Here is the first chapter of a book I’m working on called The Jeweler and the Dragon Lord
Merek Stonefield delicately tapped his jeweler’s hammer against the side of the ring. Each movement precise and well-placed as the slightest irregular beat could cause a crater instead of a delicate pattern. It had taken three months to get Lord Carvelle’s engagement ring done before his engagement party in three weeks. Why Carvelle didn’t use any of the rings his family had no doubt stored in the family vault, he didn’t ask. Part of a craftsman’s training was to know when it was all right to question the client and interrogating one over his family’s jewelry collection was never acceptable. Especially if the rumors of Carvelle’s dead mother’s debts had any fact to them. More than one family fortune had gone by the wayside through gambling, man and woman.
“You done with that ring yet, you lazy oaf?” Ulric Green, Merek’s master, shouted from the display area.
“Almost,” he shouted back, not bothering to turn his attention from the piece. Merek tamped down the urge to scream at the Master Jeweler. He had only taken the apprenticeship with Ulric because Merek had wanted to be closer to his father. Apprenticeship lasted four years and halfway through his training his father had died in a carriage accident. Unfortunately it was a too late to try and find another master. His reputation was now tied up with Ulric’s and if Master Ulric claimed Merek was incompetent he would never get his official license. Even the enchanter’s jewel guild wouldn’t help him. Ulric was a star member while Merek wasn’t even accepted into the guild yet.
Having survived under the yoke of Ulric’s mentorship. Merek would be damned before he gave up in the last month. He just had to present examples of his work, jewelry that he had bought the supplies for and then stashed with great care away under a loose floorboard in the narrow room he called home.
Ulric stomped into the workshop, a cold smile on his lip, Carvelle sent his manservant over to pick up his rings.”
“Now?” His voice ended in a squeak. They weren’t ready and wouldn’t for at least a few more hours.
“This afternoon. Have them ready before the clock strikes two or I’ll throw you out.”
Merek didn’t bother to respond, He had three hours until two , and there was no way that Ulric would get rid of him, not now, not when it would mean Ulric would have to finish up the work. He mentally calculated the remaining steps in finishing the pieces. He could do it in that amount of time but it would take every second to get them ready. He muttered a curse. John would be angry that he was blowing off dinner, again.
He set down the ring and grabbed a bit of parchment. Better to let John know he wouldn’t be there than to risk standing him up again. This would end their relationship, shallow as it was. He held back a deep sigh as he scrawled out a note and sent it along with a messenger with a bit of coin.
He had been foolish to think he could handle a boyfriend and an apprenticeship at the same time. The door swung shut behind him as he returned to the workshop. No rest for him until he finished the piece. This would be the ultimate engagement ring. It could make his career. He set another diamond into the band pressing his magic to melt it with metal. The application of magic to metal took a find level of control not everyone could master. It had taken three year into his apprenticeship before Merek had any confidence he wouldn’t leave his work in a puddle of molten metal and liquified gems.
Two hours later, Merek rubbed a soft cloth across the ring to bring out the shine as he sang a soft stone song designed to bring out the best characteristics of a gem. “One day I’ll travel to the dwarven hills and dig up my own stones.” Dreams filled his head as he placed the now glowing ring into a jeweler box.
Snapping the box closed to entered the shop and handed over the finished product.
Ulric stared at Merek for a minute without speaking. “Done then?”
“Yes, Master Ulric.”
“Hmm, took you long enough. I might have to add a few demerits to your apprenticeship.”
Merek’s fingers curled. He tucked his hands behind his back to resist the urge to choke the life out of his asshole of a master. “You could sir, but you’d have to explain it to the guild.”
The guild had strict rules on how apprenticeships could be graded and any discrepancies could have Ulric lose his Master license.
“Hmm,” Ulric glared.
Merek waited, keeping his expression calm and untroubled. He should’ve signed up with the actor’s guild. “Does it meet your expectations, sir?”
Ulric snapped open the box, but didn’t speak.
Shit. He hated it. Merek bit the inside of his cheek tasting blood. It hadn’t occurred to him that Ulrik might not his work. His confidence began to sink faster than a freighter ship in a bad storm.
“You have done well. Very well.” Ulric snapped the box closed. “I have been an excellent teacher.”
Merek didn’t interrupt Ulric’s self-congratulations. If he spoke now he would say something he would regret. He still needed a letter of recommendation and his Mark for passing his apprenticeship.
“Thank you, sir.”
“I’ll deliver this myself. I can’t trust something this valuable to a servant. Come, you can go with me. It is always a treat to see how a client likes your work.”
Merek tensed at the unexpectedly generous offer. Ulric did nothing without compensation. What was his angle?
