Who

Ibrahim, Amani

What

Ibrahim takes Amani on a little excursion into the jungle.

GDoc

When

It is afternoon on the 26th day of the 12th month of the 12th Turn of the 12th Pass.

Where

Jungle, Southern Weyr

OOC Date 14 Jan 2018 07:00

 

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“Come. Be welcome. Time enough for business later.”


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Jungle

As the clearing is left behind, a deep silence permeates and soaks into the very ground that towering trees grow out of, accompanied by the humid heat of the enclosed rainforest. The silence is broken by the chittering call of wild firelizards, the chirruping of distant avians, and the ominous rustling of large, feline predators that stalk the deeper heart of the jungle. Vines drape from the trees, falling to the jungle floor, which carries the hint of decay. Water drips from the canopy above, the soft sound almost musical against the echoing call of the jungles denizens. Westward, with the tangled overgrowth and the shadows of the deeper rainforest, the forest looms dangerous.


In the jungle — the mighty jungle — there are many clans to wander, to cultivate, to subsist: fortunately, the one Ibrahim is looking for has wandered near enough to the edges to safely bring in a very precious friend. He looks back at Amani from time to time, both to reassure himself that she's there and to encourage her. There are signs that his family is near, so there's some small relief there. He doesn't seem all that keen to go exploring too far, so when the small scout greets him with cheeky irreverence and a small amount of disdain for the prodigal son, he's almost relieved.

Amani doesn’t have much spare time, but what she can spare, she values, and she’s absolutely going to spend a good deal of it with Ibrahim. It seemed an ideal time to venture into the jungles, relatively cool as it is in all the undergrowth. It helps her focus on looking at what’s around them, even as she keeps pace with the wildling man. She’s often focused completely on him as they keep moving, though - partly because she gets a bit overwhelmed by the closeness of the jungle, and partly because she simply can’t help herself.

The appearance of the scout is almost startling, and she unconsciously tugs the rain-slicking oilskin more securely over her shoulder - the one bearing her knot. She waits for the exchange to pass between Ibrahim and the scout, pausing to peer upward into the dusky green canopy for a moment and listening to the soft but complex whispers made by the jungle, so alien to her still.

Finally, the exchange is finished, Ibrahim calmly withholding the seething impatience with the patterns of Traditions long run aground with overuse; he catches Amani hiding her knot and figures it might be prudent for now; they're a fickle bunch of fools, his people.

A little further on, the pair is met by the Eldest Council, and Ibrahim makes all the appropriate gestures of greeting before stepping back to introduce Amani as, “A good friend of mine.” Though he very well wants to introduce her as more than that, a public announcement might be met with more lectures than either of them wants to hear just yet. His fingers, though, brush her hand in tacit apology for the term ‘friend’. There will be an explanation for that one!

Amani can sense Ibrahim’s impatience, part of her holding back a smirk. She could have pocketed her knot, she supposes…but if there’s call for her to reveal herself for whatever reason, she doesn’t want to end up fumbling about for it like a fool. It’s rather intimidating to find herself facing this gathering of the clan’s respected at Ibrahim’s shoulder, but aside from her own level-headedness, she has been learning the art of being unflappable as best she can. She smiles warmly, offering a bow with a hand on her chest - something she’d learned during her time among the Zingari. It seems appropriate here. “Well met, and thank you for permitting me near,” she says. There’s a subtle glance given to Ibrahim following the brush of her hand. She understands. Not to mention the fact that haven’t actually put a name to what they are yet…out loud, anyway. Some things are established without words, after all.

The Elders exchange significant looks, nodding amongst themselves as though an assumption has been confirmed, and a spokeswoman has been conferred. “You,” says the wizened old prune of a woman - the shortest of the three - softly, “are a mannered child. May these habits be conferred unto my grandchild.” The dark eyes shift to Ibrahim, gleaming with the barest hint of amusement as Ibrahim squints, but says nothing. “Ah, but I see that patience has been established.” Her wrinkled face is wreathed in a mischievous smile for the pair, and they are beckoned into the camp. “Come. Be welcome. Time enough for business later.” And that last is clearly directed to her grandson, for her eyes shift to the young man, meaningfully before she’s shooing them toward the welcoming beacon of the fire. All disagreements aside, there is always time for the proper ritual for guests.

