The sun rose over the peaks of the Weyr, a multitude of vibrant colors; yellow and purple, red and blue. Not even the swirls of dirty smoke could mar the beautiful sight.
Yet Elora, perched on the edge of her Weyr, couldn't appreciate it. Her feet scraped repeatedly against the rocks.
She knew she should be happy and proud; Saphireth had Flown well and true, in one of the best Flights Elora had certainly ever witnessed. And it wasn't even her pride in her dragon talking. Elora's own anger had fueled Saphireth, and Saphireth had fueled Elora. The DarkBlue had flown high and far, and Elora knew - though she could not remember well - that she had been equally wild that night.
She could take no pleasure in it. Saphireth, curled in the Weyr, felt the same. While they liked their partners - how could you dislike a friend? - it had not been who they wanted.
He has still not said anything?
Elora's eyes twitched in the direction of Cliffside, and before she could stare too long, she forced them shut. Her silence was answer enough for Saphireth. Her tail twitched against the floor, and a sigh slipped through her teeth.
It is unlike him. We fought. I just didn't think he'd end it like this.
And as Elora opened her eyes, a black dragon's silhouette rose against the sky. She blinked once. Perhaps he didn't.
And the numbness faded as anger rose up in her, as hot and fierce as dragon's breath.
Metanath touched down in the Bowl, near the Weyrwoman's quarters and the meeting hall. He turned his head around to peer back at his Rider.
Shall I call one of the staff to come and retrieve this? No…no, I'll deliver it myself. Just wait here. Don't be too long. He lowered himself to the ground and extended a foreleg for N'kio to step down on. I'll try not to be. We've got that ship coming in in a half-candlemark.
After he retrieved the large, sealed package from the aft saddlebag, N'kio swung his leg over Metanath's side and dismounted. Though he hadn't been officially summoned to the Weyr, he felt it was his duty to keep the Weyrwoman informed on any other information he had unearthed about their missing Lord and Lady. There wasn't much be could find, truth be told, and examining their home on a different day and in another light hadn't turned up anything new by his eyes.
But if there was one thing Harra and Ralt could have been trusted for, it was their meticulous book-keeping. They monitored everything and anything that entered and left Cliffside, and documented it all a large tome sequestered away from the public. In it, they wrote their daily profits and losses, as well as the contents of every single crate that came into port, and every single crate that left port - up to and including provisions for the other, nearby Holds.
N'kio headed toward the Weyrwoman's chambers, the package held close to his chest. He wasn't even sure if she was in there, but it wouldn't hurt to try. If not, he figured leaving it with a junior Weyrwoman or Weyrleader would suffice.
Being both a good friend and Watch Rider under Ralt and Harra's rule, he had been made privy to the book's whereabouts a long time ago. It related to his job, after all, so it made sense for him to understand more of the process. He wasn't even sure if it held any new information for the Weyrleaders, but seeing as no one lately was keeping a good eye on the imports and exports of their community, handing the book over to Rilora or T'kar seemed the best decision. Perhaps they would find something inside its pages that looked out-of-place, though he had glanced through it and saw nothing too out of the ordinary.
Metanath shuffled anxiously on his feet. Both he and N'kio knew what had happened yesterday, and even though they sorely regretted missing the Flight, they both had no idea if they had been welcome. Truth be told, after the fight, they hadn't been sure of anything. They were hoping to expect a firelizard with a message, or…or something. But when nothing came, they figured they weren't welcome, and decided to continue on with work as usual.
All the same…the Black dragon avoided turning his eyes toward the location of Saphireth's weyr. Perhaps for the first time, the Weyr felt unwelcoming. He longed for nothing more to return to Cliffside and focus on his duties - anything would be better than focusing on what-could-have-been. But when N'kio finally returned to his side, he could tell his Rider had other things on his mind, and that troubled him most of all.
Oh no…no, I know what you're thinking. I can't face her. I can't! N'kio approached his dragon with his hands in his pockets; he had not found the Weyrwoman, but he had come across the eldest Junior Weyrwoman, and entrusted her with the book and its timely delivery to Rilora. Should't we just…stop in for a visit? See how things went? And how come? Metanath groaned. It feels so…so rude. I don't know what we should have done, but…but now that it's over, I just…think we should have Chased.
