Okayyyyyyyyyyyyy okay okayyyyy. I give in. I’ll post another one. -_- *mutters about impatience* Goodness…and I thought you homeschoolers were supposed to be so well behaved…
…but then again…if you’re anything like me…ok, never mind. Let’s not go there. Heh.
Yes, I researched for this chapter. AND I am so proud of myself…just so you know. =) Even though the chapter itself is kind of like a fail. But what can I say. I spent too much time researching ancient methods of pyromaniacy. If that’s a word.
Safety In Hiding
Netya and I began to explore the cabin, which was quickly finished due to its sparse furnishings. One of the trunks contained four rough warm blankets, a large piece of green cloth, and a bag with a needle, thread, and other sewing supplies inside. There were also two suits of green, with tunics, leggings, and cloaks, and a leather quiver of arrows. The other held a metal box of strips of dried meat, a cask of water, and another metal tin containing some sort of hard bread. It also held a small bag filled with various herbs and the leaves of strange plants. Disappointed with our few discoveries, we proposed going outside into the dark to explore the stable. Thalon urged us not to leave the clearing and to come back inside as quickly as possible. We promised to be careful, and went out.
The stable was small, and warmer inside than the house. The horse stood quietly in its stall, thin moonlight falling through the small window behind it and dimly lighting the space. It nickered softly as we entered, and bent its head. Looking into its stall, I saw that its manger was filled, and the bucket in the corner was nearly brimming with water. I was about to remark on the curiousness of this when Netya whispered my name from the other side of the stall. “Alasse! Come here! Look what I’ve found,” she said, excitement rising in her soft voice.
I turned to where she stood, kneeling beside a large barrel in the corner. “What is it?”
“It’s full of vegetables and fruit,” Netya said, reaching into the barrel and pushing aside a layer of straw to show me. “Look, there’s potatoes and apples. There might be more underneath, but I can’t see well enough.”
“Wonderful,” I said, half smiling in irony. “Dinner. Maybe Thalon knows how to cook.”
“Oh Alasse. You don’t have to cook apples,” Netya said. “Besides. I’m sure we can figure something out…”
“Yea. We’ll be ok,” I said, more in an effort to convince myself than to calm the uncertain fear in Netya’s voice. Remembering our promise to Thalon, I said, “We should go back. Bring some of the apples, Netya.” Turning to leave, I stumbled over a pile of something hard and rough. Bending down to feel it in the dark, I laughed suddenly. “Oh look. Firewood. How convenient. Let’s bring some in; maybe Thalon will teach us to light a fire.”
“Yes…” Netya said, then added softly, “For wishing every day that we were not daughters of the court and for yearning to be able to go off into the forest on grand adventures, slaying dragons like the heroes, we sure don’t know very much about how to survive, do we?”
I sighed. “You’re right. But one day we will. Maybe this is our practice, hmm?”
I heard rather than saw Netya smile in the darkness. “Maybe. Come on. Let’s go in.”
Back in the cabin, Thalon seemed to have recovered a bit, and was busy tearing strips from the green fabric for a new bandage. He looked up when we entered, and seeing our arms full of firewood, he laughed. “I was beginning to think you’d never come back, and here you are bringing half the forest with you. Now I shan’t have to go out myself and gather wood. This place is better prepared than I thought…Thank you.” He smiled.
I sighed inwardly with relief. Thalon seemed to be nearly back to himself again. Depositing my armload of wood on the hearth beside the fire, I asked Thalon if he would teach us to light a fire. He nodded seriously, and setting aside the cloth, drew a small box from an inside pocket of his tunic. Opening it, he took out a piece of stone and a small square of charred cloth. Setting these aside, he drew his knife from its sheath and began shaving small pieces of wood to use as kindling. Motioning Netya and I to sit beside him, he passed the knife and the wood to us. “You try. You want to make small shavings that will catch fire easily. If you don’t have a knife with you, very small twigs will work alright, or dry bark from a birch tree. Sometimes dead pine needles will work too, but they must be completely dead and quite dry, or they just smolder. Ok?”
We nodded, and I passed his knife carefully back to him. Thalon then pushed the pile of shavings into the center of the hearth and laid the small square of charred cloth on top, explaining, “This is called tinder. It’s a piece of linen fabric that has been charred so that it will light on fire with the smallest spark.” He grinned at me, adding, “Rather like Netya. But perhaps we shouldn’t go there…” He smiled innocently at Netya, who glared back at him good-naturedly.
I laughed. “Come on, Thalon, stop insulting people and show us how to light it!”
