Kevin Galwynn arose early the next morning, tiptoed from his and his wife’s bedchamber, and past his sleeping children’s beds. As quietly as possible, he rummaged through the larder and grabbed a crust of bread and chunk of cheese for breakfast, as well as a shiny red apple that he would save for later. He stuffed the small apple into one of the voluminous pockets of his long, flowing tunic; and remarkably, it disappeared without leaving a trace or bulge. As stealthily as a cat, he donned his muffin hat, tilted it at jaunty angle, slipped out the door, and then headed across the castle’s inner ward to Mistress De Lune’s house, Stargazers Tower.
Each of the King’s Masters presided over their own house, chancery, and order. For example, Master Galwynn’s house was the Basilica Lux, a girthy stone edifice that, like all the other houses, formed one of the towers of the inner bailey of the King’s castle. The basilica housed the Order of Enlightenment’s chancery office, where the public conducted their day-to-day business with his clerks and scribes; a small College, where most notably, apprentices were taught to be Journeymen who would someday crisscross the kingdom and report their observations to the Master of Enlightenment; and finally, lodgings for several members of the Order, including Master Galwynn himself and his family.
Kevin was anxious as he crossed the inner ward, and the usual hubbub of a castle rousing itself from a long night’s slumber did not soothe his nerves. But when he noticed how clear and blue was the dawn sky, felt how crisp and cool was the morning breeze, and marveled at how the morning dew still glistened on the grassy ward, he was put at ease. That is why he was shocked when a thunderous clatter overflowed the inner battlement wall as at least a dozen horsemen galloped at breakneck speed through the outer bailey and out the East Gate.
Kevin had no idea where so many reckless riders could be going at this early hour, but he was sure of one thing: His brief moment of peace was ruined. Shrugging his shoulders resignedly, Kevin angrily finished off his bread and cheese, and then got back to the business of figuring out how to avert the end of the world.
When Master Galwynn stepped into the entrance hall of Stargazers Tower, he was taken aback when he was not greeted by a chancery full of clerks, but by an eerie silence and a desolate feeling of abandonment. Even at this early hour, there were usually a few traders, farmers, and gamblers in the chancery office to get the day’s predictions. But today, there was only silence. “Where is everyone?” Kevin wondered.
Suddenly, out of an adjacent hallway, an elderly and harried-looking clerk herded five sleepy, disgruntled, and unkempt pageboys into the chancery office. The clerk’s demeanor was not helped by the fact the he looked as if he had not slept the night before. The scrivener was trying to get the boys in line by gesticulating broadly and shaking a sheaf of missives over the boys’ heads. The clerk intended to distribute the missives to the boys for them to deliver, but first he had to instruct the lads to sit down on a bench, stop fidgeting, and tuck in their shirts to make themselves presentable. It wasn’t until the scrivener glanced over his shoulder, and clumsily hopped aside when he realized the Master of Enlightenment was suddenly looming behind him.
“My lord,” apologized the startled clerk, “I did not see you standing there.” The clerk was nervous, and the sheaf of missives he held in his hand rustled like autumn leaves in a windstorm. “I did not mean to give offense, sir. But things, as you may have noticed, are in considerable…disarray…this morning.”
Kevin, whose face was usually ruddy and cherubic, scowled a bit as he stepped past the clerk to stand before the restless pages. Galwynn had two children of his own, and he easily recognized the familiar look on their faces. He said, “You boys look hungry. Have any of you had breakfast yet?” The boys hesitated answering the inquisitive nobleman, but their stomachs growled and they were compelled to shake their heads, ‘No.’
The clerk was trying to explain that he was trying to find the cook to feed the boys their morning meal, but Kevin understood what it was for the old clerk to, in effect, suddenly have five hungry children on his hands. Kevin smiled sympathetically, and turned back to the boys.
“Well, a page can’t do a good day’s work if he’s hungry,” Kevin said. “And you want to do a good day’s work, don’t you?” The young boys looked at him noncommittally, not knowing what to say, as young boys were wont to do. “Here, I think I have something for you,” Kevin said, as he lowered his hands, rubbed the fingertips of his right hand over the pad of his thumb three times, then reached into his voluminous pocket and pulled out the shiny red apple he found there.
Master Galwynn handed the apple to the nearest boy. The boy might have thought of sharing his boon with his mates, but his stomach got the better of him and he hungrily tucked into the apple while the other boys looked on enviously. Kevin made no judgement of the lad’s magnanimity, but commented, “It won’t do if only you get to eat, would it?” Then Galwynn rubbed his fingertips again, reached into his pocket, and pulled out another shiny red apple that appeared to be exactly like the first. Kevin handed the second apple to the second boy.
The boys were both incredulous and curious by now, and they became even more so when Kevin pulled out a third apple…and a fourth…and a fifth. When all the lads were happily enjoying their breakfast, the clerk sidled closer to Master Galwynn and whispered, “Thank you, my lord, thank you. My mistress commanded me to gather all the pages I could find, as soon as I could. But I suspect the lads’ hunger would have made them useless until they ate. I don’t know what I would have done if you had not intervened.” The clerk tried to stay on-topic, but he had not had his breakfast either, and he unconsciously kept licking his lips and glancing at Kevin’s bottomless pockets every now and then.
“I am glad to help however I can,” said the Master of Enlightenment to the scrivener. “However, I have come to Stargazers Tower because I have an urgent appointment with the Mistress of Stargazers, and she bade me not be late. I would be most appreciative if you could escort me to the mistress of the house.”
The clerk’s eyes lit up at the opportunity to repay Kevin’s kindness. The old record keeper told the pageboys to stay in the chancery until he returned, when he would give the boys the letters in hand to be delivered throughout the castle. Then he humbly led Master Galwynn down a long, curved, deserted corridor. The pair made their trek in silence, but the Master of Enlightenment could sense that the clerk was not merely harried, and not merely suffering from lack of sleep, and not merely singlehandedly doing the work of many. The scrivener was also…afraid.