Banjoverse: The Full Epic
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Son of Harad: 12. On an Evening in Abbas
They never speak. Instead, he will move forward, and she will embrace him, and they will kiss, moving to the bed. And there, and there, and there… She does not question his motives, his intentions, his desires. She only listens to his cries – his suffocated gasps, shuddering moans – his cries of pain or desire or pleasure or what – as he pours his hunger into her. He cries out as if a fire is burning away at his flesh, the same uneven sobs she will come to hear when he weeps, the same animal howls she will come to hear when the black memories return.
She becomes enamored. She begins tracing his scars when he is asleep, counting them, each tiny imprint, each jagged knot. And she will number them – one, two, three, five, ten… – until she concludes that he has been struck, has bled, has been wounded, over a hundred unique instances.
When does the line of love allow itself to be crossed? When does she begin to wait for him, yearning his heat, craving it? When does the heart begin to burn?
He, too, begins to burn.
Because, as the days pass, and as the desert grows infernally hot, the dry season, he begins to lie with her first until dawn, and then until midday, and then until the following evening, and finally, he simply never leaves. And he begins speaking to her after they have made love, a low monologue, in his Northern tongue, a whispering drone. But that is silly, and so she begins teaching him the dialect of Beshabar.
Days, days, a week, three weeks, months…
Their love intensifies. At times, it is a violent, searing flame – painful to touch, painful to swallow and consume – violent enough so that he will bark something at her, offending her, and she will throw him out. But he always returns, always… Perhaps after one or two days, perhaps after a week. Always. He will return, smelling of stale wine and horse sweat. And she never hides the joy at seeing him again. Arms around his neck, filling her lungs with his heady scent while his gnarled hands run over her back and squeeze her hair.
Their love grows. At times, it is gentle. He will brush his nose, soft, against her neck, her shoulder, down. Or he will lay such delicate kisses against her brow, before he leaves for the day, that she will nearly burst with desire – the desire for more, for one violent clash. But she sees that these are the days when every old wound reopens, and he will turn stiff, his movement limited. And when they make love on these days, he is slow, moaning low, while she grabs and pulls and squeezes, urging him to go faster. Painful to endure – painful to neglect – but she cannot resist – and so she will jerk him down – grabbing his jaw, pulling, rough – into an open kiss.
One such afternoon, late, when the sun is nearly gone, he collapses beside her, panting. They speak a mix of the High Harmatti he knows and the Beshabar dialect she has taught him and the little Northern tongues she knows. It is their private language.
“Will you stay with me?”
“I always do.”
“Yes, but will you stay here, with me, even when this is not your home?”
“If you allow me to stay, then aye.”
“Amir, I would have you here every morning.”
“You will grow tired of me.”
“I don’t think so.”
“How do you know?”
“You don’t know. You might grow tired of me.”
“Maybe, perhaps, I do not know. But will you stay here, anyway?”
She kisses him. Heat in his lips. He is weary this evening, his eyelids droop in the flickering candlelight. Outside, the sweet night-scents fill the air. Evening in Abbas. The smell of spiced tea and citrus drifts in from the open window.
She shifts closer, nestling herself into the cavity of his chest and arms when he lies on his side. He arches his head up, so that her face lies against his neck and she presses her lips against his Adam’s apple. There is another scar there – a tiny slice, gleaming pale against the brown, a thin line where the beard does not grow.
“What does your true name mean? What does Boromir mean?”
The soft vulnerability of the skin stretched over the Adam’s apple. The stiff, scratching beard dissolving into skin.
“I do not know.”
The smell of the beard. The lingering sweetness of too many mirtemil, the spiced meat she cooked for him hours ago. And also that deeper scent, that rich, heady scent. A kiss against his neck, biting lightly into the beard, a lick. He instinctively draws away, ticklish.
“It is not a peasant’s name.”
He merely growls a weary mmm. She can feel the reverberations through the throat.
“It does not sound like one.”
A smile, and the crow’s feet spreading over his temples and down his cheeks; long, thin lines. And that scar – the scar she loves – on the upper lip, pulling the smile up further.
“Perhaps it is.”
She kisses that scar. He returns the kiss.
“Were you a peasant?”
Eyes closed, another smile pulled up to the left.
Rubbing the space over the stomach, squeezing his flank. He hums, content.
“See, I could tell. You were never a peasant. Maybe a poor soldier, but not a peasant. That is why I call you Amir.”
“Why? What does Amir mean?”
“It means prince.”
