The Farmer's Grandson: Part One

The Ties that Bind

Malikar, a mere boy of seventeen, awoke every morning and brushed his mousey brown hair from his eyes. He spent two minutes getting ready, three to eat breakfast, and then he was out the door. He didn't have time to enjoy the morning rays of light breaking through his window, and he certainly didn't have time to sleep in.

Malikar was a farmer. He used to be the farmer's grandson, however his grandfather had passed away after years of the physical abuse of working the farm finally broke the old man's body.

Grandfather had been worried for Malikar, he wondered what the boy would do without his help, and without his guidance.

Theirs was a small farm, it only needed two men to be tended to, however, as Grandfather grew older, Malikar had to take on more of the chores.

The small family had a chicken coop, a herd of sheep, and two fields from which they grew a different plant for each season. This was enough to sustain them, it was enough to pay the high rent on their land.

They lived in the country of Numeron, and wide and spacious nation, led by the royal family of Keringer. The country was in the middle of a years long war, however, Malikar and his Grandfather lived far away from the border, in the Herren Province. They remained unaffected by the outside world.

When Grandfather had died, Malikar buried him under a tree that was next to the west field. He dug all night, without a break, and then just as the dawn sun was rising, Malikar shoved his beloved grandfather into the grave. He was torn inside over the ill treatment of the body, over the lack of proper respect. However, Malikar knew that he had to keep the death of his grandfather a secret for as long as he could, for the lord who ruled over their province would have taken the farm away.

Lord Herren was a young and cruel man. He had threatened the livelihood of all the small time farmers on his land, telling them that it would be more profitable for him to let a plantation take over the territory. There were whispers that he only allowed them to stay because he loved to torment them. Terror bore into many a farmer's heart when they saw the pale nobleman's carriage bumble its way towards them on the dirt road winding through the province.

Malikar wanted to avoid all of that. If he lost the farm, then he would lose everything. He had never been off of the Herren province, and he was too scared to find out what lay beyond it.

So, he buried his last bit of family in the world, and vowed to keep the farm in shape, despite the heavy workload that he would have to take on.

Malikar didn't think of his Grandfather much anymore. The boy spent his days, quiet and isolated on the farm, doing the many chores required of him. The only companion Malikar had was his dog, a stray that had decided to make the farm it's home. The dog's name was Gohe.

Every so often, Malikar and Gohe would spend a night in one of the two fields. There had been rumors of coyotes attacking farm animals in the area, so Malikar stayed out among the sheep that lived in the west field. Gohe would warn him of any predators, and then Malikar would scare them off with a torch.

It was on one fateful fall night, with a chilly breeze blowing eastward, that Malikar and Gohe sat by an open flame, trying to gather what small warmth they could from the fire. Malikar had been spacing out, his mind entering the numb emptiness that it usually did, with no one to talk to. He didn't need to think to do the farm work, so Malikar had shifted to living with his baser instincts, losing what social abilities he had gained from his grandfather.

Sure, he would have conversations with the other Farmers, with the townspeople when he went to market. He would have a curt conversation every month with the Province Tax Collector, but beyond that, he remained silent.

Lord Herren had tried to engage Malikar in conversation many times. He would come by and ask about Grandfather, because he hadn't seen the old man in some time, or he would ask how the sheep were doing.

It never bothered Malikar that the cold man bothered him with such trivial questions, or that he had been appearing more often then was normal. Malikar didn't think anymore, he had retreated into the safety that was his mind.

So, Malikar sat in his field, with Gohe. He didn't think about his Grandfather, he didn't think about how the farm was deteriorating, and he didn't think about Lord Herren.

Malikar was so deep into his non-thoughts, with a blank look in his eyes, that he didn't notice the quite audible footsteps of an approaching human. Gohe the dog did, however.

Malikar was brought back to the present when Gohe stood up, and started growling, his hair rising ominously on his back. The young man raised his torch, prepared to scare any offending coyote that entered the campground.

The grass rustled loudly, and a shadow of a figure started to form in the weak firelight.

Malikar's eyes widened as he realized that it was a man who stepped out into the light.

That is to say, a young man. He looked no older than Malikar, but was taller. He had corn-yellow hair, and bright blue eyes. His clothes were not something to brag about, and he carried a satchel over his shoulder. His face was smudged with dirt, and his shoes were in tatters. If one were to look closely however, one would notice that the teenager was not wanting for food, or muscle. He was well built, after a short lifetime devoted to hard labor.

He smiled as he approached Malikar, his teeth glistening in the firelight, along with his eyes.

"Hey there fellow!," he said amiably, "Tis' been a few long days since I've seen a welcoming flame."

To Malikar's horror, the man simply dumped his bag on the ground, unloaded a weathered blanket, and spread himself out. This clear and shocking lack of respect for land boundaries made a feeling that had been absent from Malikar's heart stir once again. He felt anger rise from the squatter's utter lack of courtesy. It was illegal to stay on private farmland, and the punishment was severe.

Malikar's voice was dry from the lack of use, but he managed to croak out: "Wha…What, pray tell, do you think you are doing?"

