Aang had been scarce the last couple of days, and Maala didn't blame him. It seemed she had misjudged the god's popularity among friends. The Scepean had come to realize he had not been exiled, but lost. She was all the more grateful for it, it distressed her to know that such a kind and compassionate creature could have been treated so poorly by his followers.
Unfortunately, this tended to leave her feeling just a touch lonely. It was nothing out of the ordinary. The Ukemanem Tribe had shunned her openly, here at least, she did have one option. Maala reached up and rapped on his door.
When he answered, she would speak in her usual, matter-of-fact tone that Mahin would have become familiar with. "Both God Aang and your paramour have busied themselves. Are you available?" With Aang absorbed by his students, and Toph giving the boy the cold shoulder, they had ended up spending rather large lumps of time together. "A laborer made mention of something called a 'cliff', and I am unfamiliar with this... geographic phenomenon. I am correct in my contextualized assumption that that is indeed what it is?"
Well, at any rate... "Perhaps you would be so kind as to show me? I must admit I am growing quite psychologically disturbed as a result of being confined, and I believe a walk would do me good." With all the strange tension that seemed to be flickering back and forth between him and his fiancee, perhaps a walk would do him good too?
Mahin winced at Maala's choice of description for his Sifu. Despite Rain's reassurances that she needed time to process her emotions after the...occurrence...in Omashu, she did not appear to be doing anything of the sort. After some initial ribbing at his expense in the aftermath of his experimentations with alcohol she had barely spoken to him. It was not that she was pointedly ignoring him she was completely avoiding him. It seemed to him that she was not processing her emotions, she was denying them completely!
"She is hardly my paramour." He said softly, a slight hitch in his voice. "But I am free." Spirits knew his Sifu did not wish to spend any time with him, not even for practice. He had been forced to do that alone.
He listen to her talk about cliffs and nodded at her assumption.
"Yes." He confirmed even more so. "They are geographical in nature. An exposed area of vertical rock. I am surprised you have not encountered any in the Si Wong. Are there no canyons in the desert?" He knew little of the Si Wong. Though he was well read it was mostly unexplored so there was little literature pertaining to the subject.
"Where I grew up there are many cliffs." He told her. "In fact there is very little but cliffs. And pine trees." He added as an afterthought.
"I would be delighted to talk a walk and to share the view with you." He smiled, his first real smile in many days.
"Oh..." Maala looked genuinely surprised for a moment, before her expression was schooled back down into the same indifferent mask. "I apologize. I was under the false impression that the pair of you were betrothed." When she had asked Aang, he had given her a long and confusing answer that she didn't fully understand. Something about pride and inexperience... though he had said they were betrothed.
"The Si Wong is little but sand and sky as far as I know. The Ukemanem Plains and the Oasis of Jibade are fertile, but neither contain much topographical variety." It was sand, scraggly grass, and rock mostly. It hadn't been until Omashu that she'd even seen a 'mountain'. "Pine trees..." She repeated, like a very small child learning a new and unfamiliar word.
"Excellent. You please me." Would be spoken in the same neutral monotone. Maala didn't express her emotions... she narrated them. Turning, she left in the direction of the town. "God Aang is not pleased with the idea of me wandering off without him, but I assume you are an acceptable companion. You are more than capable of protecting me, should the need arise." She turned and flashed him what might have been her best attempt at a mischievous grin. It fell quite flat. "Nevertheless, I think it's best we do not tell him unless he asks." You did not lie to a Godking, no matter what religion he ruled.
By then, they were traveling across the yard, and Maala found herself stopping as she stepped with bare feet into the grass that covered almost every inch of the grounds. Grass fascinated her. She wiggled her toes. "So... You and the Lady Toph will not consummate? I take it you are less than pleased with the arrangement that your parents made?" Then, honestly thinking that she was offering him good, usable advice, she continued with, "In Jibade, when marriages that pleased neither party were made, the couple refused to engage in sexual intercourse. When their parents found their genetic line would not be carried on? Alternate arrangements would be made."
Funny, Mahin didn't seem like he was displeased. "I feel as though I am missing part of the equation."
Last Edit: Oct 7, 2011 23:17:29 GMT -5 by Maala Shae
Mahin frowned, nudging at a small rock with the toe of his shoe. "It is not a complete falsehood." He admitted. "Our betrothal was arranged by our parents...so...TECHNICALLY we are...but..." He sighed, shaking his head. "It is an awkward and highly confusing situation..."
