Calashi Misfits

 

There’s no use in weeping,

Though we are condemned to part:

There's such a thing as keeping

A remembrance in one's heart:

(Parting - Charlotte Bronte)

"That child is a menace," grumbled Gidion as a slender figure ducked past him and sprinted down the hallway. She's no longer a child, dear," said his wife passively, flinching slightly as the door at the end was carelessly slammed.

"Well, it's time she grew up then, Syma. Always daydreaming, always late, only average at her studies..." Syma held up a finger in silent admonishment. "There is nothing wrong with average, Gidion. Just because Cady hasn't found a place for herself doesn't mean she isn't intelligent. Indeed, she has more common sense than our children." Gidion huffed indignantly and finally found a vent for his frustration.

"That's another thing, that ridiculous name. Why does someone with so beautiful a name as Acadia want to shorten it to something so masculine?" Syma chuckled softly and swept into the solar as Gidion held the door open for her, "A small rebellion, I think, that's all."

"A rebellion that's been going on ever since she could talk," her husband mumbled, not noticing the fondly indulgent smile Syma bestowed on his broad back.

"You have to admit that with Adria and Simea in the domum as well, another name ending with that sound does get a little confusing."

"I still don't like." Syma just smiled to herself and picked up her needlework. Gidion poured himself a glass wine and another for his wife and continued thoughtfully after he had handed it to her, "Perhaps we should marry her. Maybe to Ishri or Reddai." he mused. Syma's eyes widened as she tried to imagine her foster daughter as a wife to one of the sons of a minor domum chief.

"I don't think that would be totally appropriate, my dear," she said with quiet tact, "Cady really isn't suited for life as a domum wife." Gidion snorted, "She isn't suited for life as any type of wife."

"That's a little harsh, Gidion." Syma managed to sound sympathetic to her husband's plight and reproachful at the same time, a skill she had long since learned to cultivate.

"Well, and can you imagine her as a wife?" he demanded.

"Yes," she replied slowly, "but it would have to be with the right person. Perhaps we should bear in mind that since her parents were eyrie born and bred, Cady might be happier there."

"The girl has no useful skill about her, Syma, who would want to take her?" Syma sighed and tried to keep a calm countenance as her husband listed her foster daughter's faults.

She can't sing, so the music craft won't want her, she can sew, weave and embroider enough to get through her lessons without rendering the tutors into tears," he paused, remembering how his eldest daughter had managed just such an event with her hopelessly inept needlework. "She reads, she writes, but not well enough for an archivist to want her at his copydesk. She can't carve wood, she can't work metal, she can't design, she doesn't know enough to become a tutor, she has no desire to be a healer or a nurse, she has no feel for the horses..."

"Stop, stop!" Syma was half-laughing, half-upset at this list. "You're looking at all the negative points, Gidion, and Cady has plenty of good ones."

"Name then," her husband stopped his pacing and sat down into a deep chair, almost spilling his wine. Syma waited until he had finished checking that he hadn't spotted his tunic before speaking.

"All right. She plays that little flute of hers beautifully..."

"Hah! A child's toy."

"Not a child's toy, Gidion, and stop interrupting me. I admit that just playing the flute won't get the music craft interested in her, but she can still play it well enough to please you." He humphed but was silent. "She can embroider beautifully, but most girls can manage that and unfortunately I don't think that is going to get her admitted to the tailor craft. She is a very good little nurse for when our younger ones are sick, and they respond to her almost better than to me. She can cook..."

"All proving that she would make someone a good wife." Syma raised her eyebrows at this sudden turnaround and Gidion had the grace to look a little abashed. "Maybe to a crafter, not a domum chief," he qualified. Syma hid a smile.

Her husband had a blade sharp mind for anything concerning the business of his domum, but he left any decisions regarding the family to his wife. He wasn't however, above a little interference and Syma often found herself wading through circular, rambling arguments that seemed to belie the intelligence he showed in other matters. Consequently, she ignored this shift of stance on his part and continued to list Cady's good points,

"She also has a generous, kind nature, a sensible outlook," her husband snorted again and Syma looked pained, "please don't make that noise, Gidion, you sound like one of your horses."

