Here Be Dragons by Uncle Jarod, admin
Story Notes:
Here Be Dragons is Co-Authored by Jacci and Onisius under the name of Uncle Jarod. We do hope you enjoy this slightly differnt take on The Pretender.

1. Strange And New World... by Uncle Jarod

2. Amazing, Just Amazing... by terri_tpfan

3. Talking Boy... by terri_tpfan

4. Out of sight, out of mind... by terri_tpfan

5. Forbidden Drawings... by terri_tpfan

6. Friends for life... by terri_tpfan

7. Innocence... by terri_tpfan

8. Vitruvian Man... by terri_tpfan

Strange And New World... by Uncle Jarod
Author's Notes:
We don't own them, never have, never will. We do hope every one enjoys this little story!!

It was a time of unrest and the threat of war was forever looming. The boy known as Jarod knew nothing of these things. His world was one of simple pleasures and chores. He adored his parents and longed for the day when he was old enough for his father to take him on as his apprentice, training the horses. As he got a little older he knew his father was worried about things that Jarod was starting to understand, yet  his father and mother told him that he was too young to be concerned about such matters. He tried to tell them that he wasn’t too young time and time again, but they dismissed him and learnt to be guarded in their talk around him.

They lived on the very edge of a large village and when all the work was done, Jarod often ran to the strange hill with the large stones on, despite everyone saying the place was cursed. He would sit in the middle and stare at the stones, dismissing the legends of black magic and blasphemy as nonsense. There was nothing mystical about this place at all, there was logic and purpose in its construction. It was completely fascinating and he liked that nobody else would come up here. He often drew in the dirt some of the things that he saw in his mind and then would wonder what they were. Sometimes the drawings scared him, like they had his parents when they had caught him doing them at the back of the house. He didn’t know what they were or what they meant. The one thing he did know was they he was compelled to do them.

Despite being admonished time and again by his parents to play with the other children of his age, he found them tiresome and boring and would much prefer to spend time by himself on the hill, or in the town square, listening to the adults, soaking up as much information as he could. Shooed away more often than not, he learnt to keep his mouth shut and remain inconspicuous. By the time he was 4 he probably knew more than the accumulated knowledge of the entire town.

All of that knowledge didn’t help him on that terrible day though. He was up on the hill, drawing fantastical machines in the dirt when he saw the smoke in the distance. Running as fast as his little legs would carry him, crying the entire way, Jarod ran seemingly forever. When he got to his home he screamed out for his parents. "Mummy!!! Daddy!!!" But they were nowhere to be found in the smoking ruins. All the horses were gone and he knew what must have happened. Refusing to accept that his parents could be dead, he made his way into town, trying to be brave and strong.

Walking past bodies that he checked carefully to make sure were not his parents, he pushed forward, refusing to give up. They had to be here, they had to be safe. Every time he confirmed that his parents weren’t among the dead left carelessly about the town and the roads, he felt guilty at his relief. He knew every single one of them.

When darkness came, he had not found his parents and he didn’t know what else to do, so he curled up in a ball where his parents always told him to come if he ever got lost in town and cried himself to sleep.

Awoken by a gentle shaking he opened his eyes, expecting to see his mother. Instead there was an old man with hardly any hair, dressed in a brown coarsely woven robe. "Where's my mum and dad?” He asked the man through a fresh set of tears.

"They are gone lad, you are to come with us now, we will look after you." The monk told him. "My name is Brother Sebastian.” He bent down and picked the boy up and held him. He wondered how the child could have possibly escaped the massacre unless God himself had wanted the boy to be delivered to him, spared for some greater purpose.

That was the last Jarod was to see of his village, the strange circle of stones or anything in the world for a long time. True to their word, the monks took him in and looked after him. They fed and clothed him and when they found out about his aptitude for learning, they started on his education. Brother Sebastian was delighted by his talent, unheard of in a boy of his age. He could copy anything flawlessly in record time. He never made a mistake and never had to be shown anything more than once.

After 3 months the boy had copied more Holy Books than all of the other monks, and such exact copies as well. Within another month the boy had learned his letters and numbers. Soon there were whispers circulating among the Brothers that he was touched and they became more and more concerned that the boy with the unnatural gifts were tainting the purity of the Brotherhood and the holy ground that the monastery stood upon. Brother Sebastian did not share this superstitious belief and he argued that the boy indeed had been touched, but by God. Sebastian fought hard to keep Jarod within the monastery, seeing how he thirsted for knowledge and how his mind opened up like a flower in spring, drinking greedily the new sunlight after a long cold and dark winter.

Jarod still grieved for the loss of his parents, a great hole in his heart. His days were filled with work he did for the monks and his nights with learning, which he loved. He soaked up every bit of knowledge that they would let him have. It couldn’t make up for the loss of his mother and father though. He ached for them, to feel his mother's arms around him as she hugged and kissed him goodnight, to hear the strong voice of his father, or to be swung up to sit on his shoulders. He found that he forgot what they looked like sometimes and each day it was harder for him to remember them. He was not allowed any parchment to draw upon and sometimes he took his charcoal and drew pictures of them on the flagstones. They would force him to clean it off and then take his charcoal from him, forbidding him to do anything that did not serve the works of God.

Despite that, Jarod promised himself that he would not forget and he clung tenaciously to their memory, keeping it secret from the monks now. He heard what they whispered about him and knew that he was not wanted here anymore. He tried numerous times to run away but got caught every time. He longed to see the sunlight again and to run in the grass, splashing through clear streams and feel the wind on his face. He would trade all the learning they had given him to be able to see his parents once more and run free in the sunlight.

The months rolled by and the young boy became more and more miserable. He soaked up all the knowledge they let him have access to and tried hard to cling to the memory of his parents. It came as no surprise when Brother Sebastian came to him one morning and told him he was leaving. There had been much debate in the monastery about what to do with him and it was finally decided that he was to be sold to their rich patron, who had heard about the boy and his unique abilities and decided he wanted him. Sebastian had fought against this until finally he gave into the mounting pressure and it was agreed that he would deliver the child to the Duke in return for much needed funds to keep the monastery running.

Dressed in a monk's cowl, rough sandals on his feet Jarod followed the monk, unaware of the decision that had been made. He had been told his skills were needed and that he must behave himself or face the consequences if he didn’t. It was the first time in months he had been outside the walls of the monastery and he didn’t care where he was going or why, he just wanted to see outside once again.

The trip took nearly half a day and his feet were sore by the time he saw the great castle looming. He had wanted to ask questions along the way, but the monks refused to answer him and he lapsed into silence for the long journey. It was hard for him to curb his natural curiosity and after being locked for so long away from the world, even his sore feet and the chastising from the monks couldn’t stop him from looking around. How he longed to get rid of the rough and heavy homespun robe that tangled continuously in his legs and just run off and feel what it was like to be free once again.

They travelled through land Jarod had never seen before and fear combated with excitement. He didn’t know what they would be doing when they got to where they were going, but he knew that it was unusual that they should have brought him along, he never went with them on their business before.

Finally arriving at the great castle, Jarod couldn’t help but gape and he earned a slap on the back of his head and an admonishment to keep his head bowed, his eyes downcast and most importantly of all his smart mouth shut.

The boy was nervous as he huddled behind the monks as they moved into the great keep, never having seen a building this big before. He had been schooled on how to behave and he was careful to follow the lesson to the letter, keeping his eyes down and his head bowed. This was the castle of a great man, a Duke, and it was his privilege to be granted an audience and he was not to embarrass them.

Parker sat at the table on the left side of her father, her twin on the right as they ate their lunch, the servants backing off as a group of monks were announced. Her head popped up in interest and curiosity. She had never personally met monks before. They often were at the church her father owned, in the background doing what ever it was monks done, but they had never come into her castle before.

The Duke looked up at the monk, annoyed at his timing but clicked his fingers for the missive that he knew they were carrying. They were perilous times and he had to tread carefully, not wanting to draw the King's attention until he had consolidated his position and he had the surrounding baronies allied with him or indentured to him. For now, he was being cautious. He was an ambitious man and he did not like waiting. His eyes glittered with greed though as he thought of the agreement he had made with the Duke of Wiltshire and the wealth and connections it would bring him. For now, he would keep that bargain to himself, continue to consolidate his power base and by the time the doddering Richard found out, it would be too late, there would be no one to stand in his way. He barely glanced at the urchin huddling behind the monks and gave Brother Ignatius at look that clearly told him this boy better be as talented as he had be led to believe. He would not be made a fool of.

The monk stepped forward with the official sealed letter from the Duke of Wiltshire. Bowing his head, he held it out for the Duke of Somerset. The deal had been made, money for the church in trade for the child. The other monks were more than happy with the trade that was made, Brother Sebastian wasn’t however. He did not believe what the others did, he knew this child was special, more special than anyone else and they should be keeping him and training him as their own monk.

The Duke took the papers and dismissed the monks with an absent wave of his hand. How he hated dealing with them, so arrogant and superior with their learning. Sitting back down he clicked his fingers and servants moved to tend to the monks and see the boy was attended to.

Jarod tried hard not to look around as he was lead away, having expected something more exciting to happen at the ‘audience’ the monks had been so worried about. Nobody had even spoken really. Yet all eyes had been on the man that stood up and Jarod wondered who he could be and why everyone was so afraid of him. Was he the duke? And why did he need to walk all day to watch them hand over a single bit of papyrus, it made no sense at all. The smell of roasting meat had reminded him how hungry he was and his stomach rumbled loudly, never having seen so much food in one place before. The monks lived a Spartan existence and even at festival time, there had never been that much food back home. He could feel the undercurrent of something going on but couldn’t understand what it might be.

When they were gone, he smiled at his son and then his daughter and got back to finishing his lunch, content with the business of the day. Raines was lurking in the background and slipped behind a tapestry, satisfied that things had gone as scheduled. He doubted the skills of this boy, they seemed a little too far fetched and he wondered why they were so keen to get rid of him. Something else was going on here and he intended to get to the bottom of it.

Parker finished her meal, very curious as to the boy her father had just acquired. "Father, may I leave?” She asked politely, itching to go find him. He had looked so scared and so little and Parker had to wonder how the monks had obtained him in the first place, where his parents where, why he didn’t live out in the village. All the servants they had her father had taken from the near by villages to work for him and she wondered if the boy was the same, if he was going to work in the kitchen or stables.

The Duke looked at her in surprise. "We haven't finished,” He said with a frown. "You know better manners than that." It was a continual battle with his headstrong daughter and he was only thankful that her brother wasn’t as bad as she was. He understood, even at this young age about his responsibilities.

Parker slumped in her chair, wanting to just run off. "Yes father,” She said in a sulking voice, eyeing her twin off, urging him to hurry up. Parker knew full well her father preferred her brother to her, he was his heir, his only heir. If Lyle were to be killed or died of illness, Parker would not inherit anything, she was a girl. It hurt her deeply sometimes, the attention and affection he showed to her twin but not really to her.

Shaking his head the Duke despaired at how he was going to teach her to be a lady and make her proper marriage material. She was fast approaching the age where she should have been betrothed and the last thing he needed was to be made laughingstock of the counties by his unruly daughter.

Parker hated to have to wait for her father to finish before she could leave. Whenever he said 'we' he really meant him. Sipping her drink, her eyes trailed over to the door that had led the mysterious boy out. He had been dressed the same as the monks and she wondered why. Whenever her father received new goods for working in his castle, they were always just dressed as peasants dressed and were dirty and messy. This boy wasn’t.

Lyle ate his food, watching his sister closely. She was always impatient, she would need to learn soon to be patient and wait for the male to tell her what to do. Soon he was finished his lunch as well and waited quietly for his father to finish eating his meal. Even with all her classes on etiquette and how to be a proper well mannered lady, she still never was. Parker would rather go out side and play, or wonder the village among their towns people, or get her hand on some hunting weapons and go hunt. Maybe if their mother had not died during childbirth, his twin would be a proper lady already.

When the meal was finished, he nodded to his daughter that she could leave, wondering what had got her so impatient this time and knew he needed to be firmer with her. He indulged her far too frequently and it was spoiling her. Sometimes he wondered if it wouldn't be wiser to send her to the convent and let the nuns tend to her upbringing, where she would learn the proper lady-like manners.

"Thank you father." Parker smiled, climbing up onto his chair to give him a kiss to show her love and appreciation, foolishly hoping for a kiss back. Climbing down, lifting her dress up so she wouldn't trip and walked off. She tripped a lot in her dresses, always eager to get where she wanted. Why they never just made her dresses a little shorter was beyond her. Everyone always told her that she didn't have patience and they were probably right.

Watching her go the Duke sighed heavily and looked to his son, his real future. Sometimes he wished he was older so that he could talk to him like a man.


Sneaking down the halls of the castle, Parker finally ended up in the servant's end of the wing and walked down slowly. The castle could be a scary place during the day, terrifying during the long, cold, dark nights and to her, the servants wings frightened her just a little more than the rest of the her home. Her father always told her to stay out of this area, that nobility should not mingle with peasants and servants, that those people were below them. Pushing back the cloth that served as a door to the rooms in this wing, she looked into the room and saw it empty so tried the next one and smiled as she saw the boy a little older than her. He looked to be about the age of five, maybe six, and the thought of another child around her age excited Parker.

Jarod looked up in fear. He had been told not to move until someone came from him. He didn’t know where Brother Sebastian was and this place scared him. It was big and dark and cold and nobody talked to him. He stared at the girl before remembering to drop his eyes as the monks had taught him. When they said someone, he didn’t think that they meant her. That feeling he had had when the monks told him he must come with them this morning had been right, he knew something was going to happened and now it seemed something had, he just didn’t understand what it was.

Parker looked up and down the hall to make sure no one had seen her, before slipping into the small servant's room. "Hi.” She whispered, curious as to who he was. The child was looking at his feet, being very submissive and quite, just like all the others were when they first arrived here.

"Hi,” He said back, minding his manners. He didn't look up at her though. She had been in the great hall, so she must be somebody very important. She was dressed like a Lady too and he wondered if she was rich.

"Who are you? Parker demanded when he didn't even look up. The only person Parker could play with was Lyle, her father wouldn't let her go into town to play with the other kids and she got so bored in this castle. The Duke didn’t even like her associating with peasants or servants, she wasn’t allowed to talk or acknowledge them in most cases. Parker did understand she was nobility, higher than all the others, more important and a proper lady, but that didn’t stop her wanting to talk and play with them. She got so bored by herself, her twin most often with her father or in his classes and because Parker was a girl, she wasn’t classed as important enough for her father to spend extra time with her.

"My name is Jarod,” He whispered, staring at his feet.

"I am your Lady Parker.” She informed the boy who looked very scared, her head held high to show she was important like her father taught her. Parker knew she was, everyone in the castle, even the town centre and village would do anything she said, give her anything.

"Yes Milady," Jarod whispered, sneaking a glance at her before dropping his eyes again. She was very beautiful, the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.

"Why are you here? What did father buy you for?" They had plenty of servants, stable boys, coach drivers. She didn't know why they needed even more.

"Buy me?” He whispered in shock as he finally looked up at her. As he had sat here he had thought of many things that might have brought him to this strange place, but being sold hadn’t entered his head.

Parker nodded quickly. "I heard him talking about buying a boy. It has to be you, there is no other boys here.” She explained, smiling as he looked up at her. They did have a few children in the castle, though they had been born into the castle from their servant parents. She knew of them already, some younger than her, some older, but none of them new.

"There are no other,” He corrected her without thinking about it, shocked to hear that he might have been bought and sold. His father had bought horses and sometimes chickens and livestock, you didn't buy people.

Parker looked at him with a frown when he corrected her. Even at this young age, Parker understood that was very bad manners and could receive a punishment for it, but said nothing. Servants and peasants never corrected people of her and her family standing, it was rude and wrong and could be punished quite strongly for it, but Parker didn’t want this boy hurt so she decided she wouldn’t tell her father on him. "Yes. So you must be him. You can play with me. I only have my brother to play with no one else." Parker smirked, thinking about all the adventures she could drag him on.

"I can?” He asked in a little voice, not really understanding what she was saying. She had beautiful clothes on, richly embroidered and made of fine cloth and he felt his own smock and wondered what it would feel like to have such finery to wear.

Parker nodded quickly and put her fingers to her lips, “Shhhhh, don't tell father. He doesn't like when we speak to servants, let alone play with them." It wouldn’t only have been the servants who would be punished for daring to speak to their Lady, but Parker herself would be punished, to teach her not to do it.

Jarod nodded, having no intention of telling anybody about this, not wanting to get in trouble. "Where is Brother Sebastian?” He asked timidly. He didn’t like it here at all and he didn’t know what to make of this strange girl.

"The monk?” She frowned, wondering if that was who her father had bought the boy from, or if the monk was just transporting him. "Gone, home I guess. This is your new home. I guess this is your room.” She looked around the tiny room with hay thrown in the corner for him to sleep on. Parker didn't really come down into this section of the castle and didn't like it much.

Jarod shook his head vehemently. They couldn't leave him here like that. He didn't like it here, didn't know anybody. They didn't even have any books in his room. "I have to go with Brother Sebastian,” He whispered.

"You can't, he has gone with the others." Parker moved over to him and held his hand in hers, trying to comfort him. Her father didn't comfort her hardly at all. If she fell and hurt herself, he would tell her to get back up and be a lady, a lady doesn't cry and ask for hugs. Parker often dreamt of her mother, what she would feel like, smell like, sound like. Dreamt of the beautiful woman in the portraits holding her, snuggling her up close after a nightmare, kissing her better after a bad fall.

Jarod looked at his own filthy hand in her pristine white one, seeing the dirt under his fingernails and was embarrassed. His eyes were filling with tears at the thought of being left here. "Why?” He whispered miserably. He wanted to go with the monks and wondered if they were punishing him for all those times he had tried to run away. Now he was riddled with guilt over the ungrateful thoughts he had had towards them and he was being punished for them.

Parker shrugged her shoulders a little, a look of confusion on her own face. "Because father bought you, so you could work for him I guess." Parker felt horrible for the scared boy and wrapped her arms around him instead, wanting to make it better. She would take him on an adventure soon, and help him forget all his worries. Parker just hoped no one found out, because if they did, her father would be so mad. Mad enough to threaten to send her away and Parker didn't want that. Right now though, all she cared about was soothing the terrified and upset boy, trying to do for him what she dreamt her mother might have done for her.

Jarod wrapped his arms around her, and let the tears fall. It was the first hug he had had since his parents died. He didn't know who this strange girl was, but he decided he liked her already as he clung to her, taking the comfort she offered without question.

Letting him hold her and cry, not phased at all that her fine and expensive clothes were being dirtied. The servants would wash it out for her, that was what they were there for. When his sobs and tears started to dissipate, Parker pulled away and wiped at his grubby face, trying to dry his tears for him. Hearing his stomach growl loudly, Parker looked at it, never having heard anything so loud before. Neither hers, her twins nor her fathers rumbled that loud, it never occurred to Parker that it might have been because they ate often and enough to fill their stomachs, that he boy didn’t have that.

His eyes opened wide in shock and embarrassment and he flushed deeply. "I'm sorry,” He whispered. He looked in horror at her gown and saw the dirt on it from his long journey of walking and knew he was going to be in big trouble. The monks had drilled lessons into him day after day about the proper way to behave and crying all over and dirtying a lady's dress was definitely not on their list of approved behaviours. Now his body was making rude noises too.

Parker looked down at her gown and dusted it off with her hands. Her father, much to his disapproval, had learnt that she tended to get a little dirty during the day when she played. He had told her she would need to stop playing soon and be a proper lady, that she needed to give up these childish games and act like she should. "I can get you some food. I never heard such a thing from any boy before! Not even a man!” She said incredulously.

