The Painful Aftermath of Joy JP (K'el/Ysolde/Ked'son/NPC Healers)


Nutmeg
 

IC Date Reference: Set in the hours during the Hatching and early hours of the following day.


Whilst the Hatching continued, there was a bustle of activity in the Infirmary. Almost immediately, it had been realised that there was nothing to be done for Sorho. The poor lad was a bloodied, lacerated mess, the only mercy being that he had likely died swiftly. It looked as though the bloodthirsty little green who had done the damage had managed to sever major arteries in her frenzy. The other Candidate, Ysolde, hadn’t been quite so fortunate. The screaming began as they escorted the girl gently towards the Infirmary, right when pain began to override shock and her eyes seemed to take notice of the blood pouring down her arms. And the blood all over her hatching robe that was most definitely not her own.


In the end, it became almost immediately apparent that in order to tend to the deep lacerations on her arms, they were going to need to do something to calm her and a needlethorn of fellis had been sunk into her arm. The girl’s legs had given way under her within seconds, caught by the hands of waiting Healers who lifted the bloodsoaked girl into a bed that was already ready and waiting for her. The wounds were deep, the worst being almost to the bone but by some miracle of Faranth, were almost entirely on the outside of her arms, missing the major veins and arteries. They would scar, that was for sure, but she would live. By the time the Healers had finished carefully stitching and bandaging her arms, the Hatching Feast was still celebrating deep into the night, the Impresssion of the two newest golds jubilant in the air. Even the Midsummer Dreamers had been allowed to attend, albeit only for a short while, as well as being permitted to observe the Hatching from the Stands with all the other anxious spectators. Even if the dragons had started humming in the middle of the night.


Eventually, Ysolde had been settled in a quiet room. A couple of the Healers had carefully bathed the unconscious girl and gotten her into a clean nightgown. She would likely be kept unconscious for at least a day, if not more and a Mindhealer had already been discreetly made aware that chances were, they were getting a new patient. By the time they were finished she was clean, asleep and with bandages from her hands up almost to her shoulders. When she woke up, then they would decide what they needed to do regarding the state of her mind.


K'el felt like the wind had torn through his sails, stranding him helplessly dead in the proverbial water. He'd seen it happen. The first Hatching he'd had the privilege to attend as a spectator and things had gone horribly wrong from the start. Blood, so much blood. And poor Sorho, the boy hadn't stood a chance. K'el shot out of his seat as the violence started, Ysolde's name a scream ripped from his throat that joined the audience's horrified cacophony. He tried to rush the Sands, aimed to throw himself over the railing and race to her aid, all else forgotten in the moment. No risk of danger to himself or Alberith had entered his mind, all else forgotten in the heat of the moment. 


The next thing he felt was the impact and K'el was face-first on the floor, tackled to the ground by Ked'son before he could martyr himself to a pair of angry Sires. There was a brief struggle in which K'el cursed him and demanded to be set free, but Ko'ssen quickly joined them. Together they pulled K'el to his feet and ushered him back to the Barracks, but not before Ysolde's screaming forced them to drag him bodily through the first exit. Only once they were half-way back to the common rooms did the boy's fight finally give out. 


Alberith's agitation did not quite match his rider's, but his eyes were still swimming with the bright yellows and orange of alarm by the time they arrived - better than the roiling red they had been at the start. (( Crimson rain and inky ropes, is that what's inside all of you? )) He asked with morbid curiosity that wasn't nearly as calm as he seemed, filling the background with the static of his questions. (( Mine, will the one who spilled his insides get up soon? They dragged away the fire-haired maid, too, we saw it. Has she fallen as well? )) His interest in the new dragonets took a backseat in the distress his rider was feeling.


K’el remained silent up until the bronze’s nervous chatter began, tearing himself away from his guardians’ hold. “Al, just shut up for five minutes! --Sorry,” He snapped, regret instantly on his face. The dragon watched with his head cocked to one side, but for once, fell silent in the wake of K’el’s frustration. "I need to know if she's safe, there was so much blood! I have to know! Augh!" Turning away from all of them with an angry groan, his hands raised to rake fingers through his hair, K'el stalked across the foyer. "You have to let me go!"


It was so late, they’d had so few hours of sleep as it was with the new schedule. Adrenaline burned the exhaustion away, but took with it his patience and manners. 


