Tired from the whole day of work, the golden ball of fire rested and tinted the sky with tangerine orange. The silhouettes of the birds witness the heavens changing its color and view. The moon slowly crept up to take her place, sending drowsy spells to the sun's brightness, the night came.
“Levo, what do you think of this village?” Madame Annise picked a chair to sit on, her eyes gazing at the burly knight sitting in a barrel-like chair. “What’s your impression of the villagers?”
“That’s a good question,” the knight replied as he sits in a wooden barrel as if it’s a throne.
The knight fell into deep thought. At first glance, the village seems to be functioning well. But after meeting them there was a little sense of incoherence among them. They lack passion, no purpose perhaps is a better word.
“The whole village seems fun to me. The main issue is they have no goals to speak of. Every time you asked a question, they all tend to look at the old beardy.” Knight Levo tapped his fingers at the table while his other hand touched his chin. “And that ain’t funny, they are too dependent on one person. And don’t get me started about the lazy ones.”
Though, the knight seemed to be a little dull about management issues it doesn’t mean he was dumb. He got his senses to plow him through. The knight was highly perceptive of the atmosphere, capable of sensing and capturing the minute changes in the faces of the villagers during the meeting.
His sharp instincts could tell if something was wrong or even if someone was lying. One of the things that helped him earn his own fief aside from being a good soldier in the battlefield. And maybe it’s also the reason he managed to have such a beautiful wife. His senses were mostly right.
In wars and campaigns, sharp intuition was considered as something extremely valuable, a luxury. It saves lives, saves time, and saves coins. Oh, another thing, it also once saved the butts of some rich greedy merchant, a few noble lords, and even a royal during the campaign.
“You’re right, it looks like we must instill some discipline especially the men and the youth. Hmnn…How about letting them train with one of your esquires?” The madame suggested, an unnoticeable smirk sidling on her face. “If they’ll lack a goal, we will give them one.”
“Fine by me!" The knight agreed as he grinned along with his wife. “That’s a little bit better than whipping. Whipping leaves quite a bad taste in my mouth.”
“As for us, our main goal to make this village better for our kids.” The madame walked nearby the window and looked at the three moons outside, her eyes shining along with its light.
In the Kingdom of Rutherford, the common punishment for idlers and other petty crimes according to the law was whipping. Nevertheless, the first king also gave the nobles some leeway in the punishment decision, they could punish the crime with forced labor or other services for three months though with once meal a day.
“I will also slowly prepare and add some new things for the village.” The madam added. “Then, we will call another meeting with those old village gramps.”
That very night, the first order of the Lord came down written in bold red paint. His words were sent to every household in the village with the help of the old chief and the elders. All those lazy bums were told by their elders about the possible punishment of whipping after the meeting. The elders even exaggerated the story until it evolved from simple whipping to death by hanging, causing the young ones to have one sleepless night.
-All villagers without work in the village except for children, women and the old ones. Be at the east village outskirts at dawn. Latecomers will be PUNISHED!-
The news spread like wildfire in the night, bringing nightmares to those who knew they had sinned. They knew that they couldn’t lie under the oaths of the kingdom if they are brought under trial. The first king’s oath will mark those who lie. Then, death was the next step for a mere villager.
“Damn! What does the Lord want this early? I still feel so sleepy. I’m starting to miss my bed already.” One of the yawning youth annoyingly said. “Father! Do you know what does the Lord wants us to do?”
The villagers were all feeling grumpy and odd. The old chief never told them to wake up this early. They were only told to finish the work they were assigned to. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, all they need was to finish things when they feel like it. Most of the villagers who were gathered in the outskirts today were those who were indolent, those who only knew how to take advantage of the kindness of their old parents or brothers and sisters.
Though they don't want to follow the orders of the Lord. They felt forced to after hearing the word punished. After all, they heard gossips from nearby villagers that it was always better to get to the good side of the Lord. The late-night gossips that spread throughout the village last night also gave the slothful villagers something to fear. Some of the villagers even barely had barely slept due to nervousness, a few even dreamt of a whip and a gallows, sending their superstitious families in panic.
