Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online

The Homestanders
Book Four of the Bradford Exiles
Wes Boyd
2005, 2011

Chapter 20

The opening day of the renfaire was in early July, and it was hot and sweaty. It was not a day to be wearing a woolen skirt, a woolen sash, and a long-sleeved white peasant shirt, along with the other accessories that went with the outfit. Although knife sales had gone very well, Vicky was wilting more than a little by the time the day came to an end. It was a little easier on Jason; he was wearing a sleeveless shirt, less regalia, and a kilt of a wool/synthetic blend that, while it may not have been as pure a product of sheep like Vicky’s, it was a heck of a lot cooler to wear.

As soon as the show wound down and they hauled the somewhat-lighter knife display cases back to the campsite. The first thing Vicky did was to get out of the outfit and into a swimsuit – a conservative two-piece, not the beyond-daring thong she’d teased Jason with a month earlier – and headed for the nearest hose. Still wet, but feeling somewhat better, she plopped down in a lawn chair behind the camper in the gathering dimness of late evening and started in on the iced tea to rehydrate, even while Jason was hosing himself down.

“Fun day,” Sandy grinned from under the awning of Second Home a few feet away. “I thought it went real well.”

“Not bad,” Vicky shook her head. “But I will be damned if I want to get into that hot, smelly wool outfit again tomorrow. Do you think they’d get pissed if I wore a tank top with the kilt or something?”

“You could,” Sandy grinned, sipping at a rehydrating beer herself while Dayna had some hot dogs on the grill. “Most people at these things dress a lot more lightly than they would have on a hot day in the old days. I sometimes wonder how they managed to do it way back when. Couldn’t do any better, I guess. But hey, if you want, we can dig around in the costumes. Some of my older stuff ought to fit you pretty close, and I can probably find something that looks the part but is a bit cooler.”

“God, I’d appreciate it,” Vicky sighed. “Thanks, Sandy.”

“A bit hot,” Dayna agreed. “I’d be tempted to sneak down to the lake and jump in, but I’m afraid there’d be a jetskier out to get me. Oh well, we could wait till after dark and join the skinnydippers.”

“Probably no jetskier,” Vicky sighed. “Bert dropped by along in the afternoon and told us there hadn’t been any sign of him the rest of the day.”

“With good reason,” Dayna laughed.

Vicky shook her head. “The hell of it is I’ve been around that thing enough to know you literally can’t hit the broad side of a barn with it, but that watermelon was heading for the kid like it had eyes. I thought it was a square hit for sure.”

“I sure would have liked to have seen that,” Jason laughed, joining the conversation, dripping wet himself. “Dayna, Sandy, for not having a keyboard, a blues band, and a symphony orchestra to back you up, the two of you put on a hell of a show.”

“We’ve reworked it from last year some,” Dayna said. “Of course, we’re always reworking it, or else it gets boring. Vicky, you like a hot dog? I’ve got plenty.”

“Sure, throw one on for me,” she replied.

“How about you, Jason?”

“I could stand a couple,” Jason nodded in exhaustion. “I had a brat along in the middle of the afternoon, but towards the end there we just got too damn busy to get away. I’ve been to gun and knife shows where I didn’t move knives half as well at lots lower prices.”

“Told ya,” Sandy grinned. “I haven’t been through the cash box yet, but from the cartons it looks like we moved a few CDs, too. It really helped to have the extra hands. It’s usually just Dayna and me selling them, trying to autograph them, and schmooze with fans at the same time.”

“Yeah, I remember that from when I was with Dayna down south that time,” Vicky agreed. “This really is a lot of fun, even though the heat takes something out of you.”

It got dark as they sat under Second Home’s awning, and over the next hour or so, they had more than a hot dog; they had several, along with chips and other goodies. After a while, Dayna pulled out the old six-string Gibson she’d bought in high school and which was still her favorite guitar, although she didn’t use it in shows anymore since it really wasn’t glitzy enough. She started picking out some songs that really wouldn’t be appropriate for renaissance faires or young audiences. That brought some nearby campers and show people, and soon there was a small-bore party going on. It went late; Vicky had been to a Saturday night party of renfaire people before and knew it was one of the best parts of the whole deal.

It was cool the next morning when Vicky pulled on shorts and a T-shirt for the quick trip over to Second Home. Dayna and Sandy were still getting organized, but Sandy dug around in one of the compartments in the motor home and came up with a long, dark blue skirt and a corset. “A corset?” Vicky asked. “I’ve never worn one of those.”

“It’s actually pretty cool,” Sandy said. “About as bad as wearing a one-piece swimsuit. The skirt is ankle length, of course, but it’s two layers of light taffeta. I think you’ll find it cooler than wearing a shorter wool kilt.”

