From the records of Father Benedict de Monte, dated 17 March 2007
I wasn’t sure what to expect when we emerged from the supernatural realm onto the banks of the Ravi River yesterday. We’d been scouting a path for realignment for a few days, and knew that if we’d reached this point and all was going well Iravati wouldn’t be far behind, but we hadn’t discussed how we would know when realignment was complete. I suspect most of our company was having the same thought, as everyone turned to watch the river and wait. Everyone except the courier, that is, who was speaking rapid Sanskrit into a glowing ball of energy he’d been using to communicate with the city all along. Multiple soldiers were fiddling with their armor or swords, and only Michael took the time to check if any other mortals were watching this group of naga that just appeared out of thin air with two random white men in tow. I got the impression no one was, by Michael’s relaxed pose as he walked over to me and turned his attention to the water.
“What are we watching for?” I asked.
“Iravati,” he answered in a flat tone.
“And how will we know when it arrives?”
“You’ll know, priest.”
I sighed and continued watching the river. It was another half hour of waiting and listening to the courier rattle off his information, with occasional checks against his notes, before he suddenly went silent. We all turned to look at him as he waited a moment, then gave a short statement that sounded like the answer to a question, then dismissed the ball of energy and turned to the river. Before I could fully follow his gaze back to the river, the ground began to shake and knocked me off balance. I looked around at the others, but the snake bodies of the naga were better able to handle the shaking than my legs, and Michael was floating about an inch off the ground. He smiled at me before offering me a hand.
“I think I’ll wait,” I grumbled as the ground shook again.
Michael shrugged and turned back to the river. The water was churning wildly, white foam splashing off of it in every direction. There was a shimmer, ever so slightly visible as though the sunlight was catching on tall sheets of ice, and I realized the forms looked like the walls of Iravati. I leaned forward to rest my arms on my knees as I watched the city seem to barely begin to form and then vanish again, over and over, and then suddenly everything stopped. The ground was still, the water began to calm, and the city completely disappeared. I stood and wiped the sand from my clothes as the courier and half the soldiers moved forward. There was no summoning this time, no gate opening from under the river, no change to the water. The scouts merely slipped into the water and vanished, and then emerged a moment later. The courier yelled something I didn’t understand, and everyone else but me erupted into cheers.
We re-entered the city to something of an impromptu parade, with thousands of naga taking to the streets and cheering on the company. Most of the focus was on the courier and soldiers, with only a few naga even seeming to notice Michael and me.
“Do we not count?” I asked him softly.
He rested his hand on my shoulder. “This isn’t our victory. Let’s just take it as it comes.”
“I don’t think I expected the man I met in England to hold such a stance.”
“Aslaug made sure to beat it into my head before I came here.” With that he was gone, slipping away into the crowd. By the time I caught sight of him again he was talking to the court mage, so I decided not to hassle him.
The celebration quickly became an outright party as naga from across the city brought out food or alcohol or instruments and just joined in. I quickly got lost in the crowded streets, and wandered for about an hour before I found somewhere I could sit and enjoy some fruit I’d picked up along the way. As I began to cut the fruit open, I heard a familiar voice.
“You’re doing that wrong, English,” Akshainie said.
I pulled the knife from the fruit and stood, facing her. “Still German.”
“Still doing it wrong.” She smiled.
I held the fruit and the knife out to her. “Then show me.”
She took the fruit but pushed the hand with the knife away as she slithered a little closer. “This is a mango, Bene. You can have no shame when eating a mango, it’s too pure for that. Ruins the flavor.” She took a large bite out of the mango, the juice running down her chin and dripping onto her armor, then placed the fruit back in my hand. I didn’t break eye contact with her as I did the same, and I have to admit, it did taste better than the one I’d had in the market when we first met. I wonder how much of that was really my approach to the fruit. Her face lit up for a moment, and then she started to laugh as I quickly put the knife away and tried to wipe the juice from my chin.
It suddenly occurred to me that we hadn’t seen each other in over a week, not since that dinner with Michael where she explained the effects of separation from the river. I hadn’t bathed or had a decent place to sleep for the last few of those days, while we were out scouting ahead, and I must have looked a complete mess even before the mango. She looked tired, for her part, but generally seemed to have fared better in our time apart than I had. As I watched her and lost sight of everything else happening around us, she seemed to slowly realize what I was thinking about.
“I missed you,” she said, before taking a quick breath as if catching herself before saying more.
I rested my hand against her cheek and she closed her eyes and leaned into it. “I missed you, too. You’ll have to tell me all about your adventures this past week.”
“My adventures! Bene, I was mostly standing around waiting for a war that never came. But you, out there in the void? How was that for you? It was your first time, right?”
“It was, yeah. Very…dull, the void.”
“Yes, but I know who went with you, and I doubt they were very dull.”
“That’s true,” I laughed, “I assume you know Divit’s jokes, then.”
“Unless he picked up new ones while I’ve been gone.” She looped her arm around mine and we started heading down the street. “You better tell me some of them just to be sure.” She picked up a bottle of some kind of liquor as she led me back to my apartment, where we talked and drank away from the crowd for hours until we both fell asleep.
Evidence compiled for use during the trial of Father Benedict de Monte.