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Akallabeth in August
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And those that sailed far came only to the new lands ...

The Man Who Grew Tomatoes by Pandemonium_213

He swiped his arm through the air, slicing the rakshas of Ravana with his sword, just like Lord Rama had when he and Prince Lakshman had rescued Lady Sita. His heart leapt when he heard the hoots and shrieks of Lord Hanuman's soldiers far off in the forest: the valiant monkeys were on their way to join him in the fight! But then a blue and green beetle scuttled across the path. He forgot all about slaying rakshas and squatted down, watching the insect make a trail in the red dust.

“Navin, come along now,” the feminine voice called from ahead. He looked up to see Elder Sister standing in the middle of the path waiting for him. He sprang up and trotted toward her, taking her extended hand. His trot turned into a skip. She lifted the hem of her yellow sari and skipped with him. Their manservant, Biju, followed them, not skipping but carrying their baggage on his strong back.

Mama was having a baby soon so Papa had asked Elder Sister to take him to visit Sri Aman and Mistress Revati for a while. Papa had kissed him, telling him that when he came back, he would have a new brother or sister. Navin was not certain how he felt about that, but he was glad to go with Elder Sister and stay with Sri Aman here in the cool hills.

They rounded a curve in the path. Before them lay the rambling bungalow, shaded in a grove of neem and mango trees. He held Elder Sister’s hand while they walked along the white stone path to the wide veranda of the house. The servant dozing in the shade by the door woke up, stood quickly and after pressing his palms together and bowing, went straight into the shadowed interior of the bungalow. Soon Mistress Revati -- a doe-eyed woman with streaks of silver in her dark plait -- came out onto the veranda; her sari shimmered like the blue feathers of the peacock that strutted among the trees. Two servant women followed her: one who bore a tray with a tea pot and cups on it and the other who carried a platter laden with dosas, pickles, fruits and sweets.

Elder Sister pressed her palms together and bowed to their hostess: “Namaste, Revati."

“Namaste, Priyamani,” returned Mistress Revati. “Please, sit down.” She gestured toward the wicker chairs with thick cushions to her right under the shade of the veranda. “Would you like a sweet, Navin?”

“Yes, please,” Navin answered, happy that Mistress Revati had asked for he remembered from his first visit here that she made wonderful sweets. He took a small piece of badam cake when it was offered to him. He hopped up in one of the chairs and quickly ate the tidbit. Elder Sister and Mistress Revati chatted about this and that while he sat still and tried to be good. But soon, he began to look around, wondering where he was. He swung his legs, hard enough to make the chair squeak.

Mistress Revati glanced at him then, but neither she nor Elder Sister scolded him for his fidgeting.

“Do you wish to see Sri Aman?” asked Revati. He nodded vigorously. Sri Aman told the best stories, and because he and Elder Sister would be staying for several days, he hoped he would hear many.

“Then come with me, Navin. He is out in the garden.”

“The tomatoes?” asked Elder Sister.

“Yes! The tomatoes. They are ripening now. You know how he is about them.”

Elder Sister laughed. "Oh, yes, I know how he is! And I love the results of all his fussing."

They left the veranda and walked along the stone path to the rear of the bungalow. Revati opened the gate of a high woven fence, and they stepped into a lush, wondrous garden, full of flowers and vegetables. Lilies, oleander, bird-of-paradise and red ginger blossoms waved in the soft breeze. Runner beans snaked around bamboo poles tied together, making leafy temples. Onion stalks grew grey-green from the rusty soil. Lacy tops of carrots opened up next to pale-green globes of cabbages. Purple eggplants caught the sunlight. There, bent over in the middle of the garden, was a white-haired old man, his bare back golden and glistening in the sun. He straightened when he saw Navin and called out to him.

“Come, Navin! Come and see my tomatoes!” he cried out with his funny accent.

Navin walked along the rows of okra and snake gourds to where Sri Aman stood. The boy squatted down on his heels to look at the red fruit partly hidden by serrated green leaves. Then he rose and turned to the women. Elder Sister smiled and waved at him, signaling that he might stay with Sri Aman if he wished. He waved back. Elder Sister and Revati walked out of the garden, shutting the gates behind them.

