Monday, 25 April 2016

War in an age of innocence: 6

Link to Chapter 1

 Kiri watched the Danai village get closer. It was not just the appearance of the village that was strange to him, but it was also the landscape in which it stood. The village and its small fields that surrounded it were cut out of an immense forest of tall trees. Some of the trees had started to change colour and these contrasted with the dark pine trees that dotted the forest. The land was low around the village, but soon rose to high hills in all directions. He could not see any way to get to the village other than by sea, but he thought that there must be paths through the forest that were hidden from his view. The village itself was very strange: a tall fence of upright logs set tight against each other surrounded it. The houses were all above ground and were also made from logs. There were openings in their walls like small doors so that the people inside could see out. The houses were tall, and at the end of some of them he could see openings above other openings. He remembered what he was told about floors above floors. The houses were also very long, so there must be a lot of people living in each one. He had never seen so much wood used. The only parts of the village that was not made from wood were the thatched roofs of the houses.

As the boat drew closer to the land he could smell the smoke from all of the Danai’s fires, but even this was a different smell than the fires of his home. The boat entered a small bay, and he saw that there was no beach, and the land just seemed to be growing straight out of the sea. He saw that there were more logs set into the water with a walkway built on to the top of them, and this was where the boat was heading. He was standing near the bow and leaning over the edge of the boat to get a better view of everything. Urho came over to him.

“You had better sit down Kiri, we will bump into the dock and I don’t want to see you go over the edge!”

He thought he should try to remember that word “dock” and wondered how many more new words he would soon be hearing. He did as he was told, but the bump was not as hard as Urho seemed to think it would be. As soon as the boat stopped, it was tethered to a log by two ropes, and Kiri jumped to his feet again. He looked at all the people that had come down to greet them. All these tall people with their blonde hair were a strange sight. He saw women and girls, and realized that he had never seen Danai women or girls before. It was just the men that visited in their boats. Everyone was so tall. Even what looked to be very young children were taller than he was, and he started to feel rather embarrassed about his lack of height. He thought about his aunt, and wondered if she was feeling very short as well. He looked over to her, but she seemed unconcerned about anything and was helping Urho gather some of the goods that the boat had brought back from their trading voyage. Kiri thought that his aunt’s short stature would not be as embarrassing as would his own: the Danai women were shorter than the men were, and his aunt was just that much shorter still. He would be much shorter than any girl of his age would and this bothered him.

He decided to put all such thoughts out of his mind and went over to Vara and Urho.

“Can I help carry some things ashore?”

“Oh no!” Urho said, “You and your aunt are our guests, it would not be right for you to do any work – at least, not today anyway” and he laughed.

Kiri stepped on to the dock with his aunt and Urho and all who were waiting there were smiling at them A few of them made some comments to each other that he could not hear and all eyes were on him and his aunt. A girl about Kiri’s age came over to them and placed a strand of stone beads around their necks. Kiri was very pleased to see that the girl was hardly taller than he was, and Urho seemed to have understood what he was thinking.

“You see, we are not all giants!” and he laughed again.

Kiri blushed, as did the girl.

“This is Kala” Urho said, “I hope you two will become friends, she lives in our house, and she can show you around and tell you all about the village and our customs. Kala, this is Kiri, and this is his Aunt Vara.”

There were more greetings and introductions and then most of them started walking toward the village entrance. Only a few Danai sailors were left to unload the boat. It was just a short walk up a path that was made from split logs, just like the dock. Everything was so new to Kiri and he could not stop looking in all directions with wonder. Kala was walking by his side.

“Is your village very different from ours?” she said.

“Oh yes, very different”

“I would like to hear all about it later, perhaps after the feast if you are not too busy.”

“That will be nice, and you can tell me more about your village too”

They both smiled.

As the procession entered the village, Kiri saw another log road that looked as if it followed around the perimeter of the village, just inside its tall fence. The houses looked even bigger close up, and soon they entered one of them through a big door at the end. Kiri was wide eyed in the wonder of it all. His eyes took a little while to adjust coming out of the sunlight. Then he saw that all of their furniture was made of wood instead of stone, in fact, there was hardly any stone anywhere except for around the fire in the centre of the large room they had entered. It looked as if the forest had grown a village.

“Kala”, Urho said, “While we are preparing for the feast, why don’t you show Kiri around the house. He looks eager to see it all”

“Alright, Come on Kiri, I’ll show you where the animals sleep in the wintertime”.

