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Brinla nodded, then took another cup and poured for Liana. “My gracious host.”
Finally, Liana poured a cup for Chakan. “The love of my heart, and the father of our child.”
“Love and friendship,” said Brinla, raising her cup. “A toast always worth drinking to.”
After Liana first, and having a farm of their own second, Chakan thought the tea ceremony might be his favorite thing about life in the Matriarchy. Woman or man, everyone poured each other’s tea. Liana had once told him that if he, a common and foreign-born man, were to take tea with the Queen, even she would pour his tea after he poured hers. All serve in the Matriarchy, the consul had told him, back before he left the Reach, and two years of living here had not shown him different.
“So,” said Brinla, “this thing you dug up. It is truly from Camac That Was?”
“So Chakan believes,” Liana replied.
“Aye. See these numbers?” Chakan pointed to the bottom display. “That’s today’s date, according to the old calendar. When we dug it up, it was showing a date from twenty-four hundred years ago. It was in a stone box, coated with pitch and sealed up. I can’t imagine it could have survived so well otherwise.”
“May I ask a question of it?”
“Of course,” Liana chirped, before Chakan could utter a word.
“Love, I should start spreading that fertilizer before it gets too dark,” Chakan said quickly.
“Go and do. I’ll join you soon.”
Brinla waited until Chakan was outside before speaking. “He seemed nervous.”
“Not a word,” Liana replied. “But I think he’s a little superstitious. He thinks the date the mechanism showed, when we dug it up, was the eve of The Madness.”
“That would be enough to frighten anyone,” said Brinla. “Perhaps the owner buried it before fleeing, thinking she could recover it once she returned? In any case, I suppose fertilizing the field is a chore that needs doing.”
“Yar. But your question? I’ll turn the crank. You twist these knobs while you ask it.”
Brinla took her place at the machine, gripping the knobs. “Will our flock prosper this year?” she asked, as Liana turned the crank.
“Zero three eight, nine two four, five four seven,” Liana read the display. “Now we consult the list.”
The wolf prowls without
Vigilance is no error
Beware the weak house.
Liana looked at her neighbor. “What does that tell you?”
“It tells me I need to get my lout of a husband to shore up that gods-forsaken chicken coop,” Brinli replied. “I’ve been after him about that for a while now.” She stood. “You have a good man, Liana. Even if he is a foreigner. May he continue to bless you.”
“And maybe if Brinla treated him like a partner, instead of a servant, he wouldn’t find ways to vex her so often,” Liana concluded. “Truly, do we spread this so thin?”
“Aye,” said Chakan, sprinkling fertilizer on the rows. “Too much, and it’ll kill the seedlings. Indeed, if we don’t get rain in two days, we’ll have to irrigate to help our crop along.”
“The mechanism said we wouldn’t have drought.”
“Aye, but a few days without rain doesn’t make a drought. A few dry days right now can be a bad thing, though.”
“I see.” Liana scattered compost on the adjacent row. “Husband… after we finish this, could you go to Brinla’s and help Mirthan strengthen their chicken pen?”
“I suppose.” Chakan clucked at the ox to move the cart up. “Is this about that… thing we dug up?”
“Yar. Brinla asked if her flock would prosper. It warned of wolves and weak houses.”
“Aye. I’ll bring a jug of ale and we can make the wind after we finish with the pen. You know, Brinla’s got a bit of a loose tongue. We’ll soon have all the folk around here coming to ask questions of the mechanism. When are we taking it to the sages?”
Liana sighed. “We’ll have to go to market in a week. We can take it then. Maybe you’re right, Chakan. Brinla said you’re a good man, and she speaks true. Your instincts are talking, and I need to stop ignoring that. So when we go to market, we’ll be shut of this.”
“That thing does worry at me, love. But we’ll ask the sages to tell us what becomes of it, aye?”