The skirt was no big deal, but it turned out there was a trick to being laced into a corset, one that Vicky needed another hand or two for. “No big deal,” Sandy said. “It’s one of those things that comes with practice. I’ve gotten to the point where I’d just as soon wear a corset as anything else, but I’ve been doing it for a while.”

It really was pretty snug when she got done lacing it up, but Vicky found she liked the sheer, smooth lines it gave to her waist – she’d lost enough weight by now that she actually had one again. A glance in Second Home’s full-length mirror showed it well, and while it flattened her bust line, it actually made her look fuller, with an even more impressive cleavage than she already had. “Not bad,” Sandy said.

During the week before Dayna and Sandy had helped Emily and Kevin put together sort of period costumes that would do the job, although they didn’t involve corsets; they were both dressed for business when they showed up not too long before the gates opened.

While Vicky planned on doing a little rambling of the grounds just on general principles, it had been hot enough the day before that she mostly planned on sitting in the shade of the booth working on knife handles with blades and gouges. It would let people see some work actually happening, though without the power machinery they had at home and employed for much of the process. It would be better than being out in the hot sun.

The customers coming by were about as interesting as the rest of the show anyway. Some of the costumes they wore were downright outlandish, as out of place in the renaissance as a man from Mars would be, but she knew a lot of the fun of the thing was the sheer dress-up thrill, and sometimes the fun was drawing attention by wearing something outlandish. She knew how that worked; she remembered Shae doing just the same thing, adding to her already extreme height with heels to draw attention.

“Hey, you’re looking good,” she heard a familiar voice say, and looked up to see Scott standing there – what timing! – and Sonja along with him. Aaron and Amber were there, too; they were dressed in drab, but Scott had on a peasant shirt and baggy pants, while Sonja had that spectacular belly dancer outfit on, looking like she’d just stepped out of a harem somewhere.

“Aye, M’Lord,” she replied, keeping in character despite the surprise of seeing the four. “’Twas not expectin’ to see your fine an’ friendly faces here today.”

“Oh, we try to get down here once a year,” Sonja explained. “Aaron and Amber have never been to one of these so we thought they ought to check it out, especially when we heard Dayna and Sandy were going to be here.”

“Aye, the show ’tis in about half an hour, ’tis,” she smiled. “’Tis usually a good crowd, so ’tis good ye got here to find a good seat.”

“My God,” Amber said in wonder. “These things are gorgeous! You actually make these?”

“Aye, lassie,” she smiled. “Everthin’ ye see, ’tis hewn and forged from the raw steel, an’ finished by the hands of Master MacRae or his apprentices, of which I’m proud to say I’m one. In other places on these grounds, ye’ll see blades that have been brought in from the ’eathen Chinee’, but the steel here is made from good Michigan iron and formed with good Michigan hands.” She continued on, talking about the process of making blades and finishing them – it was nothing she hadn’t said before, it was almost a standard presentation.

As she went on, she was barely aware of an intense discussion between Jason and a customer at the far end of the booth – it seemed to be getting a little heated but not yet enough to get concerned about. After a while, she heard Jason’s voice calling her. “M’Lady Varney,” he said. “Yon customer has a belief tha’ blades here canna fly true. Might ye be willin’ to assist in a wee demonstration?”

“Of course, M’Lord,” she said, knowing with a grin what he was talking about. “You’re thinkin’ ’twould be best upon yon stage?”

“Aye,” he said, picking up a handful of throwing knives as she got up. “Tha’ would seem to be tha’ best spot.”

“Very well, sir,” she said and turned to the Heislers and the Tylers, who were clearly wondering what was going on. “Ladies, gentlemen, if you’ll excuse me for a moment, I must assist ma master.”

The low “main stage” stood only a few feet away. It was built of rough wood, with a solid wood backdrop. Vicky walked over to the stage beside Jason, who in a gentlemanly fashion held her hand as she climbed the steps. Both Sandy and Dayna were talking with customers, but noticed them and turned to watch.

Without any discussion, Vicky walked over to the backdrop at a corner of the stage, and put her back against the wall, arms at her side, while Jason, equally silent, nodded, raised a blade, and flipped it in her direction. It stuck in the wall a foot or so to one side of her head as she stood there without flinching. In an instant, another one stuck in the wall on the other side. In quick succession, four more knives followed, two on each side of her.

“I tell ye, sir,” Jason said to the customer who had been watching. “A MacRae knife flies straight as an’ arrow and true as M’Lady’s heart.”

“Well, yeah,” the customer said snottily. “But there’s gotta be a trick to it; you know how to do it. I can’t get a knife to throw like that.”

