“Hey, Ez, how’s the Judge doing?” shivered JD bungled up in some of the remains of Ezra’s bedroll he had left on one of the couches. His and Bucks clothing were in a wet pile near the fire. “Sorry for using your bedroll this way, Ez, but we used everything to keep warm and every stitch and blanket we own is wet, it’ll take a lot of drying charms to get them even to a damp stage." Grabbing one of the blankets from Ezra’s bedroll for himself once he was dry. “Anything we can hang this stuff on in front of the fire, we haven’t anything else to wear until it dries.”
“For the time being just put them out in the entry vestibule where they will not damage anything, if you please, Mr. Wilmington. This spectacular movable abode of Mr. Tanner’s is very well equipped even by Wizarding standards it even has a laundry and heated drying room off the work space behind the stable, we can transfer them into the laundry facilities at a later time. As for clothing, the effects of Mr. Tanner's late benefactor Lord Adrian Le’Herne are still stored in this tent, I suggest you use that for the moment and we can let the drying room do its job the old fashion and less exhausting way.” Buck immediately used his wand to bundle the big pile of discarded wet clothing out into the entry hall, he hadn’t felt good about dumping it on the expensive carpet but hadn’t seen any other choice.
“Where’s the clothes you was mentioning?” asked Buck, when he came back he was pragmatic enough to know a dead man's clothing was better than wet any day, especially when staying cold could kill them.
“The clothing will be incredibly large on yourself, Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Jackson,” Ezra warned, “Lord Adrian was one eighth Frost Giant and between seven and eight feet tall but they will at least be warm and dry, you will find it in the bedroom to the right of the bathroom. Mr. Dunne on the other hand is small enough to fit Prince Raphael’s wardrobe, Mr. Tanner inherited from Princess Elsebeth Le’Herne-Vortigue his other benefactor. As for the Judge and Mr. Larabee, I am not sure which would fit them better. They may be small enough to fit Prince Raphael’s wardrobe but for the time being I suggest they share Lord Adrian’s as well as it will be easier than attempting to try on clothing that may not fit in the present circumstances,” said Ezra calmly.
Buck nodded considering how tired he was he’d take anything.
“Excellent! In that case, Mr. Wilmington, I suggest you ransack Lord Adrian’s wardrobe for something warm including the boots, hat, gloves and cloak similar to what I was wearing outside, they will be much too big even for a man of your height but they have built in heating charms. We do still need to fix the roof of the ice structure that is protecting us and seal the river entrance before the other side of the storm hits.”
“Damnation! Forgot about that! You’re right, Ez, we need get that fixed pronto before the rest of the storm hits,” said Buck tiredly. “Best go look for clothes. I’ll get stuff for the others while I’m at it that way its just JD that needs something to wear.” He finished heading for the indicated bedroom.
“That would be a great help, Mr. Wilmington,” said Ezra relieved. “Mr. Dunne,” he called catching the young sheriffs attention, JD had been staring at the fire shivering. “While I deposit the contents of this tray in the kitchen and get you and Mr. Wilmington the remainder of the hot chicken stew from the larder. I suggest you start removing the necessary bedding from the big chest in the center of the couches so we can transform them in beds. Have Mr. Wilmington use warming charms on the bedding when he returns. While you are partaking of the stew I shall endeavor to find you some warm sleepwear and clothing from Mr. Tanner’s extensive wardrobe chest. Hopefully, those shivers will disappear once you are warm,” ordered Ezra heading to the kitchen as fast as he could without dropping the tray and its contents.
Once there he quickly filled the sink with washing up water and a few drops of one of Vin’s cleaning potions, a quick wash and rinse of the contents of the tray had them drying the dish rack. Vin’s kitchen cupboards had a dining service for twenty-four people so he doubted he would run out of crockery in the near future but as he needed to wash the cauldron in a few minutes it was wise to keep such chores from building up. Grabbing two more of the deep bowls and spoons, Ezra removed the cauldron of hot stew from the larder and transferred it to the bowls and added warming charms to the bowls to keep the stew hot. Mother would be appalled at some of the menial spells he had in his repertory but his life had certainly been easier since that winter in Canada, Dorothea Appleblossom had been an entertaining old Witch and they had both enjoyed the winter she spent teaching him basic household spells, if they did manage to create a Wizarding school he would certainly insist on a curriculum that included running and maintaining a Wizarding household for both Wizards and Witches.
Putting the empty cauldron in the soapy water he gave the cauldron a wash then emptied the sink and rinsed the cauldron before putting it back on the stove, quickly he emptied another of Vin’s many bottles of stored stew into the waiting cauldron, this one was labeled rabbit and vegetable, given the almost invalid status of two of the remaining men he used Magic to puree the stew slightly before adding more water, once he was satisfied with its suitably for invalid consumption he placed it on the fire and left it to the care of the self stirring cauldron, that was the nice thing about one of these expensive cooking cauldrons a Wizard or Witch didn’t have to constantly tend a soup or stew you could leave it in the cauldron’s care and do other things.
Satisfied that when Mr. Jackson and his patients were ready for the hot broth it would be ready, Ezra returned to the more immediate job of getting hot food into Buck and JD. With that in mind he placed on a plate slices of the Frook bread on a tray with the bowls of stew then poured some of the hot coffee he made earlier into two suitable cups he also added warming charms to the cups, enjoying the luxury of being able to do such simple luxuries such as spelling a cup or bowl so the contents remained warm that made a Wizards life easier. Buck and JD’s repast completed he quickly filled another bowl with more of the Frookfinger porridge he had made earlier this time sweetening it with some of the Querop crystal he found in a canister and some chopped Blackberries from the larder, Vin needed to eat again now that he was awake, hopefully he would tolerate the Magic infused berries as well as he had been tolerating the purely magical food, finally adding some sea-milk and a warming charm to the bowl, he also added another glass of the sea-milk to the tray, Vin needed all the nourishment he could tolerate at the moment, hopefully when his health improved in a few days he would have enough strength for his body to tolerate one of the more intensive nutrition potions without further harm but that was for the future they would have to wait for the return of the Portkey chest with the supplies he had added to the already extensive potion ingredient list before he could make more than the most simple potions.
