This is an original work of fiction meant for entertainment purposes only.
The young boy looked up from the bodies of his parents, covered in their blood, and bleeding badly himself from his left temple where a glancing blow had almost taken his head off when the raiders had ridden in, and overrun their farmstead. Until that moment, he had thought himself dead, too. Only he had recovered in time to see more men riding toward him.
He saw the grim, somber men surrounding him, vaguely heard sounds, but couldn't seem to quite hear their words. He only stared, numb, and feeling oddly distant from the world around him as he tried to remember more than just this moment. More than the horror of waking to kneel beside his parents' mutilated bodies.
All he remember were the masked men in hoods, and metal helms. Rogues, or knights, it hardly mattered to him. His parents were dead, and he seemed cut off from the world entire.
Unable to see it very clearly. Unable to hear. Unable to understand.
One of the men on horses that had apparently appeared while he had been lost in this endless, horrible moment dismounted, and towered over him. He didn't know if anything was said, but the man suddenly kicked him.
He went sprawling, landing awkwardly atop his mother's bloody body, and staring down into her wide, vacant eyes still rounded with fear and pain.
He felt something surge. A knot of something beyond fear or pain, and he made a keening wail. One that, unknowingly to him, grew louder and louder as it seemed something was about to explode within him when something hard suddenly slammed into his already throbbing skull, and sent him reeling back into the blackness.
He gave a secret prayer that he never woke again even as he succumbed, wanting only to follow his parents into oblivion.
"Samuel," the old smithy growled at the boy who lay sprawled on in stomach in the pile of hay in the hayloft. "Wake up, you lazy cur. It's nigh dawn, and there are fires to stoke, and wood to cut and stack. You think this smithy runs itself?"
Samuel, all of fifteen summers that season, rolled over, and glared at the big, bearded man who treated him more like a slave, than a son. Or nephew, which he was.
He refused to call him father, even if the man tried to get him to do so. He was no father. Even if he had raised him after his father, Roger's brother, had died. He tried to make out as if he were his father ever since that day.
He never had been. Not to Samuel.
"Whatever," he groaned. "Like a few minutes will matter. With the baron away at the Crusades, your work is more than halved, and we spend more time waiting, than working," Samuel complained.
"I said up," the bigger man spat, kicking him in the thigh. "And don't make me climb that damn ladder again. I'm getting tired of you hiding from your own bed, boy."
"My bed," Samuel muttered, rolling to his knees, still glaring at his uncle. "I share that cot with three babes, and you know it," he huffed. "I get more rest here, than amongst those wriggling worms you call sons."
Roger Smith glared at the boy, and started to kick him again.
"I'm up. I'm up. Just let me get something to eat ere I have to start sweating," he grumbled.
"Well, you'll be wishing for those worms to warm your sorry bones when winter comes around again," Roger huffed at him.
Samuel only grunted, and cut him off by getting to the ladder first.
"Don't break your neck climbing down too fast," Samuel mocked, and all but slid down the ladder himself.
"Ungrateful brat," he spat at him, wondering how his brother had ever sired such a willful, indolent cur.
"Good morning, Samuel," the pudgy, and ever cheerful Sara Anne smiled as his aunt welcomed him into the warmer house where she was cooking fresh porridge, the three younger boys yet to wake. "Why don't you go get the boys moving? Sir Dekes is coming by this morning to see if Frank is ready to learn to be a squire, and I'm hoping he impresses him," she smiled.
Samuel said nothing to that, but his feeling was that the scrawny ten year old Frank was more suited to cooking and cleaning than playing a knight's sire. The five year old twins Allen and Benjamin were stockier, and shaping up to be more men than the very thin, very missish Frank.
He didn't ask why the local knight wasn't looking at him. Samuel had a reputation among the local gentry. It wasn't good.
He didn't see where it was his fault, though. Frankly, he felt the so-called nobility were far from noble, and the only honor he had seen in the highborn was the day they died. Frankly, he wished they would all die soon. It would likely make the common folks' lives more akin to that alleged paradise that Father Jenks was always babbling about if you kept your head down, and let the nobles walk all over you.
