Hasib groaned softly and rolled over, trying to ignore the fact that he was waking up. He took a deep breath and was welcomed with a burst of sand up his nose and mouth. He sat up suddenly, coughing and spluttering, trying to spit out the coarse sand. Unfortunately for Hasib, the sand was mixing with his saliva and forming an unpleasant paste that clung to his tongue and gums.
Hasib reached for his waterskin, and removed the stopper. He lifted it to his lips, but soon realized that it was empty, when only several drops of liquid dripped onto his tongue. Hasib replaced the stopper with annoyance and looked around his sleeping area.
It had been quite a clear night and although it was cold, Hasib had decided to camp under the stars. There was no option of sleeping in Malek’s camp, even though Fariha had offered. Fariha was yet to understand his new position in the tribe since that day three years ago. Her obliviousness wasn’t cause by her own lack of sense but because both Malek and Hasib wanted to protect her. She would know the truth sooner or later, Hasib knew that, but the longer it could be avoided, the better.
Hasib picked up his blankets and rolled them tightly. He then tied them to the pack and lifted it over his shoulder. The sun was beginning to peek over the dunes and Hasib needed to be on the move.
“I need to find some water before everyone starts moving around,” Hasib thought, lifting his shemagh over his nose and mouth.
The journey back to Malek’s camp was quick, with the help of the sandboard and he was once more sneaking through the camp. Several men were awake and attending to chores around the camp, lighting cooking fires and such. The women would most likely wake up soon and begin preparing breakfast for the camp. Cooking was shared between the entire camp and eaten together like a giant family. Hasib had missed that the most, when he had left the camp.
Hasib took a deep breath and stepped forward out of cover. Having dumped his pack, Hasib now carried only the empty waterskins he owned. He kept the shemagh on, hoping that it would help him not be recognized. Several men looked up as he passed and nodded a ‘hello’. Hasib nodded back and continued on towards the middle of camp where the well was. He managed to reach the well and began drawing water. Hasib kept an eye out for anyone who may recognize that he wasn’t someone from the camp. He filled the last of his waterskins and put the stopper on it. It was then that he felt a jab in the ribs from behind.
“Trying to steal some water are we?” a female voice asked in a whisper.
“It’s a resource created by the earth, and last time I checked, the earth didn’t belong to anyone particularly,” Hasib answered quietly. “Unless Malek has claimed that he makes the ground here produce water because of his say so.”
“Our father isn’t a god, though some may think otherwise,” the woman answered.
Hasib laughed and turned to look at Fariha. She was dressed in a simple cream dress and her eyes were sparkling cheerily.
“Good morning, sister,” Hasib said quietly.
“It is a glorious morning, brother, and I am looking forward to spending it with you,” Fariha answered, smiling happily.
“Ah,” Hasib said cautiously.
With that he turned and began walking back to where he had dumped his pack. Fariha followed close behind him.
“Ah? What does ‘Ah’ mean?” Fariha asked, raising an eyebrow. “You are here to see me, aren’t you?”
“Of course I’m here to catch up with you,” Hasib answered, with a reassuring smile.
“But? There is a ‘but’ coming, isn’t there?”
“Are you a mind reader? You always seem to know what I’m about to say.”
“Yes, and you’re changing the subject again,” Fariha answered evenly.
“Amazing! You could make a career out of it,” Hasib continued.
“Unfortunately not, I only seem to be able to read your mind. So unless you want to start paying me for my time, it’s unlikely.”
“You’re like my own personal psychic. However, I am here to see you but-“
“There it is,” Fariha interjected.
“But I was planning to go to the glass fields today and catch up with some friends,” Hasib continued.
“Then I’ll just have to come with you,” Fariha said, with a smile. “Someone has to allow you to enter, especially with the guards keeping intruders away from the company secrets.”
“It’ll be find, they all know me anyway.”
“Yes, but that was back when father hadn’t banished you from the camp. A banished person can’t just enter, even if they are old friends.”
“True, however, Malek banned me from the camp not the glass fields,” Hasib replied. “I’ve been to the glass fields several times over the last few years.”
“So you have been back before now,” Fariha asked, stopping in her tracks. “Why didn’t you visit then?”
“It was far too dangerous for me to show my face around here with Malek around.”
“Then why didn’t you visit when he went away to the city other years?”
Hasib could tell that Fariha’s feelings were hurt and he sighed and turned to her. Hasib placed his hands on her forearms as he always did when they were little and he wanted to explain something. Fariha met his gaze with serious, questioning eyes.
“I’ve been busy, Fariha. Building a life away from here was hard, it took time,” Hasib explained.
“I could have helped you! I just didn’t know where you were,” Fariha said.
“I know you would have helped me. One day, I promise, I’ll take you to my new home.”
“When you and father smooth things over, he and I can come and visit as often as we like.”
Hasib paused and had a mental sigh. He nodded however and fixed a smile on his face.
“Of course, if and when that happens, you will both be welcome at my home,” Hasib said.
Fariha’s face lit up in a smile and she did a small happy dance.
“As for now, I’ll go to the glass fields and be back by evening,” Hasib continued.
“Nah ah,” Fariha said with a shake of her head. “I’m coming with you.”
“I already told you, I can get in by myself,” Hasib said impatiently. “Beside you’d have to inform the camp that you were leaving otherwise they’ll think you’ve been kidnapped.”
“Come off it. I’ve snuck out plenty of times before and there’s been no drama,” Fariha answered confidently.
