Tomoko and the Goren
by Doc Sawzall
Majeb was pleased with his dealings in the marketplace, he had been treated fairly. There was a demand for what he brought to market to trade, barter or sell. Many merchants asked for exclusivity, the quality of his crops, foodstuffs and meats assured top value. In exchange, he was able to procure the items needed to ensure survival through any lean years to come.
While he understood the need to fertilize and crop rotation, it was the simple understanding of what he needed to do and when; when to irrigate the fields, when to water the animals, what feed produced the best results. Much he had learned from his father who had passed what he had learned from his grandfather and what he knew what he would pass along to Tomoko.
He was proud of his first-born son, surely the gods had blessed his mother whilst she was carrying him. He was everything a father could wish for, Caring and compassionate, imbued with a thirst for knowledge and to understand the greater world beyond the farm. More than once Tomoko had to use his fists if pushed too far, but only if there were no other alternatives.
His understanding of the different animals that populated the farm, he could sense when they were in distress or about to go into labor. None were afraid of him and called out to him when he was near or passing by.
Truly Majeb thought, was the miracle with the juvenile Goren, there was no doubt he had saved the Goren's life. But what puzzled Majeb the most was the closeness that had developed between the two. While generally thought to be no smarter that the canines that were around the farm, it was if there were some sort of link between the two. Together they were a formidable pair, working as hard if not harder, than any other pair on the farm.
As much time as the Goren spent on the farm with Tomoko, he spent with the Goren exploring or with its colony. That in itself was practically unheard of, that they would allow a human boy to so closely interact with them. He was forever bringing foodstuffs to them along with small game that tried to enjoy the fruits of the farm. Tomoko was as good with a sling as anyone Majeb had seen. Many an afternoon saw Tomoko bring a basket of rats, squirrels or other vermin to the Goren colony. He knew what tubers and wild potatoes that grew beyond the farm in the wilderness that only the Goren prized, it wasn't unusual to see the both of them dragging back burlap bags full of them, back to the colony. While Tomoko was too young to understand, he completely fit in and was in tune with the world around him.
The last of the goods to be brought back to the farm were loaded and tied off, this trip had gone well, the best year yet. While much had been bought to bring back, there were many coins securely hidden in the wagons and only a few in his purse. These he planned to give to Tomoko as a reward for his labors.
As they finished inspecting the wagons and the ropes securely tied in place Majeb was approached by a priest and his acolyte looking a few coins for support. Majeb, distracted by their arrival never caught on to the Goren's distress. As he opened his purse the acolyte gutted him.
Behind the priest were several others with netting that they threw over the distressed Goren. Time was of the essence, they knew Tomoko was close to returning, the Goren was dragged off to a waiting cart while the acolyte waited to pin the deed on Tomoko, whilst waiting he noticed the stone on Majeb's wedding promise neckless. With a swift jerk, it was his, placing it around his neck he wrapped the knife in a bundle of rags coated with Majeb's blood.
Heading for the path Tomoko would be on, he set the final act in motion. Upon seeing the boy, he deliberately ran in to him, giving him the bloody bundle and letting him know that his father had been attacked.
The ensuing commotion drew the expected crowds and the priest who happened to be within earshot, Tomoko was as good as tried and convicted. One of Majeb's neighbors knowing the impossibility of such an act by Tomoko was quickly silenced, threatened with interfering in matters far beyond him. Knowing discretion was called for, it was he who brought Majeb's wagons back along with the sad news. A few days later another neighbor reported Tomoko's conviction for the crime of murdering his father.
It is written in the Chronicles that the days are not promised, that life is transient. Death is always present, from the sowing of crops to the butchering of the herd stock, children occasionally died either in infancy, or from disease. Further yet, accidents had little consideration for the age of the unfortunate. It was with this understanding of the transient nature of their humble existence learned of the news of her husband and son.
