First Chill

The hay was in. The last two bales perched like strange giant eggs at the edge of the field nearest the house, securely wrapped in their white rain guards. Not that the sky gave any reason to believe the guards were necessary; the colors of the mountain grasses shone in brilliant contrast under the cloudless late summer sky.

Looks were deceiving, Uri knew. The mountains played fickle games with the winds, churning storms into existence within hours or stubbornly channeling every wisp of cloud away from the valleys between them. Little grew in the rocky soil, but the grasses seemed to have some special charm that left them untouched by drought or flood alike and held their roots firmly attached to the bedrock. This year’s crop was exceptional, and would feed the family’s small stock through the temperamental winter to come.

Tomorrow he and Bjorn from higher up the slope would make their yearly trip to the city to resupply the root cellars and pantries before the first snows at the peaks. He smiled, a somewhat grim twist to the corner of his mouth nonetheless. The haying had been late, and the first storms would come soon. It would be the mud that trapped them first, deep and miring. Not even a sled could cross the gullies then. They would need to be quick to prepare in time.

A gust caught his shirt where he stood in the cropped field staring up the mountain. He closed his eyes and let it whip around him, alert for the subtle daggers of cold mixed with the last of the summer warmth that would signal the wild end of peace for the year. There it was, an eddy from above, just the smallest tickle at his bare neck. He breathed deeply and shoved his hands into his pockets. He’d better call Bjorn before supper; they’d need an early start in the morning.

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