The Plough

George made his way through the late afternoon heat to the field and saw his father leaning on the plough deep in thought. He was not looking forward to this talk. Whenever he was summoned like this, it would be for a talk and the talk would inevitably be about the future of the farmstead. His father was a square steady man with huge forearms, his skin baked brown from the years of campaigning in the Eastern provinces, his eyes closed by years of travel under the hot sun and within, sharp blue eyes pierced through. He was respected as a man but not as a farmer and produced little more than they could survive upon, unlike many other Roman farmers, he did not like using slaves. George had heard the stories from the other boys mainly, his father was a hero, though he never mentioned it himself and when pressed by George, he was normally told that those days were over and half the stories were not true. To George, this meant that half the stories were true, he had campaigned with the Emperor and some said, he had saved the entire Empire against the villainous Carinus on many occasions.

Why Gerontius would not want to talk about that was beyond George, maybe one day he would tell him everything and teach him the way of the sword, teach him to be a soldier of Rome and then he too could fight for Diocletan and the Empire. George swung his makeshift magical blade as he approached his father who spotted him and straightened up instantly. Gerontius smiled and beckoned him over.

“That sword got a name?”

“Not yet, but it will have. Its a Magia blade and can cut through iron!”

Gerontius laughed warmly. “The Magia do not give gifts lightly and they certainly do not take kindly to people making off with anything of theirs either. What will you give in return?”

George stopped swinging and thought for a while before answering suddenly and brightly. “I will give them bravery and stories father, I will give them my life!”

Gerontius frowned at this answer and it seemed as if the warm evening sun had given way to a chill. He stopped smiling and looked hard at his son. “You’re growing fast, soon you will be as big and strong as me.”

“I’m not big and strong enough father but I almost beat Marcus today, almost.”

“Marcus? He’s six years older than you George, it will be a few years yet until you can outstrip him in a foot race and I wager he will get bigger and stronger as you do.”

George looked sullen. “I will never beat him.”

Gerontius looked at his son and realised what he was saying. “Marcus is going to sign up for the soldiery then?” George nodded and Gerontius leaned on his plough once more and waited a moment before speaking softly and with as much compassion as he could muster. “George, do you know why you are so named?”

George shook his head. Gerontius gestured for George to sit and then brushed the dust off an old tree stump and sat himself down too.

“You were born 12 years ago under a harvest moon and I remember it as if it were yesterday. After the Battle of Margus, your mother and I returned to Nicomedia with Diocletan. You are too young to realise what this meant but know that your Mother left everything she had known behind for me and for you too George. She is of the Magia and she has the second sight, looking into the Myst, she knew she would have a son one day and that she would love you but her vision was also a vision of fire. A vision that her son would be the greatest danger to the Magia that they had known.” Gerontius let this sink in. George said nothing, his father had never spoken like this before. “I too left behind that which I loved to save my beloved Pol and her people. I vowed with your mother that I would put away the sword once my oath was complete and we would settle here and raise you in peace. We left with the Emperor’s blessing and settled here where the land is fertile, to love you and to keep you safe but also to keep the Magia safe.” Gerontius leaned forward toward his son. “There is great power in names, men and women become them, follow them, fight them and die for them. I prayed to all the Roman gods that by naming you, you would follow your name not fight it. Georgios is a name from antiquity and means worker of the land, we hoped that your spirit would follow the name that you were given and that the vision of fire and danger to the Magia would be prevented. By raising you as a farmer, you would battle only the land, tame it and raise crops, be a part of the society that I have fought for.” Gerontius sighed and looked at his son. “It seems that a given name cannot change the name or nature of ones spirit if that spirit is strong enough. You have the heart of a warrior boy, your heart beats strong and you are drawn to the sword but it is the plough that you must master, for your life, for the life of your mother and her people. Do you hear me George? You must not become a soldier.”

George gripped and ungripped the stick he was holding. He felt as if his whole life had been turned upside down and he wanted nothing more than to roar and scream his defiance but it was too much and would accomplish nothing under the steady gaze of his father. He was shaking as his father extended his hand and ruffed his hair but eventually his shakes and trembles subsided. “I do not want to harm mother and I will learn to master the plough father.” George held onto his sword stick tightly.

Gerontius knelt and pulled his son close. “You’re a good boy George and will be a good man one day. Come, let us meet your mother and see what the evening brings us, there is nothing more to be done here tonight.”

George looked once more at the plough that his father had left leaning on the old stump and made a decision. If becoming a soldier would harm his mother then he would not become one and if he must master the plough then so be it but he thought too of the strange deadly soldier Secundus. He would not join the army of Rome but he would still learn to fight and he knew Secundus would teach him. He would learn to fight and then he would fight Cassius, someone had to.

Copyright Faramond Frie © 2016

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