Chapter 58 - Responsibilities
It didn’t take Ezekiel long to lead Brandon down to the farm. And the scenery wasn’t much more the Brandon had expected to see. Three large white fences grounded in the shapes of squares sat in front of a relatively pristine looking farm that was painted bright red and white like pepper cane.
Brandon took all of that in as they grew closer, only realizing once Ezekiel had led him to the front of the barn, that the entire farm was actually quite large. Nearly more than a few acres across and a good three fields wide, with all of the fences b giant vats of mud with bits of yellowed grass packed into it. Brandon quickly guessed that the yellow grass was hay that had been trampled beneath the farm animal’s feet.
But if he had expected to see any of these animals in person he didn’t get the chance. The entirety of the farm seemed devoid of life at the moment of Ezekiels arrival.
Confused Brandon turned and questioned him about the missing animals.
“Why aren’t there any animals here?” Ezekiel chuckled glanced at him and smiled. “I’m sorry I forgot that you’re new to the village. ” He began turning his blue eyes out towards the open. “All of the pigs have actually been moved out to the western village for the winter, but seeing as the spring is right around the corner the farmers will be relocating the pigs back this way later in the week to give the farm land in the west a few months to recuperate and grow fresh fields for the next turn of the season.”
“Ah...” Brandon expressed his understanding, then he asked. “So you do this every year, like clockwork?”
“Yup...” Ezekiel replied. Then motioning for Brandon to follow him as he turned, and walked towards a large metallic rectangular door built on the side of the Barn house. Brandon watched Ezekiel lean down, grab a thin chain and then jerk that chain up, so that the door began to lift up into the top of the wall, disappearing like a curtain rolling up to let in the sun.
Ezekiel steeped into the barn and Brandon trailed a few steps behind him, letting his eyes grow accustomed to the interior of the building. And once they had adjusted to the dimness Brandon took a quick glance about the Barn house.
He took in the simple plank steps built into the far wall that lead a narrow path up to a thick upper floor, where the stacks of dozens of bundles of hay could be seen, just waiting to be lugged about. Next Brandon looked about the bottom floor of the Barn, where he spotted at least twenty short stalls, all empty, but clean and all the size that would fit a group of pigs.
Then dotted all around the interior of the barn house were large, and sturdy wooden beans, some with hooks and harness holders hammered into them; While far too the back of the barn Brandon spotted an empty space, where a large drain sat in the wood and jutting out of the walls in the empty space were three old fashioned shower heads, attached to three levers.
The pipes were spread out by a few feet and all of the nozzles were pointed down in the imitation of a shower. Brandon looked at the pipes and guessed that the nozzles were used to pour water and possible to bathe the farm animals.
Suddenly Ezekiel spoke, pulling Brandon out of his own mind. “So... This is how we can do this...“Ezekiel said, standing across the room, and looking down at a pile of tools laid out on a table next to the wall. And it wasn’t until that moment that Brandon realized that the Shifter had pulled out the tools out of a small room behind the steps. Brandon walked his way as he continued to speak.
“I need to get all of the fresh hay that I can, out there and spread it out in the fenced areas.” Ezekiel began, turning towards Brandon slightly as he sensed him getting closer Ezekiel turned form the table, and leaned his hip on the table as he spoke, his blue eyes seeming to glow in the dim light. “Then I’ll be filling all of the slop troughs and spreading some dried seeds out into the fields....”
“Wait...” Brandon said cutting in. “Slop and hay?” HE asked the Shifter feeling a little lost about what Ezekiel was really doing at the Farm. “Isn’t this a job for a farmer? I thought you were some kind of big shot law enforcer or something...” Brandon told him, walking up to the table and running his hand across the handle of a shovel. “You Guardians just go around dealing with farm animals all day...What’s that about? Shouldn’t you be out there fighting crime?”
“I do fight crime...but sometimes there is more to be done and as a Guardian I’m more than just a source of authority. I’m a pillar in my Clan, a source of strength, actually all of the Guardians are meant to represent that.” Ezekiel shrugged. “I guess sometimes I am just a big shot law enforcer, but that’s only a fraction of my duties in the Clan.”
“Hmm, so all of your brothers are out in the villages....doing farm work....because they are pillars of the Clan?” Brandon asked him not getting the connection between a Shifter cop and a Shifter farm hand. But Ezekiel smirked and replied.
“A more mortal way to look at it would be if I said this...” Ezekiel told him. “My father is the head of our Clan like a King or a President. And the Guardians that work for him are like a kings Generals or a President’s advisors. We are more than simple farm hands or the law....we are our fathers arms, we reach out, we give ourselves to our Clans men, and they use us to make life easier and our Dad uses us to keep everyone safe. It’s all that a Guardian needs to do. Me and all of my brothers.” Ezekiel finished sharing his gaze with Brandon for a moment.
“Wow...You....” Brandon began then stopped, pulling back his hand from the shovel and looking at the Shifter directly.
