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.