Tales from the Kingdom of Grim

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The Smallest Boy

"I have it! Please don't! I can't get through!....I'm too small!"

Once there was a poor farmer with little money and little merit to his name. Yet, he was a content man who did not mind his lot in life. The farmer's greatest pride in life was his only child, his small son. The boy was short and his body wasn't strong, yet he was a good thinker with quick wits.

One day, the boy noticed how much smaller he was compared to all the other boys in town. They would often mock him for his size and often called him Thumbling.

"Father," the boy asked his father one day. "Are you mad that you didn't get a big, tall son like everyone else?"

The father gave a dismissive laugh and smiled kindly at his son. "My dear boy, you are the best thing I have in all my life. I don't care what size you are. I'd love you even if you were no bigger than my thumb!"

The boy smiled and was comforted by his father's words.

Soon, times grew difficult for the town and the farmer was forced to go into debt to continue to support his farm and his son. It was known to all that the Queen's soldiers were very unforgiving when it came to money and so the farmer worked as hard as he could, hoping to repay the debt on time. Thumbling also helped in every way his small body could. But the crops were poor this year and the hardest efforts brought forth little profit.

Soon, the time for the debt to be repaid was drawing near and the father did not have what he needed to repay it. The soldiers were not pleased.

"You're running out of time, Farmer," warned the Captain. "If you don't pay us back, well...that's just as bad as picking the Queen's pocket. Thieves are not welcome in her kingdom."

"There's no need for that," insisted the Farmer, doing his best to remain calm. "There is still a little time. Perhaps if I...."

"I know," said a leering soldier from behind the Captain. "Try selling your boy! Puny thing might be worth a penny or two!"

The farmer scowled. "My son is my pride and joy! I'll not see him sold off for profit!"

The soldiers laughed at the farmer and left with more threats regarding the unpaid debt. The boy, who had been listening, was very distressed.

"What will we do, Father?" he cried. "You can't pay back the debt, even though you've worked so hard!"

"Now, now," said the Farmer, in his best efforts to reassure him. "The fault is my own. I should never have taken the Queen's money. Hopefully I have enough things to sell in order to get the money paid back in time. Fret not," he added, patting the boy on the head. "It will be alright."

But the boy was not convinced. He feared his father's freedom, and his life, were in jeopardy. They went to the village the next day to sell some of their possessions. As his father haggled, the boy overheard a trio of men outside a tavern.

"The Tomb of the Celebrated Dead," one was saying. "Where all those soldiers who gave their lives for the Queen are piled in a massive mausoleum. If there isn't rich stuff in there, there won't be any riches anywhere."

"Yes," hissed his friend. "At the very least there will be some precious stones. Soldiers are always buried with gems to take with them as trophies in death."

"Then it's settled," said the third. "We'll bread into the tomb tomorrow night and make it out of here with all the riches we can carry."

The boy overheard the plan, mesmerized. Even a single gemstone would pay the last of his father's debt! Any more and they may never have need for the Queen's money again. The temptation on his young mind was too much. He decided to follow the grave robbers and take from them what they planned to take from the dead.

The next night, after his father was asleep, Thumbling slipped quietly out of his house and hurried towards the village graveyard. Sure enough, there were the grave robbers. They had broken the door to the tomb and were just climbing out, bags of trinkets clutched in their greedy fists.

The robbers were ecstatic over their success and began sharing a bottle of wine between the three of them to celebrate. Carefully and quietly, Thumbling sneaked up snatched the smallest bag from the pile and darted off before he could be spotted. As he ran away, the boy never saw a mist leak from the broken doors of the tomb. A mist that seized the terrified grave robbers and their loot, dragged it all back inside the mausoleum, and reseal the doors, trapping them inside.

Thumbling made slow work of heading home, the darkness hindering his sight and causing him to get lost. Unable to make it back on his own, Thumbling settled himself under a tree and slept until dawn when the light suddenly returned, he hurried back to his home, lest his father worry.

When he finally arrived, he saw that the door to his farm house was broken. Fear flooded Thumbling's heart as he discovered the house was ransacked and his father was gone. All there was in the house anymore was a piece of parchment with the Queen's seal.

A warrant for his father's arrest.

Choking down his own panic, the boy set off right back toward the village where he'd come, noticing from afar that a crowd was starting to gather in the town square. As he approached, the town crier made a loud announcement.

"People, gather! Come and witness! By order of the guard of her Royal Excellency the Queen, this man is to face a debtor's punishment! Let it be known that this is the fate of those who would steal from the Queen!"

Thumbling looked drew closer and, to his horror, he saw his father standing on a raised platform before all the people in the village. There were ropes tied around his wrists, ankles, and neck and each rope was attached at the other end to the saddles of a different black horse. The steeds of the soldiers who had come for his father's money.

"I'm here!" cried Thumbling, rushing into the crowd. "I have enough! I can cover the debt!"

But nobody could hear his little voice. Nobody moved to let his little body through the crowd as the watched, awed and afraid, of what was about to happen to the farmer. The soldiers drew nearer to their horses, a whip ready in their hands.

"I have the money!" Thumbling screamed as loud as he could. "The debt is paid!"

There were too many people. They were to big for him to move. He couldn't get through. The soldiers turned a deaf ears to his muffled cries. They raised the whips.

"One."

"I have the money! Don't punish him! I have it here!"

"Two!"

"Let me through! Father!"

"Three!"

"Father!"

The whips snapped painfully on the flanks of the horses, running in opposite directions, the ropes tightening and pulling until...

....the boy watched as his father fell to the ground in pieces.


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