The Pathfinder, part 6

Author's Note: I wonder if readers have realized there isn't any plot and my characters are just wandering around?

 

"Pammy! I wanna hug!" the little girl demanded of the British woman. Pam scooped up Carla's little girl and gave her a warm hug.

"I'll miss you munchkin," the woman told Angie as she gave her cheek several kisses. The girl had formed quite an attachment for the black woman and was often her little helper around the village.

"I don't want you to go!" the girl sniffled. "Stay here?" she asked with huge, sad green eyes.

"It's just for a few weeks honey, I promise. You be good for everyone. Eva and I will be back before you know it." Pam brushed aside a few strands of strawberry blonde hair from the girl's eyes and tapped the tip of her nose gently. The little girl still looked sad but nodded before wrapping her small arms around Pam's neck.

The curvy woman put the child back on the ground and told the girl goodbye before mounting her horse. She extended her arm and helped Eva mount up behind her.

Several minutes later the group began the journey Southeast, waving goodbye to the ones remaining behind.

The trip would take two days because of the wagons containing the trade goods. They held jars of preserved food packed in crates and cushioned with straw, blankets, artistic items, herbs, medicinal salves and teas, small bolts of cloth made of flax, leather goods made by Lisa, fire-starting kits made by Maggie, homemade soap, bags of grain, and several barrels of homemade beer. It was flat beer since they didn't have the capability of pressurizing it but beer never the less.

Since the trip wasn't a race they stopped often to allow the women to stretch and find handy bushes. They hoped no one would be very sore by the end of the trip but brought along salves just in case.

By the end of the first day they had covered about fourteen miles and would probably reach the trading site just after noon the next day. Everyone gratefully stopped for the evening and began setting up camp. Several groups were formed to collect firewood, cooking, fetching water, and setting up tents.

After the cooking fires had been started Sharon unloaded a crock she had of dried beans soaking in water to soften. She took a cast iron kettle and hooked it over the fire before pouring the beans into the pot. She took out several boxes of preserved foods and added tomatoes, onions, garlic and a little honey to sweeten the mixture. Once that began warming over the fire she put on kettles of water to heat for tea. She had brought along bread that had been baked the night before and some well-hung venison that had been packed in some ice. She put it on spits and soon the air was filled with the scents of dinner.

Once the meat was finished Sharon planned on cooking potatoes so they would be ready to fry in the morning for breakfast along with the remaining meat.

"Hey, look what I found, Sharon," Eva said as she placed a basket of greenery next to the cook.

"Ohhh, Miner's Lettuce," the cook said, examining the plants. The plants weren't actually lettuce plants, but round leaves that tasted mildly like spinach. "I can blanch them tonight for dinner. I didn't think you'd find them at this altitude."

"Me either. Maybe it gets cool enough in this area for them to spread," Eva shrugged. She headed back to the woody area to collect firewood.

Much later the sun was nearly down and the women sat around the campfires. Carrie brought along her guitar and everyone joined in with the lively songs when they could remember the words. Carrie finished her song and put aside the instrument.

"I don't know about anyone else but I'm going to find a bush before it gets too dark," she grinned, standing up. Most of them thought it a good idea as well. They had gotten accustomed to having flow toilets and not having to find handy bushes in the dark.

Women came back to came a little while later and began crawling into their tents. Everyone was paired up in smaller tents and the large tents would be used at the trade site.

Cierra snuggled up to JP and grinned. "This brings back memories."

JP hummed in agreement and stroked her lover's back. They drifted off to sleep within moments.

The smell of cooking food and bird songs woke them the next morning.

"Ugh, Sharon must have an alarm clock in her head. She's always the first one awake," JP commented as she stretched beneath her blanket. Cierra didn't reply. She stretched until she could get her good morning kiss and then plopped back onto JP's chest.

JP snickered. "Gonna stay here until your bladder forces you up?"

"Mmm hmmm," the smaller woman mumbled sleepily. "Warm."

They stayed where they were until the sounds of others getting up and talking could be heard. They stayed in their tent and refused to be lured out. A short time later they got the hint that they were the last ones in bed when Pam could be heard speaking.