Propping his eyelids open, Ked’son wished he had had the foresight to grab a mug of klah when the dragons had started humming. Shells, the middle of the night? He had been literally just about to crawl into his bed when it had begun and with a new class literally around the corner, there was no way he was getting a couple days off now. Huddled in the Stands, Ked’son had barely stifled a yawn as the first of the eggs began hatching and he wondered if anyone noticed if he took a discreet nap. But thoughts of naps and tiredness vanished like a piece of parchment in a flame as the murderous little green pounced her target and he watched a Candidate get disemboweled before his eyes. The Healers were already scurrying on scene, grabbing up another Candidate - a female - who had gotten in the green’s way as well as carrying the covered body of the boy away. 


What happened next took his brain a moment to catch up with. In slow motion he heard another scream, this time closer. As in sitting in the Stands a few seats away, closer. His eyes watched the mountainous form of K’el move, preparing to pitch himself over the railings. Ked’son had moved as though he was wading through quicksand. His arms had wrapped around the Weyrling’s waist as K’el was dragged to the ground. The young man was as strong as a determined bull but he had been dragged bodily from the Stands with supreme effort. Immediately Thaath had reached out to Alberith, reassuring the young bronze that His was returning to the Barracks and not to be alarmed, that His had just seen something rather distressing but emphasising that K’el was going to be okay.


Through sheer force of will, they had gotten K’el back to the Barracks and his wallow where his dragon waited. Ked’son had reassured that he would be fine left with the boy on his own, not wanting to leave the newest weyrlings without another pair of helping Weyrlingmaster hands.


“K’el, you need to listen to me, before we do anything you need to calm yourself and calm Alberith,” Ked’son said carefully, his voice a low, calm thrum, noting the whirling colours in the bronze’s eyes. Then, something seemed to click into place. The name K’el had screamed. Oh shells on baby flits… “K’el, the girl taken from the Sands…” The girl whose screams had been echoing down the corridor of the tunnels as they hoisted the Weyrling away. “... That was Ysolde?” The Ysolde. The subject of letters and amusing proclamations from a theatrical young dragon. And who they had last seemed covered in blood and surrounded by a group of Healers as they all but pulled her away.


"I am calm!" K'el shouted, sounding  outraged by the implication and twisting around to face Ked'son with an expression that was anything but what he claimed. "I'm FINE, *we* are just fine!" He gestured between himself and the anxious dragonet watching closely. The images, he couldn't stop the scene from playing out in his mind over and over. So much blood. He'd gutted fish his whole life and never seen so much of it as had been spilled on the Sands. Sorho's grisly end, and Ysolde… Faranth, she had been covered in red. So much blood...


When Ked'son said her name, his eyes sought the man out from beneath thick, furrowed brows. He felt anger boil in his core at the thought, at how helpless he was to save her. Fists curled at his sides with impotent fury, knuckles blanched. "YES!" He roared his frustration, as if Ked'son should have already known. "THE Ysolde! The only sharding Ysolde that matters! You have to let me out of here! I have to see her! I-I have to know if she's--" his voice cracked, the sentence too painful to finish. 


“No, you’re not K’el,” It was still said in that gentle and calm tone with no note of accusation whatsoever. He hadn’t so much as flinched at the roar. “And she was still on her feet, she was still walking so that means she was still breathing…” He gently pointed out the logical obvious. She hadn’t been carried off under a sheet. K’el needed to remember that. And as much as he didn’t want to point out, if she was able to scream, then she was definitely still alive. “... She’s with the Healers so you know they’re going to look after her. And what I’m going to do in a moment is have Thaath bespeak on of the dragons there to find out what’s happening. But you’re no good to her or Alberith right now. C’mon lad…” Ked’son was giving the Weyrling space to pace, flail, whatever he needed but he wasn’t entirely backing off either. Because a sliver of him didn’t trust K’el not to bolt and he definitely didn’t think he was going to take him down on his own.


Thaath gently reached out mentally, nudging Alberith. The big blue’s voice was a soft echo of Ked’son’s own. (( Mine will do whatever he can to help, Alberith. Humans can express very big emotions when they experience something like this. It can be overwhelming. Tell me how Yours is feeling so Mine can do the proper things for him… ))


(( Mine is scared! )) Alberith latched onto the lifeline that Thaath offered, fear leaking into his mindvoice. (( Mine thinks he will lose the girl crowned by fire, and he cracks in anticipation of that loss! So many deep wounds barely healed, what he has seen ripped away the scab!  Mine does not want to lose anyone else! ...also Mine told me to 'shut up' and I do not like it. )) He wasn't able to make sense of what had happened in the Hatching, of death, but he knew it had upset his rider and *that* was upsetting him. 


