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Harvest's End


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Caliban tasted salt on his tongue, and grimaced. He ran his left hand through his thick tangle of hair, pushing a stray, raven-colored lock out of his hazel green eyes. Caliban couldn’t help but notice the single gray streak among his hair.


He sighed as he looked at this sign of aging, and mumbled, “Age comes for us all, doesn’t it?â€Â


Looking at his left hand, he noticed the deep grooves along the skin, the thick calluses that years of farm work left behind, and the still powerful grip it held. He then looked at his right hand, grasping the large, thick handle of his scythe. It was a mirror image of his left except for the missing ring finger. Every now and then he would still swear he could feel the finger, especially when he clenched something in his hands, or balled his hand into a fist.


Caliban shrugged, and straightened up, feeling small aches shoot through his body from his slightly hunched position, and decided that now was as good a time for a break as anything else.


With practiced ease, Caliban hoisted the scythe upon his shoulder, and gave one quick glance at his progress. His gaze focused on the field of gold before him, wheat that he was cutting before the end of autumn. He took in a deep breath, the rich aroma of freshly cut wheat filled his nostrils, and he could almost taste the bread that would be made from the efforts of his labor. Then he sighed as he realized that even when the cutting was done, there would come the gathering, the bundling, the threshing, and other activities with it.


“And if the ache in my right knee is any indication,†he murmured quietly, “It is going to be a long winter.â€Â


Caliban put his fingers to his lips, and gave out a loud whistle. A few seconds later, the enthusiastic sound of barking issued from the small copse of trees that marked the boundaries of his farm. A large, brown shape came running enthusiastically from the trees, and bounded toward the farmer.


Grinning, Caliban yelled, “That’s it Dummy. That’s it…come here boy, come on.â€Â


The farmer bent his knees slightly, and opened his arms as the large dog ran excitedly into the farmers grasp, licking eagerly at his face. As the dog’s sloppy tongue gave a rough washing, Caliban closed his eyes, and grumbled, “You must have found a dead raccoon.â€Â


Caliban then pulled back, patting Dummy vigorously on the head, and looked once more over his field.


“So, what do you think? Peas, or beans come spring? The field by Dobson’s Creek should be read for planting, and then we can let this one go fallow,†he asked the dog, looking down into its soft eyes.


The only response he got was the thumping of the dog’s tail, and another application of the canine’s moist tongue.


“Beans it is,†Caliban stated when he saw the dog rise and look toward the trees. Suddenly, it gave a menacing growl, and then started to bark, pacing back and forth at its master’s feet.


“What is it boy?†Caliban questioned, grasping the haft of his scythe with both hands. The dog continued to bark when Caliban heard the loud tromping of hooves break through the trees, and the muffled baying of other dogs.


“Stop her!†shouted a loud, gruff voice, “Take out the horse.â€Â


Several unintelligible swears rose then, which were squelched by a loud squeal. Hesitantly, Caliban moved toward the trees when there was a loud crash, and a large, white horse suddenly broke out of the copse, and raced towards him. Hunkered down close to the horse’s neck, a young woman with thick brown hair clung tightly to it, her green eyes gazing back to the trees with fear. The horse was already bloodied by several small furrows along its flanks and rump, the wounds fresh, then exaggerated as if it had escaped something that had caught the quadruped in its paws.


The air whistled softly as it was quickly filled with a flurry of bolts, the majority of them burying into the horse’s side. The horse gave a weaker screech, and then toppled onto the ground. The young tumbled to the ground, giving her own scream as she extended her right arm to slow her fall…and heard it snap with an audible crunch.


The woman stood, her arm hanging limply at her side, when she noticed Caliban.


“Please, help me!†she shouted, her voice tinged with great pain, as she edged towards him.


Caliban stared at her pleading eyes for a moment, then gave a sharp nod of his head, saying, “Get behind me lass.â€Â


The woman looked at him, and clarity cut through her confusion as she said, “We’ve got to run, they’re…â€Â


Forcefully, the farmer closed the distance between both of them, and said, “It’s too late now…â€Â


Three figures emerged from the trees, all on horseback. The lead one wore highly polished mail, and a red surcoat with the outline of a black stag’s head on it. Following close on their heels were four dogs. The leader rested a hand on a massive broadsword, while his two fellows were reloading their small crossbows with practiced ease.


