Well, the story of Golden Snail musn’t be postponed any longer, enjoy.
LEGENDA KEONG EMAS
LEGEND OF THE GOLDEN SNAIL
It was a bright and sunny day with a gentle breeze passing by. The leaves were waving and singing in the wind. With no cloud in the sky, Candra Kirana walked away from her place in the estate and felt her stomach twisted gently. Her eyes felt tight but her mind was energized by her imagination of living away from boundaries and responsibilities. The only thing that pained her was the look of everyone’s eyes.
Exile. An exiled princess. What was that she saw in their eyes? Pity? Anger?
“The old hag still not here. She said today is the day, I marked everyday—”
Candra Kirana grabbed her sister’s arm to stop her pacing. “Did the old lady every tell you she’ll be here?”
Galuh Ajeng held her breath and closed her eyes.
“No, huh?” Candra Kirana laughed.
“Kiki! How can you be so calm? Nobody will be there with you.”
Candra Kirana shrugged. “It’s an adventure, sis. Stop worrying about everything. You’re too obsessed.”
Galuh Ajeng strained her eyes under the moonless sky. “Do you even know the land behind these walls?” She whipped around and grunted. “Where’s Father?”
“He’s not coming, sis.”
“We can’t take the risk of anyone knowing about this. Ears are everywhere.” Candra Kirana gave a weak smile.
“One of these days I will use those ears to find you.”
“You can’t.” Candra Kirana smirked. “I’ve make sure of it.”
Galuh Ajeng gasped in frustration. ”Why?”
“You won’t ask how?”
Galuh Ajeng shook Candra Kirana. “You’re insane, you would trust the old ha—”
“Please, stop calling her that. It’ll come back to you one day.” Candra Kirana pulled Galuh Ajeng into a tight hug. “Go back to your place. It’s late.”
“Promise me you won’t sneak away?”
“And missed the shame-giving exile ceremony? So not.”
Galuh Ajeng grabbed her by the shoulder and said, “you are right. Oh by Bataras, you are right. I can’t see to it. Let’s plan an escape for you. There will on be couple moonless nights so you—”
“Sis—”, she took Galuh Ajeng’s hands and held it, ”no.”
“No. I’m not taking off unannounced. At least between us, let me keep my dignity.”
“You are exiled, for being an embarrassment, for possibly making us the talk of the kingdom, for—”
“Alright, continue on please.” Candra Kirana nodded her head.
Galuh Ajeng glared at her sister. “Kiki! Even these excuses are embarrassing and dignity is your main concern?!”
“We are royalties, sis. We are allowed to be contradictive.” Candra Kirana laughed. “As the matter of fact, that’s one of our blood borne inheritance. Also don’t worry. I heard a new reason today. How about—the cursed princess? Sounds better no?”
“Oh you and Father need to release some tension. So serious. I told him all the time.” Candra Kirana wagged her finger.
“You guys talked?” Galuh Ajeng sighed.
“Yes, yesterday, in fact. He sneaked in. Pretty good for a man his age.”
Galuh Ajeng hung her head. “Oh, Kiki.”
“Don’t do that. Don’t you dare do that in my ceremony.”
Galuh Ajeng furrowed her brows. “What do you want me to do?”
“Act as if you’re approve.”
“My exile, of course.”
Galuh Ajeng’s jaw dropped. “What?”
“Oh sis, you need to play the part too, you know. Not fair if it’s just me.”
“Come on sis. We acted thousand times before.”
“Yes—we.” Galuh Ajeng stressed her last word. “There won’t be anymore we.”
“It’s alright, sis. ‘We’ will always be here.” She put her palm on her chest and her other palm on Galuh Ajeng’s. “Sister.”
“Sister.” Galuh Ajeng sobbed.
“Oh come here.” Candra Kirana pulled Galuh Ajeng and secretly wiped her own tears. “Sister.”
“Sister.” Galuh Ajeng buried her face on Candra Kirana’s shoulder.
Silently, she applauded Galuh Ajeng. She fixed her rucksack on her shoulder, turned around, and stepped into the wild land beyond the tree lines. Her breath faltered the moment she was fully covered under the shadows. Looking up and wincing against the glint of the sun, she talked to her mind, “what are you doing alone in the jungle, princess?” She spat her last word and sighed. Even when she already familiar with this part of the jungle as much as her own backyard, being alone was not something she was used to. Her legs were guiding her on one of the usual path and wandered around it. As the sun was setting, she climbed a tree and uncovered a small place that she and her sister built. “It’s only been a day, Kiki, and you’re lost without me.” She mimicked her sister. “No, I’m not. But I bet you are without me. I had fun snacking on wild fruits all day without sharing. Pfft.”
