Journey to the South: Twenty-Five of Thirty

Posted: February 26, 2013 in Fiction
Tags: ,

     The next few days passed in a blur of conversation, food, and wandering – the first two primarily being with Consul Dar I’igaruu Sharai. Viro and I took the children to visit some of the prominent historical landmarks of Akehm – the Square of Stars, the Harbor, and the Arena of Roses, among others – and I found myself spending long stretches of time simply wandering the city’s streets accompanied only by one of the legionaries who would be part of our escort and honor guard while in Sirr. I was still grappling with the grief and guilt of Cuahuatec in those days and my moods generally found me so restless that the only balm to my aching mind and soul was to exhaust my body with travel.

    One might wonder why I was so distraught over the death of a slave, and a slave that I had only known for a few turnings of the moons, at that. I think that I have been forthright with my own feelings and views on the matter, though, and will not spend any more time going on at length regarding them. Suffice it to say, that I was still wrestling with my own responsibilities and shame over not having done more.

    On the evening of our third night after arriving in Akhem, we were interrupted during our supper with the Consul by Shan’eth, who informed us that the Sirraşi ambassador, Akar Ka’lahn, had arrived. As the Yevijiri woman stepped aside, an individual shorter than myself and draped in a cloak entered the dining room. The figure pulled back the hood of their cloak, revealing long, intricately braided hair that was the brown of loam and chestnuts, shaved to the bare skin on both sides, the skin displaying intricate, scrolling tattoos in black ink that disappeared down her neck underneath the cloak. The ambassador’s ears, like all Tainir, were exceedingly long and tapered to a point; likewise, her eyes were completely black – like two pools of ink that took in the dining room before them.

    I say “her”, though those who are educated regarding the Tainir know that such a common designation of gender is an approximation at best. The beings, who otherwise look so much like Men as to be somewhat unnerving on first encountering them, are hermaphroditic, and the appellation “Tainir” is a common name for the two related races of their people: the Tayin, who appear more masculine to the eyes of Men, and the Ainur, who appear more feminine. Many of their legends and myths state that the Harrimi – a near uncountable pantheon of divinities sprung from the “ground of being”, Ori Nai, and shaped by the demiurge, Ori Hajj, in common Tainir belief – shaped the Tainir races in their own image, seeking to create a mortal creature that was a manifestation of united opposites, of perfection.

    Shan’eth helped the ambassador remove her cloak, revealing a simple dress of light blue with darker, floral patterns, and a shawl about her shoulders of dark, midnight blue adorned with small, sparkling stones on it that made it look like she had the mantle of the star-strewn sky wrapped around her. It was clear to see that the tattoos she had must have covered most of her body, for the scrolling designs were visible on her forearms and her sandalled feet. Consul Sharai made the introductions, being the host, and when he came to me, I bowed ever so slightly at the waist and clasped my hands together – a gesture that I had been taught was the common form of formal greeting among the Sirraşi and several other cultures of the Tainir.

    Akar smiled and returned the gesture. “It is a pleasure and an honor to meet you, finally, Ambassador Kii,” the ambassador said. “Likewise, your beautiful wife and children.” She looked to Dar, with a questioning look. “I hope you do not find me rude, but the journey has been a long one and I would ever so appreciate sitting as soon as is possible.”

    The gregarious Consul smiled and invited us all to relax and resume feasting, calling for more honeyed-wine when Akar replied that she would enjoy a glass.

    “I find the…’adornments’ on your skin fascinating,” Viro said at one point after small conversation regarding our respective journeys had passed. “Are they akin to the art that many Yevijiri women paint upon themselves?”

    Akar smiled softly. “Yes and no,” she said, her voice having an odd lilt to it that was musical and pleasing to the ear, but also seemed a strange mixture of masculine and feminine to which one had to grow accustomed. “Unlike the Yevijiri tradition, the designs are not painted on – and thus making them capable of fading or washing off in a matter of days. These are tattooed into the skin and the patterns indicate different information regarding the person they are on. Several of the patterns of mine display my family history, my accomplishments, my status and position in society, the fact that I am well-traveled and an ambassador for the Kingdom. So on and so forth.”

    “Interesting,” Dar said after he swallowed a mouthful of lamb meat. “I know many men in the legions elect to receive similar tattoos displaying the Naar twined together in a circle around the shield and spears of the Imperial Legion standards.”

    “The…’Naar’?” the ambassador asked, quirking an eyebrow.

    “The four primordial dragons,” I responded. “They shaped the early world and then birthed the Yejimo, the primal giants, from whom the Kritanoi are descended.”

    Akar blinked her black eyes at me and smiled. “Fascinating,” she said laconically, before being drawn into conversation with the Consul regarding some matter of trade between Akhem and Sirr.

    When supper was finished, we were all so full from the food and tired from our days, that we retired to our quarters. Ambassador Ka’lahn even graced the Consul with the honor of housing her for the night, dispatching one of her own Ainur servants return to their ship to let the captain know. In the morning, though, we all – myself, Viro, the children, the legionaries, and Ambassador Ka’lahn’s entourage – bid a fond farewell to the Consul and set out in a small convoy of carriages and cavalry to where our ship awaited us in the Harbor.

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