The feast of Ansah
We sat up until 01:00 on Saturday night Sunday morning causing whopping big continuity errors. I spent my prosphora-baking time (about half an hour while they were in the oven) on Sunday morning trying to sort of fix most of them because Sunday night was the regular campaign, where Mousy was due to turn up. Eventually we decided to cut the storyline in two and leave the in-between part for later.
There was a strange buzz in the camp as if something was going on that I didn’t know anything about. Erian said that it was the feast of Anshen, and I had to think a bit what time of year it was but then I knew it was the feast of Ansah, the dry-season feast. Not that it was dry season here! But I think in that wood it was wet season all year round.
Then the witch came and everybody got married! Well, not quite everybody, Erian didn’t for one because he was already married, and Rhyn didn’t because he had a woman he loved in Valdyas but couldn’t marry her, she was a priestess or something. But some of the soldiers married the woman or the man they were already in love with. Arin married Khahid, too, even though they were both men, or at least mostly. I spent the whole day looking after little kids in front of the tent, and when it became too warm for that inside the tent. Sometimes a woman came to feed her baby but mostly they were just playing, and I played with them and made sure they didn’t crawl away too far or got bitten by a snake or a spider. I couldn’t keep any of us from being bitten by the little midges that could sting right through a cotton sleeve, but that only itched, you didn’t die from it.
In the evening when everybody was married who wanted to, Erian came and took me to a big wood-pile, not lit yet, with lots of people sitting around it, Other people were in the bushes making love or had gone to the sea to play and swim and eat fish. “I don’t know if you should be there,” Erian said, “but I do, and you belong with me so I think you should. You probably won’t understand much but that doesn’t matter.” He thought for a bit. “You come from a small village, don’t you?” “A hundred and sixty people,” I said, proud that I knew the Valdyan numbers. “And do you know every one of them?” Well, I probably could remember every one if I started with my family and friends, and my family’s friends, and my friends’ family, and so on, so I said “yes, I think so!” “Then think of them,” Erian said, “take them with you.”
The Valdyan witch was at the fire too, and another woman with her who looked like one of our witches but different, she did belong with the Valdyan witch like I belonged with Erian. When everybody was sitting down this woman got up and started to dance, naked, not like a village dance and not like the painted women dance to attract men but something that was like it and yet not like it. It made me very uncomfortable, as if she was dancing under my skin, and I could see that some of the men, well, saw her very much as a woman. It got warmer and warmer –she got warmer and warmer– and it made the wood smoke and light up and burn. Then she put on her clothes and sat down as if nothing had happened!
Then there were speeches or a meeting or something, just like Erian had said, I couldn’t understand much of what they said and nothing at all of what they meant. But then other people came who had been in the bushes or at the seaside, and there was food and drink and music. Some people were dancing around the fire, and I wanted to dance around the fire too, the feast-dance for Ansah! So that was what I did, and I didn’t care who saw me and what they would think of me, because I was dancing for everybody I’d had to leave at home and who were probably dead, and even if they weren’t I didn’t know whether they’d be able to celebrate and dance so I did it for all of them.
When I passed the witch for the second time I felt her looking at me and that broke my step and I fell at her feet. She helped me up, and looked at me as piercingly as the first time I’d seen her, and then smiled and said “Thank you for your prayer,” or at least that’s what I understood.
Then when it got light we went to sleep, and slept almost the whole day.