Daughter of the naga, p.1
Daughter of the Naga, page 1
of the Naga
Copyright © 2017 Svetlana Ivanova
All rights reserved.
Table of Contents
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Other books by Svetlana Ivanova:
This story is a work of pure fiction, but I embedded mythical elements and historical figures in it based on my three-year research. However, the story does not conform to any set of social norms or moral acceptance. There are the plots that might upset some people.
Therefore, I would like you dear readers to leave your expectations behind before embarking on this bizarre journey ahead.
On a hot August day, my father plucked me up like a weed and took all our belongings and went all the way from America to an ancient city called Angkor. He had landed a research job there.
I was shocked. I didn't want to spend my summer vacation in a remote area digging dirt. It was like going to a faraway land in a jungle.
Of course, I had no say in that. It was a blistering hot afternoon when our plane landed. The glaring sun hung high in the perfect blue sky. A few cottony clouds drifted over our heads. My dad and I gathered our luggage and loaded it onto a chart. We had packed almost everything we owned, and it made me a bit worried that we might actually plan to live here.
"Nikita, don't galumph around like that. You're in your mother's homeland at last! Isn't it great? Come on, smile!" Dad tried to cheer me up as we walked down the aisle together. My mom was born a native of South East Asia while my father was an American-born Russian decedent. My dad met her during a school trip to Cambodia over seventeen years ago. And it was the first time I got to see her homeland.
"Dad, give me a break." I gave him a bored look. "I think my brain has turned into a mash."
It was a long flight, and it felt like we were in a blender for hours. I hadn't recovered from the turbulence yet.
"Aw, don't be a little goose! Hurry up, the adventure awaits us!"
"I don't see how digging up dirt is an adventure," I murmured.
"Hey, archaeology is important, gooseberry," he told me. "It helps us understand who we are and where we came from. We may stumble through a tomb or any valuable thing from the past. You may see the great monument from a long distance blocking your vision. You may chance upon a lost sunken city in the ocean. We shall dig into the past to find how it all began and how it was done. Then we may see how our future is going to be. Without people like me, how could you know someone had founded a city starting with a single stone or a dead log?"
In case it wasn't clear, my father was one of the head archaeologists specialized in Asian Heritage Studies.
"Come on, dad," I groaned. "I'm not in the mood to learn a history lesson right now."
My father pouted at me. Don't get me wrong, we usually got along like a pair of oars. He was the only family I had in the whole wide world. When my mother was pregnant with me, he thought I would be a boy since I started kicking way too early. They thought I would grow up to be a kick boxer. Then my dad named me Nikita, which was supposed to be a boy name. It means 'unconquerable'. You couldn't find any girl named Nikita in Russia though. My mom wanted to name me Chandra, 'the light-bringer', which comes from a Hindu god of the moon since I was born on Monday. The two nouns ended up being my first and middle name respectively.
Instead, I was born a girl, and my mother died. My dad still didn't change a single thing. He didn't change my boy name or replace his broken heart. I knew he still loved my mother although a lot of single ladies had expressed their willingness to be his life partner. He was handsome even in his early forties, always clean-shaven. He loved wearing his old fedora hat and knee-high boots like his favorite American movie star, Indiana Jones. Even I was born a girl, it didn't stop him from including me in all sorts of adventures, most of which were considered 'unlady-like'.
Unfortunately, there was no more project fund for his future research, so we both settled into a dull existence in America. Dad worked at a small museum. He didn't mind it though and always quoted Bukowski's words, 'Find what you love and let it kill you.'
Then just out of the blue, my father got a phone call from his old friend, who sent him some document on a rare find from a medieval city — famously known as Angkor City. Before I knew it, we ended up at the Phnom Penh International Airport three days later.
The air was hot and humid outside. I could grow crops with my sweat. As I stumbled along with my heavy luggage, my dad was frowning over the map.
"Dad, you're not helping me!" I huffed, trying to push our rickety cart.
"I'm holding a bag of your coloring books, darling," he reminded me, jerking the brown satchel on his shoulder, and let me tell you— that was literally the only bag he was carrying.
"They're my art supplies, not coloring books, and you're still not helping me," I replied. "So where are we going to stay?"
"My colleague has booked us a hotel room," he said over his broad shoulder. "It's about half an hour drive from here. We're going to be in the city for a couple days before I head straight to work."
"I'm in need of some nice cold lemonade," I said, pushing my blonde hair out of my face and fanning myself by plucking my collar shirt.
"Don't be a little goose, Nikita, come on!" he said. "We're almost there."
