Arvid looks around, bewildered and amused. His dream, if that is what it is, has taken a new twist suddenly. It seems that the dream people have anticipated his visit and thrown a party in his honor. Well, so much the better. That food looks good, and it sure won't be fattening!
But first, something else. The roar of voices fade again as a woman steps forth. She seems to be in her fifties, and is clad in a blue dress like Avdyra's, though the belt is different, blue and green, and she wears one of those soft hats that most women have. It is blue too. And around her neck hang two stones on one chain. One is green, one is blue. They are not jewels as such, they are both opaque. The blue one is the larger, and is a deep navy blue with a slighly lighter pattern. Arvid can see it clearly because she stops not far from him. The other stone is a uniform deep jade green and slightly smaller, the size of a girl's fist. The woman looks at him briefly, but obviously that is not what she came for. She turns towards the tables and starts to sing.
This song is different from the others he has heard, more harmonious,
if not downright beautiful. Her voice certainly helps. But the words
still don't make sense to him:
O me, da nemi dane vala
a ge, da eni manu Gwala
en ei, ta nemi dane moa
a me, ta eni manu goa.
He is pretty sure that was Gwala, like in Gwalawala. But why can't he understand the song? It could be that the translation magic doesn't work on song, but there is more to it. Even this song seems to be in a different language from what they speak. They normally use longer words, while all the songs use short words. It could be some kind of strange custom, of course. Even so ... he has this creepy feeling that it is another magic song. Though for all practical purposes, it seems the lady has just been saying grace. The food fest starts.
The food is not quite medieval, either. Then again, he doesn't know much about medieval food, actually. Except that there were no potatoes, and there are no potatoes here. There are other vegetables, though, and fruits. Some of them seem almost familiar, like large plums or small peaches in at least three different colors. And there are small red apples, not much larger than big marbles, with soft skin. Some long red tubers seem to be quite popular. And there are large fried shrimps, so the people here are not vegetarians at least. Though he sees no hint of large meats. That's OK by him. The large plums turn out to be as different in flavor as they were in color. And there are jars of drink that tastes fresh and fruity and kind of sparkling. Well, that's the word that comes to mind. Sparkling. He notices that the children drink a lot of it, so it is probably not intoxicating.
Arvid stays close to Marisfar and Avdyra. There are benches along the walls, and apart from the three of them, only the woman with the stones sits on theirs. Is this the mother of Avdyra? He is unsure of the etiquette in this world, where even the food is different from at home. Perhaps it would be a grave insult to ask her? She carries the air of someone who would not take kindly to foolish questions. Nor does she carry on any kind of conversation, just munching slowly on a particularly long red tuber while her eyes sweep over the hall, keeping watch over everything.
Eventually an old man comes up to the stone woman, and whispers something to her. She nods. The man, clad in a gray tunic much like the wizard's, bows deeply and leaves. Up until now, Arvid has thought that Marisfar was the one in charge in this village. Living in the largest house, being the wizard, making speeches. That kind of stuff. But suddenly it is not so clearcut anymore. This woman seems to have some say in things too. Who is she?
As the tables start to get empty and the stomaches start to get full, people turn to chatting like they do in every world. And then the old man steps forward again, but now to the middle of the floor. With him is a young boy carrying a kind of instrument. It seems to consist of metal bars of various sizes hanging in a light wooden frame. There must be nearly fifty of the bars alltogether. As a hush falls over the room, the boy starts to play the instrument, but quite softly. A small club is used to strike each bar, and the vibrations last for a while. By picking the sequence of notes deftly, he creates a steadily shifting pattern of harmonies. Even though he doesn't strike hard, the sound carries all through the hall in the sudden silence. Not a child moves. And then the old man speaks.
"Harken to my words! For they are of times long gone, and of sights that only the mountains have seen. Listen! For I shall tell what I have heard, what the old ones told me in days of yore, when I was but a lad. Remember! For those who told me, had themselves heard these tales when they were young.
In the beginning there were the First Parents, and they were alone on Earth. And filled with love they gave birth to the Ancients, and the Ancients multiplied upon the Earth. And the First Parents gave to the Ancients the Lore of every thing: Every thing under the sky, every thing upon the Earth, every thing in the waters, everything hidden in the rocks. And the Lore of every thing was written down in the great book, that is Duskriti-jnana. And the Ancients raised the great cities of old, and they planted the great trees, and they walked on the water and on the air and did all that they wanted to do, and they lived in health and happiness for a thousand years. And they made the great Serpents their servants and later their friends, and swore oaths.
And it came to pass that the First Parents left the Earth and went to their abode in the worlds of Dream. And their children, the Ancients, grew haughty and vain. And they said to each other: We know all that the First Parents knew; now we shall know more than they, and do what has never been done. We know all things under the sky and on the face of the Earth and in the water and under the rocks. Let us call upon that which is in the heavens above! And they made new Lore which was not written in the book, and they called upon that which was in the heavens above the sky. And it came to pass that a large shadow filled the sky, and the sun was darkened, and the moon withheld its light. And great stones fell from the heavens unto Earth, and the glorious cities were crushed, and the roads were broken, and the earth shook, and the seas rose up and swept the land, and smoke and ash filled the air for a hundred years.
And when the hundred years had passed, the Serpents went forth and gathered the children of those who had survived. And the children of men were few in number, and they had lost their Lore and they had lost their pride. And the Serpents found for them bits and pieces af the Book of Lore, the Duskriti-jnana, that were scattered in the ruins. And from these pages, and from the great Serpents, the children of man learned anew what Lore we have today. And with this Lore the children of man multiplied upon the Earth and scattered again to the corners of the Earth. And thus is it, that as the Ancients raised the Serpents, so did the Serpents raise the children of man, for the oath of friendship that they both had sworn."
The story ends abruptly, as if there should have been more, an ending to which all were accustomed. But there is no more. The music fades, and the old man bows his head. And then he begins to weep.
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