The Night is Dark and Full of Bronzeriders

Xanadu Weyr - Deep Forest
The wooded areas closer to Xanadu Weyr represent a compromise between man and mother nature, but to the north and west, no such arrangements have been made. The deep woods between the Weyr and the mountains are less traveled, the wider paths fit for man and beast less present. The noises of mankind are barely audible here, brief ghosts on the wind, and the quiet thrum of forest life presses in on all sides. The snapping of a twig, a bird's cry, the low cadence of insects; all of these things seem louder. Closer. The deeper one moves into the trees, the more it becomes obvious that one passes through nature only at her allowance.
The cover of trees is more severe in this area of the wood and only occasional shafts of sunlight lance down through the canopy, the sky visible in brief patches. A rough path has been blazed back towards the Weyr. It does not appear to be a heavily frequented path, but the few who have chosen to pass through this area appear to use it more than other avenues available. Only the very foolish or the very experienced would ever wander far from the path.

The hour grows late, the night dark and close, silence broken by hard shapes and soft flutters the likes of which might inspire fear, if only one were less likely to walk with their ghosts than find them in the twists and shadows cast by snow-laden trees. There's much too much energy to be found in the universe besides, a brittle crackle to the very air, a stiff, embittered edge that speaks to its intolerance for anything more than its own cold cruelty. It is such a night that finds R'hyn far from his bed, his family, his weyr and its inherent comforts in pursuit of that far distant something that dreams far too vivid drive him to seek. Sometimes it can be found in his weyrmate's arms, others in the curl of small, warm bodies against his side accompanied by the quiet snores of his children, but some nights — nights like tonight, nights like this — there is no solace to be found except in perpetual motion that drives increasing distance between himself and that which he loves. It's only when the path ends with no hope of continuation, a cliffside deep in the forest whose braided bridge has, in the course of time, finally surrendered to the demands of nature, that R'hyn finally accepts defeat and sinks backwards upon a jut of rock. Blue-grey eyes roll skyward, back coming to rest upon a rise of moss-laden stone, narrow gaze sweeping the rare expanse of star-studded sky visible through the break of trees between cliffsides, breath leaving him in misty columns as it settles, slowly, surely, into a less labored rhythm.

But Ila'den will always find R'hyn, in much the same way that R'hyn will always — always — find Ila'den. It doesn't matter where. It doesn't matter when. It doesn't matter how bright the day or dark the night; one does not — cannot — simply cut away the tenuous bonds of fate, the errant strings of destiny, and escape wherever it is that one is meant to be. It's a far distant something, a promise written in the secret language of stars, whispered in the tongue of fingertips, woven and renewed with every brush of lips, every taste of skin, every hushed reiteration of iloveyouiloveyouiloveyou found in every breath; it's something that was determined long ago, something made in a time before time, when the universe was nothing more than specks of dust afloat the vast sea of eternity and they… they were its fabric, the crosses and checks and balance meant for only each other. It's the same pull that means Ila'den's eyes always find R'hyn's in a crowded room, from across the weyr, up at the top of the highest highs and down at the bottom of the lowest lows. It's the pull Ila'den feels now, that sudden, empty ache in his chest that brings awareness to R'hyn's absence, that permeates instinct and bids him forward, that guides him blind through the forest, through the trees, through a maze of wilderness anybody — anybody — except for R'hyn might elude him. R'hyn will have had plenty of time to catch his breath before Ila'den catches up. But he does catch up. Because Ila'den will always find R'hyn, in much the same way that R'hyn will always — always — find him. "There are monsters out here, you know," comes raspy and husky, grit and gravel, smoke and sensuality punctuated by a growl in brogue from the line of trees where Ila'den stands guard, hands tucked away in the forward pockets of his riding jacket, that lone, grey eye fixed on his weyrmate. It's hard to tell if the monsters are metaphors for violent men and feral creatures, or the familiarity of self-deprecation meant entirely for himself.

