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02.

 

The Horse Slaughter

 

 

 Maezhiir’s morning sun had just come up when Ahndrew and his son, Elias, reached the new field that connected to the back of their farm. It had begun to warm them from the cooler mountain air, then shied away to a cloud.

 

 Ahndrew led his old horse mastiff along a newly set fence he had placed only two days before. The greying horse mastiff, which is twice as wide as a regular horse and three hands taller, pulled a well worn wooden cultivator that Ahndrew’s father had used in his days, and maybe even his father’s father, but Ahndrew never knew.

 

 Elias followed behind, steering a young mule pulling a seed cart. He was built like his father and you wouldn't know he was fourteen by the way he handled the young mule. He has been farming since he’s been able to, and has learned everything he knows from Ahndrew.

 

 They followed the fence as it turned, making their way to the far end of the field. Until this day, the field had never seen a seed, crop, or plow. Numerous battles swept through it during the time of The Great War. After the war, the victors claimed it as part of Towlbene’s expansion, but no one ever settled on the land. It was sold and traded through the years until it came into the possession of Ahndrew through its own trade-purchase.

 

 “If this new field works out, we may need to hire a hand for the picking season to help us harvest. Just need to race the day and get this planted before Beard’s moon comes up.” Ahndrew said.

 

 “Why is that?” asked Elias.

 

 “Well, for the only time of the year Beard’s moon shows itself, the rays infuse the soil with a blessing.” Ahndrew expressed dramatically, like an old storyteller “Or so the old farmer’s tale goes.”

 

 When they finally reached the far corner, Ahndrew lined the cultivator and horse up for the first row. The two of them worked diligently, neither needed to say much. “Good with that?” “Yup.” “Here, take this.” “Thanks.” Only what needed to be said as they prepared the horse and cultivator.

 

 “Get the mule ready for seeding. Having gotten started this early, we’ll make good time.” Ahndrew told Elias.

 

 “Does it work?” asks Elias.

 

 “Does what work?”

 

 “Beard’s moon, infusing the soil.” Elias mimed back the expression.

 

 “Don’t know.” Ahndrew chuckled his simple answer. “Just seen crops grow. But if it’s true, it’ll save us a year of a soft crop. Now get that mule hooked up.”

 

 “Her name’s Star dad.” Elias corrected him.

 

 “Right.” Ahndrew replied half-heartedly, then shook the reigns and lowered the cultivator’s tines into place with a cranking of a handle.

 

 Elias tied back his lengthy auburn curls. The auburn came from Ahndrew, the curls from his mother. When ready for work, he headed to Star and the seed cart.

 

 Farming came naturally to him. Methodic in his task, he was near finished prepping the seed cart when Ahndrew’s horse made an awful sound. When Elias turned around, the horse slowly lowered itself to its knees, and then rolled onto its side.

 

 Ahndrew had only plowed four rows of about fifty when it collapsed, breathing desperately. Ahndrew quickly dropped next to the horse putting an ear and his hand to its chest. The thumping was rapid, then slowed, then stopped, as the horse let out a breath that was it’s last.

 

 “Bloody, heart attack.” said Ahndrew, frustrated. He looked around, scrambling for an idea.

 

 “We need to unstrap it and get it off the field. Blasted thing is too heavy for the mule to pull alone though. Go get the other mule from the barn. Both will have to pull the cultivator too.” said Ahndrew.

 

 “A perfect farming horse... unless it’s dead of course." Elias sarcastically commented, trying to lighten the mood. But with a single look from Ahndrew, who was not amused, he ran off towards the barn.

 

 Ahndrew began trying to wrap straps around the fallen horse, but getting straps under the horse was proving problematic. After struggling with this for a bit, Elias returned with the other mule. Both of them worked eagerly for an hour to get the straps under the horse only to accomplish nothing. They stare at the horse, defeated.

 

 “Axe.” Ahndrew said.

 

 “You’re not serious?” Elias questioned, repulsed by the notion.

 

 “What do you suggest? We have to get it off the field.” Ahndrew reasoned.

 

 The idea was as unappealing to Ahndrew as it was to Elias. “Lets put a strap on each rear leg, tie up the mules to each, and start with the back half.” said Ahndrew. Reluctantly, Elias followed, tying up one leg as Ahndrew tied up the other.

