The Water Bringers Part 1

Written in response to: Write about a character whose job is to bring water to people.... view prompt

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Fantasy Speculative

The ancient texts describe a world of abundance far unlike anything we'd dare dream of today. Our ancestors traversed vast waters teeming with life, both predator and prey. Beings of draconic majesty draped themselves in the elements, occasionally sharing the wealth of their knowledge with the humans that were proven worthy. Colorful serpents of every shape, size, and demeanor captivated ancient authors and artists alike. Terrifying beasts the size of settlements would swallow fleets whole, or else drag them into the depths. It seems even our animals are but pale shadows of their ancestors.

The ancient texts are unclear, incomplete, and divisive on what exactly changed, but one day the rains stopped and the beginnings of our drought seeped in.

- A. A.

"Yeah," Eolian snorted. "Like that ever happened." He tore the page from the book, crumpled it up, and tossed it over his shoulder.

"That was mine," Audun sighed. "You've ruined more books than this heat." He took the book from Eolian before another page could fall victim. He looked up at the blazing sun, wishing he had thought to bring a covering for the cart. 

"Its not my fault you're so fond of ridiculous books." Eolian huffed but relinquished the book without a fight. "Where did you even get this, anyway?"

"They aren't ridiculous. They're part of our history, our culture." He hugged the book to his chest. 

"It is full of lies," Eolian protested. "A world of abundance? This world? I don't think so."

"You don't know that," he protested. Audun flipped through the pages until he landed on a colorful illustration. "My great grandpa said that when he was a child he remembers seeing photos of his mom in a world like this. Their home was actually by the water. Before the drought came and we ended with the desert we have now."

"Your great grandpa the cactus winemaker?" Eolian asked, one eyebrow quirked. "Look, I know how much this means to you, but I can't help getting frustrated when I read this stuff. Its like, life is hard enough without the possibility of some great cosmic mishap ruining the world." He sighed. "I'm sorry."

"He is an artist with that wine. And maybe if you believed in something cosmic you wouldn't be so dour all the time." Audun waved a hand. "Hello, Benita!" The woman waved back cheerfully. "And maybe you would actually find that believing in something is good for the soul." 

"I'm not dour." Eolian waved at Benita, too, only for her to scurry away. "I think she's still mad about the coop incident."

"You did tear down three days' worth of work." Audun slipped the book into his satchel with his other books. "I'm just saying if we believe maybe we'll actually see rain again. How cool would that be? We wouldn't have to lug water all over the village because we all would already have it.” He pushed the cart forward as they moved to the next home. 

"On accident!" Eolian trundled along at Audun's side. Life in the desert had its downsides, what with pests, various predators, and temperamental camels, but the ever-present water shortage was the real threat. Eolian didn't much mind the heat, though he could do without the unrelenting sun, and the cool nights ensured he slept well provided the window he left open had a pest screen installed. "I don't remember the last time I believed," he admitted quietly. When Audun shot him a sideways glance, Eolian cleared his throat. "Don't forget our deal," he said, changing topics. "When you're ready for a break, I'll push the cart and you haul the deliveries to the door."

Audun nodded. "I remember." He paused long enough to fix his satchel. "I like pushing the cart. It's... cathartic." 

"You are very strange," Eolian said with a laugh. Audun settled the cart by the haphazard fence Yurri had set up around his home. "Run for help if he pulls me inside," Eolian said, gathering up the water allotment for a single person. There was something to be said for handling the water runs; it was an excellent exercise. Both he and Audun were fit and more than a little muscular, though in different ways, since Audun mainly handled the cart whereas Eolian mostly ferried the water from the cart to the home. Eolian had never really given much thought about his figure, but lately, he'd begun to appreciate the muscles' hard work had won. To the point that he'd taken to wearing sleeveless shirts. Today's was more a tunic though, considering the length. Eolian mused over how complex clothing could be as he waited for Yurri to answer his knock.

The door opened and revealed an older gentleman with a thick beard and a cane. Yurri was a sweet man but he had a tendency to ramble on and on if he was allowed, trapping the helpless visitor with constant talking. "Oh, Eolian! You have arrived!" He pushed the door open further. "Come in, come in! I made pie. This time I think I’ve gotten the crust just right." 

