The Pathfinder, part 4

Kelly groaned when she woke up. Her head was about to explode and her eyeballs felt like someone had removed them, used them as ping pong balls then stuck them back inside. Bit and pieces of the previous evening came back to her. She remembered drinking lots of beer and dandelion wine that one of the other women had brewed. She moaned and tried to pull the covers over her head but they seemed stuck. Kelly rolled over and bumped into something warm and soft. Her eyes opened.

Laura was next to her, nude, and out cold. The former legal aide blinked and looked around. They had to be in Laura’s cubical because there was a woven wall around them. Kelly had never bothered with one for her own use.

Kelly looked at herself and found her own body equally unclothed. Shit. She finally got Laura into bed with her and didn’t remember a damned thing about it. She winced from her hangover and snuggled up to Laura. Kelly had a feeling she had better enjoy this while she could. The older woman would probably freak out and never speak to her again. A tear rolled down her cheek as she wrapped her arms around the slighter woman.

·        * * *

A few women woke and wandered along the tables to pick at the leftovers before Sharon tossed them into the soup pot. There was actually very little left. The party had been fun, with music, dancing, and lots of food. The barracks were a bit of a shambles but everyone would pitch in later and clean it up. It was still very early and the party had lasted until the wee hours.

Only a few of the women chose not to stay for the entire party—those with something on their minds other than small talk and dancing.

·        * * * *

Ann was such a person. She was straining against the young man who was once more thrusting into her roughly. They had gone to his teepee and spent the night going at it like weasels in heat.

Across the field Carey had also found a partner for the evening. One of the mountain dwellers had taken a shine to the hazel-eyed survivalist and taken her home. The young woman enjoyed both sexes but Carey’s appeal couldn’t be denied. She was both strong and independent and treated her like fine china. What more could a woman ask for in a lover? Sammy snuggled deeper into the larger woman’s arms and nuzzled her shoulder with a contented sigh.

Laura woke up and realized she wasn’t alone. Oh my God, what have I done? She thought in panic. Her head was throbbing and her stomach was queasy. She frantically scrambled from the bed, grabbed a bucket and promptly tossed her cookies.

She was heaving for the fourth time when a warm arm wrapped around her as the other hand held back her hair while she was sick. Once her stomach settled down she put the bucket down and began crying.

“Shhh, Laura. It’s all right. I have you,” Kelly whispered gently, keeping her in her arms.

“This isn’t right. We shouldn’t have…please, just leave,” the older woman groaned pitifully.

“No, you can’t get rid of me now. You’ve been fighting our being together for almost eight months. I’m still here and determined to share your life. After last night you don’t even have the right to say you feel nothing for me.” Kelly wasn’t going to admit she remembered nothing. Laura was down for the count and she was determined to win.

All was fair in love and war, wasn’t that the old saying?

“Damn it Laura, I love you. Nothing else matters. Not age, backgrounds nor circumstances. I know what I want and it is you! Don’t throw away both our lives because you think I’m too young for you.” Kelly’s voice softened. “I need you Laura. Without you none of this means anything. Don’t push me away anymore,” she said, her eyes swimming with tears.

Laura crumbled and fell into Kelly’s arms. “Okay you stubborn cuss, you win.”

·        * * *

The combined communities didn’t really begin stirring until nearly high noon. The children were up first, hard at play after their morning chores. The adults wandered out one by one or by couples. Everyone was slow to wake up after stuffing them selves full the night before and spending the night dancing.

The day was mild and the sun shined cheerfully. Cierra waved at a group of kids playing with bows and arrows, laughing good-naturedly when they missed the target.

“I wish I had their energy,” JP mumbled then yawned.

“Why would you want to scare me that much? I can barely keep up with you now,” Cierra teased.

“Oh listen to the old lady. What are you? Twenty-eight now? Sheesh. Practically ready for the nursing home now.”

“Oh poo on you. I’m a year younger than you are! Shall I get your shawl and cane granny?”

JP growled playfully and chased Cierra into the communal building. They giggled until they got inside. There they quickly behaved, wiping the grins off their faces, assuming innocent looks. 

Quite a few people were inside having lunch. A couple of the visitors were also there enjoying having fresh bread for the first time in months. Agatha was among them, sitting at a table with Carey and a young woman who sat close to the survivalist. Agatha looked up as the Shaman and her mate approached.

“Good day Cierra. I wanted to thank all of you once more for inviting us to your party,” the woman said graciously.

“We were happy you came,” Cierra smiled. “Feel free to use the bathhouse as well. We just have a few rules for it though. Everyone must bathe before getting into the Jacuzzi and everyone is limited to 30 minutes. We just have too many people to allow lingering for long periods of time,” she explained.

The woman looked uneasy. “I’m not sure people would be comfortable bathing as a group,” the woman said. Cierra had a glimmer as to why.

