Fireflies - Vignette

Black Rock Hold - Plowed Fields
With the hold walls in the distance to the west, the fields of the hold spread out to the north and south, stretching to the west where the tilled fields eventually turn to green grazing pastures. With some fields in use, and some lying fallow, a gigantic checkerboard pattern is created, each field outlined by low-growing shrubs, separating each crop from one another.

(Mild(ish) Language Warning)

It wasn’t so bad.

Or maybe it was and his mind has again spared Ka’el the details and left him with a hallucination of the truth. An imprint that doesn’t quite match what it was that left the mark behind.

He looks up at the late afternoon sky. An artist has spilled his paint, and the colors bleed across the blue, running into one another. Swirling. Mixing. Purple. Pink. Orange. It looks like home. His other home. The place that feels much like home sometimes and other times it is a place he believes would be better off becoming a part of his past. The sky there is like the sky here. Are they much different? Not according to the heavens.

His face aches. The prickling feeling of a residual sting is becoming noticeable to his dulled senses. His brows knit faintly as he lifts a hand to his face, gingerly touching fingers. Ow.

Oh. That’s right. Palm to face. That was unexpected. The hurt was not. Not the physical pain of a slap, but the hurt his mind is slowly beginning to recall. Anguished eyes. A glass shattering on the floor, fragments of shards glinting in the sunlight and flashing rainbows upon the cheery walls for a brief instant, as if joy wanted to make one last desperate appearance.

She’s so pretty, his mother. He should’ve kept a picture. How long will it be before he begins to forget the details of her face? When will she show the signs of age that he will never see? For he is less than a son to her now. A stranger. A faceless dragonrider who she will not allow to poison the rest of her brood. It was her mistake, allowing him to go off so many turns ago to chase a foolish dream. Her fault for allowing Kierlan to be an influence upon her youngest. Her baby. She was too soft. She missed her son then and allowed him privileges, and now she will pay by losing yet another. Why will these winged beasts not let her family be? They come so silently and clutch them with their crooked claws, sinking them in so deeply that not even she can save her boys by wrenching them from the grasp of demons. She will not make the same errors. There are grandchildren to think of.

It smells like growth here, Ka’el realizes as he inhales a deep breath of the country air, bringing with it the aroma of land and crops and memories. The grasses sway around him, tall and green, half hiding him from view as he lies on his back. He remembers this smell from when he was small. Chasing his brothers. Helping his father. Catching jumping insects and bringing them home to his mother who never screamed or recoiled in fear but instead told him how keen and nimble and kind he was, for insects only trust those with kind hearts to catch and carry them home.

And on summer nights in this very place when the grass was short due to the mouths of herdbeasts, there would be insects that glowed like stars that they all together would catch in jars and watch and watch in wonder about through the night. And da would roast meat over fire, and Kage would strum chords of a guitar and Kord would sing because he was good at it. And Kinden would fight with Kierlan and Kerrick would tell them both to shut up and settle and they would listen because he was the oldest. And the youngest, Kale himself, would be with his mother curled in her lap listening to her sing with Kord, and he would sing because he was decent too. And in his mother’s arms and with his family all around there was nothing at all wrong in the world.

But there always was something wrong. Something wrong with him. Something wrong with Kierlan. Two boys who walked paths different than everyone else. Two boys caught by dragons. Two men without support of family. Left to their own devices.

His memory jerks. Broken glass. A slap to the face. Shouted words. Hurtful words that he knew would hurt but didn’t realize the severity of the hurt. A dragon, far, far away, wounded by his rider’s hurt, laments with a cry and swirling eyes of aureolin worry. Even from this distance Ka’el can feel the alteration of hot to cool as his lifemate deserts the sand. By his own accord or cast out by Luraoth, he doesn’t know, nor does he seek to find out.

His face hurts, and now his heart is coming out from hiding too, revealing its battered and broken self.