"I'm sorry,” He apologised again, mortified. The monks had taught him that his mind could control his body, that will could overcome hunger if he applied himself enough.

"Come along Jarod." Parker ordered him, still dusting the dirt from her gown as she poked her head out of the curtain to make sure no one was watching. Grabbing his hand, she took off at a sprint down the hall to the servant's kitchen, her long skirt of the fancy dress swishing about behind her, echoing softly in the empty halls.

"I can't,” He almost wailed as she dragged him along.

Parker stoped and turned to look at him with a frown. “And why not?” She demanded. Parker had told him to come with her, he had to do what she told him to do. She was his Lady after all and he was meant to do as she told him, he belonged to her if the boy belonged to her father.

"They said to stay here,” He whispered fearfully. "I am going to get in trouble."

"You have to do what I tell you. I am your lady." Parker reminded him. “And they wont know, now come on!” She demanded, tugging on his hand.

Jarod knew it was wrong but it was much more interesting than sitting in that room by himself. And she was right. If she was a Lady, then he had to do what she told him, didn't he? He nodded fearfully and looked up at her, not really knowing what he should do or what she was going to do.

Nodding her head when he agreed with her, Parker ran back down the hall, holding Jarod's hand so he had to follow her. Stopping at one of the rooms, Parker pushed open the heavy door with a soft grunt, her little arms no match for the heavy solid wood door, and walked in to see the kitchen abuzz with activity. "Cook,” She called, not knowing who was the cook for today. Parker only knew her personal servants really, not the rest. There were far to many servants in her fathers castle for Parker to know them all, she knew two of the 5 or so cooks, her personal servants who helped her dress and bathe and her teachers.

Jarod was agog with surprise and wonder as he followed her in, never having seen anything like it before in his life. There were people everywhere and pots almost bigger than him with things bubbling away and smells coming from everywhere. His eyes drank it all in, wanting to learn everything about it. The smells were divine and it only made him even more hungry. He said nothing, hovering nervously behind the girl who's name he didn’t even know yet.

"What are you doing in hear Milady?" Gam asked, shaking his head in disapproval. "You know you are not allowed down here."

"Then don't tell father I was down here.” She gave the man a hard stare so he understood, knowing if he did, she would be in trouble. "The boy is new. Feed him." Parker demanded with a nod of her head, before quickly adding, "Please." It got so confusing sometimes. Her father always spoke of manners and how she needed to be a lady, and she used them lots, and then she would be told off for using them with certain people.

Gar looked at her for a long time and knew that the little vixen just had to say one word and he was out of his job. "Yes Milady,” He finally said, waving a woman over to feed the boy. "Outside though, look how filthy the urchin is."

Parker eyed the silent boy up and down and shook her head, "No. Father owns him like he owns all of you. You are our servants and now he is too. He eats in here with the rest of you and be nice to him." Parker ordered, knowing if they didn't do as she said, it wasn't just their current job they would lose but they would gain a good beating.

Jarod couldn't believe the way she was talking to this man and the fact that the man seemed to be listening to her and he saw the look the man shot him and knew that this was a bad thing for him.

"Yes Milady," Gar said sourly and directed him over to a table and nodded for a bowl of soup and some bread to be given to the boy. He would not forget this and he would make sure that his Lordship heard about the impudence of the new boy.

“Sit down Jarod." Parker led him to the table and climbed up on the bench seat next to him. “And cook, get him some servant clothes.” She ordered. The smock the boy had on was horrible, it looked so rough against his skin and it did not look one bit in fashion. Parker hatted it and bet he did as well.

"Have to go to housekeeping for that Milady," Gar told her, shaking his head once again and returning to his duties, which only extended as far as cooking.

Jarod was becoming more nervous every minute, but the smell of the thick and dark soup overcame everything and he scoffed it down as if he hadn't eaten in days, which is certainly what it felt like. It was delicious, probably the best meal he could remember having.

Parker watched in astonishment at how he shoved it down his throat. Her father would have had her behind hit for eating in such a manner. She didn't say anything though, he obviously was hungry. She called a servant over and ordered her to go to housekeeping for some clothes and to be quiet about it. Smiling as the woman left, she looked back to Jarod who was using the bread to get every last bit of the soup up.

Jarod was very aware of her eyes on him, but he did his best to ignore in, intent on the food and bread, trying desperately not to make any mess. He knew he was making a spectacle of himself, but he was beyond caring at this moment. His stomach was overpowering his mind and he was too busy concentrating on the food to care about etiquette.

"More," Parker clicked her fingers at Gar the cook, wanting him to give Jarod some more food since he seemed so hungry. The boy looked so skinny as well, and she imagined he hadn’t had a good meal in quite a while. "Why did the monks have you?" Parker asked without any preamble.

He gaped at her as he realised that she could make more come as if it was nothing at all. "To work for them, they found me.” He told her, feeling a little more brave now that his hunger was satisfied and that they had gotten this far without getting into any trouble.

"Thank you Gar the cook." Parker smiled as he dumped more into the bowl with some bread. "Found you where? Why don't you live with your mother and father?" Parker asked, knowing that a lot of children did not have parents anymore. Lots of people died from illness in this day and age, or from starvation or the cold.

Jarod stopped with a piece of bread sopping in stew halfway to his mouth. "Killed,” He whispered in a tiny voice, the sadness slamming back into him as it did every time he thought of his parents. The monks had told him to forget about them, what was past was past and never to return. He couldn’t though. He fought to hold onto their memory, keep them alive inside of him.

"I'm sorry,” She whispered in a small voice that matched Jarod's. "My mother is dead too."

“She is?" Jarod turned to her, seeing a sadness in her eyes that wasn’t there before.

Parker nodded, “She died having me and my brother. I never got to see her or give her a hug.” She whispered, dropping her own eyes.

"How?” He asked bluntly, wondering how it was possible for her mother to die but her still have a brother too if she died having him as well. That didn't make any sense at all.

"We are twins." Parker explained. "Father said she bled to death." Parker said back just as bluntly.

"Twins?” He asked, never having heard of multiple births for people before. "Oh, I am sorry,” He said, not so hungry anymore.

"It's ok, I never saw her, I don't remember her. How long ago where your parents killed?" Parker asked, her hand moving to rest on his leg under the table. The boy seemed to scared and lonely and Parker felt strangely inclined to offer comfort and companionship to this child.

Jarod jumped at the gentle touch and then felt foolish. “A long time,” He said, not really knowing how long ago it was. Never being outside of the monastery made it hard to keep track of the time and he often worked long hours, sometimes longer than a whole day it seemed.

"I'm sorry." Parker looked up as she heard her name, the woman servant holding out clothes for the boy. "You finished?" Parker asked, pointing to his food.

He nodded, wondering what was going to happen now with this strange girl in this strange place. Everything was so strange and intimidating and he wished he was back home, back on the hill, drawing his silly pictures in the dirt, knowing his mother had supper waiting for him.

Taking the clothes, Parker pulled Jarod back off of the bench and lead him out the kitchen, heading back to what she guessed was his room. If that had been were the guards had placed him, that that would have been his allocated room in the servant wing. It was nothing like her room at all and Parker found herself wondering how anybody could sleep in those rooms. Stopping as she opened the curtains, Parker looked up at the middle aged man with an innocent look. "Hello Sydney." Parker didn’t need to look at him twice to know she was in trouble now.

"Where have you been?” He asked in disapproval, eyeing the boy off before turning his attention back to her. “And with my new apprentice too, your father will not be happy to hear of this, you know you are not permitted down here Milady.” Sydney said calmly, eyeing her up and down, guessing she had been up to no good.

Jarod eyed him up and down surreptitiously while his attention was on the girl and then dropped his eyes and waited nervously.

"I was feeding him and clothing him." Parker defended, handing Jarod the clothes. "Change,” She whispered. “Someone had to give him food and clothes to wear.” Parker told Sydney, knowing it wouldn’t cut it, since no matter what, she was not permitted down into this section.

He took them so they wouldn't fall and looked nervously at the man. Seeing him nod, he stripped out of the rough cowl he was wearing that was too big on him and slipped into the simple tunic she gave him. Although nothing like her finery, it was much softer and warmer than the awful cowl and fit him much better too. "Thank you,” He whispered, tying the sash around his waist.

"His parents died Sydney." Parker whispered, watching him, “And he eats so fast! Father wouldn't be happy if he saw it." Parker informed the older man in astonishment.

"He won't be happy if I tell him you are down here either. I believe you have a needlepoint class and your brother is awaiting me for his Latin.” Sydney told her, his tone a little more gentle than his words. Despite everything, he had a soft spot in his heart for her and tended to indulge her a little more than he should.

"But Sydney..." Parker whined. Why did she need to learn these things, she wouldn't use them, she wasn't planning on growing up to be a proper lady. She might try hunting instead. Parker often wondered if she wasn’t meant to have been born a boy. All the other girls at her age were happy to sit alone and play with their porcelain dolls, in their fancy dresses and learn song and dance, needlepoint and proper etiquette. All Parker wanted was to go outside and play, hunt animals, shop in the village.

"No buts,” He said sternly, giving her a reproachful look.

"Yes sir," Parker whispered in annoyance, "Can't I learn Latin instead? Something I would actually use? And what is Jarod for? Apprentice for what Sydney? Can I stay a little longer?"

"Now you know that I am not about to fill your pretty head with things like Latin and geometry, so run along now Milady, this boy is of no concern to you.” Sydney instructed her sternly.

Parker was only a young child still, and she already knew she hated when people spoke to her like that. Just because she was a girl didn't mean she couldn't learn things. Glaring hatefully at Sydney, she stomped on his foot and folded her arms before turning around to Jarod and smiled at him. "I will find you later to play.” She whispered.

Jarod gaped at what she did, never having seen anything like it before in his life. He expected the man to pull her back and beat her until she couldn't sit down for a week. He was even more astonished when the man just let her go and didn't say anything at all.

Leaving the room, Parker stomped her way back up the stairs to where she had her needle point class and sat through it bored out of her mind, just wanting to go back down to the mysterious boy.

Sydney shook his head with disapproval wondering at how out of control she was. "Well, what have we got here?” He looked the boy up and down critically for a moment. "I am told you know your letters."

"Yes Sir, and my numbers too," Jarod said softly, wondering who this man was. He spoke with a strange voice, nothing like Jarod had ever heard before. Jarod knew it was strange for him to know his letters and numbers. When he had learnt how to understand them and not just copy them, the monks had been very surprised, worried too. Jarod had even toyed with making up his own letters.

 

 TBC.... 

Amazing, Just Amazing... by terri_tpfan
Author's Notes:
Thanks for all the lovely feedback guys! Gald to see everyone is liking this so far.
"You don't say?" Sydney mused. The monks had certainly spoken highly of his skills, but then they had coin in their purses now, of course they were going to sing the boy's praises. A boy of this age having talent for copywriting was one thing but to claim he could read and comprehend was a completely different one.

Jarod nodded unsurely, not sure if the strange man was agreeing or not to him and dropped his eyes back to the ground. He didn't like it here one bit, he wanted to go home again. Jarod would do anything just to be allowed home, for his parents to be there and for his life to be carefree and loving once more.

"Well then, let's get you to the library and see what you can do." Sydney said, looking at him thinking he was far too young for this position. He had assumed the boy would be 10 or 11. No child at this age could possibly be expected to do what would be required in this position as his apprentice, it was ludicrous. He was clearly terrified and if he was going to get any work out of him that meant a lot of hand holding no doubt. He just hoped it wouldn’t distract him too much from his studies.

Jarod's head shot up at the sound of the library, maybe this dark place did have some books after all. It would make his life in this new land a little less dark and scary if he could have some books to read, things to learn. Despite his numerous attempts at running away from the monks, Jarod had loved his time reading their books, writing and learning, even if he disagreed with a lot of what they taught him.

"You like the library?" Sydney asked, seeing his reaction, not sure he could trust the precious books and paper to one so young. It had taken him years to build this collection and he knew that the church both envied his library and disapproved of much of it at the same time. Sydney was a forward thinker, refusing to be held back by the chains of superstition and he was lucky to have found a patron who saw things the same way, although that, of course, came at a heavy price. Many times he had to compromise so that he could pursue his goals and so many of his duties here wasted his time. Perhaps if this boy could be taught then he could take over many of the more mundane tasks.

Jarod dropped his eyes again, trying to mind his manners as the monks had taught him. "Yes sir, very much.” He tried to say without too much enthusiasm, not wanting the strange man to know how much Jarod cherished his books, so they wouldn't be used as a punishment. The main way he was punished by the monks, was by taking away his books. They would make him still work, copying boring documentation, the books just sitting there taunting Jarod, unable to get to them and read them. He didn’t want this man to do the same thing.

"I see," Sydney said softly. Seeing already that the boy was shrewd. "Come along now, I will see about better quarters for you, this is far too far away from the library and offices,” He said in disapproval.

Nodding slightly, Jarod followed after the man, his eyes looking around, memorising how to get back to his quarters, taking in every small detail. The idea of a room better than the one he had been placed in was very appealing. He had slept in similar quarters with the monks since they did not believe in luxuries like real beds. This building was like nothing he had ever been in before. It frightened and amazed the child at the same time.

Sydney led him at a fast pace to the library, what he thought of as his inner sanctum. All his precious documents and scrolls were in here, as well as the accounts of the Duke's holdings and vast wealth. It was in the centre of the castle and protected by a number of heavy locked doors. Only a select few were trusted to be in here and never without Sydney's supervision. Many of the Duke's secret dealings were recorded here and there was also a long history of all the things he hung over people's head to ensure he got what he wanted. His classroom was close by and he used that to teach young Lord Lyle, and sometimes his wayward sister.

Drinking in everything Jarod saw, he stopped at the threshold of the library's doorway. His eyes opened wide, his mouth dropped in awe and amazement at what he saw. The young boy had never in his life seen so many books and scrolls. Even the monks didn't have this many, as there were only a number of documents, books and scrolls about their beloved God.

Sydney smiled at his reaction and hoped the child understood how precious they were. It was a lesson that Sydney would ensure he learnt every single day. "Come in boy, come in and look." Sydney beckoned him. He was pleased by the boy's reaction, not so many were as eager and impressed by the notion of so much book learning. "This is my library and while you are in here, you follow my rules, understood?” He asked firmly but gently.

Jarod nodded quickly, he understood rules, knew how to follow them and for the most part he did a very good job at it. Even without those rules, Jarod would never dream of ruining a single book or document. He cherished them, their words, their knowledge and would die before destroying even a single page. "Yes sir." Jarod whispered, knowing he needed to drop his eyes and bow his head to his superior, but he couldn't move, couldn't walk in. His eyes fixated on all the books.

"Then what is the problem?" Sydney asked him, seeing he hadn't moved.

Jarod tore his eyes away from the books with a great deal of difficulty and dropped them to the ground, bowing his head and stepped into the room. "I'm sorry sir,” He whispered, scared now he was going to be punished for his disobedience.

"Sorry for what boy?" Sydney asked him softly, pleased that he was exhibiting that much self discipline when it was clearly difficult for him. This was a strange and unique boy indeed. "And if you keep those eyes on the floor you are going to bump into things and I can't have that."

"Not moving in when directed to sir." Jarod whispered, bringing his up for a moment before dropping them once more, becoming more and more nervous now. He was trying so very hard to do the right thing, to be well behaved and respectful as he had been taught.

Sydney sighed heavily and knew that this was going to be difficult because he was too young, and no doubt the task would be too difficult for the small boy. "How about we start with something simple? The monks say you can write copies of anything, is this true?” He was keen to assess his abilities and wanted to waste no more time.

Jarod nodded, relaxing slightly now they were onto something familiar to him, something he loved to do. "Yes sir, anything.” As scared and nervous as he was, work always helped him to settle down and relax. It was something familiar, something he enjoyed for the most part.

Sydney saw that it had the desired effect and knew that he would be able to use that to his advantage. Give the boy something to focus on, keep him busy and grounded and he hopefully wouldn’t have too much trouble with him. "Good, now this can be your desk here and these will be your materials, which I assume you know how to look after?” He asked with raised eyebrows. He would not tolerate any slovenly habits.

"Yes sir, I do.” He looked at the small table with the feather quill, ink and scroll paper ready for his use. He wondered if he could take these back to his room so he could draw by himself, something the child missed terribly and something the monks had banned him from doing.

"Good boy," Sydney praised with a nod. "If you have any questions just ask. Questions are never punished in this room, understand?"

"Yes sir," Jarod nodded quickly, always having lots of questions and most times being reprimanded for them since they did not serve their God and was of no relevance. He wondered what he would be copying today.

"Then you can get started. We do not allow any food or drink in here to protect the paper, but there will be a meal break later. You will not go hungry as long as you work for me boy." Sydney reassured him, seeing that he was still very afraid.

"Sir?" Jarod asked in a timid voice, looking at the desk in front of him. "What will I be copying?” He knew he shouldn’t be asking, the monks time and time again said it was no relevancy to his work. When Jarod knew what he was copying though, he could prepare himself a little for it, imagining the type of script that would be used for what document.

"A writ regarding an agreement about a disputed piece of land. Why would you wish to know?” He asked, wondering what difference it made. Perhaps the boy could only do Holy books and he was afraid he would not be able to do this.

"I like to read.” He whispered, ducking his head, guessing he would be in trouble now. He waited as he handed the scroll over and started to read it, understanding it before he slowly began to copy it.

Sydney hovered over his shoulder, taken aback by his penmanship and speed. He almost doubted his own eyes as he watched, completely transfixed. He had seen nothing like it at all, it was as if it was an exact duplicate of the original document, even down to the peculiarities of the handwriting. It was impossible the child could have seen this style of handwriting before since it was his own.

It didn't take the child long to finish the scroll with the written agreement on it and dusted sand over it to dry the damp ink, before handing it to the man once it had dried. Jarod waited anxiously for the verdict on how well he had done or how badly he had done.

Sydney took it and looked over it with a critical eye, completely taken aback by how perfect it was, not a single mistake. He noticed that one of the words had been corrected, the original had had a spelling mistake. He put it down and pointed to the word that Jarod had changed. "Why did you not copy this one properly?” He asked, curious as to the boy's reaction.

"I'm sorry sir.” He ducked his head, he shouldn't have assumed to fix it on a legal document. Jarod had been told by the monks over and over again to just copy the pages, word for word. Nothing more and nothing less. He looked up at the older man with his big brown eyes, pleading for forgiveness. "It was incorrect." Jarod whispered.

"Yes it was," Sydney agreed, not sure if he should be angry or pleased at his initiative. It would appear he really did know his letters then. He seemed to have no confidence in his abilities, scared he would be reprimanded, yet he had done the correction anyway, probably unaware he was even doing it. This was becoming more and more interesting indeed.

"Would you like me to change it back?" Jarod asked, trying to please the man, terrified he had done the wrong thing now.

"No,” He shook his head after a moment. "You did the right thing. Tell me Jarod, did you understand all of this document, you knew all the words?” He asked sceptically, trying to convince himself it was just a freakish coincidence he could correct that word. Surely no boy of his tender years could know how to read so fluently. Yet here was the very evidence in his hand.

Jarod nodded slowly and quietly explained the document in his own words, substituting some of the bigger ones he could not pronounce yet, his mouth unable to form the words correctly, with words he could say that meant the same thing. He didn’t just understand what he had copied, he had it memorised in his mind.

Sydney was astounded as he listened, watching the young boy. It was beyond belief and he could see now why the monks were eager to get rid of him, superstitious fools that they were. This was not a natural talent and they couldn't look past their ancient scriptures to see the value of what they had. "Very good Jarod,” He finally said, snapping out of the reverie he was in. There was potential in this child, perhaps like none he had ever seen before and he was determined to unlock all of it. It would appear that his memory was unusually sharp as well, he had recounted the document precisely, yet had only read it once.

