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Sun Quest

Part 1 - Southbound

by and © Ruwen Rouhs

Chapter 13

During the ensuing turmoil Aegir slipped away to meet Buri, who was waiting at the edge of the forest. "Now I know what to do!" he told Buri still out of breath. "You have to impersonate the mighty water-spirit, the grundylow, the spirit who grabs people with his long sinewy arms and drowns them if they come too close to the water's edge!" and he told Buri of the incident.

"I? Do I have to impersonate the water-spirit? Are you insane?" his complexion went grey. "There is no point in doing it and ...." he hesitated "I am not willing to offend a mighty daemon! Never!"

"Don't be chicken! Your namesake, Buri, the forebear of all deities, is stronger, much stronger than a grundylowand will hold his protective hand over you!"

But why should I risk offending the spirit of the Fjäder-lake?

"You have to! Remember yesterday? The Fjörgyn and Whurg have claimed they have seen your shadow, but as a two-headed ghost! You are undead for both of them. Soon everyone will talk about Buri the Undead!" Noting Buri's amazed expression, "Believe me, tomorrow everybody will be convinced you are undead and have returned from the netherworld to take your assassins with you. That's your chance!"

"And how should this help me to get the crescent back! Answer my question!"

"That's more than simple! At the fair at Heron-eyrie Whurg just blurted out the truth about the shaman's attempt upon your life. Now the shamans of the other clans will try to find out the truth. They will try to find out if one of the shamans has committed a crime and so offended the honour of the brotherhood of shamans!"

"And then?"

"They will summon a gathering to decide how the misdeed can be healed."

"Are you sure the shaman of the Eagle-clan will accept their verdict? He is strong headed and he will reckon on the support of men of the clan took part at the crime!"

"Let's hope he does accept the verdict!"

"But if not?"

"Then we will have to increase the pressure and have to appear as your shadow again! You have to vex the Eagle-clans, and all the other clans, till the shamans take action and force the shaman of the Eagle-clan to return the crescent!"


Buri was uncommunicative on the walk back to the bear's den, stayed so during their meal and still seemed deep in thought when they made themselves comfortable on the bed of last year's dry leaves. When Aegir thought his friend had already fallen asleep and decided to close his eyes too, Buri's hoarse voice startled him, "Aegir I will accept your suggestion. Initially I wanted to kill the Shaman and take the crescent back by force. But I hate bloodshed and your plan may be a way to prevent further harm. If it does not work, I still can take up the old plan." After a moment he went on, "My father hated bloodshed! He told me never, never to kill someone if there was another way to solve the problem! He was a great father."

"He sure was. I like peaceful people more than violent. I liked my father, but hated his way of life, always fighting, looting, killing....."

Buri took Aegir's hand to comfort him and began, "It's time now to tell you more of my father. It's time for me to tell you the last part of his story. Would you like to listen to it, my friend? Would you like to know what happened in the oasis?"

"Next morning the twittering of birds woke up my father. Still drowsy he squinted against the bright light coming through a small hole in the cabin's roof. Where was he? He looked around and suddenly remembered the events of the preceding day. Where was Teje? Where was she, his beloved wife, his dark princess? Where did the desert people hide her, her and his child to come? What is that, the place called Safe Heaven? Frantically he tried to remember the details. But he felt so tired. His body felt battered! Was he tired from the exhausting trek through the dry desert as a captive or of the events of the night before? What had happened? He blushed remembering the lovemaking with Mitrson and Mitr! What had made him do this? He writhed in pain thinking of his unfaithfulness. Just when the tears began to well the door of the cabin swung open. Two young men peered inside. Timidly the bolder one gestured to follow them to the lake side."

"My father looked around for his clothes. But they were gone. Instead, a knee-length dress with wide sleeves lay ready for him. He put it on and followed the young men to a group of big trees where more than a dozen men were sitting around blankets with food. These were the Zaggalahs, the men responsible for the security of the oasis at nightand guarding the fertile land, tending the irrigation system and doing the farm-work."

