Story of the Day: Unghaahi’s Affections
Unghaahi and Kai Linaa are major recurring characters in the series. Here is how they met.
After much provocation from Otenohi, Unghaahi was decided: he must speak with her. Here would be his chance, his only foreseeable chance, to gain her awareness and partiality before the women of the islands could assail her and fill her mind with notions of horror and monstrosity if they had not done so already. He watched her walk along the shore and offer every Amghari a sip from her waterskin. There would be his entrance: he would ask for water. If he should call, it was her duty to come, but how he should beckon to her and gain her attention was all his grief. He agonized over the question for several minutes until she was close enough for him to walk to her. He would ask; he would simply approach her in a kindly manner and ask. There was little harm in asking for something he must want, as it was natural for everyone who trained under the harshness of the sun to require some refreshment. He had assumed that she was not told of Amghari survival tactics, of being trained to go a month without food or water in the most unlivable conditions, but this would not signify. He should be safe in this regard, and when he was close enough that he could cast his immense shadow over her, he neared her and spied her with a firm gaze to make certain she could not mistake his arrival for one who might be just passing her.
Kai Linaa gave a small start when she observed the colossal Den Amhadhri approach her. Although she had been told of his numerous accomplishments and his noble character, she could not be prepared for the mountainous creature coming toward her. She supposed he was coming for some of her water, but did not have the usual air of someone fatigued by the sun: his perspiration though present was less than that of those he was training, his expression was placid and undisturbed by the heat or by those exerting themselves around him, and his small smile was gentle and unpretending . He could not mean to approach her; he must mean to pass her and visit his superior past the capital on some means of business.; he would not ask her for water, and she had almost turned away to attend the calls of some of the Amghari nearer to the barracks when he stopped before her. She became affright and did her utmost to accord him the brightest of smiles, fearful that she had discredited him by nearly disregarding him. Suddenly, he was bowing to her, he was lowering his eyes, and he was evening addressing her.
“Kodhanaas, Kai Linaa,” he said with a most cordial air as he righted himself.
Such gentility and peacableness from such a creature was not easily recovered from. She was astonished and agape: one of such rank and esteem was speaking to her, even regarding her. She stared at his handsome features, impressed with his overbearing might, but even more impressive than his molded form was a pair of light violet eyes and a profound but soft voice giving her every undue attention. Her bright smiles altered into a timidity of flushed cheeks and quickening breath. She thought to offer him water, assuming that was the reason he came to her, but she paused as he made no request, unable to lift her arms under the attentive hold of so gargantuan and peaceful a creature.
Unghaahi remarked her rose-grey hair and dissimilar eyes for a few moments, taken by her odd and beguiling appearance from so close a distance. A space of one foot’s separation was all that was dividing him from her, and he kept his hands at his back let they traverse the slim space and accidentally graze her. Though she was still looking up at him with the same eager and coy expression, he realized that he had greeted her and had not conveyed the reason for his coming. “Gihotaa on met te kai, khostaas?” he purred in his low and civil voice.
Could she but understand his speech, she should greet him as she ought, but she knew so little of their language and customs that she reveled in self-loathing at her current ignorance. She wished to address him, but what should one of her situation say, how should she act, and how could she ask for assistance with regard to their salutations and pleasantries if she knew not a word of their language. She was lost and in her alarm began to search for intimations of what he had asked her. A curt but patient look to the waterskin at her side guided her understanding, and she handed it to him with a nervous simper hidden behind a raised hand.
He drank as a formality, and to have her stand there with him a few moments longer while he conjured what to say after his thanks. “Antaa manedan Iimon khostaas,” he said, handing the waterskin back to her.
Kai Linaa made a little bow and thought to move on when he remained in place; he seemed waiting for her to speak, and now she must own to her ignorance of his words in painful humiliation. “Please forgive me for not answering,” she muttered in her small voice.
He realized his mistake and inclined his head toward her with a remorseful countenance. “It is I who must ask for khostaas, Kai Linaa. I did not know that you had not yet learned much of our language.”
She seemed fearful of an affront, either for her poor ability to grasp the basics of the Haanta tongue or for her lack of proper address that was due to someone of his consequence. His politeness and compassion was certainly felt but it went unanswered, she too ashamed of her unawareness to reply.
Unghaahi marked her expression: she seemed out of humour and apprehensive, and he hoped that the women of the islands had not told her anything that would sway her opinion when he had just only been given the opportunity to make the connection. “You need not fear me, Kai Linaa, or fear speaking in another language,” he firmly assured her. “All Amghari are taught the languages of the mainland. My words may not be as varied as they should be, but I am able to understand everything you would wish to say.”
“You speak very well,” she said smilingly, and then fearing that familiarity with a supreme commander was inappropriate, she added, “Commander.”
“You may call me by my Amghari designate of Unghaahi.” He discarded the translation of his name, ruling it to be a disgrace, and moved along to a simple introduction. “Are you enjoying yourself on Sanhedhran?”
“Oh, yes,” she happily exclaimed. “I’ve never seen such beauty in all my life.” She checked herself and murmured, “Well, at least that much of what I can remember.”