"Pie," Eolian echoed, blanching just a little. Yurri was a good person, but he was also very interested in experimenting with food. "Thanks, but I really have to keep at it. Water doesn't deliver itself!" He edged close enough to deposit Yurri's delivery inside.

Yurri leaned out and waved at Audun. "Wait, just here." He hobbled out of sight and returned a moment later with a small bag. "Here, take this. I don't want you to get hungry while you work."

"That's very kind of you," Eolian said, accepting the offering. "Have a great day, now." He backed away slowly, not wanting to offend Yurri but also afraid of lingering. 

Audun bit back a smile. "More food?"

"Pray it isn't pie," Eolian said, placing the BAG carefully in the cart. "His cactus sandwiches are usually safe, but his mesquite pies..."

"He's trying to create something unique. His hackberry one wasn't that bad..." Audun said. He leaned forward to look at the bag. "Besides he's the greatest."

"I was queasy for a week!" Eolian protested.

"It wasn't a week. And that was only because you're allergic and you spit out after that one bite. He also said he'd never use that again." They rounded the corner to where they saw Jack's home. "And remember, please don't call him One-Eyed Jack..." 

"Details," Eolian said. "In my defense, he called himself One-Eyed Jack first."

"I still don't believe that. But you really should be polite to him. He fought against that long-toothed cougar and saved all those children..." Audun shook his head. 

Eolian stopped dead in his tracks, staring. "No," he said, very slowly. "That's... no. He never did that. No."

"Why do you say that?" Audun asked. "He told me as such. It was eight children."

"There were no children," Eolian said. "There were never any children! He lost his eye after daring Keslee to throw darts at him."

"Really?" Audun stopped the cart. "So he lied to me...? That’s so rude."

"Yes!" Eolian strode to catch up. "I was there! I ran for the healer!" He leaned against the cart. "You know, a less secure person would be offended that you believe literally everyone else above him."

"Sometimes you embellish," Audun said. "And don't mean what you say..." He picked up a jug of water. "Deliver this to the scoundrel. I guess you were right about him, after all." 

Eolian pressed a kiss to Audun's cheek. "Didn't one of your old books say that actions speak louder than words?" He smiled fondly at the look on Audun's face. "I won't send One Eyed Jack your best," he added, raising the jug in a cheer.

"And you know what else speaks? Words," he called after him.

Eolian waved over his shoulder as he walked away. Words had never been his strong suit. They got mixed up and tangled on his tongue until the wrong thing came out. He sighed to himself as he approached One-Eyed Jack's door. Eolian knocked just this side of obnoxious until One-Eyed Jack appeared in the doorway, his one eye bloodshot. "Been hitting the cactus wine a little hard?" he asked, brandishing the jug. 

"Nothing sweeter than cactus juice," One-Eyed Jack confirmed. Eolian made the appropriate noises until One-Eyed Jack accepted the delivery. "Why didn't the better of your pair bring this?" One-Eyed Jack asked, leaning so close Eolian could smell the alcohol on his breath.

"Yeah, you may want to steer clear of Audun for a while. He knows you're a liar now."

One-Eyed Jack tsked. "Never were one for keeping secrets, were you son?"

"I'm not your son," Eolian said, unable to bite back the words. He turned on his heel and stalked off.

"How'd that go?" Audun asked when Eolian returned. “Because it looked tenser than that family dinner from two years ago.” 

"I used my words for the wrong person," Eolian said. He took a breath. "Do you have plans after this?"

"I was going to go read to Ms. Jeanine. She gets lonely since Francis passed." Audun sighed. "I keep telling her that she shouldn't have gotten attached. He was a cactus. But it gave her something to talk to every day."

"Tragic," Eolian agreed. He hesitated. "Maybe you can swing by after?" Eolian asked. "I'll treat you to some cold water and we can... talk about something other than the drought?"

Audun wasn't sure if he should read into that or not. "I suppose I could," he said slowly.

"You know I'm a disaster with words." Eolian put a hand on the cart. "I don't know what to say or how to say it, but I know what I want to say." A pause. "That's not exactly the best endorsement of coming over, is it?"

"Not really, but you're serving well with the curiosity," Audun said. "We should get this finished."

Eolian fell into step beside Audun as the other man brought the cart back into motion. They still had a long way to go.

August 25, 2022 21:39

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