Samuel had trouble doing that.
Which was likely why no knight was looking at him even if he was tall, fit, and had a fairly sharp mind.
Not that he cared.
"If I must," he sighed, and ignored her knowing smile as he headed for the back room in the small house that was theirs by the alleged generosity of the local baron, who had, to Samuel, only proved his monumental stupidity by running off to fight in someone else's war.
Just another excuse to loot and pillage so far as he could tell. The only good thing he could tell about them was the usual nobles had gone, taking a lot of the usual rogues and opportunists with them. Sure, there were still those left behind that could be annoying, but there weren't as many of them as there had been before the king sent out his ridiculous call. Which meant less of those allegedly noble morons to have him whipped for not bowing low enough to suit them.
Father Jenks was often horrified by him, because he was so heretical at times it was a wonder someone didn't just stone him, or something. They did seem fond of killing anyone that didn't conform in this world.
Or so he felt.
He simply didn't care.
He wasn't sure why, but for years he had manifested an utter indifference to life, status, and class, and only his Uncle Roger's strong hand could force him to even pretend to mouth the usual platitudes when the baron or his men had been around.
With the baron gone for so long of late, his indifference to his alleged superiors had grown to the point that Roger likely feared for his own life about now.
Again, not that Samuel cared.
He walked into the small bedroom, eyed the three boys on that single bed that more was more cot than bed, and just kicked one dangling hand.
"Hey. Chicken-boy," he called him for Frank's happen of squawking when surprised. "Time to wake up. Sir Dimwit will be here soon."
Frank predictably squawked as he came awake, and Samuel had to roll his eyes. The twins just snored on.
"You, too, you little brats," he growled, and kicked the bedframe this time as Frank now groaned, and began to wipe sleep from his eyes. "Up, if you plan to eat."
The mention of food had the two junior Rogers scrambling out of bed without care for clothes as they bolted for the front of the house.
"And Roger wanders why I shun Elza," he snorted. "The idea of creating more of those is beyond repugnant," he huffed.
"You won't get far talking so funny. Or disrespectfully," Frank told him placidly, always eager to go along with anyone. He seemed determined to fit in even if he had bend over backward to do it. Which was pretty stupid to Samuel's way of thinking.
"Tell me, Francis," he called him with a smirk. "Have you ever had an original thought in your life? Or are you really just an overgrown parrot," he demanded, having seen one of those weird, witless birds on a tinker's wagon one season.
Francis only sniffed, and drew himself up with all his preadolescent dignity as he got dressed.
"Whatever," Samuel rolled his eyes again, and went to eat himself before those two parasites ate everything.
Which they were known to do.
"Wow. Is he a knight, or a peacock," Samuel snorted as he came out of the smithy later as he wiped sweat from his face. He had heard the arrival of the baron's man and his escort, and smirked as he eyed the man in yellow and green that rode up on a horse as colorfully adorned as himself with a great feather of some sort atop his gleaming helm, and holding a shield with some fanciful crest upon it.
"Mind your tongue, boy," Roger spat. "You will respect Sir Deakes, and bear in mind he's the baron's representative while he is away."
"Whatever you say, uncle," Roger was told predictably as Frank came out in his best and cleanest clothes, and his head all but hit the ground, he bowed so low, and so clumsily.
To his credit, the knight, bracketed by two other more plainly clad knights, only stared down at him without a smile.
"I'm told you are ready to make your own way, boy, and seek your place in the world."
"Yes, Sir Knight," Frank nodded eagerly, and performed his bow again.
"Enough of that. A squire's first lesson is to keep his eyes and ears open," Ian Deakes told Frank. "You cannot do that with your face in the dirt."
"Yes, Sir Deakes," he nodded again, but only nodded reverently now.
"Better. Ho, Sir Smith, how goes your work, my friend," he greeted as Roger only then came up behind his son.
"Quite well, Sir Deakes. We just received that new shipment of ore, and I can start making new weapons for all of your men whenever you give the word," he assured him.
