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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 115: Kondor 38
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Previous chapter: Chapter 114: Slade 38
Kondor was the first to notice that summer was fading into autumn. He pointed it out to the others, the drying grasses, the colors on the tips of the leaves, the shift in the path of the sun. Now would be the time to prepare for winter, if they were staying. But none of them knew what the winter would be like, and Lauren couldn't seem to get a clear answer from her parakeet friends.
Maybe they hibernate, he thought. They've been eating quite a bit, and storing a fair amount of food. They could be readying to sleep for the winter. Whatever the birds planned, he thought it would be wise to gather a bit of long-term food for them as well. He convinced Lauren of this, although Bob Slade didn't seem interested in more than practicing his sword dancing. So while Bob Slade danced and chewed sticks, he and Lauren began drying fruits and berries in the manner they learned from the birdmen, and gathering nuts.
And Kondor began to realize that if there were no fish and no large animals to hunt, meals were going to be sparse through the cold, even if it was only a short freeze--and there was nothing to suggest that winter would be short. In fact, Lauren started stockpiling firewood, and convinced Bob Slade to help with that. None of them had a decent axe, but they made due with what they did have, particularly a few chisels and a ball peen hammer from Slade's tools for splitting the big logs. Not having an axe, they couldn't bring down timber, but had to content themselves with fallen trees and squaw wood; this was not always the best wood, but they could afford to be picky as long as they were willing to take their time looking since no one else in the world wanted it.
He also looked at ways to make the nest a bit more weatherproof. He added some timbers to the structure, thickened the walls, and devised a covering for the doorway. He built up higher walls around the fireplace, to hold the heat and reflect it toward the nest. With some help from Lauren, he supplemented the stones with a pottery shell which provided a dome over the fire. It was a far cry from his log cabin, but it was much better than the summer home they had shared.
There was also quite a bit of activity throughout the nesting ground. They were definitely preparing, but doing nothing for their nests. Perhaps the winters were mild; perhaps they were just heading into the rainy season, and the birdmen were part duck. But he didn't spend a lot of time thinking about what they were doing. He had enough work to do himself.
One morning he awoke to a very agitated chatter outside the nest. Bob Slade was still asleep; the man could probably have slept through a war. But Lauren was outside, asking a lot of questions and getting some very confused answers. Kondor couldn't make out much of it, but he changed into his day clothes quietly while straining to hear. It sounded like it was important.
And before he could get his boots on his feet, Lauren was inside. "We have to get ready to go," she said. "Speckles has been kidnapped by the sparrow people."
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #66: Character Quest. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: