St. Matthews Island
“The job is simple. You are young, fresh out of the Camberian monk school and you've been trained to use a herd dog. I can use you. You've had a lousy hand in life so far, so here is a chance to make some money, get yourself some experience with how things really work, and make yourself some gear to build yourself a better life. Besides that, you are Deryni, and trained in that as well, well as little as the monks teach you without your promising yourself to them for life. So, do we have a deal?” Anders was a wiry man, turned to hard leather from a lifetime in the tropical sun. He stared at Kenneth evenly, waiting.
“I agree Sir.” answered Kenneth, knowing he had few options at this point. An orphan could find work, but it would likely not be as good an offer as this one.
“Good job, okay, get your things, I'll pay off the monks and we can be on our way, we've a bit of a walk ahead of us.”
Kenneth gathered his belongings and placed them in a worn leather satchel a thin faced monk provided him. Anders looked at it and grunted. “I think I donated those to this place. You'll be making your own soon enough. They bade the brothers goodbye and left the compound that had been his home for the last eight years.
They walked away from the monastery and down the sloping hill towards town. They stayed on the coastal path, catching the sea breeze. Anders continued his low voiced commentary. “I have a dog that you can use and train up. We'll spend a couple of weeks on the island to begin with, the team and I, I mean. You can get a sense of what is happening, how things work. Then we will head off to the next island and leave you behind. Your job will take anwhere from 3 to 6 months, depending on how well you learn what you need to know, and if you are strong enough. If you are not, well, I can still use a grunt around camps, and can deadhead you. Or I can get you into an older island.”
“I'll learn Sir” interrupted Kenneth, worried that he would lose his job before he even worked at it.
“Relax kid, there is always something you can do. Times are booming. People trying to spread out, do new things. That's why I need the extra body. I am getting close to the limit of how much I can shift with the guys I have now, so I am changing things up a bit. If you were good at sailing we'd get a boat and you could move stuff between islands.”
They walked the two miles to the town and through the bustling streets. Anders commented again. “It always gets me how good things smell. Back in the old Kingdom the streets would be covered in muck and manure. Here there is nothing. It always amazes me.” Kenneth made no comment, but could not understand why people would not fill a grenatha in the Old Kingdom. Like most of the Camberlanders, he had been born here, and only knew of the Dark Times through stories and the history taught by the monks, which, he was sure, was slanted in Camberland's favour.
Anders Trading Hall was a walled compound near the market. They went into the cool interior and into the Trading warehouse. Stacks of lumber and bales of goods were piled in the dark interior. A string of goats were being led towards the market, the handlers nodding to Anders as they passed.
The Portal house was a stone affair, with wide doors and windows. As they approached
the Portal circle two men appeared carrying goats hanging from them in wide leather slings. They handed the goats over to handlers and headed into the hall.
“Ok, learn this Portal, and what other Portals do you know?”
Kenneth knelt down next to the Portal and placed his hand on the stone. “I know the Portal at the training hall, and the Portal Camberus in the Church here in town, and the portal at the other end of the Island at the farm. We trained mostly on the farm and Hall.” He closed his eyes and learned the signature of the Portal, feeling a strong, well used Portal, humming with use.
“Good enough. The island is 80 miles away, so I will take us. Can you open and let me guide us through?”
“Yes Sir.” Kenneth replied.
“Grab those satchels there, never waste a trip.” Like most Portal Halls, this one had tables along the walls with satchels marked for destinations.
They loaded themselves down with their bags and stepped onto the Portal. Anders placed a hand on Kenneth's shoulder and waited while Kenneth centered himself and allowed Anders to warp the matrix under them. There was the sudden strong feeling of dropping, and the ground bucked under his feet, and then they were in another place.
A small room, with simple stone walls and an open door leading to a slightly larger living room. A small cottage it seemed, with a Portal attached to it. A aecond door led to the outside. It was currently open,a nd through it Kenneth could see the edge of a goat pen, with perhaps a dozen goats milling around in it.
He followed Anders and walked into the cottage and placed their packs on the table next to the door. A man was watching a pot bubble on the stove. He glanced up and nodded to Anders, and gave Kenneth an appraising look. “This the new kid?”
