The Dangers of Going Home (Rated R for violence)

Going home is something that should garner a sense of joy. Especially in one who's returning after having been away for the first time in their lives, but sometimes this is not the case. Sometimes, the new life, however briefly it has been experienced, has cast into relief just how dark and undesirable the old life was.

For Daranyl, this is the case, and a sense of dread has settled into the pit of his stomach as he draws nearer and nearer to the camp that was his home for twelve turns. He pauses as he crests a ridge, setting his crossbow into the brush and reaching to wipe sweat from his brow. The trip by boat was was unpleasant enough, but the half-day's journey from Blue Fire Hold to the camp through rough terrain has begun to sap even his not insignificant strength. He can see smoke in the distance, though. Campfires, likely where the camp currently is in its rotation, and the final stretch is in sight, haphazard and dangerous, perhaps, but that's the way that they like it. It discourages outsiders from ever venturing close enough to be a danger.

Daranyl also knows that he'll soon be being watched by the foreguards. He also knows that one of them will likely be Meren, the man who raised him after the death of his family that sent he and his sister fleeing the Hold.

He swings his crossbow. Ack up to his shoulder, heaving a sigh before his face settles into the mask he's worn for turns, and strides further into the forest. There's no going back now if he wants to get back to Half Moon Bay Weyr alive.

"Abou' time ya came back, boy."

Daranyl spins in place, swinging hips crossbow up to his shoulder and training it on the source of the voice —


Meren just cocks an eyebrow until Daranyl lowers the weapon, then chuckles, "What took so long, boy?"

Daranyl shrugs, slinging the crossbow back over his shoulder so that it hangs down his back from its strap, "'M 'pparen'ly no' fond'o boats. Didn' wanna rush th' journey."

"Boats? Ya took so long gettin' here with the shardin' intel becuz yer a pussy afraid of boats?"

"Get scorched, Meren. 'm no' 'frai' o' nothin', I ge' seasick's all."

"Faranth's egghole, boy!" Meren reaches out to smack at Daranyl's head, but the younger man ducks, swatting the strike away automatically, even as Meren continues his string of judgments, "What a pussy. I raised ya better'n that."

Where a normal man might be insulted, Daranyl just makes a rude gesture and turns, starting towards the camp again. He is entirely unsurprised when Meren falls in next to him and drapes an arm over his shoulder, "So… Tell me about the Weyr."

Daranyl shrugs again, taking solace in the simple gesture, " 'S a place, wit' people in it. Dunno whatcha 'spected."

"C'mon, boy! Ya know wha' I mean'. What're they like? How many are there? Are the dragons vicious?"

"Naw, Meren. Dragons're pre'y much docile. Haven' seen one do anythin' worse' neat a her'beas'."

"They're not a danger, then?"

"Didn' say tha'. 'N' 'M no' gonna make my repor' twice."

Meren shoves Daranyl hard enough to make him stumble a few steps, but the younger man catches himself, flashing that rude gesture again, "Get scorched, Meren. Didn' come all this way ta give th' same speech twice."

At least that fear, the discomfort of speaking before the whole camp, especially knowing that he'll be lying, is familiar. Thankfully, Meren mistakes that tense silence that falls over Daranyl for his usual taciturn state and let's it rest. Their relationship is hardly normal, based on what he's seen since going to the Weyr, but he is the one man in the camp that Daranyl actually trusts.

Their arrival in camp garners little more than a few glances for the hunter's return. Despite his talent, he was certainly not irreplaceable or they wouldn't have allowed him go in the first place. In many ways, he is just pleased to be offered food before being dragged up to report. Sadly, he is only able to eat part of it before a slowly growing sense of dread settles over him just before one of the enforcer types tells him that Tornican, the camp's de-facto leader wants to see him. Unarmed.

Knowing full well how unusual it is to make a report like this just to Tornican and his immediate advisors is enough to have Daranyl's stomach turning flip-flops as he stands before them, watching them eat. This only makes it more unusual, since he also knows that Tornican hates to do business during dinner, oft claiming that it ruins her flavor.

After standing in deferential silence for several minutes, he clears his throat, covering up an ill-timed rumble of his stomach, "Tornican. You sent for me?"

Tornican takes his time, one eye studying the lad while he finishes his current bite of wherry. When he finally speaks, his voice is even rougher than Daranyl remembers, but as terrifyingly powerful as ever, "We did, Daranyl. We understand that you've come to make your report to us? You've been gone longer than expected."

That's not good. Daranyl tries to hide his concern as he jerks a sharp nod, "Ya didn' give me a time ta be back'n I 'pparen'ly ge' seasick. I wan'ed ta be sure th" journey was worth yer while."

