Cran Palto | Books | Raheem
Building Defenses




Chapter 4
Building Defenses

in the palm of our life
we welcome our friends
some stay a short time
some stay much longer
but in the end
they all go away
and we are alone
in our last moment

yet our memories
carry them for us
everywhere we go

—Oratorii Olenn Bloght, supreme high priest of the Cult of Or.

The next morning, Trion walked around the cabin looking at the ground, the trees, and the various piles they had collected.

Agra saw him but said nothing as she carried debris back to camp. She has found several metal canisters for fertilizer, had cleaned them, and was using them to ferry water to the cabin, stacking them in a corner next to the meager pile of pemmican and the last of their emergency rations.

Vaega kept to herself, knees in the dirt, tending to the little berry plants she was delicately replanting along uneven rows of soil.

When Trion returned, he seemed worried, but the clench of his jaw and purposeful walk meant he had reached a decision.

Agra came to stand where Vaega and Trion were and waited for him to speak. He looked down at the dirt at his feet. When he looked up again, they saw something else in his eyes: fear.

Vaega put her hand on his arm, just above the elbow. Agra took his other hand in hers and squeezed his fingers gently. They did not speak, but let him compose his thoughts.

“I was thinking of the strangers yesterday.” He paused, as if looking inward. “They could have hurt us, and now they know we are here. They will tell others, and more will come.”

“We were fortunate,” Vaega said, the words a whisper in the air.

“What should we do,” Agra began, “next time people come?”

“What’s important is what we should do before they come,” Trion said. “I’ve been looking around the camp, and I think I can make some traps and a crude palisade.”

“Will that keep people out?” Vaega asked.

“It may make them think again and slow them down. That may give us more time,” Trion said.

“Where do you plan on erecting this barrier?” Vaega asked.

Trion looked up, took two steps back, then pointed toward the rocky butte near the cabin. “There, I’ll start.” His arm pointed further away into the forest. “To the woods, there, in a straight line.”

Agra and Vaega imagined the row of logs as their eyes followed along.

Trion turned and pointed toward the creek. “It will cut to the creek before the ground falls at the edge. Then back toward the cabin, round back, and to the butte again.”

Agra could see the fence in her mind already.

Trion pointed near the creek. “There, a corridor, or couloir, open on both ends, only wide enough for a person or an animal.” Trion took a few steps toward his imaginary fence. “Here, a stout wooden wall, shoulder-height, with firing holes, taking the corridor en enfilade — a sort of kill-box for anything that tries to come through.”

Agra stared at the ground, imagining slaughter where wildflowers now grew. “How very gory—”

Vaega looked at Agra. “How very necessary.”

Trion pointed to his right. “There, closer to the creek, a gate, lockable from the inside.” He paused a moment. “In the back, behind the cabin near the butte, another gate, out of sight, to escape.”

“So, what do you think?” Trion asked.

Vaega turned to look at Agra. “We must protect ourselves. Who knows what dangers we will face here?”

Agra thought back on the encounter with the strangers who had sold them the pemmican, and how unprepared she had felt. “Of course.”

Vaega turned to Trion. “May the walls be stout and the traps deadly.”

Trion got to work right away.

That night, with the area surrounding the cabin beginning to change, they sat and ate pemmican balls and berries by the campfire. In the darkness beneath the trees, tiny eyes blinked, red dot glowing for an instant in the underbrush. Above, stars shone in the blackest sky. There were no maps of constellations or even charts to reference, so Agra grouped bright stars and the fuzzy glow of distant galaxies into clusters that vaguely resembled shapes she knew. To the east, low over the jagged treetops, four stars formed a near-perfect rectangle. She immediately thought of the osmoled, this ubiquitous visualization panel made by the Isham Saa company that space agencies seemed to use for everything.

Looking back at the flames in the fire, she wondered aloud. “There likely isn’t a single working osmoled on this planet.”

Trion looked at her for an instant, but said nothing. He seemed sad, as if he too had let his thoughts wander back to their prior life.

“Who knows what secrets this planet holds? Maybe there are some who have built spacecrafts out of parts and left this planet again?” Vaega said.

Agra wondered whether she believed that or spoke to reassure them. “Maybe so. I hope to leave this planet and return to my work and my friends on Frizixa.”

Vaega was staring into the fire. “I don’t know if it’s even possible to leave. There doesn’t seem to be an imperial presence here at all. This is so strange. I don’t know what to make of this.”

Agra felt lost, staring at the flames as they danced and hissed into the crisp, cold air, their light casting shadows all around them. The thought of her friends and her home on Frizixa was lingering painfully, and she closed her eyes, resting her forehead on her left wrist.

Tears did not come because she heard a low growling sound and jerked her head up, on alert.

Vaega patted her left knee. “Shh. It’s Trion. He fell asleep.”

Agra looked at Trion. He had slumped into the pile of logs, eyes shut tight.

“Time for bed.”

They woke Trion up and helped him into the cabin. They did not have proper blankets but the raccoon furs had dried nicely and were quite warm. Trion slipped into sleep again after they piled the few they had on him.

Vaega put out the fire, and they locked themselves inside the cabin for the night.

Three days later, the fence, corridor, and gates were completed.

Next chapter: First Battle, First Death

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