He raised his hand to a taxi driver at the other side of the parking lot. The taxi driver drove his beat-up Toyota towards us. A small man in a white dress shirt and Khaki pants jumped out.
"Where are you going, sir?" the man spoke in accented English. Dad unfolded his map of the modern city and squinted over it for what seemed like forever. He was an archaeologist who could read ancient maps like the palm of his hands, but he was hopeless with the current cities. I used to tease him that his mind belonged in the ruins and not the modern world.
"Just give it to me, Dad," I said and grabbed the map from him. I found the location in a blink then showed the address to the taxi driver. His face lit up in recognition.
"No, thank you, sir," Dad said. "We're not here on a holiday or anything."
"Oh so you're not visiting the temples then?" the driver asked again while he was loading our belonging into the trunk.
"Actually, I'm doing an archaeological research here."
"A research? Oh I see! A lot of people seem to flock into the country after the latest discovery at Angkor last month," the man said. "They did this airborne laser scan thing and found some traces of alien activities..."
"Er...maybe we should get moving, sir," my dad said to change the subject.
"Oh, right!" the driver hurried to open the door for us.
We got inside the car. The engine roared to life then we left the airport. But along the way, I couldn't stop thinking about what the taxi driver had said.
"Dad," I asked him in a whisper. He looked at me. "What was it about the alien thing?"
"That's just some whacky hypotheses about an ancient spiral near the old city, Nikita," he told me in a low voice. "Don't pay it any mind."
"An ancient spiral?"
"Well, it's some kind of an old stone discus we've found," he added with a shrug. "We still don't know what that spiral is exactly. That's why I'm here. But don't worry; I'm sure it doesn't have anything to do with aliens. I just have to work out what the object is with my team."
I didn't expect much from this trip, but this started to get real interesting. Yet the main reason that buried deep under a pile of unsaid things was that I wanted to see my mother's homeland. It was where she was born and raised as a young girl like me.
For some reason, I had a feeling that this adventure was going to turn my ordinary life on its head.
We arrived at the ancient city the next day. I stepped out of our rented pickup truck and shaded my eyes from the rising sun. In front of us stood a colossal mass of stone temple. Angkor Wat was its name.
A weird feeling took hold of my stomach. It was very surreal that I got to see this mysterious land for the first time.
There was a wide water moat with long sandstone causeway. Overgrown tropical trees bordered the temple ground. Everything looked like a strange new world—or old world.
"Are you ready to explore now, Nikita?" Dad asked in a perky voice as I was still transfixed by the sight of this ancient architecture. The main entrance began with steps leading to a raised terrace. Giant stone lions on both sides of the gate guarded the monument. Other tourists already roamed around, snapping pictures of the sunrise over the temple.
"Don't we need a tour guide?" I asked.
"How come you underestimate me?" He pretended to look hurt. "Any question, just shoot. I can be your guide for free."
"Okay." I shrugged. "Bear with my killing curiosity then, Dr. Azarov."
Then we both marched towards the sun-drenched temple together. We passed the low balustrades holding a long body of serpent railing on each side of the stone bridge. The serpent was a multi-headed Naga. Their hoods opened like a Chinese fan. Five or seven heads stuck out from a single body.
"Did you know, Nikita," Dad asked me, "that no one was allowed to enter the sacred temple aside from the high priests and the emperor back in the day?"
"The Egyptians built the pyramids for their pharaohs, but the Angkorians built their temples for their gods," Dad said. "The word 'Angkor' came from the Sanskrit word, 'Nagara' which means, 'Holy City'."
"How many temples did they build for the gods?"
"Over two thousands or even more than that. They spread all over the empire," he said and shrugged. "This medieval urban was one of the largest cities in the world, and while Europe was in the 'Dark Age', this civilization was at its peak of glory. The kings of Angkor always performed a ritual called Devaraja, so that they could become god-kings."
"God-kings? Wow." I was impressed by my Dad's knowledge. Back in the states, my history teacher would bore me to tears. The only thing that kept me from slipping into a coma in class was drawing, but that was because I knew almost everything and there was almost nothing about Cambodia. Luckily, I have an archaeologist as a father.
“Researchers still study about how this glorious empire suddenly collapsed,” he went on. “There are many theories about it, but the exact reason why their civilization disappeared is still a mystery.”
“Interesting,” I said.
There was a series of towers, floral pattern-covered galleries, hidden chambers, porches and courtyards on different platforms. There were even libraries next to the main temple. We went past the Terrace of Honor and the Hall of Echoes. The cold breeze held traces of Jasmine-scented incenses in the air.
Along the cold stone wall, there were carved rows of dancing women.
"Who are these women?" I asked Dad.
