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Old Dec 16 2008, 10:46 AM   #1
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Default The Case of the Absent Apprentice

The Case of the Absent Apprentice


The apprentice smith stood at the cliff’s edge and looked down. It was a horrendous height; at least twenty dragon lengths. The tide was halfway in, or out, he didn’t care which, and the waves were crashing and seething among the rockfalls at the bottom. It was the end. He was not going back to the horrors. His parents would never understand what it was like. He was ending it here. He looked up...

-o-0-o-

The young smithcraft apprentice staggered up the last stretch of trail to his parents’ cothold. He was hot, though the day was cold. He was tired, hungry and thirsty. He needed his Mum! He wanted to be cuddled and told things were all right. He wanted to be loved and cared for. He wasn’t going back to the horrors. Even if he had to spend the rest of his life mucking out the herdbeasts from which he had thought he was going to get away: he was not going back...

-o-0-o-

Vill, Smithcraft Master, summoned Byrt to his study.

“We have a situation in Southern Boll, at Gar. Sneyd has lost his apprentice. He ran away from the craft hall and has eventually turned up back at home. I’ve had a message from his father and it doesn’t sound like the usual naughty apprentice fleeing Master’s wrath.”

“And you want me to go and sort it out.”

“Yes please.”

“He’s been Master there about eight turns now hasn’t he? What about other earlier apprentices?”

“Seven turns I’d have thought: around then anyway. Let’s go and look at the records.”

They headed for the records room where a pair of retired smiths kept the craft records up to date. Vill ran a finger along a shelf.

“Five turns back ... six ... seven. Let’s try this one.” He partly unrolled the scroll. “Let’s see ... Tillek ... Sweetsands ... back a bit more ... Southern Boll, here we are.”

There was a pause.

“Well, this records Sneyd’s placement at Gar. There was an apprentice, Facion, already in place, in his second year of training. Let’s try a couple of turns forward.”

He moved along a bit and took down another roll.

“Here we go; report for that turn. Work completed ... duh di duh ... this is it: recommendation for Facion to make journeyman in the next twelve months. Let’s try the next one.” He grabbed the next roll. “Yes, Facion sent here to walk the tables. That was a year before I stepped up to Craft Master. He was one of a whole bunch. Because he’d trained away from here we didn’t KNOW him. It says here, he was posted to the craft hall at Igen Hold as Journeyman.”

“What’s happened since? It’s a bit off my usual beat. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever been over to Boll.”

Well there’s nothing else in this one.” He took down the next roll along. “This one lists an apprentice being taken on in the autumn; a kitchen drudge’s son from Sweetsands. And the next roll ... a lad was transferred to him from the Craft Hall at Southern Boll Hold in the spring. Then in late summer another apprentice was taken on. He went to sell goods at a gather over in Peyton and returned with him in tow. None of these are our runaway. And there are no progress reports on any of them.” He looked at Byrt from under his brows. “Gar doesn’t have the work load to justify four apprentices. Southern Boll does have a master, a journeyman and two or three apprentices, but they’ve a major hold to service. I‘m going to kick some butts while you are away. And there’re going to be some changes made in how we do things. In future I want these reports analysed, not just blindly copied into the rolls.”

“Perhaps I’d better start with Facion then. Igen? I’d better request a lift. I won’t need my team so I’ll leave them here. I’ll report back when I come to collect my team and go on to Gar.”

-o-0-o-

“I forgot Igen’s still this hot at this time of year,” remarked Byrt as C’lef dropped him off.

C’lef took off his helmet and coat. “I’ll wait for you in the Hold, where it’s cool and shady and there’re long cool drinks. Catch me standing over a forge in this! The harper, Tonus, stores a very nice line in white wines. I’ll probably be with him.”

“Thanks C’lef.”

Byrt, carrying as much of his clothing as he dared take off in public, wandered into the Smithcraft Hall.

“I’m looking for Facion.” He told the apprentice who came to ask his business.
“Oh; Facette! You’ll find him in the small workshop back out there and turn left. It’s on your left.”

