Who would have thought that amidst all the chaos and the nonsense of these last few months Payal would fall in love. Let me clarify, we think it’s love! She loves her Abba, she loves the Pearls , she loves King Irap and Queen Yana and not forgetting her water people.
But the fact is she’s never had this feeling of pure excitement and sheer nerves combined before. Well not until he had arrived. He had spent months here. Why? He was King Irap’s friend. He, too had royal blood in him but didn’t fancy it. He had other things he wanted to do ! Good grief one of those; a bit like her then. All the ladies of the court were whispering about him; his eyes , his hair, his nose, his height , his voice, his presence. It was just sheer nonsense. How could women be so silly and this is the reason why she never wanted to marry and get involved with men; it was all too complicated and drawn out. He was just a man. But she would concede that he was a gentleman, well at least what she saw of him. And yes he was very beautiful but so were a lot of things in life.
She suddenly realised she had lost time with these irrelevant thoughts and felt annoyed. She mustn’t forget her duty. Most of all she reminded herself she cared for the land and the creatures; people just seemed to taken them for granted. They were all so busy farming , fishing , gathering , hunting and just enjoying the bounty that was offered to them that they didn’t seem to notice how tired the earth had become . She could feel her tiredness and the silent cry for help…What could Payal do? It was such a big task; she could not do it by herself. The responsibility was crushing her.
The craziness and misery out in the lands was still continuing. The children were covering their ears. Their ears hurt. The distant battle noises could still be heard. What was the point of it all? She was still trying to understand herself. The Kings had fallen out with each other; each blaming the other for the months of hardship their people had suffered.
Karta had rivers running dry; the sun seemed to be so angry. Trees were bearing virtually no fruit and the harvests were non existent. Toova was so cold that the people were shivering to death and the trees and farmlands looked barren and forlorn. Toova’s animals and birds had disappeared into the jungles for shelter, for they were still intact. The earth was protecting its own. But the people were too scared to go into the jungle themselves. In Julat, floods followed one after each other. Farmlands were drowned and reserves were slowly running out. More and more people were sheltering with family as they lost their homes to the water; mother earth was crying.
It was all very strange and desperately sad. It felt like a bizarre dream but infact it was the worst nightmare anyone had lived through. Diplomats and courtiers had been meeting to no avail. The problem was that no one really knew what to do. The Earth , the Waters and Sky seemed to be on collision course with oblivion. And because they could not find a solution the Kings started to fight each other and increased the vengeful and accusatory remarks towards each other. Each saying the other had mistreated the land and animals and made the Gods angry. So the outcome of all this was that people were scared and the food and resources were slowly running out. If they had talked openly and honestly they could have shared what each had whilst working on an answer that would benefit them all.
Payal walked into the courtroom and saw the King and Queen standing on the side, gazing through the largest window in the room out onto their magnificent garden. It still looked lush and magical; she may have had a hand in that. Then she saw him and stopped. It was too late , the group of three had heard her and looked towards her direction. The queen beckoning her friend over, “Payal, look, isn’t the garden looking wonderful . I think I would die if anything happened to it. It brings so much joy and comfort to everyone. These two are talking of battles and how much longer we can stay out of this nonsense. Isn’t there anything you can do?” Payal was dressed in a simple yellow tunic and black pants. Her long hair was scrunched up in a bun. She didn’t realise how beautiful she looked; always looked. She tried to ignore Ortil’s gaze; was it just an ordinary gaze? She focused on the seriousness of the conversation. So after much debate it was agreed that Payal would accompany the King and Prince Ortil to the next assembly of the Kings of the regions. Or were they accompanying her?.We all know the answer to that. Payal knew that she would have to use all her powers to plead with the Kings to stop fighting. If not she would just have to think of something else.
Payal walked back to her rooms and thought about her beloved Pearls. The Pearls had been ok so far in Toova. Parvati had been looking after Desiree and Sheeba but the supply of woods for the fire were dwindling and rations were drying up. Their village was close to the jungle and bordered Toova. Parvati knew that she would have to take the girls into the jungle by the end of the week. She had no choice. She was brave and confident that no harm would come to the Pearls. They were pure of heart. When the day came the girls packed the last remnants of food and what bedding they could carry comfortably and stood ready waiting for Parvati to show them the way. The village was empty; those that had survived had packed their things and left for somewhere. They walked not very far and entered the edges of the jungle . They held hands and walked in a line into a shadowy dark world. Their faces brushed against branches and twigs and the cuts stung. But the girls did not complain and kept walking and chattering with each other. Tiredness finally set in and they sat against the trunk of a tree. Parvati set down the lamp she had been carrying . They looked around and couldn’t see much at all. They each took out a sheet from their packs and lay down. All trying to be brave and pretend this was just a normal day. They didn’t know but during the night Desiree was wrapped up by the Owl, Parvati by the Bear and Sheeba by the tiger. They kept them warm during the cold nights and disappeared by morning. They had promised Payal that no harm would come to the girls. Food, well, they never seemed to be hungry. Their new home became a little clearing in this vast jungle. Strips of light found their way to give them hope. On the third day Desiree walked a little further and found herself in a clearing with a stream. The water looked cool and as she dropped her hand into the water and gently moved it some fish came along. She said hello but ofcourse they could not hear her. The fish could hear Desiree humming and gently singing above the water. They darted around each other smiling and forgot the recent dark days. Desiree promised she would be back the following day. The girls talked and told stories and sometimes just danced. They just waited to receive a sign to say they could return home; Payal would make sure they would be safe.
