Playing the Game 6
If there had been one thing I had learned from my time in the enclave it was that the Dantassi did not need much prodding to have a celebration. What I had hoped would be a quiet going away dinner turned into an enclave wide affair, much to my chagrin.
“You have a lot of friends here Kycsi’i.” Navaari had chided when I had grumbled about it. “They all wish to say goodbye properly.”
Saying goodbye properly was really an excuse for a night of revelling, although I didn’t mind as much as I seemed to. It was the prospect of leaving that made me sad not the party to say farewell. After all the Dantassi enjoyed life to the fullest. ‘We feast, we dance and then we couple to celebrate living!’ Navaari had once said. This was no exception but the reason for it made me a little melancholy.
Thrawn had been in contact with the Grey Wolf and because the storm which had grounded him was finally starting to taper off. Satisfied that there would be no safety issues, he had arranged for us to meet with his ship as soon as the weather cleared enough. I was fairly certain that after the farewell celebration I would not be in the mood to pack so I decided to do it before rather than after, I was in the middle of trying to decide what to take and what to leave when Navaari knocked on my door.
“If you are looking for Za’ar he’s speaking with Ma’kehla.” I said without turning around.
“Actually it was you I was hoping to find.” He said closing the door behind him.
I sighed as I stopped what I was doing to look at him. “Have I ever mentioned how much I hate packing?” I asked.
He just chuckled. “Often.” He said. Then he looked around at the room and I saw a flash of sadness cross his face. “What ever you want from this room is yours to take, Kycsi’i.”
I nodded feeling the lump in my throat grow. “I don’t think I will be wearing much Dantassi fashion on Nirauan though.” I told him trying to lighten the mood a little.
“Well now, you never know what you’ll be needing and when it might be of use.” He commented, his fingers casually caressing one of the dresses I had laid out on the bed.
I nodded. “What did you want to see me about, Navaari?”
He smiled. “Ah, I thought we might talk about what will happen tonight.” He said with a smile.
“You found something?”
He nodded. I believe I did, so do you want to hear it?”
I heaved a huge sigh feeling some of the tension I had been holding inside dissipated. “Will he go along with it?”
“I think so, but it needs to be done right.” Navaari said with a nod, then he sat on the bed and motioned for me to sit beside him. “So, listen carefully.”
And I did.
After our conversation outside Navaari had told me he would look through the laws, the ceremonies and rites to see if there was anything that I could use to essentially get back at Thrawn for what he had done in invoking the Rite of Pen’nai Da’ataith that would not have any negative repercussions for either of us. The Dantassi marriage ceremony of Nai’da had too many restrictions on it because it had been designed with growth of the Enclave in mind. Marrying under this ceremony would mean that both Thrawn and I would have to give up our other lives and come to Hjal and settle down for good. That was never going to happen in a billion years and since I had no reason to invoke the Rite of Pen’nai we needed to find another way for me to effectively and publicly bind myself to him.
I had never given marriage much thought before and as far as Thrawn was concerned it had actually never really entered my mind. It had always been enough to know he was there, but now I wanted to let him know that I had meant what I had said when I had told him I was his and only his. If this meant getting married well I was happy with that but both Navaari and I agreed that if Thrawn had wanted marriage he would have asked for just that. So it had to be something symbolic and meaningful but not legally binding which was the tricky part. Just about everything ceremonial or official which happened in the Dantassi world had some sort of deep significant meaning and usually came attached with a bunch of obligations. As Navaari explained to me what he had found out and how I was to go about it I grinned. It was perfect and I hoped Thrawn would not see it coming.
“It is not often I get to surprise him, so this will be worth it.” He said with a smile. “Now let’s get this mess sorted out, we have a celebration to attend in a few hours
With Navaari’s help I managed to finish my packing in time to have a bath and decide what to wear. By the time Thrawn returned to the apartment I was ready and waiting for him, curled up on the sofa with a book.
“We’ll be late if you don’t hurry.” I told him.
He just arched an eyebrow at me and vanished to change. I envied the fact that it took him less than ten minutes to get ready. It had taken me nearly two hours. When he appeared from the bedroom, changed into fresh clothes he looked so handsome that it took my breath away. Dantassi clothing suited him and he had chosen to wear black which set off the colour of his skin perfectly. I tried to picture him with hair as long as Navaari’s was because that would complete the outfit and the image but I had difficulty doing that. For as long as I had known Thrawn his hair had always been short, military short but he had told me that at one point in his life his hair had been very long and that if I did not believe him then I should ask Voss Parck.
I stood up, smoothing the long skirt of the dress I had chosen down, brushing away non existent dust and wrinkles. I was nervous and he could see that but I hoped he would put it down to the size of the gathering rather than anything devious.
“I have never you seen you wear that dress before. It is most becoming.” He said as he circled my waist with his hands, pulling me to him.
“Thank you.” I replied, making a half hearted attempt to move out of his hold. He simply tightened his grip so I didn’t resist when he leaned in to kiss me either.
