Netty Berengar looked over the sealed letter with Emerson. Sometimes he did not look at the small details or read between the lines.
“Emerson, you are not a steward or a freedman, you are the king’s thane. You have been awarded a village and the surrounding countryside! This is big, Emerson. You pay taxes by military levy. You are nobility. We have been directed to make a coat of arms.”
Emerson Berengar was thoughtful.
“Netty, it is a work camp that was used for military purposes at one time not too long ago. The king asked me to clean it up in exchange for taking Jeptha out of town without a noose around his neck. They think he is a werewolf that eats children and elderly folk and all kinds of foolish things. I like it up there, Netty. The convicts I brought are rough, but down to earth.
So he wants me to make a flag, you say. I suppose we can do that.”
“Emerson, you listen to me. You do not understand the significance. You are privileged nobility. There is so much to do!”
“Now Netty, this nobility thing is no good. My father said he was not interested in all of that. He said to me, “son, you are a freedman according to the king because of the bear incident, but we were free before all that. You just focus on holding down a job and farming our land. Don’t get these silly notions.”
“Emerson Berengar.” Her voice was stern.
“You have FAMILIES in Northwich that are YOUR subjects. Your father turned down any promotion, title, or gift from the king. You unwittingly accepted all of this in his stead. It is not a bad thing, Emerson. Now we have a lot of preparations to make. I will help you.”
Caydon and Hannah walked in. They had been eavesdropping. “What’s the bear story dad?”
Netty put her hands on her hips.
“tell them the bear story, Lord Berengar.”
Hanna was incredulous. “Lord Berengar? Ha! I have got to hear this. Tell us dad!”
Emerson sighed. He glared at Netty and she smirked at him.
“I went to a bear baiting with Grandfather Emery, and I brought Jeptha and Galvin. Dad never liked those two. Said they would get me in trouble. Anyway, those two ran off and looked for the food table. I don’t blame them. I was just as hungry as they were. Dad would not let me go. He said a man needs to eat what he grows. It was not time to be beholden to anyone, he said.”
Caydon interrupted. ” that’s not right.”
” Dad and mom brought me to La Longi on a boat as a very young child. He purchased a section of land and we farmed it. We paid yearly taxes and followed the king’s laws.
When times were tough, men would go to the king or a noble and swear a pledge of fealty for food, protection or supplies to get by.
Grandfather Emery maintained his status as a free man and we were skinny some years.
That was his reasoning for not eating the food,Caydon. He thought it was a trick somehow.”
“Dad brought his large pitchfork with three iron tines to the baiting and everyone stared at him. He brought it regularly for protection and had demonstrated proficiency in its use. He was not about to be shook down somewhere on the road and impressed upon to swear fealty to anyone. Grandfather Emery aimed to stay a free man.
Now, back to the bear.
An enormous bear was released into a high walled arena, unchained. The tormenting began. Dad was not at all enthused about the festivities and told me it was time to leave. There was no arguing with dad.
A woman screamed. The king’s son was leaning over the rail to throw a rock at the bear and he had fallen in the arena. The bear was enraged and the boys crying drew his attention.
I looked towards dad and he was gone. He had leapt into the arena with his pitchfork and was yelling at the bear. I followed dad into the arena and had to climb down instead of jump.
Grandfather Emery was bracing the bear with his pitchfork. He had distracted it and planted the butt end in the dirt. He continued to taunt the bear to keep it distracted. It pushed into the tines trying to get at him. ” kill it son!” My dad yelled when he saw me. All I had was a dagger in my waistband. The bear stood some seven feet tall. I stabbed it over and over on its underbelly while dad held him with his long pitchfork. Needless to say, I am here and there was an angry bear owner. I have never been so scared in my life.
The king’s son was saved and my father was offered many positions that he turned down. He was a farmer and would be until his passing. It was important to him that he earned what he got.
Apparently the king had not forgotten me or my father and now we will ensure the people of Northwich are looked after.
Caydon looked sceptical. So did Hannah. That wasn’t the dad they knew.
They would leave in the morning.
Wilfred the donkey was excited and ready to pull the cart of the Berengars’ belongings. He was the top of the barn hierarchy at the Berengar estate. He would pull the oak chest with the family keepsakes, cookware and clothing, heading up the drove.
Emerson loaded up his other jennies and jacks and prepared for the trip. Saws, axes, chisels, wedges, hammers,shovels, and other tools were purchased for the trip and secured to the animals.
There was no blacksmith in Northwich to manufacture tools and work metel so a large amount of nails were purchased.There was a giant anvil on sight for just the right individual willing to settle in Northwich and hammer out the metalworking needs.
Netty purchased cloth, needles, thread, yarn, a spinning wheel and all sorts of strange tools that were foreign to Emerson.
It would be a long walk to Northwich with frequent stops to ensure no one had cold feet, fingers, or ears. Most of the trip would be on a well marked trail, unlike the first one he took to Northwich initially.
Emerson had taken the 16 on a less direct route to explore and chart for the king.
Now, They would simply follow the La Longi River to Northwich Creek and head north. The trails were pretty clear cut.
There would be several places to stay if he timed the travel right. The last leg would be a little tougher.
Emerson sipped on his coffee and Netty sat beside him. He was nervous and apprehensive. He would be taking his family in the beginning of winter to somewhat unfamiliar territory for them.
The king had given him an enormous responsibility.
Caydon was the first to wake up. He was trying his winter outfit on and tucked his dagger into his waist. He looked rough and ready for a youngster. Emerson knew he would soon be friends with the Heron boys.
Emerson woke his daughter. Hannah was upset, but she was game.
Netty wanted to leave as soon as there was enough light to see. The snow on the ground illuminated the night so travel began early. She already said her goodbyes.
Emerson’s thoughts drifted. He was taking a gamble of sorts. What would his children’s future hold for them? He had discussed this with the Shepherd and his wife. The Shepherd asked If he wanted his children to be raised the way he had been. Emerson did not. He was very concerned about education. It was a giant step to entrust his children with the Shepherd’s wife over the tutors in La Longi. Caydon and Hannah would interact on a daily basis with the convicts’ children. This dismayed Emerson.
He thought about being entrusted with Northwich. What would he do? He was not of royal blood, but a freedman. He was more inclined to think like his father and decline the gifts and honors, but in all sincerity, Netty was right. There were families needing him to get through the winter without starving to death.