Somewhere in Between

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Mei

Ahyu

Naen

Ahjin

"These are all for the princess?" Mei's voice echoed through the wood and stone structure that was to be her residence, a whistle following as her hand glided over the smooth plaster that kept the structure together and gave it a polished look. "Even little Nana didn't get this grand of a welcome," she continued to remark ignoring the glare Ahyu threw at her.

"This is a real princess after all," Naen retorted instead, her chin wavering up in a slight tilt as she appraised the many gifts and offerings the Wanggiya tribe had managed to gather for the Aprainia royalty. "I wouldn't dare to compare someone as valuable as that, it is just a shame that she will marry the second son and not the first," she spoke airily. In the presence of anyone else the words of the Gingiya betrothed would have been taken as a snide towards the princess, but those present knew how to take differently.

"They kept your pride and honour in consideration after all, undoing the sacred vows that had you marry my older brother would shock your clan as much as offend our ancestors," Ahyu tried to console Naen who threw him a mild smile.

"I wish they would, just as I wish you didn't have to leave," she sighed in response, her hands extending to the young man that was set to depart as a warden for Aprainia. There was fondness in the eyes of Naen, more like a sister to Ahyu than any of his brothers had been his siblings. "A hostage, that's what you will be. At least you are sensible, for I can't trust Mei to be so for you," she laments, interrupted with a loud protest from Mei which the guard couldn’t fight, for they rang true.

"Don't grieve too early, perhaps Yuyu here will love Aprainia so much with all their culture and supposed civilization that he can't bear our tribes anymore!"

The voice belonged to Ahjin who strode into the compact building meant for the princess he was set to marry, an easy smile on his face and a whip slung over his shoulder. The smell of the hunt was still fresh in his clothes, just as the fragrant oil lingered around used to wrestle his men.

"You already chose a 'civilised' name, didn't you? In the style of the eastern kingdoms, as if the name given to you by our ancestors is too vile to be used in their company?"

Naen held up an arm, stopping Mei from drawing her blade as Ahyu merely took the words, his eyes downcast as he greeted his half brother with a low bow. The remark coming from the second true born son came from a place of hurt, they knew that much. A marriage he didn’t want, and the humiliation of having a warden brother more of a hostage than anything else. If the roles had been reversed Ahjin would have joked about the adventure, and the hell he would give the Aprainia courts, but he was too valuable to let go of so easily, basically an heir if the cards were played right, which angered Ahjin all the more, knowing his eldest brother and the disappointment of the Gingiya clan.

"You are making fun of me. I'm merely following orders, though I'm glad I was given my freedom in naming myself," Ahyu answered, smooth and dignified as Ahjin scowled, his expression darkening before cracking his whip on the floor.

"Stupid nonsense, and all for what?" Ahjin snarls, his frustration finally showing in the most ironic place of all, his dark gaze travelling over the presents gathered as another loathsome expression filled his eyes, "we're subduing ourselves to people too proud to do their own work," he spits.

The room falls quiet at that, two pairs of eyes downcast in wise silence while Mei defiantly throws her chin up, her arms planted into her sides as she lets go of a huff.

"But aren't you winning? A real princess as your wife, your place as the heir is guaranteed. The Gingiya are beside themselves knowing Nana will never be the matriarch!"

The remark is not wrong, but it hits a snare nonetheless as Ahjin's eyes lock with Mei's, his own temper flaring and only preserved at the quiet figure of Naen stepping between.

“Mei,” she warns sharply, finally managing to have the guard back off as she rolls her eyes. Somewhere Naen worries about Ahyu being left in Mei’s care, if he will be able to manage the boisterous guard while in Aprainia.

"You two should leave, the day is late and the road is long. Ahjin, be good, you won't see either for a long while, perhaps never," she commands, the air of regality and elegance oozing off as all present wonder what a waste it is that she will never be able to lead.

"Don't delay your own marriage, sister," Ahyu finally resigns himself, kissing Naen's hands in a sign of respect before he makes one last bow, "my only regret is that I won't bear to witness it," he tells her with a smile, but all know that if Naen has her way the ceremony will never take place.

