The Prodigal Bronzerider

Xanadu Weyr - Shore of Lake Caspian
The cliffs that run along the shore come and go, various weyrs nestled along the tops of them or dug into the walls, but eventually they recede enough to expose a beach. The white sand echoes the rise and fall of the cliffs with a multitude of sandy dunes, endlessly creating tiny valleys that are constantly demolished and rebuilt by the frequent arrival or departure of dragons. The dunes smooth out as the gentle slope approaches the edge of the deep blue water. The sand darkens, and a shell here and there stands out for children to collect.
The beach narrows to the southwest, leaving a path barely wide enough for dragons in single file before cutting in to a smaller, more sheltered cove. The sands are the same white, the waters the same blue, but they're calmer and more tranquil, more protected from the winds that ruffle Lake Caspian and the currents that tug beneath the surface.
Rough, wide stairs lead up to the meadow above and the road that runs along the top of the cliffs, passing through the fields and heading for the river mouth that can be just barely seen from here. The largest of the staircases up the cliff is located near the docks that jut out onto the peaceful blue waters.

It’s been many moons since D’lei darkened this particular doorstep. Enough of them, in fact, that it was plausible to think that he’d never do so again. Not to mention some words to that effect? Honestly, though, everything after he left for an ordinary-sounding trip to one of the holds on the Western continent and came down with an illness was kind of weird and questionable.

But all that is just history, and a fairly distant one at that. It’s been turns since that last sighting and departure, and things have… well, presumably they’ve moved on in at least some ways, but what with D’lei not being here to see them, it’s not like he’d know. There wasn’t any reason to think he’d be here again, not him nor his brindle shadow-dragon, either.

And yet, despite that implausibility, on this particular evening… well, the dragon could still be missed, because one flying creature in the distance is much like another, and his mind’s being as silent as his tattered wings… but there’s a quiet figure perched… well, not quite on the doorstep of that beachside weyr where he was once a regular. Instead, D’lei sits a few meters away, where an outcropping of rock makes a half-height backrest that he can lean back against… but where the breezes still catch at a tumble of hair and beard now lightly streaked with silver to make them sway and dance as his gaze drifts out over the waters and skies of Xanadu’s shore.

Time marches on and the lives of many are at the whims of it. Change is inevitable in tandem, with the weyr perhaps being the only constant anchor (arguably with its own little changes but aesthetic details are not quite the same creature).

Zekath is similarity not present, the desert-scarred bronze elsewhere for the time being or perched where he may take his imagined duties as a diligent sentinel more seriously. What prompts one to venture out those few meters may be purely happenstance in this case. Was there some form of ‘warning’? Words in passing, to better prepare the initial shock and give one time to absorb that sudden break in familiar pattern?

Who knows. What is known and occurs in gradual order will be that D’lei is not alone for too long. He will be joined by another, once familiar, once … someone of some kind of importance. K’vir’s approach is quiet, his expression sombre and much kept turned inward beneath that mask. No hot-heated lashing of temper from his younger Turns, just slow steps and a gradual stop to come to rest a respectful distance from the bronzerider’s side. His gaze shifts to linger on D’lei in passing acknowledgement of his presence, confirming the alterations to features reduced to memories and now updated to match the living version. That gaze then slides out over the waters, leaving it to D’lei to broach conversation first. Conflict of emotions war beneath the surface of his collective calm; how long that will last before splintering is anyone’s guess. It’s one difference in K’vir, that ponderous nature of his. Exhausted. Worn. Little else has changed with him physically, much the same as he’d been those Turns before; only a little older and (arguably) a fraction wiser.

The sideways glance D'lei gives at the hint of approach is… wary, almost; a wild beast, now uncertain in this environment where he once lived. His eyes flit across K'vir, assessing him, re-considering him, his own expression still… and there's silence, for a moment, for another one, as K'vir finishes his own inspection and then turns to look out over the waters, and another moment after that one.

…and then D'lei laughs. It's a short one, an exhalation turned to amusement, a breaking of that silence before it stretches on to meet the seeming-infinity of those waters and skies reaching to the horizon. "My memory's a mess," he says to follow it, words blunt - almost brusque - as he puts that fact, that key insight, down into the space between them. "Just so you know. The fever fucked everything up here," he taps the side of his head, "and I still don't have all the pieces."

