Playing the Game 4
The wind which had howled about the enclave like an enraged bantha had stilled to almost nothing and it felt as though all of Hjal including my self was holding its breath waiting for Navaari to answer my question.
“You have to understand, what he did….”
“I know what he did!” I cut him off. “At least I know what he has told me, which isn’t very much. I asked a few times what that all meant but he was vague about his answers, evading the question. Everyone evades this question and now you tell me you would have stopped it?” This was what Thrawn and I had discussed the night previously while lying in bad, talking long into the early hours of the morning. The discussion had never turned ugly nor had it become an argument, both of us were still being too careful with the other for that to happen, but I had questioned him about what he really meant by being bound to me and what the strange little ceremony which had taken place at my unmasking rite had truly been about. His answers had been evasive at best and at worse he had lied. When I had called him on it he, in much the same manner as my uncle did, had asked me to back off and let the matter be. “What is done is done, Tekari,” he had said, “I am bound to you, is that not enough?” I had backed off because to take it further would have meant a fight and neither of us was ready for that yet. But this secret thing he had done to me in public without anyone else’s knowledge before hand was biting at my curiosity. There were whispers about it within the enclave but no one would speak to me of it and when I had tried to learn of it more I got told off. I looked at Navaari knowing that if I was ever going to find out, this was the time and the place for it and I asked my question again. “What I want to know is why? Why would you have tried to stop him?”
“Because, such a thing should be discussed and both parties should know about it not just one but he seemed to feel this was the best way. I never agreed with that but, like you, he is wilful. I let it go because your acceptance was only to allow him to bind to you, not the other way around. Never- the-less, you should have been told of his intent, especially as you did not understand anything that had been said, or the agreement he had made and the implications that went with it, which in itself was unusual and remarkable.”
I frowned, “Just about everything he does seems remarkable or unusual, how was this any different?”
Navaari’s reply held an undercurrent of anger in it that I did not often hear from him. “He has bent every rule we have about outsiders when it comes to you and no one quite knows how to deal with that.” It wasn’t an answer.
“I don’t know how to deal with it.” I told him tartly. “I don’t know why he does anything he does most of the time, especially when it comes to me!”
“Ahhhh Kycsi’i, that is because when it comes to you, he is …well… cautious.” Navaari replied sounding tired.
“Cautious? Why?” This was the eternal question I never seemed to be able to find satisfactory answers for. I kept asking it over and over.
“Well, I suppose in order to know the answer to that you need to learn a little about his past. There are some things you don’t know, things I am sure he won’t tell you because maybe he is ashamed, maybe he is afraid you will think less of him.” Navaari shrugged a little.
“How could I think less of him? I love him.” I murmured in a whisper.
“That is what I told him but he doesn’t always listen.” He said with a snort. “When I first met him, he was brash, idealistic and full of himself. His work with the CEDF had made him well known amongst his people and not always entirely for the right reasons. He was arrogant even then, thinking his way better, and so defiant, always arguing his reasons for being right using his logic and tactical genius. When he came here to help in the defence of this planet it was against his people’s wishes, but he came anyway and it was a blessing for us that he did. His brilliance saved us and our home.”
“I know this Navaari.” I interrupted.
“Mmmm,” Navaari nodded as he took a slow thoughtful draw on his pipe. “What you don’t know is that during this time, he was courted by several women here who saw in him the potential for a perfect mate. Yirnika, Mechele, and Torvai to name just three of the girls who nearly clawed each other’s eyes out to be with him but he would have none of it, he would not even bed with them simply for pleasure even though they made it abundantly clear they were his for the taking should he wish. He always politely declined their offers and invitations, each and every one, until the rumours began to fly that he was already married or that perhaps he was more interested in men than in women.”
“Yirnika? Tanika’s mother?” I asked.
“The very same.”
“Oh! Well, that explains a good few things then.” I said ruefully.
“Been giving you a difficult time has she? I was wondering why you were liking to avoid her when ever possible, it is a good thing that daughter of hers doesn’t take after her mother.” Navaari nodded. “She took Nikätza’arth’pavjäska’s refusal of her affections very hard. To this day I think she is bitter and angry at him because of it. He swept into this enclave like a storm stirring things up, though that was never his intention. It would be no surprise that she would be passing these feelings on to you, after all you have managed to obtain that which she could not.”
I glanced up at him, meeting his eyes which glowed softly in the darkness and waited for him to continue. I know he read my ‘why?’ on my face but I bit my lip to keep from uttering it out loud.
“He bound himself to you in an ancient ritual, made it plain and public that he would never give this promise to another. It must have galled her, after all those years, to see that he chose you, an outsider to this enclave, and an alien, and a slip of a girl who was half his age over her. She has never forgiven him for rejecting her offers, despite the fact that he really did make it plain he was not interested. I thought she had mostly forgotten him until the two of you showed up here the last time. The fuss that stirred up was most amusing to watch, of course everyone waited until you were both gone from here before they were saying anything about it.”
