Gold, Cold, and Muffins (Incomplete / on Hiatus)

Feb 3rd, 2017
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  1. >Not one of these pans has ever turned up anything but rocks and dirt, but still you find yourself trying again and again. It’s an exercise in futility more than anything else.
  2. >You sigh, put the pan of worthless rubble off to the side and take a look around.
  3. >Your breath condenses into a gray mist in front of you, despite the morning sun’s full presence. It’s October, which means that most leaves that can fall off already have, and the first snow is probably right around the corner.
  4. >Not like you can know. Even if there are weather stations this far out in the Alaskan wilderness, it’s not like you have any way to access their data.
  5. >So instead, your expert opinion determines that it’s fucking cold, as usual, but not fucking cold enough to freeze the stream yet.
  6. >But despite the cold, the overriding peace of this idyllic landscape puts you in a permanently good mood. No matter how many pans yield nothing, no matter how many potential veins turn up shit, the natural beauty of this wilderness keeps you going.
  7. >The only signs of human occupation are your own cabin, traps, and storage facilities, but those blend in well enough with the rustic theme. Occasionally, propeller aircraft pass over, but there isn’t a runway for them for dozens or maybe hundreds of miles around you.
  8. >You would get lonely, but you’re not that kind of guy. As long as you have your books, pens, and paper, you can hold enough conversations with yourself to keep up your English.
  9. >You shove yourself up from your position and go to check the crawfish traps. Thankfully, even though your gold search seems to always turn up lacking, the tasty critters can’t get enough of you.
  10. >Which is good, because you can’t get enough of them, either.
  11. >As expected, your traps turn up full, and you’re spared of another day of fishing or hunting. But, depending on how your mood swings, you might do one or the other anyway. Winter’s coming, and your stores can never get too full.
  12. >You’re about to shoulder the baskets of writhing shellfish when a large crash rocks the woods on the other side of the stream.
  13. >Holy shit, the tree shook. That’s a grizzly or a moose, and either one can and will gore you with ease. You unsling your shotgun and point it at the brush, ready to unload six rounds of buckshot at a moment’s notice.
  14. >A bit more rustling, and finally, the offending animal is visible.
  15. >Wait, what the fuck?
  16. >”Oh, hi mister!”
  17. >…
  19. >You are a very lost pegasus.
  20. >You’ve seen a lot of maps, and it’s very likely that you are as far away from human civilization as anyone can possibly be on this continent.
  21. >That or really close to the city.
  22. >A very, very lost pegasus.
  23. >But, apparently, not too lost, because there’s a nice man with a gun on the other side of the stream!
  24. >”What the fuck? Where’d you come from?” he shouts, keeping the firearm steady.
  25. “Oh! I came from those woods.” You point to the brush behind you, “But I crashed a few times and I’m not sure where I am. Are we near Fairbanks?”
  26. >”The Hell? We’re a fifteen day hike from Fairbanks! How’d you get out here?”
  27. You should probably be concerned by his gun, but it’s not in your nature. “Oh! My plane crashed a few days ago, and I’ve just been kind of flying around, trying to find my way to a town. Is there one nearby?”
  28. >”A plane crash?”
  29. >…
  31. >You hadn’t seen much of these ponies yet, since your visits to civilization are few and far between, but from what you had seen, you’re very surprised that this one isn’t cowering at fear having a gun pointed at her.
  32. >She’s small in size with rounded features, so you’re pretty sure it’s a she.
  33. >You’re not even sure if she’s looking at you, even though you can clearly see her massive yellow eyes from across the waterway. For some reason, they seem to be pointed in different directions.
  34. >Can ponies do that?
  35. “You armed?”
  36. >”I’ve got a Swiss army knife, but I don’t know how to use it.”
  37. >The bags she has strapped to her are packed to the brim.
  38. “Put your bags down, leave your stuff, then fly on over to this side of the stream.”
