Me? My folks had a farm all their lives and that’s where I was born. We raised animals, from horses and cows to pigs and chickens. I was the oldest of six. Farm life isn’t easy, as most folk know. Up at daybreak, milk the cows, feed the chickens, gather the eggs, slop the pigs, turn out the horses, muck the stalls, feed the horses, milk the cows again, and that’s just the routine work. You also have to check the fencing for breaks and mend them, check out the barn, journey into town for feed and supplies, the work just never stops.
Well, leastwise it didn’t until Carrack’s Uprising. I’d taken our two-horse cart south and up into town to trade some eggs for feed. While I was there, I saw the townspeople start to gather on the north end of town. Curious, I followed to see what could be seen. Down in the dell to the north, a line of fire stretched all the way across the horizon. It turned my blood cold. I unhitched my fastest horse, left everything in the cart and hurried home, full gallop. All the farms in the entire dell had been set alight; many were still ablaze and some were just smoking ruins. The stench of burning flesh turned my stomach. I couldn’t even get close enough to our farm to see if any of my family still lived. I had no choice but to return to town, sell the cart and horses, the feed, everything.
There weren’t many survivors; about ten, I think. And none from anywhere near where our farm was. They came straggling in over the next couple of days. Once the survivors started to arrive, I went back to see the damage to the farm. There was nothing left. Everything was gone. Seven charred bodies told me how my family fared. Oberon saw fit to spare me, I suppose. Who knows for what purpose.
I buried my family there and never looked back. I tried to make the money last, but it just wasn’t possible. With all the livestock and crops in the area destroyed, the prices for everything soared and became too much to bear – almost ruined the whole town. Folk who had the means left for other towns and tried to find work wherever they could. Folk who lacked the means to get out of town were stuck. I was stuck. I had no income and the only trade I knew was farm work, but there was no livestock left to raise. A few of the more wealthy townsfolk managed to get over to Millington and purchase some, but they weren’t willing to part with much, and who can blame them? The small number of farms that could restart meant that jobs for farmhands were few and were filled quickly. By the time I was able to get my affairs in order they were all gone.
So, what was a hungry lad to do? I’m no ne’er-do-well, but I still had to eat. I tried to get by with picking through leavings, but I wasn’t the only one with that idea. Landed me in the stocks a few times, that. The third time, I was tied to a post and flogged until I dropped, which was right hard to bear. I imagine I’ll bear those marks forever. Some who couldn’t get by in the town left and took to harassing travelers on the roads. I won’t deny that I thought about it, but I just couldn’t do it. Not with my mother in Viviane’s sweet arms looking down on her only surviving child.
I was a right wretch when Ernie found me. I hadn’t eaten for days and I was weak. He drove his wagon into town and I could tell one of his horses had caught something in his shoe. I got myself over to the man and told him so. I begged him for a bowl if he’d let me see to his horse. After I saw to the shoe and hoof, Ernie said he’d take me on if I knew how to handle a team. No way I could refuse that. I know it’s not the most honest work, but I don’t do no thievery. I just look after the horses and keep watch, is all. These are tough times, and a lad’s got to eat.