Hello, Benjamin from Brother’s Campfire here! It is a brisk Sunday Morning over here and I am drinking the wretched, bitter coffee, just the way I like it.
Before I begin today’s tale at the Campfire, I wanted to let you know I added chapter numbers to the ongoing tale for to reference or look back as desired.
Mother! Mother! Wake up!!!
She did not arise, for the stint in the stocks had taken a bad turn for Ashton’s mother. She had been sick for several days, but in the end, she could not help herself, nor could her son for that matter.
It was a dark day for Ashton as he buried his mother in a shallow grave behind the house.
As he looked around the small shack he had called home for 19 years, there was little to be found. While he was in the gate tower under watch, his mother’s home had been ransacked. Even the cookpot was gone.
Trying to be both practical and sentimental, he searched the house for anything of physical and emotional worth when he remembered the floorboard.
It was a simple matter of moving his mother’s straw mattress and lifting a slat.
Contained in the hiding place was the small bag of coins left by Yara’s suitor, a pestle and mortar, and a letter written to a man named Patrick, likely his father.
My dearest Patrick,
I hope writing this will fill the void of our separation. I cannot bear that you are gone. When we were married in that rough Carsiolian camp, I felt so safe and complete with you. I thought we would be together forever. You brought me such joy, such hope for the future. You were so kind and gentle. Our son is seventeen now and quite a man. He looks just like you Patrick. He plows the fields and forages for our home. He’s so kind and gentle, just like you.
When we kissed on our wedding day, I promised to be forever by your side and I tried to be. Life has a way of destroying what we really want.
I am so deeply sorry, Patrick, I had to do some awful things to get through some tough spots and I fear I didn’t meet your expectations. They say you are gone but I like to think that you turned into a sea animal that day they tied you to a log and set you adrift. I await the return that will never come. I love you.
Ashton fell to the floor and sobbed. In a few short days, everything he loved and desired was gone. Letter in hand, he fell into a troubled sleep.
Ashton, woken by the evening chill and dark realization. His mother was sleeping outside and here he was, worried about the cold.
Anguish filled his heart and mind and with knees to his chest he rocked back and forth weeping bitter tears.
There was a rattle at the door. Ashton was instantly alert. He had forgotten to secure it with a plank.
He heard voices.
“They got everything out of the house already.”
“Well, there might be more. Doesn’t hurt to look.”
“What about the man who lives here?”
“The scrawny boy? He’s long gone.”
Ashton, unable to grieve without interruption became quite upset. When the prowlers opened the door he drove them off, mortar and pestle in hand.
Securing the door properly, he went back to bed, but morning came much too quickly.
Though he had slept through the late afternoon and the night, he could not wish to get up. He was just not ready to face the day.
Despite his sentiment, the day faced him anyway with a rap on the door.
Bleary eyed, he called, “who is it?”
“The Alderman’s watch! Open the door!”
Ashton removed the plank from the door to see several town watchmen, weapons in scabbard, but hands at the ready.
Resentment welled inside. These were the men who had detained him in the gatehouse for his trial.
“Can I help you?” He asked as respectful as possible. There was no need to escalate anything.
A sharp middle aged man with a square face spoke. Ashton recognized him as Louis Russo, head of the town watch.
“Ashton, first of all, on behalf of the town watch, we are sorry for the loss of your mother. Our condolences.”
Ashton was not buying the insincerity, but he played along anyway. His mouth had gotten him in a lot of trouble already it seemed.
“Thank you,” he replied, waiting for the direction this would go.
Russo the watchman scratched the side of his head, looking puzzled.
“We have a few questions for you and we will be on our way.”
Ashton raised an eyebrow and did not respond. He was of no mind to talk about anything if he didn’t have to. He had just narrowly missed an execution for acts he had not committed.
Russo continued. “What can you tell me about this man lying here?”
Ashton shook his head in disbelief. He was so intently focused on the watchman, he didn’t see anything other than guards when he opened the door.
Sprawled on the ground was one of the men who tried breaking in his home. There was no getting out of this so he was honest.
“I was sleeping when this man broke into my house.”
“Say on, young man, what happened?” Said Russo.
Ashton contemplated, saying the inevitable.
“Watchman, I killed a man. I put a pestle to his head, I beat him, and he is dead.”
Ashton broke down. The reality of it all was too much. “I wish I had never been born at all,” He replied.
The watchman rested a hand on Ashton’s shoulder. “No one blames you, son. He tried breaking in and you defended yourself.”