06 December 2012 @ 11:08 pm
*NaNo Project* Part the Second - Section the Second - The Student 947 AD  
Stefan and his guards accompanied our party as far as Monmouth before they went their separate way, riding quickly so as to return to their posts faster than our carts would be able to take us.

I was accompanying Bishop Grigor of course, so at the crossroads on the outskirts of Monmouth, I kissed Mother and Father goodbye and carrying my satchel went to join Bishop Grigor in his cart. I would be staying with him for two weeks and he would accompany me back to Monmouth on his way to the capital to deliver a report to the King.

I was full of excitement as Bishop Grigor and I set off westward, I leaned out of the cart in order to wave to my parents, until they disappeared from view and then Bishop Grigor and I discussed this and that and I decided travelling without one’s parents was not so bad after all.

At least until night fell.

Bishop Grigor and I stopped at an inn and as I sat down for dinner I was suddenly overwhelmed with the oddest feeling of emptiness. I had always had dinner with at least one of my parents and we had always talked about our day. Not that I couldn’t talk about my day with Bishop Grigor, but there really wasn’t much to say and I didn’t feel comfortable just sprouting nonsense.

Things only got worst when it was bed time, I would go so far as to say I was actually scared. I had my own room, but I think I would have rather slept on a mattress on the floor of Bishop Grigor’s room. I felt entirely alone and the quietness of my room seemed to take sinister undertones. I knew quite well that I was being ridiculous, but that didn’t seem to make my worries any less and I tossed and turned for most of the night, although I did eventually get to sleep.

The next morning though, I was quite tired and even dozed in the cart as Bishop Grigor and I continued our journey. For some reason it was rather easy to sleep during the day….how strange the human mind is!

We arrived in Abertawe as the sun was setting and many people came out into the streets to greet their Bishop and a fair number of them looked at me rather curiously, which was understandable! They were probably wondering why their Bishop had brought home a small boy.
Bishop Grigor’s house was slightly bigger than Father’s, but of course, paled in comparison to Bishop of Tamworth’s and even our own Bishop of Caerleon.

I, of course, wished I could see the library right away, but I managed to hold my tongue and remember my manners. Besides, I’m sure Bishop Grigor wanted to settle in before he started giving me a tour.

The only downside of being patient was that it left me in a position to think, and as had happened the preceding evening I began to feel increasingly anxious and lonely. I decided to go and take a look around Abertawe, just to distract myself. It was much like Monmouth in a way, being on a river, but it had been a town for a lot longer and was therefore bigger, although not by much. It wasn’t a very good time to go investigating, the sun having set meant just about everyone had gone to their homes for dinner. Bishop Grigor and I had had a late lunch however, so I wasn’t very hungry.

As I looked down the well just in front of the church, trying to gauge its depths a voice sounded behind me and nearly made me jump head long into the well.

Fortunately, I managed not to, instead I turned around and came face to face with a young boy.

“Who are you?”He demanded.

“I’m Geoffrey, from Monmouth,” I replied, then added. “You shouldn’t sneak up on people, especially when they’re looking down wells.”

The boy, he couldn’t be any more than seven or eight simply shrugged. “Monmouth? Where’s that? I’ve never heard of it.”

“You haven’t?” I was surprised, surely Monmouth was big enough to be widely known in the kingdom. I had heard of Abertawe after all. “It’s a day and a half’s ride east from here.”

“Oh. What are you here for?” He seemed to be a very curious lad.

“I’m visiting with Bishop Grigor, my father is a bishop too.”

“A bishop?” The boy makes a face. “How boring.”

“My father is not boring,” I objected, wondering where this child had learned his manners. “Who are you?”

“I’m Gruffud,” the boy replied. “My father owns most of the shops in town.”

Well, I had to admit that was rather impressive, although it hardly made his father any more interesting than mine was.

Gruffud seemed to be waiting for some sort of response from me.

“He must be important then,” I finally said.

“He’s the most important man in the whole town,” Gruffud boasted.

I nodded and decided it was probably time for me to go back to Bishop Grigor’s house and considering how dark it was getting Gruffud should be getting home too.

“Um...where do you live? It’s dinner time I should think.”

Gruffud lifts his chin. “I’m allowed to be out to whenever I want. No-one would come after me.”

“I’m sure they wouldn’t, but aren’t you hungry, at least?”

Gruffud shook his head. “Of course not,” he reaches into the pouch attached to his belt. “I have honeycomb! From the bee keeper.” He holds it out towards me to inspect.

I loved honeycomb, I rarely got to have it though and to think that Gruffud got it all the time!