Finally satisfied he had everything for the moment he carried the tray out into the tent’s main parlor, pleased to find that while the beds were not yet made up young JD had succeeded in emptying the contents of the big chest onto the couches.
“Excellent work, Mr. Dunne, if you would be good enough replace the lid of the chest now that you have succeeded in removing the bedding from its storage, I need to once more use it as a table.”
JD quickly pulled out the pillows that were the last thing in the chest and threw them on one of the couches so he could close the lid enabling Ezra to safely place the tray on the chest once again turned into a table and began to remove the food he had prepared for the two men.
“Enjoy your repast, Mr. Dunne, the other portion is for Mr. Wilmington when he returns from procuring clothing. I have added warming charms to the bowls and cups so Mr. Wilmington’s shall still be palatable when he returns from his clothing quest. While you eat I shall endeavor to find you some clothing as well,” said Ezra heading for Vin’s room with the rest of the food he had prepared.
Entering the room he found Vin dozing as he rested against the mound of pillows, even as the hedonist in him enjoyed the pleasure of gazing at the young tracker’s exquisite features as he rested against the pillows he was again struck by how pale and drawn the younger Wizard was. Ezra had the feeling it was going to take an extremely long time for his newly acknowledged love to recover any strength given how wasted his body had become from the extensive Magical healing he had already endured and that didn’t even take into consideration any future problems that may eventuate in the future from the Magical potion or poison he had been forced to ingest at the hands of those Sorcerers. Ezra was well aware of the dangers of Magical poisons, as a child he had watched his father succumb to the ravages of one of the more insidious slow acting ones.
Carrying the tray towards the bedside chest of drawers, he expected his love who was one of the most sensitive of sleepers to wake at the proximity of another person as he usually did, to Ezra’s extreme surprise the young tracker remained asleep which was highly unusual given the ingrained defenses the younger man had learnt for his own safety.
Placing the tray on the bedside chest he moved closer, extremely worried at the younger Wizard's lack of reaction to his proximity. Gently cupping the finely boned face even as he quietly called the younger man’s name so not to startle the younger Wizard. To his extreme surprise Vin did not wake, instead he moved into Ezra’s hand in a fashion Ezra could only term snuggling and murmured “Ez!” his sleeping mind obviously recognising the intruder in his space seeing no need to wake.
Ezra was flabbergasted; the younger Wizard had constantly surprised him this last year but the innate trust his sleeping mind just showed was the most humbling and joyful situation Ezra had ever experienced even the trust the young tracker displayed by sleeping in his arms had not prepared him for this. Resolutely, he pulled himself together and forced himself to continue his attempt to wake his young love.
It didn’t actually take long as, for all the innate trust Vin displayed, the younger Wizard was a very light sleeper.
Vin blinked, blushing slightly at the way he was snuggling Ezra’s hand, he blushed even more as his conscious mind registered some of the endearments Ezra has slipped into while waking him.
“I like ya calling me ‘Cher’.” He said admitted quietly not managing to meet the older man’s eyes embarrassed by the surge of pleasure Ezra starting to treat him as more than just a friend caused, “but I thought ya didn’t like French?” he frowned, he distinctly remembered Ezra mentioning that, so why was he calling him French endearments instead of English.
Ezra flushed at being caught using endearments but decided if Vin wasn’t objecting he was happy to continue. “It is not that I disliked learning French, I truly love the language as it can be quite expressive. It was the lack of choice in learning it I objected to, I am actually fluent in quite a few languages, the Malfoy ancestral tongue is but one of them, I had not realised I had slipped into French in my attempt to wake you or that I had taken the liberty of using such an intimate endearment without your permission especially in a foreign language.”
“Hell, Ez, ain’t as if I don’t understand French, spent four years with Adrian and Miz. Elsebeth, they slipped into the French at the drop of a hat being that they were Cajun. Spoke more French than English when they got excited and forgot the English words. I may not understand all a conversation but I can usually get the meanin’ after hearin’ it for so long. Just don’t expect me to speak it, both of ‘em complained I butchered it somethin’ awful claimed I spoke it worse than English. I may never have learnt to read and write any of it includin’ English but I probably know more languages than most people, most Texan’s have a workin’ understandin’ of Spanish it sharing the border with Mexico ya sort of need it as much as English. Ma taught me Latin before she died ‘cause it would help me with spells later on, I think she concentrated more on that than English most days cause that was just baby words to teach me how they was said but Ma was a real stickler on me saying ‘em right ‘cause spells can get real weird if ya say ’em wrong. Ma’s lessons sure helped when I growed up and Adrian and Miz. Elsebeth were drilling me in spells probably better at saying the Latin stuff than anythin’ else ‘cause I didn’t really have anyone sayin’ the words different between Ma’s lessons and Miz. Elsebeth’s.”
“Is that what happened to your English? I had wondered how anyone with an English mother from one of the higher social strata, speaks English with such a pronounced Texas accent.”
“Hell, Ez! I was speaking Comanche full time after Ma died almost had to learn English all over again when I got stole when I were twelve, it’d been so long since I heard English and the words they was speakin’ didn’t sound nothin’ like the little I remembered Ma teachin’ me when I’s a baby, found out a lot later that’s ‘cause Ma’s from England and they speak it different than Texas or even the rest of America. Then when I run away from ‘em, I learnt Kiowa so had even less use for English. I swear between the Texas-English I spoke and the Cajun-English Adrian and Miz. Elsebeth were speakin’ it were a pure miracle we even understood each other.” Grimaced Vin in remembrance of those first few months when he had to puzzle out almost every second word they spoke until he got use to their Cajun way of saying things.
“Do you understand any other languages?” asked Ezra extremely curious helping Vin sit up a bit more and placing the tray so he could easily access the food he prepared.
“I ain’t really hungry, Ez. Feel like I just ate.” Vin complained looking at the food as if it would bite.
