Remittance Chapter 3

“Morning Guide,  was just about to come see you. You’ve a package.”

“Thanks, Thomas,  I didn’t mind the walk. It’s kind of a secret.” August’s boots made a sucking  sound as he stepped from the mud to the wood platform that surrounded the  transport depot. He moved closer to the older man. “I ordered a new wedding  canopy.”

Thomas’ face lit  up. “That’s right kind of you, Guide! Going to make a lot of the young folks  pleased to hear it.”

“Hopefully, but  it’s a secret so you don’t tell anyone until I get a chance to take it over to  the Morgan place. Okay?”

“Will do, Guide.  I won’t spoil the surprise.” He handed the package over with a wide smile.

August couldn’t  manage quiet as broad of a smile but he grinned back as he tucked the container  under an arm. The day was going to be a good one. He had some reports to file  which could be done from his small garden where he could soak up the fall  sunshine. He had only a few appointments and they were all coming to his home  so he didn’t even have to go out today.

“Auggie? August!”

He spun his head  around because his name wasn’t that common and the voice was one he knew. When  he spotted the dark robes he had to do a double take to make sure he wasn’t  seeing things. “Edward?”

Edward’s face lit  up with a smile. “Auggie! You made it easy to find you, thought I’d have to  traipse about the wilderness first.”

He hurried over  and let his friend fold him into a hug and laughed for the first time in too  long. “What are you doing here?”

“You look  amazing.” He held his friend out at arms length and studied him. “Not sure of  the hat but you look good.”

“You look good  too, what are you doing here?”

“I came to see  you, of course.” He glanced to the box under August’s arm and raised his  eyebrows. “A wedding canopy? Something you forgot to tell me in your letters?”

“Huh? Oh no, no,  it’s not like that. Things are a different here. The community shares one, each  couple embroiders a section of the canopy and keeps it for the first month of  their marriage. They’re supposed to spend an hour under it talking every night  but there was an accident with a lantern last month and the Morgan’s can’t  afford to replace it so…”

“You’re such a  good guy.”

“Half of what I do  seems to be weddings. The average age here is twenty two.”

“Seriously, you  look good.” The last time he’d seen his friend in person August had been pale,  quiet and still mourning. Letters and calls had shown he had recovered but  seeing him in person confirmed it.

“I’m doing well.  Lots of walking, sunshine, fresh air…it’s nice here, peaceful.” He glanced  behind Edward to where Thomas was trying to appear like he was busy but was  really listening to every word. “My home is just up the road. Do you have luggage?  How long are your staying?”

“Not long, just  until this evening when the transport’s done with it’s rounds. It’s going to  swing back around and pick me up.”

“Why so short a  stay?”

“Well, I have  something I want to talk to you about and I didn’t want to linger in case you  punched me in the nose.”

August’s heart  skipped a beat but he chastised himself. “We’ve been friends since we’ve been  ten years old, I doubt anything you can say to me would cause me to hit you.”

“You haven’t  heard what I’ve had to say yet.”

“True. We should  get you boots.”

“I’m good.”  Edward hiked up his robes and kicked off his sandals. “So long as I can rinse  off my feet before going into your house.”

“Of course.” They  would get quite a few odd looks but he didn’t mind. “You know, it’s been, what?  Three years? But when you say you have news that you have to deliver in person  my first thought is that Anthony is coming home. That maybe there was a mistake  and he was taken prisoner and he’s been found. How sad is that?”

“I wish I could bring  him home to you. No, it’s not sad, I’ve heard that feeling might not ever go  away. Have you been seeing anyone?”

“Oh, no…no, work  keeps me pretty busy here.”

“August…”

“I’m just not  ready.”

“That’s more like  it. It’s okay.” He swung his sandals as they dangled from his hand at the small  town. “This place is nice, a bit rural but nice.”

“It’s growing  every year. Even since I’ve been here. It was almost entirely families mining  their own land with no one here in town but now we’ve families and some stores.  It’ll be an actual town in a few more years.”

The pride he  heard in his friend’s voice made him smile. “It sure will.”

“They built me a  house and a chapel when they heard they were getting a Guide. I’m the only one  on the entire colony so for matters of law I’m consulting to the other  territories. Plus services weekly and once every six weeks I make the rounds of  the outlying families. That takes me four days to do the circuit if there’s  nothing wrong.”

“I can see why  you’re too busy to start a new relationship.” It was easier to fall back on the  excuse of work than the raw truth that August still wasn’t over Anthony’s  death.

“I should be more  honest with the people here. They all know I’m a widower but I don’t speak of  it which means there’s a few dozen families hoping I’ll marry their child.”

Edward laughed.  “Poor you.”

“I even have one  family with a set of twins. They want to marry one man and they figure since I  prefer men I will have the son for my husband and the daughter for my wife and  we can have a happy family filled with children. Children are very important  here, even knowing I’ve no interest in women they push their daughters at me.”

“And they all  wouldn’t mind sharing you with a husband as well, I’m sure.”

“Exactly, and be  willing to provide a whole mess of children and their care.”

“I think if you’d  been more honest and told them you’re still mourning that would have made it  worse because every daughter would want to help heal your grief.”

“Maybe.” He  grinned. “Not sure I could handle them being more determined. That’s me up  there.”

