OOC: ARGH! Wrong account! @Hanna_Brassheart Could you please delete the first one??
Installment Eleven: Hired
Needless to say, there is a notable difference between living in the Guardian house in Efranya, where one is well-fed and cared for by servants and well-educated by mentors, and camping in the wild in a tent with only a sibling and the nature for company. Leina and I are still getting used to the significant change in scenarios even a week after our encounter with Christopher and the metal man (called an “automaton,” as it turns out.
“Keep up, Korey! Can’t you go any faster??” calls Leina, several paces ahead of me.
“Yay, I’m coming,” I sigh. I stand up and, with one last gaze at the intriguing fern I had found on the side of the path, I proceed.
We can both agree with no question that nature walks are awesome, but it means something slightly different to her than it does to me. She doesn’t bother to take in details in little bits like I do.
“Why’re you walking so slowly?” she asks with her arms crossed.
“I’m looking at nature, of course.”
Leina rolls her eyes with a disgruntled sigh. “You know, I wish we weren’t opposites.”
“You go on ahead, Leina. Don’t let me slow you down.”
“Actually, I wanted to tell you something that I forgot to mention earlier.”
So much for a soothing, quiet stroll in the country. “Yes?’
“The three brothers who work here in the Meadows? They hired me!”
I stop walking and my eyes widen. This is new. “What for?”
“I’ll be delivering honey, wool and milk to the Business District, north of here. It’s a mile walk!”
“Huh…” I respond, trying to take in the news.
“They’re paying me, too. Five coppers a load. We’ll be able to afford supplies! Oh, and guess what, Shep and Bucky are talking about hiring you, too!”
My brain struggles to keep up with her rushed talking. When it gets to the part about hiring me, my eyes pop open. “What?? Me, deliver?”
“No not to deliver, to help tend the alpacas and cows! Bucky and Shep would like extra pair of hands, and I told them you were good with animals.”
I stare at her puzzledly, “All right, but… when would I start?”
“This ‘ere is Bessy and Clarabelle. They my cows, and I don’ want you treatin’ ‘em like mere beasts, hear?”
I nervously bite my tongue and nod at Bucky. I’m still struggling to process the situation. One moment, I’m walking with my sister down a placid trail, and the next moment I’m getting a job. Sometimes I wish Leina weren’t so impulsive… But at least I get to deal with animals.
“You’ve milked cows before right?” Bucky raises an eyebrow at me dubiously.
“Yes, I did it quite a bit at my homeland.”
“Good. Sensible kid. Now, Bessy is a fine cow. She shouldn’ give you much trouble. But Clarabelle here is a stubborn one. I’ve milked ‘er a good plenty times, and she still wallops me!” He grins and points to his temple, swollen and red. He’s obviously taken a recent beating. “Good luck, son!”
“Thanks,” I reply slowly, eying the cows suspiciously, “So, I’m starting now?”
“’Course you are, son! Grab a pail and get to it!” He leans on a fence post and watches me smugly, probably hoping he’ll get a show out of Clarabelle and me.
We’ll see about that, I think to myself as I grab a pail and approach Bessy. I’ve handled many creatures, great and small, ferocious and tame, and I’ve gotten through with the lot of them thanks to my powers. I hope the effect applies on Aethasia as well as Efranya.
I look into Bessy’s eyes and start whispering, “Hullo, Bessy. I’m Korey. You’re a beautiful one. Don’t worry, I’m a friend. Be calm, be calm…” I stroke her long, brown mane, never breaking the eye contact. I sigh with satisfaction as I feel the emotion in the cow. She’s wary, yet trusting and understanding. Just what I expect in a new animal acquaintance. She doesn’t flinch as I get down on my knees, crawl between her legs and begin to harvest her milk.
In no time at all, I fill one-and-a-half buckets. I inch back out from under her and stroke her neck. “Good lady,” I breathe with an affectionate smile.
I grab two more buckets and face Clarabelle, who is already eying me warily. She snorts and paws her hoof on the ground. Her horns are aimed right at my pounding heart. Ignoring Bucky’s giggling behind me, I approach the cow. I gaze straight into her eyes and early on began whispering, “Hullo, Clarabelle. I’ll be your milker today. Now don’t worry, I won’t hurt you, love.” I mean it with all my heart.
Clarabelle moos gruffly and prances in her spot. Her eyes are wild and protesting. I put down the buckets and extend my hand to her nose, a foot away. “You be a good lady, all right? Surely you can manage that.”
The cow hesitates long enough for me to rest my hand on her nose. I feel a wave of fright as soon as I make contact. She brushes my hand off and, to my surprise, bites my fingers.
I don’t pull back my hand, but I toss my head upwards and give a soundless cry of pain. Bucky’s giggles intensify. I rub my fingers and take a deep breath, ridding any frustration building in my heart. If there’s one thing that I have learned about dealing with animals, it’s to not let them see or feel strong emotion in their caretakers. Again, I extend my hand to her, but I don’t touch her. “Come on, lady. I know you’ve got it in you. It won’t take long. Just trust me. And trust Bucky.”
Little by little, the wildness disappears from her eyes. In a few moments, she is sniffing my hand curiously. Bucky’s giggling ceases.
It takes several minutes of stroking, whispering, and even some singing, but I somehow find myself under Clarabelle’s legs without a scratch on me, save for my bruised fingers. When I finish, I get up and pat Clarabelle gently. “Good lady. I knew you had a sense of trust in you. Now you be good for Bucky, all right?” She responds with a dip of the head and a hoarse moo.
I turn to Bucky and have to keep myself from bursting out laughing. He’s giving me the queerest look, one bushy eyebrow raised, his wide, amber eyes dancing with intrigue, his lips pursed.
“Well! You seem to know how t’ take care‘v yourself, son.”
I smile warmly. “Thank you. You have some fine cows, Mister Bucky.”
“Enough with the ‘Mister!’” he explodes with laughter, “Now, go take care of Shep’s llamas over there, will ya?”
“That’s alpacas!!" hollers Shep from behind a line of tree. Bucky laughs even harder.
The alpacas were even more touchy than the cows. When I approached the pen, Shep was chasing them all over the place with a large shearing tool in his fist. His face was red, his eyes bulged and he was hollering at the alpacas passionately. After a lot of whistling, gesturing, whispering and scratching, I manage to get them to settle down. Shep was impressed.
Now, cows milked, alpacas sheared, and five rusty coins in my pocket, the work for the day is done. I take a deep breath of the fresh air and smile. I could get used to this life.
The Sun has passed well under the tree line. It’s early evening, and time to prepare supper. Leina and I have been living off fish and sea flower stew from the river, berries and fruits from the foliage in the Meadows, milk from the cows and the occasional snack that Christopher brings when he comes to visit. Kind chap.
By the time Leina arrives after delivering her shipment, fish is cooking over the fire, and we sit by it, munching on berries and sharing our adventures and misadventures.
I could get used to this place. As long as nothing changes, of course.