Spring had arrived; it was once again time for the Faustian farmers to work their fields. They set off to their respective lands, harvesting whatever was left of their winter crops to sow malt seeds in return. Their previous harvest had been great and everyone in the kingdom had been able to enjoy a good year subsequently.
It had been two decades since the Shalorian War. While there were still conflicts between the two territories, they were fortunately not as destructive. It helped that the people were easily pacified. While their quality of life hadn’t seen substantial improvement, they were satisfied with filled bellies. The peasants were content as long as there was something to look forward to in life.
Brew picked up his trusty plough, calling upon his son and daughter-in-law to the fields. He was no less energetic than the younger folks even if he hobbled around with one good leg. Their morning was a busy one. Brew plopped down onto his land and began snacking on the nutcakes his wife had prepared yesterday during a well-deserved break. The cakes were a tad tough but he enjoyed them nonetheless after softening them with some water.
He was content with his current life. Brew had enlisted during his younger days, serving under a baron to support his family. They eventually won the war. His safe return, however, had come at the expense of his leg; the old man now lived with a permanent limp. It had been inflicted by the spear of a Shalorian soldier, who would then be mercilessly slashed by his longsword. It was a heroic deed that Brew boasted about for decades. It was also thanks to that Shalorian’s rank and nameplate that he was awarded a three-acre fertile land by the baron. Brew was making enough to keep his family fed in addition to the two-acre land he initially owned. It certainly helped that he was still receiving a pension of a considerable amount to this very day.
His son had just gotten married the year before and had brought in a bundle of joy to the family last year. The old man was incredibly taken by his little gurgling grandson, who would be the sole successor of his bloodline. He aimed to power through his work so he could return earlier to play with his grandson. He wolfed down the remaining nutcake and picked up his plough.
“Dad, I'm thinking of heading into town tomorrow to sell off some wheat,” said his son, Keane, after swallowing down a mouthful of nutcake.
“Half of it will go to the baron while the other half will be saved for festivities. There’s nothing left for you to sell.” Brew grumbled as he worked the fields.
“I want to buy Ruby some new cloth. She hasn’t had any to make new clothes with since last year,” murmured Keane with detectable reluctance.
Brew stopped. He straightened up and took a good look at his son. Keane was twenty, meaning that he was a full-fledged adult that could be the decision-maker of a household. However, Brew would remain the man of his house as long as he lived. He’d experienced war and had committed his fair share of atrocities. The village had collectively decided that he wasn’t one to mess with, let alone in his household.
Keane felt guilty that he hadn’t been able to provide his wife, Ruby, with the simplest luxuries. The desire had plagued his mind for a long time. He continued to remind his father of all the contributions Ruby had made over the years despite Brew’s unimpressed expression.
“If that’s the case, we’ll only have bread when autumn arrives. Are you sure about that?” asked Brew, placing his plough atop his shoulders. Contrary to everyone’s belief, the older man wasn’t a difficult one to negotiate with. His old comrades that shared the same camp had always known him as a tough man with a soft heart.
“I don’t mind,” came Keane’s resolute answer. His wife, Ruby, tugged at his sleeve in hopes to stop the conversation. She was a pure and diligent farm girl who couldn’t care less about clothes; she was already happy enough to enjoy a peaceful life with her husband and son.
Brew levelled his gaze on Ruby. She looked like the average village lady with her dull skin, scrawny build and linen headscarf. Ruby had been married into the family with a bridewealth of silver thalers, which had been part of Brew’s reward. She was from the neighbouring village and had lost her father to war and later, her mother. The silver thalers were divided among her aunts and uncles and off she was to become Keane’s wife. Ruby’s home was here; her husband and son were her everything.
Brew fell solemn, inevitably reminded that Ruby hadn’t gotten a single textile or jewellery since joining their family. “Don’t sell off everything, kid. At least remember to leave some for your son.” The old man finally gave his agreement.
“Alright!” A smile blossomed across Keane’s face.
A one-year-old child’s appetite wasn’t large. Brew had wanted to at least feed the baby some grain porridge once per day but it seemed like it was only possible to do so once every other day. They hadn’t planted much during winter and the resulting harvest wasn’t sufficient to last them through the next six months. This meant that other crops were necessary to provide them sustenance. With half their wheat gone as taxes and a portion saved for the child, the measly remnants weren’t quite enough to fetch Ruby two feet of good quality textile. It was, however, enough to afford the most common patterned fabrics.
