Winter Sleeping, Packer’s Day 16, Year of the Lion number 427; December 24, 1738 Agathon; Linne 181
Has it really been two weeks since my last journal entry? I guess so. My life is starting to feel like a routine – like serving on the Outlaw Girl or rehearsing dance with Alani. It seems when things start to settle down, something happens to change everything.
Today is no different. As the city of Linne prepares for the annual winter solstice celebration over the next few days, I’ve stayed busy working in the castle. I perform my assigned duties quickly, completely, and efficiently. I’ve not gotten any complaints, and I’m starting to make some new friends.
One such friend is the tiefling maid, Respect. Up until two weeks ago, she was responsible for the care of Saxton Baird, but since his departure, she had to be re-assigned to new duties. Her primary duty has been to train me. Not that I needed to be shown how to sweep and mop a floor.
This morning, as we were busy cleaning the dining hall, John of Scales came in and almost slipped on a patch of wet floor where a guest had spilled their drink during breakfast. Respect was in the process of mopping it up. John of Scales cursed her and claimed that it was her fault. She apologized, promising she’d hasten to get the mess cleaned up. “That’s not good enough!” He limped out of the room as if his knee had been twisted. A few moments later, he returned with Lord Baird and said, “This woman should be fired immediately! Her carelessness caused me to slip on the wet floor.”
Respect bent to a knee and apologized. Fortunately for her, Lord Baird was kind. “Miss, you will not be fired. That spill is not your fault. Steward, you should be mindful of where you step. You can see she’s cleaning the mess. Remember, you are a servant in this castle just as much as she is.”
John of Scales mumbled something then left the hall. Sans limp. Lord Baird turned to us and said, “I apologize for his behavior. His family has been serving mine for many generations. He thinks he is an equal to me. However, I’d cut him loose before I fire you. You have served us in this castle far more loyally, and without complaint.”
Respect bowed again, “Thank you, my Lord.” I nodded.
We didn’t see either of them for the rest of the day. When our shift was finished, Respect invited me to join her at her apartment. When we got there, a note was pinned to her door. “Oh, no,” she said as she opened and read it. She handed it to me:
“Effective immediately, you are hereby evicted from the premises. You have 24 hours to remove your possessions from the property. Signed, John of Scales.”
“What?” I asked.
“He owns this building. I think he owns half the buildings in the city. It’s been in his family for a long time.”
I gave my friend a hug. “We’ll talk to Lord Baird. He’ll fix this.”
She shook her head. “No. As long as I live in this building, I will have to deal with that man. At least he’s given me a day to move out.”
“I have room where I’m staying, and it’s not owned by him – at least, I don’t think it is.”
“But you’re just staying at an inn, right?”
“Last week I found an apartment near the market district. I paid a full month’s rent in advance.” She opened her door and we walked in. Her possessions were meager. “Look, I’ll help you move your stuff tonight. You don’t have a lot. I’m sure we can move it all pretty easily.”
“You’re such a good friend,” Respect said. Tears were in her eyes. She sat down on the bench under the window. “Let me tell you about Lord Baird’s steward. His family has a reputation.” She recited this poem:
In Horkstow Grange there lived an old miser
You all do know him as I have heard say
It’s him on his man that was named John Bowlin
And they fell out one market day
With a blackthorn stick old Steeleye struck him
As of times he had threatened before
John Bowlin turned round all in a passion
And knocked old Steeleye into the floor
Old Steeleye Span he was filled with John Bowlin
It happened to be on a market day
Old Steeleye swore with all his vengeance
He would swear his life away
Pity them who see him suffer
Pity poor old Steeleye Span
John Bowlin’s deeds they will be remembered
Pity poor old Steeleye Span
Pity poor old Steeleye Span
Then she explained, “Horkstow Grange is one of the farm districts south of the city. John Bowlin, the steward’s grandfather on his mother’s side, was one of the overseers about a hundred years ago. The story is that he was ruthless and cruel to the workers. An old man, who had an eye made of steel, was fed up with the cruelty and struck back. Bowlin killed him. There was a trial, but because his brother-in-law was the steward of the castle, he was only fined a small fee. Span’s family left Linne afterwards and moved to somewhere in Antarrow.”
The rest of the evening and most of the night I helped Respect move her things. It took us several trips, but we got it done. By candlelight, I sit writing this so that I don’t forget the details. We’re both very tired. I look across the room and see the beautiful tiefling woman sleeping on her pallet. I think I’ll still talk to Lord Baird about this tomorrow, even if she doesn’t think we should. We’ll see.
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Author’s Note: Horkstow Grange is another traditional ballad (Roud 1760) performed by Steeleye Span as well as several other artists. This is the song from which they got the name of their band. It can be heard on the album of the same name, published in 1998.