A cascade of frog chirps brought me awake well before the sun had crested the mountain. Nothing had come to visit in the night, yielding a conclusion that a bear either wasn’t within a distance to smell me, or that they were still hibernating heavily enough to not be curious yet. I hoped for the former.
Smidges of brushed orange and pink eased across the edge of the mountain’s ridge by the time I had collapsed and packed the tent away into my hiking pack. The thought of leaving it up had occurred to me, but it felt safer to keep it tucked away, lest a deer decide a falling leaf had spooked it into trampling through my campsite and upending my one significant protection from the elements.
What I had thought to be a niche last night proved to be a shallow valley above Cairn Valley; this one fed by the spring I had discovered last night. A deep trench from the burbling water cut through a flat pasteur of some two hundred, possibly three hundred acres. Resigning myself to the task, I paced it off, if only to explore the boundaries of the plot and to assess the soil quality that might lend itself to a village. A protected village, if the wind was proving to blow across the treetops as it was. The nook of the rock hedged valley held a humid chill and the wind that found its way into my little paradise was gentle in comparison to what pushed the canopy of the pines and aspen to bend.
Six hundred and eight, I concluded after well on an hour walk to plot out the valley’s square footage. Fifty wide was not necessarily deep, but enough that several families could split up the lot of land and utilize both walls of the valley as part of a natural fencing. Near the end of the valley, one that overlooked a desert floor on the west of the mountain, I encountered a run down house, one of the mansions from before the Great Upheaval.
A round coral, two stock barns, an old root cellar inside a well house all beckoned to be explored. The house itself, three stories on stilts and longer than any building had a right to be promised an easy time of my need to create a Warden’s Cabin. The valley, looking at it from the wide rotting deck of the second floor, had once been a cleared pasture for somebody of means. One hundred years of abandonment lay waste to much, though.
My feet thumped heavily in the dusty interior of the cabin. I would call it a cabin. It was made of chinked logs that would need new mortar and stain once I could make some. Antique technology abounded throughout the house. Interior plumbing being one I was keen to implement again. A wood heated hot water furnace made the job enticing. Too often, when people of the Cairn took over the old houses along the valley edges, they found the water pipes long rusted away and a need for an old form of fuel that no one had the knowledge or means to acquire anymore. This one though, this house in particular, made for a well-off person who understood the limits of location, was mine now. I would claim it as the Warden’s Cabin. It would be a matter of climbing back down into the valley and telling the Mayor of my discoveries, but that could be reserved for the next day.
Solar panels on the roof were a challenge to get up to. They were dense little tiles, made to integrate into the slate roofing. What amazed me was the minimal cracking I found across the surface. One slate and two solar panels would need to be patched, not even removed. It was probably for the best that the house sat solidly in the middle of the valley with no trees towering over it to throw sticks at it. A handful of rat-chewed towels and a bit of elbow grease had years of dust and grit pulled up off the intricate electronics. A chirping beep greeted me on the ground floor under the stilts when I finally descended from my perch.
Pacing around a locked cement room, I sighed in frustration. The beeping echoed from inside it, a little chirp, no less annoying than a cricket in a pantry. Years of fiddling with rummaged parts from the Old Times had taught the people of Cairn Valley the benefit of stubbornness, though. If I could get the solar panels working, I could possibly get the well-house running. One hundred years of being offline might have allowed the water table to reaccumulate. It was a hope at least.
The day fell away from me as I worked on the cabin’s internals and searched for a possible key to open the chirping closet door. A broken window toward the back of the house had led to at least one room partially rotting out. The furniture inside would need to be evaluated for salvage, and the logs would need to be scoured with ammonia to clear it of mould. Digging about in a scrap pile in one of the two livestock barns yielded a sheet of plywood that would suffice in sealing off the room from more damage until I could locate a suitable sheet of glass from one of the other abandoned houses in the hills leading up to what I was fondly calling Eden. It felt like a fitting name. A handful of apple and pear trees off the back of the house just added to the image.
“And the Mayor’s say that I have a family in this Eden. Would that a suiting Eve feed me apples from your tree and no snake live within your branches.” I ran a gentle finger across the buds of an ancient apple tree that no longer bore as heavily as it once did. Its spawn lingered around its roots, though, where fruit had dropped long ago and made what was once an eating orchard into a fitting cider orchard.
While rummaging through the other barn, I discovered a set of three wind turbines, never having been taken out of their boxes. Fortuna smiled upon me and provided. Tools at a workbench were heavily rusted and pitted, but if I could drag up my own, there could be thought put into erecting the wind turbines and hooking it into the chirping closet. I had to hope that the batteries inside of it would hold a charge.
Sleep came readily enough to me after another meal of venison jerk and a handful of early spring greens from the old garden plot beneath the apple tree branches. The living room, vast in scale, felt safe with three stories of windows watching the starry sky for me. The plethora of rooms to the back of the long building held accommodations for well on twenty people, and a kitchen that started it all would feed many more.
Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.
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