The second group of women had left for the Trading Rendezvous two weeks earlier. The only one of the group that had gone before was Doctor Pat. Doctor Sanchez wanted to finish collecting medicinal plants before the frosts hit and begin preparing them for storage.
Pat agreed and since she was familiar with the route, elected to act as guide for everyone. They were due back at any time and a lookout on the tower kept watch.
When the bell clanged during lunch, everybody gathered outside and waited for the travelers to arrive. The tired group trudged into the compound and came to a stop. Greetings and hugs were exchanged before anyone noticed the strangers with them.
JP tapped Carey on the shoulder and asked who the strangers were.
“Petitioners. They want to be adopted by the Napa Clan so they came along.”
“Did Kota come too? I don’t see him.”
“He’ll be here tomorrow along with Doctor Rutledge. One of his Clan got attacked by a mountain lion and he was treating him along with Doc Pat.”
“Is the victim okay?”
“Yeah, he got off with just a few claw marks and a bite. He was lucky the animal that attacked him was young and not full grown.”
JP nodded and joined the others in unloading the wagons and carts. She was pleased when she noticed the amount of seaweed and sea salt from the Bay Otter Clan. Preserving food had used up a large amount of their existing supplies. A few of the other items she noted were two more bows, baskets, a supply of ore, acorns, hides, and assorted items such as dream catchers and bone jewelry. The traders also brought back all the empty jars and JP and Cyd carried them back to kitchens.
Cierra greeted the newcomers, who had arrived with a wagon and several horses loaded with supplies. They must have considered asking to be adopted before they even left for the trading site.
“Hello. Carey said you wanted to be adopted into our clan?” she said, breaking the ice. The tall man smiled bashfully and placed his arm around his wife, an attractive woman about forty years of age. He had a young teen daughter with him but he silently urged her to give them privacy. She walked away and stood next to the communal building.
“Yes. I’m Samuel Martinez. This is my wife Josie. My girl is Kayla. She’s why we’re here,” he told the Shaman.
“Oh? Why is that?”
“Queen Cierra, our daughter…she’s like you. We had hoped she…well, every parent wants their child to be considered normal. I mean no insult to you or the other women here. As far as we know, none of the other girls in our clan are gay. And let’s face it, the short time we have during the trade isn’t long enough for her to get to know anyone. The only chance she has is to meet someone here. My wife and I talked it over. It matters little where we live since we are already married, but for Kayla…well, she deserves the chance for happiness too.”
“I understand. You do know it isn’t necessary for the two of you to join our village if you don’t want to. You could allow your daughter to stay with us and return to your clan if you want.” Cierra thought the parents loved their daughter very much if they were willing to move away from their home just so she could meet other girls.
“No, thank you. She’s young yet and we wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving her behind. Maybe in a few years we’d consider going back but not now.”
“You’re welcomed to remain as long as you wish. We have space in the long house,” Cierra told them as she pointed across the stream to the new building. “The quarters are a bit tight but it has the benefit of having toilets and a place to bathe. The families already living there will be happy to show you the ropes.”
Cierra waved at Paul Cooper. “Paul, this is the Martinez family. They are moving into the long house. Could you show them around?”
Paul grinned pleasantly, his hazel eyes sparkling with good humor. “I’d be happy to.” He held out his hand and shook Samuel’s hand then his wife’s. Josie motioned to her daughter to join them. The girl smiled shyly up at Cierra but didn’t speak.
“How about I take Kayla for a little tour?” she suggested. Cierra put her arm around the teen and Kayla blushed instantly. She led the girl away from the din of the unpacking and they headed for the kitchens. She knew Kim was helping her grandmother. Kim was also the only other girl Kayla’s age in the village and thought they might as well meet now.
Sharon spotted them first. “Well, who have we here? Aren’t you the sweetest thing?” the older woman commented. Kim turned around and saw Cierra standing with a girl her age with her. The girls made eye contact and shyly said hello to one another.
Cierra thought that perhaps Kim would needed a little prodding. “Kim, this is Kayla. She and her family just moved here. How about you show her around?”
Sharon’s granddaughter looked a little tongue-tied but she nodded and the two girls left the room.
“Playing matchmaker, eh?” the older woman grinned.
Cierra shrugged innocently and grinned.