“See? Some are completely red now and ready to harvest,” said Sri Aman. Navin continued to stare at the tomatoes that almost glowed red in the bright light. He reached out and pinched a leaf, inhaling the bitter-green fragrance released by his touch.

“Would you like to eat one?” asked the old man. Navin looked up and smiled at his friend, giving him his answer.

Sri Aman plucked a tomato from its vine, wiped it off on a clean part of his cotton dhoti and handed it to him. The fruit was warm from the afternoon sun. Navin bit into it. Hot summer sunshine burst in his mouth: bright, sweet and tart all at once. Juice trickled down his chin while he took bite after bite, making happy slurping noises, until only the stem remained.

“Good, yes?” Sri Aman beamed with his big white teeth. The man put his hand on Navin’s shoulder. “We will need to clean you up. And clean me up, too, so that I may join Revati and Priyamani for tea. We must gather more tomatoes and eggplants for our supper, so why don’t we pick those first?”

Navin then searched among the vines to find the ripest tomatoes and then the eggplants. He carefully set each vegetable in the basket that Sri Aman held for him. Then Sri Aman plucked fiery-red peppers from bushy plants and placed them in the basket, too.

Navin followed his friend, noticing that in spite of the thick white hair on his head and the silver hair on his chest, he was still strong and not stooped like some old men in the village where Navin lived with his family. Sri Aman was in fact very old: he had lived for over three hundred years, he had told Navin when they had first met. He explained to him, when Navin asked why his grey eyes were so bright, that he had the blood of the yakshas in his veins, but even more, a devata had been his great-mother. But that was many, many generations back, Sri Aman said. Still, Navin was excited to learn this, for one of his great-fathers was a yaksha who still lived deep in the forest to the north of Lord Rama’s city and whom Papa said he would meet one day.

“Maybe we are related!” he chirped to Sri Aman.

“Perhaps,” the older man had said. “You remind me of my grandsons when they were little boys, so I will think of you as my grandson.”

Navin liked that very much, for his own grandfathers were dead; one had died from old age and another had been killed during a tiger hunt. Sri Aman is my grandfather, he thought while he followed the man to the back porch of the bungalow where Sri Aman gave the basket of tomatoes and other vegetables to the cook.

Then Sri Aman stepped onto flagstones laid down on the ground so he could wash the tomato juice from Navin's face and then the dirt and sweat off his own body. “Mistress Revati says I am too dirty to use the bathing chamber after I work in the garden,” he said, unwinding his dhoti. “But I do not mind. I like bathing outside.”

Navin sat on a flagstone out of the way and tried not to stare at Sri Aman’s naked body. It was not polite, but the contrast of Sri Aman’s skin –- tan where it met the sun and white where it did not –- to his own coffee-with-milk color never failed to interest Navin. Elder Sister’s skin also was pale although her face and arms were sometimes “sun-kissed” as Navin’s mother said. When asked about her white skin, Elder Sister had told him that many people from the lands where she had been born were pale like her. Navin thought it strange and asked her if they were ghosts. Elder Sister had smiled and said no, they were not ghosts.

After pouring several urns of warm water over his body, drying off with a thick cotton cloth and rubbing sandalwood oil into his hair and skin, Sri Aman wound a clean white dhoti between his long legs and around his waist. Then he donned a long silk shirt, red as a ripe tomato, which a servant had brought for him.

“Well then,” Sri Aman said, taking Navin’s hand. “It is time for my tea.”

When Sri Aman stepped out onto the veranda, Revati came to him with a steaming cup of fragrant black tea. He took it from her hands and then kissed her forehead. He whispered something in her ear that made her blush and giggle. Sri Aman took a sip of tea, smacked his lips with pleasure, and then sat in a large winged teakwood chair piled with cushions.

Sri Aman and Revati spoke idly with Elder Sister about the news from Lord Rama’s court. Revati especially enjoyed hearing of the gossip while Sri Aman smiled indulgently and said, “Some things never change, no matter where you are. Court gossip is one of them.” Then the talk turned to Elder Sister’s crafts, something that keenly interested Sri Aman. Elder Sister had made many of Sri Aman’s gardening tools as well as the clever pump that brought water from the deep well into the house.