She closed her eyes and found herself laying on her day bed away from the pesky mosquitoes and damp wood she fell asleep on. “Was it a dream?” She whispered before hearing giggles inside the house. She shook her head and tried to ignore it, but as it intensified, she jumped off and pushed the door open. “GALUH CUT IT OUT!”
Her own words surprised her. “Is it really Galuh?”
The giggles echoed and distorted as she rushed to open the bedroom door. Inside she saw her sister and Inu Kertapati fought with pillows and didn’t react as the door slammed against the wall and shook the whole house. “Galuh! Inu?!”
They both continued to ignore her even when their surrounding crumbled into red ember. Then she saw those eyes, the pair that had been haunting her for days. She gave a soundless scream. All she heard was the haunting laughter. She turned around and ran for her life but instead of soil beneath her, it was broken shells, slimy, slippery, and painful. She fell on the golden shell that became yellowish wave. It rolled over her and buried into her skin. Gasping for breath she kicked and trashed around just to feel the sting of her wounds against a damp surface. The burns increased. “Aaakh!” She screamed in pain before something hit her head and turned everything dark.
She didn’t know how long she was out. When she woke up, the sun was already high in the sky and she wasn’t up on the tree anymore. Or anywhere near the familiar path, in fact. She stood up and closed her eyes. Then she heard the sound that brought a smile to her face. Water. A creek was nearby. “At least I wasn’t lost that far.” She knew the area around the water better than anywhere else. She grabbed her rucksack and rushed to the calming sound. Excited, she dug into her rucksack to find some food while evading the branches, but her hand couldn’t find anything other than tiny crumbs. “It couldn’t be. I just ate a little yesterday.” She pulled out a leather parchment to check the days and surprised to find out that it had been a month after the ceremony. “It couldn’t be.” The view of the water choked her out of breath and made her stumbled. She gasped for air as the panic settled in. ”River? Where am I?”
Crack, she felt a recognizable sensation under her feet and recoiled. “Ergh! Shells.” It was the golden shell from her dream. “Eugh, pigsty.” Frustrated, she kicked the shell away and approached the calmer side of the river to clean up. Sighing, she sat down and splashed the water onto her head. “I need to get out of here.”
“Indeed you do.” A sharp hiss came from behind her made her jumped and whirled. She couldn’t say anything in response, her lips were glued. “Tsk, tsk, tsk! I finally found you, princess.”
It was the old lady, the sorceress.
“My twin sister has worked very hard to conceal you from me.”
It wasn’t the old lady.
“But, I know if I am persistent enough, I just need a second to find you when she’s remiss. A month is a looooong time to be putting her energy to protect you.”
Candra Kirana’s instinct was to sprint out of there instead she could only lean back as her feet were stuck in the water.
“But now that you have stepped on one of my—hahaha, ingenious trap. Yes, the shell and the word of insult came out of your mouth, I could claimed your soul.”
“Preposterous! What kind of excuse is that?!” Candra Kirana exploded.
The old lady was taken aback and scrambled for her pocket. She threw ashes onto Candra Kirana. “What! You could speak, even after my spell?! HAHAHA! You are strong, princess! A worthy prey indeed.”
Candra Kirana was once again muted against her will.
“Yes, yes, it was a weak excuse, but I do not care as long as I could get your soul. Now begone from this body of yours and be mine.”
“Oh yeah, you’re right, somebody will find you faster if your body is laying around. Namely that docile shaman that was my sister. We could’ve done great things! But nooooo, she would prefer to be the instrument of nature. Blah blah blah. Let’s just turn that shell of yours into a real shell, shall we?” As the witch doctor laughed, Candra Kirana saw her own body shrunk into a golden snail and tossed away to follow the water current.
“You, pigsty old hag!”
“Well, well, well. Go ahead scream while you still can. Nobody but your true love can take you away from me. So good luck with that, little cub.”
“SISTER!” The sorceress materialized in front of them. “Let her go. Why are you doing this?”
“Why?!” The witch doctor laughed. “Because I am better than you. Better than ‘the chosen instrument of the land’.”
“I didn’t ask, they chose me because I trained diligently.”
“Doing what? Nothing.”
“I worked as hard as you, sister.”
“Lies! I worked harder, I prove myself to be worthy but what happened? They chose you instead. Just because you were…untainted. Huh, you were unmotivated, you were unfocused, you were not even strong!”
“I am strong, sister. Strong enough to reject the temptation. You’re sadly not. You wanted to claim the power, bend it to your will.”
