The dream felt reasonably stable, so I wondered if I might attempt one of the TOTYs. I recalled the "riding" theme, but unfortunately, I hadn't looked at the list lately and couldn't remember the specifics very well. There was a window here... maybe I could summon a bird and ride it through the night sky? That sounded fun, but I didn't think it was on the list. The only one I could clearly remember was the elephant ride, because my studies have given me such a distinct impression of how elephants were used in battle in pre-modern Siam. I had always planned to try that one, but how do I get from my dream bedroom to pre-modern Siam?
I tried to remember the transportation spell from Harry Potter, but the command wasn't coming to me. All I could recall was "flue" something, and anyway there were no fireplaces in this bedroom (unlike my WL bedroom, which does have one!) I decided my best bet was probably the window. I knew you needed to mount an elephant from someplace high, so if I could summon one over, I could probably just descend from the window directly to its back. Then once I was on the elephant, it would be easier to get to Siam. On the way to the window, I felt impelled to opened the middle drawer of the dresser as I walked past. It was nearly empty, with just a few stray pieces of clothing... but in the far right corner was the gleam of gold. It was a pile of chocolate coins! You know the ones, disks of chocolate wrapped in gold foil stamped like currency. These were a few different sizes. I realized these might come in handy if I ended up having to buy the elephant, so I grabbed a handful and put them in my pocket.
I opened the window and felt the cool night air. The window was on the second storey, as I had anticipated, but looking out, I actually recognized that this looked nothing like my house. To the left, I could see a garage door extending perpendicularly to the wall my window was in. The house appeared to be painted beige. Across the driveway, which ran next to this wall to meet the garage, there was a wide grassy yard bordered by trees. I looked up at the night sky above the trees to see if there were any familiar constellations, and immediate recognized Orion. Of course... it seems anywhere I go, I see Orion, even in a dream. He was at an angle, almost on his side, just over the treetops... but not exactly the same in WL. At first I counted four stars in his belt, instead of the usual three. The more I looked at it, the more stars accumulated, but only in certain areas, so pretty soon Orion appeared to be wearing not only a belt, but also a brassiere, which amused me, and a crown. The crown had spikes pointing upward, like the common representation of crowns in modern iconography, but matching spikes adorned the brassiere and belt. At this point the whole shape of the constellation was getting a bit thin and stretched, and while I'm sure these transformations could go on indefinitely, right now I needed an elephant.
I knew my husband was in the next room, probably working, and even though I suspected this was dream logic, I hesitated to shout lest I annoy him. (Though I suppose it is still reasonable not to want to annoy the dream husband.) So I tried to summon the elephant quietly. Nothing happened. After trying for a bit without results, I decided to take a more dramatic approach. I stepped through the window and jumped, setting my intention for there to be an elephant down there, so I could land on its back.
There wasn't. But the results were promising nonetheless... from unconstructed dream space, I managed to conjure something plausibly like the interior of a palace in Siam. It was a bit of a hack job, without much detail, and I confess the throne was far too low (must not have been the formal audience hall), but it was sufficient for my purposes. There were various ministers standing around (another embarrassingly inaccurate detail; no courtiers would stand in the presence of the king in early nineteenth-century Siam! Good gracious!) and the king was on the throne, but a bit vague. My initial impression was that he resembled the recently deceased Rama IX, but that troubled me because I was going for an earlier era. I tried to make him look more like Rama III, but it wasn't working very well, so in the end I just didn't look too closely. At any rate, the king was vague enough that he didn't quibble when I handed over my handful of chocolate coins and requested an elephant. I didn't feel like getting into complex negotiations; I just allowed myself assume the success of the transaction and walked away.
As I exited the interior of the palace and momentarily noticed the bright sunlight reflecting off the whitewashed arch of the doorway, I felt a flash of familiarity. Of course,
I thought to myself, This must be the Grand Palace, I've been here a few times.
I let my memory conjure something akin to the elephant-mounting station I remembered observing there, and walked over to it. There was no elephant there presently, so I waited for someone to bring it around... and started getting impatient. No one seemed to be doing much, or paying attention to my repeated request. They must not understand English, I considered. I'll have to try it in Thai.
