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Chapter 1: Lucian Rolfe

Updated on July 26, 2013

Lucian Rolfe


Lucian Rolfe

Seventeen years later…

Lucian Rolfe stepped onto the balcony outside his room at the Mary Ol’ Inn. A diffusing sleep had somewhat refreshed his seventeen-year-old limbs, a slumber credited to the potent rum he had consumed the night prior around the bend at MaDungal’s Pub. It was midday, or so he guessed, for the sun was now high and unveiled upon his modest village of Amar, as whatever clouds may have resided with the new day had almost dispersed entirely.

Of all the towns abroad, perhaps his was quaintest. Here, each bend twisted off into an equally peaceful section. There were shops whose windows were always polished to allow passersby a very thorough look-in at various sorts of little goods or crafts. Here and there were scattered small market stands where farmers often sold their farm-fresh produce. Amid the multitude of little cottages were various pubs and inns. Surely, there was just about everything one would need to go about his or her daily life.

County Road perhaps endured the most traffic. There was Edwin Jacobs, the burly blacksmith, who was the marshal's source for arming his officers. Pike Pennylabel kept his pottery shop close by as well and made a fine profit (there were a plethora of well-tended gardens). Gawain the goldsmith, who always busied himself by building new pieces of jewelry and other gold-crested items particular to the fancier houses, conducted business just beyond that. And then, at the end of County Road, was Mary's Inn, voted finest in the village, from whose balcony Lucian now stood peering. His face was fair still, though much of the boyish look he once possessed was threatening to leave him entirely. He wished he had a copper coin for every time he heard that from his adopted mother Mary Rolfe, the innkeeper, or his half-dozen female admirers from school. Finally, he was beginning to notice the hint of a beard’s stubble upon the contours of his sallow cheekbones—a glimmer of his advancing adulthood. Normally his brown locks were tidy and well kept atop his head; but today they drooped like willows over his brow. Some would describe Lucian as shy, which is a rather accurate way of putting it. He seldom spoke unless spoken to, with the exception of moments when he was with his neighborhood friends going on with their usual schemes about town. But those closest to him, namely Mary, regarded him as a common seventeen year-old boy, who loathed his studies, loved his friends, and who mischief had a natural way of finding.

Speaking of Mary Gregory, she had been calling for Lucian for the better part of ten minutes. But, as was normally true of her requests, she might as well have been engaging the wall. Lucian did not pay any heed, though he heard her voice plainly. The beauty of that fine Saturday morning (or afternoon, whichever it might have been), was too beautiful to be spent indoors doing chores. Stretching, he gave a refreshed exhale, long and extended. “All I need is a—”

Suddenly his bedroom door slammed open with authority. “All you need is a new set of ears, Lucian Rolfe!” said Mary, thundering through his bedroom and onto the balcony. What Lucian had been thinking was that the only missing component of his balcony was a comfortable, cushioned chair—preferably a rocker—but it was hard to continue thinking of comfort with the elderly innkeeper aggressively prodding him. It was not Mary Lucian feared, it was the involuntary smirk he felt fighting to be made at the edge of his lips. It was certainly difficult to retain a grin, for Mary had blundered onto the balcony in her chocolate-stained apron, smelling of cakes from an entire morning of baking, and her gray hair began to sprout from the protective bonnet atop her head. But all his effort, alas, was in vain.

“You wipe that smile off your face, young man, or it’s the kitchen for you today. And I’m not kidding, either.”

It was rumored around the village that Mary’s eyesight was quickly fading, but she still detected grins on Lucian's face before he made them.

There was no point arguing with her, Lucian decided. Instead, he answered, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you calling.”

Mary snorted. “The Bennetts probably heard me calling, and they’re down by the creek. You ought to think hard about changing some of your ways, young sir. You can’t just lounge around here all day without a care in the world. It’s a shame you never knew your parents. Perhaps they may have taught you the things I’ve been trying to teach you since you came a-thumping on my doorstep!”

In fact, though it could never be certain, it was Lucian’s biological mother who had come “a-thumping” on Mary’s doorstep some seventeen years before, when she found Lucian nestled there in a bundle of rags. She looked everywhere for the woman who had left him, but her search was empty. Thus, she took him in and raised him as her own. Initially, Mary believed Lucian’s arrival to be a bad omen. In that year, she was close to losing the inn to the bank. Her business was failing miserably. She was unable to keep up with her bills and taxes. Now, atop all her already-existing financial issues, she had a child to support. But she could not just simply leave the boy to die.

In time, however, circumstances changed quite dramatically. The marshal’s young nephew had spent a night at the inn after a long return from business elsewhere, and in the morning stayed for breakfast. He took a firm liking to Mary’s hot apple pie, and apparently raved about it in his uncle’s hall, and from that day forward Mary never encountered a poor day of business. Needless to say, her financial turnaround could not have come at a time more apt.

As to the whereabouts (or other information) with regard to Lucian’s mother or father, she did not care to broach the subject. She was a firm believer in the philosophy that there was no need great enough to drive a mother to forsake her child, especially on a doorstep in the rain. Though, when she inquired among her close acquaintances, no one could offer the slightest hint as to whom Lucian's mother might have been. "Mary," they would say, "you are the boy’s mother now. You are all he’s got."

“You’re right,” said Lucian, hoping to evade one of Mary’s rants. “I’m not sure I was thinking clearly.”

Mary gave an annoyed chuckle. “No, last night you weren’t thinking clearly, when you practically fell through the front door upon the witching hour. Nearly took all night for me to haul you up to bed. And the vomit! Next time I’ll make you sleep in it.”

