One soft summer evening, the wind rolls on the breeze, through the trees to a lonely homestead.
Tenderfoot Ranch, was a quaint homestead with a large field, small granary, and a small house, large enough for five bedrooms. Though everything seemed well on the outside, the fields were withering under Arthur Macabre’s ignorant green-thumb. Arthur had spent his life adventuring not tending fields and they were becoming dry and producing less crop each harvest.
Arthur played a handful of dirt in his hands, breaking up the hard chunks then threw the dirt on to the ground, He looked over his rotting field and grimaced, the field couldn’t feed anyone much less his wife, three kids, and coming child.
Dirge, his oldest son ran from the house to his side eagerly awaiting his daily sword training. “Father, I’ve finished helping mother with the chores, can we continue my lessons?” The bond he shared with his firstborn son was stronger than any metal forged, if he could he would spend his entire day with his son, but sadly the work of the farm came first.
Arthur tried to keep the impending doom coming to his house between his wife and himself, keeping his children blissfully unaware that they could easily starve next moon. “Of course son, wait for me by the river I will finish up here.”
Dirge ran off and Arthur snuck a glance towards his beautiful wife, her long blonde hair flowing down her back and his glowing daughters at her feet, one playing with a ball in the dirt the other helping her weave baskets. Elenore blew him a kiss and his worries faded, ‘I can do this, I won’t let anything happen to my family.’
Arthur gave Dirge his lesson finishing with a spar to gauge his techniques. The boy had talent and was approaching manhood at 13 years now. Perhaps it was time to change his approach to the growing problem.
Arthur sat down with his wife after the children were asleep. “My dear, our problem worsens with each day, but I think I found a solution.”
Elenore nods, “What is your idea my love.”
“With Dirge coming of age, I would return to adventuring, only for a short while, all the while sending back my profits for us to purchase new land and for you to obtain supplies while I’m gone.” Arthur gestures with his hands while speaking, passion overcoming him. “I could follow the old legend, I was so close last time, if I reached the dragon’s horde we would never have to worry, we could live off the gold, and our children would still have a sizable trust.”
Elenore takes his idea in, looking into her daughters’ bedrooms, Lenore and Annabel were both so young, what if they lost their father? How could she raise them on her own, especially with another on the way, but how could they sustain their current situation. “My love I fear you’re right, I don’t see much choice but for you to return to your old life.” She looks down at her feet. “Just promise you’ll come back to me, we need you.”
Arthur sealed his fate with a kiss. The next day he gifted his most valued sword to his son, instructing him on his new duties as head of the house. Dirge held back tears as his father tussouled his hair. Arthur systematically bid farewell to his family, setting off in search of any work to provide him the coin he needed to send home, all with the intent of finding a legendary dragon horde of treasure.
But unbeknownst to him it would be the last time he would see his family alive, shortly after his departure Lenore fell sick to dysentery and succumbed to the illness within a week. A moon later and the stores of food were waning dangerously low and in the winter little Annabel slowly starved.
This broke Dirge, where was his father, why were they not receiving any food or money from him? Did his father leave to start a new home without them?
With the winter months came a harshness Dirge could’ve never imagined. Giving birth to his young brother Elenore past, her body too weak to sustain itself after. She lived just long enough to see her new son and deem in Edger before slumping back and sighing her last breath. Of course without his mother or another source of milk, Dirge was unable to provide for his young brother and he too starved to death in Dirge’s arms.
Dirge wandered outside his home, the ice and snow thawing under the bright rays of the sun. He drug his fathers sword along leaving a line in the dirt and snow. He patrolled his property in a stupor inching closer and closer to death with each step. His stomach growled and his throat ached. He fell forward unable to walk any longer and tried to lift himself up only to fail and fall back into the dirt.
Attempting to crawl along, just as all hope had left his body, a stranger approached. No! Multiple strangers, a platoon of soldiers! “Help!” Dirge croaked out, his voice barely a whisper as his head laid half in the dirt.
Luckily one of the soldiers spotted him and soon he was nursed back to health and conscripted into the army. Never escaping the horrors of his home, Dirge vowed to learn of his father’s fate, and if he was alive kill him himself with the sword he was gifted.