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matapam
21 June 2018 @ 09:52 am

He noticed her heading his way and waited.

“I wasn’t sure you understood what Uncle Laru was saying. Do you know chemistry?” She showed him the chart.

He looked baffled, and she tried to explain the elements, and why they were arraigned as they were.

His eyes lit. “Kleos! The columns are because of common … actions? I never have seen the elements displayed this way. I make a copy?”

“Certainly. Umm, what I meant to show you were these heavy elements. They split naturally.”

“And give off invisible emissions, very harmful, and that was what your father was warning me about, with deer. I see.” His brows furrowed over that long straight nose. “Except I don’t understand how it all got all over.”

“Uncle, not father. Did you learn about the War, in school, where you came from?”

A spray of information opened in her mind, open and trusting, with no knowledge of mental shields. Apparently there had been a horrible war a century ago, and the people were still avoiding the ruins of the fallen civilization. The war had so reduced the countryside that just a few areas had people at all.

So, that was what Father Odeil was talking about. “Poisons.” What a brutal inheritance.

Adrasos shut down the mental connection. “My schooling was very different. So. The land was salted with heavy elements. Interesting. How do you know it is safe to farm here?”

“Because the vegetables grow normally. Where there is radiation, the plants, especially the gourds, grow oddly. Then one abandons the land and tries again somewhere else.”

“I see. I ought to be able . . . “ He stopped and thought. “Well. That will be something else to consider. We’ve just arrived. Father Odeil is letting us travel with him, to pick up some English. Mother is going to be a bit lost once we reach a town. This Chico the Father speaks of. In the mean time, perhaps tonight I should hunt rabbits.” He looked around. “If your uncle permits.”

“The land belongs to my mother.”

“Ah. Sorry. I shall ask her, then. Mistress Ginger?”

“Mrs. Archer would be the correct address, until she gives you permission to use her first name.”

“Indeed? Thank you . . . Miss Archer?”

“Yes. But, please, call me Cinnamon.”

“I am pleased to do so. My people do not have these family names, I think we must have to adopt some. However it is done.”

“Well, ours are frequently places or occupations, that became associated with the family. In all sorts of languages, of course. Or one of our forefathers. You might be Adrasos the Greek, and your children take the name Greekson, or even Adrason. They tend to get shortened. Or it could be Stranger, Traveler or Black. Although that wouldn’t fit your sisters at all.” Cinnamon waved to get her mother’s attention. Uncle Laru frowned and headed toward them as well.

“My father’s name was Xenocrates. A rather awkward mouthful to make a name of.”

“Xeno, perhaps? I think you can pick anything you want.”

Adrasos nodded politely to the mother. “Mrs. Archer, may I hunt rabbits on your property this evening?”

Uncle Laru scowled, but kept quiet.

“Oh, yes, they keep getting into the garden. Please kill as many as you wish.” She eyed Cinnamon. “Why don’t you show Mr. Adrasos around? The hill beyond the garden would be a good place to start.”

“Thank you,” the man flashed a bright smile at her, then switched it to Cinnamon. “Let me get my bow. I’ll be right back.”

She watched him stride down to the camping spot, then hustled up to her room to put the book away.

“I can’t believe it, you used a book to try and hook a handsome devil like that!”

Cinnamon turned long enough to glare at her cousin. “Did I beat you to one of them? Honestly Twilla, you’d better watch your step. You go too far, and then what?”

“I’ll get married. I can hook any one of them I want to.”

“You'll have no husband, and a baby on the way, more likely. Mother says men don’t marry loose women.” She cast a quick look at the door, this wasn’t something anyone should overhear.

Twilla rolled her eyes. “They all think I’m a virgin they’ve deflowered. I’ll pick one, soon enough.”

“Twilla! You didn’t actually!”

Twilla just laughed and walked downstairs and out to join the crowd out in the open space in the middle of the three farmhouses.

Cinnamon followed her and watched Adrasos as he stopped briefly to speak to the other men. They all followed him down to the wagons, where he handed out something, then they all walked back, the big man carrying a small cask. The farmers were clearing the dinner tables, cards were coming out.

Adrasos veered back toward her. “I just paid the guards. I hope I don’t regret it.”

“Oh dear. Well, so long as everyone doesn’t get drunk, it should stay friendly.”

“If they can work out the rules, if they can decide on the equivalencies of our coins and yours. The keg is half empty.” Adrasos shrugged. “Fortunately we have very little to lose, in terms of coin. And hopefully the guards have too much sense to bet their horses.”

“Oh good.” He didn’t say anything about the stepfather. “Well, let me show you my garden.”

***

Adrasos was glad to see a fat water pipe that collected water upstream of the cow pasture. It split to feed all four houses. A shallow channel from the creek also watered an extensive garden. The dusty brown soil was clearly fertile when watered.

“The rabbits dig under the fence back here, even when we bury logs and rocks.” Cinnamon let them through the gate and walked up the hill. Just shy of the crest she spotted movement and froze.

She turned and ran. Adrasos cast a quick look over the hill. Several dozen men on horseback, in several clumps, moving to each side of the little settlement. They hadn’t spotted Cinnamon, and Adrasos sank down and then followed her.

Their abrupt return caught everyone’s attention.

“Men on horses. Raiders! Just over the hill! Couple dozen of them.”

“They didn’t spot us. We have a few minutes to plan.” Adrasos switched to Greek. “Raiders. At least a serata. Go harness the horses get ready to move the wagon and carriage, I’ll negotiate our staying here.” He turned back to the farmers. “You don’t know us, but we add seven men to your fighting total. If you want us gone, decide quickly.”

Preston scowled. “Maybe they’d follow you, leave us alone.”

Cinnamon’s uncle was sweating with fear. Nodding.

Baker was shaking his head. “No. They’ll kill them, then come back and get us. No point in letting them deal with us half at a time. You Greeks bring your stuff up here.”