Lady Olga looked at her floor with resignation.
Flatish rocks set in sand. At least the whole thing is level. And I have a roof over my head. Walls. I will not complain that they are rough logs!
Her mother hobbled back out of the little bedroom on the left and nodded. "Very good. Now we just need to have those boys in to smooth the floor with those stone spells they've been using for these nice new wells."
Olga blinked and looked at the rock she was standing on. "Oh! Yes, that would work. It was such an odd spell . . ." She remember the feeling of it, and knelt. "It would be nice if we could . . ." She swept her hand over the rough stones and they flattened, the narrow strip of sand between went glassy . . . she fell back. Dizzy, her head hurting. A smooth six inch wide arc of odd stone where she'd touched it.
Kamilla eeked, and backed away.
Masha and Vita grabbed her and helped her to a chair at the table. Anuska brought her a glass of water. And they all kept sneaking looks at that bit of the floor.
Darya reached to touch it. "It's magic."
"Get away from there!" Kamilla made ineffectual grabbing motions. "Women aren't Mentalists and there's no such thing as magic. That's a stupid old wives tale!"
"But I did it." Olga looked at her hand.
"And collapsed! Look at you, you can barely stand up!"
Can't argue with that!
Masha lit up, though. "The men gather 'power' from sunlight and warm air." She shut up suddenly eyes blinking as she thought. "At least, that's what Leonti says."
Olga glowered. And quickly pretending you haven't tried it, girl?
She stood up unsteadily and walked to the crude shelf. A vodka bottle now full of fruit juice. Definitely tart, no sweet domesticated fruit here.
We planted those seeds from what little fruit we did bring, in pots. Some of them have sprouted. More may sprout in the spring. I hope. We can have an orchard.
Masha hustled to get her a glass.
The first swallow of the pulpy liquid felt like energy flowing from mouth to stomach, and then out to her limbs. "Ah that's better. So . . . sunshine? Open the back door. Let's shine a light on the floor and see what we can do."
"Lady Olga!" Kamilla drew back, horrified. "Perhaps Lord Klim won't repudiate you to save face, but how are the rest of us ever going to find husbands, if it ever becomes known that . . . we . . . can . . ." She backed further away. "True Men won't risk living with a woman who might influence them!"
Vita sniffed. "Then they can damn well marry the servants."
"Lady Vitaliya!" Kamilla had backed all the way to the front doorway. "Darya, let's go!"
Darya cocked her head and started grinning. "No. You were a miserable excuse for a stepmother, and you're only a year older than me, anyway. Go away if you want. I'm staying."
Kamilla drew herself up, nose in the air. "You'll learn soon enough what a reputation will get you!" She turned an stomped out.
Mother snorted. "Unfortunately she'll be back as soon as she gets hungry."
Olga stepped to the back door, and propped it open. Held out her hands and felt the warm sun.
Masha joined her. "Imagine that warmth soaking into your blood and being carried all around your body." The girl held her hands out. "Now think about that stone spell. If I can see it, maybe I can help."
And she could, but not as well as the older women. And her mother was the strongest of all of them.
Her floor was beautiful.
The crude half-built fireplace was smooth inside and out withe a box on the side for baking, and the chimney had been built up, layer by layer by the more agile girls and stuck up two feet above the roof.
The servants brought rocks and sand up from the lake and the servants helped mold them into wide steps up to the front door way.
"Now I really need to get to work on a front door for you."
"And glass for the windows."
The house was cramped, and in the warm fall weather, almost all of them slept outside. The Ignakov group slept in their cars, staying close to the Mikhailov side of their claim. Poor women, without a man to defend them, to hunt for them.
"We're going to need more buildings." Olga sighed as her front yard was once again turned into a butcher's yard. "And a lot of stored food."
Klim grinned. "Yes, let's get Kamilla out of here as quickly as possible. I talked to Benedikt and Anatoly about how many people they wanted to be responsible for. They were a little taken aback. They thought the servants would be taking care of them."
Olga nodded. "And Benedikt is so . . . leery of anyone without a chip. Well, he can't have Ludmilla, but I could send some of the other women . . . No?"
"No. It's their choice now. The Plague? It removed my ability to collect power . . . and it appears to have messed up the chips." He leaned and dropped a kiss on her hair. "Once I got over the initial shock, I liked it, but the rest of the Mentalists are going to have a tough time of it."
Olga gave him a wry smile. "So Benedikt is going to have to ask servants to come work for him?"
"Yep. And I'll bet three-fourths of our servants are going to stake out claims to land themselves."
Olga looked out at the busy butchers. "Oh. We're going to have to ask them to stay, aren't we?"
"Yes. Care to wager whether your much valued cook will prefer to open a restaurant of her own?"
/// depending on the length of the whole, I may of may not expand on these.///
The herds migrated southward. Bison, several types of deer, camels, and striped horses. They ventured out further and found some salt pans on the flat valley floor, so they hunted regularly and salted the meat.
The kids ganged up to fence off a few acres for the horse, then built a little barn. Leonti started magically cutting the tall wild grasses, as he came and went from timbering. And piling the dried sheaves in three quarters of the barn, and barricading it against the hungry horse in the open south side. "In the Spring, we need to figure out how to trap those horses. Keep the mares, and see if they will cross breed with Donny." All the kid's eyes lit up. "We are the Cossacks!"
Vita and her daughters got a house next door. Anuska and her newborn daughter shifted a little further, into Anatoly's claim. They built a little cabin for Kamilla, who turned up her nose and married a young Mentalist from the Bolomogov Family.
Lord Klim, as the sole Old Mentalist, officiated. And they were so glad to have her so far away, they all jumped in to build her and Lord Feodosiy a house.
Lady Magda moved to the little cabin, and everyone ignored where Forty-nine did or didn't sleep.
They all got together and built a house for the women from the Ignatov family, although Artur was as likely to be found with Leonti and Vlasiy in the loft of Mikhailov House.
The servants figured out how to make a fairly decent glass and got quite a stack of oddities as pay. Rudolf just shrugged. "They all come with a promise to repurchase them as soon as someone figures out what to do about money."
The servants built themselves a large building that had a suspicious resemblance to a restaurant across the road from Mikhailov House. All it lacked was a reliable source of groceries and a monetary system.
They laid out the road behind all the lakeside claims, and most of the families were good about hauling rocks and gravel to keep it passable as storms moved in and nighttime temperatures dropped. They salted and smoked meat, cut firewood and braced for a winter of unknown depth.