So, as I am striving to post at least once each day, I will also be sharing snippets of fiction as well as essays.
This is a rough draft, though the writing time took more than 15 minutes as I intended. Still I had fun with it.
Today’s is from Rejected: A Tue-Rah Story
Spoiler Level: No spoilers for Tue-Rah Chronicles
Note: brief vocabulary explanations found at the bottom
Naatos chose the garden because he wanted to be alone. As he passed beneath the stone archway and into the quiet haven, he knew he had to come to a solution. Hatet had become more aggressive with her advances, and she had made fools out of both of them.
He sat on the silver marble bench heavily and let his hands slide over his knees. This was all too much.
This garden should have offered peace and consolation. The ancient trees and thick lamb’s ear and heather bushes scented the air with many pleasant notes, both contemplative and calming. Except for now, the chaos within him overwhelmed even that.
Soft footsteps sounded outside in the hall. Mara started to pass by with a basket of apples. Bundles of herbs and white and yellow flowers sat on top. She broke off when she saw him and then entered the garden. “Why so grave today? Are you all right?” She put the back of her hand to his forehead. “Are you sick?”
“No.” Naatos pulled back. “I am thinking. Go.”
“You’re brooding.” Mara sat and angled sideways to face him. “Is this about Hatet? I like her.”
“As do I. She is many things.” Naatos refrained from looking at her in case she took that as a sign he wanted her there.
“Many wonderful things.” Mara smiled. “She’s bold, she’s ferocious, she’s intelligent. And she is willing to literally break down doors to get to you.”
“But she is not my viskaro.”
“Couldn’t she be?”
“What makes her unsuitable?” Mara tilted her head. Her long mass of semi-curly hair fell over her shoulders. The humidity made it all the thicker even as sweat dampened her face.
“Mara…I came to the garden to think. Not to talk to you.” Naatos motioned toward the open doorway nearest them. “So go.”
“If you didn’t want to talk to someone, you would have closed the door. I know you well enough not to fall for all that kabuliblech.” Mara combed her fingers through his hair, gathering it to the side with each stroke. Small strands and tangles caught on her callouses and scars. “If you want me to get WroOth or AaQar or QueQoa or Khanaan or someone else, I will.”
“That’s not the issue.” And she was right. He had left the door open. Naatos sighed. “Mara,…are you braiding my hair?”
“It’s getting too long. You’ll catch it in the door or window or a cabiza’s mouth.”
“I know how to handle it.”
“You look handsome with it braided.” Mara parted his thick black hair. “But more importantly it soothes you.”
It was true, but it puzzled Naatos how she had determined this. He had never told anyone. Then again, she had braided his hair when he was ill. Something about the motion was calming. He glanced at her sidelong. “Surely you have more important things to do.”
“Nothing pressing. The babies are sleeping, and so is WroOth. They’re all tired from playing monster.” Mara smiled crookedly. “So…why not Hatet? She is drawn to you.”
“Apparently. But as I am strong enough to fend her off and not accept the locking, I do not have to join with her.” Naatos remained as he was, shoulders half-slumped, elbows resting on his knees. Even if Mara insisted on braiding his hair, he would not act as if he enjoyed it.
Mara shook her head. She twined the hair about. “I don’t really understand that. If you like her too and she likes you, why not see if you are compatible? WroOth said if you decided you wanted to be receptive that, with a little time, you both might. Maybe give it some time and kisses?”
“That is not the issue.” Naatos started to shake his head, but Mara pulled the braid taut.
“Hm.” Mara nodded. She sounded like she was talking to one of her children. She lifted up one section of his hair. “I think…maybe this whole idea of you locking with a Neyeb is the problem. Maybe you should reconsider that. It may be keeping you from seeing someone perfect for you.”
“No.” Naatos took hold of the braid as he turned to look at her. “I am strong enough to resist, therefore, it is my choice.” It truly was that simple. Hatet had had numerous chances to overpower him with the locking, but it had not taken. “I do not choose to accept her even though I like her. This is the Vawtrian way.”
Mara drew both legs up onto the marble bench and sat on her knees. She studied him. “But maybe that’s the problem. When aren’t you strong? You’re so set on where you want to go that you’re ignoring this other path that may be even better. The only way anyone changes your mind is if there’s no other option” She picked up the braid once more and resumed plaiting.