Some scary stories and songs were even circulated around by traveling poets. Narratives about villagers getting whipped, a tragedy of family who all faced guillotine or stories about hanging and whipping after not heeding the lord.
The villagers don't have a habit of taking chances.
Anyway, who wants to get his head cut off or get hanged? At least, if they were going to be punished today, it would only be through whipping. What're some few lashes if compared to the shadows of some nearby gallows?
“Pshhh! Shut up, boy!” The father of the youth angrily whispered to his son, his voice hissing in agitation. Despite his misgivings about being called early in the morning, he still knew that offending nobles means paying up a price. “Someone is coming, he may hear you!”
Suddenly, a loud and powerful voice came crashing down from an amiable middle-aged-looking man. The man was sitting on the back of a hulking horse, his back straight like a war spear, his eyes shining as his lax gaze landed at the villagers. The villagers then tried to look for any signs of a whip in the belt of the man for a more reasonable assurance. Seeing the affable look of the man, the villagers signed in relief. There was no whip on his side. It seemed like the Lord wasn't going to make them do something unreasonable.
“Attention! Good morning men of Lother.” The loud yet charismatic voice was coming from one of the esquires of the Lord. “My name is Davin, esquire of the knight, I am assigned by the Lord last night to drill and train you on how to become proud and true men.”
Hearing what the esquire had said, most of the villagers paled.
The word "training or work" was something that these men of Lother loathed to hear.
Having no hands-on-ruler for a long time had dulled the meaning of training for the villagers. As the idlers increase in the village, the village's prospect for further improvement also dimmed along the way. No wonder the old chief looked so old and haggard. For an old man, handling a mouthful of these man-childs was indeed a backbreaking task.
The village was lucky enough to not meet any monster attacks, unlike the other outrun areas, keeping their peace despite its close proximity to the forest of wilderness. Nevertheless, this peaceful environment could also be considered as a double-edged sword. Though it could bring prosperity, too much of it could destroy any nation's foundation, like a termite it would slowly eat up the foundation and building blocks of a good nation. The foundation called "man".
Seeing the lackadaisical faces of the villagers the esquire's sharp brows jerked as his furious voice boomed all across the village outskirts. No wonder he was sent here by the lord. These foolish villagers don’t feel any sense of danger, treating the monster-infested forest as a mere backyard. If something dangerous came crawling out of that place, the esquire wondered how many of these goons would survive.
“What the heck! The f*@k! I hate those faces! You maggots. When I say the word drill you smile! When I say run you’ll smile then run! When I say crawl you’ll grin while crawling!” The esquire shouted in a frenzy as he continuously swore right at the dim-witted faces of the villager. “Dumbasses! Where are your balls? If I still see any of such faces. I promised you, I'm gonna squeeze those little willies under your pants until you become new ladies! You hear me!”
After being cursed for their unseemingly faces, the villagers were shocked. They never thought that the affable looking esquire toted such a beastly mouth. The villager's paling faces shifted its hue to various colors after being showered with the esquire's flying saliva. These villagers were already very used to being scolded by their elders and parents. Yet, this was the first someone dared to curse them like this. At most, their soft-hearted elders would at least scold them and beat them up a little, then they would be let go.
Huffing a little after releasing a few pints of his saliva, the esquire slowly mounted off his sturdy horse and walked to a nearby seemingly hundred-year-old tree.
It was an oak tree.
With one look you could already tell how tough it was, its ambitious branches reaching towards the sun, swaying with whistles of the wind its leaves moved.
Gazing a gargantuan oak tree, the muscles in the esquire's thin arms suddenly squirmed. A metallic sheen could be seen on its surface. He took a stance, his fist clenched on the sides of his waist. His two feet were a meter apart as he was shifting his weight to his fist. He then threw a swishing jab towards the unsuspecting tree.
