And There My Heart Will Follow - Standalone

Established by Atrician Bronzerider Ar'vis, Evanoria Weyrhold is one of the newest establishments in the South, but that doesn't mean it is without strength. An ally with Atricis, Evanoria Weyrhold houses dragons and holdfolk alike, making it one of the few territories outside of New Atricis Weyr to house dragons.
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Shaihulud
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Wed Aug 29, 2018 1:03 pm

Prologue
Mid Autumn 2048
Harper Hall - Evanoria Weyrhold


A mist slipped over the southern mountains during the night, blanketing the valley of Evanoria with the chilling prelude of Winter's promise. Slowly, the cold began to seep into the stone, zapping the warmth from Emalia's room. When the bite of Winter nibble at her hands and raked its teeth along her toes, the young woman bundled herself deeper under her furs with Ciri, yet even there, she could not escape the grip of frigidity. Her room grew so cold that the thin fractals of frost that splintered across the window's edge had accumulated on the inside of the window. Her breath fogged into the air in long streams as she passed a glance about the dark and lonely room. Had her sister still been her, she would have crawled into bed with her to preserve their warmth together. Instead, Emalia froze in solitude.

Never had Emalia recalled so deep a chill outside of the void of [i[between[/i]. As a girl of New Atricis, she thrived in the warmth of the weyr with its long Summers and mild Winters. In all her life at New Atricis, Emalia could not recall a day of snow or even the crisp frost underfoot after a cold night. Only the heavy mist ever accompanied her visions of the darkened season. It came every evening, a wall of billowing clouds that swept over the weyr, and when she awoke the next day, all she could see was the thick grey clouds that hindered her ability to see in the distance beyond a dragon's length. The grass always sopped under foot when she emerged those mornings to venture down to the craft halls for lessons, and when she descended down to the weyr yards on dragon back with Angela, the ground did not reveal itself until the dragon backwinged for a landing. An Atrician always came late in the Autumn, and always with the faint cool moistness upon her cheek. In Evanoria, however, she felt the cold of Winter in mid Autumn, even in the heart of night.

Gradually did she dare emerge from her bed when the first called bugled out at the start of the seventh candlemark. During Summer, Emalia had already dressed herself before that first call. Now she wanted nothing more than to huddle with Ciri under the furs. Minute by minute, she counted them away, knowing full well that the headmistress would pound on the door and open it if Emalia did not do it herself. The day would still come, even if Emalia found it near impossible to ready herself for it. And then the door shook and swung open, revealing the weather worn face of the headmistress.

"Emalia, you aren't up already?"

Lyria's summon was enough to yank her out of bed. "I'm up, I'm up," she assured the woman.

As the headmistress moved on, Emalia found a thick pair socks to cover her feet before they touched the icy cold floor. From there, she gathered her attire, piece by piece: leggings, a chemise, a skirt, bodice, frock, and shawl. After she pinned up her hair, she finished dressing. Last were her shoes and the accompanying Ciri, who buried himself in the bunched folds of the knitted shawl. He shrunk from the chill of the morning, and nestled close along the length of her neck, providing her with a glimpse of warmth in the autumn morning. Still she felt the cold when she emerged from the corridors into the courtyard that morning. The frost had painted the dark world white. Never in all her life had Emalia ever seen such a sight. The glimpse she stole through the open gates revealed a landscape of ice that stretched deep into the valley. It were as though the night had painted the world when no eyes were open to see. Unknown to Emalia, this would be come a common occurrence, and within a sevenday, the snow would soon follow. She wondered with a final glance at the frosted courtyard what Angela would have thought of the coming winter. Later, she would write to her sister about the cold that greeted her that morning, but for now, Emalia made sure to mind her steps to the dining hall lest she fall before the day had truly begun.
Last edited by Shaihulud on Tue Sep 04, 2018 10:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Mon Sep 03, 2018 12:27 pm

For the duration of the day, Emalia found herself horribly distracted by everything and nothing. It helped little that her first instruction took place in a classroom where the windows provided a clear enough view for her to marvel at the outside world. Through the thick glass with its frosted edges, Emalia found herself admiring the icy scape. She traced the line of the white hills, and smiling at how they sloped into the valley. Early morning excursions melted away several threading pathways through the pallid terrain. Each one was made by a curious wanderer, and each one led to the gates of the craft hall.