He hoped she chose not to question him further. How could he explain it to her when he could not fully comprehend it himself? He had never been against the arrangement...he had been a dutiful son. Upon meeting her he had only supported it even more, despite her rather...blunt...personality. or perhaps even because of it. She, however, refused to acknowledge its existence.
He was glad when she changed the subject back to the one that had originally brought her to him.
"I know little of the Si Wong." He said. "We travelled through it very fast in our search for the Avatar. I do not know him very well but I believe he would be content with you moving freely in my company."
Maala was very much out of her element here. He was certain that the Avatar was merely concerned for her well-being. In many ways she was so very innocent, even more so than he had been when he had first set forth from his ancestral home with his father to find his wayward betrothed. She knew nothing of this world, or its dangers. There were so many unscrupulous souls who would take advantage of her naivety.
And then they were back to THAT subject again. Why did it fascinate her so? And did she have to be so base in her line of questioning? He could feel the colour flare in his cheeks. Afterall, it was not like he had never given thought to such matters, but it had taken him over a year, and quite a good deal of alcohol, to gather enough courage to kiss the woman in question. To consider so much more...
"I do not believe that it is displeasure with the match." He said thoughtfully. "I think it is displeasure at the fact that it is forced. My Sifu is a very independent woman. She is not one to be dictated to, even by her parents."
He looked off into the distance, towards the cliffs she was so eager to see.
"I believe that she may wish to make her own choice." He sighed. "And I fear due to the arrangement made by our parents that I am not even under consideration."
"I see." She accepted it there for now, though the puzzle still interested her, and she turned it over and over inside her mind. What seemed to be the problem? Why the struggle? What cultural element was she missing?
Perhaps he wasn't as used to her disjointed sense of humor as Aang was. "I was attempting a joke in order to bond with you." She explained to him. She knew very well Aang would be fine with the arrangement. He wasn't a very controlling godking. "God Aang has assured me it is one of the ways social relationships are forged in his culture." She rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "Perhaps I have done it incorrectly." It wouldn't be the first time she'd tried to adapt and fell flat.
"Oh! I suppose that would make sense in the context of your culture." Once again, she had been trying to fit outside situations into the mold of her own life experience. "I had thought she found you genetically unsatisfactory!" Some immaterial emotional reason was far more probable. She had come to realize that people put more stock in 'emotion' than anything else. "For the life of me, I could not figure out why. You are quite a powerful earthbender, obviously smart, and although your green eyes are not ideal, they are still a better alternative than brown or grey... and your bone structure promises attractive offspring." Toph's bloodline stood to benefit greatly from his.
Maala, who had not been paying full attention to him, but rather staring around wide eyed finally turned to look at him. A moment of study had her haltingly ask. "Have I made you unhappy?" Was it something she said? Usually it was something she said. "It was not my intention to distress you." Then again, maybe he was just unhappy about the whole situation. If she had it straight, it seemed to be a knot where he liked Toph, but she did not return his emotions and therefore didn't wish to breed.
Glancing back at him, she would say abruptly. "I am interested in your predicament because I was arraigned with someone who was less than pleased about it as well." Maala wasn't much to talk about herself or her city. Sometimes the 'why' was just as important as the 'what'. "Does that put you at ease?"
A sudden cry and the sound of air crackling caught her attention, and she turned from Mahin to peer out across the grass to where a class of Firebenders seemed to be gearing up to practice. "What an odd sort of place this is." She was just as lonely here as she was in the desert, and she hadn't realized how dependent she was becoming on the foreign god for social interaction.
Mahin sifted through what she had said, trying to determine which part of it was meant to be amusing but could find none.
"It is quite possible I missed your point." He admitted. "I am only slightly more familiar with this world than you are. I spent most of my life locked away from it in my family's estate, more or less a prisoner. A prisoner in a glided cage, but a prisoner nonetheless. I fear I am rather lacking when it comes to social interaction."
He frowned at the mention of him possibly being genetically unsatisfactory.
"Is that how marriages are arranged amongst your people?" He asked. "Merely in terms of improving the bloodline?' Efficient, perhaps, but it seemed kind of cold. Though, admittedly, it could be said that both he and his Sifu came from good stock.
"Our bonds are made on less tangible things...assuming we are allowed to chose for ourselves." He said. "A meeting as much of mind and personality as it is of physical attraction and genetic compatibility." Of course his looks meant little to a woman who could not see them. "The arrangement suggested by my father was merely for power, he cared not whether I or my Sifu were happy with it or even if any children were to result from it. He wanted access to powerful people she calls friend."