“While you’re at it, why don’t you sell the sword at home? Bring it to your Uncle Robins’ workshop and have him smelt a silver ring for Ruby,” offered the father.
“But that’s the weapon you brought to war! I thought you wanted to pass it down as an heirloom?” His father’s decision had shaken Keane to the core.
“I’m certain that it will never see another war. Plus, it’ll grow rusty if we leave it lying around. Selling it off is the best option!” There was no definite answer. Brew returned his attention to the field, ignoring his son. Winter had just passed and the ground was still rather tough. Brew was already drenched in sweat despite working only a short while. He sighed, maybe it was time to make peace with his age.
Keane gave up, sensing that his father wouldn’t take a no for an answer. His decisions were final and no one could challenge that. Ruby brought over a water bottle. What remained of its scalding hot contents when they left home was now a mere lingering warmth. Keane took a small sip, soothing the dryness that the nutcake had left in his throat before approaching Brew to continue their task.
The town of Sharka was in the north of the eastern Tyr province. The small territory was always bustling with activity since it’d housed near two thousand townsfolks. Households began buzzing with life at the crack of dawn. Soon enough, the streets and alleys were filled with energetic business owners calling for potential customers. The men would leave for work beyond the town in groups. The women, on the other hand, would sit on the streets to sell handicrafts while working on garments.
Life in Sharka was way better than in the villages. It was no wonder why the villagers had yearned to live there. Ironically, the townsfolk had instead longed to live in their baron’s city. The peasants of this land had their respective hopes and dreams.
“Hey, Keane! What brings you into town?” A burly man clad in beast fur greeted Keane as soon as he stepped into Sharka Town. There was a longbow hung across his muscular back.
“Hello, Brother White! I’m here to run some errands today,” replied Keane with a beam.
White was a hunter whose father had been comrades with Brew during the war. Their families were separated by a considerable distance, one being in town while the other lived in the village, hence interactions were scarce and far between. Despite that, they would still greet each other amicably upon every chance meeting. Brew and White’s father had shared a great bond, after all.
“Ah.” It wasn’t difficult for White to get a gist of the situation since the large sack on Keane’s back stood out like a sore thumb. It was harvest season and it was common for farmers to sell their wheat in town. “I’ll catch you later then, gotta head to the forest outside.” The hunter waved casually.
“See you around!” Keane bid him farewell. He ventured deeper into Sharka, greeted by many others since his father was well known. Everyone was familiar with the elders since there were only a hundred youths that’d returned from war with the baron years ago.
Keane first visited the town hall, where he paid his taxes for the first half of the year. With one-third of the sack’s content left, Keane visited the local grocery store that sold grains.
“That will be two hundred and ten copper thalers. Keep it well, young Keane!” The store owner had a woven hat on. He was a frail old man who’d lost all of his hair to age.
Keane counted his thalers. “Uncle Kluger, it appears that you’ve given me an extra ten.”
“Keep it, boy. It’s for you.” Kluger smiled, dehydrated face highlighted a few deep wrinkles. He continued, “How is Brew doing? Is he well?”
“Oh, he’s doing more than well. You should meet him when the beer festival comes around this year,” said Keane as he thanked Old Kluger profusely. Ten thalers weren’t much but it was Kluger’s hard-earned profit over three days.
He waved goodbye to the old man and travelled to the blacksmith’s workshop. Ruby’s fabrics could wait; he could buy them as long as he had money. For now, he needed to sell off the sword hidden in his sack first.
The Kingdom of Faustian had imposed a ban on weapons ever since the end of the war, especially after the new king had succeeded to the throne last year. The people were made to register with the town hall for every purchase of kitchen knives and the smelting of iron ploughs. The only ones that carried weapons around were only wandering travellers and explorers.
Clang! Clang! Clang! Loud hammering rang from within the workshop. The early spring weather was still a little chilly but the workshop’s heat had quickly warmed Keane up. He loosened his thick linen garments a fraction before stepping inside.
“Uncle Robins!” He screamed into the space.
The sound of hammering died down. A burly man with tanned skin appeared. “Ah, Keane. What’s wrong?” The man retrieved a greying rug from the hook to wipe at the dust and sweat on his body.
“Uncle Robins, how much do you reckon I can fetch for this sword?” Keane pulled out the longsword from his sack. There were some chips at the tip but its overall condition was still pretty good. Its blade was very clean for its age and had glinted with light. Its master had obviously cared for it meticulously over the years.
“Is this Brew’s sword?” Robins lifted his head to stare at Keane. A glance was all he needed to recognise the weapon.