With hesitant equanimity, she was loath to believe the tale for what it was. Somot asked that her husband's body be placed behind the barn, where she would attend to her beloved and prepare the body for burial. She further asked the neighbors who brought the sad news, and the body of her husband, to accompany her five summers hence where she would collect the remains of her oldest son. With great sadness and immeasurable grief, she resolved to do what she could while keeping the farm viable. It would pass to Hobin, Yontil would be promised in three summers, already there were many callers who were interested in her hand. She fully expected the number of callers Hobin generated would far outnumber Yontil's.
Saraq was pissed. Volan had managed once again to screw up and fail to carry out everything he was tasked with, that the farmer had to die was a necessary part of the plans, but the fool failed to grab the purse or locate where the rest of the coins were. The fucking son of the blacksmith was next to fucking useless.
At least the Goren had been captured, as much as he desired the coins he wanted the Goren even more. If he were to keep the arena busy and the other Goren hungry, he'd need at least this one and possibly another.
As it was, the fucking idiot took the fucking farmers wedding promise neckless. Just fucking great he thought to himself, something that could possibly tie them into the crime. As he ripped the neckless from around Volan's neck he knew he had a problem with the boy, he was a liability and as such he would need to be dealt with. The riddle was how and when. It would have to be soon lest the boy place them in further danger.
Because of Volan's stupidity they had been cast out by the People of the Lake. For nearly eight luni they had travelled only to arrive at this godforsaken backwater of a hellhole. It may have been a market town but it paled in comparison to the place they were forced to leave. The only saving grace was the age of the former High Priest.
With what few coins he had managed to hide and of those he tricked out of on his journey to this outpost, it was easy enough to ingratiate both he and Volan in the High Priest's good graces. That he knew of the Chronicles in depth was a boon and the few coins spent ensuring the High Priest's comfort worked their magic.
Saraq bided his time and spent it well. He ingratiated himself with the town fathers and prosperous merchants. Particular attention was paid to the head of the merchants' guild. He was attentive to their spiritual needs. He was everywhere the ancient High Priest could not be, as in so many other places the Chronicles were not taught, spiritual education was lax, important lessons not taught and doctrine forgotten. Copies of the Chronicles were scarce, far and few in between. Saraq offered good coin for those outstanding copies ostensibly to start a school.
Indiscernibly Saraq encouraged this as part of his plans. Over the first couple summers he became the arbiter of the Chronicles and the town fathers were only too glad to leave the issues of faith and daily life to him as they concentrated on generating profits and growing wealthy.
Over the next three summers as the High Priest failed in health, Saraq became more and more visible. No longer were it simple matters of faith and daily life that was his bailiwick, crime and moral failings became his province as well. The ever-prosperous merchants' guild was more than happy to cede those responsibilities as well.
Saraq had a business plan, one that would eventually concentrate all power in his hands. He showed the merchants' guild how they could prosper even further. They would fund the rebuilding of the old arena, there violent criminals would be punished, put to the death, tickets and refreshments would be sold, betting would be allowed, the influx of people would spend their hard-earned money on souvenirs, hotel rooms and meals.
It worked better than expected, the merchants' guild grew even more prosperous. The only issue was there wasn't enough violent crime. The arena stood empty far too often. Laws were shrewdly changed so that even the most innocuous crimes could mean the sentence of death in the arena.
And that led to the other issue, at first the guilty would face wild canines, boars and bears. Too often the guilty would win their freedom by killing whatever they faced that day. It was expensive and difficult to keep replacing the dead animals.
A mistreated Goren had snapped and killed the farmer who was mistreating it. The effort it took to subdue it gave Saraq the idea to use the Goren. Like any creature deprived of food, it cared little as to where and how its next meal came from. The idea was an instant success and the one Goren eventually led to five, the better to keep them malnourished and pliable.
The old priest had died a quiet death and no one missed him. Saraq's ascendency was complete. To all and anyone concerned he was the Chronicles, his word was law. He had wealth, acolytes, power everything he wanted. While he was bound by some common traditions such as the age of adulthood, he had an answer for that. For those too young for a date with the Goren, they would work the mines. He cleverly convinced the owner, a dying parishioner to donate them to the priesthood for their material aid and comfort.
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