The Baron Dran and his men had come into town one gray morning. Hendry was just a boy then and he did not understand at first that there was a new law in town. He did not immediately see the bad signs but he saw that his parents were worried. The Baron had a very nice house built as his headquarters but he and his men spent most of their time in the local tavern, The Green Lady. There was plenty of grumbling early on, but nobody dared to raise a hand to stop them. When they sent word summoning Hendry to their impromptu court at the Green Lady, he could see in his parent’s faces that they did not want him to go. They did not speak out and so Hendry had to go.
Hendry was surprised that the Baron was not much older than himself. He tried to keep the surprise off of his face but he was not sure if he managed it. The smoke was thick in the place so perhaps they could not see anyway.
“What is your name, boy?” The Baron asked. His voice was arrogant, made more so by the closeness of their age and his choice of words.
“Hendrick, sir,” Hendry said.
“You’re a farmer’s son, right?” The Baron asked. He was not even really looking at Hendry which was incredibly annoying but Hendry kept his mouth shut about it.
“I am proud to be a farmer’s son, sir,” Hendry replied.
“Not anymore,” the Baron said. He gestured and one of his men held out a shovel toward Hendrick. Hendrick grasped it and pulled it close with growing confusion. “You are now a gravedigger. I have a feeling that this village will need one before I am through.”
Hendry’s eyes went wide at the implications of that statement but Dran’s men were already pushing him out of the tavern. Their laughter shook him to his core.
* * *
“Why would you do such a thing?!” Karina yelled as she shoved things into a pack.
“The Baron’s men killed my brother. I had to dig his grave! Those men had it coming,” Hendry replied. He was still holding the bloody sword he had seized. He had seen red and before he even knew what he was doing, he had murdered two of Dran’s men. He was still breathing hard even as he watched Karina pack. The two men had started to push him around and he had just snapped and stolen one of their swords. He lashed out, slashing them to pieces in a moment.
“We have to get you away from here,” Karina said.
“I can’t leave,” Hendry said. He dropped the sword and it clattered on the floor.
“They will kill you if they catch you,” Karina said. “I will watch out for the rest of your family. I promise.” Karina was a good ranger and the best archer that Hendry knew.
“I cannot let him rule here any further,” Hendry said.
“What are you going to do? Wave your shovel at him?” Karina asked. “You got lucky with those two earlier.”
Hendry sighed. “I guess you’re right.”
“Come on, I have the best place to send you.”
* * *
Hendry stepped out of the barracks of the Battle Arts Academy. He breathed in the fresh air, as he hoisted the pack on his back onto the horse that would take him from that place. He slid a shovel into a loop he had tied onto the saddle. It was two years since he had left his village behind. He heard footsteps from behind him.
“You and that shovel,” Caleb said. “It sat by your bed for the last two years.”
“Just a reminder of the past,” Hendry said with a smile. “A reminder that I will not suffer a bully.”
“Hero type,” Caleb said with a smile. “I guess you will be out there fighting the good fight now?”
“Yes. It is time for me to move on,” Hendry said. “I will keep improving and one day I will make things right.”
“Whatever that means. I’ll miss you.”
“You are a great friend, Caleb. I promise we’ll see each other again,” Hendry said.
“We’d better,” Caleb said with a laugh. “You owe me after that last game of liar’s dice.”
“Hopefully you’ve forgotten by the time we see each other again,” Hendry said. He held his hand out to possibly his best friend in the world. Unless, of course, Karina was still alive somewhere. There was little news of the state of his village. The last he had heard, the Baron had been forced to flee by an errant group of adventurers. He felt a little cheated at his chance for revenge. Caleb shook his hand and brought him back to the present and Hendry smiled awkwardly.
“I’m sure I’ll never forget. Until we meet again.”
“Until we meet again.” Hendry climbed up onto the horse and started down the road toward an uncertain future.