(If you have not read my prologue or previous chapters, please do so now)
Tales of Tanjia, Chapter 7 - A Warm Welcome
We traveled for quite a while, passing a lot of beautiful scenery. My brothers fell asleep half an hour into the trip, they can never sit still unless they're asleep. I must admit, though, between the gentle hum of the engines and the calming scenery, I was getting a little sleepy. Resting my chin in my hand and staring out the window of our transport my eyelids started to get heavy. As hard as it was, I kept them open. It would have reflected badly on me if I were to fall asleep in front of the others that were riding in the transport with my brothers and I. Just as I started to think of conversation topics, we started the underwater part of our trip.
Because Taj'erii City is submerged, it's dynamic is unlike the cities above water. You can't just come and go as you please, you have to have permission to go through the engergy shield that keeps the ocean out of the city. There are two sections of the shield, the outer shield, the stronger one that keeps the water out, and the inner shield. In a way, it's a double door system for security and protection.
Our own energy shield came up around our transport as it submerged, from here it is two hours until we reach Taj'erii City. The entire trip takes about four and a half hours, not because Taj'erii City is very far, but very deep. Honestly, we could all swim there with no problems, but Father insists on a transport because of all of the people and things we need to bring to the City, not to mention his pride and ego. Everyone looks out of their windows to see the ocean and its creatures. We see them nearly every day but it is a very different perspective to pass them in a transport.
We pass a pod of wild Viktki'i-nyaxixi, and go down into the canyon that leads to the City. The canyon itself is dark but what's inside is bright with life. Because the canyon is so dark, the life inside glows beautifully with different blues, greens and even purples and pinks! Chi'igesh eels dart back and forth between their rocky homes and schools of fish. Glowing hyi'ka'a (essentially starfish) crawl slowly along the canyon walls. I enjoy watching them, I find them very interesting.
After traveling a little while more we emerge from the canyon and in front of is grand Taj'erii city. The ray shield is transparent, so you can see from the outside that the city is bustling with life. Merchants selling and citizens buying, children playing happily with toys and animals. The city with its tall, thin, twisting towers and low buildings that look like Ki'rau'shi shells. Just outside of the shield there are underwater stables for the tamed Viktki'i-nyaxixi that people in the city own. They are well taken care of, that I can see, but I wonder if they're happy with their owners.
As our transport passes through the energy shield I tap both of my brothers on the shoulder to wake them up. At first they were startled, but they got over it when they saw that we had reached Taj'erii City. It really is a very beautiful place. The transport stops in the middle of the main square and the doors hiss open. As we all step out of the transport the people are cheering and throwing flowers, they place garlands on our heads, though my father refuses to lower his head for them to place it on him. With everyone cheering like this it feels like I'm in a parade of some sort. My brothers seem to like that feeling more than I do, they're waving and encouraging the crowd to cheer.
We are guided by several escorts to where we will be staying for the next few months. We are staying in a beautiful, ornate building with spiraling marble staircases and twisting towers. I look over and see that Rii'ei is trying not to gawk at everything around her. She doesn't get to leave the palace very often, and honestly I shouldn't be getting out as much as I do, but it makes me happy to see her happy and excited.
The councilman of Taj'erii City greets us as the servants take our things inside, "It is my greatest honor to welcome the Imperial family to Taj'erii City! We will do everything to make your stay the most pleasurable it can be." he bowed and my father gave a brief, haughty nod before being led inside.
We are each led to our rooms, Rii'ei will be staying in the same room with me as per my request. I will not have her staying in the servant's quarters during her first visit to Taj'erii City. As we are led into the room there is a young woman waiting for us. "It is the tradition of the city to welcome Imperials with frgrant oil massages and a banquet. It would be a great honor if the Imperial Princess would accept our hospitality." She bowed her head and waited for my response before looking up.
"Of course I will accept, that sounds wonderful. I would like for my maidservant to have a massage as well." Rii'ei looks at me with surprise and excitement. She tries to form words, but nothing comes out of her mouth. The young woman seems surprised as well.
"Yes, of course. I will tell them to prepare another area for hers." She bows again and leaves.
Rii'ei gently grabs my arm when both ladies are gone, "M-miss, this is too much. Just bringing me was more than enough, but to let me stay in this room and participte in the massages and banquet... You really are too kind to me." she lets go and looks around the room some more. I sit on the larger bed, there are two in the room, and feel the soft silk sheets when I see Rii'ei looking out from the balcony. "The City is so beautiful!" She never shouts, I've never seen her so excitedly happy as she is. I feel like I've done something really good for her, to help her feel like a Tanjiian and not just like a servant. She turns around to look at me, "Thank you so much, miss, you have no idea!"
