Benjamin from Brother’s Campfire here.
I have been working on a story in between work and I completed a chapter this morning! Armed with a cup of coffee so strong it stares back at me, It is bound to be an excellent read.
Each waking moment his muscles ached from the physical labor.
On some days, it seemed his very flesh would detach from the bone.
Ashton’s days passed quickly in hard labor as he tried to meet the ever increasing expectations of his boss.
Jeptha could cut down trees and split wood faster than any two or three men with effortless ease and demanded the same work output from Ashton.
It was brutal. What was just as bad was processing the logs into planks. As a pitman, using the whipsaw was awful and the work dangerous. In a short time, He surmised that he sawed enough boards to build a fleet of longboats.
The worst part of his stay with Jeptha was the nightly runs through the forest. Jeptha would wake Ashton and take him along nearly every night. As a guest, it was difficult to say no.
Sleep, seemingly nonexistent, was a treasured commodity and he often would rest standing up if necessary.
There was little time to think of moving on down the trail. There were too many reasons not to. He felt like he belonged right where he was with Jeptha and Colette. And it did not hurt that Jeptha paid handsomely for his work.
Coin was in Ashton’s hand at the end of every day and all meals were covered. In fact, Colette encouraged him to eat more than his stomach could handle. She became offended if you did not eat…and eat…and eat.
To Ashton’s surprise, Erve the crow was a welcome guest. Neither Collete or Jeptha looked down on Ashton for his affinity with birds or with his knowledge of herbs.
Erve was quite intuitive in the art of language and when Colette wasn’t around, Jeptha taught him to say, “I eat predator flesh.” It was pretty amusing to hear people words from such a small voicebox.
It seemed Erve had at least some understanding of what was being said or could at least correlate words with objects.
On one occasion, a sparrow hawk circled, looking for a mouse or the like.
Erve, sitting on a post, screeched, “predator! predator!” to the amusement of Jeptha and Ashton.
As for the collection of herbs and preparation of medicine, Jeptha had a little knowledge of his own to share. Apparently, Jeptha had spent many years in the backcountry learning from the Heron and Ruetoohto tribes about the subject.
Ashton, didn’t know of anyone but a few neighbors and the longboatmen and stayed alert for any information of faraway places.
On the rare occasion Ashton was not working, he looked on down the trail, wondering what was beyond. Jeptha’s talk enhanced the desire to set out on his own causing conflicted thoughts of staying or leaving.
Ever curious as to how Jeptha could afford to pay so well on the Alderman’s wages,he asked as much and was not given a clear answer.
Ashton suspected that there were alternative reasons for Jeptha and Colette moving near the quaint village of Pitmerden, but he could not put a finger on it.
Overall, Ashton felt welcome all around and stood a little taller for it. There was not much reason to poke his nose where it didn’t belong so he chose not to care.
Jeptha kept a few pigeons, and over the passage of time, he allowed Ashton to care for them as well.
He had only seen them as excellent table fare, but Jeptha had another reason for keeping them.
Message capsules were attached to the legs of a few, something he had bever seen before.
The process of sending messages was relatively simple.
The birds had a place they called home and they would try to return. If you wanted a two way message, a food source was revealed to the bird so he would return to it.
As a part of training, Jeptha would take the birds far afield and release them. This explained all of the running Jeptha did in the middle of the night.
“Jeptha,” He asked, “Who do you send messages to?”
Jeptha smiled. He always seemed to. “Why Ashton, my friends and family of course. I am a fair journey from my people and a pigeon can get there much faster than me. Do you remember Ishaan?”
“How could I forget him? He saved me from the chopping block.”
“It is how I messaged him here. I would that you didn’t tell Ishaan , but he was my pigeon as well. I sent him a message that there is a man of substance who would give his daughter to a man of Vijayapura and my little pigeon arrived at the feedstation.”
Jeptha looked innocent.
“Who was to know he would hang a corrupt guard on the maypole and feed roving bandits to a sounder of hogs?”
Ashton felt accusatory and was immediately angry but quickly stifled any sharp response. It wasn’t worth it.
Jeptha’s demeanor changed. He spoke with regret as if he had lost his best friend.
“You have an eye for the open country, Ashton. You have coin enough to outfit yourself and you earned every bit of it. You should go out and conquer Ashton and then the world.”
He paused, thinking back to what was important to himself as a young man.
“As long as I am here, you have a place to call home if you so desire. You are family, Ashton.”