"The young men eyed him silently waiting for their foreman to invite my father to join their circle. Their foreman, a man whose beard was already grey, did this silently by offering my father a jar of a slightly sour tasting beverage. After everyone had taken a taken a pull on the jar he was invited to sit down in the circle opposite of the foreman. Now the formal mood changed and questions were asked from all sides. The younger Zaggalahs strove with each other in offering flatbread of barley, pieces of cucumbers, onions and white radishes. During his stay in Râ-Kedetmy father became used to the language of the people living by the big river, but the idiom of the desert-people was quite different and he had trouble understanding their questions and even more trouble replying. Understanding his problem, the foreman took him after the meal for a tour through the agricultural part of the oasis. There were three people on the tour, my father, the foreman and one of the smallest of the club bearers, a cute looking barely adult guy with vivid eyes. When my father shot a glance at the young cute boy, the foreman put an arm across the youngster's shoulder and kissed him on the head, indicating thus that the boy was his property."

Aegir got curious, "Are all club-bearers boy-lovers, man-lovers? How to they procreate? Do they not get married?"

"Aren't you a boy-lover also, my Aegir?" Buri shot back grinning mischievously, "Aren't I a boy? What do you think?" When Aegir shook his head quizzically, Buri poked him in the crotch, "Father told me, all the Zaggalahsmarried and fathered children, but they married at a later age and stayed devoted to their boy-lovers all their lives!"

"And your father, he fell in love with your mother Teje first and then?" Aegir asked inquisitively.

"I tell you my father never forgot about my mother, not for one moment."


In the evening Mitrson picked my father up at his cabin. "Hi, `ödur, come along my father invites you for a big feast in our house. You are the guest - the guest of honour!" Licking his lips in anticipation, "My father even butchered a lamb in honour of you! Can you guess why?" He gave my father a wink and smiled conspiratorially. When my father shrugged his shoulders, Mitrson rose up on tiptoes and whispered, "I know he loves you. He tells everybody you are his brother!"

"In the growing dusk Hödur and Mitrson took the small trail along the lake side. On the opposite side of the lake they passed the deserted looking temple at the wellspring, which fed its clear water into the lake. The front of the square building was decorated with pillars flanking the entrance. The sidewalls of the shrine were windowless and behind it a high brick wall enclosed a wooded garden. When the two passed along the wall the crying of small children was to be heard.

"Do children live in the shrine?" my father asked concerned and tried to take a look over the wall into the densely wooded garden. "Do the priests keep children in here?" he asked alarmed!

Mitrson however laughed aloud,"Oh no! `ödur, that's Safe Haven! It's the place where the women awaiting a baby live, and they stay for a while after the birth naturally with the babies, too." To reassure my father, he ascertained, "Look, don't be afraid. My second mother, she my real mother who gave birth to me, also lives in Safe Haven together with my three-month old sister!" When my father looked disbelievingly, "That's the best place in Sivah for mothers and babies. Nobody will bother them! They are cared for by the holy women, the midwives and reincarnations of Ta-weret. Didn't you know that that is the shrine of Ta-weret, Goddess of childbirth and fertility?" When father shot him a disbelieving glance, Mitrson assured my father smilingly, "Teje, your wife is also safe in there! Don't worry. Teje is fine, my grandmother told me this morning!"

"I have to see Teje! Can I go inside and visit her? Come on! I have to...." He took Mitrson's hand and pulled him to a small gate in the wall.

"Please stop!" Mitrson begged, pulling my father back. "No man is supposed to enter Safe Heaven. You have to wait till the baby is born!"

"But why? I am not from your tribe; I am not a desert-man! Your laws do not apply to me. In our country husbands stay with their women up to the date of birth. The husbands are even present during the birth. The man is supposed to help and he is supposed to be the first one to hold the new-born."

"Ask my father, ask Mitr! Ask my grandmother, the daughter of Re, the sun god. Maybe they can help you! But now come on or do you want the djinns, the spirits of the dark, to get you!"

"The courtyard of Mitr's estate was partly roofed to block out the midday heat. Now after sundown the yard was dark, except for the burning logs in a pit in its centre which gave some light. The lamb Mitrson had talked off, was roasting on a spit and flatbread was baking on stones round the fire. My father tried to see in the dark. After some moments, he spotted Mitr seated on cushions with other men leaning back against the walls of the house, while Mitrson had joined a group of chatting boys. Women seemed not to be present. Mitr rose welcoming my father, "'ödur my friend! Welcome to my humble house and to the circle of my fellow combatants. You met them at our little foray. They apologise for the trouble they caused you and they welcome you into their circle. Join us. They are eager to hear about the cold country in the north you come from. Take a seat; the meal will be served soon."

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