Is this a Farm or an Orphanage.
It was now the middle of Spring.
Since Mr Thomas joined this group, two months had flown by. The seasons lasted four months unless some weather event either extended or shortened the time.
The roads that were once hard had turned into slush and had begun to dry. In a few months the scorching Summer months would begin. It was now close to midday for those living at the barn.
Mr Thomas sat on a wooden bench under the shade of an oak.
He poured some water out of a wooden jug into a wooden cup to quench his thirst. The weather was not blazing hot but he was already drenched in sweat.
Farming was certainly not an easy task. Especially for a newbie whose knowledge of agriculture was near nil. It was further daunting to someone whose previous attempts was marked by repeated failures.
Work had begun ever since the first day he came to the barn. That day after hearing about what was certainly a life threatening event, the boy merely shrugged it off and continued with his farming goals.
Mr Thomas was a little shocked and a tad angry after that day. His family would also be implicated if and when this happened. He could only convince himself that the boy was trying to make as much money in the meantime.
At first sign of trouble from those adventuring parties and scouts, he believed the boy would close up shop and high tail it out with whatever profits they made. Since they were all in it together he voiced his opinions on the matter to the others.
He soon found out that this group was not run by the collective thoughts of its members but by a profound and well entrenched dictator.
From that first week the boy with the lame leg began framing and extending the platform in the barn outwards to make a complete second floor. In the evenings he switched work to set up a rough enclosure around the old farmhouse. This was to serve as a stable for the horses.
At the end of the week the outline of what he planned became evident. Four rooms were made at the top in the center with an open floor on both the front and back connected by corridors on both sides. Two room doors opened to the platform at the back while two others faced the platform at the front.
A staircase with a solid trapdoor opened the exit leading from a corner at the back of the barn to the kitchen area. Slowly this skeleton structure began to take shape.
They rotated the ones who stayed back at the barn. Mr Thomas was always accompanied with either Chu or Ming on his trips to and from the barn. The builder Clod always remained as a watchman. He and the one who remained usually were already drenched in sweat by the time the others arrived.
When the oven was repaired, Chu had Mr Thomas escort his family to their new home. Clod used this time to make another trip for lumber and some supplies. Both wagons returned loaded from their trip.
The first major investment was when Chu purchased the wagon and a horse from the Trading Post. With trade restarting in the village, it was easy for John to order new supplies and animals. He also pre-ordered a variety of seeds from the town.
A large purchase at the beginning of the year already had him fawning over the boy. Like a greedy merchant who smelled money, he was akin to a piranha that circled a wounded carp.
In Chu’s eyes both Mrs Thomas and her daughter Amanda had the same features like her husband. They could pass as people from Northern Europe with their blond hair and light blue eyes.
Amanda was a young woman who had just turned seventeen this year. For a girl kept protected and pampered by her family she had a kind demeanor. From the beginning she offered to help with the hard labor not afraid to blister her hands.
Chu felt that if she was born in a noble house those callused hands would be smooth as silk. He would place her as a very attractive girl back on earth. No wonder the Thomas’es had their fair share of trouble. A beauty like this could not be hidden even under a bath of coals.
Thus the close interaction with the family and the children started. It was also the beginning of Mr Thomas’s headaches.
Mr Thomas first complaint was that Chu was building too much. This should only be a temporary place to stay, no need to spend so much time and labor in repairs. All Chu did was listen to him but continued with his plans.
He then turned to the builder with the limp.
“Hey Clod, why don’t we slow down. We should use this time to check out the land and start preparing for planting.”
Clod continued nailing the planks without looking up.
“Can’t, have to get this done by next week.”
“We can always do this in the evening, should we not get the fields ready for planting?”
The nailing continued.
“Have to get the well done and bucket installed in the evening. No time.”
“Well what about tomorrow morning, we can look at it and start.”
The nailing continued.
“Chu said I have to finish this or else I won’t ever have to worry about limping on only one leg anymore.”
Mr Thomas gave him an exasperated look.
“He threatened you? Are you satisfied with that? You are twice the size of him!”
