(A Power Colors Short Tale)
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously
Copyright 2016 by Talee
First Edition: February 2016
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Thanks to all those who have supported my efforts by reading my books and especially those who provided reviews encouraging others to read my books. I write for you, and am happy that you find my works entertaining.
This book is dedicated to all who struggle to find their way in the world. Remember great things happen in everyone’s life, the key is to make the most of them when they come.
“They are deadbeats Aarn, and we cannot afford to have deadbeats. You will evict them today.”
“Father, their oldest son just left for the military to defend us. Without him to help, the crops failed. But they have another son who is nearly old enough to help. If we could just be patient, in another year or so, they will be back to full production.”
“And what will we do for income during that period? No, get rid of them. I have already posted the availability. We can bring in some people who are succeeding on a smaller scale and let them succeed for us.”
“And what will these people do?”
“Not that it matters to me, nor should it matter to you. But, they can take the place vacated by whomever we choose to take this one. With a smaller place, the parents and that girl can probably make a profit.
Now go tell them to get out. I want them out in time to get someone else in for the spring plowing. I know you know the girl, so you can give them until the end of the month if you want to be generous. If I have to go down there and evict them, they will be out by the end of the week.”
“Okay, father. I will tell them.”
Aarn shook his head and walked away, trying to figure out how he would tell this family that was just months from having lost their oldest son to the military that they would now be without a farm.
He did know their oldest daughter Shia, but not that well. She was a couple years younger than he was and as a farmer had no time for any extracurricular activities. Aarn wouldn’t even know who she was except that the farm in question was on the road to town and he had seen her walking home from school for the last couple of years. She was cute though.
Well, I had best put on my suite so they know it is an official visit. Damn! This is just not fair, one down year and they are going to be put out. After 10 years of good production including three bumper crop years. Father is heartless.
And he is trying to make me become heartless too. We have 52 farm leases, we could afford to have one just break even for a year or two while they recover. Renegotiate the contract, make them pay a higher percentage for a few years after they recover. But no. We can’t set a precedence. Evict them, don’t let people think we are human.
Aarn slipped on his jacket and looked in the mirror to make sure his tie was straight. He paused for a second noticing that he had another solar burn. He looked just like his father, with the sharp angular face, pointed nose and pointed chin. But instead of the brown hair and nice tan, he had his mother’s red hair and pasty white skin that did poorly in the heat of the day. He would not be able to survive as a farmer on his father’s land, so he had best learn to manage the property.
If I don’t do this eviction, he will turn over management of the property to one of his assistants and give me a piece of land to farm for a living. I have no choice.
Since he was old enough to ride along and pay attention, he had been forced to make the rounds with his father to ensure that the farmers holding the leases on their land were attending to the crops that would pay their leases. His father had always told him that these visits ensured that those leasing from them knew that they cared and kept them conscious of the need to deliver a good crop.
He had noticed just as early as his father that the farm in question was not being tended at the same level as it had always been. But he knew the oldest son had gone off to the military and felt that a slight change was to be expected. In Aarn’s mind, it would have made more sense to hire some help to assist them for a couple months than to watch as the crop failed and then evict them. But his father would not hear that argument.
Aarn went down and got into the waiting traveler. The driver already had it running, and likely knew where they were going and why, but Aarn spoke anyway.
“Plot 16. I will need you to wait for me while I visit with the family.”
Aarn felt the traveler surge and they were off. But his mind would not stop running, condemning him.
Today I become my father. After this, I will no longer be looked at as the nice son. I will be feared the way my father is. These people will begin looking at the ground when I am around, and will go out of their way to avoid being noticed by me. How can father stand it? How will I be able to live like that?
By the time the traveler pulled up and stopped in front of the farm house, Aarn was convinced that this was the wrong thing to do, but that he had no choice.
“Sir, we are here.”
“Yes, I see that. Give me a minute.”
“Sir, your father has ordered me to report to him on how you handle the task. It will be better for everyone if you just get it over with.”
Aarn wanted to scream that it was the wrong thing to do, but the poor driver was afraid of losing his job too, and was just trying to help.
“Thank you. I was just working out how to approach it.”
Aarn got out of the traveler and headed for the door. He could see Shia peeking out the windows around the curtain, and nearly lost his nerve seeing the tears in her eyes. They knew why he was here.
He stepped up to the door in front of the view plate and heard the announcement of his arrival. Seconds later the door opened and an older version of Shia greeted him with obvious signs of tears in her eyes as well.
“Welcome Master Aarn. Won’t you please come in? May I offer you some caf?”
“Thank you ma’am, some caf would be nice.”
He could not believe how calm his voice sounded or that he had asked from some caf from a woman he was about to make homeless.
“Shia! Get Master Aarn a cup of caf.”
He saw Shia jump out of the corner of his eye and then she disappeared into the kitchen.
“Please have a seat. My husband is in the field this morning, but I paged him and he will be here momentarily. Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable while you wait?”
“No, ma’am, thank you.”