Just then the young woman who greeted us returns to our rooms to tell us that the masseuses were ready for us. I look back at Rii'ei and motion for her to follow. We both follow the young woman down to a beautiful private spa. There are polished stone pillars and sheer white curtains near the two massage tables set up for me and Rii'ei. We both disrobe behind a changing screen, Rii'ei was so shy about it, she's never had a massage before, and then we lay on the warm stone tables and enjoy our massages. With the warm floral and wood oils being being worked into our tired muscles with smooth, dark stones gliding across our backs, it was wonderful and very relaxing. After that, we were served citrus water while our feet were massaged. Rii'ei was completely enjoying the experience.
After a while of relaxing we went back up to our room and prepared for dinner. All of the clothes that I brought were already unpacked and placed in the closet. I look through my clothes and chose one of the nicer gowns, I am attending a banquet after all. Rii'ei helps me get dressed and do my hair. "Thank you so much for letting me come along. We haven't even been here a full day and I can't imagine how much I'm enjoying it here."
I turn to look back at Rii'ei, "You are very welcome. You're like a sister to me and you deserve to attend the festival." I brush a strand of hair off of my face and stand up, "Are you sure you'll be ok on your own tonight? I have no idea how late the banquet will go."
"I'll be fine. There will be a smaller dinner for servants and staff in another hall." She starts to get herself ready for her own night and I'm led by one of my guards down to the main banquet hall.
We go down several different corridors and halls and finally reach the main banquet hall. The banquet hall was large and ornate, with beautiful stones and corals decorating the walls and an exremely long table running down the center of the room. I seemed to be arriving along with a few others, but most of the attendees had already arrived. Father and mother were sitting near the front end of the table and my brothers were closer to the middle. I sit next to Koa and the councilman who greeted us initially stood up to begin the meal.
"I thank you all for attending tonight. We are deeply honored to have the Imperial family be attending this glorious feast!" He motions for musicians to begin playing and a few dancers acompany the music. The councilman sits back in his seat and directs his voice to my father, "The finest musicians in the city have been chosen to play tonight's music." my father only raises an eyebrow to show vague interest. I, on the other hand am very interested. Among older musicians playing simple, but pleasing to the ear instruments, there was a younger girl around my age skilfully playing a Day'iou, a much harder to play instrument. A Day'iou is a two stringed instrument with limited range, and sounds beautiful when played correctly, but awful if played wrong. I wonder why she chose to play such a difficult instrument in front of shuch a critical crowd... She plays it beautifully all the same.
Shortly after the music began, servants brought out the meal. Tray after tray and platter after platter until it was all placed on the table in front of the guests. It smelled delicious and tasted divine, dinner was going very well until the wine was brought out. Father drank his fill, more than his fill really, and he began to rant a bit in ancient Tanjiian. Complaining about little things, the amount of salt in his dish or the company present, he continued to drink and drink and he became angrier and angrier. Eventually he said very foul Tanjiian word that I will not repeat and the dancer skipped a beat, tripped over her foot and fell. My father's temper overflowed just then. That poor dancer.
He threw his glass down and it shattered on the floor, "You!" he yelled, angrily pointing at the poor girl as she tried to collect herself, "That was a disgraceful performance! If you ever want to perform during the alignment festival, you will practice all month until your feet bleed! Get your clumsy self out of my sight!" He sat down hard in his chair and demanded another glass of wine as the dancer left weeping.
It was quiet for a while, the musicians not knowing whether to play again or to keep quiet, and the councilman dismissed them as dessert was brought out. I heard one of the older male musicians whisper to the girl Day'iou player "Wonderful performance, Ta'iasha." before walking out. I was in no mood to eat after my father's outburst ruined my appetite. I asked to be excused and I was.
After being led back to my room I dressed myself for bed and braided my hair. It feels so different here... Not only the look of Taj'erii, but the people and attitudes. Already I'm feeling homesick. I look out on my balcony and for some reason my thoughts drift toward Ki'ijah. I try to bring myself back to the here and now, but the image of his face won't leave my mind. I dwell happily on those thoughts before going to bed. Maybe tomorrow I will try to see that dancer, maybe even the girl who played the Day'iou. If I'm going to be here for a few months, I may as well try to get to know someone.
I pull the smooth silk sheets up to my shoulders and let cover me over. Tomorrow is a new day.