Ok. I knew I was going to end up doing one of these one time or another.
I was walking and Dustbowl Dance by Mumford and Sons started playing on my iPod, and this idea came to me. It had been in my head awhile and only now have I decided to write it out.
Hope you like it!
The fence marked the end of their property. And with the end of the dusk light just cresting the hill the fence sat on, it also seemed to mark the end of his very world. But what did he know about worlds? Or ends for that matter? Well he supposed he now knew quite a bit about the latter. But it didn't make him feel any the wiser.
The wheat crop swayed in the slowly dying wind. The amber color that it reflected from the sunset sky made him feel warm. Or maybe it was the color that was warm, or the grain itself, or maybe even the air around him. But the sweat that was slowly building up on his neck from the warmth would not make him go back inside. No, nothing would make him go back inside, even if it was much cooler in there.
He stared at that red, cloudy sky until he thought his eyes would be burned from the sun. Maybe they would be. He wouldn't really hate it if he couldn't see their seemingly endless fields of wheat, a crop that left them on the better end of society in the small farming town of Lesae in the Kingdom of Kindlemere. He wouldn't mind if he couldn't see the beautiful stone home that marked them as only slightly more well off peasants. Because maybe if he lost his sight in the setting sun, he wouldn't have to see the image of his father and his sister being dragged off by chainmail covered men holding a ratty piece of parchment with the rosy wax seal of Kindlemere royalty hanging off the end of it. He could even convince himself that he had imagined it all. Maybe that he had never even had a sister. Or a father. But he began to realize that that would be useless, so he turned his eyes away. The memory of the screams, his mother's begging, his brothers' swords whispering out of their sheaths, the smell of sweat and upturned mud…they were imprinted on more than just his eyes.
He walked back around the house toward the well. He halted his feet from crunching on more gravel when he saw the wiry, black haired man who leaned against the stone wall, the only place on the wall that wasn't covered by hungry green ivy. A piece of straw hung out of his mouth. It trembled in the wind.
He turned away from the thinking man and kept on walking.
The bucket went down easy enough. It was dragging it up, full to the brim with fresh, cool water that was the difficult part. A slip of the hand and it would end up at the bottom once again. He wouldn't have had such a problem had the crank been fixed. But it had broken the day before and no one really cared to fix it. There were other things on his brothers' minds. And on his mother's.
He held the rope with one hand and grabbed the bucket's handle with the other and carefully positioned it on the side of the well so that it wouldn't tip back in.
The water was like a breath of life to him. He let the coolness splash over his hot skin and drip down his chin onto his tunic. He took handfuls of water, so many that he had lost count, until the bucket was empty and his skin was all but numb from the cold.
He was going through the motions. That was it. It was like he was in a dream. His every movement, every thought was being decided for him. He couldn't bring his sister back. He couldn't bring his father back. No matter how hard he wished it. Even if he wished so hard that he could feel the thumping pain in his heart…nothing would happen. They would still be dead. He would never see them again. To the world, it was as if neither of them had ever existed.
"Nothing is going to change now." He could hear his friend shift his weight against the stone wall. His back was turned to him, though. In truth, he wasn't ready to face anyone at that moment.
"What are you talking about?"
"What I mean is that everything will change. Now. For a few weeks, maybe a month, but then everything will go back to the way that it has always been and always will be." His voice was nonchalant, as if he was discussing a mere change in the weather, perhaps a storm, not the death of two people even he had been slightly close to.
"That's ridiculous. That was my father they-they executed. My sister along with him. There is no way that things will ever be the same. For me or for my family." He let the bucket swing back on its tie and ran a hand through his damp hair.
His friend sighed and pushed away from the wall. "I am being completely honest. I know from experience that even with a loss as great as that of a relative, life goes on. The pain lessens, people begin to remember less and less."
"I don't want to believe that."
"No one does." He kicked a rock.
"Felix!" It was his elder brother who called, not the eldest, Tomas, but his red-haired, freckled, 23 year yet unmarried brother, Roland. He leaned out the kitchen door, his usual mischievous grin absent. "Mother wishes you to go to the lake and chop firewood. We have just used up the last of it and it is looking to be a cold night."
As soon as Felix nodded, the red head disappeared back into the house.
