The Farm

Michiko

Adept
Once upon a time there was a boy. Now this boy was the most ragged urchin that ever urchined. Yes, I know urchined isn't an ordinary word, but it is fitting because this was no ordinary boy. He had been on his own since he could remember and had grown to prefer it that way. Give him cobble-stoned streets or faint forest paths and he could find his way. An urchin, but a proud urchin was he, and rightfully so.

One day the boy found himself riding in a cart of hay, stuffed between and all covered over with straw and totally undetected by the driver. He was exulting in his deception, though truth be told boredom was creeping at his edges now that the thrill of sneaking onto the cart had worn off a bit, when it rolled to a stop. Peering through the mounds of hay he could see off in the distance the thatched roof of the farm house and a man walking beside the road with whom the driver stopped to swap words.

"Aye. Fine day 'tis. Where're ya ofta then?"

"I'm ofta the capitol. Heard folk be payin' twice what I be getting in t'village. Thot I might try ma luck there."

Safe in his hiding spot the boy could just barely see the man the driver was talking to. Now in addition to being cunning and courageous this boy was also curious and, wanting to get a better look, he started to ever so slightly shift in the hay. But before he had moved barely a whisper he stopped, still as a statue, his blood a river of ice in his veins because he had locked eyes with a girl he hadn't noticed before, standing at the man's side. She was staring, right through the cart, right through the hay and, he thought, right into him.

She made no motion or indication to the men talking and when they finished their conversation she looked away from the boy and went with her father as he turned down the lane towards their house. Now, the boy wanted to tell himself that it was just luck that she had seen him there, or even that she hadn't actually seen him at all but just happened to be looking in his general direction. His pride simply wouldn't allow himself to be bested by a girl, and he certainly wasn't about to admit to anyone, even himself, that she was the most beautiful creature he had ever laid eyes on.

Nevertheless, as soon as the cart was out of sight he found himself scrambling from the hay and sneaking into the rows of wheat at that grew along the road, waiting for dark and to see what he could see. At the edge of the field he watched the little farmhouse as the man, a woman and the girl went in and out from the house, to the stables, to the well, to the barn. All the while he watched, until finally just after sundown the man and the woman went from the house to the barn, leaving the girl inside, alone.

He went to one of the windows and peered inside. She was sitting at the table, and didn't immediately notice him this time. He thought that she looked a little sad, but maybe that was just the general lack of expression on her pale face.

He tapped on the window and she jumped high enough to bump her knees on the table. She turned her head and when she fixed her eyes on him she went even more pale than before. She hurried to the window and threw it open.

"Hssst. Ya'd best be getting off!"

"No, I don't think so," he said lazily, enjoying her unease. He brazenly climbed in through the window, forcing her to take a few steps back or be bowled over by his entrance. "I think I'll have a look around. You know, prying into other people's business." He gave her a significant look and was rewarded with a flush of pink in her cheeks and her stammering reply.

"I- I- dinna say anything b'fore. Yer secret be safe wit'me. Now go'on. This be not a safe place after sundown."

That stopped him. "Why not?"

She pushed him back towards the window. "I kinna tell ya. Now go'ON b'fore ya be gettin' hurt."

He let her push him a few steps and then slipped to the side. "That's so sweet of you to be worried about me, but what could hurt me and leave you safe?"

She opened her mouth, her reply catching in her throat when they both heard the door creak open. The terror in her eyes and on her face was what did it. He let her shove him into the cupboard, though he still told himself it was just out of curiosity.

Through a crack in the cupboard door he saw people moving about, 2 or 3 he guessed. He thought it strange that they didn't speak. They didn't move like he would have expected either, and he wondered if maybe they were sick or injured. They must have been servants, he thought, because he heard the girl giving them commands, commands to which they never responded with anything but grunts.

A chill began to creep up his spine as the evening went on. How could poor farm folk hire servants, he wondered. And such strange ones at that. Stories he had heard and always discounted began to tug like worried children on his sleeve. When he thought one of the servants had its back to him and was busy scrubbing a spot on the floor he dared to open the cupboard just a crack, just enough to see what he wished thereafter he had never seen.

Somehow he managed to close the door just as quietly as he had opened it. Somehow he managed not to panic or yell because he knew now why the girl had told him to leave. The people, no, they weren't people, not anymore. The stories were true and he was hiding and holding his breath for his very life as the animated corpses cleaned every inch of the farmhouse. And where were the girls parents while all this was going on? Surely they would want to-

And then it hit him, the enormity of what he had stumbled into. The size of the farm. The lack of living farmhands. It was just the man, his wife and his daughter. He could all but see in his mind's eye corpses similar to the one he had just spied on reaping, threshing, grinding wheat into bread for the living. His stomach churned.

After every muscle in his body was cramped and stiff from waiting motionless in the cupboard, the movement outside finally stopped and he heard her voice on the other side of the door. "Are ya still in'there?" she asked softly.

"Yes," he replied, his voice thicker and more hoarse than he would have liked.

She let him out and bade him follow her instructions. He was to climb out the window and onto the roof and there he was to wait until morning. Only then would he be safe to leave. He begged her to come with him but she refused. Before he made his escape though she stopped him and gave him a swift peck on the cheek, blushing and turning away quickly.

The boy did make his escape, and as boys often do he grew into a man. He sought out the adventuring life and trainers who could help him gain the strength and wisdom he needed in order to take on a pair of necromancers and a farm full of undead. Finally, years later he came back with a group of friends and freed the girl from the life of horror she'd been living. And not long after, he asked her to be his wife.

The day of joy arrived and the man, no longer a boy stood, full of pride as his beautiful bride walked towards him between the rows of guests. About half-way down, she stopped and looked at him, that same look she had given him the day they'd met when he was hiding in a cart of hay. Confused he waited, and when she did not move he finally walked towards her and met her in the center of the aisle.

"Dearest, what's wrong? You're not.. having second thoughts are you?"

"Nae. I just be thinkin' that most brides have a ma and da there when they be wed."

He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. "I know. I wish I had those too..."

"Aye... you ne'er did.... But I coulda... Me ma and da would be here..." she pulled back from him "if ya had nae killed 'em."

"Beloved, they were necromancers."

"Aye. They be that. But they also be tryin' ta eek a livin' outta da ground. They built that farm up from nuthin' and when t' soldiers came and took all t' help away ta war... What wouldya've had 'em do?"

"... What are you saying...?"

She made a gesture and some of the guests began to rise. "Imma sayin' that ya killed me ma and da, and I been waitin' a long time fer this revenge, beloved."

Screams filled the air as the livings guests ran from the dead ones. Somehow the man managed to escape. Perhaps his betrothed could not bring herself to finish the deed. Perhaps his cunning truly was greater and he was not to be bested by a girl. From what I hear now she has carved out a kingdom for herself and commands armies of the unliving, while he still adventures now and then, trying to do good in an unjust world, some days wishing he had just left a pair of necromancers alone to run their farm and eek out their living from the hard earth.
 

Joseph Smith

Artisan
This is a cool story. I just discovered it. Very good twist. I always groan when the fair maiden with a cool backstory becomes nothing once she is acquired. Nice to see it used as a ruse.

-JT
 

Muir

Fighter
He forgot the first rule.

Suffer not the necromancer to live. :|
 
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