“How is your study coming along?” the tall greying man in confederate grey asked, showing concern for his only child.
“I’m fed up of reading about the war, I want to fight. The other boys have already gone. I’ve been left here alone.”
“You know breeders are not allowed to fight Josh.” The general patted the teenager on the shoulder kindly. “Much as I wish you could follow in my footsteps, it’s forbidden to you.”
Joshua sighed sadly. “Destined to be nothing but a womb.”
“Now Josh, you know your role in life. We told you when you were still a child that you are a breeder and as such have responsibilities”
“I don’t want them.”
The general ruffled Josh’s hair. “Want them or not, they are yours to bare. Now go get changed, dinner will be in an hour.”
“Why do I have to study? It’s not like I’m going to be allowed to use my education” Joshua complained slamming his book shut.
“Josh I know breeders are not encouraged to learn but believe me when I tell you that it will make you more attractive to a prospective mate.
Joshua pouted. “By the time my service is finished no one will want me, I’ll be old and fat.”
The general rolled his eyes. “They will be fighting to marry you.”
“You never wanted my bearer.” The whispered words were barely audible. "What was he like?”
Joshua’s father lifted his son’s chin using his middle finger. He gave a feather light caress to the side of his face then pulled thick brunette curls from behind Joshua’s ears, fluffing them out so that they framed his face. He turned the teen so that he could see himself in the mirror. “There that’s what your bearer looked like. You are his image. He was very beautiful, like you.”
“But you never married him.”
“When I mated with your bearer he was already at the end of his child bearing years. He was set to retire. I was to be his last. He died Joshua, giving birth to you. You would have made his career. You were the only breeder he gave birth to.”
“Did he even see me?”
“No child, he never held you.” His son’s sadness hurt the older man. "It’s as well, if he had, he would have wanted to keep you and you were mine.”
The teen’s lip trembled and he turned from the mirror, looking dejectedly at the carpeted floor. “I don’t want this honour father. I don’t want to bare children for others to love.”
“The law says that you must do your duty. 15 years is not that long. It may seem that way right now but the years will fly by.”
“So will my youth.” Joshua picked up his books. “ I will go change.”
“Josh, the youth is wasted on the young.” Joshua’s father placed a feather light touch on his arm. “Your life will begin after your service, you will see.”
When Joshua entered the dinning room his father’s guests stood up and bowed. They waited until Joshua was properly seated before they sat down themselves. Joshua had dressed in his official robes knowing his father had invited important guests to eat with them.
“My lord. May I ask how old you are now?” the soldier asking the question was on his early fifties and was staring at Joshua with appreciation.
Joshua cringed at his official title and even more so at the long lingering looks he was receiving from the man.
“Captain I am nearing my 18th year.”
“Have you received notice of your assigned residence yet?” A young lieutenant with blond hair and sparkling green eyes asked.
“No sir, not yet.”
“Interested in mating with my son are you Mr. Bass?” the general asked looking over the top of his spectacles.
The young lieutenant laughed nervously. “I would not be so bold sir. I’m sure there are many in line before me,”
The lieutenant met Joshua’s eyes. “Not that if I was higher in rank I wouldn’t make a request, because I would in an instance.”
Joshua smiled and lowered his eyes. “You flatter me lieutenant.”
“My lord, please call me Lance.”
Joshua blushed, “only if you will call me Josh. My lord is much too formal.” He glanced over at his father. “ I would like to go to town tomorrow, I am running short of paints and canvas. Also there is a fair in the town at the market place. Father, I would very much like to go.”
The general sipped at his wine and shook his head refusing his permission. “I’m sorry Joshua, but I can’t take you. I have to report to H.Q in the morning.”
“I could go alone father. I know the way," Joshua begged.
“Absolutely not, that is impossible. You are a breeder; you could be abducted or molested. No Joshua, I’m afraid that you will not be able to go.”
Joshua placed his knife and fork noisily on his plate making his father frown.
“General, I have a suggestion. I have a free day, why don’t I accompany your son to town then he could get the supplies he needs,” the young lieutenant suggested.
The teenaged boy looked at his father pleadingly.
“I assure you he will be well protected. I have several men at my disposal.” Lance said reassuringly.
The general rolled his eyes and grunted his approval, finding to difficult to deny his son a little pleasure in his otherwise dull life. “On condition that you wear your outside robes and retain your aloofness.”
Joshua pouted, he hated his robes, but a trip outside the plantation was so rare a treat. Reluctantly he agreed and politely finished his dinner in silence. The hair on the back of his neck bristled and he looked up and caught the old captain’s eyes on him once more.
“Father I am feeling a little fatigued, may I please be excused ?” Joshua stood up and folded his napkin on to his plate.
“Of course child.” The general stood up and all the dinner guests followed his lead, bowing as he left.
Lieutenant Bass followed him to the door. “I will see you in the morning Joshua.”
“I look forward to it Lance. Thank you for spending your free day babysitting me.”
“My lord, I assure you the pleasure is all mine.”
Joshua blushed prettily. “ Good night,” he breathed softly and closed the door behind him.
“You sure that’s a good idea general?” the older captain asked.
“My son goes into service next week, You know what that means! It breaks my heart to know that he will suffer. Let him have a little joy.” The general gave a sad smile and lifted his wine glass. “To the breeder, may he live long and provide the south with many sons.”
The guests all raised their wine. “To the breeder,” they all agreed before they drained their glasses and went back to their meals.