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Atmosphere of large Bronze Age city by the sea
Slanted autumn sunlight filled the valley. Generations of dedicated mortal labor had changed the surface of the gods’ bowl into a patchwork of fields, houses, dirt roads, market stops, and clusters of wind-breaking cedar. Cutting through it all was the muddy, formidable Great River and its many winding tributaries. At the bottom of the bowl, as if placed low to tempt weary feet to wander near, was Hhemnge.
Yanuat paused at the top of the hill to stare down at the great city. From the distant haze of the coast to the cool mountains encircling the valley, everything led there. The river, the streams, the roads, everything.
“Alright, holy mother?”
Yanuat blinked the childish wonder from her eyes and smiled politely at the old merchant. “Ah, yes. Tuhhet.”
He smiled back at her. “Should be there before sundown, holy mother.” The merchant’s reindeer nudged his arm, its cracked leather harness creaking. He gave the animal a friendly shove and both resumed walking.
Yanuat fell into step beside the overloaded wooden sledge. Its dry groans, the clacking of the reindeer’s steps, and the distant sounds of harvesting had filled the lengthy gaps in conversation during the last few days of travel. She had been lucky to find this ivory merchant who, during the five day trek from the coastal settlement, had never once seemed bothered by the excessive cries of baby Yaqone. He walked at the shoulder of his animal without a word of complaint and remained attentive to Yanuat’s comfort whenever they stopped to rest. The man was proof against her grandmother’s old truism, All merchants are no-good Ehketgar: greedy counters. She probably wouldn’t have been bothered on the journey if she had gone alone, but her brother’s family had had no interest in taking chances.
They seemed to approach Hhemnge at the same pace as the sun walked away from them into the west. Before long, they encountered more and more people on the road. Yanuat exchanged nods with men and women returning from the fields, lugging wooden tools or baskets full of produce. Out of these baskets wafted the smell of freshly turned soil from the potatoes, carrots, and camas bulbs.
Yanuat felt a dampness on her breast. She pulled pinch-faced little Yaqone from her coat, removed the soiled padding of seaweed from between the baby’s legs, and tossed it down into the dirt of the road. Even after it was replaced with a dry bundle, Yaqone continued to cry. Children in various states of nudity scampered around, snatching with quick fingers at unguarded produce or throwing little pebbles at the reindeer. Yanuat watched the children running loose with a little envy. In a few years, maybe her own would be out bothering strangers.
The crowds around them grew thicker the closer the came to Hhamnge. Before long, the ivory merchant had to wedge his fingers beneath his reindeer’s harness to keep the animal close. The open fields were replaced by large wooden and limestone buildings that loomed two or even three levels above their heads. In addition to farmers and laborers, Yanuat began to see more and more tradesmen, merchants, Chat, and nobles. She tried to hide her excitement with an expression of placid indifference, but each time a noble swept through or a Southern merchant brushed her arm, the feel of snow leopard fur and soft cotton sent a tickle of giddiness through her.
In the rush of activity, she was glad for the steady guidance of the sledge. Pushy merchants called out to her from all sides as they passed.
“Holy mother, just try these strawberries! Sweet as Hhetsheshe’s mercy.”
“Holy mother! Have you ever felt softer feathers? Plucked by the gentle hands of unbled young girls. Nothing finer for funeral slippers.”
“Rabbits and ptarmigan, holy mother, fat and healthy. They’d make a fine sacrifice.”
Yanuat held onto the sledge with one hand and wrapped the other around the miniature goddess token in her pocket.
The ivory merchant pulled his sledge to one side of the street beneath a woven reed awning. “This is where I have to stop first, get my ivory counted by the man from the House of Trade. Don’t know who’s in there today. It might take a few moments, or it might take all evening. Do you want to wait inside? I can’t take you to the Palace till I’m counted up.”
“I’ll go on ahead. You’ve been more than helpful.”
He smiled, the creases in his loose face made more distinct by the fading light of dusk. “No trouble, holy mother. It was my honor.” The merchant pointed off toward the center of the city at the dark outline of a tall roof. “That’s the palace of the Imaqa’at. Just follow that, and you’ll find your way.”
Comments for "Hhemnge"
License details for "Hhemnge"
Creative Commons Sampling Plus 1.0 License.
List of audio files used:
- Hiking Footsteps by ciccarelli from http://www.freesound.org +)
- seagulls long by DaveGould at freesounds.org +)
- Arab Talk by domingus from http://freesound.org +)
- Children playing in yard by goldkelchen from http://freesound.org +)
- foodmarket_1 by heigh-hoo from http://freesound.org +)
- Dogs Barking (distant) by ivolipa (http://www.freesound.org/people/ivolipa/) +)
- ogaki summer morning by satoshi-hama from http://freesound.org +)
- Overland With Oxen by Tabletop Audio +)