Jarod couldn't help the little smile that tugged on his lips at the praise, something he rarely got these days with the monks. He remembered his father praising him when he learnt how to help with the farm and the small smile faded, being replaced with sadness. There was nothing on this earth Jarod missed more than his parents and the farm.

Sydney watched the emotions run across his face and wondered what brought the sadness on and supposed he must have had a hard life and was likely lonely. He would cure the boy of that by filling his days with learning. "Do you think you could take dictation?" Sydney said, wanting to further assess the extent of his skills. The boy had not failed either of his first two tests and that took him by surprise. He was eager to find out how much the boy could do, how much he could learn and had already surpassed his expectations.

Jarod had not done it before, but was willing to try. The child liked to learn anything new, it excited him and helped with the boredom. "I can try sir."

"Very well then." Sydney said and handed him a fresh piece of parchment. "You understand that nothing we discuss in here leaves this room? These are private matters.” He said seriously, watching him closely. He would keep his contact with others to a minimum so the boy could focus on his studies and learning. And for now, Sydney was unsure he wanted anyone else to know just how talented he might prove to be.

Jarod nodded once more, it was the same with the monks. Some things he wrote for them were very private and he was sworn to secrecy. "I understand sir.” He said softy and dipped the feathered quill in the ink and readied himself.

Sydney started to dictate slowly a letter that was to be sent to an Earl in the east, regarding an agreement about some shipping arrangements from France. It wasn’t too complex, but challenging enough to test the boy's skills and accuracy.

Jarod listened carefully and writing down word for word, including all punctuation and correct grammar. After the man who had finished, Jarod dried the ink off and handed the document to him, hoping he had done it right. He just wanted to get his hands on those books and have a sleep. Jarod was so tired after the long journey the monks had taken him on to leave him in this strange place.

Sydney took it and read through it carefully. "Amazing,” He declared finally, looking at him. "Just amazing." It was clear that the child didn’t think of his talents as exceptional, and that was all for the better. Humility was a preferable quality in a man Sydney thought to himself with a smile.

Jarod was hoping, now that he had done some of the man's work, to be allowed to read some of the books. His eyes were drawn to the shelf upon shelf of books and scrolls, it was hard to concentrate with all that knowledge surrounding him. "Thank you sir."

"You like the books?" Sydney asked, seeing him glancing at them, seeing how his eyes seemed to be drawn to them. For Sydney, opening a book was like a gateway into a new world, a better world, where anything was possible.

"Yes sir, I'm sorry sir." Jarod whispered, not wanting to get in trouble, but his eyes kept going back to those books. They were irresistible to him, like gold was to the king. Jarod could lose himself in the books, he could dream of a different life, of a better future. All he needed was a book and he could forget about his miserable life. The only books he was allowed to read at the monastery were bibles, and after reading them once or twice, they had bored Jarod. The boy had dreamt of a world where there were books about anything and everything, more books than even he could count. Jarod had never imagined it could be true though

"You want to look at them?" Sydney asked, seeing his keen interest.

"May I?" Jarod whispered in surprise, already on his feet and standing in front one of the many rows of books. His finger tip brushed along them, barely touching them, scared that his dirty hands would stain the precious books. Jarod loved books, worshiped them, to him, books were his God. If he ruined even a single page, it would devastate the young boy.

Sydney was tempted to say no, just to see how he would react, but decided not to. "Go ahead, but treat them with care.” He would be curious to see which one the boy picked, if he chose by random selection or by interest. There was mystery about this boy and it excited Sydney's mind to think about unravelling that mystery.

Walking up and down the rows upon rows of books, Jarod's eyes feel upon a medical book and tried to clean his hands as much as possible on his new clothes before ever so carefully pulling it out. Sitting on the floor where he stood, Jarod opened it to begin to read through it, instantly amazed and hocked on the book from the first page. The monks didn't believe in medicine, they believed that God would save all those who deserved to be saved. It left Jarod completely baffled though, they would rather let one of their own die, believing it was the will of God instead of seeking help for him.

Sydney was surprised by his choice and moved over to watch him. "I am not sure the monks would approve." Sydney said, just to see how the boy would react to that, whether they had beaten the curiosity out of him or not.

Jarod looked up at him with pleading brown eyes, dying to read it. It was just cruel to let him choose a book then tell him he wasn’t allowed to read it. The whole concept of medicine just made his mind tick, intrigued to find out more and more. Sighing silently, Jarod closed the book and put it back on the shelf. Jarod had been told by the girl, the lady, that the monks had gone home and left him here. Maybe it was only temporarily and they didn't want Jarod stained with anything that did not revolve around God.

"You believe the monks are right?" Sydney asked in surprise, seeing his obvious desire to look at the book. It was a testament though to the boy's self discipline that he had put it back without a fight or argument.

"They get upset, get mad when I ask things, read things that do not relate to God.” And Jarod had a few marks on his tender skin to prove it.

"And what do you think about that?" Sydney asked him gently, taking the book he had chosen and holding it, almost teasing him with it.

Jarod's eyes followed the book as the man pulled it back off the shelf, before forcing himself to drop them to the ground. "I do not believe what they do sir. Not all of it anyway." Jarod whispered. Even when he had been with his parents, they had attended the local village church, prayed and worshiped, and there had been a lot Jarod had not liked, had not agreed with. But as his father said, he was too young to understand the true workings of the world and God so he could not pass judgement until he did.

"And you wish to learn things beyond their teachings?" Sydney asked, already knowing the answer to that question, he could see it in his eyes. The boy looked at those books the same way a man looked at a beautiful woman.

Nodding ever so slightly, Jarod looked up at the man for a moment. "I want to learn everything, not just what they believe to be right." There was so much in the world, and Jarod wanted to learn it all, not just about God and his divine powers.

"And if those things contradict what we have been told is true?" Sydney pushed a little further. They were heading into dangerous ground now and if it were known what went on in here he would likely be burnt at the stake.

"Just because someone says it is true, doesn't mean it is." Jarod told him defiantly, before looking around and standing to his feet to whisper, “Like the earth was not created in 6 days. How could a place so big be made in such a little time?” He thought, it took years to build just a castle, let alone the entire world.

"That is very dangerous talk Jarod," Sydney whispered, although excited by this turn of events. It was impossible of course that he could be having this discussion with a five year old, but there it was. There was also danger now. The world wasn’t ready for this kind of thinking, as Sydney knew only too well, having escaped to England many years ago to escape that kind of persecution.

"I'm sorry," Jarod whispered and dropped back to the ground again, all hopes of getting that book back to read gone now that he had spoken his mind. If he had said that around the monks, he would have been in serious trouble, big enough trouble for even maybe a whipping, but Jarod thought this man might have been different, might have believed him and allowed him to speak about the things that kept questions running through his mind.

Sydney moved over to the table, and beckoned him over. "Don't be sorry for what you think Jarod. Come.” He patted the bench beside him. "You must learn to be careful though, saying things like that outside this room could be dangerous, do you understand?"

Jarod stood up and moved over to sit on the bench next to the man, knowing he was right. "Yes sir.” He whispered in misery. At least his father use to humour him and listen and argue back. These people all just told him off for it, punished him. His mind was always in a whirl with all these unanswered questions he couldn't even ask, let alone get answers.

"If I let you read this book, you are only to discuss these things with me, can you promise me that?" Sydney asked, not wanting him to be labelled as a blasphemer and taken away. Gossip was the favourite pastime in the castle and word always spread quickly. Most knew enough to leave him alone and half suspected he was some kind of wizard or magician and he didn’t do very much to discourage that talk. The more he was left alone the more he preferred it.

Jarod looked up quickly with hope in his eyes for the first time in a long while. "I can ask things? In here? Not get in trouble AND read the book?” He whispered incredulously, not quite believing it. That was just to good to be true, the monks would scold him for asking things, his father had had no books to read, so he had never had both things at once before.

"That's right Jarod. In here you can ask anything you want, and read any books you want, as long as it doesn't interfere with your work." Sydney told him with a smile, seeing how it changed his whole demeanour. Sydney could see that in this tiny and damaged child he had found a kindred spirit.

Nodding furiously, Jarod's eyes dropped to the book Sydney held. "Anything?” He asked, having about a thousand questions he needed answers for.

"Anything Jarod, anything at all." Sydney promised him. "In here only though, understand?"

"Yes sir.” He agreed easily. "Why do women not have the same rights as men, can not do the same things as men? If God created heaven and earth, where is heaven and where did he find the space to put this world? Who created god? And who created the person who created God? Does God have parents? Why are there so many ill people? Why cant we help them all? Why is there so many wars? Why cant people get along? Why do people believe in god?” Jarod rambled a few of his questions in one breath, his eyes still glued to the book.

Sydney chuckled a little and smiled, ruffling his hair. "That is a lot of questions and some deep philosophical issues. There will be time for all of it Jarod, but many of those questions nobody knows the answer to.” He let out a long sigh. "Read the book for now and I will organise somewhere for you to sleep and something for the evening meal too. I also want you to have a bath, it is very important to keep your hands clean."

Jarod nodded in agreement as Sydney handed over the book and eagerly took it, sliding off the bench back to the ground. Laying down, he opened it and began to read. He didn't understand all of it, he could read the words, though there were quite a few he did not understand the meaning too. Still, Jarod loved the book and the whole world just seemed to disappear as he read it. As Jarod read and more and more words he found didn't make sense to him, the boy got up and took his ink pot and quill as well as the paper and lay back down. Starting from the start again, Jarod read it once more and started to make a list of every word he did not understand, he would ask about them later. That was another thing that made Jarod love books. There were always plenty of words he did not know, which gave the boy a chance to research and find out, learn.

"What are you doing?" Sydney asked him, puzzled by his behaviour. He had his own work to do but he was too fascinated by this remarkable child to tear himself away. Everything about him seemed fascinating and Sydney knew that he had never come across anybody like this before, he was completely unique.

"Creating a book." Jarod mumbled as he continued to read the pages, absorbing every piece of information into his mind, memorising it, and writing down neatly the words that were unfamiliar to him as he went.

"A book for what?" Sydney frowned. He had been here a few hours and now he was writing his own book? If he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes he never would have believed it.

"Words, ones I do not understand.” He thought about it for a minute than wrote dictio... up the top. "A dictio, word book.” He would need help later as he found out the meanings and pronunciation of the words. Jarod knew once he knew the word, he wouldn’t need to look at his new dictio book to find them out again, but that wasn’t the point.

It was no surprise the child knew Latin, having spent so much time with the monks, but that idea struck him as very profound. "What are you going to do with this book of words?" Sydney asked him, reading the words he had already written.

Pausing, Jarod titled his head in thought for a long moment as he contemplated that. "Copy it, so others can use it. For words they do not know as well."

"If you don't know these words Jarod, how do you propose to find out what they mean?” He asked, watching his logic unfold like a blossoming flower. Quite surprised by the level of initiative he was showing, what was very extraordinary is how little he was threatened by his lack of knowing. Most people would not have so freely admitted that they didn’t understand.

"Ask you of course sir." Jarod said, as if it should have been obvious. He was the elder here, not only did Jarod need to respect the man himself, but respect the amount of knowledge he possessed. He was a teacher, a scholar, so Jarod was certain he would know the answers. "And if you do not know, send a letter to the man who did write this book and ask him."

"And what if that man has been dead for over 20 years?" Sydney asked, clearly amused and impressed by his answer.

"Then find a similar book with the same words whose author is not deceased and ask him. But surely sir, you know these words?" Jarod asked, believing he did. "If you did not know so many words from a single book, you would not have taken possession of it."

"You are right of course," Sydney laughed out loud now, a smile on his face. "You are remarkable Jarod, just remarkable."

That brought a brad grin from Jarod, the first in a long time as he received praise and heard the laugh from the man. "Thank you sir. So you do know them?"

"Yes I do, most of them, some of them I might need to look up, you didn't pick an easy one to start with.” He smiled at him, seeing the future lay out before him clearly now. Serving the Duke was now only an ends to a means, his first priority would be this strange and wonderful boy.

"If I picked out the easy words, I would not need to know what they mean sir. The point of the 'dictio' is to list words people do not normally know the meaning to." Jarod explained to him very patiently, as if it should have been obvious.

"And a very excellent idea too. I believe the Emperor Augustus had the same opinion as you my young scholar."

Jarod smiled shyly and turned back to his book to continue reading. He would list all the words he didn't know and get their meanings from Sydney. Jarod would do his research and find their origins and what they came under, everything, so his book could be perfect.

"Good boy, I am going to go now, organise a few things, can I trust you in here Jarod?” He asked, believing that the boy would not damage anything. Unwilling to let the boy wander about, Sydney thought he could be trusted with his books in here. He hoped he wasn’t blinded by his own excitement now, although he suspected he was right about this boy. They were indeed kindred spirits and the boy had as much reverence for the books as he did.

"Yes sir.” He said absently, to focused on the book and his writing to really be paying any attention to the man and anything he said.

Sydney turned and left, his mind racing about all the possibilities of this child. For now though, he needed to attend to mundane matters about where he was to be kept, his living accommodations and just how much jurisdiction he would have over the boy.
Talking Boy... by terri_tpfan
Author's Notes:

thanks for all the lovely feedback guys! It's wonderful and we hope you enjoy this chapter :D

 

Parker had finally finished her ever so boring needlepoint class and had gone in search of the new boy. A little birdie had told her he was in Sydney's library and Parker knew she was forbidden to go in there. Only Sydney, her twin and her father were permitted in there, Jarod also now, she never was though and it was most likely because she was a girl. As Sydney had said to her numerous times before, he didn’t want to fill her pretty head with these things. So she found Sydney instead and smiled up at him innocently.

"And to what do I owe the honour of this visit Milady?” Sydney asked her, knowing what she would be wanting. She must have been waiting for him, knowing he was ensconced in the library.

"Can I go see the boy Sydney? He is in your library and I can't go in without you. So please come along to the library." Parker told him, taking his hand to try and pull him back in the right direction. Parker hoped if she told him he had to take her, that he would so she could see the new boy.

"Why the interest in this boy Milady? He is only a serf, far beneath your station.” Sydney said, not moving. She was far too smart and inquisitive for her own good and it was going to get her in trouble, of that he was certain.

"He talks.” She whispered, "He looked upset and scared, he would be fun to play with. Bobby isn't much fun, too interested in his studies and being father's heir.” She sulked unhappily. Parker would give anything for her brother to be interested in playing with her, being a kid with her, but she knew he didn’t want that. He wanted to be a grown up right now to do all the things her father does.

“Of course he talks,” Sydney said, not entirely sure what she meant by that. He didn’t think she had a clue just how uninterested her brother was in his studies. If he had his way he would be all grown up and running his father's forces conquering the world. Young Lord Lyle was an ambitious one and he often wondered just what Raines was teaching him sometimes.

“No, I mean he talks," Parker said again, still tugging his hand. Unlike every one else, Jarod did not speak to her like she was just a girl and shouldn’t have important things said to her, he didn’t speak like she was of noble blood and just say yes Milady, no Milady to her every word. "Can we go see him please?"

“Not now, I am sure your father wouldn't approve of this and he is just settling in.” Sydney told her, wondering why she was so surprised by the fact that he could talk. She seemed always to find her way into trouble and places where she wasn’t supposed to be.

"Then more reason for him to get used to me now while he is settling in." Parker explained. If he wouldn't take her, she would get in there herself. She had lived here her whole life, she knew all the secret ways in and out. Parker wondered if they knew that, if they were even away she knew all about the secret passages, if they knew about them.

"What is it that is so fascinating about him?” Sydney asked her, seeing her determination. Perhaps he should let her and then her father would put a stop to it quickly enough and she would stop bothering him.

"He is different." Parker whispered, as if it were a big secret. "He could by my friend. I don't have any friends.” She had her 'friends' who attended the balls and sucked up to her father, but they weren't really her friends, their parents just made them play with her.

"I don't think your father would approve of that Milady,” Sydney said gently, crouching down in front of her. "This boy will be very busy with much work to do and probably no time for play.” He wondered though if she knew more than she was letting on. When she had said he was different , it had sent a shiver down his spine. Surely she couldn’t know just how special and different he really was.

Parker looked at him with wide ice blue eyes, sadness and loneliness shinning in them. "Please?” She whispered pleadingly. "He doesn't have to know. Just our secret. Please Sydney? I need a friend, I want a friend." Parker begged him shamelessly, desperate to have one real friend, someone she could talk to no matter what their social rank was or their sex was. One person she could hug if she was upset, one person she could talk to about her problems, one person that cared for her just because she was her and not because her father was rich.

"It is very hard for you here isn't it?” He asked her gently. Her family had everything they could ever want, all the wealth and power and yet she was so lonely. None of that money could buy her what she yearned for.

She nodded a little, looking down at the ground. "I have no one to play with. Father wants me to be a lady, I just want to play. I don't even want to learn stupid needlepoint, I want to learn mathematics and Latin like Bobby, Bobby won't even play with me." Parker looked up at him with tears in her eyes. "I want my mother, I want hugs and kisses and father won't give them to me."

Sydney grabbed his kerchief and wiped her tears away gently. "Come on then, just this once and I don't want you to interfere with his duties, understood?"

“Yes sir," Parker agreed easily, holding onto his hand so he couldn't stand up yet. Reaching over, she gave him a kiss to thank him. Sometimes, when she was alone in her big bed, in her bedroom that was much larger than she needed or wanted, Parker thought what it would have been like to be Sydney’s daughter instead. He would love her, care for her, hold her and give her kisses.

"Our secret,” He smiled, putting his finger to his lips. He did have a soft spot for her in his heart and he wished she had someone who would love her the way she deserved. He felt sorry for the girl, she was bright and intelligent and prevented from all the same opportunities as her brother simply because she was a girl. Had Catherine not died in childbirth things would have been very different for her. She was a generous and kind woman and died far too early.

Smiling at that, she began to walk back to the library with him. "I can see him often? Just as long as it does not interfere with his duties?" Parker asked, dying for a friend, hoping she could have this boy as a friend. “I promise I will never stop him working, I swear. I can see him when he isn’t doing work for you.”

"I don't now Milady, you know how your father is about these matters.” He sighed. The boy would be very busy with his own duties and due to much of the sensitive nature of what he would be seeing and doing, Sydney didn’t think the Duke would want him roaming about with the possibility of divulging all of his dirty secrets.

“Yes, servant and peasants are beneath our family, we should not associate with them, speak to them, look at them. We should only spend our time by ourselves, with our family or nobility." Parker recited in a bored voice, disagreeing with that statement so much. Parker had to wonder though, would she think the same when she was old like Sydney? Or by then would it be drummed so much into her head she would believe it? "But you're not nobility Sydney, yet we talk to you."

“Yes I suppose you do, but I am not your father's friend, I serve him, it is different Milady." She was far too clever for her own good and just made things that much harder on her. It would have been easier if she didn’t have a thought in her head beyond which colour was the prettiest and which dress to wear today.

"But you're my friend," Parker whispered. She had never thought of him as a servant before though, it didn't occur to her that because he did serve her father, worked as their teacher that he was a servant. To her, Sydney was an authority figure most of the times, not a servant to her.

"I am very honoured,” Sydney said, bowing his head to her. He used to like her mother very much and wished that she had not died. The girl needed her, especially now as she was getting older. He had been surprised the Duke had not yet remarried, but even if he did, it would most likely be to a girl not much older than his daughter and there would be no mother for her to turn to even then.

Smiling at him, Parker tugged his hand. "The boy?” She reminded him, eager to get back to see him. "Why is he in your care Sydney? Why isn't he in the stables cleaning them out or in the kitchen or the gardens?" That was what their servants generally tended to do, so Parker had to be curious as to why the boy wasn’t doing those jobs either.