A look that is not unfamiliar, given K’vir’s love of beasts, wild or domesticated, but seldom witnessed in humans; in turn it makes him wary and unsure. So he does not move or react, beyond the gradual sidelong glance he affords to D’lei for his inspection. Laughter often brings relief and there is a note of that in the younger bronzerider’s flickering smile — the fault is one of pain and unease. It causes the smile to gutter out, when he can no longer handle the discordant expression.

He doesn’t waver under the bluntness delivery, nor the shock of the revelation. K’vir merely grunts wordlessly, turning further inwards to process this sudden shift in everything. It will take time and patience and an ever expanding void of chilled silence before he speaks up, voice tight and hoarse. “Guess that explains,” Nothing. Everything? “A lot.” It’s a far cry from a welcoming gesture, further from accepting, but as with much in his life, K’vir needs time. There’s too much, a chasm too great to immediately cross. Yet he’s not immediately turning away, to leave D’lei there to the ocean winds and night skies. He lingers, the space between them weighed with the unspoken invitation for the bronzerider to add, as he sees fit, more pieces.

D'lei shrugs a little, as K'vir settles on that quantifier for just how much things have changed… at least, by those last words of his. How much they'd changed before that, and in what ways… well, there are still questions that could be asked there, answers that could be sought and maybe even found. "Guess it does." His own gaze drifts again to the water, to the waves reaching up, rising to the sky above them, and there's silence for another of those moments before he speaks again. "Risa found me." He doesn't look at K'vir as he says it, perhaps not wanting to see that reaction… or perhaps just giving the younger man an opportunity to have it without feeling observed. It's a fact, if nothing else, another piece of knowledge that explains… nothing, or something, or everything. Another rock in the chasm? Maybe, but it's yet unclear whether those stones might build a bridge or if they'll just tumble into the abyss.

He's silent again, after that; an opportunity for K'vir to say his own words, to demand answers, perhaps simply to think on those small facts that might recontextualize so much… or might not, in the end, make enough of a difference to matter. D'lei's not the one who can know those answers, or even what questions are - to K'vir - the important ones. He could guess, of course, but with his own memories a tumble of fever-dream swiss-cheese… any guess seems more likely to stray wild than hit the mark. (If he even knew what mark to aim for.) So… he's quiet, and waits, and listens for words that may or may not come.

There’s the first splintering in that collected look of calm, but his features only subtly twist with a tightening of his jaw as his eyes close. Briefly, to absorb that impact and they open again on the exhale of a steadying breath. It takes another beat, another silent working to his jaw as he pulls and discards so many responses. “I figured.” It’s not a statement of blame or even anger, just a low, blunt acceptance of facts — it is what it is and if it comes up again, here and now or later with her, he’ll deal with it then. Another rock in the chasm, but not to drive a wedge between them. The first tenebrous stepping stone, perhaps.

Is more expected to be said? K’vir is not immediately offering anything more in the way of conversation again. It’s perhaps a touch unkind of him to put so much on D’lei’s shoulders, with the knowledge he now has of the bronzerider’s mental state. He has his own to consider, however, even if that much hasn’t been shared (or if D’lei even recalls). It’s possible he hates having to put this chasm-shield between them, but it can’t be helped. Yet if there is patience afforded him, he’ll gradually come around to treading the narrow paths of cautious discussion. “You’ve come back then?” For good? For now? Unspoken is the last bit, but the weight of it hangs sharp-edged.

K'vir's response doesn't involve a fist, at least, which… is a certain type of improvement from a previous conversation these two had on a beach after an arrival by D'lei. Which … well. Unclear memories doesn't mean no memories, exactly, just that they've become fragmentary, confused together until they seemed more dream or nightmare than reality. So perhaps - at least, within the chaos of his own head - D'lei had some justification for that initial wariness… even if, just then, he kept his gaze on those waves instead.

There's time enough, quiet enough - though the waves and seabirds and firelizards ensure that it's not entirely quiet - for K'vir to speak, and D'lei's mouth quirks to the side at the question. "Do you want me?" His head turns toward the younger bronzerider, with an arch of his brows and wry expression as if to say he's quite aware he's no particular prize at this point, or perhaps acknowledge the sharp pain of seeming-betrayal, the duller ache of absence. There's another moment, but a smaller one; enough to give that emotion room to breathe, and then D'lei continues with something that isn't just another question. "I want to be here for the kids." Which, admittedly, he also wanted before, but… "I don't intend to leave, but I really have no idea how I fit anymore. If I fit anymore." He shrugs, a helpless acknowledgment of just how much his own life has gone off-course… and how much greater any given distance may be once all the wandering trajectories are added and subtracted together.