"Keep an eye out on each other, Aprainia isn't like our tribes, where our elders solve our conflicts, or where we wrestle another to forge friendships," Ahjin mutedly tells the departing pair, finally pulling out the flask of wine he had brought for them. "I replaced a chest full of this stuff, you will miss it," he grins at both Ahyu and Mei who clasp his hand before they truly depart. The shift in demeanour doesn’t go ignored as Mei is quick to sling an arm around Ahjin, her usual cocky smile reappearing.

“You know Ahyu, civilised since birth, with his fine manners taught by Naen. What about me though? I can’t wrestle Aprainia, or at least, I don’t think I should,” Mei laments her fate before pulling Ahjin out of the princess manor, “so, wrestle me one more time before Yuyu and I leave. It will be the last time you have some challenge.”

That would be the last time the four of them came together. Three days later, Ahyu entered Aprainia through Laria from the east, travelling light and swift on the horses provided for the journey. No carriages for the warden from Naragi, a conscious decision from the Wanggiya who wanted to show that their people could undertake the journey without the luxuries the Aprainia afforded themselves. As if wishing to remind Aprainia of their humble origins that they upheld back in Naragi. The differences between both places, and their cultures came stark. Where Aprainia commanded their lands, Ahyu felt that back home there was more unity instead, but he couldn't tell for sure. Home, after all, didn't have a true royal family permanently settled.

Back home Ahjin was still asleep, rather sleeping through the whole splendour and ceremony of the arrival of his bride. Naen, however, stood her ground, eyes cast over the wide fields over which their horses grazed freely, a fine dust of mist coming from the waterfalls and the heated ponds nearby, hiding the Wanggiya clan in a layer mystery for any trespasser that was to arrive.

"They dug up the ceremonial wine, for the wedding," a voice joined her from the early dew. Naen remained unstirred, her eyes cast into the distance from which the Aprainia princess was expected to come as she ignored he first born son of the Wanggiya clan, "could have been mine," the male continued, to which Naen only scoffed.

"Not mine," she answered, chin finally lifting to meet the older male with a smile, "but it could be yours," she tells the other without much elaboration. There was none needed, every one of the Wanggiya childes, as the Naragi tribes had come to call them, knew that the arrival of the Aprainia princess was just another competition between the many trueborn sons of the head.


@MaryGold
 
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MaryGold

rebel without a claus
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  3. Adaptable
Genres
romance. angst. drama. modern. fantasy. supernatural. adventure. crime. period pieces.
Houria

Meisoon

Rayyan

Zameer

"Princess Houria!" A hushed yell, but a yell nonetheless, rang through the palace halls. One that had reached the ears of the young princess as she pressed her back against the cool tiles of the palace wall, and waited until the owner of those words walked right passed her form. The princess waited quietly, holding her breath until the sound of their footsteps could no longer be heard. Only then did she peek her head out, surveilling each direction the hall stretched down before stepping out a tentative foot.

For now, it was empty, but with the castle being as busy and bustling as it was today of all days it would not be long before it was loud with the sound of courtiers walking about and discussing the newest change to their kingdom. Or more precisely the send-off of one of their own. How easily and happy they were to throw away their own princess if it meant strengthening an already powerful country. But what was one person for a greater cause? Or some the king, her father, had told her in much prettier words. The meaning was all the same.

Princess Houria was determined to say her goodbyes to one person who she knew cared. Perhaps the only one who argued against the wedding idea and failed. But trying meant something.

She was quick on her bare feet, rushing past doors where voices could be heard and rounding one corner after the other.

"Hamshīrah? (sister)" Rayyan called to his younger sister, his face portraying confusion at the sight of her rushing from the corner. Though his face was puzzled, her own broke out into a smile as she rushed over to envelop him in her arms without all the grace she had been taught for a princess since she was a child. Still, as her beloved brother, he wrapped his arms around her and squeezed.