Aarn sat down and looked around the room, trying desperately to think of a way out of what he had been sent to do. He scanned the simple room, with the worn furniture that had probably been in the family for generations. There was a fireplace with a vid unit that was scrolling through family pictures showing the children as they grew up. On the other wall was an old fashioned comp unit that had the farm production quota and current yields displayed. His mind automatically calculated the yield rate and he knew that they knew they would come in quite a bit short of the quota.
Looking around the room, he could not imagine that they had enough savings to overcome such a shortfall. Of course, he knew his father would not have sent him if they did have such resources.
“Here is your caf, master Aarn. I hope you choke on it.”
“Shia! Apologize immediately!”
“Why? He is here to kick us out of our home. What difference will it make if he doesn’t like me?”
“Shia! I raised you better than that. You apologize to master Aarn right now.”
“Yes ma’am. I’m sorry master Aarn.”
“There is no reason to apologize, ma’am. I should not have asked for the caf in the first place. And she is right, it would be better for all of us if I choked on it.”
“Please, master Aarn, don’t say such things. If you did choke on it, or if it were perceived that we tried to hurt you in any way, we would be blocked from all current or future land leases. Please sir, just wait for my husband to arrive.”
Aarn felt even worse seeing the fear and pain in the woman’s eyes as she waited for the axe to fall. But she was kind to him even knowing what he was here for.
“Shia, sit down and be civil. You know he is just here to enforce the terms of the lease. It is not his fault, it is ours.”
Shia sat down directly across from him the tears flowing freely now, but she tried to wipe them away and smile at him.
He could not look into those beautiful haunting eyes knowing that he was about to make her homeless. Instead he looked above her head at the vid unit showing family pictures. It was showing her parent’s wedding ceremony, then it transitioned to a picture of her brother in uniform with a young woman wearing a pin of mastery. And their hands were being wrapped with ribbon signifying an engagement.
Something clicked in his head, and he knew what to do. Just then the door opened and the farmer entered the house. He was dirty from running the plow all morning preparing the land for the winter season.
Aarl stood immediately in respect, and startled the man.
“Master Aarl? Sorry, I was expecting your father. Please give me just a moment to clean off the field dirt. Shia, get master Aarl a snack or whatever he needs.
Shal, I need you to help me with something. If that is okay with master Aarl?”
“That is fine sir, please take your time.”
The big man nodded and turned toward the back of the house, his wife following quickly.
“What may I get you master Aarl?”
“Shia, please, just sit with me for a moment. I would like to get to know you.”
“You want to get to know me? Why?”
“Please, just humor me. I know you have no reason to trust me, or like me for that matter. But I really would like to get to know a little about you. For instance what do you like to do in your spare time?”
“In my spare time? I’m a farmer’s daughter, I have very little spare time. In fact, this time I’m spending humoring you means I will be up late this evening tending to the stock and watering the garden.”
“I know, and I’m sorry. Please, when you have few hours to yourself, what do you like to do?”
“That is rare, but if you must know, I like to read. I want to learn as much as I possibly can so that one day, I might be able to earn a scholarship to one of the universities.”
“That is wonderful. What would you study at the university?”
“I would love to study healing. I seem to have a knack for that already. It would be great to develop that skill.”
Aarl could see her relaxing and feel the excitement in her as she spoke of her dream.
“Healing, what a wonderful choice. But isn’t that part of the mastery? It would be easier to get into medicine.”
“Yes, but medicine involves putting things into the body to heal it. Healing is just telling the body to heal itself, and giving it the energy to do so. That is truly where my interest lies.”
“Have you been tested by one of the masters?”
“No, of course not. They don’t come to the farms unless someone is hurt, and then they are very expensive. But I bet you have been tested. Your family probably has a standing contract with one of the masters.”
“No, I have never met one either. I had to work with dad the week they came to the school for testing. I take it you had the same issue.”
“You know I did. Your father ordered all the farms to increase production and clear the fields of weeds that week.”
Aarn remembered that, when she said it. His father had been very angry that a couple of years earlier the mastery had carried off several of the young men who helped their parents meet production quotas. Said it cost him thousands of credits.
“I’m sorry. I do remember now. What else do you like?”
“I like being with my family. I like having food on the table. What else is there to like?”
The pain was back in her eyes, and Aarn had to look away briefly.
“I like people. I like sports because they bring people together all focused on the same goal. I like music, all kinds of music. Drives my father crazy, he thinks I should pick one type and stick to it.
How about you? Do you like music, or sports?”
“I honestly don’t know anything about sports, but yes, I like music. And I can relate to you on that point. I like it all and it drives my dad nuts too.”
“Sorry to keep you waiting Master Aarn.”
Aarn nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of Shia’s father’s voice. He quickly rose to his feet in respect and turned to face the man.
“Good afternoon sir. Thank you for your hospitality.”
He reached out his hand in greeting and saw the confusion and hesitation as the man responded instinctively reaching out his hand to shake.
