War and Despair

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Chapter 5

Sim paused from his plowing to wipe the sweat off his brow. He was bored. Farming was not for him. He wanted to leave, to go out and see the world, not plow fields and eventually marry some homely farm girl and have equally homely children.

While other young men were out winning glory on the battlefield, he was stuck planting wheat. Life was cruel.

He whistled to the horses to keep moving. The sooner he finished this field, the sooner he could go wash off in the creek and eat supper. He had just one more row to plow.

An exhausted Sim stripped off his clothing and waded into the creek. The freezing water pulled the dirt from his skin as he listened intently for noises in the underbrush. There. A faint rustling to his left. Sim picked up a stone and flung it towards the sound. He heard a crack and the squeal of a dying rabbit.

Sim dressed and picked up the rabbit before heading towards the house. He handed the dead rabbit to his mother to clean and plopped down in one of the chairs.

“Peggy stopped by today.” His mother told him.

“Please tell me that you threw things at her and told her to never show her ugly face around here again.” Sim sighed.

“Now son,” His father said. “She’s a nice girl and a good cook. And you’re sixteen, you’ve got to marry someday.”

“That’s news to me.” Sim grunted, taking a bite of porridge.

“What about Gloria?” His mother asked.

“I’m not marrying the miller’s daughter so that you can pay less for flour.” Sim said bluntly.

“How about-” His father was cut off by a loud pounding on the door. Sim leapt up and opened the door.

A tall dark-haired man stood on the threshold breathing hard. His clothing and skin were stained with blood and he carried a sword.

“Which side do you support in the war?” He barked.

“The side that kills scaly vermin.” Sim smirked.

“Good. So do I.” the stranger said. “I need a horse and any fighters that you can spare.”

“You can’t just barge in here and demand horses and soldiers!” his mother protested.

“Mother, we have four horses. You only need two for the plow. And I volunteer to go with him.”

“Sim!” his father shouted. “I forbid you to go galivanting off with some stranger! Who knows if he’s even telling the truth?”

“My name is Durazno, brother of the warrior Naranja. I have been protecting people like you for the past three years. You can trust me not to betray your son.”

“I’ll be back when this war’s over.” Sim said, grabbing his bow off the wall. “Goodbye.”

Sim and Durazno walked out to the barn and saddled two horses. Sim’s parents said their goodbyes and the pair rode out into the gathering darkness.

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