He ran a hand over his beard and glanced in the general direction of Elora's weyr. She might not have wanted us at all. I'm sure this Flight wasn't any different than any other night she's had.
The Black dragon honked his displeasure, but said nothing in return to that idea. Come…let's just go before they see us. I can't face her yet. I really like her and I have done her wrong, even if you think we did right. You and Elora should work your own things out, but Saphireth wasn't part of it. But let's go - let me think of what to say first, before we see them again?
With a sigh, N'kio turned back toward his dragon. Alright…here, bend down so I can get up. Then we'll go home.
Metanath obeyed immediately, and his eyes spun a relieved blue as his Rider climbed up and began to settle himself in the saddle. Soon, they would be back above the seas and without a care in the world. After all, there was nothing better for a troubled mind than cold waters and salty air. Distance from the problem might help, too.
Inside the Weyr, the DarkBlue dragon stretched out her wings, her legs, her tail. Elora didn't have to see her eyes to know what they looked like - she could feel her anger, whirling dark and angry. (Sometimes she forgot that dark dragons were dark for a reason; Saphireth was so sweet, always so sweet.)
Watch me. I know you were counting on Metanath - I don't think it was him, I don't think he made that decision- But he didn't come. You can be mad at N'kio, and I will be mad at Metanath, and you might be keeping your anger bottled up, but I will not do such things. I am a dragon.
And just as N'kio climbed back up into his saddle, Saphireth sprung out from behind Elora, wings nearly clipping her Rider's head as she soared down to the Weyr bowl. Her claws left scores in the dirt as she skid to a stop, nose inches away from Metanath's.
The Black might have been larger, but with her wings spread and eyes whirling, she seemed twice her size. A low growl shook her throat.
And she said nothing as she stared at him.
Elora stood up from her perch, squared her shoulders, forced a mask of calm on her face, and followed her dragon.
Just as quickly as Saphireth appeared, Metanath leapt back with a startled bugle, the action throwing N'kio forward against his neck ridges.
"You great, daft wherry! Watch where you're going!" Pushing himself back upright, he winced as he rubbed his chest and shoulder. Damn it…that really hurt, you know that?
--I'msorrybutN'kiolookohShellswhatdoIdoIdon'tknowhelpmeeeee! N'kio peered down his shirt and frowned at the large, red marks he could see. Calm down, I can't understand a word you're sayin'! Now, from the beginning...? No, just -- look up!
And then N'kio looked up and noticed the immense DarkBlue dragon, mere inches from where Metanath was now standing.
Oh! Well, then… He glanced down on either side of the large, Black dragon and mentally calculated the odds of Saphireth lunging to attack. He lightly tapped Metanath's neck with a free hand and laughed wearily. Any chance of letting me down?
No. Do not get off. Attach the straps. I will be careful.
"Shards," he hissed, but he obeyed dutifully and without question. He didn't really care much for being in the middle of a dragon fight, but that's what it looked like it was turning into. It had been so long since Weyrling training! Mounted attacks hadn't been as big a topic as it probably should have been, not back then. N'kio tightened the straps that tethered him to Metanath and hoped they both remembered how to react in a fight.
The Black dragon crouched down low before Saphireth, the muscles in his hind legs tensing as he prepared, if need be, to spring away and up into the skies. He tucked his head against his chest and looked, for all intents and purposes, like a cornered tunnelsnake - because even in the Bowl, where he could get away with ease, he was truly and unequivocally trapped by convention.
Keeping one hand on Metanath's side, N'kio turned to look up at Elora's weyr. Had she sent Saphireth? He ground his teeth together and focused his attention back on the DarkBlue dragon. Damn that woman. What he had seen at the docks was clear as day! So why was she still mad at them for something she did and they didn't do! She had asked for it all. If she had wanted them there, she should have sent for them!