His arms suddenly struck the innocent tree, a crevice gingerly appeared on its body. Like sliced tofu, the trunk of the oak splintered into two, and with a creaking sound, it fell to the ground. Slowly but surely...
The once-proud oak tree was no more - it was now as good as firewood. With one punch it was a goner.
The esquire then stood straight and stretched his hands upward. He then took a peek at the villagers who were watching.
Seeing the hard tree falling, the villagers' jaws almost fell on the ground. The esquire then drew his sword. The villagers couldn’t help but take a step back, fearing that they would be unknowingly hacked into half. The esquire then walked towards the fallen tree. He then carved and sliced a piece of the oakwood into a ball of wood, just enough to fit an adult's hand.
The esquire then cast his gaze at villagers. He then squished the carved wood into powder with no mercy, the creaking sounds made the villagers gulped in fear. Some even covered their precious family jewels with their hands as if they were feeling pain. Many of the men buckled their legs to protect the thing below their waist, their faces white in shock.
The pale and stupefied faces of the lazy guys made the esquire grin. He finally managed to establish his authority by using the good Madame’s way. It was really a very effective way, even the soldiers in the army knew of its effectiveness.
“Alright, men let's start the practice. So if I say! Drill!?” The esquire Davin bellowed imposingly. “If I see any stupid bums lazing around, I’m going to squeeze their balls just like those carved wood.”
Hearing the word “training and squashed wood”, the villagers immediately put on their best smiles. It was a sight to behold. They stood scrambled and stood ramrod straight. Then looked at the esquire with their best smiles onboard as they shook in fear.
“Good men!” The esquire nodded.
Yet, if someone saw the villagers’ smiles they would instead be horrified. Their smiles were so twisted like they were coerced to eat horse manure fertilizers. Some were cramped, some were crooked, and some were just… mind-boggling wonders. The villagers now knew how fearful and savage the kind-looking esquire was.
“It seems like you finally understood a little part of what I mean,” Davin nodded his head, his tone back to being soft and kind again. “Any questions before we start?”
The villagers looked at each other’s eyes as if confirming something. One of the villagers, then stepped forward to raise their collective concerns to the esquire. The villager asked, his voice shaking, betraying the straight face he was trying to maintain.
“S-sir Esquire, would we be punished and whipped today?”
After hearing the question of the villager, Davin stood still and stared at the eyes of each villager. He could see the fear in each of those eyes. He then smiled and asked the brave man.
“What do you think?”
The man was in dazed not expecting to receive a question instead of an answer. Nevertheless, the man gritted his teeth and answered in a whisper-like voice.
“No Sir, we will not be whipped!”
“Brave answer! Alright, since you claim that you would not be whipped, then so be it!” Davin clapped his hands.
Sounds of relief echoed in the eastern outskirts of the village. Today had been really stressful for the villagers, they felt they were riding a very unreliable mule through a muddy road. One time it would go fast. Then sometimes it would go slow like a turtle.
“You see, the Milord said that he hated whipping people.” The esquire added in a firm and loud voice. “Nevertheless, he ordered me to discipline you men until you’re like soldiers. From today onwards, I’ll treat every one of you as soldiers. Do you hear me!?”
“Y-yes, yes. Sir Esquire!”
“Then let’s begin!”
The drills for the villagers especially prepared by the knight and the madam. The knight might have spared the villagers from the whipped but they were not spared from the rod. The start of the drills began with a bunch of shrieks coming from villagers and roars coming from the esquire. The sounds echoed throughout the eastern outskirts of the village.
Unknowingly, the angry yells of Davin eventually reached the ears of the other villagers near the outskirts, scaring those who lived nearby.
Thus, a new myth was formed in the village of Lother.
It was said that in the eastern outskirt of the village lied a monster with a beastly mouth, unsettling many villagers.
The villagers near the outskirts even forced the old chief to release an announcement to warn of its danger.
But that’s another story for later.