Saturday, October 31, 2009

Story Time

Episode 1004

“Let’s bring Amos to the cabin and unload our gear. Then I’ll make sure the paddock will keep him in place.”

The door opened to the south so seeing into the cabin was difficult. Elon waited at the door while Paran put Amos in the paddock. While she did she chanced to see the remains of a wood pile. There wasn’t a lot there, but there was enough to see them through a night or two. Paran’s joy over the discovery only made it better.

Paran entered first, holding a large stick she had picked up for protection against anything that might have decided to use the cabin for its home. There was nothing. So they brought in several armloads of wood and started a fire. Soon, a warm glow was taking the chill out of the air and their bones.

The cabin seemed larger on the inside. Elon saw that was because it was longer from north to south than from east to west. It was all a single room, with a loft area accessed by a ladder attached to the east wall near the fireplace. A rustic table stood in the middle, with four chairs, equally non-impressive in appearance, but sturdy in workmanship. There was a pantry, a wardrobe, and even a large tub, complete with a drain leading out a hole in the floor near the wall. A bed was against the far north wall, it’s straw mattress an inviting vision after three nights on the cold hard ground.

There was no stove. A fireplace crane appeared to be how cooking was done. That was fine with Elon. She had only brought one small kettle, but that was in hope of the future. They had no meat nor vegetables to eat anyway.

They lay head to head in front of the hearth. Elon on her left side and Paran on her right. Before them the fire danced and sang. Occasionally an ember would spit and jump, as if adding emphasis to the song. Most of the smoke found its way up the chimney, but enough wafted into the room to give a wholesome smell. Elon always liked the smell of burning logs. She liked it how the smells clung to clothing and skin, as ever reminders of a pleasant evening.

“Why do you think they left?” asked Elon.

“Don’t know. Could be any of several reasons. Maybe the water’s bad up here. Or maybe there isn’t any. I didn’t see a well. But I think whoever was here left in a hurry. Or they were killed.”

A stab of fear went through Elon and she rolled to her stomach to see Paran.


Paran seemed unconcerned. “Or something. I mean look around here. There’s a table. A pantry. A wardrobe. A bed. Even a soft chair.”

“So you think they died?”

“It’s possible, but I don’t think so. There’s only big stuff here. The wardrobe and pantry are empty. Someone took those things. So either those who lived here left without their furniture, or others came later and took their things.”

Elon glanced around the cabin. Everything was dancing in shadows. What Paran had said was true. A quick examination of things had revealed nothing small or easy to carry. Only the furniture pieces remained.

“But the furniture seems well made. I wonder why they left it.” She turned back on her side. Paran’s confidence in the matter was enough for now. However, Elon still couldn’t help feeling that she hoped they didn’t learn the answer to that question. She decided to steer the conversation. “What is our plan for tomorrow?”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Story Time

Episode 1003

They ate some jerky and some bread. Then Paran decided to scout ahead.

Elon sat close to the pony and waited anxiously. Her eyes constantly strayed from the rock slide behind to the path Paran had taken ahead. Time was an enemy. A threat. Every moment Paran was gone was another possibility that she wasn’t coming back. What if there was another slide? What if she had fallen and was hurt? What if Kerr and her brother were to show up, demanding the return of both the pony and Paran? What, what, what?

It was impossible to know how long Paran had been gone. Fear stretched moments to minutes. But the sun was going down. That wasn’t imagination. But finally Paran was back. She seemed happy. Elon was.

“You’ll never believe this, but I found an abandoned farm not far from here. There’s a small cabin for us and a lean to with paddock for Amos. Hurry. Let’s get him packed up again and be on our way.”

Amos seemed doleful as Paran settled the packs on his back. Elon caressed his cheek, thinking how soft his hair felt. It was like a fine flax. Or the tassels on the top of corn stalks.

The ground was sloping but not steep, so they made good time. Still, they were in the foothills, and the tall pines were quickly shielding them from the sinking sun. Shadows were long and deep. Then, they broke free to a clearing.

