The Lone and Level Sands
Living on the road my friend,
Was going to keep you Free and Clean…
Now you wear your skin like iron;
And your breath’s as hard as Kerosene.
Townes Van Zant.
But it seemed to many of the tribe that the rumors of Muss and Tanant’s dad injuring or abusing the Tribe’s kortans in his care, were too outrageous, far too outrageous- to be true. Until mention was made that he had been caught “in flagrante” by his mate.
A mate who, after a horrible row heard by most of the tribe; with shouting and screaming denouncing and decrying him, a mate who suddenly– a terrible fate to pass- suddenly, mysteriously, who went mute and after a few days died of convulsions. It had the ear marks of murder, of poison.
There was talk within the tribal leadership about looking into this immediately, with intent to remove the diseased one from the tribe … But Tilsit overheard mention of it, and escaped –out into the desert.
Tilsit Raka T’heer fled his Tribe. Stopping only to take his tent, his children, his clothes, his kortans, and everything else he had plus two hands of kortans belonging not strictly entirely to him– but to the Tribe– took them just for good luck.
And he managed to avoid getting caught by continually moving about the desert, reaching a town and living not far from it, but also not in it, before moving on. Keeping himself, and his children away from the towns’ people, keeping to himself before packing up again, and moving to yet another town.
At least the constant moving gave his grieving children something to keep their minds off the last dying hours of their mother.
If one is too exhausted, too sleep deprived from moving, to think one can hardly think about anything other than sleeping- and if sleep might be allowed to happen soon. Thinking about the quality of that sleep, maybe, and how deep sleep might be when it came.
After these several years of constant movement it was decided that his Old Tribe had gone so far away in time and space that he could afford to stop looking constantly over his shoulder. He brought this idea to his children, who yearning for a more settled pace of life, embraced the needed stability. It had been enough years that they were largely over their tragedy and mourning.
He took to living near a town full of -to his eyes- uncivilized pagans. But if they accorded him the same suspicions, then he also found similar thinking kilmi -if not “into” quite the same things- as he. And having found one kindred spirit, or maybe two, decided that this town was some place he could live near. He wouldn’t dwell IN town -no, no,- that would cramp his … Activities. Certainly he felt the stresses of constant watchfulness, and thought maybe he could behave with less vigilance, and still (yet?) secure.
He was surprised that towns made living so easy. His herd began to make him enough money to afford a few finer things. Even if he did not allow his children to share much in the bounty their herd provided.
Though it may have been due to the kids’ handling of the herd, and his lack of participation there, still, Tilsit was making some friends and gaining some esteem among the townsfolk for having the best kortans for meat, for leather, for fleece. His re-focusing his attention — turning from looking over his shoulder, to turning to his growing business, –it may have been a mistake. Deciding that the nomadic lifestyle was vastly over romanticized by the townsfolk, he began moving slowly closer to town and adding more stationary items to his camp. After one last move he surprisingly added one or two semi- permanent structures.
If he had a firm reputation for honest pricing for fine meat, fine leather and the very best fleece, due to his honed bargaining skills with the townspeople (rather than any skills he had with the beasts) with his accrued respect, in-tow came pride, and with pride came smug satisfaction.
Please come into my tent, I think you will find that these are the beasts with finest fleece you have EVER felt! Feel, feel! Feel this, is this amazing?
Reaching out- feeling the fleeces offered, Kimt had to agree, he had never felt pelts quite like these. He gave a firm grip with his hands and nodded questioningly at the seller, as if to say, “May I?”
Kimt pulled, and pulled more, there was no give, he gave up tugging on it and went back to looking for thin spots, tough places or flaws that would provide bargaining leverage for him.
“HHhhhmmmmmm …” …
Tilsit knew– there was nothing, no weakness, no flaw, that could be used to lower his price, nothing to weaken his position. but it would be a lot to ask of Kimt to buy all of them at the higher price. Perhaps giving one for free would speed things up.
