Lady Isolde was coming down the grand staircase and heading to her parlor to send a servant to fetch the head butler when she came in sight of Master Butler Dolan coming out of his small office.
He saw the Arlessa and walked up and bowed to her, he knew by the look on her face she had a task for him.
“Master Dolan, send someone quickly to Fort Drakon and retrieve First Enchanter Irving or Enchantress Wynne of the Circle of Magi, bid one of them to come aid His Highness.” “His Highness has a wound that he didn’t tell us about and it needs tending right away.” “Send Ser Perth and tell him to saddle a horse to speed their journey.” “Hurry man; tell him with all due haste.”
“Yes, my lady right away,” bowed Master Dolan.
Master Dolan took off to do as he was bid. He’d have to send Ser Perth then send the servants with the food that His Highness had ordered for the Warden Commander, her guards, and her companions later. Oh yes, I mustn’t forget to send the message to this man called Zevran that His Highness asked to be done.
Maker, they were running low on supplies. He had to discuss this with the Arl and what they would need to do. They were running low on flour since the kitchen staff had been baking bread all night to feed the hungry. They had plenty of salted meats preserved and the large estate gardens were starting to sprout a few greens here and there. They still had the winter stores of root vegetables, but the supply was running low in the cold cellars. Well they could eat broth and bread if nothing else.
He had sent the stable hands and outdoor staff to hunt and find chickens that had gotten out of their pens during the battle. There were also members of the Arl’s staff out hunting in the woods now for more game; he’d also have to send for cattle at Redcliffe itself to be slaughtered to feed everyone, he had to get an accounting from Steward Harvard on the supplies and have them sent to the city estate if need be. All in all they really weren’t in that bad of shape given the damage and injured from the battle. The Arl and Arlessa had truly been blessed that their estate and castle Redcliffe hadn’t taken much damage.
He’d also just sent a servant to tell the Master of the Yard to hitch a wagon with a team and have this ready for this Zevran fellow to retrieve.
Ser Perth had finally taken to his bunk after the Arl and his brother had finally laid down their heads for a much needed rest. He really hated to awaken Ser Perth but the Arlessa had commanded he do so.
He opened the heavy steel door to the guard barracks. Snores were heard as he entered. He would try to be as quiet as he could while walking the great barracks. These survivors of the Arl’s men deserved their rest. They were hearty lads each one of them, even down to the lowest squire.
Dolan was proud of these men and women, what they had helped accomplish. He was proud that he served the House of Guerrin and for the Shield of Redcliffe. He’d been in service to the Guerrin’s since the time of the Orlesian occupation, when the Arl’s father had been a rebel band during the occupation and general to King Maric. Through the years he’d worked his way up to Master Butler. Dolan and his wife had been in service to a minor lord of the Bannorn when the Orlesians had sacked the small holding and killed nearly everyone within. His wife being one of many that had died that day. He had wandered and keep himself hidden in the hills until a scouting party of the old Arl had found him and he went into service to Arl Eamon’s father. The only reason he had survived was due to him having a meeting with the stable staff that morning and they all had made a run for it. Those inside the holding had no way of escaping; his wife had been head housekeeper.
He was sure many in this room now sleeping felt the same to serve such a great house. All in service to the Arl had done themselves proud. It spoke well of their excellent training which the Arl’s captains put their men through, that so many had survived. There were many bunks empty this morning after the battle and it was sad to think of the dead on this new dawn and knowing that many of the faces would never be seen inside the halls of Redcliffe again. Dolan knew the Arl would honor the fallen. Dolan was sure many survivors would be promoted within the ranks of the Arl’s men.
It was even more of an honor for them getting to fight beside their new king. His Highness being raised at Redcliffe as a lad, he had known the young child at Redcliffe and had felt sorry for him once the Arl had married the new Arlessa several years prior to the infant coming to Redcliffe. All of the staff at Redcliffe had done what they could in protecting the lad from their harsh mistress at times. The Arlessa could be selfish in her own interest. Proof of which had come to light over Connor’s mishap at Redcliffe. He couldn’t believe Master Connor was a mage. He felt sorry for the Arl since the Arlessa might not have more children to provide an heir for the Arling; she was getting a bit long in the tooth for that to happen.