Tornican nods slowly, his gaze still obviously judging, "And your sister? Why isn't she here as well."

Daranyl shrugs, hoping that familiarly safe gesture will save him yet again, "Figgered it'd be bes' ta have one o' us repor' 'n' th' other keep watchin'."

"And her disdain for this camp has nothing to do with it?"

"No, sir." Daranyl has become so adept at lying that he barely notices that he's doing it anymore.

"MmHmmm." Tornican takes his time eating another chunk of wherry, making a show of licking the grease off his fingers noisily. When Daranyl's stomach rumbles in  acceptance of the taunt, Tornican's lips stretch into an evil grin, obviously enjoying the lad's pain, "And what do you have to report?"

Daranyl takes a breath and clears his throat, his gaze sliding between the men who hold his life in their hands, "Th' Weyr is hun'reds strong, mos' fightin' fit, 'n' th' dragons're even larger up close. Terrifyingly large."

"And how many guards do they post at any one time?"

The question from Melior, Tornican's right-hand man, turns Daranyl's head in his direction as he answers, "At leas' eigh', sometimes as many as fifteen."

The three nod, seemingly accepting the report, but Daranyl's sense of foreboding only grows. It's as if he can feel the malice coming at him from his former leaders. He happens to glance around and notes Meren's conspicuous absence says one of their most trusted enforcers, and that sense of danger only grows.

Tornican clears his throat, evil Daranyl has rarely seen flashing in his eyes, "And… How is the Weyrwoman's daughter?"


Double shards.

Scorched shards sprinkled on a baby dragon omelet.

The worst part is knowing that this likely means they've had someone watching him and Ez both since they arrived at the Weyr, still, he tries to save face as best he can, offering yet another shrug as partial answer, "'M no' sure whatcher meanin', sir. She's jus' a girl I've bathed with a few times."

Tornican raises one hand and Daranyl senses more than sees the pair of men that step up to flank him, his eyes never leaving Tornican, especially when the man continues, "Kyra, I believe her name is?" Daranyl's jaw clenches to hold in an outraged cry and Tornican continues, affecting not to notice, "My sources tell me that she's been making you one of them. That she's domesticated you."

The fact that Daranyl's voice comes out calm is astounding at this point, but he manages it, "Shards, no, sir. Ya sai' ta blen' in. We're blendin's all."

Daranyl tenses just as Tornican snaps his fingers. Preparedness has him ducking under the first lunge for him before he's even consciously aware that the man has moved, swinging a hard right hook into the stomach before him before spinning in place just in time to see the other man fall, hit hard by his own companion. Daranyl pushes his luck, stepping into the next punch aimed at him with a quick block followed up with a strike to the man's sternum, but when he turns again, hoping to make good his escape in the chaos he's created, he instead comes face to scarred face with Tornican himself.

There's a moment when the two men's eyes meet and everything seems to slip into slow motion. Daranyl ducks a swing from behind, grabbing the arm and flipping the man over his shoulder to the side as Tornican opines in an unconcerned drawl, "Not fully domesticated, it seems, but your reactions have slowed. Meren would be disappointed, he was certain you'd replace me someday."

The words stun Daranyl for less than a second, but it's enough time. There's a sharp pain against the back of his head and he drops like a sack of tubers, clinging to consciousness just enough to snarl out, "Get scorched, Tornican!" Before another blow leaves him in darkness.

When consciousness finally returns, it's so dark that at first Daranyl thinks he must still be asleep, but the pains of his body manage to convince him otherwise. His skull is throbbing from the strikes that put him down, his back is bruised from being manhandled into the chair in which he now sits, and his shoulders and wrists are in a constant dull pain for his hands being bound together and attached to the chair as well. He forces himself to stay calm and focused. He knows what this place is, and he won't give them the satisfaction of his fear or pain.

Eventually, light pours in as one of tent flaps is opened, admitting an up identifiable silhouette backlit by the torchlight beyond. This is the place where Tornican has prisoners interrogated and his tormentor has arrived. He's never been here before, but Meren has given him some instruction as to the methods and practices here. He's truly not sure if it would be better or worse if the person assigned to deal with him was Meren, but it only takes a few moments of listening to the man walk across the floor judging his weight and gait, to be sure that it isn't Meren at all.

It's a completely unfamiliar voice that comes from the darkness, one edged in hard steel that leaves no question as to the power of the man behind it, "Silence won't help you, lad. It will just make the pain last longer. Tell me, does the Weyr know of our plans?"