“We can talk all day and night, just like last time, and the last time, and the time before that. It matters not. I found your purest soul. Now go ahead and protect the next one, I shall snatch it from you again anyway and gave it to my appointed future ruler of the land, perhaps that giant, Blambangan’s king.”
The sorceress turned to Candra Kirana and assured her. “Do not worry, Princess. Whomever tirelessly seek for you will free your soul and keep the peace intact against any malevolent forces. I am sorry, I was suppose to keep you safe long enough to prevent Galuh Ajeng’s prophecy from coming true, but fear not, I will do everything—”
“Or nothing. Good bye, sister.”
Candra Kirana floated and disappeared while the witch doctor exploded into a spray of mud. The last words she heard from the sorceress was to have faith before she fell into a deep slumber.
Candra Kirana felt a poke at her ribs and winced. She opened her eyes and saw her yellow surrounding. “Back to my shell.” She inhaled in relief. The only memory she had was being pinned down by an invisible force, her strength drained away, and the cackling from the witch.
Then her whole being shook. “What the?” She peeked outside the door and saw another old lady admiring her new home. “Ah, not again.”
“Pretty, pretty snail. Sister will be ecstatic to see you.”
“Another sister, whoa, what a coincidence,” frowned Candra Kirana, still latching on the wall. Once she felt everything sort of calming down, she peeked outside her door again and saw a small wooden cottage that she had to confess, was like heaven compared to the witch’s hut.
The old lady pulled out a pot and filled it with fresh water. She placed it next to Candra Kirana and smiled. “Stay here, little one. Still gotta catch those dinner.”
Candra Kirana saw the old lady’s shadow engulfed by the light then heard nothing but the waves crashing nearby. She felt safer to get out and decided to take a sip from the pot. “Wonder where am I.” She explored her new and foreign surrounding. She strained her eyes to see the words that was hanging on the wall. “D…Dada..pan. I’m in Dadapan already? Wow.”
Candra Kirana leaped inside her home and peeked. “That must be the other sister.”
“Ah, sister found something. Woooow you sure are pretty. You’ll be a good display for our store, but before that I still have to carve some for inventory. Stay here, pretty one.”
Candra Kirana rolled her eyes. “Like I can move unnoticeable anyway.” Suddenly she felt her vision shifted and once again she saw the witch hovering over her with a menacing eyes.
“Time to go back to work.”
Candra Kirana wailed, “no!” She tried to keep her eyes open so she could snatch something and hit the witch but even breathing became too heavy for her. Succumbing to her exhaustion, she felt like falling into a pile of waste and drowning in the sludge. Her lungs were burning and her heart was trying to escape from her chest. She struggled to find the surface but couldn’t hold her breath much longer. She gasped and her eyes were closed on her.
When she woke up, she felt her eyes were heavy and swollen. Trudging to the door, she peeked outside her home and made sure nobody was in the cottage. She plunged into the water nearby and scrubbed her skin with her hands until she felt it burning, still she scrubbed. Then she went back inside her house to sleep, but her mind wandered the moment she smelled something delicious. “Fish!” Her mind was too tired but her hunger came out triumphant. It kicked her fear away and she stumbled and almost crawled outside to find fresh vegetables and pieces of smoked fish. She gobbled everything up without noticing a shadow covering her.
“Wow, the little one is pretty ferocious. Are you hungry?” A pair of wrinkly eyes was staring at her. The first word her mind ordering her was to run, but there’s something in the pair of eyes that made her rebelled. “Here you go, little one. More?” The old lady gave her a piece of seaweed.
It glistened under the light and Candra Kirana swallowed it without a doubt.
“Whoa, slowly there. We have more right, sis? Sis? Sembadil! Where’s my sister?” The old lady who picked her up walked away into another room just to miss her sister walking in.
“Sambega, here I am. Huh, my sister is such a scatter brain. Here some water and some shrimp, little one. I think that’s enough for now.”
“What do you mean enough, did you see her eat?” Old lady Sambega walked into view.
“How do you know it’s a her?”
“Instinct.” Sambega shrugged.
“Just like you have an instinct to catch the fish in the storm?”
“Just keep bringing that up. It’s been years!”
“Uh huh, that’s why you’re not the fisher.” Sembadil pouted and proceeded to talk to Candra Kirana, “don’t listen to grandma Rondo Sambega, yes my dear?”
Candra Kirana munched on the shrimp and smiled. “Galuh Ajeng, how are you?”
“Ah!” Galuh Ajeng trashed the cloth in front of her. “No good, no good. This is not good.”
“Your highness.” Her ladies in waiting cowered but one was still moving forward to gave her the next choice.
