| "Times may be tough, but the heaviest rains make for the healthiest crops."
I was born into the Strongheart House, though not as a...Gifted, I believe they prefer to be called. We may be a Noble house, but we are also a house of farmers and laborers, brewers and cooks, stewards of the land and of our fellow Beings; nobility or not, we all need our food and drink,
By outward appearance, Father was the head of the household. He would swagger about the fields, horns held high, bellowing out orders and commandeering tools from laggard workers to show them how it's supposed to be done--plenty of farmhands stormed off at this treatment, but those who remained viewed him as a harsh-but-fair taskmaster who would get his hands just as dirty as theirs.
But for all his bluster and brawn, I knew the true power of the household lay with Mother. Many an employee dispute was discussed over a dinner, and when I shadowed him in the fields the next day, he would put her words into action. The workers would wave to my father on his rounds, but when Mother came to inspect, they would fight to shower her with attention, and she seemed to have an infinite well of patience, indulging their attentions . Despite
Her kindness was not to be mistook for weakness, however.
It wasn't to last forever--though nothing does, does it?
Mother was known to all the local populace as something of a medicine-woman, and our guest rooms probably held more convalescents than they ever did visitors. So it was no surprise when a strange *-Being came calling, save that he looked in far worse condition than the normal patient, with lesions and sores all over his arms, and the stench of putrescence clung to him like a blanket. She laboured hard to try to revive him, spending hours making and applying poultices, and brewing every remedy she could think of, but it only seemed to accelerate the disease. Desperate, she even performed a crude amputation with a meat cleaver and clothes iron; I swear the stench of singed fur and burnt flesh haunts me still. It was all for naught, though;
She had not held much hope for the poor soul, but she still seemed shattered by her failure, and never quite seemed to recover. We worked around her, best as we could, hoping that giving her time to herself would help. As the eldest daughter, I became something of a substitute mother, overseeing the household and raising my siblings, tending to the wounds of families and workers, consulting with Father on matters of employee discipline, and .
Mother only seemed to become worse, though; she withdrew from others more and more, fixating on the patient she couldn't save, talking of decay and how she was powerless to stop it. After six months of this, she disappeared one night, leaving a hastily-scrawled apologizing for what she was going to do and urging us not to follow her, among ramblings of how everything will be consumed and our vain attempts at creating order meant nothing to the Universe. Despite her withdrawal from the family, her insanity terrified us and the abandonment still hurt us all deeply--but the harvest still needed to be collected, the homestead tended, the family raised, and our work helped distract us from the pain of her strange departure.
It all became tragically clear the following spring, however. Problem after problem seemed to arise; a silo of grain ready for sale succumbed to mold, brews fouled, livestock developed strange new diseases--and without Mother's calm presence and stubborn patience, Father took to lashing out at the farmhands, dismissing a fair few for perceived incompetence and driving others off to work elsewhere. And then it struck: the very day we had prepared to plant what we could and try to salvage our season, swarms of pests seemingly under control of a number of decaying husks I'm loath to call beings flooded the homestead, driving family and employees alike out of the house and fields, to be butchered by robed cultists at strategic chokepoints. Father was a veteran of a few battles, and was able to rally the remainders and cut down a few cultists, leaving the rest to flee and scatter--but still, the homestead was in ruins and the fields wasted and dead in the wake of the pests.
I swear in the chaos that I saw Bovine Being in the grips of decay, retreating back towards the swamps, though I couldn't get close enough to confirm its identity--but still, who else could have known so much about our plantation and orchestrate an attack so well?
So now, with my family in shambles and nowhere to call hime, I come to Firmament, to beg for the help of the Goods and to try to bloom anew--if wild plants and animals can endure the bitterest winter, surely I can too.
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