Sharon handed Carey and her friend, Maggie, two packages wrapped in cloth. She wanted them to have at least one meal not cooked over a fire or eaten icy cold. The older woman had made meat and veggie pasties for their trip. The women thanked her and placed the bundles into their saddlebags.
Sharon pulled her coat tighter around her in the chilly morning air. "I wanted to talk to you both before you left. About what you are riding into."
Carey turned and looked into Sharon's eyes and waited for her to continue.
"I'm sure feelings are running hot out there. You have a Clan in late winter, who worked hard to have enough on hand to make it until spring. Then you have a gang of young men stealing from them. Now, in this new frontier, people might be tempted to take the law into their own hands and become judge, jury, and executioner."
Carey knew all this. "Sharon, we all agreed that the leaders of communities had the right to deal with criminals their own way."
"That's true, but I want you to do me a favor. When tempers and actions go hand in hand, I want you to remind people that those young men are the product of the Old World and not this one."
Maggie shrugged, "And what does that mean?"
The older woman sighed heavily. "The children that came here had no say in it. Their folks wanted to join the party and the kids were expected to dance to the tune they chose. The older kids spent too many years learning to deal with the modern world and its expectations of them. Then the adults changed the rules. Punish them if they have to but keep it in mind that they are what we made them before even arriving here."
Carey nodded in understanding. She gave the elderly cook a peck on the cheek and got onto her horse. "We'll probably be back in about a week."
With that, the two riders headed southeast.
JP heard the sound of horses but refused to get out of her warm bed. Kiona had woken them several times during the night leaving them tired. The new parents were snuggled up together facing the cradle. From time to time either parent might wake and wanted to be able to see the baby sleeping.
The survivalist glanced at the infant as she slept, her little fingers wiggling slightly. JP grinned as she watched her daughter make faces. She was so cute. Kiona had both of her parents dark hair and eyes and showed evidence that she would be more olive-skinned than Cierra. She had to give credit to Kota. He made pretty babies.
Unable to resist any longer, JP carefully picked up the infant and brought her into the bed with them. She settled the baby onto her bare tummy and put the cover over her to keep her warm. Cierra shifted in her sleep to JP's new position and nuzzled her shoulder.
She felt herself being moved but was too content to bother protesting. Then it didn't matter anyway because she could feel and smell the other one, the one with no sweet milk scent. Still, her touch was nice and her sounds soothing. She felt such love radiating from her that she didn't care if this one had no milk. The scent of her mother reached her nose. She was close by. That was a comfort to feel so she yawned and drifted back into deep slumber.
Cierra woke slowly and stretched a little. She winced from her sore body but otherwise she felt okay. She opened her eyes and saw a sleepy little bundle laying face down on JP's tummy. Her lover had a hand protectively holding the baby in place as they both slept. A happy tear fell to her cheek at the sight of them. JP had claimed Kiona as her own and given her heart to the tiny person who joined their family.
A soft knock at the door made her look up. Since the door hadn't been locked she got to one elbow and waited for the door to open. Cierra knew it was Sharon even before the door slowly swung open and the elderly woman peeked inside.
The cook saw that Cierra was awake and tiptoed into the room, trying not to wake the baby or JP. "I brought you some breakfast," she whispered. Sharon put the tray on the flat trunk that was at the head of the bed. Sharon peeked down at the baby and grinned.
"I'll come back later to get the tray. It's a good excuse for coming to hold the baby, don't you think?" Sharon winked. Cierra chuckled softly and thanked the woman for the breakfast. Sharon tiptoed back out of the house, quietly shutting the door behind her.
Billy felt someone shaking his shoulder and he woke up, startled.
"Hey, if you want breakfast you gotta hurry. They stop serving meals in about thirty minutes."
Billy looked up at a boy about nine years old. "Come on, you and your brother are going to be awfully hungry by noon if you don't hurry." David warned him. Actually, during the winter there was always something warming in the community building but David thought the newcomers had slept in long enough.
Billy resisted the urge to smack the obnoxious kid for waking him. He threw back the covers and got out of bed. The young man groaned a little. He was still sore from riding the last few weeks. Billy bent over to grab a dirty shirt to throw at his brother to wake him up.
"Wake up, shit for brains. We gotta go get breakfast before the dining room closes."
"Fuck you," Kevin muttered and pulled his blanket over his head.
"I would suggest you watch your language," a deep voice boomed from nearby.
