Cran Palto | Books | Raheem




Chapter 30

Clothed and fed,
Loved and sheltered.
What more can we ask for?

—Falgamuta Oriyn, Matriarch of the Blue River Clan

He was up before dawn, even before Vaega. The day before had been a blur. It was jarring to the psyche to be traded for silver, for one’s world to change so drastically.

This was not the first time, Daroo thought to himself, eyes to the dark ceiling. And it won’t be the last. He would just make the best of it, and try to make himself useful, to not be mistreated or sold so soon. The people in this place seemed good—especially Vaega. He could tell Raheem had changed them all. He also wondered whether he had seen Yigars before, perhaps when he was younger, in some camp or village somewhere.

Daroo passed his hand over his eyes slowly, feeling the soft wrinkled skin give way.

“Are you awake?”

Daroo turned his head toward the voice. It was Vaega. “I don’t sleep very much anymore.”

“You want to come help me water the plants?”

Daroo lifted himself off from under the furs and stood. He put on his leather pants, shoes, and jacket he had carefully folded down on the bench before going to bed.

Outside, Vaega walked briskly. Her skin prickled with a pre-dawn chill of the air, and Daroo could not imagine it was pleasant walking barefoot as she did.

“I can make leather shoes and boots too, not just clothes.”

Vaega stopped and turned to him. “That would be amazing. We are all afraid we won’t survive the winter without clothes. I really hope you can help us.”

Daroo stood still and admired Vaega. She could have been his daughter—if he’d been allowed to have children. “I’ll do my best. I’m happy to be here. You are all so nice to me.”

Vaega smiled. The night was still at its coldest, but sunlight was glowing up the horizon to the east.

“Let’s go get water,” Daroo said.

“Let’s.” Vaega agreed.

In a corner of his workshop, next to the tool cabinets, Trion built a tailor station powered by a small motor that ran well when the wind generator spun at full speed. To each side of the bench top, he set up shelves and racks. Daroo was pleased with the progress and set to work with some leather pieces.

“Will you make clothes with these?” Ipsena asked.

Yigars had joined her, and they were holding hands, giggling connivingly.

“Oh. To be in love. How far away my youth.” Daroo mused.

Trion, on the other side of the workroom, had not spoken in response.

During the afternoon, Daroo went around camp collecting all the leather and clothes he could find. Yigars and Ipsena came back with a leather pouch full of bison hair, at which Daroo marveled. “I will make insulated parkas with these!”

“I hope you can make warm clothes for Agra, Vaega, and Trion. They are so cold all the time,” Ipsena said.

Yigars added. “They must be able to run, to hunt.”

Daroo lifted his eyes to look at Yigars. “I will make the very best clothes on Raheem for them.”

At that moment, Vaega entered the workshop. She held a small bale of wild cotton. “This is all we have for now. When we harvest the rest, there will be more.”

Daroo took the bundle from Vaega and set it on the tailor bench.

Without a word further, Vaega left the workroom. Outside, the cold whipped between her legs, and she shivered, her teeth suddenly chattering. She walked to the kitchen, where at least it was not windy. Once inside, she stood by the stove. A pot of stew was simmering. She leaned in to absorb as much of the heat as she could.

Agra peeked from around the corner, through the entrance to her research room.

“Are you okay?”

“I am not. I am too cold.”

Agra came into the kitchen, unfastened the fur from her own back and wrapped it around Vaega’s shoulders.

“Have you eaten?”

“I will have dinner later.”

Agra hugged Vaega, covering her with her arms to warm her. “You must eat more.”

Vaega held Agra tightly. Closing her eyes, she felt the warmth seep slowly down to her bones.

“We are six now. We must conserve food.”

Agra had reached the same conclusion. “How much do we have, exactly?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t counted in some time.”

“Let me feed you. After that, we’ll count them together. Yes?”

Vaega nodded silently.

Agra pulled a chair out from behind the table and brought it forward, facing the stove. She sat Vaega on it and pulled the fur tight around her body. She went to the freezer and returned with a ration of potatoes with a dozen balls of pemmican. After heating them on the stove, using a pan she had found scouring the countryside, she fed Vaega with the wooden spoon Trion had carved.

Later, when she was cleaning the pot and the spoon, she heard Vaega stand up.

“I’ll count the food we have,” she said.

Agra hung the pot above the stove. “I’ll help you.”

Next chapter: Jade

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