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Elana's Tale  by Elana

Chapter 14 – To Make a Life

Waymeet was a large town, and some of its residents were quite wealthy. Elana had first thought to hire herself out as a maid to one of the fine houses on the town’s west side. But Roswyn had discouraged this plan, pointing out that her advancing pregnancy would slow her, making her less desirable as a servant than the many others who sought such positions. They had brainstormed what other skills Elana might barter, and when Elana mentioned that she was skilled at spinning, especially the fine threads used for lace, Roswyn was excited. There was an active market for luxury goods, and lace always sold well. So in the morning they visited a shopkeeper who was happy to sell them a high quality fleece, from the breed of sheep with soft, fine fibers, and who promised to consider any lace Elana might bring him, and buy any he found satisfactory. Roswyn brushed aside Elana’s protests and laid down her coins to purchase the fleece, along with a carved wooden spindle and long metal knitting needles, since Elana had not thought to bring her own.

The next days were filled with labor and companionship. Elana bent willingly to the familiar tasks of washing and preparing the wool, carding the fibers, and spinning an even, delicate thread. Then she took up the needles and set about knitting a lace shawl. The technique was an ancient tradition among their people, but few in the present day had the skill to practice it. A well-made shawl was as light and airy as a cobweb, more than six feet square, but so fine it could be drawn through a woman’s wedding ring. Elana worked with practiced speed, desperation adding impetus to her spindle and needles, often working late into the night by the dim firelight. In only a week she’d finished her first shawl, which the shopkeeper bought with glee, paying her a generous sum, more than enough to reimburse Roswyn and invest in more fleece and still have plenty to put aside in her fund. More shawls followed, her little hoard of coins growing, until Elana felt she had enough.

The weather was advancing through summer into early autumn. One morning Roswyn and Elana set out, following the stream that ran by the smithy back towards its source in the foothills of the White Mountains. Elana wanted to find a safe haven, far from any habitation, but no more than an hour or two from the town so she could return to sell her shawls and purchase more supplies as often as she needed. As the ground rose and the stream became smaller and faster, trees began to appear. Soon they were making their way through a small forest, a mix of pines and hardwoods.

Elana stopped as they rounded a bend in the stream. A clearing opened up before her. The stream dropped over a tiny falls, no more than a few feet high, into a deep, rocky pool. A level, grassy meadow stretched a dozen yards from the pool to where the trees began. Elana dipped up a scoop of the icy water in her cupped hands and drank, tasting the snows of the mountains towering above. She knew this was the place she could make a home.

The days that followed were even busier, as Elana alternated days of furious spinning and knitting with shopping for her needs, and trips out to the mountain meadow to prepare her refuge. A hatchet was her first purchase, used to fell slender saplings to construct a simple lean-to shelter just within the trees. Thatched with leafy branches and meadow grasses, it should be waterproof enough. Though summer was quickly fading, the winters here were usually mild, and between a fire and plenty of warm clothes and blankets they should be able to stay warm – she hoped. Gradually Elana added to the amenities – a latrine trench back in the woods, a small garden plot where she sowed a few cold-hardy vegetable seeds, fishing gear, supplies of food carefully stowed beneath rock cairns to resist animal depredations, a hearth and a generous supply of firewood, pots and pans – so many things she needed to make a life.

Finally the day came Elana knew she could linger no longer. Her belly was huge. Labor could come at any time. Roswyn had not mentioned anything, but Elana knew she watched and waited, and her feelings had not changed. The warmth and safety of the house, and the cheerful company of the small family who had so quickly come to feel like kin, begged Elana to stay just a few more days, and the lonely little camp seemed a bleak and dreary contrast. But Elana knew that the price of security would be her child’s life. So she gathered together the rest of her belongings and prepared for the move out to the forest.

Roswyn shook her head as she watched the preparations. But she pressed a few more blankets on Elana over her protests. Finally all was ready. The two women embraced, and tears overflowed both their eyes. Then, hands clasped, Roswyn looked deep into Elana’s eyes. Seeing there that her resolve remained unchanged, Roswyn smiled wryly. “May good fortune go with you, and may you be blessed with the fruit of your labors. Remember, if you need anything, I am here to help you.”

“I’ll remember. Thank you for everything. You have been such a dear friend… I wish things could be different. Farewell.”

Elana picked up her pack, slung it across her back, and set off along the course of the stream.

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