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Authors: Mindy L Klasky

Glasswrights' Apprentice

BOOK: Glasswrights' Apprentice
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The Glasswrights' Apprentice
The Glasswright Series: Volume One

Mindy L. Klasky

 

To Mom and Dad,

who taught me I could go anywhere with a book in my hands

 

 

Original Acknowledgments, 2000 Edition

 

This first novel would not have been possible without the support of an extraordinary number of people, especially Richard Curtis, Laura Anne Gilman, Deb Givens, Jane Johnson, Bruce Sundrud, the Washington Area Writers Group, and my family.

 

 

Additional Acknowledgments, 2010 Edition

 

This ebook would not have happened without the love and support (and never-ending techno-patience!) of my husband, Mark.

I love keeping in touch with readers! Please stop by my website, http://www.mindyklasky.com, to learn more about me, my books, upcoming appearances, etc.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Rani Trader pushed through the throngs in front of the cathedral, sparing only the Pilgrims' dusty robes from her sharp-elbowed thrusts. Fighting the crowd gave her an opportunity to spend some of the rage that pulsed in her thirteen-year-old veins, and she barely remembered to protect the precious basket that was slung over her arm.

The day had begun far too early, with Cook splashing a cup of icy water in her sleeping face, swearing at her to get her miserable bones down to the kitchen. As Rani crouched on the icy flagstones, dispensing threads of dried cotton to the faintest of smoldering embers, she shivered so hard that her teeth ached. Still, she managed to fill her lungs with breath after breath, blowing life into the fire that her fellow apprentice, Larinda, had let die during the night.

Of course, Rani could not speak out against Larinda, even when Cook kicked her for being so slow at building up the flame. Apprentices needed to stand by each other no matter what the assault from journeymen, masters, or servants.

That miserable dawn had only been a harbinger of a terrible morning. Rani had helped Cook stir the great cauldron of sticky porridge, ignoring the protest of her own belly as she ladled the noxious stuff into bowls for the masters and journeymen. Even if the food had been palatable, Cook never made enough for the apprentices to eat their fill.

When Rani's parents had bought her way into the prestigious glasswrights' guild, it had never occurred to them to question the fare that would be served at the apprentices' table. Now, there was not a night that Rani's belly did not cry out in hunger. Even when Cook prepared enough food for all, it was difficult to swallow the rations, thinking of the mice that swarmed in the pantry.

Rani knew that she was learning humility. She knew that she was learning patience. She knew that she was learning the blind obedience that paved the way to the highest level of her chosen craft. Still, when her belly growled and the sun had only climbed halfway to noon, it seemed that she would never be an Instructor.

Now, in the cathedral square, a Pilgrim stepped backward and ground his leather-heeled boot into Rani's inadequate soft shoe, unaware of the girl behind him. She stifled a cry and caught her large basket before it toppled to the cobble stones. Nevertheless, she heard glass clink hard against metal, and she offered up a quick prayer to the Thousand Gods that the knife had not cracked the jar of lemon water.

Thinking of the tart-sweet drink, Rani swallowed hard, and for the hundredth time, cast aside the shameful thought of sneaking a hand into the basket and extracting a morsel from the treasures Cook had ordered her to bring to Instructor Morada. Rani bore fresh-baked caraway bread and a plump sausage, the latter newly carried in from the smokehouse. She had watched as Cook counted out a half-dozen tiny, tart apples, and she had almost swooned when she was required to cut a slab of rich, creamy cheese to complement the feast. Almond honey cakes anchored the basket, and Rani could smell their heady fragrance over the less enticing odors of the perfumed and over-heated crowd.

She would not dishonor the guild. She would serve Instructor Morada with humble obedience, even if she fainted from hunger.

Directing a well-aimed kick toward a Touched brat who refused to let her pass, Rani permitted herself an angelic smile, indulgently dreaming of the day she was presented with her Instructor's sash. Instructors were glasswrights who had completed both their apprenticeship and their journeys and returned to the guildhall. Treated with the greatest esteem, they were courted daily by the guild, enticed to stay and impart their knowledge to worthless wretches of apprentices, instead of setting up profitable masters' workshops.

Rani's immediate concern, though, was not instruction, but making her way through the thick crowds closest to the cathedral doors. Everyone hoped for a glimpse of Prince Tuvashanoran in his Presentation regalia. It was not every day that a living king stepped down as Defender of the Faith, in favor of his eldest son. Even though King Shanoranvilli would retain the throne and all the secular power in the kingdom, he was transferring his role as religious leader of this people. The honor bestowed on Tuvashanoran was great; in fact, the event was unusual enough that Rani's guild had been commissioned to re-glaze one of the cathedral windows in commemoration.