The young man stared at him curiously for a moment, and then a wide and friendly smile spread along his face, "Ah, you must be a newbie. The squatter law is that you share your fire, friend, and your foodstuffs!" with that, he stared hungrily at Malikar's beans, which were currently cooking over the flame.

"Those look mighty good!" The boy exclaimed. He then reached into his pack, and drew out a package of what appeared to be jerky.

"This will be my offering to the meal," he said happily, holding out a piece for Malikar.

The two boys stared at each other, one refusing to accept the food, and the other slightly puzzled at the apparent rejection of hospitality.

"Alright than, I'll just give it to the dog," the boy said, tossing the piece to Gohe, who happily chewed up the leathery piece of meat.

"By the way, the name's Rooke." he said.

The intruder was ignored however, as Malikar was glaring at Gohe for being such a traitor.

"I shouldn't have taken you in." he muttered to the dog.

Rooke stared at Malikar for a moment, wondering if the boy was all right in the head.

"Hey man," he said calmly, "What's your deal? You don't need to be so cold."

Malikar turned his forceful glare over to Rooke, "My deal is, you're sitting in the middle of my Grandfather's farm, and squatters are certainly not welcome, so I ask you to leave." he practically yelled, breathing hard from the exertion of energy that he put into his words.

Once again, Rooke watched the boy calmly. "Your Grandpa, huh?...where is the old man?"

Malikar was caught up for a moment, he hadn't yet been asked directly where Grandfather was yet. "He's back at the cabin." he muttered.

The silence was heavy.

"Hey man, I just need a piece of dirt to rest on for the night, I won't steal the chickens, or nuttin." Rooke said, his eyes sincere.

Malikar paused for a moment, considering. "…Naw, you go sleep on the road. Grandfather always said, never trust a squatter."

Rooke nodded his head, "Sure, sure, gotta do what the old pops says."

With that, the young man stood up, gathered his belongings, and left the ring of light that the fire emanated.

Gohe whined softly as he left.

"Oh, do be quiet." Malikar whispered, eyes searching the direction that Rooke had left in.

The following day, Malikar trotted swiftly back to the old log farmhouse. He had already fed the chickens, and the sheep were content in their field. Malikar had less work to do in the fall, because he only grew spring and summer produce.

As he neared the house, he saw Lord Herren's horse, Koiu, tied to the surrounding fence. It was only a second later that he saw the nobleman himself.

Lord Herren barely managed a brisk smile that didn't reach his eyes as Malikar approached. The man was as pale as snow, and no warmth emanated from his body, or his soul.

"Hello young Malikar." Lord Herren greeted the teenager.

Malikar hated that Lord Herren called him young, for the nobleman himself was only a few years older. When they were boys, Herren would sneak out to the farm, and insist that Malikar play with him. Because he was the late Lord Herren's son, Malikar was forced to do so, despite the many chores that he had to finish everyday.

It wouldn't have mattered much if he did his chores while playing anyway, because the young Lord Herren always insisted on playing 'Lord and Farmer'. This game usually consisted of Herren ordering Malikar around, telling him to clean this, or do that.

Herren always told Malikar that they would be best friends, if only Malikar wasn't at such a low station. He often explained to the young farmer that Malikar was just a notch above savage, and that Herren was helping him, by gracing Malikar with his noble and educated presence.

However, as the two boys grew older, the Elder Herren's wife decided that her son would benefit from being sent to school in the city. Every summer, he would come back, but with each year, he grew even more and more snobbier.

His fellow rich and higher-class friends would visit, and taunt Malikar as he worked. The shy and quiet boy would just ignore them, and every night Herren would sneak out of the Lord's Manor, and run down the hill to Malikar's farm.

As Grandfather snored in the main room, Herren would slink into Malikar's bunk, and place his arm over Malikar's chest, while stroking the boy's hair with his pale hand. He would whisper apologies into Malikar's ear, saying that the young Lord's friends only taunted Malikar because they were scared of him, and that Herren had to join in because his mother didn't want him to be friends with the farmer's grandson.

The first time Herren had snuck into Malikar's room, the young farmer had gasped, and tried to jump out of the bed.

"No!" Herren had whispered urgently, "Be not afraid, it is only me…it is so cold in the Manor, and I thought that it would be warmer here."

Malikar had never talked during those night visits, when Herren would sleep next to him. He did watch the older boy's face as he slept, and it never seemed to become less cruel, or even less cold.

However, one day Herren did not awake before Grandfather, and the old man found the young noble in bed with his grandson. He didn't suspect anything, he just simply woke the boy, and told him that he best be off. Herren never said a word; he simply left, and never returned during the night.

All of that was years past however, and the two boys grew distant. Lord Herren married an appropriate match, one that his mother approved of. His wife was expecting their first child.

Malikar didn't think about their past as he stared blankly at the young Lord, waiting for the reason as to why Herren had come.

"So, boy, the Tax Collector has mentioned to me that you have been paying the fees lately, instead of your Grandfather…" Lord Herren said, taking a step towards Malikar with each word.

