Ice Rider I
The Ice Rider was crouched on the ice staring at big steel doors. It was a compound set inside a cave and the doors completely sealed the entrance, no light or sound came through. There was not even a smell to it. The Rider sighed. It was preferable to have some signs of life before entering a compound. One could tell a lot by what one heard or smelled. It gave you an edge, a slight advantage to knowing something about the people behind the door. If there were people. Having ridden the Ice for 3 years now, the Rider had seen many things. Including, compounds that held no people just stuff. No signs that people ever stayed there. That was a puzzle to the Rider. It was very dry inside and warm, but the only things appreciating the warmth were statues and paintings of people long gone. There were cases of jewelry and books. Lots of books. The Rider could read, it was a requirement, but many of the books were in languages the Rider did recognize. The Good Book being was there but again in language the Rider could not read. The Rider had stayed a few days in the cave, enjoying being off the Ice, but soon left. There was nothing there worth keeping or trading.
That compound was not so bad, it was the one all inside were dead that was not pleasant. It was unpleasant but a Rider was obligated to go inside. The doors were not barricaded and it was clean inside, so those who died were alive not too long ago. The Dog, let loose inside, could find no one alive. The 10 or so beings inside had the stiffness of the newly dead. The rider could not find signs of injury on any of the bodies, so was baffled by the deaths. The Rider dragged the bodies out on the ice one by one singing Amazing Grace. That ancient song was sung off key and many of the words forgotten, but it was duty to show respect.
Once they were outside and the cleanup complete the rider searched the place. Cataloguing the items separating out what was tradable and what was not was going to take some time. The Ice Rider would came back to do a thorough job but in the meantime, did a quick inventory. Those items that wer of use, The Ice Rider’s seal was place upon them. The seal was small white horseshoes made from twisted polar bear hairs. The seal said that it belong to this Ice rider and removing it was could get you killed. The cause of the death of those outside on the ice was found during this categorizing. When the stash of home canned goods was found almost everything that the Rider opened was foamy or moldy. They died from the poison in the food. The rider pulled out a piece of charcoal and drew the skull and crossbones above the canned goods. When the rider left after three days inside, the bodies were gone.
It was a five-day journey to this place from the place of the dead. The Ice rider had never been this far before. Always the Rider had been able to return to the bunker within a week, but this, trip it would be a month before arriving home. The Rider was not sure that Home was home anymore anyway. The melancholy was creeping back and the Rider was getting maudlin. The Ice did that sometimes, reminded you of things before, things that cannot happen and things that did happen. The sadness was blue like the lake that the Rider had ridden over when leaving the bunker this last time, vowing not to return until reaching the place called Vail Hall. The others saying that the place was a myth, that the world was Ice, there was no magical mystical place where there was fresh fruit and cows, no sunshine and laughter’s. No used to be’s.It was the dreams of the the drunk, the ramblings of the mad. It was not befitting an Ice Rider to pursue such madness. It would disgrace the family , the clan, yourself.
The doors open so slightly. There were so quiet it took a minute before the Rider realized they were opened and, saw the figure coming from the doors. It was male. You could tell by the walk. The rider stood up and waited. The figure came slowly, bundled up against t the cold. Over bundled actually but many of these people would not survive on the ice anyway so the Ice Rider put aside any contempt. The figure was indeed male and introduced himself as “Sam, short for Samuel, leader of the Saints.” Then Sam pointed out that the Rider was an Ice Rider, which earned him a nod, and if Sam could have seen the Riders face he would have seen the grin as the rider, with Horse and Dog trailing behind, followed Sam Samuel to the doors.
Inside the door was a room with snowsuits hanging on the walls. Sam indicted that the ice Rider could also hang outer robes there but Ice Rider declined, preferring to stay wrapped up. You never knew what you rode into and remaining ready to ride out until you had the lay of the settlement just made sense. Leader of Saints, Samuel wasn’t really happy about Horse and Dog coming along but there was no choice in that. Either they all went in the Rider had informed him or none. Samuel was smaller than expected not in height but in girth. The man was skinny, not starving to death skinny, but more like someone who preferred to rule with his mind then with his power. The Ice rider would bet that Samuel, Saint or not had a personal bodyguard if not a whole police force.
Sam. Threw open a set of double doors and yelled at the top of his lungs. “The Ice Rider is here! The Ice rider is here!
The rider did not get a chance to see what the room looked like as it exploded as people rushed to line a strip of carpet that lead to another set of doors that were open. Sam walked in front of the rider with his arms opened and above his head as if, he was leading a parade. His people responded. They were yelling and clapping , some were crying, wiping tears from their eyes. Others were yelling.
“Hey Ice Rider did you bring us some meat?”
“Do you have any candy?” That was from a small girl, smiling sweetly.
The rider looked at her and dug into a pocket where a good Rider would always keep some candies for just an occasion. With the little girl happily licking a piece of candy, a handful was thrown towards some kids who erupted into frenzy, trying to find that candy. The Ice rider grinned. It worked every time, for the adults as well, but there was different candy they wanted. A handful of small tobacco pouches went through the air. They only held maybe enough for a small pipe but the older ones also scrambled and tried to be the winner of one of those pouches.
