Sarah glanced around to make sure the event’s queen and her lackeys weren’t in sight before she pulled up her hem to keep from tripping. She trudged up the steep drive between the parking lot and the fairgrounds. The breeze of the early spring day tugged on her skirt and long sleeves.
Sarah had worked this Renaissance Faire a few times. Of all the different reenactment festivals she sold her novels at, this one had the strictest rules. Her Royal Majesty Lady Eleanor de Pompadour of France, duchess of blah, blah, blah, oversaw this faire with an iron hand. The woman took her two day pretend role entirely too seriously. All vendors at this ren. faire, paid for the privilege but had to remain in character speak in an antiquated accent, cover the ankles, wear costumes without modern conveniences like zippers and snaps.
It all seemed a bit silly for the few sales Sarah ever made. She toyed with the thought of this being the last one she attended as a vendor.
A clatter of metal raining down on the blacktop caught her attention. At the top of the rise a man in dark breeches, a deep green medieval tunic shirt, and a heavy leather apron. He sat on one knee trying to gather up a pile of swords and daggers scattered over the ground.
“Good smithy, ye need a cart, or mayhaps an apprentice,” Sarah said getting into character.
“Aye, lass, that I rightly do. Alas, me apprentice has run off with a young wench and absconded with me cart.” The swordsmith chose a Scottish brogue that hummed over her skin in a rich baritone. He glanced up at her. A short dark beard covered the lower portion of a very handsome face.
Sarah laughed. “If ye can tarry a mite, I can fetch ye a cart.” She turned and headed back down the hill. She returned to her SUV and pulled out the collapsible canvas wagon she used to bring up her setup. Popping it open, she pulled it up the hill for the third time today—another reason to make this the last time she sold at this event.
The swordsmith stood with an armful of weapons when she returned. About a head taller than she, he wore his hair a little long, bound in a warrior’s knot at the nape of his neck. He bowed. “Ye’re an angel, lass.” He paused and his gaze passed over her. “A right bonny angel.”
Sarah stopped the wagon in front of him and curtsied. “Ye are most kind, good sir.”
They loaded the wagon with all the scattered swords and he bowed again. “Swordsmith Robert, milady.”
She curtsied. “Scribe Sarah, good smithy.”
He pulled the heavy wagon toward the main gate. Visitors were already standing in line to enter dressed in an array of costumes. “A scribe ye say?” His gaze washed over her again. “Ye don’t look as though ye be one of the sisters from the abbey. Ye must be nobility to have learned ye letters.”
It was an odd thing to pretend to be from the distant past, but she could listen to his Scottish kissed words all day. “Nay, sir, I was fortunate to live in a manor where the lady looked kindly upon me.”
They paused before passing through the gate ahead of the waiting crowds. Robert continued straight as the path divided, while Sara moved to the right. “When ye need me to return the cart to my coach, my booth is in the back, near the cook who sells the turkey legs.” Yet another reason to make this her last event. The nauseating smell of grease wafting her way over the next two days would be enough to drive away any desire for food.
Robert laughed deep. “At least ye won’t go hungry, lass. Me booth be near the play structures for the wee bairns.”
She waved him on his way and continued to her stall. Sarah considered the display of her seven novels, turning some for a better view. She rubbed the tape on the price placards over the fabric tablecloth. She’d lost a few over the years to sudden gusts of wind. After adjusting the decorative weights on her business care and promotional fliers, Sarah lowered into the camp chair she had covered in a thin cloth decorated in a blue Celtic pattern satisficed all was in place.
A discordant clanging of bells followed by shouts of “Hear ye, hear ye,” drew the vendors, merchants, and performers to the center of the grounds to hear instructions from the queen. Yes, she really did take this role too seriously treating each of them as lowly illiterate subjects.
Robert stood opposite her around the circle. He stepped back so the “queen” couldn’t see him and pushed the end of his nose up with a finger. He used another finger to wag like a scolding mother as he mimicked their leader.
Sarah covered her mouth to hide her giggle.
The lecture finally complete, they dispersed and the ticket takers moved to open the gate. Robert called to her “May ye sales outnumber the thistles that grow, lass.”
“The same to ye, good smithy.”