K'el stared daggers at Ked'son for several moments, breathing heavily through his nostrils, assessing. He wasn’t helping anyone the way he was right now, and he knew it. "Eh, fishguts," he muttered through his teeth, annoyed to realize that the WLM was correct. He felt that righteous anger begin to seep away, leaving only the manic worry that creased his face. "I-I'm... I shouldn't have snapped at you, or you, Al." Squeezing shut his eyes, K'el raised opening fists to grab handfuls of his own short hair. He could do this! He had to put the dragon first, this was his only duty. "I just.. if she's hurt-- I promised I'd be there. I should be-- I *need* to be by her side!"


Alberith crossed the distance between them to press his dark, little head into K'el's chest, causing the boy to open his eyes in surprise. (( No one can stop us together! )) The dragonet declared. (( I won't let anyone else lose their inside-ropes, we'll stand together and face the bad as a united front! …Right, Mine? ))


K'el threw his arms around the bronze's triangular face and bowed to squeeze tight. "Right." When he released, Alberith twisted to peer at Ked'son with swirling yellow eyes. (( Now do as Mine commands! Take us to our charge so that we may guard her! ))


The information was passed along to Ked’son, even as Thaath continued to reassure the bronze that he and His were there and not going anywhere. The blue bulked up his mind presence, his voice filled with gentle reassurance that things were going to  be alright.


Ked’son took his dragon’s silent words on carefully. He had taken the time to glimpse through most of the Weyrlings’ files now that he was going to be around the Barracks more and vaguely remembered a note that K’el had lost most of his family shortly before being Searched. Ah. That would explain an awful lot. He was hugely reassured to see the boy reach out to his bronze and was not entirely surprised by Alberith’s command. At least they were both on the same page which was, in it’s own way, a good thing. Besides, it wasn’t as though Alberith were some barely sevenday old hatchling anymore. He shook his head at the bronze’s insistence. “I won’t take you there right away, because if the Healers are working, they need to do so efficiently. But as I’ve said the first thing I’ll do is have Thaath bespeak one of their dragons and we’ll find out what is going on. Then and only then, if the Healers permit it, I will ask them about you both being taken to her. They have a job to do first and none of us, not even me, can get in the way of that right now. You need to trust that they’re doing their job first and they need to do their job. If we start getting in the way right now, we’re only slowing things down.”


At times like these he could use a firelizard. Instead, he had Thaath bespeak the dragon of Vivaeldi, he knew she was also a Healer, his eyes losing focus. Without needing to be prompted, Thaath had layered the need for urgency in knowing what was going on, deftly explaining that one of the Weyrlings was distressed and needed to be updated. It only took a few minutes but it felt as though turns had gone by. Ked’son hadn’t even realised that he was waiting with bated breath when Thaath finally spoke to him again. Unconsciously his shoulders dropped a little in relief and he turned back towards the Weyrling pair as he scrubbed a hand through his short blond hair.


“Okay… so it’s good news…” Of sorts. But he would get to that. But the first thing K’el needed to know was that everything was more or less okay.


It grated on K'el that Ked'son had a point. He'd started as a healer apprentice upon joining the Weyr and he knew he was in way over his head when it came to that craft. What did he think he was going to do, hold towels? Hand out tools? Lurk in the corner like some VTOL on the wall? For now he was nothing but an additional burden, no use to Ysolde while she needed their care. The threat to his pride prevented him from admitting it, but he knew. "O-Okay," he croaked, the earlier venom entirely absent from his voice. "I'll.. We'll wait." Not that he had much of a choice. 


Alberith stood sentinel before his rider as K'el struggled to compose himself, amber facets fixed on Ked'son as if he might hear the distant telepathy through sheer force of will. He couldn't, but he would try! The boy beside him scrubbed at his own face, steadying his breath in the effort to bring his heart rate down, to clear his mind. It did not appear to be working well if the frustration etched in his scrunched face was proof. All he could think of was the girl, of the bloody shower she'd been drenched in, of her screams echoing in the hallway. Every time the loop played again, he felt like his walls were crumbling. He couldn't lose her, too. Not this again. 