“He’s never mentioned if there were women in his past to me.” I said with a small shrug, not doing a very good job of hiding the strange and sudden flare of jealousy I felt, “but then again he hardly ever mentions much of his life before he came to work for the Empire and I don’t like to press him.”
Navaari nodded. “He was a young, handsome, eligible man and when I had asked why he refused to even consider the attentions of these young women, he’d told me that it did not feel right to encourage them, he knew he could not be what they wanted. He spoke of his career and said that he could not be with anyone who did not understand that duty came first, that his love of space and ships would never allow him to be tied down and he was quite right in these things when he spoke of the women here. While we are being a somewhat nomadic peoples in the past, we have settled here and even though we travel off world to hunt, to track , when we are done, we come home. The women who chased him wanted a mate who would not only provide a comfortable living but also be around to warm the bed and father offspring. He told me it would have been wrong to give them false ideas and false hopes, that there were reasons for his decisions that would become clear in time. ”
“Well he was right about that. I think that Za’ar and I have been together a lot less than we have actually been apart, but I never expected anything else.” I said as I sat back against back of the bench and looked out into the night. “He is a man with….”
“…stars in his blood.” Navaari finished for me. “I am certain that, because you understood this, is part of what drew him to you in the first place.” He said thoughtfully, “You did not chase him but you did not reject him either. I think that intrigued him into wanting to learn more about you and the rest came later. What began as a desire to satisfy his curiosity grew into something he could neither back away from nor totally control. This was and is a precariously interesting situation for a man like Nikätza’arth’pavjäska to find himself in.”
“He, as with most Chiss, has been trained from birth to acknowledge the feelings he has but to tuck them away allowing reason and logical thinking to lead and direct his path. He was never a man to allow his emotions to get in the way of his, ambition, duty or his analytical skills. However, where you are concerned this is not the case.” He paused for a moment. “He can be ruthless if the moment demands it and not hesitate to kill if that was called for. Yet, this is a side of him I suspect he has not allowed you to see, he cares too much for what you think of him and I have never known him to be this way with any other being. He recounted to me a story once about having to destroy an enemy ship despite the fact that he knew it was full of prisoners, captured beings bound for slavery. He said the humans who were with him at the time this occurred were horrified. But, he told me, if he had to make the same choice again, he would have and I believed him. When he spoke of this incident he did so without emotional attachment at all but when he speaks of some of the things that you have endured he cannot hide how he feels. For a Chiss to be so emotionally attached is difficult to say the least.”
I shivered. Navaari was wrong about Thrawn not showing me his ruthless side. I could still hear the sharp crack of bone as he broke the neck of the man who had tried to rape me on Myrkr. He was just careful not to show it all that often, but I knew it was there. I didn’t say anything so Navaari continued.
“This was all a long time ago, when he was a young man in the CEDF and he first had contact with beings from your part of the galaxy, humans, a woman and two men. Smugglers, he said. They were on the run and had somehow managed to hyper into Chiss space. Instead of destroying them he brought them on board of his ship as his guests, though I expect they did not see it in this way. It is how he learned to speak basic but it is also around the time he lost his brother.”
“Thrass.” I whispered.
“You know about this.” It wasn’t a question.
“I only know a little, that his brother vanished along with a jedi woman trying to prevent the ship from getting into the wrong hands. It had to do with maintaining balance of power within in the Chiss Ascendancy, but I don’t know much more than that.” I shook my head.
Navaari nodded. “It is a wound that runs deep. He feels responsible for the loss of his brother. There were dire consequences for him because of his actions. He does not speak of it because guilt makes it painful and difficult. He knows a thing or two about hiding from the truth, about shoving things that hurt deep down inside and about loss.” He spoke gently but there was also anger in his words. Anger directed both at me and at Thrawn. In Navaari’s opinion we both kept far too many emotions and secrets locked up inside our hearts. It wasn’t something I could disagree with either. “I am not one to be believing strongly in fate but I will tell you this, your life, his life and mine are wound together in more ways that we could ever be imagining. I had thought that once he left us after the defeat on the Ninlial and returned to his own world that I would not be seeing him again but that was not the case and over the course of many years our paths crossed time and time again. Not too often, mind you, but enough that I knew our threads were woven into the same story. And then there was you.”