Ibrahim is relieved to note that Amani does not seem perturbed by the manner of her introduction, and smiles at her as he begins to move toward that fire. True enough, they have yet to define their relationship to the outside world; there’s not been a need to as of yet. Perhaps there never will be. They know; that’s enough for him.

Amani isn’t sure what exactly passes between the handful of elders in the looks exchanged, save for deciding she’s alright, apparently. In the wake of the old woman’s words, the goldling looks slightly bemused for a moment, though she’s connected the dots with a few flickered glances between her and Ibrahim and gives another inclination of her head in acknowledgement and acceptance of the complement.

After that, she moves with Ibrahim toward the fire, returning his smile and finding herself having to refrain from reaching out to catch his hand. Damn it. Next time, she’s going to ask if they can just take a simple hike through the edges of the jungle so she doesn’t have to filter so much!

There’s that. Ibrahim would happily settle for a mere hike next time. They’d avoid the scrutiny of the Elders and the others of the group, and perhaps get in a few more stolen kisses. But for now, they will try not to hold hands — because he totally nearly took her hand himself just at that moment. Once they’re at the fire, though, out come the beautifully carved and polished mugs of spiced klah and platters of food — colorful mixes of rice and vegetables and roast meat, smelling of spice and steaming hot. Places are offered for them to settle into.

Amani is visibly surprised at the abundance of food that is brought out once they’re near the fire, and she has to catch herself from making the fact to overt as they move to sit. “I didn’t think there’d be much eating like this out here,” she confesses at a whisper aimed for Ibrahim’s ears alone, and flushes slightly. “I mean…I guess I assumed there wouldn’t be, that is.” Which just goes to show how much she has to learn, of course.

What can he say, it’s likely one of those ‘there’s been a windfall of some sort to celebrate’ days; for it is unusual fare. “The harvest was abundant.” He explains softly, balancing the plate on his knee with the ease of long practice. Meanwhile, the group settles around them, content with their lot in life for this part of the season, at least; they’d managed to stock their little winter storage cave well this Fall. An Elder, hearing this (my what sharp ears the granny has.), offers a slightly superior smile upon ‘the children’: “We plan well and strategically for our winters. Plant early and well, and gather fresh as much as one can. Trade very shrewdly.” She lays a hand upon the knee of one of the younger women, nodding her head once in affirmation of the woman’s presence. “We may not be rich, child, but we are wise. Tradition —” And she spears Ibrahim with a look. “ — has its value.”

Amani nods; the abundance is obvious, as she can tell by what’s on her plate. She eats a bit, a small smile curving her lips as she listens to the Elder speak and nodding again at the end. “I’ve learned there’s a lot more to wealth than possession and provisions. There’s plenty of it to be had in wisdom, and to survive out here…well. I’d say you’re wealthy indeed, in the wisdom of the land.” As for the matter of tradition, she doesn’t comment for the moment. Some of her own wealth might lie in her opinions on that particular matter, for better or worse, and she certainly isn’t here to debate so hot a topic!

“Such wisdom in one so young is to be commended.” The Eldest approves with quiet warmth, smiling benignly upon Amani. “Where do you come from, child?” The Eldest leans forward, eager to hear. Her glance takes in her grandson, for once as still and quiet as a young man ought to be, his gaze settled on his plate. To all appearances, he's the picture of masculine decorum; just as it should be. Internally? There’s a high likelihood that he’s rolling his eyes at the barbed commentary aimed at him when he cannot retaliate and remain respectful. But his time will come, eventually, when it isn’t expected and will make the appropriate impact.

Wisdom abounds on all sides, apparently. Amani gets the impression that it’s an exercise of sorts, almost a test to see who can exercise it best. Faranth. If it’s not one thing with people, it’s another. Still, she wants to be on good terms with Ibrahim’s people and seems to be doing well so far. Once she’s finished her current mouthful, she answer, “I’m from Igen. The Zingari people, specifically. But before that I was a child of the desert until I could make my own way. That’s brought me all the way here.” Smiling over at Ibrahim, she says, “Ibrahim was one of the first real friends I made here.”