"You have not caused me any additional distress." He assured her. "It is a most confusing situation for I cannot fathom her feelings on the matter. There are times when I feel certain she feels as I do, and then, there are others when I am just as certain she does not. A mutual friend of ours has said he sees something between us but that she is using all her considerable strength to deny it."
His eyebrows raised as she spoke of her own arrangement, no doubt one made purely on her physical attributes. She was quite a fine looking woman, and though her colouring was odd he assumed it was of the kind her people favoured, given what she had said about the colour of his eyes. She did tend to speak her mind in a very blunt and forward manner. Was that what had turned her intended off the match?
The sound of firebending, somewhat familiar to his ears, certainly moreso than it was to Maala's anyway, caught his attention just as it had hers.
"I do not suppose you are all that familiar with firebending." He said. "Would you care to observe it for a while?"
Post by Maala Shae on Oct 12, 2011 23:27:30 GMT -5
"Yes. We are very efficient." She had explained the whole thing to Aang. How Jibade had no set form of money, therefore to be in a good, powerful family meant you had the best bloodline. It was something everyone strived for. Instead of marriages for money, they married for connections and genetics. This seemed more practical anyways, as it was far more likely one would fall in love with a well bred, pleasant looking, virile young match than some old miser.
Mahin was kind, but no godking, and she wasn't particularly forthcoming about her culture. They had not known each other long enough for some such bond of trust to grow. "Very well, I am pleased." She knew that sometimes people would lie and say they were alright when clearly they were not. Luckily, he did not seem to be. "I would be of little help with her feelings. I do not always find myself able to follow the irrationalities of it that have become the norms of your culture." Aang would often have to explain himself to her in blunt, often embarrassing (for him) manners.
"You are not getting any younger. The logical thing to do would be to find another, willing mate. This one has obviously deemed you unsuitable to her needs." And to her? That was that. Maala would not factor in any of the illusion that was emotion that he claimed to have. "This lovestruck feeling of yours is little more than a sickness of the mind."
By then, the sounds of bending was drawing her attention and plucking the strings of her curiosity in a tantalizing melody. "I have seen God Aang conjure flame... but... he was often ill." He didn't have the strength to do what those boys and girls were doing. She slowed to stare almost longingly. They were so young, they reminded her of D'jak. "I would not want to distract them from their lessons." In Omashu, she had gotten the impression that people found her distracting. They would always stare.
"No, it is best if we continue on. I want to see a water..." What was the name? "...fall." Was that it? "It was off the cliff?" She shrugged. Everything here was so lush and green, even while the air was cool.
"I am twenty one." He said in a tone of voice that indicated he just might be offended by her comment that he was getting too old. "And in my culture at least, marriages are made for more than the simple act of breeding. In fact, I have encountered many very happy couples with no offspring at all." It was also not something he had considered...at least not any time soon. He wanted to be part of a couple well before he was part of a group. And if his intended was not interested in such things he would quite happily remain a couple.
He paused for a moment as he absorbed her next statement, one that could also be a red flag waved in front of a bull-stallion to one less even-tempered than himself. "And I would call it a sickness of the heart more than of the mind." There was nothing wrong with his mind, after all. He was as logical and analytical as ever. His mind kept telling him his pinning was pointless...well...MOSTLY pointless (curse his Sifu and her mixed messages!)...but his heart refused to heed its warnings.
"I must admit that I have never seen the Avatar bend at all, at least not to my knowledge." Some bending could be so subtle as to go completely unnoticed, especially when the element in question could not be seen. "But I am told he is most impressive."
He nodded at her decision even though he could see it was not exactly what she wanted.
"Very well then." He said. "We shall head to the cliffs. The path through the village is by far the easiest one to take."
Post by Maala Shae on Oct 20, 2011 22:38:49 GMT -5
"The heart is a muscle. It is not capable of manufacturing emotions." She replied, quirking an eyebrow up at him. What odd views he had. "Are you unfamiliar with your own anatomy? I assure you, a heart cannot be sickened or broken, only torn." She had noticed that those of the outside world seemed to assign emotions to various organs that had little to do with one another.
The talk of the village stopped her short, and she shifted uncomfortably. "Are you sure?" She hadn't been into the town, but something that she had learned very quickly was that people tended to stare at her, even with her veil on over the unworldly pale hair of hers. "I have not been in to the town. Is it wise?" Although cutting through the woods wouldn't take them there as fast, it felt a whole lot less intimidating. Nothing but cool indifference registered across her features though. She would follow him whatever route he wished to take.
