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Asmara's Warrior

by Sapphire Blackgaard 5 months ago in Historical
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A warrior’s transformation to true greatness from his wife’s perspective.

Asmara's Warrior
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

His name was Avak when I first met him. We were only children at the time, but I knew that one day we would marry, because he said so. Of course, at that time I firmly told him that he would have to get me to love him first. “Challenge accepted” was all he said. I could only laugh at how certain he was, but I’ll admit, I secretly wanted him to be right about it.

From an early age, I had always harbored a deep interest in the healing arts. Perhaps it was because of my mother being a healer or the numerous healers in our village, but I knew I would be a great healer, just as I knew Avak would be a great warrior. I was taught by the best healers in our village and when I came of age, I joined the ranks as an official healer.

During that time, he was trained as a warrior, and he also joined the ranks when he came of age. Our friendship had continued and blossomed, and he did ask my hand in marriage when we were of age, and I did say yes. I was his healer, and he was my warrior.

“Asmara! I’m back!” I heard his voice from the door and ran towards it, colliding into him with a happy squeal.

“Avak! Welcome home, my great warrior!” I cried happily as I felt his strong arms around me once more, after not having him near for over a month.

“I am truly home now that I have my beloved healer in my arms.” He laughed, with that special grin that was only for me. I grinned back up at his chiseled face and joyfully received a much overdue kiss. I relished the feeling of his forehead against mine as I breathed in his scent of sweat, leather, and all things outdoors.

Sighing, I looked into his loving green eyes and brushed a stray strand of black hair out of his face. “I made your favorite when I heard you were finally returning.”

“Is that why such a divine smell is coming from the kitchen? Truly, you seem determined to spoil me senseless.” Avak grinned.

“Is it working?” I giggled as I pulled back and slowly stepped towards the kitchen.

“You may yet succeed in making me stay here forever and give up being a warrior if this is my treatment.” He replied, following me with that sparkle in his eyes that made my heart flutter every time I saw it.

I laughed at his words though. “You could never give up being a warrior. It’s as much a part of you as I am and I wouldn’t ask that of you.”

“Then what would you ask of me, Asmara?” He questioned softly.

“Special time in which you’re all mine and I’m all yours and hearing all about what you did while you were gone.” I answered sweetly.

“I can do that, but only if you tell me all that you did while I was gone.” Avak smiled and I wondered if he was trying to melt me for it seemed my insides were melting. How I’d missed that smile!

“First things first,” I said, “Dinner is ready.” I turned and served up the meal while he sat down. We laughed and talked while we ate, enjoying much needed time together. He helped me to clean up and then we spent even more quality time together. This bliss of reunion carried on for a week before we settled and picked up our familiar routine.

He went to training early in the morning and I started my rounds. At lunch we met up and ate together and then he would begin helping train the upcoming warriors in training, and I would finish my rounds and then go home and make medicine. He would come home later and we’d eat dinner and spend the rest of the night together. Some days I would be collecting herbs and he would be on patrol and we would meet and talk a little before returning to our duties. The cycle continued for a long while before he once again had to leave. There was a war going on between two of our neighboring countries and the one we had an alliance with had called on us for aid.

I wanted to go with them, but even then, I was too young and our village still needed some to remain and tend to it. The best warriors and healers packed up and prepared for the fight ahead. It was a tearful and bitter good-bye, for even the youngest among us knew that war could take years. I wanted him to stay, but I understood why he had to go. He was one of the best warriors in the village and we could only send our best. If only I’d been able to know the terrible storm that would follow on his return, I would have begged him to stay. Then again, it was probably good that I didn’t and that he went.

It would be ten years before we were reunited again. I never expected things to return to old, but I also never expected the broken man that returned to me. I knew the moment I saw him that only The Great Healer could mend the wounds I could never hope to touch.

The very first thing I noticed when I saw Avak, was the bandage over his eyes. The second was the young man who guided him. Then I noticed the rest, he was covered in bandages and limping. I would soon learn, however, that one of the worst wounds lay with his eyes.

“Avak!” I called as I moved towards him, only to pause when I saw him flinch. “Avak?” He flinched again and I understood or thought I did. A short exchange of words passed between the man who was guiding my husband and I. Then I took over guiding Avak, leading him the last little bit home. With every step I could feel his tension and it felt that the very air around us grew thicker as we went. A thousand questions entered my mind, but I kept silent, knowing it was too soon to start asking anything.

