Perran was a lamplighter.
It was as far from a glorious job as it was from an easy one. Lamps hung just above passers-by, high enough to avoid even the taller rarras’ sharp-tipped horns but still within arm’s reach; there were lamps on every street throughout the town, lanterns dangling from well-wrought iron posts, a hook and a loop making a simple system. Every fifty feet, there stood a lamp.
The lanterns were glass and dark, ornate metal to match the posts; the lamp inside was a carefully-carved crystal, faceted to shed light as efficiently as possible. Each crystal would last from the longest evening shadows until the sun was visible on the horizon, roughly an hour more than true night.
Perran had an hour to cover the entire dusty town and light every lamp.
He had been offered a wheeler to save time and his legs, but like the other lamplighter who worked when he did not, he refused. Fifty feet was too short for a wheeler to be of use, compared to the time wasted leaning it onto and off its stand, mounting and dismounting, starting and stopping.
Every other night, Perran walked the quiet border town, the desert encroaching with thin layers of sand on the outskirts.
The lamps’ crystals were powered by magic, like nearly everything in rarran society. Even in the dusty pockets of less-civilized areas, like this town, magic fueled the technology they used to survive and eke out a living from the dunes. Hooded cloaks that reached past fingerlessly-gloved hands and leather-wrapped soles shielded the body from the ravages of wind and heat like magic and technology shielded the people from the ravages of the world.
Come twilight, the hood was made optional, the sun low and heat draining from the air. Perran walked bare-headed, long ears upright and free of the heavy fabric. At every lamp, he would remove the lantern from its hook and slide away a glass panel, reaching in a paw-padded fingertip to touch the crystal. Automatically, so well were they designed and carved, it drained exactly as much qki – physical energy, the complement to magical energy – as it could hold. He had a moment before the qki was stored in the natural latticework of the crystal’s structure, before it started to heat up and glow; he replaced the glass paneling and hung the lantern on its hook again.
One every fifty feet. The town was only a few miles from edge to edge, a grid-worked amoeba with uncertain edges, but the streets were close and the buildings were small between them.
It took him a week to learn the timing so that every lamp was lit by nightfall and none faded away to artificial embers before dawn broke. But once he found the pattern, he kept it.
And every night, when he got home, his body was nearly drained of qki, the energy that kept his heart pumping and muscles flexing. He fell into bed nearly senseless, lacking the energy to even think, and slept dreamlessly until the next dawn.