Alberith nudged him gently and K'el scrubbed at his shiny hide to reassure the dragon as much as himself. When Ked'son's thousand-yard stare vanished and his voice returned, K'el's head popped up instantly. "...Good news?" Hope chased away the fear in his voice, but the mountain remained on verge of crumbling. "What is it?" Unwinding his arms from around Alberith, K'el rushed toward the WLM expectantly. "Tell me!"


So it seemed he was getting through to the lad. Somewhat. But given the situation it wasn’t as though he expected the Weyrling to become a waterfall of calm as K’el rushed towards him. “Easy, lad…” he said, raising his hands placatingly. “... She’s alive. They had to fellis her so she’s unconscious at the moment. Now, she has been injured and in all honesty, it’s not nice. Some serious lacerations to her arms. But…” he paused a second as he emphasised the caveat. “... They’re not life threatening. The Healers are stitching her up at the moment and that is going to take them some time because of how many and how deep. But they say she’s going to be okay.” Physically at least. Ked’son had no idea what the poor girl would be like when she finally woke up. “When they’re done, they’re going to let me know. But right now, we’re just going to be getting under their feet.”


Ked’son inspected the Weyrling, his aching bones horribly aware of the time. “So we’ve got two choices here. Either you try and get a little bit of rest and when the Healers contact me, I’ll come get you. Or you come back with me to my office and we try to have something to drink. Thaath says he’s happy to have Alberith come sit with him if he’d like.”


K'el took two main things away: the first, that Ysolde was alive, the second, that she *was* injured. It was a mixture of feelings that struck him all at once, relief and concern at war with one another. On the other hand, her wounds were serious enough to require both stitches and fellis. They would be painful healing, but she would survive. Knowing she lived let him breathe again, or it felt that way, a weight lifted from his chest. He stepped back from the Weyrlingmaster to give both of them some space, well aware of how imposing his bulk tended to be - even when he wasn't in a panic.  


"Thank Faranth," K'el's shoulders slumped as he willed himself to relax, to let go of the anxiety. "She's okay. It's gonna be okay." He was no longer looking at Ked'son, but through him, withdrawing to sort through his thoughts. That surge of adrenaline still coursed through his veins, kept him wired and on edge. At this point, K'el felt like he might never sleep again. "I won't be able to sleep," he admitted, pausing before adding more quietly, "not until I see her." Heat flooded his face, the flush of infatuated embarrassment. 


Using the needs of his dragon as deflection, K'el glanced back to Alberith while they briefly conversed. "Al says he wouldn't mind a companion, that Thaath can.. uh.. help him keep the danger away." He cringed, this statement more embarrassing than the last. *He* knew the danger was gone, even if his mind wouldn't let it go. 


Ked'son didn't even bat an eyelid. "He's already waiting out by the Barracks doors. You send your boy out to him and then come along with me. I’ll get the stove on and make up a brew.” And likely add a small dose of something to it to take the edge off the Weyrling’s nerves. Wasn’t like he was going to get blind drunk from a dash of brandy in his klah. No, Ked’son had no intention of doing anything but occupying K’el’s thoughts with enough random small talk until they had word back from the Healers. All he could do was hope that it wouldn’t take them extraordinary amounts of time but as it was, he expected this to take a while.


With a friendly gesture, he encouraged K’el to follow him. True to his word, Thaath was indeed sat waiting outside the Barracks, his own gaze speckled with orange and yellow at the fingers of worry threading through his own Rider. No, he was sure that lessons would be postponed tomorrow… or was it now today? And if not, well he would have to quietly speak to Ko’ssen and ensure that the lad was excused. “I know I’ve not been about as much so far, but I’m sure you’ve probably walked past my office a hundred times without knowing.”


K’el didn’t hesitate in relaying the order to Alberith, turning to find the bronze already acting on Thaath’s offer and stomping toward the doorway on short legs. He hurried to open the door ahead of his dragon, pausing long enough to let Alberith through and watch until he had joined the blue. There had been too much loss already and the boy was clearly hypervigilant now. Only once Alberith was securely under Thaath’s wing did K’el jog back to where Ked’son waited for him to follow, then adjusting his pace to match his tutor’s. 


“It’s... probably a good thing I haven’t been to your office much,” he replied with a wry twist of his mouth. “I try not to make trouble anymore. I, uh, haven’t had time for it, honestly.” K’el tried to pay attention to where they were going, but kept finding himself distracted by worried thoughts that would not cease. He focused on keeping his feet moving forward, eyes on the floor. “..How long do you think it’ll take?” He asked, referring obviously to Ysolde’s stitching. There was no real way to be certain, but it was clear he was grasping at straws for comfort. 


