This has been bugging me for several months, so here is the beginning (at least for now) of the story. It will grow, I can tell that much already. It is set in a tech level of the Eneolithic/Chalcolithic/Copper Age.
Shenora sniffed the wind. It smelled of baking bread, and people, and wet earth that should have been dry. It came from the east, from the great grassy lands between the village and the river. She waited and inhaled again, but no smoky bitter hints reached her this time. Good. Smoke on the east wind meant that evil moved on the land, this everyone knew. She hitched her load of wood higher against her hip and began walking once more. Evening would come soon, and she needed to have the fire fueled and the night’s wood in place, and to see if the pots had survived firing. She had not told Eldest Mother about using a new color on the bowl, and Eldest Mother might take it amiss if she saw it first.
Shenora dodged two children trotting through the way carrying pots filled with grain. The pale grey stone and earth wall beside her held the sun’s warmth and she stayed close. The days seemed cooler than they had last year. Could it be that the whispers were true, about the men’s power fading because of the horse-travelers and their strange ways? No, her wrap had holes in it and needed repair, and the thin spots in her skirt had grown into each other was all. She did need to ask for a new hide for a skirt, if the clan had one to spare. The sun smiled down, the wall gave more warmth, and she reached the gate to the clan home just in time to find Tiko crouching down beside the firing oven. Each clan had their own, as was proper, and the older, pregnant woman had already unsealed and removed the door of the squat, round-topped mound of earth. Shenora set her wood down beside the stack and walked quietly over to help her clan-aunt.
“Eldest Mother will bring bread as soon as we remove the pots. Thanks be all seem unbroken.”
“Thanks be,” Shenora echoed. The clan spirits had been pleased with their gifts this time. Tiko pulled on thick leather pads and reached into the heat pouring from the stout little firing oven. She pulled the first small dishes out and set them aside, then the larger, and larger. Without having to be asked Shenora moved to stand behind Tiko, hands on her sides just below her arms, ready to pull if Tiko overbalanced. She also moved more of Tiko’s hair out of the way.
“Two more,” the child-full woman said. “This one is hot.” Shenora took off her wrap and used it to grasp part of the very large vessel, setting it in the little hole dug into the work-yard for just this reason. “Oh, the last one is far to the back. Find the paddle, please.” Shenora trotted to the far corner of the yard, where broken tools stayed, and found the bread paddle with the half-gone end. She hurried back and put it in Tiko’s hand. “Thanks.” Tiko leaned forward. “Almost,” she leaned farther in, and Shenora brushed more hair back, away from the still hot oven, and braced, hands under the other woman’s arms again. “Please come, the spirits will bless you, your use will be for good and generous things, oh most beautiful pot,” her muffled voice said from almost inside the oven. “Thank you, oh beautiful pot.” Shenora leaned back, pulling Tiko as she pulled the pot. Only after the pot sat in its little hole did she sit back on her heels. “Oof!” Shenora helped balance her as she stood.
The moment the two women moved away from the oven door, Eldest Mother appeared, Jil and Avri following close behind. Eldest Mother carried a large tray of bread rounds, and the girls each carried a baking pot. The grey-haired woman knelt where Tiko had been and used the good paddle to push the largest rounds to the back, then the smaller. She took the pots from the girls and set them on either side of the door, then closed it. Jil trotted off and returned with fresh-made mud, and Eldest Mother sealed the door. The bread and pots of food would be done at dawn, if the spirits granted. Please may they grant, Shenora whispered. Please, honored ancestresses, please, spirits of the clan, please, spirits of bread, please, bless this baking. Eldest Mother stood and returned to the inside work area, Jil and Avri half a step behind.
Tiko and Shenora looked at the pottery. All the plain dishes had survived without cracking, and two of the three pots seemed good. Tiko frowned, running her fingers down an odd-shaped line on the side of another pot. “No, not a crack. I wonder if this was the end of the color batch and more black earth got in.”
“That would explain it.” Shenora walked to the end of the row and looked at her pot, one of the large ones. She’d used some of that odd soil that Lant had brought back from the hunting trip into the high hills, the ones that hid behind the valley hills. She’d followed the clan patterns but with the new earth. It had baked almost red, not earth red but the red of blood. The color did not stand out as much as she had feared, and the red on grey looked pretty. Perhaps Eldest Mother would not object to the new thing. However, Eldest Mother would object to the wood not being near the night hearth. Shenora left the pots and hurried across the work yard to the bundle, picking it up and carrying it to the central room in the clan’s dwelling, where the night hearth and the great loom and the turning wheel stayed.
She took off her sandals and bowed to the women’s alter back in the shadows, then took the wood to the corner and stacked it carefully.
(C) 2017 Alma T. C. Boykin All Rights Reserved.