The Tale of Cedrik HaleCedrik set himself down on a rickety wood chair and scoot himself up to the table. The legs of the chair skid and thumped against the floors, but the boy's mother didn't mind. The wood floors were already dirty, dent, and warped. Upon noticing that one too few number of plates had been set for dinner, he stood back up and crossed the short distance in the cramped room to the cupboards in search of a plate, cup, and some utensils. Glancing up from her cooking, the boy's mother took notice, as if for the first time, how tall and mature the boy appeared. Though only eleven, he was as tall as many of the teen boys in the neighborhood. He had yet to even near manhood, but one could tell he would grow to be tall with broad shoulders. His narrow eyes were a light brown, caramel as she loved to describe them. Dirty blond hair fell across his forehead in a shaggy mess. The bangs weren't properly trimmed, the ends were uneven and long. Cedrik never complained when his hair grew out too long and got tangled in his long lashes. He knew better than that. Finally finding a plate, his mother spoke up.
"No, your father won't be home tonight. Why don't you get the youngins, stew is about ready." Cedrik returned the cup he had just reached and gave a curt nod to the woman before turning. Exiting the kitchen/ 'dining' room, if one could call it that, he was a mere couple feet from his, Henry and Flynn's room. Pushing open the door, the knob was long gone from some contraption their father had pieced together, he took a breath in preparation to speak. He found small room beyond untidy. Several of his drawings were strewn about, a few were crumpled, and there were makeshift toys loitering the place. A sigh escaped him. He would clean it up later, he knew. At the door's creak, two younger boys turned to the noise. Understanding why Cedrik was there, they jumped their feet and pushed past him. As if this were routine, the tall boy stood to the side and allowed them to pass. He was the 'man of the house', really. His father seemed to never be home. Dropping to his knees, the boy began to order the mess, sorting out his papers from the twins' toys. They were eight years old, Henry and Flynn, and were about as wild as they came. After a few minutes, Cedrik returned to his feet and exited the room, moving to the next one over where his sisters resided. Their room seemed to always be in prim and proper condition. Bridget, who was thirteen, was a neat-freak for the time. Though Cedrik loved the order and composure, Bridget held herself with, he tended to avoid the female. She was moody and such. The youngest sibling, though, was Cedrik's favourite, hands down. Hazel was five years old. She was sitting with her legs crossed, each hand wrapped around a simple cloth doll. A chuckle escaped the boy.
"Time to eat." Her bottom lip jutted out in a soft pout, but she nodded and got to her feet, gently placing the rag dolls on one of the small beds, tucking the quilt around them to keep them warm. Finally, with all members were seated at the table, Mother and Bridget shuffled around, scooping up the food of the night and slopping it on each plate. Henry wrinkled his nose as he took a whiff, moving to elbow Flynn and point at a particularly rotten looking piece of green bean. Cedrik frowned at the gesture, but kept his head down and ate half his food slowly- but with purpose. When Mother turned her back, he reached over the table and dumped some onto Bridget's plate and then the remaining contents on to Hazel's. Her eyes shone, there wasn't much food in the house, so Cedrik always made sure to give the girls most of his own. Mother finally sat herself down, but before she would move to pick up her utensil, she shook her head at Cedrik, clucking her tongue.
"Boy, I saw that. You'll be needing to look smart tomorrow, you ought to go to sleep after supper, y'hear?" Cedrik's brows furrowed, not understanding. As far as he knew, there wasn't any special occasion going on the following day. And why would it only pertain to him and not his other siblings? Cedrik rarely needed to speak, there was always someone with either the same question, or knew what he meant, anyways. Hazel was the exception, he spoke with her more than he did anyone. It wasn't that he was dumb, he just didn't voice his thoughts aloud.
"What's tomorrow, mum?" Henry asked, allowing Cedrik to stay silent, as he preferred anyways.
