Palaces out of Paragraphs (Vignette)

Day 18(?) of Month 8 of Turn 2720
Half Moon Bay Weyr - Weyrling Barracks

There were no words, and there were all the words.

Zhelinath did not talk. She simply…allowed N'on to understand her. Hours passed in this silent melding of minds in which thoughts passed back and forth in half-formed images and breaths of emotion.

Speaking to her was as simple as understanding his own thoughts. As simple, but easier in some ways, for the beautiful green never judged a thought as unworthy or unkind. She never worried about whether a thought 'should' be. She simply accepted his thoughts at face value.

He wondered why, and in that same moment, knew the answer.

« These are the flaws in the opal, N'on, » her mind whispered. She savored the feel of the words as a poet might savor the scratch of a quill against parchment. « You are /more/ beautiful for them. »

He felt her hunger, too, as a sharp grumble in his stomach. Yet again, it was a cleaner sort of hunger than his own, unsaddled with the anxiety he associated with meals.

As she daintily chewed a chunk of meat, Zhelinath's mind flared like a candle, illuminating his thoughts to examine his mealtime experiences more closely. She discovered the discomfort he experienced as scar tissue interfered with the process of swallowing. She noted with dismay the tiny bites he took to avoid the sensation of choking.

« Not enough! » Zhelinath asserted, her flicker of concern flaring to alarm more felt than 'heard'. « Starvation! »

N'on quashed his own alarm, more by instinct than planning. He formed his thoughts into a soothing balm made of the truth.

// I don't need as much as you, or as fast. Look closer: I don't starve. //

He imagined the candle growing, lighting up more of those simple mealtime scenes. He focused a spotlight on the end of his meal and the feeling of satiation as he left the caverns.

This instantly allayed Zhelinath's concern, and her mind returned to her own belly. For a time, both of their minds were occupied with the task of filling her seemingly bottomless pit.

At long last, Zhelinath was satiated and sank steadily toward a drowsy slumber. N'on rose from the depths of his connection with her as though from a long dream and looked around to find himself alone in a room full of snoozing newborns.

There was a party going on somewhere in honor of the new weyrlings, but his first instinct was to curl back up with Zhelinath and avoid it.

A breath of wind and the smell of ink. « Dearest N'on. Try, and I shall bite you. » As though to punctuate the thought, she turned a circle in her couch and curled up again, presenting her kelly green rump. « Be with your friends while I sleep. I shall want you again when I wake. »

Then she was gone.

No, not gone. Dampened, as with a cover over a glow basket. He could still sense her presence, slumbering just at the back of his mind.

So he climbed out of the couch and went to the party. He got his shoulder clapped and hand shaked by people he wasn't sure he knew. He ate snacks he wasn't hungry for, and smiled until his cheeks were fit to crack, and felt… outside of it all.

He found himself in a small gathering of people he barely knew, pretending he didn't mind not participating in the conversation, when he heard a small, familiar voice just behind him.


He turned to find his family standing there, the whole crew clad in the rough, homespun wool that was all too familiar. Ma, Pa, two brothers, and a gaggle of littles he barely knew. He supposed the two barely-familiar women must be his sisters-in-law.

He wondered who had arranged for them to be here, but he had no way of asking. So he smiled and waved, feeling more awkward and timid than ever.

"It's N'on, now," Pa corrected, in a gruff tone that belied the mist in his eyes. "So they tell's us. Better t'get use to it."

Ma nodded and clasped her hands. "N'on," she breathed.

One awkward moment of silence stretched into several. No one seemed to know what to say.

He couldn't talk and they couldn't read. The choking hand of anxiety clutched at N'on's chest as he fumbled for something to do… Anything that would make the situation less awkward for them. Less embarrassing for himself.

He had just begun to consider fleeing as a rational option when the steady presence at the back of his mind unfurled.

Underlaid by the scratching sound of pens writing, Zhelinath pushed herself into the conversation, uninvited.

« Hello Mother. Hello Father. And all the rest. We love you. We miss you. We are pleased to meet you. And we are very hungry and itchy, please. »

For a moment, it seemed as though the world had frozen. No one seemed to know how to react.

Then N'on's mother burst into tears and wrapped him in a hug.

"I love you, too," she murmured in his ear. "And I am so very, very proud of you."

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