A Trip to the Country
4

After the Žreworks ended, we returned to the cafe. Gromkhlitch told me that the next day he was going to a village out in the country. He was going to visit his parents, who lived there. He asked me if I would like to go with him.

“It’s a very beautiful part of the country. The village is in the middle of the big forest near the mountains. My parents are very old, and they keep up a lot of the old customs.”
I thanked Gromkhlitch and said I’d love to go with him.
“Great,” he said, “We’ll go in my car.”
Next day we left the hotel at nine. Gromkhlitch’s car was an old open Jeep. There were two Crosstails sitting on the back seat with their tongues hanging out. They seemed excited to be going for a ride. When I got in they tried to lick my neck. Grom hissed and made a hand signal and the dogs lay down.
“The male dog is called Hero, and the bitch is Marble,” said Grom. “They adore the country.”
We went north, following the river, and soon the city was behind us. The region near the Capital is hilly. There are many orchards which supply the city with apples, cherries, pears and plums. In the Želds, brown and white cows were peacefully munching grass.
Somewhere we saw a large ßock of geese, being herded by two small Dunno.which.way dogs, and no human with them. When the car got close, the dogs made the geese keep to the side of the road.
“Dunno.which.ways are very clever”, said Grom, “They often work alone. They herd geese and sheep and cows. Sometimes they even try to herd people. Have you tried our goose-liver paté yet? It’s a great delicacy.”
“In France, too, we are very fond of goose liver paté” I said. “It’s made with mushrooms.”
“Take heed, I warn you,” said Grom. “In Loglandia, goose liver paté is made with magic mushrooms. You mustn’t eat too much or you go crazy.”
After we had driven for an hour, we arrived at the edge of the forest. This was mainly oaks, of strange, twisted forms. From time to time we glimpsed deer running between the trees.
“The forest fairies were very important to the Xian people, to help them,” said Grom. “They worshipped them. Do you see that pile of rocks?”
Beside the road there was a pile of rocks, some of them painted in various colours.
“The old people still put a painted rock on the pile, when they have a problem or trouble. Actually my father is a shaman who talks with the forest fairies. And my mother knows all the medicinal herbs. She’s an old-time doctor.”
We came to a big clearing, and in it an exquisite lake. The water was blue, and on the other side was a steep cliff. Along the edges of the lake grew many yellow irises.
“That is the Holy Lake of the Princess,” said Grom. “According to our legend, there was a very beautiful princess who fell in love with a forest spirit. But the spirit was unable to love, and so the princess threw herself in this lake and drowned.”
A bit later we arrived at the village where Grom’s parents lived. Their house was on the edge of the hamlet, among a few big oak trees. We got out of the car and went to the door. The two Crosstails scampered around us.
Grom opened the door and called out, “Mom, we’re here !!”
“Khrrrlkm [Xlang: come in], O son,” said a voice. “Vrrnak-shthm [Xlang: be safe in this place], and have a cup of tea.”
“I am safe in this place,” said Grom. “And your tea is vl-vl-vrang [Xlang=fragrant with a hint of skunk] (the most highly prized Xian tea)”
An old lady came in; she had long grey hair. She bowed to me and greeted Grom in the Loglandian way.
“Be a guest in my house,” said Grom’s mother. “ I am the wife of Snorradin. I am very happy to meet Gromkhlitch’s foreign friend.” She pronounced the name in the old Xian way.
Mrs. Snorradin’s face was wrinkled, but her eyes were bright blue and sparkling. She was wearing a long embroidered skirt and a white blouse. She led us into the kitchen, which is the main room of a Loglandian house. The ceiling was low, with bunches of dry herbs hanging from it.
“Where’s Dad ?” asked Grom.
“He’s taking Khrrk to the stone-pile. Khrrk’s wife has just had twins. Dad’ll be back for lunch.”
Mrs. Snorrydin poured some tea into two cups from a big brass kettle, and handed them to us. The tea did taste a little funny, but not unpleasant. She offered us biscuits with small green seeds on them.
When I Žnished my tea, Mrs. S. took my cup and look carefully into it.
“Wonderful,” she said. “You are very lucky, because you are going to very much enjoy your stay in our country, and you’ll learn many interesting things. And you’ve already met a woman who will become your wife. You are going to live in the Capital, and work there.”
“My mother is very good at reading tea-leaves,” said Grom. “What she tells people always comes true. I had the feeling that Sally liked you.”
“It’s not Sally, Grom’s friend, you’re going to marry,” said Mrs. S. “Because she’s blonde, isn’t she, and your future wife has black hair.”
“Wow,” said Grom. “I love mysteries.”
“Now you and your friend go on out and walk down towards the stone-pile, so you can meet Dad and go and have a beer with him at the bar. I need an hour and a half to cook lunch. Bring a loaf of bread back. Don’t forget. And don’t be late.”