Gharmhona meets Madezda
Here is another sample of a "Brothers of Sanhedhran" chapter. Here, Gharmhona and Madezda, the woman he saved, reunite for the first time.
From the chapter "The Marked Madezda":
When the benediction for the temple was given, Unghaahi quietly translated the priest’s words to facilitate Madezda’s understanding. She seemed rueful that the kindly giant would be made to explain something she felt she should have understood but the Den Amhadhri made many assurances that all would be acquired and learned in time.
“Are you enjoying the celebration, sister?” Unghaahi said after the blessing was over.
Madezda nodded and could not look away from ceremony.
Unghaahi was pleased to see her so enthralled and said nothing to inhibit her observation. He walked with her toward the steps to introduce her to the Hassan Omaa. His leader came to greet his newest member and made a few short inquiries, asking how she found the islands, how the ceremony pleased her and if she was well-cared for by the Themari of the temple and by the Den Amhadhri. All of her answers were affirmative but when the Hassan Omaa made intimations on requesting to be her first partner for Khopra, Unghaahi respectfully bowed and led Madezda away. He hoped she did not begin to suspect his aversion to asking her and to make certain she would not gain a moment to ponder the subject he chose to interrupt her musings of meeting her newfound leader with diverting queries.
“Did you enjoy your conversion ceremony, sister?”
“I did,” she replied smilingly. “It was difficult for me to be at the head of my own table and share so much food with everyone. I know I didn’t seem so but I was pleased you were there with your brother. It was nice that someone came to watch me. The attendants at the temple were so happy to help me but I didn’t understand why.”
“I have been told there is much exclusion in Thellis. I do not approve of this,” Unghaahi said with a quick shake of his head. “We believe in exclusion only as a severe punishment. I have noticed that you are one of the Marked. I apologize that you were treated in such a manner. We will rectify this. You have my word, sister.”
She coloured at Unghaahi’s declaration and only replied with a gentle look of recognition.
“Were you born in Thellis?”
“No,” she said in a timid voice. I came to Lucentia when I was very young and from there I was sold to Thellis. I was told that I was taken from a strange-looking ship when I was an infant. Many people on board were ill. An unknown disease made them leave their home. I was one of the few survivors. I was in a shelter for a few years but since I couldn’t earn my keep, I was sold to a man from Thellis. I was examined when I came to the capital, my neck was branded and I became a slave.”
Unghaahi’s expression bent in distress. “Were you treated with brutality, sister?” he asked, hoping the answer would not be the one he suspected her of giving.
“I was asked to do some things I didn’t like,” she murmured, turning her glance aside.
Unghaahi noted her disturbed expression. She shifted in her place and fidgeted nervously with her fingers. She seemed as though she wished to speak but nothing could assist her in signifying the mortification and agony she suffered. He waited and listened to her beginning murmurs. When he realized the tasks she was made to perform were so wholly unpleasant he made certain she understood that there was no need to explain her position. “I am pleased you were able to find a means to the islands,” he said with sincerity. “I was told you were on the shore.”
“One of the fishermen found me,” she nodded. “I don’t remember much but I remember feeling the sun and the sand, I remember opening my eyes and seeing a large shadow over me. I felt myself being lifted and carried somewhere. I looked up once. I saw a man with red eyes, dark skin and black hair piled high on his head. He seemed very serious and I tried to speak, and I think I did, but I don’t remember anything after that. Do you know anyone by that description?”
“There are a few who may match that description, sister. However,” he said with a cordial smile, “I believe I know the Amghari you have described. If you wish to thank him, sister, I will take you to him.”
“Please, will you?” she asked with a hop and glints of gratefulness in her eyes. “I was hoping to find him later so I could tell him how much I appreciate what he’s done for me.”
“Of course. Come, sister. I will show you where he is.”
Unghaahi led Madezda away from the ceremonial grounds and toward the southern shore where those who had already honoured the temple returned to continue their training. Near the garrison, a regiment of Anatari stood receiving orders from their superior. They were attentive and eager to be chosen to patrol the perimeter of the Bhazdhon expectant to see the end of the ceremony. Their superior chose three from his regiment to perform the desired duties and the others were sent to patrol the edges of the islands to make certain their week of celebration would not be disturbed by an attack from offshore. They bowed and began their duties, and their leader turned to greet Unghaahi and the woman at his side.
“This is the Den Anatari Gharmhona,” Unghaahi said, presenting the giant before them. “Is he the one, sister?”
The look of recognition in the woman’s eyes told him that he was. Gharmhona seemed to acknowledge the recollection of her as well and though his stern expression did not change, his deep-set eyes showed an inhabitance as if he wished to say or do something that would have been odd for his immoveable character. He checked himself and remained motionless, but his wide maw grinded with uneasiness. His fingers pressed into his palms, his brows creased in distress and there was everything to suggest his care for the woman’s wellbeing. He had hoped she would speak first, according him the opportunity to keep his silence until he grew comfortable in her presence, but when she only looked at him with glittering eyes of appreciation, he had lost his wish for quietude and was forced to inquire after her. “You . . . are well?” Gharmhona said with difficulty.
“Very,” she breathlessly replied. “Thanks to you, sir. It was you who took me from the sand.”
Gharmhona looked aside. “It was.”
“I don’t know how to thank you. Well, what do I say to the person who saved my life?”
“I did not save you,” Gharmhona assured her, wishing to remove some of the godliness with which she saw him. “You saved yourself. I only took you from the shore and brought you to the Ankhimari. You swam across the sea to your freedom. It is you who should be commended.” His voice expressed what his features would not. He held much admiration for the woman and his anxious genuflections and chary looks betrayed how high a regard she kept in his estimation. Gharmhona would say no more. He felt that he had already divulged too much of his sentiment. He bowed and excused himself, owing his absence to his duties.
“May I,” Madezda began, walking after him, “May I join you for a while?”
Gharmhona struggled and attempted not to turn back but his efforts were ruined when he felt how close she stood. “No,” he said after some time. “I am not permitted to have a woman accompany while I survey the island.”
Unghaahi motioned toward the woman, silently urging the Den Anatari not to deny her request.
“However,” Gharmhona said when seeing her dampened spirits emerge. “When my duties for the day are done at sundown, I would be privileged to attend you, Ghiosa.”
The two stood eyeing one another in silence. When Madezda nodded, Gharmhona inclined his head and took his leave.
“Gharmhona ‘s presence is greatly needed,” Unghaahi assured her. “He is the chief defender of our islands. He upholds the regulations our leaders have set and makes certain the law of the Haanta is abided. He is also Den Laustaari, our champion spearfisher, which is how he found you, sister. Please, I would ask that you excuse his manner. His Mivaala does not permit him to be forthcoming with others but it is my belief that he is greatly pleased with you.”
“I understand,” said she with a small smile. “He’s shy, like me.”
“That is one manner in which to describe his unwelcoming nature,” Unghaahi laughed.
Madezda managed to laugh along with the Den Amhadhri and she wondered how long it would be before she would break open his diffident exterior.