Half Moon Bay Weyr - Weyrling Barracks
Inside the wooden building fresh air circulates from the many open windows lining the two longest walls. Outside, you can see many tropical trees and shrubs. The walls and ceiling of the barracks are made of slats that have been pegged together tightly. Overhead are beams from which electric lights have been strung. The floor is of black volcanic stone, rubbed to a smoothness that will not hurt the tender claws of young dragons.
Along each of the two longer walls are cots set up next to rounded depressions in the stone. There are enough areas available for all of the young dragons and their new riders with room to spare. At the back of the barracks are trunks with oiling supplies and bins where fresh meat is delivered until the dragonets learn to hunt for themselves.

It was after she’d fed and oiled Nehehkath and the two of them had claimed a corner cot and couch affair that the physical pain from having popped or cracked or fractured her thumb at her own hands began to nag at her and demand attention, her brown adding his voice to that which urged her to confess and seek the attention of Healers. Half an hour later, she was sporting bandaging and a splint designed to keep her from doing further harm, but that would also prevent her from holding a pen or doing much – like cutting up meat – with any ease or elegance.

For the entire process of examination, diagnosis and bandaging, Nehehkath had been right beside her, not foolish enough to be intent on interfering, but watching everything so closely that Xyvette had known each instant when he filed one piece of information or another away; when he decided that the Healer could be trusted (at least in that they would keep her from hurting further) and that to keep still and observe was indeed the right course of action, even if he wasn’t too keen on this stranger being so near.

Xyvette. She was Xyvette, now. The name that her parents had saddled her with and insisted she take pride in the complexity of was gone. Maybe that woman could be gone as well. Was she already?

She was free. No mastery (though that same pride bit viciously at her for being so quietly pleased – not, not pleased, but joyful – at the thought). No return to the Hall to be chastised by her family. No need to bind her children into the lives of crafters simply because it was ‘what we do’. No chance that fate could conspire to keep her from L’mal and force her into another marriage.

But, better than all of it, she had Nehehkath. He could never be taken from her and had chosen her and she didn’t care whether it was about survival or not. Maybe it was about survival: hers and his. It didn’t matter. They were together. She’d figure it out. They would.

She was under no illusion that the next few months would be easy. Having spent her life with books and words, she knew she wasn’t as strong or as fit as she would need to be. She hadn’t cared enough about her body to worry that she was painfully thin and not the most elegant of people, her muscles not accustomed enough to hard work to lend her grace and a broad range of motion. Valued for her mind, her body had only ever been… casing. Packaging. The physicality of what would be expected of her was going to be a struggle, in remembering to look after herself as much as anything else.

But she was free. She was free and—

She burst into tears.

Momentarily alarmed, Nehehkath lifted himself up and stared at her, then shoved his nose into her lap and crowded close, as if he could somehow sit the rest of him down in her lap too. « Why? » he questioned, not accusatory or with a lack of comprehension, but, she felt, to prompt her.

He’s gone.

A flicker of gold and sapphire blue rippled through her vision. Acceptance, yet no light, dismissive thing. He knew she had not cried for him. Her children had needed her to let them mourn their father without burdening them with her grief. Her marriage had not been perfect and it had not been based on romantic love and affection, but it had still been a cornerstone of her life for so long.

He’s gone.

« Not as long as we remember. »

We. Not you. Her. Alone. We.

If she started her first morning of weyrlinghood with a broken hand, her eyes raw from crying and body aching from curling herself in at Nehehkath’s side, then so be it.

Dignity be damned.

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