And Ensylfera, the famous
storyteller from the capital, spoke:
"This is the tale of Yashaadu Naj who once was Kazahd of the kingdom embracing the red desert Ashalaar and who went to quell the rumors circulating in his court. It is also the tale of his husband Dayatar who accompanied him on his journey to a faraway land where everything was foreign to him. It begins one afternoon in autumn at the outskirts of Romallia. And this is how the story is told."
Dayatar’s gaze brushed over the houses at the side of the street, staring at the wooden structures and the painted clay between with wide eyes. Next to him, the Kazahd was resting as if this wasn’t new to him. Well, it surely wasn’t. He had to have seen most of the world already.
Dayatar retracted his hand and the curtain fell back in front of the window, cutting off the foreign scenery. Instead, he turned to look at his husband, the familiar face calming him down. He sighed and closed his eyes, trying to fall asleep as well. The soft swaying indeed made him drowsy but before he could drift off, the voices speaking in a language that was still foreign to him and sounds like he had never heard them at home jolted him awake.
Yashaadu Naj’s eyelids fluttered when his husband flinched the second time and he finally opened his eyes by the third. Looking at his lover’s face, he realized that Dayatar’s usually golden skin had paled. "Naj-il, is the ride making you sick?" He reached over and brushed back the satiny strands of black hair, his fingertips lingering at his back.
Dayatar turned to him and hurriedly lowered his eyelids, not daring to look. "Kazahd, my apologies, I must have woken you."
Yashaadu Naj grabbed his chin, making him look up into his eyes. "Nobody is around. Why would you not look at me?"
Dayatar glanced up but then lowered his gaze just as fast. To look at the Kazahd, that was an honor he wasn’t worthy of. He only dared to steal a glance every now and then when nobody else was around and he believed Yashaadu Naj wouldn’t notice. Everything else would be presumptuous even if his husband told him otherwise. He knew his place.
His husband did not force him. Instead, he continued to caress his cheek with his thumb. Dayatar’s eyelids lowered further and he nestled against his palm, the picture of obedience.
Yashaadu Naj nodded with satisfaction. Even though Dayatar still refused to look into his eyes even when he insinuated he wanted him to, at least he sat close and let him pamper him. It was better than nothing and probably the most he could expect of him right now.
Dayatar’s wish to comply with the rules of the court was vexing at times and as long as he did not directly command it, he would dance around his wishes for sure. Just like now. How could a glance like that be called looking at him? But since he had merely asked not ordered, Dayatar would just pretend he did not understand. Well, he would let him for as long as Dayatar wanted to.
Yashaadu Naj reached past him, brushing the curtain in front of the window aside, and looked at the city of Romallia. They passed by a high tower and he pointed at the bright blue door with the frame inlaid with gems. "That is the moon tower where they raise the women who are to be wedded to the important men of Romallia."
Dayatar turned in his husband’s embrace and looked out of the window as well. He nodded and tilted his head up at the building Yashaadu Naj had indicated. The stones used to build it were pale like moonlight, making this a fitting name. "It looks so different from the towers back at home."
"It all does. In the future, I will take you along to other places. You will see that none of them are like home. As soon as you leave Peraad, everything is different."
Dayatar nodded again and glanced back at his husband, a sense of awe in his heart. He felt like there was nothing the Kazahd had not seen or did not know. To him, his husband was omniscient.
Yashaadu Naj motioned back outside. "Look. I will tell you what we come across. If you want to know more, you only need to ask."
Dayatar nodded once more even though he would never dare to question the Kazahd. He did not need to either. As soon as one of the important buildings Romallia’s appeared before them, he would motion at it, tell his husband what it was called if it had been given a name, and what it was meant for.
They passed many such buildings as if the whole city was filled with them. Even back at home, Dayatar couldn’t count as many in one place but then, while his husband’s kingdom was expansive, it was not like this city which his husband had called the capital of the world. He should not be surprised.
Finally, the carriage stopped in front of another majestic building. Dayatar stared in wonder at the wooden gate that seemed big enough for a group of five or maybe even ten people to pass through side by side and high enough for a man to carry another person through it on his shoulders. The frame of the door was made from stone slabs as big as a person’s head and with scenes carved into them that he couldn’t quite make sense of from this distance. He merely felt a sense of wonder at them, once again reminded that they had left their home far behind.
The carriage stopped and a servant rushed to open the door before he stepped back, kneeling on the ground. Dayatar hastily pulled himself out of his awe, got up and out of the carriage. He stepped to the other side and lowered his head while he waited for his husband to alight.
