Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Star Talker: Part 36: Demon Spawn

The server returned carrying a platter of kofta, ful medames, couscous, and more pita bread. I piled a bit of each onto my plate, feeling a bit more settled after listening to Rha’han’s history.

“How did you end up on Lo’Rah, then?” I said, taking a bite of kofta. It was both familiar and not. I had had kofta before, but this was likely made from the meat of a native animal rather than any animal I knew.

Rha’han filled his own plate before continuing. “When I was born, I was hailed as an incarnation of a god called Vishnu because of my four arms and gold dusted skin.” 

I nodded. “I’m familiar with Vishnu.”

He took a bite of food. “Right. Well, Lo’Rahni babies don’t look much different from human ones at birth, aside from the extra arms. Lo’Rahni also aren’t well known outside of the diplomatic summits, or weren’t, anyway. My mother was hailed as the bearer of a god.” He gestured broadly with his hands, affecting an imperious tone. 

“We were given a nice house and all the material goods we might need. Much of my early childhood was spent being taught by priests and listening to my mother tell stories about my father, the great Raja from beyond the stars who gifted her with a child. I think she believed my father was an avatar of Vishnu.” He took a bite of his food, a slight frown creasing his brow. 

“When I was about seven, I suppose, my horns started growing in. It concerned the priests. They began to think I was a demon’s spawn instead of a godchild. They wanted to kill me.” A sadness creeped into his eyes then, as if it were something he had not thought about in a long time. “So she left to find a way to contact her old employer. By the time she found him, my horns had grown in enough that it was obvious enough who had fathered me. The diplomat knew I was neither god nor demon, just the simple byblow of a careless prince who gave little thought for the women he used.”

He snorted. “It’s a wonder really, that I’m the only one. I assume I’m the only one, anyway. I think he usually dallies with women he can’t actually breed with.” He stabbed at the kofta with a fork. “The diplomat got in contact with the embassy here, trying to get a hold of my father to, you know, let him know I existed. He...did not want to have anything to do with me, his marriage being somewhat strained as it was. But Amrach was there when he received the news...and the photos. Hard to deny me when I looked identical to Amrach as a child.”

He looked up at me with a sad smile. “I am here by the grace of my uncle and whatever god you believe is watching. Ta’riima has never quite gotten over the fact that I’m Ashrad’s first born, even if I am illegitimate. She has never wanted to so much as look at me. I was basically kept out of sight with the servants and slaves until I was old enough to put in the barracks for military schooling.”

“And your name?”

“Oh, that. It was changed when I was registered as a Klotharan citizen to be more...well...Klotharan. It wasn’t too hard to get used to. They aren’t that different.” 

He seemed not to care about it, but I wondered if that was true. I had also been ripped away from everything I knew at a young age, by the same man, even. But he hadn’t taken my name from me. I had the faintest memory of him trying, but a boy named Ka’iir, my only real friend on the ship, had said he liked my name, and Ashrad had dropped the subject. 

“Do you know anyone named Ka’iir?” I asked, wondering what had become of the boy I’d once known. 

Rha’han stiffened, the cup of tea freezing halfway to his lips. “I do,” he said carefully. “Why do you ask?”

“You talking about your name change just made me remember my time on the ship. Ka’iir and I used to play together when we managed to hide from the tutors.” I noticed his jaw tense up, as if he were grinding his teeth.

He carefully set his cup down, licking his lips with seeming reluctance. “Ka’iir is my eldest younger brother.” 

“Oh! That’s good. I can see how he’s doing then. I’ve never had brothers before. Perhaps I can steal yours.” I flashed him a benign smile. He relaxed noticeably, but I could still see a bit of tension in his jaw. 

I took a bite of the kofta, watching him carefully as I chewed. “So, your mother tongue is Hindi?”

He blinked, seemingly surprised by the change of subject. “Um, no. Bengali, actually.”

“Really? I don’t speak that one. Can you teach me?”

His eyebrows rose. “Uh, I really haven’t had much reason to speak it for the last few decades, so I’m sure I’m a bit rusty. I do have a few books in my study written in it though, so I suppose I could attempt to walk you through them.”

“Wonderful!” I said, genuinely excited. “It’s been a couple years since I’ve had the opportunity to play with a new language.”

Rha’han opened his mouth to speak, but his words were cut off by the sudden sound of music filling the restaurant.

Wicked Wednesday

1 comment:

  1. I like these moments between them, them seeming more at ease with each other, and more like a married couple :)
    ~ Marie