Dolan remembered well the night that Arl Eamon had returned from Denerim after being sent for by King Maric. The Arl returned to Redcliffe with the infant. There had never been any doubt in his mind who the child’s real father had been, especially once the infant became a toddler. Why the Arlessa could never see it was beyond him; that woman didn’t have an ounce of sense in her bones. She never could see anything beyond her own nose. The resemblance between the young boy Alistair and Prince Cailan had been noteworthy. The Guerrin’s all were known to have dark hair and the lad had strawberry blonde hair. Who Alistair’s real mother was, is unknowable and only King Maric knew so he had taken his secret to his grave. He was certain if Arl Eamon knew he had never breathed a word on her true identity. He remembered a young serving woman who died in childbirth at the castle about the time the infant was brought back to Redcliffe. The serving woman and her infant son had died. There was no way that woman had been the new King’s mother. Her death had been used to say she was the boy’s mother. Which he knew for a fact wasn’t true. He didn’t know the real reason that King Maric wished for the identity of his son’s mother to remain hidden. She’d probably been a high born lady and the scandal it would have caused or she could have been a foreigner, which might explain the former king’s reason.
He had also known for a fact that King Maric never sleep with any of the castle wenches at Redcliffe. He had known of other visiting nobles to Redcliffe who had and their bastard sons many of whom where now guards in the ranks of Denerim guards and many were guards at Redcliffe. These young men, if their noble fathers didn’t want them going to the chantry were to become tradesmen, soldiers, or guards. Most of the lower ranked soldiers within the country were bastard sons of Ferelden.
Every castle staff tended to gossip, there wasn’t nothing that went on at Redcliffe or the estate here in the city that he didn’t know about. The servant grapevine was massive throughout the kingdom as visiting staffs from each noble house all knew each other. Dolan himself had known for a fact that King Maric had never been this type of man, at least not while he visited Redcliffe. He also knew never to tell anyone the truth about His Highnesses’ mother, that the serving woman at Redcliffe had never been his mother. He was sure he’d turn up dead if he did.
It had been hard to see the young lad Alistair be sent off to the chantry, he had been a joy to have around and was such a lively and curious child when he had been here at the estate in the city. All of the servants had done what they could for him. Extra blankets in the winter had been given to him when he had been sent to the barns to sleep and special treats from the kitchens when he had been sent on errands to the kitchens. They all had a soft spot for the golden haired little boy. Neither he nor many on his staff ever liked how cruel the Arlessa had been to such a small child. It was hard to imagine that little boy was now their king.
Master Dolan finally came to the small cluster of individual cell rooms within the great barracks hall assigned to Ser Perth. He knocked on the door. He waited for a time and had to knock again. Ser Perth finally came and opened his door. The young man was exhausted. It showed in his face.
“Yes, Master Dolan, what is it?”
Dolan bowed to Ser Perth.
“Good morrow to you Ser Perth, I’m sorry to disturb you Ser, but the Arl and Arlessa have need of you.” “They request that you saddle a horse immediately and make your way to Fort Drakon as quick as you can, and bring First Enchanter Irving or Enchantress Wynne of the Circle of Magi here to the estate.” “It seems His Highness has an injury sustained during the battle that needs attending too and he needs his healer.”
“I’m aware of who Enchantress Wynne is, she traveled with His Highness when they came to Redcliffe seeking the Arl’s help.” “She was also with the Warden Commander when they found the urn.” “I’ll hurry and get dressed and get on my way.” “It will be difficult getting through the city; but, I’ll do my best and try to make it back as soon as possible.”
“Thank you Ser Perth.” “I’ll inform the Arlessa at once that you’ve been summoned and are leaving to do as you’ve been bid.”