Daranyl remains silent, twisting his wrists in a vain attempt to find some weakness in the bonds that might allow him to escape, but his efforts only seem to make the rope bite deeper into his flesh. A slight rush of air is the only warning he gets before the sharp knuckles of a fast, powerful backhand catches him across the cheekbone, but he stubbornly refuses to give any outward sign of the pain that lances across that delicate arch of bone. The few seconds of reprieve after that allow him to straighten, setting his jaw before the closed-fist punch crosses the other way, hitting the joint full force. The strike is so hard that the chair actually rocks up on two legs, wobbling there precariously before falling back onto all four hard enough to jar all of those sore muscles and frame the pain nicely in more pain. It's this that finally manages to make Daranyl grunt in pain, gritting out between his teeth, "'M no' gonna  tell us nothin'."

"Oh goody," the man's voice actually sounds excited, "I do so love a challenge."

There's a point where Daranyl simply checks out. The blows come in waves interspersed with questions he won't answer. They start slow at first, but quickly build up in intensity until he's not even aware of the individual contacts, just the painful fire that seems to engulf his entire body. He doesn't know how long it lasts, nor does he feel any real relief when it stops. Whoever his tormentor is, he's good, drawing out maximum pain without actually breaking anything, and it's not until the man lets himself out that Daranyl is able to take stock of his injuries: bloodied nose, split lip, one eye blackened so badly he can't open it, bruised ribs, and, well, bruised everything, really. And the worst part: he's still tied to that chair. As the adrenaline wears off, he sinks into the sweet embrace of oblivion, letting it take him elsewhere while it can.

The next two sevendays pass in much the same cycle, a few days to heal, maybe one meal, then a repeat performance by evil voice. No matter how much downtime he gets, though, the pain never really stops.

Today is different, though. Today, when the pain overwhelms exhaustion and draws his consciousness to the surface, he's assaulted by the scent of sea air and the unpleasant, constant motion of a boat at sea beneath him. He closes his one good eye and forces himself not to vomit. There's nothing in there to come up, anyway.

Being on a ship is not his favorite place at all.

As if they were waiting for it, the door to the small cabin, more of a closet, really, that he's been left in opens, allowing Tornican and Meren to enter. They move seemingly as one, but that may be the fact that he only has one eye working right now to see them with. When they stop in front of him, he can only see Meren, at most vaguely aware of Tornican's presence, as much from his voice as from anything else. Daranyl never looks down, he refuses to give them the satisfaction of seeing him weak.

“You trained him well, Meren,” Tornican's voice holds a strange mix of of contempt and respect for the younger lad, “He never broke and we're out of time.” He turns to regard Meren, but can only see the side of his enforcer's head as Meren never stops looking at Daranyl, “I know you're fond of the lad, Meren, but you have a duty to us, too.”

Silence hangs between the trio for three heartbeats, then Meren nods, his face set in an emotionless mask as he reaches to pat the hilt of his knife, “I know what I got ta do, Tornican. Jus' gotta get him into position.”

Any hope that Tornican may have left them be, maybe give him the chance for escape is dashed when Tornican is the one that slices his bonds, but it takes both men to drag him to the wall, shifting and struggling despite the amount of pain it causes him, kicking out at both men, but he never pleads. He doesn't see the chains in the wall, but he feels them as the metal clicks shut around his wrists. Using them as support, he lifts his legs, kicking out at the two men and he feels one foot contact accompanied by a grunt from Tornican before the man's fist strikes across his jaw again, which stuns him just long enough for Meren to bind his feet to the floor, but Daranyl's challenging glare never wavers. Tornican's gaze slides over him, then he turns to Meren, “Make it hurt, Meren. I want to hear his screaming on deck.”

“Have I ever letcha down, Tornican? Just give me some space to work.” Meren shoots a quick glance at Daranyl, then nods towards the door as he reaches for his knife, waiting until Tornican has shut the door behind him before moving to where Daranyl hangs, anger burning in his eyes, “What in the name of scorched baby dragons were ya thinkin', boy? Turnin' on the camp 'n' then comin' back so he coul' make ya pay fer it? Faranth's egghole, boy! I know I taugh' ya better'n that!”

Daranyl leans forward enough to spit a wad of blood and mucus at Meren's feet, “Ya taugh' me ta finish wha' I star'ed. He woulda come after me either way, we bot' know tha'.”

Meren reaches for Daranyl's chin, forcing the young man's head up until their eyes meet and Daranyl can see some amount of sympathy in it, “You know what I've got ta do now, doncha boy?”

For the first time since he was taken in, Daranyl shows his fear, “Don', Meren. I'll be cast ou' o' ev'rywhere. I won' be able ta live anywhere if'n ya mark me.”

