Spears (pt17)

Reem pulled back to take another swig of her drink. Azzah nearly did the same, but saw Hasani over the rim of her bowl. She nudged Reem’s bare foot with her own. Both sets of dark brown eyes looked upon him as he advanced, dried strips of meat poking out under the hides that had stored them.

“Is that what I think it is?” Reem asked.

“I think it is.”

Hasani stopped in front of them, holding out his offering. “Do you mind if I join you?”

Azzah scooted to the side and Reem patted the space between them. “You are always welcome, friend. Let’s share this tasty treat you have brought for us!”

He began to smile at Reem’s words, but waited long enough to shift his gaze onto Azzah. Azzah noted her anger from earlier was gone. She gave him a wide grin. “We will always take an apology if you bring it like this!”

He laughed. The three of them enjoyed the rest of the evening.

Spears (pt16)

“I wish I had that way with words.”

“That’s not what you want, Azz.” Reem draped an arm around Azzah’s shoulders. “What you envy is not my words. You envy my ability to stay calm enough to think of them. You have those words as well, but when faced with Hasani’s…” She lifted her bowl.
With a frown, Azzah looked down at her bowl.

“You might not have spilled a drop, but you came close. His words were worthy of a fight, not of losing your calm.”

Reem’s words rang true, despite how Azzah felt like it was impossible. Reem had managed, somehow. “If I were calm, then how would it still be worth of a fight? Shouldn’t we be angry to hear such insults?”

“Anger isn’t always vicious. You need to learn how to handle this. Hasani was drunk.”

“You keep reminding me.” Azzah leaned into her. “I know.”

“And we like Hasani. For the most part. Outside this.”

Azzah sighed. “Yes. He isn’t bad.”

“What if someone you didn’t like or that you didn’t know aggravated you? How will you keep a cool head there?” Reem pressed her forehead against Azzah’s. “We need your head where it is. You are my back, you know.”

“You are mine,” Azzah replied. “I’m not worried. I did stay calm. Because you were.”

“No. You held your ground because I did, not because you were calm.”

“With you at my side, I can be as calm as I need. Until we need to act.”

Reem cocked her head to the side, but smiled.

Spears (pt15)

Reem placed her spear at her back, reaching out toward Hasani. Despite his shame, he didn’t hesitate in taking her hand to get back to his feet. Reem held his hand tight to make sure he didn’t waver. Once he was stable, she patted him on the back. “Get some sleep, Hasani. Waseme shouldn’t give you so many bowls in one night.”

He nodded and walked away without a word, the only speechless man in Hirka.

Azzah and Reem sat back down. Azzah picked up her bowl, watching the liquid move from side to side. Less erratic than before, yet she couldn’t help but note that Reem’s looked as still as the water of an undisturbed pond.

Reem noticed Azzah’s attention, but didn’t seem to recognize the reason. “Here you go.” She reached over and poured some of hers into Azzah’s bowl until their bowls were equal.

“You have such a way with words, Reem.” Azzah rested the curve of her bowl against her upper lip. “You entranced everyone with what you said.”

“It had less to do with my words.” Reem leaned back against the wall of Waseme’s hut, shrugging until her spear dropped into a more comfortable position. She stared up above the roofs of the homes in front of them.

The stars became brighter and brighter now that the horizon almost obscured the sun. Azzah stared straight up at the cluster of stars which made up the archer, trying to decide whether the arrow would strike (and not for the first time). It looked as though it would aim straight for the boar, but Azzah knew the arrow wouldn’t fly straight for that far, not even in images made from the night sky. It would curve.

“Everyone feels the same way, so of course they like to hear what they already think out loud. Hasani was drunk. That’s the only reason any of that came out. You would be hard pressed to find someone here who wouldn’t side with our Lel’ul. You would have to threaten them for it.”

“I suppose.” Azzah considered that, much as she considered the angle an arrow take.