"Cedrik's going to apprentice for Greyson." The oldest male of the house nearly dropped his spoon. Bridget toyed with her food while Flynn grinned, nudging Henry to some fact that they would have the room to themselves. Hazel's brows furrowed as she thought on it. She wasn't sure of what it'd all entail, but by the others' reactions, it wasn't anything light. The boy didn't reply to his mother. They hadn't discussed it whatsoever. The plan had been he would get work at a farm nearby. Bridget would be able to find a job as well... this was nearly out of the blue. His face kept composed as he quietly asked for permission to take leave. His mother gave a nonchalant nod and Cedrik stood, pushing in his chair. Picking up his tray, he left for the kitchen. He would then move for his room and begin packing. A couple outfits of clothing, he wasn't sure if Greyson would supply such things. He packed a select few drawings in the canvas bag, and then moved for a small drawing Hazel had given him a while back- he had never thrown it away. He went straight to bed, but it was difficult for him to go to sleep. Least there would be more food for the five of them... Henry and Flynn were laughing when they barged into the room a couple hours later, but Cedrik wasn't sleeping anyways. And he wouldn't be falling asleep for a long while as he struggled to grasp that he was not only leaving his home and family, but he would be under another's discipline and word learning the art and craft of... whatever it was Greyson worked. Was it masonry? Carpentry? Cedrik wasn't sure, but word around the village wasn't pleasant with him. Greyson was a hard worker, but wasn't exactly a 'people' person. Rather, a burly, bellicose male from what Cedrik had gathered.
That morning, Cedrik awoke with the sun, running through his bag briefly and doing his best to mat his hair down. Bartholomew Sterling, a family friend, was going to accompany him on horseback towards Caine. He was already heading that way on a trip and would guide Cedrik in the direction, at least. The boy’s father wasn’t going to be seeing him off, and it was much too long of a trip for the family to join him. This meant that he would be meeting and finding Thomas Grey on his own.
The ride was long and Cedrik quickly grew sore; while he knew how to ride a horse, he was unaccustomed to the stance for such a lengthy time- and they could hardly afford a respite as Sterling had to be at a meeting in two towns over by sun-high. Upon nearing the town, Sterling stopped, turning his horse to face Cedrik.
“Just down the road, a mile give or take.” Giving Cedrik brief instructions to get to Grey’s store, he looked Cedrik over, as if granting him permission to ask any questions he may have had. But the boy was quiet, as his home village was most accustomed to, and gave a deep nod of his head in gratitude. “Take care of yourself, y’hear? Grey’s got a quick fuse.” And with that, Sterling’s horse turned about, taking off at a decent pace for their own destination. Then, Cedrik steered his own horse off in the previously gestured direction. Upon entering the city’s vicinity, he slid off the horse, wincing as his feet hit the ground. His legs were uncomfortably bowed and walking normally proved a struggle. He wiped his brow, only to find a lace of dirt on the garment. Surely, his face was of grime. The sun had grown warm and the wind had picked up dust and earth on the journey, whipping it into any traveler’s faces. Warily, he took in his horse’s bridle, guiding the calm beast along.
The main street was of red and brown brick with wooden shops, stores and shacks making their appearance along the sides known. Cedrik speculated briefly before concluding that this was a much bigger town than his own. The signs on the various buildings seemed somewhat random and he scanned each one, attempting to put their order to memory in order to gain a better view of the town quicker, as he passed. Marcus’ Saloon. Annabelle’s Cafe. Ol’ Town Pub. Pony Express. And so on and so forth. Finally coming at a cross road, he furrowed his brows as he glanced up at the sun. It was but a few hours from noon and he sought out North East, recalling Sterling’s directions. Finding a building, eventually, marked, ‘Grey’s Armoury’, Cedrik paused, facing the wall. He wasn’t sure about the place, but there was nothing else for him to do but tie up the horse on a convenient bar and knock on the door. Soon, it opened.
Thomas Grey looked at the boy with a calculating gaze. He was tall for his age. His mother had claimed him to be thirteen, but his features seemed younger than that. Turning his eyes to the sun, Grey took note of the time; supper would be ready soon. His dark blue eyes took in the boy's appearance, dirty seeming everywhere. He let out a grunt, Joan would never approve of the boy if her first impression of him was with grime covering his form. "My wife is making supper as we speak. You need to go clean yourself up, boy. Y'hear?" Cedrik nodded, it was hard not to hear Grey, the large man had a commensurate voice. Thomas Grey nodded and raised a thick arm to gesture down the cobblestone road. "Now go down the way you came, except go straight instead of right. Got that? That's the public bath house. Shan't have you come inside just yet. Ah- Just wait a sec'." The man disappeared into the house that Cedrik now realized was the house. Or perhaps they lived in the second story with the shop below? Reappearing after but a few minutes, which gave the boy time to look about the village, Grey thrust a pile of fabric into Cedrik's arms. "Here y'are. Change into this. Now, get goin'. Joan said she'd be done shortly. You be back here in twenty or we'll have problems before y'even start. Understood?" Cedrik nodded, his eyes widening as he looked up at the male. "Then get goin', child!" Startled, Cedrik nearly ran to obey the instruction. But not wanting to look foolish, nor was running an option- his legs were still uncooperative, he took off in a quick gait, aiming for the Bathhouse where Thomas had pointed with the bundle of clothes pressed to his chest. Upon nearing the bathhouse, a few shadows began to darken the ground at Cedrik's feet.