"Nothing wrong with horses," he responded immediately.

"No dearest, when they're in their proper place. This isn't a stable." Syma hurried on before he could start to defend his beloved animals, "and by that horrible sound I gather that you don't think Cady to be sensible?"

"Well... I ask you... her actions sometimes..." he groped through his memory trying to find something to use and Syma wasn't beyond a triumphant expression as he failed, nor did she help him as certain incidents sprang immediately to her own memory.

"Exactly. She knows how to behave properly on all the right occasions. A little light-heartedness is to be expected from young people. After all, I seem to remember a few incidents of a young chief..."

"Yes, yes. Point taken." Gidion smiled as he hurriedly stopped her from elaborating to his possible embarrassment.

"Cady is also well loved by the people here."

"I'm not disputing that she has good points, Syma, there's no need to paint the girl as a paragon, but the fact still remains that she is only good to be married. In fact, if she is so good at everything you claim, I'm sure that is what she wants as well, but not to a domum chief."

"Perhaps not," Syma admitted, "but I doubt she will let you make a match for her. Let her choose for herself, Gidion, and at least we will have a measure of peace." Gidion thought of the likely arguments that would arise if he chose a husband for Cady and winced. He would be the first, well, maybe the second, to admit that Cady was an obedient girl, when it suited her, but... Syma interrupted his musings, knowing from his expression of vague disgruntlement that he was going into dangerous territory as concerned their sometimes-stubborn foster daughter.

"My dear..." Her husband forestalled her comments by abruptly asking, "How old is she now?" Twenty one, almost twenty two," replied Syma patiently.

"By the heights!" Gidion exclaimed, "when did she get so old?" Syma's lips twitched, but before she could formulate a reply her husband had continued, "What is she still doing taking lessons at that age?"

"Because she has an agile, enquiring mind that would otherwise get her into trouble from boredom."

"Marry her off, that should give her something to think about," Gidion grumbled quietly. Syma repressed her exasperation and took a deep breath, "My dear, we're still no further to a solution as to how best to help her." Her husband heaved himself out of his chair and went to pour another glass of wine.

"Send her to the eyrie, like you said." He waved an impatient hand, obviously considering the matter closed now that he'd had his say. Syma sighed audibly, That wouldn't work. She would just be unhappy."

"Hah! That little wretch could fit in anywhere."

"Gidion."

"All right, all right. But I don't know what to do. Send her to the eyrie and maybe she'll fall in love with a flyer or something."

"Gidion, try to get past the thought of marriage for a moment and think more deeply on the matter. You can't keep putting it off as you have been doing. Maybe Cady would fit into one of the crafts, even if only to spend some time increasing her knowledge."

"I hope you're not asking me which one, that is, after all, your domain, but by all means send her away. Yes, in fact, that's a very good idea." He paused in the middle of raising his glass to his lips, much struck by this idea. Syma shook her head, "You'll make me think that you don't love her, when I know that's not true."

"Of course I love her! She's just..." Syma raised her eyebrows and he stopped. "Well, what do you suggest then, my love?" Syma eyed him, having the distinct feeling that they had managed to come full circle and reach absolutely no conclusion in the process.

"We'll ask Cady what she wants. Maybe she has an idea." Seeing that Gidion was immediately going to point out all the shortcomings of this idea, Syma firmly turned the subject. "Do you think we will find out who will take over as eyrie leader at Shinuk at the gather meet, my dear?"


Can I sing of the deeds, which my Fathers have done,

And raise my loud harp to the fame of my Sires?

For glories like theirs, oh, how faint is my tone!

For Heroes' exploits how unequal my Fires!

(Farewell to the Muse - George Gordon, Lord Byron)

"Cady!" Simea glanced at the tutor who was patiently instructing one of her other sisters, "Cady!" "What?" Cady kept her eyes glued on the mixture bubbling in front of her, wrinkling her nose slightly at the smell coming from it.

"Come here."

"I can't, I've got to watch this." Simea sent another surreptitious look towards the pair at the front of the room, and picked up her bowl. "Is it supposed to be this colour?" she demanded. Cady flicked a glance at it out of the corner of her eye.

"Yes."