When we entered our home, the tension was suffocating and I felt my worries starting to build even as I tried desperately to give them up to The Great Father, as I’d been taught since birth. In that moment, it didn’t seem to be working. We’d only gone a few feet inside when he roughly jerked his hand from mine and stopped, startling me.

“I trust everything is the same as when I left?” he asked and I was taken aback by how cold and distant his voice sounded. Where was the warmth and care that I knew so well?

“Yes, I haven’t changed a thing.” I answered as my mind reeled, trying to comprehend this seeming stranger before me.

“Good.” He said gruffly before roughly pushing past me and heading to our room. I watched him go and jumped when he slammed the door shut. He had never done that before. I stood there staring at the door in confusion and concern for several moments before I began to make lunch. I hoped that he was simply tired from the return journey and his recovering injuries, and that one of his favorite meals might help him to relax and settle in. Maybe, when the time was right, he would tell me his troubles and my mind could be at rest. Silently, I prayed for it to be so.

The smell of the food wafted through the entire house, but he did not come out. I waited for a few moments, with everything ready, before I went to our room and gently knocked on the closed door. There was no answer. I knocked again, a little louder just in case, and called through the door.

“Avak? Lunch is ready.”

“I’m not hungry.” His voice growled back, muffled by the door.

“Alright. I’ll save some for later.” I replied, not wanting to push too much on the first day. I ate lunch alone, silently wondering if he would change his mind and join me, but he did not. I cleaned up everything and still he did not come out. I wavered between trying to go to him and leaving him be. In the end, I’m ashamed, I took the cowardly route and let him be. The rest of the day was spent in uncomfortable silence and a continuous suffocating tension that threatened to drown me.

He didn’t come for dinner and at bedtime I found he had blocked the door. I made an attempt to reason with him to let me in, but ended up jumping back when he roared through the door to be left alone. I could not fathom any of this. Who was this stranger in my home?

Eventually, he relented and even apologized as he let me in. I could see where he’d tried to redress his bandages and offered to help fix them. He was reluctant, resentful even, but he did let me tend to his healing wounds. The only injury he would not let me close to was the one around his eyes, which he nearly slapped my hands away from before using his words. I did my best to remain respectful of his wishes as well as happy to have him back, something I gently told him as we crawled into bed. He merely grunted and instead of taking me into his arms as he used to, he turned his back on me.

I laid there for a long while, feeling hurt, confused, and worried. Desperately, I prayed for wisdom and strength to be what my husband needed me to be in this challenging time. In the peace of The Great Father, I drifted to sleep with hope of the next day being better.

It wasn’t much better. Avak remained distant and cold towards me, as if I were the stranger in our house. I did all I knew to do for an entire week, spending time most often in prayers to The Great Healer, to help my husband. Before I knew it an entire month had passed and hardly anything changed. The most gifted healer in our village tended to Avak’s eyes during that time and I quickly learned to leave them alone during those sessions.

It was on one of these visits that the healer, Thamina, pulled me aside after having tended to my husband. I did not like the look in her eyes, for it bore trouble. “What is it?” I asked softly.

My fellow healer and mentor looked me straight in the eyes with an expression of both compassion and seriousness. “Asmara, I have done everything I can. We have reached out to The Great Healer, but unless He decides to step in, Avak will never be able to see again.”

I stared for a moment and processed these words or at least attempted to. Avak, never to see again? I could not even start to imagine how this news was affecting him. Such a thing could be devastating for any warrior. Yet, Avak wasn’t just any warrior. He was both the youngest to join the ranks of the best warriors and my beloved husband.

“I understand.” Those were the only words I could say, even though I was struggling to. Thamina gave me a compassionate smile and placed a comforting hand on my shoulder.

“I know this past month has not been easy, but I am afraid it is going to remain hard for a long time. Please, do not hesitate to come and talk to me. I know the side of this you will have to deal with. Ilure, my husband, went through a type of what Avak is going through. Maybe he can help, too.” She said.

I nodded and gave her a weak smile. “Thank you, Thamina.”

“Of course, Asmara.” She hugged me and after a few minutes she left with a final word of support and comfort. I watched her go before turning back to my home and taking a deep breath as I moved to enter.