This could be the last time in a long time they would be able to hold each other, after all.

"I wanted to see you before they packaged me up with all the other riches to send to the Hala clans." Her lips twisted at the mere idea. Houria had been trained in the art of control, controlling her body language, her facial expressions, her tone, her words, and her emotions, but when in the comforting presence of her only sibling, she had none. "I know Baba has scheduled you so heavily you wouldn't be able to see me off."

Rayyan's face cracked a smile as a little chuckle left him. "He is afraid I will sneak you off elsewhere to save you from the people of the mountains." A more polite way of putting it. The courtiers of Aprainia had always referred to them as less than, uncivilized folks who knew nothing about true structure. But oh how the merging of their people would change all that. As if they had any true choice.

"I don't want to go."

"You don't have a choice, Houria.”

“I know, but-”

“We all have our duties and this one is yours. You are of Aprainia royalty, you need to act like it.” Rayyan said unsmiling. His voice was as stern as he had ever allowed it to be with her before. He did not frown at her or glare, but his stone face was neither welcoming.

Houria frowned until the muscles in her face loosened and matched his expression. At that moment, she recalled all her lessons and acted on them. “I understand.” She told him.

Rayyan softened and leaned over to press a gentle kiss on her forehead. “Come now, I am sure they are looking for you. I will walk you to your carriage.”

Her brown eyes rested on him, not protestingly, but questioningly.

He chuckled again, already beginning the walk. “I will take a scolding from Baba if it means seeing my sister off.”

What he didn’t add was that it may be the last time he would see her. None of them did. Houria only smiled and strolled next to his side, appreciating the comfort of his company while she still had it. She would miss him the most in Aprainia.

“My lady! My princess!” That familiar voice called again.

Rushing to them, Meisoon appeared flustered and out of breath. She raised her head relieved when see her, her shoulds sinking and her hands clasping to her chest. “I have been looking everywhere for you. And close behind her tail was Zameer.

“I have been looking everywhere for you.”

“I was bringing her to you myself, lady Meisoon.”

“Thank you, Your Highness,” she bowed her head but did not lower herself any further. They were all familiar with one another, raised in the same gardens, climbed the same trees, and dined on the same foods. When they were not in the public, there was no need to act any differently regardless of station.

Zameer raised his hands to show off the dainty shoes he held. Behind his mask, it was hard to read his face, but his eyes displayed a smile when he spoke. “You will need these.” He leaned over to set the pair in front of her bare feet, bowing to her as he did so. “May they take you to good places, my princess Houria.”

“Thank you, Zameer.” Houria whispered softly and slipped her feet into the slippers.

Meisoon was grinning. She was always grinning, the girl was too full of boundless positive energy for her own good. “Then shall we go, the four us?”

Rayyan looked to Houria and then to Zameer, who raised his brows. “We shall.”

That was days ago. And yet the memory of it played over and over again in her head as they traveled the distance to the mountain lands. It was colder than Aprainia which was always warm or hot and only cool on the night of winter.

The smell of the sea no longer clung to her hair and clothes. The very thing she used to whine about she now desperately missed. She missed the music of the court bands and the dancing that took place, the practices she joined in with the court ladies, the nagging of her mother, she missed it all. She missed home.

And with each night they stopped to rest, where she was allowed to lay down and think, she missed it more. The only comfort she was given was that of Meisoon. The girl was her companion for life and knew the language of her soon-to-be family more than Houria even knew. But then she had never expected to marry into the men who were so unsophisticated, guideless, as her Baba had said about them.

Meisoon and Houria worked on their embroidery while they rode in the carriage each day. They sat and practiced the language with one another. While Houria stayed somber, Meisoon stayed bright and full of life. She was always much better at adapting than Houria.

And when it came the day that they would be arriving, she helped Houria into her best silks and jewelry, fixed her makeup, and spoke gently to her. “You look lovely, Your Highness.”

When Houria said nothing in response, she did not hesitate, she continued, “I think you should at least try to get along with them. Your husband especially.”

