Chapter 11: Welcome to the Village
Something grabbed my wrist and I started and looked to the left to see Fire lounging against the door frame with her hand on mine. Rod stopped and looked back as my hand pulled on his. But a man with dark skin was pulling him away from me.
“Let go of him sweetie. Ya both have work ta do today ta pay for ya staying in da village.” She was right. But why couldn’t we work together? I would ask her later.
I let go of his hand, “See you later Rod…”
“I love you dear Elizabeth!” He called back to me as he was led away.
And then he was gone, out of the building. “This place is only temporary lodging for ya and ye friends. Ima offer ya a room in my home if ya want to stay and live in da village. Watcha say to that?”
I was stunned speechless for a second. She wanted me to live in her house? Why was she being so kind?” I umm, I don’t know what to say.”
“Say yes. Me man Carter wona mind no bit. He’s a good man. Just till ya and ye man build ye house. Or ya and ye brother if ya dona want to move in with ye man yet. We’d all help ya build if ya wanted to stay. I think most everyone here has taken a likin to ya newcomers.” Her lilting accent was hard to understand at points, but I understood most of what she said. If we wanted to stay we had to have a house. I could stay with her till we built a house and the village would help us build it.
For a second my mission flashed through my head, but I couldn’t go back to the city. I could survive passing through once. Actually, from the readings we’d taken we could have passed through without the meds and been fine, but two times was pushing it, and three times was too much. If I made the trek back here after going to the village I would die unless someone invented a cure to radiation before then which I highly doubted. “I… then yes. I would love to come live in your home and thank you.”
Before I could say anything else another fit of coughing ripped through my body. These coughs hurt. Damn it hurt be sick.
“Are ya ok? That was no weak cough.” I looked over at Fire and nodded trying to keep myself from coughing again, but it didn’t help. I just started coughing again.
Fire was there with her hand on my shoulder as I got control of my coughing. “Ya sure ya ok? If ya sick ya can get relieved from ya work.”
“No, I’m fine. Thanks though. So, what am I doing today? I want to do my fair share to help the village since you kindly took me in.” I smiled at Fire and hoped I wasn’t giving her the wrong message. I liked her as a person, but I didn’t like her as anything more.
“Ye to learn with Sandy ‘bout fighting and horse care for da first half of da day, then for da second ya’ve been assigned to learn weavin n’ tannin a hide with me. Basically ya’ve been assigned as a clothing maker.” She smiled as if this was great but I had no clue how to make clothing. In fact I was a fairly useless person if you didn’t want something cleaned or for me to navigate somewhere. Guess I would learn now.
“What about Kevin and Rod? What are they assigned to?” I couldn’t help but be curious as to what random tasks they had been assigned.
“Ya brother’s been assigned as a hunter n’ a blacksmith’ ‘prentice, n’ ya man a school teacher and barn cleaner in consideration of his pale skin.” She looked like she was waiting for me to have a negative reaction, but I just nodded.
I would have to tease him about being demoted to barn cleaner later, but he would like being a teacher. In fact he was a good teacher. “I actually think they’ll enjoy most of their jobs, except barn cleaning. Why am I assigned to learn fighting by the way?”
She looked at me like I was crazy, “All our people know ta fight n’ what ta do with da horse, but ya, ya have no clue and ya own one! Sandy said she’d teach ya even though she thinks ye hopeless. Once she proclaims ya satisfactory ya’ll be mine all day in clothin.”
Great. An entire society where everyone was expected to learn how to fight. What could it be for? Were there enemy villages out there? I let the thought drift away as I followed Fire over to the barn where Sandy was standing with her hands on her hips.
“What are ya doin standin there like a damn idiot? Get ya butt over here now!” I was surprised by how angry Sandy seemed, and I turned back toward Fire looking for help, but she shoved me toward Sandy.
“Go, ya’ll be fine.” I hesitantly went forward. I never asked to learn to fight. In fact I never really cared to learn how. Oh, I had dreamed about killing guards from time to time and that sort of thing… but not actually learning to fight. That was just something that a woman didn’t learn to do.