“I have heard that you are unable to recover your memories.”
Unghaahi realized his mistake. He chided himself for revealing such a secret and searched for something else to say while Kai Linaa was all enjoyment, probably with the understanding that he and Otenohi had spoken of her in a favourable manner. “You will recover your memories in time,” he said, recomposing. “What is important here is that you discover your Mivaala. No one will harm you here.” He noted her cropped hair and the scars evident around her wrists. He sighed to see such unfeelingness toward so sweet a creature and assumed that she had been yet such another enslaved by Thellis, come to the islands to find her freedom. “Your people were cruel to take your hair from you,” he said in a most considerate tone. “You will be allowed to grow it here, Kai Linaa. You will be shown kindness and honour, and you will not be excluded or enslaved.”
His professions quieted any misgiving she may have had with regard to his gentleness. She saw now that here was a giant worthy of his place, one who championed for such venerable causes.
He took half a step toward her, beginning to close the space between them. “It is true that there is much misunderstanding and cruelty on the mainland. I would ask that your forgive your captors for their ignorance. Pity them for their unwillingness to treat others with honour,” he tenderly entreated.
She would not refute him though she might have wished to do. He was too rapt by his attentive gaze to make a comprehensible remonstration. Instead she replied with a faint, “I suppose forgiveness is important to your people.”
“They are your people now as well, Kai Linaa,” he reminded her with an affable smile. “There is much you must learn as a Ghiosa, but I am certain you will learn quickly. If you have any questions, I would be honoured to assist you.”
Kai Linaa had done. She had never believed that one of such position and magnitude could be so sensible and forthcoming. His manner had struck her, but added unto it were his handsomeness and civility, making him an irresistible object. She meant to say what was correct in the way of thanks for his offer but where her speech was hindered her movement was not. In her fascination, her hand rather absently lifted and touched the white braids draped over his massive shoulder. Her fingers glided along the rope-like texture, and she marveled at such a design until she became conscious of the threshold she had crossed. She drew back her hand in fear of being too forward and gasped in horror, recollecting what the Themari had told her: that the arrangement and length of hair was sacred to Haanta. She conceived that she her erred in touching something so holy and had done so unasked. "I'm sorry," she breathed, on the verge of tears.
Unghaahi noted her growing distress and sought to affirm his approval of what she had done. He swiftly snatched her hand and replaced it onto the ends of his braids. “There is no need for khostaas, Kai Linaa. I am honoured that you would wish to inspect me.” He smiled and with slow nictations pleaded her to continue her pleasurable movements. He delighted in having his hair touched as one of the last few places an Amghari could feel such tingling sensations due to the burning of their feet and the abrading of their skin. He observed her equal pleasure and was gratified for her brazenness; no woman had ever ventured to touch him without due provocation. The work of a sister's encouragement, the persuasion of a Themari, the conniving of Otenohi: this was how he had been used to achieve a woman's attention. Here, however, it was all unasked, ingenuous interest. She found him tender and intriguing; he saw it in the glowing wonder in her eyes, eyes of two differing colours dancing back and forth as though she were assessing him in a state of complete entrancement. He answered her motions by placing his giant hand beneath her chin and browsing her cheek with his thumb, studying the softness of her pastel complexion. She curled with shyness at his delicate touch, blushing and beaming all at once while sinking into the cover a raised shoulder afforded. His hand passed along the tips of her pointed ears and brushed her hair, causing her to gaze up at him with utmost devotion.
In their doting upon one another, a word suddenly entered Unghaahi’s mind: Anaalon. Here was a new sensation. He had felt such attachment for his brothers but never for a woman of the islands. He denied it, declaring that such a feeling was impossible, but however impossible he may have conceived it should be, it was unmistakable. He did feel it, or something akin to it, or even the budding inkling of it. He had hoped through some miraculous channel, to find the happiness all of his brothers now shared with their mates, and he had almost given up the idea of claiming once for himself until she had come to join their people. He knew he must have her, if not for a mate then for a companion, for to admit to such a sentiment so soon when she was new to their society would give her reason to reject him. He must be silent and retrench his ingrained attachment, leaving it for when he could be certain of hers in return. There must be other events that must occur: he must secure her a vauntaaleraa, he must watch her dance with her new sisters at their celebrations. The desire of wanting to do everything that he had never been permitted to do rushed on him, but before any of the requisite regulations of courtship should endure, he must ask for her attendance.
“I must return to my students, Kai Linaa,” he said with some regret. “However, I would ask that you allow me to attend you at the temple this evening after your lessons for the day are finished.”
Kai Linaa nearly leapt with joy but quieted her desire to do so by clenching her teeth to hold her exclamations within. “I would like that,” she said presently.
Unghaahi’s heart fluttered, and where she had been pressed to restrain herself, he could not. He smiled the most beholden of smiles and bowed to her. “Atode, Kai Linaa. I will see you in the evening.” He turned from her after receiving a small wave of goodbye to see Otenohi standing near the Hophsaas mat with folded arms and a complacent expression. He conveyed his success in a small congratulatory gesture and looked back over his shoulder to see Kai Linaa unmoving and watching his parting with a wistful half smile on her face.
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