Why yes, yes it is competitive wisdom. Amani has caught on. Meanwhile Ibrahim is quietly cheering her on, for she is putting up the most excellent face before his people. “Ah, most interesting.” All the folk around the fire lean in, avid in their curiosity. Little new experiences infiltrate the thick Southern foliage, and despite their practiced disdain for new ways, they're still hungry for new stories of the outside world. “Tell us.” The Eldest speaks amid many, many nods. Perhaps Ibrahim will be forgiven his association with that treacherous Weyr of iniquity and doom.

Tell them? Now here is the test. How much can Amani reveal without getting herself - and Ibrahim - escorted away from this hospitable fire? In truth, she decides, she can say a good deal. She doesn’t have to lie…but she doesn’t have to reveal everything either. “I was born in a place that was called the Underground,” she begins, “caves that were a refuge for the holdless and lawless. Nowadays it’s called Kurkar Hold, but it wasn’t a hold then, when I was little. My parents died when I was ten, and my father’s family let me stay with them but blamed me for what happened. So I learned to fend for myself and survive, and I left to join they traders at Igen Weyr before I ended up forced to marry. I joined the Zingari as a guard, and then the opportunity to travel here came up. I’d never seen anything besides the desert before, so I took it, as sort of a face of the Zingari in the South, and here I am.” She finishes with a smile, taking a sip of her klah before meeting the Eldest’s eyes again, her own steady and inquisitive.

“A desire to see beyond one’s home hearth. No wonder you and Ibrahim found one another.” This, from a tall, thin woman whose eyes are beady and exceptionally bright. It seems she hangs amid extremes: approval for the daring of the girl to leave her family, disdain for refusing to submit to her family's authority over her. But that curiosity — ever a greedy beast — wins out. “And did you find what you sought?” She asks, archly.

Amani wonders at the woman’s tone, meeting the bright and pointed gaze with one dark and keen in turn. She’d gleaned a propensity for suspicion among these people from her conversations with Ibrahim, so knew to expect it…though that doesn’t mean blatant displays of it won’t rub her wrong. Still, she knows how to keep a mask over any irritation much better than she used to, and really isn’t that irritated yet. “Acceptance and love instead of suspicion and hatred? Since that turned out to be the heart of what I was looking for…yes, I did,” she answers, her tone fluid and even, but firm in conviction.

This is met with baffled stares, and murmurs among themselves; they simply do not understand, being such an insular people. And yet, they are also a polite people to outsiders, so they settle, instead, to other topics: “What do you do, Ibrahim? At the Weyr?” pipes up a younger voice, tense with curiosity and envy. Another chimes in, “Is it true that women are mere chattel there? Is she chattel?” Ibrahim is trying not to hide a wince at such rude questions, even as the elders rebuke the young girls who had spoken so out of turn, showing their ignorance so blatantly. “She is a free woman.” His voice is even. Just slightly too even — and the even, hard stare is enough to silence the girl who asked very, very effectively. As to the other, “Much as I have done here. Hunt, fish, tracking.”

Amani is eating again when the new questions arise, aimed at Ibrahim. She’s expecting the first, all things considered…but the second one might have made her choke if the timing had been just slightly different. Her brows arch high, her lips pursing a bit as she’s included in the question without it being addressed to her. Ibrahim’s answer earns a definitive nod, and she wars with adding more to it or letting it go. Since he moves on to the matter of what he does, she goes with the latter, smiling for his reply. “He’d been fishing when I first met him,” she notes. It’s not completely true, considering they’d first met at the Barrier Hold in reality…but seeing him on the beach after he’d been fishing was the first time they’d truly gotten to talk.

Oh, but Ibrahim is going to have to offer explanations later — poor Amani, to be subjected to the narrow views that make up his people’s very fiber. Though he knows she can handle herself something in him simply cannot tolerate the narrow-minded strictures from which he sprang. But then, Amani mentions how they officially met, and he can’t hide his grin: how well he remembers that one! “And there she was, stitching something. It was — interesting.” He deliberately refrains from mentioning what she’d been stitching. The meal’s passed in the time they were talking, and night’s coming with a stealth that is inexorable. “Perhaps we should be headed back. We both have much in the way of duty waiting for us.” Anything to keep from being stuck here overnight.