Black Rock Hold - The Bull and Ram Saloon
The Bull and Ram Saloon is the premier place for entertainment and prime drinks in Black Rock Hold. From an extensive selection of homebrews and imports, and frequent contests to develop the next greatest refreshment, as well as everything from in-house singers of folk and blues, gaming tables, and even dancers after-hours. The lights never go off here. The decor scheme is that of a western idea, with flagstone floors and stucco walls in simple off-white. Tables of sturdy skybroom, colored with age and carvings, are set up around chairs cushioned in tanned herdbeast hides, lending to an array of colors and patterns. A massive wall-sized bar is the main feature, with mirrored backs and shelves upon shelves of bottles, as cluttered as the rest of the walls with pictures, trinkets, herding tools, and little bits of local interest. A half-dozen gaming tables are set up around a long, low platform where harpers and dancers perform, though sometimes it's a drunken folk who'll get up there and croon out their own ballads.

“Shit.” A blink has his surroundings changing. When did he get here, or was he here all along? Fields are gone. The sunset blocked from view by walls and people and tables and alcohol and a bar in front of him. Is there even still daylight, or has it given way to the evening and those stars so reminiscent of glowing insects caught in jars? His hands are around a drink. Dark and frothy and halfway gone. He swallows, tasting beer in his mouth and feeling something else more acidic already in his gut. He frowns, pushing the glass away.

“You always were a frickin’ idiot, Kale.”

The voice comes from behind him, familiar in every way, and the young rider’s mouth downturns before he turns to face his sibling. “An’ you always had a kind word, Kinden.” He rises, leaving behind enough to pay for his drinks. Hopefully. He’s not even sure just what he had, but it’s not enough to dull the senses completely, and he stands without assistance, head light.

Ka’el is heading out. He should’ve left hours ago, probably. Has the carrier dragon already gone? Shards and shells if he has. He’ll be stuck here til the morning, and nothing good could come from that. Head whirling, he makes his way through the saloon, head pounding with the bass of the music that’s played and ringing with laughter of people whose lives are better than his at the moment. There’s a shove at his back, hard and spiteful, that has him stumbling forward a few heavy steps with a grimace. Kinden, hair unkempt and long, blue eyes vengeful, grins as he retracts his arm. “How’s it feel? Fallin’ from grace?”

Ka’el steadies himself by pressing a hand to a tabletop, eyes set down, glaring, teeth grinding. But his shoulders square and he continues out to the resident’s wing, Kinden shadowing him. Out to the receiving hall. Then, abruptly shoved outside onto the courtyard where night has indeed fallen.

Black Rock Hold - Courtyard
Pale flagstone has been painstakingly laid to create the wide courtyard, the cracks between free from growth, and filled with tightly packed dirt. The entire courtyard has a gentle upwards sweep, from the gates on the southern wall, to the large bronze doors leading to the Hold itself on the north. The light color of the courtyard stones is contrasted by the dark black of the walls and hold, the stone edges roughly cut, a pair of arches each with a bronze gate on the south and eastern portions. In the northwestern corner of the courtyard, a long, low building of stone sits. This is the guard and wher barracks, where the Hold's group of mine whers and guard whers are kept until nightfall, under watch of the guards of the Hold.

This time, he does lose his footing and falls onto his knees, hands scraping against the stone and gravel, peeling skin and drawing blood. “What? Nothin’ to say now precious rider of Xanadu? Too good for words now, are ya?” Kinden’s boot skims against the ground, kicking pebbly rock towards his fallen sibling. “Or are all the words you have left saved for when you mount your dragon ridin’ whores like an animal?” He spits. “You’re fuckin’ sick, you know.”

“You’re my brother..” Ka’el’s words are seething, spoken between gritted teeth as he stares downward, body tense and tensing more as anger mounts. Anger at more than his brother whose jealousy has proven to be bottomless. He can hear Marel’s voice. See her note. Don’t you dare do this, Ka’el. He can see the venomous look on Darsce’s face. He can feel the meanness rising. How smug she’d be to see herself proven right. His mind paints a picture of M’kal, friend and wingmate, promising that he’s there to talk. Asking him not to shut him out anymore. He pushes the mean feeling down. Soriana, his weyrwoman, with a look of disapproval. Everyone deserves, respect, she said. Show respect. .. To even Kinden, who treats him like a dog? What would she say, watching him now, on the ground with clenched fists? Wouldn’t they all be proud now with the restraint that he shows, even at the cost of his dignity.