After a while, Navin slumped in his chair and yawned so wide that he made a little tired sound. Sri Aman said, “Someone is bored. Here, Navin, let’s play a game of parchisi."

So they did that. Later they took a walk through the grounds around the bungalow. They visited Jiya the cow who gave the milk that was made into yogurt. They laughed at the hoopoe bird's antics. Then they ambled up to the crest of the hill where they watched the workers on their elephants pass by on the road below. Sri Aman loved elephants, becoming as excited as a boy when they lumbered along with massive dignity. "Tiro! Andabon!" he cried out in the strange tongue that sometimes slipped from his lips.

Soon it was supper time. The ripe tomatoes and eggplant that Navin had picked were now spiced with the fiery pepper in the sambar. They also ate rice that had been mixed with tomatoes and roasted cashews. After supper, they all went out onto the veranda again to watch the sun set behind the western hills.

The sky became very red, and Navin said, “It looks like a tomato has broken across the sun!”

Elder Sister, Sri Aman and Revati all laughed. Then Revati excused herself, saying that she must see to the servants in the kitchen.

Navin yawned again. Sri Aman opened his arms, so Navin slid out of his chair and climbed up into Sri Aman’s lap, resting his head against the old man’s chest, listening to the steady thump-thump of his heart. Soon, he thought he heard singing until he realized it was Sri Aman and Priyamani speaking in the strange language that sounded like music. Although he half-closed his eyes, he listened intently, trying to learn new words. He understood a few – gilgalad was starlight, aer was sea, and taur was forest. He heard Sri Aman call Elder Sister by another name: Mélamírë. And he heard Elder Sister call his adopted grandfather by a name that sounded very much like the one he used now.

After a while, Sri Aman and Elder Sister were both quiet, and Revati’s soft footsteps came back on the veranda again. It was then that Navin asked as politely as he could, “Sri Aman, would you please tell me a story?”

“Ah! So you are not asleep! Very well. Shall I tell you how tomatoes came to Bharat?”

“What do you mean? Tomatoes have always been here!"

“Tomatoes, chili peppers and potatoes did not always grow in this land," said Sri Aman, "but they are here now. Do you want to know how they arrived?”


“It is a long story, and some of it is frightening.”

“I do not care!" Navin tried to sound brave. "And I am safe with you,” he added for good measure.

“I will tell you then.”

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“Many years ago," Sri Aman began, "I lived with my family on a great island in the middle of the western seas, far, far away from Bharat. The island was a beautiful place with rocky shores in some places, gentle sandy beaches in others, green fields in its center and rugged highlands that climbed to a large mountain. One of the names of that island was the Land of the Gift. The gods had given it to my ancestors in gratitude for their part in aiding your Elder Sister’s people in a terrible war against a dark god.”

“Was that Ravana?” Navin loved the tales of Lord Rama and Prince Lakshman's battles against the dark lord who had abducted Lady Sita.

“Yes, the very same. The Land of the Gift was my ancestors' reward. There were also cities and villages on the island, and the one we named Armenelos had high towers and domed buildings with soaring white columns. The king’s citadel was in that city.”

“Did you live there? Was it like Lord Rama's city?"

“In some ways like it, but in other ways not at all. I had a house there because I often spent a great deal of my time in the king's citadel, but I was born in Andunië, a beautiful city on the western shores of that island. When I was very young, my family was forced to move to a port in the east, a town with houses and quays built of white stone. I was a mariner then -- a sea captain. Not only did I sail my own ship, I also commanded a fleet.

"I was friendly with a prince of that land; his name was Pharazôn. We had been friends since boyhood, just like you are friends with Hari. Pharazôn, too, was a mariner, so we often sailed together. Because I was the lord of my people -- those from Andunië -- I was also on the king's council just as my father had been before me. But even though the prince and I were friendly, there were some things that divided us. For example, my family spoke and read the Elven tongues. There had been civil war in my country, and speaking these languages was considered a sign of resistance and so was forbidden.

“Is that the language you and Elder Sister speak together? The pretty one?”

