Cerjan lay still and warm in his bed, savouring the last few minutes before nature showed him it was time to rise. Looking out of his window, across which the thin curtains were never drawn, the day started like most in the Autumn, overcast and damp, with a cold wind sweeping down the northern mountain of Tor Ferendál. It was too early in the season for snow, but the cold, clear, star-filled nights told Cerjan that winter was close.
As he was contemplating the mountain through the remaining darkness, the awakening sun rose above the edge of the Tor and cast a rich orange glow that seemed to warm Cerjan’s eyes, marking the time for him to rise and begin the first day of his apprenticeship. Soaking up the first light for a moment, he was reminded of the apricity of some winter’s days. Shaking off the image, he took a breath and leapt out of bed. He dressed quickly to keep the cold away and washed his face with the bracing water from the old wooden basin under the window he’d been staring out of moments before.
The basin had belonged to his father, Duhitam, before Cerjan had his own room, “a wooden basin keeps the water warm, the clay ones make the water cold straight away” he’d been told. It didn’t make any sense when the water had been standing overnight he’d thought, but it was certainly true when washing before the family meal in the evenings. Now Cerjan was growing up and had begun to enjoy the limited benefits that a poor family on the Sháelarn could give a son of his age.
The room was small, at the top of the cottage his parents had lived in for the last twenty or more years, but it was his own room, a space to go to and think, to be himself. A room and soft bed of his own, a few handed down clothes that had been carefully mended several times and a worn out washbasin that was once his fathers. It wasn’t much, but they were all signs of his journey to manhood. As he dried his face he looked out of the window and let the first true rays of the sunrise warm his face.
His parents were good parents, since the loss of his sister he had felt closer to them than ever before. They had also grown closer to him, yet somehow had been careful to avoid over protecting him. He thanked them for that every day.
As his thoughts cleared, Cerjan became aware of the smell of various foods wafting up to his room and suddenly felt hungry. He ran downstairs to see his mother already hard at work in the kitchen. Being a Fieldman, his father had left home many hours before sunrise to prepare for the days farming. Cerjan always felt a little less of a man being the last to get up but his mother’s warm smile each morning soon set him at ease. ‘Still some way to go yet Cerjan’ he thought to himself.
“Morning mother,” he said as he walked over to her, greeting her with a hug and kiss.
“Good morning young man,” she said, smiling as she always did. Breakfast was ready and no sooner had he sat down than his bowl was loaded with the customary morning gloop.
As far as he knew it didn’t have a name, his mother just called it breakfast. It was thick, full of flavour and full of vegetables and occasionally meat. It wasn’t soup or stew, he knew those two. It was gloop, something in between. As was also customary his mother placed beside his bowl two cake breads. Heavy and filling, cooked like bread but with the texture of cake, freshly baked with flour made of the tall wheat grown on the Plains of Bal’Loa. The wheat his father, Duhitam, made sure grew well during all three seasons.
Three seasons of toil were not, however, to be the fate of Cerjan. Though it had been for generations of his family, things were changing on the Shaélarn. Life had vastly improved since Al’daer had become king. He had planted the Fiántas Forest, cleared and drained what was now the Plains of Bal’Loa and allowed some hunting again in the Salt Marshes. The forest meant work for the Foresters and Carpenters, it meant work for him too as the Fletcher’s Apprentice. The Plains meant not just more food, but more work for Fielders like his father. It was because of both the Fiántas Forest and the Plains of Bal’Loa that his father had met Master Fletcher Tarrián Casaen, who just this time last year was looking for hands to gather the coppice wood from the Fiántas before the winter set in.
Master Fletcher Tarrián had arrived at Shaélarn’s port city of Tal’Dyen three years earlier and, on account of the island needing a Master Fletcher, had easliy gained rights to coppice the northern edge of the Fiántas. It took time to train the trees to grow in the way needed, but once done, it provided a great supply of wood for the arrows. To his advantage the Oceanstone Hardwood trees grew fast and in the second year Tarrián had come to the village to find Fielders not working the land, not hard as it was so late in the year when he called on them. One he found willing to work was Duhitam and as the men worked together conversation naturally fell to family and life on the island. Duhitam mentioned his son, Cerjan, and his coming of age. “He’s a strong lad, has done some Fielding with me this year, but seems more taken to crafting than working the land,” he’d explained, “I fancied him to be a Carpenter but Master Crannmúnla Gasta has an apprentice already.”
After a moment’s silence between the two men Tarrián replied, “Well, Duhitam, I find you sober and hardworking and I dare so is your son, Cerjan. Send him to me this time next year and he can start as my apprentice. If he works well that season I’ll declare him”(1).
“Thank you, Tarrián,” Duhitam replied immediatley, recognising the opportunity this reporesened. With a shake of the hand Cerjan was set to begin his fledgling profession as a Fletcher one year hence.
Cerjan finished eating the gloop and bread, then finished the water that had been poured into a clay beaker, that had replaced the wooden ones the family used to have. “Keeps it cold I suppose,” he thought as he drained the last drops. Standing from the table he turned to his mother, “here you are son, some weald(2) and fruit to keep you through the day,” she said, handing him the small cloth bundle of food.
He took the bundle, kissed his mother once again, grabbed his overcoat and headed out into the morning and towards Master Tarrián’s workshop.
(1) A master takes on an apprentice for one year. If they can work together well the Master will declare him the apprentice at the King’s Court and it will be recorded in the Charter of Callings.
(2) Weald is a kind of filled pastry made of meats and fruits gathered from woodland and hedgerows.