“He is not my husband.”

“Yet. But he is your fiance. And you will be a part of not just a new family, but a clan.” Meisoon’s gentle voice went firm within a second. Houria found herself unable to argue. For now.

When they arrived, Houria was not afraid. Nor was she excited as Meisoon appeared to be. However, her hand still found its way into Meisoon’s as the carriage came to a halt. She squeezed it tight as their servants alerted the clan leaders of their arrival and prepped for their opening.

She still was not ready to face the reality when the doors were opened and Meisoon left first, smiling as beautifully as always. Houria tried to exit with just as much grace, but the face she wore was made of pure stone as she stepped her first foot into an unfamiliar land.



Rayyan watched the land below his window as the sun began to rise and the dawn transformed into sunrise. By now, his younger sister would be in Wanggiya, walking the strange lands of their people. He would not be able to attend her wedding as he had always imagined he would when he was a child, naive and full of wondrous ideas, but rarely realistic. As he aged though he grew in wisdom and seriousness.

The time before the morning was officially started was the only time he was allowed a moment of peace to himself. Well, almost to himself. There was always a certain man who was nearby him, whether from the shadows or in the clearest daylight.

Now, however, he was very clearly seen standing next to Rayyan, his back against the wall, eyes focused on the tiles of the floor. What he was thinking about always remained a mystery until he was speaking it out loud for all to hear. And only in the company of the two of them did he ever share such thoughts. It would be inappropriate for a servant to do otherwise.

“Do you think they crossed paths with Princess Houria?” Zameer’s voice was soft and could easily be carried away in the wind that flowed through the open window.

“Who?” Rayyan asked, lackadaisical in his response.

“The tribe people’s son. Perhaps they -”

“They’re here.”

“What?”

“They are here.” Rayyan raised from his seat, already making his way to the door.

They were there and on the backs of their horses. How humble of them. Or was it a show of their resilience? Well, they would have to be to survive in the palace they know arrived to.

Rayyan was swift as he walked down the halls, Zameer close on his tail. His father was in a meeting, he was not expecting their early arrival, none of them were. He was the only one with a schedule clear at this time and he as the crown prince should take charge.

As they arrived on their holy Aprainian grounds, Rayyan smiled. It was not as nearly genuine as he normally gave, but the smile of a soon-to-be sovereign. “You have arrived early.” He noted the obvious, tilting his head at the horses. How long had they been riding?

“Welcome, to the city of Trinas. The heart of Aprainia.”
 

Nemopedia

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Mei

Ahyu

Naen

Ahjin

It was humiliating business, to be given away like a bride exchanged between the clans to a foreign land. Ahyu, or Yuhuang as he had adopted himself now, was used to a level of humility in his person, having been born from a concubine rather than the main-wife, but to be exchanged as a warden was, perhaps, a new low he had struck. A low that was further emphasised when Mei opened her mouth to respond for him, as was her nature to do so, diligent to make sure all knew she was bold and unafraid, but also uncultivated and uneducated.

“Couldn't good civil people wait for us, aye?” the guard had responded, her voice already scanting through the air and startling the good doves of the city, perhaps the stranger as well who had waited for their arrival. “We have been riding for days, three days, to be exact!” she continued to exclaim, not minding the wording used which had struck Yuhuang as particular who was quick to jump of his horse, a look thrown into the direction of the wild guard to quietly command her off her horse as well before he placed a hand against the neck of his horse, motioning to the horse at the back with no passenger.

“Our horses are strong and swift, and the weather and terrain were gentle and comely,” Yuhuang answered before crossing his arms over his shoulders and bowing for the man that had come to greet them. He wondered who the other was, whether this was someone of high ranking or someone that ran the errands. Yuhuang didn’t expect a grand welcome, not for a warden, nor for the son of a mere concubine.

“But they are weary now, despite the rest and the sweet water along the way. We are glad to have arrived,” Yuhuang continued with a smile as he rose up from the traditional greeting of his people.

