A Boy Named Junath
“Good morning, Lady,” said a ruddy boy nearing manhood, but the white owl just turned her bright blue eyes away from him. “You may ignore me, but you are still just as beautiful as always.”
The boy smiled at the owl and grabbed his short three-legged stool to milk the brown and white cow groaning with a full udder. Soothing the cow with his gentle voice, he began his morning chore.
“Junath! Breakfast is almost ready!”
“Coming Dad!” said the boy. Quickening his pace, he soon had fresh milk for breakfast.
“How was Sammy this morning?” asked his dad.
“She was eager as always,” Junath said, “Did you learn anything last night at the meeting?”
Seren poured gravy over their biscuits and sat down to eat himself.
“With the rumors of war spreading, the town folk grow anxious,” Seren said as he took a drink of milk.
As Junath chewed on a piece of bacon he asked, “Why are the Crimsons attacking Perri?”
“It’s not only Perri but Thea as well.” Seren allowed a sigh of sorrow to escape. “Rumor is that Tuckshire to the north is already gone.”
“But, Dad, the nation of Qunereel has never been that violent before.”
“Son, the way that Shorn Forte overthrew his government should have told everyone that he was a cold, bloodthirsty soul.”
Junath asked, “Is it true that Sprinx and Davenshire have given him their loyalty?”
“That’s what I hear, and since Geor is undecided, it seems that Thea, Perri, and Haven are the only ones willing to stand up to him. In fact, Junny, the elders of Eisen are meeting this evening after dinner to discuss further reports received from Lanier and Fina.”
“This is the fourth day in a row. We’re going to be busy trying to get everything done and dinner ready before you leave.”
Junath laid his fork down onto the plate with half of his breakfast still left. After a moment he asked, “Why does war have to come here?”
Seren, trying to comfort him, said, “A fifteen-year-old boy does not need to worry himself over something he cannot change. Strife comes and goes, and Ol’ Forte will come to an end eventually. No one person can conquer all of Manähu. Besides, we poor farmers of the Perri Delta still have a farm to tend, and the corn’s not going to pick itself.”
Though uneasiness in the pit of his stomach continued, Junath genuinely smiled and replied, “Dad, you’re right, worrying about the crops never causes them to grow any faster, and worrying about war won’t keep it away. And today, it’s not here.”
“That’s my boy, wise beyond his years, just like Jael. You two must get it from your mother. Come, let’s go get that corn.”
The two spent the morning harvesting some crops, but Seren needed to head back to the house and repair parts of the roof. Junath collected several bushels of corn for the crib and set some in the wagon for Seren to take to town that evening. Later in the afternoon, Seren allowed Junath to forego a couple of the less necessary chores so they could eat dinner early before he left.
At dinner, as Seren carved the chicken, he looked at Junath who was still pensive, quiet, and a little sullen. “Junath, the Crimson army is far away, and I told you that you don’t need to worry about their lust for war.”
“Dad, it’s not the Crimsons, it’s Jael.”
Upon this revelation, Seren gently said, “Oh, I see.”
Junath poured some water into their glasses, and Seren continued, “Jael left because he thought it best after your mother died. He figured he could work in the mines of Qunereel and maybe send some money back home.”
Junath angrily replied, “But he has left us to rot, forcing you to raise me, run a farm, and now there is a threat of war…Jael’s probably serving Shorn Forte as we speak!”
With a calm, authoritative voice, Seren corrected Junath, “I will not have you insult your brother in my presence again. He has chosen his path, and it has led him well. I assure you, Jael would not support the Crimson’s lust for blood. He’s not that kind of person. He has too much of his mother in him.” After a pause, he added, “Don’t doubt his love for us, it is stronger than you realize.”
Junath, desiring not to rouse his father further, conceded the debate and moved on to more pleasant conversation.
After supper, Seren helped clean and then readied himself for the meeting. He hugged Junath and told him not to stay up waiting for his return. It would be late, and Junath needed to rise early to get a head start on his chores.
As Seren left, Junath began to complete his evening chores. Within a couple of hours, Junath finished and went and cleaned himself up to get ready for bed. He sat in Seren’s rocking chair, and his thoughts continued to contemplate the war, Qunereel, and Jael. As he sat there watching the flames of the fire flicker, he became drowsy, and sleep was quickly upon him. Then he stood and threw a couple of split logs onto the fire to fight the chill of the night, and finally, he climbed into bed, drew his mother’s patchwork quilt over him, and was soon fast asleep.
Junath jolted awake and found his father dashing madly through the house. Without even knowing why, Junath could taste the bile of vomit in his mouth.