Byrt went back out into the glare and found the small workshop exactly where the apprentice said. Facion was seated in front of a drawing board angled to catch the light. On a sheet of fine linen stretched tight on the board, Facion was meticulously detailing a necklace of interlocking flowers.

-o-0-o-

The noise of runner hooves on the loose shale of the track gave warning of an unexpected visitor. Hendon stopped hoeing the plot of redroots, walked towards the track and halted at a point of vantage, leaning on his hoe. He glanced towards the cot. His wife was just quietly closing the last shutters. The main door was already shut. She’d grab the axe and sneak out the backway, staying out of sight until she was needed: if she was needed. Hendon made sure that the handle of his heavy slashing blade was in the right place.

The rider came into sight riding at a steady amble on a quality runner beast and leading two laden ones. He halted a sensible distance out.

“Hey there. I’m looking for Hendon.”

“Who’re you to be looking for Hendon?”

“I’m Byrt. The Smithcraft Master has sent me to find out what has been happening.”

“When you find out: what then?”

“Depends on what I find. If there are things to be put right, then that’s what we’ll do. I’m not here to force your son back.”

“How’d you know I was Hendon?”

“Your Holder Mendel, down at Gar, described you and told me where to find you.” He raised his voice. “If I was you I’d teach my wife, hiding round that corner, to use bow and arrow. You have to get real close to use an axe.”

There was a squawk of surprise from around the aforementioned corner. Byrt grinned.

“How’d you know that?”

“’Cos, if I was living this isolated, that’s exactly what I’d have her do and where she’d be.”

Hendon gave a bark of laughter. “You’d better go on up. I’ve a couple of rows I’d like to finish before nooning.”

“That’s fine by me. I’ll have time to look after these three.”

At nooning time, Hendon, with his redroot patch weeded over, headed back to the cothold. Byrt was outside the stable-cum-store finishing checking the hooves of his beasts. He looked up at Hendon who was racking his hoe.

“Let me reassure you, I’m not here to force your boy into anything. If he’d been a thief, or otherwise broken his indentures, then, yes, he’d have to go back and face justice. But, from what I suspect happened, then no he won’t.”

“Thank you. ... Er-r. ... You know what you were saying about bow and arrow? You wouldn’t be able to .....?”

Byrt laughed. “If you can find some straight seasoned timber, I’ll find time to show you. I’ve half a dozen spare arrow heads loose in my pack and a couple of spare strings. Why don’t I start teaching you using MY bow while we make yours?”

“I’d feel safer.”

They walked to the cot for their nooning. Hendon pointed to a stool by the trestle table and headed towards the ladder leading up to the sleeping gallery. Once he was up there was a furious whispered conversation which Byrt ignored. Hendon’s wife, Vale, stared up at the gallery, her ladle dripping stew unheeded to the packed clay floor.

Hale, when he appeared half behind his father was, obviously, a young copy of him; a stocky ten-year old looking apprehensive and defiant all at once.
Byrt sat very still and waited. Vale served the stew into four bowls on the table and took her place, handing Byrt a platter of bread hunks. Hendon came to board and seated himself, obviously wanting to start his meal. Hale, all eyes, crept quietly into a place carefully between his parents. His mother reached out and retrieved his bowl from where she had put it.

As they finished Byrt looked across at Vale. “Thank you, that was real tasty. I caught and killed a wherry at dawn if you’d like to add it to your larder.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I know. I’d like to though.”

“Thank you.” He looked across at Hale. “Now young feller ...” Hale nearly fainted. “... I need you to tell me what happened. Then we can do something about it.”

“You can?” It ranged from a squeak to a growl.

“Do something about it? Yes.” There was a pause. “Tell you what let’s do it outside in the sunshine, somewhere peaceful. You pick the spot. And, your ma and pa can come and guard you.”

Hale looked at him for a good two minutes. Then, a tight whisper, “all right, I guess.”