"Why do you always have to be right?" He muttered under his breath. Felix walked over to where the axe was stuck in the ground near the horse's stable. He wrenched it out of the ground.
He walked fast across the fields to the point where the weeds took over and the white sand was visible. The forest edged Lake Miln like black lace. It was largest lake in Lantia, and beautiful at that. All blue and flashing, turning slowly gold with the setting sun, Felix couldn't help but stare at it for longer than necessary.
It was dark and cold by the time he had finished swinging the axe. He would be lying if he said he hadn't put any of his anger into the repetitive motion. But luckily enough blisters no longer formed on his hardened hands. He was long since used to farm work and even simple tasks like chopping wood.
The gusty wind from all the lake had calmed to a caressing breeze.
He grabbed a few pieces from the pile he had made. He would carry the rest back in the morning.
But a whisper hissed from somewhere in the underbrush. Or, it could have been somewhere along the shore where pieces of wood sat like large looming objects shadow beings. The way the sound echoed around him, he couldn't tell. Then there was some rustling that he knew didn't come from the gentle breeze.
It would be just his luck to encounter thieves on the fringes of his family's property, especially at a time like this.
He shouldn't have felt his gut clench in fear. After all, his friend ran with the likes of such men. Such men had tried to help save his father and sister. It had all been futile, though, of course. The attempts at breaking the two out of the jail had caused a few of the thieves themselves to be taken as prisoners. They weren't at all a heartless bunch, he had soon learned. They were just…misguided at times.
But he couldn't say the same about the rest of the thieves or vagabonds that enjoyed roaming the farms and villages in all of Kindlemere. The majority were much, much worse than the little band of thieves that had taken up camp in the small farming town of Lesae. And Felix himself was certain that the thieves didn't camp anywhere near his family's farm. During the day they roamed the towns, but at night they made sure to stay away from any homes for fear of attack.
He didn't have a sword. He didn't have anything except for the axe in his hand. The only way he would come out of the forest alive, if bandits did attack him, would be with his fists. The axe might have been of some use had it been more sharp and lighter. But an axe against a sword…it wouldn't work.
He was muscled, though, much more than ever his older brothers who were rather small framed and thin. Give him a sword and he had a strong chance against even a trained Knight. But in a hand to hand fight there would be no doubt as to who would win.
Maybe it had always been a dream lying in slumber in the back of his mind that he would be a warrior one day. But that dream was farfetched, and even more so now that his father was dead.
His ears began to ring the longer he listened. But there were no more whispers and the rustling had stopped. Had he imagined it? He liked to believe he wasn't mad. He wasn't. He was just…tired. Tired from everything.
He slowly walked away from the sound of waves and wind.
The walk seemed much shorter the second time. Maybe it was because even more thoughts were crowded into his head and he wasn't at all paying attention to where he was going.
The house was as dark as the night itself outside except for the small candle that his mother held before her face on the round wooden table in the center of the small kitchen. Half of a shadow was cast against the stone wall.
"I was worried," she said. "You were gone for too long."
He walked over to the hearth and threw the logs in. "There wasn't any need to worry." But he himself was. There had been someone out there, someone he didn't know and probably didn't want to any time soon.
After a bit of prodding, a small fire began to grow among the old ashes.
"You should go to bed. It's been a long day."
She slowly shook her head.
"I'll watch the fire. Get some rest."
"How can I?" She looked up at him then as if searching for answers in him.
He remembered his friend's words. "Everything will go back to how it was…before. You just need to sleep and everything will be better. How's Roland?"
Her hand clenched and unclenched. "He's already planning his marriage to Elta. You know how it's been. He never wanted to marry before…before. It seems as though the time has finally come." Her stare was pointed as she continued. "Tomas has plan as well, he has for a while, but I'm not sure his intentions. What about you?"
"What do you mean, what about me?"
"You're the youngest, Felix. Roland will get the farm. Tomas will…well he won't tell us yet. And you…you're the only one who has nothing."
"It makes me think you have no confidence in me, mother," he tried to add a small laugh at the end, but it sounded pitiful, even to him.
"I am only worried for what's to become of you." There was no doubting the honesty in her tone. She clasped her hands together over the etched wood.
He poked the fire once more and took a seat across from her.
"I just…I don't feel like any of this is real."
