main road that led into the heart of town where their catch would be worth their labor.
As they broke out of the forest, they traveled eastward towards the main part of Aldoak, their hometown. Masses of rolling plains containing wheat danced in the breeze. Busy workers hoed the ground releasing scents of upturned earth into the air. The wheat would be milled into flour and made into dough then baked into rolls to be eaten in the winter to come. Farm homes stood near each plain, steam billowing from their chimneys and welcoming the hard working farmers in during the evenings to a warm place of comfort. A vast mountain range stood to the west where the heart of the kingdom laid on the other side. From their location it would take weeks to get there, not a journey many would take.
Jex watched the mountains from afar wondering about what lay beyond them. It was something better than apple orchards and rolling plains. He turned his gaze away and watched the different farmers work, chopping their fields with pewter hoes then turned to Ray. ”Your family has started their harvest, haven they? Helping my family has taken time. I haven been over in a few days. ”
Ray laughed, the sun illuminating her rose kissed cheeks. ”My family understands you can make it every day and understand you aren an ox. But to assure you the least, I have been helping my grandfather a lot. Work is getting done. ”
”Well thats good to hear, ” Jex commented, peering toward the heart of the town. It was as busy as the small town got during mid afternoon, except for the extra bustle of people preparing for the autumn festivities. ”My fathers been busy. The butchers store has never looked so empty. With new people in the village each year, meat becomes in high demand around here… and hard working oxen, ” he added with a cocky grin.
Ray rolled her eyes with a smile, ”At least one day all that hard work won be for nothing. ”
The town gave them an instant feeling of welcoming. The easy going demeanor was contagious for the town gathering and small fests put on each year. Just on the outskirts of the Delvar kingdom, the town was at peace away from the busy cities. But the townspeople were not shy of stories and rumors told by travelers. In fact they made things that much more exciting. Jex and Ray walked the streets towing their buck along behind them. The dusty streets, lined with a mid-sized collection of blacksmith, herb, and clothing shops were enough to satisfy the towns people and travelers and their needs.
They walked close to a peddlers stand, one Jex favored. The man sold several odds and ends from around the kingdom and beyond. Jex pulled Ray to a stop as an object catching the light drew him near. Ray pulled to a stop and waited for him. Jex eyed each artifact, for it was a treasure he had to have.
The man behind the stand turned to him and presented Jex with a toothy grin, minus one tooth. It seemed an unattractive, dead weasel occupied his upper lip in the shape of a mustache. His green eyes, kind and welcoming, had just the mannerism to draw buyers in from a few feet away. His name was Speals, Richard Speals. He was full of wondrous stories for he had traveled many regions in his lifetime. A hearty chuckle rumbled from his throat as he spoke, ”Ah, back again I see, ” he began, his toothy smile visible behind the dead rodent on his face. He eyed their catch, ”My, thats a big one. ”
Jex gave a quick glance to Ray before boasting, ”It was an easy hunt too. Took it down with a good wrestle and game of tackle. ”
”And my arrow, ” Ray added, crossing her arms.
Speals laughed, his round gut jiggling, ”A fine team ye are. Im sure it will sell well. ”
”Oh it better,
” Jex added,
”Its a beauty,
” he said, putting an arm around Ray and drawing her near.
e going to catch the whole forest and sell it one day. ”
”We? ” Ray asked, trying not to laugh, but nothing brought the smile to her face more than his. They matched, something Speals could see.
”I don doubt it for a second, ” Speals said. ”Ay, one thinks you could concur a lot more with team work like that. ”
”You think so? ” Jex perked up.
”Oh come on Jex. Your fathers waiting, ” Ray urged, tugging at his arm, towards the flow of rustling people in the streets.
Jex smiled to Speals. ”Ill be back for that. Keep it for me will you? ” he asked nodding towards the object that had drawn his attention earlier.
”Ah, no promises, ” Speals winked. He chuckled at Jexs look of disappointment.
Jex and Ray weaved their way towards the butchers shop. Jex spent a lot of his time there besides Rays farm, helping her grandfather with things. Jexs family owned the butchers shop. It had been only Jex and his father since his mothers passing when he was an infant. The bloody smell of raw meat blasted in their faces upon entering, though the shop was clean. Rays nose wrinkled. No matter how much time she enjoyed accompanying Jex, this was her least favorite place to do so.
A man, tall and built with a vicious persona threatening his down turned brow, held a concentrated demeanor in his dark eyes, standing on the other side of the counter while cleaving a sow slaughtered earlier that morning. Diligent in his work, he made the clean cuts. He did not glance up from his work as the two entered the shop but knew their presence. ”Well? Whatd ya catch this time? ” he asked with a gruff voice.
Jex frowned, displeased, but he put on a cocky grin, just for his father. ”A five pointer, ” Jex answered, trying to challenge his old man.
His father returned a dull stare.
”Ive seen eight. At least you
e halfway there, ” he said, sticking the blade of his knife in the counter.
”Well catch a bigger one next time, ” Jex challenged his father. ”Me and Ray, unstoppable, ” He grinned wide and looked at Ray, ”Right? ”
A laugh leaked through her teeth but she stood up straight, ”Well bring back a dozen! ”
Jexs father rubbed his hands on the front of his blood stained apron and walked around the counter to examine the deer. After a thorough investigation he stood. ”Well if you clean it and wrap it, Ill buy the runt from you. Itll buy you some things. It looks healthy… ” he trailed off for a moment making his way behind the counter and cut the sow, ”Well you better cut it up quick as you can. The traders and merchants will only be in town a few days. Get to work, boy, ” he urged his son. ”The Harvest Fest begins tonight. Working all day will leave you unhappy… unless you want that, ” he said, raising a brow.
”Id rather enjoy myself, ” Jex said then turned to Ray, ”Im going to cut up our deer. Ill meet you tonight by the market. ”
Ray threw her arms around him then fled from the shop with an excited glow in her blue eyes as she left Jex to do the hard work. Joy enveloped her as she stepped back out onto the street, shielding her eyes from the afternoon sun.
”The Harvest Fest! ” she cried to herself and bit her lower lip as excitement bubbled through her. It was every year around the harvest this fest came about. Storytellers, travelers, merchants, and peddlers all came together, families and friends too from miles around. Activities and feasts in abundance were held. Mounted statues of the harvest gods stood in honor of the season, a season to become one.
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