I was Born the Unloved Twin
If I had to picture this as a well running little league team then, all the troop members here are the kids. Most as excited to play but they're....lost on what to do. Grampa is the soccer mom that signed them up and dropped them off while cheering on the stands. Meanwhile, father is the coach that has to organize this ragtag amateur team together putting who goes where.
I get to be an assistant little league coach.
Does that make sense? Yeah good enough for me.
It's a lot of work ordering people around, much more than you would think. I know it sounds pretentious but it's a headache for father to place certain people here or there. Somehow he knows these particular troop members don't get along and shouldn't be placed together. The more strength-based folks get ground-based harvesting and carrying work while the endurance or speed users are picking fruit. Anyone with logistic skills or smarts gets placed with helping the farmers organized or being assigned a mini team leader. It takes a lot of work to get this ragtag team of volunteers working as efficiently and smoothly as they do.
I also know that while it's more practical and economical, father doesn't actually like doing this. He's very good at it and there's something satisfying to it but he rather be slowly picking the vegetables himself, watching how chickens lay eggs, or making more wheels both large and small. Maybe aweing over another common appliance not used among noble circles.
What strange hobbies he has.
The harvest season is not a time to play father! Can't you see all the farmers working so hard?! This is the most important time of year for them. Let's get these grains!
Somehow my scolding seems to motivate him into doing a better job. I was yelling at you, not praising you. Why are you so happy and energetic?
What strange hobbies this man has.
Sometimes I fear I'm pushing it with my behavior, breaking the lines of what's excusable or not. But this family is just odd like that. Especially father, it seems the more I speak out or be typical 'Rosalia' demanding, the more they seem to like it?
It's very confusing. This isn't how good girl are supposed to behave? Not that I was planning on being a very proper noblewoman in the first place but why does it seem that my family encourages this?
It's easy to see how the previous Rosalia adopted her spoiled rich girl sort of behavior. Being quiet and polite never got her anywhere. But asking for things, commanding for them, did get her hints of the attention she was so desperate for. What concerning parenting.
I'll just blame grampa, that's the easiest solution to everything. A lot of things are most likely at least partially his fault anyways. Gable could testify to that I'm sure.
For now though let's just help keep father on track with the volunteer little league harvest team.
"Father, get back here. You can't hide from your problems in the field all day. You're too big to blend in with the carrots."
He really is, and human shaped too. Why is father being so childish?
"Now Chippy dear, it's not hiding. I'm clearly inspecting the utilization of the new compost fertilizer. "
"No one put fertilizer there, there are none on the ground veggies. Get out of the dirt and back to the troops, they're going to destroy something. "
"Your grandfather is with them."
"Then they're definitely going to break or set fire to something."
"They've been assigned to a villager, it's fine. Look at these beans, did you know the local diet is largely made up of such legumes. A fascinating staple! Don't they get tired of the plain mushy taste? "
"That's why spices are expensive father."
"But it comes in so many colors. What are the differences between them? We should hold one of your taste testing sessions."
"Father we are not having a bean tasting, you don't have time. But if we did it should be a whole autumn harvest tasting like a festival with chestnuts, pumpkins and all the goods in the nearby area- .... wait you're distracting me!"
"A local festival? On top of the harvest? That would certainly draw in a crowd and hmmmm..."
"Wait no! Father stop going off on strange ideas and get back to work!"
Who listens to their toddler so seriously?! He's actually sincerely considering it, I can tell from the strange glazed over look in his eyes. I'm truly getting more and more worried for my father's actual work. How did this man ever make prime minister the last time around?
Actually...can he ever make prime minster at this rate?
He's been on the land and around home far too much this year to be a good contender as of late. Sure the construction and farm improvement projects are important to me but what about your political career?
It's not too late you know?
It can't be helped because it's the busy harvest time right now and I'm selfishly using him but afterward, during winter, father should get back to his real job. I should be a little less selfish after all and release him.
But how? He's become such a farm nerd! He's been out so much that he's beginning to get freckles on his nose and cheeks! Just look at him! I had to use up my first batch of sunblock oil on him!
"But they're nutritionally so complete, how versatile. Like tiny little potatoes. So many miniature potatoes in a pod. I should have brought my sketching booklet. Come take a look Chip!"
This is stupid and I am not at all tempted by the production and great variety of beans.
I am merely admitting that they are a very quick crop to grow that's both nutritious for the people and nitrogen enriching to the soil. What a good cover crop!
An excellent crop in my anti-famine plans, if dried they can be stored for an extremely long time. The protein content in them is packing and they're are so nutritionally complete but far less starchy than potatoes. Sure they don't taste as addictive with butter but they're better for you and can be used to stretch traditional grain flours. Beans are vastly superior to potatoes if we consider health, application, and variety!
"How fascinating! Such an amazingly useful little thing. I also hear the locals do use it to subsidize in bread and even simple cakes. Well, I'll look forward to tasting whatever new bean dishes you'll come up with Chip."
Oops. I did it again. What is wrong with my mouth?
