The Pathfinder

By SDerkins

© 2006

Disclaimers: This is an original story and may not be reproduced in any manner although copies for personal enjoyment are allowed providing title, author, etc remains on the copy.

Assorted Warnings: Some dark tones, f/f relationships, some bad language, all the typical things that may be offensive to a few individuals who should then avoid reading the story.

Notes: This is the third of the Mother Earth Series. The first is And a Door Opened, and the second is Shaman’s Legacy. Also note that I am by no means someone who knows much about any single Native American culture. I’m sure I’ve made more than one monumental error because I chose not to focus on any one community. Not even the tribes of the first story were exclusively of one nation. They chose to combine their cultures into smaller groups and live together. I even avoided mentioning Cierra’s heritage. I hope this didn’t offend anyone.

The problem had banged them in the nose but now at least it was solved. Once the crops had been harvested and properly prepared and stored they had faced the reality that they couldn’t build enough homes for everyone before winter set in.

The solution now stood in front of them, nearly eighteen feet high at its peak. They had built a long house based on the Iroquois methods. It would be used like barracks, housing the single women until spring. It was nearly large enough for the entire community at 30 yards long. It was covered in large pieces of bark and the inner walls insolated with woven matting.

 Many of the women liked the large wood and bark building and had suggested keeping it up as a permanent structure. There wasn’t any need to build individual homes except for the family units. Frankly, the women were tired of building at a breakneck pace and thought the building good enough. The eight mothers all had their own homes that had been hurriedly built just before the first frost.

It had been built over the flow toilet pipes and a small water closet had been build every twenty feet along one wall. The opposite walls had double stacks of beds, attached to the walls like bunk beds and held up with posts. All in all it held 58 adults inside the structure. Now that it was completed they could take down the tents and store them. The front row of wigwams were also taken down (the back row was saved as play houses for the children) and reused where possible.

There were some other major differences from the original long houses of course. Rather than use fire pits for heating and cooking, small brick fireplaces had been built with narrow brick chimneys with recycled metal sheeting for flues. The chimneys had been rigged with spark catchers to prevent the thatched roof from catching fire. A few of the bus windows had been used to bring lighting into long house, weather proofed with tree pitch and rigged so they could be tilted for fresh air.

The couples who didn’t yet have their own homes surrounded their assigned living area with woven walls made of plant fibers set into posts. It wasn’t soundproof but it at least gave them visual privacy at night.

The women as a group was no longer bothered by their own nudity. They bathed together and lived in each other’s pockets for so long that it wasn’t even noticed any more. The only true privacy that was sought after was for the toilets and sex.

Even Ann, the only known heterosexual woman of the of the colony thought nothing of having one of the other women smacking her bare bottom playfully and telling her not to hog the water crock. She was just one of the unattached females among many.

She had come a long way from her homophobic behavior in the months she had been there. It wasn’t even uncommon for her to allow Sara to crawl into bed with her to snuggle on cold nights. It was a friendly arrangement and nothing more.

“Brrrr, bring me my breakfast will you?” Sara asked Ann as she got out of bed.

“Forget it. You have to freeze with the rest of us, wimp,” she told her as she hurriedly put on her heavier clothing. The fireplaces only kept the building at around 55 degrees on really cold days. It was days like this everyone wanted to soak in the Jacuzzi to warm up or sit around the small fireplaces as they worked on their projects.

Ann grabbed her jacket then headed for the door at the end of the long house. Once outside she could see the wispy puffs of her breath in the air. Frost covered the ground lightly making the trees and bushes look white. She shivered, not accustomed to cold weather since she grew up in New Mexico. She hurried along and entered the warm and inviting communal building.

Many of the women were gathered there, all chatting as they ate the warm meal Sharon and her crew provided. She collected her morning porridge and hot tea. If she wanted more to eat she could always get a bowl of hot soup. Now that cooler weather had taken over Sharon had a perceptual soup kettle always simmering.

She threw in all leftover vegetable scraps and meats into the pot and added water and herbs when needed. The flavor changed slightly from day to day but it was always tasty. The women who cooked didn’t even prepare large meals anymore during winter. Soup and bread was always a favorite among the women, along with bowls of stewed fruits. Since the pots were nearly always simmering the women often just helped themselves. The cooking crew merely baked bread each day and assembled a few simple dishes. No one would work hard during the winter except for the occasional hunt or wood gathering.

Between lunchtime and dinner, the communal building was used as a school for the children. Laura taught the children the basics of reading, writing and math for a few hours a day. Everything else they learned was from individuals, such as weaving, cooking, sewing, and crafts. The children had a few assigned chores such as shoveling manure daily and collecting kindling but nothing overwhelming. They had plenty of time for play although many of them enjoyed helping adults.

Any punishments for bad behavior were rarely issued. If a child did something viewed as anti-social, they were taken aside and it was explained why it was wrong.  Good behavior was lavishly praised on the other hand. Acts of kindness and helpfulness was always treated like gifts. This approach had been agreed upon before the children’s arrival. They had wanted to encourage the culture they were building rather than fight against old behaviors.

Even the surliest of the kids rarely balked when it came to helping out under this method. The guilt factor usually prevented tantrums. Sad, disappointed looks from the adults was more than enough to make a kid feel bad and few repeated an act that brought the look upon them.

During their school lessons people still gathered in the communal area, over at the far end they dubbed ‘the library’. They had taken several of the bus seats and made couches out of them and built shelves for the books. The remaining bus seats had been made into bunk beds for the smaller children or saved for future use.

