Domeric found it difficult to contain his excitement when he finally arrived at Redfort. The journey seemed to have taken an eternity and he was quite eager to reach his new foster home. He’d been pleasantly surprised when his father informed him that he was to be fostered at Redfort. Domeric had only left the Dreadfort a handful of times before, and had never been out of the North. Roose and Bethany Bolton had not been willing to risk their only child.
Yet under his excitement, he was afraid. He’d never been so far from home before. These southerners were strange to him. Would they like him? Could Redfort ever feel like home? At least the journey itself had been quite interesting. They’d traveled down the White Knife to White Harbor and taken a ship from there to Gulltown. All of this proved to be very exciting. It wasn’t the first time Domeric had seen the sea, but it was his first sea voyage. That had proven to be both exciting and frightening. It was somewhat of a relief when they finally arrived at their destination.
As far as he could tell, the Vale was rather different from the North. The gods were different, for one thing. Domeric had no experience with the Seven and had never so much as seen a sept. The Old Gods no longer had dominion here, and that thought made him profoundly uncomfortable. He doubted a sept could possibly substitute for the godswood at home.
Redfort itself was an imposing castle with thick walls. They did not compare with those of the Dreadfort, but Domeric was still impressed. It was constructed out of red stone, which no doubt gave it its name. They were seen immediately and the gate opened. Domeric and Father rode into the courtyard, accompanied by several men-at-arms. They promptly dismounted. “Go fetch Lord Redfort!” someone called out. “The Bolton boy is here!” A handful of men in Redfort colors rushed into the keep.
Domeric looked at his father, apprehension growing on his face. He was extremely grateful for Father’s presence, an island of familiarity in the midst of uncertain new territory. “You need not be nervous, Domeric,” Father said, sensing his mood.
“I’ll try not to be,” said Domeric, voice low enough that only Father could hear.
They were interrupted by the appearance of Lord Redfort. Domeric studied the man who was to be his foster father. He was a short, stocky man with a well-kept beard and mild eyes. He stood at ease, but it was obvious to Domeric that he was a hard man. That didn’t worry him, not after growing up with a father like his. Lord Redfort strode over to them.
“Lord Roose,” he began, giving Father a short bow. “It’s been some time since the Rebellion.”
“Indeed,” Father replied, returning the bow. “Allow me to present my son.”
“You must be Domeric,” Lord Redfort said, stepping closer to look him over. The scrutiny made Domeric feel as if he were a horse for sale. He pushed aside the discomfort he felt and bowed courteously.
“Thank you for the welcome, my lord.” As he spoke, Lord Redfort strained slightly to hear him better.
Redfort nodded in response. “Come this way and I’ll show you to your room. We’ll see your men quartered in the barracks while they are here.” Domeric glanced over at Father, who gave him a small nod. He followed Redfort into the castle.
As they walked through the halls of Redfort, Domeric tried to take in his surroundings. There was little opportunity to do so, for Lord Redfort had no intention of dallying. Before long they arrived at the room that was to be his. Redfort took a key from his belt and handed it to him. “This will be your room for the duration of your time here. I will have your baggage brought up presently.” He took his leave and Domeric unlocked the door.
The room was smaller than his room at the Dreadfort, but it was well-furnished. A wide window provided an excellent view of the courtyard. He smiled when he saw that there was a bench beneath the window. At home he liked to sit at his window and play his harp. He had a breathtaking view from his window and liked to watch the Weeping Water winding its way past the Dreadfort. His harp was carefully packed away in his baggage. Domeric sincerely hoped he’d have time to practice it while here.
He sat down on the bed as another wave of homesickness hit him. Many might’ve called the Dreadfort a grim place for a child to grow up, but Domeric never saw it that way. It was his home. He thought wistfully of playing his harp at the window and riding in the woods along the river. This place was completely foreign to him. He would soon be isolated, cut off from all that was familiar.
Domeric hadn’t been in his new room long before Father entered. He looked around the room for several minutes before turning to face Domeric. “You are still nervous.”
“Yes, Father,” he whispered. “I’m feeling homesick.”
Father sat beside him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “You will be fine, Domeric. You adjusted well at Barrowton; you will adjust to life here.”
“Do not worry. You are a talented and clever boy. Your mother and I have no doubt that you will make us proud.” He patted Domeric on the shoulder once before taking his leave.
Domeric slowly made his way down from his room, doing his best to hide his nervousness. He wasn’t used to associating with people his own age. But along with the nervousness, a tide of excitement rose in him. He hoped Lord Redfort’s sons would be friendly.
He met them downstairs in the great hall. There were four of them. There was not a strong family resemblance between them and Domeric recalled that only the two youngest shared a mother. Lord Redfort had been wed thrice.
The oldest of them stepped forward. “I take it you are Domeric Bolton?” Domeric nodded in response. “I’m Jasper Redfort. Welcome to Redfort.” He was a broad, stocky man several years Domeric’s senior. He strode up to Jasper Redfort and grasped his arm firmly in greeting, hoping his anxiety was not too obvious. Both his parents were adept at hiding their emotions, to the point where Domeric sometimes doubted his father had emotions. Domeric was not as adept as they were, but he did not want to appear weak and afraid in front of Redfort’s sons.
“I am pleased to meet you,” said Domeric steadily.
“The same,” said Jasper with an easy smile. “These are my brothers- Creighton, Jon and Mychel.” Domeric greeted each of them in turn, relaxing a bit as they welcomed him with smiles. The two youngest were of an age with him and Domeric dared to hope they might become his companions. Mayhap they could become his friends.
From the high table, Father caught Domeric’s eye. He gave a very slight nod. The last of Domeric’s nervousness began to slip away as he followed the Redfort brothers to the high table.
Maybe Redfort would become a home away from home after all.