Metanath, meanwhile, crooned a soft note to Saphireth, hoping to placate her rage in some way. He knew he had to act fast or face her wrath; his age (and general superiority because of said age) had nothing on an angry female. But what would they talk about? The Flight would be nothing but trouble, and yet he knew that was exactly why she had come. But they had not sent anything! How had he known to come or not? Oh, had he time enough to think of some way to apologize! He curled his tail around to his side and met her brilliant, angry eyes.
Oh, so you are aware of the time and the day. I was beginning to think you had the brain of a wher. The DarkBlue knew the insults came from her Rider - the woman spent too much time the past few days concocting things to yell at Metanath's Rider - but still, it felt correct to fling them at the Black. It may have been Elora's words, but she certainly agreed with them at this moment.
And as for Elora - she lingered at the Weyr Bowl for a moment, trying to figure out what she was going to say to him. What could she say to him? She could insult him, for sure - shards, she was certainly angry enough to do that - but it wouldn't change anything. Wouldn't change his mistrust in her, wouldn't change his not showing up.
This wasn't an accidental insult. This was deliberate, and designed to ignore her, designed to hurt. Even if he thought - what had he thought!? That she hadn't wanted him there? One fight didn't-
And then she was next to her dragon, looking up at N'kio with eyes both angry and hurt, and she still didn't know what to say. So she settled on one of the many truths in her arsenal, one that would rid her of blame and make him feel guilt and just - she didn't want to fight, but what choice did she have?
"I wanted to send word, but she rose right after I woke up. I didn't have the time before she was feeding and - well, you know how it goes. I was hoping you'd notice. It wasn't a very subtle display. But I suppose you did not." Even though there was no way he could have missed it, and they both knew it.
Her voice was surprisingly calm, monotone; it dawned on her that Saphireth was being angry enough for both of them, sucking it out of her to wield against Metanath. And that left her with just an unbearable crushing sadness.
Which, logically - she could see the logic, since she wasn't angry - she knew would effect the red-headed sailor more than her anger ever could. But she didn't want to effect him.
She just wanted him gone.
But Saphireth came first, and if Saphireth wanted to rip Metanath's off, than she would stand by her dragon's side and wait for her to finish.
Metanath shifted from leg to leg, clearly nervous at the direction the conversation was heading. He knew there would never be anything he could say or do that would make up for him not being there - even if N'kio hadn't wanted to go. Or chose not to, out of pride...or whatever he and Elora were fighting over. He kept his head down as he replied to Saphireth, and unintentionally watched her claws instead. Those harsh words sounded foreign in her tongue, more suited to Elora's rage than her own - which, he assumed, meant she could be extra volatile.
He decided, then and there, apologies first. Placating her seemed best at the moment.
On some days, I do...Saphireth, I AM sorry for what I didn't do. Truly. I should not have let N'kio's fight influence me.
N'kio, who was beginning to feel quite sick swaying back and forth on Metanath (he might've been as big as a ship but that didn't mean he felt like one), glanced away from the dragons and met, not surprisingly so, Elora's gaze. And he didn't know what to say - how to explain it - because it was one thing to justify your excuses while separated, but another thing entirely when the woman you love (love? it was such a strong word, surely it couldn't be...?) is standing right in front of you. And all of those excuses, every last one, felt...inferior and stupid when he compared them to missing her first Flight. Her first one!
Then, when Elora quietly explained herself, that was when he felt truly horrible.
"Shards, Elora, I...I should have realized. I'm so sorry. I told myself that if you hadn't sent word, well, you didn't want me or Metanath within a hundred leagues of you and Saphireth. And aye," he nodded, almost wistfully, "I watched her Rise. And saw her suitors chase after her, like they always do. But I just thought...after the fight an' all, that you wouldn't have wanted me there."
N'kio shrugged in his seat. "So we just went about our day, with what work we had, and I...I tried not to focus on the skies too much. But I wish I could take it all back, knowing what I know now. It was your first Flight and I...I just feel terrible."
She had learned from him that it didn't matter what you said; it only mattered what you did, and how people construed what you did. She had known that, once. When had she forgotten? Appearances were everything, actions were everything.
