Smoking behind the Meeting House

A few of the clan were hanging out behind the meeting house smoking a bit of prairie weed and talking off the record. We were talking about shipyards. One of the guys slurred, ‘When’rewegonnabuildonth’ocean?’ I told him that plans were afoot and we’d be there towards the end of next year.

‘I’m looking forward to seeing ocean,’ another guy said.

‘Don’t get too excited,’ I told him, ‘this tribe won’t be going. We’ll need to patrol The Vast Plain.’

They were disappointed but understood the necessity of doing this. We all then went into our own little worlds for a while before the first guy said something along the lines of ‘N’whatterwegonnadowithevilges?’ It took me a while to understand the question, but I’m used to these sorts of speech impediments cause by too much prairie weed.

‘Well,’ I said, ‘we’ve just started up a communication with the new tribes and … ‘

‘What!’ a buxom lass said, ‘they’ve replied?’

‘They’re not as chatty as the Sauromati and the Simians and Yellow Dawn, but they’ve uttered a word or two – of course, that’s about all, and one hasn’t said a dickie bird yet, but, yeah, they’ve spoken.’

‘I was wondering if they could actually write,’ she said.

I chose to ignore that comment and returned to the original question. I told them that we have a duty and a commitment to finishing a few structures we’ve started and we had it in mind to pass on the villages to the new clans when we were finished, had completed the exploration of the lake and had alternatives in place.

‘Will they want to take them over?’ the shipyard foreman asked

‘Who knows.’

‘Sal-thex would be a good deal for somebody,’ he said. ‘It has a moat, doesn’t it?’


‘Yep,’ I said after a moment or two of deciphering. ‘The moat is still in production but by the time we leave it’ll have a ferry to The Morass as well and be linked to other villages along the river.’

‘Wow! That’s a good deal for somebody,’ a goatherder exclaimed. ‘Salt on tap and a network in the Alliance and access to the Fair. Lucky sods. Is there a catch?’

I said there was no catch, though our understanding of life was far more advanced than most others and “catch” was a relative term, culturally speaking. They asked me to expand on this. ‘You see, we live life on the basis of “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs” – a self evident law of humanity according to us – but most others ask “What’s in it for me?”‘

‘That’s ridiculous!’ a previously quiet member of group said, a young apprentice shipbuilder, I think, someone with ambitions to commanding barges up and down the river system. ‘That’s just pure egotism! The world doesn’t revolve around them; it’s here for us all to enjoy.’

‘Like I say, people are different the world over and some of their views are strange to our sensibilities. They don’t have our mature outlook on life. They see themselves as individuals divorced from the great community of humans.’


We all looked at the speaker for a moment and then nodded our understanding.

‘So, you see, when they are told that they have to supply salt to the Alliance free of charge, they might have problems.’

‘But they get the benefits of all we’ve built. Surely that would be enough to convince them to change their stupid outlook,’ the lass said.

‘Maybe, Maybe,’ I said, again ignoring the inflammatory language. ‘Let’s wait and see what they say when I mention it.

‘Ha! It’ll be next year by the time that happens,’ the young lass said.


We finished our smokes and dispersed to our various tasks. I sauntered up to the lass who had spoken so openly and honestly and asked her if she had thought about joining the diplomatic team.

‘No,’ she said.

‘Good,’ I said. ‘You’d be hopeless at it.’