"In the settlement of the Ukemanem Tribe, I was not welcome..." On more than one occasion if they felt she was dallying, she was tapped on the shoulder by one of the warrior men and escorted out to her campsite. "Will I be accepted in your culture do you think?" It was really no secret, "I find I do not mesh well with the social circles that the god Aang enjoys."
She stopped in front of some tiger lotus flowers and dropped down to a crouch to study them. "What are these called?" Would be interjected politely. The striped petals were looking a little wilted, probably from the eruption. Maala didn't know this though, and admired anyway. There were flowers in Jibade, but most of them came from prickly cactus stalks, nothing lush like this.
"Yes, I am aware of physical anatomy." He told her. He had, after all, read numerous books on the subject. "But you will find in most cultures that you cannot always take things totally literally. Though I must admit, I have never understood how the organ that is the cause of keeping the blood circulating about the body came to be the seat of human emotion. It is just a turn of phrase that I have accepted."
He thought on it for a moment.
"Perhaps it is because the pain associated with most emotions is felt here..." He fisted a hand over his breastbone. "Rather than here..." He poked himself in the temple.
There was a slight change in her demeanour at his mention of the village, so subtle most would have missed it. But he had become quite proficient at reading his Sifu...though he had found recently that he was far from understanding her...and her changes could also be quite subtle. But Maala, she was standoffish when it came to those not of her people until she got to know them somewhat, he knew exactly what had given her cause to pause.
"If you wish to become part of this culture you must become a part of it." He said with a smile. "It is not exactly my culture either. The different nations are all slightly different, though we have much common ground which makes things easier. And none or us are quite as...confrontational...as the Ukemanem appear to be." At least not since the war had ended.
He took a few steps towards the village, then paused.
"Some people may stare." He admitted. "But it will most likely only be due to curiosity. You are rather uniquely exotic. I have suffered such attention myself." She may not see it herself, but his appearance was far from the Earth Kingdom norm. His skin and hair was more akin to the Water Tribes and the shape of his eyes was far more Fire Nation than anything. He had often wondered as to just what was in the lower branches of his family tree. "And being in the Avatar's good graces will work in your favour in most cases."
He arced a brow as she crouched before a bunch of striped flowers. It would seem that she was trying to delay their entry into the village.
"I believe they are tiger lotuses." He said. "I am not all that familiar with the flora of the Fire Nation. I know little of horticulture, fauna was always of far greater interest to me."
Post by Maala Shae on Oct 24, 2011 19:00:15 GMT -5
"Oh right..." She shook her head with the air of someone only just remembering something. "God Aang speaks in metaphors much of the time as well. I had forgotten it is part of your social interactions." She watched him for a minute, then raised her own hand to lay on her chest as well, thinking about the implications. "How illogical." It wasn't said with the strength of conviction that usually permeated her tone.
"I understand." She told him with a touch of impatience, the haughty noblewoman she had been before her exile showing through. "However, this culture is so strange, and quite often confusing and unpleasant." Nothing made sense to her. Nothing connected. Plus? She felt out of place with her pale hair, dark skin, jewelry, and strange accent that blurred the line between 'p's and 'b's.
This would have been so much easier with God Aang's gentle coaxing... not that Mahin was unpleasant company. It was simply the fact that his lack of divinity made his words less of a challenge to aspire to. "We do not get flowers such as these in my homeland." She replied lamely, straightening. Somehow? She had a feeling he saw right through her procrastinating. "Fine, lead the way, Mahin."
If he did indeed insist on taking her through the town, as the buildings drew near, she would do the same, nearly flattening herself to his side. Her veil would be pulled int a more concealing alignment. Nevertheless, the building structure and architecture was fascinating. So different from what she knew. She found herself tossing out question after question, hardly waiting for one to be answered before she was on to the next one. Mahin had a brief glimpse of what Aang's life for the past several months might have been like.
"What is that?" She would gesture to one building, then another. "And that one?" Children running in the plaza would prompt the question, "What game do they play?" And a waterbender drawing water from one of the wells would be met with a stare of her own. So many different things here, so many people. It was... interesting.
"I can imagine it will take you some time to grow accustomed to our ways." He nodded. "I was raised with them and still find many quite unfathomable. But I have found it does not go over well with others if you question them too often."
