Flashes of reddish-orange rent the twilight sky, drawing Aithne’s attention from her work over the forge. Four meteors tracked glowing trails through the gloom. A moment later she heard the sound of distant blasting as the meteors hit smashed into the ground on the plateau below. Aithne was already strapping her sword to her back and yelling for Rebecca by the time the echoes stopped reverberating.

They took the rickety basket from the top of the bluff to the shallow stream below and slipped to the edge of the low rock wall that edged the plateau. Purple-hued trails of steam or smoke rose from the four impact craters. Aithne pointed at the nearest.

“Mind the elephants and the stabbies.” It would be a difficult blow if Rebecca got crushed by an elephant – replacing the chitin armor would require another visit to the lair of the giant spiders. Aithne shuddered at the thought.

They moved with care, giving the water hole where the stabbies tended to gather a wide berth, and made their way to the meteor. They gasped in unison when they got their first clear view of it.

After a long pause, Aithne grinned. “It’s perfect!”

“Mistress?” Rebecca watched her with a wary expression.

“Hvat got those jewels for me. I have been trying to find something to give him in return.”

“But…how will we get it home?”

Aithne was too distracted by thought to reprimand the thrall for speaking out of turn. She chewed her lip as she considered. “Go get the others.”

“Which…which others?”

“All of them. Everyone. Agni, the thralls, the artisans, everyone.” Rebecca bowed and scurried off.

Fortune smiled on her this night – Hvat was away for the next two days. There would be time. If they could move the thing…

It took twenty minutes for everyone to assemble. There was much debate about how to properly move the thing, and many false starts. Eventually they built a sort of sled built of wood and dragged the thing onto it with rope, then rolled the makeshift cart by putting four logs beneath. Once the sled had passed over the last log, they quickly lifted it and placed it back at the front.

Every incline was a challenge and they realized as a group that they would have to go the long way around – the thing was far too heavy to lift by the wicker basket.

In this way they were able to make the long trip back, pushing and heaving and lifting and fighting off the occasional animal attack. The worked through the night, pushing to get home. Once there, more debate ensued on where to put it. Aithne pressed to put it on the wall inside the house but Agni pointed out that, even if they took down a wall (which is the only way it would fit) it would be far too large for the interior space. Finally they hung it on the outside wall overlooking the valley.

When it was, at last, in place, the entire exhausted bunch stood back and examined their work. For that brief moment, they stood as one unified group; there were no thralls or masters, artisans or laborers. Only a bunch of people who had worked hard and achieved a common goal.

Aithne and Agni, the two who knew Hvat the best, shared a look.

Aithne bit her lip. “Do you think he will like it?”

Agni shook his head as his gaze turned back upward. “Honestly? I don’t know.”

They stood that way for a few minutes more before the group disassembled as if by unspoken command.

Author Sunscryer
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