woensdag 24 december 2014

Stone: Chapter 3


            The sun stood at the zenith. Kemir Ocain was busy chopping wood. He would like to have enough reserves for the coming winter. The trunks were thick, but already sawed to the right length. He just needed to cleave them and it was a heavy assignment. He didn’t care it was warm. Kemir Ocain felt good in these conditions. A bit of sweating, a hard job and then he felt really alive.
            Kemir lived in a little mountain hut with his mother on a small mountain ridge in the vicinity of Kamardam, a little town fifty miles of Zolden, the capital of Spira. They owned twenty sheep, three sows and a boar, a dangerous animal with sharp teeth. Furthermore, there were two cows which grazed in the pasture and provided for fresh milk, the gelding White Cloud and the mare Bella. Finally, you still had Donk a bastard dog that was smarter than ten pedigree dogs together.
            The work of Kemir consisted to take care of all these animals. To look after the sheep, to provide nutrition for them and when some of them were ready to slaughter to take this task on his account too. The cows had to be milked two times a day and the sows and the boar swine had to be fed on time. There was little time left and when he had some, there were also the little repair works at the stables or at the fences for the animals. Sometimes there was also some work on the roof of their hut which was covered with straw and clay. In the evening, when he laid down, he slept very well and soundly after a day’s hard work
            His mother, Theresa Ocain was already an older woman, but tried still to do her part of the work. The complete housekeeping was her job and most of the time it was she who went to the market to sell their milk, butter and wool. They weren’t rich, however, they could live from the profit of these goods.
            Kemir had blond hair, a long nose and an angular shaped chin that gave him a very special character. Someone, you don’t mess with. Considering his tall stature and his muscular bundles, the result of all the handicraft, there weren’t a lot of people who dared to challenge him.
            ‘Supper is ready, Kemir… and don’t forget to wipe your feet off before coming inside, I’ve just cleaned up.’ Nonetheless her age, Theresa was still alert and jaunty. For a woman, she was tall, however, she walked a bit bowed due to her old age. Her ever so flaxen hair was now white and gray, but still so long that it fell upon her shoulders.
            Kemir laughed at her. ‘What’s for supper, mother?’
            ‘You’ll never change, will you, some glutton you are.’ Crown’s feet drew her smiling face. ‘Stewed pork meat and there’s enough for two days, so you can eat as many as you like.’ Kemir was mouth-watering because of the smell that came with the vapors that escaped out of the bowl.
            ‘Yeah, you certainly have the stomach of your father.’ Theresa bit her lip. Each time she talked about Kemir’s father, she contained herself and the smile disappeared from her face.
            ‘Was my father also a glutton, mother?’ Kemir never had known his father. He had died of the flu, as it was understood, when Kemir was still a toddler. He had no memory or they were those his mother had told him.
            ‘You could please your father with the simplest dishes, despite the fact that through his profession, he had the opportunity to enjoy the finest foods in most of the inns. He said he would murder for my stew. He didn’t mean it literally, but it always was a pleasure to know he appreciated my food.’
            Kemir knew his father mostly was out-of-doors. He was a travelling merchant and had to make long voyages for his profession. Too bad, Kemir thought, he would have liked him.
            Suddenly he heard Donk. A barking that probably brought bad news. Meanwhile, it had become dark and it was always possible a lonely wolf roamed the surroundings and tried to attack the cattle. Kemir took his bow and ran outside.
            He looked in every direction and noticed indeed something disturbing. The sheep and even the cows were very agitated and ran into each other. It could mean a wild animal. With an arrow on his bow, Kemir walked around the fence. Nothing to see. Maybe Donk had spooked away the animal with his barking. After a while, Kemir went inside to assure his frightened mother that the danger probably had disappeared. To be sure Donk was outside and he would warn if there was a menace.
            ‘My God, I was startled,’ Theresa said with a sigh. ‘When you were little, I’ve experienced an attack from a wolf and it cost me four of my best lambs before I could chase him with one of the little lambs in his mouth. You may not underestimate those beasts, Kemir. I hope they will not return.’
            ‘What are you saying mother,’ Kemir reacted, ‘have you chased a wolf?’
            ‘When, I was young I wasn’t afraid of many things, but now being old, but now that has changed. I wouldn’t dare to confront such a predator only with a cane to defend myself. But yes, when you’re young, you act first and think afterwards. Sometimes this can be good, but another time it will kill you. I probably had a good spirit watching over me.’
             ‘This good spirit was father, wasn’t it?’ Kemir asked.
            ‘Maybe,’ Theresa answered, ‘your father, however, would have used his sword…,’ she swallowed the rest of her words.
            ‘Father had a sword?’ Kemir was surprised. His mother never had spoken about a sword in connection with his father. ‘God, I almost know nothing about him.’
            Theresa laughed in a friendly way. ‘Yes indeed, your father was a jack-of-all-trades. He had this sword from his father. It was a legacy that went over from father to son. He knew how to handle it too. However, there were a lot better sword fighters than him, but a wolf wouldn’t have lasted very long before it tasted his blade.
            ‘No, I’ve… it’s sold, I could use the money, sorry Kemir.’ Theresa absorbed in memories, looked in the light of the oil lamp.
            Kemir saw his mother was deep in thought and didn’t push anymore.
            After supper, they stayed still a little bit talking about the past day and the work they had done. Afterwards Kemir, yawning with fatigue said: ‘I’m going to sleep. Good night, mother.’
            ‘Have a good night's sleep, Kemir.’
            Kemir was just thinking a moment about his barking dog and the alleged predator. He trusted his pet and that he would warn him if the wolf or lost cat or whatever it was should come back.


