Sketch to Story #4 : Fantastical Career Woes of a befuddled Farm Hand

The title so reeks of the obvious direction the story shall take of the totally identifiable if not original parallels between the life of youngsters today and in fantasy fiction. If that has not put you off, read on.

 Raken Barrowsmith, never a promising lad. Son of a farmer and one among four siblings, there was absolutely nothing remarkable about the boy that would make him mention able in any text whatsoever. His life was destined to be so ordinary that the customary call to the village soothsayer on his  birth was a moment of unnatural awkwardness. The poor woman couldn’t see anything in the boy’s future which could be sold to the parents as a mark of promise. He grew up as kids of that part of Upper Sorrowmere do, eating carrots and lard fried potatoes with the occasional serving of ham. His lack of talent was so amazing that even on such a diet of carbs he never seemed to put on any meat on his mediocre sized bones.

He went to school with the other village children till he was 13. He did not seem to have a special inclination to any of the subjects taught. Numbers seemed to filter through his head like water through a fishing net, rudimentary pyrotechnics and energy channeling ( prerequisites for wizard apprentices ) seemed mind-boggling. He had been caned repeatedly for falling asleep in cartography and history with polity seemed to entirely whizz past him. All these courses were very rudimentary, all by 2 masters. The kingdom liked to portray that it facilitated the possible growth of anyone into any profession. These were mere introductions to these subjects. Now what most village boys, including Raken enjoyed were War studies. Taught by an ex-page to a retired Sir Knight of the realm, this was something which excited parents and children equally. There were only so many knights and foot soldiers the king could afford so those undertaking a War Career path ended up being merchants of Weapons, armory managers, assistants to the army and even tourist guides to battlefields and houses of impoverished lords and ladies. Given the day and age, there was a lot of business in military and massacre.

On completing his last term, Raken had to make a choice, what he wanted to make of his life. His parents had little money and anything he did would have to be on scholarship or be sponsored by anyone who saw promise in him. Given that he was he, the latter seemed as unlikely as a dragon breathing on an egg and frying it instead of charring it beyond recognition. He wouldn’t mind stepping into his father’s shoes and tending their little farm. The pigs were perhaps the only creatures that did not judge him and given good weather there wasn’t much to be done all through out the year. But his father had hoped for better when he sold the family cows to send him to school. “Any bumpkin can sow seeds and cut chaff, you shall go to the ends of the kingdom in search of fame and glory!” his father had announced on his graduation. So a few goats were sold so that Raken could be tutored by the school’s War expert in the ways of a knight’s page. One could always start as a foot soldier and then become a knight eventually through valor and deeds which legends are made of. But these days the faster route would be to become a page and be made a knight eventually, without the bloodshed.

As he was instructed in how to carry a sword, clean a full suit of armor and untangle the reins of a horse, his mind would wander to the lives of his friends. The baker’s son was the only other boy left in the village having joined his father’s business. He was a great success with his introducing cakes to a mostly bread eating village. One boy had gone to study at the wizard’s guild in Storm’s brow, that too on a scholarship. His regular raven messages to the villages regaling tales of an interesting foreign life were rather painful to hear about. A few boys had joined the army and were deployed to a boot camp near a major fort. They hardly came home anymore. 1-2 class mates had taken to life with the gypsies and travelling merchants, seeing the world with wonderful tales to tell. There was a bard and a jester in making too. Finding it difficult to make enough money but doing what they loved. There was not a soul among this class that Raken did not envy, whether for their courage, adventures, spirit, active social life or general impression of success. He had heard of frustrated pages and soldiers starting their own mercenary battalions for hire and declaring themselves knights by the ages of 15-16. Perhaps he’d do that, it was something which seemed to impress the distressing damsels anyhow.

As he shifted bales of hay, early in the morning and  and worked on a neighbor’s farm all afternoon he’d think about what he really wanted to do. With every sod of mud he overturned with a plow, the eternal question haunting him would be that which would face him when he would go to interview for the position of a page, with various members of the Knight’s guild. Why did he want to become a page, why become a knight? Nobility, honor and fame were acceptable answers in earlier years but now you needed to show enterprise. People often quoted patriotism then they would be asked why then did they not go to the front and fight? These (the interviewers) were men with cozy positions willing to take only those who’d meet the temperament rather than any requirement. He’d often thought of becoming a priest, they earned well, very well respected and feared and had lovely monasteries. But to a boy in his early teens celibacy is hardly appealing. Whatever he had to do, it had to be fast, a year or more of thinking and he’d be past the average age of marriage. That would definitely kill his mum.

Sketch #4 : Raken Barrowsmith
Sketch #4 : Raken Barrowsmith

This story is part of a series, introduced here.

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