In the second installment of this great story, Aarn comes up with a plan to save a family from eviction.
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.
Aarn stood immediately in respect, and startled the man.
“Master Aarn? Sorry, I was expecting your father. Please give me just a moment to clean off the field dirt. Shia, get master Aarn a snack or whatever he needs.
Shal, I need you to help me with something. If that is okay with master Aarn?”
“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 Aarn?”
“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.”
Aarn 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.”