Chapter 2 - Exodus
…Six Decades Ago…
The formal engagement party approached. A very nervous 17 year old Pakku led the procession of a dozen men, all brothers or cousins or uncles of the young man, and was encouraged by his father to proceed. Symbolic of their House's high stature in the Northern Water Tribe, they wore long deep blue robes of finest whale-shark skin and polar hare-otter fur. He carried a seal-turtle scale-covered and narwhal-tiger ivory box, a family tradition.
The receiving party, with an even more nervous 16 year old young girl, stood in front of their Spartan residence. Six women flanked the girl: her mother, and her aunts. Kanna was from one of the lesser Houses, and the arranged marriage was vital to the survival of that once great family. She was an only child, and a girl besides. Union between their House and the Great House of Pakku's father would assure its continuation.
Pakku bowed before Kanna, and introduced himself, "Kanna, I am Pakku. I am pleased to meet you and your family."
"Welcome Pakku, and honored family, to my home," she said by the rote response of the betrothal ceremony.
Kanna had not the slightest affection for the boy she was speaking to for the first time, though she had noted his silent attention to her from afar for months, though.
"It is the tradition of our tribe and my family that at this time in every young man's life, to join with another. You are my chosen, by agreement between our families."
"I understand," replied Kanna.
The correct response by Kanna should have been: 'It is a great honor to become your chosen.' The adults chafed.
Nonetheless, Pakku presented the box formally before Kanna, opened it, and pulled out a betrothal necklace.
"It is beautiful," she observed, and was being truthful. Pakku had done exquisite work.
"Please accept my offer to marry you and that our union will be blessed for all time," he repeated the required phrase, but put everything into it he could.
Her eyes got big around, not in happiness, but in trepidation. She shuddered.
As he went forward to put it on her, she stiffened, turned, and ran away crying. He started after her, but his father stopped him. A boy could not chase after a girl who refused him. It just wasn't done in their society. There were other ways to make her accept. Pakku was crestfallen. The pretty girl he had admired for so long ran away from him.
The adults stared at each other awkwardly, and Pakku's father's eyes narrowed at Kanna's mother.
Kanna's mother thought quickly, and lied to keep some honor and some hope alive, "I am sorry, Pakku, but Kanna hasn't been feeling well lately. I think she's a little overly excited right now. Please, come see her again later."
Under a secluded ice bridge at the edge of the Northern Water Tribe capital, two young people spoke to one another seriously and in secrecy. This kind of open contact between unaccompanied and marriageable single youths, especially those who would be married who were nobles of the Great Houses, was forbidden. But it wasn't the first time over months that Pakku had defied his parents to see her, and tried to get her to accept him and his proposal. He was encouraged that she would agree to the clandestine meetings. Punishment was fierce for those young couples discovered meeting in this manner, especially after a refusal to marry.
Pakku asked desperately, "The fact is I really do love you, Kanna. I have admired you since from afar for some time. We just couldn't speak, even though I wanted to, because I was a different class. That is the rule. Relations are made, not just allowed to happen."
"I wish I could love you the way you do, Pakku, but I can't."
"Is your heart with another, Kanna? He could challenge me, I would let him win, and then it would be all right for you to go to him."
"No. I have no other. But thank you for that offer."
"Then why can't you marry me?" he puzzled.
"Because I want to love you because I do truly love you, not because you or someone else told me I have to love you. You are a nice boy, and someday you will find another will obey your family's commands to marry you," Kanna stated, trying to say no to Pakku and not be harsh or hurtful.
He finally became angry, "But you can't turn me down. It is against tradition. It has been arranged. If you turn me down, there will not be another for you."
He hesitated at the next line but he said it anyway in his final desperation to be with her, "Your family will be disgraced if you don't marry me."
She bristled, and snapped angrily, "Then I will pay the price for that refusal, Pakku, not my family. I am leaving with the Separatists. It will be as good as banishment, which I know is the price for denying a suitor. Especially one of your family's stature."
Pakku couldn't believe what he was hearing, "But the Separatists are all about chaos and anarchy. You cannot run a society that way. Just look at the Southern Tribe. They have barely survived, believing exactly the same thing."
Kanna stood her ground, "But they have survived, Pakku. Like the South, the Separatists all believe that anyone with the best hearts and interests of the people can and will rise to serve and lead. Being born to rule others by force is not the way. Your heart and mind – not rules - wills you where you must be and must go. And the spirits will guide you on your path in life. That's all there is to it, Pakku. Not a divine birthright for you upper class."
Pakku scoffed, "Surely you don't believe any of that bunk? People need a tradition of rules and rulers, order, and tradition. And a ruling class to be in charge. If any person can lead at any time, there is no history, no order to things, and no plan for the future. Breaking that rule leads to ruin and the end of society. That is the way of our world. The Separatists are crazy, Kanna."
He regretted saying that the instant his words left his lips.
"I am a Separatist, too, Pakku. Am I insane - the very one you have been told to marry?" she accused.
"Um, no, Kanna. Not you. You are different from them," Pakku tried vainly to recover his harsh statements.
"I am no different from them. When you love people more than order and rules, Pakku, then you will be ready for real love."
She offered the betrothal necklace back to Pakku. He was decimated, but willed back the tears.
"No, Kanna. You keep it. I made that for you. And only for you. I can make another," Pakku said with his heartbreak masked.
It was done. It was over.
"Very well. Goodbye, Pakku."
She put the betrothal necklace in her pocket, bowed and abruptly left.
His heart was crushed, and wanted to run after her. But tradition prevailed in him, the most prominent House of all the Northern Water Tribe, second in line only to the chieftains themselves, serving the nobility for centuries as the House of the best water bending Masters. He vowed to not be the first to break that tradition, causing great shame to his family over a mere girl, even if it was Kanna. Any of the other girls in the tribe would be glad to have him, even if she didn't. Or so he bragged to himself.
He vowed he would find another, even when his own heart rebelled against that thought.
A few days later, on the day the surprisingly large fleet of Separatists departed by boat from the North for a new home and life to join with the Southern Water Tribe, he watched from the frozen balcony of his home, searching for Kanna in the crowd.
She boarded the exodus ship with her best friend Hama. She noticed her look back for the boy she spurned, and her now-estranged family.
Hama tried to cheer her friend by encouraging her,"You should be happy, Kanna, we are free now, and we are together as best friends on a new adventure. An adventure we will make for ourselves. Not because anyone else ordered us to."
Kanna replied, still unsure of the decision which would affect her for a lifetime, "I know, Hama. It's just…", and she looked back at Pakku's home, and she saw him alone on the balcony. His eyes met hers, but she averted them quickly with no acknowledgement, and that was the last they saw of each other.
A single tear dropped from Pakku's eyes, and hit the frozen balcony, and turned instantly to ice, and so did his love for Kanna. Or any other.