The Making of Talon Part 3 Section 6
Yseult quickly learned how to control manna with three teachers. In less than a month she became the youngest maiden to work with the unicorns. Ubel was still angry that the child had a unicorn protector and he gave Ludwig more chores which Ludwig did cheerfully.
A few days after Yseult walked to the unicorn field, Gerardo was brought to the Wainwright’s to foster. Gerado was unusual in that he was already fifteen, two years older than Ludwig when he arrive. But Ubel saw something in the boy that met with his approval.
After dinner that first night, Ubel took Gerardo out to his shop saying he’d apprentice the boy. Ludwig waited until he saw them go around back to the shop, then slipped outside and followed. There was window on the far side of the shop where Ludwig had listened and spied on Ubel before. He went there now, and took up station below the window still cracked open from his last listening. A few minutes later Ludwig felt a presence behind him. It was Enora and Yseult.
Ubel showed Gerardo the tools and had him try his hand at smoothing a board. Gerardo gave a few lackluster swipes with the plane then stopped.
“This isn’t why you wanted me to come out here, Herr Wainwright. What do you want?”
Ubel smiled, “I see you’re not dumb. Good. I want you to keep an eye on Ludwig. If you can, mess with him when he’s trying to practice with the manna.”
“He can’t do that!” Yseult whispered.
Ludwig put his hand on her shoulder. “Quiet, they’ll hear us! And don’t worry about me.”
Inside Gerardo was speaking again.
“You have a high opinion of me,” he said, “why? What makes you think I can do as you ask or would want to?”
“Because I’ve seen you before. I know the type of person you are.”
Gerardo raised an eyebrow. “When? Where?” he said. “I just came across from Earthside. Do you travel back there?”
Ubel smiled again, this time with malice. “You originally came across ten years ago. Your first home was with the Soukis family over in Paraliopolis. I met you when Cletus brought you to the fair in Cavernton. You’d been with him for two years and he was trying to sell you off to anyone who would take you.”
“Did you place a bid?”
“No, I had enough trouble with the ones I had at the time. I didn’t need another manna master in my house. What happened to you?
“Cletus found a buyer; one much braver than you, obviously.”
“Or very stupid. What happened?”
“I learned a lot from my new master. He taught me all sorts of little cruelties and insults. But I learned from him. Every time. Then when he took me to the Demon Arch I killed him and slipped back Earthside. I was twelve by then.”
Ubel backhanded the boy sending him to the floor, blood on his lip. Ludwig and Yseult ducked below the window sill.
“You’re telling me you went Earthside? I don’t believe it!”
“Good, you’re not stupid,” he said getting up and brushing himself off, “The Demon Arch doesn’t lead to Earthside. It leads to a goblin enclave. My master was a goblin. He wanted a human slave to win some female. I didn’t kill him until later.”
Ubel watched Gerardo carefully. There was something about the way the boy had smiled that concerned him.
“So, what did you learn with the goblins?” he asked.
Ludwig looked at Yseult’s pale face. Mention of goblins had obviously scared her. Then he looked at Enora and saw her normally placid eyes were glowing red. Ludwig motioned them toward the barn.
“Enora, take Yseult back around to the front, or down to the barn. Calm her and then get her to sleep.”
Yseult grabbed at Ludwig. “No!” she said, “You’re going to stay here and I’ll stay with you.”
“You can’t” he answered. “You’re scared and Enora is scaring me with her red eyes. We can’t have a scene here, not now. Both of you, go!”
Enora nodded, then nudged Yseult. The girl grabbed a handful of mane and jumped on Enora’s back.
“Be careful, Ludwig,” Yseult said as Enora stepped quietly away.
Ludwig returned to his listening post outside the shop window. Ubel and Gerardo were still talking.
“So, now you know,” Gerardo said, “What exactly do you want me to do to Ludwig?”
“I want you to irritate him, get in his way, distract him.”
“How strong is he?” Gerardo asked, “He looks like a coddled baby.”
“His looks will fool you. He is not strong; you could thrash him easily. But he is stronger in manna than anyone I’ve met except for elves and mages.”
“Not as strong as me.”
“That may be, and if so, then you’ll have no problems. But be careful. People who cross him or the girl, tend to have accidents.”
Gerardo studied Ubel for a moment. “And I take it you’ve had accidents.”
Ubel nodded, “Yes. Now, can you do it?”
“Probably, give me a few days.”
Ludwig left the window and crept off into the night. Once he was far enough away from the shop he ran back to the house and went in. Tante Katrina was just finishing cleaning up in the kitchen. Ludwig told her good night and ran up the stairs to his room. He’d give Gerardo the second bed. And he’d let Hans tell him his duties. For now, he was going to bed.