  39. >To your slight surprise, she obliges, shrugging off the packs and flapping over to you. You notice that her flight is slightly erratic, but she somehow manages to avoid injury upon landing.
  40. “If I stop pointing this gun at you, are you going to do anything?”
  41. >”Why would I do that?”
  42. >You look around. No witnesses, if she’s some kind of criminal. But then again, it’s not like you have anything of value out here.
  43. >Stupid bad luck prospecting…
  44. “Alright, point taken,” you say as you lower the weapon. To your relief, she calmly walks towards you. “So, uhh, pony. You got a name?”
  45. >Her expression doesn’t shift, maintaining a soft, cheerful smile, “Well, back in Equestria my name was Derpy, but lots of ponies called me Ditzy. Then, my old master started calling me Muffins since that’s my favorite food, and he said it was a cuter name.”
  46. “So, what you want me to call you?”
  47. >She shrugs, “Anything’s fine, I guess. You could call me something else if you want, I don’t mind.”
  48. “Guess I’ll call you Muffins then. Your master’s right, it is a good name for a pony.”
  49. >But wait.
  50. “Actually, hold on a fucking second. That’s right, you ponies are indentured or whatever. Where’s your master.”
  51. >For the first time, her smile breaks, and she looks down, “He’s… still in the plane.”
  52. >You eye her. She certainly has her fair share of scrapes and bruises, but if she’s been flying into trees like you just saw, they could all be new. For all you know, the poor guy might be lying in a ditch somewhere a mile away with a knife in his gut.
  53. “Pony. Muffins. Look at me.”
  54. >You’re going to ask her for details, but the streams of tears flowing down her cheeks tell you she’s being truthful.
  55. “What… know what, never mind. How long you been traveling, uhh, since the crash?”
  56. >”It’s been four days including this one, mister. We crashed right around noon.”
  57. >At least she doesn’t look starved. But, then again, there’s probably ample food for her in this lush landscape.
  58. “And you’ve just been wandering around, looking for a town since then?”
  59. >”Well, not wandering. I have a map, but I’m a little lost. I just know we went down somewhere straight north of Fairbanks, and I’ve been going south since then.”
  60. >That causes you to pause. Something doesn’t add up here.
  61. “Now hold up. That doesn’t seem right. We’re west of Fairbanks. Like, cardinal west.”
  62. >”Really?”
  63. >She jumps a little in surprise, and her eyes shift directions. They don’t exactly straighten out, just shift.
  64. >You think you can see why she’s lost.
  65. “Yeah. And, more bad news, there isn’t a town anywhere around here, either. It’s basically just you and me for at least fifty miles on all sides.” You scratch the back of your neck, “Up until five minutes ago, I was assuming it was just me, too.”
  66. >”O-oh. Shoot.” She looks somewhat downtrodden at the revelation.
  67. >But, she perks up again, and shifts the topic, “So, uhh, mister! I told you my name, what’s yours?”
  68. “I’m Anon. Pleasure to meet you, Muffins.”
  69. >…
  71. >Wow! This guy’s got a cool name!
  72. >He seems pretty nice, too. Although you are worried about there being no town nearby.
  73. >And also being hundreds of miles away from where you thought you were.
  74. >”So, uhh, if I let you go get those bags of yours, you aren’t gonna hurt me with anything in them, are you?”
  75. >You look over to the saddlebags you left behind across the stream. Mostly, they just contain survival equipment, but you also found a couple cool rocks and flowers. Don’t want to lose those.
  76. “Oh, no sir! I don’t think I could hurt a fly.”
  77. >Actually, you had hurt a fly on accident, one time. But you took him to Fluttershy and they both forgave you, so it probably doesn’t count.
  78. >”Alright, then go ahead and get them. I’ve gotta take these crawfish back to my cabin before anything else, and you’re coming with me.”
  79. “Okay Mr. Anon!” You quickly fly over, pick up the bags, and come back, landing next to him.
  80. >”Don’t have to call me mister. I’m just an old-timey prospector. Anon’s fine.”
  81. “Okay Anon!”
  82. >There’s a trail worn into the ground leading away from this part of the stream, and Anon starts down along it. You decide to walk the distance, keeping pace with him and, thankfully, avoiding any more crashes.
  83. >Your face is hard after so many thousands of impacts, but they can still hurt.
  84. >Shortly, a quaint log cabin comes into view. Supported by a set of large, thick poles, the cabin itself is pretty small, but it has a big deck area and storage space underneath on a separate raised platform. Both are packed with crates, barrels, and pallets of supplies.
  85. “Wow, Anon! Do you live here?”
  86. >”Yeah, I know it ain’t much, but it’s all I need. Guess it suits the atmosphere, too.”
  87. “Yeah, it’s amazing!” You recall delivering post cards back in Equestria with similar scenes on them. This place, you think, would trump all of them.
  88. >”Amazing isn’t the word I would use, but whatever floats your boat. I think ‘cozy’ is a better word.”
  89. “Ooh, yeah, that is better!”
  90. >He looks back at you, through the cage of crawfish slung over his shoulder, “You’re certainly cheerful for someone who’s just survived a plane crash, is lost hundreds of miles from civilization, and is currently being led to an isolated cabin in the woods.”
  91. “Oh, I’m always cheerful! Except if I have a reason not to be. But right now, I don’t think I do, so being cheerful is just natural!”
  92. >Your mood does dampen when your thoughts shift back to your master, dying underneath the plane’s smoldering wreckage.
  93. >And all at once, the scene replays itself in your mind.
  94. >…
  96. >”Derpy,” he called out. It was the first time he’d used your real name. “Listen to me. I don’t know how you got out. But you gotta go.”
  97. “Master, I can’t. You’re stuck.”
  98. >”Listen to me, girl.” His eyes stayed locked on you, and you wished you could hold his gaze, “My leg, I saw it. You don’t want to. To look. I… I’m not gonna any more.”
  99. “Master, please, can’t you pull yourself out?” You nudged his side with your nose, fighting back tears.
  100. >He winced as you do so, and you pulled back. “Fuckin’ A, that’s a broke rib too. Probably more. Derpy, Muffins, I ain’t gonna fucking make it. You got your map?”
  101. “I-I have my saddlebags.” You were crying at this point, he had to get up!
  102. >”Good, good. Aaahh, alright, not moving that again. Girl, you know my full name, right?”
  103. “D-david Scheffield…”
  104. >”Good, that’s a good girl. When you get back to town, tell them what happened. You’ve got a copy of the plane’s registration in those bags, keep good care of them. Tell them where we crashed, and what happened to me, alright?”
  105. “No, master, I don’t-“
  106. >”Just stop, for a second, okay? We’re at…”
  107. >He listed out your last coordinates, and they became branded into your mind in the process. “You got that?” he asks, weakly.
  108. “I got it master, but I’m not leaving you. You-you’ll die out here! From the cold, or from thirst, or hunger, I can’t leave you here!”
  109. >Tears stain his face as well, but his eyes widen a bit, and his gaze shifts to a spot behind you. You follow it, and your heart sinks when you see what he’s looking at. “Then don’t, girl. Don’t leave me here.”
  110. >The safety was off and a round was chambered. Just how he always kept it.
  111. >…
  113. >”Hey! Hey! You alright?”
  114. >You snap out of it when Anon puts a hand on your back, shaking you lightly. You realize that you’ve stopped a few feet from the cabin’s front steps, with him kneeling beside you.
  115. “I-I.. I…” You don’t finish the sentence, and instead jump and pull him into a hug. You don’t care if he’s practically a stranger, you need to hold someone.
  116. >”Muffins? You okay?”
  117. “Th-the plane crash. Master. I…” again, you can’t fill in the final words, instead sobbing lightly into his jacket.
  118. >”Oh, uhh, shit. It’s alright, let it all out.”
  119. >You shouldn’t do this to him. He just met you!
  120. >And he’s also the only source of shelter for a hundred miles.
  121. “I-it’s okay. I think I can deal with it.” You break off the hug, slightly embarrassed.
  122. >He stays kneeling for a moment, silent. “You were pretty close to him, then?”
  123. >You just nod in response. He gives you a rub on the head, and stands up, “Alright, if you need more time out here, that’s fine. But come on up and inside when you’re ready, I’ll get started on some cooking and get some fresh wood on the fire.”
  124. >He ascends the stairs, and after a moment, you follow.
  125. >…
  127. >The cabin’s interior is small, but you could see that from the outside.
  128. >The floors are made of unfinished but well-sanded wooden boards, while the walls are composed of stripped logs laid bare atop one another.
  129. >It’s the kind of cabin someone could have and probably did make with his own two hands.
  130. >A small, roughly carved wooden table sits in one corner with two cut logs resting aside it as seats. Aside from some counter space, a rocking chair, and a bear hide couch, the room is otherwise absent of furniture.
  131. >Perhaps surprisingly, there’s a small sleeping area separated from the main cabin space. It doesn’t have a door, instead only partly obscured by a line of bead-laced strings. Inside is barely enough space for a small but comfortable cot and a hand-carved end table.
  132. >The only source of light in the room comes from a dimly-lit wood burning stove, but Anon quickly moves to add more fuel and fan the flames. He also stretches up and lights a kerosene lantern, giving the room a significantly brighter glow.
  133. >”Well, I hope you’re not used to living in a big house or something,” Anon says while still fiddling with the stove.
  134. “Oh, no. Master has - had - just a small apartment in Anchorage. It was only a little bigger than this place, actually.”
  135. >”Ah, but no rustic charm,” he says, turning around with a grin.
  136. “Yeah. Actually, where’s the bathroom?”
  137. >”You didn’t see it when we were coming in? Outhouse, opposite side of the staircase, downhill just a little bit.”
  138. >Oh. You’d thought that was a shed or something.
  139. >”But, yeah, make yourself at home. Only got one bed, so you’ll probably have to sleep on the couch or one of the furs.”
  140. Although you don’t really want to sleep on animal hides like that, it’s probably preferable to the cold wooden floor. “That’s okay, thanks. Where should I put my bags?”
  141. >”Just toss ‘em down wherever. The place isn’t actually this clean most of the time, I just did some fall cleaning last week.”
  142. >You quickly toss your saddlebags down and perch them against the wall, eager to be free from their weight. Might as well take stock of what you have while you’re at it.
  143. >Left bag has all your survival supplies, paperwork, and important stuff sealed in a waterproof bag. This is the side Master had put together years ago in case of an emergency.
  144. >The right side was empty when you started out, but you’ve filled it with tons of cool rocks and plants since you started traveling a few days ago. You should probably take those out now.
  145. >”Are those… rocks?” Anon asks, clearly puzzled by your supplies.
  146. “Oh, yeah! I thought I was a lot closer to the city, so I picked these up to take with me. Some of them are really cool and shiny.”
  147. >You pick up the bag and turn it upside-down, spilling out the rest of the contents. Oh, oops, maybe you should have put the plants on top…
  148. >”What the fuck?” Anon almost shouts, scrambling over to you. “Where the hell did you get these?”
  149. >…
  151. >You are Anonymous, old timey prospector working the unluckiest strip of mineral-rich land in Alaska.
  152. >And the mysterious gray horse you just met has spilled out the contents of her heavily-packed bag, revealing what is probably at least five or six kilograms in solid gold nuggets.
  153. >It’s more than your grandfather found in the decades he spent on this land, and more than you’ve found by a factor of several hundred.
  154. “What the fuck?” you exclaim, feeling your eyes going wide. “Where the hell did you get these?”
  155. >Her brow furrows in a puzzled look, as though confused by your actions, “I picked them up in the forest. Why? Do you want them?”
  156. “Do I?...” Did this horse rob and murder her owner or something? “Okay, do you know what these are?”
  157. >”Shiny rocks, I think?”
  158. “Shiny rocks? No, this is fucking gold! And some pure as shit gold, at that!”
  159. >”Oh, cool!” She smiles at you, her eyes still facing two entirely different directions.
  160. “Did you take this from the plane?” You’d like to retire early, but not on a dead man’s fortune.
  161. >”No, I just found them as I was flying,” she explains, lifting her wings slightly as if to remind you that they’re still there. “Sometimes I would see the sun glint off of something below me, and I would go down to check it out. You have a lot of these around here.”
  162. >Some of these nuggets have to be thirty, forty, fifty grams on their own. And that big one at the center… that one must be close to a hundred. And they’re all big, no flakes.
  163. “You found this. You found several hundred thousand dollars in raw gold, in the last few days?”
  164. >”I guess. Are they really worth that much?”
  165. “Yes! My grandfather spent half his life searching for just this much!” you exclaim, holding up a nugget to the lantern to inspect. It’s pristine.
  166. >”Cool! You can have them if you want. I just thought they looked pretty.”
  167. >This trove alone is worth… a lot. Easily enough to pay off the moderate debt you’ve incurred buying things on credit when you make the trek to town.
  168. >The pony seems unfazed by the revelation of her trinkets’ value. Even if you are taking advantage of her, what harm could it do? You’ll just be taking her back to civilization next season anyway.
  169. >…
  171. >You are a certain gray pegasus who apparently has a knack for prospecting.
  172. >You really didn’t realize how valuable those rocks are! You thought they were just some bits of metal or something. Gold wasn’t as rare back in Equestria, but it was still pretty uncommon and kind of valuable.
  173. >Here, though, it’s worth a lot! Master told you that when he showed you his wife’s wedding ring. You still wonder why you never saw her. Master cried a lot that day, so wherever she is, he must have missed her.
  174. >Back in the present, Anon is still taking your rocks and holding them up to the light. He curses under his breath every now and again, but his tone is of awe rather than anger so you think nothing of it.
  175. >Master certainly didn’t cut back on his language around you…
  176. >Stop! Stop thinking about him! You know you have to let go! If only it weren’t easier said than done.
  177. >”Have them?” Anon asks in reply. “This is a lot of gold, Muffins. I know it’s my business and all, but I’m not sure if I feel comfortable just… taking everything like that.”
  178. “Really, it’s fine. I can’t sell it anyways. Maybe it’s payment for helping me out?”
  179. >He grunts in affirmation and picks up another rock. Come to think of it, how is he helping you out? You’re pretty far from civilization, and the temperatures at night can’t be much higher than freezing already. A trip out now is probably going to be pretty hard.
  180. “About that, by the way. Anon, how are we gonna get to Fairbanks? Or are there any other towns between us and them? Do you have a car or something?”
  181. >He puts down the piece of gold and sighs, “I was about to talk to you about that. You’ve been out for a few days, you know how cold it is, right?” You merely nod your head in response.
  182. >”Well, if you’d shown up maybe two weeks ago, we could probably leave and not get caught up in a blizzard on the way back. No cars, not even a dogsled for me. But now, it’s too late. Trying to hike the distance would be suicide.”
  183. “Oh. Okay then. Can I, uhh, maybe stay here this winter then? It’s definitely a lot warmer.”
  184. >”That’s just what I was about to get to. I think I have enough food saved up to accommodate you, but it could get tight if winter drags on. I’ve got plenty of ammo anyways, so I’ll probably be adding some game to my stockpiles.”
  185. >He stretches a hand out before him, inspecting it absentmindedly. “I wouldn’t mind some company around here, if you’re willing to stay. But I do wanna know one thing.”
  186. “Yeah?”
  187. >”Think you might be willing to help find me some more of these shiny rocks?”