“I’m sorry, master Aarn. You have me at a disadvantage. I assumed you were here about the lease. Is that not the case?”
“Well, yes. Technically that is what I’m here about. But I would very much like to speak to you and your wife privately first, if I may.”
Now the confusion and fear was clear in the man’s face. He had been prepared to take the eviction, but was afraid of the unknown.
“Certainly. Shia take the boys and go see to the stock please.”
Shia jumped and hurried out of the room. Moments later he heard some complaining from the younger boys and then the back door closed.
“Shal, please come out and join us. Master Aarn asked to speak to both of us.”
Shia’s mother came back into the room wiping her eyes as she entered, but quickly covering with a smile as she asked if he would like another cup of caf.
“Please, bring one for each of us, we have some things to figure out.”
“Please bear with us Master Aarn, we have never been through this before and we are honestly uncertain of how to act.”
“I’m sorry sir, I have never had such a conversation before either, so we will just have to figure it out together. But we do have several meaningful things to discuss. Please join me, when your wife returns we can begin the discussion.”
The big man came over and sat down opposite him as Shia had earlier, and Aarn could see him straining to hold back tears himself.
“Sir, please relax, I want to find a solution to the problem. I have a couple of ideas, but am hoping you have some of your own that will make it possible for me to avoid what I was sent here to do.”
Confusion returned to the man’s face, but along with it was something else. Was that hope?
“Here we go. A nice hot caf.”
Shia’s mother set a cup in front of him first then in front of her husband and the final cup she set next to her husband taking a seat next to him.
Then they both looked at him expectantly.
“Okay, so we all know the problem and what I am expected to do about it, but let me put that on the table to end the tension about it. You cannot make your lease this year, and I have been sent to evict you before planting season so my father can place someone else on this land in time to get a full harvest next year.
Now before you panic, I want to say, that is the last thing I want to do. So… I have been trying to come up with alternatives to my father’s plan that we can make palatable to him.”
“I appreciate your sentiment master Aarn, but your father is well known for his… commitment to the letter of the lease. We will begin packing immediately, I have already started looking for smaller leases.”
“Wait a minute. Did you not hear that I do not wish to evict you? There has to be a solution.”
“Look Master Aarn, I proposed to make up the lost production over the next three years. Your father sent you anyway. That means he wants us out and is not willing to listen to any compromise. You are just making it more painful by suggesting that there might be another solution. Stop it! Just call up the contract and let’s get this over with.”
“Okay, I guess the solution I came up with may be the only one. I’m sorry to bring it to you now, under these circumstances.
Is Shia promised?”
The big man looked confused for a moment, but Shal was not, and there was instant fire in her eyes.
“What kind of people do you think we are? You get the hell out of my house before I…”
“Shal! Apologize to master Aarn. Now!”
“I will not.”
She stood and threw her caf at him and Aarn had to move quickly to avoid being scalded.
“Please, hear me out. I swear that I mean no offense.”
“Shil! Leave us now!”
And Shia’s mother stormed out of the room.
“No master Aarn, I apologize for my wife’s unseemly outburst. But you had best explain yourself quickly because I assure you my patience is a very fragile thing right now.”
“Sir, I am sorry. I did not anticipate that particular response because I did not think through all the possible inferences that could have been made.
I was asking if she was promised to determine if my proposal was viable. I was going to propose that we could agree on a marriage contract. My father would be honor bound to give you more time if you were the father of my betrothed.”
He saw the tension reduce in the big man, clearly that was not what they thought he was about to propose. So he thought through the other possible things they could have thought he was proposing. Horror suddenly filled his mind. They might have thought he was proposing their daughter work off the debt.
“Oh my god! I’m so sorry. It just occurred to me what you might have thought I was asking. I would never insult you or your daughter in such a manner. Please forgive me for being so stupid in the manner in which I approached this possibility.”
“Master Aarn, it is I who should be apologizing for thinking you capable of such a request. But what you are proposing now is very difficult as well.
We are not in the same social class as you are, so a large dowry would be expected in such a case. I do not have such available to me. We did put aside some things for her dowry but as you know our financial resources have been severely limited over the past few years.
I cannot imagine this being acceptable to your father. And I don’t even know if you and Shia are compatible. What if you find you don’t like her?”
“I cannot imagine me not liking her, it is more likely that she will not like me. But if we could spend, say 2 years getting to know one another, under close supervision of course. It might solve the problem even if we mutually agreed to break the engagement later.
As for the dowry, there is a distinct possibility my father will send me to run a farm after I return without having evicted you, and then the dowry you have would be appropriate. Would it not?”
The big man was confused again for a moment and then he looked Aarn directly in the eyes.
“You would risk your own financial position to do this for us? Why?”
“Four reasons. First, I cannot become my father. Much as I love him and respect him, I am not him and have no desire to become him.
Second, I really am captivated by Shia and cannot bear to see her cry the way she was crying today when she knew I was here to evict you.
