11: Beautiful And Dangerous

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It was Sister Hales—good, dependable Sister Hales—who pointed out to the Bishop that the young people joining the expedition would miss the Feast of Thanksgiving and it was at her urging that he planned a banquet to celebrate their departure. Morale being what it was, Ever had no doubt that Bishop Royce had jumped at the opportunity to turn their leaving into something to celebrate. At the Bishopric's command, the long, wide storehouses nestled behind the green in the very center of Bountiful were thrown open and the precious foodstuffs, some of which had already gone toward preparing the company's food stores for the long journey north, were brought out for the whole village to share.

Ever remembered the first time her father—her birth father, whose face, to her shame, grew increasingly blurry with every passing year—took her to see the inside of the storehouses. Six stout log buildings built in a row, with stout doors almost as thick as Bountiful's main gates, all shelves from floor to ceiling, filled with airtight jars and canisters. All were marked by date and contents and all contained food. There were barrels of wheat along the walls, grown in the small fields the Blessed tended at the mouth of the peninsula, jars of pickled vegetables picked at the peak of ripeness in the gardens of Bountiful's villagers, jams, jellies, dried fruit, salted and cured meats, jerky, any number of different grains and cereals grown and stored over the years. One building was nothing but massive water tanks, cleaned and changed periodically.

Every villager in Bountiful paid a tithe of food or supplies to contribute to the community storehouses. They were, in a way, the foundation of their community, and perhaps of the Blessed as a whole. The faith that led them to store the necessities of life and to prepare for the worst had helped them survive the Fall when others did not. They still lived a civilized, godly life because of the storehouses. Each year, after the harvest, they celebrated the feast of Thanksgiving to give thanks to the Godhead for its love in giving them life.

The storehouses were life, but they were also a danger: it was the food and supplies the Blessed put up against disaster that drew their enemies to them, looking to take by violence what others had produced by honest labor.

Ever was slicing bread for Erlan's luncheon the second morning of their marriage when it occurred to her that there was something wrong in that thought. It was a small, niggling thought that wouldn't go away, and after a few moments of frustration Ever consciously put it aside.

The 21st day of the Month of Gold was set aside for the feast. Ever woke that morning feeling oddly hollow. It took her several long minutes to realize that the anxiety that had crouched in her chest like a predator stalking prey since the day of the attack—the day she woke up from her dream and knew she had to leave—was gone. The feeling was more resignation than happiness: the die was cast. They were leaving tomorrow at dawn. There was no going back. She had no more difficult decisions to make and no more loved ones and neighbors to worry about. Her only concern was the road ahead of her.

It's relief, not resignation, she realized. As dangerous as the journey ahead was likely to be, at the moment she felt mostly excitement at being relieved of the burdens of life in Bountiful. Compared to the hard choices of the last few days, the road was escape—the road was independence. For the first time in her life, she was her own mistress. It felt good.

It was only an hour or two after sunup when a knock on the door produced an uncertain looking Jared Meacham, dressed for ranging. His bow was strung and slung over his shoulder and his quiver was full.

"Good morning," she said.

"Good morning, Ever," said Jared, looking around nervously. "Is—"

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