 

 “Maybe they can pull it like this?” Elias pondered. Ahndrew nods a go ahead. Elias walked to the front and began steering the mules. The straps tightened, and Ahndrew grabbed a hold of them to help tug, but the horse didn’t even move a little.

 

 “Easy there, Toby.” Elias said to the mule he pulled from the barn. “Toby?” questioned Ahndrew, under a heavy breath from the attempt. “You named that one too?” Elias nodded a light yes. A chuff from Ahndrew as he walked back to the horse, squared off with it, raised the axe high above his head, and drove it down across the horse’s back.

 

 Ahndrew struggled to keep his stomach during the whole ordeal. Elias had to step in and take a few swings at least once before he too began to feel his own stomach about to give way.

 

 The two halves were dragged to a fire pit as part of the farm’s burn pile. The field was saturated from the whole ordeal. Ahndrew and Elias looked no better. It’s just after lunch by the time they finished, and neither had an appetite. With their mood a bit low, they buckled Star and Toby to the cultivator, and pressed on.

 

 The remainder of the time plowing was pretty uneventful. Ahndrew got rest of the field plowed, the cultivator put away, and Star and Toby fed and watered in the barn, when the top of the second moon had begun to crest the horizon. The sun had nearly disappeared on the opposite horizon. Only a few hours remained before Beard’s moon would show itself.

 

 Ahndrew took a pull from a water skin. From the barn, he looked up at the field and watched as Elias paused for a moment from the seeding. Curiously he kicked an object on the ground, then picked up what looked like a stick, and inspected it closely. After a long puzzled moment, he put the stick in his bag and proceeded with the seeding. Ahndrew picked up a water skin for Elias and headed back up to the field with his own bag of seed and a trowel.

 

 “What did you find?” Ahndrew asked, handing the water skin to Elias. “Thanks,” taking his own long gulps of water. He reached into the bag and pulled out the stick.

 

 “Looks like it might have been a cane or and ornament on long pole?” said Elias. He held the cane fragment by the shaft showing off the ornate handle. Ahndrew cocked his head, and inspected the figure of a hunched creature with a short snout and smooth quills laying flat down it’s hunched back. “Interesting, huh?” Elias commented, “Thought I’d clean it up. Maybe replace the shaft. Sell it at the markete.”

 

 “It’s definitely ugly enough for the markete.” observed Ahndrew. Elias tucked it back into it’s bag. “What do you think it is?” asked Elias as he grabbed some seeds from the bag and dropped them into another cut row.

 

 “Looks like the top part of a walking stick.” said Ahndrew.

 

 “No, I mean the creature.”

 

 “Never seen anything like that, but people carve and sculpt all sorts of things that don’t exist.” said Ahndrew, dropping some of his own seeds and covering them. “I think this plot was a good purchase.” The field was coming into it’s own finally, except for the red stained ground.

 

 They whistled some hymnals while they finished up the last quarter, then put away the seed bags and trowels once they returned to the barn. Ahndrew pulled out his pocket watch, flipped it open and slowly panned it about until two lines over lapped in the lid. On the watch face, a tiny white ball rested towards his wrist, suspended in a dark blue liquid.

 

 “Should have been done hours ago.” said Ahndrew, closing the watch. “Let’s hitch up the mules to the water cart. You can head back to the house after, I’m sure your mother is full of questions.”

 

 “Yeah, and I’m in need of some food.” Elias remarked rubbing his stomach.

 

 “After. It’s already late, but I need you to run down the lane and see if we can borrow a horse from Olivant for tomorrow.” said Ahndrew. “For family.”

 

 “Right, for family.” Elias said. He knew what it meant and Olivant would too when Elias said it to him; a favor among friends. And after Star and Toby were hitched up, Elias left for Olivant’s.

 

 Watering the field took the least amount of time in the whole process and Ahndrew was exhausted when it was all finally over. Beard’s moon’s glow was just beginning to crest when he finished the field. Ahndrew wasted little time getting the cart, Star, and Toby put away in the barn.

 

 “Good work you two,” he said, dropping feed into their troughs when he realized he was pretty hungry too. He stepped outside, and looked to the field to witness something he had never seen before.

 

 A vibrant green glow came up through the rows, with bits of piercing light coming through the cracks of the plowed channels. It illuminated a low haze suspended in the field. Beard’s moon now hung just above the horizon.

Up Next

 

The Lone Visitor

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Story by

Chris Dempsey

 

Produced & Illustrated by

Marc Faulk

 

© Dark infinity 2017

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