Elon felt herself gasp. It was a beautiful farm. Small, but nicely placed. The ground was mostly level here, for several acres. To the west it dropped off, but not without leaving plenty of room for crops. In fact, the earth still showed the scars from previous year’s work. The paddock was small, only large enough for two or three animals. A lean to stood against the hillside, providing protection from anything that might be falling down from above, such as rocks. Or snow. It even had a wind break on the paddock side.

There was a barn. Not large, but a farm such as this wouldn’t need a large barn. But already Elon could imagine what it must be like inside. A place for corn. A place for hay. A place to store their equipment, once they got some.

The cabin looked darling. It was also small. A chimney stack stood like an attached sentinel. Two shuttered windows flanked a single door. Was there a root cellar? She couldn’t tell. It was getting too dark. But there had to be. Down the slope and tucked into the trees was the shadow of an outhouse.

“Oh, Paran! This looks wonderful. Are you sure it’s abandoned?”

“As sure as I can be after just a few minutes. No fresh dung in the paddock. No smoke from the chimney. No light in the cabin. Whoever did live here is gone now.”

“I wonder why someone would leave a farm like this? It seems so perfect.”

“It is for us. We can put a fire in the hearth. No more huddling to keep warm.”

Elon swallowed the feeling of disappointment. “I didn’t mind.”

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Story Time

Episode 1002

"Paran, are you all right?"

Paran's face screwed up in apparent disgust. "Yes. My own fault. I thought I could quicken the pace. Serves me right. What about the pony?"

The pony was struggling to get up but the pack was making it hard. Elon began undoing the straps. Elon held onto the lead as the pony got to its feet. Paran examined it. After a few minutes she sighed.

"Well, he doesn't seem to be hurt. Let's find a place to stake him out so he can eat and relax."

Spring was still fresh, but it had been a warm winter and already most of the snow was already gone, even from some of the high places. So finding a place for the pony to eat wasn't hard. There wasn't a lot in any one place, but there was enough to satisfy the pony.

Elon went to Paran, who was examining their packs. She looked up the hill.

"Do you think they're coming after us?"

Paran didn't look up. "Probably."

The short answer felt like a slap in the face, and Elon nearly fell back. She shouldn't have said anything.

"You're still mad about the pony?"

"We've been over this a dozen times, Elon."

"But we really needed him."

This time Paran's sigh showed exasperation.

"Yes! I agreed with you. Remember? Having the pony meant we could bring more supplies. But you must admit that taking your brother's pony means we now have him to worry about, too. If it had just been Kerr we would probably be free now. I don't see Kerr traipsing this far just to catch a runaway bride."

"I don't know. Kerr is a bit of a pig head."

Paran laughed. The sound lifted Elon's heart.

"That he is. And father had the nerve to say I would be happy with him. Hmph! As if anyone could be happy with Kerr."

Encouraged by Paran's laughter, Elon sat down.

"I'm glad you ran away from him, Paran."

Paran must have sensed something in Elon's voice for she stopped what she was doing and turned. Her expression was comforting.

"You're still upset about the slide?"

Elon smiled. She could never fool Paran. Whatever her mood, Paran seemed to sense it and respond accordingly. It was one of the things Elon loved about her. She could be tough when she needed to be, but in her heart she was gentle and loving.

"I was so scared when you fell."

The two young women held eye contact for several minutes. For Elon, it was enough just to be with Paran. When she had learned of Paran's betrothal to Kerr she had taken sick. Then, when Paran had confided her plan to slip away, Elon had improved the plan (she felt). She had taken Amos, her brother's sturdy pony, and laden him with two heavy packs filled with spare clothing and food stuffs. She had even remembered to bring seeds for planting a vegetable garden. Assuming they could find a place to farm.

Suddenly, Paran smiled. Elon liked her smile. She didn't offer it often, but when she did it was like the sun breaking free from behind a cloud.

"You know, I should have made you stay behind. But I am glad you're here."

Elon felt her heart warm. "You need me."

"That I do."