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The Korbat Who Couldn't Hang: Part Three


by janejinn

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Isabel was hungry. It had been about two weeks since she'd left home, and she'd run out of money two days before. She was also tired and dirty and, worst of all, not even close to Faerieland.

Walking listlessly down the road late one afternoon to give her wings a rest, Isabel wondered if she should give up and go home again. She supposed she could get back somehow. She missed her parents. In fact, she was so lonely that she was almost willing to play Usuki Dress Up with Aimee. Thinking of Aimee, though, reminded her of being teased, and the words of the various insults echoed in her head. Grimly, Isabel decided to go on.

There was some kind of castle ahead in the distance, and as Isabel followed the road up the side of a short hill, she could see a small village at the foot of that castle. Maybe she could find a small job or two there and earn herself something to eat. As she approached the crossroads, she saw an old Korbat coming from the road that led away to the right, pushing a covered wheelbarrow. He turned towards the village, and Isabel had an idea.

Running, she caught up with the blue Korbat. "Hello! I'd be happy to help you push that wheelbarrow if you could give me a drink of water when we get there."

The old blue Korbat stopped and smiled down at her. "Now that's an offer I'd be glad to accept."

Isabel draped her carry-bag around her neck and tried to push the wheelbarrow by herself, but to her surprise, she couldn't even lift it. "Urgh! That's heavy - what's in it? Lead?"

The blue Korbat chuckled in sheer delight, then peeled back one corner of the cover and showed her a huge pile of thin grey metal bars. "Indeed it is. Lead! D'you know what it's for?"

Isabel shook her head.

"Stained glass windows," he said. He put both of his hands on one of the handles and left the other one free for Isabel. Together, they lifted the barrow and began to push it down the road.

"Stained glass windows?" Isabel grunted in surprise.

"Have you never seen any?"

Isabel shook her head. "We have a window in our village hall, but it's just clear glass."

"Well, we make patterns or pictures out of stained glass, and we use lead cames to separate the different pieces of coloured glass and hold them in place."

"Oh."

"I'm Malor Shortwing, by the way, but everybody calls me Master Malor."

"I'm Isabel Broadtail."

"Brightvale is famous for its stained glass windows, and I'm famous in Brightvale for making them," Master Malor went on, then grinned. "It's a small place. Everybody's famous for something."

"Is this Brightvale, then?" Isabel asked.

"Indeed it is. Were you going there, or are you lost?"

"I'm headed to - to Faerieland," Isabel explained. She didn't want to draw attention to her foot by mentioning the Healing Springs.

"Ah, now that's still a long way from here."

"Do you know how much further?"

But the old Korbat couldn't give her any specifics, and Isabel sighed.

"There was a time when I was about your age, I suppose, or a bit older, that I wanted desperately to go to Faerieland," Master Malor said.

"Didn't you have enough money?" Isabel asked.

"At that time I didn't. So I started to learn how to make glass, and later, when I did have enough money, I'd forgotten why I wanted to go in the first place." He smiled a little to himself as they entered the village.

Probably some silly desire for adventure, Isabel thought to herself with a private snort. She wasn't likely to forget her own reason for wanting to reach Faerieland, no matter how much money she earned.

They toiled through the village, past a shop that was selling different kinds of exotic fruits that Isabel had never seen before. She gazed hungrily as they went by, then looked away when the shopkeeper glanced curiously at her.

At last they came to a long, low cottage with brick walls and a thatched roof. Master Malor eased the wheelbarrow to a stop in front of the door, then took a large key from under the cover of the barrow and inserted it into the lock. "We'll just put this lead in here, and then we'll get you that drink."

They entered a workshop, and Isabel looked around in wonder, from the huge furnace at one end to the tables in the middle, covered with all kinds of tools. Her eyes were drawn to one particular table at the end farthest from the fire. It was white, where the others were dark, and there were pieces of coloured glass laid out on the surface to depict a tree.

"Oh, it's gorgeous!" she exclaimed, and Master Malor smiled in delight.

"D'you like that? Well, come and see this." He led her through a door into a kitchen area and pointed at the window in the wall. It showed two blue Korbats hovering in mid-air and reaching out to each other so that their hands were touching. There was a tiny castle in the background on one side, and some trees on the other side, with a small stream at the bottom.

"It's beautiful," Isabel breathed. It also made her homesick for the forest and her parents.

"I made that for my love when I became a master glazier," Master Malor said, then turned to the sink. "Sit down and rest your wings. I'll get you that water as thanks for your help with the lead."