“It has been a good few hours since your last repast and you need consume as much nourishment as possible, Magical healing can be quite detrimental to a Wizard’s body even as it heals grievous wounds, you are almost skeletal from the ravages such constant healing has inflicted on you. Literally your poor body has no physical reserves left to sacrifice if you require more Magical intervention in the near future. I fear every few hours you are awake I will be forcing food onto your poor abused body in an effort to get you to the physical stage you can even tolerate a basic nutritional potion to help fortify your body. Vin, believe me when I tell you that you are incredibly frail at the moment even if your bones were not broken you no longer have the muscle to support your own weight if you attempted to stand, you have a very long and slow recovery ahead of you.”
Vin grimaced but had sense enough to know Ezra weren’t pulling any punches on how sick he really was. He weren’t a fool he could tell how weak he was, he’d barely been able to lift the spoon to eat the Frookfinger porridge last time, fail didn’t even come close to the state he was in, he was as weak as a newborn which was disconcerting as hell. At 5’11” he hadn’t ever been a big man but he was just a little stronger and faster than most men his size probably due to all the non-human in his family tree, all it really meant was his muscles worked a bit better than a full human which was probably the only reason he’d survived given the state of his back, the non-human muscles had been supporting him not his bones which were almost as fragile as a old human’s by the time Miz. Elsebeth got him to a Healer. Which was why he was finding the loss of them muscles so annoying, he’d been reinforcing his bones with Magic just like Grimblehall told him and they’d been getting stronger each year, he weren’t near as fragile as he use to be but until now his muscles at least let him do things, now they were gone, well not exactly gone they was still there just hugging his bones as if he’d never done a lick of work in his life, he hated to even think about how long it was gonna take him to get his muscles back in working order after his bones healed. Of course that didn’t even take into consideration the fact everyone else died from the stuff them Sorcerer gave him, there were a very real chance it were just taking longer in his case, which was a damn depressing thought, easier to just work on the basis he would get better until he found out different.
Decision made he slowly he lifted the spoon and began the slow process of eating, hating the way his arm trembled from just lifting the spoon. Real glad Ezra didn’t try feeding him like a baby, that was one of the reason’s he hated being under Nathan’s care when he got hurt, he just ignored a man’s dignity on too many levels for Vin to feel comfortable. Cause if it looked like he couldn’t do it himself or even if he took too long and Ezra got bored the gambler was just as likely to feed him like a toddler, thought Vin. Which meant Vin was going to have to distract the man to save his dignity, well he had asked about what languages Vin could speak, that was a good enough start on the distracting Vin decided.
“I know a smatterin’ of Russian and Ol’ Norse,” he said between spoonfuls, talking at least gave him a rest between hefting and swallowing the food. His quickly made plan was simple as long as he kept eating, Ezra would let the conversation distract him, of course if Vin actually stopped or got too slow eating the food Ezra would be on him like a shot, the trick would be to balance the food intake with the conversation. “Miz. Elsebeth made me learn enough of ‘em so I could use the Vortigue stuff, got a tiny smatterin’ of Gaelic mainly swear words and things like pass the salt just enough to know if someone’s swearin’ or being polite round a fire. I picked that up the year I went buffalo huntin’ by myself so I could get my Journeyman ratin’.” As he talked he set up a cycle of rest and food intake which seemed to keep Ezra happy.
“That year sure made me appreciate this Wizard tent realised I’d gotten spoilt rotten livin’ with Adrian and Miz Elsebeth,”
“Considering the intricacies of Magical fur and hide processing, however did you manage to process the hides without a Magical workshop?” exclaimed Ezra.
“Just ’cause I didn’t have this tent don’t mean I didn’t have some sortta tent, Ez!” laughed Vin. “Ya didn’t think Adrian and Miz. Elizabeth would a let me outta their sight if I weren’t at least comfortable. Cause it weren’t near as big as this one, as I made it myself as part a my training on making the ‘Wizard Space’ it had a small workshop half the size of this room, a single stable and a combined kitchen, sleeping and bathing area. Didn’t even have a water closet just one of the Magic chamber pots and a small bathing tub that did double duty as the laundry. It weren’t much but it sure were better than any Muggle had while hunting Buffelo.”
“How interesting,” mused Ezra realizing he had been much to Circumspect over the years in his use of Magic outside of a Wizarding Enclave, he hadn’t realized he had been following the ways his mother had taught him so closely, by sticking mainly to Muggle accommodation and the gambling profession he had been taught by his mother he had extremely limited himself in his options and comfort, it was quite galling to realize just how much he had followed his mothers training even when he baulked at her attempts at controlling his life. He hadn’t even contemplated not using Muggle accommodation and travel even out in these wild and desolate lands he would have been a lot better off by ignoring his mothers training and creating a more Wizarding inclined lifestyle. With a portkey and a Wizard tent he could have easily made a comfortable living collecting potion ingredients he probably would have been much richer and happier following a Wizard lifestyle and rarely encountering Muggles. “What became of your creation?”
“Found me a burn’t out wagon with a baby and a toddler hidden in the bushes, they weren’t Wizard born but they weren’t normal human either, the toddler were a Guardian and his baby sister were part.”
Ezra interrupted, “What exactly is a Guardian? I am very confused by the term.”
“Ain’t quite sure what white folk call ‘em, they’re real rare amongst the tribes, most a ‘em don’t reach adult what makes ‘em a Guardian makes ‘em real delicate if ya don’t take care when they’re growin’ up. The tribes call ‘em Guardian’s or Watchmen cause that’s what they do, they Guard the tribe and Watch for danger any type a danger. Guardian’s can see better, hear better, taste and smell better and their touch is real sensitive, most time ya don’t get a full Guardian just one or two of the senses are better than human, that’s easy to cope with it’s when ya get a real Guardian with all of the senses better that ya need a Shaman companion to keep ‘em safe, tribes call ‘em Guardian pairs and they is real honored when they appear, cause the tribe is a whole heap safer when they have a Guardian pair to keep ‘em safe Demon’s that can fool a human can’t fool a Guardian also makes the squabbles and crimes less amongst the tribe as ya can’t lie to a Guardian they always know when ya ain’t tellin’ ‘em true, so Guardian is always the last word on a argument over somethin’ so a Guardian is sortta like the Lawman and final Judges of the tribe, and the Shaman is the Healer and Spirit Guardian.”
