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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.

Author's Chapter 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.



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