5
Grom’s Father

The two dogs, who had been playing in the garden, followed us, and scampered around us as we walked along a footpath that skirted the village. We crossed a stream by stepping-stones. But Hero and Marble waded through the water, and when they got to the other bank, they shook themselves vigorously and sprayed us with water.
“You lot are devils !!” yelled Grom. “Bugger off !!”
“Oh, sorry,” Grom said to me, “That’s a bad slang word. You mustn’t learn it. I should have said ‘Go away’”
Hero and Marble slunk along behind us, tails between legs.
We walked through a wide meadow, with red poppies and blue cornßowers growing among the grass. And on the other side of the Ūeld, where the forest began, I saw two men walking towards us. One of the two was tall, with a long white beard. The other man was spherical. He looked like a square, with a limb at each corner, waddling towards us.
“That’s my father, and Khrrk,” said Grom.
“Hey Dad,” Grom shouted, and ran towards the two men; the dogs ran with him, barking madly.
I assumed that the tall man was Grom’s father, because he was a shaman, and the tall man looked very serious and holy. But Grom hugged the spherical man.
“Dad,” said Grom, “Meet my foreign friend, Alex. Alex, this is my father, and that is Mr. Khrrk.”
Mr. Khrrk bowed to me, but Mr. Snorradin hugged me enthusiastically and rubbed my bottom.
Grom bowed to Mr. Khrrk.
“I congratulate you, Mr. Khrrk, on your wife having twins,” he said. “What are they?”
“They are girls,” said Mr. Khrrk sadly, “All my six children are girls. How am I going to Ūnd them all husbands?” And he shook his head.
“Don’t you worry,” said Grom’s father. “The six stones you put on the pile will bring them rich husbands, I assure you.”
At the edge of the village Mr. Khrrk bowed to Grom’s father and went off by another road.
“Khrrk,” Grom’s father said with a laugh, “ Is too serious. All his daughters are pretty and clever. Anyway in this day and age fathers don’t have to buy husbands for their daughters.”
As we walked through the village, Mr. Snorradin chatted happily to Grom about events in their community. He waved and called out to many people that he saw in the street.
At the bar we sat at a rough wooden table in the shade of a big chestnut tree, and drank beer from thick earthenware pots. I was curious about the religious beliefs of the Xian people, so I asked Grom’s father.
“Grom told me,” I said, “That you are a shaman. Please tell me about the forest fairies.”
Mr. Snorradin laughed and said, “Shamans are wise and holy; I’m just an old fart.”
“However,” he continued, “My benefactor, who actually was a shaman and knew magic, taught me how to listen to what the spirits of the forest say, and how to ask for their help. And because the spirits help us, we have a happy life here.”
He pointed to the tree we were sitting under. “Every tree has its spirit,” he said. “And the spirit of this tree loves fun. That’s why the beer here tastes especially good.”
Mr. Snorradin took a big gulp of his beer and burped loudly.
“There’s a spirit in many things,” he said. “For example the spirit in Ūre is the most powerful. If you want the Ūre spirit to help you, you have to light a Ūre using your own special ßint. Matches and lighters don’t interest the Ūre spirit.”
Mr. Snorradin looked at me closely.
He continued, “You’re going to need the help of the Ūre spirit if you stay in Loglandia. Anyone who marries a Ūery woman needs the help of the Ūre spirit.” He laughed and punched me playfully on the shoulder.
“After lunch,” he said, “You and I will go to the forest to look for your ßint. Lunch is ready now, let’s go. And don’t forget the bread, Gromkhlitch.”