I found him in our bedroom, sitting on the bed in the dark, with his head down and shoulders hunched. I hesitated at the door, watching his still form and unsure of how to approach. Coming to a decision, I went for what I hoped was the least intrusive and sat down on the other side of the bed, so our backs faced each other. He was silent, but I knew he was aware I was there. I could sense the heightened tension that flowed from him the very moment I entered. I remained equally as silent, waiting for him to make the first move. It didn’t take long for him to do so.

“I trust you know I will never see again.” His voice said gruffly.

“Yes, I know that only The Great Healer can restore your sight now.” I answered and sucked in a quick breath when the air in the room became suddenly suffocating, just before Avak gave a harsh laugh.

“Him? Restore my sight? He who has allowed it to happen? Why should He reverse this curse?” His voice was harsh and sharp with bitterness, a bitterness I did not know it could have.

“Avak?” My voice shook as I spoke his name, trying to understand his words.

“Do not use that name!” He suddenly screamed, flying off the bed, and turning to me (I had turned in alarm at his outburst.) His face was contorted in pure rage and bitterness, but the most striking thing for me in that face I once knew so well were his eyes. Faded green where bright and loving shades had once been somehow still conveyed emotion while being aimless. In those eyes I saw despair and deep sorrow, or perhaps that was my own and I imagined it in those unseeing orbs.

“What’s wrong with your name?” I asked, trying to understand.

He let out another bitter laugh. “What’s wrong with my name?” He reiterated mockingly. “Everything! Avak, a name meaning great! It is a name for one who is and can be great!” His voice was almost hysterical as he said this.

“But you are a great warrior.” The words foolishly burst from my mouth before I could even think to stop them.

“Great warrior? Look at my eyes woman!” He nearly roared as he gestured sharply to his face. “This great warrior you speak of, he died on a blood-stained battlefield! What you got back is a mere shadow of this great warrior!” Tears ran down his face now as he heaved breath into his lungs.

A moment passed before I could find anything to say. “No. My warrior is still here. He is just buried by horrible things that I cannot even imagine.” Again, he laughed, but it was a coarse and cold laugh. That was when I made my fatal mistake. “Avak-”

“I told you not to use that name! Get out! Get out you vile woman! Go! Leave me!” He roared, lunging, and trying to strike at me. I jumped out of reach and watched in horror as he fell over the bed and landed with a thud on the floor. I took a step towards him, wanting to help, only for him to lash out wildly with a vicious cry that sent me stumbling backwards from the shock of it.

In that moment I would have happily left him there for fear of him, but a powerful sense that I should stay rose within me from an unknown place, and for a moment I warred within myself over these two opposing thoughts. In the end, I obeyed the second thought. I stepped forward and gripped him, not letting go as he fought against me.

“No! I will not leave you! May The Great Father grant me the strength to stay by your side until the end!” I cried, wrestling him into a hug with strength I did not know I possessed. He struggled against me until his hands were suddenly around my throat and I felt panic rise within me. “Avak!” I wheezed, gripping his wrists in a panicked and quickly fading struggle.

For several horrifying seconds, his hands squeezed my neck, and I was helpless to stop it. Help me! I screamed in my mind to The Great Father as tears streamed down my face and landed on Avak’s hands and wrists, soaking them. Suddenly he seemed to freeze and then he shoved me away as he lurched back. I landed on the floor, coughing and gasping, shaking as I tried to gather myself. When I finally looked up, Avak was pressed against the wall like he was trying to melt into it with a look of horror and self-disgust on his face.

“A-Avak?” My voice cracked and shook. He flinched and hid his face. “Avak.” I said, softly moving towards him.

“S-Stay back!” He cried in panic as he tried to get further away from me. I paused and stared at him with a growing awe and compassion. He looked so vulnerable and scared in that moment, something I had rarely seen. Gently, though he still flinched back, I reached out and placed a hand on his knee. “No, stay away!” He cried, but I saw through it this time.

“I’m okay.” I said gently, though my heart had yet to return to its normal rhythm.

“I could have killed you.” He whimpered and I heard the shame and remorse in his voice and for the first time in a month, I saw my husband, my real husband.

“But you didn’t.”

“I still hurt you!” He sobbed, shaking with his cries.

