It began, I think, in the waxing days of winter.
The Baronet Theodoric the II, holder of House Mareshal and the Mareshal herd, caught a cold. Being the house’s chaplain, I prescribed a good physic. But the cold grew worse and worse. At my whits end, I called in my father, the Elder Jhod Somhnal.
My father quarantined the Baronet, fearing his wracking blood-frothed coughs were contagious. They took over the furthest rooms at the end of the servant’s wing. The Elder became the Baronet’s care giver — serving him his meals and cleaning the room. The sheets I washed daily were often blood speckled and stained, showing a rapid decline.
One night the young master, Thierry, visited his father’s sickbed. The Old master was very weak and under Elder Jhod’s constant care. And yet, my father left the room twice – once to fetch a shaving kit and once to ask that we all gather in the great room to hear an announcement from the young master. This second departure saw my father looking very old, and shaken; I guessed what had happened. Elder John saw to the man’s spiritual needs, leaving the more material requirements to myself and the scullery maid.
Mr. Yealdored (the oldest servant who we all lovingly called Mr. Aldo) took the news of the gathering hard. A man of constant composure, it slipped briefly and I saw an old man who was certain he’d lost his best friend.
I interrupted Tamarie doing something in her study. She seemed distracted and, at first uncertain why she was being interrupted. But her wits were always sharp, and she agreed to attend.
Kaylee was in the stables with the horses; Caliber and the others were suddenly riled and it took her considerable effort to calm them. I told her of the young master’s summons and she seemed either preoccupied or simply not certain.
Tania, the scullery maid came at once.
And that was all there was to the household staff that lived within the manor house. Our number has been very few these last few years.
Master Thierry spent a bit of time thanking the attending, and promising to support and assist the staff through the transition. He then announced that his father had passed and that the old master wanted only the best for those that remained to serve him. Since it was night, the message would be relayed to the staff that had homes outside the manor house.
Mr Aldo dismissed the staff. The young master headed out for a quick ride, with Kaylee following close behind. The rest of us had duties, as Mr Aldo reminded us.
When Tania and I saw to the late Master’s body that I noticed the horse shoe, hung above the door for luck, was turned upside down. We washed the body, dressed it in its best clothes, and wrapped the body carefully in white linen, although my father had already seen to it that the body was in a gentled repose.
News flowed quickly through the region of the late Master’s passing. The boys, normally used to help with the horse herd, were tasked with digging the grave. If they didn’t spread the word, the handful of servants who work in the manor house, but live beyond the old boundaries certainly did.
The very next morning after the late Master’s passing, we had our first caller. The individual was very polite. He was met by Mr. Aldo, and he offered sincere condolences to the family, the house and the Baronet. He then asked to speak to the seneschal. Mr. Aldo brought the visitor to see Tamarie.
The conversation, at first cordial, became brisk, then loud. The visitor tried to brow-beat Tamarie into seeing their ledgers. She did not take it well, and their raised voices quickly brought Mr. Aldo. He escorted the visitor out and the whole household was now aware. The late Baronet had outstanding debts, perhaps far greater than any of us had ever known.
The burial is delayed a second day so that surrounding neighbors can more easily attend. That evening, a second clerk arrives. The clerk is less polite and Mr. Aldo keeps him out on the steps. Tamarie talked to him there, while the rest of the household tried to look busy and not like they were listening in. It was hard to hear the conversation until the second clerk arrived. Then the argument went three-ways, with the two clerks trying to brow-beat Tamarie while convincing one another to back down.
When the noise became so great the conversation could clearly be heard, Mr. Aldo went outside to deal with the issue. The young master was right behind him. He ordered the clerks to come with him. With Kaylee enforcing his desire, the clerks followed the young Master to the freshly-dug grave site for his father. There he berated the clerks for their lack of etiquette, and consideration. He told them they’d get their money in the proper time, and ordered Kaylee to escort them off the premises.
I had followed the young Master, and watched the clerks along my drawn arrow. I’ve never been so happy to drop an arrow and not fire. The clerks left quietly and the young Master remained unharmed. I went back to the house without him noticing I was there.
That night the young Master decides to give the family graveyard in trust to the church of Erastil. He and Tamarie talked for some time in her office before he announced his intentions, and I suspect Tamarie understands the situation perhaps even better than the young Master does.
On the morrow, I went into Restov to visit the temple of Erastil. There, High Priest Isvanki Keeg gladly saw me. I explained the young Master’s request, and he promised to do his best to honor it. He agreed to attend the funeral service, and offered advice and succor.
Finally, 3 days after his death, we burred the Old Master. The service was serene and peaceful, if not well attended. The servants, old and current, were there in force; and most of the neighbors sent representatives rather than come themselves on a cold winter’s day. A few knights and one baron also attended.
The wake. however, was a farce of mourning. It quickly turned from a time of reflection and remembrance to a time of barter and debate; as every representative and lesser noble petitioned the young Master to assure their debts were paid off first. The High Priest tried to reduce some of the conversation by talking about donations to the temple.