  188. >…
  190. >You are Anon, and you really hope this lazy-eyed gray horse says yes.
  191. >This stretch of land should, by all accounts, be rich with gold. But you’ve never found anything here, and your grandfather barely eked out a living too.
  192. >The sky-pony, though, has collected a small fortune within the span of a few days.
  193. >Even if she only found a few more nuggets this winter, it would give you an idea of where to look in the future. Until now, you’ve been searching with as much knowledge of where you’re supposed to be looking as a blind retard in a dark room.
  194. >Which is why you really hope-
  195. >”Yeah, sure! I love flying, and if it helps you out, that’s just an added bonus!” Perfect.
  196. “Thanks. I won’t make you do anything, of course. No flying when it’s too cold or anything. But really, just finding a few more nuggets on this land would help me out for years.”
  197. >”Yeah, mister Anon, it’s cool. I mean hey, I’d still be wandering through the woods right now if it weren’t for you!”
  198. >That is true. You could probably force her to search, if you wanted. But you’re not that type of dude.
  199. “Awesome. I like you, Muffins.” A thought suddenly comes to your head, “I might have some spare leathers down below the cabin, want me to spend the rest of the day making you a hammock or something?”
  200. >”No, that’s okay. The couch is plenty big enough for a pony.”
  201. “Oh, right.”
  202. >A moment of silence passes, and you throw a small log onto the fire behind you. It doesn’t really need it, but you’ve got plenty of wood and the stove will keep it burning for a long time regardless.
  203. >”So,” the mare asks, “what do you do around here all day? Just… look for gold?”
  204. “Sometimes,” you answer, picking up the fire poker. “Sometimes I do that, sometimes I do other stuff. There’s plenty to do out here, you just never have to do it at some specific time. I was probably going to try some fishing in the river, until you came along.”
  205. >”Oh! That sounds like fun. We can do that.”
  206. “It’s fine, you’re more important than some greasy river fish. What, uhh, what do you like to do for fun?”
  207. >”I like to bake…”
  208. >You look around the room. Yeah, no ovens here, or probably for a few hundred miles in any direction.
  209. “That’s… probably not an option. Any kind of rugged, ‘outdoorsy’ stuff? We’ve got plenty of opportunity for that out here.”
  210. >She shrugs, her left eye moving slightly in the process. “Not really. Maybe you could teach me.”
  211. >You kind of want to start looking for gold, but quality social time with an actual talking, sapient being is something you’re lacking far too often. A slow, chatty fishing day might be a good idea, actually.
  212. “All right, fishing then. Let me grab you a spare rod, and we can head back to the river.”
  213. >…
  215. >To be perfectly honest, you didn’t expect much from teaching the pony to fish.
  216. >You doubted she would even be able to grasp the rod between her hooves, much less actually catch anything.
  217. >But somehow, between her teeth, hooves, wings and body movements, she’s making it work. Already caught herself two trout, and you haven’t been out here an hour.
  218. >You haven’t done much better, taking a salmon and a trout, but by weight you probably have her beat. Regardless, if this keeps up, your food reserves should just keep piling higher.
  219. >They are a concern, after all. There’s no way you could make it through the winter on a full belly with just the stores you have now. You haven’t been planning on feeding for two. Doubtless, you’ll have to devote a substantial amount of time in the coming weeks to getting as much as you can before the river freezes over and the animals grow sparser.
  220. >If one thing is for sure, it’s that you’re going to have a protein-rich winter. What little you’ve gathered or brought back from your last trip to town will all be going to Muffins. Chances are she’ll probably have to eat some meat too, or else forage for herself in the late winter.
  221. >But, thoughts of hardship are pushed to the back of your mind as you chat with the cheerful mare. Her personality is bubbly enough to match her ass picture, or cutie mark or whatever.
  222. >”Anon! I got another one!” You snap your head to the side to watch as she starts reeling in with her teeth. It looks difficult, but she’s making good progress somehow. At last, her catch breaches the surface, revealing a small but hard-fighting char.