“You’re next, Alasse,” he said, laughing, and picked up the bit of stone. “This is flint. Very good for making sparks with. Other kinds of stone can be used, but I think flint works best. You strike it with the dull edge of a knife and it makes sparks. Here, let me show you.” Thalon picked up the knife, bringing it down sharply on the flint. A shower of small sparks fell to the hearth, fizzing out on the stone. I jumped in surprise, and Thalon laughed. “Goof. It’s not going to hurt you. The sparks are so small they don’t really hurt if they touch you. Here, you try it. Hold the flint like this,” he said, putting it in my hand. “Now. Strike it hard with the dull edge of the knife.”
I tried, and a few feeble sparks drifted to the stone, extinguishing before they reached it. I looked skeptically at Thalon. “Think that would start a fire? Somehow, I doubt it…”
He laughed at me. “Try again until you get it. Hit it harder.”
I nodded and tried again, getting better results each time. When Thalon was satisfied that I knew how to do it, he took the flint and knife and passed them to Netya for her to try.
She took them, smiled mischievously at me, and struck a perfect shower of sparks the first time. I glared at her. “No fair, Netya. You’re always getting the advantage.”
She laughed. “No, Alasse. I just paid attention while you messed up.” She grinned impishly at me and handed the flint back to Thalon.
“Alright you two,” he said, nudging us to get our attention again. “Watch. Once you’ve got your kindling ready, you want to light the tender. Here.” He struck a spark onto the small piece of tinder. It stuck, glowing on the cloth, and grew slowly into a hot red ring. The kindling under the cloth began to smoke slightly, until it burst into flame. Thalon then took more shavings and laid them on top. As they were consumed by the small flame, he cut bigger pieces of kindling and arranged them carefully, creating a teepee of fire. As the kindling crackled and burned, he pushed the small blaze back in the hearth, adding bigger logs. Soon there was a bright fire merrily smoking up the chimney.
We sat before the hearth, letting the warmth of the flames comfort us for a moment. Thalon, moving to put his flint and knife away, gasped suddenly in pain, and Netya jumped up, alarmed. “Oh Thalon, we’re doing everything wrong, aren’t we? We should clean your wound.”
Thalon nodded at the bunk where he had been sitting before we came in. “Yes. I found a small pot beside the hearth that we can heat water in. It’s on the bunk. Alasse, will you get the water from the trunk please?”
I slid over to the trunk at the end of the bunk and drew out the cask of water. Prying off the lid, I poured some into the small pot Netya held. We slid the pot carefully onto the bed of coals Thalon smoothed out in the hearth. As the water heated slowly, Thalon sifted through the herbs and leaves in the small bag from the second trunk, telling us the name of the plant and the uses of each one. They all held healing properties, he said, and each was different. I tried to absorb as much of what he said as I could, but I soon became confused, mixing up the names of the plants and their uses in my head.
Finally Thalon found the one he was looking for, extracting a sprig of long thin leaves from the bag and setting them aside. “This is sage,” he said, crumbling a few of the dried leaves in his hands. “It’s good for keeping infection from starting in cuts or wounds. If we had fresh leaves they would work better, but this will have to do…” He cast the leaves into the gently steaming water and pulled the pot from the fire. Netya and I went back to the bunk and took up the strips of cloth Thalon had torn. As I turned back, I saw him crumbling another leaf into the water; but I had already closed the bag of herbs and dropped it back into the trunk behind him. I opened my mouth to ask where he had gotten it and what it was, but he interrupted me, taking the cloth from our hands and thanking us. I did not question him.
The water began to take on a faint golden-green tint, and the steam filled the cabin with a savory scent, like sunlight in autumn. I inhaled deeply and smiled. Netya took up a piece of cloth and began to gently clean Thalon’s wound with the warm water as he cringed, clenching back the pain.
When the wound was washed and bandaged, and the rent in Thalon’s tunic where the arrow had pierced it sewed and patched with another scrap of the green cloth, we began to think of food. Netya brought out the apples she had found in the stable, and we roasted them in a corner of the hearth, under a layer of warm ashes. The dried meat and bread from the trunk completed our meal. Thalon sighed, saying, “I know it’s not much. Not what you’re used to, anyway. But we haven’t many dinner options, with Pethnor’s men around. We can’t go far enough outside to find anything else, and it’s too dark.”
“It’s alright, Thalon,” Netya said, smiling at him. “It’s an adventure.”
I nodded, but the smile on my face melted as soon as I turned away. I couldn’t help thinking of the moment our ‘adventure’ had started. I had caused it.
As the darkness outside the cabin grew deeper, I blew out the lamp on the table to conserve the oil, and Thalon built up the fire, banking it against the back of the hearth. The red coals glowed hot, their light reaching nearly to the corners of the cabin with a red glow that began to seem more sinister than friendly. We each lapsed into our own thoughts, staring into the flames.