IC Date Reference: Approximate date 126.96.36.199 - approximately four days after Hatching.
When Diolde had returned to the Weyr from the Smithcraft and Minecraft Halls, it hadn’t taken long to find out what he had missed. His travel packs and had been left unpacked on the bed as the man made his way swiftly across the Weyr Bowl and to the Infirmary. It was still early enough that the sky was still a silvery shade of blue, casting deep shadows across the lower part of the Bowl but the lights of the Infirmary were practically a beacon in the semi dark.
At first, the Healers assumed he was just another visitor. Albeit one coming at a ridiculous hour and were prepared to tell Diolde to come back later. When normal people, including sleeping patients, were actually awake. But despite the fact that Diolde was struggling to fight the urge to tell them all to get out of his way, he managed to calmly relay that he was in fact Ysolde’s father and that the only reason he hadn’t come yet was because he had been out of the Weyr on Craft business. With the quiet instruction that his daughter was still sleeping and may seem a little disorientated if she woke due to a light fellis dose at night, they led him to the small room they were keeping her in. The need to limit the risk of infection was real and keeping her in a small room allowed for monitoring and was easy to clean down from top to bottom. The tiny old Healer quietly told Diolde she would bring him some klah as Diolde stared at the sight in front of him. Mifeng had seen the slack, stunned expressions of parents before. It never got easier.
Diolde ignored the chair that was beside the bed. For several long moments, as he stepped closer, all he did was look down at the small figure sleeping. It almost seemed peaceful. But his father’s eye noticed the pinched cheeks and dark circles beneath his daughter’s closed eyes before they followed her arms down to the bandages that had been put over her arms at night to prevent accidentally knocking them in her sleep. The sigh that escaped him was a rush of sound as his shoulders sagged and Diolde carefully sat down on the bed beside her. Ysolde barely moved. “Papa’s here now, dear heart. I’m here…” It was a soft croon of sound as one of his big, work worn hands gently cupped her small cheek. She looked so much like her mother. The man felt his heart lurch with such emotion that it was something like pain. This wasn’t supposed to happen! The sting of anger that tried to rear up was quickly squashed as his daughter shifted slightly, mumbling a little as her eyes fluttered. “... It’s all right, I’m here…” And he should have been here! It was unreasonable of course, even his head knew that. But reason was being trampled over by deep and gnawing hurt. He hadn’t been here to keep her safe. And because of that, he could have lost her just like he lost her mother. The sting of tears sprang behind his eyes with furious prickling. He hadn’t thought of Ysella of late and the flush of guilt was hot and angry.
He had been lost in a distraction of his own thoughts when a sound broke the sombre reverie. “... Papa?” His head snapped back up as though on a cord and he looked at the sleepy green eyes that were struggling to focus on him. Immediately he leaned forward, his thumb carefully brushing her soft cheek. “I’m here, my lamb. Oh, my sweet girl… I’m so sorry I wasn’t here…”
Normally, Ysolde lived for the moments her father spoke, waiting for the sonorous tones that sounded like the voice a mountain would have if it could speak. She had been waiting for him to come back, had known he had work to do. But as her eyes focused and she saw the sad worry in his roughly lined face, something inside her reverted to the little girl she had been at barely five turns. She hadn’t seen that face since after the day her mother had dropped her by the fire and she had awoken in the Healer Hall in a swathe of bandages. And here she was all over again. Under the warm caress of a hand she had felt fondly brushing her cheek a thousand times, her face crumpled and the hiccoughing sob was huge as though it exploded from her chest like it had been fighting to escape for days. “... ‘m sorry Papa…. ‘m sorry I didn’t make you proud…”
Regardless of what he was or wasn’t meant to do, Diolde did the one thing he had wanted to the moment he stepped into the room. Carefully, he gathered up his bandaged daughter into his massive arms, moving her as easily as though she were a mere doll as he bundled her up close to his chest and shushed her, rocking her like a babe as the huge sobs broke over the wall and shook Ysolde’s body against him. As the warm and familiar scent of her father wrapped around her, Ysolde felt her heart breaking into the pieces she had been carefully holding together in front of K’el, in front of S’ryll. In front of every Healer that kindly asked how she was doing today. She hadn’t been held like this by him since she was a child. And in that moment, she felt as if tht were exactly what she was as the desperate sobs escaped her. Her hands clumsily clutched at his shirt and Ysolde held onto Diolde as the waves of pain and terror and disappointment rose up to batter her.
