The Baker's Boy

The Baker's Boy by J. V. Jones Read Free Book Online

Book: The Baker's Boy by J. V. Jones Read Free Book Online
Authors: J. V. Jones
call his own,
familiarity was as close as he could get to belonging.
    The beer cellar
was a huge chamber filled with rows of copper vats in which various grades of
ale were produced. When Jack's eyes became accustomed to the dim light, he was
surprised to find Frallit was there, standing beside Willock, sipping on a cup
of ale. Both men looked decidedly nervous to Jack. Willock spoke first.
"Did anyone follow you down here?" His small eyes flicked to the
door, checking if anyone was behind him.
    "No,
sir."
    Willock hesitated
for a moment, rubbing his cleanshaven chin. "My good friend the master
baker has informed me that you are nimble with your hands. Is this true,
boy?"
    The cellar
steward's voice seemed strained, and Jack was beginning to feel more than a
little worried. He brushed his hair back from his face in an attempt to appear
nonchalant.
    "Speak up,
boy, now is not the time for false modesty. The master baker says you have a
real feel for kneading the dough. He also tells me you like to carve and
whittle wood. Is this true?"
    "Yes,
sir." Jack was confused. After last night's encounter with Frallit, he
hardly expected praise.
    "I can see
you are a polite boy and that's good, but the master baker also tells me you
can be quite a handful and need a good whippin' from time to time. Is this
true?" Jack didn't know how to respond, and Willock continued. "A
rare opportunity may be coming your way. You wouldn't want to miss a rare
opportunity, would you, boy?"
    The hair which
Jack had pushed from his eyes was threatening to fall forward again. He was
forced to hold his head at a slight angle to prevent its imminent downfall.
"No, sir."
    "Good."
Willock glanced nervously in the direction of several huge brewing vats. A man
stepped out from behind them. Jack could not see him clearly, as he was beyond
the light, but he could tell the stranger was a nobleman from the soft rustle of
his clothes.
    The stranger
spoke, his mellifluous tones oddly out of place in the beer cellar. "Jack,
I want you to answer one question. You must give me a truthful reply and do not
be mistaken, I will know if you lie." Jack had never heard a voice like
the stranger's before, low and smooth but charged with power. He didn't
question the man's ability to tell truth from lie and nodded obediently. At
this sudden move of his head, Jack's hair fell over his eyes.
    "I will
answer you truthfully, sir."
    "Good."
Jack could make out the curve of thin lips. "Come forward a little so I
may better see you." Jack moved a few steps nearer the stranger. The man
stretched out a misshapen hand and brushed Jack's hair from his face. For the
briefest of instances, the stranger's flesh touched his, and it took all of
Jack's willpower not to recoil from the touch. "There is something about
you, boy, that is familiar to me." The stranger's gaze lingered over him.
Jack began to sweat despite the chillness of the cellar. The pain in his arm
sharpened to a needlepoint. "No matter," continued the stranger,
"on to the question." He shifted slightly and the candlelight fell
directly onto his face. His eyes shone darkly. "Jack, have you ever been
taught how to read?"
    "No,
sir." Jack was almost relieved by the question; the threat of being
banished from the castle receded upon its asking.
    The stranger held
Jack enthralled with the force of his stare. "You speak the truth, boy. I
am pleased with you." The man turned to where Willock and Frallit were
standing. "Leave me and the boy alone." Jack had never seen either
man move so fast, and he might have actually laughed if it hadn't been for the
stranger's presence.
    The man watched
with cold eyes as the two scuttled away. He moved full into the light, his
silken robes softly gleaming. "Do you know who I am, boy?" Jack shook
his head. "I am Baralis, King's Chancellor." The man paused
theatrically, giving Jack sufficient time to fully understand the importance of
the person who was facing him. "I see by the look on your face that

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