Third, I believe you will pay the debt owed if we just give you the time to do so. You are an honorable man and a hard worker. That is hard to find, no matter what my father says.
Finally, if I don’t find a solution, my father will come and evict you himself and I will lose my position with him anyway.
But I can understand if you want someone better for your daughter. And I would entertain any other ideas you have that would solve the problem and protect her. I have not broached the topic with her, so if you are opposed to it, I will honor your request and stay away from her.”
“Forgive me master Aarn, I must consult with my wife for a moment on this. May I have Shia bring you another caf?”
“That would be fine sir. Thank you.”
The big man left the room and Aarl heard the back door open briefly, then he felt the house hum for a bit. The big man had turned on the privacy controls so Aarn could not hear his conversation with his wife. That was good since Shia was likely back in the house too.
“Master Aarn, dad says you want more caf? Where do you put it all?”
“Actually, I still have the last one sitting here getting cold. Would you just sit for a while and talk to me while your parents are dealing with their business?”
“Okay, what would you like to talk about master Aarl?”
“Please just call me Aarl. I am not worthy of any honorable titles. How is the weather outside? How are the boys? Anything will do, I just need to hear your soothing voice.”
“My soothing voice? My mother would say it is more like a sharp tongue. But if that is what you wish.
The weather is hot and dry as is customary this time of year. It has not changed since you came into the house.
The boys are full of energy as they always are this time of day. They don’t know why you are here, so they are playing and having fun.
Your driver asked about you. I think he is worried that we have done something to you. He will probably burst in if you don’t reassure him soon.”
“You are probably right. Just a second.”
Aarn switched on his communicator and selected the driver’s communicator.
“Just wanted to check in, we are still going over details here, will be a bit longer. Please continue to wait for me.”
Aarn switched his communicator back off and looked once more into Shia’s eyes. They were a deep green and seemed to dance with irritation that he was looking at her so intently.
“Stop looking at me that way. It makes me nervous.”
“Oh, sorry. I was just admiring the color of your eyes. That shade of green is unusual.”
“So are your big blue eyes, but you don’t see me staring, do you?”
That startled Aarn, he had always heard that his eyes were too big for his face, and had never considered that the shade of blue might be unusual.
“Sorry, I was being rude. Forgive me?”
“Nothing to forgive, just please don’t stare at me that way anymore.”
“Deal. Now you said you tend the garden, what are you growing there?”
“Just the usual, vegetables, some feed plants and a couple flowers for the house. Don’t tell me you care about that stuff.”
“No, not really. You are certainly making this conversation difficult. How about you tell me about one of the books you are studying.”
“I’m sorry Aarn, I am not noted for my social skills. Perhaps I should have my mother come in and entertain you while dad figures out whatever you sent him off to figure out.”
“I think your father wants your mother’s council on what I proposed.
Okay, let’s try this, I will talk and you can pretend to be interested. Will that work?”
“As long as I don’t have to be actually interested.”
Aarn had to laugh at the way she said that.
“How old are you anyway?”
“Just about to have my 20th birthday, why?”
“Just wondering. I just turned 22, and my father wants me to start taking over the less desirable parts of the landlord duties. Seems pretty unfair to me. I’m betting your parents are pressing you to take over some of the more undesirable parts of running the farm too.”
“Yes, but they wouldn’t send me out to evict any families.”
“Sorry, bad turn of subject. I have been thinking a lot lately of what it would be like to just leave and try to make it on my own. I have a small savings and could probably buy a small farm or something.”
“You farming? Don’t make me laugh. That’s hard work, something you never had to do in your life. Besides, with that skin, you would burn to a crisp after just one morning of running a plow.”
The disdain in her voice actually hit him like a knife. And Aarn winced.
She apparently noticed and immediately showed fear in her eyes.
“I’m sorry, that came out wrong. I did not mean to imply you were not capable of working. Only that farming might not be the best choice for you.”
The fear in her eyes made Aarn’s heart sink. Perhaps the idea would not work after all. She feared and hated him. Surely her parents would not agree to such a match for her.
“No, you spoke your mind. And if I’m honest with myself, I can see that you are right, about the farming anyway. I apologize for having insulted you by suggesting I could do the work you do.”
Shia sat there quietly with tears gathering in her eyes again.
“I’m sorry, I should not have asked you to sit here and entertain me. I was being selfish just wanting to be near you, when it is clear that you just want to be as far away from me as possible. Please feel free to go back to your chores or whatever you wish to be doing.”
“I’m sorry. Please don’t take it out on my family because I can’t control my tongue. Please, I will tell you anything you want to know. Ask me a question, I will answer. Please master Aarn.”
“You can go, I will not hold anything against you or your family. My apologies for taking up your valuable time.”
Shia got up still looking a little concerned as she turned to go away.
“Shia, remain this concerns you as well.”
Aarn jumped to his feet at the sound of Shia’s father’s voice.
He turned to face the voice and saw both her father and her mother coming back into the room, but he could not read the expression on their faces.