Yashaadu Naj left the carriage and looked up at the building in front of them while the huge gate already swung open as if by itself. A tall man stepped out and came toward them, his dark cloak billowing behind him while his shoulder-length hair danced without a breeze.
Dayatar kept his head lowered as the man greeted the Kazahd and offered to take him inside.
Yashaadu Naj glanced over his shoulder at his husband. "Naj-il."
"Yes, Kazahd." Dayatar bowed and then quietly followed at his husband’s wave, his head still lowered.
The other man glanced at him but did not ask and merely led the way into the building. "We prepared a suite of rooms for you in the northern wing as usual. Elder Aeliann just returned this morning. Do you wish to see him immediately?"
Yashaadu Naj gave a nod. "Yes, that would be preferable. Although I intend to stay in Romallia for a few days. If the Elder needs time to rest, I will wait." He glanced at Dayatar while he said so, his dark eyes deep.
The man in front nodded, not noticing the gaze. "Then I will bring you over. Shall I sent one of the students so your servants can bring your possessions to the rooms?" He seemed to glance at Dayatar when he said so, apparently not quite sure what to make of the youth that was walking behind the Kazahd.
Yashaadu Naj merely gave a hum but did not explain Dayatar’s status in his court. The man did not ask and quietly led them deeper into the building.
They followed a long corridor and then stepped into a courtyard. Finally, Dayatar could not keep his gaze on the ground. He glanced up, his eyes brushing over the paved pathways framed by flower beds that filled the air with a sweet scent even this late in the year, the fountain gurgling to the left side and the cluster of old trees towering to the right whose leaves had turned an almost golden color that threw bright spots onto the ground nearby.
Some people were spread throughout the courtyard, either conversing in smaller groups around the fountain, sitting alone in the corners of the courtyard and reading, or doing … something which Dayatar could not understand. He looked for a moment longer, watching the fluent movement of their hands and the way their lips parted and closed as if murmuring words in a language he did not know.
His eyes had widened in wonder. Whether it had been in his time in the Kazahd’s palace or when he had still been nothing but a refugee wandering around, he had never seen anything like this. Right now, he really would have liked to ask what all this was, to try and understand what exactly was in front of him but even if he had dared, this was neither the time nor the place with people around that could see and hear them. He did not want any of them to look down on the Kazahd because he was followed by somebody so obviously uneducated.
They crossed the courtyard in silence and entered a second gate on the other side which turned out to lead them back into the same building that enclosed the courtyard in the middle. Maybe it was even the heart of this whole estate.
Dayatar did not know yet what this place was. The Kazahd had not told him when they arrived and before they left the palace, he had only mentioned going to Romallia but not what for or where exactly. And Dayatar would never ask.
They followed another corridor, made a turn, and took a flight of stairs. Another turn and another corridor and, finally, they stood in front of a wooden door. This one was of normal size but carved intricately, the embellishments almost looking as if they could come alive.
The man cleared his throat and called out. "Elder Aeliann, the Kazahd of Almakaar has arrived."
"Oh, sent him in." The voice from inside sounded withered like that of an old man who did not have many years left.
Dayatar glanced around, feeling even more afraid when he heard this. He would have liked to step closer to his husband to find some security in his presence but he was afraid of making him look bad.
They seemed to be guests here, honored guests for sure with his husband’s status, but guests nonetheless. And a guest should not be afraid of the host. To show a reaction that suggested otherwise would surely be a slight.
The other man reached out to push the door and the carving next to the doorknob moved. Dayatar made a sound before he could bite his lower lip.
Yashaadu Naj glanced back and — seeing his expression — he smiled faintly. He reached over, his fingers gliding beneath the thick black hair and rubbing his neck. "No need to be afraid."
Dayatar hastily nodded and lowered his head. "Forgive me, Kazahd."
Yashaadu Naj did not answer. He really would have liked to. Just a couple of words to reassure him would be enough but he was afraid to make him even more nervous. Surely, Dayatar would believe it was his fault if they had to let Elder Aeliann wait for their private matters and that, in turn, would make him more nervous when they met.
He could not let that happen. Thus, he merely continued to look at him until the door swung open. The other man stepped to the side, waiting for them to enter. Yashaadu Naj took his husband’s hand and pulled him into the room, hoping that the familiar touch would be able to do what he couldn’t achieve with words at the moment.