“Wanggiya Hala’s fourth son, Yuhuang has arrived.” The introduction was swiftly made without much decoration. There wasn’t much pride in being the fourth son, after all, especially not the son of a concubine, which he wisely left out, hoping that it needn't be addressed.


Mei

Ahyu

Naen

Ahjin
At the first sight of the carriage on the horizon the signal was given to start the music, drums and wood instruments all mixing through with each other as if to help the princess find the right direction by sound. On a day with thicker fog that would have been needed, but it seemed that Naragi decided to welcome the foreigner into her lands pleasantly, making way for a clear day and an open route in which strangers wouldn’t get lost on their way in, though the same couldn’t be said for the way out, for that was the mystique of Naragi and the secret to the survival of the clans.

“Where is Ahjin?” the first prince asked, to which Naen scoffed, a sarcastic smile escaping her while she turned her eyes up at the man she supposedly was betrothed to, her chin just turned downwards as she peeked at the man through her lashes.

“He is your brother, and that could be your bride,” she reminds him again while one of the horsemen quickly makes off to drag Ahjin to the venue and greet his rightful bride.

It was an icy demeanour that Naen managed to shake off soon enough when the princess and her attendant stepped out of their carriage, her arms crossed over her shoulders as she bend through her knees shortly before rising up again; their traditional greeting, followed by a smile as she strode over to the princess, the bells of her headwear and the beads of her dress clinging in a merry way on the beat of the music in the background.

“Welcome, sister,” came Naen’s greeting, stiffer than she had intended, but all the more poignant as the first prince met with the representatives that had escorted the princess, slipping into the perfect duty of the son while no sign could be seen of Ahjin.

“Call me Naen, from Gingiya clan, but feel free to call me sister,” the female continued to introduce herself, turning around with a wave to lead the princess into the camp, the round tents and the dancers a merry sight as the light fog that forever persisted as a baseline gave the performance its haunting appearance only announced by the bells they wore at the end of the ribbons attached to their dress.

“I’m sure it has been a long journey, but please do enjoy everything that the Wanggiya has prepared for you.” The invitation is extended, as Naen leads the princesses into the camp, passing by the smaller tents as the musical fanfare follows them, attracting the attention of the rest who all came out to pay respect to the passing princess much in the same manner as Naen had done earlier. It came with a mixture of excitement, incited by the music, but also a wariness bordering hostility, for many saw the allegiance as a sign of weakness from the Wanggiya clan, before reaching a larger tent in the centre, a concrete block not too far behind it in which the four childhood friend had said their goodbyes days before, Ahjin standing right in front of it with one hand on his hip and another holding a flask of wine.

It spelled all sorts of mischief already and Naen’s demeanour would have dropped had she known the male less, but she knew him and expected him as she steered the princess into the direction of the largest tent, an apologetic smile on her face;

“You should greet the head first, address him as Ama; it means father,” she instructed the princess, hoping that the remaining brothers would meet the princess here in the main hut instead.
 

MaryGold

rebel without a claus
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  2. One post per week
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Genres
romance. angst. drama. modern. fantasy. supernatural. adventure. crime. period pieces.
Rayyan

Zameer

Houria

Meisoon
Rayyan’s brows drew together, furrowing only briefly in response to the woman’s loud voice. Loud being the most polite word to describe it, and her too it seemed. But Rayyan was not expecting great manners from these people, he had heard enough about them from higher-ranked court meetings and foreign lessons with his own teachers. The male of the two travelers was far less talkative and had well-equipped etiquette. Even if it was not the Aprainian etiquette. He would learn soon enough, they both would if they were to survive socially in palace life.

Zameer took a step forward, ready to speak on Rayyan’s behalf. No doubt to inform them that this was the prince they spoke to, the heir to the throne of a growing country. The very same country that forced them to relocate into the clutches of Aprainia’s court. Unlike the lower-ranked woman, he ceased uttering anything of the sort when Rayyan looked at him and shook his head slightly. The guard and close friend were more offended by the interaction than Rayyan were himself.

