Cran Palto | Books | Raheem




Chapter 31

A chameleon can change colors to fit in their environment. Humans too must work to fit their surroundings.

—Brukey Lerge's Dissertation on Mimicry.

Agra was out hunting, and Vaega was in the garden, kneeling in the dirt, hands in the plants.

Ipsena and Yigars were tending to the animals, and Daroo was busy cutting and sewing leather in the workshop.

Trion went to inspect the palisade, and finding nothing to build or repair, paced back and forth outside the camp. The windmill was visible above the trees. He decided to see from how far away he could still see it.

After walking three kilometers, past the old road and up a hillock covered in thorny bushes, he arrived at last at a spot from which the windmill was not visible at all. Indeed, nothing could be seen of their presence.

Trion stood still, enjoying the fresh air and sunlight on his skin. Looking about and not seeing any threat, he felt calm and happy. Freed for a moment from the endless tasks at camp, he began wandering, looking at things near and far. He’d never been in this area before, and he didn’t remember seeing it marked on Agra’s map.

The ground was dry and rocky here, with hardy bushes growing in fissures. The ground rose unevenly and then fell away to reveal a small pool of water at the bottom of a ravine.

Trion looked for a way down, but the ravine was too steep. He followed the edge, walking carefully between the shrubs and rocks that lay everywhere, until the slope reached even ground near the entrance to a narrow canyon. He remembered he was not armed and for a moment pondered whether he should go in. No one would find him here if he fell or was attacked.

“I’ll come back later.”

He had spoken aloud, as though the sound of his voice reassured him.

He looked on at the narrow canyon, wondering what lay hidden within. Something caught his eye on the floor of the canyon, in a spot with direct sunlight.

Green sparkle.

He looked around again to check for danger, then stepped over loose rocks and into the narrow.

He steadied himself by placing his left hand on the stone. Gray limestone. A speck of rock flaked out and fell in a sharp rattle that echoed between the stone walls.

“Only a little further,” he said.

His own voice sounded warped by the stone, like how he felt in the maintenance crawl space of the ship that now must lie in pieces somewhere on Raheem.

After a little while, he found what he was searching for: the rock that had glinted green. It was larger than both his fists put together, and quite heavy. One edge had been chipped, revealing a dark green, cloudy, crystalline stone trapped within an outer shell of gray limestone.

“This might be jade. I can sculpt this.”

He was aware he had spoken aloud again. He realized he felt a great loneliness in this wilderness and longed for the comfort of the camp and of Vaega and the others, but especially Vaega.

He hurried back to camp, but his walk was uneventful, and by the time he arrived, he was calm and cheerful again.

He didn’t see anyone in the garden, near the gate, or by the buildings. Everything was peaceful.

Daroo was in the workroom, working on leather clothing.

“Trion! I was waiting for you,” Daroo said.

“You need my help?”

“I want to get your measurements for clothes.”

“Oh.” He set the stone on his workbench. Daroo came with a thin leather cord with markings, and measured his limbs, his chest, his waist.

“Lift your arms.”

Trion held his arms out. “Do you know where the others went?”

Daroo made a tiny pencil note in a yellowing notebook with bent corners.

“Agra found a patch of wild cotton not too far, so they all went to harvest it.”

“I see.”

Daroo moved back to the tailoring bench and lifted a leather tunic and matching trousers with leather strips sewn at the waist and ankles.

“This is for Vaega.”

Trion could easily imagine Vaega wearing this. “Oh, wow. She will love it.”

“I added extra padding at the knee and lined the inside at the back with fur to keep her warm.” He reached to the floor and retrieved two leather loafers. “These are not the best for running, but they will keep her feet warm.” He set them down again.

“And for Agra?” Trion asked, “Are you making something too?”

“Yes. I started with this antelope leather. I’ll make her a sleeveless vest and running skirt for hunting, and chaps and a hooded fur coat for rain and cold. And these.” He pulled two thin shoes with a slit over the top of the foot, with eyelets and leather laces. “These are great for running and hunting.”

Trion was smiling, his right index and thumb holding the lobe of his right ear.

“Is there enough leather?”

Daroo motioned with his left hand to the shelves where rolls upon rolls of leather lay stacked. “We have plenty.”

Trion pointed at the clothes. “Thank you. This is amazing. We tried to make clothes, but it’s not so easy. I am glad you are here.”

Daroo smiled and half-nodded, half-bowed. “Thank you.”

After the others had returned from collecting cotton, and after Vaega had cooked over the fire Trion had built, they all sat together, eating and laughing under the nearly dark sky. Daroo and Ipsena left for a moment and returned bearing leather bundles.

Vaega looked up from behind the flames of the fire as Daroo laid the clothes on the grass.

“Vaega, these are for you.”

She came forward and stood in front of the leather clothes.

Daroo handed her the pants. “Here, put them on. Check the fit.”

She slipped her legs into the pants and stood again.

“These are in the fashion of the Littoral people. This is how you fasten the straps.”

He guided her on how to fasten the straps to cinch her waist.

Agra and Trion too had clothes ready, and they all tried them on. Then they stood around the fire while Daroo, Yigars, and Ipsena looked on, congratulating them on how nice they looked.

Vaega was about to sit down to cook more, but Trion reached for her arm. “Wait.”

She turned to face him, a puzzled smile on her lips. She half-expected him to declare their relationship to the others, so anticipation was building on her face.

Instead, he reached for a small leather pouch he had hidden by the bench when he sat and handed it to her.

As she took it, she immediately remarked: “It’s so heavy!”

He smiled and nodded for her to open it.

She opened the pouch and let what was inside fall on her right palm.

It was an orb of pure jade, polished to a sheen that reflected the flames of the fire in glowing incandescence.

“It’s so beautiful!” she exclaimed.

Without hesitation, she reached her left hand to Trion’s right shoulder and lifted her lips to his to kiss him. “Thank you! Thank you!”

“I am happy you like it,” Trion said, beaming.

Later that night, in the darkened of the cabin, Agra woke up as Yigars and Ipsena left to tend to the animals beyond the gate. She saw Daroo in his new bed, sleeping peacefully.

Trying to discern shapes in the dark, she heard Vaega in Trion’s bed murmuring sweetly to one another. Agra smiled to herself and pulled the blanket closer around her chin and neck.

Next chapter: Stone Room

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