He paused for a moment and looked at me, I returned his stare and didn’t look away until he nodded slightly, “When I met you on Rothana I was angered that one who was not us would dare to take on the mask of the Dantassi so boldly, so brazenly but when I saw the amulet around your neck I knew that this was not an accident and that something bigger than simple chance was at work. When you openly told me your story without guile or lie I understood that I had been sent to that planet for the single purpose of meeting you there. The connection I felt to you as we sat and spoke that day was not something I ever thought possible with one who was not of my kind. It puzzled me how Da’hajn could tangle her threads so badly and I was convinced this was a mistake. However, I was wrong. Meeting you was something I needed, I just did not understand that then. It had not been my plan to go to Rothana although it was often used as a stop over for my kind, you understand, I was on my way to Kerest and had booked a passage on a ship that was heading straight there. It was a broken hyperdrive and a very odd twist of circumstances that brought me to Rothana and kept me there for two days. I did not understand why until you told me who it was that had named you in Dantassi fashion. Then, as you like to say, the last piece of the puzzle felt as if it had fallen into place.” The scent of sweet smoke mingled with the icy cold air as Navaari stopped to suck on his pipe and consider his words.
“When I saw him next I challenged him about you, but we only had a little time to speak and there was so much that needed to be said. What he had done, well there was no precedent for that. You are one of a kind among our enclave, perhaps even amongst all the Dantassi. There have been one or two other ‘Traeth who have wished to join us, become one with the clan but it was forbidden. Nikätza’arth’pavjäska could get away with it because while he was under my protection, taken into my family he is not of the blood and bears the name of another clan. He was in a very unique position to circumnavigate our rules without actually breaking them, which, incidentally, is why neither he nor you bear my name. ” He sighed. “I was so angry with him over you. You, a slip of a ‘Traeth who knew nothing of our ways, ignorant and innocent should not have been given the key to our world, yet there you were and no one, not even the elders could deny his right to do what he had done with you. When I asked him why, he simply said, ‘Because my thread is bound with hers.”
“What did he mean by that?” I asked, leaning into Navaari’s warmth. The wind was definitely dying down and still chill had begun to creep over everything.
Navaari looked at his pipe and tapped the dregs of the ashes out. “I am sure that you have heard some of the stories about Da’hajn, yes?”
“A few.” I nodded thinking of the bedtime stories Tanika told her two small children.
“It has been a long time since the Dantassi or the Chiss have been worshiping any gods but their stories remain in our world, touching our culture in more ways that even we know. One of the surviving tales likens life to a giant, endless tapestry forever in motion. Threads, which represent lives, weave in and out to create the pattern of the galaxy, some threads are short while others are long. Some are single and separate and others are wound together making one colour out of two, blending, becoming stronger. Long before the Chiss hid underground to cuddle against their planet’s inner warmth they believed that this giant tapestry was woven by a goddess who plucked these threads from the trails of stars and the tails of comets, colouring the bright white light with the red of giant stars, the blue of planets’ skies and the fiery green of the dancing lights and so on. Each thread is a life force and she weaves their singular and separate tales into the never ending tapestry we call life. It is a simple tale from a simple time when no one understood where we all came from.”
He glanced at me and continued, “While in this enlightened age this myth is now relegated to the status of a bedtime tale parents tell their small children, we still talk about fate in terms of the Great Weaver, Da’hajn. By telling me what he did in the manner that he did, Nikätza’arth’pavjäska was letting me know how important you were to him. The idea that Da’hajn weaves two beings’ threads together, joining their lives is a powerful one, even today. We symbolize this union by exchanging tokens that remember her and her weaving skills.” He lifted his arm and pushed back his sleeve showing me the slender torque bracelet that encircled his wrist. It was made with three different kinds of metal wire twisted together to make one single cord. It was an incomplete circle the two ends finished in stylized snow wolves’ heads facing each other. It was beautiful and while I had seen it many times before I had never thought about it having any meaning.
“Why are there three different strands and not just two?” I asked as I studied the beautiful piece of jewellery.
“The silver strand is for moonlight, representing the female, the gold represents the sunlight and the man, twisted together they represent the couple being given to each other and the third strand, the blue one which is made from metal only found on a few planets, Csilla and Hjal among them, represents Da’hajn who binds all lives together on the great tapestry. It is to her magic that we pay homage with this token. You have seen this ceremony; you were at Belljani and Karhek’s bonding.”
I nodded remember that joining and how beautiful it was. I had been to weddings before on Tatooine but somehow the fairly dull civil ceremony that passed for a wedding on my home world seemed lacking in beauty and meaning that the Nai’da Rite of the Dantassi had. I knew that what Thrawn had done with me and the Rite of Nai’da had been two different things. The wording had been different and the meaning behind it also was not the same but I had not been able to unravel just how this was because I could not remember everything that had been said and no one would tell me now. I had the feeling that if I let him, Navaari would ramble on about everything except the one thing I really wanted to know so I decided to push.
I let out a slow, angry breath, “Get to the point, Navaari. Tell me what he did to me and the reasons behind it.”