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.
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?”
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.”
Lulu and Daudi wished them a good night and the two women left their replacements and the strange house behind. The house which had a design from a foreign land, brought to this place long before any of them had ever come to protect it. A house none of them had ever seen inside, the Lel’ul’s private residence. One they protected even when no one was home. One they would continue to protect for as long as he asked them to. It stood there upon the slight rise, looking down upon the rest of Hirka. A place easily defended by two warriors worth any mettle. A place that had never been attacked.
Azzah would continue to wonder why warriors as good as she and Reem had to protect such a place while the Lel’ul was not there. There was so much else going on in the land, trouble makers that she and Reem could easily dispatch, animal attacks they could win singlehandedly… and they had to stay here.
Nothing out there could beat the both of them. Not when they were serious. And when it came to fights, they always were.
“Ready for a drink?” Reem rubbed at the back of Azzah’s neck. Azzah stretched out her body, not sore or tense, yet somehow stiff. Stiff from not doing enough, perhaps.
Flicker, flames to start the tasks
Liquor, tilt or pour into the pan or mouth
Ichor, the delicious creation for later flasks
Core, to throw out for a world to take south
Or anything else you may choose
Er, it’s still your decision, but I shall not refuse