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The rangers of Itadesh gathered
to discuss their options.
They had been talking about
where to put people and snow-unicorns
in the short term, how to shore up resources
to get through the long winter.
Now their thoughts turned toward the long term.

Raldori opened the discussion;
her years of experience at herding and camping
had earned her much respect.
"We should begin thinking about
where and when to rebuild Itadesh,"
she said. "We could reuse the same valley
or choose a new location."

"People like a sense of continuity,"
Anler said. "That argues for the same valley."

"A lot of people died there, though,"
Fala pointed out. "Plus we'd have to wait longer
for the terrain to recover from the fire.
In a new valley, we could start building in spring."

"The river runs through our old valley,"
Eshra said. "The ones nearby
have smaller streams, not as reliable."

"Site needs a main river,"
Birka muttered as she made notes
on the map they were using.

"Sheltered location," Fala added,
"good forage for people and snowies,
craft materials and other resources."

Birka wrote that down too.
"Let's mark those on the map,
as much as we know them," she said.
"The main rivers are already on here
but not all that other stuff."

The rangers crowded close
to add their observations and recollections
of valleys around Itadesh.
Birka jotted down symbols --
the double wavy line for stream,
triple for river, and the same things
circled for ponds or lakes;
a birch leaf for hardwood trees
and an apple for edible plants;
a hoofprint for good browsing land.

Eshra tapped a finger on the old valley.
"This will offer perfect grazing next summer,
and excellent browsing for years afterward,"
she said. "We can send a herd here
whether or not that's where we rebuild."

"Any counter-arguments to that?"
Raldori asked, looking around the circle.
Nobody spoke up.

Birka wrote down the range of dates
for grazing a herd in the old valley,
then added a snowy-hoof
encircled by a nose-ring for certainty.

They continued to explore the pros and cons
of different valleys, along with the old one.

"We can't easily move north," Fala said. "The old valley
is as close to the sound as it's practical to get.
We could move south -- there are more birches inland,
though not once the land gets higher and colder."

"East is an option, though we'd need
to take care not to encroach on Itrelir,"
Anler said, mulling over the map.

"We have more room to the west,
as long as we don't hit the other coast,"
Beqash pointed out.

So many changes, so many choices,
so many places to go and to come from --
it was all very confusing, especially since
this had never happened before.

Other valleys had burned up,
but not an inhabited one.
It made people leery of deciding
where to settle.

At length they narrowed down the options
to three new valleys: one each
to the south, the east, and the west.

"In spring, we will send out parties
to survey each of these locations in detail,"
Raldori declared. "The parties must include
people capable of assessing many different things.
We will also gather new information
about the recovery of the old valley."

"We'll need domestics as well as rangers,"
Birka suggested. "We don't look at the same things."

"Domestics hate spending so much time
away from their home village,
except for the summer gathers," Raldori said.
"You're pulling a snowy's tail with that plan."

"Some people go both ways, though,"
Fala said. "There's Tetefii from home,
and she's making friends with --
oh, what is that woman's name,
not the fisher but one of her friends?"

"Jularei," said Birka.
"She does hunting and gathering.
I agree that she would be perfect
for this kind of trip."

"Shouldn't we send people from Itadesh
to decide where Itadesh will be rebuilt?"
Anler said dubiously.

"This is just scouting work," Fala said.
"As long as we have some Itadesh folks
in each party, I don't see a problem
with filling out the ranks from elsewhere."

"Are you offering to lead a party?"
Raldori asked Fala. "You're a good guide."

"I might," Fala said. "I've been to
two out of the three new valleys.
Let's see what other people have to say
when they see our notes and map."

"We're agreed on scouting these three?"
Birka asked for confirmation.
Everyone nodded.
She drew in a bootprint
with a spearpoint inside it,
the symbol for scouting,
to mark each valley.

Then Birka handed the transcript to Raldori,
map covered with fresh symbols
and key phrases written down the sides.
"I'll take this to the Council of Elders,"
Raldori said, "then later,
we can show it to others of Itadesh."

Fala stood and stretched,
shaking the stiffness out of her muscles.
There would be so much to do this next spring!
Already she looked forward to it.

Author's Notes

This poem came out of the March 5, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl. It has been sponsored by Shirley Barrette.

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Characters Featured:
Eshra, Birka, Beqash, Anler, Fala, Raldori, Tetefii,

Story collections:
The Last Walk
Itadesh Fire
The Secret Scroll
Fala's Story
Riding From the Rescue

View More Story Collections...

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(These stories may be unrelated)
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