- Rachel Rossano
A Gentleman and a Scholar - Sneak Peek of Reclaiming Ryda
To celebrate Fairy Tale Day, I am including a bit from Reclaiming Ryda (Once Upon a Duchy - Book Two), a novel inspired by Rapunzel. A man is known by his actions and Ryda gets the first hints at Crispin's character in this scene.
The distant thump of books being dropped on a hard surface brought the time to my attention. My visitor was most likely back. By the look of the sun, I had been moping around far longer than I ought.
Rising, I donned additional layers of clothing, straightened my bedding, and closed the windows. Finally, I brushed and braided my hair. I gave a fleeting thought to leaving it loose, it being my one aspect that I might use as a wile, but then I thought better of it. I refused to stoop to Rodney’s level. I braided it like normal, without any extra measures. In the end, it was neat, and that was enough.
On my way down to the first floor, I paused on the second to gather my customary morning occupation, a stack of Saruthian fables that I was translating. When I reached the bottom of the stairs with my arms full of books, I was surprised to meet the stranger entering the library.
“Did you forget something?” I asked, nodding toward where his satchel rested in the middle of the table.
“No, I needed to check the corridor. As you can see, I have plenty of ledgers to go yet.” He laid a large hand on the stack of ledgers resting on the far end of the table. They were probably the source of the sound that had announced his presence.
“I also have much to occupy me.” I crossed to the end of the table farthest from the door and from the stranger. Setting down my own small stack of books and note-taking pages, I left again in search of my ink and pens, which I kept tucked next to the stairs halfway between the first and second floors.
By the time I returned, the stranger had made himself comfortable nearest the door, covering half the table with the stacks of ledgers and the contents of his satchel. His shaggy golden-brown head was already bent over an open ledger when I settled in my place opposite him. I scooted down as far as I could possibly be and still share the table.
We settled into a comfortable silence, and within moments, I forgot the man was even there. About midmorning, I struck a Saruthian word I had never encountered before. I tried figuring out the meaning from the context, but I couldn’t guess. Rising, I trekked up to the second floor for the rudimentary dictionary that I had left behind.
“Where do you want it?” The question in the familiar disgruntled tone of voice drifted up from below as I reached the landing. My heart stuttered. The breakfast tray had arrived. The texts on the table were delicate and couldn’t withstand the delivery boy’s customary shoving act. I turned to rush back down the stairs and rescue my books.
The deep tones of command in the stranger’s voice from below stayed my feet. Would he spare my treasures? Taking a risk, I waited. He spoke again.
“I said, not there!” The scraping of wooden chair legs on stone followed by shuffling and thumping left me guessing. “Leave them here.”
“The lady never makes this much fuss.” The usual delivery boy’s nasal whine made me cringe even from the top of the stair.
“She shouldn’t have to. These are delicate and valuable documents. Treat them with care, or you will be held liable for their value.”
The boy snorted. “It won’t be me. That girl’s hide will receive the measure.”
“All the more reason to take care.”
Another snort was followed by a clatter as the tray was set roughly down.
After a few moments of heavy silence, the lad retreated with a sullen leadenness to his steps.
I quickly retrieved my resource before descending with far more languor than I felt. To my great relief, I found my end of the table just as I had left it. The stranger and his gear had moved to the floor next to the resources I had initially pointed out to him. On his end of the table, two trays covered the entire space. One held only empty dishes. The other lay neatly arranged. A small bowl of berries and a glass of milk stood next to my customary porridge. I stared at the luxuries.
I turned to protest to the stranger that surely the milk and berries had been meant for him, but he was gone.
My only recourse was to eat, which I did. However, I couldn’t bring myself to finish all the berries. They were perfectly ripe, sweet and tangy on the tongue. I set aside half for him when he returned and set the empty trays on the ledge for the boy.
An hour later, the stranger returned. Slipping silently through the gate, he crossed to his collection of things and hunkered down on the floor. Propping his back against the edge of the bookshelves, he opened the top ledger on the nearest pile. He resumed his perusal of it as though nothing had happened.