“Yes, that is one of the Elven tongues that your Elder Sister and I use. As Pharazôn and I grew up, there were many things that went unsaid between the prince and me, and that is not always healthy for a friendship, but in spite of our differences, we remained close. Then Pharazôn became king, and a mighty king he was. He sent his ships all over the world, just as the kings before him had. Sometimes the men of my land traveled to new lands for trade and commerce with the men who lived there, but as time drew on, we conquered them and made them our subjects.

“In another land across the sea, far to the east of my homeland, there was another –- a sorcerer of great power -– who had set himself up as a king. So great was his power and knowledge that many men of the Outer Lands worshiped him as a god.”

“Was he a demon-god like Ravana?”

“No, he was not although he had been the dark foe's servant once,” said Sri Aman. “He was like Lord Rama – what you would call a devata, and what my people and your Elder Sister's folk would call a Maia.”

“Maia,” Navin repeated. “A dream.”

“What did you say?” Sri Aman sounded surprised.

Elder Sister interjected then. “In Bharat, maya means just that – illusion and dreams. There is more to it, but I think Navin would rather hear the story than discuss philosophy.”

“Navin, you are a clever boy to see such similarities in those words," Sri Aman said. "Yes, the sorcerer-king of the eastern lands was a Maia and indeed a master of illusion. He brought more and more under his dominion. When he turned his attention to our greatest port city in the Outer Lands –- Umbar -– Ar-Pharazôn took action.

“So great was Ar-Pharazôn’s might that the sorcerer-king came to offer parley rather than threaten war. Ar-Pharazôn knew this king could not be trusted, so in the manner of many victorious leaders, he took the sorcerer-king as his hostage.

“It did not take long before the sorcerer-king, who was not only knowledgeable in crafts but also most persuasive, to become Ar-Pharazôn’s most trusted councillor. He spoke against me so Ar-Pharazôn banished me from the court.

"Now the next part is very frightening, Navin. Are you sure you want to hear this?"

"Yes! I am brave enough to hear it. Papa has told me the stories of great battles."

Sri Aman looked at Elder Sister, who pressed her lips tightly together and nodded once. He continued his tale:

“Those who spoke against Ar-Pharazôn and his chief councillor were persecuted, at first with imprisonment and torture to try to get information from us. Later, those of the resistance who were captured were put to death as sacrifices to the god called the Giver of Freedom. The sorcerer ordered that the symbol of my people’s friendship with the Firstborn –- the yakshas –- was to be destroyed – the white tree named Nimloth. But my grandson Isildur stole a fruit from the tree at great cost, delivering it to my hands.”

“What happened to your grandson? Did he fall and skin his knee? Did he cry?” Navin worried when he imagined the little grandson scrambling up a dead tree to grasp its last living fruit.

“He was not a little boy when he took the fruit, but a grown man. That is a tale for another time, Navin. I must tell you this one first.

"The people of Númenor clamored for new lands for our island had become strained with many: those who were born there and those who had immigrated. So the sorcerer-king proposed to Ar-Pharazôn that he should sail West and take the land of the gods by force –- a land of never-ending plenty with many wondrous things. The sorcerer-king told our king that those beings that guarded the land had detached themselves from the affairs of the rest of the world and would be easy to conquer.

“I learned of this counsel, and feared it greatly. The sorcerer-king might well be right, I thought, but we also learn from history. Those who name themselves the Guardians of our world and who many regard as gods can be benevolent at times, uncaring at others, but also destructive with their dread power. In other words, they are capricious. So who knew what they might do to my beloved island if my king defied the ban of the gods to step foot onto their lands?

“So I decided to attempt what my forefather Eärendil achieved: to sail to the West and beg mercy from the Valar, as we called these beings. With three of my servants, I slipped away on a small sailboat in the night, sailing East but then when we were no longer in sight of land, we turned to the West to seek the Blessed Lands."

"Was Eär – " Navin hesitated, thinking about how to say the foreign name. "Was Eärendil your great-father? Like Khalnâ –- my great-father?"

"Yes, a forefather is what you call a great-father. Eärendil was the descendant of mortals, the yakshas and a devata. Your great-father Khalnâ is a yaksha, correct?"

"That is what Papa says. Did you find Eärendil?"

“You must listen to my tale, little one, and you will find out!" Aman chided him gently. Navin decided he would try not to interrupt.

