The Library of Dobesq (Nanowrimo)

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    Kasha was not really listening to her sister prattle on as they dug together in the onion field. Already a layer of violet had begun to settle atop the blazing orange-gold of sunset, and all too soon it would be too dark to continue. The nearby rush baskets, half-empty, did not speak well of their labors. And anyway, lately Sana only wanted to talk about foolish things, like who she might marry.

    It became truly distressing when Sana spoke of marriage where their parents could hear her. Kasha feared they would take this talk to heart, and find a suitable man, and make the arrangements. If Sana were married, could Kasha possibly be far behind? They were twins, after all.

    It was inevitable, Kasha knew. The day would come when her father would send her away to be a wife: to dig onions in some other field, to sweep and tidy some other mud-brick house, to cook dinner for some other family. Because her father was not unkind, he would surely ask his daughter what she thought of the man he had in mind for her. But this did not change the fact that the only question about Kasha’s eventual marriage would not be “if” but “to whom.”

    No good came of talking to Sana about this, of course. She was eager to have a husband to take her in his arms, eager to have children, eager to be thought of as a woman and not a girl. Why should her twin be different? And if Kasha thought only of the farming and the cleaning and the cooking, why should it matter if it be in their father’s home or some other? Should she not be content doing what she’d done all her life?

    And that, of course, was what Kasha could not speak of. She was accustomed to living the way she did, of course, because it was the only way she ever had lived. But she was by no means content. And marriage seemed to her to be a means of locking her even more firmly into this life.

    She turned her eyes to the north. In the gathering dark, she could not really see it, but in her mind, she pictured it clearly, the vista she had gazed upon thousands of times. Dobesq, the great trading port. Though Kasha’s family did not live inside its walls, they were subjects of the city-state, and it was there that her father and brother went to trade. Neither Kasha nor Sana had ever been there, but they relished the stories their brother told of the strange people and wonderful sights to be beheld. Folk came from all over the world to trade in Dobesq.

    Yet as intrigued as Kasha was by the city, there was something more that drew her. Shifting her eyes to the east of the city, she could still make out the plateau that rose behind Dobesq, and the mostly-shadowed form of the tower that stood upon it. It was a round building, each successive floor a little narrower than the one below it. If she had been looking upon the tower in daylight, it would have gleamed white across the scrub lands and the fertile river lands and the desert beyond, for it was built of limestone. This was the Library.

    Something hard smacked into Kasha’s shoulder blade, and she turned her head to see an onion rolling in the dirt near her leg.

    “Are you deaf now, or just dreaming again?” Sana teased. “I said, Uncle is coming.” She picked up one of the onion baskets and began to run to the house.

    Kasha looked toward the house. Sure enough, the figure of a man riding a camel approached. She could not help but feel happier at that sight. Standing, she brushed the dust from her long linen skirt, collected the second basket – along with the onion that had been thrown at her – and hurried to catch up with her sister.

    “My dear ones! I hardly recognized you, you are so grown!” It was an exaggeration, of course, for their uncle had only been gone a matter of months. In fact, Kasha seemed to recall that they had expected him to be away longer. But questions could wait. While her uncle dismounted, Kasha went to draw some water from the tall jar standing by the house for him, so he might wash away the dust of the road, and also brought water for the camel.

    “Did you bring us presents?” Sana asked.

    “Naturally! But they mustn’t be handled with dirty fingers. I see you are nearly as dusty as I am. Let’s all wash up well. If your mother mistakes us for animals, she may cook us for dinner.”

    “I would have to do that, if I were to serve meat with dinner. I did not know you were coming, so there is only yams and greens with rice.” Kasha’s mother stood in the doorway, having appeared, as she seemed inclined to do, without anyone noticing.

    “In your hands, sweet sister, all food becomes fit for royalty.” Flattery was a survival skill for a trader, and one which Kasha’s uncle seemed to practice at all times.

    Once inside, the girls brought their uncle cool water to drink, and a small bowl of figs to tide him over until dinner, which would not be served until their father and brother came home. Then they sat themselves on either side of him and began to question him about his whereabouts. Perhaps because the girls had been tending their garden all day, their mother did not call them away to help with dinner.



    The uncle is a great opportunity for some world-building. What does he trade? Where were his whereabouts? Why was he to be away for so long? Could we preview Dobesq (maybe a souvenir from that?)?

    Even if these details are inconsequential, they can give the reader a sense of the characters’ world and their place in it. For example, in the first scene of The Searchers, John Wanye’s character visits his brother’s house on the frontier, talks about hte Civil War, gives gifts to his brother’s children (a cheap gold necklace, a medal awarded to mercenaries) and talks to them about troubles with the Comanche.

    Just something to think about.

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