“What is this?”
“No.” Galuh Ajeng inhaled. “What I meant was what’s all this. Nothing is good.”
“These are from the best of our kingdom, my lady.”
“Well it’s not best enough. Grab me some better garments. I’ll do it myself.” She stepped into her room and almost crushed the wooden floor with her foot. “HURRY!”
“Y—yes, my lady.”
Her aids scattered outside her part of the estate. However, Inu Kertapati managed to grab one younger one and asked, “what is going on?”
“Yo—your—your highness.” The young lady bowed.
“What is going on?”
“Lady Galuh Ajeng requested for the finest batik and silk in the kingdom. S—she was about to make outfit for her father and her and—and—and—”
The young lady in waiting looked up to him with tears and stuttered, “I am—not s—suppose t—to say. Y—you. For you, your highness.”
“For what?” Inu Kertapati asked with gentle singsong voice.
The aid blushed and proceeded, “I’m not quite sure, but I heard the king visited her two days ago and came out saying, ‘not a replacement but a wedding must go on. Think about our kingdom’s peace.’ That’s all I know.”
Inu Kertapati almost rolled in laughter from the young aid’s impression, but seeing how shaken the young aid was, he maintained his expression and nodded. After letting the young aid go, he looked to Galuh Ajeng’s house and grind his teeth. “We need to talk.” He turned around and walked away. His mind talked to him and questioned his motivation to stay there. “Candra Kirana? Galuh Ajeng? Political wedding? Kingdom relation? What do I want?” He walked around in big circles, avoiding any aids in the estate. “What am I doing?” Inu Kertapati approached a small pond, pulled out a wooden toy top, and tossed it before it landed on the water. The ripple spread across the pond and returned to the base of the toy top. He reached out and pulled it out of the water. What stared back at him after the ripples ceased wasn’t his own. His gave a longing smile then greeted the face, “my love, have I finally found you again?” It was the warm eyes of her childhood best friend. The one that he could never meet again. The one that gave her toy to him for keeping. “I can see your spirit, your strength, your smile in her. Am I imagining it? Did I really recognize you within the princess? But now she’s gone and cursed to boot.”
“Panji—” she called him in his childhood nickname. “You should be sure. I can’t tell, but your heart can.”
“The sisters, they are so alike, yet so different.”
“Panji. You should be sure.”
“My love, you are like a broken song.” He hung his head. “What should I do?”
“You should know.”
He pouted. “You are not helping.”
“I need to find her, to make sure,” he resolved.
“So you can be sure, but careful, I cannot protect you as much as when you are around human. If the attack is as strong as recently, I don’t really want you to go and find her, but again, you need to be sure.”
“Then you can finally let me go and be free.”
He looked down and caressed the toy. “It looks much smaller now.”
“As it should be.”
He smiled. “It’s a good talk, as always my love.”
Inu Kertapati stood up and strolled with a lighter step.
Under the shadow of a tree, a pair of eyes widened in a slight anger. Galuh Ajeng gulped and flattened her back against the tree. “My love? Who are you talking to, Inu?” Her lips curled in disgust. “You were cheating on my sister, with a witch? And now you are cheating on me? Before we are even engaged? This couldn’t be. We cannot be second choice, sister. We shall never be.” Galuh Ajeng pounded the earth with her heels and spat. She walked toward Candra Kirana’s abandoned house and entered through the secret passage behind the bush. The king had ordered to seal the house so that no one else could get cursed, but she knew the truth.
Galuh Ajeng tapped the dust away from the seats and cracked open a window. She rearranged the curtain and turned around to observe the shadow. Satisfied, she approached one of the pillar and tapped it. After several attempts she heard a hollow thud. Her finger slid into the indentation and found a string inside. She unroll the string and behind her a folded fabric descended at the other end of it. She smiled and whirled around to pick the fabric. After spreading it under the shadow, she picked the unfinished end and pulled the string out. With a nick of her teeth on her finger, she painted the string with her blood. Around her, the shadow began to dance and creep closer, until it suddenly halted.
“Princess Galuh Ajeng!”
Galuh Ajeng jumped from the snarl. She looked at the source of that voice and recognized the old sorceress.
“Princess Galuh Ajeng, what—are—you—doing?”
“Do I need to answer, Mbok Mani?”
“Even if he is cheating on you with a witch, do you ever stop to think whether you can go against someone like that?” Mbok Mani scowled.
“I wouldn’t know if I don’t try.” Defiant, Galuh Ajeng dipped the string in her blood.
“Stop that.” Mbok Mani pulled Galuh Ajeng’s bloodied finger away from the string without touching her. “Who taught you?”
