“My name is Shayen. It means, ‘to be of worth.’ My parents are not well-known anywhere in the world. But they are the kind of people who make the world work. My mother is strong and fearless, methodical and organized. She goes wherever my father goes undaunted. My father is firm but fair, kind and good. They risk their lives daily as a humble, salt merchants smuggling English Bibles.”
Shay wrote the first few lines of her life story in the leather-bound volume full of blank parchment pages. Then looked out the window of her newly rebuilt bakery. The fire had destroyed half the building completely, and left other bits completely untouched. It had been a miracle that any of it had survived. And a second miracle that it had so quickly been refurbished and rebuilt. The Terrasylvans had set to it with a will that indicated how much they had missed fresh bread. The bakery even had several improvements that Shay quite enjoyed. A larger oven and a much stronger counter for kneading and rising. She liked it all very much.
She returned to the narrative careful not to smudge the ink still drying from her first paragraph.
“My parents reason for sending me away to Woodland was two-fold. We needed a land based distributor who was competent, discreet and totally loyal, to deliver the bibles to sympathizers. And, in my father’s own words, ‘there were certain prices he was unwilling to bribe officials with.’ I believe he meant me.”
“The year I turned eighteen he contacted an old friend of his that knew how to get in contact with ‘a group of lawful outlaws, stationary vagabonds, and well structured misfits’ that would be willing to protect me. My father’s friend called them the Order of the Rose. Residing in the mysterious forest of Woodland some three days inland from the southern coast of England, we were assured that the Order were a force for good in a hard world. Both my parents believed I would be safe there.”
Shay paused and laughed for a moment in sheer delight. Even nearly seventeen years after the events she was now recording, the Order of the Rose, the Village, and Terrasylvae as a whole, continued to be a safe haven for outcasts, misfits and vagabonds, and most of the time it was very safe. Shay wondered though, if her parents still would have sent her here if they had known she would have taken an active role in maintaining that safety by joining the Order herself, taking up arms to defend the place instead of allowing others to protect her. There had been many times she had been decidedly unsafe. She shook her head and continued to write.
“When I disembarked at the smugglers haven of Gooseneck Point, among many hugs and tears from both my parents, I was greeted by two members of the Order. Duren and Faramir. They were brothers, both exceptionally tall, with white blond shocks of hair waving about on their heads. They were handsome, in a saxon way, and they knew it.”
“I took with me my father’s old salt merchant case, laden with a variety of salts from the four corners of the earth, and a partial translation of Matthew’s gospel smuggled beneath them. Matthew talked of seeking in his book. I felt like I was on an adventure seeking something, though I couldn’t define it.”
Shay again paused remembering the feel of that day, the smell of the free sea, the creak of the wood, the white sunshine. It was so long ago. Half a life time for her, but still so clear. She was lost in thought for some time before she returned, vowing to not interrupt herself again.
“There was a semi permanent Lollard’s camp between the coast and Woodland and I was able to discreetly deliver my precious translation into the right hands. I set up a system with them for future deliveries and then continued on, trusting the brothers to guide me.”
“I arrived in Woodland with nothing but my name, the clothes I wore, and that case of salt. It was a buzzing environment. I liked the hustle and bustle of the place. It had a nice rhythm and feel to it. It was neat and organized, but not restrictive. The houses and buildings were built with the health of the trees in mind, so even the buildings felt like part of the forest.”
“Among the people in the Village, that had no other name than Village, were some who carried rapiers, they dressed in tabards black on the outside with a variety of colors showing underneath, and all marked with a red rose on the left breast. The symbol of the Order. They were clearly the authority here, but not one to be feared, for they were kind and laughed easily.”
“It was all so different from any place I had ever traveled. It was as though all the best parts of the world, without any of the bad, had come together in one perfect setting. There were many different people all mixing together freely. I saw Viking descendants sitting with Irish, Easterners drinking their dark steaming liquids, laughing with far Easterners drinking their green steaming liquids. Spaniards ate peaceably with the Dutch. English, Welsh, French, Scottish all agreeably working, laughing and living in harmony one with another. It was a pure wonder to me.”