"Because he is going to be an apprentice to me, learn my craft as a tutor and scribe,” Sydney informed her, although his duties really went far beyond that. He didn't want anybody to know right now about what he had already discovered and what he suspected. Jarod was going to far exceed his skills before too long and Sydney couldn’t wait to see what he could develop into. "He has shown some ability towards letters and numbers."

"Why can't I learn my letters and numbers Sydney?" Parker asked, wondering if the boy could teach her if Sydney wouldn't. Parker just hated how they said she was a girl and couldn't learn the things the males did. Parker wished, just once, they would take her seriously and understand she was smart and sharp and she could do just as much, if not more, than Bobby.

“You know why Milady,” Sydney said, having had this discussion over and over again. "What would people say?"

"What does it matter what they say?" Parker shot back. "I want to learn them, just because I'm a young girl doesn't mean nothing. It's not fair.” She cried out, stomping her foot to show how annoyed and frustrated it made her.

"Doesn't mean anything,” He corrected her without thinking as they approached the library door.

Parker frowned at him, she would learn her letters and numbers, no matter what. When they got to the library door, she grinned as he opened it. "Jarod." Parker moved straight over to him, sitting on the floor next to him.

Jarod looked up at her in surprise and then over to the man Sydney, who smiled and nodded at him. He didn't know what he was supposed to do with the girl though. She had been nice to him before and he was glad to see her again.

"How are you?" Parker asked, lying down in front of him, eyeing off the book and the boy's writing, trying to make sense of it. She wondered what it would feel like to understand what was on those pages, to recognise the letters and words and know what they meant by just glancing at them.

"I am reading a book,” He said, his voice low with awe. The idea of reading still enthralled him and there were enough books in here that he might never get to read them all. And the best part was that they were all different, about different things.

Parker nodded in agreement. "What book?” She asked, her interested piqued as well.

"A book on medicine and doctoring,” He told her proudly, so glad to read something aside from the Bible. He had enjoyed that book but he had read it over and over again now and thirsted for new material. The monks hadn’t allowed him anything else and he had tried to explain that he didn’t need to keep rereading it to remember it.

"Ohh," Parker whispered, moving around to lie next to him instead of in front of him, eyeing the pages, imagining what they said. "It must be exciting to be able to read the letters.” She whispered in jealously. “To be able to open any book and read new and exciting things.”

“You can't read?” He asked, unaware that not everybody could. He knew his parents couldn't, although his father could count and knew some numbers, but rich people could he would have thought.

"Father won't let me learn. I'm a girl and a lady's duty is to stand there and look pretty and serve her man." Parker said begrudgingly, hating that that was all her future held for her.

"Ohh," Jarod said, seeing how upset she was at that notion. His mother wasn't unhappy and he wondered if when she grew up and got married, maybe she wouldn't be unhappy too.

"I want to learn letters and numbers, I want to learn everything I can.” She whispered. "But no one will let me. You are so lucky." Parker said in jealously, wishing she were a boy so they would let her learn all the interesting things in the world.

Jarod nodded and looked at her. "But it is easy,” He told her, not seeing why she couldn't learn if she wanted to.

Parker looked at Sydney, who was watching them carefully. "Didn't you have work to do Sydney?" Parker asked innocently, wanting him gone without being too rude about it this time.

"My work is right here and is Jarod now,” He told her, hiding his smile at her not so subtle hint. Her interest in him though was a little worrying.

"Then why were you not with him when I saw you? You were heading off to go do some work away from him." Parker argued.

Jarod quickly lost interest in her argument and turned his attention back to the book instead. He didn’t know when he would be able to look at it again and didn’t want to waste time with useless talk.

Sydney just raised his eyebrows at her and watched her to see what she would do next.

"Can you please leave us Sydney." Parker said more direct when he hadn't moved. Since he was her father's servant, he had to do what she told him. Though he rarely ever did though. Sydney always did what her father told him to, but never what her or Bobby told him to do, even though he probably had to.

"Afraid not Milady,” Sydney said, amused by this. “You know I cannot leave the two of you unattended in the library." He really was very interested in how this conversation was going to end, and just what she would try next.

Parker stood up and folded her arms, "I asked you to leave us. I am not going to touch your books, and Jarod will not move from where he lays on the floor. I want some privacy with him." Parker ordered him with a frown, knowing he wasn't going to leave though.

It was a struggle to hide his smile, although sometimes, like now, she reminded him so much of her mother sometimes that it made his heart ache. "Then you can leave,” Sydney said, not about to be chased out of his inner sanctum. Her father might rule the castle and all the lands he held, but in here, Sydney was king.

Her frown deepened at that. "Then go stand on the other side of the room and do your work so we can talk by ourselves." Parker ordered him, pointing to the other side of the room.

Any impulse to smile fled as he saw her father in her now. "Just this once young lady,” Sydney said, not liking her ordering him around in here imperiously like that. He would put up with a lot of things so that he could keep his position here, but taking orders from a child always rubbed him the wrong way. He moved over to the side of the room, opening the document he was working on.

That got a smile from her and moved over to give him a little hug, moving to lay back down next to Jarod, not caring her expensive dress was being dirtied. Parker kept her eyes on Sydney, following his movements to make sure he did as he was told.

Jarod had watched her with wide eyes, barely believing she could order him around like that. He would have received the beating of his life if he had talked to a monk like that.

When Sydney had moved away from them, Parker wiggled a little closer to Jarod, both lying on their bellies. "Are you good at keeping secrets?” She asked in a hushed tone, so Sydney would not over hear them.

Jarod nodded, he had been keeping secrets ever since he was little. Secrets about his drawings and then secrets for the monks and now secrets for this girl too. It seemed his whole life was run by keeping secrets.

"Can you teach me my letters and numbers? So no one else knows? If they know, I will get into trouble.” She asked in a whisper, shooting a glance at Sydney to make sure he was reading his book and not listening to them.

"Me teach you?" Jarod blinked in surprise, but puffed up with pride as well as he thought about that. He looked at Sydney and then looked at her. "Will we get into trouble?” He asked fearfully, not understanding anything about this new place at all and how it worked. If she wasn’t supposed to be learning her numbers then maybe he wasn’t supposed to teach her.

“Not if they don't find out.” She whispered back, a big smile on her white face as his whole being changed as the pride flowed through him. “You can read and write already and you're only 5!" Parker whispered in awe, holding 5 fingers up. She could count, she needed to count for certain things, but only to ten and only on her fingers. If someone gave her a piece of paper with the figures written down, Parker would be at a complete loss to understand it, and she wanted to learn.

“Yes," Jarod nodded, “You can't?” He asked. He knew he was smarter than the other kids, but they were farmer's kids, peasants and there was no time or money for education.

Parker shook her head, she had already told him that. "Only the boys get taught. Girls aren't good enough to get taught.” She told him once more. “You are a servant, a peasant. None of you learn, almost none, you did though. But I am nobility, I have a title, so does my brother and father and all their friends. Out of all of them, not just me, the girls don't get taught, just the boys."

"That is silly, are boys smarter than girls?” He asked, wondering at such a strange custom. It made him wonder though if the differences between them were beyond simply physical. He knew that male animals acted differently from the female ones, but you could train both of them the same. A male dog wasn’t any smarter than a female dog.

Parker shook her head, “No, girls are nothing. All we are here for is to be married to the boys at the age of 13, have their babies so they have an heir and to make them happy. They don't think we are worth anything else." Parker frowned for a minute in thought, the boy should already know this. Peasant women were thought of the same way, she was sure. "Did you not notice it when you lived with your parents in the village?"

He shook his head. What little he remembered was that his life revolved around his parents, not much else. They had lived on the very edge of the village and he didn’t really interact with too many people unless he went into the village for some reason, and then he mostly listened rather than actually interacted with them. They had thought he was strange and he learned quickly it was best to shut up and make himself not very noticeable.

"Ohh, well it is same for peasants too. Father will find a suitor for me in a couple of years and when I'm older, he will send me away to marry. Doesn't even matter if the suitor is Sydney's age." Parker said in despair. It wasn't unusual for the young girls to be wed to the old men, as long as they were wealthy. All Parker was to her father, all the other girls were to their fathers, were breeding stock basically. They were there to be wed off to a worthy male, young, old, almost dead, it did not matter. When they were there, they had to make lots of male babies with them so they could have an heir to their wealth and land.

"Oh," Jarod whispered, not knowing what to say about that. He had never met anyone like her before. She had such strong opinions on just about everything.

"So you will teach me?" Parker asked in a quiet voice, her eyes running over the words in the book and it just looked gibberish to her.

Jarod looked at her and then nodded a little. He didn't know how to teach anybody though and he wasn't sure he was going to be able to do it. "Maybe not this first, this is hard,” He told her looking at his list of words he didn't know already. If she didn’t know any words at all then this book was going to be too hard for her. He thought though that maybe as he taught her he should write down all the words that she didn’t understand as well so that she could look at them later.

"It looks good though." Parker argued, running her fingers over the pages. "Maybe I could become a doctor when I grow old." She thought wistfully, knowing it would never happen at all. Women NEVER became doctors.

"I don't think there are lady doctors," Jarod frowned at that thought.

"Why not? Why can't there be?" Parker demanded. "I can help the ladies and the men can help the men. It only seems fair." Parker said with conviction, determined now to try and learn everything to be a doctor for all the ladies.

He had to agree with that and nodded. He decided he liked this girl very much, never having met anyone his age before that he could really talk to like this. She was smart and she didn’t seem scared that he was smart, or thought him some kind of freak or devil.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" Parker asked, curious as to what he wanted to do. Parker wanted to do anything but be married and be a proper lady.

"I don't know,” He said after a moment of thought. Since his parents had died he hadn't really thought much beyond the day he was living in. "Maybe raise horses like my father.” He had always assumed he would grow up and do what his father did, that was how things worked.

“Your papa was a farmer?" Parker asked curiously, wondering what a farm would be like to live on. She bet it would be like a dream. Out on the open fields, able to just run and run and run, get dirty and play without being told off for not acting like a proper lady.

“No, not really, he trained horses, and he was the best." Jarod said with fierce pride.
"But don't horses live on farms?" Parker asked with confusion, though she didn't miss the pride in his voice. "We have lots of horses in the castle. Maybe father will let you train them too."

"I don't know how to,” His whispered, his voice dropping. He had been too young for his father to teach him, although he already knew quite a lot about it.

“You can learn, I know you can. And then you can train all the horses and be sooo good you will be as good as your father. I know you will." Parker said with a huge amount of confidence in him.

"I miss him," Jarod smiled sadly at her. Since they had died, he hadn’t been allowed to talk about them at all. He tried so hard not to forget his parents, yet each day he seemed to lose a little of them and soon there would be nothing left.

"I'm sorry," Parker whispered, moving closer to him and slinging her arm over his shoulders, balancing on her elbow as she lay on the ground next to him. "How did they die?” Parker asked without any thought of how it might make him feel, only interested in the story he might tell her.

"I don't know," Jarod whispered, never having really talked about it before. The monks had told him the past was the past and it was God's will. Pushing it all aside had been hard for him, he had learnt though, eventually and suppressed his feelings as much as he could. The monks drummed into his head that he was only here to serve God, not pander to his foolish and childish feelings. Emotions, they said, clouded his ability to copy things down properly and were frowned up, punished.

"Well what happened? Something must've for you not to have them. Tell me.” She said gently, watching him, supporting him with her arm, comforting him.

"They were just gone," Jarod said, his voice dropping to a painful whisper. "Everyone was dead and I couldn't find them anywhere.” He said, tears filling his eyes. Sometimes he felt so lonely it was as if he had been actually hurt, the pain was that acute. It was nice to have her arm around him, nobody ever touched him anymore, except to hit or drag him somewhere.

"Why was everyone dead?" Parker asked him in a whisper, not understanding how everyone could just be dead. "Where did you live?"

"Far away," Jarod sighed and looked at her. "The whole village was killed, the horses taken, people taken and killed.” He had no idea why or who had done it. All he knew is that his parents were gone.

"What was the name of the village?" Parker pushed a little more, wanting to see if her father could find if his parents were killed. If he couldn’t find them, then maybe the two of them had managed to escape from all the bad people.

"A village, but we lived on the outskirts not really in the village, Larkhill," Jarod whispered, having told himself the name over and over so he wouldn't forget that as well, the way he was with everything else about his life before that terrible day.

"It sounds pretty." Parker said, not sure what else to say to him. Getting up, she moved over to Sydney where he was reading and stood next to the man, her hand on his leg.

"I think you need to be running along Milady, it is almost time for the evening meal and you don't want your father querying why you were late do you?” Sydney asked softly.

“No sir," Parker shook her head. "Will Jarod be joining us? After our meal, can I take him out back to the horses?” If she could show him the horses, let him ride and play with them, maybe it might help him remember his papa a little more.

“No, Jarod most certainly will not be joining you and I have things for him to do after evening meal.” Sydney told her, knowing that this had been a mistake. Never should he permitted her in here as now she had formed an attachment to the boy. There would be no end of her whining to come in and wanting to play with him. Not that Sydney was opposed to that as such, but the Duke would be and this was only going to stir up trouble.

"What about tomorrow morning, before you gave him his work? Can I take him out then, just for a ride and then I will bring him back in time for morning meals." Parker bargained, pleading for a yes.

"I am sorry Milady,” Sydney said closing the discussion. “Now run along."

Parker shook her head stubbornly. "I will get up before the dawn of the sun, and take him out then. And he can be back in his room before his meal comes, before you come. You won't even notice. It's only out riding in our gardens." She pushed, really wanting to take him out to the horses and play with him. Parker could just see they would be the best of friends.

Sydney gave her a stern look which told her exactly what he thought of that plan. "Run along to your father now before you get into trouble,” He told her, dismissing her.

Parker decided she would do it anyway, Sydney would never know. Frowning and growling softly at him, Parker turned on her heel and marched away from Sydney. Stopping at Jarod, she crouched down. "I have to go now Jarod, I need to dress myself for evening meal."

Jarod looked up at her and blinked. She was already dressed and it wasn't Sunday so there was no special dinner. He nodded, wondering where she would go and what she would do, but too interested in the book to really care all that much right now.

Parker smiled a little before pulling open the heavy door and leaving. She would sneak in, in the morning to get him to go horse riding. Sydney would never know. She even knew what room he was in. Though an empty room with hay in the corner to sleep didn't seem too appealing to her.

Sydney moved back over to Jarod and leant down to pick up the book. "It is evening meal time Jarod, come now.” He instructed, putting the book carefully away. “You can store your parchments on your desk, nobody will interfere with them."

Jarod nodded, surprised that he would be eating again so soon. The monks lived frugally and ate only one meal a day and sometimes they fasted and ate nothing for days at a time.
Out of sight, out of mind... by terri_tpfan
Author's Notes:

Sorry for the wait guys, been busy with school work grrr. Thanks to all those who gave us feedback, love it! Thanks!!

 

It had been a month or so since his father had acquired the new meat and Lyle had ignored the slightly older boy as much as he could. Those peasants were far beneath him, and Lyle thought they were nothing good for them but to clean after him. His sister had kept trying to get to him, and Lyle did not understand why. He was nothing, a fleck of dirt on the floor. He had told his sister to stay way from the urchin, that she wasn't to even think about seeing him, but his sister was persistent, and Lyle was sure sooner or later she would see the boy. Walking to the door that led into the library and classrooms, as well as a few sleeping quarters, he waited as the guard opened them for him. He had a lesson in a few moments and Sydney would have his hide if he were late.

Jarod walked into the room nervously. Sydney had told him he was to help with the classes now since he would be taking over some of Sydney's teaching duties soon. He had his dictio book under his arm, safely secured in a sturdy portfolio, just in case he found new words to add to it. Once he had put a word in, he never had to look it up again, always remembering what he had learnt. Sydney had encouraged him to continue with compiling the book though as it was proving to be a very useful reference. Since his arrival here, and working under Sydney, Jarod had learnt more and read more in the few weeks than he had the entire time in the monastery. In many ways he loved it here, he only wished that he didn’t feel so lonely all of the time. Sydney was kind and very patient with him, but always so distant and Jarod yearned for some real company, someone to really talk to. Sometimes he thought of Sydney as his father and he had to stop himself from wishing that he could be since his real father was gone. It felt like a betrayal. Sydney understood him though and took joy in his learning and teaching him everything he could and Jarod didn’t have to fear being ridiculed for asking questions any more.

Walking into his room, Lyle frowned as he noticed the servant in there and no Sydney as of yet. Eyeing the boy off, Lyle huffed and turned his nose up at him before sitting down at his desk, looking over his Latin notes from the last lesson.

Jarod wished desperately for Sydney to hurry up so that he could tell him what to do to begin. He put his book down and fidgeted a little in the corner, sneaking glances at Lord Lyle. When he had first seen him, his heart had leapt. The boy was smart and about the same age and he thought that they might be friends. Very quickly though he knew that wasn’t going to happen. Lord Lyle didn’t like him at all and he didn’t know why. In fact, Lord Lyle went out of his way to be mean and intimidate Jarod for no reason at all.

Lyle turned around in his as the boy kept fidgeting, seeing it from the corner of his eyes. "Stop that!” He snapped at him. Did the boy not know he had to be still and quiet in his presence? What was Sydney doing with him? Teaching him to dance instead of his manners?

"I was just getting the papers ready," Jarod defended himself. He liked Sydney, but Sydney was always about the work, and Jarod didn't mind that at all, but he wished he had someone to talk to. He remember the girl he had met on the first day and he hadn't seen her since, only a brief glance sometimes when he went into the main hall, but he was working. Then he had met this boy and he knew almost straight away that it wasn’t going to happen and that made him sad. He didn’t understand why the boy didn’t like him.

Lyle arched a single eyebrow at him and stood up. Lyle knew he was young still, too young to do anything but his studies, but he wasn't so young to know that servants do not backchat and especially to him. Moving over to him, Lyle slapped the boy hard across the face. "How dare you speak to your Lord in such a manner boy?” He said in his most deepest, angriest, scariest voice. He sounded nothing like his father could, but thought he sounded pretty nasty for how little he was.

Jarod looked at him in shock, his eyes filling with tears. His cheek stung, but it was more the shock of it that upset him. His hand went up to touch his cheek gingerly, hardly believing the boy could do that to him. He wanted so badly to be his friend. As he touched his stinging cheek and looked into the boys ice cold eyes, the realisation hit him that nothing he ever did was going to make him like him.

"Stop fidgeting and don't you dare cry. Only babies cry, not servants. Now leave me!" Lyle ordered. The only times Lyle even tolerated servants was when they brought his food and changed his chamber pot.

Jarod looked at him through great tears pooling in his eyes. He couldn't leave, Sydney had said he had to be here and if he left he would be in trouble. He let his hands drop to his sides and he looked at Lyle, a spark of defiance growing in him. He didn't tell him what to do, Sydney did. He was here to help Lyle, he was the one to show him what to do.

When the boy didn't move, Lyle frowned deeply, pulling a face only a child could and slapped him hard again, leaving a big red welt in the shape of Lyle's hand on his cheek. "I am your lord, I own you. Now leave!" He ordered again, angry and upset the boy wasn’t doing as he told him, all the other servants did.

"Ahhhh," Jarod cried out in pain, his head rocking to the side under the force of the blow, the tears falling now. He wanted to fight back, this wasn't right and he looked up at the boy defiantly. "Sydney said I have to stay here.” He whispered. His voice sounded weak and small even to his own ears. No matter how he tried, he could never be as strong and mean as Lyle could.