"Hello, sir." The first boy laughed at the title as if it was Cedrik sealing his fate as a being 'below' himself, while the boy had only meant it as respect... respect that was supposed to be mutual. Turning to his buddies, the blond man jeered.
"Y'hear that? I'm a sir!" Cedrik furrowed his brows, not understanding the humour as the other two boys laughed heartily.
"Excuse me," He murmured, beginning to move around them and go for the bathhouse, but one of the flanking figures stepped in front of him again.
"Hey! What's your name, huh? Dirt?" Though Cedrik had yet to see his reflection, he could only imagine he had a coat of dirt on him; he could feel it plainly. The boy's caramel brown eyes narrowed, finally understanding the others' game.
"It's Cedrik.." He murmured slowly, changing his stance to view all three males better. "I really must be goi-" The middle teen's voice cut him off.
"Nah, you're fine! We just wanna introduce ourselves, why you gotta be so rude?" This gained another chorus of laughter that caused the boy's blood to boil. Little did he know, however, that Grey was watching the scene with a tad of amusement and curiosity. How would the young lad handle himself? The older ones? From his place, he could observe the encounter with ease, he could even watch Cedrik's form try and walk around them, again.
"I don't have much time.." Cedrik was beginning to worry. The boy on the left placed his palms to where Cedrik held the bundle of clothes and suddenly gave a shove. The boy, rocky with his sore legs from the long saddle-ride, stumbled back, eventually tripping over himself and finding his bum to the dirt. "Stop," He tried, but to no avail. Instead, a leather boot moved to catch his leg and he quickly scoot back, trying to get enough room to get back on his feet. The boy was unsuccessful as another boot, from a different pair, moved to catch his ribs. All the while, Thomas Grey watched. He could see plainly a figure on the ground with three surrounding it. It took no brains for one to realize the one engulfed was Cedrik. The boy's movements were uncontrolled in his attempts to fend them off. "Hey, no," He cried out as one boy dove upon him, adjusting his pose so that he was suddenly sitting on the younger one's back, who squirmed violently. However, the boy was perhaps fourteen and quite mature, his weight bearing down on Cedrik. The other two boys quickly moved, following suit. One held down each of Cedrik's arms to the ground while the other plainly took a seat on the back of his knees. Cedrik struggled to breath, the male seated on his back's hand found his hair, pushing his head into the dirt. Cedrik gave a rough grunt in flared irritation. The poor lad knew he bruised like a peach. This would show, no doubt. Suddenly, an elderly woman's voice squawked out.
"Roger! William! Oliver!" The three boys all froze, their attention turning to the woman. "You best be behaving, y'hear? Need I tell your fathers to get their belts?" This seemed to not have been the first time the boys had been told off by the woman that Cedrik would later learn to be Maurgerette. And now he knew their names, as well... Each one, Roger, William, and Oliver, took off in a run further down the lane, laughing at each other in a race to get to.. wherever. Maurgrette, it seemed to Cedrik, had gone back to her business. Cedrik was alone, again. Grunting, he pushed himself to his feet, a soft groan escaping as a kicked leg ached in protest. His bottom lip trembled, he'd never even heard of such abuse before let alone witnessed it, as he continued on for the bathhouse. His legs were spread awkwardly from the saddle now matched with a dragging gait, his face marred now with fresh dirt.
Cedrik flinched so badly, his knees hit the bottom of the table, causing it to give a jolt. The reason? Thomas Grey had reached near him to grab the butter for his bread. The large male paused, eyeing Cedrik with a concerned gaze. "Why so jumpy, boy?" The boy shook his head, eyes dropping to his plate as he felt Cecilia, Thomas's daughter, and Joan's, Mrs. Grey, eyes on him, having felt the table shake. Self-consciously, he moved his fork and aimed a stab at the served steak- the Greys ate well.
