Things from the mind of Xynth and Koari

Dreaming of the Desert

Had a dream last night, was so flavorful and so real.  I’d thought to share it below

 

My small caravan and I had crossed into the desert lands, our goal was to travel towards the New City as much as it was to flee from the horse-mounted guardsmen.  None of us were navigators; none of us were prepared for the journey. Weeks later, some of us had made our way to a lost tribe with the aid of a ranger who had taken pity upon our misfortune and foolishness. 

She and I grew close as I learned the meanings of her soft and lilting language. She had tried many until I found one I had remembered hearing in my youth. We shared stories, and slowly, made friends.  Any attempt at more, was met with a swift kick to my midsection. Over time the remains of my caravan dispersed. A couple had travelled back with some traders who had come this way. One died in childbirth, and the rest slowly found their separate paths. We had made ourselves friends, slowly, and I had proven myself to a small group that shared an enclave a in the 4rd ring of the city.

The culture was rich in tradition, and it flavored their homes. The houses were clay, sitting close to one another to provide shade to the neighbors, and the buildings were built not on grids, but in families. Small units of relatives and friends, so after hundreds of years, the small city was a maze of intricate passageways and plazas.  The eldest of the clans resided in the second ring.  There is no word that translates accurately, but these were not rings in shape, but in status and distance from the center markets. Everything about this city reflected their unique culture – and the keystone was their neighbor. They had remained unseparated by harsh winds and prior ages as a nomadic clan by their strong dedication, respect and traditions.   

 Though it lived in the sands of an unnamed desert, it was not a barren town of clay. The city was vibrant with relics of their lifeblood – trade.  Exotic birds and furs, copper and clay pots of vastly different styles. In one gaze, your eye could travel from the Far East to the barbarian Norths.  The fabrics were richly dyed, yet everything was sun bleached and covered by a thick layer of dust that no one seemed to notice.

 

It was in such a room, belonging to the Matriarch of a small family clan, that I found myself oogling at the richness of their lives.  This was an oasis, not of green, but of culture, and blessed shade.  We shared ground meal, seasoned sharply with spices I did not recognize and served on pieces of a shattered vase.  It was here that they had found me, and here where I was unknowingly brought into the clan.

They were shouting, sultry tones spoken in urgency; there had been violence by an outsider. They were pointing to our footprints in the packed clay and sand.  I saw the footprints, mine, mixed among theirs.  They were easy to tell apart; mine lacked the strong slanted line between my middle toe and arch, where theirs in unison left this mark in recess.

This was an old tradition, from the first days of this city. All who entered the city walked with barren feet; the streets were soft and clean, so the tracks of a person could be seen, blending together.  In fact, this was a common theme in local art as it was The image that represented community.  The very young were marked, a thick and skillfully made cut on the foot. The elders performed this rite on new clan infants that had reached a few months, when they could be considered viable.  The death rate was still rather high, and they refused to burden (spiritually, and physically) someone who would not grow to enjoy the benefits.  This youth would be encouraged to walk only after it had healed. 

Because of this, my tracks stood out as glaringly as hoofprints among theirs.  Sweeping would do no good, as they were present throughout town, and the matron of this clan would not permit sweeping, as it violated a community trust. The Youngest, an almond-eyed boy and his Eldest Sister, knelt in their hearth and carefully swept only the tracks that were mine. They told me they would hide me up in the loft until daybreak. No blood is spilled during the day, where the sun would take it.  If the blood of clan members or tradesmen must be shed, by application of justice or villainy alike, it was done in the cool hours.

It was this night we spent together; never before had I stayed this late as a guest. We sat in front of a large shallow bronze bowl, this one with what looked stylized people and birds circling its rim.  The bowl glowed with the embers inside; the dried cakes from dinner had been removed from it and put away.   We sat cross-legged on the floor around this, atop richly woven carpets. The Eldest Daughter arrived with a gaily painted pot, filled with water. As I moved to stand and greet her, She waved at me to sit and knelt down across from me. I looked to her Younger Brother, He grinned at me, and I was nervous.  The Matron returned to join us; folding her elaborate skirts, She knelt deftly in front of me and pulled up her necklace. A thick, curved blade emerged from under her tunic.

She smiled, the corners of her eyes crinkling as She chided me. I would be the oldest newborn this family had seen since the settling of her clan.  My eyes were wide as I realized the honor and the pain about to be gifted to me.  The Eldest Daughter cleaned my feet – I squirmed, blushed and giggled when She playfully tickled my feet as she finished.  She was beautiful. It burned!

She had done her part perfectly; distracting me as the elderly woman had heated the blade in the embers, offering a sweet tickle before the blade was run deeply through the underside of my foot.  Her grip was strong, and the cut perfect.  I gaped, the pain not quite hitting me just yet. She had already sliced my other foot when the first cut started to really scream.  

The cuts were packed with fresh grass; I was too distracted to wonder where on earth it had come from.  My feet were bandaged, untraditional considering they were a foot covering, but the exception made seeing as I could not stay seated for the time it took to heal.  Another Sister, this one from the next House, offered me a yurt of fermented milk to cut the pain, and to celebrate. I looked to the doorway.

My companion looked down at me and shook her head with amusement. She belonged to no clan, and we knew they would not shame her so by offering. She wouldn’t have accepted anyway.  Her black hair and pale skin made her stand apart – she was an outcast, but respected among these people.  She brought trade with foreigners, her features and her talents with languages made her one of the best. Her status was also her freedom and her honor. An outcast had no elders to seek shade from, and no feet but their own to carry the burdens of the desert. She brushed dust from her suede leggings and boots before walking outside.   

We celebrated long into the night, enjoying pomegranates, cheese and spiced wine.  My mind fuzzy with pain and good drink, I vaguely wondered if I could still steal a kiss from the Eldest Daughter now that I would be called Brother.

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