"We sailed for many days and even came within sight of the beguiling mists that shroud the passages to the Blessed Land, but the wind and waves always drove us away. But I did not give up and on a grey day, I spied the white towers of Avallonë, the green isle where the yakshas dwell. We approached the isle, but a great wind blew from the north. We drifted far off-course, and we were running low on fresh water to drink, which is death to mortal and yaksha alike when abandoned on the high sea. We set our course West again, determined to achieve the shores of Avallonë, but a terrible storm bore down on us.

“The wind howled like a living thing, and the waves rose like mountains. One devoured the boat, driving us below the water. I was ready to face my death in the sea, but I was pushed back to the top of the waves where I clung to wreckage of my boat. My companions were lost to me, taken by the wrath of Ossë’s storm.

“At last the sea calmed. I drifted for two days, clinging to the debris of my boat and hoping that Ossë’s wolves – sharks – would not find me."

"What are sharks?" Navin blurted, unable to restrain himself.

"Great fish with many rows of sharp teeth. Some are harmless and some dangerous. They will devour men, but fortunately, they did not come for me. I spied land on the horizon. I paddled toward it, but yet another storm bore down upon me, this one not as violent as the other, but enough to raise waves and guide me toward the land.

“The waves washed me up on golden sands. I was weak and nearly at my last breath then. Yet I raised myself to my knees, and much to my surprise, found a chest from my boat had washed up on shore with me. I dragged the chest with me further up the shore and made a camp. There I found a spring of fresh water in the jungle nearby as well as mangoes to eat. When I discovered the mangoes, I wondered if I had landed on the shores of fabled Bharat, for once before, my son and I had traveled here and received gifts from Lord Rama and Lady Sita although we were forbidden from entering his realm.

“I did not have much time to consider this, however, because something very strange happened the next day –- something that nearly took my life. It was not long after dawn when the sun had risen blood-red that the sea retreated, drawn farther and farther back from the shore. Curious, I walked out onto the exposed sea floor where many creatures had been stranded when the waves withdrew. After walking among them for a little while, I looked toward the east and saw something dark swell on the horizon. Then I knew what it was: a great wave rushed toward me. I ran back to my camp as fast as I could and managed to grab the handle of the chest when that wall of water slammed into me.

“I do not remember anything after that, not until I heard voices speaking in a tongue unknown to me. Then a woman’s voice called to me, speaking in the elf-language. I opened my eyes and how surprised I was to see an elf-woman, like those I had met in my friend Gil-galad’s kingdom. It was she whom you name Priyamani.” Sri Aman stopped his tale for a moment and smiled at Elder Sister.

"So you did land in Bharat!"

“Yes, but I still wasn't sure at that time. I had been washed up far into the forest, much of which lay in ruin from the great wave. By some miracle, I was alive. I found out later that rumor of my presence on the beach had reached Lord Rama's realm so he had sent a party to find me, but before they came down from the hills, they saw the wave devour the shore.

"I overheard a debate after they rescued me, half-drowned and with a broken arm. Prince Lakshman’s councillor was reluctant to bring me into the hidden kingdom, but Priyamani argued on my behalf, saying at the very least that they must hear my tale before a decision could be reached. For surely, she had said, I must be one of the mariners of the West. In fact, she even knew my name! I wondered at that for I had not met her or any full-blooded yaksha when my son and I had landed years before.

"A small measure of strength returned to me. Fortified by black tea with a bitter medicine in it and Priyamani’s encouragement, I told my tale and spoke of my people’s plight. I also told them I had gifts in the chest that had remained in my grasp. The councillor opened the chest, perhaps expecting to find treasure. What he saw did not impress him, but he was not without compassion. Prince Lakshman’s councillor said, speaking through Priyamani who translated the words into those I could understand:

“ 'I will take you to Lord Rama and Lady Sita, for they must hear what you have to say, and you are in need of our healers,' the councillor said. 'However, this means that you must enter the Hidden Kingdom. Lord Rama guards it with care so you will not be able to leave again.'

“ 'I understand,’ I said to him. ‘I accept this fate for there is nothing left for me now. My heart tells me that the great wave came from the destruction of my homeland.’”

