The volume felt unbearable. Padrama regretted inviting the dwarf family to dinner, even if he felt he had no choice. The only good thing was it guaranteed no tiger would come within a hundred miles of that noise. Bobo and Rinna argued and complained about the deer, and the cooking, and whatever else crossed their minds. The boys sang. At least Padrama imagined it was supposed to be singing. Their volume was probably intended to drown out the sound of their parents fighting. Poor little Rita sat quietly and rubbed the stubble on her chin, not counting the half-dozen times she mentioned that her mama told her that one day she would have a beard down to her knees.
“Good for you,” Padrama always responded, and Rita grinned with pride and went back to rubbing her stubble.
Raja sat close to Padrama at first, and eyed these spirits that he called Yaksha. He said they were known to practice strange and powerful magic. But Padrama assured his servant that these would not be any trouble, and after about an hour of the boys singing, the little girl rubbing, and the parents arguing, Raja threw his hands up with a comment.
“They might as well be human.”
Somehow, Bobo managed to slip something into the tea to make it alcoholic. Padrama was surprised for all of a second, before he shrugged and decided it was just as well. Maybe the group would eventually pass out in a drunken stupor.
Padrama did not imagine how bad it could get until he saw them eat. They hardly chewed, but showed everything when they talked, and they all talked at the same time through the meal. They stuffed more in before they swallowed, and more than once, one or the other of the boy had to lean over, gag, and throw something up. One time it was a rib bone. And the boy picked up the bone to chew on.
They ate through a whole deer, and half of the second one, leaving half for the morning, which for himself and Raja would have been breakfast, lunch and dinner. It would be just a slim breakfast if the dwarf did not go home by first light.
Raja had a hard time holding his hands over his ears and eating anything at all. Padrama finally had to secretly compel the dwarfs a little, to quiet them down after the meal. He thought to get their attention with a story, and he made them listen and not interrupt. Unfortunately, the only story that came to mind was the story of the three dwarfs at the bottom of the well. It was a well-worn story with hysterical twists and turns throughout. Padrama knew Bobo and Rinna had heard it before. He knew they once told the story to the boys. Little Rita was the only one who had not heard it, but Padrama imagined he could get away with a few laughs and a good night’s sleep.
He glanced at Raja. Of course, Raja had not heard the story. It was not the kind of story one shared with humans. He imagined it would be all right. Raja was a serious-minded soul and did not have much of a sense of humor. So he told the story, and later regretted it. Little Rita giggled all night long. That was punctuated with Raja’s snorting laugh, which sounded worse than his snoring. That was drowned out now and then by great guffaws from one boy or the other, not to mention the occasional snicker from Rinna. Only Bobo appeared to be immune, but suffice to say, Padrama did not get much rest.
Padrama heard them get up in the morning, before dawn. He heard them trying to be quiet, though they sounded like buffalos in a coffee shop. They also laughed now and then, especially Bobo, who seemed to have saved up his laughter for the morning. They left.
When Padrama opened his eyes, he saw that the half of the deer was gone. He expected that. Beside him, Raja’s voice whispered.
“Are they gone?”
“They are gone,” Padrama said, and he got up to make sure they did not tinker with the chariot, and the horses were okay. He found a small stack of wood beside the fire and assumed it was their way of making payment for the half a deer. He knew by morning they would all conveniently forget that he was the Kairos, their own personal god, given to the little ones by the gods in the most ancient times. He would not remind them. He would look out across the way and think about where he was proposing to go.
“Nothing left to cook,” Raja said. “I’m glad to still have my skin.”
Padrama laughed. He prepared himself to hunt, but a pot appeared on the miraculously built up fire, and a man appeared, sitting, and staring into the fire. Raja leapt up and ran several steps from the fire. Padrama squinted and then sat.
“Mita. Why are you here?” Padrama deliberately used a name for the god that Raja did not know. He did not want his servant freaking out more than necessary.
“Several reasons,” Mita responded. “Breakfast is a good one.”
It was rabbit and actual vegetables in the stew, and Raja quickly retrieved their bowls and spoons from his backpack. “Sorry,” he said. “We only carry the two.”
“Quite all right,” Mita said. He lifted his hand that had been hidden by the pot and held a bowl in it, with a spoon in the bowl. “Here,” he said and reached out. Raja gave him the two bowls and he filled them. It smelled wonderful, and from the sounds Raja made, Padrama was sure it would taste wonderful, too. Unfortunately, he had sudden, serious concerns on his mind.
“You know you are needed,” Mita said.
Padrama glanced at Raja, and Mita, who was, in fact, Mithras, did something so Raja could not hear and thought of nothing but his breakfast. Padrama spoke. “Are Brahma and Varuna having trouble?”
Mita shrugged. “Things have gone well up to this point, but they appear to have reached an impasse. Varuna has only been king…well for some time, since Dayus stepped down, but it is asking a lot to give that up. At least, I think so.”
“I didn’t think being king was that important to Varuna.”
“It isn’t. He is prepared to give up the kingship, but who will take the responsibility? Brahma seems a reasonably stable and good person, but as chief negotiator for the other side, he can’t exactly negotiate himself into the position. Shiva wants it. Vishnu won’t let him take it. Indra suggested Vishnu might take it, but Vishnu is like Varuna in that respect and wants no part of it.” Mita shrugged.
“How about Devi?” Padrama said. “She would be a great king.”
“She’s a woman.”
“So why can’t a woman be king?”
Mita just shook his head. “You have to go there. Both Brahma and Varuna would listen to you, if you don’t offer stupid suggestions.”
Padrama thought about it. He knew the history and the way things supposedly worked out, but he would have to be careful how he presented it.” Then something Mita said caught up with him. “What do you mean, I have to go there? Don’t you mean we have to go there?”
Mita shook his head. “I suppose I will have to take you, but you will have to get back on your own. I’m getting while the getting is good. You know I have worked with Scythians, and the people all around Bactra for centuries. It was Varuna’s idea to stall the invasion. I am known by the people of this land, but I also have a connection to the Aryans.”
“Who are now also in this land.”
“Not all,” Mita said. “Some Asuras, or I should say, Ahuras will cross the divide and move down with the people into the mostly empty no-man’s land, what you call Iran. We will be gods for the Iranians, the Avestan Magi.”
Mita shrugged again. “You know I am not a fighter, and I am a glutton. I would not do well around ascetics.”
Padrama looked across the river where Mohini had gone. “You know I have only one desire in this life. My soul mate is in the hands of a demon and I will save her.”
“Very noble, but if you don’t come, there may be nothing left to save.”
Padrama nodded very sadly. “Raja,” he said. “Raja.” He got the man’s attention. “You need to stay here and watch our things. I have to run an errand, and I will be back as soon as possible.”
Raja nodded slightly, and when Padrama and the stranger both disappeared, he swallowed.
Be sure to chew with your mouth closed and swallow.
And Happy Reading.