Change of Climate
Galnoth shivered. A new experience for the wood-orken. He had no word for it.
Galnoth had climbed to the rasqu’ullar treeband for the best cooking wood in the hills. It was normally warm and wet giving good growth. But today, today the trees felt strange, there were more leaves on the forest floor than he would expect in Narets’chă. The air was drier and less warm than he had ever known. He had no word for cold.
Back down from the rasqu’ullars with his wood he started to slice it to sell. It was used for cooking and building. He was strong, not tall, for an orken and he could cut and gather more rasqu’ than any of the vill-orkens, allowing him to trade for more ea’alna seed, above what he and his could harvest, and so more food for the family. Cutting his own rasqu’ meant that he and his didn’t have the expense of trading for digsticks with the brownsmith.
His getchild partner, Ruch’narn, his children’s matter, was Longover. The farm, when he was up in the forest, was run by his firstlitter of seven, three male, four female. The younger litterlings did easier tasks but those seven carried the weight of the farming. Ruchnath-Galnoth-yorg led them. They had to work together as a team to keep the orushib’ba fed and to protect the eth’retha crops from the ea’alna which would weave in and parasitise the roots. The ea’alna were easier to cut off on their way in at night. Digging them out later was hard and slow work and damaged the eth’retha, reducing the harvest. Left alone, the ea’alna could destroy a field of crops in days.
Galnoth-Ruchnath-galn, the lead youngmale, would soon be strong enough to help his patter with cutting the wood from the rasqu’ullar but that wouldn’t be possible until the second litter had another year’s growth behind them. He would have to learn quickly, as patter began to lose strength.
On the next trip to the belt, Galnoth was looking for newshoot growth. The whippier stemgrowths, as long as they were moist, were much in demand for the stirring of pots. After they dried out they could then be burnt, saving the cost of a little cooking wood.
Ruchnath-Galnoth-yorga’a had to help with the second litter, she was the eldest of them by a short time, and she eagerly took on the responsibilities, training up her litterkins. There were only four of them, three younglinglass and one younglinglad, Galnath-Ruchnath-galn’a. In due course of time Galnoth-Ruchnath-galn would pass on patter’s knowledge and skill to him in turn, for when patter was Longover. Ruchnath-Galnoth-yorg hoped that they would both match patter’s strength. It made vill-life so much easier having the rasqu’ullar wood to trade; it traded well and it earned respect.
The newshoot rasqu’ullar weren’t whippy, but stiff, as if they had been used for many stirrings. Most had no leaves left. Galnoth was familiar with death, what wood-orken wasn’t, but this was too early for the newshoots to die. This cutting should have lasted a long time yet. Galnoth, always, left one newshoot to mature into a fullgrown rasqu’ullar for a good supply of wood into the future. Until fullgrown, though, the newshoots would cluster round the bolebase. This time, though, the newshoots, were as if old and as if used for stirring for a long time. They were only good to burn now, but they were too small to trade, too small and dry to be worth dragging back down to the vill.
Galnoth shivered. He had no word for it.
Ruchnath-Galnoth-yorga’a’a was needed to keep her fellow next-litter-younglings away from danger. Each Longover litterling put pressure on the rest of the family and on the litters. They needed to grow into working and one or two from each litter would, Galnoth hoped, be chosen for breeding, having their own plots to farm in due course. They were still small and at risk, though, for now.
This sowing, zuln’toth were skimming in. They had not been seen this far away from the highwaters within memory. Patter brought down stories of seeing them over the highwaters, stories to warn and to scare the lastlitterlings, stories of zuln’toth screaming as they hunted through the highwater plants and the u’chamer’ullar forest tops, hunting for anything living. New tales said that two younglings had disappeared from Falnoth’s farm in the next valley this sowing. Ruchnath-Galnoth-yorga’a’a had to watch her ones carefully.
The orushib’ba struggled to break the ground. Ruchnath-Galnoth-yorg had to make sure that the firstlitter did not overwork the animals. A dead orushib’ba was of no use, quite apart from the quantity of tradewood demanded to replace one. They bred slowly and Galnoth had no young orushib on the farm. The waterlogged soil had not lost enough moisture during Narets’ucho and it was heavy and hard to turn. The newsown eth’retha rotted quickly on planting and, even when they didn’t, they grew less well. Ruchnath-Galnoth-yorg did what she could but the rotting and the increased attacks by the desperate ea’alna were taking their toll. At least the ea’alna were weaker and fewer in number which made them easier for the firstlitters to dig out.
Galnoth returned again from the rasqu’ullars with less wood and still poorer wood, but other wood-orken had not found even that amount. If this continued there would be even less wood and so even less food for the vill.
The elders were already concerned. Orken life was never easy but now it was harder. Plants, animals and orken were weakening. Longovers would increase. Wait; act; or move? In the vill-moot the elders were for waiting, the grown farmers for acting, and the younglings for moving.
If the leaves stopped, the trees would stop; if the trees stopped, the wood would stop; if the wood stopped; the vill would stop, if the vill stopped the orkens would Longover.
Outside his home, Galnoth shivered. He still had no word for it.
“Look”, one of the lastlitterlings said, “look, patter, the rain. It’s coming down in bits”.