The Unjust Steward
Ezra T. Gray
“The donkey is gone again,” the boy said with a grimace.
The boy’s father rolled his eyes. “Blazes! That is the worst animal on this place. Everything else pulls its own weight, stays around even if you leave the gate wide open, but not that infernal beast!” The man threw his arms up in frustration. “Boy, go get some help and see if you can find it. I am sure the steward will want it back, but you be careful — and listen, tell everyone else to be careful, too. Those Jackals have gotten real bad lately. All the farms in the area have suffered losses. They have even been attacking in broad open daylight.”
The Jackals were a band of marauders that had joined together under the leadership of the ‘Chosen One,’ as they called him, and had terrorized the Great Land for some years now. For some unknown reason the Jackals hated the people of the Great Land. Many of the men of the Great Land had gone to fight against them. The problem was there was no real front. They attacked everywhere. And they were a cowardly lot.
The Chosen One was, in fact, a brutally sadistic murderer whose so-called freedom fighters killed women and children indiscriminately. Why they were called freedom fighters, blazes only knew. They were from a faraway place that no one else wanted. They had freedom there, and no one bothered them. They came to the Great Land because they hated the people of the Great Land, plain and simple.
The man and his son lived on a farm that was owned by The Master. The Master had gone away to fight against the leader of the Jackals, the so-called Chosen One. During the Master’s absence, The Steward had been left in charge. The Steward had made great promises to The Master and, unfortunately, The Master had believed him. Now, in The Master’s absence, The Steward had squandered a great deal of The Master’s wealth. Oh, there was still plenty, but if The Master did not return….
The man watched his son ride off with five other young men. “Waste of time.” He shook his head and spat on the ground. “Waste of time.”
He walked back toward the big barn, where The Steward stood near the corral. The Steward was a peculiar sight, not particularly daunting, and was in fact rather slim, with no real distinguishing features. He was also not very bright, and how it was he’d convinced The Master to leave him in charge still baffled the man. However, he was in charge.
The Steward watched the five Arabian horses in the corral. “Beautiful, aren’t they?” he said as the man approached.
“They would make good dog food,” the man replied.
“You know, I do not like that kind of talk.”
“And you know, I don’t care what you like,” the man responded. “You run the farm, not me. You have say over the operations, not the people. And furthermore, while we’re on the subject, when The Master returns you will be jailed.”
“I doubt it,” The Steward hissed. He drew his chin back and puffed up his chest. “I am the greatest Steward ever.”
“Hah!” The man laughed. “You wouldn’t make a pimple on a good Steward’s a —. Never mind. Anyway, I’ll say what I want and I wanted to tell you that stupid donkey went missing again.”
“You sent someone after it, I trust?”
“Good. Report to me when you hear word.”
“Will do,” the man said as he turned away. “You know, this is a waste of time. The Master would let it go.”
“The Master is gone,” The Steward said venomously, “and probably will never return.”
The man smiled. “Oh, he’ll be back. He’ll be back, and when he comes back your ass will be grass and he’ll be the lawnmower.”
With that the man walked off. The Steward stayed at the fence for several moments watching the five Arabians. The Master had captured them during a battle with the Jackals. He had brought them back to the farm, mostly to keep the Jackals from using them to make war. The Steward wanted to release them, but everyone with half a brain knew the Jackals would return them to service.
But, still…, The Steward thought.
You see, in The Steward’s heart, he wasn’t a citizen of the Great Land. He was a Jackal. Most of what he did, and thought, was intended to undermine the people of the Great Land. Secretly he hated the Great Land and he’d sworn an oath to his dark, evil, God to destroy it from within.
His plans were going along well.
The six young men rode into the gate at the big farm. The man stood, awaiting their words.
“The Jackals have the donkey,” the man’s son said.
“Good,” the man responded, “let them keep the rebellious beast.”
“You want to hear the worst of it? It’s pulling a wagon!”
“You’ve got to be kidding. That stinking piece of garbage wouldn’t do squat around here, but he’s breaking his back for them? The man shook his head, then added, “You should have shot it.”
“I thought to,” the son said, “but it still belongs to The Master.”
“I suppose you are right. He’s the only one that can determine the donkey’s fate. I’ll tell The Steward.”
“There’s one other thing.”
“The Jackals sent out a man who said that….”
“Well, go on boy, tell me.”
“They’ll give back the donkey if we return the five Arabians.”
“Hah ha ha,” the man laughed. “The Master doesn’t make deals like that.”
The man continued to laugh, amused at the ridiculous nature of the offer. His son didn’t laugh though, and he looked at the man squarely. “Yes, Sir, but… The Master’s gone.”
“All right,” The Steward said to the man, “you have your orders. You swap the five Arabians for the donkey.”
“You can’t!” the man shot back. “It’s against the rules!”
“I make the rules,” the Steward replied.
“No you don’t!”
“You will make the swap or I will have you in chains!”
“Very well. All the other things you have done, you have gotten away with, more or less. But mark my word, Steward, this will be your undoing.”
The Steward gave a condescending smile. “I rule supreme.”
“We shall see,” the man replied. “We shall see.”
The prison cell was not very big. The Steward thought it was perhaps 8 x 10. It was his new home, his home for life. Not long after ‘The Great Swap,’ as it was now laughingly referred to, The Master had returned. He appointed a special investigator and once he received the results of that investigation, he ordered The Steward jailed for life.
The man, now old, leaned forward to place emphasis on his next words.
“And that was the fate of the self-aggrandized Steward, to rot in a prison cell forever. Remember children, The Steward was just a man, he was not The Master.”