Posted by: Phil Anderson | August 2, 2015

Tales of Theran #2 – Part Three

Here is the conclusion of the second “Tale of Theran.” You can start at the beginning by clicking here. Leave a comment and tell me what you think, or leave a suggestion for a title.

Days passed, and the brick-maker’s thoughts kept going back to the enigmatic visitor. He had been mysterious and evasive, so Marin had let him keep his secrets, but now he was more curious than ever about who this man was and why he was riding his horse through the Barren Lands. Was there any value to his promise? Did he really have authority to bring justice to this lawless region?

One particular night Marin couldn’t sleep. He lay on his pallet, staring up through the darkness toward the ceiling and asking himself these questions again and again. His contemplation was interrupted.

“It’s not a riddle you can solve by thinking about it.”

“I know, Tara.” He replied in a quiet voice so as not to wake the children. “But what do I do?”

“You have to choose to either believe him or not and take action accordingly. If we wait for proof it will be too late.”

So Marin got to work the next day, gathering supplies and strengthening his walls.

“Azome’s coming down the hill!” Bovin called out from his lookout post. Marin sent him and Bett inside for some bricks, and watched to make sure they closed and latched the door behind them. The big man wasn’t afraid for his own safety, but he knew from experience that the local brigands were unpredictable and often violent.

With a brick still in his hand, Marin turned to greet his neighbor. Azome was approaching alone, but several men could be seen outlined against the ridge behind him.

Without any pretense of cordiality, Azome made his demand. “I need a wall around my field. I finally took it back from Edew and now I want to keep him out.”

“I’ve told you before,” Marin replied. “I’m not going to get involved in your feud.”

“I’m not asking you to fight him, or even join my side. I just want a wall. That’s what you do, isn’t it, Brick Man?”

“I can’t help you.” Marin shook his head. “I’m too busy with my own projects.”

Azome looked around at the new layer of thickness on the wall and the enhanced edifice of the entryway. “What are you doing here?” he scowled. “Adding on again?”

“I’m just trying to protect myself.”

Azome paused for a moment, deciding to try a more sympathetic approach. “I don’t blame you. We both know how dangerous Edew is, especially after what happened to your wife. But your  hovel is safe enough. Come build my wall.”

His wheedling was interrupted by a ruckus on the ridge. There was some shouting and the men who had been waiting for Azome were gone, replaced by a solitary figure coming down the hill.

“I went to my field and found some of your squatters there,” Edew called out as he approached. “We chased them away, but they warned I’d be sorry when you came back. Somehow I knew you’d be here, begging for help.”

He walked past Azome and stopped in front of Marin to issue a warning. “Whatever he’s offering won’t be worth it. I’m sure you learned that lesson after Azome cost you your wife.”

“Me?!” Azome protested. “It was you who—”

“I’m not helping either of you,” Marin interrupted calmly. His voice was not angry. Instead he sounded tired and frustrated. “When judgment comes, you’ll both get what you deserve and I want no part of it.”

“Judgment?” Edew scoffed. “Who cares enough about this barren land to bother with us?”

Marin hesitated a moment before admitting, “I don’t know.”

“When is this judgment coming?” Azome asked suspiciously.

Marin didn’t know this answer either. “Soon,” he asserted, “but there’s still time to repair the damage you’ve done.”

Both men started to argue, Azome claiming that nothing was his fault, and Edew declaring that there would be no trouble if everyone did what he wanted. Marin just turned and walked away, into the sanctuary of his home.

*****

The brick-maker continued his work as the next several moons waxed and waned. He watched the horizon in every direction, waiting for the promised visitation, but nothing came.

One evening he sat staring into the fireplace long after his children had gone to sleep.

“Have faith.”

“Faith in what?” he asked. “The empty promises of a vagabond stranger?”

“Just because you’re still waiting for a promise to be kept doesn’t make it an empty promise.”

“How long must I wait?”

“Does it matter? You’re doing the right thing. You’re training our children to make good decisions. You’re protecting and providing for them. That responsibility will never end, whether the stranger’s promises are kept or not.”

“What about Edew and Azome and the others? They’ve all ignored my warnings, enjoying lives of debauchery and depravity without a thought for anyone but themselves.”

“Justice will come in time. You cannot make others change. You can only govern yourself.”

“There’s so much selfishness all around us. Sometimes it seems hopeless.”

“It’s only hopeless when you’ve given up.”

Marin blinked slowly as he stared into the fire. It was the middle of the night. His worries hadn’t really been assuaged, but he felt better for having voiced them. He yawned, then sent himself to bed and promptly fell asleep.

*****

Seasons came and went. Marin persisted in watching and waiting, but everything else continued on as it always had. Until one day it stopped.

Marin went outside that morning and immediately noticed the difference. The birds were quiet. The air was still. Even the clouds in the overcast sky seemed to be motionless. Nature was waiting expectantly.

“Is there a storm coming?” Marin mumbled to himself, not expecting an answer.

“Go back inside and bolt the door!”

He paused, startled at the command. Then he heard a distant shout followed by other voices and a trumpet call. He went inside and bolted the door.

“Home already, Papa?” Bovin joked. “What did you forget?” Then he noticed the uneasiness on his father’s face. “Papa, what’s wrong?”

That got the attention of Kotta and Bett. All three crowded around their father with questions.

“We’re going to stay indoors for the next few days,” Marin told them. “Don’t go out for anything. Do not open the door for any reason.”

“Why, Papa? What’s going on?”

“Justice has come to the Barren Lands.”

The next few days were anxious and tense. Everyone tried to busy themselves with chores and pottery, but the eerie calm inside was distracting. They imagined the chaos and destruction all around their peacefulness, like being in the eye of a circling storm.

Finally, when they had started to forget what it was like to be outside, they heard the one sound they had been both dreading and anticipating: a knock at the door.

Marin went to the entryway, his children at his heels, but he did not reach for the latch. He waited, and after a few moments there was another knock, louder than before. Then, through the reinforced door, they heard a voice shout.

“Marin Brick-Maker. I am an emmissary of the King of Theran. Open your door.”

Marin reached forward and gently lifted the latch. He pulled the door open a crack and saw a dozen armed soldiers. They stared back at him but didn’t move, so he opened it wider and saw a dozen more soldiers. “Stay here,” he muttered to his children, then he stepped outside.

His home was surrounded by a ring of soldiers. The one nearest the door eyed him suspiciously and said, “Are you Marin, the brick-maker?”

“I am,” Marin nodded.

“My name is Captain Reggen of the Royal Guard. By order of the King of Theran we have cleared this area of villains, scoundrels, and miscreants. The king has declared this region, formerly known as the Barren Lands, to be the Pottery District. You, Marin, are hereby vested with the powers and authority of Overlordship, and are now responsible to rebuild and govern this district and maintain order as you see fit.”

The captain folded the parchment he was reading and handed it to the startled brick-maker.

“I don’t know what to say,” he stammered. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Do what’s right. Set a good example. This is a new beginning. You will establish the nature and the character of this district now. Build it slowly and carefully, like a wall, so that it’s strong and stable enough to last. I have faith in you. You can do it.”

Overlord Marin grinned. “When you put it that way, I believe I can.”

The End

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Responses

  1. […] To be continued… […]


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