“I am glad your horses carried you here safely, fourth prince, Yuhuang.” He said carefully, a smile reaching his face at the end of the sentence. The smile was more so for appearances than anything else. “Prince Rayyan, the heir to Aprainia’s throne, welcomes you with open arms.”

Introductions were done. Almost.

Rayyan glanced at Mei whose Zameer’s eyes were slightly narrowed at. “I’ll have your horses cared for, they’ll be fed and given a place to rest. I am sure you two would like to do the same after the journey you’ve made. Zameer will have the stable boy take them and instruct the servants to prepare your rooms.” He gestured to the larger man.

He was hesitant to leave them, even more so without getting a word edgewise in. But he bowed his head and followed instructions as he was trained to do. Duty over desire. “In the meanwhile, you must be famished. We can have a meal or simply a few things to bite on while you tell of the journey and yourselves. The king won’t be able to see you until dinner tonight, I am afraid.”


Rayyan

Zameer

Houria

Meisoon
If there was anything familiar thing on these foreign lands, it was the sound of clinging metals attached to garments. A strange thing to focus on, but better than the marriage that would take place between herself and the tribesman whose face she had never seen. That was generally how those things went, but she thought she’d have the grace of marrying a prince or king or anyone who didn’t live in the mountains with a culture so unlike her own.

Houria bowed her head, lowering herself, returning the greeting to the woman who called her sister. Naen of the Gingiya clan. She would have to remember that, though, Meisoon was better at retaining this sort of information better than she. One look at the woman and the polite smile that blossomed on her face told her she was taking in every detail of information. And when Houria quietly reached out her hand to her once more, she took it and squeezed it tightly, offering her all the kind, comforting, and encouraging words, unsaid. She let go to follow Naen at her side to the head tent.

There were many faces, they passed, but only one further away from all of the excitement of the day. The apologetic look Naen extended her answered the question that came to mind in an instant. He was her betrothed. Was he a drunk? How awful. They said the tribespeople lacked manners, but he hadn’t greeted his wife to be that traveled far to meet him. That was common courtesy in any culture, was it not? Houria was offended for herself, clenching her fists in the fabrics of his dress.

She nearly missed Naen’s instructions, her words drifting in the back of her head as she stared straight ahead. Meisoon tapped the shoulder of her princess gently, and whispered the considerate question, “are you ready, my lady?” all while straightening the wrinkles in silks and arranging her headpiece perfectly.

“Yes,” Houria looked between her and Naen - sister. She said she could call her sister, was it customary? Would she ever feel comfortable enough with her to do so freely?

Houria entered the tent when granted permission. At first sight of the head, she lowered her eyes and bowed as she had been taught to, the loose jewels of her headpiece jingling and Meisoon following her posture from behind her. “Salam, Ama. The first princess of Aprainia, Houria, has arrived and greeted you.” Slowly, she raised her head and offered as sincere a smile as possible, hoping it would be as warm as the Aprainian sun. “We’ve brought you many gifts from Trinas that I hope you will enjoy. My father and I both thank you for welcoming us into your tribe and family.” Only half a lie.
 
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Nemopedia

Chaotic Lawful
Original poster
SECURITY DEPARTMENT
DONATING MEMBER
FOLKLORE MEMBER
Invitation Status
  1. Not accepting invites at this time
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  2. Slow As Molasses
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  1. No Preferences
Mei

Ahyu

Naen

Ahjin

A welcome with open arms, or so it was claimed. Ahyu had his reservations about believing that one, eyeing Zameer in particular but voicing none of his concerns. His new name, self-chosen, sounded strange in the accent of the new country. Strange and definite, for it solidified the reality in which Ahyu found himself. A hostage, a foreigner. Nothing more.

