Chapter 2: The Thaw
Jacob Malachi Travlers, you are hereby evicted from Travlers’ Mill and adjacent grounds. Please vacate within a day’s time. Jacob read it over and over again, sighs punctuating each read.
The month and day were scribbled at the bottom next to his brother and sister-in-law’s signatures.
“So you are evicting me.”
Margaret nodded. “You have until tomorrow morning.” Jacob tucked the notice into his coat pocket and reached for a biscuit, then withdrew his hand and shuffled to his room. Next to his bed was his pack. He hadn’t used it much beyond an occasional overnight hike and it was apparent it had been set out for him but Margaret. It had been a gift from his uncle Malachi. Malachi had always gifted Jacob with more adventurous items for birthdays and holidays, despite Jacob’s not being too keen on adventure. It wasn’t that he disliked adventures per say. As a child, he was captivated by Malachi’s stories of sailing on merchant vessels and visiting foreign lands. Once Jacob had matured, Malachi had even alluded to some of his exploits with exotic women. He assumed many of his uncle’s tales were exaggerated, especially the ones involving women and Malachi’s insufferable charm, but Jacob soaked them in like a tavern mop. Yet, when it came to striking out on his own in search of swashbuckling and romance, Jacob shirked away from the prospect the way a chick shirks from the edge of the nest.
“Travlers weren’t christened that surname for nothing, lil’ Jakey!” Malachi used to say around the fire while camping in the foothills. “Our people earned it through their own sweat, blood, and piss. We used to draw maps, not grind flour!” And his uncle would spit and pound his chest with a surly grin.
Jacob pulled a trunk from under his bed and sifted through its contents. Compass, spyglass, flint and steel. All gifts from his uncle. At the bottom lay a knife and whetstone. One side was honed sharp, the other serrated. Malachi had made it himself and it was the last gift he had given Jacob before he and Jacob’s father had a falling out. He left the chest open on the bed and packed his other two sets of clothes. He rolled up a wool blanket, wrapped it in a cloak, and strapped it on the bundle. Finally, he emptied the chest into the pack. The gifts from Malachi, as well as a quill, ink well, and two pieces of crisp folded parchment, were most of his possessions. He set the pack on the bed and stared at it. Where to now? he wondered. A knock on the wall behind him startled Jacob.
“I brought you something, ” Esau said. In his hands he held a small, maple chest with brass bands and clasps. It was about half the size of the one Jacob kept under his bed. Esau also held a hatchet. It was Esau’s last gift from Malachi. “Here is your portion of the inheritance, in the chest. And take my hatchet.”
Jacob didn’t move. “I’m not even sure where I’m going yet…”
“You could go anywhere, Jacob.”
“I may just rent a room at the Dragon until I can earn my keep in this village.”
Esau shook his head. “It’s your’s to do as you please. But maybe Fate is granting you a new life just beyond the horizon.”
“What a wonderful way to view an eviction… Fate seems to have conspired with my own brother and sister in-law.”
Esau mumbled something to himself, the only audible words being “…not Fate, exactly.” Jacob’s long face kept his brother locked in a stare. “Well,” Esau continued. “We wrote to Uncle Malachi. His response came into town last night and Harper’s youngest ran it out this morning at first light in exchange for a shilling. Said it was brought to town by a traveling peddler who rolled in looking for grain for his mule. Delayed by the storm, I suspect.”
“He wrote back already?” Jacob’s mouth dropped. “You must’ve written him months ago.”
His eyes searched the the floor for something. “You and Maggie have been discussing this since the dead of winter!”
The silence hung in the air between them like a heavy fog. Finally Esau spoke and offered the letter to the younger brother. “Uncle didn’t address it to us. We do not know what he thinks. He wrote to you, Jacob.”
Jacob took the letter and broke the wax seal. “Here’s hoping this is better than the last note I received,” he muttered. Esau winced. “I’m sorry, Esau. I didn’t mean it. I know the mill is yours, and you and Maggie desire to start a family.” Esau merely nodded in consent.
“We are sorry, Jacob. You’re just too old to stay here. With the thaw at hand, new life is upon us all. The rhythm of the seasons beckons for rebirth and new possibilities. Just like in all those stories elder Hector tells. You know, of spirits and sprites and the blossoming of flowers and the reaching of trees towards the sun. The renewal of the world…” It became apparent that Jacob wasn’t listening. His eyes were wide, his hands gripping the letter from Malachi tight. “Brother, what does it say?”
Jacob slowly met Esau’s eyes.
“I’m leaving to sail across the sea.”