The New Home
In the morning Chu gathered them over on the upper platform. Everyone was munching on a warm slice of buttered rock bread. There was hot water in a large pot to dip and drink.
Beverages like milk and tea were luxuries for nobles to enjoy. He was not a heavy coffee drinker so he didn’t miss it. He did take note to find something that could be used to flavor the water in the long run. Right now these little things were just not high priority.
“We have a lot of work to complete before we get the snow storms.”
“But Chu can’t we just remain in the cellar? We can always come out and move around. When the snow really comes down it sometimes reached waist height.”
Chu nodded in agreement to Ming. In the middle of winter the snow can reach nearly three to four feet in-depth. That was one of the reasons the village tended to hunker down during this time. It was also why hunting and woodcutting grinned to a halt. Only seasoned hunters would venture out into the forest at this time.
Even if the snow became compact, one will still find themselves sinking knee-deep snow while walking sometimes. Chu realized he had always taken the weather forecast for granted. Now he understood how important it was when he needed it.
He continued talking as he reached for another piece of bread.
“And that is why we need to get this place prepared. I want us to be comfortable, but I also want us to be ready to handle any of the dangers that may befall us.”
Chu looked around at his team members. It was a total contrast to handing out work to experienced personnel and getting the jobs done. He could only sigh inwardly. As it was he could only have children with him who could be molded into those he can trust.
Having a batch of men at his command would be the best. But when things take a turn for the best or worst he might be the first sacrifice. At present he was too weak. Who would see a little boy as their leader. A weakling like him was just a tool to be exploited.
This was one of the main reasons he refused to throw in with Griz at the Trading post for the winter. Their relationship might be good now, but in time it might change into him being locked down in service. In this world he was aiming to at least be free to do what he wanted.
Munching on the butter softened bread, he gave out some orders.
“Clod take Ming and repair the barn door. I want it where at least one can open. If not cut a small door that can be opened and locked when needed.”
“Okay, but the door on the ground would be really heavy to lift up for us.”
Chu looked at the half-open entrance. The barn door was about ten feet in height to allow easy entrance of animals and carts. The half-door still up was open and crooked.
“When your ready we will all help. If we can’t raise it, dismantle it and just nail it back on piece by piece. Lucy and Miki will be lookouts. They can help you as assistants every now and again.”
“Okay. We will get started right away.”
“Wait until the meeting is over, then go. I want us to have an idea on where everyone is during the day.”
“Sue the cooking will be done by you. We will bring some stone slabs from the broken house next door. I want to build a small oven under this platform in the corner furthest from the cellar. During the day that will be our main kitchen area.
In the cellar we will make a simple fireside in the passageway near the well. On normal days we cook in the barn. If there is danger and we have to remain in the cellar, then we cook there.”
“I understand. I can do it. The hardest thing is gathering the flat stone slabs.”
Chu agreed nodding his head.
“Find some suitable ones and stack them. When your ready we can help you bring them inside at once. Don’t forget you also have to cook. For today, just prepare the bread and some pickled fruit or something. When we complete the oven you can start cooking normal meals.”
Ming piped in.
“Chu when can we eat the meat?”
“Sue can start cooking the meat from tomorrow. Mix the days between the deer and the bear. Spread them out with vegetable days in between. Remember that we are only eating enough not to starve. Three meals, just to keep us full. You will be responsible for making our food last Sue. That is your responsibility.”
Sue nodded her head vigorously. This was her opportunity to become someone of worth. For someone who had nearly given up on life, she was fully motivated with a new goal.
“Dyna and Sakura will get this top floor and the barn cleaned out of all trash. Pay close attention to the wooden walls. You can get Clod to patch it once the doors in front are fixed.”
“That’s the plan, I want to get that door done today and any holes that are big for wild animals to be patched up.”
Everyone scattered to work. They were not stupid not to understand that Chu wanted to make the entire barn secure. Instead of living like rats in the cellar, afraid to exit. Chu was intent on getting the entire barn secure.
When they climbed down the ladder Chu waited on Clod. He was the last due to his leg. He had a plan for the inside of the barn. Chu wanted to use some wood to fence the bottom of the platform. In this way the area below the platform will be separated from the large open area in front.
He would leave spaces wide enough to attack with spears but small enough to keep large beast out. That way he would save on the lumber he purchased.
After that he could make a ladder leading from this inside area to the platform above through a trapdoor. This way they could access the top without having to exit through the safety of the fence.
With this they could gather around the oven to keep warm during the day. If the doors of the barn was breached, they had adequate time to fight safely behind the fence or escape under the cellar.
Chu went to the well and placed a long plank across. He tied a rope and bucket and tested it out. They would use this to bathe and for cooking in the barn. He then replaced the wood cover and hid it partially with some shrubs. Once not in use he wanted to keep it like this. The rope and plank were strong enough so they could use it as an escape from below by climbing up.
“How is it?”
Chu asked Miki as he went across. She was sitting on top of an old tree at the back of the well. The barn doors faced the forest to the west. The well was on the side of the barn between it and the ruined farm-house. The only blind side from the tree was where the barn blocked the view. That was covered by Lucy patrolling in the front.
“I can see as far as the forest line until the barn blocks me. As for the back it’s not a problem. I can even see the smoke from some of the farmhouses in the distance to the east.”
“That’s good. I don’t want to be sneaked up by people or beast.”
Chu left and went to help Sue gather the flat stone slabs. He wanted to make a small oven by stacking the bricks up and around like an igloo. Luckily the kitchen in the farmhouse had a broken oven. He quickly dismantled it knocking the bricks out one by one. Calling the others they made short work moving them inside.
“Can you build it like how I showed you?”
Chu asked the young girl.
“Yes I can try, I just need some mud and water to help bind it. Once it dries it should be strong enough.”
“Ok, bring all the buckets, I want to fill as much water as possible before covering the well.”
When they got their work done, Clod was ready to get the door back up. As he said before it was too heavy for all of them, so he decided to break it apart and bar the entire entrance piece by piece like a jigsaw. Later he would then cut a door by using one of those pieces.
“If that’s the case, I want the door tall for us but short that a grown man needs to bend down and walk in.”
“Ok, but this will take longer since we have to break up the door.”
“I can help, this is important. We can secure the barn for now and make the door properly inside. When its finished then we’ll install it.”
“Amazing. Only you could have come up with such an idea. Chu you are soooo smart.”
“Stop sucking up and get to work.”
By late evening a crude door was made on the barn entrance that was barred by a plank across it. The couple of weathered side boards were replaced and larger holes were patched. It was not skilled work but effective and sufficient for their immediate needs. Clod experience from a farm was a bonus since he was like an all-round handyman.
They sat on the floor around a fire in the middle of the barn. Although it was old, it was more sturdy and safer than some homes in the village. Chu’s next plan was to build a flat mud and stone fireside on the platform so they could light a fire on it.
That way they could keep warm on the platform and have light for reading. He felt more relaxed if he was on a height rather than on the ground.
“Tomorrow we need to get the fence inside done. I did buy enough materials to bar the doors but since we reused most of the wood planks, we should have extra.”
“The oven should be ready in two days. I want it properly dried first. Sue can make us a soup tomorrow in the cellar. Sue, make enough for the whole day and just keep it over coals to remain warm.”
The barn was not to dark as there were small windows high up to provide light. They were like slits so nothing large could pass through.
“Sakura tomorrow you and Dyna should get some of the padded clothes out. I want Lucy and Miki to start wearing theirs. The short swords and scabbards are a little bulky for us to wear on the side, we’ll strap them on our backs. Once anybody has to go outside the barn they need to be armed!”
After getting the nods from all he continued.
“When the inside fence is up we will keep two spears near the kitchen to use. I want one hidden on the platform for emergency use. Tomorrow evening we will start practicing with the crossbows.”
Chu had brought eight short swords and eight wooden spears with iron tips. He didn’t bother wasting money on long swords or two-handed ones. Given their strength it was a sacrifice of length and heaviness for ease of handling. He also purchased five crossbows that were the lightest he could find.
Their main stash of weapons would be kept in the cellar. The crossbows were light ones that were easy to load. For the children it was still tough to operate. He preferred them to bows and arrows because it was simple point and shoot. Training with a bow would need too much practice for children like them.
He didn’t even have any instructors, so the weapons were like a deterrent and a source of comfort. He only hoped they could make use of it when ready.
This little stash cost them some serious gold nearly causing him to bleed tears. One crossbow bolt alone cost ten copper. Chu had ended up buying five hundred. He was banking on reusing most of them. As for the swords and spears they were near eighty silvers for one.
From his transactions he understood why the startup cost for hunters and adventurers were high. Not anyone could just walk in and get those jobs. Most started as apprentices and worked their way into better equipment.
“Dyna, I want to get some sheets up on the platform in a corner. We can use them when we’re up there to keep warm. Make a trip outside tomorrow with Sakura and gather some fresh grass before the snow covers it all. We can use that under the sheets to make softer beds in the cellar.”
After they ate Chu left them to continue his self studies until the darkness fell.
When everyone was cleaned up and ready for bed, they filed into the cellar and closed the trapdoor. A small fire was already lit near the well to provide a little light and more importantly to ward of the cold.
Chu had tested this for the cellar to remain with fresh air and not become dangerously filled with smoke. He still had them arrange a night guard for safety. A sheet acting as a wall divided the cellar into two giving the girls their privacy.
With soft cloth filled quilts acting as bedding and covers it was a welcome difference between the life they were accustomed to just months ago.
Risking his life for just this simple lifestyle was worth it for the time being. He didn’t want to make it a habit in this life.