As a child he had been blessed...or cursed, he could never decide...with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. He had questioned everything and anything. Keshika had been the only one who had not chastised him for doing so, she had actually encouraged him. When she had left he had quickly learned to hold his tongue and search for his own answers in the estate's disused library.
"I have no doubt I would be as confused by yours." He smiled. He found it hard not to question her at length about it.
She shifted up close to his side as they reached the outskirts of the village. She struck him as a woman of high social standing, such was her usual bearing, but now she appeared a nervous child seeking protection from a parent. But it passed quickly as her curiosity got the better of her.
She began firing such rapid-fire enquires at him he was hard-pressed to answer them, even if he could have.
"You have to remember..." He tried to explain between her questioning. "I am from the Earth Kingdom...I am only slightly more familiar with the Fire Nation than you are. This is only my third visit to its shores. And each has been to a different island. This is my first visit to Shu Jing as well."
"So I have been told." In most cases, she found that the unquenchable stream of questions that most people had for her was enough to deter her from asking any of her own. If she did have something she wished to know, she would direct her inquiry to Aang. He was often tireless with her questions, and would not hassle her.
"I doubt it, if you did somehow find yourself in Jibade, everything would follow a logical pattern." She did not smile back, only looked at him with that same, blank stare. She hadn't yet gotten the hang of returning a gesture of pleasure when it was flashed at her. What had they to smile about anyway? He would be decapitated long before he had a chance to study the society.
"Of course. My feelings of curiosity have got the better of me." She did not ask him anything else. In fact, did not say anything at all. She found the silence practical, though about then God Aang or one of the others in the caravan tended to start talking aimlessly about something else to fill the void. She had noticed that these people did not like voids in their conversations.
This didn't seem to stop others from casting curious glances in their direction, and Maala soon found herself pulling her veil up over her face too, so most of her strange jewelry was covered. This didn't seem to stop her from sticking out very much. Luckily the walk through the center would not be very long, and hopefully would pass without incident.
Mahin did not mind the silence. He had grown quite accustomed to it during his travels with his Sifu. She could go for many hours without uttering a word. What use did she have to discussing the scenery that she could not truly see? It left him much time to ponder his own thoughts, which, unfortunately for him, would quite often dwell on her.
She was a difficult woman, both to get to know and simply in general. He had a feeling Maala was much the same. Of course, that did not mean he did not like the woman. She was blunt, to the point and insatiably curious. A perfect blending of his Sifu and himself in a way, which only led his thoughts to wondering if their children would be similar.
He sighed, barely noticing the attention they were both attracting. Him with his dark skin and his attire in shades of green, her...well...everything about her...as they wove their way towards the cliffs and the steady roar of falling water.
He had seen waterfalls before, and the ones here were probably not dissimilar to the ones in his home in Ansheng. Those also led fell down to the sea, but not from such a great height, and their were tiers and rocks and trees to break the fall. But Maala, who had spent all her life in the desert...even the sight of standing water must be astonishing to her.
"I believe curiosity is not a bad thing." He said. "Without it, how would we learn? How would civilisation advance? It is a lack of curiosity that saddens me." He glanced back at the villagers to ascertain if any had decided to trail them.
"I suppose you are right." Maala didn't notice Mahin's slight agitation. The thought that they might be followed didn't occur to her, as such things were rare in her home city. "I had not expected things to be so... different." She hadn't thought that she would stick out so sorely. Hadn't thought she would find the culture so difficult to understand. She hadn't expected to feel so lonely, or miss her home as though a bit of her soul had been ripped out.
Following him out of the cluster of shops and houses, she stared fascinated at the landscape. The ocean had been astounding, the thought that there was indeed so much water in the world, but none of it safe to drink. They had crossed it on Appa, and she had watched for hours and hours as wave after wave of it passed beneath them.
The waterfalls too were a sight, so much roaring water, so much mist kicked up. Where the tiny droplets floated downwards, the light shattered into a rainbow. Reaching out, gold adorned fingers passed through the mirage of light and water that hovered in the air, and came back dusted with tiny droplets of water. Walking over to it, she stared upwards and upwards at the sheer face of rock that went on for at least fifty meters. "So this is what they described." What a curious bit of natural architecture! "I had expected something smaller."
Wrapping her arms around herself, she stared upwards quietly, her unreadable expression turning sad. "I miss the sand dunes." It felt unnatural not to wake up to the sight of them stretching off as far as the eye could see.