Secretly Brandon was more than a little impressed and intimidated, by what he had just heard. He hadn’t really understood the extent of Ezekiel’s family’s influence in their Clan, but now Brandon was beginning to see that he was spending his days in the presence of some of the most important men and women in the Leopards Clan. Men that he had attacked....multiple times....and women that had healed him out of sheer kindness.
Brandon didn’t let himself feel to overwhelmd. Besides he didn’t think it would do for him to suddenly start bowing and scrapping and acting nervous, so he smirked at Ezekiel and finished his earlier thought. “...You really are the prince of the Leopards.”
And Ezekiel just laughed.
“Yeah well, call me whatever you want to Brandon....” Ezekiel sighed after his laughter subsided a few moments later. “But I’ve seriously got to get started on this stuff....or I’ll never be finished.” Ezekiel steeped away from the table and began walking over to the stir case leading up to the second floor. As he walked he motioned about him. “You can take a walk around the farm if you like, this should only take me a few hours and then well...” He said still walking off, but Brandon interrupted him.
“No...” Brandon said and shook his head. And at his objection Ezekiel stopped to give him a considering look.
“What....you want to do something else?” Ezekiel asked him and Brandon nodded. But Ezekiel sighed and shook his head. “You can’t be over taxing your body right now Brandon....You should take a seat out in the sun and get a little more rest.” Ezekiel tried to command him.
But Brandon didn’t exactly want to sit around. “Actually...” He told Ezekiel. “I can I help you spread the hay or something....I didn’t exactly come out here to twiddle my thumbs....”
Brandon shrugged. “I could have stayed in the bed if that were the case. And I’d rather work out my muscles, just so I don’t get too stiff while my stiches close up. ”
Looking like he wanted to protest Ezekiel finally did a shrug of his own. “Alright....if you really feel up to it, I’ll let you help.” He said, then he hissed. “Just take it easy, no heavy lifting for you.”
“Sure, Sure.” Brandon shrugged, not really planning to listen.
“Alright.... Follow me.” Ezekiel told him, starting to walk towards the stair case leading to the second floor, once more. Brandon ran to catch up, and as Ezekiel walked he talked over his shoulder.
“There are buckets hanging on the back floor that were going to need to transport down here. Theirs a tub full of pig food round the side of the Barn. Well gather that and well pour the slop into the troughs spread out in the field.”
Ezekiel said, raising his voice as his and Brandon’s boots hammered the planks of the stair case. “Afterwards, if you’re still feeling okay, I’ll let you grab a shovel so you can bust up the hay bales for me....”
After that the work began.
First the troughs were to be filled with slop and the buckets were to be transported and poured into the troughs. And for the most part Brandon found the job to be agreeable...aside from the ripe odor of pig slop that assaulted his and Ezekiel’s noses. Brandon wanted to ask where the slop came from, but soon decided that he didn’t care much for the answer.
The oily, runny, slop seemed composed of nothing but composted vegetables and old fruit and stink. The odor of it nearly stealing Brandon’s breath at every deep whiff. But Brandon did his best to move at a steady pace and lift as much pig slop as he could stomach to smell....but more often than not he found himself struggling with some of the burdens that he forced himself to undertake. Every stumble that he suffered, and every aching muscle only further outlined to him how sorry his condition had really become.
Still he kept on, hoping that this labor would be his first steps back to the healthy person he had been before the wounds had been inflicted on him.
Soon enough all of the troughs were filled to the brim with fresh slop and with a vigorous look on his face Ezekiel called Brandon to him.
And as Brandon drew close he couldn’t help but notice that the Shifter looked completely unfazed by the work and labor that Brandon had struggled through.
And once Brandon reached him Ezekiel smirked and gestured towards the barn. “All right...were done with the slop and troughs. Are you ready to start busting open the hay bales?” Ezekiel asked him softly. The smirk on his face gave Brandon a notion that the Shifter was possibly poking fun at him mentally, but for the most part Ezekiel just waited for Brandon to reply.
With panting that he hoped was mostly subdued Brandon took a moment to swallow and looked the Shifter up and down, feeling a slight pinch of envy overcome him. Because unlike Brandon Ezekiel looked as clean...and handsome as he had that morning outside of the mansion.
This guy looks as cool as a Popsicle...Do Shifters even sweat...?
Brandon found himself thinking, stuck in a moment of absurdity that he couldn’t quite break away from.
I know they sweat...If its alive it sweats....and I bet when they do sweat, they look just as hot and unhappy and pathetic as I must look right now...!
“Brandon?” Ezekiel asked catching his eyes. “Did you hear me?”
Shaking himself Brandon looked away. “Yeah I’m ready...Let’s do it.” Brandon told him and ignoring the way that Ezekiel seemed to smile deeper and shake his head. He walked past him to go and gather a shovel from the Barn, while Ezekiel trailed behind him, to pick up the first bale of hay.