The next day, I wake up early. I go for a quick hunt. This time, I find something that looks like a boar. Unlike what I expect from a boar, this one is pastel pink. I kill it and slowly carry it to the shuttle. As it turns out, a boar is heavier than it looks!!
“Good morning, Aster,” Rowan greets me as I’m arriving at the shuttle.
“Good morning, Rowan,” I answer, “did I wake you up?”
“No, you didn’t. I usually get up at this time,” he answers and looks at my game, “that’s a Snow Boar! They are really hard to spot in winter!”
“Hard to spot?”
What is he talking about? This pink sticks out like a sore thumb!
“Yes, they’re as white as the snow.”
So Rowan can’t see the colour? So his visible spectrum is different from mine.
“Now, about disassembling this one…”
“Do you need help?”
“Yes, actually I do. Before I got lost, I’ve never done it before. And from the rabbits that I have tried disassembling so far, I can state with confidence I have no clue of what I’m doing.”
“Let me handle it. Snow Boar have poisonous innards, so it’s nothing a beginner should handle.”
“I’ll take you up on that,” I tie a rope around the hind legs of the boar, put a bucket below it and cut its throat.
Rowan skilfully cuts into the boar starting from the wound from my arrow. Within a few minutes, he has removed the innards. He then removes the skin and cuts a chunk of meat about the wound and throws it into the bucket.
“That should take care of the poisonous innards. The meat around the wound could have been contaminated, so it’s better to dispose of it, too.”
“You’re quite adept at this,” I comment.
“I simply have a lot of practice.”
As the blood stops dripping, Rowan changes his knife and starts cutting the meat and trimming it from the bones. Meanwhile, I dispose of the bucket and its contents.
“This is quite a lot of good meat,” Rowan sighs, “too bad we can’t carry all of it…”
“Why can’t we? If it’s just about carrying capacity, we just take it with us in the shuttle! I am worried about it spoiling.
Mittens, can we build a fridge in the shuttle?“
“We already one. We even have a big freezer. They are below and above the replicator. I’ll activate them.“
“Why do we have those?”
“According to the log, Captain Desmond ordered your shuttle to be outfitted with these.”
“It’s a good thing he did.”
I help Rowan cut the meat into storable chunks. After that, we carry them and put them into the fridge.
“That’s surprisingly quite a lot of meat!”
“So that ‘fridge’ — how does it keep the meat from spoiling? From how you were talking about it, I assume it somehow does that. To me, it’s just a box.”
“The inside of the fridge should get cooler soon, so it doesn’t spoil that fast. We could have put them into the freezer instead, it gets much colder in there, so the meat would there even longer.”
“How long could you store meat in there?”
“Are you asking theoretically or more practically?” Mitten interjects, “if we were to simplify the theory, we can boil it down to an ice house: a building you fill with ice. Using that, you can easily preserve meat from summer and fall into winter.”
“If there’s a blessing that can make ice you don’t even have to wait until winter to fill it with ice,” I add.
“When you meet the elder, can you tell them about this ice house? It would help life in the village quite a lot.”
“I can try when I meet them. Let’s clean up the temple and leave.”
We enter the temple. I can still feel a wall of air when walk through the door, but the inside of the temple has gotten colder than before. Taking air from the outside trough the top part of the door. Let it flow along the ceiling, down along the back wall, along the floor, through the lower part of the door and further away from the door. This wind carries the dust outside the temple.
Today, Aevita has been strangely quiet. Usually, they would have greeted me by now. But then, yesterday, they have asked me to return. Have they gone into hibernation? That would explain why they wanted me to be back on the night of the blue moon.
“Thanks again for letting me stay here, Aevita, I’ll be back.”
Rowan and I go back to the shuttle. I lead Rowan to the front, so he can lead me to his village. We travel towards the valley to the north. I start moving the shuttle at a very slow speed, and slightly accelerate it.
“I hope this speed doesn’t make you feel queasy.”
“No, this is fine. The shuttle doesn’t shake like a wagon.”
“And you still know where we are?”
“Yes, I can keep up, barely.”
I drop the speed of the shuttle slightly and keep it at that speed. It only takes four to five hours to reach the village. I park the shuttle outside the village.
Rowan leads me into the village. We pass several houses, they are all one story houses in timber framing style. I follow Rowan me directly to a certain house. I assume this is where the elder lives. A girl opens the door to greet us.
“Hey Cyma, I’m back! Is grandma home?” he asks the girl.
“Rowan, you’re back early,” she answers, “the elder is home. She should have time now.”
We follow Cyma into the house.
“Welcome back, Rowan,” the elder greets him, “I take it you’re done with cleaning Aevita’s temple? You’ve even received their blessing already.”
“It is as you say, grandma.“
“So would you introduce your friend to me?” she turns her attention towards me.
“Of course, this is Aster. He’s gotten lost and sought refuge at Aevita’s temple. We travelled back from the temple in his flying home.”
“Hello, I’m Aster,” I introduce myself.
“Greetings, I’m Fezzoxa. I’m the village elder of Dewick. Everyone in the village calls me granny or elder. But Rowan is my only real grandson.
