“The night’s sky is always most beautiful in the winter, and the moon shines brightly on you, my Chanmony.” It is a rare, near private, moment as Chief Jayavanan speaks softly to his wife as they stand outside their tent. Though the guards are posted only a few yards away, he speaks to her as if there is no one else around. “I see a vision in your eyes, my wife; a vision of a new city. The time of our people’s wandering is near. I see it.”
Just then, he is interrupted by an advisor. “Pardon me, my chief, but it is time. The clan princes are assembled.”
Without breaking his gaze, Jayavanan nods to his wife. She bows delicately and deeply. He turns. “Thank you, Phaekdei. Guards, with me.”
With that, they proceed down the crest to the gathering. The princes and their contingents form a large arc around a central fire. The sages complete their rites. The guards part and the chief takes his place. The arc is now closed and the circle is complete.
It is during the darkest of winter that they recount the story of their wandering, knowing that from now the days will lengthen, and with it hope.
“Khemeri!” The chief begins. “The great and wondrous city of Vyadharapura was once our home. Its temples rose towards heaven. Merchants the world over came to trade there. Its scholars and artists were the most renowned. It was then, in this golden age during the reign of Srindrameas, son of Kaudinya, son of Kambu, that it struck. First came the great rains, then the great floods, and then when the waters of the flood receded the very course of the river, the Tonle Sap, had changed. Even this was not enough torment for the gods. Then came the flies, biting, festering. And then came the plague. For those who had already endured so much from the destruction of the flood there was no resistance, and people fell as they walked the streets, and died where they fell. But there were some who lived. Srindrameas himself lived. He had the dead and that whole city burned, and he led the people away through the jungle with only that which they could carry. They wandered, his whole people wandered, we wandered through the rest of Srindrameas’ reign, and through the whole reign of his son, Harshavadravan, and his son, my father, Suryavasan, who we have also now buried. Thus it falls to me to see the sign. Is it that of the destroyer or that of the creator? Do we continue in our wanderings, or are we at the end of this journey that fate has thrust upon us?”
With that he pauses, and looks across the assembled faces.
“I can tell you that I have seen a vision in my dreams just last night, of a place where the land meets the sea and the sea meets the sky. I see it still in the eyes of your queen, Chanmony. That place is where our wanderings end. That place is near.”
The sages proceed with their closing rite. They throw handfuls of dust into the fire, causing it to burn in hues of blue and green. They raise their arms before the princes, then turn and bow before the chief. Jayavanan turns and leaves the circle. His guards follow.