Their inevitability a truth universally accepted, as right and real as the fall of snow in response to gravity's call, or the wane of day into the cold, dark hollow of nights such as these. It is, it was, it ever shall be, in this lifetime and the next, a promise stitched into the very fabric of time, written again and again in more ways than even they can ever hope to conceive. It is their lot to try, to reach for that understanding of their own private infinity, small glimpses found like pieces of shattered glass that form a mosaic of understanding, fragments trapped in small moments characterized by the slip of fingers beneath hems, the gentle press of lips to the corners of eyes, breath shared in space increasingly fractional, the slide of skin, whispered encouragement, and never more than in moments when abandon shatters beneath hammered release and the ensuing slam back into shared awareness. Each new piece of this shining abstraction brings them closer to understanding what their souls already know: they will find each other, now, and ever, and always, and today is no exception. It is why R'hyn is not nearly as surprised as he should well be when Ila'den's voice reaches through the distance between them, and suddenly the world is a little less bleak, the shadows cast by trees less like claws that would tear asunder and more like the fragile harbors of potential that need only spring's warmth to push forth their blooms. The air is no more forgiving, but also no less despite the breeze that ruffles hair gone overlong even for him, left to curl about ears and press to the fold of his jacket at the nape of his neck. Cadet hues spin from their lofty positioning to focus on Ila'den's form with a slow warming of his gaze that says 'there you are, I've been waiting for you' in a thousand little ways even as lips form a no less damning critique of themselves. "Good that we've consolidated them to the one clearing, then," is probably meant as more of a joke than it winds up being, night terrors and the curl of ice in his throat making words far more frigid than might be intended. Or perhaps tonight was worse than other, for the attempted smile that goes along with gutters and goes out, gaze swinging away in an expression of self-consciousness R'hyn will probably never shed, no matter how long his existence on this planet with this man at his side, no matter how strong that bond of the infinite inevitability might grow between them. "It was a calculated risk." Coming out here so late, braving the realm of dark nights and darker fiends? It's hard to tell, and he doesn't seem terribly inclined to expound, not just yet, not when he can focus on shifting sideways, making space for Ila'den at his side with no pressure given to imply it needs to be taken. It's a borderline instinctive motion, one that might simultaneously surprise and not surprise him were it ever pointed out to a mind less occupied by less heavy thoughts.

There's a hint of something wry that answers R'hyn's guttered smile, a muted something manifesting at the corners of lips, preceding the hushed rasp of, "Only the one, Heryn," carried with a tone of finality — as if Ila'den refuses to entertain the possibilities presented by a failed jest; as if to say he doesn't want to talk about it anymore because he doesn't find the implication of R'hyn being a monster very funny. But R'hyn is an event horizon, and long before the bronzerider shifts to make space for monsters, Ila'den's legs are carrying him forward, silhouette breaking away from the treeline, bridging the gap towards destiny, to where Ila'den is meant to be with strides that eat up distance until he's beside R'hyn, pressing his back against rock, shoulder against shoulder, thigh against thigh. Instead of keeping his attention on his weyrhusband, Ila'den turns his gaze out towards the stars, towards the possibility of infinity, as if he means to spare Heryn the indignity of self-consciousness by keeping his focus somewhere else. For now, at least. "There's no such thing," comes husky, soft, amused. Another twitch of lips marks the beginnings of a smile, this time guttering out in much the same fashion as R'hyn's, long before it even has the chance to form. "Not when it means you leaving my side." Not when it means waking up to cold, empty space, to the frantic ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump of a heart out of rhythm, frantic at losing the one it was synced to. Just like that, one of Ila'den's hands is capturing one of R'hyn's, the intimacy of fingers interdigitating somehow kept nonchalant when Ila'den tucks their joined hands back into his pocket, the other hand coming free to point out stars. "Look," that grey eye flickers sideways for a mere moment before his attention is back on the groupings. "There." The Andromeda constellation, one he's carefully patient to help Heryn find among an amalgamation of stars if he doesn't see it right away. "In Terran myth, there was a man named Perseus, a hero of who the fuck knows what. One day, he we on his way home from who the fuck knows where," Ila'den is absolutely the best storyteller, you guys, "when he found a woman chained to a cliffside. Her name was Andromeda. Perseus freed her, and later learned that it was her parents who'd caged her there. There was a Lord Holder, you see, who could speak to creatures in the sea the way that we speak with our dragons, and he sent a monstrous creature to destroy the home Andromeda's parents had worked for turns to build — all because he did not like the way that Andromeda's mother boasted of her daughter's beauty. A harper had told them that they should sacrifice their daughter, but Perseus saved her instead, and married her." A heartbeat, a low, guttural rumble of laughter that never quite leaves his chest. "Now they get to be remembered forever, and I have no idea why." … Is he just trying to distract R'hyn's mind away from those infinitely tangible things that come on the wings of night time terrors? Yes, yes he is. And he's probably doing a miserable job of it.