Thaath had crooned softly to the young bronze as soon as Alberith had appeared through the doors. He had barely lifted his wing in invitation before Alberith had wormed his way underneath and Thaath’s rumble had been one of amused satisfaction as he tucked the weyrling close to him. (( We shall watch for danger lurking in the shadows that wants to hurt Ours. And we shall chase it away with our most fearsome roars! )) He had snapped his jaws in dramatic effect as he settled himself more comfortably.


Ked’son hadn’t rushed K’el, letting him watch Alberith and when the Weyrling had joined him, Ked’son had given the lad an amiable smile. “Truth be told, I don’t tend to take many Weyrlings to my office to tell them off. I generally leave my door open to just let people know I’m there if they want to come in and talk at all. I don’t like to seen just as a disciplinarian. It’s tough not having people around these first few months so I always extend that branch if people want to take me up on it.” As they settled into an easy pace, Ked’son had tucked his hands in his pockets. 


“Honestly?” he said after a moment when K’el asked how long they’d be. “I don’t know. But,” he quickly emphasised, “They’ll be working as fast as they need to. But at the same time, they can’t rush what they’re doing. Stitch-work takes time because they have to be careful. But I’m sure they won’t keep us waiting any longer than they need to.” His office wasn’t far away and he gestured towards the familiar door. “Just in here.”


K'el was quiet while Ked'son spoke and remained that way for a few minutes afterward, throwing himself into one of the chairs before taking in the room with a sweep of his eyes once they arrived. "I'll have to remember that, about your office. I don't think I’ve ever had a chat in a setting like this *without* getting scolded." The distraction of a new environment and subject helped briefly to keep his mind occupied. For a moment, he sounded almost fine, if a little sad. "It.. it has been very weird cut off from everyone else. Felt like I was finally starting to make friends when Impression happened, a-and then, *poof*. Starting all over again." His expression turned guilty. "..Not that I would trade Al for anything, but-- yeah, weird."


And there it went, the change visible in his face as much as his posture when his thoughts stumbled over Ysolde. Brows low over his eyes, K'el's mouth thinned to a worried line and his shoulders sank just enough to make him appear to slump. "Storms, I just-- I just need her to be okay." The boy's head sank into his hands with a frustrated sigh that belied his fear.


As the weyrling collapsed into a chair, Ked’son busied himself with getting the small stove brewing a fresh pot of klah. He glanced over at K’el at his words about not having been in the office. “Well, my door’s always open. I encourage the weyrlings to leave a note if they want to speak to me and I’m not here. I appreciate that in the Barracks it’s a bizarre combination of feeling isolated and yet under complete scrutiny.” As he waited for the pot to come to a boil, Ked’son dropped himself into another chair, this one clearly well worn and had seen many a night with him propped up in it. “It’s hard. Even if you’ve been a Candidate for a good while. You’re settling in, used to a routine and then all of a sudden you’re thrown into a totally new schedule surrounded by people that perhaps you didn’t know so well or maybe didn’t even really like so much. But now you’re in the fifth  month, you get a bit more freedom again so you can start seeing people and trust me, that makes a big difference.”


He watched K’el carefully, a sympathetic frown pulling at his features. “The Healers said she’ll be fine, K’el. She’ll need some recovery time, but it’s not life-threatening at all.” Ked’son paused, because now he was starting to think that this “Ysolde” was in the weyrling’s thoughts a whole lot more than he had initially suspected, brushing it off as more of a harmless youthful crush. “K’el… you’ve taken this awfully hard. And I know we had a bit of a chat about Ysolde and who she was to you. And I won’t lie, I didn’t think it was much more than some cheerful fancy with a little mental occupation on the side,” his smile came back tinged with its usual playful cheekiness. “... But I’m starting to think that this Ysolde is a whole lot more important than you’re letting on.” Before he could say anything else, the kettle began to whistle and Ked’son got back up, tending to the klah and giving the weyrling some space to speak. 