“Dad, I fear I have insulted master Aarn and he may not want me here.”
Now there was concern on the man’s face as he turned to look at his daughter.
“Did you apologize?”
“Yes I did, but I don’t think he really accepted my apology. I’m sorry dad.”
And she started crying, making Aarn’s heart hurt.
“Please stop crying, I never wished to hurt you in any way. Forgive me.”
The big man stepped in and hugged his daughter as he looked at Aarn with concern on his face.
“There, there sweatheart. Whatever it is, we will handle it. Calm yourself. It will be okay, I promise.”
“Master Aarn, do you wish to take back your offer?”
Aarn thought about saying yes, but it still was the only way to protect them that he had come up with. He could pretend to court her for a year until they got back on their feet and then figure out a way to break it off retaining their honor.
“No sir, it is still the only path I can come up with. But she may not wish it. I will do whatever you wish me to do, sir.”
“Thank you master Aarn. I am in your debt however this goes for the concern you have shown for my family.
Shia, Shal, please have a seat. Master Aarn, please sit as well and we will discuss this as adults and see what we come up with.”
“Thank you sir.”
Aarn sat back down, certain that they would ask Shia and not certain he could hold his emotions in check if she said what he believed she was going to say.
“Shia, this concerns you directly, so I need you to put away your tears and listen. Let me know when you have your control back.”
“Master Aarn, would you like a warm up on your caf?”
It was only then that Aarn noticed Shal had a pot with her. He quickly chugged his cold caf and held out an empty cup.
“Thank you ma’am, I believe I could use another cup.”
She started to pour and looked him in the eyes as she did so.
“Master Aarn, please accept my apology for my earlier outburst. You can imagine what I thought you were suggesting. But I should have known you were a better man than that.”
“It is me who should be apologizing to you and your family for choosing my words so poorly. You had every right to react the way you did. It is a credit to your honor that you feel so strongly and are so willing to fight for your family.”
“Thank you for understanding master Aarn.”
“What are you two talking about? And how does it concern me?”
“It is a private matter Shia, but if you are back in control of your emotions, your father and I have something to ask you.”
“I am back in control, mom. Sorry.”
“Shia, you know what our situation is with the farm. Master Aarn here was sent by his father to evict us for non-payment of the lease. It is their right, and we are prepared to move and find another lease, likely with a smaller plot that I can manage on my own.
So, please consider that matter resolved as you consider what we ask you next. Okay?”
The tears were threatening to come rolling out again, but to her credit, Shia fought them back and then answered.
“Yes dad. If you say that is what we have to do, I am prepared to start packing. What else did you want to ask me?”
“We have been lax in our duty and have not found a suitable husband for you after your betrothed passed away three years ago. Master Aarn has asked your mother and me if we would agree to a marriage contract, with full courting period, fully chaperoned of course. Would you be willing to consent to such a contract?”
The shock was clear in her face, and Aarn could not read her face at all as she sat there for an eternity absorbing the question.
Then the shock dissipated, followed by confusion, then something Aarn could not read at all.
“But we are at different social classes. Can you afford the dowry that would be demanded?”
“Don’t concern yourself with that. The question before you is would you consider such a contract if it could be worked out?”
Shia looked directly at Aarn and he braced for the answer he feared hearing.
“Do you still wish such an arrangement after what I said earlier?”
“I am not one to change my mind so easily, but I would not have you do this if it would make you unhappy.”
“A full courting period is being proposed, right?”
“And you have no expectations beyond the opportunity to court until after the marriage?”
“That is correct.”
“Then if those things are put in writing, I would be happy to accept such an offer. Now, how do we overcome the issue of dowry? I cannot imagine your father accepting anything less than a fortune.”
“First, I am of age and do not require my father’s consent for such a contract. But in the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I am not likely to be at a higher social class after today, and then the dowry is not an issue at all.”
Shia looked at her father with confusion clear on her face.
“Master Aarn wishes to give his father the marriage contract instead of our eviction notice. His father then would be honor bound to forgive our debt and let us stay. However, he believes the price would be the loss of his rights as heir to the land.”
Shia blinked and then stared at Aarn with disbelief in her eyes.
“You would give that life up? Why? You don’t even know me.”
“Because I want to know you. And to be totally honest, because I cannot become my father. I don’t have his strength of conviction, and I cannot evict you even if you choose not to sign the marriage contract.”
“Oh my god. Who are you? I have never met anyone who would do such a thing for someone else. I don’t know what to say.”
“You don’t need to say anything. The money was already gone before I asked for the marriage contract. I only hope you still want to go through with the contract when I am poor and you know me. But if you don’t I will understand and we will find a way to deal with that without hurting the honor of either family.”
“Well, master Aarn. It appears that we are in agreement. Shal, call up the contract so master Aarn can review it. Shia, bring your betrothed something more suitable to drink in celebration of this occasion.”
The two women got up and carried the caf cups away with them as they left the room leaving Aarn alone with his future father-in-law.