He doesn’t offer it to me, unfortunately, returning it to his pouch. “You should come and join us at the river tomorrow.”


“My brothers and the other boys in town,” Gruffud elaborates. “It’ll be fun.”

“Er…well…thanks, I’ll see…” I’d never be invited anywhere like that before. It seemed genuine enough as well, completely unlike how Prince Caerleon spoke to me. All the same…

“We meet at noon just on the outskirts of town. See you then, Geoffrey,” Gruffud seemed to take it for granted that I would definitely be coming, turning and running off in the direction of his home before I could say anything else.

I shrugged and decided I would go, I wasn’t a hermit after all, who knew, I might actually enjoy myself.

Although that night definitely proved as difficult as the one before, I might have even cried a bit, but I was more than fine the next morning, especially when Bishop Grigor took me to his library. It was a generously sized room with shelves that reached to the ceiling at least and nearly all of those shelves were packed with books.

“Did you pick every one of these yourself?” I asked with wide eyes.

“Well, some of them were brought in bulk auctions, and others were given as gifts, but mostly yes.”

I looked around, wondering what it would be like to have a library of my own like this. I wasn’t sure how I’d ever get the money for it though. I wasn’t sure what I occupation I would do when the time came for me to make my own way in the world. I sincerely doubted if I could ever be a priest like my father and I wasn’t sure what other talents I had. I would have to figure it out soon though…I couldn’t depend on my parents forever after all.

Bishop Grigor was more than happy to give me free reign of his library and I was happy to oblige him!

In fact, I completely lost track of time and I certainly didn’t hear the midday bell despite the fact the church was just next door.

However, Gruffud had not forgotten me, I wonder what Bishop Grigor thought when there was a knock on his front door and Gruffud was there asking for me.

Unsurprisingly, he knew who Gruffud was and let him in and I found my reading interrupted quite suddenly as he burst into the room.

“What are you doing?” He demanded loudly, staring at me as if he’d found me in some horrible cave with a troll holding me prisoner.

“I came to see the Bishop’s library, I told you so yesterday.” I looked at him in surprise.

“I thought your father was making you do that, you don’t actually like to read do you?” Gruffud looked appalled by the very thought.

“I do like to read.” Well, I wasn’t about to deny it, why should I?

Gruffud made a face, but then after a moment shrugged. “You forgot to meet us at the river, everyone’s waiting, come on.”

I set down he book I was reading, I was at a really interesting party but I decided that I better go, since Gruffud was being…sort of nice I guess? He didn’t sound like he wanted to beat me up at least.

Gruffud led me out of Bishop Grigor’s house, he told the Bishop that he’d have me back in one piece, and down the main road to the outskirts of town, where a large group of boys was waiting.

“This is him, Gruff?” One of the boys called out as we came into earshot.

“Yep!” Gruffud replied cheerily. “Geoffrey, from some place called Monmouth.”

The other boys didn’t look like they had any idea where Monmouth was either, I had to wonder about that.

“He’s tall enough at least,” the boy continued, looking up slightly at me.

“Tall enough? For what?”

The boys looked at each other and the head one spoke again, a grin on his face. “You’ll see.”

I started to pray that I hadn’t walked into something stupid, something I might regret, I gave Gruffud a quick look. He didn’t look concerned, but I wasn’t sure if that was because I was worrying for nothing or because he didn’t mind what was about to happen to me.

The other boys came over and surrounded me. “Come on, then,” the head boy who must have been about my age but his arm around my shoulder. “I’m Aled, Gruff’s older brother and those are Sawyl and Wyn, the twins.”

I hadn’t noticed until that moment that two of the boys were identical in appearance, except for the different colour of their tunics.

“And Berwyn, the son of the candle maker and Ifan, the son of Lord Meruic of Tawe.”

I decided it was best I be polite, so I smiled and gave a nod. “Hello.”

“Right, let’s go. We’ve got a lot to do, seeing as someone decided to run late.” Aled gave me a grin and pretty much pulled me along the river bank. I’m not sure where we going, but I couldn’t help but throw a rather longing look over my shoulder, wishing that I hadn’t had to leave my books.

Finally Aled stopped dragging me along, coming to a halt in front of what, at first looked like a sheer rock face, but then slowly I noticed a narrow fissure in the rock, an entrance.

“This is what we’re looking at Geoffrey,” Aled squeezed my shoulder in what I think was meant to be a friendly gesture, but really, who knew?

“A cave?” I hazarded a guess.