Ser Perth shut his door and Master Dolan set off to see the food baskets for the fort were prepared and to rush the kitchen staff along on that task. He had so much to do today. It was going to be a busy day. He also had a meeting with the head housekeeper to see what she needed this day, and the head cook and give them their orders for the day. He had to check in on the laundry and see that they were keeping up with the high demand of the estate right now; they had the honor of washing bloody bandages. He’d made a note they needed more lye soap, where they were going to get it he had no idea. He had no idea if any merchants were open yet in the city or if the docks were even open. He had to check with the Armor Master, Master of the Yard, and see what their needs were and the captains of the Arl’s men and what they needed. This didn’t include all of the needs of the houseguests right now and also the Arl’s family. He’d already sent up clean small clothes for His Highness. It was good that he was an early riser. He doubted he’d see his bed until the wee hours of the morning.
Master Dolan finally came back to the large kitchens within the estate, lost in his thoughts as he had walked back from the barracks. He saw the Arlessa and her son Master Connor sitting at a small table cutting cloth and rolling bandages. The Arlessa and him had gone through the estate just after the battle and gathered every available scrap of cloth they could find and started preparing bandages for the injured.
“My lady, Ser Perth has been sent and he is on his way to retrieve His Highnesses healer.”
“Thank you Master Dolan, I’ll go right now and inform Eamon, you can return to your duties.”
“Yes my lady.” Master Dolan bowed and left the Arlessa.
He made his way to the small office of the head cook. He knocked then he stepped inside.
“Good morrow Ethlina, how is the fair haired, head cook of Redcliffe?”
Ethlina looked up from her small desk and grinned at him. She lay her quill down that she was writing with, she was making her own list of things to do.
“I’m well, Master Dolan, and working our staff to the bone this morning and I’m sure you’re doing the same.”
Dolan had always had a crush on the head cook. Ethlina haled from Rainesfere. She was a fine woman and he was honored she was part of his staff. She was kind to her staff yet firm. Everyone in the castle and estate respected her more so than the head housekeeper. The head housekeeper was a sour old maid, but the Arlessa liked her so there wasn’t much he could do about her. The head housekeeper had habit of being mean to the elf servants. He had to stress his point over and over to her she’d get better results with them if she treated the elves on her staff with a small degree of kindness.
Ethlina had fair blond hair sprinkled with silver around her forehead and temples. Her lovely hair was pulled back off of her face in a severe bun. Small hairs had escaped and framed her lovely face. She had an unlined face, and lovely green eyes, and a stubborn little chin. Dark pink in her cheeks that reminded him of the apples of Rainesfere and a small bud rose in color for her mouth. She wasn’t tall but she was nice framed. His heart skipped a beat at the sight of her. He always looked forward to his daily meeting with her.
“Indeed I am Mistress.”
“I’m here to check on the baskets being prepared for the Warden Commander at the fort and her people, plus the tray for His Highness, he has arrived here at the estate this morning.” “How goes the progress?”
We’re putting them together right now.” I’ve sent a servant down to the cellars to retrieve some baskets and the laundry is sending linen over to line them.”
“I’ve got another fifty loaves of fresh baked bread coming out of the ovens.” “We’ve found some eggs that were still in the nest of the hens that got out, so I’ve set those to be boiled and saved some for His Highness and the Arl and his brother for their breakfast.” “I’m surprised we’ve got eggs at all this morning, those hens had to be scared out of their wits the same as all of us.” I’m surprised any of them laid any eggs at all.”
“With the Arch Demon roaring over all of our heads it likely scared the eggs right out of the hens.” “I’m sure if I’d been a hen while we were all down in the cellars, I’d probably laid a few myself.” “Maker that was scary, especially when the mortar started falling on our heads.”
“Aye, the Maker watched over us all.”
“That he did.”
“How fares the wound on your shoulder Master Dolan?”
“It’s starting to heal nicely, thank you for asking Mistress.”
“I’m glad Master Dolan; I was very worried we’d lose you when that mortar struck you.”
