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Into the Wild

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A Nonny Moose:
Here is an initial submission for a longer story.  If people like it, I will continue.

Into the Wild

The gates of the city slammed shut behind us. The oxen plodded forward and the loaded cart creaked forward on dry axles. Beside me, Marta shuffled along stunned, weeping, "Why", she said, "Why?"

I held her elbow to my chest. "You know why", I said, "We are different."

This was the tenth town in which we had tried to settle, but sooner than we expected we had been found out. In spite of keeping to ourselves, it became clear that we were not of the pantheistic worship that was followed everywhere on this side of the sea. We admitted to no gods at all, and as such were unwelcome among those who felt the need for divine support to explain their fears. We could not bring ourselves to the little sacrifices that came with almost any action in public or in private.

Ahead, on the road, there was another cart, but without oxen. It was being pulled by two men with their women walking along side. We easily overtook them. "May we pass", I called. The others pulled off to the side to allow our lumbering beasts to pass by. As we came abreast of the other cart I said, "Thank you, and good day."

"Wait", said one of the men. "Let us travel together if we have the same road. A larger party would be safer, so I considered this seriously.

Why not, I thought. "That would give us a larger party and some safely", I said. "Why not?"

"What is your destination?", I asked.

The other looked blank. "What does it matter?", he said.

"Not much", I said, "but we might have a common place in view."

A quick shrug told me that no answer would be given, so we continued companionably until near sunset.

We both pulled into a dip off the road at around sunset. Each set about making camp, and we agreed that the new people would take the first watch.
* * *
In the morning we found our new companions gone complete with our oxen and cart, leaving us only their dilapidated buggy and a few supplies. The road was deserted, and no one was in sight. We had always been too trusting, and it seemed that our temporary friends had absconded as soon as we slept. The hard ground gave no sign of any direction, so we packed up what little remained of our gear and hit the road.

Over the next few weeks we added a few people to our party after some vigorous conversations. It seemed we were not the only ones who had been banished from the local civilization of pantheists. We were fortunate that among our companions were some experienced farmers and beast-holders as well as a smith and an experienced huntsman. We continued through the countryside until we reached the point where we felt we were well away from those who might interfere with us. Then, in a watered box canyon, we set up our first permanent camp.

For our party of ten adults and four children we set up some lean-tos to keep off the elements then agreed on a couple of spots for stockpiles, assigning one in particular for firewood to keep us warm. We set about removing the trees the immediate area and converting some of them into kindling and stock for the fires at each lean-to. Marta and I set our hovel near the water so that we could catch fish. We laid some lines in the water to supply the encampment with fresh food. We were soon joined by Walter and his spouse Juliana.

As soon as we were able to set the lines, Walter and I left the women to tend them and set about converting our shelters into something more permanent. First, we built a small pier out into the water to provide a dock, then using logs and stone from one of the growing stockpiles we were able to lay out a cabin to provide some better shelter. We were lucky that it was just spring and that the walls of the canyon provided some shelter from the winds.

While watching the lines, the women were able to put together some simple crates from slats split off the firewood faggots to provide crates for our fish. This let us distribute the catch to the others.

Deodato came into camp with a brace of deer across his broad shoulders and called out, "Serpina! Come give me a hand." His first hunt had been quite successful and it would be venison steak for dinner.

Serpina stopped working on the shelter she was building with Consuela and extracted her knives from her pack. As her mate lowered his take to the ground she set about gutting them, then carefully flensing the hides with the least possible waste. After scrubbing the hides with a strange mixture from her pack, she hung them to dry over some nearby bushes. "Bear repellent", she said.

The meat was transferred to clean bags, cooled in the river then hung high in the trees to keep it from predators and scavengers. Separate bags were used for the bones to be dried and the gut pile was taken into the woods and buried. The bones and horns would be made into buttons and other necessaries.

Absolutely! Keep it up!

A Nonny Moose:
Next instalment.  If the dish doesn't run away with the spoon, I'll tell you more tomorrow.

