The Three Amhadhri: Excerpt from Khantara
Jhiaanta, Bhaaldhena, and Mhardhosa are Khantara's commanders, or his Amhadhri. He has raised them, trained them, and has treated them like sons since the day he was asked to be their teacher. Here is an excerpt from "Khantara" all about them.
The Three Amhadhri
When the three Amhadhri arrived at the archway of the temple entrance, they observed the stonecutter, of whose conduct their master had so readily disapproved, coming toward them from the inner sanctum. They moved aside to give him precedence along the stone path, making him an amiable greeting, but all their affability with regard to what they had been considering on their Odaibha’s account was soon to be diminished.
With little idea whither Khantara had gone and only too glad that the supreme commander was not at the temple at present, the stonecutter made a curt bow to the three Amhadhri. He seemed to sneer, and with cold condescension said, “The temple is finished.” He paused, faced firmly toward the entrance to the settlement and humphed. “You can tell the Den Amhadhri that he may rest in his home in peace.”
It was said with the purpose of causing the three Amhadhri some distress, but as the stonecutter gave further slight by walking away without so much as a nod to furnish his leave, yet more discontent was forced upon them, chiefly on Mhardhosa whose affliction made him ill-disposed to endure disrespect for the one who had assisted and raised him. His red eyes flared, his fists tightened, and his rage billowed out as an terrifying roar. He lunged for the stonecutter only to be hindered by Bhaaldhena’s immense arms wrapping around his waist and throat. He attempted to free himself if only to repay the affront which had been so unjustly dealt, but he must learn to brook such insolence and calm his mind while there were children in the temple doorway and watchful Themari in the temple gardens about them.
The stonecutter turned back and jeered at Mhardhosa as he struggled and snarled within his brother’s arms. “Were your brothers not here to defend and protect you,” he sibilated, “you would have been deemed Tsinonaas for what you were about to do. You should be kept with those who deserve that title. What Amhadhri cannot command himself without two of his brothers and his Odaibha to abate his ethnaa?” Feeling proud of his accusation, the stonecutter was about to leave, certain of his triumph, when Jhiaanta grabbed the sleeve of his linen tunic and held him in place.
“Our brother was chosen for his Mivaala with fairness,” asserted Jhiaanta.
The stonecutter shook him off and stabbed a finger at Jhiaanta’s small nose. “I question the Themari’s judgment,” he said in a powerful whisper. “The Den Amhadhri knows how to influence the decisions of others. I have seen it many times, and I assure you that when a new Hakriyaa is named, your Odaibha and his partiality for you will not be allowed to continue.”
They would have left the discourse there, but Bhaaldhena was astonished to hear such open slander against one who had done everything to secure the peace of their people and could not allow it to go unpunished. He felt it advisable to revive the stonecutter’s recollection on this point and swiftly traded Mhardhosa, who was now subdued, for the stonecutter. He gripped the front of his linen tunic and held him close, lifting him off his feet with a tapered look. “I do not know why you chose to disparage our Odaibha,” said Bhaaldhena in a low and menacing voice, “but you should remember who is responsible for our new home on the mainland. You may not agree with his methods, his kindness, or his sympathies, but you must and will honour his achievements. You were injured by him, but the injury was one you created. You thought you would receive his praise by giving him a beautiful home, but you chose the wrong one to lavish. He is selfless, and you, by giving him an extravagant home he did not ask for, were not. You accuse him of partiality, we should accuse you of selfishness. You tell me which of the two is the grater fault.” Bhaaldhena had done his speech and was unanswered. He placed the stonecutter on his feet and flexed his remarkable shoulders, and implied that the stonecutter should be on his way with a brooding pout.
“I will finish my work at the barracks,” was all the stonecutter’s reply after adjusting his linens, and without another backward glance, he left the temple grounds to reconsider his mistake and to think twice before diminishing the teacher and paternal figure of three trained Amghari.
A few of the temple assistants, with their pretty features, braided hair, and tall robed forms, had seen the altercation. They had little idea what was said between the two parties, but the vehement reactions of the three Amhadhri were enough to excite their interests. It was a general rule amongst the Haanta women not to offer themselves for Khopra until sufficient reason had been produced: a gesture of interest must be made, abilities and talents must be exhibited, physical prowess must be expressed, and upon the whole, the man of their design must prove himself superior than all of the other warriors of immense distinction. They would take a leatherworker or even a miller boasting excellent qualities, but amongst the Amghari, so many men who were in exquisite form and who fought to be the best even amongst themselves, no quarter could be shown here where making requests for Khopra were concerned. Here before them were three such specimens: one reserved and defensive, one seemingly vicious and precipitant, and one protective and unpretending. They inspected the three Amhadhri from their place near the fountain in the gardens and began to whisper amongst themselves which of them would do for the performance of their most sacred and pleasurable ritual. They looked first at Jhiaanta: his dark brown skin, small features, looped white hair, and light violet eyes were enough to recommend him as a partner, but he was small, too small for what many of the Haanta women were used to enjoy. His sleek body and fibrous muscles might suggest his skillfulness, but his redwood longbow was all their glowing interest. Such a rare weapon might belong to someone equally as unmatched as the weapon itself, and they were therefore disposed to consider him as a more than worthy candidate. They looked next at Bhaaldhena: his ocher skin and amber eyes were nothing to animate where his black braids and immense stature were concerned. His overbearing might was all their delectation: his thick and powerful legs, his wide and chiseled waist, and his gargantuan upper carriage were only a complement to his beaming countenance and amicable smile. The two large and hooked blades hanging from his waist recommended his place as a gifted warrior, and though he seemed approachable and everything they could desire, there was something wanting in his air. He seemed boastful to them, but not boastful from any real complacence. It was a false arrogance that deterred them, one which they had seen him employ at various celebrations to garner a few women to decorate his arms. He might be pleasing to regard, but his feeling the need to use this complacence when there was no occasion to do so gave him the aspect of one wholly unskilled in the area that was most important in this instance. They would accept him if he should ask, but he, even with all his powers of strength and size, was not enough to impress them. Then, they looked to Mhardhosa, and all their interest soon lay chiefly with such a prospect. He had the manner of a true Haanta Amghari: severe expression, unmistakable strength, taut waist, carved muscles, high cheekbones and wide maw, and while the broken sword at his side gave them some cause for discussion, his rare obsidian skin and extremely handsome attributes were his chief attraction. They would try for him first if they could, for they knew of his affliction though they were not well-acquainted with his character.