Galuh Ajeng stared at Mbok Mani.
Still, she didn’t say anything.
Galuh Ajeng’s eyes stared pass Mbok Mani and started to blink rapidly.
“Princess?!” Mbok Mani pulled the string away, sprinkled sand on it, and let it weaved itself into the fabric again. Turning to Galuh Ajeng with concern, she chanted and whistled. After what seemed like hours, although only several minutes, Galuh Ajeng hacked and coughed.
“Princess?” Mbok Mani blew on Galuh Ajeng and flicked her temple.
“Where did your soul wander, Princess?” Mbok Mani held to Galuh Ajeng by the shoulder.
“My sister, she’s trapped.”
Mbok Mani pinched her nose. “Yes, I am working on freeing her. I need that prince to do it.”
“We don’t need him.” Galuh Ajeng growled.
“Yes, we do. Unfortunately for you, Princess.” Mbok Mani folded the fabric and sprinkled more sand onto it. The fabric went stiff as if it was dipped in starch.
“Because I cannot trust you anymore, with this dabbling of magic and power and he had a something that you do not.”
“What is that?” Spat Galuh Ajeng.
“Don’t, Princess. I am very disappointed in you right now. You should be stronger that that.” Mbok Mani jabbed a burnt silver needle into the stiffened fabric than answered, “Candra Kirana has the similar spirit as his first love.”
Galuh Ajeng’s jaw slacked. “His love?That’s who—”
“Yes, that is who he was talking to or a representation of his former love which would come in handy locating Princess Candra Kirana.”
“What happened to her?” Galuh Ajeng asked.
“Her first love? Let’s just say, she is no longer among us, but she’s still not living by the Bataras either.”
“How did she died?” Galuh Ajung pestered on.
Mbok Mani sighed and bit her lip. “She never died as the way we all know how people die. She wandered and continued to search for her betrothed. Her spirit often came back to a specific waterfall, that’s how the prince communicate with her.”
Mbok Mani turned to look at Galuh Ajeng. “The prince has a past, Princess. And it is not a happy one too. Between disapproval from his father, King Jayanegara, the girl’s kidnapping, and giving her heart to another, it all ended up in prince’s murderous jealousy.”
Galuh Ajeng gasped and almost slammed the back of her head to the wall.
“The only way for everyone to move on, especially her, is for him to find love. A love that would free your sister.”
“What can I do to help?”
Mbok Mani looked at her without responding. She finally nodded.
Galuh Ajeng answered her own question while staring at her hands. “Giving them my blessing.”
“Not just that, Princess.” Mbok Mani studied Galuh Ajeng confused expression and continued, “your sister no longer has a human-like shell for her soul. A witch doctor has used and eroded it to her will.”
Galuh Ajeng flinched in realization. “My sister’s soul will wander aimlessly, just like that girl.”
“Oh no, she wouldn’t wander aimlessly. She’s trapped already.”
“WHAT?” Galuh Ajeng leaped toward Mbok Mani. “You promised you protect her.”
“I was, Princess! But a person can only do so much by herself before her energy was exhausted. Especially when the other princess is dabbling with forbidden force that she doesn’t even understand,” hissed Mbok Mani.
“I—” Galuh Ajeng sobbed, “I was lost. This thing gave me strength.”
“No, Princess this thing—” Mbok Mani stabbed the stiffened fabric again. “gave you the impression of strength. All it does is to make you addicted to it.” Mbok Mani opened Galuh Ajeng’s palm and put a familiar item on her hand.
“Yes, Princess. It is the Tjanting that you once used. When you are ready to save your sister, you will know what to do. Don’t take too long though, time is not merciful on her. Tick—tock—her soul will only contain emptiness and bitterness. When that happen, she will no longer be benevolent.” Mbok Mani opened the bedroom door and turned around for the last time with a smile before she closed it gently.
Galuh Ajeng sat in the middle of the hall and roared.
Candra Kirana stared at the yellow ceiling and blew her breath. Her stomach was exasperated also. Forced by hunger, she dug the knowledge that her mind seemed to acquire from the horrific session with the witch doctor. She smiled yet shaking her head and gave into her hunger. The bright light provided the perfect glare for Candra Kirana to transform and sneak into the kitchen to take food, but she’s staring at a larder that looked like it was blown up to smithereens. Widening her eyes, she started to dig and eat through the mess, though after a while she sat back and pressed her lips together. She grunted and pulled an invisible string, which in turn choosing each ingredient with hunger driven consideration. She knew how to cook, she just didn’t know how to go from strong smelling raw and not to mention slime filled thing to fragrant dribble inducing deliciousness. Usually her definition of cooking was when the original color of the ingredients was completely drained by the fire and turned into some shade of charred. However, this new skill she had had really save the day, or her stomach in that case.
“Aaaah. Delicacies, gobble up!” She ate up a storm, but even that couldn’t reduce the amount of dishes left over. “Oh, how am I going to clean this….”
“Uh oh!” The old sisters had come back and no, Candra Kirana wouldn’t be caught in her real form because next thing she might know, she could be slaving for three witches. She needed to get rid of the evidence but time was up. She cut all the invisible strings and dived into her home. Panting, she peeked out and waited.
“SISTER! You cooked?? Has any of the Bataras walked among us?”
Old lady Sambega entered the cottage and laughed. “My sister, Sembega, you’re probably too seasick that—” but she couldn’t continue her words when she too was drunk from the delicious scent. “What the? STOP THAT! It could be poisonous.”
“No, it’s—” Old lady Sembadil licked her finger before continued, “not.”
“Shut your wrinkly mouth and sit down here, enjoy. The Bataras finally feel sorry for me, good thing they didn’t listen to your potty mouth.” Sembadil dug into the food and began to eat with her fingers.
“Or, they could feel guilty for giving me a hard time and did this. Which I think we deserve it.” Sembega washed her hand and sat across her sister. She looked around the table and shook her head before giving in to her hunger. “Oh, by Bataras, you are right. This is otherworldly delicious. I am counting my blessings now and will wash the potty out of my mouth later.”
Candra Kirana covered her mouth and sneaked back into her house only to break into continuous giggle. Never once had anyone said her food was edible, let alone otherworldly. She knew when the palace’s aids praise her effort it’s only because they saw her worked hard, but she was a hopeless cause. “The only good thing that came out of being under that witch’s spell. At least I’m safe here and not having to fear for my life.” She laid on her bed and sighed. It had been a while since the witch called her. She’s usually too exhausted to even feel her hunger but these past couple of days had been so peaceful that it put her on edge. “Hopefully the storm is not coming.” She rubbed her belly and dozed off.
Across the sea, Galuh Ajeng rubbed her eyes and stared at the fabric in front of her. Once again she had applied wax in too much of a random pattern. “I don’t get this. What does this mean?” She grabbed the fabric and hung it next to the last seven she did. Blinking her eyes, she walked backward and tried to make sense of it from afar but all she saw was a patternless child drawing. She messed and pulled her hair. “Arggh!” Stomping toward her creations, she pulled them all down and hurled it across and out from her room. “When I’m ready, she said. I will know what to do, she said. STOP SAYING CRYPTIC THINGS, OLD LADY!”
Galuh Ajeng glared at the door and barked, “WHAT?”
She felt her heart skip a beat and berated herself. “What are you doing, Galuh? He is a hindrance. He always been—”
“Galuh? I know you’re in there. I hear your voice—”
Galuh furrowed her brow. “I thought the old lady bewitched my house already. How can he hear me?”
Galuh closed her eyes and chuckled. “Oh—the scream.”
“Galuh, I’m not leaving until—”
Galuh opened the door and grunted, “what? I’m busy.”
Inu Kertapati peeked to see behind her. “Busy doing—nothing?”
She curled her lips and her hands akimbo. “For your information, I am busy dyeing, not that you need to know. What brings you here, heh?”
Inu Kertapati stared at her. “Wow, calm down.”
“No, seriously what?”
“You haven’t come out of your house for—days. Your father—”
She cut his sentences and started to rant, “he’s worried I got it, but I’m not exactly doing nothing alright. How about you? Overstaying your welcome? Doing what? My sister is missing.”
“Well, she’s missing from her exile.” Galuh Ajeng gave him a cold stare and saw Inu Kertapati’s effort to suppress his laugh. She exploded and jabbed him with her finger. “You think this is funny? You think I’m entertaining? You think I’m delusional? Why don’t you ask your love there by the water whether I am telling the truth or not!” She stopped to realize that she went to far.
Inu Kertapati leaned forward and almost hissed, “how-did-you-know? Are you watching me?”
Galuh Ajeng gulped but bantered back, “maybe if you try to do it under moonless night, people won’t notice.”
“If it’s moonless, how would I see her?”
“So you admit it.”
“No, it’s just your advice doesn’t make sense.”
Galuh Ajeng waved her hand in dismissal. “Pfft, sure.”
“I tried alright. But she never saw Candra Kirana and I don’t have enough memory of your sister for her to scry.” Inu Kertapati exasperated.
“Well, go back and try harder. Sneak into her house, have you even try that?”