"Chang!" I shouted, the Thai word for elephant. "Ma nee!" I realized how rude I must sound: while "ma nee" would probably be correctly understood as "come here," or, given the contextual clues, "bring it here" as I had intended, it was a terribly rough and simple way of speaking. It was the sort of thing you might say to call a dog. I hadn't even appended a perfunctory "kha" at the end. But then I started wondering what level of politeness would be proper in this situation. I was in the palace, which made things more difficult, because royal Thai is another ballgame altogether. But what was my own social standing here? In speaking roughly I was assuming a great deal of authority... maybe that was not so bad in this situation. Fortunately, I saw my elephant being brought around before I was able to go too deep down the rabbit hole of Thai honorifics.
It was a disappointing elephant, by any standards... not only small but kind of flabby and soft, a cartoonish cross between a real baby elephant and Dumbo. Moreover it was completely unadorned, with no harness or howdah. I momentarily wondered if the lack was due to an inadequate mental impression of what a howdah should look like? But no, I could picture it clearly enough in my imagination... it just wasn't on the elephant. I guess that's what I get for being rude to the staff. To add insult to injury, they didn't even properly lead the elephant to the mounting station—though it was probably too small to get on from there anyway—they just dumped it on the stairs, where it crumpled over weakly. On the bright side, this made it easy to clamber up on its neck, so I did so and prepared to forge on.
I knew I had to enter a battle, so we promptly exited the city. I had thought to do this properly on a magnificent war elephant with a howdah and a driver and four soldiers to guard the legs—I've seen plenty of paintings and movies of proper war elephants in action—but instead I was alone, bareback with no weapon, on the most pathetic elephant I've ever seen. But at least in dream there was no risk of actually falling in battle, so I figured I could make do.
We had barely gone past the city walls when I saw the invaders approaching from the jungle. That wasn't much of a stretch; it seemed like Ayutthaya was always under attack. (I had originally envisioned myself in Bangkok, but had already slipped back to an earlier era more appropriate for elephant combat). The invaders were on horseback, I noticed, and I was relieved to see that they were only coming in ones and twos, given that I was going to have to take them on alone. They had long black hair and Asian features, and naturally I assumed that they were Burmese... until I got close enough to swing at one and saw the pointed ears. Elves?! Last night I was playing Witcher II
and Pillars of Eternity
, and the portrait of Aloth in the latter game closely resembled these invaders, but I wasn't sure why they were showing up here. Also, I'm fond of elves and felt loathe to fight them. Fortunately, our combat was more play-acting than anything. I had a good mental image of the kind of long-handled glaive I should be wielding, but though I swung it toward the elves and they gamely mimed being struck, the weapon did not visibly appear in my hands—and I was thankful that it drew no blood.
So I marched forward on my pathetic elephant, going through the motions of bashing the elves (elves?!
) with my invisible glaive, while they went through the motions of being knocked aside, until the jungle started to coalesce into a new kind of space, a kind of wide passage under an increasingly low ceiling. The texture of the ceiling interested me, and from my position atop the elephant I could reach up and just touch it. It was covered with a kind of thick cloth, like a yellowish patterned felt, and I reached into the seams between two pieces and felt something hard and smooth. I pulled it out and found an object streaked with yellow and brown that resembled a wild bird's egg, but it was too hard and irregular, so I thought it must be a stone. I slipped it into my pocket. The felt overhead was gaping at the seams so I grabbed it and tore it off, revealing a kind of wide hatch with a knob for a handle. I wondered what it might be concealing so I pulled it open... and found the dream space deconstructing, muffling me in a soft blankety texture. Instinctively I tried to protect myself by putting the stone I had just found in my mouth, but I was still being enveloped in the stuff. I tried to pull at it with my hands, and as my fingers sank into it I was struck by the familiarity of the texture, like coarse sheep's wool—not the clean feel of a fleece, but the dirty, oily texture it has when it is still on the sheep. That was the last thing I felt before waking.