Hello, Benjamin from Brother’s Campfire here! Today started with coffee so dark that it stained the outside of the cup.
I started my day mending fence the wind blew down as well! The dogs are not to blame. Perhaps they wish to help me.
Moving forward from my futile fight with the wind, I would like to thank Ylenia Ely from http://lartenellanima.home.blog for freely allowing me to use her art as illustrations for the story.
Being a little brisk outside, I had the opportunity to write a chapter to the ongoing tale. I hope you enjoy it.
Without further ado,
Ashton wrapped the pestle, mortar and his mother’s letter in his bedroll. As he had promised to work for Jeptha the Woodcutter, he set his course directly to cancel.
The winter chill cut through Ashton’s thin clothing as he walked through the forest.
When he arrived at his destination, he was greeted by Colette, Jeptha’s wife. “Hello, Ashton!” She replied, “you look nice with your head attached to your shoulders!”
Ashton, in the presence of a very attractive woman blushed, and then recovered his front.
In a voice perhaps an octave deeper than normal he proclaimed,
“It was nothing, I knew I would be freed all along!”
His voice cracked and his bluster broke. “Miss Colette, I buried my mom yesterday and I am leaving.”
Colette was surprised. “What! That is awful. What happened?”
In his sudden tears and anguish, Ashton was incomprehensible as he tried to explain.
Jeptha, who was near the woodpile came running to see what the commotion was.
“His mother died,” Said Colette, strain in her voice.
Jeptha gave Ashton a hug and held him there. He said nothing, for he did not know what to say. He looked at Colette. ” He can stay with us, it was planned anyway.”
She nodded in agreement. “I will get the guest bedroom ready.”
Ashton gathered himself and spoke directly to Jeptha. “I don’t plan on staying long, I am leaving and wanted to let you know I am canceling my work with you. I am walking the path yonder. This place is no good for me.”
“Nonsense, said Jeptha. You will stay with us.” He paused.
“I did not want to see them cut your head off for entertainment, Ashton. I am sorry I left and I am sorry about your mother.”
Ashton did not know what to say so he simply said thank you.
Ishaan slipped out of the woods like a ghost. He was lithe and graceful as any cat. “Hey, Jeptha, did you bring a headless wonder over?” He laughed. “You almost lost the least important part of your body!”
Ashton smiled and Jeptha relayed the recent news to Ishaan. “By Chandra’s visage, I am sorry for your loss,” He proclaimed.
It looked like he would be spending the night, so Ashton set his ruck down.
“I will be going for a walk, If you don’t mind.” Feeling insecure, he hastily put it back on to the confusion of the onlookers.
Ashton was relieved at the invitation and would stay for a day or two. Perhaps Ishaan or Jeptha knew more of the lands beyond and could give some insight of what to expect.
The chill had died in the early afternoon sun and it felt good to be walking, gathering his thoughts. As Ashton walked through the forest, a breeze blew the last of the resisting fall leaves from the branches.
Ashton settled in his mind that no goodbyes would be given. He would miss his few friends, especially Zahra and Jasmine, but it was settled.
He walked with haste down the trail. When it suited him, he ran. It felt good. He felt alive and fresh, until he felt a sharp, stabbing pain in his shoulder. “Agggh!” He yelped.
It was the crow that had called him friend the day he narrowly missed his head being hacked with a longboatman’s hatchet.
“Kraa! Kraa!” Crowed the Crow. Ashton had fed his share of birds and had raised a few fledglings, but never had one returned to his narrow shoulder after release.
“Lighten up you nasty fellow, you are hurting me!”
“Nasty Fellow, Nasty Fellow” Croaked the Crow.
Ashton remembered his promise to his mother. He had not cursed, but he was almighty close. This was a smart little bird and he best keep secrets to himself or they may be repeated.
He thought back to all of his feathered friends. This was Erve. He had been caught in an old fishing net left by a fisherman and could not fly for a good while after he had untangled him. A youngster, He was impressionable and adopted Ashton in a way only birds understand.
Quick to memorize, it was the first bird Ashton had convinced to mimic him. A broad smile came over his face. He really needed a friend right now.
“Erve, I don’t know where I am going or when I will get there, but you are welcome to come along!”
“Kraa, Welcome long. Welcome” replied the crow
The bird didn’t lighten his grip and hung on in a frightfully painful way. Gently, he lifted the bird’s claws and prodded him onto his bedroll instead.
Instantly, he knew he would have a clean up problem on his wool blankets as birds have no discretion as to the progression of the bowels.
To his disappointment, Erve the crow flew off into a tree.
On his return, he was just in time for a dinner of the biggest rolls he had ever seen, cheese, and codfish. He knew to eat when food was handy and he ensured there were no leftovers.
“How was your walk?” Asked Colette.
“It was good for me to be alone for awhile, but I am thankful you have invited me to your home. I will not be staying long.”
Ashton declined to tell them about Erve lest he bring concern to himself. To have a crow land on your shoulder was not a good sign in local lore.
He did tell Jeptha about the shepherd.
Jeptha’s voice boomed. “YOU SAW SHEPHERD’S CROOK MAN? I LOVE SHEPHERD’S CROOK MAN. HE TOUCHED ME AND I AM A NEW PERSON! “
Colette became nervous. “Jeptha, relax. You are alright.”
Jeptha brought his voice down a notch. ” I am sorry, it is just so exciting that he was here! Maybe he will stay a while or visit us.”
Ashton commented. “I think he was passing through, but I think he had some business with the Bishop.”
Jeptha was shaking with excitement. ” let me tell you a secret about Shepherd’s Crook Man.” He leaned forward in his chair,, nearly knocking the table on two legs. “When you seek out the Shepherd Crook Man, he always shows up, no matter where you are.”
Ashton contemplated this. He did show up after his mother talked about him.