"How do you know, you didn't even look!" Cady's lips twitched with amusement as she heard the familiar, teasing rise of tone. "Yes, I did," she retaliated with mock indignation, a smile curving her lips.

"No you didn't, I saw you not looking." Simea spoke louder, attracting the attention of the tutor who turned to frown at them.

"If I wasn't looking how could you see me..." Both girls dissolved into laughter at this contradictory remark, and the tutor came up.

"Simea, you're supposed to be working over there."

"Cady..."

"Sorry, Breann," Cady was immediately apologetic, "it was my fault."

"No it wasn't!" Simea chimed in quickly. The tutor ignored her, "Regardless of whose fault it was, you are here to learn, not giggle like five year olds." Cady flushed and stared down at her mixture, still bubbling merrily. "I would have thought you at least, Cady, would have had the sense to behave."

"That isn't fair!" Simea jumped to defend her friend, "I distracted her by asking her a question, it was all my fault." Breann rolled her eyes, "I just said that I don't care whose fault it is. Now behave yourselves, the pair of you. If I hear one more sound out of you, Cady will have to forfeit the lesson. I don't know why you're here anyway, you've already been through all of this once." Cady felt her cheeks heat again.

"I am sorry, Breann." The tutor eyed her for a moment, "I need to fetch some more emiemi leaves, that looks like it's almost done," she gestured at Cady's bowl, "I would appreciate your help." Cady silently lifted the bowl off the heat and put it to one side before following the tutor. She barely waited for the door to shut before speaking,

"It won't happen again, Breann." The tutor smiled slightly and waved for Cady to walk beside her.

"I don't understand why you're in there at all, Cady. You've already been through the lessons once."

"I know, but I really enjoyed what I learnt and wanted to know more. I don't have any special talents, you know, but if I could find something I like doing and work really hard, maybe I might be useful." Breann glanced up at this speech.

"I'm sure that Lady Syma appreciates what you do," she offered. Cady smiled, "Yes, but what I can do to help is rather limited. I don't think that I'm suited for domum life, Breann, I'm a lot happier when things are simpler, when I don't have to worry that I'm behaving as the daughter of a domum chief should, because it's a fairly sure thing I'll do something I shouldn't."

"I see." They walked on in silence and Cady looked anxiously at the tutor, "Do you think that I'm good enough to be a herbalist?" Breann looked up startled, expecting to see hurt disillusionment, but her young student surprised her yet again. Cady's expression was frank and open, inviting her reply.

"Well..."

"I promise to try really hard, Breann and to concentrate on my studies. I want to be good at something!" Breann found it hard to resist this burst of confidence, but had to reply honestly, "Cady, you're welcome to attend the lessons and I would be the last person to discourage you..."

"But?"

"You don't really have a knack for it at all. I've been a herbalist for a long time, and I know when someone I teaches has the potential to go beyond the learning to become truly good." Cady sighed softly.

"And I don't. Oh well, never mind. I thought as much, you know," she confided disarmingly, "I just thought that since I enjoyed learning about it I might, with a lot of effort, get better," she grinned at Breann and the tutor was relieved to see there were no hard feelings. It was hard not to be drawn to this young woman who seemed to accept her lack of talents so freely and Breann searched through her brain to try and find a suitable occupation for her.

"Cady, do you have any other ideas about what you might like to try?"

"Oh yes," Cady laughed, "believe me, Breann, I've thought, but I'm just not talented enough in any area. I'm capable at most things, but definitely not potential master material." Tentatively Breann offered her last suggestion, "Have you thought of getting married?" Again Cady surprised her, "Oh yes. Frequently."

"Goodness!" exclaimed Breann. Cady looked at her and laughed.

"Not like that! I've thought of it in the abstract sense. If ever I was to meet anyone - but not a domum chief - I'm pretty sure I would love to be married." Breann heard a slight wistfulness behind the words, but her thoughts were distracted by the qualification Cady had used.

"Why not a domum chief?" They had reached the store and Cady moved to hold the door open for Breann in an automatic gesture of politeness that the tutor had found was sadly lacking in some of Chief Gidion's other children.

"Breann! Can you imagine me married to one of the sons of a minor domum chief? Ishri or Reddai or," Cady shuddered, "Cheran."

