To Be Enough (Vignette)

Xanadu Weyr - Candidate and Weyrling Barracks
Xanadu's barracks are a massive, L-shaped amalgamation of caverns and construction, squared on one end, rough-hewn and oblong on the other, with weyrlings and candidates separated from one another by a large communal area. Wood and stone floors meet in a clever spiral pattern that interlaces and spreads, creating harmony in a space meant for completion of chores, classes, and storage of both dragon supplies and bedding for humans. A singular wooden door leads into an office for the weyrlingstaff.

Windows stretch the length of the candidate barracks, a long, low-ceilinged room that opens off the training grounds. One wall is slightly curved, set against the outer wall of the hatching arena, with a locked door closing off a tunnel that leads onto the sands. Cots are set in two rows along the length of the room, each with its own small press at the foot for personal belongings. It's always warm here when there are eggs on the sands; candidates seldom need more than a light blanket, but a diminutive hearth is available for the warming of beverages or the occasional firelizard-surprise.

The weyrling half of the barracks have been burrowed back into stone. Close and dark when shutters to the outside world are drawn, the ample paths between dragon couches have been lit with dim strips of light. Smaller couches are obviously intended for the very young weyrlings, while the largest ones at the back are for those close to graduation. A second small hearth abuts a massive cavern opening that slopes gently down to the training grounds outside.

It's their second night together before Andy gets brave enough to ask the question that keeps curling about her tongue and sticking in her thoughts like the proverbial pebble-in-a-shoe.

She's pretty sure that Qilaeth already knows what she's going to say; why else would those wisps of smugness keep showing up when everything is almost quiet?

Almost, but for that maddening undercurrent of know-it-all that's going to be buzzing in her brain for decades to come.

"Am I enough?"

It emerges as a whisper of uncertainty to the wall as they're a little more than halfway to falling asleep, once she tips a look behind her to make sure that the next closest weyrling is either apparently dozing or just hopefully not present.

Am I enough, Qilaeth's baritone not-quite pondered, rolling over the syllables. Poor me.

(Even if she hadn't had the feeling of it, she would have known that to be a taunt.)

Poor, little Andy. Do you really think it has everything to do with you?

Andy blinks back tears for that near-mockery of the words that bound them, letting her eyes shut for a long moment —

— and they're suddenly somewhere else in a way that she can't quite understand, at first.

Is this a dream?

This wasn't like the whiteness with which he surrounded them at Impression, but the vastness of the cosmos stretching to the infinity point, an inky field of stars, nebulae and the irrefutable sense of being so small in the grand scheme.

And Qilaeth, nowhere to be seen, is somehow everywhere.

Surely you don't need everything spelled out for you, sighs the put-upon voice that wraps around her from all directions.

How could someone all but belittle and genuinely seem to like you in the same breath? The dichotomy makes her head spin.

Or, perhaps you do.

I know I'm not brave, strong or smart enough

She starts when he interjects with a flash of white so bright that it all but obscures her view.

What was that, a private thought? Do go on.

Oh, right. No privacy, grumps Andy (for it's far too soon for them to be able to have spaces in which they can keep things from each other).

But even that thought makes her feel a little smaller. You could have had someone more capable.

You wanted to understand 'the great mystery' of being a dragonrider, didn't you? Well, now you have the chance.

There's something akin to a flash of affection right around the time that she awakens again to find her nose all but pressed into warm dragonhide. Even in slumber, there's that funny sense that Qilaeth is and isn't, and Andy struggles to understand until her eyelids begin to grow too heavy once more, still wondering why.

Why isn't her lifemate also her favorite dragon?

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