“Woodland was also breathtakingly beautiful. I came in spring. The loveliest time of year. And in Woodland doubly so. I fell in love.”
Shay wrote a few more lines, watched them dry, then scraped them away with the bone pen knife. It was a history, not a journal she decided. She carefully continued.
“Through Duren and Faramir, I was introduced to the officers of the Order, Captain Fenton and Captain Damian, Rhiannon, Elizabeth, Sedos and Gwynnydd. They were all kind and generous. I was assigned a place to live and, because I read and write well, was given a job as an administrative assistant to the Order, looking after paperwork and finances. I was grateful and happy.”
“These brave and daring sword fighters fascinated me and I took every opportunity I could to watch the company train together. I was impressed by their skill and precision. It wasn’t long before my hands itched to work with a rapier.”
Shay smiled and flicked the top of the quill, like a blade. A small splatter of ink flew back into her apron. She ignored it.
“I began practicing swordplay on my own. I found a straight stick and smoothed it to my liking. I worked at it under the moonlight nearly every night. I wasn’t very good at first, but I kept at it. For months I worked in secret, learning the subtle art and sport of fencing. As my love for fencing increased so did my love for the members of the Order. They were the type of people who worked hard and laughed just as much. They cared deeply for each other and were quick to defend the weak and helpless.”
“I came to know Woodland, its people and environs, even some of its beautiful mysteries. I learned what Terrasylvae stood for, and I was deeply impressed. I believed their ideals were worth defending, even with my life. With my whole soul, I wanted to stay in Woodland and with the Order forever. I had found something, and it was wonderful.”
There was so much more to write about those early days, the carefree exuberance of youth, the fearless invincibility she had felt, but some of it would be meaningless to anyone but Shay. This record wasn’t the place for that. The priest Lorcan wanted histories of Terrasylvae. He wanted to know how it came to be and how people had joined it’s ranks. He’d been seeking a certain kind of story when he dropped off the large folio a week before. Shay had pondered on it for days, starting several different drafts before deciding to just wing it. Sometimes it was unwise to over think things. She wanted to be as open, honest and unstinting in her part of the history as possible, without overburdening it with too many details.
She dipped the quill and continued.
“One day the Village was attacked by thieves from deep within the woods. I didn’t hesitate to defend our home, though I was unsure what the outcome would be for me. I ran into the street with my stick and started fighting back. There were a group of raiders coming straight toward me. I yelled at them as loud as I could. I think to all of our surprise they stopped, abruptly, right in front of me, unsure of what to do. Their pause gave enough time for actual members of the Order to come to my aid. Together we made short work of the brigands.”
“The Village was safe but the members of the Order learned that I had been practicing on my own. I thought they would be mad at me, perhaps send me away, but instead they gathered around smiling and nodding. They congratulating me heartily and laughed as though I had played a good joke. I found myself smiling and laughing with them, like I belonged. I had been in Woodland many months, but I finally felt as though I had arrived.”
“From behind me, in a powerful but quiet voice, one I did not recognize, came a short but life changing question, ‘What do you seek?’ No one else seemed to hear it, but I answered out loud anyway saying simply and honestly, ‘I seek to join the Order of the Rose.’”
Shay could smell that the morning batch of bread was ready to come out of the oven. She cleaned the quill, closed the ink pot and left the parchment to dry. There was a light tapping on the window as she pulled the last loves from the new oven. She moved to open it, closing the history book as she passed.
“Good morning Della, Elydrie.” Shay said nodding to each as she opened the window. “What can I get for you? I have a new world salt from the Caribbean, that has a hint of flowers in it. I have a light and flaky Welsh sea salt from Anglesey, and a Persian Blue, it’s fantastic!”