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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Tales from Viruda: The Demise of Lucy

© Copyright Evelyn Simak and licensed
for 
reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
William awoke to the sound of incessant screaming and banging on his front door.

“Mr William, please. Come quick!”

It was the voice of Jeremy, son of Marcus, his next door neighbour.

Looking through the window, William could see that it was still dark outside, although he judged that dawn wasn't far off. He climbed out of bed, stuck his feet into a pair of slippers, and hurried to his front door.

When he opened it, he saw the boy standing there. He had calmed down a little by this point, but was still snivelling, and rubbing his eyes.

“Jeremy, what's wrong?” asked William.

“It's Lucy, sir. Our poor cow. Papa killed him this morning, and I miss her so much. I don't know what to do!”

William was stunned. He knew the family well. Marcus and Cathryn had three sons, of which Jeremy was the oldest. While William was well known for being an abusive father and husband, William didn't think he would ever have killed Lucy; the cow was the childrens' pet, and they loved her dearly. Besides, Lucy had been their only cow, and they needed her for milk. He knew that they'd been trying to find a mate for her and hadn't had much success. Perhaps they had gotten tired of waiting, but it still didn't make any sense.

William sighed and said, “All right, Jeremy. Calm down. Now tell me, why would your father do such a thing?”

“Papa was hungry,” said Jeremy. “He said he wanted meat to eat. Mama told him that we could slaughter a pig instead. He got angry and yelled at her, and he hit her. He said that he was tired of pork, and wanted beef for a change. Then he went out to the barn and got an axe. We tried to stop him.” Jeremy pointed to his left eye, showing a large bruise. William was surprised that he hadn't noticed it before; Jeremy's eye was almost swollen shut.

William held the boy tightly to himself, as Jeremy went on. “There was so much blood, Mr William, and we didn't want to see. Papa made us watch; he said it would turn us into men.”

As Jeremy sobbed and squeezed William tightly, William spoke. “There, there,” he said. “I'm sorry, Jeremy. There's nothing that can be done about it, now. I need to attend to my animals today. Will you help me?”

“No thanks, Mr William,” said Jeremy, and sniffed. “I need to get home. Papa will be angry if I'm not at breakfast.” He turned slowly, and walked away, leaving William staring after him, quietly shaking his head.

***

During the course of that week, William continued to tend his farm, as usual. He did not see Jeremy again, but occasionally heard the unmistakable sound of Marcus screaming at his “stupid boy” for doing something he shouldn't, or not doing something that he should. William's heart was heavy, and he wished that one day, something could be done for those boys and their mother, to take them away from their abusive father.

One morning, as he was working in the fields, he heard a voice, “William, a Virduran farmer!”

William looked around, and saw a tall man with broad shoulders, wearing the uniform of the queen's guard.

As the man got closer, William stood up straight. “Yes? What is it?”

“Come with me,” said the guard. “Your presence has been requested in the throne room at Castle Virdura. You have been accused to stealing your neighbour's cow.”


To find out what happens next, please read the fantasy short story, A Petition to Magic.

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