Chaos Calls 03: the Dragon Dilemma
Chapter 05

Copyright© 2011 by Ernest Bywater

Work Review

I can hardly move when I make my way to the table for lunch. I get a few snide remarks about being old at my age, until Mary tells them all about my having to carry her weight while we climbed and walked until we reached the glen. I get more sympathy then, because they can now understand how sore I must feel from all of that work with her weight.

While we eat Warren, Carla, and Jake give me updates on the farms. All of the farmers have picked names for the farms, each has the word forest in it and the farm at the northern edge of the reserve is Forest Limits: some other names are Forest Front North, Forest Front South, Forest Central, Forest Friend. They must have put a lot of thought into it to come up with fifteen different names with ‘forest’ in them.

The farms have been cleared of the trees and the stumps pulled out. The trees have been trimmed and readied for use as fences and for building strong houses. The carpenters have been showing people how best to make the houses and the fences. All of the farm boundary fences are up. I knew the ones beside the forest were done, but the crew I’d set to work kept working to do all of the front fences in one go. They worked down the road and then made the fences between the farms. They’ll let the farmers put in the interior fences where they want, later. Each farm now has a basic house, if you call four strong walls and a roof that. The outside walls are made from split logs and so is the roof. The farmers can make the interior walls and floors when they have more time. But each farm now has a basic place to sleep out of the weather. The firewood from the felled trees has been divided between all sixteen farms: Town Limits and the fifteen new ones, so have the remaining split logs. The initial stock allocation has been moved to each farm. The seeds I brought have been divided between the farms, and the farmers have moved from Town Limits to their own farms. They’re all ready to take on the full responsibility to look after themselves from now on.

Damn, that’s a lot of work they’ve done in just a few weeks. I stop to think how long it’s been, and I realise we’ve been here just on four weeks. I couldn’t be any prouder of what they’ve accomplished if they were my own children. I’ll have to go visiting to let them know I’m proud of them.

The only problem is they have the four Branson men locked up in a barn because they were all caught poaching in the forest two nights ago. The eldest son was found near the forest holding their five horses. He wasn’t happy to be up late at night to do it, either.

Public Hearing

After lunch I go into Two Sheaf to speak with the mayor, and he agrees with me. I’ve the right to execute them because they were well aware of the orders to keep out or be killed. Now it’s a matter of having a public trial and sentencing them.

Early in the afternoon we gather outside the Two Sheaf Inn in what passes for the town’s public square. Most of the local people are on hand to see what’s happening. I stand on the back of the wagon I use to bring the prisoners into town while saying, “As you all know, some weeks back I announced I was creating a special forest reserve and no one was to go into it without my permission. I also said I’d kill anyone found in there, or who was found trespassing on the farms around the reserved forest, or if they were hunting dragons. A few nights ago the four Branson men were caught hunting in the forest. My people caught them and held them prisoner until I got back because I was away for a few days. Now I’m back and it’s time for a public trial.” I stop to look around at them all. I see a lot of people thinking on this. Turning to the accused I continue, “Jim, John, Peter, Paul Branson; you’ve been accused of hunting in a private preserve not yours, what do you have to say?”

Jim Branson spits at me and replies, “That’s always been public forest! You got no right to stop us hunting in it.”

I smile when I respond, “When I arrived there were no animals in that forest, none at all. Anyone here can tell you that. Now there’s a lot of animals there. My animals. Animals I bought and paid for. Animals with my mark. I put them in there to breed. So I have a very good right to say you can’t go in there to steal my stock. Wherever they are, whatever I’m doing with them, they’re my stock, and you’ve no right to kill or steal them. Do you dispute any of that?”

“I still say it’s public forest and we can go there.”

“Despite the fact you have to trespass on other farms to reach it the deer you shot was mine. There’s no way you couldn’t have expected to be hunting any animal in the forest except my animals. So you had to have gone in there to poach my stock.” They all glare at me. I turn to the crowd of locals. “I said I’d have anyone who did this killed. I intend to have these men killed. Does anyone here think I do not have the right to do this?”

Many in the crowd shout back, “They knew what they were doing by stealing your stock. Kill ‘em.” I give a slow nod yes to the crowd. I want the locals supporting me in keeping the forest a reserved land, and this public trial involves them all in doing just that.

