Chapter Three The Village of Norhill
The elves of Onsira liked to build their villages in a circular pattern. At the center was the well from which everyone was welcome to draw their water, and the elders’ hut was slightly north of that. It was a wide and long building, with plenty of space inside for gatherings and discussions. On either side of that were the storehouses, where the village’s shared food and other goods were stored. In a circle around all of that were the myriad of houses that sheltered the elvan families. They had been built of wooden planks, the roofs thatched straw that was woven together tightly enough to keep out the rain during most showers. Beyond the dwelling were the workshops, where some of the men practiced forging metal or working clay. On the western edge of the village were fields where the farmers grew as much as they could so that the women would not have to go too far out together, a tall barn nearby to keep the k’hets warm and dry when they were not helping with the plow.
Shiir’s home was about midway between the elders and workshops, with the other houses spaced far enough away that his mother could plant a garden just outside the back door. Most families kept a garden, those who did not hunt or farm or practice some kind of trade would help one another tend to them in between looking after the small children. All in all, they lived a very egalitarian way of life; everyone had a role to play, and nobody was particularly more important than anyone else. The elves respected what their fellow villagers did, knowing that their way of life was only possible if they cooperated in the best of spirits. Nobody could do everything, so everybody did something to contribute to the greater good.
Shiir loved living in the village of Norhill, even though life was sometimes hard, the winters especially, because of the feeling he got from his follow villagers. All of them knew him, and he had helped each of them at some point in his life, knowing that they had looked after him at some point when he was still very small. He had his older brother and sister, a younger brother, and even a new little sister, but he truly felt that all of the youths of his village were his siblings. Any mother would look after a child that was not her own for the day so that the village work could get done, and after generations of this way of life, there was a profound sense of love for one another that Shiir would not have given up for anything.
Like most of the houses, Shiir and Theron lived in a single story, with only a couple of inner walls to section off the areas inside. There was a main living area, where his baby sister crawled and played with her toys, and an are near the back door for storing food. All of the cooking had to be done outdoors to keep from catching the house on fire, so the food had to be near the door in order for it to be easy to carry outside. The sleeping area was the most sectioned off, but there as no inner door. The family slept curled up in whatever part of the room they felt most comfortable, the youths sharing mats of straw and the blankets. It was becoming somewhat crowded, with Shiir’s parents and the four children all in there at night, but Theron and their older sister were not long off from choosing their own mates and taking their own homes.
By the time Theron and Shiir returned to Norhill that day, the other hunters had already brought back their catch, and a whole mass of villagers had gone off to help them prepare the meat. The brothers found their mother sitting beside the garden, each of them nursing their baby as a large pot simmered over the glowing coals of the fire pit. They hugged both the women, and Shiir kissed his mother’s cheek with a wide smile.
“My sons, I am relieved to see you!” their mother cried as though she had been worried for hours. “When you did not come back from the hunt with everyone else, I though that something terrible had happened to you.”
“We are all right, mother,” Theron said calmly as he stirred the beans that were cooking in the pot, partly because he was always willing to help, and partly because he was ravenous and curious as to what dinner would be.
“What happened to you?” the motherly neighbor wanted to know.
Shiir was not ready to tell them about the goddess just yet, and he hesitated as he tried to search his mind for a way to explain their delay.
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