Once again, Malikar was unsure of how to respond, however he found that sometimes when you took a few moments to answer, the person you were having a conversation with would keep speaking, to fill the silence.

Lord Herren sighed, "Ah…no matter, perhaps the old man is feeling his age?" he muttered, "Well, to the point…I came to tell you that the Manor needs double the wool this time," he smiled, teeth white and perfect as ever, "The wife is due soon, as you must have heard, and the silly thing has gotten it into her head that she will knit the baby's clothes herself."

Malikar waited. Lord Herren awkwardly shifted his weight back and forth, from one foot, to the other. He kept his eyes off of Malikar.

"Double the amount it is then." Malikar said, starting for the cabin door.

As he started to pass Lord Herren, the older man grabbed Malikar by the wrist to stop him. His hand felt like ice.

"Malikar, I would like to see your grandfather in person soon. The farm is not producing enough to make a good profit; you both are lagging far behind the other farmsteads. The old man and I need to discuss things, such as your future. I doubt he will be around much longer."

Lord Herren said this with out any emotion, however his grip tightened at the word 'future'. Malikar once again felt anger course through his veins.

"Sir, I wouldn't dream of you being concerned for my future, and I suspect that if I were to lose the farm, I would simply leave." the young man muttered angrily.

Lord Herren laughed coldly, "Leave? Where would you go Malikar, you have nothing. Would you become a mangy squatter perhaps?" The nobleman shook his head in disdain; "You would be much better off by coming to work in the Manor…perhaps as a butler."

The cruel man's eyes seemed to glow with the possibilities. With Malikar living under his roof, and with his wife gone to the city so much…perhaps…perhaps…Lord Herren didn't let his mind stray too much, that time would come.

"I have work to do." Malikar said, breaking Lord Herren from his thoughts. The nobleman didn't say another word; he simply retracted his grip from Malikar, and strode off to his horse.

As Malikar watched him go, he couldn't help but get an ominous feeling. He had never trusted Lord Herren, and he wasn't about to start now.

"Come Gohe." he said to the dog, and the two walked into the cabin, to prepare for rest.

The next morning, Malikar awoke to the sounds of pots clanging, and the smells of good food cooking. For a moment, he wondered if everything after his Grandfather's death had been a dream, and that the beloved old man was up now, preparing a hearty meal.

"Mornin' kid!" a jovial voice shouted out.

Malikar's eyes widened, and he quickly jumped out of bed…to be met with the sight of Rooke cooking at his stove!

"Wha…wha…what the hell are you DOING?" Malikar stuttered madly.

Rooke chuckled, "I'm making a good breakfast, what does it look like?" Meanwhile, Gohe stood at his feet, wagging his tail across the floor.

This was not happening, Malikar thought. He quickly grabbed the hunting knife next to his bed, and advanced on Rooke, whose arrogant smile never faltered.

"Come on now, let's not be getting in a tussle, it bein so early, an all…" Rooke said calmly, his palms raised.

"You have no right in being here!" Malikar yelled, and dashed towards Rooke, knife held out dangerously.

Rooke smoothly sidestepped Malikar, and grabbed the boy by the arm. He quickly dragged the struggling youth over to the table, and slammed him down on to his stomach, with his arm bent around on his back. The knife fell away uselessly in the struggle.

"Mrrgh!" Malikar tried to speak, unfortunately, his face was squashed against the hard oak table.

Rooke leaned over Malikar, resting his weight against the boy's back. He craned his neck, so that he could say into the boy's ear: "Now, now, calm down. I know it were a bit rude o' me to come in like this uninvited and all, but I have a little proposition for yer." He waited a moment for Malikar's struggling to die down. The young farmer hated the feeling of being over powered in his own home, and his back seared with an angry tingly feeling where Rooke rested his chest.

"I saw your grand pappy's grave son, and I know that Lord Herren man will kick you out if he finds you're working the land alone, now if I let you up, can we speak about this civilly?" Rooke said calmly.

"Yrrgh." Malikar muttered, and Rooke slowly let him up.

Malikar turned to face the tenacious squatter, his eyes narrowing.

"I propose that I help you work the farm, and all I want in return is room and board." Rooke said warmly, his smile lighting up his features.

Malikar took a moment to think. It was a tempting offer, and he certainly could use the help. However, he couldn't get his grandfather's advice out of his head.

"And if I say no?" he said.

Rooke laughed, and said "Then I suppose you're gonna go live with Mr. nobleman, and be his little lapdog."

Malikar shuddered at the thought. "I guess you can stay, but if you slag off at all, or if I find anything missing, you're out." he said.

Rooke smiled again, his eyes radiating happiness, "Fine man, it's a deal!" Instead of putting his hand out to shake, he grabbed Malikar into a bear hug, and the young farmer was surprised at how warm the homeless boy was.

"Now," Rooke said laughingly, "Let's eat these eggs before they get cold."

((Author Note))

This story is going to be one of a few stories in a series I'm starting…so yeah..lol…thank you for reading!