The nailing speed doubled in intensity.
“Mr Thomas, I have no intention to hobble on two broken legs. I just have to get this done. Pass me another wooden plank.”
After wasting time talking to that fanatical builder, Mr Thomas tried his luck with the next fellow.
Since the first day Ming only helped in the mornings to site material for Clod outside so he could measure and cut. In the evenings he carried the prepared lumber to the work-site for use on the next morning’s construction. Chu and Mr Thomas did any running around for Clod if he needed anything special.
Ming’s job was to focus on training. Chu was adamant he concentrate most of his waking hours trying to grasp the Military combat skills. Mr Thomas was responsible for checking up on him during the course of the day and correcting any mistakes.
Ming training ground was set in front of the barn. It offered a view of the surroundings and the forest line. He functioned as a lookout for them.
“Hey Ming, why do you continue practicing so hard. Take a break.”
The boy was sweating buckets from the training regiment.
“No need, if I become stronger Chu will have no choice to do whatever I want.”
Thomas saw an opportunity opening up. This boy was certainly one who was not afraid to stand up to the little kid. He was the most vocal of the lot.
“Hey Ming, I think we should not try so hard to make this place too comfortable.”
“What are you saying, my room is the last one that Clod is supposed to make. I can’t let everyone get a place and I have to stay out on the open.”
The boy seemed to be on a different wavelength. Mr Thomas tried another method.
“I think we need to tell Chu about how hard it is to face those Goblins. Those things are dangerous you know. We should convince him to leave when the time comes.”
“What!? Leave here before the Goblin raids. Then how am I going to convince Chu to buy those trinkets for me? I need to sweeten him up for those things. You know how long I had to work to get this bead?”
Mr Thomas felt he could take the sword from the kid and knock him on the head.
“Don’t you brats have any sense of pride? Letting a young kid boss you around. Why don’t you tell him what you want?”
Ming stared at the man like looking at an idiot. He lowered the sword he was practicing with.
Giving the man a pitying look he spoke.
“Mr Thomas, I admire your courage. But let me give you a little advice, stay away from that little devil. I do not want to suffer together with you. Clod says my head keeps getting empty every-time Chu slaps it. I want to keep whatever wisdom I have left.”
Mr Thomas was grumpy for the whole week after that.
When two weeks had passed Clod drove to the village one day and brought back a young girl named Sue. She quickly assimilated into the group and became a hit with his wife and daughter.
Sue was an outstanding cook and the meals she made was with care. He soon found out she was a previous companion of the boys. She soon took over that chore from his wife and helped out with the housework.
“Sue what do you think about this issue.”
Mr Thomas asked her opinion one evening when no one was around. He told her about the situation with the Goblins.
The girl was unfortunately unfazed. He was expecting a frightened reaction but she just soaked it all in like a sponge.
“Don’t worry Mr Thomas. It will be okay. I am sure everything will work out just fine. Please don’t stress yourself out on such matters ok.”
Mr Thomas was depressed for another week.
‘Who the heck was comforting who?!’
At the end of the month Ming and Chu made a trip to the village. They returned with a younger girl called Sakura.
This girl was skilled in knitting and sewing. She also came with a collection of books, ink and parchments. On the same evening Chu made it mandatory that everyone spent one hour in the evening learning to read and write.
Amanda was ecstatic on the announcement. She now had a companion to study along with. As a young girl who lived in a great city like Frost, she envied those young women who possessed basic education.
A young woman who was skilled in reading and writing along with some music was the least to be bullied. They were the ones who could only be married off to people of high social standings.
Chu spent some time each day teaching them basic mathematics. Amanda was amazed and overjoyed, girls in the cities were only familiar with counting numbers. Addition and Subtraction were advanced education usually reserved for merchant families.
She soon joined Sakura in worshiping the boy genius. Chu used their desire to learn to his advantage. He spent some time at night making a small workbook and had them write on a wooden board using charcoal.
The faster they learned the better for him. They would have to be the ones responsible for his finances in the future.
Mr Thomas took one glance at them busy studying in the late evening and left them. Simply looking at Sakura already gave him a headache. He cried when he remembered his last conversation with Sue.