Looking down at the four accused I say, “For the killing of my stock I sentence you to die. I know some others may think it’s worth the risk of dying to get at my stock, since you thought so. But I don’t think too many will like the risks after I pronounce your sentence.” All of the people now stare at me. “You’ll be stripped naked, hands and feet tied, then taken up to the glen where I meet the dragons! There I’ll give you to the dragons for them to kill you while they enjoy making you their lunch!” All four go white. One rolls to lean over the wagon-side to throw up. A few of the locals look shocked, a few look happy. I look at the crowd, “Do any of you think it worth the risk to poach in the reserved forest now?” I get a sea of heads shaking no. A wave to Jake at the front of the wagon, and we’re off to deliver the men for sentence when he gets the team of horses moving back to Town Limits farm.

Punishment

At the farm we take them one at a time, strip them, tie them up, and put them into one of the two-wheel cavalry wagons. I don’t care if they’re not comfortable. In only a few minutes six of us are on our way to the glen. I have to go because I’m the only one who can speak the dragon language. Jake goes so I can introduce him to Morning Breeze.

An hour later we’re pulling up in the middle of the glen. A couple of Kukulka are eating a bullock further down the glen. They look up and watch while we stop to offload the prisoners. Jake and I sit down at the boulder while the rest lead the horses and wagons off to the forest edge near the slope down. About ten minutes later the two Kukulka finish their meal and fly away.

About thirty minutes after we arrive Morning Breeze flies in with two other Kukulka. He lands, and I call out, “Good afternoon, Morning Breeze. I’ve four wrong doers sentenced to death so I thought you may appreciate having them as a snack. They were trying to steal the stock placed in the forest for your people. Also, these are the only locals who have made claims to have killed some of your people.”

He smiles at first (well, I think it’s their smile), then he loses the smile when I mention the deaths of his people. However, he smiles again when he realises he now has these people to do with as he wishes.

Morning Breeze replies, “Al, I thank you for this gift. Who is this with you, and why?”

Waving at Jake I respond, “This is Jake. I have many other places I must go. I can’t stay here all of the time. Jake will manage one of the farms and will be my personal representative here. When we have someone who is sentenced to death Jake will bring them here during the day and lay them out like this. If he is not here to hand them over please take them back to the farm nearest the village to the south. That’s where Jake will be living. Jake is the only person authorised to deliver someone to you for you to have.” I turn to Jake and tell him the same thing, ending with, “This particular dragon is known as Morning Breeze.” However, I pronounce Breeze’s name in Kukulka and ask Jake to repeat it. He does, and Breeze smiles when he says Jake’s name.

They both take turns naming each other while they practise the odd sounds. Both are happy to have the other say their name correctly.

Breeze turns to one of his assistants and gives them orders to get Fast Dive and three others. When he turns back to me I ask, “Morning Breeze, if we have some of our people who are already dead will you be able to use them as food as well?”

“Yes, if they have not been dead more than a day or so. Why?”

“We have bad people who rob or kill others, we call them bandits. We also have wars with large groups of bandits. Sometimes we have battles with many of them. I thought any we kill near here may be of use to you as food, if you accept them. Otherwise we’ll dispose of them another way.”

“If you can have them brought to this glen before dark of the day after you kill them they will still be acceptable food. After that they may not be. We will welcome any you bring. Your people are regarded as a delicacy by our people. Which is why some weren’t happy to not be able to hunt you now.”

“Good. I don’t know how many or how often, but there will be some bandits brought to you. When that happens Jake will bring them. In the future Jake will bring others up to introduce them to you and they will also be allowed to bring you our people for your dinner tables.”

“Good. I’ll look forward to meeting them.”

Fast Dive and a few other Kukulka arrive. They’re very happy when told they may choose the sentenced men as food. I step forward to kick Jim and John Branson while saying, “Fast Dive, one or both of these killed your mate! I just thought you might like to know that.”

She walks over to Jim to place a foot on him while saying, “I’ll enjoy the sight of watching my new born young eat this one as their first meal.” She looks over at me, “You are Al?” I nod yes. “Did you steal back the woman I had?”