Even now, Instructor Morada was putting the finishing touches on the work, making certain that the glass had settled well in its armature. Ideally, the window would have been completed well before Presentation Day, but there had been countless delays. First, they had not been able to get rare cobalt glass from the eastern province of Zarithia. Then, when the glass finally did arrive, the yellow stain had refused to take to the blue, leaving muddy streaks across the surface instead of the expected grassy green. Even after new glass was found to replace the faulty stuff, work had gone slowly. Designs had been mistakenly erased from white-washed tables, and a dozen grozing irons - used to cut the planes of glass - had gone missing from the store-rooms.

As late as yesterday morning, Rani had blended pot-paints for Morada to stipple into the final design, adding the last touches to the window as it rested in its cathedral armature. Morada had climbed down the scaffolding to view her handiwork in the full light of the previous noon, only to decide that a little more stippling was needed in the Defender's face, filling out the fierce features that symbolized the heart of the Pilgrims' faith. Of course, the paint could not be added once the sun had passed to the cathedral's western side - it was impossible to see the effect on the glass. Morada contented herself with rising at dawn, forcing Rani to re-mix the pot-paints in the sleepy hours after she had served up Cook's glutinous porridge.

Now, as the sun lent autumn's warmth to the cathedral wall, Rani stood at the foot of the scaffold. Often, she thought that scaffolding was the reason she had yearned to be a glasswright in the first place. She loved climbing, loved the feeling that she was moving above the workaday world. Slinging Morada's lunch over one shoulder, Rani tossed back her short, black cloak and grasped the narrow wooden supports. Her hands were well-used to climbing, and she started up the structure with a scant breath of prayer to Roan, the god of ladders. Roan had watched over Rani since she first climbed to her bed in the loft of her father's shop.

The touch of wood sliding beneath her fingers was comforting, familiar, and Rani was almost at the top of the scaffold before she realized that the usual rope supports had been pulled up to the plank platform at the top. Before she could question that oddity, she was confronted by Morada's look of outrage. “Ranita! What are you doing here?” Sheer fury coated the Instructor's words as completely as yellow stain on glass, and Rani bowed her head in an apprentice's immediate apology. Morada towered over the girl, the grey streak in her jet hair lashing out like a cruel whip. The Instructor set her bony hands on her hips, and even as Rani averted her gaze, she could make out the spider web of white glass-scars on the woman's fingers.

“I'm sorry Instructor Morada. Guildmistress Salina sent me with your lunch. She said to bring it to you before the Presentation.”

“I don't need any lunch! Can't you see I'm finishing the window? I don't have time to be interrupted by a stupid apprentice.”

Rani didn't like Morada much under any circumstances, and she was particularly rebellious after her fight through the crowd. It took a full count of ten before she yielded to the guild's precepts. “I am sorry, Instructor, if this apprentice has failed to meet your expectations.” Rani remembered to lower her eyes, which was just as well, given the smoldering resentment she was unable to quench completely. In fact, she imagined that her anger gave off the acrid stench of burning. “I beg your pardon, Instructor, and I beg leave to assist you in your work.”

“No!” Morada's outraged cry was enough to cause Rani to meet her agate gaze, even though she knew she would pay for the insolence. The cold hatred that greeted her sent a shiver down the girl's spine. Morada was not taunting her with an Instructor's typical cool superiority; she was not channeling the tight rage that Instructors reserved for slow or recalcitrant students. Rather, the woman's lips were white with suppressed fury, and she lurched threateningly to where Rani huddled on the edge of the scaffold platform. “Didn't you see that I pulled up the rope support? Even you are old enough to know when Instructors do not wish to be disturbed.”

Rani's eyes darted to the pile of rope beside the scaffold's wooden ladder, coiled high against the cathedral's stone wall. “Instructor, I merely acted on Guildmistress Salina's orders -”

“Apprentice, you ‘merely' violated one of the most basic guild rules. If you want to do anything other than grind paint for the next ten years, I strongly advise you to stop talking back to your superiors and leave this scaffold. Now.” Rani wanted to explain, to soothe Morada with a joke and a story, but the Instructor's fury cut her off. Under guild rules, Morada was wholly in the right, even if Rani had had no choice but to follow Guildmistress Salina's instructions.

BOOK: Glasswrights' Apprentice
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