On The Farm
The man who bought Ned owned a farm just outside the large gates to Malaxia. His name was Gundred and he lived in a small farmhouse with his daughter Krea. He was a kind but mournful man as he lost his wife to a harsh winter the year before. Gundred’s farm had a few outbuildings which hugged the fortress walls, some grazing land, livestock and crops. He was not rich, but had saved his money for the right farm worker. The farmer needed someone strong and Ned sounded just right. Gundred could not afford to make a mistake. He knew more than any that one winter with failed crops meant death.
Gundred collected Ned from the auctioneer and led him through the damp streets. They exited the main gates and it was only a short walk to the farm. He showed Ned an outhouse which would be where he slept. It mainly housed pigs and chickens, but a small corner had been partitioned off for Ned. The farmer unlocked Ned’s chains and threw them to the floor with a thud.
“We won’t be needing these on my farm,” he said. Beckoning Ned over, he swept an arm in front.
“See the swamp out there?”
“Too many men have met their end in the swamp. As you probably saw on your arrival, only those in the know can find a pathway across. Malaxia is surrounded by deadly waters, so there is no escape from this land. Chains are not necessary around these parts.”
“But why don’t they just use boats to get across the swamp?” Ned asked.
“That’s been tried. You see those whirlpools out there? No matter how big the boat, each one sank. The only way across is by a secret path.” Gundred replied.
In the evening, after a hearty meal, Ned reflected on recent weeks. The journey to Malaxia had been difficult at first. But he got used to the hardships and grew fitter. And he was so relieved to be out of that jail. He was not long down in the dungeons, but he never expected to see the light of day again. Especially when he was kept in the hole. For a brief moment down there he had given up. It taught him never to do that again. Ever. Ned was grateful to be off the march and out of the jail. He resolved to work hard on the farm and prove his worth.