“Well met, prince Rayyan,” Ahyu responds, the horses led away into the direction of the stables as Mei follows, their luggage are with them after all, and so are the gifts that were brought from their homeland. Gifts that suddenly seemed too crude for the fine heir of Aprainia whose clothes seemed more delicate than anything Ahyu had ever worn. The people of Naragi wore layers upon layers, roughly spun and boldly coloured. To combat the chill that comes from their misty lands, but also to contrast the fine fog that hides them. And when Ahyu took a step another reminder came, for the sound of bells gently ringing, seemed painfully loud against the foreign walls they entered.

The prince seemed to want to say more, and so did Ahyu. Something like a compliment to Aprainia, or how prince Rayyan’s sister should have arrived already in Naragi, but nothing sounded right and by the time Ahyu had formulated something the prince had already left him in his room, Mei sauntering in with their luggage not soon after as she dropped the bags unceremoniously onto the floor.

“Dull place,” she exclaims, to which Ahyu throws her a warning look, his eyes scanning over the place that was to be his quarters for the while he was in Aprainia. Not a tent, but a building with walls and windows, lacking furs and lacking anything that reminded him of Naragi. The air was dryer, the weather was warmer, the luxury more obvious.

“It will take some adjustments,” Ahyu states as he pulls off his jacket, finding the layers he grew so used to wearing too heavy for the climate and too warm for the weather. Mei had already dropped herself into what looked like a bed, or a couch, as her bells rang loudly, while Ahyu carefully pulled off his.

“Prepare the presents, Mei and get changed,” Ahyu tells his guard with a sigh, suddenly feeling homesick as he casts a look out of his window, staring off into the horizon for a moment before tearing his eyes away. There was no use lamenting his situation.


Mei

Ahyu

Naen

Ahjin

Salam, the greeting sounded so elegant, the accent from the foreign princess even more so as she introduced herself. It brought back the memories of Naen’s own arrival in the clan, years back, feeling just a foreign and out of place despite hailing from the same country. Naen had been much younger than Houria had been.

The tribe head of the Wanggiya clan, had smiled fondly back at the princess, the title of ‘ama’, even before marriage, delighted the man who was quick to raise his hand, indicating for the princess to raise her head. “Are you cold?” the man asks, as to break the sheer facade of formality. The Wanggiya head wasn’t a man of strict traditions, or fond of them, but he was an amicable man despite his reputation in the fields.

“Naragi isn’t Aprainia, our climate is humid and our weather cool, especially so in the mornings and at night. Have Naen redress you,” Ama tells her fondly, the familiar bells in his hair ringing merrily before his expression turns into a scowl.

“Ahjin, don’t be idle, greet your bride,” he calls for the groom to be, already dissatisfied with the performance of the prince when the older brother strides in first, tall and proud and in every aspect more respectable than the younger.

“Ama’s firstborn, Ahli,” Naen whispers, “and his second born, Ahjin, your betrothed,” she quietly leans into Houria, explaining their titles, “but it doesn’t have to be.” She adds in, before straightening herself up with a smile before crossing her arms and bending her knees to greet both men.

“Ahli hasn’t married yet,” Ahjin is quick to open the conversation, a smile overtaking his scowling features, “and yet Ama brings in a new bride!” The exclamation is met with a silence as the tribes head exhales deeply, which Naen follows as she lowers her head.

“Don’t be disrespectful,” Ama warns Ahjin sternly, “if I marry the two of you now it would be an injustice to princess Houria, but give her a fair chance. It isn’t her choice to come to our misty lands.”

Ama’s words barely have any effect on Ahjin whose expression turns into a scowl again before he turns towards Houria, his face split into a close-lipped smile before he pays her his respects.

“Welcome princess, sister Naen will take good care of you,” the male tells her, which, to everyone in the tent, was the best they could expect from the second born, followed by Ahli;

“My brother lacks the manners to represent Naragi, please feel welcome,” the firstborn greets, introducing himself before Ama’s bells ring once more, heavy braids thrown over his shoulder as the head, a massive bulk of muscle, signals for everyone to take their seat.

“What did you bring, princess?” The question isn’t asked out of greed as much as that the tribeshead impatiently wishes to move on from the formality and introductions taking place.