He placed two elegantly shaped glasses and a pitcher full of water on the table, then reached over to the sideboard and picked up a covered dish. "D'you like graspberry pie?"

Isabel had never heard of graspberries, but she was hungry and willing to eat anything. "I'd love a piece, thank you."

"A Korbat matron on the other side of Brightvale always brings me some," Master Malor remarked as he cut generous piece for her, and a smaller one for himself and laid them out on octagonal plates of red glass. "She's either taking pity on an old widower, trying to fatten me up, or she thinks that the way to a Korbat's heart is through his stomach."

He took two red glass spoons from a drawer and extended one to Isabel. "Over the teeth, across the gums, look out stomach, here it comes. Again -- and again -- and again!"

Isabel laughed, and dug in happily.

There was a scratching sound from the door to the workshop, and Isabel turned to see a blue Draik standing there.

"Master Malor," he said with a curt nod. "Graspberry pie?"

"Indeed it is, as always. Come in and have a piece."

"Won't say no." The Draik didn't enter, but accepted the slice that the old Korbat had cut for himself, and took a large bite. Jabbing the spoon in Isabel's direction, he asked, "New assistant?"

Master Malor laughed. "No, just a helpful soul getting her well-deserved reward for helping me push the lead up the hill."

The Draik grunted and took another bite. "Any new windows done yet?"

"Indeed there are. Let me show you." Master Malor turned back to Isabel. "This is the shopkeeper who sells my windows, so I've got to talk business with him. You take as much pie as you like, and I'll be back in just a few minutes."

After Isabel had eaten two large slices and drained three glasses of water, she leaned back in her chair with a sigh of content. The two men were still busy in the workshop, discussing something, so Isabel turned her attention back to the stained glass window there in the kitchen. She couldn't help noticing how the lead strips didn't only hold the glass in place, but became part of the picture as well. Fascinated, she pulled her sketch pad and pencils out of her carry bag and began to copy the scene.

But as she worked, the details changed; the two blue Korbats became three red ones, the castle disappeared, and the trees became bigger. Isabel was just working on adding the family trunk, trying to decide exactly where to place the lead cames that would delineate it, when she felt somebody looking over her shoulder.

"Here, perhaps," Master Malor said, indicating a spot with his fingertip. Isabel sketched it in and then glanced up in case the older Korbat had any more helpful hints.

"I've been asked to make a scene for a window for a Korbat village hall," Master Malor remarked, seating himself on the other side of the table. "That's very similar to what I had in mind."

Isabel felt embarrassed. "Oh, I was just copying your design, really."

"You were doing better than just copying. I know you're on your way to Faerieland, but I wonder if I could convince you to stay a while. You could be my assistant for that time and earn a little extra cash to help you on your way. Also, if you keep sketching like that, I might even buy a design from you." Master Malor beamed down at her.

"How - how long would you want me to stay?" Isabel had been about to ask how much he would pay her, but didn't want to appear greedy. Any amount was more than she had.

"Would a month be too long? Or shall we say two weeks with an option to extend another two, if you feel like earning a bit more before you set out again?"

Isabel swallowed, trying to remain calm. "Thank you. I - I'd be delighted, if you're sure it's not too much trouble."

"It's not. I suppose you're used to sleeping outside in a family tree. I can't offer you that, but I do have a spare room you can use, and there's plenty of food, though you might get sick of graspberry pie before your time's up." His eyes twinkled.

"Thank you," Isabel said again, unable to hold back a grin at her good fortune. "Thank you very much!"

"Then let me show you the room, and you can rest tonight before I set you to work at the crack of dawn." With a teasing grin, Master Malor stood up and led her down a very short hallway. "Sitting room there, here's the door to the bathroom, and the stairs go up here."

They went up, and Master Malor opened one of two doors. The room was small, with a slanting roof, a window of amber glass, and a few boxes piled in one corner.

"I'm afraid you'll have to sleep on the floor tonight, until I can get a bar installed for you to hang on," Master Malor said, opening one of the boxes. He shut it again, then pushed it off the pile and opened the one underneath. "Ah! Here's a nice rug -- that should help."

"Oh, please don't go to any trouble for me," Isabel said, glancing guiltily down at her foot and then looking away again quickly in case he should see.

"It's no trouble."

Isabel consoled herself with the fact that there was a door and that nobody would be able to see her sleeping on the floor anyway.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» The Korbat Who Couldn't Hang: Part One
» The Korbat Who Coudn't Hang: Part Two
» The Korbat Who Couldn't Hang: Part Four
» The Korbat Who Couldn't Hang: Part Five



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