“Interesting because you thought you might sneak up on me with a couple of redfin in your hands,” Amani chuckles, thinking nothing about explanations for the moment and focusing on keeping things easy and finishing her food. She does, however, nod agreement to Ibrahim’s last. “I know better than to try to insist on staying out here until dark, much as I am extremely grateful for your hospitality,” she tells the Elders sincerely. “I’m not as savvy about the jungle as I’d like to be yet. But I have every intention of learning, and Ibrahim has me off to a good start.” And look at that! Her plate is even completely cleared. “The meal was delicious. Thank you, truly.”

Ibrahim is all sweet, doe-eyed innocence. “I would never.” Clearly, no one believes this: there is a ripple of polite coughing and rolling of eyes. The Eldest, however, pins her grandson with a gimlet stare. She well knows the tendencies of this young rapscallion of a descendant. “Go. And see that you treat this young woman with the proper respect.” Weighted words, leavened with the slightest pinch of grandmotherly love. But not too much; that would spoil the boy, naturally, and that is simply not to be borne. “At least he will not lead you wrong on that score.” She nods sharply to Amani as she is helped to rise from her place by her two slightly younger cohorts. There are more polite words exchanged, and maybe even a smile or two, and empty plates collected and set to soak in warm water for later scrubbing — before Ibrahim indicates that he and Amani should get out of there before someone decides to offer them a night’s lodging. Leading her back the way they’d come, he murmurs softly. “I think they like you.” As if they could have the bad taste to dislike her — Ibrahim would likely disown them on the spot.

Amani has to bite back some immediate retorts at the insinuation that Ibrahim might not respect her, but again, this is her first time meeting these people, and she isn’t there to argue. This time. Yet she’s been in more uncomfortable situations, and in terms of impressions made, she’s feeling rather good about this one as she makes her way back toward the Weyr with Ibrahim. Though the colors of sunset are still warm through the foliage (revealed by a blessed break in the clouds), she finds herself yearning more and more for the coziness of her weyr the closer they get. She chuckles softly in the wake of Ibrahim’s words, giving him a quick grin. “Good thing I didn’t manage to give them a glimpse of my shoulder,” she notes, touching her oilskin-shrouded knot. “I’ll settle for what’s been established, happily.”

“Yes — that might have complicated things.” Ibrahim sighs, softly. “They’re… hidebound. Cannot see beyond their noses. Which is why the clan is smaller — the young among us have dispersed to other pastures.” Anyplace but home, apparently. The walk back seems to fly by, especially when he is free to reach for Amani’s hand, knowing very well that the scouts and guards are not observing them at all, being more inclined to be alert for real dangers in the place. His smile is gentle as he studies her face.

“I’m sorry about the testing games they played. They have little power, and this is the way to make themselves feel superior. You, however, handled them perfectly.” He’s altogether too sure the Clan will not be able to get the best of this young woman at all.

Amani feels her heartbeat stutter happily as Ibrahim takes her hand, and she unconsciously leans into his arm when he does so, smiling up at him. “I was hoping so,” she sighs, glancing up as they reach the clearing. Zymuraith wings overhead with a rumble, checking in physically as well as mentally before leaving them to continue their hike to the Weyr together on foot. She’ll be waiting on the ledge. “I took them not making us leave as a good sign. Zymuraith was happy we left when we did, though. She wasn’t too keen on what they were trying to pull, either.” Her gold may like secrets and keeping her own counsel, but she doesn’t like games with devious motivations.

“I’m eager to see what the Zingari will make of you,” she says with a coy bit of a grin as they cross into the bowl and head toward the courtyard where her ledge resides. “They may rib you, but they’re comfortable in their own skins and with where they are in the world.”

“Hmm, she wouldn’t be, would she.” Though he does not have a bond with the dragon, he’s observed how protective they are of their riders. He offers an admiring glance as she leans into him, enjoying the closeness of her body to his. Oh, how he’d like to give her a kiss right on the tip of her nose right now; but perhaps it isn’t politic to broadcast their private joy just yet. But soon… soon. “It’s why I asked to leave before they could ask us to stay overnight. I was certain she would not like it any more than we would.”

He grins rakishly at her, then, for the meeting of the Zingari. “That, I look forward to.” He’s heard so many stories of that particular caravan: the color, the entertainment. “They do seem more forward thinking than my people.”

