16: Farah of the hill

They stopped picking the crop when the booms sounded from the direction of the village. Farah was still a big man, wiser than he looked, but his initial instinct was to let the sounds pass, as so many others had over the years. However, his two sons, Michel and Toni, had not seen or heard as much as he, so were eager to investigate.

The island was not erupting, Farah knew that much. He knew his land too well and would have felt nature’s warning call him earlier. They picked up their machetes and hacked their way down the jungle, aiming for the plumes of smoke rising above the trees.

Farah rarely ventured down to the village, content as he was with his land above. Naturally, he let his boys venture whenever they cared, being healthy for them to mix with others, so one day they could find their love and start a family of their own.

Toni would inherit his farm one day, Farah could see that in his stocky build and content nature. He guessed Michel would venture further when the day came, his skinny, restless spirit and overeager dreaming eyes told him that. Although twins they were two sides of a cleaved coconut. Sometimes, Farah wondered if he had raised them well enough,  but such doubts were swiftly cast aside when he saw their equally kind attitudes and willingness to share work together.

Farah was no mother, his love had passed shortly after they were born. Like Pisiv, he knew that loss, but when he offered consolation to the villager, the little man had seen only an insult, building a feud towards Farah over time. It was not returned by the farmer, although he supposed such ministrations had helped make his trips to the village scarcer in course.

They came across the two women and the child three quarters down the slope. Then Farah saw Jack and guessed where the trouble started.

“Hello old friend,” said Jack. “Long time, no see.” The captain held up his hands. Farah, the grumpy mountain hermit, was not a man to be trifled with.

“My father, he gone crazy,” said Neri. “Please oncle, we need your help.”

Farah looked at each of them in turn. The island princess he had known since a babe, had once treated her as a daughter when others closer had cast her aside. Jack, the captain who dreamed of being a farmer, who had visited when his boat came by to pick Farah’s knowledge of the land and share a smoke. Then, the tall, alien woman, with the coldest eyes Farah and ever seen and her blonde angel of a daughter. They were all bruised, bloody and scared of whatever they had fled.

Farah sighed. Yes, he would have to help them. That was what a man did, despite knowing only grief would follow. That was how he raised his sons to act when the call sounded, who now looked to him expectantly.

“Come along then,” said Farah. “Tonight’s stew may help settle you.”

They made their way back up the hill, following the brook whose source sustained their farm. Michel excitedly yabbered to Neri, keen to hear stories of her adventures in far off lands. When the little girl stumbled, weak from exhaustion, Toni hoisted her up and let her piggyback on his broad shoulders as they climbed. The sight made Farah smile inside. Perhaps he had raised them right after all.

When they reached his hut in the trees, Farah had already decided he would feed this battered party and let them rest the night. By morn, he would discover the truth of events and, if need, send them on, away from his land once and for all.

TO BE CONTINUED

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