Whose's thinking out loud gene is responsible for this? How have I not been put to the stakes yet as a baby witch? Is it the magical world setting? I feel that most men would and should still be terrified of the things that come out of my mouth. They shouldn't react like...well...father does.
Hey wait, I got distracted again! Damn, he's quite good at that.
"Father get back to work!"
"Ah I've worked so much since early morning, it's such a headache. It should be fine with so many hands right? Let's harvest the beans. Ahhh don't be in such a rush to get back to those brutes Chip my dear. "
Somehow my small little hands are successfully tugging him back towards the organizational center. I may be getting stronger but I'm not that strong. Father may be a nerd but he's a very well trained and healthy adult. He's too heavy and obviously just messing around with me.
"Surely there's no fun for you in going back to the others? Nothing but sweat and screaming, yes we shouldn't distract them."
"What about the rice? You adore rice, let's go look at them thrashing the rice. We're trying out the second revision to your wonderful spinning wheeled thrasher. "
"The pumpkins? Did you know they can grow as long as a serpent? Why don't we-"
By then we're spotted by a rush of frantic village elders.
"Lord Frederick! Oh thank the goddess you've returned! Your men!!! They're trying to transport goods by flinging things across the fields! The whole fields!!! It's raining pumpkin and squashes! They've gone so high they'be hit and took down migrating birds with them!"
"Oh look father! You wanted to see the pumpkins! Yes, let's get to work and go see them raining pumpkins."
"Rosalia my darling, are you hungry? Tired? Well look at that I should be taking my poor little girl to rest and-"
"To the pumpkins. Go. Now."
It's a lot of work being the assistant little league coach but apparently someone has to do it.
The day quickly turns to night. It really is like a school field trip. The most economical plans to our trip without interfering too much time wise have been planned down 4 days and 3 nights. That's plenty of time for these superhuman muscle heads to speed up the harvest with the heavy work.
The messenger bird from Mother says she's not all that pleased but wishes us much love and safety. And that I should be careful in wearing my hats to protect my hair. At least that's what I was allowed to read. Father got a separate letter, sealed with mother's crest, which he promptly burned after reading.
Ah a whipped husband has it hard too. Fighting father, I believe in your gross couple-ness. Bring her back a romantic present or something.
Oh, I should take my own advice and find a peace offering to save my own hide. I swear mother didn't instill such a strange instinctual fear in me the last life. Perhaps a linen dress? Something not medievally ugly?
I don't get to camp out with the rest of the troop members but I do get to relax and play around their campgrounds until it's time for father to take me away for the night into the village home we're staying in. Then it's lockdown bedtime for me.
Not as fun as staying with the others but understandable. Father is oddly worried about me enough as it is. Besides, it's not like I don't see them every day we're out here.
Maybe because it's a new experience for most everyone, it seems to be more fun than actual work. Even my chefs are having a good time working directly with the ingredients, well of course they would.
I do know father is definitely using the free labor for all he can get outside of the harvest. That includes compost mixing, cover crop planting, and even construction work.
I don't know when this started but apparently, he's designed and already building a new bridge too.
Hey, father, you're going to have never ending projects stacked up at this rate. Don't look so pleased at this. Go back to your court job! It's not healthy to overwork yourself juggling so much!
The villagers here are extremely grateful for the aid. It seems like an aging population as more and more young people leave to the cities and places with better prospects.
Ah, I see the point in the bridge and all the construction projects focused here now. Good thinking father. Let's smooth out and boost this economy! It makes much more sense than raising their taxes or some other villainy thing.
The time passed so quickly when you're on a school trip and we're somehow on the last day already!
It hasn't all been good and fun though.
I've gained another nickname.
"Rosalia my healthy little growing pumpkin! Are you ready for your first ending harvest tradition! Yes, it is that glorious time, everyone's favorite time, to make fresh hams and sausages!"
"Do not be afraid pumpkin! Grampapa is here to show you the way!"
I blame grampa. I hate grampa. Someone, please stop his menacing horror. Mama? Gable please come back and put a leash on him or something!
The pumpkin throwing on the first day unexpectedly gave both grampa and me vivid flashbacks to that unfortunate time. You know, when I got catapulted to a giant bird?
We got some fresh K.O. geese and mashed pumpkins for dinner that day. It was delicious but was it really worth it? Yeah, that hit too close to home and the resemblance to that time was exactly on point.
So thus there's this terrible name.
"It's kind of cute. Right? Don't people here use 'pumpkin' as a term of affection?"
"No no no you don't get it Amar! It's a bad joke to grampa! A terrible joke! I'm the pumpkin! The things being thrown through the air!"
"Well um, you are the size of a pumpkin?"
I smack the other child in the shoulder, careful to avoid his healed head, because that clearly does not help his point. It proves mine!
There are no young kids around here besides us and maybe a few village children, and even then they're not very fun to talk too. Ah it's hard getting along with others my age when you're not a real child. Lilyanne is my only exception.
"Aren't pumpkins really sweet and yummy? It's a good thing right?"
