STRANDLOCK - YA Fantasy Feb 18, 2020 23:23:00 GMT -5
Post by klsmall on Feb 18, 2020 23:23:00 GMT -5
Tima-Rien tossed a chip of dried dung on the cook fire and stole another glance at the dark clouds gathering on the horizon. The massive rainheads rolled across the northern sky, casting an eerie shadow on the broad grasslands and blocking the mid-day sun. She prayed the elders would not blame her for the storm’s sudden appearance, but she knew they would.
Sweat trickled down Tima’s face, and she frowned at the heat waves shimmering before her eyes. Would it really rain? As far back as she could remember, it never rained during the trading season. The ground should be parched for many more sunrises, until long after the Ceremony of Tears. Even then, the elders sometimes offered sacrifices to entice the sky to open. But it’s not time yet.
Outside the cluster of the camp’s dozen hide-covered shelters, a restless herd of arbulls milled together, the shrill jackoos quieted in their nests, and the drone of insects stilled. Puzzled, Tima shook her head, wiping grime-stained hands on her worn tunic. She adjusted her tightly-twisted headwrap and felt for any exposed hair, relieved to find none. The last time a loose piece escaped its covering, Bara had beaten her harder than usual. The half-healed scars on her back reminded Tima to keep every strand concealed.
Her scalp itched from the thick layer of grease coating her hair, but she ignored it. Kneeling by the glowing embers, she gazed at the blackened pot hanging over the fire, her thoughts embroiled in speculation about the unseasonable storm clouds. Could they be another omen that the spirits were displeased?
"Well?" Nettel rapped her spoon against the side of the metal pot and fixed a critical eye on Tima. "Finish the fire, and get on with the rest of your work!"
"Yes, Elder." Staying beyond the old woman’s reach, Tima emptied the basketful of dung under the cookpot. The fire sparked, and a column of rank smoke curled upward in the calm air. Turning her nose from the foul odor, Tima coughed and brushed beads of sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand. Despite the late summer warmth and the fire's heat, she shivered, wondering for the hundredth time why Nettel was so hard to please.
Looking across the camp, Tima watched Amalon, two trading seasons her junior, teach a group of children to weave. Amalon’s long auburn hair draped over her shoulders and swung rhythmically as her hands swiftly braided a sleeping mat. Caught in rapt fascination at her speed, the youngsters gathered around Amalon in a tight circle and offered her handfuls of grass for the weaving. With most of the able men and women away on the camp’s annual trading trip, only the elders and very young were left in camp. Amalon--pledged to join with Zanigee the Hunter when he returned from the journey for supplies--had volunteered to tend the little ones and miss the excitement of the Market Place.