K'el tensed at Ked'son's words, flinching like he had been struck. "I am NOT a liar," he replied hotly, glancing up from between his hands. His stomach twisted as if this were a vulnerability he hadn't yet considered for himself and the shock of it stirred his anger. Was she more important to him than even he realized? He *liked* her, he was certain of that as he was of the flutterbynights in his stomach every time he opened one of her letters. And having seen her bathed in blood.. the mental image made his face scrunch in revulsion and worry all over again. He scrubbed at his cheeks with his palms, but wouldn't close his eyes, knowing the picture would be there waiting for him. "She's…" he trailed off before he'd even really begun. K'el wanted to say she is a very good friend, but those words failed to fully encompass the constriction in his chest while he thought about her plight. Instead he faltered, a sigh hissed through his teeth. 


He loved her. He felt like he'd barely started to get to know her, but he couldn't get enough. It was embarrassing to admit he had fallen head over heels for the girl, like he had done something foolish in falling so hard so soon, but these feelings.. when it came to Ysolde, he had no control. K'el knew what they were, even if he couldn't admit so to Ked'son. 


The boy swallowed hard. "I, uh.. I could really use a drink," he said sheepishly at last. 


Busying himself about the stove, Ked’son’s chuckle came over his shoulder. When he returned, he was holding out a mug of klah that had had a careful dose of brandy to it. He didn’t think it would do any harm, the hot water would kill off a lot of the alcohol. But it would be enough to take the edge off, nothing more. “No one’s calling you a liar. Least of all me.” Retreating to his chair, he folded his long legs easily, draping one ankle over his opposite knee as he pulled his own mug close to him. “There’s nothing wrong with having feelings, lad. We just keep half an eye the first months as you know. Some folks find it hard to work around them when they’re bringing up a new dragon because of how intense it all is. Plus, when you’re in isolation the way you are, some folks find it easier to cling to them which can be dangerous in itself or find themselves resentful that they’re taken away from that. Being told that you can’t be around people? It gets in your head. In weird ways sometimes. You all experience a strange sort of isolation and some people find that hard to cope with.”


K'el stared into the cup a few moments before he took a sip, brooding over the weyrlingmaster's reply. The recognizable hint of alcohol sent his eyebrows skyrocketing, surprised to find the taste in his klah. He hadn't expected Ked'son to actually comply!  Honey-colored eyes flashed a look at the other man alight with newfound respect before he drank deeply. The warmth was comforting as it settled in his stomach, radiating outward with a calming effect. It *did* make the young man feel better, if only a little. "..Thank you," he said over the rim, keeping the cup near his face to breathe in the aroma. 


"I guess.. it all started when I first saw her," he began despite lingering reservations. Pouring his feelings out to the one man he had come to trust, K'el walked Ked'son through his first encounter with Ysolde all the up to their correspondence, which he gave a rough overview of absent some of the more private details. He was so clearly smitten with the girl, it couldn't have been more obvious had it been painted across his face in red ink. K'el might have waxed on about her ad nauseum had news not arrived. 


Sitting back in his chair, Ked’son let the Weyrling talk. He asked only a few questions here and there, most of the time he was watching K’el. What he didn’t say, his expression certainly did. He could have read him like a book. The only real interruption he made was to refill their mugs on more than one occasion, this time without the brandy. There was no doubt that the Weyrling was head over heels. He made a mental note to have a chat with Ko’ssen later, just to bring him up to speed. 


The time moved by, K’el talking and Ked’son listening. It probably made the time move faster than just sitting in awkward silence at least. He had been idly contemplating putting a new kettle on to boil when Thaath had given him a mental nudge, discreetly telling Ked'son that Vivaeldi’s dragon had bespoken him again. Setting the mug to one side, he stretched, grunting in obvious discomfort as joints popped and complained. "Time to shake your boots," he said as he got to his feet. "Healers are done. They've brought her down to the dragon side for the moment so Alberith can come too. They've said she's still unconscious because of the fellis, but we can meet them there and you'll be allowed to sit a while if you'd like."


Where he leaned back comfortably against his chair over the course of their conversation, K’el jolted like he’d been struck, bolting upright and onto his feet shortly thereafter. “It is?” The look of elation was pure and unguarded when it showed on his features. “Right now? Thank Faranth!” He’d never before felt more devotion to the deified dragon than he did today. “I mean, yes. Yes, I’d like to do that.” K’el fought to contain himself and tried to school his emotions so that he didn’t affect Alberith, but was only moderately successful. 


He didn’t wait for Ked’son to lead the way this time, knowing that he would follow, navigating the route back through the Weyrling Barracks and outside with practiced ease. If there was one thing he never had trouble with, it was a sense of direction. 


