Aun froze. He had allowed the story to sweep him up and speak with his voice. Though Chax had said he wouldn't take offense at Strasmin tales of evil Oistrem, he looked as though he had been struck in the face, and Aun was pierced with guilt, wildly seeking words to undo what he had said.
As Aun's mind stammered, Chax managed to find his voice.
"You..." his voice quavered. "You think Susekho... is ugly?"
Aun's speech was scattered again. He strove to utter something that was both assuaging and true, and nothing came forth from him but a bewildered and frightened stare. In the end, knowing that the lengthening silence had already given Chax the real answer, he simply nodded sadly.
Chax inhaled, turned abruptly and slowly paced along his chosen path, looking skyward, nearly expressionless. Aun was too shamed to speak, and had nothing comforting to offer even if he could. He could not return to work on the eluctuant, lest he appear callous, so he sat and watched Chax in silence. Aun wondered again why he found it easier to mislead his childhood friends than to tell even a polite lie to this alien being, his intended foe, a corpse-eating, ephemeral monstrosity... that nonetheless knew what honor was, and courage, and mercy.
Chax was himself in a puzzling state. He thought of the light of Botaram shining in streams through the history-laden Namespikes, glinting off the spirals of words. He thought of the radiance that arose from Somurkam and responded in kind, so thast dazzlement and enchantment lay wherever one looked or explored or played. He thought of the winds that soared high over the world, soughing ceaslessly as they flowed, fluting through the highest and thinnest branches and gifting the stoutest roots with the deepest sonorities, the constant song that enriched his life and whose lack made him homesick even now. The feelings, sights and sounds filled his head and whelmed him with emotion, but gave him no clue of how to put things into words that could convey any sense of this wonder to Aun. A few tears finally rolled down Chax's face.
Perhaps the failure was not on Chax's part, but on Aun's? Perhaps the Strasmin just... lacked culture.
Chax became aware that Aun was sitting still, trying to keep a neutral expression but looking more miserable as time went on. This would not do. Chax summoned his courage and turned to speak.