“Yeah,” replied Anders. “name is Kenneth. He'll be the fetch and carry for you. Teach him how to make my coffee right.” The man at the stove grinned and nodded, and went back to cooking.
“Kenneth, go in and learn this Portal, then wander around outside for a bit, find where everything is. Then come back in and give Dalman here a hand with lunch.”
Kenneth repeated his learning of a signature, then walked out the second portal door. He noted the goat pen, saw the rails in good condition. Around behind the cottage was the Grenatha and coop, with a few chickens wandering around in the morning sunshine. The privy was near the Grenatha. Oddly there was no pig pen. There was a swill fire, the ceramic L shape and stove top ready for use, but no pen. A large cistern was at the other end of the cottage, with a goat cart next to it. A second traditional building, poles and thatched roof, no walls was off to one side. It was evident this was where the men were sleeping. A fire pit and stools were nearby, and a table.
The cottage stood at the end of a meadow, several stumps marking where the land had been cleared. The ground was over grazed, and the brush well gnawed. Slightly sloppy husbandry, not that he would ever say so. He had worked with the brothers with goats and sheep in the school. The school farm was how the monks supported themselves and the school.
Anders was standing in front of the cottage looking over the meadow. “So? Any questions?”
“Not yet, never dug one. There is a pond at the end of the meadow. It's an awkward rocky area, so we built the cottage at this end and cart water to the cistern. We are putting on a solid roof and that should give plenty of water. And if things go bad in the pond you can always Portal water in on return trips.”
“Why no pig pen?”
Anders laughed. “This is a goat island kid, I did not want pigs as competition for the food. I also have a contract with the monks for skin for bibles, so I put 20 goats on this island a few years ago. Fifteen girls and five boys, and now there are a couple of hundred goats runing around. So there is enough money on the island to pay for a person to come in and improve the place. That would be you.”
Kenneth's confusion must have shown on his face. Anders continued. “okay, look. This is how it works. We dump goats on an island. There are no predators in these lands, no wolves, that's like a big scary dog that eats sheep and goats. So any goats we leave on an island live and make lots of baby goats. Population doubles every year, so fiteen girl goats means close to thirty goats next near, and sixty goats the year after that. The goats eat all the low brush and weeds, so it clears off all the vines and crap that make improving an island so much work. Clearing the meadow was a pain in the ass, you could barely move for all the vines and trash plants. They are mostly gone now because I have too many goats on the island. So we are going to take over half the goats off in the next few weeks.
That's where you come in. Once we move on to the next island you stay here and haul out one goat a day through the portal. Once you gain in strength and control you might be able to do two trips a day, but don't push it. I don't want you dead of a misjump or energy flare. Once you get the goat moved each day you can work on a garden, increase the chickens, bring in some lambs. No pigs. Once the goats are almost gone we repeat the process. If the crops work out we make more money, or we plant some cacao trees and wait a few years for those to come into harvest. There is a patch at the other end of the island that might be good for a hemp field. We always need more rope and cloth. But for any cropping you have to build a fence to keep out the goats, or spend all your time herding the goats to a different area of the island. There's a lot to do on an island. We just have to see which way makes more money for us. Easy.”
They went around the compound again and planned where improvements needed to be made over the coming weeks. Towards the end of the day a group of men and their herding dogs appeared with thirty goats in a bleating cluster. These were herded into the pen for transport to market. Introductions were made, but Kenneth was feeling a little overwhelmed by this point and could remember none of their names. Several of the men were natives, and Kenneth tried not to stare at their dark skin and eyes and their bold tattoos
Dinner was a goat stew with cassava and onionsand maize. Fruit finished off the meal. Several bottles of home brew circled the fire. Kenneth tried a few swallows and felt flushed and warm. The monks had frowned on drinking to excess, they generally stuck to tea or coffee and goats milk.
Anders passed around a basket of nibs and everyone cheered his generosity. Kenneth took a piece and savoured the rich chocolate taste. It had been several years since he had tasted chocolate. Not since before his parents had died.
A man approached the fire from the cottage. He had just come through the Portal. “Boss, got a message from Arakwan. He wants to trade and asks for the sunshine to see your face at his compound. I told him you would be a few days before you could darken his door. He seems eager.”
