Back to School
Leonti eyed his three logs. Deadfall, held off the ground, they'd dried without rotting.
Nice and lightweight.
"Now all I need is to hope they don't sop up water like a sponge."
"And to find an hour or so for school."
Leonti groaned and turned to face Makariy.
Vlasiy, looking glum, and Masha and Darya, both grinning, were trailing him.
My old tutor. Who came through in the medical emergency, but who isn't otherwise very useful . . . Leonti blinked as Makariy's armful registered.
"Books! You have books? How many? On what subjects?"
"I . . . haven't actually looked through them. There are several boxes of them, that haven't been opened since someone packed them on Novaya Moskva."
"We should inventory them." He glanced at his logs. "Not that I expect to find one on building a raft, but botany would be good . . . in fact my Explorer Scouts Handbook has a short section on edible plants."
Masha brightened. "I want to read that one!"
Leonti nodded. "And, Makariy? Are you still teaching the youngsters," he nodded toward the cooking area, "at least to read and write?"
"And basic math. Some are so smart." He sagged a bit.
Remembering Yemlin, I'll bet.
"Well, with no more zivvy, no surgeons, no chips and no cyborgs? Keep teaching them, especially the really smart ones. And let's see what in those boxes."
The legal treatises were not going to be much help. Makariy gave him a hurt look when he put them back into the boxes. "Let's save them for our descendants. They might need to see how to do it wrong, in a few centuries. Right now we're running on inertia, good manners, and brute force."
"How true. Ah, some science . . . well, more for the layman, but useful for the school."
Masha pounced. "Medicinal and Edible Herbs! Dibs on this one!"
"History of Magic--The Middle Ages to the Rise of the Mentalists." Leonti hefted the tome. "Well, good reading practice, right?"
"Ooo! Myths of the Destroyer." Darya grinned. "I don't believe it, you know? The Plague is just a disease. Maybe chronic, but I'll bet everyone recovers eventually."
While Makariy was giving her an odd look, Theories of Power went in Leonti's stack.
An encyclopedia. Medical reference book that Makariy put in his reading pile.
Novels. Classics, some newer works.
It was a pretty thin library, but it existed.
And kept Makariy busy for the rest of the day, so Leonti could get back to his raft.
I'll have to check that chemistry text, or maybe the encyclopedia, see if there's any sort of sealant I could treat this nice dry wood with. Or some application of power.
Those charms . . . I'm afraid to ask Forty-nine where he got them. And a persistent shield? Could I put one over wood?
He ran a finger along the nearest log. Just smash that shield down on the wood, like glue . . . He looked carefully at the slight indented, slightly shiny track of his finger. Tapped it with a fingernail, then pressed.
It's not a shield. But it's hard, like I compacted it. A little digging with his knife confirmed that the top eighth of an inch had become a very tough sixteeth of an inch. Water beaded up on it, and flowed down to the normal wood where it was slowly absorbed.
Well, let's just see if I can do it again. All over three whole longish logs.
A few minutes of it made his head ache, so he took a break, eavesdropping on the women.
His mother had invited Lady Agrafina and her older nieces to tea. Ekatarina and Marina. Benedikt strolled casually towards them, pausing beside Leonti.
"What d you know about those two?"
"Eh. Both chipped, poor things. Lady Agrafina says all the Young Mentalists from Naoumov and Krupin Camps were circling like sharks, and Inno joined their attack so they could capture our women and leave theirs alone."
Bendikt snorted. "They wanted the servant girls?"
"And Mash, Darya, Anunska, and Vita. With eight servant women, and a batch of older teen girls, I guess we were irresistable. Bolomolov has more womwn, but he also has nine Mentalists. So they decided they could take us, with just Father here." Leonti snorted. "And all the talk about the Plague, they waited a few weeks, just in case."
"I should have hurried back." Benedikt's tone was absent-minded, his eyes on the two young women up at the table with the older women.
"I suspect, if we move down to the valley, they'll all come too." Leonti eyed his brother. "Do you suppose, down there, we could build a whole town? Stores and stuff?"
Benedikt looked back at him. "Just like a small version of normality?"