            He didn’t know what had wakened him. The dog didn’t bark and he heard no strange noises that didn’t belong to the night. He put on his pants and his vest and took a stick as a weapon. Before opening the door, he listened carefully, but nothing was disturbing the silence.
            Outside it was dark and the sheep and cows were sleeping quietly in the neighboring pasture. Donk came towards him and rubbed against his legs. Kemir caressed him. ‘Good dog, have you heard something?’
            Suddenly there was a cracking behind him and Donk started growling. He saw a dark shape coming out of the trees that ran towards him. Oh, my God, he has a sword in his hands.
            While he was waving with his stick to defend himself, he shouted to warn his mother. ‘Mother, mother… close the door, we are under attack!’
            The creature that attacked him, wasn’t much taller than Kemir, but still a lot broader. A real bloke of a guy. The first stroke of his adversary was above his head because he ducked at the last moment and hit the man with his stick in his stomach. A snarling was the only result he had, but the man backed away a bit while he dangerously waved with his sword so that Kemir couldn’t get closer. Nearby Kemir saw a piece of the cleaved three trunks that was as thick and long as his arm. It would have more beating power than the stick he was carrying.
            He waited for this creature to attack. He had not to wait long and with a cry the intruder threw himself on Kemir. He turned on his ash and banged the attacker with the piece of wood in his neck. He went on his knees and Kemir could finish the job with one stroke.
            At that time, he saw that he was surrounded by four of them. He took the broadsword of the unconscious man. He was furious and felt the power which fed his anger flowing through his arms. Two of them made a big curve around him and tried to walk to the hut. The other two tried to take him from both sides. Now he had a more dangerous weapon and he wouldn’t let them harm him. As a madman, he swayed around him and lucky as he was, he could harm one of them on the arm. The wounded man withdrew, but his friend charged at Kemir with a loud scream. At the last moment, he could ward off the violent stroke. It vibrated through his arms up to his shoulders. What a strength he had, this opponent, Kemir thought.
            Suddenly Kemir stumbled over something and he landed on his back. His dog Donk was jumping around the fighting men and barely saved him by biting the man who dropped his sword. Kemir didn’t let this opportunity going by and stabbed his sword through the body of his opponent. This one wouldn’t stand up again. Meanwhile, his escaping friend had disappeared among the trees. Kemir turned around and noticed the door of the hut stood wide open. He didn’t hear a sound from the house. Were the attackers gone, what had happened to his mother? He ran inside and saw that most of the furniture was pulled down, some of them broken. It was a real ravage.
            But no trace of his mother!


            ‘Kobe, I have to ask you a favor.’ Kemir was very troubled. Shaking upon his legs, constantly looking afraid around him he had run to the house of his neighbor Kobe Shamen. He tried as best as possible to tell his story about the attack and the abduction of his mother.
            ‘Can you look for my animals, please, I have to go searching my mother.’ He was seized by despair and looked desperate in the face of his neighbor, hoping that Kobe would bail him out.
            Kobe rubbed through his hair.
            ‘No problem, Kemir, but is it wise to go in pursuit of these robbers on your own. Listening to your explanation it had to be Dulkas from Mandros. They are ferocious barbarians and they are robbing women and men to do slave labor for them. I assume they’re coming from over the border through the Forest of Bandar.’
            Kemir, still out of breath and pale from horror, nodded affirmatively.
            ‘I guess. They were five. One is unconscious, one dead and the other is wounded. When I wanted to search for my mother, the last two had escaped, taking her with them. I would have questioned the unconscious one, but he had run away too. Will beat harder the next time.’
            The Dulkas regularly hold raids against the borderlands Westerend and Konteki. Normally they didn’t raid on Spira. For some reason, they were afraid of the Forest of Bandar. Why did they dare now? Kemir didn’t understand. They were in search of slaves, but they also liked to plunder on their robbing raids. All that they could carry, they took. They were notorious warriors. Certainly seven feet high they were no match for normal people. Kemir had been lucky. His anger had given him strength. He had a weapon now that he was carrying at his side. Now he possessed a sword, just as his father.
            Kobe agreed to look after the animals during his absence. Still Kobe tried to convince him not to go alone. He advised him to tell his story to the legislators of Kamardam. Maybe they would send someone with him, you never knew.
            ‘I’ll think about it,’ Kemir said, but he knew it was important to track the trail as fast as possible, now that it was fresh. He was a fairly good tracker, but not a specialist. It happened that he went hunting with bow and arrow and had to follow the trail of little animals. The tracing of tall warriors would certainly be easier to follow. He had to catch up with them before the border. When they would have passed, everything would be lost. His mother also!

© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere


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