With the work on the barn’s interior nearing completion, Clod switched his focus to the outside. They spent some days selecting and cutting down some trees on the forest edge. These were shaped into whatever Clod wanted and carted of. With Mr Thomas standing guard, they moved bravely.
In one week Clod finally turned his attention to the land. The fields were split among planting corn, vegetables and grass for the animals. The old farmhouse was converted to a stable and the front fenced around for the horses to use.
Clod repaired the lookout at the top and make a wood tiled roof. During the nights they split the shifts between them. Only Mr Thomas and his wife was excluded from watchman duty. Ming was still the designated lookout during the day.
Before the planting started Chu made a trip with Clod to the Trading Post. They returned with a variety of seed supplies and two additional girls.
If Chu was not a little kid, Mr Thomas would have sworn he was some sort of old letcher.
Every-time the boy went to the village he kept bring back children. Worse yet they were all girls.
‘Was there some sort of special sale that village was running?’
Dyna and Miki soon proved to be hard workers. With the extra hands, the farm progressed by leaps and bounds.
Mr Thomas soon realized that his Military training and experience was a key cornerstone to their development. Besides the boy he now had two other unexpected apprentices.
Dyna was a little girl but she was accompanied by three savage wolf cubs. They were now more like dogs than cubs. If he didn’t trust these children, he could swear they were lying about those cubs age.
Those beasts simply defied the natural growth order.
He now had to help the girl in training the wolves. Luckily as a Military officer he had some understanding of how the Hounds were raised. This was passed on to the little girl to discipline her little pack.
He took a chance to test the girl. Maybe he could use her naive mind to persuade the boy.
“Well that’s about it Dyna. I think if you beg Chu with those puppy eyes he might reconsider. If he does then your cubs won’t be in danger.”
“No, no, no…you must help me Mr Thomas. I need to show Chu that my wolves are worth it. My cubs are the best this is my chance!”
No amount of coaxing would work on the little girl. She was more desperate than the idiot in sword training to prove her worth. Mr Thomas abandoned that lost cause.
The older girl was even more hard-headed. On one of their trips in the forest she witnessed his skill with a crossbow bagging some pheasants. His reloading was sightly slower because of his one hand.
She immediately claimed Mr Thomas as her master. The boy agreed readily when she turned to beg him. The man now had to train three children in the evenings.
Mr Thomas didn’t worry anymore. He understood how the chain of command worked in this group. He did not bother talking to his new disciple, after witnessing her sleep hugging her crossbow he dropped the idea.
Once he tried to impress upon them that he had awakened a talisman like Simon. He was once a proud Sersen who still retained a little of his strength even though he lost his arm.
Tales that would wow even children of nobles had no effect on these brats. He wondered if these remote villagers even knew anything. He was old enough to understand what those looks he received meant.
‘What a sad tale.’
‘Mr Thomas went through so much.’
‘Why the heck is that old man boasting about some cheap skills.’
He stopped his boasting afterwards.
With the group firmly bonded together, Chu was happy like a lark. Now Mr Thomas was even reprimanded by his wife whenever he voiced some objection. Slowly he had everyone fit in and understand their responsibilities.
During this time he had a good feeling on the nature of the man and his family. He finally considered them trustworthy.
Mr Thomas was draining the water from his cup. His task was to help Clod this morning in erecting some of the larger post. The others with the exception of Ming were tending the field. After lunch they would return in the evening while the others started training.
The old man sighed. This people here moved more efficient than the Military. Every waking hour was counted and used. It was hard work but he finally felt they might succeed. If they could not make some money, they could at least be self-sufficient.
He was still relaxing a little with his eyes closed when he heard footsteps approaching. Opening his eyes he saw the boy coming towards him. Clod had dropped him of in the village a week ago. It seemed he had now walked back on his own.
“Hello Mr Thomas. I have a new job for you. This is Lucy, I believe that you will find that you both have more in common than you think.”
A young girl around the same size as the boy stepped out from behind him.
“Hello Mr Thomas.”