#atozchallenge: A is for Akaina and Ashyntoya Shalei

[Apologies for the delay…I had quite the full schedule yesterday and was not able to post until today.  Thus we’ll have multiple entries today.  Woo!]

Welcome to Jonc’s A to Z Challenge!   I’ve chosen to have some fun and post about the stuff that goes on behind the scenes in the Mendaihu Universe; character backgrounds, FAQs, behind-the-scenes production, and more.  Hope you enjoy!

Q: First off:  how do you pronounce their names?

A: Last name first:  Shalei is shah-LEY, even if it’s a distant relative that has the extra ‘i’ at the end.  It’s an extremely common Meraladian surname, as it’s one of the largest clans to come from Trisanda.  They do sometimes get queries about if they’re all related; some do find it irritating, others merely brush it off with a quick answer.
Ashyntoya is ahsh’n-TOY-ah.  He’s named after his great-grandfather who was quite the epic Mendaihu, and a major player in the Fifth Season of Embodiment of the One of All Sacred.  Someone he feels he’s expected to live up to, but he doubts he’d even be fit to stand in that great man’s shadow.  He prefers to be called Ashan (ASH-ahn); he usually explains that it’s just a nickname, but in truth he borrowed it from another less known and much older ancestor who was connected to an uprising at Bann Currin on Trisanda.
Akaina is ah-KAH’ee-nah (although I admit my brain still sometimes reads it as ah-KAY-nah).  She understands cultural differences in speech origins, so she’s totally fine with people pronouncing it either way.  She prefers people call her Kai (kah’ee, rhymes with ‘sigh’).  She’s named after her aunt on her mother’s side; the two sisters were best friends growing up and are still extremely close.  Her aunt is one of her favorite relatives; she was the one who first taught her about the Mendaihu and the Shenaihu.

Q: How did you come up with the twin Mendaihu agents for the Bridgetown Trilogy?

A: That’s a good question…they just sort of evolved, really.  If I’m not mistaken, Kai originally showed up as a humanoid AI in The Phoenix Effect, and Ashan was one of the background AIs.  I dropped nearly all the AI ideas during the 2000 reboot and kept those two, giving them a completely new background and purpose.
They weren’t twins at first; originally I was going to have Ashan as the older brother.  However, I realized both characters had an almost exact equal purpose in the story; it made more sense for them to be not just physical twins but spiritual twins as well.  There’s no special psionic connection between the two; they merely know each other’s soul so well they work perfectly together as a team.  And of course, as siblings, they do get under each other’s skin now and again.

Q: Are they based on anyone in particular?

A: When I create characters, I often picture various actors playing them, just to get an idea of what they might look like or how they’d act.  In this case, however, I never really thought about it.  I purposely didn’t base them on anyone famous.  I wanted their characters to feel like that person you meet where you can’t quite put a finger on who they remind you of, and instead you find yourself attracted to their uniqueness.

Q: What do they look like?

A: In A Division of Souls I described them in general terms as Meraladians; they are human in form, though larger in height and size.  Their skin color is a very light brown, which is common for Meraladians.  As they are fraternal twins, they look similar to each other in certain ways, though Kai’s face is more oval and Ashan’s is narrower.  Ashan is slightly larger in frame.  They both have very dark brown eyes; from a distance it looks like their pupils are fully dilated.  They have small rounded and smallish noses and wide mouths.  They both have long black hair that they tie back in a triple tail, often threaded with small beads near the ends — this is an old cultural practice of the Shalei clan.

Q: Where do they come from?

A: They’ve been NewCanta Province citizens for almost all their lives.  [NewCanta Province is northwest of Bridgetown, and is the center of government for the Upper Midlantic Range.  Bridgetown is the second largest province in this Range.]  Nearly all of their extended family have been lifelong Mendaihu.  They have no other siblings, though they have quite a large extended family of relatives and close friends.

Q: What are their personality types?

A: Ashan is often misconstrued as being standoffish, maybe a little arrogant, but in truth he’s just not entirely sure how to act in front of others.  That’s not to say he doesn’t understand people, far from it; he’s just a little too self-conscious about whether or not he’s doing the right thing.  His anger does get the best of him sometimes, though after the fact he will apologize immediately, even sending out a small sensing thread to invite them closer to his spirit to show his true emotions.  He’s truly loyal to his friends, acquaintances and fellow Mendaihu agents.
Akaina is more open with her emotions and thoughts.  She has a bright demeanor, but when angered her words can be extremely barbed.  She loves meeting new people; she loves getting to know them on multiple levels so she can understand their many quirks and inconsistencies.  She’s also quite loyal to her friends, acquaintances and fellow Mendaihu agents.  She fully trusts what her soul sings to her, sometimes to a fault, but she understands the problems that might cause, and is willing to work through them.
They both absolutely love a good feast with friends, especially if a warm beverage of tea or coffee is served afterwards.

Q: Anything else?

A: Bits and bobs:  Both are often seen in their Mendaihu agency uniforms — long black dusters with a gray patch on their right shoulders, on which is stitched the Mendaihu sigil of two intersecting circles.  They choose to do this because they like to show they are always performing their Mendaihu duties at any time of day.  Both graduated from their Mendaihu training with very high marks.  Ashan has a long thin scar on his right forearm, the result of a training exercise accident.  Kai’s night vision is weaker than Ashan’s.   During the Bridgetown Trilogy, they share an apartment in the Pullock Street Heights Sector, not that far from Pullock Street Park.  Kai won’t tell him, but Ashan snores like a freight train.  Neither have ever traveled to Trisanda, though they are well informed of its history and what goes on there.

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Want to know more about the Mendaihu Universe?  Leave a question below in the comments, and I’ll be happy to answer it or expand on it in a future post!

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