“Because of our being gay or not wanting men to join in?” she asked.

Agatha sighed. “A little of both. Perhaps the men could be assigned a separate time from the women?”

“Sure, no problem. We can set aside different time for both communities and genders if you wish.”

“I’m sorry Shaman. I feel I offended you now.”

Cierra laughed softly. “No, you haven’t. Intellectually you know we aren’t that different. We partied together last night but that certainly isn’t the same as getting naked in front of one another. Just do what is comfortable. After all, none of our people would probably be comfortable with the men hopping in while we bathe either. So don’t worry about it. We understand. But the women of your community don’t have to feel they can’t join in when ours are soaking. We just like to socialize then.”

The woman looked relieved. She didn’t want to insult their hosts.

The woman looked thoughtful. “Perhaps, to set a good example I should join you and your spouse. It would reassure many women and it would break the ice, so to speak.”

“It would be our pleasure. We usually soak around mid-afternoon.”

“Until then. I still need to organize some wood gathering. And with your permission I would like to have a few hunters go out and add to our larder. Perhaps later we could exchange food goods. The mountains have a limited variety,” she explained.

“I’m sure you’ve collected items we can’t get in the lowlands,” JP mentioned. “We could probably use a few hides too if you have any to spare.”

“Oh yes. When you mainly hunt rather than keep farm animals you tend to collect hides. We also have quite a few feathers. Tell me, could you use more metal? We found a vein of iron ore as well as panned some gold. We don’t have a black smith in our group. Perhaps we can have yours make some items for us in exchange for some raw ore?”

“That would be fine. We have a jewelry maker who has been itching to get more good metal for her hobby. See Maggie about the items you need made and Sharon for the food supplies. You might even talk to some of our other craftswomen for other items. If there’s any special items you really need let us know. We might be able to bring it at the Rendezvous,” JP told her.

“You are very kind. Thank you.” Agatha said goodbye and left.

After lunch they took a stroll outside. JP spotted an old man teaching a group of kids how to use a bow and arrows. Curious, she headed for them to listen to the lesson. He nodded at her without stopping his lecture. JP listened carefully and watched as the man draw back the arrow and released it. The arrow buried itself deeply into the straw target.

“May I see that once the lesson is over?” JP asked politely.

“Go ahead and look at it,” he said, handing it over. “This is much too large for the young ones to handle. I have smaller ones for them to practice with,” he told her.

JP looked at the handcrafted bow. She could only guess at which wood it was made of but it was strong and springy. It was beautifully carved with designs and images. Around the center of the bow was wrapped in sinew. She pulled back the bowstring but didn’t release it with a snap. She eased off the pressure until it was back into its original shape.

“Nice work,” JP commented.

“Thank you. My grandfather taught me how to make bows when I was a boy. Have you even learned to use one?” he asked. JP grinned and took a practice arrow from the quiver. She notched the arrow and pulled back. Taking a quick aim at the target she released it. It hit dead center.

“Ah, you do know how to use one. Do you use one for hunting?”

“Afraid not. All we have is rifles. We really should learn how to make them. Bullets won’t last forever.”

“True, very true. While we are here I’ll teach you how to make them. I have a few extras I can trade you as well. To make a proper bow will take nearly a year if you want it done right,” the older man told her. “By the way, my name is James Akando.”

“JP Foley. I have a feeling your bows will be in high demand. I hope you have an apprentice to learn your methods.”

“Yes. My grand nephew has an aptitude for it. Frankly, our bows might be the only high demand item we can bring to the May trade. Even gold ore won’t be such a draw to anyone who is not an artist. It was funny. W panned all that gold up and realized it was pretty much useless here. Gold is too soft for anything except making pretty and useless things. So, anyway, we do a lot of hunting and foraging but not much else.

Our group chose the mountains because the majority of us are descendants of those who lived in the mountains. We love the area but there isn’t a huge abundance of anything there. The people who settled near the sea will have a lot to trade. The third group no one is positive about. They thought they’d look around and see where they wanted to settle. Most of that group was from Canada and New England. I’m betting they headed north. Southern California would be too hot for them.”

“We probably won’t know until May. Hey, do you have a supply of arrows available too? I bet Carey and her hunting party could use whatever you can spare.”

“Sure do,” the older man said, chuckling.

“What’s so funny?” JP asked, grinning.

“Oh, it’s just that it seems your people are becoming more like Native Americans everyday. First you have a long house and now you want bows and arrows. And if my old eyes aren’t tricking me that’s a medicine bag hanging from your belt.”

JP laughed too. “Well, it was the purpose of coming here.”

“To be Indians?” the older man asked in surprise.

JP shook her head. “You didn’t let me finish. Cyd and Cierra were the first ones here. Cyd wanted to form a New Amazonia.”