“Thank you for explaining I don’t think I have ever heard of such a thing.”
“Guess they’re rarer amongst whites, anyway realised I couldn’t just hand the babies over to the Muggles as they wouldn’t have clue about raisin’ a Guardian, probably end up killin’ the poor little things without realizin’ they was doing it,” sighed Vin. “Would a loved to keep ‘em myself but realized real quick I needed to know if that were best, so that night I did like Moon Wolf taught me and took a spirit walk to find out what the dead parents Spirit Guides thought best, could feel ‘em still hangin’ around worryin’ about the cubs. Got shown where to take ‘em alright so loaded ‘em up with everythin’ I could save from the wagon and headed back to Texas ended up in a valley near Dallas and this piss poor little ranch, owned by a couple a kids, one was just turned seventeen the other sixteen but I could tell they was a Guardian pair for all they was white, ‘em kids had already collected a few other kids from the look of it and boy were they in full Guardian mode over ‘em little ones.” Chuckled Vin. “Should a seen ‘em they had four kids all under seven and the sixteen year ol’ as territorial as Stalkin’ Cat ever was over me, except they had a lot more cubs and kits in the teepee. Quite a mixture, the kids they’d adopted were all Sorcerous and Muggleborn. All I could think was ‘em Spirit Guides mustta had fun getting that lot together and now they was addin’ baby Guardians.” Chuckled Vin.
“Good grief, children being raised by children!”
“Even worse the Guardian pair were city boys, ended up showin’ ‘em how to survive out west they were so greenhorn, the Shaman of the pair come to Texas cause a Uncle had left him the ranch decided it were better than the place he was, don’t think he’d been treated to good, the Guardian got kicked outta home when his parent’s discovered he liked boys better’n girls, his back’s a mess a scars from the whippin’ they gave him tryin’ to change him when that didn’t happen they kicked him out the house.”
“Also explained all about the Wizarding World and Shaman stuff seeing so many of the cubs and kits they’d claimed had the different Magics. Also had to explain Guardian Pairs seeing as they didn’t have a clue about anythin’ that pair was working on pure instinct. When I finished my Journeyman trip they still wasn’t about to let no real adult near the cubs, didn’t need the scars to tell they’d been burnt bad by adults in the past, plus I knew what Muggles would do when they realised ‘em two boy’s were sharing a bedroll, they needed brought into the Wizard World as much as possible for their own and their cub’s protection.”
“I would say so, most Muggles would not be every acceptable of such a situation especially if none of the younger children were related by blood to either boy.”
“Tried getting ‘em under the Le’Herne protection but they was stubborn as hell about letting adults near the little ones, only let me near cause I’m Spirit born and they could tell I ain’t all flesh and blood, helped that I was brin’ ‘em the babies plus their Spirit Guides basically made ‘em stop glarin’ at me every time I moved.” Grinned Vin. “Didn’t feel good just leavin’ ‘em like that. That ranch was really piss poor and they was barely survivin’ before I brought more mouths to feed, gave their situation a long thought and decided I could at least make it safer and more comfortable for ‘em. The valley had some nodes so I dumped a year supply of Render over the valley and warded it to the hilt which made the Shaman of the pair trust me a whole lot more as it made the valley both safer and more fertile. Also found a few big dry caves that would make a better house than that shack they was using. Magic’s damn useful for that type a thing ended up using parts of the tent to make ‘em a better kitchen and create a bathroom. Don’t worry didn’t use a Frooklight vat made it as Muggle as possible seeing as they only had Shaman Magic until the Muggleborn’s got their Magic schooling. Got away with a lot more than I could a simply ‘cause they was raising Muggleborns so using Magic round ‘em were legal enough, they’re doing well last I heard, all the cub’s are thrivin’ and the valley’s makin’ enough food for ‘em all now.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t stay?” smiled Ezra.
“They didn’t trust me that far besides had a feelin’ they weren’t my destiny. Plus I got a message from Miz. Annabelle asking me to check on Adrian and Miz. Elsebeth for her since I finished my Journeyman trip. That weren’t really a hardship I like ‘em a whole lot and had been missin’ ‘em somethin’ fierce anyway. It had been real nice havin’ people actually care about me again while I was livin’ with ‘em although it could be plumb disconcertin’ when they fussed, felt like screamin’ and headin’ for the hills more ‘an once when they started fussin’. Hadn’t really had a family since I got stole from the Comanche, that was one of the reasons I never tried findin’ the tribe again, knew it wouldn’t be home without my adopted pa’s, Moon Wolf and Stalking Cat and I knew they were both dead, heard they’d died of the smallpox a few months after I got stole. That were one of the reason’s they let me get stole in the first place, them white folk wouldn’t have even seen me if they hadn’t planed it to happen. They had them a spirit dream that told them they were due to die in a few months didn’t tell them how it would happen just that it would and I needed away from the tribe safe amongst the white folk before that happened or I’d die with them and for some reason it were real needful that I live. That were one of the reasons I stuck it out until I was fifteen didn’t have anywhere to go back to and them white folks would a chased me if they thought me still child enough. Knew the tribe were in a bad way after the smallpox killed so many, weren’t about to bring more stuff down on them, so waited until it were the usual age boys left home, made them think I was runnin’ off to join one a the trail drives or find ranch work when I left. A lot of the boys my age did that so it weren’t that unusual, made damn sure they didn’t know I was headed for the Kiowa when I finally left.” Vin shook his head, “Worked out pretty quick they wouldn’t object to me runnin’ off to make a livin’ doin’ backbreakin’ work on some ranch or trail drive as that would just make them pleased they made a God fearin’ productive member of society out of what they considered a white savage. Didn’t matter if they never saw me again in that case, seein’ as they could boast for the rest of their lives how they rescued and civilised a white boy from them heathen redskins. Would a been different matter all together if they thought I was headed back to the tribes as that meant they failed in their civilisin’,” said Vin in disgust.
