Rama scooted up to the back of a hut. Lakshme and Libra followed. Libra had her bow out and said she practiced. She said she was going to protect Lakshme to the death.
“You better not die,” Lakshme responded, gruffly.
Pokara, Salipsa and the gang followed more noisily, but they came prepared for a fight. Someone saw them and shouted. Men and women came pouring out of their homes and gathered in the village center.
Rama stood, figuring, what was the point? Lakshme stood and Libra pointed her arrow at the people. What the people did surprised them all. The people fell to their knees and faces and pleaded. “Help us. Help us.”
Rama needed no more enticement. He turned toward the cave entrance and shouted. “Rakshasa. Show yourself. The universe rejects your existence.”
They heard rumbling in the cave. They saw a very big hand, followed by an equally big arm, and finally a head, that when the Rakshasa stood, he looked about twenty or more feet tall. The Rakshasa laughed as it looked on them.
“Perhaps I reject your existence.”
“Titan in the wilderness, hear me. You have chosen the path that leads to destruction. No good end will come of your days if you continue down that path. I am forgiveness. I offer a path to grace and mercy. Repent of your wickedness, turn to the path of righteousness, and live among the gods once again.”
The titan reached out and snatched Lakshme, lifting her with one great hand. “Maybe I eat forgiveness.” he said. Lakshme screamed as three things happened in quick succession. Libra let her arrow fly. A stream of light came from the forest and put a hole the size of a basketball in the titan’s chest. And Rama leapt up to the titan’s head, and with one sweep of his sword, he cut the titan’s head off. Then Libra’s arrow arrived.
Lakshme fell to the dirt and twisted her ankle. Pokara, Salipsa and Libra all arrived at about the same time, but Lakshme got up, livid. She leaned on Libra. “Elder Stow,” she yelled. “You almost killed my friend.” She swallowed and glanced at Rama. “And thanks for saving my life.”
The travelers came sheepishly from the trees. The locals made plenty of room, afraid that this might be a new terror. They breathed some relief when Lockhart got down from his horse and they realized he and the horse were two separate beings. Of course, they did not breathe much relief, him still being a six-foot man in a five-foot world. Then again, after the titan, he did not look very big at all.
“Welcome friends,” Rama said. “Your faces look oddly familiar. Even the monkey man.”
Lakshme growled and yelled again. “Major Decker is not a monkey man. Decker, please ignore him when he says stupid stuff. He is a person. These are people.” She pointed at the locals who were all dark-skinned Dravidians.
“Yes,” Rama said. “My wife, Sita, is back in Valmiki’s ashram.”
“I look forward to meeting her,” Katie said, and bit her lower lip to keep from saying something, or maybe shrieking like a groupie.
“It is sort of like tromping around with Heracles,” Lakshme admitted. “Althea already did that.” Lakshme shook her head. “At least Rama is calm and collected. I don’t think I have ever seen him get angry.” Lakshme made the rest of the introductions.
They ended up staying the night. The titan’s body got dragged back into the cave and Elder Stow kindly used his sonic device to collapse the entrance. The titan’s head, however, got set up on the ledge by the cave, and no doubt would be set up on a pole, as soon as they managed a tree bit enough to handle the job.
The celebration seemed almost caveman primitive to the travelers. Sukki might have been the only one to appreciate certain parts of the party. Even Rama found the festivities backward. He asked what was wrong with calling them monkey people?
They got the recipe for bug repellant, and first thing in the morning the headed for the ashram. Lakshme got to ride behind Katie, and Rama rode with Lockhart. Libra rode behind Alexis, scared though she was. Pokara, Salipsa and the gang had to use their own feet, though Lakshme admitted that they would probably move by secret ways and get back ahead of them.
About two hours out, Katie had a question. “So, explain to me why in India, the Devas are the good gods and the Asuras are the bad ones, while in Iran it is the opposite, with the Ahuras being good and the Devas being bad.”
Lakshme looked at Lockhart and Rama. “Would you two mind riding to the point?” she asked. “When we walked this way yesterday, I did not have horses in mind. I would like to be sure the way is safe for the horses.”
Lockhart nodded and spurred to ride out front, hopefully out of earshot. Then Lakshme explained.
“The Ashri were the native gods in this jurisdiction. The Divas, as in either divine or devils served the Brahman next door, really Afghanistan, in the center of the old world. You remember the titan Bhukampa held Iran itself.” Katie nodded. “Well, when the Indo-Aryan people invaded, and the Divas came, it was trouble putting two houses together, peacefully. Eventually, the Ashri who fit themselves into the new house of the gods got called Devas, whether they were, originally, or not. The ones who refused to fit in remained Ashri, which became Asuras. They resisted the new order and caused much trouble. Still are causing trouble. Sita will be kidnapped by an Asura.”
“I understand that part,” Katie said. “But in Iran the names are reversed.”
“Well, when the Divas came into India, some Ashri moved into Iran and Afghanistan, which were pretty depopulated, god-wise. Mita, who became Mithras went there. Varuna, who moved into the sea, kind of touched both places. Agni, the fire god is still straddling the fence. But in any case, the reverse happened. With much less struggle, a new house got formed there, only this time the ones who fit in with the immigrant Ashri came to be Ashri, which became Ahuras. The resistors there, which is to say, the troublemakers became the Devas who stayed Divas. You see?”
“I get it. But now, what about the Aesir. Where do they fit in?”
“Same root word in the primal language of the Caspian peoples. Some moved east, into India and Iran. Some earlier moved down into Greece, Italy, and all the way to Iberia. Then came the Celts, who eventually got pushed west by the Germans, who eventually filled Germany and Scandinavia, when they were pushed in turn by the Slavs, and in the south, the Scythians that had kind of Iranian connections by then. The Hati, the Hittites, then the Scythians. There were others, but they were all rooted in the original people between the Black Sea and the Aral Sea, and the language they spoke. Aesir. Ashri. Ahura. All from the same root. Even Diva if you follow it back far enough.”
“I see. But Divas?”
“James is James in most major Western European languages, French, German, Spanish, but in Italian it is Giacomo. Go figure,” Lakshme shrugged.