Robert wiped the sweat from his neck with his polishing rag. It had been a rough start with Wendell flaking on him. Then the morning traffic that passed his booth had yielded few lookers and no sales. Were all ren. fairs like this? He’d done other reenactment events before, but this was the first time here. Two other vendors hawked swords as well. “Did they fair any better?” The only bright spot had been bonny Sarah. A long burgundy over dress and white flowing sleeves had highlighted her feminine shape. With her auburn hair pulled up in a snood, she looked like a noble medieval maiden.
He blinked several times. Did his eyes deceive him? He rubbed his eyes. Had his lingering memory conjured her? She smiled and walked the line of his weapons. Her lean fingers, each with a ring of some fashion, brushed over a few. “Beautiful work, Sir Robert.”
Sarah stood at his booth. “Thank ye, lass. Ye have need of a wee dagger for yer scribing?” He chuckled.
She shook her head as she continued to inspect his wares. “A new sword mayhaps.”
Okay, he definitely liked this woman. “Is business so slow, ye can frit about shoppin’?”
Again her head tossed. She looked up from his display and beckoned him lean forward with a finger. “A friend came to visit. I acquired a boon from her to watch over my tomes so that I might visit the privy. As you also work alone, I thought mayhaps ye might need a similar respite.”
Robert couldn’t get out of his booth fast enough. “An angel sent from heaven itself, lass.”
“I make no promises of sales,” she called after him with a laugh.
A few moments later, Robert came around the corner near his booth and saw a crowd gathered there. He slipped closer to listen and watch.
“Why do some of them have grooves?” one man asked.
“Well, good sir, it removes weight from longer blades,” Sarah said. “The pommel at the end of the hilt balances the weight of the blade. Ye nay want to be hackin’ away at an armored knight swingin’ a twenty-pound sword. The lighter the better. The fuller serves to remove unnecessary weight. Also, may a warrior has said having a fuller helps to withdraw the sword from the body,” she said with a grin.
“Why does this one have a pattern in the metal?” a woman asked.
“’Tis the ancient art of damasks.” Sarah expertly explained the forging of the multi-layered blade. “It takes skill to make the layers and such beautiful patterns in the metal.”
“What’s a rapier?” another asked.
“Rapier can refer to the width of the blade. There be foils, rapiers, and swords. Each is a little wider than the other. As far as the length, there be daggers, short swords, swords, and two-handed swords.” Sarah spotted him then. Her smile grew, “Ah, the master smithy has returned. He can well answer yer inquiries.” She leaned over the display as if sharing a secret with those gathered around his stall. “In all this fine village, ne’er will ye fine the skill of this sword maker. His craftsmanship and vast collection is unmatched.” She waved him forward and stepped from behind his booth. With a quick curtsy, she was gone and customers started peppering him about prices.
Sarah covered her yawn as she started placing her display books back in their tub. What a pain to pack up books and cash after each day. But she did not want to sleep here like other vendors did, so she paid the price and loaded her merchandise each night. She left her table and decorations set up. An approaching rattle drew her attention. Robert pulled her cart full of his remaining swords and stopped in front of her with a deep bow. “I can nay thank ye enough, lass.”
“I hadn’t sold a thing until ye arrived. But after yer wee visit and I made steady sales the rest of the day.” He picked up one of her books and turned it over to read the back. “I’ll take ’em.”
“You don’t have to buy one of my books. I’m glad you had a good day.”
“Oh ’twas more than good. And I don’t be wantin’ one wee book. I be buyin’ each title.”
“What?” Sarah stared at him, her mind not fully comprehending what he said.
“I want ’em all, milady.”
She smiled and pulled out the first volume in her trilogy. “Why don’t ye start with this tome. If ye favor it, ye can always contact me for the next.” She slipped her business card into the cover.
He winked at her adding the book to the other still in is hand. “Ye givin’ me leave to court ye then lass?”
Sarah coughed against the sudden flutter of her heart and the air lodged in her throat.
His beard crinkled in a roguish grin as he picked up each title and placed it in her wagon with his weapons. He dropped a hundred dollar bill on her table.
“That’s entirely too much.” She dug in the bottom of her supply tub for her change box, but he pushed her hands away, closed the lid and added it to the wagon.
“’Tis not nearly enough, lass.” The way he said that brought gooseflesh on her arms. He put her remaining tubs in the wagon and stuck out his bent arm for her to take. “I know a fine tavern for us to dine at, milady.”
So, mayhaps this ren. faire wasn’t so bad.