“Oh really?” Hasib asked raising an eyebrow at her. “Rendezvousing with the handsome Abdar?”
Fariha blushed and opened and closed her mouth like a fish. Hasib laughed and that just made her blush even more, her ears and cheeks turning pink.
“Fariha and Abdar sitting on a dune, K-I-S-S-I-N-G,” Hasib teased with a cheeky grin.
“Shut up, Hasib,” Fariha scolded. “We haven’t even held hands, let alone kissed.”
Fariha had liked Abdar since they had both been children, but only Hasib knew about her crush. Hasib had been the one to listen to her endless compliments on how strong Abdar was, how kind, how handsome, how noble. The list went on and on. Hasib would get annoyed sometimes and started picking on Abdar’s less noble attributes. However Abdar’s good qualities outnumbered his bad ones by at least a thousand to one.
Abdar was a messenger that went between the camp and the glass field. Hasib was sure that Malek wouldn’t be appreciative of any marriage proposal made by Abdar, a mere messenger.
Fariha was wringing her fingers and looking down at them sadly. Hasib picked up his pack from the ground and gave her a half smile.
“Well, you had better be able to walk a long distance, because I’m not carrying you there,” Hasib said, as he began moving away.
“I could walk further than you any day,” Fariha responded, moving quickly after him.
It would have taken several long hours to walk to the glass field so Hasib had attempted to dual ride his sandboard. That decision had resulted in several tumbles and left them covered in warm sand. Fariha had eventually gotten used to riding on the board, thus screamed and grabbed onto Hasib less. With Fariha no longer constricting his movement, Hasib had maneuvered over the dunes like a pro once again.
They came into sight of the glass fields an hour before midday, and they were both hot and bothered. Hasib had given Fariha a spare shemagh to protect her from the sun and stinging sand.
“Oh thank god!” Fariha sighed with relief.
Hasib smiled and slid down the last dune between them the fields. Fariha was happy to see the fields because that meant there would be shade, Hasib was happy for another reason. To Hasib, the glass fields were like his old home.
Several large buildings were next to a pegged and strung off square of sand. No one was seen outside the building, as it was far too hot to be collecting sand. The sand was collected at night and during the day it was turned into glass inside the buildings. It was a multicycle continuous production, with night shifts and day shifts.
They entered in through a large wooden door and found rows of work stations, with workers moving systematically. There was three furnaces although only two were shining with a bright orange glow. There was the main furnace where the glass was melted in a crucible, a glory hole where the glass was reheated for the shaping process and the annealer where the glass cooled slowly to room temperature. The work station also included a bench, which consisted of a seat for the glassworker, a place for the handheld tools and a rail.
“Wow, this looks amazing,” Fariha spoke, looking around in wonder.
It was at this moment, Hasib realized that Fariha had never actually been inside the glass factory. Hasib had been sent to work here as a punishment, when he angered Malek. As punishment it may have been intended, yet it was the exact opposite for Hasib. Long hours, sweating in the heat of multiple furnaces, wasn’t attractive for most. Hasib loved it however, and had learnt the art so quickly that his wares were added to shipments for the city.
“It is, isn’t it?” Hasib said smiling. “I’ll show you around and explain it to you.”
Fariha’s face lit up and she followed Hasib eagerly. Several workers smiled at them kindly, yet they continued working with the glowing orange molten glass on the end of long metal poles.
“The poles are called a punty, they’re used to hold and shape the glass once it’s molten. You use jacks, tweezers and sheers to work the glass,” Hasib explained, walking up to one of the benches. “The rail here is used to roll the punty so that the glass doesn’t just ooze off it and get bent and disfigured. As a glassworker, the poles are almost always being twirled during the entire process.”
Hasib then pointed to the main furnace, and another long metal pole but this one was hollow.
“That’s a blowpipe. We preheat the tip of the blowpipe and then dip it into the heated glass in the crucible. The glass gathers on the pipe and when the worker has the amount they want they remove it partially from the furnace. The glass is white because of the heat so it needs to cool slightly before it’s able to be worked properly. It changes colour to be the glowing orange when it cools,” Hasib continued. “It is hard work and thus the glassworker usually has an assistant to help carry and form the glass.”
Fariha smiled at her brother’s enthusiasm and gazed around the workshop. Her eyes fell on brightly coloured powders laid out on benches.
“What about those powders?” Fariha asked curiously.
“That’s for colouring the glass. Molten glass is rolled through the powder and heated so that it melds together. Coloured glass is used to make much of the fine art pieces, like your fathers famous glass horses,” Hasib answered. “I managed to make a peacock once, it was such a fine piece that Malek said it was priceless. He must have fetched a fine price for that.”
“He must have been proud, that you created such artwork,” Fariha answered smiling across at him.
“I’m sure he would have been,” Hasib answered, quietly, “had he known that the piece was made by myself, but I had someone else take the credit.”
“Why?” Fariha asked, frowning.
“That’s what I’d like to know,” a male voice interrupted. “Why are you here, Hasib Asad?”
Fariha spun to see Abdar looking at them both with serious eyes and crossed arms.
Note from the Author:
I really enjoyed writing this chapter! I did a lot of research into the art of a glassmaker. I picked up all the technical terms for the furnaces and tools from my research. I even Googled artists and it is so cool to watch them form horses, pigs, snowmen and more from this technique.
Anyway feel free to comment and let me know what you think!