“It may be better,” Naatos said. “But it is not what I want.”
“Well…” Mara shrugged and scooted back on the bench to maintain tension on the braid. “Sometimes not getting what you want is part of the fun. And Hatet is lots of fun. She and WroOth have always been close. She’s been close to all of you.”
“She tried to lock with WroOth as well.” Naatos recalled how poorly that had gone as well. WroOth had not understood the first time, and he had not expected the second attempt. After that Hatet, did not speak of it again. Up above a tracker eagle called out to its mate. The second responded within the span of a breath.
“Yes. And she tried with AaQar, but he’s hard to catch. Unlike you. I almost always know where you’re at.” Mara tugged his ear lightly.
“It’s because I let you know.” Naatos watched her. She had changed a great deal in the past years, but her core head remained the same. “If I did not anyone to know where I was, they wouldn’t.”
“I know. You are terrifying. But anyway, I just don’t think a Neyeb is a good choice for you. You like to fight. You yell.”
“No. But you’ve got this tone, it’s not yelling, but it feels like you’re yelling. And you know, when you’re wrong, you don’t like to admit it. I suppose none of us do, but you take it farther. A Neyeb is going to be more likely to give you a literal mind adjustment rather than work with you. Or you’ll scare her. And what if she just collapses? WroOth said that some of the Neyeb avoid you because your mind is such a terrifying place.”
“He’s exaggerating.” Naatos propped his chin on his fist.
“Is he?” Mara leaned closer. “Naatos, I love you, but you carry so much heaviness and darkness inside you. Even I can feel it, and I’m not a mindreader. Terrible things happened to all of you, and nothing changes it. At least another Vawtrian could endure through it by your side rather than having to experience it with you while also trying to walk with you.”
Naatos stared at the high stone wall of the garden, avoiding her soft yet piercing gaze. The Neyeb Council had already rejected him once. Despite their promises to continue the search, he wondered if any compatible Neyeb would ever exist. Mara was close in her understanding why it was important, and nothing would convince him to give that up.
“Well, if you aren’t going to give it up, then you need to do your best to start filing down the points and cleaning out the muck.” Mara tied off the braid. “It’s not fair to her otherwise. And, yes, I know life isn’t about what’s fair, but if you want to be a good husband, you won’t make her go through that. And I still think Hatet is good.”
Naatos held up the long braid. It reached nearly to the base of his back. Large white and yellow olna blossoms were woven throughout. “Flowers…”
Mara giggled. She sounded very much like an older version of Sadyr. “You’re going to cut it anyway, and I had extra.” She sank back on her heels. Her smile became more crooked. “So aside from Hatet trying to lock with WroOth and that not working and trying to lock with AaQar and that not working, why are you so set against her? You two might actually become compatible.”
Naatos bristled. “That is precisely the point though. “She wanted both of them before she wanted me.”
“Oh!” Mara clapped her hands over her mouth, a bright grin lighting her face. “You want someone to fall in love with just you. You don’t want Hatet because she wanted your brothers before you. You are so much more like Awdawms than you want to admit.”
“Mara.” Naatos realized too much had been exposed. He hadn’t intended to share this much.
Mara laughed as she stood. “You don’t want to be found out and yet you want to marry a Neyeb? She’ll know you inside and out within the space of a few weeks.”
“They also have a divine gift of discernment and compassion so they know better than to speak of what they’ve seen.” Naatos shifted his weight back.
Mara’s smile became even more crooked as she drew closer. “I know how to keep secrets too.” She kissed him on the cheek. “We just want you to be happy. And this I do understand. I’m sure if you had to deal with being the second or third pick, you’d deal with it. I suppose too that when all the seeds are sown, it makes as much sense that you would find a Neyeb who could make you happy if they find one you’re compatible with. It’s taken me years to figure you out. You are so prickly.”
“It doesn’t seem to bother you,” Naatos said dryly.
“Well of course not. And it doesn’t bother Hatet either. Now.” Mara held up her hands. “I understand that you don’t want to lock with her. That’s fine. I wouldn’t ever suggest going into a relationship because of obligation, but…” Her expression grew more serious. “Have you ever considered why Hatet bounced between all three of you? Is it really that you’re all so charming and wonderful? Or…” She tapped her finger to her cheek. “Is it maybe that she is one of your oldest friends, and you all started locking without letting her know a thing? And maybe, just maybe, she’s afraid that she’s going to lose her friendship with all of you because you’re replacing her with viskaros?”
