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|More from Kugumi||Slice of Life, Tragedy, Comfort||PG||None||No update page|
March 16th, 2015
It was the eighty-seventh year after the Fire Nation had officially started this long war with their first attacks against the Air Nomads, though it was only the seventy-second year since they had first attempted to breech the walls of the Northern Water Tribe. By this point, airbenders were a thing of the past; their peaceful numbers wiped out by the hands of the Fire Nation. One by one, the temples had fallen. Nini was twenty-eight years old—she'd never seen an airbender before, and she only knew a handful of people in the tribe that were old enough to remember when the war bled onto their frozen homeland, when airbenders were erased from the world, and when fire was the key to survival rather than the precursor to death. Her husband's father Pahana was one of those few, and today they were celebrating his eighty-ninth birthday. The way Pahana told it, he had been seventeen years old when the Fire Nation arrived on their shores with an entire armada.
"I wasn't the youngest man that volunteered to protect our tribe, but I still had a lot of growing up to do."
He and Nini's mother-in-law Hurit—who was now passed—were unusual in that Pahana was decades older than his wife. What's more, unlike what was written in the traditions of the Northern Water Tribe, they hadn't ever intended to have a family. Clearly the spirits had a different picture in mind because the mishap in Hurit's thirties was what had given Unnuk life, and eventually changed Nini's. Unnuk and the four children Nini had with him were the highlight of her existence. She had Pahana to thank for that.
"Many of my peers already had tiny babes still feeding from their mother's bosoms. They volunteered because they had something worth protecting. I volunteered because I had big muscles and nothing to lose. Some of those men didn't make it home that first night; others took awhile yet to take the long nap. The only thing that had driven those firebending scoundrels from our borders was the appearance of an unexpected blizzard. It helped us to fortify and drive the Fire Nation to retreat. My involvement in that battle had not gone unnoticed by some very high-profile figures in our tribe, though. Back then fearlessness and conviction were traits fathers looked for when they sought out suitors for their young daughters. No matter their generosity or power of persuasion, I could not be impressed upon to take a bride. I naïvely thought distancing myself from love—dedicating myself to the craft of the warrior—would make me stronger."
Nini reminded herself how much she loved her family as she slaved away in the homestead tidying toys and spears and prepping her dinner table for a veritable feast. Unnuk had not yet returned from his hunt with the main ingredient for her arctic boar stew, so Nini would have to find other things to busy herself with while she waited. With three sons and a daughter all under the age of ten, however, there were no shortage of chores for Nini to attend to in their elaborately built ice-home. She unwound her hair from the tight coils she had spun them in that morning, displeased by the fact that the hair had begun to loosen from the grip of her hair ties. Nini's dark hair was long and soft, and would be quite smooth were it not for the knotted style Nini preferred. She ran her fingers through it, teasing the hair and building the volume until she was ready to twist the knots again and cinch it with the circular bands she held. One large knot and two smaller ones trailing down the length of her back kept her hair out of her face as she attended the housework.
"I remember the day I met Hurit. She had those brown eyes so rarely found in our culture, and I remember she was weaving a basket for her father to use when he went sailing. I also remember many occasions on which I made a fool of myself to win her favor, and, well, it all worked out in the end, I suppose. The spirits have a strange way of bringing balance to our lives through varying degrees of fortune. The Fire Nation's attack was no doubt an unfortunate tragedy, but not everything in life can be gold and rainbows. Every ill-fated endeavor has the potential to lead to the most wonderful of surprises; my success, my influence in our tribe, my wife, my son, grandchildren... none of it would have been possible if the spirits had not intervened in some way—and I pity the fool who thinks they have not. I am still here because I am proof that sometimes we need those tragedies and misfortunes to realize how very lucky we are to have those experiences—lucky to have survived them. Skill will let you live. Luck will keep you alive."
The water in Nini's kettle spun around and around as she guided it with her bending. A warm fire was burning in the fireplace and her kettle hung over it, boiling the water held within its confines. Nini had swatted away the hand of her daughter Cree at least twice already. One day the child would grow into a lady and learn all of the domestic responsibilities, but for now she did not need to help Nini cook; Cree was too young to realize that fire was dangerous. After she had sent away the curly-haired girl to play with her brothers for the third time, Unnuk pushed open the door to their home. A freshly killed arctic boar hung limp from his shoulder—and Nini could tell it was fresh because the animal was still bleeding all over her husband. She stood, only just reaching his chest in height not because she was small, but because she had married a muscle-toned giant. Her eyes narrowed when he tossed the boar to the ground without properly gutting or skinning it for her first. Nini folded her arms, ignoring the sounds of children roughhousing in the background, and prepared to give him a proper lecture—but then she stopped. His thick arms and large, blood-coated hands wrapped around the tiny frame her blue parka was hiding, and his face buried itself into the fluffy white collar covering the nape of her neck. Unnuk may have been one of the strongest and most intimidating men in the tribe, but Nini had always known him to be gentle. This wasn't the type of gentle that Nini was familiar with, though. She had never seen her stoic husband in such a state of vulnerability before. The lecture she had prepared would have to wait until she could figure out what was wrong. Before she had an opportunity to ask, Unnuk answered her question in words whispered through what was a rare sob. Tragedy had struck.
The spirits had deemed Pahana's luck finally reached an end; he was dead.
Pronunciations and Name Meanings
Nini [nini] /nee-nee/
- Inuit - Porcupine
Pahana [pɑhɑnɑ] /pa-ha-na/
- Native American - Lost white brother
Unnuk [unʌk] /oo-nuh-k/
- Inuit - Evening (as in nightfall)
Hurit [hɹɪt] /hur-it/
- Native American - Beautiful
Cree [kɹi] /k-ree/
- American - Highly spirited
For the collective works of the author, go here.