“’I fear what you say is true,’ your Elder Sister told me. ‘We felt the earth tremble, and now the sunlight is dim. Only something dire could have caused that. I would guess that Meneltarma must have erupted and destroyed Númenorë,' she said while she held my hand and then she embraced me when I wept for my people."

"Elder Sister held me when I cried after my puppy died." That had been a very sad time. "Are they all dead? Even your grandsons?"

"From the tales that have reached Bharat in recent years, no, my grandsons and Elendil –- my son -– are not dead. They escaped and now live in the northwest of the world."

"Don't you want to see them?"

"Of course, but I agreed to remain in Lord Rama's kingdom. I cannot leave."

"Oh," Navin had never thought much about what lay beyond Lord Rama's borders, but now he was curious and a little sad that Sri Aman would not see his grandsons again. "What happened next?"

“I went with Priyamani, the councillor and the guards back to the Hidden Kingdom. The guardian-rakshas in the mists allowed me to pass. Here through the arts of the healers, my bones were set and I gradually regained my strength.

“Lord Rama and Lady Sita asked many questions but they were kind. Lady Sita was especially curious about the gifts I had in the chest, and unlike the councillor, she was impressed when she saw them.

“’You say that these seeds come from your land? The Land of the Gift?’ she asked, speaking my language as easily as breathing.

“’Yes. We bring the seeds with us during our long voyages, in part for our own use if we are stranded and also as gifts to others. Some seeds were given to us from lands far to the south of the world and others were brought to us from the land we name Aman. We always carry them with us when we travel the seas."

“’From the hands of Yavanna herself perhaps,’ Lady Sita said to me. I must have looked surprised for she replied: ‘Yes, I am of the House of Yavanna, just as Lord Rama belongs to the House of the one you name Manwë although my lord is dedicated to Brahman, whom you might call Ilúvatar. The Guardians assume many manifestations in this world.’ She changed the subject back to my predicament. ‘I know your heart will miss the sea, but perhaps you would like a home for your comfort and a garden for your treasures?’

“I accepted her offer. I came here to the hills where I built my bungalow and planted the seeds, which grew into tomatoes and chilis. I buried the eyes of the little tubers that became potatoes. With Lady Sita’s blessing, they grew strong and the birds and beasts of the forest knew not to eat them for they were under the Lady’s protection.

“Revati was the first to come to my garden and eat a tomato. She loved it as much as you do. She then made sambar with the tomatoes and seasoned it with chilis as well as black pepper that already grew here. Revati came again and again to my garden; she cooked many tasty dishes for me using the vegetables that were new to her. The plants flourished, and with her help, I gave seeds, cuttings and tubers to many. Now, you would never have known that tomatoes, chilis and potatoes had come from foreign lands. They have become part of the very fiber of Bharat."

Navin thought about this. The poet who lived in his village had sung about a beautiful woman whose red lips he compared to ripe chilis. It was hard to imagine these had come from elsewhere. Then Navin asked a very bold question:

"Is that when you fell in love with Mistress Revati? When she made sambar for you? Did she make sweets for you, too?"

Sri Aman chuckled and looked over at Revati who smiled back at him.

“Yes, she made sweets for me. Friendship grew between us," Sri Aman said. "She understood my loss, for she was a widow herself. Then something more blossomed between us. I never thought I would marry again after my first wife died back in the Land of the Gift, but with a new life here came a new love.”

“Priyamani came to visit often, too, providing a measure of the familiar for me because she, too, is from the West, and like me, she was once a stranger in a strange land. She told me about another of your great-fathers – the man called Sharif – and his tribe, how they saved her life and took her with them, how she became the sister of their tribe and has remained so for their descendants, which means you, Navin. I learned from her –- and from my tomatoes -– that one can be planted in strange soil, adopted by its native people and flourish.”

“Do you miss the sea?” Navin asked.

“Sometimes, but my life is rich here. I am content to live out the remainder of my days here in the hills of Bharat.”

By the time Sri Aman finished his tale, night had fallen, and Navin had not even noticed. Owls hooted among the trees, crickets chirped in the brush, and the perfume of jasmine bathed the soft air. Far off in the forest, a hunting tiger roared. Navin shivered with fear but Sri Aman hugged him close.