“Indeed, well I guess mother was right! Appearances are everything!” smirked Ezra.
That actually made Vin’s jaw drop in startlement but he quickly recovered amused at Ezra’s quip. “Guess it is!” he chuckled finally seein’ a different side of that sayin’ Ezra sprouted so often, his own Ma would a approved of it used like that. “Don’t think yer Ma would agree with ya twistin’ her favourite sayin’ like that. For all her cons and things she ain’t ever had to fight tooth an and nail to be herself when people all around her keep tryin’ to make her into what they want.”
“I fear you are correct in you’re assumptions, even in her most intricate cons mother portrays the same strata of society she grew up in, she has merely transferred it to a Muggle equivalent.” sighed Ezra, “For all her acquaintance with the underworld of Muggle crime, Mother, has never actually been forced to descend to the level of survival she has indeed always decided her own fate even when lacking in funds she sees it only as a minor inconvenience. Mother is also quite selfish she is indeed the center of the world as far as she is concerned as her child she considers me her accessory and I am suppose to just bend to her needs and comply with her suggestions. I fear she has never really been faced with a situation she can not find some way to turn it to her gain even when she disliked a situation others have forced on her she has managed to change the outcome to her satisfaction even if the compromises needed to change it are not to her full liking it has always her choice in the end, starting with the marriage contract her parents arranged when she was a child. It is a decided pity mother has never given me the same freedom to determine my own fate,” said Ezra sardonically. “I have had to fight for every minuet degree of independence I have obtained from her. She has attempted to control my life in all ways even when she disposed of me as a inconvenience as a child with fathers numerous relatives she always left a regimented list of schooling I was to complete while I was there, even as a baby I was expected to have progressed to a certain stage in my development by her return. It was the only thing she ever asked about when I was retrieved from their care. She never objected to anything else I was subjected to as long as I was kept in reasonably good health and had no disfiguring scars a Medi-wizard could not remove.”
“Hell, Ez, didn’t know it was that bad. Almost had me fooled with her fond rememberin’ of things in ya childhood but they was a little to storybook to be true, had to accept them at face value seein’ I’s no experience of the life she was describin’ so prettily. Ya didn’t notice me as I can move pretty quiet when I’s a mind to it but I saw you and yer ma when ya thought ya was alone, didn’t really mesh with them pretty stories she’d been tellin’. Didn’t say anything seein’ as ya didn’t correct her in public like, I thought ya might not like ya real childhood dragged into the public so brutal.”
“Thankyou such dirty linen should not be displayed in public,” said Ezra softly.
Vin snorted while he understood the sediment and dislike of a man’s private affairs becoming public knowledge some warning about his Ma would a been nice when she turned up, would a let them close ranks and protect Ezra from some of the things she done to him while she was in town, they all got thrown taking her at face value until the damage was done.
“I had me a great Ma for the short time I had her, so did Buck and JD from what they let drop occasionally but I’ve seen the bad side of it as well. Runnin’ Deer’s head squaw was like that twisted Runnin’ Deer round her little finger getting him to do whatever she liked, the other squaws in the tippee were the ones made sure her kids were cared for. I tell ya those poor kids were real lucky the other squaws didn’t take the anger she caused out on them. That were one of the reasons I weren’t doing so well with them, I was just one more kid that weren’t theirs those poor squaws had to care for and of course the head squaw didn’t like me one bit as me being Spirit-Born she had to make it seem she was the one carin’ for me even if she weren’t to keep her position it bein’ such an honour, cause when I started to get sickly she blamed it on the other squaws claimed they was interferin’ with her care of me. Boy did that set the cat amongst the pigeons, seems blamin’ them for my getting sickly was just the last straw as far as them squaws were concerned. I think Runnin’ Deer handed me over to Moon Wolf and Stalkin’ Cat in relief, them being a Guardian pair and Moon Wolf a Shaman they made a real good argument on them being better able to care for a part Spirit-child, plus it weren’t seen as a failure to do so like it would givin’ me into anyone else’s care. Instead it was taken as Runnin’ Deer willing to give up the honour and prestige he got from seein’ to my care by giving me to more suitable caretakers in the form a Guardian pair who were more in touch with the spirit world, my starting the thrive under my new pa’s care just confirmed how wise Runnin’ Deer was in the eyes of the rest of the tribe. Cause it took years to get his tippee calm again but with me gone the rest of the tribe weren’t watchin’ them like a hawk so he could do it in private.”
“Was it just the attention or was there actually a physical reason why you were getting sickly when receiving normal if limited care?” asked Ezra curiously, moving towards the Vortigue chest. “Continue talking, I need to get Mr. Dunne some dry clothing and I fear Prince Raphael’s are the smallest we have. I will be able hear you while in the chest and respond.” He said climbing into the chest.
Thinking about Ezra’s question Vin frowned arranging his thoughts even as he continued eating, “Know I did better not having to practically scream for attention when I needed it,” he said slowly, “Just felt better in Moon Wolf and Stalkin’ Cats tepee, the feeling of the place weren’t so dark and stormy like Runnin’ Deer’s tepee. Can honestly say it smelt better but given how sensitive a Guardian like Stalkin’ Cat was, Moon Wolf always made damn sure it smelt good all year round. Food tasted better too, Moon Wolf and Stalkin’ Cat were both real particular about how food got stored and cooked, but that weren’t a surprise either given that a Guardian like Stalkin’ Cat would get sick from food about to go off long before it would effect a normal person then of cause Moon Wolf was always making Stalkin’ Cat and me drink his herb teas and other concoctions, found out lot of them herbs an stuff were Magical which probably gave my Magic a boost. My guess it were a combination of getting a lot of attention, living in a nice smelling tepee, having real good food and having some Magic added to what I was eating that must have made me better. Cause all I really cared about at the time was that Moon Wolf and Stalkin’ Cat actually wanted me that were the thing I lost when first Ma, then Grandpa died.” Sighed Vin.