The man with the red surcoat smiled grimly, and said, “You led us on a merry chase Lady Vesper, but it ends here.â€Â


Then the leader seemed to notice Caliban for the first time, and he spat into the farmer’s face, “Get out of the way, peasant.â€Â


Caliban felt the globule slide down his face, resisting the urge to wipe it away, instead keeping both hands on his scythe.


“Stranger, you are not wanted here,†he said calmly, “I reckon you should leave while you have a chance.â€Â


The leader’s eyes opened slightly, and a chuckle broke from one of the men behind him, while the other said, “Looks like he isn’t afraid of you Yvan.â€Â


Yvan’s face grew red at his companion’s digs, and the lead man said, “You had your chance peasantâ€Â


Yvan spurred his horse forward, and the beast quickly came to a gallop as he intended to trample Caliban.


The farmer simply shook his head, and lowered the razor-sharp edge of his scythe. He ran his right palm along the edge of it, creating a small, crimson streak of blood. Caliban turned his hand over and squeezed it into a fist, allowing the scarlet fluid to drop to the ground.


“Chauntea, listen to my prayer

Let my earnest petition come to you,

for I know that you are hearing me

As surely as though I saw you with mine eyes.


Aught that is amiss for my soul

In the pulsing of my life,

May you, sweep it from me

And may you shield me in my time of need.â€Â


Caliban's eyes widened for as soon as his blood touched the earth, the ground began to vigorously shake. Leaning on his scythe for support, the farmer heard a ruinous crack, and saw fissures open on the surface of the earth, releasing great gouts of steam. Caliban winced as anguished screams filled his ears, a cacophony of pain rising from the horses, dogs, and men. A few precious seconds passed before Caliban noticed that the edges of the fissures slowly began to fill back in, burying the Yvan's group within its earthen embrace.


Caliban gave a slight grunt, then turned on his heels as he glowered at the woman, the one that Yvan identified as Vesper.


Vesper, her good hand now clutching her broken arm, whispered, "It is you, the one I'm looking for the Bhaalspawn."


Vesper's eyes then rolled back into her head, and she slid to the ground.




Caliban breathed deeply, allowing himself to react automatically as he continued to milk his cow. He continued to do so even as he heard soft footfalls approach him from behind.


"Good morning Miss Vesper," he said between each stroke, occasionally moving his face when the cow swished her tail at the buzzing flies landing on her rump.


"Good morning Roald," responded the young woman, favoring her broken arm, "It is Roald, isn't it?"


Silence filled the barn, but Caliban then nodded slightly, and said, "Yes, I was called Roald a long time back anyways. I'm surprised you even remember me. It's been over fifteen years. Tell me, how is your sister, and your mother, Lady Maria, doing?"


Vesper interrupted, "My mother and sister...they are...um...they were well the last time I left. Yes, it has been a long time, but how could I forget? The last time I saw you, you were bringing my father home. How could I not remember the face of the man who brought his body back?"


A few more moments of quiet filled the barn, and Caliban nodded, "Fair enough. So, why were those men following you?"


Vesper took a deep breath, occasionally wincing with pain with some sudden, unexpected movement, when she answered, "It was because I was looking for you."


Caliban swiveled on his milking stool, disbelief growing on his face, "Me? And why were you looking for me?"


The young woman gazed evenly into Caliban's eyes, and replied, "I was looking for you Master Roald. I...we need your help."


Caliban cocked his head, then shook it, and returned to his milking, stating, "Roald was almost a lifetime ago. Just call me...Caliban. Besides, what do you need an old man like me for anyways?"


Vesper grew quiet, then inclined her head, "Very well...Master Caliban. But there is much you can do. I saw your power yesterday when you took down Lord Yvan's men. Why, with you, we could win."


Caliban sighed, ignoring the accusing moo that came from the cow as he pinched an udder a tad to hard, then asked, "That didn't answer my question, you know. Why do you need my help?"


Vesper ran a hand through the cow's thick hide, before replying, "I don't know how much you know, but your sister, she has gone insane."


Caliban stared at Vesper, and he said, "Imoen? What has exactly happened?"


Vesper took a deep breath, and she said, "We don't really know. All we know is that some kind of cult of personality rose up around her, celebrating her birth as a Child of Bhaal."