He tilted his head and raised a brow. “You have a bucket full of bad advice. It won’t trigger my memory even if I stare at anything hers day and night. Like I said earlier. You on the other hand have loads of her in you memor—”
“Oh, no. No, no, no. Forget about it. Why would I want to talk to your former love? No, also I don’t need you. Shoo.” Galuh Ajeng tried to close the door, but unable to. She pushed and pushed and pushed harder. Then she looked down and saw a foot and heard a painful grunt. “Why—I said go. You stubborn man!”
“Come on Galuh, we want the same thing. To find her.”
She threw her hands up in the air and rolled her eyes. Abandoning the door, she stomped back to her room and grabbed her Tjanting to stomp back out to the middle of her house. She dropped onto the day bed and kicked her feet in frustration before staring at the ceiling and tried to blink away her tears.
“Wow.” His voice was full of admiration.
“Calm down, Galuh.” He approached her and raised her dyed fabric. “I don’t know you like to make a map. Great details too. I also don’t know that you travelled pretty far from here.”
“What?” Galuh Ajeng sat up and ran into Inu, almost toppling him over. “Map?”
“Yes, good detail but not exactly complete. There are several places on the edge that is not here, but also—” Inu spread the fabric one by one, pulling each next to each other. “Weird, you have little details that not suppose to be there, like this mountain doesn’t have—what this? A village inside. What are you making?”
“A map! Of course. Aaah, you sneaky old lady.” Galuh Ajeng smiled.
“Oh nothing, my—err, teacher. Yes, mbatik teacher. She—er—gave me this task. Anyway. Map.” Galuh Ajeng pointed down at the fabric.
“Yes. Map, more or less. Not complete though.” Inu Kertapati furrowed his brows and traced a gold colored line. “And what is this. Why does it look more and more like a treasure map. Ha—your teacher told you to make a—”
Galuh Ajeng muttered, “of course—treasure map. Treasure. I am looking for my treasure.”
“Eh, no, nothing. Say, how long is the trip to go here. This part of the island? Is it still in Java?” Galuh Ajeng traced her fingers on the map.
“Emm—about more than three week with escort and hmmm—maybe more than two without, but that will be here, at the beginning of this golden trail,” suggested Inu Kertapati.
“What? About a month?”
“More or less, but these area are dense jungle and these are mountainous region. Sometimes there are flash flood also and land slide.”
“Oh, wet monsoon.”
“Yes.” Inu Kertapati nodded his head.
“That means I can’t go while finishing these.”
“That means—oh, great.” Galuh Ajeng clicked her tongue.
“I need you.”
Galuh Ajeng sighed and sat on the floor. “Sit down.”
Once Inu Kertapati sat, Galuh Ajeng began. She concocted a different story that glossed over the truth. About a dream that showed a giant king from across the land, hunting for her sister but not his wife. About series of nightmare that plagued Candra Kirana and turned her impatient paranoid insomniac, yet still sane enough not to practice a ritual that included days in sewer tea bath and blood like dyed pillows. About the exile that tied their father’s hands after a rumour about supernatural force that would come to sweep the land. Then about the old woman, who was a sage with wisdom beyond their years, guiding her to find her sister, who was kidnapped by unknown force that wanted to exploit her noble blood. When she was done, she tilted back her head and rested it on a seat. Sighing and wondering how she had become a great story teller, embellisher, liar. She was ashamed but on the same time she was proud of herself for being brave and brash, a trait that she long envious of. A trait that made her thought even more of her sister. Her sister, whom she aching to see again.
“I believe you.” Inu Kertapati moved next to her.
“You better. I can’t have a non-believer try to save my sister, while I am grounded to finish this—” She waved over the pieces of map. “thing.”
“I know that area pretty well.”
Galuh Ajeng scoffed after a knowledge came into her. “Those villages and hidden cities underground, above on the trees, and places you think wouldn’t be possible for human to live are not human settlements.”
Inu Kertapati turned to her. “I am strong, Galuh.”
“But you are and still look wholly human. Not really a great thing to see when you want to blend in and get information about my sister. She is an abductee of a supernatural force. You and your—reflection sidekick won’t stand a chance.” She sighed.
“And you can help how?”
“I always know there’s something—terribly different about these tools.” She raised her Tjanting.
“And that is?”
“Well, first, it bred a family of smaller ones.” She got up and pulled a set of tools from a cupboard nearby. “It just—poof, one day I only had this, next day one by one showed up in weird random places, like the bottom of my water bucket or inside the basket of rice. Now I have five more.
“And you teacher gave you this?” Inu Kertapati raised her brow.