“Do not worry! You are safe, my little one. There! Look above the trees. Do you see the evening star?”

Navin raised his eyes to the western sky. There was the evening star shining bright.

“There is a tale that says my great-father Eärendil reached the Blessed Lands, bearing the magic jewel that your Elder Sister’s great-father created. The gods accepted him into their land and made a marvelous ship for him, which he now sails in the heavens with the jewel on his brow.”

“Is that why the gods did not let you into their land?” asked Navin. “Because you did not have a jewel?” Navin knew from other tales that often gods and rulers wished for gifts before they would grant a boon to a man.

Sri Aman did not answer right away, but then he said, “That might be. If I had entered their lands even with a jewel, would they have shown mercy on me? Or would they have slain me? I do not know. But what I do know is that I survived to come to these shores and make a new life. Perhaps that is the best gift of all.”

“Will you tell me the tale of your great-father and the magic jewel?”

“Not tonight. It is a long story and a dark one. I will sing a song to you about him instead.”

Then Sri Aman sang with his rich voice in the language of Bharat so Navin could understand the verses. He pressed his ear against Sri Aman's chest, listening to the song from within and without and watched the evening star become brilliant as the last light behind the western hills faded.

Eärendil arose where the shadow flows
At Ocean's silent brim;
Through the mouth of night as a ray of light
Where the shores are sheer and dim
He launched his bark like a silver spark
From the last and lonely sand;
Then on sunlit breath of day's fiery death
He sailed from Westerland.

He threaded his path o'er the aftermath
Of the splendour of the Sun,
And wandered far past many a star
In his gleaming galleon.
On the gathering tide of darkness ride
The argosies of the sky,
And spangle the night with their sails of light
As the streaming star goes by.

In spite of his efforts to keep them open, Navin's eyes closed and he dreamed of a crystal ship sailing among the stars. Strong arms lifted him, but Sri Aman's voice did not falter.

Unheeding he dips past these twinkling ships,
By his wayward spirit whirled
On an endless quest through the darkling West
O'er the margin of the world;
And he fares in haste o'er the jewelled waste
And the dusk from whence he came
With his heart afire with bright desire
And his face in silver flame.

Now he lay on a soft bed. Gentle hands tucked a cotton coverlet over him. Still the voice wove the tale. Navin dreamed that he flew over clouds bathed with the Moon's silver light.

The Ship of the Moon from the East comes soon
From the Haven of the Sun,
Whose white gates gleam in the coming beam
Of the mighty silver one.
Lo! with bellying clouds as his vessel's shrouds
He weighs anchor down the dark,
And on shimmering oars leaves the blazing shores
In his argent-timbered bark.

The song ended then, and a kiss fell warm on his forehead. Navin half-opened his eyes and said, "Good night, Grandfather." Then as he turned over to his other side, he saw the evening star shining in the window through the mosquito netting draped around his bed. "Good night, Sri Eärendil," he whispered. Although he heard the tiger roar again far away in the forest, he was not afraid. He snuggled down into the bed, feeling safe and loved by the old man whose great-father was the evening star and who grew the best tomatoes.

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Two background stories which give a nod to this sub-continent of the Pandë!verse are The Jinn and The Elendilmir, Chapter 15: A Midsummer Night's Converse

Navin - pronounced "Nah-veen."

Aman is a traditional name in India. IIRC, it means "peace."/p>

Sri is an honorific.

Priyamani is not a real name (and probably inaccurate), but derived from the Sanskrit: priya = beloved and mani = jewel; a speculative translation of Mélamírë.

Yakshas are benevolent forest spirits in Hindu mythologies and in the Pandë!verse, the term is applied to the Firstborn.

Rakshas are demon-spirits, not so benevolent.

Devatas in Hindu theology and lore are something like guardian angels. Here, I have used the term to describe the Maiar, the so-called "lesser" Ainur.

Although it is suggested that Ravana is the same as Melkor, in the Ramayana, he was not altogether "evil." He was considered a great scholar and many women swooned over him.

Tiro! Andabon! (Sindarin): Look! Elephants!

The poem of Eärendil is derived from The Book of Lost Tales II. I have changed the spelling from Earendel (JRRT's original) to Eärendil for familiarity and consistency.

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