Kota and Doc Pat returned a few days later than the others, weary and glad to be back. The wind walker informed Cierra that he would seek her out later that day and headed for the guest housing.
“Humph, he’s as arrogant as ever,” JP commented.
He began her training, easing her into the world of the shaman spiritual practices. Kota’s own abilities were different from hers so finding common ground was difficult. He taught her the history of his own people and hers, hoping to give her the basics before moving on to the skills she needed to master. The skills meant nothing if she didn’t know the history behind them.
For Cierra, the new knowledge was fascinating. Her grandmother had taught her a little but she had been ill her last few years of life and Cierra had forgotten most of it. His words triggered memories long forgotten and she could almost hear her Grandmother’s voice behind the tales.
Once most of the history was covered he began teaching her chants and ways to meditate, to focus on her inner self and the spirit world around her. This later was disturbing because of her past experiences with the echoes of the past she gleamed from touching things. Gradually she felt the fears lessen and learned to push aside her fears. After all, they were only whispers from the past and couldn’t harm her.
One ability the two of them discovered was one Kota didn’t share with her but was envious of. Cierra had begun her meditation and somehow shifted her focus. As she looked around her, Cierra saw everything glow and pulsate around her. She was afraid it would vanish so she refused to blink.
“What is it?” the Whitefeather Shaman asked.
“I’m not sure, but it’s cool. Everything is sort of glowing, like looking at things with a heat sensor or something.”
“Oh? And how do I appear?”
“You’re all purple and red. It’s sort of like looking through a prism. I can’t really explain it.”
“Perhaps you see a life force. How do the trees appear?”
She looked past his shoulder and looked up at the leaves of the tree nearest them.
“There’s all sorts of colors there. A lot of gold and oranges.”
JP smiled down at her wife at the dinner table, happy that she looked rested in spite of the active day. She was about to comment on how lovely Cierra looked when the newest father stood in front of them and crossed his arms. JP looked up and wondered why the man was looking at Cierra that way.
“They should have named you Speedy Gonzales.”
JP looked at her wife and saw a rueful expression on her face. She gazed back up at the man and noticed him pointing his chin at his daughter and Kim, who were sitting alone at a table. The young girls looked smitten with one another. JP now understood the comment and grinned.
“Been playing matchmaker again?” she commented with a droll tone.
“I do not play matchmaker.” Cierra paused then winked. “I’m very serious when I get people together, really.”
Samuel chuckled and walked away.
Within a week, the girls were asking for permission to move into the barracks. Sharon was quite willing but Kayla’s parents were less than enthusiastic about the idea. Sharon asked to speak with them privately and they went to her home. She shut the door behind them and sat down. She pointed to the bed and asked them to sit.
She looked at their serious faces and chuckled. “Ah, the trials of being a parent. I remember them well. Now, I want to give you a piece of advice. You can do what you will with it. They are young women and whether or not you give them permission to share space in the barracks they will do what they want anyway.”
Samuel and Josie looked stubborn and Sharon sighed. “Do you think denying your daughter permission to live in the barracks will stop her and Kim from having sex? I sure don’t. I’m a realist and I know how young hormones work. They’ll do it in the haystacks if they have to.”
The parents looked resigned but said nothing. “Well, it’s not like you have to worry about them coming home and telling you one of them is pregnant,” the older woman chuckled. “You can’t protect them forever. Even if the relationship doesn’t last, it’s their business.”
Josie spoke up, her eyes worried. “I don’t want my daughter hurt. She’s only fifteen.”
“And you think I want my granddaughter to walk away with a broken heart? Heavens no. But they have to take life on the chin and deal with it. Here on Mother Earth, kids will grow up faster. The two of you will be the very first parents in this village to deal with their child wanting independence. You may as well think it over because how you react will influence others. That’s all I have to say. Think it over, alright?”
The couple stood up and left.
The next day the two girls took their possessions to the women’s barracks and moved in. A place had been cleared for them and a few of the single women had shifted in order for them to share one space at the wall. Sharon gave them a woven set of curtains as a housewarming gift and helped them install the heavy barriers.
Samuel and Josie treated Kim kindly as though she was their daughter-in-law. They had chosen to allow their only child to make her own decisions and treat her as an adult. It had been difficult to let go but as parents they had already made the choice of moving to the Napa Clan village in order for her to find a mate. They couldn’t make a fuss just because she chose one quickly.
