Seventh Scene: Return To Carita, Pajaran Empire, West Java. March 31st, 1525

Having succesfully defeated the Laskar Jihad in a fast and furious battle the battle continues towards Carita. Apart from the two Pajaran who were killed and the one sorely wounded, Topeng also suffered a serious blow to the head. Aided by Wen's and Banyak's (albeit somewhat different) healing skills, Topeng will clearly survive although not without taking it easy for several days. Along with his Pajaran warrior companion, they travel by pony, with any necessary space being made by Pajaran warriors carrying goods.

The journey to Carita is nonetheless carried out with a degree of speed and caution, with unusual circumstances dictating the unusual combination. Babas Bibi and Banyak Tikkus prove their usefulness by their knowledge of the territory, both scouting ahead and finding shortcuts. From the temporarily captured Laskar (who readily paid ransom when and if given the opportunity), the popularity of the Muslims among local people in the cities is not to be underestimated, especially among the merchant classes. The Portuguese are clearly invaders, and the weak Hindu kingdoms are perceived to have betrayed their own people.

From the bodies of the fallen the party recovers two arquebus' in poor repair. Macario and Babas Bibi also various collect coinage and gems to the value of 200 silver. Some of the Pajaran warriors also have an undisclosed sum.

Nevertheless, what is true of the city is not true of the country and in the countryside the Hindu's maintain the level of support among local peoples that they have held for hundreds of years. Passing through one more village and reaching the coast on the way to Carita one could not feel anything but approval of the such a well-armed group of noble Pajaran warriors and their civilian entourage. Or at least that's what the villagers thought until Topeng gently corrected them of their misconception.

Two days after passing through the coastal village the party and the Pajaran warriors arrive at Carita to much rejoicing. Banyak's parents are overjoyed with happiness to see their daughter alive again, and being escorted by so many brave and splendid men. They are a little less enthusiastic however when they hear of the quest that the Pu'un of the Badui have placed upon them and how once again, Banyak must depart the village and travel further than ever before: "Ahh, my troubled girl!", exclaims her mother, "who shall provide fish, coconut and sweet pepper for us when your father is old? Who will you marry? When will you settle down?"

The chief Tuamangera also welcomes the party, and is ecstatic that his little village is considered important enough to justify the arrival of a number of fully armed warriors. His enthusiasm is lessened however as he realises that this possibly means that troubled times lie ahead. Topeng talks to the village priest Hari Ratnakar (yes, I have changed his name from the abbreviated version; this means "Vishnu's servent, mine of the sea") about recent experiences. Ratnakar is very animated about a visitation a dream from Agni, the God of fire, whom he has always claimed has a residence in Krakatua (and any divination seems to indicate that this is indeed the case). Ratnakar indicates that in this turbulent dream, Agni informs him that the goddess of destruction, Kali, aided by a number of naga spirits, has taken over the volcanic abode. Whilst Ragni would dearly love the naga to be removed, there is also one other item present at Krakatua that would greatly aid the survival of the village - a Garuda chick!

(Oh, he mentions in a sideway glance to the Europeans; there are gems as well).

He pleads excessively to Topeng that before heading to the south coast that they take the journey to Krakatua and recover the Garuda chick...


Return To Carita, Pajaran Empire, West Java. April 10, 1525

Robert's initial reaction surprised many. He seemed to have a great desire to find this local version of the pheonix. The reason for this is only known to him although he did cite its healing powers. Over the few days that the party spends at Carita, Robert questions Topeng and the Priest Ratnakar intensely about the Garuda. Robert learns that the Garuda is one of the great animal dieties in the Hindu pantheon, the king of the birds, reknowned for his strength, speed and "corrective measures" against evil. Garuda is bright and fiery, and has been mistaken for Agni. He has a special fear and dislike of snakes. Kashyap, Garuda's father, had two wives Kadru, and Vinata (Garuda's mother), who disliked each other intensely. Once, they had an argument over the color of the horse Uchchaisravas, produced during the churning of the Milk Ocean just after the time of creation. Each chose a color and laid a wager on her own choice. The one who lost would become the other's slave. Kadru proved to be right and, as part of the agreement, imprisoned Vinata in the nether regions, Patala, where she was guarded by serpents. Eventually after many great trials, Garuda rescued his mother.

In contrast, Macario is more concerned with practical issues and indeed questioned the validity of messages received from the gods in dreams. Whilst there was little to speak of in terms of a market, and much less in terms of metal goods which made repair of the newly aquired arquebuses difficult (unless he wanted to fix the arquebuses at a high price with gold or silver parts). The ever inventive Macario quickly realises that the village is short of that critical building material, metal nails, whilst certain cut and uncut gemstones seem to be relatively common - opals and pearls in particular. Macario arranges for a significant trade and collects quite a large quantity pearls as he is sure these will fetch a better price in Europe. To be sure, this does mean that the caravel may be a little short of nails itself, but it is a risk he his prepared to take. At the rate he is going, he will return to Europe a very rich man indeed.

Banyak spends most of her time with her parents, attempting to calm them over her rebellious and adventrous spirit, and in particular the fact that she has not sought a suitor yet. Banyak's mother is convinced that she is mad, her elder brother is more amused, her elder sister jealous and her younger sister excited. Banyak's father seems far more understanding, as does grandmother. Whilst collecting herbs for Topeng's wounds (Tikkus is mostly recovered), Banyak encounters Wen on the search for curatives for snake poison and magical damage. Whilst knowing very little of the latter, but something of the former ("when you're a barefoot hunter in the long grass, this knowledge is very useful!"), Banyak assists Wen in the preparation of a potion made from charcoal ash, green tea extract and tongkat ali. Later, Banyak watches Wen undertake a series of excersises which he claims are useful for strengthening his chi energy. Banyak attempts to copy Wen in these excersises and discovers that they are greatly to her liking, as they require quietude, concentration and flexibility.

Finally, as the seasonal wet season storms lessen, it seems that party can indeed risk the journey ahead. Although under some protest, the journey to Krakatua is not significantly off the southerly course that the party needs to travel, although the genuine concerns arising from travelling to the largest volcano in the known world, inhabited by the evil goddess, giant magical snakes and in search of a magircal bird is not to be under-estimated! The south is considered a wild coast of stormy weather and strong seas. There are tales of savage goddesses, wild animals and wild people along the south coast... It is with some trepidation, that the party begins its new journey - to Borobudur!

THUS ENDS THE FIRST CHAPTER OF "TEN THOUSAND ISLANDS"