Sandy grew impatient waiting for me and walked over and grabbed my arm and dragged me to the place where she had been waiting. “Today is archery n’ hand ta hand combat. I’m starting ya with archery because that is da easiest thing to learn, but it’ll still take a while till ya get good. Now I want ya to go run four laps around da village. We’ll do this each day before we train to get ya in shape.”
I stood there for a second looking at her like she was crazy. “GO! Run!” I jumped and started running. It was different running in boots from being barefoot. I wasn’t sure if it was better or worse. I ran at the jog I was used to when running with the dishonored from place to place.
“Run faster! Ya cana outrun someone comin at ya with a sword at this pace! We’re training to be soldiers, not lazy good for nothin joggers!” I glared at her. This was the pace I was running and if she didn’t like it she would have to deal with it because I wasn’t dishonored anymore.
“Do ya wana die? Do ya no care for ye life? I can take it from ya if ya no wana live!” It couldn’t hurt me to run harder… but I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of running harder.
She kept yelling at me the whole time, and I was tempted to walk, but I decided against it. I did kind of want to stay in the shape that being dishonored had forced me into, and all the easy living in the wall was telling on me. It became harder and my breathing became rougher by the second lap.
I physically became unable to run faster no matter how much Sandy the bossy woman yelled at me. And she didn’t carry the fear that a guard would put into my legs. She wouldn’t kill me. She wouldn’t hurt me.
When we finally finished I stood there at the gate bending over and panting in the background I could hear Sandy yelling, “Walk it out! Don’t stop! Deep breaths! Hands over ya head!”
I was already sweating heavily in my leather gear. I didn’t move and just stayed there trying to get breath in my body. Sandy grabbed me and pulled me upright and lifted my hands up and said calmer and nicer, “This will help ya recover faster. Dona lean down like that. Come on, let’s go ta da archery range.”
How could she sound like she hadn’t even been running? She led me over to a place with a line and a distance away hay bales with targets pointed on it. I guess I didn’t get a gun till I proved myself in archery or something? “Why don’t I get to shoot a gun?”
Sandy looked at me like I was crazy, “Only da sharpshooters geta gun. Da ammo is too rare. Now, pick a bow from the bin over there.”
I looked over where she was pointing and sure enough there was a lean to shed. The bows must be in there. I walked in and found the tall wooden bin with bows. I found a wooden bow that was just slightly shorter than me.
I jumped when a hand touched my shoulder and looked to see Sandy standing behind me. “Good choice. That’s a recurve bow n’ its draw weight is good for ya.”
She passed me a string and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. She also passed me a quiver with arrows in it and a piece of leather with straps. Then she grabbed similar equipment but her bow came from a special case and was even taller than my own. She stroked it for a second, “This beauty is normally a man’s bow, but I’ve trained till I could draw it.”
I had no clue what she was talking about. “Put the wrist guard on ya left arm using da straps n’ go ahead n’ put da quiver on ye back by putting da strap over one arm n’ under da other,” That’s what the leather with straps was for! I then followed her directions and put the quiver with it’s arrows on my back. “Now we need ta string da bow, put the one loop around da bottom and put your legs on either side of da bow and pull da string up like this.”
The bottom of the bow was braced between her legs and she pulled up on the string and pushed down on the top till they met and the bow was strung. Her actions were easier to understand than her words. She strung her bow so easily. It took me a couple tries, but eventually it was strung.
“Good, now let’s go back out ta de range n’ I’ll teach ya ta draw da bow n’ we’ll shoot till ya arm’s tired. Just remember dona walk on da range till we both have no arrows left.” She sounded as if she thought I had shot one of these things before. Maybe she just couldn’t imagine someone not knowing how to shoot a bow.
I followed her out to the range, watched her draw and shoot her bow perfectly and didn’t pay attention to her long drawn out explanation. It made no sense, and watching her easily pull the string back and release looked easy enough.
I lifted my own bow and drew it, and she slapped my arm, “Dona draw without a arrow! It’s bad for ya bow to release without a arrow!” I slowly brought the bow back to its original position.
