Teyla, for Elishavah.
"This is unwise," Teyla said. Again. She had mostly given up on being listened to, but it made her feel better to make the effort at least.
"And yet, it is necessary," Charin said, pinning one last dangling lock of hair up and out of Teyla's face. Since the death of her mother, Teyla and Charin had been engaged in a long, slow-moving war over proper hair care. Teyla much preferred to leave it down; Charin believed that for such an active child to do so was foolishness, and was not shy about telling this particular active child so.
So it was familiar at least to have Charin do this for her, though the rest had been disconcerting. Teyla had bled for the first time the year before, but had not yet chosen to perform the rituals of womanhood--a matter of some concern among the Athosians, moreso with Tagar's illness. It was always the child who chose when to pass over the threshold, of course, but Teyla knew well that there were expectations, and that those who did not meet them could expect--pressure.
Her father had protected her from much of that so far, he and Charin, and Teyla felt no need to protest. Now, though, for the first time, she regretted that. If she had passed already, maybe the formal clothes and the deep, musky perfume would have been familiar to her, maybe they would not have felt so heavy.
The Athosians were not a formal people when it came to meeting with outsiders, preferring to save such behavior for times of import among their own people. The Hyask, unfortunately, were. They would meet with none but Tagar, who could barely sit up in bed, and was so heavily dosed with parati that he had begun to speak with those who were not present. He had been there before, and recovered, and with luck he would again; but he could not by any means meet with the Hyask. And the medicines that only the Hyask could provide were running low.
Teyla was of Tagar's blood. After much discussion, the Hyask had said, begrudgingly, that she would do. As for Teyla, her opinion had not been solicited.
It was cold outside, winter lingering in the air, even though the week before it had been warm enough for Teyla to go out to the woods for an entire afternoon without her coat. She had skipped her chores to do it, and been punished both by Charin and by the resurgence of her father's illness, but she had been happy at the time. Now she was just cold, and shivering inside in a way that she knew was not caused by the weather. The Hyask were in front of her, in the large tent they used for gatherings and welcomes, and Charin was behind her, Charin and all the rest of the Athosians, blocking her escape.
The forest was within easy reach, and for just a moment, Teyla wondered what it would feel like to run. She thought, a little hysterically, that she knew she could outrun Charin, even in the getup she was in now. And then she pictured poor Charin coming after her as fast as she could go, and the mingling of shame and hilarity she got from that picture held her up until she went through the door to meet the Hyask.
Charin and her father's closest advisor Palla did most of the work. All Teyla had to do was sit there and look well-bred and not say anything overwhelmingly stupid, which she thought she managed well enough. She could see the disdain in the offworlders' eyes when they looked at her; Palla had said earlier that the Hyask got above themselves, looked down on peoples who lived in smaller, safer, more tribal communities, and Teyla had to agree that this was so.
She was startled, however, by how angry that made her, a fierce, hot, possessive feeling: They are my people, and you will not think of them that way. She did not flatter herself that she contributed to the negotiations, but for the first time she wished that she could. Afterwards, having changed and spoken to her father, Teyla even went so far as to admit this to Charin. "They should not look at us like that," she said, pulling the last pins out of her hair and handing them to Charin for safekeeping. "It is not right. When I am leader here, I will not allow it."
"When you are leader here, you will know people from many worlds. You will like some more, and some less, and you will learn that it is not wise to prejudge."
Charin patted Teyla on the arm, and Teyla pulled away, irritated. "We will see," she said, and then, impulsively, "I wish to pass the threshold, Charin. I mean, I should. I think." She had been carried away from the Hyask in a current of confidence and pride in her success, as strong as the feeling of her people at her back as she had approached them. Now, all of a sudden, the current deserted her, and she felt abandoned on the bank, uncertain again, her voice smaller than she liked. "It would be the wise thing to do, with Father so ill..."
"It would," Charin said, very gently. "You will be needed, Teyla. And you are ready. Some would say you have been ready for some time."
The teasing was gentle, but Teyla flushed all the same, and clasped her hands together in her lap. "I was afraid," she admitted, since it seemed it was an evening for admissions.
Charin laid one of her hands over Teyla's. "Yes," she said, with a smile in her voice. "That was also wise."
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