Both boys looked towards the towering man with a U of GA T-shirt stretched over a massive chest. He looked like he ate football players for lunch. Billy saw the black man toss a towel over his shoulder and step closer.
Larry Stanford gave the foul-mouthed teens a scowl for swearing loud enough for the ladies and children to hear. If their parents hadn't taught them better then he would.
"Show respect to those around you. We don't want to hear that filth so find another way of expressing yourselves, okay?"
Kevin looked up and nodded quickly. The man's voice had been kind but the scowl frightening. Sort of like looking at a dog bearing its teeth while wagging its tail.
For the first time in a long time the boys did something intelligent. They both said, 'Yes, sir' and apologized. Larry nodded in acceptance and moved down the hall. The brothers looked at each other with wide eyes and silently finished dressing.
Little Lisa McGaven waited all morning long for her favorite person to appear for breakfast but waited in vain. Angela had said she wouldn't come since the shaman had a baby yesterday but Lisa had still hoped Cierra would. Angela's father, Shane, walked up to her.
"What a sad little face. C'mere sweetheart, tell me what's wrong." He set her on his lap and brushed aside her wispy hair.
Lisa only shrugged sadly.
"Ah, that's how it is, eh? Well, I'm taking some of the kids fishing since it warmed up this morning. Do you want to come along?"
Lisa's eye brightened up. She loved fishing. "Can I use the blue pole?"
"Sure can," Shane smiled. They walked hand in hand out of the communal building and went to fetch everyone else.
Cyd dodged the excited children, holding up the basket of clean laundry above her head, making sure it didn't get knocked out of her hands. "Whoa there, stampede!" the tall woman bellowed. The children laughed and kept on going. Shane waved as he followed behind the kids.
She took the basket into the house and noticed Jenny and Rissy were gone. She glanced at the morning sun and headed for the kitchens, hoping it wasn't too late.
Inside she found her missing family. She came up behind Jenny and patted her fanny discretely before heading for the table to see what was left. Cyd found some bread pudding and a dish of greasy fried potatoes with onions and bacon. The tall woman looked around and saw no one else heading for the table and figured she was the last one of the morning. She took scooped the remaining food onto a plate, poured some tea, and sat down at the table with her mate.
"Didn't you just have breakfast a few hours ago?" Jenny teased. She knew Cyd could eat all day and never gain a pound.
"And your point is?" she teased back. Cyd dropped her fork. "Oh rats."
"What?" Jenny turned around and saw the two newcomers walk in. She glanced back at Cyd and chuckled. "Don't worry, Sharon saved them plates. She'll warn them to get here earlier next time.
Cyd let out a relieved breath and dug in.
Sharon watched the teens walk up to the table and look at the empty dishes. She let them stew a moment then waved them over to the counter. She took plates from the cooling ovens and handed them to the brothers. "Today I held them since you were tired out. It's always a good idea to get here early enough to get the good stuff," she hinted.
The boys got the point. If they were late tomorrow they'd go hungry. They thanked the cook and sat down.
Sharon asked her granddaughter to take the young men some hot tea. The boys smiled at the sixteen-year-old glad to see someone near their own age. She didn't pay them much attention and the teens visibly sagged after the girl walked away.
Billy watched her go into the kitchen and kiss the top of the head of a dark-haired girl.
"Oh fu--er, heck," he said aloud. Kevin looked up. "I forgot this was a dyke town. No wonder she wouldn't give us the time of day."
Kevin shrugged. "What did you expect? A herd of dancing girls all waiting here in hopes that your Royal Highness would come and rescue them?"
"Oh shut the fuck up," he growled with a glare. Kevin looked back at him smugly then his gaze lifted to look behind Billy. The older brother swallowed his food painfully and slowly turned around. Larry stood there. Billy decided he wasn't having a good day.
"I think you and I need to have a little private chat," the huge man suggested. He told Billy to follow him. Larry led him back to the long house across the stream then all the way to the back rooms. There, the teen was shown a huge pile of laundry.
"We don't hit kids here but we do expect them to show other people respect. This is the closest I'm allowed to come to washing your potty mouth out with soap." He pointed to the old style wringer washer and told him how to wash clothes. He also warned that if he did a poor job of it he'd have to start over. With that, he left the room, happy to find some other sorry slob to do the laundry. Perhaps the boys would do something else antisocial. There were some root cellars that need dug.
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