At the end of the tale Byrt looked round at Hale’s choice of ‘a peaceful spot’. The spring which fed down to the cothold was off to their right. In front of them a miniature waterfall bubbled and splashed with a small grove of vegetation gathered around its generosity. Byrt could see a pair of klah trees with bark redolent in the sun, a needlethorn bush and herb bushes of three, no four, varieties.

“A beautiful spot Hale,” remarked Byrt. “Tell me; do you still want to be a smith?” There was an embarrassed silence. “You don’t have to make up your mind just yet. If you DID, we could arrange for you to continue your training over at Southern Boll Hold itself. There are other apprentices around, and a journeyman as well as the master. Think about it.” He got to his feet. “Right: time for some archery.”

-o-0-o-

It was six days later, thanks to the bow making and a fall, when Byrt rode into Peyton Hold and asked to speak to the Holder. The Holder was the other side of the courtyard holding an inspection of his ground-crew and their gear.

“Mally, that joint’s loose you hear? He barked at a luckless drudge, fingering the junction between the hose and regulator. “You get the wrench on it and give it another half turn, at least.” He turned to Byrt. “Half this lot ain’t got the sense of a wherry. Who’re you?”

“I’m Byrt; master smith. I’ve come to have a chat with you about a young lad who went as apprentice over to Gar.”

“Oh him? Sal over there’s his ma.” He pointed to a thread scored woman waiting for him to inspect her flamethrower. “Let me finish up here or we’ll be in a muddle. I’ll bring her along too, shall I?”

“Fine: I’ll be over there.” Byrt nodded to where the hold’s smithy was lying dormant inside its open doors.

He led his beasts over to where a runnel of water flowed across the yard in a stone-lined gutter and, once they were sated, tied them to the rings outside the small smithy. Inside the workshop was mostly tidy but the hearth was cold and a layer of dust lay on the blackrock ready on the gridirons. He wandered over to the toolrack. The array of hammers and pincers were basic: of reasonable quality, probably of good apprentice make, but just enough of them to get by with.

The Holder came striding in followed by Sal a bit behind him and moving slower. Her left shoulder was held in a permanent shrug position and there was a scar line by her left ear, mostly hidden by her hair. Her right hand constantly played with her hair there, as if always trying to hide her disfigurement.

“It’s simple but it does us,” said the holder nodding towards the rack of tools. “I can do most of the easy stuff. If we need anything more we send down to Southern Boll and the journeyman comes up: eventually. You were asking about the lad.”

“San: he was called San.” Put in Sal.

“Was?” asked Byrt.

“We was told he died of something called firehead.”

“When was this?”

“Can’t remember.”

“About three turns-ends ago I think,” the Holder said.

“You don’t get firehead in the winter,” said Byrt. “It’s a warm weather thing. He left here in the autumn didn’t he?”

Ah,” Sal nodded, “the Eveners Gather. He looked so pleased ter be riding off with that master, going to be a smith. He wanted ter come back and be smith here and ter make me proud of him. That were the last I ever saw on him.” Tears welled up.

The Holder put an arm round her. “There Sal lass, we all get losses don’t we? I still miss my Bethny too.” He looked at Byrt. “Something went wrong inside my lass: in her belly like. All we could do was to dose her out till she died. Lovely lass, just twelve she was.”

Byrt quietly left them and went to sit by the runnel. He tried a sip of the water. It was cold and fresh. He had a bit more.

The Holder came and squatted beside him. Sal headed on towards the hold door.

“I’m fond of Sal,” said her Holder. “She got that scar saving my favourite runner. We were ground-crewing and the weyr was flying winglight. She spotted a clump about to land on my runner’s rump. She got most of it but one thread got her. I got that one. San was one of mine by the way. She was so proud of him going to learn smithing. Next we hear: he’s dead She’s not been the same since. Tends to dive into a wineskin sometimes: getting to be more often now.”

“I’m very sorry for you both.”

“Thanks ... you say NOT firehead? I wouldn’t know this ‘firehead’ if it jumped up and bit me.”

“Nasty disease: gives you a right old fever and splitting headaches like you never thought existed. It can send you blind too, even if you DO survive.”