I should have gone out there, Ciri, she reached to her fancy flit.

Slowly, the images of white seeped into her mind. Rather than perch around the Harper Hall, Ciri had taken it upon himself to enjoy a leisurely flight out in the wilds, marvelling at something neither of them had ever seen before. Naturally, he shared his view to her in a vision. Wings filled with the crisp air of the morning as he soared high over the hillside. Even further still, he saw the southern mountain range where the crags broke the frosted lands with their dark jagged faces, building upon one another until they diminished with the high reaching spires that touched the low cloud line. The first snow of the mountain ranges covered those peeks, fresh and untouched. Only a dragon could ever reach those heights to disturb the snow the graced roof of the mountain range.

"Emalia."

Had someone called her?

"Emalia," the voice reached her once more, more perturbed than the first summoning.

Her instruction! "Yes! Journeyman Wi'mak," she said in surprise, failing to mask her distraction. She looked to the man, gauging the disappointment in his kind blue eyes and the slight frown hidden only partially by the wiry red scruff that sprouted unkept along his jowls. Even his gentle demeanour could not hide the fact he was upset with her.

Though he said not a word about hit it, she knew he expected better of her. "What are your thoughts on Cicero's conclusions?" he asked as he slowly began to walk away from her and return to the front of the room. "And what criticisms did Cicero have in regards to Vigaro's work Silence in Step?"

Thankfully Emalia had completed her assignment the previous night, and was therefore able to answer her instructor's questions. As she spoke, noting the details he wrote on the board, the apprentice knew just how unusually it was for him to approach her as he did. Her distractions must have been that obvious, giving him sufficient reason to intervene. Wi'mak was not a disciplinary sort, though he had found gumption enough to point out her behaviour in front of the classroom. The unspoken reprimand was justly deserved. Succumbed to the guilt of her error, Emalia realised she owed her instructor an apology. For the duration of class, she bid her time until Wi'mak saw it fit to dismiss them all. It was the least she could do.

Half of the apprentices slipped out the door without a second thought, while a handful remained to speak with the instructor. Unlike them, Emalia had no question of clarification to ask, but instead collected her thoughts on how she might apologise. With the class ended, Ciri returned to her as she stuffed her journal into her rucksack, along with her ink well and quills. Wi'mak had a strict policy about pets in the classroom during instruction. She passed a glance to the man at the front of the room as one of the girls pored over the reading in frustration. Wi'mak had a gentle temper, and showed much patience as he assisted the apprentice. He reminded Emalia of her own uncle, Micah, though he lacked much of the hard features that Micah himself possessed, both in countenance and conformation. An undeniable ginger, for his close cropped curls held to those rich red tones, Emalia even suspected Wi'mak came from Ruatha for all he said he hailed from Fort Weyr; however, he lacked any hint of an accent. Perhaps he Impressed his blue there, but his mannerism suggested he was holdbred.

"Journeyman Wi'mak?" she called to him once the other apprentices had left.

He seemed not at all surprised, though she could tell by the way he packed his books that he was in a rush. "Emalia. How can I help you?"

"Um..." She gathered Ciri onto her shoulder and approached the journeyman. "I just want to apologise. I didn't mean to be distracted like that. It's unfair to you, and the time you're taking to instruct us." It was the honest truth. Emalia recognised the value of his efforts, and saw the disrespect in her actions. "I'm sorry."

It was enough to slow his efforts and regard her properly. "Ah, it's all right. Don't worry about it." He offered her a warm smile of understanding. "I'd be a hypocrite if I said I was upset, considering I did worse at your age."

"What's worse than not paying attention?" she asked, surprised by his reply.

"Sleeping in class."