I nod, “Yes. I must thank you for the lesson in how to swear. Until I heard you screaming and yelling when you saw she was gone I had no idea your language had so many words and phrases of abuse. I thank you for the education.”

All the Kukulka turn to stare at me. Morning Breeze asks, “You were close enough to hear her swear?”

I smile and nod yes while I repeat the first part of what she said.

She stares at me, “That’s exactly what I said. You were close enough to hear me and we did not see, smell, or hear you. I did not think any of your people could do that!”

“Most can’t. But I, and a few others, have had lots of training in how to move about without being seen or heard. Oh, Fast Dive, those greens outside your cave, they may grow better if you drain the area a little more. While I think of it, you should pay more attention to your eggs. Your young were cold and uncomfortable so I built up the fire a bit and moved them to make them happy while I was there.”

“You could speak with them in the shell?”

“No. But they were so unhappy they radiated their feelings and I could feel them. So I did what I thought might help, and I moved them until they felt happy.”

“I see.” She turns to another, “See, I told you someone had moved the eggs, and they had!” She turns back to me. “Thank you for caring for my young. I’m not happy with the new rules about not hunting your people. But since some of you are honourable I’ll obey the rules.”

Morning Breeze smiles at this change of attitude by Fast Dive. He says a few words and the four sentenced men are collected by four of the Kukulka and taken away by them. The men scream when they’re lifted into the air. Morning Breeze looks at Jake and me while saying, “Thank you for the gifts.” A moment later he and the others leave. Jake and I do the same by walking over to where the horses are.

While we make our way back to Town Limits I brief Jake on the terms of my agreement with Morning Breeze and how he’s to introduce a few others to Morning Breeze. He smiles at the level of trust I’m showing in him for him to manage my affairs in my absence.

We’re leaving the forest when Jake asks, “What are you going to do about the Branson farms and their families. You now own their farms.” Damn! I didn’t want the problem of widows and children.

Resolving Farms

We tend to the horses and put them away before going inside for an early dinner. While we wait to eat I ask, “Joan, what do you know about the wives and kids of the Branson men?”

She looks over and replies, “All four wives are much younger than the men. They were sold to the men by their families. They come from a place way to the south where they can do that. The men didn’t let the women come into town much. They’re nice ladies and shouldn’t have any trouble getting new husbands. But they don’t know much about working a farm. The kids are young. Ten year old Tom is the eldest.”

I think on that. Tom is the one who was holding the horses and I still have to deal with him. “Thanks, Joan. The ladies are now widows. I’m thinking of leaving them the farms. But if they don’t know how to work them they’ll need people to work for them. Any suggestions?”

She grins, “Lief’s nephews, Mark and John, and the Hadley twins would be ideal young men to work those farms because they don’t have any regular work. All of them know all there is to know about farming and both sets of brothers are used to working together in harmony. A bonus is they’re the right ages for the widows too.”

Smiling I look up at her, “Doing a little matchmaking, are you?” She grins as she nods yes. “OK, I’ll see what I can do after I’ve eaten.” It’s a bit odd how soon dinner is ready and served to us after that comment. Just before we spoke I’d been assured it was another hour away.

When I finish eating I ask, “Jake, when are you and Melody getting married?” He chokes on his stew and Melody blushes very red. Jasmine laughs at their reactions, and then copies Melody when I add, “I also want the date for your marriage to Fred.” Young Fred is at the end of the table, until he falls off his seat when I speak to Jasmine.

It’s a few minutes before any can speak and Jake says, “I know we shouldn’t be surprised people are expecting us to get married. But I need to get set up before I can offer Melody any future, and Fred is in the same situation.”

“I do wish you four would get organised so I can simplify my assets around here.” Everyone looks at me. “I know nothing about farming and I’ve no desire to learn how to farm or to own any farms. So as soon as you four get organised and set a date to get married the sooner I can hand you the title to Town Limits as a wedding gift and cease having to worry about looking after it. Please take pity on me and set a date soon.” The four young people are stunned, and the rest are surprised. Joan laughs so hard she falls off her chair. Then pandemonium breaks out when the two couples start talking while the rest are cheering and clapping for the good luck of the four youngsters.

 
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