“Do not be too sad, Tekari. We will come back here again, you know.” He murmured, nibbling on my ear, making my stomach drop.
“We’ll be late if you start that.” I replied as his mouth moved from my ear to my neck.
“It is acceptable for the guest of honour to be a few moments late, it allows everyone time to be seated first.” He said. I knew that tone of voice well, that honey laced I think I could forget about attending any celebration and just whisk you off to the bedroom sort of voice.
“Plenty of time for this later.” I said.
“Only if you stay in the enclave this time.” He teased.
I rolled my eyes. “Then we should go before Navaari sends out a search party.” I said pushing back from him. He just grinned and let me go, by the time we arrived in the great hall everyone was waiting.
As Navaari had suggested I waited until after the feast but before the revelling really got underway. It was during this time that the enclave Elder would call me forward to give me the traditional farewell blessing. When the moment came I felt as though all the eyes of the galaxy were staring directly at me. I made my way to the dais and stood in front of the High Elder. For a long moment he stared into my face and then he smiled. I knew that he had been one of the few of the enclave’s high council members that had not disapproved of me being here and I was grateful for his support. He was a powerful member of the enclave and everyone respected him greatly whether they liked or agreed with him or not. It had been he who had presided over my unmasking and as I stood in front of him now I could not help but recall that moment in my life. Somehow it seemed pivotal now looking backwards but at the time I had been too overwhelmed to even think about it.
When he spoke the entire hall stood silent. It was almost unnerving; you could have heard a grain of sand drop. I listened while he recounted my history with the enclave and wondered at the person he was describing. The things he said had done did not seem real to my ears yet they were true, he spoke of my contributions and he spoke of Navaari and Za’ar. When he was done he laid placed the tips of the first three fingers of his right hand against my forehead and he spoke the traditional blessing for those departing on a long journey. When he was done, I had to fight the tears that threatened to escape as he placed around my neck a bone amulet carved in the shape of a seated wolf pup. He smiled at me when he saw my expression. I did not have to ask who had made it. I knew Navaari’s work too well for that.
When he asked if there was anything I wished to do I nodded and told him. It was not a surprise to the rest of the enclave when he called both Navaari and Za’ar to come forward. As my appointed guardian and my Ta’kasta’cariad it was expected that I should thank them both publicly for all that they had done for me. I did this gladly. I had so very much to be thankful for and much of it I owed to these two men. They both accepted the small token that I had for each. Thrawn smiled as he took the small bone carving form my hand. I turned to face Navaari who nodded when I gave him his, passing to me the small bracelet he had made for this occasion.
“Now, Kycsi’i.” he whispered.
I turned to face the elder who looked at me with a smile. He knew because Navaari had cleared this with him first, it was never a good idea to surprise the enclave Elder with ancient rituals in the manner that Thrawn had once done. I stood up on tip toe to whisper in his ear and handed him the bracelet in such a way that no one else could see it. The Elder regarded it for a moment and smiled. I could feel all eyes bore into my back and I knew that Thrawn was staring at me with curiosity.
“Are you certain?” The Elder asked softly.
I nodded. “Absolutely.” He smiled at my answer.
The Elder nodded and motioned for me to step back and then he looked at the sea of faces watching us puzzled, waiting , expectant. The air crackled and everyone knew that something different was going on. There was a very long, pregnant pause and then the Elder spoke.
“Akiana’myshk’apavjäska, in accordance with the rite of Pen’nai Da’ataith, has chosen to give her Ta’kasta’cariad a token as an answer to his request.” He said.
Thrawn glanced sharply at me then to the bracelet that the Elder now held up in his hand for all to see. The expression on his face was unreadable.
“It has long been said that Da’hajn weaves lives together without us knowing why and so it is with the lives of Akiana’myshk’apavjäska and Nikätza’arth’pavjäska. The Rite of Pen’nai Da’ataith has tied him to her but with this token she now affirms that there is no other in her life but him.” He continued. “Do you Nikätza’arth’pavjäska accept this token? Do you accept this woman, past, present and future and the bond-gift that she now offers, to publicly acknowledge your request of Pen’nai Da’ataith?”
I turned to look at Thrawn. For as long as I had known him I don’t think I had ever seen him rendered utterly speechless before. A myriad of emotions rippled across his features and for a second I thought he might refuse. He stared at me for what seemed like forever and then he turned to address the Elder.
“I accept her gift, past, present, future, and all that it entails.” He said clearly. My knees nearly gave way with the relief that flooded through me. Navaari had said that there was a chance he would refuse even though this little rite was purely ceremonial and had no other significance or repercussions. In essence it was a formal reply to what he had done the very first time we had been here and nothing more than that but I knew better and this had deep meaning for both of us, more so than either of us could ever put into words, still…he could have refused it but he did not.