  223. “Let me get that for ya,” you offer, already grabbing the line. She drops the pole and you hold up her catch to inspect. “Not the biggest fish I’ve ever seen, maybe three pounds. But nice catch, regardless.”
  224. >”Thanks, Anon! Ooh, it’s got a pretty belly. What kind of fish is it?”
  225. “This here is an Arctic char. They get to be three or four times bigger than this sometimes, so watch out for those.”
  226. >She inspects the fish closer, her ever-present smile widening slightly. You wonder how she manages to see it when her eyes fail to look forwards.
  227. >By now, the sun is getting pretty high in the sky. Your luck probably won’t be lasting much longer.
  228. “I think it might be best to head in. We won’t be catching too much until evening, and in the meantime there’s more important work we can do.”
  229. >”Okay, sure,” the mare agrees as you remove the char from her line. “What were you planning on?”
  230. “Well, first order of business is making you some blankets. The heater might keep the cabin warm for now, but the cold nights come fast. Don’t want you freezing now, do we?”
  231. >”Okay, sure. I can help, if you want. Do you have some yarn? I’m pretty good at knitting.”
  232. You chuckle, “Heh, no, don’t have anything like that. But I do still have a real nice grizzly bear pelt from July. Big male bear showed up near the house, I got a clean shot on him and decided to keep the pelt.”
  233. >”Oh,” she says, her smile briefly dissipating. “Oh, yeah, that’s okay. Sounds good.”
  234. “Something the matter?”
  235. >”I was just hoping you had some wool or cotton fabrics, instead of an animal pelt. I know they’re not really smart here like in Equestria, but I still don’t like to hurt them.” Her smile returns, “But, I get it, better to have that than nothing.”
  236. “Yeah, not a lot of options, sorry. The bear pelt should be warm and reasonably soft, so that’s probably the best thing we have. It’s only for a season, anyway, until we can make the trip to Fairbanks.”
  237. >”Oh! I almost forgot to ask. Why can’t we just take the river? Isn’t Fairbanks down the way?”
  238. “Nope, it’s upstream, and I don’t have a boat that can go that way. It’s on a different tributary anyway. I have to hike out, and then usually get a raft to get back home in half the time.”
  239. >”Oh, okay. I’ve never actually been to this part of the state, just flown over it.”
  240. You laugh, loudly this time, “Oh, trust me. The number of people who can honestly say they have, I can probably count on one hand. Including you. Occasionally a boat or raft goes by on the river, but aside from that this is some pretty isolated land.”
  241. >You pick up the basket containing your fish, and bring out your knife to start gutting them. You’ll do the salmon first, then the char, then move on to the trout.
  242. >”Anon, what are you doing?” You look up and see one of the mare’s golden eyes fixated on you.
  243. “Gutting the fish, what’s it look like?”
  244. >”O-oh. I thought we were going to put them back…”
  245. What? This dumbfounds you. “What? You realize this is how we’re going to be able to eat, right?”
  246. >”Now that you say it, yeah, I guess. I just didn’t really think about it.”
  247. >She actually seems upset. They’re just fish! They can’t even physically feel pain! But then again, she doesn’t seem like the type of creature that could hurt a fly on purpose…
  248. “Well, sorry. But it’s not just sport, we need to gut and salt these to survive the winter. Homesteading isn’t forgiving if you fuck up. Head back to the cabin if you like.”
  249. >She nods and starts back to your small forest home. You sigh and get to work, estimating how long this catch will last you. It’s actually a pretty sizable haul for this time of day, no doubt due to having an extra line going out. You just hope she has the will to help out again this evening.
  250. >Much as you’d like to coddle her, she’s going to have to get used to a lot of hunting and killing. Alaska isn’t a forgiving land, and you’d not realistically survive the season ahead with even a small inhibition towards hunting game.
  251. >She’ll come around, though. Hopefully.
  252. >…
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