“I understand completely,” said Ezra climbing back out of the chest with an arm full of warm clothes and a nightshirt. “I fear mother was not cut out for motherhood, which is why I have a strange fondness for Aunty Anyanka, the Vengeance Demon whose care I ended up in for a year, her absentminded but adequate care during that year was a pleasant change to mother’s true dislike of tending to a child’s needs. While I did see some quite bloodthirsty revenge enacted around us while in her care due to her Demonic nature she did at least make sure I was never physically in danger from her profession and she was quite forthright and direct in her limited affection for my person when we were alone which I fear put her well above mother in my limited toddler experience at that stage. The greatest boon was the aftermath of that incident it made my father realise he needed to keep a closer eye on my welfare, which made the following years until his death some of the most pleasant of my childhood marred only by the occasional vacation mother insisted she take me on once or twice a year. I fear without the time I spent in my fathers care I would not have known true parental love, it was only that exposure to such an emotion that enabled me to finally see my mother as she truly is, I love her dearly but I do not trust her not to sacrifice myself in her place if it ensured her safety.”
“Ez, sounds like ya only ever had the one person namely yer Pa, who actually wanted ya. At least I had, Ma and Grandpa, then Moon Wolf and Stalkin’ Cat, and finally Adrian and Miz. Elsebeth, I did better an a lot a kids. Must admit it can be real disconcerting getting fond of people specially when ya keep losing them, had to learn how to enjoy having the people ya love while I can, ya can lose them real quick and ya can’t do a thin’ about it. Were real glad I finished the Journeyman ratin’ so quick and could find Adrian and Miz. Elsebeth again, ain’t as if I really needed to reach adept level to make a good livin’ but that adept trainin’ sure made a real good excuse for travellin’ with them, knew they were getting old even for Wizard kind but they were real stubborn about bein’ independent. Being young and havin’ the excuse of adept trainin’ let me help ‘em better than Miz. Annabelle and the rest of the clan managed to, ‘cause I had to get Slytherin sneaky to do it but it worked a treat, thought they was looking after me, not me looking after ‘em,” he smirked. Vin had been making slow but steady inroads into the food and had finally finished the porridge so dropped the spoon and rubbed his arm the muscles hadn’t liked the exercise at all the young Wizard couldn’t believe how exhausted just hefting a spoon made him.
“I’m finished Ez,” he said with a sigh.
“What of the bread?” asked Ezra, seeing that he had indeed finished the Frookfinger porridge and blackberries but the bread was untouched.
“I’m real full,” said Vin, “Don’t think I could eat the bread as well.”
Ezra frowned but finally caved in, “At lest drink the sea-milk, it has a lot of nourishment, Siren’s actually used it as a replacement for a mothers milk with some adjustment.”
Vin frowned but complied, he liked sea-milk. This time he just used two hands like a toddler to hold and lift the glass but thankfully Ezra didn’t comment on it. It took what seemed to be forever but finally Vin had finished the sea-milk and gotten the glass back on the tray without dropping it.
Ezra positioned the clothing for JD over his arms then removed the tray having freed up his hands.
“Vin, try to sleep again if you can, sleep and nourishment are the two main things your body desperately needs to build up its strength,” ordered Ezra.
Vin grimaced but obediently closed his eyes, wasn’t as if he weren’t dead tired, much as he would a liked to grill Ezra about Chris and Josiah the fact Ezra hadn’t mentioned them but in passing meant Nathan was either still working on them or they were fine. Wasn’t as if he could be any help if they were in trouble, he was weak as a kitten barely able to heft a spoon to feed himself, the best thing he could do at the moment was make as little fuss over his care and things as possible, bad enough they were in such bad shape ‘cause they come to rescue him.
“Hey, Ez,” grinned JD, “That Lord Adrian you mentioned was really, really big, damn glad I don’t have to wear his stuff look how big they are even on Buck.” He said in amusement pointing at Buck who was desperately trying to adjust a pair of suspenders so they reached his waist not his crotch.
“I warned you Lord Adrian was part Frost Giant,” smirked Ezra amused, moving to the chest and setting down the tray so he could hand the clothing he was carrying to the young sheriff. “Prince Raphael was only about six foot so these should fit you better than anything that ever graced Lord Adrian’s ample form. Stand still Mr. Wilmington so I can adjust your new attire.” He admonished moving towards the tallest of the Seven even as he withdrew his wand from the sheath in the scarlet over-robe he was wearing.
“We do not have time for a more permanent adjustment as such spells will require some research and we are on a every short time table, Mr. Wilmington but I do believe the judicious application of a multitude of sticking charms should work on a temporary basis.” Said Ezra thoughtfully as he gauged exactly what needed doing to make the extremely large clothing serviceable. The first item that needed adjusting was the suspenders they needed to be resized before they could adjust the trousers. The front straps were adjustable and that had been what Buck had been attempting to adjust unfortunately the long strap making up the lower leg of the ‘Y’ formation did not adjust as it merely buttoned to the back of the trousers. Unfortunately that strap was so long the top part of the ‘Y’ was around Buck’s neck. Quickly Ezra estimated the bottom strap of the ‘Y” formation was at least two thirds to long for Wilmington’s size, leaving the bottom buttoned to the trousers he pulled the strap down until it was in the center of the larger man’s back, folding the part that needed adjusting into three and sealing it together with strong sticking charms, ideally the strap should be cut to the proper length and the buttons placed at the new ending but that was impractical at the moment, it might look unsightly with the lower strap so awkwardly thick but it should do the job. “Try adjusting the front section now, Mr. Wilmington, I believe you will find it will find the main problem you were having has been fixed.”
It didn’t take Buck long to get the front straps to the right adjustment, he still looked like a young teenager wearing his father attire but at least the trousers were no longer falling down. Quickly Ezra got to work on the trouser side seams, all he did was fold the extra material and stick it in place, finally he knelt on the ground and folded the extra material up into a long cuff on each leg. The adjustments were extremely ugly to his discerning eye but they did reduce the trouser down to something Buck could use. Next he pulled the shoulders of the shirt into folds and stuck them into place so it fit Wilmington’s shoulders, more sticking charms held the turned up cuffs in place. The Heavy combination coat-robe would have come mid thigh on its original owner on Wilmington it was below his knees, the length actually looked quite good in Ezra’s opinion so he only adjusted the shoulders and turned up the sleeves. It was still much to big across the chest and back so after some thought Ezra extended the folding he had placed in the shoulders all the way down the coat front and back until it fitted better. It was still loose but a comfortable loose if the folds didn’t bulge so much it would be a pleasing effect. “How is that Mr. Wilmington?”