He is three or four years older than her. She has not asked his age yet, but she can see the lines of age, the greying hair, the rounded stomach. He has seen much – she can tell – for his eyes are ever wary. She begins to notice that he does not trust her in the first hours, for his gaze remains hardened, until deep in the night, when weariness lets his defenses slip, and he will forget to be guarded. And it is in these moments of fatigue that he will grow warm, smile sluggishly at her, answer her questions, even tease or jest.
There are certain questions that he will not answer, however, and will grow cold if she asks. When they once argued, and she asked if he was of Gondor – she already prepared to hate him for it, for the husband and brothers and sons she had lost in the War – his reaction was so vehement, so angry, so hurt, that she immediately knew it was true, and, when he was gone, she had wept for it.
She has seen that asking him of this past – whether it be asking what that scar is, or why so many, or why he came to Harad in the first place – pushes him away from her, so that he withdraws, does not speak, and usually will disappear into the night only to reappear in the morning, drunk.
And so she chooses to stifle her curiosity, because she sees that, as time passes, she cannot bear to be away from him. And better to have unanswered question than the loss. For she cannot resist the hours during the day when he leaves. She cannot resist the hours during the night when he sleeps, either, though at least then he is near.
She becomes jealous of the men he works with, the horse traders, the ironsmiths, the riders. She becomes jealous of the men he drinks with, the man who serves him his mirtem every evening in the smoking room. She becomes jealous of the women and children he passes on the street. For they all see him, they all see Boromir, her Amir, while she does not, because she is home, or away, in the market, wherever, where she would rather be with him, her arms around his shoulders, her face against his neck. She is jealous of all of them.
He calls her by her widow’s name. For the husband names the wife according to the customs of Harad, and her husband, who died in the War on the barbarian lands, named her Asima long ago. Boromir does not know this. He thinks it is her birth name. He does not know that her riches are inherited from a dead husband. These riches, the costly rewards of a Great War widow, of a bereft mother. For it is an honor to be a Great War widow, to have lost a husband and three sons to Gondor’s soil…
She looks down at him. His eyes are already closed. In the waning candlelight he looks old and tired. She wonders what wearies him so. She has sensed his troubles – how he flinches when she touches certain scars, how he will sometimes seek out a bottle in the morning, as soon as he has awoken, so that by afternoon he is stumbling back into bed. But she does not know what they derive from, and so she cannot help.
A few seconds pass as he gathers up the energy to respond.
She is already pressed so completely against him that she knows she cannot get any closer, but she understands this request. This need, to have the loved one near, very near, as near as possible. To share the heart, to share the breath. And so she wraps her leg around his, runs her hand against his side. He smiles slightly.
He is tired, and he whispers, deep.
“Asima, would you have me stay here?”
She kisses him. The edge of the cheekbone, by the eye.
“Yes.” Another kiss, this one by the nose. “I would have you here every morning and every night. And during the day.”
He smiles again. And he exhales, a long, slow sigh.
“…then I would have you be my wife.”
She stalls her affections and stares. He opens his eyes, sees her shock, laughs quietly.
“You look horrified,” he chuckles.
But in truth she cannot speak for the joy that swells in her. And on an impulse she grabs his face, kisses him until he is gasping for breath and then embraces him fiercely. He holds her, wrapping his arms around her torso, moving her over him, and they kiss again, again, again. The tongue. Tasting. The ear. The heat, the need, the joy – and the heart, burning in the chest. It is too much.
And so they would make love, but he urges her to slow, for his limbs are stiff, his wounds are alive and he cannot hide the grimace of pain as she lowers herself onto him.
“Slowly, Asima, slowly…” he groans.
Slowly. Deliberately. Those long kisses that reawaken and reawaken and reawaken and fuel the desire. The slow movements, cautious, controlled, while the body ignites, straining – straining to maintain a gradual pace, for the wounds burn tight.
He pulls her down onto him, embraces her, pushes up with his hips while moaning into her ear. And she runs her hand over his jaw and over his face and follows the path with her tongue while his embrace becomes more and more suffocating.
He shudders as he cries out, shaking altogether. And there is that moment of tension – of the body taut, caught in limbo – until he sinks back, spent. She still desires him, would continue, but he is finished. He would nearly sleep, but he sees her, waiting, still, and so a kiss, the tongue, and a hand, callused and gnarled, moving down…
Both satisfied, sated now.
Moonlight streaming in. The candle is spent. Hours have passed. They have missed the evening meal. But such it is, with new lovers, and time slips through the fingers like sand.
He lies on his back, scowling slightly. She moves forward, makes to lie her head on his scarred shoulder, but as soon as her weight settles he inhales sharply and tenses. She raises herself onto her elbows.
She moves over him, shifts to his other side, and leans against her one elbow while reaching her other hand across his chest. Slowly, gently, she presses against the shoulder – the rigid muscle there – right above the scar. He winces, grunting in obvious pain, and makes to push her away, but she immediately releases the pressure, and instead moves up and down, a slow massage. At this, he waits, warily, until, seeing her touch remains gentle, he sinks back down, relaxing.
Eyelids drooping. Moonlight. He smiles.
“You said the husband names the wife?”
With his other hand, he reaches up and touches her dark hair – blue-black – while he lets her work the weak shoulder on his other side.
Rubbing the hair between his fingers. She gently increases the pressure, gently, gently.
“What name do you desire?”
Up towards the neck, around the thick muscle there, the rough skin, sunburnt, down, down, pushing gently down against the scar.
“It matters not, it’s simply a name.” She smiles. “But I do know what I do not want.”
He grins sleepily.
“I have never liked Afaf. Or Khadija.” She pauses. “Or Qubilah. So do not use any of those.”
As she nears the scar, she releases the pressure, lets her fingers merely brush over the ravaged skin. He groans in relief, his eyes slipping shut. Someone is playing the siratini outside, the music of the desert. The plucking strings. A few moments pass, until finally, he repeats with a soft chuckle:
Brushing her knuckles against the uneven scar.
“But those are the only names I truly dislike.”
She has finished. Her hand and his shoulder are warm from the friction. And he lies, nearly asleep, the lines in his face eased. He lies so for a few moments, eyes closed, breathing deep, so that she wonders if he has fallen asleep under her touch.
But eventually, he rouses himself enough to say:
“Then I shall call you Munehrah Zahrah.”
“Does it please you?”
“Yes, it is a beautiful name. Do you know what it means?”
“I think so. I intended it to be my ‘illuminating star.’”
“It is also ‘white flower.’”
“Good,” he whispers.
She kisses his temple. “Sleep, husband. You seem tired.”
The child of such a love!
And the Valar promised, yes,
a love to wring envy from the heavens
and a child, such a child, such a son,
the son of the desert and the mountain and the sky and the sea
bursting with such a love, burning holes through the heart
none could ever know it, ever taste it
only those cursed to it
only the blesséd!
The son of such a father!
The father, the drowning husband, the begging prince,
dragged through the darkest of horrors
dragged through the desert
thrown aside and climbing
leading howling armies to victory, with sword blazing high!
And Qudamah inherits this, yes, yes, yes,
the strength and burning fire and violence and lust for everything
and the frailty of such a love, such a love!
Qudamah inherits this, yes, yes, yes!
The son of such a mother!
The mother, the pious Great War widow with love renewed,
a Valar’s gift,
born and raised and traveled through all Harad lands,
molded from the desert dunes, rolling
with hair that mingles with the wind and sky, clouds drifting speechless
and laughing eyes and laughing smile!
And Qudamah inherits this, yes, yes, yes,
the joy and the peace and the desire to heal all hurts, such warmth
and the strength of such a love, such a love!
Qudamah inherits this, yes, yes, yes!
The day the son was born…
The day the son was born…
And the father pacing ridiculous
pressing his ear to the wall
while the mother screams, sweating
and the midwife calls, urges, encouraging
And then and then and then…
QUDAMAH, HE IS BORN!
Pulled from the wind and the scent of spiced musk tea at dusk
breathed out with the sand of a thousand rolling dunes, hush
and the clouds drifting silentwhite
with the scent of too many mirtemil in the beard
threading fingers through blue-black hair in the moonlight
and the white mountains and the rolling sand inherited rushing through the blood
with two BIG pale eyes, blue-green orbs, jewels of desire and power and love!
What a son!
Has Arda ever seen such a son?
Wailing babe and crawling tot and teetering first steps
into laughing Boromir’s outstretched arms
nuzzling deep into the parent’s embrace, squeezed
between them both and from them both
and the love of such a son! Such a love!
Love to throw you high up in the air
flying, bursting through the clouds
singed by the Valar’s merry laughter
thrown high in the air, arms and legs splayed, wings
only to come plummeting down down down
into strong arms, strong
coiling for another throw and UP!
“Again! Again! Again!
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