Chapter Ten

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On the following morning, the younger Children escorted Farinka on an inspection tour of their small village. Hamlet, really, as there were only ten roundhouses in all – not counting the grave-house mound, which had once been a roundhouse. The two oldest of the little ones, Thani and Kuli, both with nut-brown hair and eyes, and sun-brushed golden skin, were alike enough to be easily recognisable as brother and sister, and their appearance was of youngsters in their early teens. Lekki and Linka, the two youngest, were also clearly brother and sister, each with almost white-blond hair and greenish eyes. They seemed a year or so younger than Shiffih appeared – about four or five in human terms – but Farinka knew that was just an illusion. They were younger, certainly, but by how many years, decades or scores of years it was impossible to tell. There were five of in-between-looking age: dark-haired Asha, tawny-haired Sharni, honey-blond twin brothers Keshteth and Yarith, and auburn Taari, who was wearing her hair in intricate braids.

Shiffih had taken on the role of tour leader, and was proudly explaining to Farinka what everything was. Between the various roundhouses, the pathways were topped with a mixture of cobbles, gravel, grit and sand, and around each building was a strip about a metre wide where an imposing variety of herbs and flowers grew in an anarchic riot of scent and colour.

The tour started at the uphill side of the village, where a smallish water-wheel provided power for the workshop house.

"Jevann and Jekavi made a lot of what's in here," said Shiffih. "The wheel was just for milling when we arrived, but they added all this stuff." 'All this stuff', Farinka noted, impressed, was a system of pulleys, gears, and bands which could be linked and unlinked to, variously, a potting wheel, a lathe, a grinding wheel for tool-sharpening, and a small loom – as well as the millstones which had been there originally.

"That's awesomely well constructed," she commented. "They did this by themselves?"

"Yes. They're both good at that kind of thing."

Leaving the workshop house, they looked briefly in through the doorway of the forge house.

"Sherath's domain," said Shiffih with a grin. "He hasn't needed to make anything new for a few weeks, so the forge is cold. This is where the kiln is, too – on the other side of the hearth from the forge."

"Who makes pots?" asked Farinka, interested.

"Lots of us make things," said Thani, "but Louka makes the best ones. Tarke and Sienne are both good at weaving, and Asha and Yarith are pretty good, too. Sharni and Taari are good at growing things."

Next were the cookhouse, the bakehouse and the brewhouse; all combining a functional practicality with a kind of cosy homeliness. The cookhouse included a storage area for preserved foods, and a striking array of cooking utensils, pots, pans, mugs and bowls. Most of these, Farinka noted, were not just practical, but decorative as well; made variously of wood, pottery and bronze.

There was also a stone sink with a tap over it.

"Where does the water come from for the tap?" she asked.

"We'll show you!" came a chorus of voices; Lekki and Linka took one of her hands each and led her, followed by the rest of them, around the side of the cookhouse.

"See," said Shiffih, "the stream leaves the workshop house up the hill and then comes down here." She pointed to a pair of huge stone troughs, one sited uphill from the other. The overflow from the upper trough ran into the lower one, and a wooden pipe ran from the bottom of the lower trough in through the cookhouse wall. A second pipe for overflow disappeared briefly underground.

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