So you have a flying home? That explains how you’re here so early. Legends say they can fly around the world in a short amount of time.“
“I call it a shuttle. They can indeed go fast, but people that aren’t used to travelling at that speed might feel uneasy.”
“I’m sure you have a story to tell. Would you care to share it with me?”
“Of course, Rowan wanted to hear it too.”
“I see, why don’t the two of you sit down? My guess is, this is going to be a longer story.”
We sit down. The girl from earlier serves us some water.
“I’ve come from a place far, far away. To make it short, it’s a place you can only reach with a shuttle, or even bigger crafts.”
“Even bigger ones?” Rowan exclaims.
“Yes, it’s so big you would call a flying city.”
“A whole city‽”
“Yes, left that flying city to travel alone when, due to unforeseen circumstances, I ended up around here. My shuttle mostly works, but I’ve lost the means of returning to home.“
“So you’re saying you can’t return home on own your own,“ Granny Fezzoxa rephrases my statement,” does that mean your people might try to look for you?”
“They will definitely try. But given how far I ended up of course, I don’t fancy my chances of ever being found by them. Even if they didn’t give up, it will take them years if not a lifetime to for their search to take them around here. I don’t have any other choice but to start to make a living here.“
“Anyway, I ended up in the Aevita’s temple. Aevita and the other spirits aren’t known to my people. Yet despite that, Aevita granted me refuge and bestowed their blessing upon me.”
“Yes, it’s a very strong blessing from what I can see.”
“When Rowan arrived, Aevita asked me…”
“They have asked you to return?”
“Yes, on the night of the Blue Moon. So you have heard of it before?”
“Yes, it has happened before. Sometimes the spirits ask select people to return on at a certain date, when they bestow those people with a special blessing.”
“Wouldn’t more people just come to the temple at that date?”
“No, they don’t. Some have tried, of course. But on those occasions, the spirits deny entry to everyone but those that have been invited.”
“I see. When I go there on the night of the Blue Moon, is there anything I should be doing, or not doing? Anything superficial knowledge would help me greatly.”
“No, there isn’t anything special you need to pay attention to. Why are you asking?”
“As long as I’m here, I should at least try to follow the customs of this land.”
“That’s commendable! So… will you go on the pilgrimage?”
“Yes, I intend to accompany Rowan on his pilgrimage. Unless Rowan declines, of course.“
“On the contrary! I’m thrilled to have you with me,” Rowan answers, “I have the feeling, interesting things will happen when you’re around.”
“Since Rowan doesn’t mind, it’s not my place to deny it,” Granny Fezzoxa answers, “you can stay here until you need to depart.”
“Thank you very much.”
“I meant to ask you: where did you put your flying home?”
“I left it outside the village, I didn’t want to scare the villagers.”
“That’s prudent. But you should bring it into the village anyway. If you leave it outside, it might be viewed as abandoned property. I’m sure Rowan can tell you where to put it.”
“Me‽” Rowan is shocked.
“Of course, I haven’t seen it yet. I don’t know how big it is. And it’s about time you get some responsibilities…”
“Hmm,” Rowan put his left hand to his chin, “there? No, that’d block the view… How about there? No, that’s…”
After several minutes of mumbling, Rowan finally decides.
“Behind the house where old Cecho used to live! It’s the perfect place! It’s right next to our house. Granted, the house is more a ruin than a house, but there’s enough space. And if Aster decides to live in our village for good, he can remodel the house as he likes!”
“Settling down in this village?” I answer, “I haven’t thought that far ahead…”
“That’s a decision for later!” Granny Fezzoxa adds, “for now, you can stay here in this house with us.”
“Let me show you the place where you can put your shuttle,” Rowan offers, “while we go get it, we can warn the others about it, too.”
Rowan introduces me to several other villagers on the way to the shuttle. I expected all of them to be Ailuranthropes, but they aren’t. They are quite a mix of Therianthropes. I move the shuttle to the house next to Rowan’s house. As he said, it’s quite deteriorated, for now I only need some place to park the shuttle.
“Living here…” I mumble, “I’m not sure yet. Unlike Rowan, they act somewhat distant, as if they are afraid of me. No, it’s more like they are revering me…“
“Actually,” Mittens interrupts me, “Rowan was like that too. The translations program just didn’t pick it up at that time. His words slightly changed when he was disassembling the boar. You should be able to get closer to the other villagers. The cargo you have in the fridge could help.”
The cargo in the fridge? The meat!
“Thanks for telling me, Mittens!”
“You are welcome.”
I leave the shuttle.
“Rowan, we forgot about the meat in the shuttle!”
“Oh, yes! Everyone, Aster has hunter a Snow Boar! It’s stored in his flying home.”
“A Snow Boar? That’s quite hard to hunt in this season!” I hear someone say.
“I can’t possibly eat all of it myself,” I claim, “I’d like to share it with the village.”
“Let’s have a feast today!” Rowan decides.
“Is there something I help you with?” I ask.
“Don’t worry about it, you’re already providing the meat. Instead, just follow me.”
I follow Rowan through the village. Where are we going?