The wagon party formed a ring for the night. The men’s sons fed and watered the animals; the men’s daughters and wives stitched together clothes and a meal. Once more, the firelight flared its incantation through smokey lips and magma-hot tongues, showing the men everything absent from their lives — acres of unpeopled land, streams glutted with fish, gold and oil and precious stones beneath their boots. The wives and daughters and sons shivered, watching the men hunch again toward the unlit flames in the cold epicenter of the camp.



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