"Ouch," R'hyn murmurs, dry humor ash in his mouth as he lifts one hand to massage the center of his chest, implying the passage of an invisible wound having been inflicted upon his person, "I didn't think you'd let me play demon all by myself." Because Ila'den is no more funny than he, and if he can turn a sad wordplay into further self-deprecation, so can the Heryn in question. Silence is held as well as breaths in the seconds it takes his weyrmate to eat the distance between them, avoidant gaze making its way back to observe progress with nothing short of appreciation, appreciation for everything Ila'den is, to him, to his life, to the world at large, for everything the man is now and once was and every little thing in between. The intensity of his regard wanes only when directed, when Ila waits for R'hyn to find stars amidst the cosmos and Ryn obeys, making no comment on the subject of statements being false and sides being left, instead making a low noise of assent when finally blue-grey eyes settle upon the appropriate cluster of spun-tight, far-distant space-matter. The fingers of their joined hands tighten throughout the length of Ila'den's story, sometimes lax, other times gripping tight in time with sharp, nasal laughter. It is withdrawn only at the end of the tale, the slow dedigitation, the lingering slide away emphasized by a sigh just as long and fractious. "What is it with men and their burning need to save maids," he says, emotion a spiked splinter beneath a fingernail, a sliver of glass in soft flesh, not enough to rend, but certainly enough to frustrate as his body tilts to fit into its natural place, curved against the strong lines and rises of Ila'den's form. Hands raise, settling on either side of Ila's face, fingertips digging in, thumbs pressing against cheekbones, the angle of his chin, the give of lips, eyes following them with rapt attention before lifting to focus in. "Perhaps if he'd left her well enough alone, she'd have realized the sea-creature was much less monster than he claimed," he murmurs, the lean of his body as invasive as it is inexorable, a gentle collision of his head against Ila'den's preceding the dangle of his mouth just inches from the bronzerider's own. "Or she'd realize she was much less like her mother, and so much more like him, that their differences would give way to a mutual understanding that just—" And there poetic words run out, as they are wont to do even when days are good, brilliant, better than this dark-eyed, world-weary, twice-damned, dream-hounded creature doesn't surrender to their lack with a sigh and a softening of his form, letting tired lines melt around Ila'den's in a slump that shifts him until he's temple to forehead, hands caught in clothing, breathing soft and so, so regular in a way that speaks to a wrestle for control, a whispered, "Tell me another."

