Cran Palto | Books | Raheem




Chapter 29

Night and day we search all the worlds for meaning and guidance. All the while, the answers are within, just out of reach.
Learn to extend the hands of your mind.

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

A week had gone by. An amicable truce had settled between Yigars and Trion during which they even played more chess, alternating between Imperial and Raheem variants.

Yigars and Ipsena were inseparable, helping each other with their tasks. Ipsena was learning how to care for animals, and Yigars carried stone blocks and slabs, piling them where Trion indicated, knowing he already had ideas with what to do with them.

Vaega was busy with the garden, collecting corn, rice, potatoes, Genoresis Macraw, and some wild herbs—some for cooking, some for medicine. She even picked strawberries that birds and slugs didn’t eat first.

Agra was quiet, mostly, keeping to herself in the research room or roaming the countryside, bringing back dead animals or spacecraft parts.

Vaega was walking from the creek to the gate when a call came in the distance.

Someone was shouting, “Trade, trade!”

She stopped and looked toward the old road. Between trees, she saw people—a whole caravan, coming toward her.

She rushed back to camp. At the gate, she met up with the others, and they all went to see the traders who had reached the animal pen but had not come closer.

Agra had her spear and bow. Yigars had his bow. Trion had the pistol. Ipsena and Vaega were unarmed.

The trade caravan stayed bunched up, with only three people on the outskirts of the group watching outward.

They were all very well armed, with machine pistols, assault rifles, grenades, and some rocket launchers.

Vaega and Trion approached the group. A lanky trader in a sand-tone uniform made of leather and woven fabrics gave a big smile and walked right up to them, pushing the submachine gun on a strap over his shoulder further behind his back. He raised his hand in welcome three meters from them.

“I’m Svelkon, of the Littoral Federation.”

“Hello Svelkon.” Vaega started. “I am Vaega. This is Trion.”

Svelkon nodded to Trion and returned his gaze to Vaega.

“You’ve not been here long. Less than a year?”

Vaega nodded. “It’s hard to tell how long. Time passes, and we survive.”

Svelkon’s smile deepened. “Spoken like someone who’s been on Raheem a while.”

His face returned to a pleasant yet hard façade. “We trade in slaves. We have a few other things, but nothing in large quantities.”

Vaega turned to Trion, who did not show what was on his mind.

“Do you have any clothes?” Vaega asked.

“A few hats,” Svelkon replied. Then, just as if the thought had just occurred to him, he raised his right hand, index finger pointing at the sky. “We have a tailor!”

“You mean someone who can make clothes?” Vaega asked.

“Yes, any kind of clothing, from hats and masks to pants and jackets.” Svelkon sounded excited, then turned very serious again. “But it’s 1,600 silver for this slave.”

Vaega stared at Svelkon but already knew he would not budge on the price.

Trion turned to Vaega and pulled on her arm to take a few steps back. He whispered in her ear. “What about trading the gold statuette I made for you? I’ll make you another.”

Vaega looked up at Trion. “I could never! That was your gift!”

“I know it means a lot to you, but I’m okay if you want to trade it.”

Vaega looked into Trion’s eyes, then turned to speak to Svelkon. “I’ll be right back.”

When she returned, she was holding a little leather pouch. She handed to it Svelkon and asked, “Would this be enough for the tailor?”

Svelkon peeked inside and weighed it in his right hand. “It is enough.”

He turned and called out. “Magali, bring Daroo.”

From the group, a bulky woman in combat gear flicked her hand at an old man who came slowly to stand next to Svelkon, while the woman stood behind Daroo, towering above him.

Svelkon grabbed the leather strip that dangled from the bounds on Daroo’s wrists and handed it to Vaega.

Daroo’s eyes, thin pale lights within tired folds of maroon skin beneath white eyebrows, rose to Vaega’s, then returned to staring at the ground in deference.

Trion lifted his eyes to the clear blue sky, then leveled them at Svelkon. “Better get back. A storm might be coming.”

Svelkon’s face registered the formality, and he turned away, making a sweeping motion with his right arm. The entire group of traders turned as one and began walking back the way they had come.

Once inside the gate, Vaega removed the cuffs on Daroo’s wrists and threw them in a discard pile against the palisade.

“There are no slaves here. You are free to come and go as you please.”

Daroo seemed to stand a little taller. He found his voice, as though it had been long forgotten. “Thank you. My name is Daroo.”

Vaega smiled. They were the same height. She took his shoulder in her hands. “Welcome to our little community.”

They each greeted him warmly, making him feel welcome.

Trion built a bed and set it in the cabin. By the time they shared dinner around the campfire, Daroo’s gentle presence had already become indispensable.

In the night, Vaega went to sleep in Trion’s bed, planning to kiss him, but as soon as she was warm against his skin, under the furs, fell asleep.

Next chapter: Cold

Subscribe to the mailing list to get alerts when new episodes are added.