"Well, I can't see why not," said Breann doubtfully, "after all, you've been raised in Kushin domum practically since your birth, you must know all there is about running a domum." They picked up two large baskets from the pile by the door, and proceeded into the store.

"That's not what Aunt Syma says. Apparently even little Eliana knows more than me." She seemed quite cheerful about this, which Breann found hard to believe, especially considering that Eliana was barely seven years old.

"I doubt it," the tutor replied firmly, "you might be surprised how much you've absorbed just by living here. You said yourself that you would love to be married, and that would definitely involve housekeeping." Breann gestured for Cady to fill her basket from the pile of dried emiemi leaves on the shelves before them.

"Housekeeping, yes. Running a domum, no. Breann, you're talking to the girl who managed to seat Chief Dathan, from a major domum, next to an apprentice shepherd at the Harvest feast!" Breann was laughing at this social blunder, "How old were you at the time."

"Breann, it was last year!" Breann was torn between laughter and embarrassment for Cady. When she had finally wiped the tears out of her eyes she asked, "What did he say?" Cady chuckled.

"He told Aunt Syma not to worry about it, he learnt a lot about herding that he didn't know before and everyone knew that a chief should be familiar with every job in his domum."

"Oh dear." Cady sighed, the smile fading from her lips, "Uncle Gidion was furious. I think after that, both he and my aunt realised that I would never be a good wife for a domum chief. The problem is, that I have no opportunity to meet other people while I live here. If I had any talent, I could go to one of the crafthalls and meet someone there."

"Is that what you want?" Cady nodded.

"I could be a good wife, Breann, I'm sure of it, but I don't want to be worrying about seating arrangements all the time, or what food to serve and what decoration is more appropriate for each occasion. Or how to entertain a huge variety of people from major domum chiefs and eyrie leaders, to herdsmen and farmers. How to make proper conversation and think about music and dancing. Or when to stop helping the old and infirm in the domum and let them be independent." Breann raised a hand, smiling,

"Stop, stop. I get the idea, but at least you're honest about it. "Cady shrugged,

"What else can I do." Breann couldn't think of anything else to say, and hid this lack by securing a cloth over her load of leaves.

"I think that should just about do it. Let's go back up."


Yet hope again elastic springs,

Unconquered, though she fell;

Still buoyant are her golden wings,

Still strong to bear us well.

(Life - Charlotte Bronte)

Cady saw no point in continuing with the herbal lesson after Breann's truthful appraisal of her abilities, so she only stayed long enough to clear the area she had been working and whisper a quick explanation to Simea. From there, she retreated to her room to make another list of all the crafthalls and to consider her chances of entering one. After she had crossed out the music craft, the herbalist craft, the archivists, the woodcraft, the glass craft and the metal craft, she paused with a sigh.

"This is no good," she muttered aloud, taking obscure comfort from the sound of her own voice, "I know exactly where it's going to lead." With ruthless strokes of her pen, she crossed out all but the weaver and needle craft and the healer craft. She quickly discarded the notion of being a proper healer, but took time to consider the possibility of becoming a nurse.

Her pen doodled patterns on the page before her as her ideas turned. She knew that she brought comfort to her younger foster brothers and sisters when they were ill, but the thought of having to spend her life cleaning up other people's personal messes was not appealing. With a sigh, Cady crossed the healer craft off the list, "Be realistic, Cady."

The weaver craft quickly suffered the same fate as the others on her list, since Cady was too well aware of her limitations in that area to want to suffer more time learning about warps and wefts . She found the whole process of sitting in front of a loom and passing shuttles under and over threads one of the most tedious she had ever been taught. The only occupation that she found more tedious was knitting, but she rather thought that was because she had never yet managed to finish a garment, and when her foster mother told her to make squares for blankets instead, she had somehow ended up with triangles, much to everyone's bafflement.

