Riyala was at Dal Mhor, the old home of the DeLaceys, looking for some moderately clean clothes while sorting through her belongings. There wasn't much, really - her toolbag she always carried with her, and she didn't have any riches or fancy clothes. With a sigh she looked at the humble pile of raw materials that she had left over, a few hundred ingots, and a small supply of leather. Her first task would be to see that she'd procure more, she had high hopes that she'd be needing them. Well, if Gorbash was right, there was a lot of work waiting for her.
She still was not sure if she was doing the right thing. For the past ten years, she'd lived with the DeLaceys, as part of the family, even taking the DeLacey name like most members of the clan had done. Thane DeLacey, the clan leader, had offered her work and shelter so many years ago It had been he who'd warned her of the Darkcloaks. He'd been full of tales of their callousness and cruelty, and the dark plans of their Master.
But Thane DeLacey had disappeared many years ago. The people he'd taken in had searched for him for a long time, but his trail had long since grown cold. Now all that remained of him were the two books of his they'd found after his disappearance - two of four. Books that might shed some light on his fate, and which could spell doom to the Darkcloaks, or so he said. But what good were two books, if they needed four to even have a hope of solving this riddle? No matter how hard they'd searched, they'd never found the other two. The DeLaceys had lost hope, and one by one, they'd dispersed and gone to seek their fortunes and livelihoods elsewhere. Tamryn supposedly still remained, as did Thorm Silverpick, but Riyala hadn't seen either of them in a long time. The house was falling into disrepair, the floors were unswept, the roof leaking. Not long and it would fall down entirely. Well, it wasn't going to be her problem no more, Riyala thought bitterly. There was nothing for her here.
Hungry and down on her luck, she'd gone out looking for employment elsewhere. It was rather ironic to find that her only solid offer had come from none other than the Cloaks - doubly so since she found that Seriya, the arrogant headstrong woman who'd worked for her as a mere scribe in her teens, had gotten herself into a position of authority there. She didn't much look forward to taking orders from that posh bitch.
Still, it was a choice between that - a place to stay, regular work, a full belly and something at least resembling a future - and living in a ruin and eating whatever rabbits she could catch in her crude snares. Put that way, the decision didn't seem so hard.
She'd spent some time observing the Cloaks, and by all accounts, the old Thane had told her a pack of lies. Gorbash had seemed genuinely shocked when she asked him if the Darkcloaks ritually murdered children, as Thane had told her. "We 'elps folks," he'd insisted. The talks she'd had with other people bore out much the same story. The Darkcloaks, despite their name and appearance, had a reputation as helpful, law-abiding, genuine people. And well, if not…. Gorbash had assured her several times that should she not like it, she would be free to leave.
Now all that remained for her to do was to speak to this Master of theirs. The thought still sent shivers down her spine. Still, Gorbash had assured her he wasn't so bad. Gritting her teeth, Riyala slipped on a pair of worn but clean trousers, a relatively new shirt and her best cloak - the one with only three patches.
She cast one last glance about the small tower that had been her home for so long. Then she slammed the door, sending a small shower of loose masonry tumbling from the back wall, and strode firmly southwards, towards Hawk's Hollow.
The interview with the Master was something Riyala would not forget for the rest of her life. He hadn't asked her any searching questions, no…. He hadn't even lifted a hand, or raised his voice. Just his presence…. .
To a casual observer, he might simply seen as an
elderly scholar, his pale features hidden underneath a dark robe. He'd barely
looked up when she entered his study. And yet she'd felt him looking at her, taking
in every minute detail. She'd been embarrassed about her well worn clothes, her
crooked teeth, but there was nothing she could do about it.
The Master lifted his head and looked at Riyala directly.
His black eyes seemed to bore a hole in her, so fierce was the stare. For a moment
she tried to avert his gaze, some part of her screaming to run, run away as fast
as she could…. But the urge to look up was too strong, the force of his willpower
too great. She locked eyes with him, sitting as still as a rabbit in the light
of a lantern.
He released his gaze, Riyala sagging
in her chair with a deep shuddering breath.
Artisan? She thought to herself. That had a ring to it. She'd only ever thought of herself as a simple crafter, but she did like the sound of artisan. Maybe finally someone would value her work. And… the Cloaks she'd met so far had seemed genuinely friendly. Friends had been something she'd sorely missed of late. Though she'd be glad if she could avoid seeing the Master all too often.
"Alright," she said aloud. "Ah'll work fer yah. S'long as ah get somewhere ta sleep, and work, and food..." "Of course," the Master said with a hint of a smile. "The Cloaks provide for their own."