"Here sweetness, they obviously aren't hungry so you go ahead and eat their share."

JP knew they were being tweaked but still hollered through the flap. "Oh no you don't!" the other women laughed as Cierra and JP finally crawled out of their tent.

"Go pee and get back here. Breakfast will still be waiting for you when you're finished," Sharon ordered.

"Yes ma'am," JP answered and took her mate by her hand as they walked outside of the camp area.

When they returned the older woman handed them plates of fried potatoes, bread, a fat sausage, and unbelievingly, sunny side up eggs.

"Where'd the eggs come from? You smuggle out some chickens?" JP asked as she sprinkled pepper and salt onto her eggs.

"Nope, found a reference in one of those books Cierra brought back and managed to brings some along for breakfast for today and tomorrow. After that we're S.O.L."

"Mmm, these are great Sharon. Campfires always seem to add a certain something to food," Cierra commented as she dunked her bread into the egg yolks.

"Yup, ashes and smoke," one of the women teased.

"My own special sauce," Sharon cackled. "Now hurry up and eat so we can pack up and get going," she reminded everyone. An hour later they had crawled into the wagons and mounted their horses.

As predicted, they saw smoke rising lazily just after midday and headed for it. The first arrivals would be in charge of finding the best location for the gathering and set up camp. Everyone else would join them there.

Cierra spotted members of the Sky Dancer Clan and waved.

Agatha squealed in delight and rushed forward to greet them.

"It's good to see you all again!" she said, shaking hands and smiling hugely.

"Likewise. Which other group is here?" JP asked.

"The ones from the ocean. They decided on being called the Bay Otter Clan. And guess what?" the older woman said with a grin, "They found your original jump site! They could see your footprints and everything! They made a shrine out of it and built a house around it so the prints would be preserved. They even sprayed them with sealer so they'd hold their shape!"

Cierra blushed; amazed they had thought to do such a thing. JP grinned and rubbed her back. She knew that the spot would be important to future generations. It was like Plymouth Rock in the Old World.

Agatha saw the blush and changed the subject. "We thought you'd like that spot over there for your camp. When the last group gets here we'll put them over there," she said, pointing towards the south.

"Any clue when they might arrive?" one of Cierra's people asked.

"Nope. We're hoping it's soon. Anyway, we'll all enjoy spending time together regardless. Our group was the first ones here and we chose this spot because of the river. We built simple toilets over it with hides rather than wooden buildings. We thought they would be better than a few hundred people using bushes for their business," the woman commented.

"Now, why don't you begin setting up your camp? We have a huge supply of firewood gathered over there," she said, pointing at the stack of branches, "and then relax. I'm sure people will wander over to chat soon enough."

The large tents were set up for the single women and the couples set up their private tents nearby. Sharon decided that since she would be cooking in the same spot for at least a week then she'd set it up properly. She had one of the younger women go looking for flat stones while another hammered in metal rods for hanging kettles for the cook. Sharon brought out a heavy metal grate to place over the fire pit for frying. The woman returned with several flat stones to use as resting pads for the cookware and the older woman set them where she wanted. She nodded in satisfaction then lit the fire.

"JP," Sharon said with authority. "If you don't want to eat nothing but veggies and beans for the next week then you had better get out there and hunt something down," she warned. The survivalist grinned and fetched her bow and quiver of arrows. Pam decided that fish ought to be on the menu as well and grabbed a hatchet so she could build a fish fence in the small river. She would find a good spot so everyone could benefit from the catch.

Another woman grabbed her string and knife to set up some snares in the woods. She had a hankering for some fried rabbit. Sharon grinned as people rushed to do her bidding. Sometimes it was nice to be in charge.

·      * * * *

"You know, we ought to do this twice a year, not just once," one of the Bay Otter Clan mentioned. "We all have different harvests each fall that would be best fresh. The animals are at their fattest then too."

"Oh, I think we could do that if everyone wants to. I see no problem as long as it's just after harvest and before winter," Agatha added. There were many that agreed but they would wait until the last group arrived to discuss the details.

