The Water Breakers Tribe
“Work on that skin, lil'chap, it's not clean enough for my taste!” said the master tanner, spitting in the river with an ungraceful gesture.
“And hurry up, lil'chap, we don't have all day, for kamis sake! The last thing we want to see now would be one of these good-for-nothing Tryker thugs to come and kick your butt by stealing your dappers…” he mumbled as he walked away from the water hole.
It was a beautiful day beginning. The cool morning foreshadowed a hot afternoon under the oppressive heat of the desert, which favored my work as an apprentice tanner from the Water Breakers tribe. But heat meant thirst, and the herbivores would soon arrive in droves at the water hole. And herbivores mean predators lurking around… But for the moment, it was enough not to think about it. I worked for more than two hours on the same skin of varinx by rubbing it with chips of tama wood. At the end of those two hours, not only was the skin not as "perfect" as the master tanner wanted it to be, but my daily supply of chips was almost exhausted, not to mention the splinters I collected in the palm of my hand. As for the water of the oasis, it was getting more and more dirty and would be soon unusable. So, when the call for a break sounded, I had a moment of panic: after the break, the master tanner would come back to see me and, noticing my task had not progressed a bit, would take a malicious pleasure in tearing a strip of me.
It had been two weeks since we had received the order from the imperial palace to redo the room of the little Dexton. Bedspread in varinx skin. But not the standard model, nor the basic model, of course. And, when it was not orders for very luxurious products like those we had been asked to produce this time, the Empire ordered heavy armor from us. But, that morning, many sighs escaped me as I looked at the state of the dirty skin that had fallen on me. I was achieving absolutely nothing with these varinx skins, not to mention the grease stains on the coat. And all this for a mission to be accomplished quickly. The whole tribe had been busy for two weeks. Drapes, clothes of all sizes, various carpets... It was necessary to do everything for a being who one day would be the Emperor of the Fyros people, our Emperor. And each day, the water was a little more dirty, brownish, and the air a little less breathable... the wind did not help. Some people said that the storm was about to break. I'm still waiting for it.
The afternoon, as expected, was hot and burning. But nothing could have prevented me from finishing my painful task after the violent correction graciously offered between two snags by the tannery master. Generous of his blows, he was! I finally managed to clean the skin properly, as it should have been, and, proud of my work, raised my head to watch the herds of herbivores drinking at the water's edge. But nothing there. Nothing at all. Not the shadow of a herbivore. Yet the star of the day was high in the sky and the beasts should have been there. Yes, but no. Later, I will be surprised that I didn't see any predators either. Strange…
“Hey Xerc!” said my matis friend, two Jena years my youngest, “Did you notice? Three days we haven't seen no grazer nor bodoc-eater! I bet that the Ma-Duk, well, he's going to fall down upon us soon!”
As the young, enamored fool I was, I stupidly smiled at the little homina with a face burned by the desert sun while chewing my stinking pittance. “No time!” the master tanner had say: we had to be content with hastily swallowing filthy, almost military rations if we wanted to finish the imperial order on time. And the absence of herbivores did not make things any easier. I sighed again, without paying attention to the whispers that were spreading through the tribe's camp. After a while, the whispers suddenly fell silent. Intrigued, I took my head out of the disgusting dish we were forced to eat... and almost choked on a particularly ignoble bite of my ration.
”Is good your job, tanner, but not respectful Nature. Necessary is to stop polluting activity your, 'cause animals drinking in Oasis Oflovak no more can and dying desiccated in desert are. Kamis saddened are by deaths these by hundreds! You understand? Should you!”
Two sentinels stood majestically before the master tanner of the Water Breakers tribe, very pale and not proud. Purple eyes reflecting an unfathomable vastness stared at the homin with an uncomfortable coldness. The purple eyes, reflecting an unfathomable immensity, were staring at the homin with an uninviting coldness.
− “But... we have very short deadlines imposed by the Palace of Pyr, and...”
− “Silence do you, homin, is water not good for life. No life, not you of Atys. You must stop your work until the water is and too drinkable good to be. Otherwise Ma-Duk punish you may to decide. ”
The poor master tanner lost consistency like forest snow under desert sunshine. I almost felt sorry for him, but I understood that if he decided to stop production, we were in danger of losing the market, our reputation and much more. Soon after, the kamis left, not without reminding us of our homin duties towards them.
The day passed in slow motion, each one wandering from one workbench to another. The presence of the kamis did not bode well, and whispered prayers ran through the camp, as if everyone was waiting for a divine judgment. In the evening, the master tanner gathered the tribe by the glow of a campfire and announced his decision: the river work would not be abandoned, for the waters would soon purify themselves and the herbivores would eventually return, stupid beasts that they were. Some swore, some prayed and some even cried, but the master was the master.
I was among the five members of the Water Breakers tribe to rebel against the master tanner. We had all asked for the right to fight him in order to find out whether he was still worthy to lead the operations, and he had to grant it to us in the face of general grumbling. If one of us won, we could do as we pleased, and the master tanner would be banished from the tribe. If not, it would be us who would be kicked out. The other four had all failed and all their hopes now rested with me. If I won, they would remain in the tribe. If I lost... we would become outcasts. The whole tribe was watching the hand-to-hand struggle. It didn't last long. I slipped on some kind of tanned skin on the ground and dragged my already tired opponent down with me, and Ma-Duk knows how, I found myself on top of him. On top of all members of the Tribe. Humiliated, the master tanner clear out and my first decision was to stop all river work. So much the worse if we were late: the Kamis must not be irritated.
Finally, the order was fulfilled with only a few weeks delay and my tribe was amply rewarded. Since then, we have had an excellent relationship with the Imperial Palace in all matters relating to leather. I hope that my son Boeseus will be my worthy successor.