Ethlina continued with her morning report to him.
“My staff is frying up links as we speak and making pancakes and fritters.” “We’ve plenty of honey, syrup, jam and butter for the bread and cakes.” “Another servant is getting a small cask of wine and a medium cask of ale from the cellar and we’ll send those with your approval.” I’ll send a medium bag of oats.” We’ll also send them small crocks of: honey, butter, and cherry jam.” “I’ll also send a large salted ham for their use and a large wheel of cheese and of course several loaves of the bread.” “This should keep them for a few days.” “I’m also having a tray prepared and sent up to His Highness and that should be on its way shortly.”
“With your permission, it might be a good idea to post a servant at the fort to send back word on any supplies that they might need.”
“That is an excellent idea mistress, I’ll ask the Arl when I have my morning meeting with him, I’m sure he’ll want to know the conditions of the estate.”
“As always Mistress Ethlina, you’re as efficient as ever.”
“Thank you Master Dolan.”
“The cows here at the estate are being milked this minute in the dairy, so we’ll have more fresh cream and milk.” “The Master of the Yard is getting the clutter from fields cleared so the cows can be sent to graze.” “We did lose a few cows and their meat is of no use, so they have been butchered for their hides and the rest burned.” “It was a shame but they had to be put down; the cows’ injures were too severe to allow them to live.” “We’ve lost Bess our best milk cow.” “I’ll miss that old heifer, she was a gentle thing.” “With your permission I’d like her hide if that is possible?”
“Of course, Ethlina, tell the armor master you have my permission for the use of the hide.” “You really loved that old cow didn’t you?”
“I did, she was so gentle and easy to milk.” “That old cow and I spent many a morning together gossiping.” Ethlina sighed softly; it was a sweet sound to Dolan’s ears.
“The hunters have reported back and they are not finding much game in the woods probably due from scattering with the advance of the darkspawn, it will take time for the game to appear in the woods again, they brought back a few pheasants and that is all.” “The hunters said it was so quiet out in the forest, they also ran into Dalish hunters from the Dalish army.” “No incident occurred I’m told.”
“Well that is good to hear.”
“Aye, I thought so too.”
“You’ll have to send to Redcliffe for those cattle to be slaughtered and their salted meat sent for.” “I don’t think we’re going to have much choice.” “We’ve hams, bacon, and links in the smoke house to get by from the hogs being butchered over Wintersend, so we’re well supplied on that score; but, we’ll need those sides of beef since we don’t know how long the Arl will want to help feed the homeless.” “My staff can make a lot of stews with that beef to feed many people.”
“Ah, I figured as much, we’d have to send to the castle for the sides of beef.”
“Have you had any news from the castle? “I’m concerned for my kitchen staff there?”
“Not yet, but I expect word anytime.” “I’m sure Harvard will send the Arl and Arlessa a report soon on the conditions at the castle.” “We have no idea if they were attacked again after the army marched north.” “When I learn anything I’ll let you know.”
“Thank you Master Dolan.”
“Mistress Ethlina, will you please get a list together on supplies that you are low on and have it sent to me by the end of the day?”
“I’ll see it done, and just as soon as the foodstuffs are gathered I’ll get those baskets sent to the fort by way of servants.” “I have menus set for the afternoon and evening meals which the Arlessa has approved.”
“Thank you Mistress Ethlina.”
“It’s my pleasure in serving you, Master Dolan.”
Well it was good to know there might be a hidden meaning in her response thought Dolan as he left the kitchens for his meeting with the sour housekeeper. He couldn’t wait to hear what that old harpy needed.
It might be a good time to advance his courting of the fair haired Mistress Ethlina. He knew one day soon, he would retire from his service to the Arl. He had been a lonely man since his wife died years ago. It would be nice to settle in a small cottage near Redcliffe and a man couldn’t do any better than having Mistress Ethlina as his wife. Her better endowments would keep a man warm at night.
As his mother once said ‘never trust a skinny cook’, he laughed mischievously to himself as he left the kitchens.