“Nooo.” Galuh Ajeng racked her brain. “I found this in the estate’s old warehouse.”
“You dug around an old warehouse without asking anyone? We do not know ancient spellings or magic that was buried there.
“Well I’m sorry! I needed something to occupy my wandering mind. So, back to the Tjantings, I didn’t know what they were for, or who, but I think I know this one is for you. Or one of these.” She put them all out on the floor. “You choose.”
“What are they for?”
“Don’t know. Didn’t do anything for me. Try take one.” Galuh Ajeng shrugged as she recounted the frustration in her head when she found them. She even talked and cooed them. The most embarrassing one she done was to bathe them in flower infused water, thinking the ceremony would reveal something, but nothing came out of it.
She watched as Inu Kertapati stared at the tools and almost barked at him from impatience when she saw his eyes fixated on one while his mouth muttered continuously. Unbeknownst to her, he saw a silver string weaved out of one of the tools. At first it mimic the movement of an eight legged sea creatures, sweeping everywhere and seemed to be looking for a prey. Then it stopped at his direction and began to weave a solid string to his finger before pulling it closer. The moment his hand held it, his vision turned dark. It was pitch black, but it wasn’t frightening. There was something in the dark that enveloped and secured him like a warm blanket. Then an invisible hand nudged him out of the darkness to reveal an underground pond. He stepped out and looked at his reflection. He didn’t recognize the face that stared back, but he knew the eyes were his. Different faces began to replace the first one. All of it was unknown to him. Some reminded him of descriptions he once read and not all were peaceful, but a realization dawned on him. These faces would be his.
“Inu! Earth to Inu? Halo? Are you with the Bataras or what?”
Galuh Ajeng’s voice pulled him back into reality. He gasped and looked at her with widened eyes.
“Excited about your journey? Your eyes almost popped out of their socket.”
“I know what this is for.” He raised the Tjanting that chose him.
“I bet. Care to divulge?”
“It will help me transform into different beings.”
Galuh Ajeng nodded. “You blood with their blood inside that thing.”
“How do you—”
She pointed at her Tjanting and nodded.
“A word of advice?”
Inu Kertapati smiled. “Sure.”
“Make sure you cleaned them well after using them. We don’t really want a new legendary being popping out in the folklore or worse coming back to your original shape while redigesting your own retch.” She shivered from disgust.
“How do you know?”
“Let’s just say I didn’t clean my hand properly after I handled a type of meat.”
Inu Kertapati raised his brow and finally continued, “you are different.”
“Have you heard about what happened lately?”
“Ha, yes. So, will these be the maps that I’ll be using?” Inu Kertapati stood up and observed the maps again.
“Not just these. I have a feeling there will be more, but you can’t wait for me to finish, so I will find out how to give it to you when you are in the journey. I’ll ask the old lady.”
“Ah, great, because I’m itching for adventure.” Inu Kertapati rubbed his hands.
“Congratulation to you.” Galuh Ajeng didn’t even try to hide her sarcasm as she curled her lips in disdain.
Inu Kertapati sighed and shrugged with an apologetic look.
“Yea, yea. Sure. You’re the grunt man anyway.”
“Hey!” Inu Kertapati feigned anger before snickering. “As you wish, your highness.”
Galuh Ajeng finally joined in the laugh.
To be continued…….
Oh, noes! It is not done yet! Oh wow, I didn’t realize it is going to be this long. And to say that the second part is longer than the first. I thoroughly hope you all enjoy this. I would definitely welcome constructive criticism, especially on fleshing out these characters. I was hoping on the third part, Inu Kertapati will be taking more of the main role. It’s about time this guy get his voice out and not just some accessory on the side. I also didn’t realize that Galuh Ajeng ended up taking a big role in this story. She was not a main character or even second third fourth in the legend. She was just known for her jealous antics and a 2D villain through and through. It is nice to voice her out.
In the matter of supernatural craft, witch doctor and shaman was a common occupation in the old times and they were not even that much of a rarity in modern days. We called them dukun (doo-koon) and unfortunately they do held some power, real mystic power because people still believe in them. Some are using their knowledge to help others with a more holistic approach by using what they can gather from the woods or forests, while others? Oooh don’t even get me started.
Heard about nails found inside somebody’s digestive system? Yup. Heard about people went comatose for months to years with no medical explanation? Yup. Heard about people dancing nonstop even when they can’t stand up? Oh nevermind that’s alcohol doing, with a bartender named Sha Manh. Perhaps I should make a short story outta that, hehe.
Well, see you in part three. So long faithful readers. I lovreeee youuu.