Fiction by Joseph Delgado
Copyright 2012 by Joseph Delgado
This was for a writing assignment for a Science Fiction Writers' Meet Up group. Basically had to write a 1,500 word short story. I'm usually pretty concise with my writing so I was able to trim down some of the description and dialogue to have a complete short below the word count. It felt great to write again and wanted to thank the Writers' group for their encouragement and feedback.
Thalos sat on the fence of his father’s farm playing with his bow and arrow. His father led an ox and plow across the field. Soon it will be time for planting and by fall a nice harvest. He always wanted to help his father, but at eight winters he was still too small. He smiled mischievously as a man gingerly walked up the road and stopped across the farm and leaned on the fence. He drew his bow.
"Well met. Duncan," the visitor yelled to the farmer.
"Janir! Come to help or to gloat about your winnings last night?" Duncan, Thalos’ father, asked as he pulled on the ox’s reins. He wiped his hands on his overalls and walked to the fence to greet his old friend.
"I can do both, but you…Whoa!" yelled the rival farmer as an arrow hit the fence about two feet from the farmer. He peered across the fence at the boy, "watch yerself."
He eyed the arrow nervously, "Getting to be a good shot."
Duncan looked back proud, "Yes he is."
"Have you heard about the Trollslayer’s farm?" Janir asked his tone suddenly serious.
"No, but I recon you’re about to tell me." He watched his son approach. "Thalos, go to the well and fetch me some water."
"How come…" Thalos stopped when he saw the stern look on his father’s face and stomped off to get water.
"He was beaten pretty badly and all he had was stolen."
"Does the Baron know?"
"The Baron? Probably stole it himself." He nodded toward the setting sun and said, "You’d better finish up or you’ll be out here in the middle of the night again."
* * * * * *
"Thalos." His mother called as she saw him run past to the well.
"Where are you off to?"
"Getting water for father."
She knew what that meant. "Was that Janir who stopped by?"
"Run along before your father faints from talking too much."
* * * * * *
Thalos’ father finished the field two days later, when that afternoon three men riding horses stopped at the farm’s fence and dismounted. One held the reins and the other two approached the fence. The leader was a greasy man with black hair that streaked down the sides of his head like rivers of dirt. "Farmer. We have heard of monsters attacking farms in the dale. We wanted to offer our protection."
"Protection? I have lived on this farm my whole…"
"Things change, old man." One of them interrupted, resting his arms on the fence exposing a long sword sheathed at his hip.
"Old man and his family alone on a farm, sounds dangerous to me," mocked the other stranger. "We’ll be back in a few days to see if you reconsidered." They mounted their horses and rode off.
* * * * * *
"What did those men want today?" asked Duncan’s wife, Eda, while setting dishes at the table for dinner.
"Trying to offer protection from monsters."
"They are the only monsters. Janir told me they were threatening other farmers."
"So what are we going to do?" Eda had stopped setting the table.
"We’ll see how much they want and pay them." Duncan lied.
Suddenly Thalos burst into the room yelling, "that’s not fair! You have worked hard all year and they come a long and take it from us?!" The young boy was sweating and breathing heavily. "We have to do something!"
"There’s three of them son. I’m no fighter."
"You’re just a boy," his father scolded.
Thalos stormed up stairs to his room. "At least, I want to do something Father!" He yelled as he slammed his door.
* * * * * *
Duncan walked the field planting seeds. He looked at the road and saw the three men again approaching the farm on foot. He stopped for a moment as they climbed over the fence, sighed, and then resumed planting his seeds.
"Well met," said the greasy leader of the group.
"Well…again," replied the farmer not looking up from his work. "The answer is still no."
"We want to help you. You haven’t even heard our offer. Pay us ten gold coins and we’ll make sure no monsters attack your farm."
The farmer looked up and met the gaze of the leader. "As I told you, I don’t need your protection."
"I believe you do," said one of the younger men, as he stomped and kicked the plowed and seeded rows of the farm. When the farmer tried to stand to protest, the other man pushed him back to the ground. He was getting ready to kick the farmer when a small arrow caught him in the leather armor over his shoulder.
"Leave my father alone!" cried Thalos from the house. He held another arrow ready.
"Your protection just doubled! Have our gold by tomorrow or we’ll burn down your farm!" spat the greasy one, as he dragged his feet over the farm land. His henchmen followed close behind.
Duncan rose slowly and walked back to the farm house. He smiled and rubbed his shoulder. "Thank you, son."
* * * * * *
The years passed, and young Thalos did more of the work on the farm. His strength and craftsmanship were honed from hard and honest work. When he was not working on the farm he spent time hunting animals for food. He saved enough to buy himself a real bow and learned to make arrows from someone in town. He won several competitions in town and at other farms around the Dale.
He walked home and stopped outside the house when he heard his parents arguing.
"…Thalos has grown up. He needs to find his own way."
"His way is here on the farm."
"Don’t do that to him."
Duncan passed his hand over his thinning crown and went to the desk in the far corner of the room. He sat and opened a drawer and stacked twenty four gold coins on top of the desk and tossed almost all into a small sack. He paused, his wife’s face withered as she looked toward the floor. There were only four coins left on the table.
"That’s all we have for the winter?" She asked, sobbing.
He grabbed the small sack and stood from the desk, "What would you have me do? Let them burn the farm?"
"Of course not, but we cannot live on that."
"Thalos can help us."
"Until they find that we have more. When will it end, Duncan? When will it end?"
"I don’t know, Eda." He stormed out of the house to leave the small sack by the fence for the thieves to claim.
Thalos kept hidden until his Father returned to the house. He sat there alone for a long time tracing the latest archery medal in his hand.
* * * * * *
Another season passed and more of the farm broke down despite Thalos’ best efforts to keep supplies and tools stocked and repaired. The weather was terrible and the harvest suffered.
"Son, go and bring out the ox and plow we need to start for next year," his father said.
Duncan opened the desk drawer and pulled out three coins and tossed the small sack onto the desk. He dropped all the coins into the sack and buried his head in his hands.
"What are we going to do?" his wife sobbed, "Are they going to hurt you?"
"It will be ok. Tell Thalos to go hunting. I don’t want him here."
Thalos started to walk toward the barn. The sky was choked with dark clouds, so rain was coming.
"Thalos! Maybe you should go hunting instead," yelled his mother from the window.
Hunting? Thalos thought. Father never changed his mind and knows the weather better than anyone. He knew now was the time for plowing and not hunting. So something was wrong. "Yes mother, I will get my bow."
* * * * * *
The three men were enraged by the light sack. They threw open the gate and stormed the farm house. Duncan met them in the middle of the farm his arms wide in apology.
"We told you what would happen!" the leader growled. He slammed his fist into the farmer’s empty stomach. The farmer collapsed to the ground in a heap. The leader’s henchmen kicked him.
"Leave him alone!" Thalos growled from the top of the farm house. His bow groaned under the tension and he loosed an arrow that struck one of the henchmen dead. Another sailed into his partner’s throat. He gurgled something unintelligible and fell to the ground.
The panicked Leader struggled to draw his sword, until two arrows raced across the sky and plunged deep into the thief. He struggled feebly to pull the arrows, but the crimson that flowed from the wounds showed him they weren’t no longer toys, and he fell to his knees and then to his side and was still.
Thalos climbed down and ran to his father and helped him back to the farm house.