As one hand gently stroked the hair that was so much like her mother’s and yet so similar to his own as well, Diolde made small, soothing sounds of nothing as he gently rocked her back and forth. He didn’t interrupt the heaving sobs that wracked through his daughter but her pain, the pain that numbweed couldn’t touch, made the shard of anger at his own inability to act, to protect her the way he had promised simmer beneath his skin. He had been informed of his daughter’s behaviour by the Candidatemaster. Had already questioned what this place, what this need to prove that she could Impress gold was doing to her. He didn’t understand why she had been filled to the brim with the fiery determination that she wanted the one thing that was almost impossible to have. “Sweet girl, my sweet, sweet girl…” He murmured affectionately against his daughter’s hair. “... You always made me proud.” Perhaps less so when he had learned of her baffling disrespect of the Weyrwoman, but for the most part? Yes, he was proud of his daughter with her stubborn determination to “do it right, or not at all” approach to life, her quiet insistence that she needed to learn as much as the world would give her to teach before she made a decision. Of late he had had to reluctantly admit that she wasn’t his little girl anymore, that she was growing up and changing. Becoming her own person. No, her own woman. But in his heart of hearts, Diolde knew that she would always be his youngest, his most precious.
Eventually, though it felt as though an age had passed, Diolde felt Ysolde’s body still against his own and he gently tilted her tear-stained face to press his lips against her brow. She clung to him in a way she hadn’t done in turns. And for all her independence, for all that she was growing up, in that moment all she was was a girl who wanted her father. But the sad darkness in her beautiful eyes was new and it wounded his heart to see it. “Ysolde…” he began, his deep voice a soft rumble in his chest. But he had to know. “... You didn’t… just want this because you thought it would make me proud of you, did you? You know I want you to want whatever it is you want, not what I do. You… don’t have to impress a dragon, a gold dragon to make me proud of you every single day.”
Her chest ached and Ysolde sagged against the warm wall of solidity that her father gave her. Even her thoughts felt as though they were needle sharp and digging painfully into her mind. She thought of all the people she had let down and her father was at the top of that list. Her father for not giving him the pride of seeing her walk away with a gold, of seeing that she had done something amazing for herself that he could look on with absolute surety that she would be fine. Of K’el, for not living up to the idea of herself that she was worth waiting for, of Nayari for being childish and petulant and determined to prove that Kassia was merely a spoiled and entitled child. Of S’ryll for… just not being better and letting her anger and spite eat her up. More faces and more names drifted in her thoughts, all people that she had let down with everything she had done, everything she had said, everything she had wanted. But right at the bottom, all the way down, was herself. Where it deserved to be.
The silence was starting to worry Diolde a little but that fact that his daughter’s breathing had calmed from body shaking sobbing was the reassurance he held onto and he continued to gently stroke her hair. “I don’t know why I want it.” The small voice was meek, almost contrite as if it were a guilty admission. “I just know that I wanted it so much that… that every part of me… burned to work for it… To earn it.”
Ironically, Diolde was perhaps the only person in the world who understood. He knew the way his daughter’s mind worked. The thought and reasoning came after she had dissected it and learned and understood what the feelings meant. So she followed the emotion, followed the pull that told her to do this. And then in time, the reasoning became clear and the reason for the furious drive made itself known. Diolde sighed, he knew there would be no turning her if she was already enveloped in following the pull. She would follow this all the way to the end.
And he did. But deep down, Diolde couldn’t help but wonder whether his daughter had set herself on a path from which the only end would be one of more heartbreak. As he held her close, he wished he could promise her that she would never be hurt again. But even he knew, that was a promise he could never make.
= End =
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