Reaching for Daranyl's bloodstained shirt, Meren's answer is a simple, “Don't struggle, that'll only make it hur' more,” before he gives a hard tug, shredding the fabric and letting it fall to the floor.

“Meren, please. Even th' Hol's 'n' Weyrs won' take me if I'm mark'd.” Daranyl's voice has gone soft with slight plea, having accepted the inevitable, but still hoping he might be wrong. He sets his jaw against the pain he's sure is coming, but instead, Meren just asks the simplest question there is: “Why?”

That one good eye opens to regard Meren, “Why what?”

“Why'd ya betray th' camp 'n' risk yer life like this? Did they get to ya or was it really fer some dragon-addled female?”

“NO!” Daranyl clenches his jaw back shut, but he can't take the word back now, “Jus'… jus' tell him she's meaningless. Jus' a by-blow. If- if she hadn' been born inna Weyr, she coulda been one o' us, Meren. She's strong'n she don' deserve wha' he's prob'ly go' plann'd.”

“You sweet on her, boy?”

It's a simple enough question, but Daranyl presses himself back against the wall, his fingers clenching impotently in their bonds, “Leave'r 'lone, Meren. She ain' never hur' nobody.”

“I'll take that as a yes. 'M truly sorry 'bou' this, boy, but rules is rules.”

Meren raises that knife and applies the tip to flesh, not cutting deep, it's not meant to kill, after all, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. It's not long before the screaming starts, and he passes out before the work is done, but the sigil that marks him indelibly as a renegade and traitor is carved there into his flesh, likely forever.

When he comes to, agony screams across his chest, overwhelming the throb of pain he's faced thus far. The fact that he's being woken by a shaking of his shoulder makes all the pains glow a little more brightly until he groans, batting weakly at the hand.

“Shush, boy. D'you wanna wake the whole crew?”

Meren's voice elicits both elation and dread in Daranyl, his hand going to his chest to find that he has, at least, been bandaged, even if no numbweed has been applied. He grits his teeth and rolls up until he's sitting, resisting the pain as best he can as he whispers, “Time ta dump me, then?”

Meren's answer is to hold Daranyl's crossbow out to him, butt first “Yes 'n' no. Ge' up, boy.”

It takes almost everything he has just for Daranyl to get to his feet, but once he's there, he takes the crossbow, the last thing he has of his real father, and trains it on Meren, his voice now naught but a pained whisper, “Give me one goo' reason tha' I shouldn' jus' kill ya righ' now.”

“Other'n that ya can'? I gave ya yer bow back, didn' I? 'N' I'm no' gonna jus' dump ya over the side, neither.” Meren turns, starting out onto the deck and obviously unconcerned about the risk of Daranyl shooting him with the unloaded crossbow, “Come on, boy, we ain't got much time ta getcah outta here 'fore th' others wake up.”

Daranyl's finger flexes on the trigger, but Meren is right; even if the weapon were loaded, he wouldn't be able to kill the man who shaped him. He lowers the crossbow with a dissatisfied grunt and follows Meren. Just how exposed he is in little more than a pair of trousers hits him full force with the night wind on deck as Meren gestures him towards the railing. Even though he hasn't eaten in days, he manages to find something to send over the railing into the sea below. As quiet as retching is, it still seems to echo across the small deck. Meren offers Daranyl his knife and gestures over the side, “We're close ta shore, go now.” The quiet urging in his voice is enough to have Daranyl snagging the blade and diving over the rail towards the ocean below.

It doesn't cross his mind until just before he hits the water just how much this is going to hurt, but there's nothing he can do to stop it, either. His dive is fairly clean, but pain lances through him from the moment of contact, cold seeping into everything as he slips beneath the surface, pushing himself frantically towards the shore.

By the time Daranyl orients himself, he's washed up on the shore with Rukbat's light beating down on him, a spiderclaw tugging away at his bandage. His reaction is automatic, rolling to one side and driving his knife into the thing's shell. It's all he can do not to scream at the pain all the injudicious motion elicits in him. Tears well up in his eyes as he works through the pain, prising the spiderclaw's shell open and peeling out the edible insides. He needs the energy the meat provides and he doesn't have the time to cook it.

That done, he takes stock of his surroundings and meager supplies. He knows this place. That, alone, may save his life. The first branch of sufficient quality he finds is fashioned into a rudimentary bolt and set to the string before he turns south… towards the Weyr.

Every step is pain, but right now pain is a reminder that he's alive. He has to stop more frequently than he'd like, but on one such stop he finds a patch of numbweed. Raw may sting, but it helps push the pain aside, at least for a short while, and push onward. Each time he has to wade through cold water, it's agony, but soon the Weyr is in sight. He's almost home.

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