Hello, and welcome to Brother’s Campfire!
Join me while I spin a tale about the Land Of La Longi
“Oh my word, so sorry!” The elderly lady ran off like a timid field mouse. She had done nothing but accidentally brush up against the man and she became almighty skittish.
Jeptha scratched his head in bewilderment. Everybody was making a big deal of things after he took a knight’s sword and pinned him to the ground. How was he to know he was a champion fighter? Was he supposed to care?
He was never inclined to conduct himself in a way that would cause fear to the elderly or anyone that was a non combatant for that matter. He took it personally and was hurt inside.
He followed hard after her. She had dropped some of her groceries and a handbag. Her eyes were wide as she approached. “Ma,am, you dropped this.”
She snatched her items and left in a hurry.
Sighing, Jeptha left without purchasing anything. He had come for a shaving razor, and he was defeated. He was trying to learn how to act around folks and the best way was to practice. He shouldn’t have moved so quickly when returning the bag. The woman probably thought he was going to attack her.
As he walked back to his work cart, he hated himself for being so strong and so stupid. He couldn’t do anything right.
Conflicted, he turned back. He needed that razor. Hair growth was a problem and there was no denying; he was a mean looking hombre when he didn’t shave.
The Alderman was in town, accompanied by the Bishop. It seemed the two were inseparable in public. “Jeptha, we have been meaning to talk to you.” It was the Alderman who spoke. ” When you came on to cut wood for me, you failed to reveal that you were one of King James’ men.”
“No sir, I did not. You did not ask. I thought it foolish to put on airs. I wish to chop wood for you and be the beast, I mean best woodcutter in all the land That is all, nothing more, nothing less.”
The Alderman eyed him suspiciously. “What then is the meaning of the pigeons? They fly to faraway places with messages attached. Are you a spy?”
“Nothing foul, sir, other than the birds. They are respectively categorized as such. I send word to my friends back east of happenings in my day. If you wish, I can show them to you the messages before I send them.”
The Alderman was dismissive. “Bah, I need not read them. It is a quaint practice and the birds are filthy.”
There was a brief pause making Jeptha uncomfortable.
“I do wish to know, is how you, a peasant, became a King’s man and command language so effortlessly as befits the nobility.”
Jeptha smiled. He hoped to turn the conversation around.
“Sir, it is a story beyond belief, butI will not bore such a one as you with such trivial matters. I will say, the Man with the Shepherd’s Crook taught me to read, and his wife taught me manners. I beg my lord, let me go to market to buy a razor. I am delivering your timber to the longboatmen and it is on the way.”
The Bishop interjected.
“Jeptha, there is firewood in every home in the village to last for months and boards enough to build a warship. Your work is the least of our worries.”
A crafty, sadistic smile appeared on his face.
“Tell us about your childhood, was it a beautiful time for you?”
Jeptha’s jaw dropped and his chest deflated. “It was not pleasant, sir.”
“You say a shepherd taught you to read? Did you not go to a proper school?”
Jeptha felt he was being bullied or goaded into something. He pushed back.
“Bishop, have you ever read the ancient texts?”
The Bishop smiled with fake sincerity. “Why yes, my child. Every day.”
” Sir, with all due respect to your position and standing, Why then do you not read the texts to us? It is the question Ashton’s mother died for asking. Will you have me killed for asking as well?”
The Bishop was speechless.
Jeptha doubled down. “Who asks the hard questions now?”
The Alderman, rattled by the accusation, was more pointed as to his direction. “Jeptha Berengar, your services are no longer needed to work in my forest. I am at a loss to force you to move as you are a king’s man, but you are not wanted or necessary in Pitmerden.”
Jeptha let the words sink in. They had barely settled in it seemed. There would be no arguing or appeasing his way out of this one.
“Yes, of course, I understand. We will be down the road after awhile.”
The two abruptly turned away and Jeptha purchased several razors. He didn’t know when he would be in town again and wanted an ample supply.
The walk home was anxiety ridden. What would he tell Collete? How many times would they have to move before she had enough?
He wanted so badly to be normal, to fit in with society, but every day was a brand new blunder.
True to his word, he transported the lumber to the longboat village where he was met by Zahra. She looked worried.
“Mr. Jeptha, have you seen Ashton? We are beginning to think something happened to him.”
Jeptha chuckled. “Well, unfortunate circumstances have found him here and there recently, but I think he is fine. He moved to Hahyrst. He may come back, but there is no telling.”
A shrill voice rang behind him. “and he didn’t tell us? Why, that rotten Ashton.”
Jeptha was startled. It was Jasmine, who was friends with Zahra and Ashton. She had taken to solitary adventures, with her parent’s permission of course.
She was outdoorsy, that one. To sneak up on the woodcutter was no small feat. Jeptha tried to pacify her. “He is grieving the loss of his mother. I am sure he meant to tell everyone he was leaving.”
Zahra’s mother, a small woman wearing an ornate bohra burka came and stood beside her daughter. She must have heard some of the conversation.
Blading her hand and violently clapping it in her other palm, she spoke.
“Ashton did not tell us, Ishaan, who grows fat off my table did not tell us, and you did not tell us. What of his mother’s burial? What of her soul? Was she cremated?”
In the most inopportune times, Yara came into the ever growing circle. Mother’s attention turned to her. “You are the cause of all this!”
Yara was confused. “What are you talking about?”
Jasmine, who had moved on from the relationship gaffe between Yara and Ashton lashed out at Zahra’s mother. ” It is not her fault! You are just trying to stir the pot because Ashton didn’t try to court Zahra!”
This made Zahra upset and she came to the defense of her mother. The whole thing escalated quickly.
Jeptha was unsure of his situation and found more bitter than death, the woman. Their hearts were like nets and snares.
He would rather fight a sounder of hogs and manifold minions than deal with this.