“Please! Allow me to offer you tea while you decide.”. Tilsit was vey careful not to show any impatience. He could play the gambler if required … But time was short.
Knowing that Kimt was torn between what he had paid for other fleece before, and how deep it would cut paying for Kaht T’heer Family skins Tilsit took his time making the tea, making every action deliberate. He used the regular sized cups, knowing that they could be refilled if they were empty, but would be easy enough to empty should Sare’ Kimpt need to leave without making a purchase.
They sat in an agreeable silence for a while. Kimt pawing through the skins as if searching for a good one to buy, Tilsit trying not to show impatience to leave town, while watching without looking- sometimes kicking a skin or a pile of fleece idly with one toe, as if looking for a flaw to criticize. Both Kilmi knowing that it was just a game played by adults–about money. One would bid too low, one would ask too high, and in the end Kimt would pay more than he had wanted and would leave with his dignity in tact, but his wallet very depleted, and Tilsit would not get as much as he asked for, but still get a few credits more than anyone else could even hope to get. The skins were very supple, beautiful, and the fleeces were exceedingly fine. Worth every bit of what Kimt might pay, of what Tilsit might take in exchange for them.
Here, will you have some more tea? Maybe you can take these few humble skins with you, when you leave? Here, I will pour you more tea? Sweetening for your tea? No? Please, I know they are not very large, perhaps you have seen better, but are they not at least pretty? Are they not soft?”
Tilsit was toying with him. Kimt had perhaps seen such soft skins, well, maybe. Though more likely, he had never seen such fine soft fleece.
Kimt missed Tilsit’s barbs tossed his way, his senses appreciating the wool held in his fingers, mind absorbed in calculating its value. He was adding up the time to spin and weave, calculating the prices he might demand. Well he knew, as he knew the sun would rise hot and dry tomorrow, he could ask a lot of credits for any cloth woven of these. Though he might have to suck on a stone in place of eating lunch until the first sale was made, he knew well that with fleece like this to spin, his cloth would fetch top price in credits. He could almost feel smug about how much he would make with this transaction.
“Alright Sar’ Tilsit, what shall I offer you for the best of a kortan? Will you accept 127, each?”
“Sare’ Kimt, you injure me. But I shall not keep you in doubt. I am asking only what they are worth to me. I believe I can ask 220 and not loose business.”
Kimt paled at the price. A fleece, for 220? That would begger him before he could even get the fleece spun.
“..eeeii, my friend, you must jest, even one-eighty for a fleece is far too dear to ask of me.”
“Oh,” began Tilsit, “You mistake me. I mean – for you- two-twenty for a fleece and a tanned skin, both,… not just the fleece. Please! I am not mad.”
In the end Kimt paid only one hundred seventy seven for each skin and fleece pair, and also a pound of tea for sweetening the bargain, but he did buy the entire stock, and was glad of it. He would be broke for a month, and short on rations for much longer, but he would have the best cloth in town for months! They traded credits for bundles of fleece and piles of skins, finished their tea, and shook hands for it. A fine deal. Kimt got the finest fleece he had ever, ever seen.
Tilsit took the credits and ran back to his tents, only stopping for some merrum for later celebrating after the day was done.
Tilsit just caught a glimpse, he did, of a tribe camping — just four tents, five at the most. Hunters camping. Seeing tanned kortan hide tents, only, blazoned with the painted symbol of his Old Tribe, one hand of dunes distant from his camp, maybe a little more distanced, but not two hands distant…
Panic set in! He involved the children in packing everything that would pack within one hour’s time, packing as quietly as might be done. Then with the tents, cook gear, live kortens on the hoof, moved camp all the way to the other side of the town, in poor hopes that he had been unseen by the hunters.
They stayed close by camp for a few days, he dared not be seen in town. It would be Very unlikely that any of his Tribe would come into town for barter, or trade. There wouldn’t be anything they didn’t already have. They were probably hunting game and he didn’t have anything to worry about!
But it wouldn’t hurt to be extra careful. Would it!