The beginning of the 11th chapter.
When Rhoda woke up (at sunrise – it should be noted) Mee was still asleep, and she had time to consider what does she want to do during the day. Rhoda started to grasp that her situation will not change in the near future, and she is probably going to be a ‘queen’ in this place for a long time. ‘If that is so’ she told herself ‘then I should learn as much as I can about this place, so as to be able, at least, to live a good life here. I will start by learning how does this place look. This way I will be able to know how to get from one place to another and what kind of things can be found here. Maybe I need to try and learn how to do all kinds of things, if I don’t want to be too dependent on Mee’s or anyone else’s help. If I really have almost seventy years until I will meet my family again, then there is no point in wasting all this time, waiting for this thing to happen.’
She thought about going for a short swim until Mee wakes up, but then remembered the (very tasty!) carnivorous fish from the previous day and changed her mind. Instead, Rhoda went to the stream, which she was certain didn’t contain any threatening fish, to bath in. When she saw Belshazzar standing next to her, she told him “Hi! Belshazzar! I want a shower!” and Belshazzar, who was a very intelligent elephant, filled his trunk with water and sprayed it on her with such force, that she found herself landing on her refined buttocks, straight into the stream.
“You way over did it!” choked Rhoda, a little bit because of the water and a little bit from the surprise. “I meant a gentle shower! You should spray the water upwards and then it will rain like a shower! Do you understand?”
It seemed that Belshazzar understood. He nodded his head, anyway, and sprayed the next batch upwards – towards his own back. Rhoda exhaled with contempt and finished washing by herself.
When she came back from the stream, Rhoda felt a great hunger and went behind the tent to see if something was left from yesterday’s fish. As she guessed, there was still a nice piece left. She ripped herself a big chunk of the fish and sat down to eat. When she had finished, Mee still hadn’t come out of the tent, and Rhoda felt very lonely. She went to Belshazzar again and started caressing him behind his ear. Belshazzar looked very contented and Rhoda started to hum a tune to entertain him. When she got to a part in the tune that had very high notes, Belshazzar straightened his trunk suddenly and trumpeted so loudly that Mee jumped out from the tent and ran wildly, with eyes rolling from sleep.
“Good morning!” Rhoda said with a wide smile. “Did you like our morning concert? I think that Belshazzar and I can sing duets together, even in front of a crowd.”
Mee, who had a little time to regain her wits, smiled faintly and said “I am sorry that you had to wait for me, your majesty. I’m afraid that my trip back to the palace yesterday left me exhausted. What does your majesty want for breakfast?”
“I have already eaten some leftovers of yesterday’s fish. But I am really very hungry. Fruit, vegetables, milk and cookies will be enough for me now.”
Mee arranged the table with dishes full of fruits, a jug with steaming milk, that looked as if it had been milked just this moment, and crispy and spicy sesame cookies, which smelled delicious. Rhoda ate until she felt she had enough and said “Today I would like to fly along the beach in the direction of the mountains. I would like to know my kingdom better, to learn about the plants here and which of them are edible or poisonous. To know where can I find water, and where are the houses and the demons. Tell me where are my palaces, and generally all the things that it is important that a queen will know about her realm.”
“As you wish, your majesty.” said Mee, packed all the things, loaded them on Belshazzar’s back and both of them got on his back as well.
“Belshazzar! I want you to fly along the beach, but a little bit further in-land, so I will be able to see how the area looks. And please fly high; we will see more from above.”
Belshazzar took off and started to go further and further up, and further and further inwards, until the air became very cold and all that Rhoda could see were patches of color on the ground.
“Not so high! Belshazzar!” Rhoda scolded Belshazzar, and he started to lower himself until she said they were at exactly the right altitude. They went on flying and she examined the surrounding area. There seemed to be no people anywhere. The vegetation grew wild – trees of various sizes, with leafs of strange and different colors and shapes, grew as far as the eye could see. On part of the trees, she saw fruits that looked familiar to her, but on other trees, really strange fruits grew, that she wasn’t sure if they were fit to be eaten.
She pointed at one of the trees that had fruits that reminded her of fireworks – like little stars – and attached to the bark with purple stems and asked Mee “What is this tree? What’s its name? Is its fruit edible?”
“This tree is called Ophirs Gold your majesty, and its fruit is good to eat, but only after the stems color changes into a golden hew.”
“And that tree, there?” asked Rhoda and pointed at a tree that had fruits that looked like twisted snakes, with differentiating colors, that changed from green to blue.
“This is the Chivia tree.” answered Mee “Its fruits are not good to eat, they are very poisonous. But their extraction is used to treat eye disease.”
“Is there a meaning to its name?”
“Yes your majesty, the meaning of the word chivia is ‘snake’, you can imagine why this is the tree’s name.”
Rhoda repeated to herself the names of the trees Mee taught her, and etched in her memory the way they looked, what can be done with them and how. For some time she kept asking Mee about other trees and flowers she saw, and the names of the streams they passed. Rhoda decided to stop for now, when she could not remember what Mee told her well enough. After all, she had sixty eight years of learning before her, so she leaned back and looked at the scenery with a more relaxed attitude. The sun shone on them from south east in accordance with the hour of the day, and the sea spread to their west. The land around them rose in gentle slopes, and never got higher than a small hill, before coming down to be plain looking, with dividing streams rushing through it.
Rhoda looked south to check if she could see the mountains where the winter palace was, but as far as the eye could reach, the land looked as flush as it looked around her. She remembered that Mee said it took three weeks to bring her from the winter palace in the mountains to the palace in the plains, and understood that there’s a chance that even if they will continue flying a whole week, she would not even glimpse the beginning of the mountains. Flying in itself began to bore her.