"And Sydney works for my father, and I am the heir to my father's empire so you do as I say when I say, not Sydney." Lyle explained to him and when he didn't move, Lyle slapped him again on the same cheek, this time his lip splitting from all the blows. "I do not like you, you don't listen to me, now get out of my sight. I don't know why my sister is even interested in you servant." Lyle turned his lip up. Once the boy left, Lyle could get back to his studies and forget about him, but he wasn't leaving. He was so rude.

Jarod looked at him for a moment longer, his bleeding lip trembling as the tears started to flow. He wanted so badly to fight back, to hit him back and hurt him but he knew he couldn't do it. So instead, he ran out of the room. Afraid to go too far, he sunk down by the door and cried, waiting for Sydney to come. All last hopes of his grand friendship with this boy now dashed irrevocably.

Lyle nodded his head in satisfaction as the boy finally left. Took him long enough to catch on to what Lyle said he wanted. Turning, he moved back to his seat and sat down and started going over his work again, ready for when Sydney came him to teach him his Latin.
Forbidden Drawings... by terri_tpfan
Sydney knew he was late but it was not to be helped. Approaching the room that he used to teach the young Lord Lyle, he saw Jarod by the door, crying and upset. "What is wrong Jarod?” He asked, knowing he really needed to get started. If it wasn't for this boy's exceptional talents he never would have put up with his emotional outbursts like this. It was exhausting when all Sydney wanted to do was focus on the work. As he matured, he would be more committed to his work and sometimes Sydney forgot just how young the boy really was. He was already smarter than anybody Sydney had ever met and it was easy to forget he was barely out of nappies.

Jarod looked up at him, his eyes red and swollen, his cheek bright red, his lip bleeding. "He hit me,” He whispered. He still couldn’t believe it. He had been hit by the monks before, but he had never imagined he would be hit by this boy that he wanted to be friends with so desperately.

Sydney looked at him and sighed. "You mustn't provoke him Jarod,” He cautioned.

"But..."

Sydney put his hand up to stop the protests. "You have been here long enough now Jarod and you are smart enough to know how things are." Sydney didn’t deal in wishful thinking and fantasy, he was a realist and had learnt quickly that if you wanted to survive you had to accept what was and not what you wished was.

Jarod looked up at him, resenting his attitude enormously. It wasn't fair, and Sydney knew it wouldn't have been his fault. "Yes sir,” He whispered and got up and followed him in. There was simply no point in arguing. He didn’t understand why some people were more important than others, why they should always get their way and other people never did.

Lyle looked up as the doors opened and frowned as the boy came in, standing behind Sydney. "I told you to leave me servant." Lyle reminded him, folding his arms. Lyle did not know why this boy was working with Sydney. He obviously wasn’t all too bright if he came back in after Lyle had struck him three times and ordered him to leave him.

Sydney put his documents down and looked at the boy. "He does not concern you right now my Lord,” Sydney said in a firm voice.

"This is my lesson. I don't want that thing here. He was moving too much!" Lyle shouted at Sydney, sulking the boy was still in the room. Lyle was a Lord, everyone had to do what he told them to. It was frustrating and upsetting for him neither that boy or Sydney was doing what he told of them.

Sydney had no idea what he was talking about and didn't care. "Now you listen to me young man.” He said, using what he thought of as his 'lecture' voice. "You do not raise your voice like that in the classroom, and you use your manners, like a proper gentlemen.” He said, not at all moved by his screaming or tantrum. He could see Jarod flinching in the corner at the raised voices and knew he feared getting into trouble for this.

The frown on the child's brow got deeper as he was told off, biting his lip so he didn't say anything he would get into trouble for. "Yes sir.” He grumbled. When he was grown up, Sydney wouldn't be able to tell him what to do anymore, and Lyle could not wait. "I don't want him in here.” He said again. Maybe if he hit the dirty servant a few more times, Sydney would remove him for the boy's own safety.

"And the day this is your classroom, you can dictate whether or not he stays. For now, this is MY classroom and you will concentrate your attentions onto your studies.” Sydney said, dismissing the topic by sitting down and opening his book.

"Just wait, soon this will be MY castle, MY classroom and the both of you will belong to ME." Lyle said defiantly, turning back to his papers after sending the boy a dirty look. And when it was his, that boy would be so very sorry, he would be begging for Lyle to have mercy on him.

"Yes, yes,” Sydney mumbled, not at all concerned about that and looked up at him. "Right now in the present I believe we have verbs to conjugate.” He said, paying no attention at all to his threats.

Lyle started to work, only to stop a few minutes into it and turned to look back at the boy standing very quietly in the corner. He didn't like him, didn't want him in his classroom. He was beneath Lyle. "My sister hates you too!” He shouted at him, though she really didn't.

Jarod just gaped at him in shock, wondering if that was true. He hadn't seen the girl since that first time and maybe she did. He fought back the tears, not wanting to believe it. He needed a friend desperately and now that he knew Lyle wasn’t ever going to be his friend, the only hope he had left was that strange little girl. Lyle was nasty and spiteful and would say anything to hurt him. It did hurt though and deep down he knew it might be true. Why hadn’t she come to see him again?

"Enough,” Sydney clapped his hands together. "Jarod, here,” He ordered him to the front of the room, seeing he was upset and not wanting to indulge him right now, it would only encourage Lyle. "I need you to prepare the next lesson."

"He isn't to come to any more of my lessons." Lyle told the pair as Jarod slowly moved over to Sydney. "I will tell father how much he upsets me and he will send the boy away so he never comes back." Lyle told them with a nod of his head. He was the heir of this castle, this wealth and power, and his father would do anything to keep his son happy so he turned into a good heir.

"Sydney," Jarod whispered, anxiety in his voice and eyes. He didn't want to be sent away, there was nowhere for him to go, nobody to look after him. Despite his loneliness, he really liked it here.

"Then I am afraid you are going to have to inform your father that your lessons are cancelled,” Sydney said evenly.

"Ok," Lyle nodded happily. He didn't like these lessons anyway, they were boring and pointless. The only time they used Latin was in the church, which bored him as well. "I can go join father's army now my lessons are completed.” He smiled.

Sydney smiled then and shook his head, he was going to enjoy this. "I seriously doubt that, more like a beating for being such a disappointment to your father,” He said offhandedly. He knew what the Duke expected from his son and heir, and failure was not among them. The little brat needed a good scolding to pound some sense into him. "Failed at your lessons, I fear you will be unfit to be anything more than a foot soldier in your father's army, and we all know they get killed first."

Lyle looked at Sydney, shaking his head slowly as the tears started to fall. He wasn't a failure, he wasn't going to be killed. His father was proud of him and was going to put him in his army up high. "This is all your fault!!” He screamed at the boy, climbing onto the desk to reach over and slap the boy as hard as he could before running out the door. This was all his fault and Lyle was going to make sure when he was grown up to punish that boy so much and so often he would beg for death. It was all his fault!

Jarod stood there transfixed as Lyle launched himself at him and hit him yet again. He didn’t even try to avoid the blow, he was in that much shock.

"Lyle!” Sydney called out after him, furious at him. He was spoilt rotten and no doubt would go crying to his father about this. He sighed heavily and looked at little Jarod's poor face. "Well at least he is gone for the day.” He shook his head and looked at Jarod's face critically for a few moments. "I am afraid you are going to bruise, but no permanent damage." Jarod seemed far more tender than boys his age and he supposed in some ways this was a good way for Jarod to learn about the harsh realities of the world. Sydney wished he could keep him sheltered from all of this though, protect that amazing mind of his.

Touching his face tenderly, Jarod winced a little, his lip feeling swollen by now. "Sydney, I swear, I didn't do anything." Jarod pleaded for his understanding. Sydney just had to have known Jarod didn't start this. Sydney didn’t even give Jarod the chance to explain outside the room, just blamed him for it and Jarod needed Sydney to know Jarod didn’t do anything wrong.

"I know you didn't Jarod, it doesn't matter though. You are here, that is enough for Lyle to be upset. He is a pompous ass. His father however is a powerful man and we must be careful, or we will both feel his wrath. You will find not much of anything is fair in this world my young apprentice."

Jarod already knew that, it still didn't mean he couldn't get upset and angry at it. It wasn't at all fair, none of his life had been since his parents had gone missing. "Yes sir.” He answered with a sigh. Closing his eyes, Jarod didn't feel very good at all, he hadn't for the last week. He felt weak and as if his bones were getting lighter everyday.

"Jarod, are you alright?” Sydney asked, not liking the way he looked right now. The bright red handprint only served to accentuate how pale the boy had become. Lately his concentration had waned a little as well and that worried Sydney.

He shook his head a little. "Feel... sick.” He whispered, trying to think of how to explain it. It wasn’t a sick like he had eaten really bad food, but almost like his bones were losing weight and the colour from his skin was fading on him. "For about 7 days Sydney. Sometimes I felt like this with the monks too.” He whispered. Then they fed him and sent him outside for a little while and he felt better for a while once more.

Sydney pursed his lips and nodded. "Come then, it is a nice day outside, perhaps a bit of fresh air will do you good.” Sydney also spent nearly all his time cooped up in the library and main hall and sometimes he needed a break as well. Since the lesson had been abruptly and unexpectedly ended, they might as well do something with their free time.

"Outside?" Jarod whispered desperate to go outside, too scared to ask though. He had not been out there since he had been brought here over a month ago.

"Yes, outside,” He said, smiling when he saw the boys face light up at that thought. "We can finish this outside. There is a nice garden that I sometimes use to clear my head and I think that might be just the thing for you young man." It would take his mind off his troubles and get a bit of colour on his pale skin.

"Yes sir.” He nodded eagerly, wincing a little as he did, feeling light headed. Grabbing all his notes, careful not to ruin anything, Jarod stood by Sydney and waited so they could go.

Sydney led him along the twisting and narrow corridors until they came to an exit that was barely ever used. The garden was walled, guaranteeing their privacy and Sydney found it most pleasant out here. Pushing open the heavy door after finding the right key he blinked at the flood of sunlight, his eyes too used to the softer candlelight.

Jarod pulled back and covered his eyes as the bright and harsh sunlight hit him, finding it hurt his eyes after so long of being locked in in the dimness. He had been locked inside the castle for a long time now and was not used to it. Slowly, as his eyes adjusted once more, Jarod moved out into the garden and instantly filled his chest with the fresh, clean air.

Sydney watched him carefully, hoping he was not going to be a sickly child. He would monitor him closely over the next few days. Seeing how happy he was already with this small concessions, Sydney smiled and followed him, breathing deeply of the fresh air too. He really should make more of an effort to get outside, it always made him feel more invigorated.

"Ohh," Jarod whispered, picking a flower and smelling it, feeling better already now he was outside. "It's so open out here.” He looked around, the garden seemed to go on forever. It was so very pretty out here, the garden in full bloom, the spread of coloured flowers breathtaking. Jarod missed being outside in the open space, fresh air and sun. He would give anything to just be back with his parents out on the land.

Sydney had honestly never cared too much for being outside, although it made a nice change every now and again. He was far more comfortable with his books and scrolls. "I suppose it is,” He agreed, moving over to a stone bench where he carefully laid down his parchments and books.

Jarod's eyes were wide and full of wonder as he tried to take everything in at once. "Can I go for a run please Sydney?" Jarod asked every so politely.

"Of course,” Sydney nodded, reminding himself he was still just a little boy and some playtime would likely do him good. He had been working very hard and it wasn’t like he didn’t deserve some time to himself.

"Thank you." Jarod grinned madly and took off. His bones felt weak and so did his muscles, but it was so very good to just run like he used to. Jarod had spent most of his life outdoors and it was a hard adjustment being cooped up all day, day after day. After a long while, Jarod stopped, panting heavily as he looked around and saw he was by himself. Smiling at the isolation, he found a patch of dirt and sat down, beginning his drawings in the dirt like he used to. If he closed his eyes, he could pretend he was back on the hill where the big rocks sat, the village down the bottom, his parents safe and sound.

Parker had been outside playing, it was the only garden her father permitted her to go into. Picking some fruit from their trees, Parker wondered about by herself, wishing she had someone to play with. Stopping dead in her tracks, Parker almost squealed in delight and ran over to Jarod, dropping to her knees in the dirt next to him, not at all concerned about her pretty dress being dirtied. "You are still here.” She whispered in awe.

"Milady," Jarod swallowed nervously, half expecting her to hit him too, her brother's words ringing in his ears about her hating him. He had thought about her a lot since that first day he had been brought here and she had sought him out.

"Ohh," Parker leant forward and went to touch his cheek, before pulling back. "You got hurt." Parker whispered, reaching in to give his cheek a little kiss instead.

Jarod closed his eyes, wincing at even the gentle touch. "You don't hate me?” He blurted out when she pulled back. Ever since Lyle had screamed it at him, it had been preying on his mind. In truth, he never expected to see her again, yet it had really bothered him to think she had hated him as well.

Pulling away from him a little with a frown, Parker slowly shook her head. "No, I like you very much. Who said that? Lyle?" Parker demanded, she was going to kill him. He did it every time she tried to befriend a servant. On some level, Parker knew it was her twin's way of protecting her from reprimand when their father found out about it. It upset her though, because it meant they were always too scared afterwards to talk to her.

Jarod nodded mutely, knowing this was just going to make even more trouble for him.

"Ohh he is in SO much trouble." Parker growled before smiling at Jarod, offering him one of the apples she plucked from the trees. "For you." Parker gave it to him, munching on hers. "What are you doing?” She asked curiously, looking down at the drawings in the dirt. They looked very odd, like nothing at all she had seen before in her little life.

He smiled at the apple and then blushed a little. "Nothing," Jarod said quickly, taking the apple from her and moving the erase them. His parents had instilled in him ever since he could remember not to let anyone see them lest they think there was something wrong with him.

"No," Parker quickly reached out to stop him. "What are they?” She asked again, looking at them. "They are very different."

"I don't know,” He said honestly. He knew nobody was supposed to see them, his father had told him time and time again that they could mean trouble for him, that people wouldn’t understand.

"They are very strange drawings Jarod." Parker told him, "I like them.” She was so angry with Lyle for hurting the boy, and Parker wanted to make it better, he just didn't seem at all pleased to see her though.

"You do?” He looked up at her tentatively.

"I do.” She promised him with a smile. "I like them a lot. Nothing like I have seen."

"I don't know what they are,” He said, gaining a little more confidence now as he smiled at her shyly. It hurt his face, but he didn't care. It was so good to have someone to share this with and talk about it.

"Where have they put you? I couldn't find you, I wanted to come back and see you again, but Sydney told me you were moved and I wasn't to know. I didn’t even get a chance to take you riding on the horses." Parker said in disappointment, having been so eager to show the new, strange boy the horses.

"In a room near the library, it even has a bed,” He said proudly.

"And so it should." Parker said, believing everyone had a right to a warm bed and good food at least. "You are doing good Jarod.” She whispered, seeing how proud he was.

"I am?” He asked, shy once again now. She was so pretty and she was rich and seemed very smart and confident in herself, not scared of anything. Jarod was opposite, he was scared of just about everything. His run in with Lyle hadn’t helped his self esteem any either.

Parker nodded, seeing him going shy, his emotions flipping. "I'm sorry about my brother.” She whispered, hating that he had hit Jarod. It wasn’t right for Bobby to go around hitting servants, they never did anything wrong to deserve it.

"He doesn't like me at all and I don't know why." Jarod admitted in a whisper.

"You're a servant Jarod. You are beneath him, scum, dirt. He doesn't like anyone that isn't as rich as we are." Parker whispered. "That's all. I know if you were like us, he would want to be your friend like I do."

Jarod listened and he knew that meant he was beneath her too. She was noble in blood and he wasn't and he would never be rich.

"Does it matter that my dumb brother doesn't like you? I like you." Parker whispered, trying to look into his eyes when he just stared at the ground.

"You do?” He asked timidly. "Why?" Lacking in all the social skills and etiquette, Jarod knew he wasn’t very good with these types of things.

Parker shrugged a little. "You talk, like I'm the same. You're nice, friendly, not like the others."

"There have been others?” He wondered if they were like him and what happened to them.

"I mean others like me. They are boring and rude and think they are better. And the servants never talk to me. Just yes Milady, no Milady. They are always too scared of being told off for talking to me." Parker tried to explain.

"Ohh,” He said in total confusion. She had just told him that he was scum and dirt and beneath her brother and now he didn't know what to think.

"I like you, don't worry about the rest Jarod." Parker told him with a smile, moving closer to him, reaching out to take his hand in hers.

Jarod flinched at first and then relaxed a little and looked up at her. "I like it out here,” He finally said, very nervous not knowing what to say or what she expected from him. He had never really met a noble person before. Everyone in the village always said horrible things about them, but they were scared of them too.

"Me too.” She agreed, smiling as she held his hand. "Will you be my friend Jarod?" Parker asked in a tiny voice, staring at his strange drawings. Parker was desperate for a real friend, one who wanted to be her friend, who liked her for her, not because their parents said so, or because of money.

He had never really had a friend before, and he nodded. "You won't get in trouble?"

"No, because we won't tell." Parker said, as if it should have been obvious. "Wanna see something?” She asked, already on her feet, tugging on his hand to get Jarod to go with her.

Jarod nodded, although he could see lots of things. He rubbed the drawings out with his foot as a force of habit. "What about Sydney?"

"What about him?" Parker shot him a mischievous smile and took off running with him, holding his hand so he had to go with her.
Friends for life... by terri_tpfan
Author's Notes:
Thanks for the kind words guys!!
Parker didn't stop until they hit the small lake in the private gardens. “Look at the birds!” She pointed to the little yellow ones on top of the water, occasionally ducking under for food.

"They are ducks,” He informed her with a smile, panting slightly, his eyes drinking in the scene. This was an enchanted place, a secret walled garden just for them. They could be anybody in here, do anything.

“Ducks." Parker nodded, “Don't you just want to go in there with them?” She asked, sitting down on the edge of the small lake to watch them. "They are so free, they just fly away when they want." Parker wondered what it would be like to be so completely free, to go anywhere, do anything, be anyone.

“Yes they can," Jarod said wistfully, looking up at the sky. “Did you know they always come back to the same place next year though?"

"They do?" Parker frowned, thinking that was a bit silly. "If they like it in that place so much, why don't they just stay there?"

"I don't know," Jarod told her, having no idea, although he thought it might have something to do with the seasons. They seemed to come and go when the weather changed.

“Oh,” She thought Jarod would know, he seemed to know lots of things. "If I can get into your room at night, can you teach me everything?" She asked eagerly, desperate to learn the things all the boys got taught, to know her letters and numbers.

"I don't know everything," Jarod said candidly. The more he read and learnt the more he realised that there was so much more he didn't know. There were so many books in the library and Jarod was eager to get to them all.

“You know letters and numbers. Teach me them." Parker argued, desperate to learn. “Or Latin like Bobby."

“Latin is difficult,” He warned her. He didn't find it difficult, but all the monks complained about it all of the time.

"Then normal letters first, then Latin. I'm smart you know." Parker said with pride, knowing she was smart, even though no one would acknowledge it since she was just a girl.

“Okay,” He agreed, thrilled by their little secret.

Parker beamed a smile at him, “And when I grow up, I will be able to read and write like the smart men, and show them us girls are not as stupid as they think."

Jarod nodded at that, wondering why it was so important to her, if she liked books the same as he did. None of the other children he had ever met, or even adults had ever wanted to learn to read. 

"I can draw too." Parker admitted, "Not very good though, I have to do it on the ground too, so father doesn't yell at me for using the ink and paper."

"Paper is very precious," Jarod nodded emphatically. "But he is rich isn't he?” He asked, guessing he could buy all the paper in the world if he wanted.

Parker nodded, “Lots and lots. Owns all the land you can see. I can teach you needlepoint if you like," Parker offered him, in case he wanted Parker to teach him something back.

"What's that?” He asked, never having heard of it.

"Sowing, you make things, like pictures for the wall and clothes and things." She tried to explain. It was just boring old needlepoint to her.

“Ohh, like darning the torn clothes,” He nodded in understanding, although his mother had never called it that. She had only done it to mend their clothes, never for things to put on the walls or pictures.

Parker nodded and touched the embroidered gold strips on her dress. “Like this.” She explained. "I will show you some of my work next time I see you. So you know."

“Ohh, that is pretty," Jarod said, reaching out to touch it. His hands were clean now, Sydney teaching him to always clean them before touching the paper. They were stained with ink though, but that wouldn't come off, so made them look dirty.

"It's very pretty." Parker agreed. "I can make you some pretty clothes in class Jarod." Parker whispered. She had to learn how to make men's clothes anyway, just in case. It was just something she had to learn, since proper ladies were meant to be able to sew.

“You can?” He asked in awe. Nobody had ever offered to do anything like that before.

Smiling beautifully at him, Parker nodded. "Uh huh. Like my ones, like the ones Bobby wears."

He frowned after a moment and looked at her, there was the name of that boy again. "Who is Bobby?” He asked, not knowing who she was talking about.

“Lyle." Parker clarified.

“Why do you call him Bobby?” It made no sense if his name was Lyle.

"Bobby is his real name, nick name." Parker tried to explain. "He is Lord Robert Lyle Parker of Somerset. He thinks Bobby is too babyish for him. I'm the only one to call him that. Father doesn’t call him Robert, which is the full name of Bobby, but he calls him Lyle because they like it better."

Jarod just nodded, not knowing how somebody could have two names like that or what she was even talking about really. “You are very different from him.”

"He is nice, well nice to me. Sometimes I think I should have been a peasant. Would be much better. You could run and play and talk to anyone and not get into trouble." Parker said wishfully, imagining what it would be like.

“And you have to work all day,” he informed her seriously. Not having any money didn’t make you free. What it meant was you had to be up at first light and then work all day until the day was too dark to work in any longer and then you were so tired all you wanted to do was go to sleep.

"Better than not doing anything but classes all day long. When I'm married, all I do all day long is try to have a baby for the man. It's so boring." Parker whispered dramatically, her ice blue eyes wide as saucers as she said it.

Jarod's eyes opened wide as he thought about that. “That isn't good,” He said sagely, nodding his head. He didn’t know anything about making babies at all, but from the look of it, it wasn’t going to be any fun at all.

"No it's not good." Parker shook her head. "If I could, I would trade with those peasants. Where they can marry for love, not for money and more land. And you could have babies you wanted and give them hugs, not so the man could have an heir. And you could have lots of real friends and talk to everyone."

“I never had any friends,” Jarod confessed in a whisper. He had always been alone, the other kids not really liking him very much. It had been alright though, his parents had loved him and that was more than enough, he had never felt lonely before.

"I'm your friend." Parker whispered back, hurt by his words. He was a wonderful, gentle, kind boy, and Parker had to wonder how the other kids hadn’t like him. Parker, even as a peasant, would jump at a chance to be his friend, and it hurt her that the other kids didn’t feel the same abut this wonderful little boy.

“You are?" Jarod looked up at her, looking into her eyes. He had never seen anyone with eyes that colour before and he thought that they were the prettiest things he had ever seen. There were blue, but lost a winter frost kind of blue. Even though Lyle had the same colour, they were somehow different, cold and hard and sometimes scary. He got a look about him sometimes and his eyes were like looking into a frozen pond.

Parker nodded a little, smiling at him. "I will always be your friend Jarod, until we are both dead." She promised in a quite voice full of conviction. No matter when her father sent her away to be wed, when she had her own children, when she was old and wrinkly, they would always be best friends.

“Me too," Jarod vowed softly, holding her eyes with his. "No matter what."

"No matter what." She repeated with a nod of her head. "So is your room right next to the library?" Parker asked, thinking of ways she could get into see him.

Jarod nodded. it wasn't really a room, more like a recess in the wall where they had put a little bed and he even had his own desk there where he could work if he had to. Sydney trusted him now to bring his parchment and writing instruments there. He hadn’t worked up the courage to ask for any for him to do his own drawing or writing on, and he kept telling himself that he should ask him soon.

"I can come see you when you're not working." Parker looked around as she whispered it, as if it were a big secret.

Jarod looked around too, wondering what she was looking for and then nodded. "I work lots and lots.” He told her, "And Sydney lets me read ANY book I want.” He whispered that with a hushed awe. He liked his work very much, it stopped the boredom and didn’t mind that he worked for long hours. Sometimes though, he just longed to go outside and run in the fields, splash in the stream and lie in the sun, smelling the fresh grass.

“Ohh," Parker whispered back, her eyes wide open. "That is very good." She had to sneak in lots now, so he could teach her to read too. The way he had said it, made books sound like the most magical, amazing things on the earth, and Parker wanted to be able to read them as well.

"I can show you and we can read them together.” He said enthusiastically. "But you have to be VERY careful with the books,” He cautioned.

Parker nodded quickly, "Sydney always says I'm not allowed around his books because I'm a girl and I would ruin them. But I won't, I promise I won't. And you can teach me how to read them too."

"I will," Jarod said, his whole being lighting up at the thought of that. "But you have to practice, every single day.” He told her, knowing how much trouble Lyle had and how he had to do things over and over again. Sydney told him that was normal, and nothing was wrong with Lyle. Jarod was just very special that he only had to do things once to learn them properly. And that Jarod mustn’t judge him for that, not everybody could be as lucky as him to learn things so quickly. Jarod didn’t judge him though, all he wanted to do was help him, but Lyle wouldn’t let him.

"I promise, I will practice every night before bed, so father doesn't find out." Parker grinned madly, very excited by the idea. "I will come visit you tonight, after Sydney leaves."

“You can do that?" Jarod whispered. They locked the doors because Sydney was worried about his library and there was no way to get out, so that meant she couldn't get in. It also meant that Jarod couldn’t get out. Sometimes the thought of what lay outside his new domain scared him and sometimes it excited him. 

Parker nodded with a mischievous smirk. "All I do all day is needlepoint, singing and dancing lessons, lady lessons. When I don't have them, I have nothing else to do. I look and wander lots. I know all the secret doors."

"There are secret doors?” He whispered, his eyes wide at that. He didn't even know where in the castle he was. The idea of secret passageways was very exciting to him though, firing up his imagination.

Parker nodded, “Yes! Lots of them too. I think for when there is big fights, we can all run out safely. I don't think even father knows about them. I can go anywhere, even outside with them." Parker whispered in surprised awe, loving her secret passages, she could get anywhere with them. It was like a whole new world opened up when she had discovered them.

“You can?” He said, his voice dropping even lower. Sydney had told him time and time again it wasn't safe for him to go outside. There were bad people that would want to hurt him, or take him away to make him work for them because he was clever. There were people that wanted to hurt the Duke, take things from him and they would do that anyway they could.

Parker nodded, “One day, maybe we can go into the real outside, just us two?" Parker asked him, hoping he would want to.

He nodded, but a little fearfully. "I like it out here,” He said, looking around at the gardens. He had never seen anything like this before. And this was the real outside too, wasn’t it? He looked back at her for a moment as he realised something. "We can't be friends yet."

"We can't?" Parker frowned in confusion, not understanding why they couldn't. 

Jarod shook his head as he watched her.

"Why not?" She whispered miserably, "I want to be your friend, why can't I?" That had upset her terribly, all Parker wanted to do was be his friend, his best friend, and now he was saying they couldn’t be friends.

"We can't be friends if I don't even know your real name,” He whispered back, taking her hand, seeing he had upset her now and he hadn't meant to do that.

Looking at her hand held gently in his soft, ink stained hand, Parker looked around to see if anyone was close to them. Her name was a secret, her father had told her never to use it. Leaning into his ear, Parker ever so silently whispered her full name to him. Her father had told her one day when she asked why she wasn’t allowed to use it, that it was because her mother chose it, and it upset him time and time again when it was used. It upset him because it reminded him of the wonderful wife he had lost because of her.

Jarod listened to her as she told her his name and wondered if nobles had some special customs about names. Nobody used her father's name, and her brother went by a different one and she didn't use her name. They also had names that were very long too, which he thought was rather strange. "Now we can be friends.” He smiled at her.

That brought a bright, broad smile from Parker, glad they could be friends. "But you mustn't use it Jarod. It upsets father when people uses my name."

Jarod nodded, not understanding though. "I promise,” He told her, taking his promise very seriously. He wouldn’t betray her secret, not for anything.

"Thank you." Parker whispered, holding his hand tightly, not wanting to lose this boy.

When Sydney realised Jarod wasn't coming back he got up and started looking for him, worried he might be lost. The boy needed some time to himself but now he was worried. He was very tender and while he was gaining confidence in his learning and abilities, he seemed very sheltered. He supposed that was from spending so much time with the monks after losing his parents at such a young age. "Jarod?” He called out, wandering through the garden looking for him.

Parker's head snapped up as she head Sydney's voice. "Is it time for you to go back now Jarod?" She asked, upset he would be going and leaving her alone.

Jarod nodded and got up. "I will get in trouble,” He told her, although didn't want to go. He liked talking to this girl and he had never really had a friend before.

Parker climbed up as well, “Maybe I could come with you?" She asked, knowing Sydney would say no, no matter what she said. She was Sydney’s Lady, daughter of the Duke, and she still couldn’t get him to say yes to lots of things.

"I don't know, I have work to do,” He said in uncertainty. It would be time for the midday meal soon though, when they normally break for the lesson.

Parker looked up as Sydney made his way over and looked up at him sheepishly. "Hello Sydney." She said softly, looking up at him from a lowered head.

"Salutations Milady," Sydney said. "I was wondering what had happened to my little Jarod and now I can see." Sydney said, his voice serious, but his eyes twinkling, glad to see that the girl had found someone she could talk to. He couldn’t approve of their friendship officially, but what the Duke didn’t know, couldn’t hurt him.

"It isn't her fault Sydney," Jarod said, coming to her defence, not wanting her to get into trouble.

"Shhh," Parker whispered, not wanting Jarod in trouble. There was nothing really Sydney could do to her, but lots he could do to Jarod. "Did you tell my brother off Sydney?" Parker demanded.

"No I did not," Sydney said, narrowing his eyes at her, wondering what tale the little brat had spun about what had happened. He had not told him off at all, had merely pointed out a few facts about life. Sydney didn’t like the young Lord at all, he was puffed up with his own self importance, which Sydney could understand, after all he would run all this one day. What Sydney couldn’t tolerate is how much of a bully he was. Jarod was a gentle child and Lyle too easily pushed him around.

"Why not?" She stomped her foot. "Look at what he did to my Jarod's face!" Parker pointed at it, very upset by it. “You should have told him off, that was nasty what he did!”

Jarod ducked his head in embarrassment and tried to hide behind Sydney now. He was very intimidated by Sydney still, everything about this place and the Duke especially. Since he had never really met him, it was more the idea of that scared Jarod, and the fact that he had so much power over his existence.

"That is not your concern Milady.” He said, but was glad that she had taken Jarod's side. It worried him a little though at the way she referred to him as 'my Jarod'. He hoped she understood he wasn’t a living doll, a toy to discard when she tired of the novelty of him.
  
"But he hurt my friend." She whispered, not thinking it was right or fair Lyle had hit him like he had.

“Yes he did and you know how things work Milady," Sydney sighed. That was the way of the world. Those with money and power took advantage of those without, there was nothing new there. It had always been this way and always would. Those with the money controlled everything and ruled the lives of those who lived under them. Sydney had learned to live with that a long time ago and make the necessary compromises so that he could pursue the things he wanted. It was a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things really.

"It's not right." Parker said every so quietly, tears in her eyes. "He shouldn't have hurt Jarod, you should have told him off for it. I will tell him off for it." Parker said, her tears forgotten as she threw her shoulders back. She would teach her twin it wasn’t right to hurt others like he did.

"Don't you cause trouble on account of this Milady," Sydney urged her, knowing it would only come back on Jarod tenfold and he was in no position to defend himself. She could afford to indulge in emotions like that, he and Jarod couldn’t. Whatever she did or said had no real consequences. For people like Sydney and Jarod though, those consequences could impact very harshly. Their very lives hung on the goodwill of their patron.

"Someone has to make it right but don't they Sydney?" Parker asked, all her determination vanishing, looking at Jarod, knowing she didn't want him hurt even more. Her brother could be so spiteful sometimes he would hurt Jarod on purpose.

"The world isn't fair little one," Sydney said tenderly as he touched her face. “You run along now, midday meal will be served soon." 

“Yes sir," Parker said softly, knowing he was very right. Moving to Jarod, she gave him a quick hug before running off to get changed into her good clothes for the meal.

"Bye," Jarod said softly and waved as she ran off. He didn't know where she had come from or where she was going now. His mind was afire with the idea of secret passageways though. They would take him to places he couldn’t begin to imagine.
Innocence... by terri_tpfan
Author's Notes:

Hey guys, I am so sorry the story hasn't been updated in so long, that is all my fault, not Jacci's. This one is long, so I hope that makes up for the lateness. Thanks to you lovley guys who left reviews for us :D TA

 

Parker had seen Jarod quite often over the last two months. Every second night, she would sneak into his 'room' after Sydney had left. She had been learning her numbers and letters and now could read short sentences and write small ones down on the paper, which made Parker extremely proud of herself. She had a special surprise for Jarod and she was dying to give it to him. Sydney was away for the week in London to get more of his books and to attend a meeting with lots of other smart people like himself, her father away as well attending a business meeting in France and would be back in a few days. Sneaking into the centre of the castle, where the library and classrooms were, she found Jarod sitting on his bed reading. Holding the package behind her back, she walked in and sat on his bed with a grin.

"Milady," Jarod said, his face lighting up as he saw her. Her visits had become the highlight of his life. As much as he loved the books and learning all the things Sydney could teach him, none of that took away his loneliness like a visit from her could. He would help her with learning about books and mathematics and science, and he loved teaching her and talking about it. She taught him many things too. She knew much about what went on in the castle and the world outside and understood things that were a complete mystery to him. She was very smart, even for a girl, smarter than her brother and he taught her everything he could think of, and took enormous pleasure in the teaching. Sometimes he wondered if he liked teaching even more than she liked the learning. They talked all the time about all kinds of things and he knew she would never judge him. She was kind and always listened. The only thing that they didn’t agree on was her brother, and Jarod tried hard for her sake not to hate him

"Hi.” She grinned, bringing the package to sit on her lap, teasing him with it. “I thought since father and Sydney are away, I could see you during the day now." Parker was very excited to actually be able to see him during the day, spend all day with him and not worry about Sydney seeing her in here.

Jarod's eyes darted to the bundle on her lap and then back up to her. He had work to do but he knew he could finish it in ample time. "You won't get in trouble?” He sometimes took longer than he needed to so that Sydney wouldn’t give him more things or tell him he was rushing. Now Sydney was gone, Jarod knew he could get everything done in a very short time, and that would leave him time for his reading and writing, as well as maybe some drawing.

"They won't know.” She grinned, seeing his eyes dart to the present. Smiling, she gave it to him once Parker realised he wasn’t going to ask about it, which took all the fun away. “It's for you.” She had just finished it yesterday in her class, having taken her time on it and spent a long time on the detail so it was very pretty. It was made of fine material and was all the rage right now. White tights, flat shoes, a brightly colour tunic with pretty embroidery and a big, bulky, black coat with gold stitching and a matching hat. He would feel like one of the richest boys in all the world in it. At least Parker hoped he would.

“What is it?” He asked in a soft voice, taking it from her. He looked up at her in a panic. “I have nothing to give to you." The only time he had ever received gifts before was the day they celebrated his birth and on the day they celebrated the birth of Christ, although he didn’t know why he should get gifts for somebody else's birthday. It seemed a little strange to him, but he never mentioned it because his parents seemed to make a big deal about it and it made him feel special. He wondered if it was Michaelmas for a moment and then knew it couldn’t be, it wasn’t cold enough.

"Shhh, it's a gift." Parker smiled, eager for him to unwrap it and put the clothing on. “I made it just for you."

"You did?” He asked softly as he touched it gently. “What is it?” He asked again, unsure what he was supposed to do.

"Open it," Parker urged, almost bouncing in her seat. "Unwrap it and you will see." Parker had to wonder how he didn’t know what to do with a gift, every knew you had to unwrap it and go “ohhh!!”

Jarod worked carefully on the knot and pulled the folded cloth away to reveal the most beautiful clothes he had ever seen. His eyes opened wide as his fingers touched the cloth, which was softer than anything he had ever felt before. It couldn’t be for him, it was more like something Lord Lyle would wear, or the rich nobles he spied sometimes. He looked up at her, completely speechless as he just gaped at her stupidly.

"Do you like it? Try it on? I made it all by myself for you." Parker rambled excitedly, pride shining from her at her accomplishments.

"You did?” He asked in amazement as he put the bundle down between them carefully, almost scared to touch it. “It is beautiful.” He could see the detail in the stitching and knew she had spent much time and effort on this and was deeply moved. "It is so beautiful," he whispered softly. 

"Undress, I'll help you put them on." Jarod wore just a plain cloth tunic and old tights. It was about time he had something nice to wear.

Jarod's mouth dropped open and he gaped at her stupidly. “I can't wear these." Even though she had said they were for him, it hadn’t occurred to him that she wanted him to wear them, they seemed far too fine.

"Of course you can Jarod. I made them just for you." Parker said, having another surprise for him once he was dressed, if he ever got dressed.

"But they are so fine,” He said, running his fingers over them reverentially. It didn’t seem right to put them on because he would get them dirty and she had spent so much time working on them. He just wanted to look at them and feel how soft they were and never ever ruin them.

"And you will feel like someone different in them. Please, get dressed in them. I spent two months making these for you, I wanna see you in them Jarod." Parker pleaded.

"Can you help me?” He asked, not sure he knew how to put such fine clothes on. They looked much more complex than his normal ones.

Parker nodded and started to undress Jarod before he could stop her. When he was in his underwear, Parker handed him the tights first. "Just like those ones, just a little more gentle with them." These tights were made of the finniest materials and they would rip easily if Jarod wasn’t very careful with them.

Jarod sat back down on the bed and picked them up and ran his fingers over them gently. "So soft,” He murmured. They were so clean as well. Nothing at all like his coarse woollen ones.

Yes, yes, yes, they were soft and fine, Parker got it. All she wanted was for him to put them on and stop touching them. "Hurry Jarod.” She urged, wanting to see what he looked like at the end.

Jarod didn't want to hurry though, being extremely careful as he put them on, smiling broadly at how soft and cool they felt. "Ohhhhh,” He said running his hands up and down his legs. 

Parker giggled at him and picked up the dress looking shirt and waited until he lifted his arms and slipped it onto him, tying the cloth up at the back so it fitted him better. "Now the jacket.” She explained, putting it onto him, placing the cap on his head and letting Jarod slip into the shoes. "Ohh you look so pretty." She gushed, starring at him. Parker had no doubt if she were older and Jarod had money to please her father, Parker would marry him right now. He looked so handsome in those clothes, so very different.

Jarod smiled at her as he ran his hands all over it, feeling like a nobleman. “It is beautiful,” He told her, smiling broadly and primping, wishing he had a looking glass so he could see himself.

Parker grinned, taking it as a compliment to how well she could sow. Though if you held it against any others made by real people, hers would look pretty much horrible. "Let's go,” She whispered, taking his hand and pulling him out of his little room.

"Go where?” He asked, still wanting to feel the clothes. They were so soft and fine and looked so beautiful. “I can't believe you made these for me,” He whispered, looking at her as she dragged him along. He didn't want to go anywhere that would make them dirty. Jarod didn’t really care what they did, as long they were together. She was like nobody he had ever met, she was smart too, much smarter than her brother and she seemed to be scared of nothing. He was completely devoted to her and would follow her anywhere, do anything she wanted.

"You're my friend." Parker explained, as if it was all she needed to say. He would have to hide them, or let Parker keep them so her father didn't find out.

To Jarod, her friendship was the most precious thing in the world. Better than the fine clothes and all the books and wonderful learning. He smiled at her and nodded. “Where are we going?"

"Outside, to the market." Parker whispered, knowing it would need to be a big secret. Her father never went to the market, so he wouldn't find out. She had even borrowed a small handful of silver and bronze coins so they could buy anything they wanted. Even though she was a Lady, if her father found out she and Jarod had snuck out and went to the markets and mingled with all those poor people, he would send her for a few lashes of her own.

Jarod's eyes opened wide at that. He knew that she wasn't allowed to go and he most certainly was not. “We will get into trouble.” He said in worry. His life was defined by rules, which he usually kept to, whereas she seemed to take a perverse delight in breaking them. Sometimes that intoxicated him, but most of the times it frightened him and he wished he could be bold like her.

"They won't know." Parker argued, slipping into a secret passage. “We can leave without them knowing, and father never attends any markets, so no one would tell him we went." At least Parker hoped so. So much was riding on that the villagers would be far too scared to tell her father she had gone there by herself.

Jarod thought there would be lots of other people that knew her that would be more than happy to tattle but he kept his mouth shut and nodded. "Okay,” He agreed, wanting to go now. He hadn't seen anything in the castle really aside from these rooms and the garden which he was allowed to go to now. The promise of just being outside was more than enough to overcome any doubts he might have. That, and the fact she wanted him to do it, finally swayed him and he threw all caution aside, trusting her implicitly to keep them out of trouble.

Parker led him through the dark hallways, using a lit candle she had left at the passage door to guide them. It took her a while to get out, but they did, coming up from underground near the main castle gates. Just beyond those gates was the castle village and farms, but best of all, the bustling market place.

Both excited and scared, Jarod clung to her hand, memorising the twisting way she had brought him and wondered if he would have the courage to use it without her. He was worried his fine clothes would be all ruined after walking through the damp tunnels. Emerging into the warm sunlight made him forget all that for a moment as he closed his eyes and turned his face to the sun, letting it warm him. It felt so good to be outside again. Although Sydney often took him outside to run or work, this was different, he could see all the way to the horizon and there wasn’t a wall in sight.

Parker watched him curiously, but stood still for a moment as he took in the sunshine. “We have to hurry," Parker whispered, knowing the guards walked past these gates often. As much as she just wanted him to enjoy the outside, they needed to hurray up and move away from the actual castle and gates before they got seen.

"Sorry," Jarod said, looking at her and then around. The walls of the castle were huge and intimidating and he wondered why anybody would want to live in there. He would trade it in a heartbeat for living back on the farm, always outside with plenty of room to run and play in. Jarod had read and learnt about far away places with exotic names in the fancy books Sydney had and he often imagined what they might be like. None of that compared to feeling of the sun on his face and the fresh air in his nostrils.

Dragging him along, Parker exited the gates, the first time in her life she had done so without an adult with her. Running down the road with enthusiasm, life slowly started to surround them until they were smack bang in the middle of the market place. “I love shopping." Parker grinned. There was nothing quite like shopping, finding a bargain, some really expensive and fine dress, a little angel that she imagined could be her mother.

Jarod was practically agog at what he was seeing. Never in his life had he seen so many people in one place. He had been to market before of course, in Larkhill, but that was nothing like this. Instinctively he moved closer to her, holding her hand, feeling more than a little intimidated by the throng of people and noise. It seemed there were people everywhere. There was the smell of cooking food and livestock and so many people pressed closely together, it was quite overwhelming.

Taking her little cloth coin purse, Parker clutched it in her hand so that it would be safe. Pickpockets were well known, even though they knew their hands would be cut off if they stole. “We can buy things too. ANYTHING!! Stones, rings, clothes, food, cloth, animals." Parker whispered in awe, wanting to buy lots of things for her and Jarod, so he would have a god day and remember this always.

“We can?" Jarod asked, not sure what she meant by that, not really caring as his eyes drank in all the activity going on around him. It was very frightening, but exciting too and Jarod couldn't get enough of it, although clung closely to Parker at the same time.

"Uh huh. ANYTHING. They might even have books." Parker said, walking around slowly, seeing the peasants move out the way for her and Jarod, since they could tell by the clothes alone they were of noble blood.

Jarod just nodded, feeling like a country peasant and very unsophisticated next to her. He saw how others looked at them though, not realising he was really one of them and so he took his cues from her and tried to imitate her bearing. He had no money of course so he wouldn't be buying anything. Content just to look and wander around though, Jarod was just glad to be here, and be with her.

Parker found a stand selling some nice looking food and went up. "Can we have two please?" Parker asked, fishing out a bronze coin, which alone would probably be too much for the bread and spit roasted lamb, but she was hungry and she bet Jarod was too. There was nothing quite like escaping from the castle and running away to the market place to shop to build the appetite.

Jarod watched her carefully and saw the vendor's entire attitude change when he saw her coin. It was amazing that such a little thing could make so much difference. At his tender age, Jarod already was beginning to understand the power that money brought with it. The thing he couldn’t understand was why one person had so much of it that he could never need it all and all the other people went without. He took the buns and held them while she got her change, watching carefully to make sure she wasn't cheated. The smell was making his mouth water and his stomach grumbled loudly. He always had plenty of food to eat, Sydney saw to that, always worrying about ill health and how it might interfere with their work, but it wasn’t often he got something like this.

Putting the money back in her purse, Parker thanked him and took one roll from Jarod. "Eat.” She ordered, looking for somewhere to sit and eat but there wasn't any so Parker ate on the spot. She thought peasant meals were sometimes better than the ones at home. Her meals were always so fancy and overdone, always far too much then they could ever eat. But peasant meals, they were so much better. They were simple, but full of flavour and were wholesome and homey somehow. Parker wondered if this was the sort of food Jarod would have eaten when he lived with his parents.

Jarod did the same as she did, the grin never leaving his face. He would have to find some way to pay her back for all of this. Careful not to spill any gravy or fat on his new clothes, he finished it off quickly, thinking it was one of the most delicious things he could remember eating. "Thank you,” He said, having kept his eyes on her the entire time. He loved to watch her and he knew that just thinking about her was enough to put an idiot grin on his face. He didn’t care though, and she didn’t seem to mind. He loved everything about her and never wanted anything else but for her to visit anymore. If he could have that, he would want for nothing, would even put up with her insufferable brother.

Parker handed her half finished one over to him, licking her fingers clean. “Welcome.” She did a curtsy, giggling as she did so. “I wonder if they have your books here." Parker mused, trying to look at everything at once. Parker could just imagine how happy it would make Jarod if she could buy him one of the books he read in Sydney’s library, but it was his to keep forever.

"You don't want this?” He asked, feeling a little greedy about taking hers too. He shook his head. “I don't have any books, and if I did, they wouldn't be here, they would be in the library with Sydney's.” He informed her, wondering if someone had taken Sydney's books, he would be very upset.

Parker laughed at him, in a way only a child could. “I mean books like you read silly.” She shook her head, waiting until Jarod finished before holding his hand as they wandered again. "Pick anything you want and you can have it,” She promised, wanting to buy things.

"Can I pick something for you?” He asked, wanting to give her something, even though it was her money.

"Oooh yes,” She nodded her head quickly, grinning. "And I can pick something for you."

Jarod grinned back as she dragged him past stall after stall, his eyes wide with the assortment of things that were on offer. He never knew so many things could exist and it fires his imagination. She was much better at this shopping thing than he was and he found he was completely unable to make a decision about what he might want to get.

Parker stopped as she found something she thought Jarod would really like, paying for it, Parker smiled and held it out to Jarod. Sitting on her hand was a wooden carved horse, pretty little gems in for its eyes and brown hair for its tail. "For you," Parker offered, thinking it might give him something happy to connect to his papa and his horses back in Jarod's old home. Parker never wanted Jarod to forget his home and parents, or the happy memories they had. So this horse, Parker hoped, would be a reminder of happier times with his family, and he would never forget.

Jarod's mouth dropped open as he saw it and he took it from her. After a stunned moment he hugged her impulsively, no longer caring that he shouldn't or he might ruin his clothes.

Hugging him back, Parker held onto him longer than they should have, liking when he hugged her, how it made her feel wanted and loved. "So you can remember your papa." Parker explained.

"And you," Jarod whispered when he finally pulled away. “I promise I will never forget.” He would treasure it forever and always think of her and this day every time he looked at it.

"You should never forget." Parker didn't even remember her mother and didn't want him forgetting his parents as well. She knew not to whine about it, but it left such a hole in her heart. What Parker wouldn’t give just to see her mother, hear her voice, feel her arms around her little body. There were the paintings and portraits around the castle, but it wasn’t the same as seeing her mother with her own eyes. Jarod had that chance and Parker wanted him to cherish it for eternity.

“I won't," Jarod promised her, and he would keep that promise. "Now something for you,” He said in determination. She already had just about everything though and he didn't know what he could get for her that she would want.

"A drawing. I want a drawing of us both." Parker informed him, pointing out an artist with paints and papers.

"Okay," Jarod nodded, although a little crushed at that suggestion, he had already determined to make a drawing to give her on the paper that he would take from the library. It was about the only thing he could think of that he could do for her in return for all she was doing for him. He just wanted to do something to make her happy.

"Both of us?" Parker asked again, dragging him forward. "Maybe two? One for me and one for you?"

Jarod nodded again, happy that she wanted one of both of them, it meant he could draw one of her as well and it still be special. He also liked the thought of having a picture of her to keep. “I hope he is good,” He said, worried that the artist wouldn't be any good. Jarod was turning into quite the artist himself, Sydney telling him he had never seen his equal and that maybe he could do a portrait of the Duke when he next ordered one.

“We will ask." Parker walked them over to him and looked at some of his others. “Is he?" Parker whispered to Jarod, eyeing off the paintings, not knowing much about art. Art was for the men, not for the girls. The only time she was involved in any art was when she was told to stand still so they could paint her.

Jarod looked at the drawings critically and knew that he was pretty good. Not great like some of the drawings he had seen in the books, but good enough. Holding onto her hand tightly with one, the other holding his precious horse carving, he became shy as the approached the man, not knowing what to say. He didn’t know how to do this, what was expected, and she was so much better at it than he was.

"Sir, draw us." Parker ordered. “We want two of them. How much?” She demanded of him, standing tall with her shoulders back.

The merchant looked her up and down with something akin to contempt. He was about to tell her to run along, but the wealth of her clothes made him change his mind. He wondered where their parents were and smiled broadly. He quoted her a price that was well above his usual commissions. "For you Milady, a special one I will do."

“I want both for half that.” She demanded, knowing that everyone bargained here, but wasn't sure she would be good at it.

He barked out laughter, but couldn't help admire her courage. "How about both for two thirds?” He haggled, doubting the child would have a clue about these kinds of things.

Parker looked at Jarod, "How much would two thirds be of the original price and is it good?” She asked him. Jarod was extremely good with his numbers, so he would be able to tell her if this peasant was trying to overcharge them.

Jarod leant up and whispered in her ear, helping her to work it out and shook his head, thinking the man was trying to take advantage of her. She was very brave though the way she faced him down and Jarod was proud to be her friend. She was good with her numbers but they hadn’t really started on harder fractions and division yet.

"Ok," Parker smiled at Jarod, "No, half for two, or I go to someone else." Parker warned, holding up a bronze coin, taunting him with it. He wanted a silver one, and Jarod said no.

He looked at the boy shrewdly and finally muttered, nodding. It was still more than he would usually get and perhaps he could make quite a bit more off these snobby little brats. "Fine,” He huffed and nodded to his little tent. “Inside and sit still."

Parker grinned and pulled Jarod in and sat down, Jarod standing next to her, their hands holding, Jarod’s little horse on display in his other hand. “We want two paintings, good ones." Parker demanded with a nod of her head.

"Yes Milady, I only do good ones,” He said forcing a smile. They thought they were so much better with their uppity manners.

Jarod ignored the man, just smiling at how he felt, standing there in his new clothes, his gift in his hand and his friend by his side. He couldn't remember being this happy since before his parents had died.

Parker smiled, looking up at Jarod the whole time. The man was very good, he finished the first one in 15 minutes before starting on the second one.

Jarod was relishing this and when the man was finished, he looked at the two drawings critically and smiled. They were very good. "Look,” He urged her excitedly, “It's us.” He was seeing a boy in strange clothes and he realised it was really him and grinned even more madly at how he looked.

Parker looked and grinned madly, “It is us, see how pretty you look in the clothes I made for you?" Parker grinned moving over to the artist and the drawings. Giving him the bronze coin, Parker took out the few small coins she had received as change and handed them over too. "Thank you."

The vendor took the extra coins in surprise and smiled at her, bowing low. "Thank you Milady." 

"Can we take them now?” She asked, not sure what they did now since she had never had it done before.

"They are yours,” He said, pocketing the coins with a smile. "Run along now, these are dangerous times."

"They are?" Parker frowned, wondering why but she picked hers up and let Jarod takes his. “We should go see the real horses.” She whispered to him, wanting to make this day unforgettable for the boy, because she knew her father would send her away shortly to be taught properly to be a lady and Jarod wouldn’t get anymore fun days with her.

"They have horses here too?" Jarod asked, rolling his paper carefully and offering to take hers as well, lest it get damaged.

Parker handed him hers as well. "They have farms close by who have horses. They will let us play with them I'm sure." If they said no, she would just pay them too. Parker was always amazed at what people would do for those little coloured coins in her coin purse.

"Can you ride?" Jarod asked. He knew the nobility loved their horses and that was who his father mostly trained them for. He supposed there were plenty of stables at the castle and she probably had a horse of her very own.

"Yes, I have been taught side saddle." Parker answered as they wondered about, heading away from the market and into the part of the villages with cottages and farms with horses.

“I bet your father has lots of horses,” He said wistfully.

"Oh he does." Parker nodded, “But we can't see them because the stable boys might tell him you had nice clothes on and were riding and not working."

"Do you like them, are they good horses?" Jarod wondered out loud.

"Our horses? Yes they are very good, I like them lots. Father says they are the best horses in all of the county and beyond. I just think they look very beautiful."

"My papa trained the best horses,” He said softly.

“I bet he trained the bestest horses in all of the world!" Parker exclaimed loudly in agreement.

Jarod nodded, pleased that she agreed. This whole day was like something out of his dreams, only better.

Picking a smaller road, she headed down there and smiled as a farm came into view. “I bet they have horses. Let's go ask."

Jarod just followed her, content to go where she led, trusting her completely that she knew what she was doing.

Getting to the door, she knocked on it and waited patiently. “I'm sure they will let us ride, I bet they are really friendly people." Parker said, dreaming of what it would be like to live here. It was so open and free, she could do anything she wanted and not be told she wasn’t acting like a real lady.



Jarod knew that they had to head back soon and he reluctantly left the farm, having had the best day of his entire life. He chattered with Parker freely, and it was as if the two of them had been friends for life. It was as if they both saw something in each other that they needed and it formed an instant bond.

Parker had enjoyed herself more than she could ever remember and paused as they got to the gate of the castle, not wanting to go back in, knowing the day had to end. Parker wished they both could just run away to a farm like they had been at and stay there forever. They would never be told they couldn’t talk to each other, see each other. They would always be friends and free, doing what ever they wanted. She had missed midday meal and if she missed evening meal, Bobby would start getting suspicious and might tell their father.

Jarod crept along with her, exhausted, but very happy. He knew they wouldn't be able to do this again any time soon, but that just made it so much more special. He followed her to the secret entrance she had led him out and held the heavy door open for her before following her in.

"Thank you my kind sir." Parker grinned and walked down, lighting the candle so they could see. Leading him back to his room, Parker talked to him the entire way. Pausing at his little room, she looked at him and took her drawing of them. "Hide yours, so Sydney doesn't take it." The last thing she wanted was Sydney discovering his drawing and horse and take them form the boy and punish him for having them.
 
Jarod took it, his hand touching hers briefly and his breath caught at the contact and he looked up at her, falling silent for the first time that day. All of a sudden everything seemed to stop and he looked at her, almost in fear.

Watching as his hand brushed hers, Parker looked up to meet his eyes before leaning in to plant her lips against his in a tender, childish kiss.

Jarod sucked in a breath in surprise and then closed his eyes as he kissed her back, her lips so soft against his and the smell of her was filling his nostrils. He wanted this moment to last forever.

Pulling away, Parker smiled a little at him. “I have to go.” She said softly, not wanting to. He tasted nice, nothing at all like she thought boys would taste like.

Jarod just nodded mutely, his eyes holding hers, feeling as if his heart was going to stop. In that moment, Jarod knew he would love her forever. No matter what happened he would never forget.

Smiling, Parker ducked away, blushing madly as she ran back to the secret entrance so she could get back to the normal part of the castle. Touching her lips with her fingers the entire time, amazed at how soft his lips were too.

Jarod walked slowly to his bed and carefully rolled his picture up after another look and then undressed in a daze, putting away the soft clothes and donning his usual ones with a soft sigh. He wrapped them carefully and put them under the bed safely with the picture and laid down, a huge grin on his face. He had had the best day of his entire life today and he vowed never to forget even the tiniest details.

Vitruvian Man... by terri_tpfan
Author's Notes:

Sorry for the delay guys, between homework, study, exams and now christmas skins, the story completly slipped my mind. Sorry.

 

Sydney had just gotten back from another one of his trips, this time to Italy. Jarod really wished Sydney would allow him to go on the trips as well, Jarod could only imagine all the things he could see and learn. He had finished his mornings work, and was waiting for his midday meal when he spotted a drawing pad. Looking around, seeing Sydney was busy with his own things, Jarod carefully opened it and gasped softly at what he saw. The only thing Jarod could think was this was the most amazing thing he had ever seen in his life.

"What are you doing Jarod?" Sydney asked, trying not to smile at his reaction. He had been back only a few days and he knew Jarod was curious about the new acquisitions. The boy was quieter than usual and he wondered if Lyle had gotten to him during his absence. It had been hard for him to leave Jarod for so long, but it was something that the Duke had wanted and Sydney had been unable to refuse. Now that he was back, he was glad and the trip had certainly been productive. He knew the boy wanted to come but at this point that would not have been prudent. In his absence Jarod had performed his duties as scribe and apparently done very well.

Closing it shut quickly and hiding it behind his back, trying to hide form Sydney what he had done and seen, Jarod looked at Sydney with a guilty look over his face. "Nothing sir.” He whispered. Still some of Sydney's books were off limits to Jarod, and he knew never to touch them. But this sketch pad, Jarod hadn’t been so sure about and the whole time it has been sitting there taunting him, calling to him to look.

"What did you think of that nothing?" Sydney asked him, no reproach in his voice. He was actually quite eager to share this with Jarod. Very excited about what he had seen and learnt, he knew that Jarod would understand the way nobody else could.

Biting his lip, Jarod pulled the pad back out to the front of him, knowing he was caught. “It's amazing, nothing like I have seen before."

"Nothing like anybody has ever seen," Sydney said, moving to stand and look over his shoulder. “It is called the Vitruvian Man,” He said softly. "This is only a copy of course. Even still, it is an amazing drawing. It is the most amazing blend of art and science," Sydney said eagerly, eyeing the sketch off with something akin to hunger.

"The Man of Proportions.” He interpreted the name. “It's perfect." Jarod whispered, being able to see that all measurements were spot on just by looking. "The male is in proportion completely. No one has ever done this before. Never in all of history has such an accurate, true drawing of man been made."