The truth was this: N'kio had not shown up at her Flight, because he had decided that he knew what she wanted better than she did. (He could have shown up, and asked, and that would have solved that problem.) N'kio felt guilty about this, meaning that he knew it was wrong. (He could have shown up, and asked, and that would have solved that problem.) N'kio still cared about her. (He could have shown up, and fought for her, and showed that instead of just implying it.)
The truth had little consequence. So Elora stared up at him, and listened to his confessions, and his apologies, and his guilt.
And then she nodded once, and turned, and began to walk back up to her Weyr.
Saphireth was not at that calm point yet, spitting out her words.
I thought you were better than that.
Her wings shook. And, at the edge of her vision, she could see her Weyrmate rise for the day.
Hocteth was somewhat distracted this morning. Pesky feline, every time. Still as he got up proper he hoped to put the idea of the ground behind him. Perhaps he would go flying or something. Thinking thusly he started stretching to get out and about before the Bowl caught his attention. Less that and more Saphireth. The DarkBlue was clearly angry, and that was not good. His eyes narrowed, judging the issue to be with the Black dragon near her. His eyes whirled appropriately to convey that he was not in a good mood and he glided over to the other dragons.
Is he bothering you Saphireth? The Moonlight was entirely ready to stand up for the Darkblue, whatever had been done was fairly obviously the Black’s fault. He certainly couldn’t see how it could be Saphireth’s fault, she was the model of a quiet, peaceful dragoness. Bias notwithstanding.
D’ziel stopped tying his laces and eyes toward the weyrbowl. What had Hocteth mad? D’ziel knotted the laces quick and trotted out to see what was the matter. Hocteth got annoyed easy as anything. Mad was a little different. He prodded a little and found the Moonlight informing him shortly that it had to do with Saphireth. He picked up the pace since Hocteth didn’t seem to care much about what Elora may or may not be doing. Trouble so early, he certain wasn’t a fan. He was worried too, that maybe Elora was in trouble too. So he came out on the scene he took a good look around, trying to figure out what was wrong. Elora was headed off, but… She didn’t look agrevated. Not at all. The closest to anything negative that he could pin on her was possibly disappointed? Even so that was a stretch.
“What’s going on…?” He spoke quietly, looking bewildered.
Elora blinked and looked at the Rider next to her. Ah. D'ziel. Technically her Weyrmate, now - shards, the things they had done yesterday would definitely deem them as such - but she had fled back to her own Weyr that night; they both had.
How could she explain this? Oh, yes, N'kio and I were romantically involved, and Saphireth and Metanath grew close, and then they decided we didn't matter enough yesterday.
"Saphireth trusted him, and he broke that trust." She looked back at the situation, lips pressing into a tight line. "We seem to have switched roles for now. I'm usually the angry one."
As if to prove her point, Saphireth pulled her lips back in a snarl at the Black dragon - all for show, of course; Saphireth knew better than to attack, and didn't truly have it in her heart to do so anyway.
But the show seemed true enough, especially when the DarkBlue didn't respond to her Moonlight partner.
D’ziel turned to look at Elora’s expression, and then glanced back at the dragons. She wasn’t telling him the details, but she really didn’t have to, the fact that it had hurt the Darkblue was obvious. He looked back at the rider’s face, how the rider’s mouth had become a hard line. He wasn’t sure, be he expected that she was affected by this as well. Even if that flight…well if it hadn’t happened he still would be worried about her. They were friends, and he didn’t like to see his friends hurt. His concern distracted him, prevented him from noticing something important.
Hocteth was already defensive but Saphireth’s actions told him quite clearly that the Black was unwanted. That snarl hit him and his mind went down the same way as it usually did. What was proper. Or rather what he felt was proper. The Moonlight’s eyes turned a dangerous hue, and his emotions were running a lot more hot than usual. He had caught Saphireth, and perhaps there was a bit of him that felt that made him more of a protector of her than anything else. He had to defend her when she needed it, and it seemed obvious that this was one of those situations. He was about to speak, get words out that demanded the Black evacuate the area, when he saw movement. He thought the Black was trying to move forward, get closer, but he didn’t even give a second chance to find out what might happen. He was too clouded by his boiling emotions to let it slide.
