A novel by Meredith Skye
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The Garrans invented it long ago. Even the idea of placing a pot inside another pot with a layer of wet sand to keep it continually cold. The Sand Plain Clan had done this for hundreds of years—the key to preserving the river corn, red beans, moon squash and delicate Thania nuts.
But refrigeration. That was new. The Chanden had brought it when they invaded the world of Garran a hundred years ago—along with guns, spaceships, tales of other worlds and laws. Chanden laws. These the Chanden enforced on the native Garrans, despite all their attempts to throw off their rule.
The midday sun shone dully on the desert sands, low in the sky for the Arid season. The wind blew dust around the featureless hills in front of the Sand Plain Clan home. Most of the clan's 450 people lived in firecaves deep under the hills: long, winding caves created long ago by lava-flow.
In front of the main cave entrance, a large round wall had been constructed around a sunken firepit, used for clan gatherings. Eight rooms of adobe had been built, four on each side of the firepit. Most of these were used as kitchens, especially during harvest and for the drying of food. But they served as quarters for guests occasionally.
One watchtower always held two warriors on guard, to warn of approaching danger.
The Sand Plain Clan home was remote. It was several days trek through the dry desert to the nearest village.
Near the firepit, Morrhan admired the new pottery. These long oval pots looked like Garran pots, but they were Chanden, with a special battery to keep it cold that would last fifty years. Cold enough to freeze meat.
Morrhan examined them carefully, fascinated with the advanced technology. Rheggi had bought two pots for him, covertly, in Wanthe at one of the Chanden markets; the first his tribe had ever owned. He picked up the manual and read the instructions, which were short. No maintenance, nothing would be needed. Very simple.
"Does father know you are reading?" came a female voice from behind him.
Morrhan stuffed the book under a bag, startled. He looked up and saw his younger sister Keilah standing over him, hands on hips. He was 22 years of age; two years her senior. She was on guard duty, but had come down to tease Morrhan.
Seeing it was Keilah, Morrhan relaxed a little. "You're not going to tell are you?" he asked, pulling the book back out.
Sometimes his uncle Rheggi smuggled Morrhan books from the Chanden school at Wanthe. But Morrhan's father, Ashtan, chieftain of the Sand Plain Clan, hated reading. He blamed it for making Morrhan a strange child. Reading was another thing the Chanden had brought.
"Are those Chanden pots?" she asked.
"Hard to tell, isn't it?" Morrhan grinned.
"Father won't like it."
"He won't even know. Since when does he inspect the kitchens?"
She stared at him. "You're going to get into trouble. That had to cost a fortune."
He shook his head. "I've kept a little money out for the last few seasons, saving up for it. No one ever even noticed." He smiled.
The pots would be stored deep in the firecaves were it was already cool. Next year, maybe he'd buy a few more. Almost half of the 450 clan members in the tsirvak were children or young adults. Up 32 from last year. The clan was growing.
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