"The Apsaras," Dad said with a bright smile as if he'd been waiting for this question. "They represent the goddesses of dancing and music, also known as celestial nymphs in heavens. The Angkorians adored them to the point they carved over a thousand Apsaras on this temple alone, and the most mind-blowing things of all are that none of them repeated! Can you imagine that? Not a single face is the same!"
I studied the Apsara women, their elaborate coiffures, headdresses, embroidered outfits and flowing jewelry. Their breasts were shown and worn smooth by hands of tourists stroking them. I turned back to my father.
"With all these clothes, why are they still topless?" I arched an eyebrow.
"Well, they—um—they're special women—and—and—” Dad stuttered with a redden face then turned way. “I think we should move on, Nikita.”
After a while, we reached another gallery, where Dad pointed at a seven-feet tall stone statue and said. "That's the statue of Vishnu, sweetie."
"Who's Vishnu?" I looked up at the smooth stone figure as we stood there. It was a male god with eight arms, holding different items in his hands, a conch, a discus, a lotus, a mace, but other items seemed to be missing.
"Vishnu is a Vedic supreme god," Dad told me. "Lord of the Cosmic Orders, Master of the past, present, future, and beyond."
"So he's the controller of time?" I asked.
"Also the controller of the human destiny," Dad said. "He holds the Book of Samsara."
"What is Samsara?"
"Samsara means 'the circle of rebirth'," he said. "Vishnu decides people's fate."
"Does he decide our fate, too?"
"Maybe," he said with a shrug. "Why did you ask that?"
"Well, I don't know," I said. "I just feel it's fate that I'm here now after all these years."
Dad stared at me for a long moment.
"You miss your mother." He patted my head before walking off.
As the afternoon drew to close, we began to feel hungry, so Dad and I took a rest at one of the tourist shops and had lemonade and sticky rice in bamboo tubes. He jokingly said that I didn't have to eat the bamboo unless I thought it was delicious. I thanked him for his wonderful advice. We sat under a straw-roofed cabana, gazing at the beautiful view and local people around us.
"So," Dad exhaled after a sip of his lemonade. "Do you want to see the mysterious spiral with me tomorrow?"
Dad's research team was at the archaeological site south of Angkor. It was a part of the city that no cars could go as there were no roads, so our pickup truck drove right through the dense jungle.
At one point, we crossed a stream, and I prayed so hard that the strong current of water wouldn't wash us away. I prayed to the trees since Dad told me there were little gods living in trees too.
Both Dad and I almost looked identical in our outfits. I wore my knee-high boots just like him, but with fitting hiking pants and a long-sleeve shirt with the cuffs rolled up to the elbows. Not that I wanted to be a female version of Indiana Jones, but the clothes were comfortable for the occasion.
Dad was just
"Here we are!" Dad announced.
I looked through the windshield and found what looked like a camping site. There were two large open-air tents and a few smaller ones next to a pile of dug-up soil. Some local archaeologists were digging and brushing dirt around like they were playing in a sandbox.
Dad parked the car about a hundred feet away and we got out.
"Dr. Azarov!" a male voice boomed from one of the tents. Then a tall figure emerged.
Dad told me he had an old friend, who was half-human and half-bigfoot. He was right. The man coming toward us was like a walking mountain, and his white curly hair looked as if he just stuck his fingers in an electric socket. There were smiling wrinkles around his eyes and a bright smile stitched across his tan face. The man's clothes were also covered in dust.
"Dr. Ivan, how are you doing?" Dad greeted him with a smile.
"Good, good!" Dr. Ivan said then turned to me. "And this must be my little Nikita, an aspiring artist, right? All grown up and breaking hearts!"
He said as he shook my hand, which he could have dislocated it from my shoulder if he put a little more force into his friendliness. I gave him a half-winced smile.
"So how's the finding going?" Dad asked.
"Oh, right!" The man scratched his white beard. "I almost forgot. Let's get inside so we can talk."
He led us to the tent. Dr. Ivan went over to his desk which was equipped with three flat screen panel computer monitors. Then he clicked open several photographs on the screens for us to see.
"From the aerial topographic survey of the land, the spiral in question is not linked to the water management system as we had expected."
I had no idea what aerial topographic thingy was, but I didn't interrupt.
"So what is your hypothesis on this man-made feature?" Dad asked, staring at the screens with an intense gaze.
"I don't have one," Dr. Ivan said with a low sigh, "And that is one of the things that we dread as archaeologists —finding things like this that we don't understand."
by Svetlana Ivanova / Fantasy / Science Fiction / Gay and Lesbian have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes