Mr. Rena bent low to examine the soil. It was dry. Drier, in fact, than the very brook that had once fed the Rena family farm a clean water supply, but now, it resembled nothing more than a strip of dirt and sand. Now, the soil of the entire plantation was drier than the brown and cracked husks of what could have been a profitable crop, but not now.
Dray had seen to that, Mr. Rena fumed.
Mr. Rena kicked the dust with his boot and stomped directly through the cloud of dust towards the house.
This was all her fault.
If she had married Randaz Brantrude like he had arranged, instead of running off and getting Lurin killed, the Rena farm would not be in such a state of disintegration. For when she left, taking the sole Rena heir with her, Mr. Rena had had no choice but to marry his next eldest daughter, Ephney, to the pimply teenaged son of his closest rival in order to prevent a feud, and now, Ephney had gone and used her knowledge of the spring, and it’s origins, and created a dam, taking the fresh mountain water for the Brantrude’s farm, and leaving her own kin to shrivel away. Dray would never have done such a thing, she wasn’t that smart.
Worse yet, since the girl had not protected her only brother and let him die, the very family that had borne her, raised her, and given her a very respectable vocation as an animal handler, had to produce another heir, which meant Mr. Rena’s first wife, Dray’s mother, had to die so he could marry a younger, child-bearing woman. And given the fact that Mr. Rena was well into his fifties, finding a girl willing to take him had been expensive. He even had to sell his youngest daughter to help pay for the dowry.
No matter. It had been worth every cent. For the new Mrs. Rena, a dumb and homely girl from a farm on the western border of the Genuan valley, was a good egg. She had been living on the farm only nine months and was already showing a protrusion under his former wife’s dresses. His only hope was that it was a boy.
Matteus help her if it was not.
Mr. Rena stomped up the porch steps and flung back the door. He would have to sell more livestock to get more water. Without it, he could not then harvest what was left of his crop and would, most likely, even then, not be able to sell it as more than cow feed.
As he entered the kitchen for his morning meal, the new Mrs. Rena jumped from her station at the washing bin and nervously went about setting his place at the table.
Mr. Rena watched her waddling around the room and grumbled under his breath. Come to think of it, if it weren’t for the black eye he had to give her last week, she wasn’t all ugly.
As he sat roughly into the wooden chair at the kitchen table the distant barking of the sheep dog caught his attention, but not nearly as much as when it abruptly stopped.
He strained his ears to listen and heard the cries of the sheep.
Getting up from the table, Mr. Rena snatched his bow and arrow from over the front door and turned to his young, pregnant and ugly wife.
“Barricade the door, Opheena,” he said. “Sounds like the Brantrude’s are into the herd.”
She nodded, her eyes wide.
He tested the bow string for tautness as he marched through the crop fields and towards the herd. He could hear the sheep crying, for whatever reason. If it wasn’t the Brantrudes, he thought, perhaps it was a wolf.
He slung the quiver across his back and pulled an arrow from it, readying it in his bow.
Reaching the edge of the crop field he slowed his pace and scanned the area.
When he caught sight of what was disturbing the flock he nearly dropped to his knees. It was not the Brantrudes. It was not even a wolf.
For before him marched a great golden army of short-haired men, wearing gold armor and carrying golden swords and shields. The vast numbers of men cascaded across his entire field of scurrying sheep and went back as far into the horizon as his eyes could see. Having no battle experience aside from fighting feuds, the enormity of the army briefly paralyzed Mr. Rena. With them, he knew, they brought death. But his thoughts lingered not on his own insignificant life, for he knew his life mattered little.The one and only thought that carried him dashing back to the house through his crispy crop was the bulging belly of his young and ugly, new wife.