A light rain began to fall as heavier clouds closed in. We huddled into our shelters and as darkness closed in we could hear the twilight hunt starting. We had built up our fires, but the rain was slowly damping them out. Geogio, the smith, had the first watch, and we noticed as his body crossed the embers of each fire as he patrolled the camp. The night closed in.

After a chilly night of fitful sleep we awoke in the morning to find Juliana on watch and making tea for our scant breakfast of porridge. "All is well", she said as the rest gathered at the newly kindled central fire.

Everyone turned to their own tasks after breakfast, and we fishers examined our overnight lines and hauled in the catch, gutting it and setting it on racks to dry in the sun. We were running low on salt, and Walter volunteered to search the area for some.

Georgio and Carmencita went to scout of the area for iron. His anvil has been taken by our earlier acquaintences. He was feeling helpless without one and would be reduced to using a large rock if he could not make one. Meanwhile, Consuela started setting up a charcoal burning hut. A smithy needs fuel and we certainly needed more tools than we had left. The others continued building cabins for better shelter from both the weather and the local beasts,

As the sun neared its zenith, Serpina went to the storage tree for some meat. She called me over. "Look", she said, there are claw marks on the bark. Something has attempted to reach our storage."

"Yes! Looks like we have a bear in the area. Bear is good eating, but Deodato will have to be careful". I helped her to lower the pack to the ground where she took a chunk of meat from it, then we hoisted it back up.

The women turned their attention to the stew pot, while I strolled around the encampment. Five cabins had been laid out, and the first was well under weigh with three solid courses of logs leaving room for a doorway. Since Deodato was spending all his time in the hunt, this would be his cabin.

After the mid-day meal, Serpina started working on a bellows for the forge using some skins that we found in the buggy. She made needles from some of the bones of the recent kill, and cord from fibres of plants from the surrounding woods. At the same time, Finbar started digging the pit for the casting of the anvil, while Consuela entertained the children. Those twins of Deodato and Serpina were a handfull at that age, and kept heading for the woods. Finally we constructed a pen for them and Dash and Vicki, which held them for the time being. I began weaving a net that would enlarge our daily catch over fishing with lines alone. The hot stones from the morning fire cooked the flat bread to go with the evening meal of fish and forest greens that had been gathered.

@anonnymoose, I wish you had participated in the story challenge. This is good, keep it up.

A Nonny Moose:
The dish was spurned by the spoon.  Here is another installment
About the middle of the afternoon, Deodato came empty-handed into the camp. "I've found the bear", he said. "She is a sow with two cubs, and she is very protective. I don't want to attack her for the sake of the young."

There was general agreement, as we felt that it was important to keep the woods healthy as we were dependent on it. As long as we could take deer for meat without too much depletion, we'd continue hunting them.

Just then, Georgio and Carmencita came back loaded down with sacks. "We have found a large deposit of iron ore in the talus over by the eastern canyon wall", Georgio said. "That wall may give us a mine later on."

Unpacking one of the large bags showed some reddish and yellowish rocks. "These are iron, almost in native form but we will have to smelt them to get the metal. How are we doing with the charcoal hut?"

"Finished" said Consuela. "We've been working hard and have you all set up except for the hardwood needed to fuel it".

"Wonderful", Georgio took some hardwood faggots from another sack, and handed them over. "We'll start the charcoal tonight, and see where we stand in the morning".

Serpina showed Georgio the bellows she had made that day. "Very nice, now how did we do with a smelting pit?"

"Here", I said. He came over and inspected the works. "Well, not quite deep enough, but a little more and we can line it with the river clay we found. It should do for a refractory surface. We'll have to gather some more ore to get a big enough piece to beat into a proper anvil."

In another sack, Carmencita had gathered a quantity of fresh herbs, roots and berries to add to our larder. This included some wild onions and a bulb of wild garlic. Things were going to be more flavourful. Some of this new cache was added to the evening stew with some glee.


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