“I am honored that you chose my daughter, but have to ask, why are you not already betrothed?”
“I was, twice. The first woman and her family were caught in a freak sunami, only her mother and unborn brother survived. The second belonged to the owner of a shipping company that we did business with. My father had a falling out with her father and cancelled the contract on a technicality. That was last year, and my parents have apparently been too busy to bother searching for a suitable wife. Likely because other parents would be leery of a contract with them now after the way father handled the last one.”
“I can understand that. But this contract will be with you not your father. Right?”
“Yes, that is correct. And you have my word, that I will not break the contract unless you and your daughter agree that it should be broken.”
“Thank you master Aarn. Now to the rules I would have you know. I don’t care who you are, or who you become, if you every beat my daughter I will find you and kill you. If you abuse her in any way, I will find you and give you ten times what you have given her in pain. If you take liberties ahead of the wedding, I will cut it off. Am I clear?”
Aarn could see in the man’s eyes that he meant every word of what he was saying. Of course none of those things would happen. Not even the liberties thing, now.
“Yes sir. You are clear. And you have my word that there will be no reason to test your resolve.”
“I certainly hope not for your sake.”
Just then Shia came back in with a clear bottle and four small glasses.
“Here we are father.”
She set the glasses down, and poured one for her father first, then one for him and finally the last two glasses were filled and she set one on each side of the table, moving over to sit next to him and claim that glass.
“Shal, we are ready.”
Then a vid unit dropped out of the ceiling and Shia’s mother came back into the room and took her seat.
“Display marriage contract for Shia and Aarn.”
And a contract appeared on the screen. Aarn immediately began reading and was pleased to see that Shia also appeared to be reading it.
Twenty minutes later, Aarn looked at Shia to see if she were finished reading it, and she nodded indicating that she was.
They had been very thorough, the parameters of the courtship were laid out in detail along with the terms of the contract and the details of the dowry they had set aside for their daughter.
“Computer, modify contract. Add 100,000 credits to dowry.”
“Contract modified. This change will require recertification by all parties.”
“Computer, transfer 100,000 credits from account BR65647832XG to Shia’s account number”
He turned to Shia and saw the shock in her face. He smiled and nodded at her. Finally she spoke.
“Press your palm to the plate to confirm.”
Aarn pressed his palm to the plate that lighted up in front of him, and Shia pressed hers to the plate in front of her.
“Identity verified. 100,000 credits transferred.”
“What was that all about? I thought you said your father would send you to the farm and this type of dowry would not be necessary. I am honor bound to object to this.”
“I did not deceive you. I am certain my father will do exactly as I said he would. This is about Shia. She said she wants to go to the university. These credits will ensure she gets the chance even if she decides I am not the man for her and the marriage contract is broken.”
“You keep speaking like such a contract can be broken easily. I assure you that is not the case. Once you commit to this, I will expect you to keep your word and honor the contract. Both of you.”
Aarn reached for his focus and calm. When it was in place he spoke with clarity and conviction.
“I Aarn a responsible and legal adult commit to the marriage contract as written. I will not break this contract under penalty of law and society unless the termination of such contract is agreed to by both Shia and her parents. So help me god!”
He felt the air shimmer and knew the finality of those words as he spoke them. Then he turned to face Shia as she spoke the same words modified to include him in the statement about breaking the contract. She spoke with the same focus and commitment he had used, and again the air shimmered and he felt the finality of the pronouncement.
He took her hand in his and turned to face her parents. They quickly spoke the words they were required to speak to commit to the contract. But this time while he felt the finality of their commitment, the air did not shimmer.
“Place your palms on the panels in front of you to complete the contract.”
Shia released his hand reluctantly to place her hand on the table in the indicated panel as Aarn did the same on his plate. Shia’s parents had already done the same.
Contract signed and sealed. Do you wish to waive the right to a period to rescind?”
“Yes, I wish to waive that right.”
Aarn was just a heartbeat ahead of Shia in his response, but the parents were not so quick.
“Master Aarn, are you certain. This will be final even if your father evicts us and we drop another class.”
“Yes, I am certain, my oath is my bond and I already gave that freely.”
“Very well. We wish to waive that right as well. Seal the contract and file it.”
“Contract sealed and filed. No right of recension.”
Then the vid unit slid back into the ceiling and Shia’s father raised his glass.
“Master Aarn, I am proud to welcome you into our family. Shal and I wish you and Shia a very long and happy marriage after a suitable courtship period. Praise be to god that he has sent us such an honorable man to join with our daughter.”
They all touched glasses formally and then took a sip.
“Thank you sir. I am honored to be welcomed into your family. Please dispense with the honorary title as we are now family and such is inappropriate among family members. To my new parents and to my beautiful betrothed I wish a long and happy life filled with prosperity and honor.”
They touched glasses formally again and again took a sip from the glasses.
“To my betrothed, thank you for honoring me and my parents. It will be my great pleasure to share this courtship and marriage with you. May we all have a long and fruitful life blessed with children, love and prosperity!”