Get away from Saphireth! The Moonlight lunged, not really thinking, and lashed out. He didn’t realized that, though young he was still a well sized Moonlight, thus had a fair bit of force to exert. He didn’t know that because he wasn’t holding himself in the usual high and mighty way he usually did that he wasn’t pulling punches. He also didn’t know that the exact point that he picked to lash out at had been a painful scar for the Black for turns. What he did (thought) he knew was that the Black well and truly needed to be out of here. It all happened lightning fast, before even Hocteth really knew what was happening.
Metanath staggered back with a terrible roar as the force of the attack tore into his scarred leg. He screeched in pain, and N'kio shuddered at the sound. Metanath stumbled around the Bowl in small circles, trying to regain what balance he had left. The exposed muscles in his thigh trembled, and his wound coursed with ichor. Panting heavily, he stared down the Moonlight with a murderous, red glare.
You ignorant whelp! he snarled, and his growl was a savage rumble in his throat. He bared his teeth. You damned fool! Do you know what you've done?! I'll rip your wings off with--
Control yourself! Leave it! N'kio looked to the side and took a quick stock of the injury - it was bleeding heavily. He needed the salt water, some needles, and all of the space in the world. Get back to Cliffside, now!
No! Metanath hobbled forward, his wings spread for more balance. He tried to resist his Rider's attempts to control him. He will pay for what he has done!
N'kio dug his heels into his dragon's sides, trying to think of something, anything to distract him.
You'll pay more when you lose that leg! It's not worth it! Metanath, leave! Now!
Stop that! He stumbled as pain shot up his thigh, his spine, and the added assault from his Rider was too much to bear. The Black dragon turned his head and retched up the contents of his stomach, all acid and partially a digested bones. And then, as he stood there in a quivering heap, all of the anger stole out of him. All he could feel was the pain - the pain of his wound, of Saphireth's choice, of his misactions. A greyish pallor stole over his hide - the added weight on the wound was making it bleed far too fast.
Metanath splayed his legs, torn between continuing and not. N'kio, I don't feel so well...
Let's go, then! I swear to you, you will have your revenge. But not now, not yet.
He nodded wearily, then fixed his gaze back on the Moonlight. His voice was dangerously low. I will return, and we will settle this later. And with a great sigh, he turned the heavy bulk of his body around and crouched, tensing, focusing on everything but the pain.
Then he leapt up and into the sky, screeching his anger and hurt into the air. But the force from his exertions made him dizzy, far too dizzy. He shook his head and focused on Cliffside...tried to focus..
Panic crept into N'kio's mind. Metanath, where're you going? Send me that image again. No, no, I got it. This isn't my first storm, you know... No, but it wasn't clear -- Metanath! Tell me where you're going! That one place...on the cliffs...you know the one!
N'kio tried to tug on the Black's neck ridges, but he wouldn't focus. No, Metanath! Use this image of mi--
The Black dragon snorted and climbed higher in the sky, and once he reached the proper altitude, took a deep breath. Not to worry I said I got it okay one-two-three, here we go!
There was a moment where nobody moved. Where there was a strange, blissful sort of silence, as if what they had just seen hadn’t really happened. As if Metanath had just gotten bored of the argument and vanished.
As if Saphireth hadn’t snarled, and Hocteth hadn’t lunged, and blood hadn’t poured. As if he hadn’t – as if they both hadn’t just –
And then Elora shattered the silence with a scream.
Across the Weyr, Artemis gasped and shot straight up in bed. Pain thudded through her head like a knife, sharp and twisting, and then vanished, leaving in its place an empty chasm where a dragon’s conscience had once been.
At the end of the bed, the young Azure queen lifted her head and stared at her Rider with whirling eyes. There were no words to exchange between them for this; they didn’t need them. They knew what had happened. Knew what that pain was. Knew what that chasm was.
Artemis wrapped her arms around her stomach, pushing the blackness to side with body shaking. They both knew they would be blamed for it, somehow. But that didn’t matter.
