Throwback Thursday 3/26/2020

Hello Friends! I have several stories bundled in one for this fine Throwback Thursday. Let me know what you think!

My Campfire

Now, the Story!

Good morning! You are welcome to a cup of coffee. The fire was low but not out.

The Bard was up late and quite a few Forest People chanted and sang at the Campfire. 

Galvin, The Bard

The king sent several soldiers this morning. He has ordered me to familiarize them with the area and put them on the work roster. They escorted in several wheeled carts with supplies. Something is going on that is bigger than taking convicts out of the community.

Northwich was a village prior to my arrival. There were places that the trees and stumps had been removed to plant crops. We planted squash and pumpkin this year. Winter wheat and garlic will be planted soon.

There are unruly grapevines and a few apple trees. These are a project and not a reliable source of food. Perhaps I can send for a cider press to process the apples.

Living out here on the frontier is changing me. I am not as worried about the politics of the Kingdom. While I am a Freedman, it is not without its obligations. 

(The Next Evening)

It is late. I spent yesterday and a good part of today showing the new soldiers around. One of the soldiers is the son of a high ranking noble. He was not happy that I did not acknowledge his lineage. 

He is of higher social standing than me, but he is a soldier that follows my direction at this time. He does not come with a letter informing me of special care. I scheduled him on the rotation and he will comply with direction as a soldier should.

I have specific orders from the king to build an encampment. I will do as directed. There is a lot of work needs doing and all individuals in the camp will do their share.

A man has come to camp and asked a lot of questions. He had insight that the king may be looking for a resource here. While it is not a secret, I was curious as to who he was but did not pry. I offered him a place in the camp as long as he pulls his weight. We need strong backs to clean up the surrounding area and rebuild. I want this encampment to be productive for the king. Willing able bodied men are welcome.

(The Next Day)

Good morning. There is a slight tinge of red in the sunrise today. I have several pressing things on my mind today.  The coffee is on and it is strong. 

I elder from a local tribe sits with me this morning. I have welcomed him to the fire. 

He is willing to supply me with coffee. I will trade with food supplies. His trade offer was acceptable and no nonsense.

The elder seems as if he wishes to speak. Several minutes pass. I sip on my coffee. 

“Brother, the Beast dwells in our camp. He is a warrior. He is fearless and respected by the young men. He is strong. He eats the flesh of the predator. There are many dangerous creatures in the forest.

The Beast

 A young lion was brought to camp by the Beast and he presented it to the elders. He wanted to know where he should slay the lion so he could share it among the tribe.

He is respected among the Heron tribe for his prowess. Great honor was shown to the Beast for bringing a live young lion to camp.

He says he was disowned by his people. A council was assembled and it is agreed.

The Beast is of the Heron tribe. He is our own.”

I am stunned. I sit and contemplate. So that is why I have not seen Jeptha around.

I suspect if it were not for Beast, we would have an entirely different relationship with the Forest People. The Forest People say the Beast kills and eats the Predator. They have brought gifts for this reason. 

A Heron Gift

I am learning about the Forest People as time goes by. It was good to meet an elder from the Heron tribe. I have been so focused on improving the settlement and mediating arguments that I have not looked outward like I should.

I do not understand the Forest People and they avoid me most of the time. They gather when the Bard is about and they sing.

When I do talk with the locals, they are not unfriendly, but short and to the point. 

The Forest People I have met are fluid and emotional in my perception. I am rigid and do not see shades of grey very easily. I think this is where I am not connecting with our neighbors. 

The conversation with the elder is the longest I have had so far. The elder left without giving his name. I hope to speak with him soon.

(The Next Day)

You are welcome to a cup of coffee. It is a little chilly this morning. Not winter chilly, just the feeling of fall is in the air. 

We are at a near new moon and I sit here with the Beast. It is important to know what may be affecting the Beast when you interact with him.

We fed the livestock this morning and he brought Grumpet to the fire. Grumpet is a domestic goose. Not your ordinary goose mind you. She is among  the meanest geese we have.

If you have ever been around geese, you will know they are great at warning about intruders and poor at social skills. 

The Beast loves animals. Small things are a delight to the Jeptha.

Jeptha, how did you make friends with Grumpet?

 Grumpet is My Friend. I talk to Grumpet and hold her. She makes me happy. 

Grumpet does look happy Jeptha. You have been out in the woods for a while you nasty goat. Have you thought about taking a bath?

I am Beast.  The men of the forest say I am a heron. I am not a heron. I am Beast.

 The Forest People let me stay in their camp like you do.

 Jeptha, an elder from the Heron tribe stopped by to speak with me. He says you are Heron like it is your last name. Do you remember your last name Beast?

Aggg. You make me work hard! Grumpet does not make me do this. 

Jeptha, sometimes you think too fast. It is time to slow down your thinking right now. What is your first name Beast?

This is hard! Jeptha! Jeptha Berengar!

Sometimes people give you names, Beast. Remember when we had a meeting and you got the same last name as me?

Yes. Adoption. You said I was family. That was nice. I want to belong.

You were adopted by the Heron tribe, Jeptha. Now you belong two places.

(The Next Day)

Watchman: Brother there is a group of 6 men riding on horseback towards the encampment. They are roughly dressed. I surmise they are brigands from the foothills. They are armed with swords spears and bucklers. They have little in the way of armor. Would you like me to sound the horn and make ready?

Brother: Ha. That is what I get for welcoming everyone to the Campfire. 

No, you have made me aware. We will see where this leads. Inform the others on watch to act casual. Perhaps they are in need.

The watchman walks away. I work with brigands. Every day. I brought 17 ne’er do wells on this project and some of their families live here now. 

Well, one did not make it. 

Not A Big Loss

16 it is.

Hard men, but real. I have had more issues with the administration side of Northwich than all of these men combined.

To be a brigand is a mindset.

I watch the riders approach the fire. I remain seated with coffee in my hand.

I see arrogance in a couple of faces and insecurity in others. That is how undisciplined groups work sometimes.

Welcome to the encampment. Take a load off the horses and have a seat by the fire. There is coffee.

There is some hesitation, but coffee can disarm intent I have seen. The riders dismount. 

 Brigand: “Who are you, the lord of this filth?” 

No coffee has been poured, grab a cup and have a seat. 

The apparent leader of the group walks toward me. I see evil in the eyes of the other 5.

He kicks my coffee pot over. I am not happy inside.

Brigand “looks like you have some families here, I will be picking up some women today. You can have them back when I am done.”

I have heard this kind of talk before. I look at him directly.

So you are a slayer of women and you disrespect my coffee. Let me guess. We will have some tough talk and you will say words to the effect of, “I will be back.” This ends now, hito*.

Draw your sword puke. I did not stammer. Draw it. 

The brigand hesitates.

That’s what I thought, now get out of my camp!

The brigand is smart. He turns to walk away and knows I am not armed. Suddenly, he draws his sword and I am on my feet. I close the distance and grab his right wrist with my right and strike him violently in the side of his neck. He does not fall but is stunned for a brief moment. I reach his neck and slam him into the fire on his back. There is terror in his eyes. He screams and 

I began kicking him. He evades me and moves towards his horse. The action happened so quickly the others just stare.

Don’t think I wont remember each one of you. You are dead men. Anyone else want to play?

*( Hito is a derogatory word I learned from the Heron elder of all things)

Author: The Storyteller

Benjamin Thiel is a husband, father, correctional professional and author of The Ongoing Tale at Brothers Campfire. His favorite quote is "Don't count the lions. It will make you afraid and slow you down."

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