I pulled an arrow from the quiver on my back and clumsily put it on the arrow rest above my hand and against the string.
She was standing next to me and suddenly she grabbed me and turned me right, “Face right, feet a shoulder’s width apart, now look left at the target. Better.”
Now my position looked like hers when she had demonstrated. I lifted the bow again and started to draw carefully holding the arrow in my fingers like she had done and she was there guiding my hand farther back. Then my hand was too far back. “Just bring ya hand ta ya lips. When ya release, follow through by bringin ya hand back.”
I released, “Ouch! That thing hurt!” The string hurt my arm!
And Sandy was laughing. I looked at my arrow and saw it lying in the ground at my feet. “What did I do wrong; I did what you told me to.”
She started laughing even harder so I had to wait till she calmed down, “Ya really are a beginner, didna wanna believe it… but…” She pointed down at the arrow on the ground as if it spoke for itself.
“Now, pick it, up, and ya try again. This time, donna put ya arm holdin da bow in da way of da string n’ donna release the arrow before ya release the string. Ya release em at da same time, like this!”
She was suddenly standing correctly and drawing back her string with an arrow. I watched her hand carefully this time instead of watching the arrow. She released and drew back her hand afterwards in one smooth motion. I looked down range and saw the arrow perfectly in the center of the target. Apparently, the peppy looking blonde lady wasn’t only a super fit fighter type, she was a good shot. Why did she have to be so good at everything? Was this all she did? If she wanted children why was she so desperate to be a fighter anyway?
“Now, ya turn,” I wasn’t sure if she had said something before that, but I hoped she hadn’t. I tried again, and this time I managed to get a bow at the base of the target.
“Better. Now we practice.” She started shooting off arrow after arrow, and then would wait while I loaded up each and every arrow and carefully drew it back slowly focusing on my form and fired a shaky shot that never seemed to go near my target.
“If ya shoot faster ya arm’s wonna get so tired.” She spoke casually as if it was the easiest thing in the world to do, but I couldn’t shoot faster. Archery was a lot harder than it looked.
I stopped counting how many times we retrieved and shot arrows. Eventually my arm got so tired I simply couldn’t draw the string back anymore, “Umm, Sandy… Can we stop? I can’t draw the string back anymore…”
She looked at me sharply then nodded, “Unstring ya bow, collect ya arrows, and leave ya gear in da shed. Jog over ta where we were before we ran and I’ll meet ya there.”
Her bow was up before mine and she was gone before I even finished collecting my arrows. I struggled getting the string off and finally ended up using a method similar to how I had gotten the string off. I put all the gear up almost forgetting the wrist guard and remembering it at the last second. Once all my gear was up I ran over to Sandy only to find Fire there and Sandy glaring at her.
“Go work clothin! Die if a battle ever comes! I donna care. Tomorrow no archery. Tomorrow w’ll work on hand to hand combat and then I’ll teach ya horse care, and ya’ll be expected ta look after ya own beast after that.” After Sandy finished yelling she stormed away.
“Did I do something wrong…?” I asked Fire.
Fire gave a small and yet joyful sounding laugh that came from her belly, “Na, Sandy thinks everythin’s bout fightin. Methinks that’s why she donna carry no child. Now, come, we have work ta do.”
I followed after her and found myself in a room with people doing different tasks with yarn or fabric or leather or simply a big pile of wool becoming yarn.
“Anna’s sick today, and we need ya on da loom. Clothin’s what we trade with da other villages so we have ta keep producin’. So today all ya’ll learn is da loom and weaving, which is fairly easy.” She took me over to this giant wooden thing with tons of string up and down in it.
She explained the loom to me, and it didn’t seem that hard. I just had to keep some levers moving and watch the yarn to make sure it didn’t get tangled and to add more yarn before it ran out. I happily sat down at the bench at the loom and started working with Fire helping me at first. Eventually I was able to do it completely by myself.
It was boring work, but at least I wasn’t being tortured by Sandy.