"Boy, when I ask a question, I expect an answer!" Grey's fist found the table, the silverware clanked together, and Cedrik cringed again.
"I'm sorry, sir," He murmured softly, avoiding his master's gaze, "I meant no disrespect-" He was beyond reluctant to speak of his encounter with the three boys... What would Thomas say? Best he not know at all. Cedrik hadn't a clue that the male did not only know about it, but had watched the entire scene.
"Damn right, no disrespect! I’m giving you lodging, clothes, and food..." So why was Thomas so hell-bent on getting it out of Cedrik? The boy was typically reserved.. but now he was antsy, at best. Thomas Grey was already thinking of the future, if this child was to help around in the shop- trust was mandatory. How could he trust the child, if the boy didn't even mention his meeting? So he played the guilt card... one that Cedrik was never able to withstand. Thomas had been able to read Cedrik easily, knew he couldn’t handle guilt and was really quite compliant. And it was true, this male, indeed, was taking him in as if his own, giving him clothes, food, and knowledge.
"S-sir, I only.. er- met a couple boys, that's all." Joan began scooping up plates and such, carrying them to the kitchen. Cecilia, who typically helped her mother, stayed behind, watching Cedrik carefully. She was curious of the boy, as it was her understanding she would be living with him for a long while to the point he would be like a brother. Fair enough, she wasn't particularly fond of the brother she already had, Bryce. He was tall and burly, built just like his father and nearing manhood at fifteen years old. He didn't have supper with them that night, he was instead working late at his own Master's. While Bryce lived with his Master, Harold Rowan, as was custom for an apprentice, the Carpenter he worked for did not live far, so Bryce often came to share Sunday Supper with his family. It would be on a later date that Cedrik would meet him.
Time wore on and Cedrik Hale slowly became a Grey. The warnings prior had been accurate- Thomas had a hot temper, and was all the more frustrated with the fact that Cedrik was not growing as quickly as a boy of thirteen should, nor was he as strong. He grew suspicious that the boy was not as old as his mother had said, but Thomas had kept it to himself because the boy was an eager learner, even though he wasn’t too bright with the host of tools and varying metals used to hammer out metals. Though he was still young, after a couple months passing his twelfth birthday, he grew lean and strong. He had to, the metal was strong and the anvil took much work. Armour and weapons were primarily requested from Thomas Grey- even though there were other armourers and weaponists -as he was brilliantly skilled in the craft. He was in high demand, especially as word had come around that the city was on the verge of war, if not at least battles, as an impending army traipsed towards them, conjuring up the reputation of capturing small villages. Caine’s militia was taking no chances and was stockpiling on all sorts of supplies. And with that, he was forced to get the hang of the craft, staying by Thomas Grey’s side for many years. It came out, at his next birthday, his true age, but by then he had learned to weave the metal with finesse and was quite valuable... there was no way Thomas would be angry with him. They grew a close bond, as son and father, and then as partners. When Cedrik grew old enough to move on as a journeyman- while the craft of armoury would typically take longer to move on from, he started quite early and was able to go on to the status of journeyman at the same age as other crafts- he stayed with Grey. Yes, Cedrik had troubles with Oliver, Roger, and William after that first day, but he quickly learned to drop the titles with such boys and, as he naturally grew and was all the more muscular with working, he was quite confident he could hold his own. At least well enough he wouldn’t get too hurt. But it never came to that, William started an apprenticeship with the strict Carpenter after Bryce had left, and then Oliver had to travel to another village. Roger wouldn’t bother him alone, of course.
Once he reached the age in which he could start to make a profit form working with Thomas, he took to his knee for Cecilia, the daughter of Grey of whom he had grown quite fond of. They had met while young enough to grow close, yet old enough to not have the typical sibling-distaste as siblings had. It was, also, a common practice. The Hale’s were proud of him and he sent them some of his earnings, knowing his father would never help much. Along with himself, Grey grew older, as time was inescapable. He gave the shop to Cedrik who carried on traditions and made the armour as well as they had ever been made. Life was well.
[It wasn't suppose to end there- it's more like the start of a novel rather than a short story. I wanted Grey to be abusive to the point where Cedrik, even obedient Cedrik, wanted to flee... There was going to be a tournament with the grand award being enough for Cedrik to live off of a long while. But... I gave up xD]