Cran Palto | Books | Raheem
Stone Room




Chapter 32
Stone Room

The crafters may be skilled, but without harmony the survival of the group is at risk.

—Masanobu Sato, Director-General of ASA Logistics & Transportation.

Agra was restless, her sleep shallow and fitful. With a start, she woke only to find out she had woken Yigars, too. He stood from his bed, setting the blankets neatly on Ipsena, then approached Agra and sat on her bed at her side.

“Are you alright?”

Agra did not move, just stared at him in the darkness. He rearranged the furs she had scattered and tucked her in.

“Sleep, sleep,” he whispered gently.

Agra did not close her eyes. “I dreamed… It was awful. The ship, and Terga and Yuunaa. They were there, bloody and disfigured. I was there too, but I couldn’t help them. I just couldn’t. It’s as if my limbs were locked in place. Then I was in the escape pod, and they were floating in space, dead.” She closed her eyes and continued. “Then in the dream, I wasn’t on the escape pod anymore. I was still on the ship, and it was plunging toward the ground. It was shaking and burning—everything was melting and catching on fire.”

Agra opened her eyes, and they bore into Yigars’ with intensity. “Terga was still alive, bleeding, whimpering, her voice pathetic and terrible.”

Trion patted her shoulder. “It’s just a dream.”

Agra closed her eyes and nodded. “I know. Thank you.” She kept quiet and tried to sleep, pushing from her mind the vision of Terga burning to death.

She felt Yigars’ lips on her forehead and heard him whisper: “Good night, Agra.”

When he returned to his own bed, Ipsena stirred awake and, snuggling against him under the fur blankets, asked softly: “Nightmare?”

Yigars held her close against him. “Yes.”

Daroo and Trion woke up first. Vaega and the rest were still asleep, and the two dressed and left silently. Outside, they went to the kitchen where they drank some water, then went to the workroom. They remained busy without speaking for some time. Daroo was making boots for Yigars, and Trion was disassembling some component from Ipsena’s crashed pod, retrieving wiring and electronics.

A little later, Ipsena and Yigars came in.

“I’m here for the fitting,” Yigars said.

Daroo placed the half-sewn boots at his feet, kneeling to measure how tightly to make them.

“Hold your foot out.”

Yigars kept his foot up in the air while Daroo molded the leather to it, marking the surface where he would cut and drive stitches.

Trion asked, “Ipsena, do you have enough stones to build rooms with them?”

Ipsena, her hand resting on Yigars’ shoulder, nibbled the inside of her mouth, her gaze wandering to nowhere in particular. “Yes, for walls and floors.”

“I can cut beams for the roof,” Trion said.

“What about mortar, cement?”

“I’ll ask Agra if she has instructions for that.”

Trion went out immediately and saw that Agra was walking toward the gate with her bow and spear. She was wearing the clothes Daroo had made for her.

“Agra, wait!”

Agra stopped and turned toward Trion, raising her arm to shield her from the rising sun.

“Do you know anything about stone mortar?”

Agra pointed at the kitchen and adjoining research room. “Let’s go check.”

As she was shuffling through her notes and survival guides, Trion studied the map. Much more was filled out, and pieces near and far were detailed, contiguous, with points of interests dotting the whole as so many yellow daffodils on a sea of grass.

When Trion, Ipsena, Daroo, and Yigars were building the first stone room, mortar wasn’t the issue, thanks to the ultra-strong epoxy plant mixture Agra had retrieved from one of the appendices of the Imperial Herbary Guide. The real struggle was hauling the stones to the top of the wall once it reached above shoulder height.

It took three days to complete the room, which they would use as storage. It was fireproof, rainproof, and difficult to break into. Trion built shelves along the walls. They stored weapons, pemmican balls, medication, tools, and sealed clay pots full of sterilized water. They could hold out inside if needed.

Around the campfire that night, Agra told them about another crashed ship she had seen far to the south, in a long, narrow valley between two rising plateaus.

“Are the clothes I made helping you when you go out?” Daroo asked.

Agra smiled then. “Yes, very much. I don’t feel any constriction or chafing. They are comfortable when I run and warm when I am still.”

Daroo seemed to be very proud of himself. Acting as though it had just occurred to him, he plunged his hand into the large bag he carried everywhere. “Oh, I made this.” He pulled out a small brown cloth bundle and handed it to Agra, reaching out to her while seated.

She leaned over to reach and took it. “What is this?” she asked, looking at Daroo, then at the others. “Did you know about this?”

Trion smiled, but his face revealed nothing. “I had no idea.”

Agra unrolled the little bundle. It was thin, a square cloth about the size of the plate she had just set down on the bench next to her. The top two corners each had a thin leather rope attached. The fabric was soft and warm to the touch.

“What is it?”

Daroo walked closer and stood behind her. “May I?”

Agra half turned to look at him while seated, a puzzled look on her face. “Yes. Sure.”

She handed him the little cloth with the strange little ropes.

“Look to your front.”

She turned her face again to look at the fire and the faces of her friends. Vaega and Trion were seated next to one another. They were smiling, looking fine in their new leather clothes. On the bench to the right, Ipsena and Yigars were together. His hand was on her knee; her hand was on his thigh.

Agra felt Daroo reach around her face. He brought the top of the cloth across the bridge of her nose and tied the leather ropes at the back of her head.

As she watched her friends, she witnessed a transformation. Where they had been smiling and jovial, they were suddenly slack-jawed, staring at her.

Daroo stepped around her to stand to the side. He smiled admiringly. “It’s a veil, made of bison underfur.” He began. “Just like the one I made for the leader of the Wolfhead clan, Pallas Koel.”

Yigars slapped his knee. “That’s where I remember it from! The Wolfhead clan sent a delegation to our village last year!”

Vaega and Trion kept staring at Agra.

“What do you think?” She asked them.

Vaega straightened. “You appear different. Ferocious, like a beast of the field.”

Daroo was sitting again. “That’s the intended effect. It’s favored among hunters to disguise their features and not spook their prey.”

Trion turned to Daroo. “You did well. Agra looks great.”

Daroo placed his right hand on his heart and dipped his head. “Thank you.”

That night, Agra fell asleep with a smile on her lips, and no nightmare marred her rest.

Next chapter: Wolf

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