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Old 12-25-2007, 04:28 AM   #8
Quist
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"Are you sure you won't stay the night here, dear?"

Vreni Schultze smiled at the kindly old lady's plea. "I would love to, Rike, but I made a pact and I intend to honor it," she said gently, but firmly.

"Oh, Claus will be so sad he missed you, Verena," Frederike Autenburg sighed, looking wistfully at the young woman as she toweled her wet, blonde hair dry.

"I know," Vreni replied, reaching a hand out to pat Frederike's arm. "I should be in Leipzig for a few days, so if he returns early, let me know and I will be glad to swing by again."

Frederike nodded, then held out Vreni's hooded cloak for her to slip into. "I do hope he returns soon, then."

"As do I," Vreni agreed, snapping the clasp to her hood, then bending down to kiss Frederike on both cheeks. "Let him know about those jigs I've made for him; they're in the fourth cabinet on the left."

"I will, I will."

Vreni held Frederike's hands in her own as she stepped halfway out the door. "I will be staying at the Rosengarten, so please come get me if Claus returns." She gave the blacksmith's wife's hands one last squeeze, then trotted out into the street and started walking down the gravel pathway. She turned to wave at Frederike one last time before slipping down a side street towards the dark city of Leipzig.

*~*~*~*~*

It had been five long years since Vreni was last in this part of her homeland, but it had seemed much longer than that. Just getting into the area had been tricky enough, as she had gotten lost quite a number of times on the way. She eventually did make it back to Leipzig and to the blacksmith's shop she had apprenticed with for so long. Claus Autenburg was away on business somewhere in Bavaria, but his wife Frederike had welcomed Vreni back with open arms and a warm meal, comforts the young female blacksmith had not experienced in quite a long time. During her time abroad, she had sought to make ends meet with her chosen profession, often being the object of scorn, ridicule and harassment since there just were not that many women who did what she did, a man's job. She loved her work, however, and Claus had instilled that love in her from a very early age, giving her her first hammer at age three. Since then, she had grown by the heated forge, banging, molding, shaping and branding her life's work through the metal in her hands. Claus had constantly praised her handiwork, however, most others did not share his opinion, their prejudices not allowing them to see past Vreni's gender. It was the unfortunate result of this that she had struggled to make ends meet during her travels abroad.

"No matter," she breathed to herself as she walked down towards the familiar glow of the Rosengarten Inn. She had come back to Leipzig with a mere five pfennigs in her purse, but after working at the Autenburg's forge, had nearly quintupled that amount in earnings. She had wanted to leave most of it for Claus, but it was Frederike who had insisted she take the bulk of it. 'Wars will be won with the iron and steel forged by your mädchen's hands, Vreni', Rike had told her. Vreni shook her head at the thought as she came upon the door to the inn and pushed it open with her shoulder.

She was surprised to find the innkeeper had raised his rate to ten pfennigs, but she paid the price with a smile. Hiking her pack up onto her shoulder, she was about to head up the stairs when she passed the common room door and spotted a familiar face. Doffing her hood, she slipped through the doorway and approached the table where two men sat surrounded by another man and a younger woman. "Jachen, Jezebel," she called to them. "You do know there are seats next to William and Christoph you may take, unless you've both developed a fondness for standing in the years since we last met."
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