The Elder gave me the bracelet and I looked at Thrawn. His face was expressionless as he held out his right arm to me. With trembling fingers I slipped it on his wrist. It was a beautiful piece of work, similar to the Nai’da wrist torque that Navaari wore except instead of three strands of wire twisted together there were only two and silver one and a gold one, closed at either end with caps of pale blue metal.
As I clasped the slender metal band and tightened the gap so that it would not slip off I whispered “My heart to your heart is by Da’hajn forever bound.” It was an ancient line from an even older myth and although I had spoken it softly because of the acoustics in the great hall just about everyone had heard it. Everyone knew the story and murmurs of approval rippled through the watching crowd. Everyone loved a happy ending to a complicated love tale; it seemed it was even better when it happened in front of one’s eyes.
Time stopped for a nano second and then Thrawn reached out and pulled me to him. He cupped my face with both his hands and shook his head but before I could ask what that he had meant by that, very slowly and deliberately, he kissed me with such reckless abandon that had he not been holding on to me I would have crumpled to the floor felled by the muddle of emotions I felt coming from him in waves. His kiss lasted forever, languid and explicit in a way I had never known him to show in public. If anyone had any doubts about how he felt for me this was his way of shutting them up. It shut me up as well and once I got over my initial shock I did my very best to kiss him back. I knew then, in that moment I was whole again. When he finally, almost reluctantly drew back from me and held me at arm’s length his expression was so open it brought tears to my eyes. It was as though everything I had ever felt for this man was crashing around me and I opened my mouth to tell him that I loved him but he placed a finger across my lips and shook his head ever so slightly in a ‘don’t’ motion..
“Deeds speak louder than words, Tekari.” He looked at me intently and I nodded that I understood. It would have been too much all at once. I didn’t need to say the words, not here and not now because he knew anyway, exactly how I felt, saying it out loud would have been redundant somehow. Before I could think to speak he kissed me again and this time the enclave erupted in a cheer so deafening I hoped it would not bring the building down about our ears. The Elder grinned and clapped us both on the shoulders, then gave the word for the party to begin.
I thought I had seen the Dantassi celebrate with abandon but anything I had witnessed before this paled by comparison. As the music started and people began to dance, and move about Thrawn simple held on to me, the whole world swirled and blurred around us as we stood very still. He brushed the tears that had escaped from my eyes and were sitting on my cheeks away with his thumbs. I was certain he was about to say something but Navaari intervened by pulling us both in a bone crushing embrace. I could not remember the last time I had seen him look so pleased. When Thrawn untangled himself from the huddle Navaari had created I laughed at the expression on his face. He truly had not seen this coming and while it had pleased him, it had also annoyed him, just a little.
Navaari gave him an enormous grin and clapped Thrawn on the back so hard I saw him wince. “Now we are even, Nikätza’arth’pavjäska!” He grinned.
“Indeed, I had suspected that she might try to initiate something but this did not occur to me. I take it I have you to thank for this elegant piece of jewellery?” He lifted his right wrist to show off the slender silver and gold metal band that glinted in the light.
Navaari nodded. “Wear it well, kej’son.” He said. The two men regarded each other for moment and what passed between them I could not say but they clasped each other’s wrist and touched foreheads which I knew was sign of great honour and deep affection.
“And you little pup, are you happy?” He asked sweeping me up in a huge embrace, swinging me off the ground in a wide circle.
“Yes. Thank you, Navaari, thank you so much!” I told him as I buried my face in his neck and held onto him as tightly as I could wondering if it was possible to explode from loving someone so much. When he set me down on the ground again and I had to hold onto Thrawn’s arm because I was so dizzy. He just laughed but before he or I could say any more An’jast’a had come up and tapped him on the back.
“Let them be, you old fool, after that display I do not think they have standing around, chattering to you on their minds. So come and dance with me instead!” She said grinning at me. I liked An’jast’a a lot and I was glad that Navaari had finally let her into his heart. I had hoped to see them bound before I left but I guessed that would be a little while yet. I just watched as she dragged him into the middle of the dancing crowd and then turned back to face Thrawn. He stared at me and drew a deep slow breath in and then let it out even more slowly.
“That was very well played, my dear.” He said softly.
“Are you cross?” I asked, still uncertain about his feelings in this particular matter.
His eyebrow arched and a slight smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. “No, not at all.” He replied shaking his head to emphasize this, and then he added, as he caressed my cheek with the backs of his fingers, “You honour me greatly.”
“That’s what you said the last time as well, but I didn’t know what it meant then.”
“And do you know now?”
“No,” I conceded, making a face, “not really.”
“Well, consider it something for you to puzzle out on your own then.” He replied, giving me one of those smiles which said everything and nothing all at the same time, driving me crazy. I just sighed and shook my head, he enjoyed getting the last word in and sometimes it was better just to let him win. I didn’t protest when took me by the arm and began to lead me away from the dais. “So… shall we dance?” He asked.
“I though you’d never ask!” I replied and laughed as we were swept up into the crowd.