Eyes widened at the confession, surprised by the fact he was willing to disclose that particular detail of himself to her. Yet on second thought, she realised she had come to know the man since her arrival to Evanoria last season, and Wi'mak had always been a willing and open instructor. "I could never do that." She offered him a coy smile of her own, though she could not prevent the second hand embarrassment she gained from the confession. How could someone do such a thing?

"I know-" he leaned against the corner of the lectern- "You're good student, Emalia, though... I can't help but notice a bit of a change in you for the last few weeks. Has something happened?"

A melancholy laid claim on the smile she gave him. "Yes, ummm... my sister, Angela, she returned to New Atricis to become a candidate." It hurt to recall, she quietly admitted, allowing the smile to quiver ever so slightly before she turned away from him to regain herself. It hurt so much to think upon. "I think I'm still adjusting without her. We've never been apart before."

The journeyman nodded in sympathy. "I'm sorry about that. It must be hard. Are you going to be all right?"

Would she? At times it felt like a part of her had vanished into the void of between. Did Angela feel the same loss as she? Or did she feel freed from the burden of Emalia? It would be a lie if Emalia denied the fact she often controlled Angela, though she did so out of worry rather than a want of power. Did Angela not see this? Had Emalia pushed her too far? "I think so," she answered, though she lacked the confidence he likely wanted to hear.

"Emalia." She looked to him, only to find herself overwhelmed by the warmth of his eyes and the kindness of his voice. "Be happy for your sister. I know it's hard, but... Impression is a powerful force of unconditional love."

The young woman only vaguely knew of what he spoke of. She had Ciri, but the Impression to him had not been nearly as moving as the Impression he spoke of. "Is that what it was like for you and your dragon?" she asked as she let her fancy flit twine his platinum tails around her offered hand.

The demure features of his face softened. Every ounce of love he held in those blue eyes, he held for his lifemate. "Yes, yes it was." Wi'mak drifted off for a moment, distracted by the connection he shared with his dragon before he looked back to Emalia once more. "You going to Stand someday?"

She offered a slight chuckle. "Maybe." Only a maybe. While she grew up with dragons, she lacked the obsession that her sister had for them. The world was too big to settle in single place for the rest of her life like Angela was so keen to do. "But I haven't decided yet. I like it here in the Harper Hall, and I'm enjoy everything I'm learning. I just... I know it's selfish, but I wish Angela at least waited until we walked the tables. It's hard being without her, and I'm not ready to Stand yet. I want my knots." So many I's she spoke, but she felt every one of them was well deserved.

He sighed, though the reason for it eluded Emalia. Did he do so in memory of his Impression? The heave of relief he had his bonded? Or did he do so out of a sense of disappointment that she did not share his passions, and exhaled as a way of dismissing his private reservations?

"I'm sorry if it's not what you wanted to hear," she answered, not at all liking the sudden sense of uncertainty.

The smile returned. "No no, I'm not upset. It's your choice ultimately, though... I hope someday you'll give yourself that chance. I think you'd make a wonderful dragonrider, and Derrith agrees."

"Your blue?"

He gave a nod of his head and regarded her for several breaths, several breaths long enough that Emalia noted the silence, the same as he. At the sound of footsteps passing the doorway, they both recognised that both had outstayed the welcome of the other. His elbow left the lectern, and he reached to collect his belongings. "I should go, and you'll be late... down in the archives?"

A blush bloomed along her cheek. "Dancing," she corrected him.

"Ah, well, we'll talk again soon. If you ever have any questions, you're more than welcome to visit my office."

"Of course, thank you Journeyman Wi'mak," she answered, embarrassed that the silence had even transpired. Why did that happen? And why did he allow for it?

It was his turn to correct her. "Wi'mak will suffice, Emalia."

Though initially stunned by the abandonment of formality, slowly a smile came to her features, and she allowed for the offer. "Wi'mak."

He gave her a final nod, and left her to her thoughts, though she knew not what to do with them.

