Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chapter 2

Ok, here is chapter two.  I have about 5 chapters written already, but I will still keep putting one on a week.  Also, I got a great suggestion from my dad, which is to dress up and then take pictures of us as the characters to put with the story. So, expect some of that in the future.  I also edited the first chapter, so if you want to check that out again as well. 

Chapter 2

“Kallan!”  Kallan paused and turned around, and in consequence received a sharp rap on the top of his head.  “Wait, wait!” he said, turning around to his brothers.  “I need to talk to Owen. What do you need?”

“Stephan wants us to go hunting tomorrow.  We’ll hike up to Beartooth and see what we can find.”

“What should I take?”

“The usual. Bow, dagger, warm clothes.  The weather is getting a bit colder, and the higher we go, the colder it’ll get.”  He turned to go towards the house.  “I’m going to go pack now.”

Kallan nodded, and turned to start another bout with his brothers. 

He went inside, climbed the ladder to the loft, and went to his bed.  He pulled a worn leather pack out from under it, and then emptied it onto his bed.  He then returned the contents to the bag, making sure everything was there.  “Sharpening stone, rope, arrowheads, mitts….”  Once everything was in the pack, he thought for a moment, then rolled a wool cloak up and put it on top of the pack with twine.   He went to the wall and grabbed a pair of wool trousers and a tunic from where they hung.  He carefully laid them across the bottom of his bunk.

Kallan climbed in through the small trapdoor, and went to where his gear hung.

“I’ll be ready in a minute.”

“If you need me, I’ll be outside.”

Owen slid back down the ladder and went outside.  The sun was about to set behind the mountains, which meant that it was getting close to the third hour of the noon.  Because of the mountains, the days were short, so fire was a necessity.  He looked across the clearing.  Stephan and Baird were still working the hides.  Rory, Nai’s father, was fixing the roof of one of the cabins.  Nai and the other girls had finished kneading the bread, and now were carrying the dough in bowls across to the ovens near the hall.  Morden, one of the good hunters of the group, was repairing his pack in front of his cabin.   Several men split logs for firewood.

Owen walked across the clearing toward the hall.  He heard a voice from above him.

“Owen! Could you pass me that board?”  He looked up.  Rory was above him, fixing a roof of one of the middle sized cabins.  Owen reached down and grabbed the roughly hewn board he wanted and hefted it up.  Rory grabbed one end and pulled it onto the roof, where he fitted it carefully across the gap.  He pegged it tight, than climbed down.

“You want to help me finish?”

Owen smiled.  “Why not?” He took any chance he could to get to know Rory better, although he really had never known the family well. He glanced back toward the ovens, and then climbed the ladder.

They lifted boards onto the new rafter, one pegging them on, and the other holding them steady.  With two people working, soon the cabin was finished.

“Arthur’s family won’t have to share cabins with Morden now.”  Rory said, looking pleased at the work they had done.  He scratched his graying beard and looked it over.  “I’ll be insulating these with dried grass later, but for now, that’ll keep the weather out.”  He turned to Owen.  “Thanks for the help. It’s always good to have a helper for jobs like these.”  

Owen grinned.  “I wasn’t doing anything else. It’s my pleasure.”

He turned and started to walk away, but Rory stopped him.  “By the way, could you do me a favor?”  He pulled out the hilt and broken blade of his long knife.  “This shattered the other day while I was working on the hall. Could you fix it?”  Owen took the destroyed blade in his hands and looked it over.  “I’m not sure.”  He looked a bit concerned. He had never actually repaired a blade on his own before. “I may have to completely replace the blade. I’ll do what I can though.”  He put the hilt into his pouch.  “Thanks much, Owen!”  Said Rory, as Owen turned and walked toward the forge.

When he got there he grabbed his leather apron and sifted through the pile of scraps.  Eventually he found a good sized piece and started his fire.  He pumped the bellows, blowing air into the fire and making it hotter.  He used tongs to put the metal into the fire.  He grabbed the tongs to pull it back out, but they were hot, and he dropped the metal and tongs on the ground, sticking his hand under his arm and cursing.  

“You idiot! Always use gloves.”   He looked at the burn.  It wasn’t bad, but it hurt.  He stuck it into the bucket of water he used for cooling. Luckily, it wasn’t on his bow hand, so he could still draw the string. He slipped on some thick leather gloves and gingerly put the metal back into the fire.   

The metal began to get red after several minutes of heating, and he pulled it out, carefully shaping it with a hammer.  When it started to cool, he heated it some more, then shaped it into a blade shape.  A few times he made a mistake, and had to reheat it and beat out the deformity. Then he heated it once more, and when it was hot enough, he wrapped it in a thick piece of leather and cloth.  He tucked it under the workbench. The leather and cloth was to make sure the metal would cool slowly.  The next day, it would be softer, so he could use the stone grinder on his workbench to grind the blade.

He slipped off his apron and gloves, and then sat down to work on the old knife handle.  He carefully unscrewed the wooden handle from the tang of the broken blade, making sure not to touch his blistered hand. He squinted in the steadily decreasing light, then slid the handle off and placed the screws into a small pouch on his belt, and then put the carved wood on the bench.  He would need to use the old blade to get exactly the right shape for the tang of the new one.   If it was too big, it would not fit and he would have to make a new handle as well.  If it was too small, it would wobble whenever it was used, and would be easier to break.   