Early the next morning the final group came from the north and strolled into the campgrounds. Everyone greeted them as they got off their wagons and joined the chatting group by the fire.

"Take a load off and have some tea," one of men invited. He was leaning back and puffing on a pipe.

"Thanks, something warm sounds really good. We knew we were close and didn't even bother making breakfast."

Sharon pointed to the pot near their fire. "Help yourself. There's some deer and barely soup simmering."

"You're a doll. Thanks," the man said and left to pass the word. His people stopped for a quick meal before unloading and setting up their tents. He returned with a bowl and sat down to join the conversation while he ate.

"I'm Tate Redhorse, Ralph Whitefeather's nephew," he mentioned.

"Oh, how is he? I didn't see him arrive with your group," Cierra asked.

"My uncle passed away this winter. He died in his sleep."

Cierra's face showed her sorrow. "I'm so sorry for your loss, Tate. He was a nice man."

"Yes, he was. But he died quite happy. He saw his people living as they once did and was content. We buried him with his weapons and pipe facing east, overlooking the lake. I'm sure his spirit is happy," he said, his voice gentle.

* * * *

The next day the groups began placing their trade goods on leather hides for all to see. It would be up to the leaders of each Clan (Ralph's group chose Whitefeather Clan in his honor) to do the haggling since all groups shared their resources. Individual 'wealth' was avoided to prevent greed for one's self. Either the community was rich in goods or no one was.

The Sky Dancer Clan brought hides, antlers, feathers, gold, iron ore, bows and arrows, hand carved pipes, and pine nuts.

From the Whitefeather Clan they brought pottery, woven baskets, hemp ropes and grasses, semi-precious stones, acorns, Yamp roots, hardwood chips for smoking meats, and surprisingly, paper. Not the fancy white modern paper, but something that resembled papyrus. Cierra was told it was made from cattails of all things.

The Bay Otter Clan brought along dried fish, sea salt, dried seaweed, nets, whale oil for lamps (They had to reassure the other Clans that the whale had died when it beached itself) whalebone, insect repellant made from laurel leaves, shampoo made from the soap plants, and Indian potatoes.

Since the Napa Clan was the only farming community so they naturally brought more food than the others but were very grateful to get their hands on the salt and seaweed. They needed the vitamins and iodine they contained. The coastal dwellers promised to bring more for everyone the next time.

The trading was finished but it was also a social event. They would spend several days just visiting before leaving. There was also the issue of asking some of the male members to help out women from the lesbian community who wanted children.

Tate found himself blushing like a schoolboy when Pam approached him. She had thought him quite handsome and gently mannered. Eva though he was sweet as well and approved her choice. All they needed was his willingness to help out. Tate spoke with his wife about the request and was surprised that she agreed. He had thought she'd be angry about it since two women wanted him to father a child on one of them.

His wife grinned at his surprised look. "Sweetheart, I take it as a complement to my taste in husbands," she winked and patted his cheek. "Besides, you aren't exactly having sex with her, are you? The doctor keeps care of that detail, so go for it."

Cierra had thought about it as well since JP had already agreed to their raising kids with her. Her only problem was none of the available men caught her eye. She sighed and took a stroll, allowing her thoughts to wander as well.

It wasn't until something tickled at her subconscious awareness that she looked around. She spotted a man she hadn't seen before leaning against a tree as he watched her gravely. He gave off an aura of power, sending chills along her spine.

"Who are you?" she asked somewhat rudely. He smiled slightly and moved away from the tree, walking towards her slowly.

"I'm Kota, the wind walker, Shaman to the Whitefeather Clan," he answered simply. "And you are the Shaman of the Napa Clan."

The term wind walker made her shiver once more. It seemed so familiar. Before a question could form on her lips, a sudden breeze sprang up causing leaves and dust to scatter around her. She closed her eyes in reflex then opened them again once the breeze ended as quickly as it began. She returned her attention to Kota but he was gone and no where in sight.

To Be Continued

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