It’s true that K’vir once acted far more impulsively on his emotions — but that was Turns ago, when he was a younger (and very confused, conflicted) man. In this present moment, he is very much a changed and different man; still with his varied flaws, but thankfully ‘acting with fists first’ hasn’t been one.

Emotions, however, remain a continued struggle for him. Be it explaining or expressing, K’vir cannot easily tap into bridging that understanding between himself and those he cares to reach. His current feelings are nothing short of a terrible, utterly tangled mess — because of course some part of him still cares, still wants, D’lei back. Only it’s not as simple as that, is it? Recent, more conflicting, feelings are rising to the forefront to choke out the rest. It’s not a pleasant mental war-scape to be in.

“I don’t know,” K’vir’s blunt (and brutal) answer rumbles out, ground between his teeth as his features remain grim set. His gaze will settle on D’lei at least, eyes haunted for reasons of his own. “… I don’t know yet.” He amends, with important emphasis. As for the kids? His brows lift at that, breath sucked in sharply and exhaled as a deep sigh. “D’lei, I —“ He might have said ‘no’, just then. Knee-jerk reaction, a verbal punch of sorts but he keeps himself in check. Barely. His eyes close as his brows furrow, visibly swallowing down all the —wrong— words. K’vir will only open his eyes again to fix D’lei with a look that is a mixture of apology and regret, his voice hoarse and quiet. “You know it isn’t me you have to convince, if you want to be a part of their lives again.” It’s no more pleasant an answer. None of this is pleasant (and yet there is that constant buzz of good-feels to see someone important and meaningful return). Again, his expression turns, a flicker of pain and unease. “We need time, Dash. All of us. This won’t happen in just a few days — you understand, don’t you?”

Blunt that answer may be, but D'lei doesn't look surprised. His expression's a complicated one - a measure of sadness, a bit of something that might actually be relief, a trace of that wry humor - but the primary aspect is one of acceptance, acknowledgment of a truth he suspected might be there but needed to actually hear to clear the fog of maybe-probably-dunno and tell him where he actually stands. (Well, sits.) Now he knows… or at least, he's carved away some of the uncertainty, gathered a little more knowledge about what his place is today and what it might - or might not - become tomorrow, at least so far as the uncertainties that are K'vir are concerned, and he nods his assent.

When it comes to those matters not in K'vir's power… D'lei's expression shifts toward a sort of quiet sadness, in the moments when eyes are still open and might see it, and by the time K'vir opens his own eyes again, D'lei has shifted his own gaze once again out across the waters. "Mmh," he replies to those words of explanation. It's barely an answer at all, just an acknowledgment, understanding and a sort of thoughtful distance, as if it's prompted him to begin untangling some other pieces of those scattered, tumbled memories…

…but he won't be succeeding at the whole of that task right now, either. His gaze shifts back to K'vir again, amber eyes tracing back along expression before meeting his, and he gives a soft smile that's more sad than anything. "I don't expect it to." The words are soft too, though still loud enough to be heard. "You don't need to decide anything today, this week…" A shrug, a trail-off that doesn't quite say 'ever' but certainly puts the implication there. "Not even if I'm allowed in your house." There's a faint smile with that, but his tone is serious, because… well, there's reasons why D'lei only came this far, only close enough to sit near the place he used to live instead of trying to enter it. "I'll find somewhere to stay. You… we… can take whatever time we need."

Is there a sliver of regret felt by K’vir? Perhaps. He won’t disturb that weighed silence between them, with D’lei looking out over the water and the younger bronzerider looking rather intently at some point in the ground. The acknowledgment is marked only by the faintest twitch to the corner of his mouth, a vague smirk at best. It may linger long enough for the older bronzerider to catch before it flickers out of existence.

Some of the tension eases from his posture, but not all of it, when it becomes apparent enough that D’lei understands. It’s not a great scenario all around and K’vir is already beginning to feel conflicted enough that the urge to step away is growing stronger every second. “It’s not that you’re not welcome, Dash. It’s just—“ Too soon? Too Sudden? He grimaces. “We need time.” he repeats again, with a heavy, almost weary, sigh. “Right. Exactly.” Agreement again, for taking whatever time is necessary. As for where D’lei may stay? “I could…” he falters a moment, brows knitting together as he sifts through his worded reply. “Do you want help?” Finding somewhere to stay. Maybe that is the proverbial olive branch from him, to add another stepping stone to the chasm or, at the very least, a way of apologizing for what could-not-be in this reunion.

