Dawn. For the desert people, it meant only a few, brief hours before the scorching heat of morning settled in, baking the sands and anyone foolish enough to wander about unportected.
The inhabitants of Sietch Rajji had been awake even before the first rays of sunshine crept over the horizon; in their tightly sealed caves in order to preserve every last bit of moisture available- the Fremen toiled relentlessly, preparing for the new day; and an eventful one at that, being the time of the month when the established spice bribe was to be delivered to offworld contacts who, in return, could ensure it eventually filled the Guild stockpiles. Eventually, because those contacts nipped their own share of the prize, of course.
In her yali, Lichna ak-Adar stood on the tapestry-covered stone bed, entirely nude and immersed in thoughts of prayer; her tanned skin was aglow with the amber-hued light that spilled from the glowglobes above, and despite the marks left on the body by the harsh, desert life, it still possessed a youthful freshness and feminine fullness absent to older Sietch women; the hardships usually managed to erase any form of beauty from their figures. Lichna, having just reached her 20th birthday, retained much of it, and her lustrous raven hair covered her like a mantle, in the few occasions when she wore it loose. But there was no time for musings; the young woman rose from the bed and quickly dressed herself, the familiar feel of the stillsuit on her skin reminding her how important it was to preserve the moisture in her body, on that day more than ever; she would accompany the group delivering the spice bribe to Arrakeen, equipped with her remedies in case anyone became injured; nobody in the entire Sietch could apply better herb and spice mixtures to injuries than Lichna; she had been able to cure many serious wounds in the past, some of which looked incurable, and her skill was greatly appreciated. On a risky mission such as this, when countless elements could strike: worms, storms, Harkonnen filth a Healer in the group was a valuable asset but Lichnas abilities stretched to more than just medicinal herbs she was as deadly with a krysknife in hand as any other of her comrades and equally well trained in the ways of the desert. All Fremen were, if they wished to survive.
Were about to leave, Lichna. Are you ready? came a mans voice from the corridor outside, separated only by a brown curtain. It was Rahmal, a young man only a year older than Lichna and eager to prove his worth to the Sietch Elders. Not a bad fighter, either, thought Lichna as she gathered some bundles containing different mixtures- for burns, open, bleeding cuts and placed them carefully in her fremkit.
I am ready in a minute, Rahmal! came the answer and she heard his footsteps down the corridor, walking away. All around, the sietch was alive with movement; everyone was a bit tense about this transaction, as it was the first time Sietch Rajji dealt with the offworldlers and the Guild. A dirty, highly degrading thing to do for the proud desert people, but equally necessary, if they wished to keep the Imperium blind to their subtle machinations in the desert, not to mention their true number and settlement locations secret. With the outrageous spice bribes they offered, the damnable Spacing Guild always found suitable excuses and exorbitant prices for not installing satellites in the Arrakis orbit. But as with all bribes, it had the tendency to keep rising, and the Fremen found it more and more difficult to gather the right quantity while escaping the wrath of the Harkonnen overlords who relished any occasion to hunt them down for sport.
Lichna found the main cave of the Sietch unusually crowded; even though the group delivering the spice counted only five people, three men and two women, everyone had gathered there for the blessings; up on an elevated platform stood a dark-clad figure and a man in a stillsuit, overlooking the cave below: they were Naib Kalmir ak-Adar, brother to Lichna and her sister Farah, and Reverend Mother Rashka, a woman so old she looked shriveled and gaunt, but who imposed a mixture of reverence, fear, and respect.
May Shai-Hulud watch over you, my children, on your journey and return safely! Rashka croaked, her surprisingly powerful voice reverberating against the stone walls. Naib Kalmir crossed his palms before him and called out solemnly:
Bi-la Kaifaa chanted the audience in unison. Having received the Reverend Mothers blessing, Lichna joined the rest of the group at the entrance of the Sietch; already, they had their masks and nose tubes in place, exiting the settlement quickly as to loose as little moisture as possible. Even in the first hours of morning, the desert heat was suffocating and Lichna felt its burn on the little skin she had exposed. At her side, walked Farah, her older sister and Sietch Sayyadina as well as one of the most prized warriors Rajji had, and Rahmal. The group leader, a man by the name of Baldur held a thumper in his right hand, distancing himself to plant it in a proper spot; its rhythmic pounding would soon attract a sandworm, one of the giant desert monsters able to swallow a spice harvester whole in one gulp, but used by the Fremen as a swift, reliable means of transport. A special technique was required to tame one of the great beasts, and the desert dwellers were the only ones who possessed it.