“Not just any cave, Geoff, legend has it that the old Celts who once lived here hid their gold before the Romans came, so they wouldn’t be able to find it.” Aled spoke in a hushed voice. “And apparently the Romans never did, which means –“

“It’s still here!” The boys chorused, very close to my ear which was almost deafening.

“Gold?” I repeated.

“Real gold,” Aled said with a nod. “Problem is, none of us have been able to get to the highest crevices of this cave, but with you here.” He poked me in the arm in what I supposed was meant to be a friendly gesture. “We’ve got someone here who’s tall enough.”

That was what they wanted me for? To be some sort of…ladder? So much for having found friends…

“That’s what you need me for then?”

Aled seemed to realise I wasn’t jumping up and down with excitement. “We’ll spilt the gold with you of course,” he looked almost affronted. “We’re a fair bunch.”

There were general murmurs of agreement from the other boys.

“Imagine that, Geoff,” Aled continued. “Your own part of the treasure of…whatever this cave is called.”

I raised an eyebrow, it seemed to me they really hadn’t done their research all that well.

“What?” Aled demanded.

“I was just wondering…do you know for sure this cave has gold in it?”

“Of course we don’t, but we won’t know until we check everywhere, come on! Don’t you want to find gold?”

Well…I was a lover of knowledge, of course, but there was something to be said of gold…If it was true that is. And Aled had a point, we would never know if we didn’t look.

“All right,” I finally said, which earned me more slaps on the back from the other boys. I’d never understood the appeal with backslapping, it certainly never struck me as friendly.

“All right, boys.” Aled straightened his shoulders as if preparing to go into battle. “Let’s begin.”

I’d never been in such a confined space as a cave before and as Aled gestured me to go first I gulped. The fissure in the rock face was hardly worthy of the term ‘opening’.

I had to squeeze through it and for a brief moment I was certain that I was going to become stuck! But Aled or one of the other boys gave me a shove and I managed to make it through and come out the other side.

The rest of the boys followed and we squeezed into the small space, there was barely enough room for us all.

“Is this all there is?” I asked, feeling more than a little anxious by such confinement.

“No need to panic, Geoff, we’re here with you.” Aled said with a chuckle.

That didn’t make me feel much better.

“Where are these crevices you can’t reach?” I decided to get through this as fast as possible.

“Up there,” Aled had to move about in order to raise his arm to point up into the shadowy recess towards the ceiling of the cave.

“Do we all need to be in here?” I asked, as Sawyl or was it Wynn jostled me.

“Of course we do,” Gruffud spoke up, “we have to all be here when the gold’s found, otherwise we won’t all be entitled to a share!”

Apparently I had a better view of human nature than they did because I would have been more than happy to split everything seven ways.

“Besides you’ll need us to hold you up, you’re tall, but not that tall.” Aled grinned at me.

“Hold me up?” I swallowed, this suddenly didn’t sound like such a good idea at all.

They didn’t take it as a question, but rather a statement that I was ready because the next thing I knew I was been lifted off the ground.

“See, Geoff, there’s all these crevices up there, put your hand in there and see what you can find.”

I hesitated, gripping the wall to make sure I didn’t fall to the ground. “I…what if there’s bats or spiders or snakes in there?”

“Don’t be such a girl, Geoff. They’re more scared of you than you are of them.” Aled grunted.

I sincerely doubted that, but it was clear they would not let me down until I did what the asked, so swallowing hard I reached out a hand and began feeling around, praying desperately that nothing would fly out, creep up my arm or bite me.

Fortunately, there was nothing like that, although there wasn’t anything that felt like bags of gold either…

“I don’t think there’s anything up here,” I finally called down.

There was a groan from the boys and found myself rather uncermoniously dropped to the ground.

“We’ll have to search the other caves.” Aled announces.

“The other ones?” I almost winced.

“Don’t worry, Geoff, you’ll have the day to recover, we all have to get back to our lessons.”

There was another groan, this one not directed at me.

“You get to have lessons?”

Gruffud nodded. “They’re a nightmare.”

A nightmare? Obviously Gruffud and his brothers didn’t know good luck when they were receipents of it!

But I didn’t have a chance to point that out to them, because they were in rather a rush to get back to Abertawe, hurrying me out of the cave – the brief hold up as we squeezed through the small fissure notwithstanding.

“We’ll meet back here tomorrow,” Aled declared, looking at me rather hopefully. “Right, Geoff?”

I considered saying no for a moment, cave exploring wasn’t really for me…but on the other hand, they were friendly, in their own way…

So I agreed.
Current Mood: thoughtful