“Not anymore,” Kinden replies, voice laced with oil as his leg is swung forward, kicking his brother in the rib, doubling him over with a painful “Uungh!”… Wouldn’t Mur’dah be happy to see him like this? Kicked like an animal. Twice, three times. Beaten for who he is. Who he’s chosen to be. Stomped for turns of resentment from a brother who seems to have been waiting for this moment. The first swing of Kinden’s leg opens a floodgate of hatred, til he seems out of his mind, taking out his every frustration on a brother who does nothing to defend himself. Pathetic. Disgusting. Gleeful eyes gleam behind shaggy hair, and the grin on his face is sadistic.

Then there’s another sound. Guttural. Fierce. Angry. Infuriated. A sound that reverberates from above and seems to come from everywhere at once. A scream. A roar. A savage snarl that freezes the blood and a heavy bronze lands, eyes the color of hell, if such a place were believed in here. So fierce is he, so terrifying his stance that the guards who have prepared to intervene recoil at his sudden arrival, cursing and stumbling over themselves. Dragons don’t act this way.

This one does, affronted by the treatment of his rider. Kanekith roars again, gnashing teeth gleaming beneath the lamp and moonlight. Kinden’s eyes are wide blue saucers. He too stumbles back as the bronze charges forward, hovering protectively over his fallen rider, raging eyes set upon the offender.

“Get that thing away from me, you freak!”

As if Kanekith has any intention of following him. He doesn't. He has what he wants, and although the furious dragon’s eyes are still on Kinden, his copper muzzle has lowered to Ka’el to nuzzle. « I have come for you. »

Ka’el’s arms are on his ribs, for oh do they hurt where boot met flesh, meat, and bone over and over again. He’s slow to open his eyes, expression pained as he peers between dragon legs towards his brother, who is steadily backing away with a look of disgust etched deeply on his face. Ka’el lifts a hand to Kanekith’s muzzle, the and the bronze is extremely slow and careful with his rising motions, helping to lift his rider to his feet. “Why…have you always..hated me, Kinden?” he asks once standing, his one arm still curled around himself. Breathing hurts.

The older sibling’s eyes somewhat freeze, ice turning icier as he watches the pair. The huge guarding bronze. His brother, who he has truly resented since birth. And .. why?

“What reason have you given me not to?” He spits. “Freak.” Then he turns and leaves without another word to his brother. Those may in fact be the last words that he ever does say to him, which suits Kinden just fine.

Kanekith rumbles a low noise, but Ka’el silences him with a shake of his head. “S’alright.” But it isn’t really. Not at all. Not even close. But he doesn’t have any more words to say. None that will matter or change anything, anyway, so he spares them. Apologies are made to the guards. Assurances that all is well, he alright, and no there’s no reason to go after the ‘assailant’. That was his brother, after all, even if Kinden no longer claims to be so.

There’s nothing left for him here. Absolutely nothing but memories both good and bad. Glowing bugs and singalongs. Family gathers and harvesting. A mother’s tears. A father’s turned back, hiding a grim face. Only one brother to speak of, but the others will hear soon enough, and their reactions will be mixed. But Ka’el won’t be here to see or decipher them. Kanekith is without his straps, and it’s with grand effort that he hefts himself upon him, wincing from a bruised side. There’s no need to hurry back, and thus Kanekith walks for now, eyes still crimson twined with yellow as each step brings with it a sharp pain. Not his pain, but his rider’s.

He can’t continue like this, and so he doesn’t. There’s help along the way. Help in the form of kinder folks than his brother. Folks who take him in and set ice upon ribs that are taking on a red and purple color and wrap him and ease him into the empty bed of a grown and gone son. Folks who water Kanekith who sits outside with a swirling eye peering into the window that the kind folks have kept open for him so that he can see, his mind for the first time not pondering eggs or Luraoth. Gentle folks who keep the wounded rider in their home with no questions asked, because sometimes questions hurt more than the physical injury and these folks have hearts too kind to burden the young man who seems so burdened already. And Ka’el sleeps, his mind again sparing him the details of the day and taking him back to memories that are not hallucinations at all. Memories of a family together in a field of lightning bugs.

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