Ila'den shifts, drops his arm to prepare space for R'hyn to press in against his body, dragging calloused digits from ribs to hip, sliding backward under shirt and the lip of pants both until they come to rest against Heryn's lower back. "Hmm," comes soft, heard only by virtue of their proximity to one another. "Another story." Dark promises linger in that rasp, a frustration echoed momentarily in the press of fingertips to skin where… they relax again, ease back to a gentleness so at odds with the wildness Ila'den's very presence inspires — to the storm that R'hyn fuels with alacrity. "Very well. You don't like men saving maidens from monsters born to the sea, but do you believe in ghosts, Heryn?" There's a pause, a shift of body against body as Ila'den resettles against rock, applies his hand a little higher up his weyrmate's spine without pursuing true intimacy. "I do. I saw one once." There's a raise of brows, a tilt of his head so that he can take in R'hyn's expression, the barest hint of teeth in the beginnings of a wolfish smile before he looks away, before he continues. "He couldn't find his way home. He had a home once, but so long ago that he didn't remember it well. I asked him what he wanted once, but he didn't know. He couldn't find peace. His entire life had been built on lies, and threats, and empty promises. One day he faced starvation, the next humiliation, and the day after that, desperation. Hope was something he wanted to believe in. He wanted to hope for the future, to hope that things could be better. He hoped that he could be better, hoped that somewhere in the world there was a place for someone like him, something that he could be a part of." A beat before hushed, cold, even: "Hope killed that man." It takes one, two, three heartbeats, two even breaths, before Ila'den continues. "He didn't remember much after that. What does a ghost have, after all, except for memories to chain him here? Why is a ghost tethered to a tortured existence if not to relive every mistake, every moment that brought him there, to the very precipice of why, even in death, he could never be happy." Lips find R'hyn's brow then, a whisper of contact that lingers long after Ila'den begins to speak again, voice muffled. "So he wandered through life without a sense of self or purpose. He was angry, he knew hate best of all, and slowly, slowly, he began turning himself into something much more dangerous than a mere ghost. He started to kill the people around him too. He squandered their light and snuffed out their joy; he drained them, and drained them, and drained them, until one by one they became ghosts too. Or they ran. The smart ones ran." Another beat. "Sometimes never far or fast enough. But one day everything changed. One day the ghost was up high on a rooftop, existing through another moment that felt empty, forcing another interaction, draining another soul." Now Ila'den pulls away. "What he didn't expect was to find somebody who could make him feel something." It's said with a rumble of laughter, with the capturing of one of R'hyn's hands, interrupted when knuckles are brought to lips and a gentle kiss is placed on the middle ridge; when lips part and drag slowly back and forth against bone under skin. "But you know the most important thing he found that day?" Ila'den lets go and instead curls fingers against R'hyn's jaw, sweeps the pads of thumbs backward, back and back and back until he's cradling the base of R'hyn's skull and leaning in to press his mouth against Heryn's in a kiss that's hard and searing without being demanding — a proverbial slowburn meant to encapsulate too damn much because it's the only way that Ila'den knows how to truly say, 'Thank you.' "Home," comes gruff when Ila'den finally pulls away, painting the words against R'hyn's lips with his own. "Life. Acceptance. Laughter. A family. He found home. So maybe you're right. Maybe it wasn't Andromeda who needed saving after all; maybe it was the monster all along." Then Ila'den is withdrawing, shifting his body away from the familiar press of R'hyn's, dropping one hand to his side as the other comes out palm up, fingers splayed in invitation for the younger bronzerider to take it. "But let's go home now, Heryn. I don't want to see anymore ghosts tonight."