There were whistles and catcalls. Like all Camberlanders Kenneth knew the stories of the natives. They were without shame and wore little if any clothing. Their women were wanton and willing to make love as a gesture of friendship between peoples. Like all boys his age, Kenneth desperately wished he could find out if these stories were true.
“All right, all right. That's enough. Ok, change of plans. Tomorrow everyone start taking this batch through, but I want four of the best picked out, two pair, and see if we can't give him some pregnant ones. On a return trip bring me some knives and glassware. And bring me a couple of sheep. Also some of the good rope and cloth. We'll bring him a nice gift. His birthday is coming up as well. If he is in a good mood I might be able to trade for some iron. We always need more of that.”
Talk turned to the parties thrown by the natives and the good times they had provided. Kenneth listened and learned, and his furious blushing was thankfully hidden in the shadows.
The next day had Kenneth doing all the grunt jobs that accompany all modern life in Camberland. He collected eggs and gave them to Dalman. He swept the yard and placed all the collected manure in the Grenatha. He collected the maggots from the Grenatha and sprinkled them in front of the coop. The chickens came boiling out of the coop and made short work of the fat grey maggots.
While he could not remember any of their names it seemed that everyone remembered his. Anybody that needed an extra pair of hands called out his name and he performed a dozen different errands. This was a slight bit of hazing and testing,he knew that. He was determined to win. For the food if nothing else. There was plenty of it, and nobody seemed to question his right to eat.
The rest of the men were busy during the day carrying goats through into the Portal. They returned shortly thereafter carrying whatever the main house had sent back and then they carried another goat through. All but the gifting goats were gone by the afternoon. Another 35 were brought in later in the afternoon, to be taken away the next day. Kenneth was given the task of milking the females and filling a jug to have with dinner. He was kicked and butted several times and his scuffs and bruises were laughed at over dinner.
Anders spoke up. “Okay, listen up. I am going to take four of us and Portal hop to see Arawok. You all know the drill. I should be gone a week if this is a serious trading parley and party. I want the beasties shipped home and processed. I want the roof done, cistern done and a really long and unreasonable number of things finished by the time I get back. Dalman has the list and will kick the ass of anyone not carrying his weight. I've sent word and a few folks are available who can help. They are human and will have to be carried back, but it frees up those for hauling. Get it done.” he turned to Kenneth. “You are coming with me. May as well show you the network and see if you can hack it. You get to go meet a Native King. We leave in the morning.”
Odd to have notes, but this is really geeky fanfic.
I posted a thread about Other Lands and was discussing the settling of a new world by Deryni. Originally I was thinking in terms of North America. The I remembered that is was the tropics that were discovered first, and island hopping is just so perfect for a Portal Network.
The other advantage is that for food supplies tropical islands have no predators, so I modifed the Spanish trick of landing pigs on an island, and when they made it back a few years later the island was a larder with hundreds of beasts ready for slaughter.
So I have a British Virgin Island scenario, with South American natives similar to the Arawak. This allows me to pull in MesoAmerican trade patterns (because, I mean, who wouldn't want to pull those in), as well as allowing the most important trade item. Chocolate.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocoa_beanhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arawak_peopleshttp://www.stuartmcmillen.com/comics_en/st-matthew-island/
St. Matthews island is an island in the Bering Sea that had reindeer placed on it. Poplation went from 29 to 6000 in under 20 years, and then crashed. If they had started harvesting the animals it could have been a perpetual food source. (And with a Portal network, and switch the animals to goats you can carry. Bingo, you have a geeky story)
Grenatha is my own green initiative addition to native culture, that and the rocket L stoves. I made the word Grenatha up. Gren is singular for maggot. A grenatha also uses maggots of a type of beetle that I have not yet named/made up yet.
I based a grenatha on a black soldier fly maggot table. Basically it is a waste conversion system that reduces odour and disease risk and converts manure and waste into animal feed. Five pounds of waste in is a pound of food out. http://esrla.com/pdf/landfill_04.pdf
And yes the pods are real and COULD be used to convert waste into food.