CSD- Proverbial Goddess Of DeathReturn to: CHESAPEAKE SHARD DIRECTORY
The Broken Chain
Written By: Llewen Faerlyght
The Twin Oaks Tavern wasn’t often very busy, but today was an exception. Bernholdt the Tavern Keeper had beaten Farnsworth the Bard three times in a row in backgammon, and when Farnsworth ran out of gold pieces, the price of failure had been to supply the music for an evening of dancing. But of course the one who really paid the price was Mesanna. It was always Mesanna who paid the price for Berholdt’s successes and failures in backgammon.
There were going to be onions to be peeled and chopped up, potatoes to be peeled and washed, kegs of beer to brought up from the cellar, and but before all that something far worse had to be done. It was Peggle the Goat’s turn to supply the meat for the stew and those wonderful skewers of roasted meat and vegetables that the Twin Oaks was so famous for.
Mesanna had known it was a mistake, knew it was a mistake the minute she did it, you never, ever, name a goat, or a sheep, or a cow, or a chicken. You just don’t. They all have one purpose in life, and if you start to talk to them, and worst of all call them by name, you are destined for heartbreak. It’s as inevitable as snow in winter. But Mesanna couldn’t help herself.
She knew the minute she saw him, cold shivering and wet on the stable floor, that there was something special about this goat. Something in his eyes, in the way he fought to stand up, long after the others in the barn had been licked dry and were busy getting their first taste of warm milk. She understood him, and almost before she knew it, she had given him a name and the long conversation had begun.
Mesanna wasn’t soft. She had lived and worked at the tavern for eight years, ever since her father had lost her in a game of backgammon to Bernholdt when she was very young. She had wrung the necks of more chickens, and used that mace on the heads of more sheep, goats and even cows, than she could count in that time. But none of them had been Peggle.
She delayed as long as she could, cleaned ferociously, pulled weeds in the gardens until there wasn’t one to be found in any of the garden plots, organized and sorted, washed windows, aired linen and even made the long journey to Britain to buy flour and restock the wine cellar. But she couldn’t procrastinate any longer, the dance was a week away, and Peggle would need to hang in the meat locker for a full week after he was dressed before he would be ready to be butchered and divided between the stews and skewers.
Mesanna had always been a hard worker and she never complained. She made up for her height and her slim build with energy and steely determination, just like Peggle had. And all the hard work had made her strong. She knew that she was stronger now than most of the boys her age that had stayed at the inn – not that there had been many of those. She did what she was told, and most of the time, she did it cheerfully.
Mesanna was also honest, but she had one great secret, a secret she had never shared with anyone other than her teacher. She could read. Markus the Cook had taught her to read during those long winters when there were very few patrons that made their way to the tavern. Bernholdt didn’t think girls should be taught to read. He always said, No girl of mine is ever going to learn to read under my roof, not while I live and breathe!
It wasn’t that Bernholdt was intentionally cruel. He had only beaten her twice when she was younger, once when she burnt his favorite shirt when she got distracted while ironing, and once on one of those rare occasions when he got drunk. He didn’t often let himself get drunk because he knew what it did to him, and what he could do when he became drunk. He never apologized, but he wouldn’t look Mesanna in the eye for a week after that incident.
But he didn’t think that girls should be taught to read. Didn’t think they’d ever have a use for it. All women are good for is cooking, cleaning, and making babies, what use do they have for book learning?
But Mesanna learned to read. It was her one act of rebellion, and it was Peggle that she practiced her reading on. When her chores were done, and she had some time to herself, she would go hide in the barn and read the books that Markus gave her to read aloud to Peggle. And after she read to him she would talk to Peggle about what she had read, and before she knew it Peggle had become her best friend, the one she shared all her hopes and dreams with. And it had all been a terrible mistake.
She wanted to convince Bernholdt to substitute one of the other goats for Peggle, but she knew that if she tried that he would ask questions, and her big secret would be in danger. And besides, she had already protected Peggle as long as she could; all the other goats that were the right age were already gone. Peggle was the last one.
She couldn’t avoid it any longer. She knew it needed to be done. She felt sick to her stomach, but she gritted her teeth and headed toward the shed where the mace hung in a rack on the wall. But on the way a thought began to form in her mind. She knew from her reading that slavery had been abolished in the lands of Britannia a long time ago, but wasn’t that what she was?
She had never been paid for all her years of hard work. She had been lost in a game of backgammon. Only a slave could be lost in a bet. What was she going to do, spend the rest of her life working at the Twin Oaks and receiving nothing but a bed and enough food to keep her alive in return? Maybe, even worse, Bernholdt would give her to be married to some ugly old man to pay off a debt, or cover his own losses in a game of backgammon.
She grabbed the mace and pulled it off the rack with more force than was necessary, gripped it tightly, and headed for the barn. It was early morning, so Peggle would be there with the other animals, waiting to be let out for the day. She could hear the cow complaining about a full udder that needed to be emptied of it’s milk. She would do that first.
She turned to get the milk pail from the kitchen, but changed her mind and headed toward the barn again, her knuckles white around the handle of the mace. She already had the knife she would need; she always carried that with her. The rope she would need was hanging on the wall next to the barn door.
She opened the barn door, took the rope off the wall, but this time calmly. She was no longer gripping the mace as if her life depended on it. She made a loop on the end of the rope big enough to fit over Peggle’s head and made her way to Peggle’s stall.
We’re going to do something different Peggle, you and I. And Peggle walked over to her, gave her a friendly nuzzle then looked at her the way he always did, as if he was the wisest goat in all of Britannia. Nothing will ever be the same for us, she said. And she choked a little and a tear ran down one cheek.
She put the rope over Peggle’s head, and led him out of the stall. Hidden under a pile of hay was the last book Markus had given her to read. She dug the precious book out from under the hay and left it wrapped up inside the sack she had used to protect it. Then she opened the barn door and led Peggle outside.
But she didn’t head toward that pole where she had slaughtered all those other goats. She headed in the opposite direction, toward the road that led away from the Twin Oaks Tavern. Something inside her had broken, and she felt lighter than she had ever felt. The world was beautiful, the birds were singing their early morning songs, and Mesanna was no longer a hard working slave girl, she was a free woman.
Last modified: August 13, 2011