General Fiction posted November 9, 2017 Chapters:  ...26 27 -28- 29... 

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A stranger comes to the farm seeking work.

A chapter in the book Lacey

Lacey. The man Named Max

by Mabaker

At sixteen a girl travels across country to visit kin. She is joined by a Dragon who seeks a mythical gemstone for his collection. The Dragon makes friends with a kitten, that turns into a Panther.
Chapter Twenty-Eight

Everything worth waiting for happens in it's allocated time, and Lady Warrior finally could see the end of farm work, when one bitterly freezing day a shape shuffled through the dirty grey, misty drizzle and stopped at the back door.

Kate and Lady had discussed a strategy in case a man or men should turn up unexpectedly with ill-will on their mind; Kate would keep them talking while Lady appeared with her bow ready and willing.
Today that wouldn't be necessary; Lady could sense goodness all over his big frame, also hunger and cold. The coat he wore was meagre and made for a smaller person entirely; it left a lot of arm uncovered. Kate looked at Lady who stood with hands in the sleeves of a jacket that was too large for her, but it was warm.

Kate, acting like they were playing a game of charades, appeared to have lost the knack of speech, so it was left to Lady to find out why this man had walked to their farm.
"You are looking for work, Max?"

"Yes, the owner of the general store mentioned there was a widow lady with a small child, could do with a hand. He also threatened me with something nasty if he got a bad report."

"Yes, Kate has had some nasty experiences before. Anyway, shall I make a pot of tea, Kate?" Lady was acting as the mother while Kate was just sitting dumbfounded.
Cutting some thick slabs of fruitcake Lady placed these and the teapot on the table, though she hadn't finished with this strange man in the short coat.

Max, halfway through a mouthful of cake, slowly stood up and put himself in front of Kate as Thing pushed the door open and walked inside. "Don't make any sudden moves, ladies; it might just be looking for food, it doesn't seem ferocious, but you don't take risks, with mountain lions, only that isn't one."

Kate sealed her future without even trying, by merely stepping around Max and patting his arm, saying, "Thank you, Max, it's nice to see there is some chivalry still around. That is Thing, Lady's cat."
Max went up two notches in Lady's estimation when he looked straight at her and agreed it was indeed a cat. His eyes told an entirely different story. Then to prove something, either to himself or Lady he walked over and patted Thing on the head. "Watch it, Mister, " The warning came, clear as a bell in mind-speech from the Panther.
Max gave Lady an outrageous wink, behind Kate's back, with an "I knew all along" nod of his head, which had Lady bursting with curiosity. How had this man seen through the protective wards she had set in place? If however, he were magically enhanced, then that would answer some of her questions. Though there were one or two still dangling. He mentioned the owner of the store had sent him, but, this farm was way off the beaten track, to come on speculation for a job. There was something strange going on, but she couldn't read him! He had stronger wards than her own, that kept blocking her attempts, and from the besotted look on Kate's face, it would appear Lady had this problem on her own.

Lady hated puzzle games. She saw right through them within five minutes, but this person had her flummoxed. The cover story had enough credibility to be believed, but his touching Thing was strange.
Did he mean Kate and herself harm? She didn't feel so; however, necessity stated, any male could destroy them if that were his intent, she must be vigilant with this one, regardless of how Kate felt, or perhaps, because of how Kate felt.

Lady and Thing left the warmth of the kitchen and went to the barn where Elder was ripping a carcase of something to bite-sized pieces, which for a Dragon were enormous lumps. Lady removed the borrowed jacket, and both Elder and Thing came closer, and they formed a three-sided area, which when magically activated turned a deep purple, and Red Warrior sent out some messages concerning this man. Suddenly the air shimmered silver and the voice of Zerdea the Highest Warrior Wizard, spoke,

"What ails the Red Warrior Wizard? Don't make a habit of seeking answers from Higher Wizards, work through the problem yourself. For a novice, as you are, I will answer. The Wizard, who calls himself Max is a friend, not a foe." Then her voice was gone.
Lady left Thing with Elder saying " Alright now we know he is magic, but I still feel uneasy with that man, even if he is a Wizard, so I'll go back and help serve dinner. I want to be close if he drops the sociable act."

Lady found on her return, Harold, Kate's five-year-old son awake from his nap and very much intrigued with Max. The man was relaying a story which had the lads mouth hanging open listening to something exciting.
Kate helped Lady put the finishing touches on the meal and Max inquired where he could wash the stickiness of the cake off his hands. Then they sat and ate, passing plates to each other, as needed.
Silence reigned for the first few minutes until Kate spoke, "There are perfectly sound rooms that were used by shearers, Max. They could be somewhat chilly this time of year, I will give you fresh linen when you need it," Kate spoke somewhat breathlessly, "There is a hot water cylinder that you will have to turn on for the shower facilities. If you haven't got something, please ask."
Max swallowed a mouthful of food remarking, "What tasks would you like help with Kate, provided it doesn't rain I'll make a start in the morning if that suits you?"

He even kept Harold company with another story while the two women washed the dishes and put them away. He acted too good to be true in Lady's opinion.
Finally, saying 'Good Night' he headed to the shearing shed. Kate could hardly wait until the door closed before she started on all Max's good points. She was undeniably hooked on this stranger. Lady kept her thoughts private and let her ramble.
To Be Continued

A stranger comes to the farm seeking work.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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