“I believe not," Sydney nodded, agreeing with his assessment. He suspected Jarod was at least as good as this Italian, perhaps better and he wanted to prove it to himself. He had managed to get one original sketch, unfinished, of this Vitruvian Man, and a very good facsimile of the completed drawing and sketch. He was very excited to see what Jarod would make of it, as well as the other sketches he had brought back with him and notes, as well as new books. The duke was now obsessed with engines of war and Sydney had been sent abroad to gather information. He had no doubt that Jarod would have some ideas with respect to the new drawings and crazy designs Sydney had brought back with him.

Jarod slowly flipped through the book, mesmerised by the whole thing. "This is extraordinary work Sydney, just astonishing. Can I meet him?" Jarod asked eagerly, wanting to discuss this with the man, ask him questions, show the man his drawings.

“I don't think so Jarod, there is much work to be done here, and the Duke needs us now, but perhaps one day." Sydney said, a little afraid that if this man knew about Jarod, they might take him from him.

Nodding at that, Jarod knew he would never go see this man. He had not left the castle and the castle's private garden since that day so many years ago with Parker. He was now the old age of ten, and still Sydney would not let him venture out, keeping him locked behind these walls. "Yes sir. If we had the chance, I would do anything to go. This man is a genius."

“I know you would Jarod, but I don't think that will be possible." Sydney said softly.

"Yes Sydney," Jarod sighed heavily and sat down to look more carefully through the book. He spotted a drawing of a mechanical bird and his eyes opened wide. It was very similar to the ones Jarod drew in the dirt and the one he had finally sketched down onto his special paper Sydney let him use.

"What is it Jarod?" Sydney asked, seeing the way he reacted to that drawing. He had brought these back specifically to show Jarod, suspecting that he might have something to say about them. Sydney knew that they had barely scratched the surface of his talent and was almost a little afraid to find out how gifted he truly was. At the same time, his very nature forced him to proceed, regardless of the risk. If the Duke found out about his genius, or even worse, somebody else did, there was no telling what might happen.

“It's just good." Jarod lied smoothly, hating to lie to the man. But his parents had said never to show nor speak about Jarod's drawings. Besides his beloved parents, Lady Parker was the only other one who knew about it. Sydney let him use parchment now in his room for his own likes, and Jarod had done a lot of drawings and hidden them under his bed so no one would find them.

"Good?" Sydney said sceptically, looking it over. "What is so good about this particular one Jarod?” He asked, knowing something had touched a chord in Jarod. Something that clearly frightened or worried him.

Biting his lip, Jarod thought of something to say. “It's very unusual, he must have been ill when he drew something so outrageous and strange.” He whispered. Jarod’s mind was ticking over at a hundred miles an hour trying to think of what to say so Sydney wouldn’t find out about his own drawings, so he wouldn’t be punished for them.

Sydney had to bite his lip to stop himself from smiling at that. “Indeed,” He agreed. "You don't think it has any possibility of working then?"

Jarod shook his head quickly, scared of Sydney finding out about his own drawings. "God made man with legs to walk, not to fly.” He shrunk down a little in his seat, wanting to turn the page so Sydney would get off of the topic. He had not been able to think of anything else to say so resorted back to the teachings of the monks, something he always did when he got nervous and scared, which wasn’t very often at all now.

"Oh and so we should not strive to improve ourselves as a species?" Sydney asked, surprised Jarod was throwing church rhetoric at him. Jarod had shown no real interest whatsoever in the teachings of religion before now.

“I like the drawing of his man, that was astonishing." Jarod said in a barely audible voice, trying to get away from the flying machine.

"Yes it was," Sydney agreed, wondering why he was avoiding the topic. He sat down next to him and waited until Jarod looked up. "What is it?"

“It's a man fully in proportion, showed by the perfect square and circle around him." Jarod said, playing dumb.

"Jarod," Sydney said sternly, the tone reserved for when he wanted Jarod to know he wanted the truth.

"My parents said never to say." Jarod whispered, shrinking away from the man, hating when he used that tone of voice on him. It made Jarod scared and sad, like he had disappointed Sydney, upset the man for telling a little white lie to him.

"Never to say what Jarod?" Sydney asked a little more gently, seeing that he was genuinely afraid now.

"About them, I will get in trouble, they aren't normal." Jarod whispered, wanting to stop talking and go do his work. He didn’t want to break the rule his father had set for him, didn’t want to make Sydney think he was a witch or something for doing those drawings.

"Your drawings?" Sydney asked, hiding his smile for the moment.

"You know about them?' Jarod whispered, shocked and hurt Sydney had searched his room and found them. He drew sometimes around Sydney, but not the other ones, he drew in the dirt or on his special paper and hid them.

Sydney nodded and looked steadily at him. “It is nothing to be ashamed of Jarod, they are extortionary, as much as these drawings, perhaps better, which is one of the reasons I so wanted to show you these.” He said, wishing Jarod had felt confident enough to bring them to him. He had waited, expecting Jarod to show him and when he hadn’t, Sydney had simply put off confronting him, waiting for the right moment. Clearly this was something important to Jarod and Sydney was trying to figure out what that might be, why he felt he had to hide them.

Jarod shook his head. "They are the work of the devil, the people who saw them in the village said so." They were like this man's flying machine, pictures of things that did not exist yet and probably never would.

"You don't believe that any more than I do Jarod," Sydney scolded him gently. "These are the work of science, progress, the future. Those fools are blinded by their ancient superstitions, they are not men of learning as we are."

“I'm not in trouble?" Jarod whispered, struggling hard not to cry. All of his life he had been told not to draw them, if he had to, make so no one saw them or he would get in a lot of trouble. He didn't want to think how much it hurt that Sydney had searched his little room. If he found the pictures, he had to have found the statue of the horse, the clothes Parker made for him and his painting they did at the street market.

"No you are not in trouble," Sydney assured him. "They are works of genius and inspiration.” He could see how upset he was and he put his hand on his shoulder. "There is nothing to fear in here Jarod, you know that."

“Did you- did you see anything else?" Jarod whispered, unable to keep the fear away, knowing if he had, Jarod was going to get a whipping like he hadn't had in a long time.

“It's okay Jarod," Sydney soothed him. “I did not mean to invade your privacy.” He apologised to him, not making mention of the other items, which clearly were very precious to him.

"How could you not?" Jarod demanded, very upset over this, his fear gone for a moment as the anger and hurt over took him. "They were hidden under the mattress. You had to go looking to have found them." Jarod accused, sniffling a little.

"They had come to change your bedding and..." Sydney didn't bother finishing. “Don't worry though, I have told nobody and the servant knows it is not worth their life to repeat what they had seen. I was worried they would damage them Jarod, I needed to keep them safe for you.” He figured that he had been hiding them for years, gifts from lady Parker no doubt and quite cherished too.

“I'm not in trouble?" Jarod whispered, wanting to make sure. The painting of him and Parker was hidden among his own drawings, the horse and clothes in the far corner under the bed against the wall. He hadn't mentioned them, so Jarod guessed they were still safe.

"No you are not, the drawings are amazing Jarod, you should not so underestimate yourself." Sydney told him, seeing him relax a little. He knew that sometimes Jarod and Lady Parker meet in secret and Jarod had been teaching her. As long as it didn’t interfere in his own work Sydney was happy to turn a blind eye.

Knowing now he wasn't in strife, Jarod got up and rushed out of the library. Besides Lady Parker, he had no one he could speak to about them. Carefully taking them out from under the bedding, Jarod placed the picture of him and Parker back under before walking back to Sydney with an arm load of paper, very careful not to ruin them.

Sydney smiled at him and cleared a spot on the table and helped him lay them down. "We should collate them Jarod, and you should work on some of these, although to be honest, I don't even begin to know what they might be or mean." Laying them down, seeing how well worn some of them were, Sydney was glad this was finally out in the open now and they could talk about some of Jarod's more revolutionary ideas. His grasp of mathematics and geometry surpassed even Sydney's now and he was still only a child.

Jarod shook his head, “I don't know, they just come into my mind, I see them and draw them.” He found his flying machine and placed it next to the man's drawings. "They are very similar Sydney." Jarod said in worry, wondering if he really was the child of the devil or a witch. He had never met this other man, never even knew of him or his drawings and yet here the two were, both drawings incredibly similar.

"Remarkably so," Sydney said, putting the two of them together. "When did you draw this Jarod?” He asked, wondering if Jarod was even smarter than this Leonardo from Vinci. If he didn't know any better, he would swear that one was a copy of the other.

"When I was 6 sir." It was the first drawing he put onto parchment when Sydney had allowed him to have them for his own use. This one vision had kept appearing in his mind over and over, every time slightly different, until Jarod had managed to get it down on the parchment.

Sydney blinked in surprise although never doubted him for one moment. This drawing had all the sophistication of the work of a master, not a six year old, even one as clever as Jarod.

“It's a flying machine." Jarod whispered, as if that meant everything, even though man could not and did not fly.

Whatever it was, Sydney was impressed by the detail and how closely it matched this other drawing, it was eerie. Had Sydney been a man prone to superstition he might have been very perturbed by this.

“I don't quite know how you would build it and make it work, but if the other man has done the same thing Sydney, it must be a good thing. Right?" Jarod whispered, very worried he was some kind of freak, devil reincarnated.

Sydney let out a long sigh and nodded. “It is an amazing thing Jarod, just amazing.” He paused in thought for a moment and then decided that he should show Jarod what he had been working on now and had not had any success. “I want to show you something Jarod, something that I could perhaps use your help with.” He knew the duke would not approve of this, but right now that was of no concern to him. He was stuck and after seeing Jarod's grasp of the mechanics involved in such a machine, perhaps he could help him with the current problem.

Jarod nodded quickly, "Anything Sydney." Sydney had saved his life in all ways that counted. Jarod had never been in threat of not being fed, of becoming sick or of dying. But he had been lonely, bored, forced to hold back his mind and creativity, and Sydney had freed it all. He still got the occasional punishment here, which normally happened when lord Lyle was upset at Jarod for whatever reason. Jarod wanted to, and always would want to, help Sydney in any way he could.

Getting up, Sydney retrieved a book that he hadn't let Jarod look in before. It held the plans for the Duke's siege of a castle in Scotland, as well as some of his more long term and ambitious plans for the future and how to consolidate his position. The immediate problem was what concerned Sydney right now though. Due to the rugged terrain, it was going to be a difficult campaign, the logistics of it a nightmare.

Jarod watched Sydney carefully, seeing him grab a book Jarod had not looked at before. "Are we doing more reading Sydney?” He asked hopefully.

“I want your help with a problem Jarod, a very complex problem." Sydney told him placing the journal down on the table carefully. "You must never reveal to anyone what is in this book, not even lady Parker, do you understand?"

"Yes sir," Jarod promised. He took his job very seriously and never spoke about anything they did in here to anyone, not even lady Parker. Slowly, he opened the book and began to read it. "You are going to overthrow another castle?" Jarod said, not too sure about this.

"No I am not," Sydney assured him, amazed at how quickly he grasped the situation. "The Duke of Somerset is. This is an old enemy of his and it is time their barbaric activities stopped." Sydney told him softly, hoping he hadn't just made a mistake by showing him.

"By slaughtering them?" Jarod whispered, not liking this, but knowing he had to help Sydney. All Jarod could think about, see, after he had quickly read the notes was the screams coming form his village. The smoke high in the sky, fire overtaking the buildings, the dead bodies all over the ground, his parents gone. He didn’t want to do that to anyone else’s village, but knew he had to.

“It is not up to us to pass judgement on the Duke Jarod, Sydney informed him a little stiffly. “I have a job to do and it must get done. If he does not consolidate his holdings, then all could be lost, including everything you see right here. It is our duty."

"Can I find a way to do this and spare some lives?" Jarod asked, hoping he could be allowed.

“If you can find a way to make this a success Jarod, then I am very interested in what you have to say." Never before had he given Jarod such an ambitious task.

"Yes sir," Jarod said distractedly as he began to very carefully read every letter, every word, every page of the book. His impressive mind just soaked it in greedily. Once he had read the book, Jarod started to try and work things out in his mind instead of on precious paper, which he might need to waste.

Sydney watched silently, knowing now that time for questions would come when Jarod had it sorted out in his mind and it was best not to disturb him until he was ready. Then no doubt, there would be discussions and questions which would often go for hours, even days. Sydney enjoyed those times more than he cared to admit, starved for someone to really talk to about such things without having to guard everything he said for fear it getting to the wrong ears. Jarod was proving to be even smarter than he had first dared to hope and he was growing more and more scared everyday that somebody would find out about him and take him.

Realising he couldn't really make much sense of it, having no idea how armies really worked, or how one would go about taking over another. “Do you have more books Sydney?"

"On what Jarod?" Sydney asked him, knowing that this was opening up a whole new world for Jarod now. It was a privilege to watch and Sydney had to admit to himself that he was excited by this.

"War, war craft, machinery of war, strategies, history. Anything, everything." Jarod said, just unable to formulate anything to help the Duke since he knew nothing other than a lot of deaths will happen.

"Not very much I am afraid. Some few treatises on it," Sydney said, moving to get some older books.

"Can you please find me some then Sydney?" Jarod asked shyly. “I have no knowledge. How am I to work without background knowledge Sydney?" There was no way Jarod would be able to complete this task without knowledge of the things involved. He couldn’t just make up information in his head about war and overthrowing other armies, he needed to read and learn about them first.

Sydney turned to look at him, a few books in his hand. “I will have to speak to the Duke, but perhaps... what if we were to model it?" Sydney said, knowing that they had used rough models before to explain strategies.

Jarod thought about it, “It might help.” He nodded, willing to try it.

Sydney smiled broadly at him. "Then we have a model to build and perhaps that would best be done outside." Sydney told him, wanting to give him something to engage him, something he could really enjoy too.

Jarod's eyes snapped up at that, his own broad smile covering his face. He loved going out into the gardens, it was a whole other world for him. “It would be best to do it outside." Jarod agreed easily and excitedly.

“I think I have to concur. We will do it by the lake I think, there is mud and sand to use and I will see what other things we need. There is one more thing." Sydney said getting up.

"Yes Sydney?" Jarod asked, picking up the two old books Sydney had and the one he was given not even an hour ago.

“I think it is about time you had one of these of your own." Sydney said, with some ceremony, he placed a brand new leather-bound journal in front of Jarod. The book was large and heavy and made of the finest paper in Italy. 

Jarod's eyes opened as wide as saucers, gaping at Sydney and the book. He shook his head, he had never, ever, had a book of his very own, not even a reading book. The parchment he used to draw on were scraps from their work, but this, this was so beautiful. He looked up at Sydney, unable to do anything, not quite believing it was for him.

Sydney just smiled at him gently. "This is yours Jarod, you can put in it anything you want, and we can keep it in here, where no servants come, so it will be safe, and I promise you I will never touch it.” He told him, pleased by his reaction.

Tears built up in his eyes as his finger went to trace over it, but he never quite touched it, scared he would stain the beautiful gift. He could smell the rich smell of fresh leather, the stitching on it was exquisite and he just bet it cost a small fortune.

"You enjoy that Jarod, it is yours and it will be safe in here, you have my solemn vow. In fact if you wanted..." Sydney could see how pleased he was with the gift and was glad he had followed his impulse to buy the book for the boy when he had seen it. The Duke had allowed a budget to spend on anything that Sydney thought would be necessary, and this was definitely necessary in Sydney's opinion.

"What?" Jarod asked, still in shock over this astonishing gift. Jarod finally got the guts to touch it, and sighed at how smooth and soft the leather was. Unwinding the cord, Jarod slowly opened it and touched the paper, gasping again softly at the quality of it.

"You can safely store everything in here Jarod if you like, keep your horse on the table if you wish.” He said gently.

"You saw my horse?" Jarod whispered, fear back in his eyes. “It was a gift, Lady Parker brought it to me one day. We didn't do anything wrong.” He pleaded, not wanting them to go hurt her for taking him to the markets.

“It is okay Jarod, I know that it is important to you, but wouldn't you like to be able to see it all of the time, instead of keeping it hidden away?” He asked, seeing the fear back in his eyes again. That had not been his intention to scare the boy again.

"She didn't do anything wrong." Jarod whispered, his head and eyes lowered. He kept his clothes, the drawing and the horse hidden so not only wouldn't he get in trouble, but so Parker wouldn't either.

“I know she didn't Jarod, nobody is in trouble,” He told him softly. He couldn’t blame the boy for fearing the consequences, Lyle went out of his way every chance he could to threaten him and remind him of his position in life. Jarod was a tender child too, lacking in confidence in his own abilities and easily pushed around.

"You won't tell her father?" Jarod whispered, hope in his eyes as he looked up. “I would do anything to keep her safe.” He whispered. He would take all punishments for her, do anything he had to. Just to know his friend would be safe and happy always.

“I am not going to tell anyone Jarod, that is a promise." Sydney reassured him, trying to soothe his fears.

“I can bring it all in here? Does the Duke ever come in here when we aren't here?" Jarod asked, worried his things would be found and taken from him.

"He could Jarod, but he would never have to know about it would he? Just our little secret." Sydney told him, seeing how worried he was.

"But if he came in and saw my things, he would know about it. Take them, hurt Lady Parker, hurt me. Maybe you too.” He shook his head, too scared to have them on show.

"How would he know it was from her?" Sydney questioned him softly. "Unless somebody told him. Look around Jarod, how many things of mine do you see, do you really believe it would look out of place?"

Jarod nodded slowly, deciding to keep the picture and clothes hidden, although he bet Sydney knew about them too if he knew about everything else.

“It is up to you Jarod," Sydney told him, not wanting to put too much pressure on him. “I am glad you like the journal."

Jarod smiled broadly at him, “I do Sydney, thank you."

"Excellent," Sydney said, not pushing him on the horse issue for now.

Picking up the book, surprised at how heavy it was, Jarod slid it under Sydney's desk so no one would see it and take it from him. He would do more drawings in there, maybe write some notes in the special hand he had created that only he knew. Moving over to Sydney, the other books in his arms, he was ready to go outside now.

“I think you are going to enjoy this Jarod, I know I will." It would be intriguing to watch as Jarod conceptualised his ideas and Sydney was hoping to get an insight into just what went on in the boy's mind.

Jarod smiled, being outside would be enjoyment enough for him. He loved it when they let him out in the sun. Following Sydney out, Jarod paused when they got into the sun and his face turned towards it.

Sydney didn't bother rushing him, just walked slowly to the lake. He would arrange for all the materials later, he just wanted to give Jarod an idea of what he had in mind, see if he could conceptualise a problem on a large scale. As the boy was developing into a young man now, he found that he enjoyed his company, the arguments and collaborations in a way he had never anticipated he would when taking on a new apprentice.

Jarod began to follow, running a little to catch up. When they got to the lake, Jarod put the books down. "May I?” He asked, always being allowed to go for a little run about when he got outside. It always helped Jarod to concentrate and feel better, burning off some of the excess energy he always had.

“I have some things to think about, take your time, and Jarod, and bring me back an apple if you would." Sydney smiled at him, glad to offer him this indulgence. 

"Yes Sydney.” He agreed happily as he ran off. It felt so good to just run about, stretch his legs, breathe in the fresh air.

Sydney shook his head in amusement as he watched him, having grown quite fond of the boy over time, which was unexpected. It was one thing to admire his talent and amazing abilities, but he liked the boy himself. He was a decent person and that was rare in this day when everyone was only out to get what they could for themselves.

Jarod wandered about, hoping to see Lady Parker, but by the time he got to the apple trees he still hadn't seen her around. Picking a few apples, Jarod sat down to munch on his. Closing his eyes, he imagined he was back home with his parents in the fields, watching his father train the horses.


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