A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

In the beginning there were simple folk...


It just didn’t seem fair.

They’d farmed that land for as long as the generations remembered, and that was a long time. Centuries, even.

Dodson recalled his grandfather telling him as he sat on the old man’s hoary knee that once the land had been empty, and they had taken it and it was theirs. They shared its bounty and its labour, and were all happy, even the toddler in its mother’s arms.

And Dodson was so wise that he became the leader of the folks of the land, even of every bloodline that was there, and every bloodline accepted him as their leader, and was happy.

They were a discrete group of people, families interwoven through marriage until nobody for certain could say whose blood flowed whose veins. Was it the old Father Tomass’s? Tomass had been dead since before the creek dried up, but everyone knew he was liberal when it came to the ladies. He sowed his oats far and wide and there wasn’t a lass around who had been unwilling to take them, even when the time was wrong. And the old creek that still existed in a kind of racial memory had dried up, what, a thousand years before that day.

But there had been others in the ancient world, too, with revered bloodlines. Bodkins, for example, had enjoyed his life, in and out of the cot with as many maidens as he could muster, even into his ripe old age, which had stretched out until he was well into his forties.

And the lucky few could say, hand on heart, that both Tomass and Bodkins had played a part in their blood-line even though the redness of the flowing blood was the same for both.

And after all that blood, all that time of sowing seeds and preparing futures with babies crying at old folks’ funerals and nights growing pale as the pale sun in winter, after everything there was a stranger who came all of a sudden, like strangers shouldn’t, and this stranger claimed the land for his own.

“It was a gift from the king,” he had growled, and he could growl like that, backed as he was with armed militia with spears and the like. He was a big man indeed when he had other at his back, bristling and angry.

But what king might that be? To have their land in his thrall, to give it at a whim to this stranger?

There was not one of them, pure of blood or not so pure, who knew of any king. How could they? There was the time for sowing the seeds in strips of field, time for feeding the pigs, one beast if they were ordinary folks or two if they were rich as Croesus of old. And there was time for playing with the kiddies in the river (not the dried up creek, that would be plain impossible, but a new river that centuries ago had found its way to their land). And yet more time for the harvest, cutting the tall golden flour-heads and sacking it, ready for the miller to grind into dust and the sweet maidens to bake into bread the winter long. And with all those seasons stretched out over a year, how could they know owt of kings?

But the stranger had come and claimed his gift.

“King Jasper says it’s mine,” he growled, “for I fought for him in the days before now, and as a reward for losing my arm in battle he gave me this land to be mine and my kin’s for all perpetuity. And it was a just reward, all men of arms say that! And the land, all of it, between the old creek and the sea, is mine. With the mountains to the North and the desert to the South. Every patch of the land, every grain of muck, every pebble in the soil, every worm in its cast, every bird in its nest, even the flies in the air and the gnats on the wing.”

“But it’s where we live!” exclaimed the crowd who had gathered round, the bloodlines of Tomass and Bodkins and others suddenly angry. “We and our noble ancestors have lived here since time itself was born! It was give n us by the gods themselves!”

And the newcomer bristled with rage and his armed militia stamped their feet and raised their spears, and he declaimed in a voice so overflowing with power and greed that his audience wept and gnashed their teeth and slowly withdrew a distance, “It was the sworn word of the king, and you are to become my vassals, each and every one of you, my servants and my slaves, the tillers of my soils and the reapers of my crops, the millers of my wheat and the bakers of my bread! Thus spoke King Jasper, and his word will not be gainsaid!”

And brave Dodson the leader of the bloodline of Tomass or Bodkins or one of the lesser known ancestors of the people, at that moment in time it mattered little which, declared that it would never be, that he and his people were free souls on the land, and would remain such until the sun winked out. For so spake the gods in the beginning, and so it must be.

And the stranger brusquely issued an order, and that brave Dodson, with his women looking on, and his sons and daughters, had his head summarily removed from his body by a sharp and angry razor-edged spear in a single slicing stroke by a grim militiaman.

“That will mark an end to it!” snapped the newcomer, “for it will be known henceforth that I am the overlord of this land and you, each one of you, is my liege subject!”

And they looked despairingly at the crumpled body of their leader and at where his head lay, separate and blind. And then, confused, knowing no other course of action, they melted away whilst the grim new overlord grinned and watched them go.

© Peter Rogerson 16.11.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on November 16, 2018
Last Updated on November 16, 2018
Tags: farmers, seasons, families, leader, stranger, armed militia, summary execution


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..

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A Chapter by Peter Rogerson