters and what it is I expect of you every day."
I nodded. "Thank you, my lord." I was grinning and probably making a fool out of myself. Lord Whittington's eyebrow raised slightly, but he turned away and marched out of the room.
I turned to the man who was left, the one who had answered the door, and the one who I assumed to be Ferdinand. I was about to ask him if I had made a good impression, but he spoke first.
"Follow me," was his simple command as he walked out of the room. I looked around the room a moment before following Ferdinand out of it and down a good several hallways (all decorated as exuberantly as the first room.
Ferdinand walked the hallways easily, but I became lost in all the turns we made. We finally entered another sitting room area with large windows facing the back of the house. A herd of horses could be seen in the distance, nibbling at the grass and weeds.
I didn't have time to comment or even to look too closely at the room, for Ferdinand was heading outside and I had to follow. The way he was walking and acting, I had a feeling he wanted to get this over with quickly.
Outside, I took a breath in of the warm, summer air. It felt great to be outside again. I was an outdoors type, and being indoors was never fun for me.
Ferdinand led me across the way and to a large barn. The two entrances were completely open and very large and square to allow horses passage through. Inside, it was very clean and there were rows and rows of stalls, each with a different sign on it with a different name painted onto each sign. The stalls were dirty and water buckets were empty.
"Each male horse gets a half a bucket full of oats," Ferdinand started, "and each female gets half. The water is to be filled day and night and is to be kept clean. The stalls are to be cleaned out every day. WindRacer, Starfire, Sundance, and Dawn are to be groomed daily, and WindRacer is to be ridden in addition." Ferdinand looked around the barn as if making sure he was not forgetting anything. "If you have any questions, you may ask me as they come to you." He was gone in a second flat. I blinked in confusement. Was I unpleasant company?
I looked at each stall and then at the names of the stalls. I had already forgotten which horses to groom and which one I was supposed to ride. I looked around the barn for the equipment to at least clean up their stalls. However, nothing was in plain sight.
Finally, I spotted a door next to one of the stalls. I headed through this door and found it to be full of saddles and other riding equipment. However, there was also a large wheelbarrow and shovel. I grabbed these two things and rolled them out of the room and back into the barn. I closed the door behind me and entered the first stall.
The sun was beginning to set by the time I had finished my work. I smelled like horse feces and sweat. I had taken off my tunic and thrown it in the room with the saddles, so that, at least, wouldn't be ruined. Sweat was still dripping down my head, but I was not quite done for the day just yet.
I put the wheelbarrow and shovel back into the saddle room. I had made several trips outside the bar to empty the wheelbarrow. I had not known where to do so, so I had dumped it throughout the pasture and spread it about with the shovel. It was extra work, but I did not want Lord Whittington to be unhappy with me.
I headed out to the pasture again, without the wheelbarrow, and looked at the herd of horses. How was I supposed to get them all to the barn and to the correct stalls? Was I supposed to take them one by one?
As I stood there, the horses started to come up in small groups until they were all standing by the gate, watching me. It was as if they were mocking me by grouping together and making them look like more than what they actually were. I huffed. I'd have to take them one at a time.
I headed down to the gate and found a lead and halter on the fence. I took it from the fence and went to the gate. I unchained it and slowly began to open it, not wanting the whole herd to get away on my first day on the job. As soon as that gate was open enough for me to slide through, however, the horses pushed through the gate and took off at a gallop up towards the house. My eyes widened and my breath caught in my throat.
"D*mn it," I shouted. "Get back in there you f***ing – Oh, d*mn them."
I started to follow the herd up to the house, but stopped and watched in amazement as they pushed past each other to get into the barn. I tilted my head to the side and headed up to the barn. When I got there, each horse was in a stall (I was not sure if they were in the correct one) and they were digging their heads around in their feed buckets. I smiled to myself. This was easier than I thought. I went through the barn and closed each and every stall and then went into the saddle room to get them their oats.
I was halfway done feeding the horses when I heard a soft scuffle across the barn floor. I looked to see if maybe there was a rat or some other sort of rodent I should probably get rid of, but was instead met by the sight of Katherine. She had let her hair down loose and had taken off her headdress. She was wearing a much simpler dress, a blue one with white lining.
"Good evening, Antony," Katherine greeted me, smiling softly. "My Father told me you would be done by now."
I shook my head. "No, I apologize, my lady. I… uh… their stalls were very dirty. It kept me out here later than I should have been out. I will not be so long tomorrow."
Katherine nodded. "I understand. It has been too long since their stalls were cleaned and since they were taken care of properly."
"Do you ride," I asked her, "my lady," I remembered to add.
Katherine looked at the horses and went to one of the stalls. 'Dawn' it read on the sign. "Not lately," she said, "my mother does not think it is proper for a young lady to have interest in a men's sport."
"There are plenty of women who ride, though," I disagreed.
Katherine sighed, but said nothing.
After a few more seconds of silence, I went back to feeding the horses. When I had finished, Katherine was still there and was inside of Dawn's stall, stroking the horse's neck.
I wanted to just head out and leave, but I did not think it was polite to say nothing to her before leaving. I hated talking to her, though. I sounded like… an idiot.
"Goodnight, Katherine," I tried.
Katherine looked at me and smiled, her face lighting up with happiness. "Goodnight, Antony," she replied. She bit her lip as if she wanted to say something else, but she was silent, so I headed off from the barn and over the fence of Lord Whittington's property. I headed in the direction for home then.
Author's Note: Alright Readers. I know I should be working on Eric and Ava's story, but I absolutely had to work on Anthony's story. Yes, I know he keeps introducing himself as Antony, but that was his birth name. He added the h in his name later to have a more modern version of his name. Hoped everyone enjoyed. Read and Review!