“That’s a very Awdawm way of looking at it.” Naatos hesitated all the same. There was no spark or depth of interest when Hatet touched him, and it could not be a one-way sensation between Vawtrians. Which meant that she was forcing this. Some other feeling compelled her.
Chuckling, Mara walked beneath the willow tree with the long silver moss. A small yellow salamander scuttled away beneath the black mulch. “You Vawtrians aren’t so different from us as you like to think. Maybe Hatet doesn’t love you romantically even if one day she could. But she most certainly loves you as family, and I think she’d be willing to do almost anything to make sure she doesn’t lose that. Including convincing herself and you that you need to be together.”
“Hatet will not be replaced. Why would she think that?”
Mara lifted her shoulders as she picked up the basket. “WroOth was her best friend. He’d always told her that he was going to lock at the Festival of the Viskaro after he mastered the red fire dragon form. He told all of you that. Everyone in the cadre knew that. And then he met me…” Mara’s cheeks flushed. “I turned his life upside down. And within less time than she can adjust, here comes Rasha. AaQar gave no indications of interest, then biology shocked both him and Rasha. And then you three decided to become Paras. You are no longer the leaders of the Shrieking Chimera Cadre first and foremost, and so much has changed.”
“Hatet is not insecure.” Naatos shook his head. That was impossible. That woman was capable of greater bouts of fury and courage than few he had ever known. But then…the turquoise dragon she had patterned off WroOth, the thuso, she had based off AaQar’s psigolath, and the silver spear she had designed after his own and so many others. He’d taught her how to make it when she’d asked years ago. Much of who she was was similar to them. “Why not QueQoa then?”
Mara lowered the basket so that she held it straight-armed. “QueQoa is the strangest of you all, Naatos. She wants to lock with you because she wants to be near you. But if she were to lock with QueQoa, well who knows if he’ll always come back? How long was he gone this last time? Thirty-seven years? Thirty-eight? And sometimes he gets that look in his eye…like he’s going to fly away.”
“The wanderlust runs deep through him, but he will always come home.”
“Well, I hope so. I like having my brothers close.” Balancing the basket, Mara adjusted the flowers inside so that they did not fall. “And, so you don’t have to ask it, I’ll go ahead and tell you the reason that she is acting this way and none of the others are. Everyone else here either has their viskaro, or they have family beyond this cadre. Hatet does not. You’re all the family she has. If she loses this cadre, she loses everything.”
Pausing, Naatos pulled back. He had not considered that. All this time it had been right before him. “Your perspective is appreciated. I will deal with the situation then.”
“Do you know how?” Mara asked skeptically.
“Yes.” Naatos motioned toward the door. “Now go.”
Mara left, the long purple ribbons in her hair trailing and tangling as she walked. As soon as she passed beneath the archway, Naatos closed the door.
Almost at once, the door clicked open again.
Mara poked her head back in. “I just have to ask. Do you really know the right way to handle this? Or are you just saying that so I’ll leave? Because you have to know that yelling at her or kuvasting her is just not going to work here.”
“Yes, I know what to do. Go away. I closed the door this thing.”
“Beautiful thing about doors.” Mara laughed. “They open both ways.”
“Not if I lock it this time.”
“Maybe.” Mara leaned against the door. “Anyway, promise me you’ll be sweet with Hatet.”
“Good.” Mara darted in again and kissed him on the cheek. “Come have dinner with us tonight. You have to see what my babies are doing.”
“I’ll be there,” Naatos said.
Awdawms – what we would consider human
Kuvaste – non-lethal battles fought for the purpose of calming tensions and dealing with problems
Locking – process by which adult Vawtrians biologically connect to the one who becomes their spouse, become chemically interdependent, and awakens the sex drive
Neyeb – mindreaders
Para – overseers and protectors of the Tue-Rah
Tue-Rah – an interdimensional portal that connects all the worlds of all creation together
Vawtrians – shapeshifters
Disclaimer: This a rough draft, and an exact replica of this scene may not appear in the final version of this story.