“Yes,” I answered softly, “but I forgive you.” This somehow made him smaller.

“You shouldn’t.” he replied brokenly, shrinking further away. “Not after what I have done to you. You who never did me any harm.”

I sighed and slumped, thinking about what to do. I looked up again and studied him in silence before coming to a decision. “Before this goes any further, let’s get help, Avak.” This caught his attention.

“From whom?” he asked, and I noted the beginning of a hard edge in his tone.

“Avak, I will not yield on this point. Not after this.” I said firmly and he seemed to wilt. “Let’s talk with Ilure and Thamina. They will be able to give us guidance through this.” He seemed to halfheartedly rise in protest before my hand firmed on his knee and he sensed my resolve and relented.

It took some time, but we eventually crawled into bed together after that and for the first time since he returned, he faced me and held me close once more. I am sure both of our hearts were beating out of our chests, though for somewhat different reasons. Him, in fear that he might hurt me and I in both similar trepidation as he and excited relief. For the first time since his return, I had my husband back.

The next morning, he tried to change his mind about going to our elder friends, but I would not yield until he came with me. It turned into the first of several healing steps for us. Thamina discussed with me things I could do to make things easier for Avak and me, while Ilure spoke with my warrior. We talked separately like that for a long while and then the two had us switch and Ilure spoke with me and made it easier for me to understand what Avak was going through. I assume Thamina did the same.

This went on for months, blessed months of healing and reconciliation that made us stronger as husband and wife. Avak learned how to navigate without his eyes and Ilure managed to pull him back into the practice of a warrior, training him personally. I found myself under Thamina’s tutelage and grew much as a healer, as Avak grew once more as a warrior.

Two years after his return we celebrated the forming gift in my womb, I had never seen him so excited as when we learned I was pregnant. I think it took him only five seconds to start working on the crib, another skill he mastered in his blindness. The entire village celebrated and pitched in to help prepare for the new life. Oh, those were both long and joyous months and by the end, we were granted a beautiful baby girl.

It was shortly after this that the three great teachers of our people came to Avak and offered him a place among them. It was the highest honor to be given anyone in our land. I was filled with the greatest joy for him, while he was so utterly humbled that I began to wonder if he would speak again, let alone accept. In the end he accepted and the ceremony preparations commenced. In one month’s time, Avak would join as the fourth of the great teachers.

The month flew by as everyone put up decorations and the warriors practiced the ceremonial warriors' dance and the healers practiced their own ceremonial dance. I had the immense pleasure of being one of the dancers and I would have the honor of escorting Avak before them as a sign of unity and support. Avak worked twice as hard on his part, a demonstration of his skills and how far he had come and the lessons he had learned. I was most excited for the naming ceremony, where he would receive a new name.

The day finally arrived and I proudly did my part in the dance before I went to our home and prepared to guide my husband to his proper place at the correct time. The lively celebratory music transitioned to a more solemn tune and we exited and made our way down the path to the clearing where the three great teachers waited. Once there, I stepped back and Avak presented all he had learned. When he finished, we knelt together in front of the teachers, who were also kneeling with their spouses.

“Avak: great and Asmara: love, we welcome you here today to accept you as part of our number. Avak, you have shown yourself more worthy of this honor than before you became blind and it is because of this that we have extended this invitation, for you have suffered greatly and now have the ability to teach others. Suffering has been your teacher, the humbler of your pride in your skills, so suffering shall be your new name. Rise with us, Lyding: Suffering and Asmara: Love, for you have carried him with the love gifted you by The Great Father.” We rose and the three smiled. “Welcome, fourth great teacher.” Cheers erupted from all around us, and a triumphant and celebratory song exploded to life as we were embraced by Sevilen, the teacher of love, Verity, the teacher of truth, and Ilure, the teacher of failure.

The celebration lasted all the way into the early morning two days later. It took a week to clean everything up. Lyding looked like a completely new person, and I suppose that was true, though it is probably more accurate to say that he was a completely new person. He was still my husband, but this time he was genuinely great, and I loved him infinitely more than ever before. We both looked forward to the future from then on.

Historical

About the author

Sapphire Blackgaard

I've always loved stories, both reading and writing. I always have a story in my head. I've been wanting to make money with my stories and decided to give Vocal a try. I hope you enjoy my stories!

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