Story for the day: The Child
|The Den Asaan will not babysit your children.|
Beyond the iron gate, separating the castle from the remainder of the capital, sat a child no more than a few months old. She had crawled away from her caretaker at the Church and had been left on her own for more than a few minutes. She was content to be sitting and rolling around, cooing to no one in particular, making bubbles with her spittle, and taking interest in every bird that flew overhead, but when there was nothing to divert her attention from the notion of being alone, her chief occupation became crying. She howled for someone to attend her, to lift her, to claim her, and the royal guard began to search for the child’s mother or matron, they were assured all was well by Otenohi who was just returning from a visit to the capital.
Otenohi stood over the screaming child and grinned down at her. He observed how dissimilar the human creature was from the Haanta Mivaari. Her arms were plump, her cheeks were red, her voice was strident and shrill, her manner was dour and her expression was one of terror. The horror of being lost and solitary had overcome her and Otenohi made it his object to appease her. He rested his hands on his hips, smiled at her with complacence, and leaned down, placing his sloping nose close to her terrified features.
“Mivaari,” Otenohi said, pointing his finger at her tiny nose, “my people do not cry. I know you are a Dhargovhari but your Ambesari has been careless and therefore I am claiming you in the name of the Haanta.”
The child, confused by the giant inquisitor’s charge, was silent. Her lip quivered in the wake of her tears for some time, her emotions bent on the precipice of renewed dejection, until Otenohi gently pushed her nose with his finger, causing her to laugh. She giggled when he pressed her nose again and then reached up to grip his finger.
“You have a strong hold for one your size, Mivaari,” Otenohi purred at the child. “Perhaps I will teach you how to hunt so that you may track your Ambesari when she is forgetful of you.”
The child’s eye glittered as she stared at the giant. She cooed in reply and chewed Otenohi’s large finger with her small gums.
“You must train to improve your bite, Mivaari,” Otenohi said with a grin, allowing her to teethe on him as much as she liked. “You are small for one so young. Our Mivaari grow quickly. You must learn to bite harder and be fiercer than your brothers and sisters.”
The child complied and tore into Otenohi’s extended finger with her softened gums. She was unable to break his skin but he was pleased with her attempt to do so. Otenohi lifted her from the ground and held her at arm’s length, regarding her with an odd glance and overturning her with awkward motions. He had little idea of how to hold one so diminutive and delicate and the more he attempted to find a comfortable stance, the more his carrying of her became cumbersome. He looked about for the child’s mother but found no one in the Churchyard or at the markets nearby who was in want of a child. He shrugged and resolved that he would take the child to the castle for safekeeping in the hopes that she would grow into a formidable warrior when the Den Asaan and Obhantaa Leraa came to meet him.
The moment Rautu noted what was in his brother’s hands he stood back and shouted for him to drop the giggling creature. He made vehement protestations of intervening with the monster’s upbringing, of how the Haanta were not permitted to take a Dhargovhari child as one of their own until it was able to give its consent, but all of his arguments were ignored and the child was still held.
Otenohi laughed at the Den Asaan’s horror of small and screaming things and he moved to give the child over to him. “Here, brother,” Otenohi said archly, giving him a terrible grin. “Unghaahi has told me of your adoration for their Mivaari.” With each endeavor he made to relinquish the child to the Den Asaan, Rautu moved away, dodged Otenohi’s unwanted gift.
“You will not touch me with that,” the Den Asaan snarled in disgust. “Give it to our brother. He will amuse it enough to keep it from crying.”
Obhantaa Leraa leapt at the invitation and took the child into his hands. He crossed his amber eyes and made dulcet sounds to make her laugh, tossed her in the air and twirled her around until she shrieked in delight. He sat with her in his lap and covered his eyes, pretending at once not to see her and then reserving the effect. He wiggled his fingers and awed, and when she maintained her cheerfulness for more than was expected, Obhantaa summoned his hangaara cat to him so that she may take pleasure in passing her small fingers through the sleek, black fur of the gentle beast.
When the child was well situated with Obhantaa Leraa looking after her, the Den Asaan thought it most advisable to find the caretaker of the child in hopes of leaving its company all the sooner. After a few moments of searching, they found the matron of the orphanage in a fever of anguish, calling out the infant’s name as though she would answer to it and searching around the Churchyard in a fretful manner. She was relieved when she observed two outwardly benevolent Haanta watching over the child she had lost and she was urged to remove by the Den Asaan who was eager to have it gone. The matron, however, was so impressed with Obhantaa and Otenohi’s kindness and tolerance for the child that she took a moment to admire their care of it. She sighed watching the two mountainous men fawning over her charge and simpered at the Den Asaan’s odium of such an unnatural occurrence.
Otenohi noticed the matron’s partiality and returned the child to her. As the infant parted Obhantaa’s company, she raised her hand as though to wave at him and the white colossus was only too happy to wave back.
The matron thanked Otenohi for his care of child. She repeated numerous times how she had just turned her back for an instant and the child had wandered out of her crib, but the matron was full of gratitude to the inquisitor for his role in retrieving her. “Are all your men so good with children?” she said, bouncing the baby on her hip.
“Of course,” Otenohi professed. “My brother Rautu is known for his abilities to calm your young. I am certain he would be willing to assist you in caring for them.”
The matron looked at the Den Asaan’s cowling expression with a wary eye. “Are you certain? He doesn’t seem to like children.”
“No, but they enjoy his presence whether he enjoys theirs or not.” Otenohi laughed at the Den Asaan’s looks of displeasure and assured him that he would receiving invitations to volunteer at the Church orphanage sooner than he should prefer.