The rider was able to get a quick look around while the people were scrambling for goodies. As suspected there were larger men lining the walls of the hall. The Ice rider counted at least 10 of them. Although many places did not use their ammunition for anything but extreme emergencies, these guys were holding shotguns. Most of them looked like .22s. Who knew if they were actually loaded? The crowd was chanting for more goodies and yelling questions again as the rider reached the end of the hall.
One of them yelled, “Hey Rider, what is your name? What do we tell our children what your name is when we talk of you?”
It was a young voice. The Rider decided it was time to ruin their whole day and introduce her.
“My name is Sebella; I am Senior Ice Rider 1st class Sebella of the Breccia Clan. I bring news of other settlements. I have some meat to trade, I have some books and some other things, Sebella removed her hood and face coverings as she spoke. She revealed her long brown hair with red highlights that quite literally made her head look as if it was in fire, her almond shape green eyes were large and quick, but her full lips were frowning now.
She looked straight at a man who had no shirt on (fool) who was reached for her dog and said “The first person be it man, woman or child who touches Dog or Horse will die”
The man removed his hand immediately and looked at her fearfully, well actually looked at her t throwing knife that had appeared in her hands. He nodded and back away. The knife also disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.
Sebella looked at the crowd that had gone silent. Let them take a good look at her. There was only one other Woman Ice Rider ever, and that woman was no longer riding. She was retired and enjoying old age being pampered in the Steamboat compound. Satisfied that the denizens of this settlement understood that touching her things would kill them, Sebella turned and stepping in to another room . From there she was escorted to an office where Sam the leader of the Saints waited for her. Horse and Dog waited outside.
He smiled “You look a lot like your mother did”
“You know my mother.”
Sebella didn’t really care for the niceties but a her trainer always said, “Half the Battle is winning minds and hearts.”
The pleasantries were important.
“Yes she came here when I was just a boy. It was the first time I had seen an Ice Rider and the first time I saw a woman that was not of my compound. It made an impression. She came three times afterwards. Such a beautiful woman and always pleasant to deal with , such a strong woman who made no compromises but was filled with love.
Sebella had a hard time not rolling her eyes, “Yes my mother is pretty wonderful. But enough of mom I am here to trade and I have news.”
Sebella sat down as Sam did and begin to tell him the news starting with the compound 20 klicks from here being empty. Sam expressed no surprise and informed he of such. They sat and talked, to others it may have looked like two friend exchanging gossip but was at the heart of what an Ice Rider did. More than just news, the Ice Rider helped all the Compound feels as if they were part of a community, as if each compound or settlement was a part of a nation. Feeling a part of was what was important. It was hope and that is what Sebella brought.
It was hours before all the information was exchanged. Someone had brought in some crackers with a small amount of rice for their lunch and at some point Sam had poured them both a small glass of whiskey. Sebella was feeling mellow and almost relaxed. She was just about ready to start talking about trades when Sam sprung a surprise on her.
“I know you have meat and I appreciate the information about the polar bears so close by that will helps us with the proteins we need but I need you to do something for us here, something out of the ordinary. I need to you to bring my son to another compound so that he may get married. And then bring them both back here. I intend to help raise my grandchildren”
“You need me to do what?”
Sebella was alittle baffled. She was used to carry goods back and forth but not people. “ You need me t to bring your SON to where? To get MARRIED? DO they know he is coming?”
He nodded, “ Yes we communicate”
“How is that, that you communicate? “ Shortwaves were pretty useless, many places longer had them or the parts to fix, communications was usually done through the Ice Riders.
“Let me show you.” Sam got up and indicated for Sebella to follow.
they ended up in a small room and there in a large cage was some pigeons. Sebella had only seen them in books and had always thought they would taste good. Sam opened the cage and brought out a bird. It was a bit dim looking but he showed Sebella how they tie small messages to the foot and then open a small porthole that was covered with a piece of leather. The bird flew to the other compound and when it got there, the others would read and send another message back. It was genius but Sebella wasn’t sure if n arranged marriage was that great of a thing.
She looked at Sam “I don’t trade people, I don’t transport people.”
“I can make worth your while. I can pay hamdsomely.”
“I have chocolate and coffee”
Coffee…Sebella did not really drink it but it could give you much in the way of trade, but Sam had Chocolate.
“What Kind of Chocolate.” Sebella did not like the old government chocolate . it was like eating Horse’ blanket
“I have Hersheys. “
The two had walked back to the office as the talked. Samuel opened a cabinet and pulled a small locked chest from it. He handed it to Sebella.
“Four, eighteen, nine” He said.
Sebella opened the lock. Inside stacked very neatly was 10 bars Hershey chocolate . She smelled the candy. She calculated the trade worthiness. She smelled the chocolate again. That smell was pure pleasure. It was pretty much worth everything.
Smiling she looked up at, Sam Samuel, the leader of the Saints and said
“Ok I’m in. “