They went to speak to them before they could reach the entrance to the temple’s outer sanctum. They smiled and blushed and said what was polite, but they were intently observing and judging their manners: Jhiaanta greeted them with a bow and a simple smile, Bhaaldhena assaulted their senses with flexing muscles and prideful winks, and Mhardhosa, who gained all their attention, bowed low and said a gallant “Kodhanaas, sisters,” to address them. His voice was profound and pleasing, and their sensibilities were aflutter to hear Mhardhosa speak. They began hovering near him and asking him the general nothings of how his training was and what he planned to do in the later evening hours, but he excused himself and said he was engaged with his meditations for the night. He made his apologies as civilly as he could, and the women noticed that the more they spoke to him, the most agitated he became. They knew that his vexation was not on their account. They forgave his manner and felt for him exceedingly: such a handsome and valiant and remarkable creature, with his long interwoven white braids and pained red eyes, so untouched and thrown away due to an inbred torment. The notion of it excited them as much as it did make them sigh for his cause. They would have to chose one of the other two Amhadhri, and as Jhiaanta was so timid and apprehensive, diffident to seem over-eager and too willing to please without being able to acquit himself his supposed faults, they must speak to Bhaaldhena, who, though with all his ascendancy of height and muscle, could not compare with one of Mhardhosa’s superiority in temper and appeal.
Soon, however, all their endeavors to entice and lure were done away when the Themari suddenly emerged from the temple’s inner sanctum and greeted them with, “Kodhanaas, Amhadhri. I am surprised to see you here at this time in the evening. Long has it been since the last time you came for Khopra, Jhiaanta and Bhaaldhena.” And then, with a raised brow and warning inflection, said, “Are you honouring the assistants this evening?”
The women were instantly repelled to learn of such inattention to duty and pleasance, and while this could be excused on Mhardhosa’s side, it could not be the same for Jhiaanta and Bhaaldhena. They wondered why it had been so long since their last visit when most of the Amghari went every evening, began to wonder if they should be worthy partners for such an important ritual, and after a few scrupulous looks and anxious whispers, they shook their heads at the Themari, murmured through their goodevenings and flocked away, giving one another chary glances as they returned to their corners of the garden.
While there were many others in the collective and around the temple who would have readily and happily accepted an offer of Khopra from either Bhaaldhena or Jhiaanta, both were too much disheartened to make their inquiries now. Jhiaanta, ever concerned that his powers of conversation or his accomplishments were not adequate enough, blamed himself for their leaving, and Bhaaldhena, always seemingly chasing after his catch without catching, chided the Themari for his candor with a culpable look. He groaned in disdain, as a chance to harvest at least one of the pleasing and doting women, if not two or three of them, was now lost. He might have managed to ensnare even more than three with a few additional muscular contractions, but he had been rejected for inexperience and now they would know him as having boasted the best of his qualities with having little to commend his gloating. He was much more modest and devoted and blithesome than he would have them believe, but his need to impress overpowered him and it would be his ruin.
When the Themari asked the question again, “Not this evening, Themari,” was Bhaaldhena’s restrained rejoinder.
Jhiaanta endeavoured to forget his faults for a moment and continued to relay Khantara’s apologies of not being able to attend the Mivaari the coming morning while Mhardhosa remained beside his brothers in respectful silence. Though he must be relieved that the teeming women had gone and that his mind could now be tranquil, he could not rejoice at their leave. Amidst his distress and budding fury, he had felt a momentary mirth in gaining the women’s interest even despite his known affliction, for it meant to him that though he thought himself an unsalvageable beast, incapable of intimacy due to his ethnaa, their staying was a testament that those whose opinions mattered more than his own on the subject believed otherwise. He smiled within for Bhaaldhena’s disgruntled loss, for Jhiaanta’s invented faults, and for his own forbearance of the women’s company, which made him hope that one day, passed all of his decided and irremovable agonizes, he might yet be able to honour a woman who could tolerate his inborn adversity.