Caliban sputtered slight, "But she isn't divine. Me, her, we gave it up after the events of..."


Vesper interrupted, "Yes, that much I know. However, she seems to have become fixated on her lost divinity, and the only other child of Bhaal to survive."


Caliban muttered, "So what you are saying is that my sister wants to murder me?"


Vesper shook her head vigorously, "No, that's not it. She wants to exalt you. You and her."


Caliban grumbled, "Okay, fine. But why the horsemen? They were trying to kill you..."


Vesper paused, and said, "That is why I was sent to find you. Somehow, Imoen has gotten it into her head that not only are you and her worthy of worship, she's also decided that those who fought alongside both of you would make excellent high priests. Before I left, Viconia joined forces with Imoen. Those who won't go along with her, though, Imoen makes an example of. Even those closest to her. We haven't found all of the pieces of Kelsey. Those horsemen were some of her vassals. Her grasp is both in the poor and the rich, serfs and nobility..."


Caliban passively replied, "And so you want me to go back to stop her. Is that it?"


Vesper bowed her head slightly, but answered "Yes, Master Caliban."


Caliban pursed his lips, then strode to the barn door. He opened it, and pointed out to the expanse of his farm, "Vesper, do you know why no one has seen me in over fifteen years? I'm tired. I got tired of adventuring, of people asking for my help."


He grimaced as he stared into her eyes, "And you know what? It all seems to come to the same thing. There is also some kind of cult to disperse, some evil wizard to defeat, some restless spirit to put down, some monster to destroy."


Vesper's eyes glistened, and she queried, "Sir, what are you getting at? Are you saying that you won't...but, it's..."


Caliban looked once more at the range of his farm, and added, "This is where I belong, Miss Vesper. I am...content...here."


Silence filled the barn for a few more minutes, when Vesper spoke up again, "Master Caliban, there is something you have to know. Jaheira..."


Caliban's eyebrows arched upward, and he interjected, "Jaheira? She told you to come find me? To ask me for aid?"


Caliban laughed bitterly, "That is rich. She now wants my help...years after she rejected me. Arrogant bitch, why..."


Vesper grasped the farmer's shoulder with a firm grip, "Master Caliban, Jaheira is dead."


Caliban's tirade stopped, and he whispered, "What?"


Vesper nodded, "She...was the first to die, though we didn't know why at the time. Her...head...was hanging from the central gate of Athkatla. Someone wrote the word traitor beneath it in blood."


Caliban's eyes blazed, "Traitor? But why? That makes no sense..."


Vesper's expression hardened, and she barked, "Don't be so naive. Sir Anomen told me how you and Jaheira were together for some time. And later..."


Caliban angrily interrupted, "And he let it be known that we broke up? What do you want me to say? It's true. Jaheira decided that her oaths as a druid took precedence over whatever we might have between us, and she acted on it."


Caliban angrily punched at the wall then, a meaty thud the answer of his strike, as he said, "So, do you think that airing all my past is going to convince me to come help?"


Vesper pulled away, "But, people are getting hurt every time..."


Caliban turned a tired, sad face into Vesper's direction, and pointed to a corner of the farm. As she focused her attention, she made out two markers, the shape reminiscent of tombstones.


"My wife. My son," Caliban said quietly.


Vesper blushed, and she said, "I'm sorry Caliban. I...I didn't know."


Caliban dipped his head, "Don't apologize. It isn't your fault, and you couldn't know."


Vesper stood there quietly for a few more minutes, then asked once more, "So, you are dead set on not coming?"


Caliban returned his gaze to the interior of the barn, and replied, "I don't know. I...this is my life. I have found peace, if not happiness. And I honestly don't know how much help I can be. I like the solitude I found, and even resent you finding me like this. I...will let you know my decision in the morning."


Vesper nodded, and left.




There is an isolated homestead, the buildings run to ruin. Nature has long claimed the perfectly kept fields, weeds choking out the carefully raised crops, trees sending out runners and extending the reach of the forest.


Off to one side, there are two markers. One is covered with ivy, and if the verdant cover was to be parted, the simple words "Beloved Wife and Sun" could be read. The other marker lacks even words, but the ivory white peonies form a small pool of white within the sea of forest green.



Slight name change as pointed out by Lady Rusalka

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