Curing Cabin Fever in Tlefas


Along with the tapping of the keys, I heard a persistent drip-drop. Was that the sound of a leaky pipe or spilled water? No, it was the beautiful sound of the icicles melting, dripping on the snow below.

A small sign that winter may be giving up.

I know I’m ready to shake off the urge to hibernate and get outside. It’s even been too cold to enjoy the snow this year. I never got in any snow shoeing, and now I don’t want to. My thoughts have turned to biking, hiking and kayaking.

All this got me thinking. What do the people of Tlefas, the setting for my fantasy novels, do in the winter? How do they keep from going crazy?


The riskers use the snow-bound time to catch up on tasks they don’t have time for in the summer. They make their shoes and boots for the coming year, and much of their clothing. Having collected the right pieces of wood and stone in the fall, they make sure they have good supplies of arrows and knives. They repair their traps, whether they are intended for furry animals or honey combs. When these jobs are done, men do leatherwork, making harnesses or decorative items, while women embroider or knit. Some of the more inventive make jewelry or play homemade musical instruments. Others will tell stories, to entertain those at work.

Of course, being riskers, they find ways to make their own fun. They play games, such as a version of chess with four players, or a game of strategy involving little stones in little pits. For holidays or when the mood strikes on clear nights, they make a bonfire and hold an impromptu outdoor dance.


In the village, the people keep up with clothing and shoe repairs as best they can. The village Ludi, the person in charge of education and social matters, organizes weekly events that all are expected to participate in. Sometimes these are game competitions. The villagers play the same stones and pits game the riskers know, as well as a few others. At least twice a month, the villagers will put on dramas, mostly about how the country of Tlefas was founded, and how safety and fairness are guaranteed for all.


The bandits hunker down in their lairs, wherever they find to hide. While it’s not certain what they do, it is clear they make sure they have an enormous stockpile of arrows, knives and lashes so they are ready for spring, when raiding caravans becomes possible.


In winter, they sail south. Whether they find anyone to raid or they just enjoy the beach is not known. I’d like to think they take some time off from pirating and spend some time getting suntans, but I imagine they’d find that a little dull.

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