"Yeah, but probably with smaller, cruder houses for awhile."
Benedikt laughed, and walked on, no doubt to chat up the two highly eligible young ladies.
Leonti got back to the logs. Until his head hurt again. The he walked Donny down to the river for a drink and tied him to a sapling where her could reach a new patch of grass.
Hay. Lots of hay, and a barn. A small one. Just right for the only horse on the planet and a winter's worth of hay.
It was a long slow project, to build a road down to the lake. Leonti got to help every other trip out, once he'd demonstrated the ability to slice small trees.
They followed the blazed trail that Benedikt and friends had made, from the big south meadow. A longer route, but less work, with several large meadows and a thinned forest, over all. They stopped at the high points to fell the trees and remove the stumps, leaving a reasonable path to take at speed so they could use the regenerative brakes to charge the batteries for the next climb. Which they also cleared of trees.
The other small camps got interested, and helped. And north of the river, Lord Berezin was rumored to be clearing that path.
We all know we need to get out of the mountains. And it's only a matter of thirty miles, but the elevation drop has to be at least a thousand feet.
And Camp Mikhailov always, always, left one strong Mentalist at home.
And one car on his little solar charger.
They camped in the two cars as a storm blew in to turn their crude road into a muddy morass. But they were nearly done, and walked out on foot to survey the soaked valley, and pick out the areas that were were high, if not dry.
They were low enough now, that they could avoid the scattered trees, and just work at flattening a few side slopes so they didn't have to keep climbing the low rolling hills.
"As soon as the road is dry, we can start moving." Anatoly looked over at Leonti. "I can telepath Benedikt. Why can't I cantact Uncle Klim?"
Leonti winced. "I . . . think he and Benedikt are a bit at odds. He's been keeping a medium hard shield up almost all the time."
Anatoly shifted uncomfortably.
Leonti nodded. "I'd hoped we'd drop the competitiveness here. But Benedikt--and you--are both old enough that back home you'd have both built up a good solid backing and be forming your own blocks. Well, you already were, with Benedikt as the defacto leader of the RussianYoung Mentalists on Neu Frankfort."
Anatoly looked around.
"Yeah, we've got lots of land . . . and damned little else. Dad can't just send you guys off with a Cyborg and a couple of servants to set up new households. Well, you can go, anytime you want. Just set Kamilla up with with a couple of servants, find her a husband. Anuska, too, once she's had the baby. Then Darya's of age so you can marry her off, so you'd have three alliances there, as well as your stepbrother Lord Vlasiy Kuznetsov."
"You plot worse that Benedikt!"
Leonti grinned. "We were raised that way. But Benedikt? Can Father afford to give away a single Cyborg? And if Benedikt forces him to step down--I mean he's a really strong mentalist, it could happen--he'd have to support Father and Mother, Grandmother, two sisters, two nieces . . ."
Anatoly laughed. "With only Vita and Masha for marriage alliances. And Vita's what? Thirty? Well, as short of True Women as we are, she'll remarry. But if he sent his parents away, with servants, and then servants for dowries, if he wants to nab a Berezin son or another of the strongest families, and some men would expect a Cyborg as well . . . Because he won't settle for just any brother-in-law, will he? Well, now I understand why he's in a foul mood. It's funny. I always thought of myself as the poor relative, and Benedikt as so much richer."
"Yeah. And no more chips, so servants . . . can only be controlled one at a time . . . awkwardly if they really fight it." Loenti shrugged. "We need to build a nice big cabin for Lord Klim and his family, then, having had some experience, houses for you and Benedikt and you can start figuring out how to leverage that into a wife and then . . . hire servants?"
"Hire." Anatoly nodded slowly. "That's how it's going to work, isn't it?"
"Yeah. Umm, Benedikt's been paying a lot of attention to Ekaterina Vinogradov. I think he's hoping to snag her and a couple of chipped servants. She's orphaned, her Uncle, Lord Innokenny's run off. Her sister's unmarried, so he can maybe negotiate a husband for her."
Anatoly sighed. "This is why I follow Benedikt. He does the heavy plotting."