Spears (pt14)

The fall had sobered him, let alone the danger. He nearly took in a deep breath, but stopped himself and coughed out, “I take it back, I take it back! Forgive me for such words!”

“As we will!” Reem proclaimed. She retracted her spear immediately and Azzah followed suit. “You may say whatever words you like of us, claim whatever you wish of our ability, but you shall not insult our Lel’ul. Nor his belief in what we give to him. He asks of us, knowing what we are capable of. If he wishes we defend his house, with or without his presence, then we do so. And proudly! For we are two of few who are trusted to do so. We shall follow this path for as long as he desires.”

Whooping calls came out as Reem finished her speech. Hasani’s face flushed, not because of drink now, but from embarrassment. Azzah could not care less about his feelings, as she still rankled from his previous comments. Yet the negative feelings had to disperse. The cheers Reem’s words brought to those around them brought forth the solidarity of Hirka. She could see Waseme joining in, hands cupped around her mouth.

Spears (pt13)

“Why does the Lel’ul have you guard an empty house? He isn’t even here. Unless you aren’t anything like you claim-”

Reem spoke up, her voice drowning out Hasani’s. It caused everyone else in the vicinity to fall silent as well. “Watch what you say, man. We are warriors of the Lel’ul.”

Azzah took a deep breath.

“Then why don’t you do anything?”

That was too much. Azzah tore her eyes from her bowl to Reem’s face. Reem looked back at her.

As one, they stood up. Azzah set her bowl on the ground without spilling. She immediately crouched down, sweeping her leg under Hasani. It knocked against his legs hard. At the same moment, Reem reached forward, swinging her spear from her back and jabbing the butt of it into his chest. Hasani went down in one. As Azzah straightened upright in one fluid motion and she pulled her own spear out.

She and Reem took off their head covers at the same moment. Azzah placed her tip against his stomach. Reem placed hers against Hasani’s throat.

Spears (pt12)

Their toast was interrupted by a man. Though that might have been too polite, in Azzah’s opinion. It was Hasani, coming up from Reem’s side.

“Look, it’s the doubled spears.”

There was nothing inherently wrong with what the young man said, but the tone of his voice made Azzah know that it wasn’t meant as fact or compliment. She fixed him with a sharp look.

Reem whispered into her ear. “He’s had a little too much. Not everyone can handle their nights well, eh?”

Azzah nodded and said nothing.

“I don’t understand what you both do.” The boy sounded legitimately confused, his words trying to figure it out. Azzah didn’t know whether to look at him or not, but as Reem sipped from her bowl without looking, Azzah followed her example. “As spears, shouldn’t you be fighting? If you are good spears, that’s what you’d be doing. Driving away those Unclean.”

Azzah’s temper rose up. She felt her spear against her back, crying out to defend against such insult. A year ago she would have blamed his youth, but it was too late. He should have known better. His muscles were that of an adult now, not of a child, defined by sweat from having lingered close by a fire on a warm night. All to remind her, in her rising fury, there was no excuse.

But Reem did nothing, so neither did Azzah. She stared down into her bowl, watching the liquid shake slowly from side to side. Eventually she noted that came from her hands, clasping the side of the bowl too tight.

Spears (pt11)

Azzah took her time with the next bowl, both hands wrapped around the wide base. Despite the chill, it felt warm as it went down her throat. In little sips, it continued to bring her a sense of comfort which relaxed parts of her she had not realized had any tension in them at all. It was something she had missed for some time. This camaraderie from people other than Reem, watching her sister’s courtship, speaking with Waseme when the older woman passed by. Maybe another would have stopped by to speak with her tonight, but her intense attention on Reem dissuaded further conversation.

Eventually Reem rejoined her, bowl empty.

“Done already?” Azzah asked, taking Reem’s bowl to stack on top of hers. “He’s melting in your hands.”