She took Kiri by the hand and led him past a door at the end of the big room. The big room went all the way up to the roof, but when they passed through the door, that part of the house was much lower. He looked up at the wooden planks above his head, and then down again to the straw-covered floor with stalls for the animals. Although it was not yet winter, there were a few sheep inside. Kala explained that some of them were lame and had been found almost dead from hunger. She told him that a few might recover, but the rest would be brought fodder to fatten them up and then they would be slaughtered for their meat and skins. He asked what was above this part of the house, and she led him to a ladder and they climbed up through an opening in the planks. There was a smaller room than the one that they had entered downstairs, and it had a small fireplace in the centre. On the two long sides of the house were very small rooms with clean straw on their floors. They all had three walls and were open to the main room. They had various furniture and boxes inside, and a few had warm-looking blankets over part of the straw-covered floor

These rooms are comfortable for most of the year”, she explained, “but we all sleep around the big room during the winter. We have saved this one for you, It’s next to mine.”

She showed him a cozy little room that had lots of blankets, neatly folded, on a shelf.

You should find everything you need in the boxes over there”, she said, pointing to one of the corners. “I just got my own room last year. My parents were killed when a sudden storm capsized their fishing boat, and then Urho took me in. My mother was his cousin.”

That’s sad”, Kiri said, “I mean, about your parents”.

I don’t like too talk about it much” she replied.

Kiri fell into an awkward silence.

Come on, Kiri, let’s see if the feast is nearly ready. Do you eat the same sort of food that we do?”

He remembered that the Danai liked his aunt’s dried venison, and he knew that they also ate fish like them, and had sheep, but he had never been to a Danai feast before.

I think so”, he said.

Good! I’ll make sure that you get a big bowl of roasted mice then!”

You eat MICE?”

No!” she said, “I’m just teasing you”

She laughed and ran back to the ladder and climbed down.

The feast was wonderful. Kiri especially like the roast boar. He had only ever tasted it once before, because his own people rarely went deep enough into the forest to find it. The Danai did not seem to be as scared of the forest as his own people, probably because their lives seemed to be so connected with it. He wondered if he would get over his fear of it too. He was almost living in it now. There were a few dishes that he found a bit strange. The Danai ate a lot of their fish raw and he was a little surprised how good some of it was. They also ate a lot of different birds, and that was new to him. He asked if any of them were the white sea birds and everyone laughed.

We can catch you some if you really like them,” said one old man, and everyone laughed again.

After the meal came the music. Kiri found this strange as well. A number of the Danai men all sang together and their voices were even deeper than Urho’s. It was a strange sound, something like thunder, something like the wind during a storm, but it took on a steady rhythm and was accompanied by a lot of drumming. Most of the Danai owned their own drums and they joined in. Kiri found himself banging the floor with his fist as well. The house echoed with the sound. It went on for a long time and Kiri noticed that strange visions and feelings started to come over him. He looked around and saw what might be the same thing happening on everyone’s face. He felt part of it all, yet it was still strange to him.

He was hoping for some stories, but the music went on for a very long time. He found himself getting very tired and Vara noticed this, nudging Urho.

Kala” he said, “Show Kiri where he will be sleeping. It has been a long day, he needs his rest”

Kiri opened his mouth to say that she already had done this, when Kala quickly answered.

Yes, Urho, I’ll take him up there right now. I am very tired myself.”

She led him back up to his small room and as he was about to go inside she kissed him on his cheek.

I’m very happy that you came here Kiri”.

I am too, Kala” and he kissed her cheek.

He covered his straw bed with some blankets and lay down. The house grew quieter as the night closed in and Kiri smiled to himself and then drifted off into a peaceful sleep.

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  1. This chapter enables the reader to understand the different physical worlds the two groups live in and introduces a special new character the girl. She seems to want to cultivate a caring relationship with Kiri. How will this relationship develop?
    Even though I have a clear picture of the Danai' s physical world. I have a feeling all is not as it should be.

  2. The differences in the two worlds becomes apparent, for Kiri, in the next two chapters. He has to grow up a lot in very short space of time, but an even bigger adventure awaits him...

    I noticed that I had reverted to my original use of tabs instead of indents for the first part of this chapter so I corrected that in html. Hopefully, I eventually stayed with the indents! I was not (nor am I still) a very advanced Microsoft Word user. I'm going to download a trial of a new word processor that looks very good. I think it might make my subsequent production a lot simpler, at least I'm hoping it will!