Story for the Day: Factotum
Langliegh is sort of a factotum around the keep: he does the carpenting, the blacksmithing, the leatherworking, among many other things, and while his work is always valued and appreciated, he still gets disgruntled when something he made breaks.
At last he came to the door of the workshoppe, and where he was expecting to find Langleigh working the bellows of his forge, he found the craftsman sitting at the bodger’s counter, hammering away at a bracing piece and grumbling something of its being the second chair in the course of a week that had broken. Never had anything, which his hand had fashioned, cracked and split so easily before. His chairs and benches, tools and weapons, all bore the reputation of being impregnable, all crafted and forged with the utmost care, every attention to detail paid, and here were two of his pieces—both of them masterfully made chairs, formed from the finest oak, turned and carved as only his hands could do—wrecked and destroyed within one week of each other. Such recklessness was an unforgiveable slight to his work, and Langleigh pounded away, attacking the bolts of the brace with his mallet with all the force that his frustration could evince. A dry and rasping laugh, the humphing assertion of “Only for a broken chair should the sky fall down” from the opposing corner of the workshoppe, and Langleigh paused and looked over his shoulder.
“What’re you laughin’ at, ol’jin?” he growled, resuming his hammering.
His partner, the old bodger, whose object it was to disdain Langleigh’s invented injustices, was leaning against the back wall of the workshoppe, packing his pipe with dried smoking balm and deriding his friend in the midst of his dour humour. Uncommon as it was to see Langleigh so disgruntled, it provided him with tolerable amusement, for while the bodger had always accepted what work he was given with a very good grace, Langleigh, being the keep’s factotum, was always disposed to be ill-tempered when one of his many pieces, which commanded all his pride and triumph as a craftsman, was maligned. It was a craftsman’s lot to be forever fixing or fashioning something or other, and while Langleigh would agree, the remaking of something that was contrived for eternal use at the first was a disconcertion never to be surmounted. His distemper was his own doing, the bodger thought, for who asked Langleigh to be so excellent at everything? Surely if he were a little less of a dobbin and a little less disposed to assume every responsibility, he should be less inclined to be such a crank. These were the bodger’s internal persuasions, and while he fleered and shook his head at his friend, he could not help but admire his insistence on having everything he created in perfect order. “I’s laughin’ at you, young-un,” said the bodger.
A curt hum of feigned indifference, and Langleigh continued with his work, despite the badgered continued simpers. Whether coopering or coppicing, whittling or withing, hedge-laying or dry stonewalling, Langleigh had mastered nearly every crafting profession and was obliged to call upon his extensive genius to summon some semblance of composure if he was to mend the broken chair that Aghatha had brought to him from Ruta. There could be no fault given to Bryeison for the incident; he knew that the fracture of the two front legs of one of his finest oaken pieces must have been due to some mischance, and yet to see his work destroyed, and to hear the bodger’s rasping commentary on the subject, was an affront to three of his mastered professions at least. His abilities could not be in question, for the king had always rather been used to praise his powers at making chairs as sturdy as they were stunning. He remembered that chair and how he had carved the oak for a whole two days together to obtain the right shape for the back and size for the seat. He thought upon first inspection of the wreck that the broken legs might be recovered, that he might have no need to recarve the intricate designs on the leg faces and might simply mend them with a few well-placed bolts, but the wood had split against the grain, had cracked and broken from immense stress, and there was nothing to do but to be very much aggravated and lament that all his exertion in etching unsalvageable.
“Ach!” the old bodger scoffed, “no one even sees that there carvin’ you made.”
“His Majesty saw,” was Langleigh’s stout reply.
“And after that, not a-one knew it was there.”
It was said to be provoking, but the vicious glare that accompanied the response conveyed that the bodger’s mockery was felt far beyond what even Langleigh’s solemn flouts could suggest. Underappreciated and overworked was how the craftsman had probably felt, regardless of the king’s being to see them to thank them for the great attention they gave their work. It was hardly enough to have his crafts recognized by the king; if they were not lasting, there was little point in his making anything at all. How long would it be until the next fracture, and the next, and the next? A week? A day? A few hours might bring another of his beloved pieces down to the shoppe—nay, why not a few minutes? He checked himself, sighing out his unreasonable woes with closed eyes, and then resumed his work, fitting a new oak leg into the bracer, wondering whether he had better not add another few decorative notches at the top of the support.