“And I would’ve had to insist upon not, somehow,” Amani notes ruefully of the prospect of staying overnight. She’s now only one of two goldriders left at the Weyr, and her lifemate isn’t the only one protective of her, whether she likes it or not. That means no being away from the Weyr unnecessarily, essentially belonging to it as she does. Ironic, that, after she’d developed the mindset of not belonging to anyone, ever. But this is a far cry from what she’d been rebelling against in her former life.

“It wasn’t always so,” she says of the Zingari. “They were just as bad not long ago. Apparently a few of the more far-flung branches of the caravan still are. But Willimina and Tallel, the leaders, have been working hard to break their people out of all that thinking.” Finally, the stairs up to the queen’s ledges are reached, and she smiles up at Ibrahim again, leading him forward. “Your respects are due to Zymuraith after all that, of course,” she notes, perfectly serious despite her obvious amusement. Her lifemate, now easily the size of many Nowtime bronzes, sits regally on her haunches upon the ledge, watching them ascend with a decidedly cool green gaze flecked with amber sparks.

The young queen lowers her head and utters a low croon to her bonded as they reach the ledge, and Amani lets go of Ibrahim’s hand so that she can wrap her arms around as much as she can reach of Zymuraith’s nose. “She’s not upset with you or anything,” she says quietly, beckoning him to come closer as the gold slowly blinks a great eye at him. “She’s just concerned that your people will always be like that and wants to know you’ll always be looking out for me, if we end up near them again.”

“As always, Zymuraith.” Ibrahim promises solemnly, looking up into the gold’s flashing eyes. “It's unlikely that I'd bring her near them again “ He hadn't liked the tone of that meeting much, either, with its underlying hints of near-malice. To bring her there, only to face such insult… “I wasn't best pleased by their attitude, myself.” He admits honestly, giving Amani a long look. His grin is somewhat crooked, and very self conscious. “Hadn't expected them to be so…ugh.” At least she'd the skill to deal with them well.

Ibrahim’s assurance seems to placate Zymuraith well enough, a slow sigh of warm breath billowing over him with a soft huff. Amani steps away from her lifemate with one final rub of both hands over the smooth, warm nose. A small, tilted smile curving at him under that long look of his, she takes his hand again and leads him inside. “How often do things go exactly as we expect?” she asks, shedding her rain slicker and then her riding jacket. “And to be clear,” she adds turning back to loop her arms around his neck, “regardless of what they say or seem to think of you, there has never been a man in my life, in any capacity, who’s treated me half so well as you, Ibra.”

Well, that's a relief — having one's lover’s bondmate unsure of you never ends well, he's been told. Ibrahim has long since accepted that he must keep the trust of the dragon as well as the woman; to try and separate the two is impossible and unreasonable. “In this case, I should perhaps have been more wary.” He knows too well the attitudes of his people. And then her arms are around his neck, and his response is immediate: his arms circle her waist as he buries his face in her hair. “How can I not?” There's a moment where he just enjoys the scent of her hair. “You're just…wonderful.”

“I’ve been faced with much worse than what that was, Ibra,” Amani assures the wildling man, relaxing into him as his arms wrap around her and chuckling softly as his face ends up in her hair. For such a simple act, it still manages to set her stomach to fluttering. She suddenly becomes aware of how close his ear is and makes a curious study of it, a hand lifting to touch its outer curve. “If I can be to Zymuraith and to you…that’s enough for me,” she murmurs, letting her fingertips tease feather-light around the edge of his ear as she observes his reaction to it.

“I’d still rather not expose you to it again.” Because he resents their ridiculous ideals, especially when it comes to Amani. “You're worth any twenty of them. Zymuraith would agree, I'm sure.” He chuckles softly, well aware that he is very, very biased in her favor. As he should be. Her touch sets his insides a-flutter, and he nuzzles her neck, offering the gentlest of kisses there. “You are. Believe it.” His hands caress her back slowly, thrilled to be allowed to express his affection in such a physical way.

Again Amani laughs softly, both for Ibrahim’s words and the rejoinder to them that she’s getting from her queen. As breathy hum of pleasure leaves her as Ibrahim’s lips find her neck, her head tilting automatically to grant him easier, more exposed access even as she continues teasing his ear. “I do,” she half-whispers. “Especially when you do things like that.” She’ll gladly face the hidebound holdouts of the world every day if she gets to indulge in such attentions at the end of each one.

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