Lekkel took up his homespun shirt from the back of a chair and mopped his sweaty brow and upper torso.
“It is hot already,” he muttered.
“We will be three shades darker, by day’s end,” quipped Mannis. “Perhaps we will find some clean water today.”
Lekkel nodded. It would be nice to drink water that hadn’t first been sifted through a rag.
“Let us be off then,” he said.
Taking up his stick framed pack, he slipped it over his shoulders and pushed open the door. The last of the stars had almost faded. They began the trek out of the village toward the creek. When they reached it, the two men followed its route along the plain, headed for the nearest valley. Two hours on, the men elected to walk closely by the mountain’s base. This time of day, the rising sun covered them in shade as it climbed above the mountain, but still kept in sight of the creek as they trekked.
“What if we found somewhere to live along the Pentraca river?” said Mannis, breaking the silence.
Mannis had never left the village his whole life time. He had only heard of the Pentraca river from the recollections of the single visit Lekkel made there as a young man.
“That would take days; at least a week for the village to make the trek, if you take in the weakest of us,” said Lekkel. “A few of us would die on the way.”
“Would it not be worth it for future generations? We would never have to scratch in the ground again for another drink.”
“I had already thought of that. In fact I had brought it up with Velhaf. He too had already thought of moving the tribe.”
“So what did he say?”
“Velhaf is much more travelled than the rest of us.” Lekkel aimed his outstretched arm beyond the mountains. “A week in that direction is the nearest bend in the river. The Magpie tribe dwell there, but the drought affects them as much as us. You will find, my son, that they would be quite hostile if we moved there.”
“Then somewhere else along the river,” Mannis insisted.
Lekkel shook his head. “Men need water. There would be tribes all along the river. How far would we have to walk before we found a part of the river for ourselves? Do you think we would survive long enough to find it?”
Mannis gave no response.
They trekked on, leaving the shade of the mountain. The sun became an almost tangible burden on their shoulders by the time they rounded the sandstone wall. Long grass greeted them on this part of the plain. To safeguard against snakes, they stomped hard on the ground as they walked until they found the creek once more. It moved a little swifter, and twice as broad as the trickle that ran by their village.
Lekkel gaped and moved closer. His feet made splashing sounds in cooler, saturated earth. Disbelieving, he knelt beside the creek and dipped his hand, then brought it to his lips.