A Silent Game of Spies

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What a man the Duke was. Fine man. Fine man.

Last night the Duke had told him and Richland Fields and Sweet Trees all about that bloody blight those years ago. Blight. That was no blight. Everyone in all of Corstarorden knew it. Anyone who’d ever put their hands in an ounce o’earth. Blakeson packed another burlap bag of seed in against the cellar wall.

“Then what did he say?” pressed his wife as she held up the lantern. Neasa was just as surprised as he was by their good fortune.

The root cellar hadn’t been in use since the Twenty Years War, back when his father and the fam had hidden inside it. You could barely tell it existed, so well was it crafted. His father said they never knew which country’s soldiers had camped out in the house above, but the fam had hidden inside for three days, eating everything they could find, and sneaking out only once for water. Then the soldiers were gone. They counted themselves lucky the house and Blakesly Farm hadn’t been put to the torch, like so many other farms.

“The Duke told us there was war comin’ and to go to his estate for shelter.”

Neasa shook her head at that. “We’ll not be goin’. Not and leave the farm. No. We’ll just take the boys and hide in here, like your fam did,” she said resolutely. “What did the other two say?”

Sweet Trees and Richland Fields, the only two farms of the Duke’s that bordered Blakesly Farms for miles and miles, weren’t about to leave either. In fact, Richland told the Duke that a farmer was like a captain – you don’t leave your ship. The Duke nodded and told them, “I respect that, and I thought you’d say that. That’s why I’ve brought you this.” And he’d uncovered the wagon with enough seed to help them plant for next year, “– in case soldiers ruin or burn what you have now. And if not, then you have enough to expand what you have now or keep it for a future date. Do with it as you will. I suggest you hide it in your root cellars or barns, where it cannot be found by soldiers, so that you have enough to replant. Store it safely for next season. I give you this in place of coin, as soldiers might find coin and assume you stole it. If that were to happen, not only would you lose your farm, but a hand or even your life, and that I cannot protect you from.”

Neasa listened to this as she watched Blakeson pack one of the last burlap bags of seed against the root cellar wall. “What a man he is. Do you suppose he realizes he’s given us more than we need to replant?” she asked thoughtfully.

“Of course he does. He’s no fool.” Blakeson topped the stack of seeds with the last burlap bag and brushed his hands free of dirt. He studied his wife in the shadows of the dusty root cellar. “He seems sure war is coming here. We need to stock up some dried meat and preserves, some tallow and lanterns, blankets, have a plan so we can stay in here. Get some food from the pantry and bring it down here.”

“Like your fam did.” Neasa gathered her shawl about her and climbed up the ladder, but not before Blakeson saw the nervous look on her face.

He felt bad for Sweet Trees – all those fruit trees. If soldiers took to burning, why, it would take years to regrow a fruit tree. But the Duke had a half a wagon full of seed of some sort for him, too, and the two had held a private conference of some sort. Something to plant in the interim. A good man, the Duke of Mendellion. What luck it was that the Duke was their landholder and not some bloody tax collector type.

War, Blakeson thought as he threw hay over the entrance to the root cellar. May it not last twenty years like the last one.

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