“Nasty indeed! But you ruled it out?”

“Yes. As I said: it hits between spring eveners and longest. That master, he’s been getting through apprentices like a hungry dragon in a flock of wherries. I’ve been sent to find out what and why.”

“And then?”

“Well, first I want to get a drum message off to my Craftmaster. Then ... JUSTICE.”

-o-0-o-

It was dawn a sevenday later when Byrt broke camp in the foothills and headed east into the rising sun across the undulating coastal plain to Hold Gar.

It was a baking noon when Byrt rode onto the fireheights above Hold Gar. He dismounted and, since there was nothing around but bare rock for dragon lengths, he hobbled his team. They farruped at the imposition. They could smell the water below in the hold.

Byrt looked round at his rendezvous with Vill.

“Why waste blackrock up here.” He thought “There’s nothing for thread to devour till you get back to that scrubby vegetation. They must lug fifty or so sacks every time to fill the pattern of gutters. For what? I suppose a sense of doing SOMETHING to defy thread. But, a useless gesture. Okay, they’d burn a few thread, but the threads would die in a short while anyway, through starvation. They might as well carve some really rude words in the rock for the thread to read!”

He was idly kicking at a few cinders left from the last firing when a clap, not too far away, announced the arrival of dragon. He looked up; a bronze with two people perched on his neck. The rear one looked like Vill. In that case the rider was probably M'tak.
Luckily Byrt’s runner beasts were used to dragons. So, apart from shuffling to huddle together sheepishly, they didn’t fuss when Wroth landed nearby. Byrt caught sight of gold under Vill’s riding cloak.
“Tell me.” Vill commanded him.
“Here, get changed,” said Vill when Byrt had finished. He handed Byrt an armful of clothing from concealment under his cloak. “I even had it pressed for you.”

Arrayed in his gather best with his ruby master’s pendant in place, Byrt looked across at his Craft Master. Vill stood with his cloak draped over his arm, resplendent in his ceremonial tunic with the craft badges worked in gold thread and his Craftmastery chain of office round his neck with its seven rubies catching fire from the sunlight.

“Right: let’s get down there, have a word or two with Holder Mendel; and then get Sneyd.”

-o-0-o-

In true Pernese tradition Sneyd’s trial took place out in the courtyard, in plain view. It was raining. Not hard; but just enough to literally put a damper on proceedings. Sneyd, manacled, stood between the Hold’s two largest guards, although one of them wasn’t THAT large. They were also the only guards the Hold had or needed.

Vill, seated between the Lord Holder from Southern Boll and the High Reaches Weyrleader, was presiding. On the outer sides Mendel next to his Lord Holder and, at the other end, Gar Hold’s harper sat to record the trial. Vill called the assembly to order and started proceedings.

“Master Byrt: read the record rolls.”

Armed with the requisite scrolls, Byrt stepped forward and read out the records of apprentices indentured. When he had finished, Vill looked across at Sneyd.

“Where are they, all these apprentices? We can hear from two of them; Facion, now journeyman, and Apprentice Hale. Where are the other three? How about Freyling from Sweetsands: where’s he? Is he alive, or dead? Do you know? Do you care?”

Sneyd stayed silent.

“Jayph of Foothills Hold, originally apprenticed at Southern Boll: what about HIM?”

Still silence.

“Where’s San from Hold Peyton? He didn’t die of firehead did he? But that’s the message you sent to his mother isn’t it? What really happened to him?

“Right let’s call a few witnesses. Fetch Facion.”

Facion had obviously enjoyed his master’s attentions: Hale hadn’t. For the other three, their mother’s each told of how Sneyd had chosen their son and had taken him away never to be heard from again.

After Sal had finished and gone back to her place in tears, Vill fixed a stare on Sneyd.

“How say you? Have you any answers? ..... Speak up!”

Sneyd kept looking down at the ground. It was possible that not all the water running down his face was from the drizzle. He murmured something inaudibly.

“What’s that? Speak up!”

“Mumble, mumble.”

“I think, Sir,” called the smaller guard, “that he said something about he’d loved them and he’s sorry.”