"He's saying I'm a good bird bullet! A throwable vegetable!"
"You do look easy to throw."
For a moment I regret and reconsider my impulsive decision to rant to the kid again. But I cannot deny that I am small, handheld even if we're talking about grampa. Being a toddler sucks.
"Waaah! Look Rosalia, they're moving on to the hogs! It looks tasty."
"Oh...fun. I wonder how much bacon that makes?"
It's a lively scene as what appears to be the entire farming village community and all the troops gather around to slaughter the fattened livestock. The standard farm animals more or less, though they look a lot bigger than the ones I'm used to from my world. It's not just my small size speaking, these things are not standard earth goats, pigs and cows. How much do these things eat?
In a rural place like this without much entertainment, even something like this is exciting to converge around and watch. As a village though, I see the great importance behind it.
The livestock that's been raised so carefully for so long will now become important food for us.
This isn't the only time of year people slaughter animals for meat but the autumn harvest is special. Everyone gets together to prep this meat to last for winter in all sorts of ways. It's a communuity effort. Maybe that's why grampa was so excited about it, in a provincial way it's like an event and a way to pass down survival knowledge to the next generation.
Plenty of the troop members come from a small country village themselves and this sort of thing is exciting and nostalgic to them. Their energy is contagious.
Ah so this is what a village really looks like, that's the kind of thoughts I get. It's nice.
The coming together and a community part, not the hang upside down and slaughter of the live animals part. I'm not queezy. I've taken college biology and dissection. I've chased down and turned a live rooster into a roast before. But these things are big! Big and bloody.
"Are you okay Rosalia?" asked Amar, noticing the way I grimaced.
"It stinks! And there's a lot of blood."
"Oh yeah, the draining is messy. The smell is also really bad. Before slaughter day you're supposed starve and chase the animals around so their guts are empty. This is the first time I've seen it done here, I don't think they did a very good job with that. Is it a last meal thing? Huh that person is holding the knife off, they're going to miss the vein, look."
True to Amar's word the amateur teenagers are messing up on their first hog. They miss and panic as the hog squeals and wildly struggles. It's an absolute mess.
Blood is everywhere.
They're panicking too much, the stab cuts are too shallow or in the wrong spots and leaking. It's not a clean job like it's supposed to be. It's supposed to drain over the bucket but it's splattering like a bad horror movie effect, the wrong vein is cut.
Blood is spilling everywhere.
The ground, the teenagers, everywhere.
The crowd. They watch, that's all they do. They're just watching so the kids, legally adults, can do it on their own. They're all yelling and it's too loud. It's supposed to be a lesson for them but....
Bloody boys all around.
Whose blood is it?
What am I seeing here?
Where am I?
"You can't escape now." a cold voice rings out within the crowd.
More and more voices grow louder, jeering, cursing all sorts of profanity. All finely dressed young men, teenagers basically. Why?
So much blood.
The ground isn't common dirt, it isn't grass, it's cold, beautiful marble. It stinks of perfume and blood, it stinks it stinks it stinks. This isn't right? This...
What's going on?!
"How could you?! Your own sister?"
"Hell, she's not dying!"
"Thought you could run did you?!"
"It's not good enough, a demonic witch like you needs to burn!"
"Is she crying!? The bitch can actually cry!? I thought devils couldn't feel pain!"
"How dare you!? How dare you taint our pure Lily with your filth!"
"Just die already!!! Free her! Free us!"
Arms, legs, back, torso, the head. They keep stabbing with a sickening crunch and squelch.
Amateurs. Nothing but violent weak boys who never held a real weapon, never taken a life with their own hands.
The roses are rich in bloom. It must be summer. It stinks it stinks it stinks. I hate roses, I hate the smell of such thick perfume. I can't breathe!
Is the blood or the flowers?! There's so much, oh god there's just so much.
There's a crowd, why is there a crowd? What are they watching? Why are they watching?! Why are they just standing there watching!
The marble stairs above are absolutely covered in a trail of red. Flowers or blood? I don't know! I don't know! Why does it matter?
Her bones are broken, they must be! The long haired girl in a torn gown splayed at the bottom of the stairs is nothing but a broken red doll. Broken jewels and gems sparkle almost magically in the moonlight. The red is so horribly beautiful.
Everything is so loud but it's not her screaming. She can't. There's blood, so much blood. She's choking on her own blood!
"Die die die god you devil woman just die already!"
Why? Why is there so much blood? So much hate? It's so scary, so painful.
I can't breathe.
I'm choking too.
Why am I choking?
A scream, the most horrible wretched scream I have ever heard comes from above.
At the top of the gleaming staircase, there is an angelic woman in white screaming like a madwoman as she rushed down, full gown and all. The red is ruining her perfectly pretty dress and she screams herself hoarse.
"Rosa? Rosalia!!! Lord Commander come quick! There's something wrong with Rosalia!!!"
The farm, the crowd- I'm back.
I can feel myself falling against the solid support of skinny arms and then, the world goes black.