The Village

Once upon a time, long, long ago in a distant land far beyond the mountains, there was a little village, and in that village there lived a man. He was reasonably tall as judged against the other men of the village, and reasonably well-formed. The top of his head was covered in a thick thatch of sandy blonde hair and his eyes were the sharp blue of a clear summer’s sky. He had good teeth too, they weren’t stained and they were even and people could see them a lot because he was usually smiling, or at least grinning because he was usually very happy what with having no particular reason not to be. His name was Awllen and he did many jobs in the village. Being strong and well-formed he would fetch and carry and do simple work that required only strength, but Awllen had a natural affinity for machines, and it was through this ability that he met the Miller’s wife. The miller was the most important man in the village because it was his mill that ground all the wheat and corn from miles around that everyone had grown on their farms. When the grain were ground to powder the powder would be mixed with fresh water and baked into loves of bread. The people would then buy the bread, and eat it.

The Miller’s mill was powered by a waterwheel that was placed across a stream that ran through the village, and due to a finely developed business sense, and a flash of inspiration, the Miller had built a annex to the mill in which he built a bread oven. His bakers sold bread back to the people who wanted it. In no time at all Miller became the most important man in the village and dressed himself in the finest cloths bought from passing journeymen, and the best furs bought from the luckiest and most skilled hunters. With wealth came, as it usually does, a desire for power. He put it about among the people that the village had gotten big enough to be called a town, and a town needed some sort of control, to keep the citizens safe. He told them he should be made “Burgomaster.”
The people had never heard this word before and for the most part a fair number of them didn’t like the “master” part of the word much. There was a great deal of animated discussion, and simply because the miller was easily the richest man in the village (or town if you prefer) a lot of the discussion was emotional and ran against the miller – much of this because the people simply didn’t like change. The wives of the village had baked the bread at home for many generations, some because they were forced to and most out of a sense of duty that they had been educated into feeling. The availability of bread, at a shop, for money many did not have anyway, struck directly at the root of what the loudest voices called, “the very nature of marriage.” All in all, the situation was the biggest drama the village had seen since the bad winter when wolves had hunted in the snow in the Main Street. As far as the miller was concerned, everything was fine; he didn’t care about people’s opinion, he was far more interested in the growth of his store of coins. A stream of copper, silver and sometimes even gold flowed into the strongbox in his cellar and the sight of it, and sometimes only the thought of it, would make him happier, and more relaxed.

Outside the cellar though people were, on the whole, less happy and relaxed. When wives were “with child” or otherwise unable to bake bread, the miller’s bread would be much more necessary. That of course would take money, although the miller would swap raw wheat or corn for fresh bread, the exchange rate was always rather savagely in his favour, one sack of grain to four, or sometimes only two loaves. The miller made no secret of preferring cash to barter, but that made life more difficult for the people of the town. The miller didn’t like paying out his precious coins for grain so the farmers would have to take their harvests to one of the surrounding towns to sell it for cash. The miller didn’t mind, he liked the strange coins from distant places, but the farmers minded. They found the situation to be far more bothersome than they had any taste for, when all they wanted was their dinner and not to look at the back end of their mule for a five or ten league journey.

For the first time in living memory, there was a robbery in the village! One of the farmers, a man called Fyrd, sold a better than average crop at a nearby town and brought to money back to the village with him. Having worked hard over the course of the year and desiring female company because his beloved wife was in the final stages of a pregnancy which had rendered her cantankerous and critical, he went straight to the inn rather than to his home and started keeping time with Edie, the local fancy woman who earned the coins for her bread by keeping company with those who wanted to share her bed. The ale at the inn loosened both their spirits and their tongues and after a night of carousing where they first kept the inn amused, and then kept it awake, in the morning Fryd was found insensible on Edie’s bed. Neither his money, nor the fancy woman were to be found anywhere in the village. There was such hue and cry; gossip ran hot. The miller stood rounds of drinks in the bar and then announced, very loudly, that Edie had obviously stolen the money and run off. She must be found and hanged, he announced, an idea which appealed only to the more hot-headed who heard it. Cooler heads said that Fryd had brought much of his misfortune on himself. And, as most of the village could testify, had a fine old time with Edie for most of the night before passing out. If Edie really did have Fryd’s money, they said, she’d earned it. As it happened, these events had unexpected effects. The miller was kept awake for most of the night by the noises Fryd and Edie were making across the street and the noises started him thinking. He set great store in his chest of coins but they were cold and hard, not warm and welcoming like the arms of a lover. Then and there, that night, he decided to take a wife.

Now the miller, whose name by this stage, had become “miller” didn’t draw any distinctions. He considered everyone in the village, man or woman who he considered even slightly eligible.

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