Deep in the heart of the Weyrwoman’s chambers, Zabrielth lifted her neck and started to keen.
It was normal for Evaine to be awake this early. Yesterday it had allowed her to see a Flight – and to stop Chatorth from chasing the DarkBlue who rose. He hadn’t been happy about that.
Now, deep in the jungles, something seemed wrong. The atmosphere had changed in a split second, as if something had happened. Evaine twisted around to look at her Black, eyes flashing curiously as she moved.
But the expression in his eyes deadened that curiosity in a second. And then Chatorth, his sarcastic manner completely gone, lifted his head and threw his head up in a keen.
“No, no, it can’t – Saphireth, you can reach them, can’t you!? You can feel them! Please say you can feel them – they can’t be gone, they can’t, they can’t-”
Elora stumbled away from D’ziel, legs nearly moving faster than she could balance on them, until she was back at her DarkBlue’s side. Blood and vomit stained the ground beneath her, and she couldn’t look down, couldn’t, couldn’t bear the truth, that – they couldn’t be gone. No. No no no no no no no no.
Saphireth’s entire body quivered as Elora threw her arms around her leg, dragon and rider both barely able to support themselves at the sight – what the sight had been – what had happened. It wasn’t possible. They had just been here, just been fine; Saphireth was just doing what Elora had done, making a spectacle, and she didn’t – and then Hocteth –
Grief made the other feelings numb, made logic slip in where anger and sadness should have been. She could not be mad at Hotceth for responding to her actions. The Moonlight had not intended to kill. She could not be mad at D’ziel for succeeding where N’kio had failed.
She could not feel anything right now, not if she wanted to survive this. Not if she wanted to be there for Elora.
So aware, too aware, of the crushing blackness where Metanath had once brushed against her mind, Saphireth lifted up her had and began to keen, louder than any of them.
And Elora – Elora, who had been so numb moments before; Elora, who had not wanted to fight with N’kio today at all; Elora, who had spent too much time thinking about him; Elora, who was not so afraid as to admit when she loved somebody; Elora, who had just come to terms with loving N’kio – closed her eyes and pressed her face against her dragon’s hide.
And her mind took mercy on her and went peacefully blank.
Hocteth was mad. So he didn’t back down, at least not ad first. His pride was too great for that. But when the Black emptied his stomach, the Moonlight was suddenly less sure. He hadn’t struck that hard, surely… But then he backed off, which was exactly what he wanted. So that was good right? They took off…then…
Hocteth’s mood suck like a rock, when he heard a scream and the sound of sorrow started to rise. He looked up at the point in the air where the Black had vanished and stared. What exactly had happened? What had he done? He turned back to look at the Dragoness and her rider, then further back at Hocteth.
D’ziel stared. Just stared. He didn’t want to make mountains out of molehills, ever, but this was a mountain. He tried to process what had happened, and was suddenly revolted by all of it. It was horrible to think he was anywhere near this. What had even happened, why? He felt totally lost in all of it, and yet he felt horrible. Almost sick.
“GET OUT OF MY HEAD!” He was suddenly mad and didn’t want to be reminded of what was going on. A dragon had died, his rider with him. He didn’t want to think about it, but they, all of them out here had watched them last and… He couldn’t handle that. He wanted to run and hide and be alone because it couldn’t be real. Shards, he was just… He should have noticed, tried to hold Hocteth back. The Moonlight looked hurt, but D’ziel was not looking at him, just at the ground, where there wasn’t blood, no hurt or pain. But it was all inside, not out. It was all bad.
Hocteth was hurt. He opened his mouth and began to keen, just like everyone else. D’ziel and him were supposed to have a different, better bond, but now his rider didn’t even want to look at him. He stepped forward, carefully, then turned back around, so that only his tail was close to D’ziel, just close enough that maybe the swishing would create a breeze that he could feel. How could just that say that he was sorry, that he hadn’t meant to cause that at all. D’ziel tilted his head, just a little. Hocteth looked back and continued with the sorrow song.
Things were not right, and neither of them really knew what could make it so. Maybe nothing. For now, words hurt too much. So there was a painful silence, eating them up from inside.