“That’s real good, Ez, I can still move easy and it don’t feel like it will slide of if I move,” nodded Buck happy with Ezra’s adjustments.
“Hey! I need help in here!” called Nathan.
The next half hour was spent getting Josiah and Chris into some of Adrian’s big nightshirts and tucked safely into the bed in Adrian’s room. Buck floated more wet clothing and blankets to join the growing pile out on the entry tiles. Since Nathan didn’t want to leave them alone they moved one of the wardrobes and chests out into the central parlor and one of the couches from the parlor into where they had been. That enabled Nathan to sleep in the room with Josiah and Chris in case he was needed. Deciding Nathan should be able to feed the two invalids with JD’s help, Ezra contented himself with explaining about the rabbit and vegetable broth on the stove and left them to it. Although he did take the opportunity when he deposited the tray back in the kitchen of putting a sealing spell on the jug of sea-milk and butter so they could not be used without his permission, he had not been able to find the crock of syrup to make more and until he did they couldn’t afford to let the nourishing sea-milk be wasted when it was one of the main things that would improve Vin’s health in the days to come.
Returning to the central parlor he found Buck almost ready for the trek outside although he couldn’t help grin at the way he was tripping over the cloak, it was at least a foot too long which made it awkward to walk in.
Deciding not to bother with sticking charms this time, Ezra simply told Buck to stand as straight and tall as he could and used a severing charm to cut it at the point it touched the floor, rolling up the big swath of removed dragon hide and depositing it in the chest table, dragon hide was a valuable commodity and he had removed a sizable piece from the bottom of the cloak along with the fur lining. While he was a bit worried at such a drastic adjustment without Vin’s permission he didn’t think he was causing any lasting problems, if need be if could still be replaced but as the Le’Herne’s had not wanted Lord Adrian’s clothing so it would probably all end up cut down for the rest of the Seven’s or Vin’s use anyway, and as Buck at 6’6” was the tallest of them all, cutting the bottom of the dragon-hide cloak to his size still left plenty of dragon hide and it’s fur lining to play tailor with.
“At least I’m not going to trip every step now!” said Buck relieved. “How we going to do this, that broom of yours is dead I think the horses might a stepped on it and cracked the shaft when JD was taking them to the stable had a look at it when I brought the clothes out into the entry, don’t think it will support you let alone a big fellow like me. What about that floating chair? Think we can use that?” asked Buck.
Ezra frowned heading for the entrance way to check his old broom, grimacing at what he found even more of the twigs had been broken and what looked like a full crack marred the surface where the twigs joined the shaft.
“JD probably didn’t think anything of it, he’s Muggle so to him it’s just a old broom made of twigs.” Explained Buck quickly he knew how Wizards could get about their brooms loosing one was like losing a horse to some of them and he had a feeling Ezra might be that type given the way he spoilt that horse of his.
“I understand, Mr. Wilmington, I am not angry at our young compatriot, it was entirely my own fault for leaving it where it could receive further damage. A Muggle like Mr. Dunne had no way of knowing the true nature of that which was destroyed, a broom is simply a broom to a Muggle and an old fashion twig broom such as my old school broom would not worry him unduly when the horses damaged it, after all most Muggles do not even use such old fashion brooms anymore, twigs have long since been replaced by straw on Muggle Brooms and they are not an expensive item to replace if broken. His reaction to the damage would be too simply decide to purchase another broom for Mr. Tanner when we returned to Four Corners,” sighed Ezra, feeling like he had lost an old friend.
“Yeah! The kid had no way of knowing about Brooms!” sighed Buck feeling just as sick about the damage as Ezra, it was obvious Ezra had that broom a long time probably since his school days and he knew how expensive a broom was, he hadn’t even bothered trying out for the one of the Quidditch teams at school, which had annoyed his flying instructor as he was a natural flyer but even in those days a broom cost more than his Ma made in a year, hell his Ma hadn’t even been able to afford the school fee’s, she fainted when he got the letter not because he’d gotten it, turns out she had been expecting that but because it included a breakdown in costs for the first year in Muggle and Wizarding money, Ma claimed he got the Magic from his Pa but refused to say anything more about him, instead she dug out a old leather purse and said the coins were Wizard money given to her as a gift before he was born but she hadn’t ever been able to change them to normal money and when Buck had starting floating his rattle she stopped trying as knew she need it for Magic schooling when he got older. That old purse had barely enough for his first year at Salem and Buck knew his Ma wouldn’t be able to pay for a second so he did some research and made his way to the Goblin bank, in the end he got a type of loan to cover the rest of his schooling, once he graduated he had to work for the bank for six years to pay for the six years of schooling but it meant his Ma wouldn’t kill herself trying to find the money. Those six years following insane Cursebreakers around making sure they didn’t get killed for the stuff they dug up had actually done his Magic good gave him the practical skills to pass the Auror tests at the end of it, those tests had been the Goblins idea and they had been right that piece of parchment declaring him a qualified Auror got him some work over the years in more than a few Wizard enclaves but he’d never bothered taking the next step and studying Wizard Law, he didn’t think he had the patience to be an adjudicator like Travis.
“It is not anyone’s fault, given Chaucer’s intense dislike of my old school broom it is perhaps a miracle it had never met such a fate before this.”
Buck grimaced “Will the Flying chair be enough?”
‘Probably but I doubt it will be needed, Mr. Tanner inherited a rack of flight worthy brooms, they are extremely large by normal broom standards but that is to be expected given the part Frost Giant ancestry of their original owners.” Said Ezra with a frown.