Alberith had needed his time under Thaath’s protective wing, the blue’s steady presence and kind words precisely the reassurance his frightened young mind required. As his rider’s distress had been mostly abated, he was able to pull himself together. At K’el’s word, he squirmed free of the older dragon’s comforting grasp and went galloping awkwardly toward the entrance he expected the humans to emerge from. (( Mine! I will get to meet The Queen at long last! ))


“Sort of, pal,” he explained aloud, greeting the bronze with an affectionate pat on the cheek. “From afar for now. Maybe when she’s awake and ready for more, you can say hello yourself.”


(( I don’t need to be at her side to say hello. )) Alberith replied with all the petulance of a toddler being denied, but bounded happily ahead of them toward the Infirmary without further complaint. Who else should lead the way!


Ked'son barely had a chance to leave the mugs to one side before the Weyrling was half sprinting down the Barrack corridors. "Steady on, lad, you'll do no one any good if you trip and break your neck.” It only took a few minutes for them to emerge out of the main doors that opened into the Weyr Bowl. Thaath was settling himself back down for a snooze after Alberith removed himself. It was the middle of the night after all.


With K’el setting the pace, it certainly didn’t take them long to cross the Bowl towards the Infirmary where a Healer was clearly waiting for them. Maithera had been sent to await their arrival when she had been told that they were on the way so that they could be escorted through to the larger, dragon side of the Infirmary. It was about the only place that a dragon, or rather, a five month old Weyrling bronze dragon, could be accommodated.


“Assistant Weyrlingmaster Ked’son?” she called out, lifting her hand in greeting to them both, and to catch their attention. “Are you here about Ysolde?”


Alberith was the first to arrive, stamping impatiently while he waited for the two men to catch up. He didn’t speak to the Healer awaiting them, just peered at her briefly and then raised his head as if he might be able to see past and find the girl first. K’el jogged to close the distance once he saw the woman at the entrance, abandoning Ked’son to either do the same or join them moments later. 


“Ysolde?” He asked with the slightly airy quality of someone nearly out of breath. “We’re here to see her, show us in!” There was a commanding note in his words, a far cry from the despairing panic he had been filled with earlier in the night.


Maithera was used to dealing with the panicked aftermath of concern for patients. The Weyrling’s tone didn’t go unmissed, but she didn’t immediately challenge him on it. However, she pointedly turned her attention to Ked’son, making it clear that to her, he was the one in charge here.


Catching up, Ked’son greeted Maithera with a friendly salute. “Aye, we’re here about a young lady you have. This young man is a friend of hers and keen to establish her wellbeing. Obviously we appreciate the situation is a little unorthodox but we appreciate the time you’re taking to keep us informed.”


The Healer nodded in polite acknowledgement of the Bluerider’s words. “Obviously I will remind you both that you’re going to be entering a recuperation area. This time of night most of our other patients are sleeping. So I would politely remind you both to be considerate of them as well and keep noise to a minimum. For the moment, we have brought Ysolde into one of the empty dragon wallows. I was informed that your Weyrling’s dragon would likely also wish to be present, so we have made sure that there is space to accommodate him as well. However after this evening, Ysolde will be moved back into the main ward.”


Maithera turned her attention on K’el, her expression firm but patient. “I appreciate that you want to see her. But I must stress that you need to ensure neither you or your dragon are disruptive - for the sake of the other patients. Ysolde is unconscious and will remain so, likely for a day or more. She did sustain significant lacerations to her arms. They have been sutured and will heal well with proper care so there is no immediate concern for her safety. It is now a case of determining her recovery process. I am happy to show you in, and, if you agree to sit quietly, equally happy to allow you to sit with her for a while.”


K'el was quite used to being brushed off as he had no real authority, but that didn't stop his hackles from rising at the unspoken insult. He let Ked'son take the lead without grumbling, waiting with as much patience as could be managed, shifting his weight from foot to foot. Hearing about Ysolde's condition gave him some comfort, reinforcing the news Ked'son had already relayed. She'd be alright, she just needed time. When Maithera did finally address him, K'el straightened respectfully.


"Yes, ma'am. I'd like that. We can behave, can't we, Al?" He glanced over his shoulder at the bronze dragon looming behind them. “We won’t do anything to disturb the other patients, or to harm Ysolde.” 


Alberith gave an emphatic snort, tossing his head indignantly. (( I am offended that she thinks I will cause a commotion! I am dignified and refined, I am no brute! ))


K’el returned his attention to Maithera with a brief and polite bow of his own head. “He says he’ll be on his best behavior.”