The needle craft interested her as no other did. She loved the process of embroidery, of using myriad's of different stitches in glorious colours to make patterns and pictures, and Syma had sighed with relief when she had finally found a task her foster daughter was good at. Cady had soaked up the knowledge the tutor had taught, churning out samplers and small tablecloths by the dozen in her eagerness to try out different stitching techniques. The difficulty with this craft was that so many others were also good at it, and the crafthall were generally much more interested in apprenticing those who could design new patterns and fashions, which Cady couldn't do. She had tried, but found herself to be much happier when she could follow an established plan.

Cady reluctantly passed a line through the needle craft and sat staring in dejection out of the window. Her words to Breann earlier returned to haunt her. She was indeed good at most things, but master of none and seemed to fit in nowhere into the bargain. A soft knock on the door roused her from her depression and she hastily rearranged her glum expression to her more usual cheerfulness,

"Come in." Simea poked her head around the door. "Cady?" She looked relieved to see that her friend wasn't crying, "are you all right."

"Fine," Cady replied brightly, and as she pushed her doubts firmly into a dark corner, she smiled in welcome. "You're making a draught, come in if you're going to." Simea grinned and obeyed, moving over to sit on the deep window ledge,

"Are you sure you're all right? You were gone for ages with Breann, was she really angry?"

"No, not angry at all. More puzzled as to why I was still in the class when I'd already learnt everything she had been trying to teach."

"You didn't stay." Simea drew her knees up to her chest and hugged them with her arms, "it's freezing in here."

"Autumn's coming," Cady noted absently as she rose and tugged a blanket off her bed to hand to her friend, "here."

"Thanks. So, why didn't you stay in the class?" Cady shrugged and discreetly pulled a book onto her crossed over list.

"Because Breann doesn't think that I would make it as a herbalist. She's right too."

"No!" Simea sat up straight, almost losing the blanket, which she had drawn around her shoulders. "That's not true, it's not fair!" Cady grinned, "But she is right. She also has a lot more experience and knows when someone might be able to make it and when someone won't. I won't." Simea heaved a sigh, "I don't know how you can be so cheerful about it all."

"There's no point be miserable over something you can't change."

"Maybe, but it doesn't stop most people," Simea pointed out.

"I'll just have to face up to the fact that I'm designed to make some farmer a good wife," said Cady, trying for a noble pose and reducing Simea into fits of laughter.

"You!" Cady propped her hands on her hips as her friend choked, her eyes dancing with merriment, "Why not me?"

"You can't milk a cow, you run from pigs you burn the jam..."

"Wretch," Cady threw a handy pillow at Simea, "I can learn to milk a cow, and I was only six when that pig chased me, of course I ran! As for the jam..." The rest of her comments disappeared under the return of the pillow.

"You, Acadia, cannot marry a farmer."

"Don't say that!" Cady sat back, holding the pillow, "I have to marry someone, and you know it can't be a domum chief." Simea giggled again, "No... just imagine, you'd be dining with herdsmen and master crafters every night..." The pillow made a return and Cady followed it up by searching out Simea's ticklish spots.

"Take it back! Take it back or I won't stop!"

"No, no, never!"

They were interrupted by a voice calling over the noise of their fight. Dion, Cady's eldest foster brother was grinning at them, "If you burst that pillow you're going to be in so much trouble," he noted, "Simea, mother is looking for you." She wriggled free of Cady's grasp and straightened her clothes and hair, "Did she say what for, Dion?"

"No. Cady, have you got nothing to do?"

"If you're going to ask me to help you with that mechanical thing in the cellar, the answer is no." He grinned, "No. I need your help to take some of the horses to the smith."

"All right. Simea?" Her friend had reached the door and looked back, "Yes?" The much-abused pillow hit her square in the stomach and Dion ducked out of the room chuckling,

"See you at the stables, Cady!" Simea threw the pillow back.

"Later," she threatened, Cady just grinned and went to change her clothes. She threw the pillow and blanket back onto her bed, catching sight of the half-covered list as she did so. Her smile faded and she moved the book to stare at it with a lost expression on her face.

"What do I do?" she mused softly. Her eyes focused on the crossed out needle craft listing and something relaxed inside her as she made a decision. She heard Dion yelling her name from somewhere in the domum and hurriedly screwed the paper into a ball, tossing it into the fire before running for the door, her heart lighter than when she had come into the room.

 

© 1998, 1999 Copyright held by the author.

 

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