“It doesn’t take much.” Reem’s words were mellow, but her face was ecstatic. She was only ever more pleased when dealing with her spears, the covered head of which still stuck out over her shoulder. “When it comes from two ways, it doesn’t take much at all. Waseme!” She rose up an arm, waving her over. “Another!”

“Can’t wait for the turn of the season, can you?” Azzah teased.

“Just because I like something else better doesn’t mean I don’t still enjoy it now.”

With full bowls once more, Azzah and Reem clinked them together and took large mouthfuls.

Spears (pt10)

“If you and I are in agreement…” Azzah let her sentence trail off as she pushed her elbow into Reem’s back. Reem stood back up, downing half of her bowl with a few gulps. She glanced back at Azzah with a smirk. Azzah gestured for her to move on. Reem did so, Azzah watching her the entire time.

“They certainly like to dance around each other,” Waseme commented, holding a new bowl out to Azzah.

Azzah took a few more gulps to finish her drink so to exchange it with the fresh one. “In Reem’s case it is dancing. She knows how to dance well. Lebna knows how to stand and look pretty.”

“It is a good thing to have,” Waseme agreed. “What will you do when she takes him?”

Azzah shrugged. “Nothing different. It won’t change anything.”

Waseme held the empty bowl to her chest, following Azzah’s watchful eye back to Reem. Reem’s stance was much like when they sparred – sturdy. She knew exactly where she stood and it was where she wanted to be. Lebna could only attempt to mimic her certainty. It made Azzah snicker.

“Probably not.” Waseme patted Azzah on the shoulder and returned to her pots.

Spears (pt9)

Azzah brought the bowl to her lips holding it with both hands. “I think this is my favorite.”

“Hm.” Reem took a big gulp herself, belying her previous words. “Then enjoy it while it lasts, little sister. She said it will only be for a little longer.”

“I think you should make up for your less enjoyed drink with something else.” Azzah hooked her free arm with Reem’s. She grinned at Waseme, who knew exactly what Azzah referred to. With a shake of her head, Waseme went back to pouring another bowl. Whether for someone else or in preparation for them coming back, Azzah never knew.

Reem hadn’t missed their look. Reem was a sharp one. Azzah might have sat them both down in front of Waseme’s hut to start their evening, as they always did, but she had to know what Azzah would push her toward. It was hard to miss Lebna. His skin was lighter than most, though just as rough from work fishing, hunting, sowing and gathering as the others. His locs were thick, bound only with coloured thread.

“What’s this?” The moment Reem noticed Lebna, her eyes caught. “Well?” she asked Azzah, pretending not to know.

“He’s still up.” Azzah took another sip. “You should go speak with him.”

“I should go speak with him?” Reem repeated, not doing much more than pressing her lips against her bowl.

Azzah laughed. “Come on now! You aren’t fooling anyone, especially not me.”

“Oh, Azz, how could I ever fool you?”

Spears (pt8)

Hirka was not large, but it could always be described as lively. Even at this time of evening, when Azzah and Reem were free from their duties until the next day. Many others had come back into town, done with their day of hard work and ready for relaxation or festivities.

Azzah liked this better. Until recently, she and Reem had held the night shift. Azzah hoped that Daudi and Lulu would enjoy the night air enough that the Lel’ul would be pleased with retaining this arrangement. It was nice not having to forgo sleep to see more people. She knew Reem liked it too, though more for once particular person’s company than anything else.

“What’s in the bowls tonight?” Reem asked Waseme. The woman began to pour out drink the moment she saw them approach. It was like this every night, right in front of Waseme’s hut.

She held them out with hands roughened by her years of serving the bowls in the exact same way. Reem and Azzah grabbed them at the same time. “Same as yesterday. It’s not quite the time for next season’s drink, Reem. Hold steady for a little longer.”

“Ah, well I can always ask.”

Waseme chuckled, dark grey eyes sparkling from the light of the evening meal fires. “Asking won’t make a lick of difference, you know.”