The birds were out of their nests, spreading their wings to take a flight in search of some food for their hatchlings and the unsure nestlings. The day was aching out on the east horizon with a deep orange hue that smote over the icy mountain tops; which stood like the hazy outline of a gigantic rugged wall dividing the world. The animals moved in herds towards the green pastures and water sources to eventually quench their parched throats. The life in the jungle started with an almost silent whisper and builds in to a rage as the hunt begins.
Away from all this, wrapped in a blanket, our man lay asleep as the morning cold wind blew across the room from a half open window to the other side. There was a light knock on the door and then a little creak that opened the door a bit. A hand appeared on the edge gripping it delicately. She stood there peering over the door edge into the room and saw Xandu sleeping with an innocent expression on his face. His body lay on the bed, quite oblivious to the world it was sleeping in, lost in the sleep of continual dreams. His careless grasp on the blanket bespoke an uneasy night and a late sleep. He desired to control the flow of events and yet the grasp felt insufficient. He was loosing the grip, the hold, the handle on the things. She saw his other arm dangling out of this bed and the flagging fist was hanging like a forbidden fruit. She sneaked in cautiously and stood closer to the half open hand and a desire came upon her a hawk swoops down on its pray with a sudden swiftness.
She bent down and touched his fingers for the first time. She felt a bump in her stomach and a feeling of unfurling of knotted passion. She moved her fingers on his hairy arm almost faintly touching his skin. He was still not moving or maybe didn’t want to move. She could not guess if he was really asleep or was pretending to be. His breath was calm and his face did not betray any sort of expression. She stood up and went over to kiss him gently before he woke up. As she drew closer and felt his slightly opened lips, flush with redness and the warmth of youthful energy, she hesitated and then drew back to the door. She banged it so loudly that the poor man jumped out of the bed with a startled look on his face, as if a lightening bolt had struck him. She laughed staring at his confused look as he stood almost half naked and still coming to terms with the real world that he had been so mercilessly brought back into.
“Father says you need to get ready to go out with him on some business. The hot water is in the big vat by the side of well. Get ready!” She said in a nonchalant haste and went out.
Xandu stared blankly at the door and slowly realized that he had promised to help her father while they were in the forest. He moved across the room to fetch his sack with contained his worldly possessions and a few items of use. In a few minutes he was downstairs and was walking towards the well in the backyard of the house. The vat was there as mentioned and was full of boiling hot water. He put aside his clothes and lowered the bucket into the well for the fresh water that he would mix in the hot water from the vat. After, almost half an hour of washing up himself and the clothes, he was ready to go and meet Goshalak who was waiting for him at the main entrance of the house.
“I hope you rested well last night.” Goshalak asked as Xandu came walking towards him. “yes…I was sleeping good until a thunder bolt hit my bed and woke me up” he replied. Goshalak gave him a questioning look and then they both burst out into a laughter.
As they walked towards the market, Xandu looked at him and asked about the things he needed to do for him. Goshalak kept walking in silence and did not reply. There was this awkward feeling again. He did not understand the man. Sometimes, he was all friendly and jovial and then he would switch into a silent and reserved kind of a man. They reached the market soon enough and Goshalak asked him to wait there are went inside a shop. Xandu looked idly at the people and things for sale in the market. There was quite a bustle unlike his own village where the market just meant a few odd shops. His searching eyes gazed upon a specific thing in a little shop across the street. It was a place where they sold parchments and quills along with other stuff for writing purposes. The various assortments pulled his inquisitive nature with much force. He crossed over to the shop and began looking through the stuff.
“Do you need anything?” A fat pot bellied man, who probably was the owner, asked him.
“I am just looking.” Xandu said nonchalantly.
“That would be 2 Ruppah for just that, Sir.” The man replied with a stern face.
Xandu looked at him in disbelief. The man had a mean look on his face and the pot belly just accentuated the gluttonous desires of the face that sat upon the roundness. Suddenly, the man burst out into a laughter. Xandu was stupefied by this display of contradicting behavior.
“I was just joking with you. I like to joke. I keeps me happy. No need to fear. There is no cost for looking. You seem to be a foreigner. Where are you from?” having said this, the man drew a large breath and mumbled something.
“I am from another village on the other side of the forest. I am here the guest of Goshalak.” he said.
“hehe…hmmphhh…khmmupph…ah yes I know him. He has a beautiful daughter.” the man said coughing through his talk. He seemed to have a bad asthma or something.
“Oh, so you know Maya also?” Xandu queried.
“Who doesn’t? She is such a delight….hmmph…If I was a bit younger and healthy, I would have snatched her away and would be gone before anyone knew…kheehehehe…hmmph” He said half laughing and half coughing.
“She is adorable indeed. Her soul is beautiful… as if she is not of this Earth…” Xandu was lost in his thoughts.
“I don’t know about that, I am happy to have her lustrous youth with a skin soft like flower petals in the spring. She smells of fresh honey and her voice is…hmmmphhh…khmmph…she indeed has the charm and allure of a seductress. The kings would give anything for a night with her…hmmmph…” The man somewhat gargled his last words.
“You are an old fat pervert…aren’t you?” said Xandu looked at him in disgust.
“I was joking!” said the fat man laughing.
“Oh…you were indeed.” he replied believing nothing he just heard.
“So, anything you want young man?” the corpulent figure of a man asked.
“How much for the quill? The one with white feathers…Is it a Swan feather?” Xandu asked.
“That one is a Goose…the Swan feather is rare and expensive. Only in the high mountain lakes you will find them. I have Owl and Turkey feather quills if you want.” the man replied.
“How much for the Goose quill?” questioned Xandu.
“That would be 2 Ruppah…and the ink? You need ink as well? I would bundle everything for 5…and give you a Turkey quill for free!”the fat shopkeeper proposed and nice deal.
“I do not have money right now. Maybe I will come later. Thank you.” Xandu looked apologetically at the man.
“No …No …you must take it…pay me later. It is alright.” The man said.
“..and you must be joking?” Xandu asked half heartedly.
“No..I am not. I ma serious. Take it.” the shopkeeper insisted.
“Why? You do not even know me. I could be a rascal who could swindle you…I mean shouldn’t you be worried?” Xandu posed a question with all serious intent to know.
“I have been doing this business for past twenty years now. My father used to do the same thing and so did his father. I have enough experience of people. I have seen the world with open eyes. You, young man are not the one who would swindle anyone. You have an upright character. Take it…here.” the man extended his arm to give him all the stuff.
“Thank you, Sir. I shall pay you as soon as I earn some money.” Xandu profusely thanked the man.
“I know you will, young man… hmmphh…you will.” the man coughed up the word.
He was standing at the same spot where Goshalak had left him thinking how would she react when he brings a nice quill for her as a present.
[to be continued…]