by Terris Crane, Temuair Monk in Dark Ages

"An ale, Lass, if ya be so kind."

Gold rattled across the countertop, to be scooped up by the barmaid. "Welcome to the Rucesion Pub, Sir," she said cheerfully as she metered out his drink in a tall mug. "What brings ye to our humble town, eh?"

"Ah, lookin' to catch the ferry to Abel."

"So ye be a journeyman, eh? Can't say I've ever been to Abel, though I've heard many tales of it. They say it's bigger than Rucesion, even."

She handed him the mug, full of brew to the point of spilling over the sides.

"Many thanks, Lass. And aye, Abel be many times bigger than your quaint haven here..."


They both looked down to find a small girl had appeared in the barstool next to him. Her shiny copper hair was cut practically at the shoulders, where it curled slightly outward, creating a look of playfulness that was only accented by her big green eyes.

Which were, at the moment, staring at the traveler in total agreement. "He's tellin' the truth, Gabby! Abel's huge! It's as big as the sea, maybe even as big as Temuair!"

The man laughed gaily. "It's not quite THAT large, but yer on the right track, lil' lady."

"Aye, I believe 'im. But ye shouldn't be getting yourself so riled up, Terris," Gabrielle scolded. "I wonder what yer mother would say if she knew you were bein' so unladylike, eh?"

"Aw, Gabby, don't start THAT again..."

"Ye better believe I am, Lass! You should be at home helpin' yer poor mother, not out gallivanting around an' doin' Deoch KNOWS what. And in TROUSERS, no less!"

Terris looked down at her black pants and matching jacket top. "What's wrong with 'em? It's my gi."

"Terris, BOYS wear trousers. Go home and get a nice dress on. Ye don't want to be mistaken for a boy, do ye?"

The look on the girl's face was classic disgust. "A DRESS?! But dresses are so itchy, and ugly, and boys can look up my skirt, and they always get in the way!"

"That's not the point, Terris... the point be, folks'd treat ye like a lady instead of a ragamuffin. Wouldn't ye like that, eh?"

"Nuh uh. Dresses always ride up when I kick, or I trip over 'em or somethin'. They're jus'... eww!"

Gabrielle threw up her arms. "Fine then, if ye won't wear a dress, then I'll just hafta start callin' ye Laddy, how's that?"

"Anythin's better than wearin' a dress," Terris grumbled. She hopped off the barstool and scampered out the door.

The man watched her departure, a smile playing over his face. "She has the Fae in her, no doubt."

"The Fae? Sir, I assure you, no Fae would come within' arms reach of that terror!"

"Now, don'tcha think yer bein' a trifle hard on the sprite? She's still a wee one, let 'er be."

"Bah." Gabrielle frowned and measured an ale for herself, hoping she could drown her frustration. "Suppose she can't be faulted for how she is, eh? She got too much of 'er father in 'er."

"Her father?"

"Aye. The family just settled here recently. From Suomi, they are. I think it was because Terris's father wanted to be closer to Loures. He's a Master, in the King's Court. Joshua, I think his name is?"

The man raised an eyebrow. "I think I've heard of him. Master Joshua Crane, be that his name?"

"Aye! That be him."

The man smiled. "What an interesting discovery. Master Crane lives in Rucesion, does he? He's one of the King's most trusted advisors, so they say. One of the most highly regarded martial artists in Temuair."

Gabrielle huffed. "I don' care how important he be, that don't give 'im the right to ruin a child like that!"

"Aye, Lass, but I believe Master Crane has 'is reasons. Monks such as he may praise the beauty of nature, but as far as clothes be concerned, they believe in function over form. That's why ye will never see lil' Terris in a dress, because for a training martial artist, they be impractical."

"Still, the least they could do is put a leash on 'er or somethin', keep 'er from wanderin' all over Temuair and back."

"Naw, 'twould stifle the little sprite. That be a flame no man has the right to extinguish. You jus' keep an eye on 'er, and watch 'er grow up to make somethin' of 'erself. She won't be no housewife, I tell you that."

Gabrielle just sighed, and stared into the depths of her now half-empty mug.

The man stood, wiped the froth from his chin, and tossed her some more gold. "Next time Master Crane comes in, his drink's on me, alright, Lass?"

She nodded. "Aye. Farewell, sir. Been a pleasure."

"That it been."

As he walked out, Gabrielle noticed how dirty the counter was, and how the floor was streaked with mud, and how the tables needed to be desplintered again. Would she ever get a better job than this?

"And Lass?"

She looked up.

"Remember, it not be jus' boys that wear trousers." And he left.

Gabrielle stared at the door in deep thought, wondering. She was the barmaid, it was her responsibility to do the cleaning, so future customers could drink in a comfortable, clean, pleasant place.

It not be jus' boys that wear trousers.

It not be jus' children that have all the fun, either.

Cleaning could wait, she decided as she ran out the door. Just tonight, curse her responsibilities, she would go down to the shore and make sand castles, like she had when she was Terris's age.

Just this once.