Part Two – The Lotus Festival.
Lake Ardrennan is a very strange and colourful place. I arrived by chance at high summer, during a week-long festival celebrating the Lotus blossom season. This was the first time I ever heard a khumos choir, as their music echoed across the lake as I approached. It was the kites that really got my attention though. Hundreds of pontoons and boats were out on the lake, with celebrating groups of people of all the gentim of Telanya, flying kites. People drank wine and ate deep fried festival snacks. From the shore I could hear different groups singing a song which seemed to be a special festival tune. Only knowing a little of the khumos language, I could not understand the words, but when I asked about the song at the tavern where I spent the night, the owner translated the chorus for me.
Winter deep the water goes
into the earth and roots take hold
summer skies are full of kites
and Lotus blooming on the lake.
I stayed in villages all around Lake Ardrennan for nine days as I looked for a caravan headed west. I admit that I did not look very hard – this being my first journey away from home. I met a lot of people, heard a lot of stories, drank a lot of wine (too much wine really), and eventually took up with a theatre troupe headed to Granite Reach. This was not the troupe who I joined in later years, but my weeks with them certainly made a big impression on me. I worked as we travelled, helping them set up the stage, erecting the tents, taking tickets. My soft hands became hard and my back was sore most days, actually, my whole body hurt; riding a pony through the day, sleeping on the ground beside a campfire, learning how to hunt and to gather fresh food in the wild. I learned so much in those first few weeks, that by the time we made it to Granite Reach, I could not recognise myself. Not only had my beard grown and my skin tanned, but I had traded away all my old clothing and now felt more comfortable in the khumos garb of my companions. I particularly liked their furry hats and tall boots, and have to this day continued to wear such items of clothing.
The play the troupe presented was an unusual sort of sacred comedy, telling the apparently true story of a khumos pilgrim who became lost everywhere he went. The play dramatised three such adventures, full of slapstick comedy, talking animals and awkward romantic encounters with ashkasi women. I didn't understand much of what was going on for the first few weeks, but my khumos language skills were improving rapidly, and my hosts were always proud whenever I laughed at their jokes.