Edward glanced up  the street and further up the hill to the cute wood framed bungalow and the  squat, plain square chapel just down from it. “Is that an actual white picket  fence?”

“Yeah and I have  a garden too.”

“Very nice.  People always stare like this?” The locals were watching but obviously keeping  their distance.

“I doubt anyone  has seen a brother of mercy before and, well, we don’t get many visitors. Here  it’s rude to introduce yourself to a stranger. They’ll just watch until they  know it’s okay.”

“You really do  look good, Auggie, this place suits you.”

“Thanks.” He  forced a grin. “It’s just the sort of place Anthony and I always talked about  finding.”

“Yes, it is. He  would have loved it here.”

The smile didn’t  falter. “I miss him so much, Edward. It’s like I’m missing a limb.”

He glanced over  and saw the practiced, gentle, placid expression all Guide’s had to learn but  he also saw the still raw pain in his friend’s brown eyes. “I know.”

“But…being here?”  He sighed. “It’s like he’s with me because this is just what he would have  wanted. I feel close to him here.”

“I can see why.”  He was puffing a little out of breath when they finally reached the cute garden  fence. “No wonder you look so good, walking everywhere like this.”

“Soft city folk  like you. Here, I’ve a spigot, water will be cold but it’ll get the mud off.  I’m going to put on something hot to drink, come on in when you’re cleaned up.”

“Okay.” August  hadn’t been lying when he warned the water was cold. It made him shiver but he  took his time to wash off the sticky mud. He was stalling but the cold didn’t  let him stall too long.

Finally there was  no more mud and he couldn’t feel his toes. He shook off the extra water and  dropped his sandals onto the ground to shove his feet back into them. His order  was supposed to not worry about fashion and style but they were allowed to put  on simple socks for cold weather, sadly he hadn’t thought he would need them  and he was resigned to cold feet until the transport came back to pick him up  as he pulled open the plain door and stepped into a small, simple but  thankfully warm and welcoming kitchen.

“I put a pair of  socks on the table for you.” August said over his shoulder as he poured  something that was steaming hot into two obviously hand thrown stoneware mugs.

The small gesture  made him smile and he was more certain he was doing the right thing, even if  August would be angry at him. “Thanks.” He plopped himself down into what was a  very well crafted but obviously homemade chair and pulled the socks on.

“Kafvin, sorry,  teas and coffees are kind of hard to come by around here.”

“Not my  favorite.”

“I know but try  it.” August sat down. “Go on, it won’t bite.”

With an inward  cringe he raised the mug up to his lips and sipped at it. Instead of the harsh,  bitter brew he was expecting flavors exploded on his tongue. It had the hint of  bitterness kafvin was known for but there was something green and fruity with  it as well. “Oh that’s good! Is this kafvin?”

“Yes.”

“What did you do  to it?”

“Not a thing.  Pretty much everything here has to be made domestically. The original colonists  brought kafvin because it would grow here but I don’t know if it’s the soil or  the temperatures or what but it’s amazing.”

“This is really  good.”

“They take it for  granted here. I’ve been suggesting that some of the families start growing it  for export. None of them can grow enough to meet an export order but if they  went together as a co-op they could. I worry that the price of melvidium will  eventually go down and it’ll devastate the economy so I’d like for everyone to  have a back up source of income. They all think I’m crazy for thinking their  kafvin is any good.”

“Is there some  place I can buy some to take with me? Maybe if some crazy outsider buys a few  pounds it’ll convince them.”

“Maybe. Now,  what’s her name?”

“Huh?” He put  down his mug.

“Well, I figure  the only thing that would have you coming all the way out here is if you met  some sweet young woman and were planning on settling with her. So, what’s her  name?”

“There’s no girl.  Was a good guess, though, were you going to tell me to chase her or switch  orders?”

“That would  depend on you. You’ve never wanted to be anything but a Brother of Mercy but  their vows are strict when it comes to marriage. There’s at least four orders  on the same tier that allow marriage. I guess I would suggest you switch orders  and marry her. I could see you with a dozen fat babies under foot.”

“I can’t believe  you said that with a straight face.”

August lost it  and broke our laughing. “Me either. The girl, yes but not the babies. So, no  woman, no crisis of conscious, what brings you here?”

“You remember in  my letter when I said I was going to be heading up a new project?”

“Yes. You were  vague about it so I assumed it was something you weren’t allowed to speak of.”

“It’s not so much  that I’m not allowed to, I just wanted to be sure of things before I spoke to  you about it.”

August raised his  eyebrows. “Well, that’s got my attention.”

“I’ve been asked  to head up the paroling of the fourteen hundred Plethorians being held in work  camps as enemy combatants. It’s not quite common knowledge yet but there is a  treaty and a surrender in the works. One of the conditions of it will be any of  their people held as enemy combatants be returned. However, its official policy  that any of these fighters returned may not lay down arms. Their status has to  be changed before that happens. The original suggestion was to simply move  these fourteen hundred souls into our prison system but it’s the opinion of the  Brothers of Mercy that more good will come if these men are placed in homes.  Most have been mostly civilized but if we can place them into real, God-fearing  homes they’ll fully come into proper culture. That way when they do return to their  people they can be missionaries.” Edward hurried the words out but the more he  spoke the wider August’s eyes got.

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