“Thank you, sir,” Merek repeated. What else could he say? He took off his jeweler apron and brushed his hair.
It took but a minute or two for Ulric to lock the store up behind them. Merek dutifully followed after his master as they traversed the cobbled lane leading to the better part of town. If the Carvelle family had lost most of their fortune, at least they hadn’t lost their manor house.
Three stories formed from a gleaming white stone, it shone in the afternoon sun like a beacon of wealth and beauty. The soon to be Mrs. Carvelle must be feeling quite smug about now.
They were met in the entryway by Lord Carvelle’s manservant who led them to the drawing room. “Master Jeweler Ulric Greene and his apprentice,” he announced in a grand tone.
One day soon Merek would be important enough to be given a name during introductions, but that wasn’t today.
“And what is this apprentice’s name?”
“Merek Stonefield, sir,” Ulric provided.
Merek didn’t dare speak. The man standing beside Lord Carvelle was uncommonly handsome with a sharp angular face, sparkling black eyes and the devil’s grin.
Fuck him. The Dragon Earl was in town.
“Greetings, Master Green, did you finish my ring?” Lord Carvelle brushed aside the Earl’s interest in Merek as if it didn’t deserve further attention.
“Yes.” Ulric handed over the ring.
Merek bit his lip to hold back his objections. He should’ve known Ulric would steal his work. It wasn’t enough that Merek would never see a dime of the profits and had to live off the pittance provided for his care, now he wouldn’t get credit for his work.
Carvelle flipped open the box and frowned. “This doesn’t look like your work, Master Greene. You have such a distinctive style.”
Merek switched his focus from Carvelle to Ulric , then back again. What would Ulric do?
With an oily grin, Ulric responded. “In order to finish off his mastery Merek had to design a final piece. I thought you would appreciate being the first piece of a newly granted Mastery but if you dislike the piece.”
“I thought you said you designed it?” the dragon lord said.
“I misspoke.” Ulric said smoothly. “I’m sure I can design another if this isn’t to your tastes.”
“And what is your opinion of this Mr. Stonefield, or is it Master Stonefield.”
“Not until Master Greene approves my final papers will it be Master. If the ring isn’t to Lord Carvelle’s tastes, of course Master Greene will provide another one. The client is always right.” A fact that doesn’t change no matter the craft.
“Oh no, you two misunderstood. I find the ring absolutely exquisite. I just didn’t think it appeared to be Master Greene’s style. My dear Ophelia will be enchanted to be first to receive such a modern piece from a new designer. She does love to set the fashion.” A wide smile crossed Lord Carvelle’s face and despite what the gossips claimed, the fond look in his eyes proved he had at least affection for his fiancé, if not true love.
A scowl crossed Ulric’s face, quickly banished before Lord Carvelle turned back. “I’m glad you like the ring, I’ll send the bill over tomorrow.”
“Let me take care of this.” The dragon lord offered a handful of gold to Ulric. “I’m sure you’ll have Mr. Stonefield’s apprentice papers filed tomorrow?” He turned to Merek and dropped two gold coins in his hand. “A tip for your excellent and timely work.”
Merek blushed then gave a hasty bow. “Thank you, your grace.” He kept his eyes lowered until the dragon lord walked away. He didn’t want his appreciation of the earl’s beauty to be obvious. Some people were too beautiful to be real and angering a dragon lord over staring wasn’t on his list of things he wanted to do. Blackflame was part of the royal dragon family and cousin to the king. Offending him would be the last thing Merek would ever do.
They bowed their way out of the room and left as fast as they came. Ulric didn’t speak until they returned to the shop. “Get your things and get out,” he snapped.
“What?” Merek froze, his feet stuck in place. “What have I done?”
“An up and coming designer as yourself should be able to handle life on your own,” Ulric sneered.
“But Master, I did nothing to instigate that,” he protested.
“The duke has spoken. Your apprenticeship is over. I can teach you no more.”
Merek swallowed the lump in his throat. As much as he longed to be free of Ulric the abruptness left him off-kilter. Without a word he climbed the stairs to his small room and grabbed a satchel he had purchased a few month ago. It wasn’t large but neither were his belongings.
Excitement and wariness battled for dominance. His hand shook as he pried up the loose floorboard and grabbed everything within. Before Ulric could barge inside he put back the board and shoved his clothing on top. His small jeweler took kit and his notebooks quickly followed. A visual sweep of the room proved he had left nothing behind. The duke had done him both a boon and a disservice at the same time. The few gold coins he’d been given would get him a bed at an inn but that little bit of gold wouldn’t get him far.
He went down the stairs to meet his Master, or ex-Master now.