D'lei gives a wry, pained smile. "It's just a wound half-healed, and here I've come to rip it open again." His mouth quirks, and then he exhales. The need for time, for space, for thinking about things and deciding what of that old injury is infection beneath the skin that can be let out and what's scar and what's still too painful… these are all things that D'lei can understand, does understand. He's not entirely sure what the best outcome of this meeting would have been… but this, this understanding of the need to take time, is definitely far from the worst.

It's certainly given him a place to stand, an awareness of where things are, and while he may not (yet) have much more than a stepping-stone in that chasm… that's not nothing. From one stepping stone, he can look for the next, and after that… well, he'll figure out that part when he gets there. One step at a time, and they're going to take that time.

D'lei's head tilts toward K'vir at the offer of aid, and he's quiet for a moment, thoughtful as he considers the question, the tumble of emotions around it, whether he wants… "Heh." A small laugh, and he tucks his chin for a moment, wry bemusement. "Let me try on my own, first?" D'lei half-smiles. "I've got enough pride for that." He wants to prove himself capable, to show that - despite his illness, despite his absence - he can provide for himself (and perhaps even for others). It's an emotion more suited to a younger man, one just starting out in life, but the chaos of memory loss and slow recovery has in some ways brought D'lei back to that, emotionally speaking… though he's also retained at least enough of the wisdom of age to add, "If I have trouble, I'll ask."

K’vir gives a pained, conflicted grim look of his own, as he struggles to say something to counter what D’lei has said — and finds himself unable to find words that would just sound falsely placating. So he lapses into a damning silence and feels all the more awful for it. Yes, old wounds are being reopened, but maybe that is a necessary hurt so they can have the potential to heal properly.

The small laugh pulls him out of his troubled thoughts, blinking as his gaze settles with more focus on D’lei and the present moment. “Didn’t mean—“ he begins to counter out of reflex, only to bite that off with a light scoff and a working of his lower jaw as he pulls at his lower lip. Exhaling heavily, his features settle more into a faint smirk. “Alright.” He can at least afford that much respect towards the older bronzerider, dipping his head agreeably to the last offer. That will be an unspoken promise then, that should D’lei need him, he may ask.

K’vir makes to move away, but his steps alter as if swayed by some determined thoughts — or perhaps the sudden rise of one dominant emotion over another that allows him to act. It’s no grand gesture, but he will close the distance between them, in an attempt to clasp a hand to D’lei’s shoulder. One lingering, firm squeeze, fingers grazing in prolonged contact even as he withdraws. Good to see you. It’s all he can give, for now and he’ll promptly begin to step back. That alone has likely triggered a cascade; he’s becoming overwhelmed and withdrawing as a result.

Oh, that difference between what one wants to feel, to say, and what one actually feels, what one can - in good conscience - say. There can be such a gulf there, full of internal turmoil and chaos… and that's not even accounting for the fact that there's so rarely only one of those desires, that feelings and words tumble after each other like landslides, dance like raindrops from a storm.

So yes, D'lei understands those silences, offers with his expression the soft wry sympathy that at least recognizes the awkward and challenge of this situation for both of them, one shared emotion that acknowledges the rest of the chaotic storm of feelings and wants without seeking to delve into it. Perhaps, in time, as K'vir comes to grapple with pieces of those emotions, they will emerge further and into the space between the two bronzeriders. Perhaps they won't.

The future is uncertain, and for now, K'vir begins to walk away, and D'lei to return his gaze to the water… though that's interrupted as K'vir changes course… whether through storm-gust of raw emotion or firm hand on the rudder. (D'lei certainly doesn't know, and… maybe K'vir doesn't either.) Regardless and without need for understanding its cause, K'vir comes closer, puts his hand to D'lei's shoulder with that squeeze, and D'lei tilts his head up toward him and offers a smile… welcoming of that touch, but not seeking to reciprocate it. This is K'vir's choice, and D'lei will give him space to make it… and also to run away from it, to find the time and space for that chaos-storm of emotions to whirl.

D'lei remains where he is a moment longer, enough to let K'vir get clear, then rises to his feet and makes his way back across the beach. It's time for him to find… well, a home might be too ambitious, just now, but at the least, it's time for him to find a place to stay a while.

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