The countryside was really strange! It wasn’t like home, it wasn’t like Iss-Peran or like Dadán. First we followed the river. There were mountains on both sides of the river, in all kinds of shapes, as if someone had made statues that had then gotten overgrown. The road went up all the time, and it was quite wide, and in places, it was built half in, half onto the mountains, and made of stone! The trees and things were much greener even than in Velihas, and there were lots and lots of bitey insects. And I’ve never seen so many flowers in my life! Great droopy, floppy flowers, small, neat flowers, and everything in between, and in lots of colors.
And the road was really well-travelled, there were lots of carts like ours, and lots of people walking, everyone was going into the countryside. There were lots of little towers at the side of the road, and sometimes we’d stop and give a woman sitting next to the tower a bit of food or money, and she’d say something, and we’d tie one of the ribbons to the tower. And then we’d going. And all the women were priestesses of the Mother! And at every halt, people exchanged little bags of seedgrain.
And when we got higher still, there was a kind of plain, but it was high up, and still pretty hilly, a bit like the plain above Cuytim, but still completely different, because there were patches of green forest, which you don’t get in the South of Velihas, and lots of fields, neatly bordered with little moats, and the river was quite wide and shallow here, you could see the fish playing in the sun, and many of the fishes had all kinds of colors, too.
And in one of the narrow stretches, we were almost hurled off the road, cart and all! A messenger on a fast horse came thundering past! And Charpatong, he went gray and said, it’s a good thing I’m disguised. And so it was! This must have been a messenger from his half-brother, warning his Father.
Then whe n we were getting close to Kalyana’s village, I suddenly heard her tell Feneng about the earth spirits in her village, she was saying, “you need to whack them on the head with a big piece of wood, and then they go, otherwise they will feed on the seed you’ve been sowing!”
That was so strange that I stopped dreaming about the river and the fishes and the woods. Spirits made of earth! Well, if there’s water spirits in the sea, it stands to reason that there might be earth spirits as well, after all, ryst is in everything. But hitting spirits seemed really bad to me! So I asked her, why should be they be hit, are they evil?
And Kalyana just said she didn’t know — but I’d see them, if I saw them, I’d want to whack at them, too!
And then we arrived at the village. We were nicely in time for the preparations. Fikmet and Feneng had caught a deer, and that was our gift for the festival, and there was lots of nice things to eat, kids and lambs and piglets and porridge and honey. They don’t make wine from their honey, they make a kind of thin beer from their grains. Fikmet said it was good to drink, but I stuck to water! I don’t want to be stolen again!
And when all the preparations were done, and the food began to smell good, there was music, and we ate, until twilight. That was when everyone went to the fields! The women were sowing grain from little bags, the bags we had gotten at all the little shrines. And we, we were given stout sticks, and when the women started to sow, the earth began to form, and nasty, leering faces came up, and hands, and they began to gobble the seeds, leaving only empty husks behind, they took all the goodness and life from the seeds.
So we started whacking them, and it was a game, we kept score! After a while, though, the spirits stopped coming up and the women were done sowing, so it was time to eat the left-overs, and make music and dance.
The music was strange, but there wasn’t much, if any, spirit in it. A lot of life, though, and we had lots of fun dancing! And Fikmet, she’s pretty amazing with music, she could play with the other musicians after just listening for two, three heartbeats. When it got darker, Kalyana’s mum, the village Priestess, told us that the messenger had also left his message in their village.
It said that Prince Bhuvanath had died! Someone had cut his throat in his work room, and with the death of the prince-regent, Sutharam was in chaos, with people fighting and plundering and everything horrible. So our Khas guard, Garhan, he wanted to go back and make his fortune!
But we didn’t agree, besides, we were afraid he would tell Bhuvanath’s mum about us, I bet he thought he could make a tidy sum that way! So we told him he’d have to stay with us, and wasn’t allowed to reconnoitre any more. Besides, Charpatong’s dad was sure to give him a big reward if he got us safely to the Imperial City.
That’s when I got a big shock: it turns out the City is four countries away from Ayuthaya! Four countries, and not small ones, where they speak all kinds of deaf-and-dumb languages!