She nodded and closed her eyes for a brief moment. "In times like this, no one does. It's a horror, an emptiness, something that doesn't feel natural, when in reality, it is the only thing that is. People die, Felix, good people, bad people, all are the same in death. We can only pray to the goddess that we will be judged well in the after." She sighed, a pained, gut-felt thing that made him want to tell her once more to go to bed. "Things have changed though, no one can deny that. They won't go back to how they were before. But there will be peace. Eventually. Just not yet."
His mother wasn't weak, he knew that as well as his brothers did. The woman had watched her own sister perish from disease when she was but twelve. Her sister had been nine and they had always been close. But at that time it was disease, not famine that spread through the world like wildfire. His mother had grown used to people dying of the horrible sickness. She was hardened but accepting. She didn't fight death.
But that didn't make the pain less for her. He could see it in the way her gaze seemed to hover over empty space for breaths at a time.
"I don't believe that there ever will be peace."
She reached out and took his hand beneath hers. "Don't be angry. I know many would seek revenge for what has been done to us, but you mustn't. Your father told you countless times what becomes of a man who readily shows their temper."
"How can I not be angry for that injustice? They died for nothing. They died for fear. She was innocent, innocent as well as he." He slipped his hand from beneath hers and stood.
"Felix. You swear to me that you will not go after those men."
She was ordering him, not pleading to him. With the delicate wisp of dry blonde hair that fell upon her round flushed cheeks made her appear soft, even innocent. But her appearance did not deceive him. She meant every word she said and she had reason to say every word she said. She was not one to waste a breath on meaningless small talk.
She nodded. "I hold you to that, you know."
"Where's Nixon?" He did not want to dwell on the subject any longer. His anger really wasn't enough to do what his mother thought he would wish to, but just thinking about those men made him sick.
"He went out by the barn." She stood, wrapping her shawl tighter around her bony shoulders. "You should get some rest too, Felix." She left, shutting the door to her room softly behind her.
"There was someone out by the lake. It couldn't have been one of your friends, so I'm guessing…"
Felix heard him curse in the darkness. Somewhere up in the loft he could hear his thin friend begin to pace.
"I have to go."
"Nix, it's the middle of the night."
Nixon just about flung himself off the loft, completely disregarding the ladder his mother had knowingly left there. His boots crunched over the scattered, dry hay.
"Where the hell do you have to go?" Felix turned, watching the man walk out, no bounce to his step, just a rigid sense of…determination. Focus even. The sort of gait he himself could only hope of having someday.
Felix had to just about run to catch up with him. Sure he knew his friend was bound to have bouts of…madness in between his indifferent attitude toward just about everything, but this was just too much.
"Did you hear me? There are men, strange men on my father's property, well my brothers now, in the middle of the night. Since they are obviously not your friends, I'm inclined to believe that they're here for some hostile reason. You can't just get up and leave at a time like this. We can deal with them in the morning—"
"You talk too much."
"You. Talk. Too. Much." They were now passing by the house and on the trail out into their wheat crops. The whistling, whispering noise filled his ears and set him on edge.
"You need to stop." He grabbed Nixon's shoulder and spun him around. In the moonlight he could see his friend's lips were stretched in a thin line. His eyes focused on Felix. There was no wildness in them, no flights of thought, no variances in where he looked. He was steady.
"If I stop," he said. "You will all be dead by morning."
Felix shook his head but then stopped. "They're after you?"
"Remember what I told you about my uncle?"
Nixon glanced briefly up at the sky. "The King has sent men after me."
"He wishes to finish the job. I do not know why as I am already exiled. I pose no real threat outside his Kingdom." He gave a small, bitter laugh. "I suppose he believes me leader enough to raise an army against them. But we both know that will never happen."
"And you're sure that they're the ones out there right now?" Felix was unconvinced.
"Tell me you have a better supposition." He pushed Felix's hand off his shoulder and continued down the gravel path.
Felix stood there, frozen, for what felt like much too long. But could anyone really make such a…difficult decision on such short notice.
Nixon stopped. The silence was filled only by the crowd of wheat, whispering secrets among itself, secrets that Felix would soon not care about. Secrets he would see no longer, only dream about in a place far, far away from where he now stood.
"I'm coming with you."