The Lord Holder snorted. “Sorry? I think it’s a bit late for ‘sorry’! Guilty! No use staking him out for thread to get: the weyrs are too sharding good. He’d probably die of starvation before a thread got through to get him.”

“Strewth!” yelled the larger guard.

“Phaugh!” yelled the smaller one. “He’s shit himself!”

They both moved as far from Sneyd as the manacles would let them; and a ripple of laugh ran through the watchers, accompanied by some ribald comments.

“Well; what DO we do with him?” Vill asked the other two. “We can’t just ban him: he’d still be able to prey on other lads somewhere else.”

“We could exile him on one of the islands,” said the Weyrleader, “It’s been done before. Though you’d have to wash him down before I’d let him near any of my dragons.”

“I’ve heard of that being done, but I’ve never had to do it;” commented the Lord Holder, “are there many exiles?”

“Quite a few. We’d have to be careful which island though: there’re families on some now. I checked our records before coming here. Number seven might suit. It’s got a few caves and a stream. Records show it had a bunch of renegades dumped on it about twenty turns ago all adult males.

“The largest one, now, is called Zero Two. There’re enough people on that one to qualify as a holding. Funny thing about that one though, all the others low numbered ones just have a number, like Seven and Five. None of them have a front zero. On one of our earliest charts the writing’s so poor the name looks like ‘Oh Zee’ instead ....” He trailed off.

“So be it,” pronounced Vill loudly: “Exile!”

Sneyd fainted.

-o-0-o-

The exiled smith stood at the cliff’s edge and looked down. It was a horrendous height; at least twenty dragon lengths. The tide was halfway in, or out, he didn’t care which, and the waves were crashing and seething among the rockfalls at the bottom. It was the end. Others would never understand what the compulsion was like. He was ending it here. He looked up...
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Old Dec 16 2008, 11:40 PM   #2
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It's nice to see Byrt in action again! This little gem is an interesting forray into the Pernese justice system. I understand why you presented the case the way you did, but there are a few things I wonder about in this one. Unless it could be established that Sneyd had actually murdered one of the missing apprentices, I'm not sure his behavior would have been considered serious enough to be sentenced to exile. Of course, the fact that he'd clearly lied to the parents of at least one of them weighs pretty heavily against him.

And I'm curious about the location of the island. Anything to do with Ozzie Munson?
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Old Dec 17 2008, 06:32 AM   #3
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Possible, but could it be the settlers named it for a certain large island back on earth?
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Old Dec 17 2008, 04:26 PM   #4
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..................... where in its time exiles were banished .............
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Old Dec 17 2008, 05:17 PM   #5
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I thought you (& Jube) would pick up on THAT!
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Old Dec 18 2008, 08:43 PM   #6
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I liked the store P'ter.
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Old Dec 18 2008, 10:36 PM   #7
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thanks P'ter, although perhaps I'm more "O-z" then Lily and obviously you've been watching too much of "Survivor" - the tribe has spoken - you have to go to Exile Island, like RIGHT NOW! . There you go, perhaps something along the lines of Survivor, in your next story. After all, you mentioned other islands holding exiles, perhaps go with that idea too!
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Old Dec 18 2008, 11:18 PM   #8
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Nice story, told how justic on Pern is done P'ter! Nice to see Byrt in action agin.

I been wanting to write a Pern base fan story. Trying to find the time and how to word is the problem, as most MoMer know I have problems with english and grammer.

Its been chasing me around in my mind, with no time or way to write it with my sight be hit or miss.
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Old Dec 19 2008, 08:40 AM   #9
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Ginny: you could always PM it to one of us (me, possibly Becky or Sandi?) for us to proof read and send you back a 'corrected' copy for you to check over again before you post it.