Buck’s jaw dropped, “A rack of Brooms!” he exclaimed, “God in heaven! Just how rich is, Junior?” he squeaked. “I mean, it’s obvious he must be rich everything in this tent alone is worth more galleon’s than god.” He explained his voice returning to normal as he recovered from the shock. “Now you mention a rack of brooms, Ez, even one broom is more than I’ve ever had the money for how many does Junior have?”
“More than a dozen!” said Ezra with a smirk.
“Fucking Hell!” exclaimed Buck shocked beyond belief. “A dozen brooms! Fucking Hell, Ez! He sleeps in a Muggle wagon when he’s in town, we had to make him sleep in the boarding house when winter set in.”
“He did not actually purchase any of it Mr. Wilmington, it was all left to him by his Benefactors and they left it to him for the express purpose of ensuring his comfort while making sure he retained the ability to practice his Wizard trade. The skills they trained into him during his apprenticeship and eventual classification as a Master level Magical furrier had already made sure he was quite capable of making Wizard money whenever he needs to, even the simple rabbit furs he has been collecting by supplying the Four Corners diner with a rabbit or two daily adds up to a adequate income for a man who has such simple needs as Mr. Tanner.”
“Fucking Hell, he can’t be more than twenty-five and he’s already a Master, double shit! I knew Junior was damn smart and talented with potions but that’s a bit terrifying to contemplate when I ain’t drunk,” said Buck in awe.
“How so, Mr. Wilmington?” asked Ezra curious.
“I was looking into jobs when I was at school trying to work out what to train for so I could look after Ma. I crossed that job of my list damn quick, it’s one of the hardest of the trades most people don’t even finish Apprentice until they hit thirty, Journeyman usually takes ten, twenty or more, so a Master don’t even start his training until they reach forty or fifty years. It isn’t an easy occupation for all its guaranteed money plus not everyone can even make the Apprentice stage as you have to be almost a Potion Master to make even the simplest of the curing potions.” Buck shook his head, “The fact Junior made Master so young tells the world he’s not just smart he’s a god damn genius.”
“Oh!” said Ezra absorbing that little fact about the man he loved. “I had not realized his occupation took so long to gain proficiency in. I of all people should have realized given the number of specialized potions it requires. I am well aware of the intelligence and skill anything more than basic potions requires of a maker. I was considered quite precocious for completing my own ‘Potion Apprenticeship’ before I was twenty-one. He puts me quite to shame, I really need to get more practice at some of the harder medical potions so I can complete my own Journeyman training.”
“Yeah! Oh! That’s an understatement of the century. That buckskin clad kid’s got so many damn secrets hidden behind that quiet and gentle nature of his, he makes you look like an open book.” Buck growled making Ezra grin.
“Very true, Mr. Wilmington, but the one thing I can say about Mr. Tanner is that he is never boring,” smirked Ezra. “Understandably, I find him quite fascinating on many levels, he is actually the first person I have ever contemplated marrying as he is one of the few people I have ever encountered who can keep pace with me in many things who I have also desired, a life with him would never be predictable or boring.”
Buck looked at him blankly for a few moments than grinned back in pure relief, feeling a tightness on his heart he hadn’t known was there loosening for the first time in months, he hadn’t been looking forward to trying to put Vin back together after another heart break. “Well don’t that beat all, was beginning to think you were like Chris, another heart break for the Kid. Guess almost losing him made you get your blinders off and start noticing his interest.”
Ezra just looked at him then sighed, “Indeed! Blinders is a remarkably apt description, all I could see was that he was in love with Mr. Larabee, I had been ignoring my own feelings for months under the mistaken belief he was taken.”
“Well at least you know better now, when’s the wedding?” chuckled Buck. “Maybe JD an' I can hide all his clothes and make him wear white, pretty sure he’s a virgin with men from the way he blushes so pretty every time I make a comment about him enjoying his wedding night. Don’t get me wrong Junior knows what happens between men; he ain’t that innocent, he just ain’t ever put it into practice if I’m reading him right. Talk of pleasuring woman don’t get the same reaction, Junior’s got experience with woman, he probably enjoys sex with them like most men, he just ain’t interested in woman for more than sex which means they usually ain’t worth the bother in his eyes.”
“Mr. Wilmington,” warned Ezra urgently, knowing he had to forestall Bucks usual rough sexual innuendoes before they were started, Vin was in no state mentally to deal with Buck in one of his moods. “While I would marry him immediately if I could, he may never recover from what he endured at his captors hands, much of the torture was sexual in nature we both know that is not something a man or woman easily recovers from.”
Buck closed his eyes in pain, the fury in his eyes when he opened them made Ezra shudder, “They better be dead!” he said with an icy rage.
“Not yet, I deemed saving our young trackers life more important, they can meet their maker any time, Vin would have died if I had let my rage loose and dealt them the death they deserve at that time.” Explained Ezra quietly.
Buck nodded, “Good men like that don’t deserve a quick death, means we can kill them slow.” he said with a deadly quiet that made Larabee seem tame. “Where’s the brooms we best get that roof fixed or we’ll all be dead.” He said quietly changing the subject.
“This way, Mr. Wilmington, we may as well move this apparel to the laundry room while we are headed there.” He said levitating it ahead of him.
Having placed all the wet clothing and blankets on to wash Ezra showed they way to the broom rack.
They both picked one out and moved back to the entryway. Just before they left the safety of the tent, Buck laid a hand on Ezra’s shoulder and said. “Best leave me to tell Chris about what happened to Junior, he less likely to kill the messenger if it’s me telling him.”
Ezra shook his head, it was his failure.
“Ez, he may not admit it but we both know that old fool is still in love with Junior, he may have buried it but he’s been damn jealous of the fact Vin’s been courting you these last few months, if I tell him he’ll have less of a target and I can maybe point out you at least managed to save the kid’s life.”
“Mr. Wilmington, I believe you have a death wish!” snorted Ezra.
“Well, yeah! Ma always said Wizards are born crazy. Just give me your word you’ll let me be the one tell him!” he ordered.
I give my word.” Sighed Ezra exiting the tent before Buck made any more