This the start of book 2 in a trilogy I have written several more chapters but have not worked ion it fir some time
A black awning, supported by ornate posts and guyed by various coloured ropes stretched out across a large area of flat sand-coloured rock. The material caught the high breeze blowing across the bluff, was buffeted creating hump-backed shapes that moved up and down at the wind's will. It was like some shadow flyer 'hooding' its wings over a frightened prey, ready to pounce, yet teasing to prolong the terror!
It was the tant of Arbin the Treg.
He hugged the cool shadows beneath the outer screen streched a few arm lengths above his head, black and sinister. The less time he spent outside in this heat, the better. Not that he wasn't used to such hot sunshine, the kind that drove sweat from the pores just by standing still. This was a time of comparative peace for him. His Master was somewhere many charads to the north, a fact for which he was at that moment truly grateful.
This was a make-shift kamp, set up close to a major building site. Artisans had been labouring hard for three cycles to complete the work which was still less than half finished.
A whip crack broke the sultry silence. A pained cry followed, then was cut short.
The sound was commonplace though it cut through his reverie. He was thinking about stone at that precise moment. Stone was in short supply, the right kind of stone that was. Rock here shattered as hammer hit, splintering, sending shards over a wide area. Good rock was to be had, but it came only from the northern part of this second continent on the planet of Vaeden.
Moving towards the now stilled voice, Arbin approached the mason who was glowering at two men trying to move a large chunk of granite. "Has this split too?" he asked the stone carver.
"Split! Never have I seen such incompetance. Their carmels should be sliced from ear to ear. Their mothers should be whipped and abused most foully. They should . .." Arbin held up his hand to silence the man.
"What atrocities have you committed?" Arbin directed his question at the two men behind the granite block who were visibly quaking. "Speak up before I too become angered."
"W. . we tried to split the stone Steward, but it crumbled in the centre. Dust covered everything. Sur, it is one of the local blocks and imperfect for chiselling!" The man who spoke had bent his head low and his body was bowing vigourously both to the stone mason and to Arbin. The second man quaked so hard he lost his tool which fell to the ground with a clatter.
"Did you know this was imperfect stone?" Arbin asked the mason.
The man tightened his lips and became as stone-faced as the granite. "I thought it was one of the new blocks brought in a few days ago." His statement had an adamant feel about it. "It is the same colour as those brought in."
"But did you check its hardness before you set the men to task?"
"No!" His lips were thin, tight. He stared coldly at the two workers who shrunk back under his icy stare.
"Then they are not to blame. You should have tapped the block before you set them their task. We have enough trouble as it is to get this built. Check every block in future. I hold you responsible." Arbin turned on his heel and headed for the coolness of his tant.
A small amount of block granite had been brought over land for the foundations (a long and tortuous journey). Some had been floated along the coastal lanes, but very little. The men were afraid of the sea. Few had any sense of navigation. Most were unable to ply the current without losing each and every meal. Boats of any description were scant, many leaked.
A few intrepid men became sailors unwittingly but were able to cope with tide and buoyancy. This method then was found to be the most propitious way of sending large oblongs of hewn granite. More sections had been ordered by this route but as there were no real sail-crafters amongst the other men - frightened to travel this unconventional route more than once - work had been slow. The Steward found there was a shortage of available manpower to sail the less-than navigable craft.
Overland stone hauling could be managed though a slow process as wheelwrights were also few in number. They already had their work cut out to supply enough wheels for the karvens in operation at this moment - wheels split and cracked and broke often on the tortuous surface of this barren continent.
Karvens were the main supply source from the northern end of the continent to this outcrop where nothing grew or ever had grown, or so it seemed to Arbin, Rarsht's new Steward, a tall, thin, hook-nosed man who squinted most of the time in this latitude. His dark skin could stand the tropical heat but his eyes were not as good as they once were and the light here was bright, blindingly so.
He was of the Treg Tribe. Few in number. Highly sought after. His people once populated the Great Arridity on Beneraba, the larger continent of Vaeden. Those of his people that survived assassination were long-since ousted from their hometants by various warrior Tribes larger and stronger than the Treg and thinly spread across Beneraba. Traditions died hard. Men seldom Joined outside their own Tribe, their numbers now desiccated for this reason alone. Many females, over the generations, had been taken into other Tribal cultures and few lines remained pure.
Copyright Evelyn J. Steward 2003
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