They touched glasses a final time and emptied them as custom required.
Then the big man stood up and Aarn stood quickly to join him.
“Thank you for joining us in this contract and for all it means to my family as well as yours. Now to the business end of this. You may begin the courtship by contacting Shal at least two days before any proposed date. You must give us the rest of the week to make arrangements with our family before beginning the courtship. Are those terms agreeable?”
“I would wish for it to begin sooner to be honest, but I understand the need to coordinate with your family. Those terms are acceptable to me.”
“Excellent. You may say goodbye to your betrothed in an honorable and acceptable manner and we will look forward to seeing you in the near future.”
Aarn turned formally toward Shia who rose to her feet smiling. He reached out and grasped her hands pulling each to his mouth separately and kissing each gently.
“Thank you for accepting me. Goodbye for now. I will call to arrange our first date as soon as it is acceptable to do so.”
Shia smiled sweetly and drew one of his hands up to brush against her cheek.
“I will count the minutes between now and then.”
“Okay, that’s enough you two.”
And Shal pulled their hands apart and led Shia away.
“Thank you son. I wish you luck with your father. I will hang around the house for the next couple of hours in case he wishes to summon me.”
“Thank you! I will need luck I think. But I am confident, my father will not put you out now that there is a contract between us. He is dedicated to the contract and it’s meaning in society.”
“I hope you are right, but know that we will keep the bargain whatever he chooses to do. We did not decide to say yes to keep this farm. We said yes because you demonstrated the commitment and honor that we want in a husband for our daughter.”
“Thank you. I really appreciate that.”
Aarn walked out of the house feeling 10 feet tall until he saw the traveler and knew that the moment of truth was upon him. Still, there was a good sign as he looked in the distance and saw a double rainbow on the blue sky.
Wow, that is beautiful. It has got to be a good sign. A double rainbow on the day I sign my own marriage contract. Regardless of how things go with my father, that has got to be a good sign for the marriage contract.
He smiled to himself and then got into the traveler and spoke only one word.
The driver wanted more information to fill in his report, but he was not willing to risk angering the heir to the company he worked for, and Aarn made it clear he was not planning to speak about things.
The driver nodded and turned the traveler back toward the family home at the top of the hill.
All the way home, Aarn struggled with the various ways to tell his father that he had not only not evicted the family but had signed a marriage contract to be wed to their daughter.
“Sir, your father wishes you to join him in the study when we arrive.”
That’s not good news. He probably checked as soon as we left the farm and saw that the eviction has not been formalized. Hopefully he has not done anything rash yet. Crap, what if he did?
The traveler came to a stop and Aarn got out, examining his feelings. It surprised him to note that he was not afraid. He had made his decision and he was comfortable with the decision he made regardless of how his father reacted to it.
Well then, I guess I might as well go on in and get this over with.
Aarn walked in the house and headed straight for the study, barely even taking the time to respond when the housekeeper welcomed him home.
He was a little surprised to see the door to the study open and his mother inside speaking to his father as he entered.
“…felt it too, I know you did.”
“Ah, my rebellious son returns. Close the door so we can have some privacy.”
That’s not a good sign, but why did he not send mother away first?”
He turned and closed the door then pressed the privacy button next to the door before turning back to face his father and mother.
“Well, I know you did not execute the contract I asked you to execute this morning. Suppose you tell your mother and I what you did do for three and one half hours today.”
The moment of truth. Which do I tell him first?
He pulled in his focus as his father had taught him to do when his words would be significant. Then opened his mouth and began to speak.
“Father, I could not evict this family from their home. They have been good tenants who just came on temporary hard times. I did speak to them, and they expected me to evict them and were prepared to leave. But it was the wrong thing to do, and I won’t do it.
So I talked with them and got to know them, and that just confirmed my belief that eviction is wrong in this case. It would be different if they had traditionally done just enough to get by and finally decided to test the contract by not bothering to keep up with the required production rates.
This family has always worked hard to produce as much as is possible with the land we have given them. We should be searching for ways to help them have a larger farm, not trying to kick them out of this one. It is just good business to keep people who want to succeed and have proven they know how to succeed.”
“Not to mention people who have cute daughters. Am I right?”
“She is very attractive, but that is not the reason I believe we should not evict these people.”
“Okay, so how do you propose we stay in business if we allow people to not pay their leases?”
“They will pay the lease, they have pride and honor and would not have it any other way. They just need time to recover. Besides, they are paying the majority of the lease this year. They are only a couple thousand credits short. If we allow them to pay say half next year and half the year after I am certain they will break their backs making sure we get paid.
Then we don’t lose a good lessor and we get our money. If we evict them, we are writing off the debt because they will never be able to repay us if they are forced to move to a smaller plot with a higher cost per acre.
In addition, we will be taking on the significant risk of someone who is used to working a smaller plot trying to manage this one. Likely we will end up evicting 3 or 4 before we find another family who will be able to sustain.”