Does Heryn believe in ghosts? Spine locks, shoulders tense, the grip of long digits into the give of Ila'den's jacket tightens, the weary press of his body taking on a sharpened edge that has little to do with the fingers sliding along his skin. There's a glitter to his gaze as Ila shifts to meet his gaze, and it's not at all kind, gentle, patient, nor any of the things that usually characterize the bronzerider's regard for his weyrmate. It's the look of one that knows precisely where this story is going to go, knows that he's going to hate it, not for its telling, but for the many things it will recount, reveal, promised in the kind of smile he has come to understand is as nuanced as any other aspect of Ila'den's person. R'hyn focuses his attention there, eyes tightening as though to say 'stop that' or 'you don't need to do this' or perhaps simply 'I see you' before he returns his gaze to the space where Ila's throat meets fabric, brittle light in his eyes fading into something hollow, distant as he listens in the way he always does, always will. Does Heryn believe in ghosts? Perhaps he might, given the way his body shifts and presses in, a burrowing nestle of six feet of dragonrider into his husband's presence, as if seeking solace from the spectral reach of this dark, rattled wraith. Cold hands settle between jacket and shirt, the latter gathered up, twisted about fingers, pulled so tight that creaks might be heard in the hushed, frigid beats between words. 'Hope killed that man.' Shivers trace the length of R'hyn's spine, breath leaving him with a dull sound to mark its passage, and by the time lips are pressed to his forehead he needs the contact, leans into it with eyes pressed closed, jaw tightening in slow fractions because there's clearly more to come. One hand eases out of the folds its made in Ila'den's clothing, shifting to cup the side of Ila's face instead, thumb brushing a slow path along his cheek, as much to provide comfort as to find it for himself. He listens, laughs when Ila does, a pale weak imitation destined to end as fast as it comes, but there nevertheless. "A basket?," he manages in the seconds it takes for his husband to move lips from knuckles to his, attempted jest lost in the burn that threatens to consume the fragile whisp of what he is just now. He lets it, lets emotion torch his edges, race to his center, devour him slowly, yes, but no less surely, to blacken what it was intended to polish. It is the reason blue-grey eyes are still bleak when Ila'den pulls away, why R'hyn remains when he is beckoned, small smile fading away as lips shift to form one word, "Ila," then others: "I… how…" Does Heryn believe in ghosts? He wished he did, that he might ask how the ghost gets the blood off his hands; he can't manage the question, but his gaze drops to his upraised palms, open, flat, fingers spread wide as he stares, stares as though it clings to him still, caked, sticky, heavy, disgusting, unclean. He backs away, towards moonlight, attempting to abandon shadows cast by leaves overhead that spill across forearms. "I…" He sighs, shut his eyes, steels his shoulders, growls beneath his breath as his head shakes, mind works, changes tack. "I—" love you. It's there, written in the way hands clench into fists in the wash of starlight that finally sweeps across his palms, something like resolve, resolve to focus on the life of this moment instead of the death within memories, to embrace the effects that having a home has likewise wrought upon his soul, to calm the too-fast beat of his heart, the too-rough edge to his breath. It bids his eyes to lift, to fasten upon Ila'den's singular regard, burning bright for an instant before being shredded by sudden surprise as his heel finds nothing, his weight sinks back on cold, empty expanse, as he notes, with strange detachment inherent to moments just like these, just how hard the wind is suddenly blowing in the way it whips long fringe in a flurry about his face as he falls back into its embrace, and really, the better question that must needs be answered as R'hyn's image fades below the edge of the cliff is, does Ila'den believe in ghosts?

Does Ila'den believe in ghosts? The bronzerider watches his weyrmate move with the same patience, the same unmoving, hyperattentive awareness a predator fixes upon its prey. It won't be enough. It doesn't matter how Ila'den watches R'hyn's hands, R'hyn's lips; it doesn't matter how much Ila'den focuses on the words that start to form, how he already knows without having to hear how that statement will end, with three simple, often unspoken, insignificant but powerful words. It won't be enough. Today he will fail. Today he will learn that the world has an end, and it starts with, 'I — '. It begins where Ila'den's gaze lifts to find grey-blue with softening edges, preemptively answering, 'I love you, too,' and it ends in the instant it takes for the ground to fall away from beneath Heryn's feet. Understanding registers with alacrity, in the second that it takes for shock-widened eyes to meet across another distance, in the moment it takes to register that this time the distance between them is too wide to clear in time. It ends in the fraction of a heartbeat that it takes a body to unravel anyway, to pitch forward and register strong hands catching empty air. The world has an end. It starts with, 'I — '. Maybe in that moment, the answer to unspoken questions is obvious. Does Ila'den believe in ghosts? It's hard to tell who's screaming louder: Ila'den, or the dragons.

Add a New Comment
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License