"I need new arrow and spear points for certain, so start those at once," the man that ran the barony for their lord told him. "We've a lot of new recruits that spend more time hunting lost shafts than shooting them of late," he sighed woefully.
"I'm sure they'll learn soon enough with you guiding them, melord," he called him respectfully.
"One hopes. Speaking of learning," he said, glancing over to where Samuel was now idly cutting wood for the forge with a careless, yet tireless pace. "How's young Sam doing?"
"Stronger than ever, in truth. If only his mind, or his tongue, were not so….willful," Roger grimaced.
"Ah. Still insulting his betters, is he," Ian asked knowingly.
"He's gotten worse without the baron's own guard around so oft. He even called Father Jenks' ilk but vultures, doing more preying on God's own than ministering. I thought the poor man would have a fit before he recovered himself when he last visited."
"I see. I've an errand to run this week, Rog," he called the big man as Sir Deakes eyed Samuel who paused, actually sneered at him, and then turned back to cutting the growing stack of wood from the heavy logs around him without seeming to care the work was virtually endless. "At week's end, I want you to send him to the castle. I've a notion, and I intend to see if we can make the boy learn his place ere he ends up cursing our very king, and earning a noose."
"I do fret over how he's growing," Roger sighed. "I'll do as you say."
"Aye, and don't fret over being left without aid. I've two stout lads in the baron's stables that aren't much for stock. Still, I wager you could whip them into some kind of shape if you could make even your willful nephew work as well as he does."
"I shall most certainly try, and welcome them, too, Sir Deakes," Roger bowed more formally than his son.
Roger was one of the few smiths to keep his smithy outside the fortress walls because he also worked more often with the locals repairing plows, wagons, and such. It was simply easier for all around if he were out in the community with his peers since he didn't do that much work for the knights since they had their own smithy they trusted more than Roger with their swords and armor. Still, he was often sought out for smaller, less detailed work like spears, arrows, and pikes. Roger didn't mind. He favored the freedom of the open land.
"Excellent. At week's end, then. Lad," Ian said as he turned to Frank. "Climb up behind Sir Martin. We've far to go, and we're in a hurry this morn, so we cannot wait on your legs."
Frank eagerly went to the knight, who pulled him up behind his saddle with ease, and growled, "Best you hold on. But mind the armor," he growled. "You'll slice your fingers on the edges are you not wary."
Roger watched the trio ride away, his son smiling back at him, risking one hand as he waved his farewell with a huge grin.
Then the smithy turned to eye Samuel who was openly smirking after the men as he paused in his work again.
"God's mercy," he said quietly, offering yet another prayer that the boy didn't end up insulting the baron's man, or anyone else when he was inevitably thrown into what was likely going to be the very heart of everything the lad seemed to utterly despise in life for whatever his reasons.
Samuel woke at the sounds of curt, harsh tones from the outer room, and frowned.
It wasn't light. Far from it. Yet he heard cursing, and a cry of pain, and felt something surge in his mind as he felt fear and rage both surge within him at the sounds. The sounds also prompted an old memory that had not risen in many years rose, and yet suddenly it was there.
Even as he lay there on the bed, the twins on the floor atop their quilting just then, he occupying the bed alone, he gasped as someone abruptly kicked the door open, and he saw a big man in black linen standing there holding a long sword.
"Got some lads in here," the man growled over his shoulders, and the young boys actually still slept on as ever as Samuel stared at the man walking toward them.
"Just kill them," someone spat from the next room. "All we need is the smithy."
He heard his aunt scream, and suddenly he was somewhere else, surrounded by blood and flame.
Yet this time something within managed to burst free even as the man before him raised his sword over the boys.
He leapt up, snarling viciously even as he did, and the man didn't even have a chance to cry out as Samuel, or what had been Samuel, slammed into him with the force of a charging horse, and somehow tore off the man's head and right hand as his hands scrabbled helplessly at the monster that seemed to have risen right out of some priest's own secret nightmares.
Samuel only heard the screams as he moved.
Only this time he wasn't the victim.
This time, he wasn't the helpless prey.
He snarled again, feeling only his rage surge now, and turned toward the sound of his aunt's screaming.
To Be Continued…..