“Aye, sir, there’s a trick to it,” Jason replied haughtily. “Tha’ trick is called practice; ye dinnae learn overnight, but most anyone kin learn, they can.” He turned to Vicky, who by now had pulled the knives from the wall and brought them back up to him. “M’Lady, if you’d be so kind, unless, sir, ye’d be willin tae be th’ object of the demonstration.”

Jason didn’t give him any time to answer, and turned and walked over to the wall, where he turned and looked at Vicky. “M’Lady, if you will,” he said.

Rather nonchalantly, Vicky took one of the knives from the bundle in her left hand, eyed the distance and seemingly flipped it in his general direction. The knife hit the wall and stuck a foot out from his head, maybe a little more. In quick succession, she followed with the other five, the knives all sticking a comfortable distance from Jason, who stood there without a trace of nerves. When she was out of ammunition, he pulled the knives from the wall and walked back towards her as she stole a glance out beyond the stage. To many of the people gathering for the show it was just a routine, casual knife throwing demonstration, the kind of thing you’d expect to see around a renfaire – but the Holsts, the Heislers, the Tylers, and Dayna and Sandy all had their jaws hanging open.

“My God, Vicky!” Emily’s voice rang out. “Did Augie know you could do that?”

“Aye, M’Lady,” she replied with a big grin. “Had the bastard I divorced ever forced me to heave a blade at him, he knew I wouldn’t hae missed.” She turned to the customer, who seemed a little squelched by now. “As ma master said, there’s a trick to it, an’ it’s called practice. He started teachin’ me tae throw a blade nigh on tae twenty years ago, when I was but a wee lassie. I’ll nae be as good as he, but I’m as good as I need tae be. But I’ll tell ye, sir, ’twas many years before the master had confidence enough in my skills tae stand in front of me like tha’.”

“Uh, yeah, uh, I see,” the guy said, still flabbergasted at what had just gone on.

“Now, sir,” Jason said from where he had joined Vicky. “Might ye be interested in a wee bit o’ trade?”

As Jason and the customer settled into a serious discussion of buying a set of throwing knives, Vicky walked back over to the booth where her friends were waiting, barely able to hide her smugness about what she knew was coming.

“My God, Vicky!” Emily gasped, still hardly able to believe what she’d just seen. “I’ve known you all these years, and I never knew you could do something like that!”

“What?” Vicky grinned, resolving to not screw around with the fake accent for a minute. “Throw a knife like that, or stand up to one being thrown at me?”

“Either one,” Emily shook her head. “My God, I could never do that. Either one!”

“Probably not,” Vicky grinned. “At least not now. Tell you what. Let me grab those knives for a second. Anyone here want to go stand up against the wall in front of me?”

There was quite a bit of embarrassed silence in front of her, a few gulps, but no answers. “How about in front of Jason?” she asked. “I mean, you all know he’s good.”

“I saw him hit that pumpkin back at the Halloween party,” Aaron gulped. “I thought it was a trick too.”

“Nobody, huh?” Vicky grinned. “I was maybe ten or eleven when I first let Jason do it, no more than that, it was before he married Christine. I guess I was too young to be scared. I knew he was good; I’d watched him practice enough, and practiced with him enough. I mean, I trusted him, just like he trusts me.”

“How come you never let on when you were in school?” Emily asked. “I mean, that you could throw knives like that.”

“Hell, I had a hard enough time getting dates as it was,” she snorted. “The fact is that we decided to not tell anyone, I mean, except Christine and my parents. There’s too many do-gooder busybodies like Lynnette Hershberger running around; they’d have had a shit fit. Besides, if we hadn’t decided that, I could have been tempted to show off sometime, and someone could have gotten hurt. Or worse, someone might have thought it was easier than it is, like maybe my brothers.”

That wasn’t showing off?” Sonja said, wide-eyed.

“Well, I’m not a kid anymore,” Vicky smirked. “Actually, I’d pretty much given it up by the time I was in high school, but since I’ve been back in Bradford, Jason and I have spent the odd evening knocking off the rust. I’m really not as good as he is. If you noticed, I cut him a little more safety zone than he cut me.”

“And Augie knew that?” Emily asked again.

“Not really,” she sighed. “He saw me land a knife a few times, but it was just screwing around; I was out of practice, and he thought I was lucky. There was one time, though, that if I could have gotten to a knife I would have gladly used it on him. I’m just as glad now I couldn’t. It was bad enough being with him, jail would have been worse.”

“My God, I don’t know how you can do it,” Emily replied, still exhibiting obvious awe at what she’d just seen. “I don’t know how I could ever have the guts to stand up and let someone throw a knife next to my head.”

“M’Lady,” Vicky grinned, reverting to the fake accent. “The master an’ I may hae a few issues we’re yet to work out between us, but trust is not one o ’em.”

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To be continued . . .

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