“Your argument is well founded and equally well presented. But what you don’t seem to remember is that our reputation has a lot to do with the production of other lessors as well. If I let this go, how long do you think it will be before we have another farmer saying they need more time, and since they heard we would give it to them they didn’t work their tails off to prevent it.”
“Well, there is an answer for that too. You can tell them that this was an exception you made for your in-laws at the request of your son.”
His father started to respond then just stood there with his mouth open. But his mother was very quick to react.
“So that’s what you committed to with such fervor. Oh my god. Tell me all about it. Did she say yes? Well, of course she did or you would not have made a power commitment. Oh my god. How long have you been planning this?”
His father finally recovered.
“Well that would work I suppose. Hell of a long way to go just to save a farmer with a cute daughter though.”
And his father came over and gave him a big bear hug throwing Aarn off his balance. He had not expected that.
“Congratulations son. Congratulations!”
Aarn nearly fell from the weakness in his knees when his father let him go.
“Yes, congratulations. I must meet her, what is she like? Detail, details.”
“Give the boy a break dear, he is not a girl, probably just felt the urge and popped the question. We are much simpler creatures we don’t plot these things for years and plan them down to the last detail.”
“Mother, I’m afraid Father is right. I have known her for a while and have been watching her come home from school every day for some time never daring to hope that she might still be uncommitted. When I learned today that her betrothed had passed away three years ago. I asked her parents for a marriage contract.”
“And how did such a topic come up when you were there to evict them?”
“After talking to her for a few minutes while her father made himself presentable. It occurred to me that she was a bit too old to still be unmarried. So I asked her parents, father. I did it poorly, but I asked.”
“That takes some guts, boy. I’m proud of you. And her father did not kill you on the spot. That speaks to character as well.”
“Yes sir, it does.”
Aarn noticed his father activating the comp unit and typing in a destination. Seconds later he heard the voice of Shia’s father.
“Kirn, I understand you and my son have reached agreement on a marriage contract. Is that true?”
“Yes, sir. It is true. Master Aarn is an honorable and good man. You should be proud of him.”
“I am. I am also proud to hear that he has found a woman that belongs to such a good family. Thank you for welcoming him into your house and treating him with respect.”
“Sir, he earned every bit of respect he got in my home.”
“Thank you just the same. By the way, he tells me that he believes you are the best person to be farming that particular parcel. In fact he was urging me to try to find a way to give you a little more land to farm.
Would you be interested in taking on the north slope of the west valley just south of your current plot? That would increase your land by about 20% and the lease would go up accordingly.”
There was silence on the other side of the line for a moment.
“Yes sir, I would be honored to take on that additional land. With that, I could probably pay you back for the shortage this year at harvest time next year.”
“Well, I will add the land to your lease, but you will have to accept that the shortfall this year is a gift from me for your agreement to the marriage contract. I cannot have people thinking that I am soft.”
Again there was silence for a moment as the big man absorbed what was being said and Aarn needed that time to absorb it as well. Who was this man? His father had never given away a credit to anyone.
“Yes sir, your terms are acceptable as long as you are willing to accept a corresponding gift when I have sold my crops next year.”
“Agreed. The matter is closed then. Please say hi to your wonderful wife and this daughter I am hearing so much about.”
“I will sir. Please do the same for me. I am honored to know you sir and blessed to have your son join my family.”
“The honor is mutual. Good day.”
His father closed the communications line and looked at Aarn.
“At last, my son has become a man. I am proud of you son. You will do well when you take over the property.”
P’Hilz Story Available now
The K’Jin Mission Available now
K’Jin Released Available now
Alla’s Path Coming Soon
Torl’s Journey Book 1 in the series
Rebuilding a Legacy Book 2 in the series
End of an Era Book 3 in the series
Seala’s Burden Book 4 in the series
Taarl and the Fools
Game Coming Soon
Master Mixer Sslasl
Sslasl and the Mastery
Aarn Becomes a Man
All Things Real A reference to the people and places in the Power Colors books.
Barth Reality A reference to the people and places in the Barth Novels
Aarn was the eldest son of a well-known landlord in the largest agricultural section of Amelus. He spent most of his days making the rounds with his father to ensure that the farmers leasing sections of their land were attending to the crops that would pay their leases. Aarn like his father could tell if a field was well tended or not from looking at the aerial images relayed from their satellites but his father insisted on them making an appearance at every field regularly. He said that ensured that those leasing from them knew they cared and kept them conscious of the need to deliver a good crop. Today they were going to evict a family who had not been able to keep up with the lease payments, and Aarn’s father insisted that Aarn would do the eviction. Apparently he needed to prove that he could do the job when his father retired someday. Only he knew these people, they had been hard workers for many years and had only recently fallen on hard times after their oldest son had gone off to the military. That left only a daughter a couple years younger than Aarn to help them tend the fields and bring in the crops. Aarn had argued with his father that they should simply reduce the lease as the family had requested and give them time to recover, but his father was unforgiving when it came to paying the lease on time.