It now became apparent that he had more rum the previous night than he originally thought—or remembered. But now that the subject was broached, he noticed his shirt was stained something awful, with crusty, brown smudges here and there, and when he brought it up to his nose for further inspection, he was greeted by a putrid stench.

The rant, which he so carefully tried to avoid, was inevitable. Mary continued on by nagging about how he never studies and hardly attends lectures; how he sits around like a log and never helps around the inn; and, because a rant of Mary’s would not be complete without it: how he never tidies his room.

She might have carried on all afternoon had it not been for the rising smell of burning bread coming from the kitchen. “Oh dear! The bread! I’ll see you downstairs for brunch, Dear.” Then, before slamming the door in disgust, she warned, “Ten minutes!”

Stretching one last time before starting for his bedroom, Lucian acknowledged once more the lovely day that had fallen over his quiet town. Walking into his room now, he sat upon his bed, noticing that he did feel somewhat dehydrated. I think I’ll stick with ale from now on, he determined confidently. As though it would make his newly discovered headache subside, he rubbed his temples. Upon doing so, he wondered how indeed the headache had been inflicted. Was it Mary and her rant? A hangover? A combination of the two? It had been a long while since his last consumption of rum, or any hard liquor at that. Usually he preferred MaDungal’s fine ales, of which there was a plethora; but last night he supposed he would add a dash of spice to his evening—a debt he was paying presently.

Lying down, just for a moment, he thought about his childhood, as he was accustomed to in quiet times. The unclear waves of his past touched down foggily and rippled away into various distorted visions. Ever since Mary told him how she took him in, he pondered the features of his mother, wondering what she looked like before he was born and now. He envisioned a tall woman, with olive skin and silky, flowing hair—like his own, but longer—with thin arms and slender legs. Then his mind automatically strayed toward his father, and what his name might have been, and what size shoe he wore, and how big his arms were, and how deep his laugh was. Perhaps he was a warrior, who met a glorious end in battle in the name of his country. Or perhaps a lesser fate claimed him, something much less admirable than those of old stories.

But, whatever the terms by which his father passed, if in fact he passed at all, Lucian figured he would never come to know. That did not bother him. What truly bothered him was the fact that he was not sure if he cared.

Mary was now at the point of spontaneous combustion. She called Lucian with a tone that suggested it was the last time she would do so before action was taken, and thus he heeded her. That afternoon, several paying customers were enjoying brunch in the dining room—a large sitting area with six long tables, decorated with floral designs and flowerpots. Large square windows were set within the stained-wood walls here and there, their curtains drawn to let sunlight frisk freely through.

Meanwhile Mary labored, running back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room where her guests patiently anticipated the arrival of their orders. Lucian came down and joined them, and the ten or so guests greeted him as he assumed a seat. He knew everyone present, if only by name; the town was far too small to know at least that much. Mr. and Mrs. Blackwell sat closest to the stairwell, accompanied by their children Samuel, Rebecca, and Susan, all under the age of seven. The Godfreys and their daughter claimed the table beside him, and the Cromwells sat closest to the kitchen.

Though the customers greeted Lucian kindly, he could only manage nods and feigned smiles. The pounding in his head had become nauseating. Eventually Mary glided over to Lucian’s side attempting to mask the contempt in which she held him. “And what can I get for you, dear?” It is indeed an art form to speak through clench teeth, yet Mary had mastered it.

Lucian moaned. “Got any tea?”

Mary feigned an exaggerated smile. “Of course! On its way.”

When she was gone, Lucian cupped his weary, heavy head inside his hands, trying to discern why he felt worse now than before. He surmised that it must have been the trip down the stairs that compounded his hangover; the fluctuation of colors and lighting could very well have played a significant role. Just then, Mr. Blackwell, whose youth had never fully fled from him, leaned in to tap Lucian on the shoulder. “Rough night last night, friend?” he asked knowingly.

Lucian’s dreary eyes peered at him. “Complete with MaDungal’s finest rum,” he replied quietly, so that Mary’s selective hearing would not detect him.

To Mr. Blackwell’s countenance came a look as though he had been poisoned. “That stuff can wash paint off the walls! How much did you have?”

From the cover of Lucian’s skinny arms, Mr. Blackwell heard, “I don’t remember much past a bottle.” Then the boy looked up again, remembering to be respectful. “And I’m not sure I want to.”

“You’re probably better off—”

Just then, Mary entered from the kitchen, her feigned cheer now all but blatantly false. “And one cup of tea for the young sir!” Moving then to the Blackwells’ table, she checked if all was well. Mrs. Blackwell confirmed that their brunch had been delightful, and in time, Mr. Blackwell paid their bill and bid everyone a fine Saturday.

Then it dawned on Lucian: Saturday, the sixth of April—the eighteenth birthday of his best friend Jemstine Fryer. That explains it, he thought, referring to the feeling he had since he had woken up. For hours now, the foreboding sense that he was forgetting something had been hanging over him like a dark cloud. Now he wished it was something much less important. Of all the things he had forgotten of the night before, the one thing he remembered was seeing Jemstine off before he left for the pub, promising to meet him at the miller’s creek that morning to spend the day fishing. With a hard THUD, he set his cup of tea down and raced quickly out the door, thinking, You’ve done it this time, Lucian Rolfe, all the way up the road.


The Keeper of Fates: The Jewel of the Sorcerer is now available in paperback!


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