“The female warriors of old.”

“Yup, but it changed fast. Having a bunch of women living together was fine but the Amazons were warriors. No, it quickly became women who just wanted away from the old society. Women who were tired of taxes, crime and lining their boss’ pockets while barely scraping out a living for themselves. Mankind screwed up everything the first time with their greed and war. This time we are hoping to revere life and community. Like your people of the past, we want to live in harmony with Mother Nature, not force it to do what we want.”

“You know what?” the elderly man said as he patted JP on her shoulder. “I refuse to call us white and red anymore. What you want and we want are identical. All of us are the same people now and using old definitions from the Old World do nothing but separate us. How about we refer to one another by regions instead? I bet the others would agree to it.”

“Hmm, we’re speaking with Agatha later. I’ll bring it up then.”

The old man cackled. “The best way to change things is to just do it young lady. I will refer to your community as the Napa Clan. It has a nice ring to it.”

JP grinned hugely. “Then your people ought to be the Sky Dancer Clan.”

“I like it!” the man said, holding out his hand. They shook.

·        * * * *

Agatha walked into the stone building on top of the hill. She was nervous but she was determined not to fail in this gesture of friendship. She saw the couple already sitting in the water and was glad to see that the water was bubbly and difficult to see through.

Cierra greeted her and pointed to the curtained area to her left. The older woman went behind the curtain and found a bench, a long shelf and a galvanize tub sitting on top of a fireplace. Its contents were steamy and soapy. She undressed, placing her clothing on the shelf. She took up a sponge and cleansed herself, the water she used dripping down and draining into a depressed area on the cement floor and into a drainage hole.

Her wet skin now felt chilled and she quickly left the curtained area and stepped down into the pool. She was grateful that the young women didn’t even glance at her while she entered but kept up their soft-spoken conversation. She sat back and the hot water came up high enough to cover her bosom. The heat felt wonderful. She sighed in pleasure and the other two women glanced at her.

“Feels good, doesn’t it?” Cierra commented.

“Oh my yes. I had forgotten how good a hot bath feels on these old bones.” The older woman sighed again and relaxed. “How in the world did you get this all set up so quickly? I counted fifteen buildings not including this one.”

“Hard work and long hours. Remember, we started on building before we even began living here. Once we built the kiln it didn’t take much time to make the adobe and tiles for the houses.”

“And the long house?”

“It took just a few weeks. It took longer to collect the materials than it did to build it. It was the wrong time of year to collect bark and it’s harder to strip off the trees in the fall. It’s better to collect bark in the spring,” JP told Agatha.

 “I think we’ll keep that in mind. I think a house like that might be better than living in teepees during the winter. Perhaps not as large though. We could make two or three smaller versions of it. I do envy your toilets though,” she chuckled. I love the idea you came up with, building them over water. I think we’ll do that this summer.”

Cierra laughed. “You get a village full of women and you just have to come up with better ideas. The guys can use any available bush most of the time.”

“Very true. Women tend to like their creature comforts. Now, I understand you had a little adventure recently. Tell me about it.”

Cierra and JP gave her the details of their last jump.

“Hmm, I think I’d still be leery of making jumps anyway. Just because the public now knows doesn’t mean the ones in power have given up. They just have to be more careful.”

JP shivered. She had thought the same thing.

“You do realize now that there will be people who want to come here as well?” The couple nodded. “Do you think you’ll bring more here?”

Cierra sighed. “Not really. We might still allow a few to join here and there but that’s it. Bringing in large groups will mean losing control of how we want society on this world to progress. Bringing them here a few at a time means they will adapt to our laws and accept them more easily.”

“I agree. We want our communities to grow slowly rather than in leaps and bounds.”

JP nodded. “I don’t know how the other two groups will react to the news but I bet they’ll think much the same as the Sky Dancer Clan.”

“The who?” Agatha asked.

The tall survivalist laughed. “Um, well, I was chatting with James Akando earlier.” She went on to explain about their conversation.

Agatha pursed her lips and thought about it. “I like it. Having a regional identity rather than a racial one seems more logical. After all, you yourselves said your children might marry into our communities and visa versa. By the way, I think one of our women might be considering remaining here. She’s taken quite a shine to one of your people. I can’t be sure of course, but it’s possible. If she does we’ll be happy to pay her adoption dowry of course.”

“I see no problem with allowing it. They do seem smitten with each other. Carey has been alone since joining our group. I’ve known her for years and she doesn’t play games with women,” JP told the leader of the Sky Dancer Clan.

“I’m glad to hear it. Sammy might have only been a member of our group for half a year but she is still part of our family. I would want her happily settled if she remained behind.” The woman looked at her hands. “Oh dear, I look like a prune. Time to dry off I think. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you my dears.”

Continued in Part 5

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