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Diana cor Sha'Neen

I am sitting still in the shade of a pile of rocks near the watering hole where the big game comes to drink. Sweat trickles down my back, between my breasts. My hair lies heavy across my shoulders. I have been here since daybreak, waiting. The sun is already scorching, even though it is barely light. I sit hunkered down on my heels, my bow resting across my knees. In the distance the herd is grazing nearer the water as the sun crosses the sky.

Time passes.

It is a small herd, only a few does and their young. The buck ranges far afield, keeping watch as the herd grazes. It is early in the year, there has been enough scant rain to bring the tender shoots of the young grass. They forget about human predators, scenting the wind for Ru'Shirra. It is the wrong time of year for Ru'Shirra to come down from the high country.

The first of the herd reaches the water hole. They prance nervously to the edge, dropping their big heads to drink, throwing them up again, constantly on guard. I am part of the landscape, I blend with the rocks. I raise the bow slowly, slowly, draw back, let fly the arrow. It sinks home in the chest of a big doe. She shudders in pain, rears up. The rest of the herd wheels in terror, rushing off into the desert. My big doe leaps away from the edge of the water, blood bubbling from her nose and mouth. She falls heavily to the ground. I go to her, thank her for giving her life so the tribe can live. I raise my knife and slit her throat. The Ma'Harrat will eat today.

We serve the tribe according to our gifts. Some, like me, become hunters, warriors, bringing food and the gift of safety. Some are weavers, creating the fine cloth from which we make much of our clothing. We trade our cloth for the fine wool the Tal Mar bring to festival every spring. Others are potters, creating containers for food. Leatherworkers cure the leather from the game I bring in; they learn to create some of the clothing we wear, the tents in which we live.

There is no fast way to make clothing here. There is a plant that lives in the foothills of Su'Sha'Lia, the great desert. The weavers beat the stalks of this plant between rocks to create a soft fiber that is then woven into a kind of cloth. The berry of this same plant is boiled in water to create the deep indigo dye, the color of most of our cloth. The robes we make from this cloth are sewn together with needles made from bone.

The leather garments are laced together. It is hard to make the holes to lace these pieces of leather together. It takes much time. But there is more time in the tribe for that sort of thing than in this reality. The leather is cured a couple of different ways. The leather that is cured for the tents is less cured, less worked. Harder. The leather that clothing is made from is soft. Depending on the animal used it can be lighter color, or darker. Sometimes pieces of leather from different animals are pieced together to make a patterned piece of clothing.

There is also a way of making the light colored leather very pale and thin, very soft. When a woman is to become handfasted, she begins work on her hand fasting outfit. Mine was beautiful. I made a design with dye and the colored beads that we make from tiny pieces of bone, shaped and polished. It was of the great bird that lives in the high reaches of the mountains, near ChTyra, a place we pass through on the way to the Tal Mar.

Leather jerkins are made, with a kind of low rounded neck. They are laced together on the sides underneath the arms. These jerkins come to the waist or shorter. The pants ride low on the hips and they lace up the sides as well. The laces are made out of strips of leather. The leather workers are very good at their work. They make holes very close together; no skin shows through along the seams.

When there is a birthing in the tribe it is a time of great joy. Women in labor are not kept apart from the rest of the tribe. The busyness of the camp stills as if holding its breath in preparation for the new life that is fighting its way into our world. There are no birthing tents, as I have read of in some of your books here. Our women gather together in support of the laboring woman. It is a time of togetherness. Children wander in and out, there is singing, there is food for those who are hungry. It is a time of great anticipation. Children are a gift from the Mother. Girl children grow up to become members of the tribe. The birth of a boy child is tinged with sadness since we know this child will one day leave us.

The tribes gather for festival at In'Ysarriatah twice a year. The journey is the longest for the Tal Mar, who come from the high mountain reaches of my land. The Sh'Aan live to the south of us. Their journey takes them around the arm of the big mountain, into the grassy plains to the south. Although they have to ford a river, which can be very full and fast moving in spring, they have the easiest journey. The Ma'Harrat travel through a mountain pass and wind down across the ocean of grass in the plains to the place where the river breaks into three: In'Ysarriatah.

Diana cor Sha'Neen
of the Ma'Harrat,
of Otherwhere

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