Crates and barrels were stacked atop each other, covering nearly every inch of the hard-packed dirt floor. Stepping deeper into the room I let my fingers slide along the rough surface of what the land dwellers called wood.
My hand jerked away and I cried out as a sharp pain pierced one finger. Imalia moved closer with the light and I turned my hand over to find a sliver of wood embedded in my skin. A bright red bead of my own blood welled from the point of entry. With the nails of my opposite hand I extracted the splinter and set it carefully atop the offending crate lest one of us step on the sharp point later.
I focused my mind on the spot and watched as fresh skin covered the tiny wound, then licked the blood from my once again hale digit.
My friends nodded and turned their attention back tot he contents of the room.
“How do we find out what’s inside?” Leilani asked in a frustrated whisper.
Imalia and Taya looked to me for an answer that I did not have.
“Oh, Imalia, give me the light.” Taya said.
Imalia complied and Taya hurried back tot he entrance, the light from the fire appearing and reappearing as she swept it low along the wall.
A moment later Taya returned carrying a long dark object.
“I noticed it when we came in, I thought it might work to pry off the lids.”
We grinned in response and set to work.
Imalia held the torch aloft as Leilani, Taya, and I combined our strength and pressed down on one end of the heavy bar. Our efforts were rewarded with a loud crack and then a prolonged squeak of nails retreating from wood.
We moved the bar along the edge of the crate until all the nails were exposed, then we each took a section and pulled. The lid peeled away.
Imalia moved the torch over the top of the container and we all stared wide-eyed at the contents.
“Fish,” Leilani said with a mixture of disappointment and surprise.
We must have all reached the same conclusion simultaneously. As one our heads lifted and scanned the room, full to bursting with crates just like the one we’d opened.
“Do you suppose they all…” Taya’s voice trailed off in disbelief.
Leilani picked up the bar we’d laid aside and began to pry the lid off a nearby barrel. Taya and I moved to help.
This one came away more quickly and we gasped at the wealth of food before us. The barrel brimmed with sea water covering hundreds of oysters.
“Elisande, this will feed us for moons,” Imalia said, gesturing to indicate the room full of containers.
I nodded, the shock of the discovery slowly giving way to determination.
“We must work quickly,” I whispered. My friends leaned in as I outlined my plan. When I was done, they nodded eagerly.
We made a hasty retreat from the tower and hurried toward the shore, stopping when we reached the tall reeds and grasses that grew along the beach.
Working silently and swiftly we each wove a container. Eyes darted from castle to sky and back to the task at hand as we raced against time.
Taya was first to finish, followed by Imalia. Leilani and I tried to make our fingers move faster.
Finally all were complete and we crept back to the tower to fill our baskets with the food our people so desperately needed.