Very little of the remains of the school bus could be found. Everything had been recycled, even the tires. They had been either made into swings for the children or into flowerpots for the garden. Very little was ever wasted among the women. It had been three months since Cierra’s last jump to the Old World. True, there was a few items they would like to bring here but they weren’t vital for their needs. 

The crops grown weren’t overly abundant but they believed it would get them through the winter. Next summer they planned on planting the entire growing season so they would have a larger variety. The seeds had been saved for next season along with those they had brought along with them. The individual homes all had at least one bus window for lighting with a planter build onto the wall under it.

The produce of these small planters only grew the smallest amounts but gave them a bit of fresh produce from time to time. They had tomatoes, bell peppers, herbs, and medicinal plants for the doctors.

A modern pharmacy was obviously not within reach. A few bottled items had been brought along but Doctor Sanchez was an expert at herbal medicine. She had spent the summer collecting useful plants and spent the cold months preparing what she had gathered in the small room of the hospital. She was also teaching Doctor Rutledge what she knew and they were making journals for future physicians so their knowledge wouldn’t be lost.

Injuries had been all minor with the exception of when Laura had been shot. Sickness wasn’t common either. The women practiced good hygiene and ate healthier. Their diets no longer contained processed foods or added chemicals. Several of them who had arrived with allergies or other complaints had reported that the symptoms had lessened or disappeared altogether.

Most of the women who had been considered overweight in the beginning had lost weight and gained muscle through labor. Certainly they would all gain a little of it back during winter but that was to be expected with less activity. Winter was considered a time for socializing and rest.

Ann cleaned her dishes and returned them to the set of shelves that Brenda had built along one wall. The women had been less than thrilled to have to carry their dishes everywhere so they where now stored in one place. She walked over to the library and sat down next to Cyd who was carving a chess piece. The tall woman was whittling it over a bucket so she could save the shavings for tinder.

“How many more do you need?” the former special agent asked.

“If I don’t screw this one up then I need seven more pieces. Then it’s just a matter of coloring one set,” Cyd added as she blew off a few specks of wood dust from the piece.

“I wonder why no one thought of bringing along any games? A few people have decks of cards but that’s it.”

“Too busy trying to get the basics.”

“Probably. How’s Jenny doing? She’s usually here with you in the mornings.”

“She’s just tired today. The baby settled over her bladder and kept her up all night.”

“How’s the nerves? The big day is coming up soon,” Ann said with a combination of teasing and genuine interest. Jenny’s baby would be the very first born in their colony.

“Mine or hers? Mine are shot. She’s just puttering around the house without a care in the world,” Cyd mentioned and rolled her eyes.

Ann chuckled and gave her shoulder a pat. “It’ll be okay. Well, I’m off to Judy’s. She promised to show me how to make rag rugs. She doesn’t trust my bumbling fingers with her loom yet.”

Cyd laughed and wished her luck.

·        * * * *

Pam snuggled closer to her lover as she woke. The barracks was chilly this morning. She pulled their covers over them better and searched for Eva’s hand. The tiny engineer usually had it curled up near her shoulder. Pam liked wrapping her arm around Eva and holding it while they slept.

The professor buried her nose into Eva’s silky hair and sighed happily. Eva had put on some much-needed weight now that winter arrived. She loved the tiny woman regardless of how she looked but felt better about Eva’s health. Before she was just so thin that a good breeze would have carried her away. Eva would have had nothing to fall back on if she were to get ill. Now the engineer had a soft layer of added pounds and no longer looked so fragile.

Pam smiled. It also made snuggling that much nicer. She closed her eyes and rejoined her lover in sleep.

·        *  * * *

Cierra woke and found JP gone from their bed but sensed she was near. She rolled over and spotted her lover sitting on a cushion on the floor located in a beam of sunlight from the window.

Ever since they made their medicine bundles the tall woman seemed to find comfort in sitting peacefully and meditating early in the morning. It gave her focus for the day and she felt less anxiety. Cierra was glad that her lover no longer felt the need to cling so desperately anymore. She was slowly coming to grips with the fear of losing her to circumstances she had no control over.

Cierra sat on the edge of the mattress and reached for her slippers. They ought to make more mats for the floor because the tiles were just too chilly any more to walk on barefoot. At least their home was warm because of the fireplace. After visiting the water closet she bent low in order to place a kiss on top of JP’s head. The tall woman didn’t respond of course but knew she was there. Cierra grinned and grabbed the wrought iron kettle hanging close to the fire. She poured the heated water into the basin and washed up.

By the time she had finished dressing JP had begun to stir.

“Ready for some breakfast, Sweetie?” Cierra asked. She helped JP to her feet and they grabbed their coats. Outside they spotted several children pulling a small cart. It was piled high with firewood.

“That is one big pile you all collected. Good job!” Cierra smiled and ruffled the hair of the closest child, a boy about six years old. He blushed and kept going. JP chuckled and placed her arm around the smaller woman’s shoulders.

“He’s got the biggest crush on you,” the survivalist whispered teasingly.

“Well, I’m taken and happily so,” Cierra whispered back. She reached for the door to the communal building but it suddenly slammed open and the pair jumped back as Cyd ran out and headed for the hospital.

“Was breakfast that bad?” JP muttered. “Uh oh, I bet Jenny went into labor,” she added.

“We’ll check on them after breakfast. I doubt she’ll pop out that baby before lunchtime. First babies like to take their own sweet time,” Cierra commented.

They reached for the door again but there was a rush of women following after Cyd. Poor Jenny was going to have an audience.

“Don’t worry, the doctors will toss most of them out,” JP chuckled. “Let’s get something to eat.”

·        * * * *

Continued in Part 2

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