A Proposition

The Artisan Tribe’s stand at the Lambeau Trading Post was always a sight to behold. In a city of scrapped together technology and patched together clothes, seeing the woven blankets covered by expertly sewn leather tunics and scarves lined with rabbit fur, engraved knives, and fired pottery for ceremonies, and more always drew the eyes of passersby. The smell of burning candles and leather mingled amongst some of the odder smells of the other booths. Edith sat crosslegged on a thin folded mat behind the wares. She looked to be in a trance, her long fingers dancing about as she hand stitched a coat commissioned by one of her favorite scavengers; he always brought her interesting bits of metal to embellish her designs. Annaley sat next to her, a salvaged sewing machine connected to the bat at her waist whirred under her hands. The tribe leader had suggested a tapestry with the leftover cloth scraps they’d had to bring more attention to their stand, and young Annaley had enthusiastically jumped to the task. Edith appreciated her tenacity and excitement, for the tribe often felt stuffy with some of the older craftsmen approaching their craft too seriously.

Edith looked up from her work finally to look around the trading post. A few younger scavengers were crowded on the edge of one of the blankets, ogling the knives. The familiar swish of solar panel fabric mixed in with the bustle, making it easy to pick out some of the wealthier tribespeople who occasionally frequented the post. She could pick out some of the handiwork of her tribe: Tommen used those particular buckles for his leather belts, Bryana’s signature dying technique appeared on a few different tunics. Edith saw some of her own skinning and tanning work, a wild elegance about them that reflected her spirit.

Her view of the crowd was blocked by some loose cloth pants. She looked up to see Elan, one of the elder historians, smiling down at her. She smiled back, he was always very kind to her and she was happy to count him amongst her friends. He knelt down gracefully beside her, surprisingly nimble in his old age. Edith admired the braids that swung around his wrinkled brown face; his wife, Jo, was a master of intricacy.

“I have a proposition for you,” Elan said, his smile lines deepened and Edith spotted an almost mischievous sparkle in his eyes.

“Oh? Do tell.” Edith leaned forward, curiosity swelling in her chest.

“I want you to make me a book.” Elan watched her expectantly, and she leaned backwards on her cushion. She pulled her bottom lip between her teeth and looked towards the ceiling of the post. How did that stain get up there? Her mind flew between different types of stitching, trying to fill the gaps in the Artisan tribe’s knowledge. How do you even make paper? She turned back to him, still watching her with a bright smile on his face.

“No,” she said.

“Now now,” Elan said, holding up a hand, “let me rephrase that. I already have most of it written, and the rest of the blank papers that I'd like to fill out later on. But I don't know how to bind it together and I want a really sturdy leather cover. It's my ode to Gator Bay, and hopefully when I pass, another historian can continue my legacy." He pulled a wrapped stack of paper from his coat and handed it to Edith, ignoring her protests. Despite herself, she flipped through the pages covered in elegant handwriting, a full history of Gator Bay, even going into part of before the war. Elan saw where she stopped to read and said, "Ah. Those are stories from my mother. She was born long before the war and told me beautiful tales from our culture and of life before." Edith recognized a few of the native symbols drawn on the margin as from his necklace.

If I bind these with a Celtic-stitch, then use one of those really dark pieces of soft leather I just made, and maybe I can get James to find me a neat piece to use as a clasp...

Edith caught herself. What was she doing? She'd never made a book before, and she sure as hell didn't want to be responsible when she ruined all of Elan's hard work. She tried to hand the stack pack to Elan, but he pushed it back into her lap.

"Keep it. Read through it, you seem really interested." How sly, Edith thought, but it was true. She was drawn to this history that she only knew bits and pieces from, and wanted to read more. Elan smiled softly at her before standing up from his crouch. He nodded to her and then to Annaley, who had stopped her sewing to look at the pages over Edith's shoulder, and he disappeared into the crowd.


Once she was home, Edith lit a few candles at her worktable and read through everything. She wasn't a very strong reader; not too many books survived the war, and she didn't have much opportunity to read, so it took her a while to get through all of it. But it was rich and beautifully written, and she felt that through Elan's words that she too had experienced all of this history firsthand. And even though it was past midnight when she finished, she found herself testing stitches out on the edges of some of her sketches. She started folding the leafs of paper together and began to stitch them together.

She awoke to a sunbeam hitting her face from the window. She stretched, a crick in her neck and back from sleeping at her desk twinged. Once she blinked the drowsiness out of her eyes, she got right back to work. There were hundreds of filled pages, and hundreds more left blank, and Edith worked slowly to ensure she didn't make a mistake. Annaley knocked on her door around noon to bring her a tray of food. She left with a note Edith wrote for the scavenger James, describing the piece she wanted for the clasp for the tome.

Edith worked tirelessly for days. Other artisans came in and out, asking her questions as she worked, offering suggestions, and overall admiring her work. When she finished, the soft, almost black leather shimmered slightly from the dye she used, and the silver feather clasp that James found for her held the tie around the book.

She couldn't wait for Elan to see.