The day came for King Irap, Prince Ortil and Payal to leave for the summit. The Queen was anxious and fussed around Irap and Payal. Payal saw the amused look on Ortil’s face; but she was sure he was feeling left out. Yana sensed this and put her arms around Ortil and said, “you are the sensible one brother, I’m trusting you to look after these two and yourself.” He gave an affirmative sort of bow and smiled. Payal made her way to the courtyard and the two men followed. Their horses were ready to go. The three would be accompanied by a small party to ensure they did not want for anything during this important trip. After leaving the palace, they made their way towards the border. Their land was just starting to wither; that’s the only way they could describe it. The green grass was not as lush and vibrant as normal. The trees were less upright. There seemed to be fewer birds in the sky. But the people were still going about their normal business. Payal checked again with Irap and the lead adviser on the location of the meeting. It was to be held on the northern section border between Paanivar and Toova. That seemed to be the easiest for all. It meant the contingent from Karta and Julat had equidistant journeys.No group should feel disadvantaged at this stage. As they rode the three spoke at length about the task ahead and strategies they could utilise. However after hours of discussion they would arrive at no concrete conclusion. Payal and Ortil seemed perfectly normal and Irap treated both their views with equal respect ; he had never acknowledged that Payal was a woman. Payal was his confidant, friend and mentor in one.
The group from Paanivar were the last to arrive at the agreed meeting place. It was a big flattish plain that allowed the tents to be set up easily. The accompanying party had pushed ahead and the accommodation had been prepared for the King, Ortil and Payal. A designated time had been agreed for all four Kings and their advisers to meet; just after sunrise. Needless to say Payal was the only woman at the meeting. They all sat in a circle , thick rugs that had been laid to make them comfortable. Payal looked at their faces, they all looked tired , worried and frightened. Were these the same men that had called war on each other? Were these the men that were going to protect their people; young , old and everyone in between. They looked like little boys in men’s bodies. Irap started, “My old and dear friends let us make a commitment to this soil and our people that we will not leave this place until we can agree to stop these wars. It will be only after that we can address the challenges that the Gods have sent us.” Payal felt proud of her old friend. So the words started coming from all directions. It was impossible to hear anything or anyone. Recriminations, accusations, blame, it just continued.
Ortil glanced towards Payal and she saw he was sad but restraining a scowl. Then he was up. It happened in a flash. The noise gone and all eyes were on him. “Your highnesses and other guests, may I suggest you all take it in turns to speak. Excuse my interruption but it is nearly sunset. We have been here all day without any progress.” The three kings looked affronted and then embarrassed. Ortil sat down and hung his head. Irap gently patted his back and whispered something to his old friend. Payal sat wondering at what point she would need to get involved. When would they realise that all they needed to do was just accept that they had been greedy and abused the lands , the seas and the creatures. So they sat through another three days and nights of talking, all pouring out their hearts and complaining about how their people were suffering because of the weather. At this point Payal who had sat quietly got up and started to walk away towards her tent. Ofcourse everyone present knew who she was, she had helped many of them over the years. They looked confused and worried now. They called out to her, dear Payal, don’t leave us. We need your wisdom more than ever.” Payal heard this and looked back and in her calmest and sweetest of voices spoke to them all. She asked them to think carefully about what had they given to the earth and the seas; they had simply taken. She asked them to think how greedy they had been and how wasteful. She carried on with a list that went on for hours. Their heads hung in shame. They did not think they were bad Kings. They thought they had looked after their people. But as Payal laid out her case signs of acknowledgement and acceptance appeared. She told them to go back and change their ways and wait for the earth and sky to respond. Then there was bemusement; the solution was as simple as that? Surely not. But they had no other answers so they nodded and shook hands. The temporary site was abandoned on day five and all four Kings and their entourage rushed back to their kingdoms.
The Kings finally ordered their soldiers to set down their weapons. Instead they formed teams to go out to all corners of their respective lands and talk to the people. They showed them how to farm the land with care and love. How to store food. How and when to fish. How to grow fruit trees vegetables. The old women in the villages showed the younger women recipes that used the fruits and vegetables in season. The greediness of the people started to dissipate and the earth slowly caught up and found a balance. The waters flowed again across all lands. The grass was lush and green and deserts that had been flooded became vast areas of yellow sand dunes again. Payal knew in her heart that this was temporary and the cycle of greed and excess would rear its ugly head again. But for now she was content. The Pearls were back in their home, safe and sound and were bringing happiness to the people by telling the stories of the change through their dance.
Now back to the romance; one day it would have to take priority but for now Payal was happy just to spend time with Ortil along with all the other people at the palace. She was happy not to be forced into alone time just yet.