Maithera smiled gently at K’el. “We remind everyone coming in, especially during stressful circumstances. It’s easy to forget there’s other people around you when you’re fixed on one person. That and given the ridiculous hour it is, as well.” She glanced at Ked’son who nodded at her for her to lead the way.


“If you follow me,” she said, turning on her heel. 


“I’ll come with you and make sure you’ve found a seat and so on, then I’ll go and talk to the Healers whilst you sit with her.” Ked’son chimed in. It was a polite and subtle way of just noting that he would hang around for the moment if he needed to and then he would give K’el some privacy. That and he just wanted to make sure that the Weyrling wasn’t going to tip the scales on actually seeing whatever condition this Ysolde was in. Sometimes the seeing was a whole lot worse than whatever the head had conjured up.


It didn’t take long to walk through the Infirmary. Just as Maithera had said, it had the hushed quiet of the night time workers, the occasional Healer doing bed checks, quietly sitting at the duty desk and working on papers. Ushering them through to the dragon side, Maithera led them past several wallows where the sleeping shapes of dragons could be seen, towards a wallow where a large curtain had been drawn across for privacy.


“She’s in here. Remember, she is unconscious because of the fellis but there’s no harm in sitting and talking to her. She’s heavily bandaged and it looks a lot worse than it is.” Maithera pulled back the curtain, gesturing for K’el and Alberith to enter. When they did, Alberith would be able to settle himself on the empty wallow and the bed was occupied with a small, sleeping figure whose arms were heavily bandaged from fingers almost to shoulder. Ked’son followed but instead stopped near the curtain, giving K’el and Alberith space. “There’s a chair in the corner there, lad, if you want it. I’m happy to let you sit here a while unless you’d like me to stay and sit with you.”


K'el shook his head and flashed Ked'son a small smile. "I think we'll be okay, and.. thank you. For this, for everything." He wasn't sure exactly what he would have done or what might have happened had the other man not tackled him during the Hatching, but it wouldn't have been good. More importantly, there was nothing he could have accomplished that would have helped Ysolde. 


Ysolde. He stepped into the room and drew the curtain closed once Alberith had followed inside. (( She is alive. )) The bronze noted in unusual reticence as he moved past the cot with the utmost care, climbing onto the wallow beyond where he could watch comfortably.  K'el stood at the threshold for several moments unable to tear his eyes away from her, breath caught in his throat, before he collected the chair from the corner and brought it to her bedside. 


She was so beautiful. Even in her sleep, Ysolde put every woman he'd ever met to shame. It was more than her outward appearance, she was so full of life and passion, so kind and outspoken. To see her laying silently wrapped in so many bandages, only the rise and fall of her chest to reassure him she still breathed, drove a blade through him. 


K'el took his seat beside her, vision blurring with tears he blinked away before they could fall. "I'm so sorry," he said, painfully aware of how loud his strangled voice seemed in the quiet room. "Ysolde, we-- ..I wasn't there when you needed me."


(( We are here now. )) Alberith bespoke only K'el, unwilling to disturb the recuperating queen while she slept. (( I will watch over you both. ))


The boy didn't respond, but his dragon’s words were of some small comfort. He wanted so badly to take Ysolde's hand in his own, but didn't dare disturb the bandages that covered them. Instead, he reached to brush red hair he found lovely even then away from her face. Before withdrawing, he stroked her gentle plane of her cheek reverently with the back of his fingers. "I.. I'm not real sure if you'll hear this, but.. Ysolde, I can't stand the thought of doing this without you. You're.. storms, you're all I think about.  I've missed you, I have so much to tell you. You have to get better soon and come back to me." He knew the Healers said she would recover, but until she awakened, he'd continue to worry.


(( When she does, we will be here. )) Alberith promised his rider. 


With the stress of that night and the conversation that had stretched into the early morning hours, K'el had managed to stay wide awake. But now, with the subject of his desire in front of him, he felt more at ease than he had in many candlemarks. That relaxation meant exhaustion soon weighed on his shoulders and, with his arms folded and chin laid atop his chest, K'el fell asleep slumped back against the chair. 


(( Thaath, Mine needs to return to our wallow. He slumbers as we speak. )) Alberith reached out to Ked'son's dragon as soon as he felt his rider drift off. He cared for this girl by proxy of K'el, but the boy would always be his first priority.


= End. =




--
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