Owen walked back up to the cabin as the shadows fell over the small village.

“Owen!”  A voice said.  He looked up. Stephan walked toward him.  “Owen, tell Keegan and your family that we are going to eat in the hall, and have a meeting.”  He said. “We need to discuss the coming winter. I’ll tell everyone else.”

“I’ll tell him. See you there!”  Owen turned and walked back toward the cabin.  He met Keegan coming out. “Stephan wanted me to tell you to bring food to the hall. He wants to have a meeting with everyone.”

Keegan nodded.  “Tell mother to bring the birds she cooked and a loaf or two of bread. I am going over right now.”  Owen nodded and walked inside, relaying the message to Kaylee.

She wrapped two loaves of bread in a cloth and handed them to Kallan, who stood by the fire.  “You take these over. Help them set up the tables.”  Then she used leather mitts to pull the spit with two birds off the fire.  “You take these, Owen.”  She gave him the spit, which he grabbed with the sleeve of his shirt over his hands.  He carried them outside and toward the hall.  He pushed open the door with his back and walked in.  There was a bustle of activity.  Several men set up the two long tables on either side of the fire pit, and everyone else was holding food to put on them.  Owen looked for where to put the spit, when Nai motioned to him from the fire pit.

He walked over.  “Put it right here.”  She motioned toward one of the metal frames for holding a spit.  “There you go, that’ll keep it warm.”  She smiled sweetly. Owen blushed, hoping the dim light would hide his red face. Then he smiled a small smile, and said, “Thanks.” and moved off to help with the stumps that were used for chairs.  Kallan was doing the same, and when they finished the two began to set the wooden platters of meat on the table.  Mordent’s family had provided a large venison roast.   Rory had caught five nice fish, and Nai and her mother had made two loaves of crusty bread.  Baird, one of the only bachelors, had brought two fine large rabbits.

All the families had brought something, and it all looked delicious.  Everyone sat down at one of the tables, and Stephan opened with a prayer.

Then he lifted his hands and said, “Eat!”

No one had to be asked twice. Everyone began eating.  Food was passed back and forth along the tables, and sometimes from one table to another.  They heaped food onto the large pieces of bread they used for plates.  Everyone had a good portion of food, for if they did not eat it, it would not last long.   There were no worries about eating too much now and not having enough later, because for every bite of food they ate, they knew there were many more dried and preserved in their houses.  The thin ale made by the brewer, Wentwerth, was drunk in wooden tumblers by all the men, and some of the boys and women.  The talk was merry and the laughter was loud.

                When everyone had eaten a good amount, and people were beginning to sit back and stop eating, Stephan stood and motioned with his hands.  Everyone was quiet at once. Stephan looked around at everyone, and then said, “As you well know, winter is coming.  We have made most of the normal preparations that we make by this time of year.  But, we need to speed up our preparations. Instead of the usual time, we should aim to be ready by the end of this month. The animals already have.  The muskrats have built their lodges thick in the river, and the water birds are leaving, going south.  Although it is not very cold yet, soon, it will drop.  We need more food before his happens.”

 He glanced at Baird, who was nodding.  “We have harvested our grain, but that will not last long.  The ales that Wentwerth brews are the only effective way to preserve it for a long time.  We need meat, and we need fish.  We need food that we can dry and preserve for the winter.  I know I tell you this every year, but I believe this will be a hard winter, and a long one.  We should prepare accordingly.”

                “We have lived through many long winters,” said Wentwerth.  “But if early preparations are needed, then I will be first to help.”

                Stephan looked at him.  “Very good.  We will need all to pitch in and help.”

                “I agree with Stephan.”  said Baird.  “We should send out our hunters, Arthur, Morden, Owen, and maybe Kallan too, to get as much game as possible.”

                Rory spoke up.  “Food is not the only concern. Roofs must be checked for leaks, and insulated, and we must make sure that all the cabins are warm enough to keep out the cold. I can get to work on that tomorrow. Maybe I can get help? I will need to have enough dry grass to stuff all the chinks in the logs and to insulate the cabins.” 

                Errol, one of the men who worked on farming, stood up.  “I can cut enough of the tall meadow grass tomorrow to insulate most of the houses.  I’ll work on that.”

                Stephan nodded.  “Baird, you can catch fish.  Kaylee, Eileen, I would like you to get all the women together and work on preserving the food that the men collect, and also to work the rest of the wool.  If you can, think of some other ways to get ready for winter.  Hunters, you should probably leave early tomorrow.”  Owen looked up from the bone he had been fidgeting with.  “I’m ready.”

                Keegan, who had been tamping down the pipe-weed into his pipe, struck a match on his boot and lit it.   “Since you haven’t given me a job, I think I will go down the valley tomorrow.”  His face glowed by the light of his pipe as he added. “Moransford will have some of the supplies we need.”

                Stephan nodded. “As long as you are careful, we do need some supplies.  Just don’t give yourself away.” He looked all around at everyone. “Well, let’s clean this up and get to bed. It will be a long day tomorrow!”


© Aidan Moon 2012

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