“Katie, wake up,” a gentle hand shook her shoulder and she stirred in the darkness of pre-dawn. “We’re shoving off soon,” the man’s voice told her. “You need to decide.”

She’d spent three days on the docks and couldn’t bring herself to go any further, but neither could she go back to the caverns of the Weyr. Talking with N’on had helped her take that final step, if not in the way that some might have expected. She nodded, “I’m ready.”

That morning as Rukbat’s rays crept over the horizon Katailea watched Xanadu fade into the distance. There was work to be done though, passage wasn’t free. Working allowed her to get out of her own head, focusing on the task at hand and made the day pass more quickly than it might have otherwise. A bottle of rum that found its way around that evening brought with it song and laughter. Late the next morning they docked at Hannista to transfer cargo and would be on their way again come morning. The remainder of the day was much the same as the first and that night she tried to write.


She stared at the page, empty save for that single word. So many things she could say. So many she should have said. That was part of why she’d tried to leave the way she did. To avoid having to say goodbye.

She wanted to say yes when he’d asked if he could kiss her, but she didn’t want it to be out of pity. She didn’t want it to be goodbye. She wanted to say yes, but it wouldn’t have been fair to either of them. And that’s why she was going.

She wanted to curl into those strong, reassuring arms when he’d hugged her, but that just would have made it harder to leave. It had been hard enough to hear him ask for the kiss she’d been waiting for since that day on the beach when she hadn’t kissed him. It had been hard enough hearing him ask her to stay. To see that look on his face.

It wasn’t just him though. The others she’d managed to avoid seeing, she’d miss them too. Some had found their lifemates that night and they would be plenty busy. In a few days, maybe a few sevens, they would have forgotten all about her and then it wouldn’t matter anymore.

She’d heard him call after her, but she didn’t pause, she didn’t look back. That she’d kept walking she regretted now, but it was the best choice she tried to keep reminding herself. And now she stared at that page with so many things to say and she still couldn’t do it even so many miles away. She’d stared at that page, that one word that she’d written, for three days. She wasn’t even sure how to address it.

Splotches of ink speckled the page where the pen had dripped in her hesitation. A tear fell from her cheek spreading one of them further. She set aside pen and paper and covered the glows. She rolled over and let the waves that rocked the boat and the quiet creaking of the hull lull her to sleep as it had so many times before. She’d try again tomorrow.

The wind had shifted on day two of that trip and progress towards Rubicon was slow. It had been five days since she’d boarded, eight since the hatching and part of her was still numb to it all. While the ship’s crew set about making preparations for the trip across the open waters of the Southern Sea towards Boll her feet led her across the rocky shore, the salt breeze blew her hair across her face but she didn’t care. She closed her eyes and she could breathe again. It was a familiar voice that interrupted her peace. “Hey sweetheart.”

“How did you…” Katailea started to ask the question, but shook her head. Nevermind. They might not know each other all that well, but she knew enough to answer that question herself. As she walked alongside the old man there weren’t any questions about what she was doing, where she was going, or why. He told her a story she already knew by heart. He didn’t tell her what to do, didn’t ask her to pick one over the other. No judgement.

“The ocean will always call to you. You were born to her.” Like him and both of their ancestors. “You’ll always love your family because that’s the kind of person you are, no matter what that twat your brother married says.” It had almost gotten a laugh, but did earn a hint of a smile. “You don’t listen to them. You don’t listen to the people who say they’re your friends. You don’t listen to me. You listen here,” his finger tapped her chest over her heart. “Not always easy, but it’ll get you where you need to be.”

He didn’t wait for her answer. He kissed her forehead and sent her a wink. “See ya when I see ya.” and then he turned back the way they’d come.

Day ten. The words came easily now.

Dear Father,

By now you are well aware that I did not hold back enough inventory for the time I’ve been away. I did not hold any. I did not stay at Xanadu to trade as I’d said. I stayed because I was asked to stand for the eggs that were on their sands. They hatched a few days past and while I was not chosen by them I am choosing to remain here.

I have sent the marks you expected from my work with this letter. I know my decision may not go over well and am sorry for any trouble or hardship it may cause. I don’t expect you’ll write, but do know that I will think of you often.

Your loving daughter,

The page folded and addressed, she’d asked Coalan to deliver it for her and then she’d waited for a ship going the opposite direction.


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