My name is Jasper Angus and I be a person free. No two sweeter words there be than person and free.
Aye, I know ya look at me to see an old man who's clothes look the worse for wear. Me pipe be nicked, blackened from years of use. If you could see the bottom of me boots the soles are thin fer sure. True there be but 4 coppers and a silver harrel fer coin in me pockets.The brim of me hat well-worn from many a tip to the ladies and its innerds near threadbare. Me coat lies over the back chair and one can easily tell it has seen finer days. Two buttons be missing, one cuff be tattered, and many a patch is buffed smooth. All the looks of a laggard, a cheat, a scurrilous rogue, but no, tis the looks of a proud working man.A person free. Not always I be free.
Ya see me now as I sit here in this inn. A meal I have eaten, and an ale I have drank.The night is falling, the chill air is setting in, and the hearth is glowing warm. Paid for right and proper I am here. My teeth are clean, my hair is combed, my clothes are worn but laundered. At dawns first light I took my bath and made my shave. This inn here has been my home for nigh on eighty years. They know me well here, know me to be trusting, true.Why even, at times, they have lent me credit, which I have repaid in all and full. Yes they know me here. No prouder could I be than to be trusted, to be free, and to be a person.
Ah, I knows ya think. What's so yer a person. We all be persons free these days. No need to carry papers to prevent ya from being hauled off to holes.One time them sure yer a bounder runaway, perhaps a small bounty fer your return. It's true! True that not that long ago some persons free had to have papers to tell others they were true free. An there was those that never had to carry papers for they were considered always free. Yet longer back it was much, much different. As bad as havin to carry papers to show yer free, before that was a time when many a people were not free, not even persons. Aye, true as true.
To be a person means others recognize ya as such, think of ya as such. You are a person. Not a thing, nor just a lowly creature owned. You are a person, which means you had rights. You had obligations. To be free is a great thing. To be recognized as a person be far greater. Long in the past I had known bounders, not free, who were yet known as a person. So strong were their spirit and souls. Once I had known frees with weak minds, weak ways, where other frees knew them not as a person, but one shunned, pushed aside.
What's a bounder ya ask? I know many won't look back upon the past. Too ashamed they are. Yet not to know yer past! Bounders were not free. Even a person they were not! But things to be bought, traded, to be worked hard.One was born a bounder, lived a bounder, and died a bounder. It was the way back then. Back before the wee little man and his magic.
Bah!I know ya think yer history. Say'n that our people changed and grew. That frees realized the error and wrong in having bounders. Bah! Ya think that centuries of bounders and frees be turned cart over barrel in a few short years because some frees woke up and decided different! That be what the historyman says, but me and mine know what truly caused the change. The wee little man and his magic.
So if ya choose to sit and listen a tale I'll tell ya true. Yet to hear this tale ya must open yer mind and heart. For in chosen one, or none, you will not hear, will not feel, will not know what it is to be truly a person free.
I grew up in the village of Ern at the south end of Darkmaw Lake. Me father was a bounder to a family named Remart. He had always been bound to this family, as had his pa, and his pa before him. I guess as bounders go me Pa's life was not as harsh as I'd know'd other be. He worked a small field east of the village and along the Grail woods. There was his cabin and home. There was I raised.
The Holders home was in the village of Ern, and his name was Kellen.He only came out to the fields at planting and at harvesting.Kellen was neither kind, nor mean, to his bounders. Nor would he allow his free workers rough rein on his bounders, for free workers came and went as they wished. Bounders were as any valued property, care taken when needed, worked hard when needed. Traded or sold when not.
Escape ya say! Escape where to? Bounders carried no papers, most spoke little and had little learn'n. No holder worried about their bounders escaping, cause if they did they'd be only returned. Or worse slain. Nay, then there was little chance of a bounder escaping to live fer long.
As I was sayin, my Pa's life was better'n most. He worked hard for his Holder, and had good crops, so that Kellen much left him be to run the small field as he wished. An me Pa worked hard to keep them crops good. We had a dog named Fetch who helped keep watch on the field for anything move'n. He was a mighty fine dog he was. Crows was his favorite sport, as were rabbits, squirrels, or even a deer when one ventured on the crops. Two feral cats kept us company around the house. They weren't really ours, never knew where they come from, but they stuck around catching mice and such. Never named em. They was just the cats.
Ma had a small garden to grow, Pa would hunt when he could, and the Master let us take share of a bit of the crops. Pa worked hard to keep the little cabin from fallin down, or from the wind blowing clean through. There was one window that had glass, and two others just being shuttered.
A lean-to be on the south side where we kept pigs when we had em, chickens most the time. Out the front door was a tiny porch that Pa built. Ma always wanted a porch and a rocking chair to spend summer evenin's on.So Pa built her one. Built her that rocking chair too!
The roof often leaked some. Pa gather up straw for thatch'n and Ma'd make cord from willow bark for bind'n. A small creek run out from the woods and was my job to fetch water fer the house. It seemed we always needed water. Winters was the worse cause I'd have to break ice before dipping that bucket, then run back to a warm fire.
A small hearth was on the north side of the cabin and it was a grand place to be in winter. Cutting and stacking firewood was nearly year round chore. Seemed like winters set in fer half the year when yer young. That hearth's where we'd all gather round most winter long.It had one grate for cook'n on and one large pot swung over for cook'n in.
There was one large room when ya come in the front door, and two small rooms to the back. One fer Ma and Pa, and the other was for me and my brother. I once had a sister, but she got sold when I was just a wee one in me mother's arm. Kellen had said he'd not afford a girl and sold her off. Pa never told me til I was near adult. Told me never to mention it to Ma cause it distressed her so.
Was about that time that my brother died. A great fever ran across the land, not one family escaped, free or bounders. Kellen lost his only daughter then too, though he had two sons yet live'n. Twas in a late fall that year when some said strangers passed through Ern, leave'n the fever where ever they went. I'm not fer know'n, but that's what was said. Families holed themselves up in cabin, cot,and hold.Not until the next snows melt did many come out, for crops had to be laid, life had to go on.
Summers were nice, winters hard, but we got by alright.