I did wonder about a story about a bunch of the exiles, but one needs the 'hook' and a plot.
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Old Dec 19 2008, 07:57 PM   #10
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I liked this. It made me shiver, but I liked it.
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Old Dec 19 2008, 09:30 PM   #11
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Byrt's adventures are varied and unexpected (at least to me!) I'm looking forward to finding out what he gets involved in next!
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Old Dec 20 2008, 03:25 AM   #12
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Here's a "hook" for you - what about the miners who were exiled to an island? At least it's canon and it'll help you out with the next adventure.
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Old Dec 20 2008, 09:09 AM   #13
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That would tie me to 9th pass though wouldn't it? I haven't decided which pass I'm setting them in.

The bunch of guilty miners in my 'Blackrock' story were sentanced to hard labour at drudge level in mine 23.
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Old Dec 20 2008, 09:57 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnnMarie View Post
I liked this. It made me shiver, but I liked it.
Yeah, that. It was a very interesting story, well done. But it wasn't a comfortable story. That's not a criticism or a complaint. Just a description. I did like it.
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Old Dec 20 2008, 03:32 PM   #15
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I felt I had to write it. I didn't want to leave Byrt in such a comfortable rut. I wasn't sure I COULD write it!
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Old Dec 20 2008, 09:49 PM   #16
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Well you did, and you did an excellent job of it!
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Old Dec 21 2008, 09:23 PM   #17
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Yes and quite surely they would have done it in 3rd pass or Moreta's time or during any of the passes / intervals as well, exiling those who needed to be "dropped" elsewhere. It is up to you as to how you do it but something popped up in your story that made me think it was in 9th pass. Firehead, I believe it was, as it only pops up in the 9th pass stories.
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Old Dec 23 2008, 02:48 AM   #18
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Just a question for P'ter on the fire hight didn't they use "firestone" not "blackstone"? Or something like that in the gutters? For "blackstone" can be eaten by Thread?

As for 'needlethorn bush', you got no ging growing its alway found together ror when it blooms its safe to gather it, And frouind in Ista and Nerat acoriring to the books.
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Old Dec 23 2008, 02:52 AM   #19
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Ginny: you could always PM it to one of us (me, possibly Becky or Sandi?) for us to proof read and send you back a 'corrected' copy for you to check over again before you post it.

I did wonder about a story about a bunch of the exiles, but one needs the 'hook' and a plot.
Thanks for the support there P'ter are there more Bryt storied store here?

Such as "Blackrock"?
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Old Dec 23 2008, 04:08 AM   #20
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Ginny: The Case of the Hijacked Harness;

The Case of the Flaming Flamethrower;

The Case of the Blackmarket Blackrock (filed as 'Byrt 3');

The Case of the Worn Words;

Firestone needs draconic stomach juice to make it work so you can't use it out in the open, as on the fireheights. Also there'd be a 'whoosh' and it'd be used up, and that's not the sustained source of heat they want in that location. I suspect the mention of firestone was an Anne-achronism.

Southern Boll is in a similar latitude to Ista & Nerat; so I'd expect a similar climate supporting a similar flora. The Ging tree wasn't in bloom, wrong time of year, so Byrt didn't recognise it. It was just another tree.
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Old Dec 23 2008, 04:16 AM   #21
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Ginny: The Case of the Hijacked Harness;

The Case of the Flaming Flamethrower;

The Case of the Blackmarket Blackrock (filed as 'Byrt 3');

The Case of the Worn Words;

Firestone needs draconic stomach juice to make it work so you can't use it out in the open, as on the fireheights. Also there'd be a 'whoosh' and it'd be used up, and that's not the sustained source of heat they want in that location. I suspect the mention of firestone was an Anne-achronism.

I think, I was thing of "black water, Oil which burn long and hot.

Southern Boll is in a similar latitude to Ista & Nerat; so I'd expect a similar climate supporting a similar flora.
Well if so add a ging to it, and watch out for the thorns! LOL

I well have to look for them later P'ter I've got a cat who saying he cold "one loud meow" As for purr that wouild have been Peanut, for when he get going he be purring u a storm. We miss that fussball. Ginny!
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Old Feb 17 2010, 08:14 AM   #22
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Sorry for bringing this forward, I am just marking this to let it go into my subscriptions, so I can find it and read it later. No time right now.
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