Cierra and the council knew that they would probably be building another long house the following year for the males. The oldest of the boys was already eleven and would want his independence. The other boys would soon follow. Maybe during the winter they could begin firing the pipes. The food preparations were nearly finished and they could collect clay before the ground began hardening from the cold.
Kelly brought up making another trip to the Old World. She wanted to check on the website and see if Jim and Mabel had other supplies for them. The trading was going well. They were able to get their hands on a few things they really needed in exchange for the items they or the other Clans made.
JP stiffened but didn’t object, which was a huge step for her. Cierra squeezed her hand while they made plans for the next jump.
· * * *
Kelly activated the prepaid cell phone and contacted Jim through his prepaid phone. It had been the only way they could avoid the authorities from tracking their movements. They knew Jim and Mabel’s home phones were probably monitored and they didn’t want to put them in any more danger than necessary.
Jim answered on the third ring and merely asked where they were. Kelly told him and he promised to be there in about fifteen minutes and hung up. The familiar beat up van arrived and the colonists took turns hugging the bearded man.
“It’s good to see all of you. Let’s get in the van before anyone sees us.”
“Are you sure it’s not bugged?” Robbie asked.
“Well, as of two days ago I knew it was clean. One of my buddies swept it with his gear and said nothing could be found. He goes over it every week and so far we haven’t found anything.”
The blonde nodded, satisfied for now. It was possible that the van could be carrying new and more sophisticated devices but they’d have to risk it. They couldn’t go to his home any more or to his business. Both might be under surveillance. The women loaded the craft items into the van and joined their friend in the vehicle.
Jim took them to a motel a few blocks away and booked a room alone, then drove to the distant side that he had requested and everyone got out. Kelly plugged in her laptop and turned it on while the others ordered a couple of pizzas and cans of soda. Jim contacted one of his friends who would bring along the boxes of supplies for the colony.
“I think I got everything you all wanted. Do you have a list for next time?”
JP handed Jim a parchment and looked away, feeling anxious. She hated returning to the Old World and hoped the time would come when they stopped visiting it altogether.
Kelly checked over the email and asked Jim about one of the files.
“The Pali—whatevers? Yeah, something about wanting to visit Mother earth for some sort of expedition. I ignored it.”
“Paleontologists. They mentioned some of my photos on our site. Seems I took pictures of animals that are extinct and they want to see them for themselves.”
Robbie perked up and looked away from her spot near the door where she was watching for the pizza deliveryman. “Extinct? When did you take those pictures?”
Kelly shrugged. “I take lots of pictures. I just put a few up last time. Want to see?”
The women gathered around the laptop and looked at the photos. Most of them were of native animals they were familiar with but two of them made JP gasp.
“That’s a horse that’s extinct and that’s the giant armadillo’s smaller cousin. Just a tiny thing about 500 pounds.”
“Are you sure they’re extinct? I just thought they were interesting and took their pictures. I know some animals would be likely to survive the ice age since modern man didn’t arrive and hunt them. I just never thought anyone would get excited about it. This guy wants to bring a team of people in and see what else is out there.”
“And probably bag himself some trophies. No way!” JP growled. She might not work for Game and Fish anymore but her first instinct was to protect the wildlife.
“We can set the rules. Like they can’t bring guns along. I bet the Whitefeather Clan would be happy to escort them around while they took pictures and such,” Cierra suggested.
“Oh hell, just what we need, tourists. Gonna sell tickets next?” JP was getting angry.
Cierra crossed her arms, trying not to get angry herself. “As I recall, you mentioned bringing back mating pairs of endangered species to repopulate native ones the very first time you visited Mother Earth.”
JP gritted her teeth, knowing her spouse was correct, but damn it, things were different now. Didn’t she see that? “That’s different. They would be free. I believe if the scientists got hold of live species they’d take them back and put them in zoos. I hate zoos, the very concept drives me insane.”
Cierra understood. “Okay, no live captures either. It will be a photo and film safari or not at all. They can collect bones and other samples but nothing live. Is that acceptable sweetheart?”
JP sighed. “Yeah. I can live with that.”
The shaman turned to Kelly and told her to email the scientists. If they were serious, they could meet them next spring when the temperatures made traveling more comfortable. Kelly nodded and sent off the mail.
Continued in Part 7
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