{fin}
Last edited by Shaihulud on Sat Nov 10, 2018 12:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Fri Oct 05, 2018 5:44 pm

Chapter One
Early Winter 2048 (Fuzzy timed)
Harper Hall - Evanoria Weyrhold

After a sevenday of preoccupation, Wi'mak had come to accept he had procrastinated enough. He had a stack of parchment to read through, several if he was honest with himself, and his apprentices were eager for their mark. The bulk of the evening, and late into the night, the harper pored over the hides by candlelight. Perhaps a basket of glows would have been a wiser choice in providing him with a clearer view of his work, but, alas, the glows had flickered out in the early evening, and he knew the headmistress could not be bothered. Thus by candlelight did the journeyman work, his red inked quill marking every egregious error and every striking success made by his apprentices, until the final mark scrawled across the final leaf in conclusion of his efforts just as the halo of the dawn silhouetted the eastern horizon.

At last, he had finished.

Though his body begged for sleep, Wi'mak recognised that a bed was a dangerous place to rest in at this hour. If he dared brave the cradling cushions of his mattress with such inviting warmth and comfort wrapped about him in the form of a fur, he knew his lifemate would fail to wake him for class. Instead, he compromised for the table. The hides set aside, he folded his arms and rested his head upon them for a long nap. It proved just comfortable enough for him to recover his mind and body, without running the risk of sleeping through Derrith's alarm raking through his mind. As always, he awoke with a startle.

Good, I thought you were going to make me try more than once, the dragon replied smugly as the rider recovered.

No, only once is necessary, he assured the blue as he wiped the sleep out of his eyes. In a daze, Wi'mak scanned his dark room, and smiled softly when he spotted the stack.

Did you remember to mark them in your grade book? Derrith made sure to ask him.

Wi'mak paused, and then with a huff, he leaned back in his seat and crossed his arms across his chest in visible frustration. "Fuck me!" he blurted out. With a pinch of his nose, the bluerider calmed himself as best as he could while realising that he had, in fact, forgotten to do that very thing.

***

Yet despite the error, the journeyman was resolved on handing back the assignments to his apprentices. He explained to himself on his walk to the first class that he would note the marks when he returned the hides. This worked out successfully for his first class, albeit with more delay that he would have liked, but he managed to make it to his second class with a minute to spare. Already, he spotted the way their eyes fastened upon the pile he cradled in his arms. While the previous class had completed a simple assignment, this one was far more valuable to the senior class.

"Good morning everyone. Since all of you are eager, I'll hand out your assignments now. And don't worry. None of you failed." Still young enough to remember his apprenticeship, Wi'mak easily recalled a day when all he wished was to pass. To hear such an assurance was always a boon to his ears in his youth, just as he was sure it was a boon to theirs. One by one, they arrived at his desk. He fished out every assignment, marking the grades in the process. "Good job" and "Well done" were given to those apprentices who did remarkably well, impressing him with their efforts. Some journeymen would sneer at the idea of an apprentice impressing anyone, but Wi'mak knew better than to assume instruction could only be gained by a superior. Apprentices in the Harper Hall often proved themselves to be both clever and well articulated, shining a glow on old questions in a way illuminated unseen answers. Wi'mak liked to believe it had to do with their minds, and how they naturally challenged the boundaries society imposed on them. They were old enough to recognise them, yet rebellious enough to question them. The young often possessed the most scholarly of minds, they only needed minimal guidance unfettered by seasoned assumptions.

"Emalia, well done," he offered to the rather familiar student.

But rather than smile back to him, she merely acknowledged him with a nod and returned to her seat near the back of the classroom.

That was strange. The girl was well of questions and energy that even Wi'mak had to admit was overwhelming at times. When he failed to satiate her desires for knowledge, he often found it difficult to contain her focus, for her energy easily caused her thoughts to wander. Not that Wi'mak considered this an unfavourable trait in an apprentice, but it was surely a sign of her excitement to expand her understanding not only about the theories he presented to her, but about those unspoken ones poised by the world. How many times did she pipe up in class with such unrestrained passions, or glowed when she noted her success scribbled upon the hide?

Today, however, her response remained subdued. It was enough to rouse the man's concern as he noted how she returned to her desk as Ciri churred his assurances to her.

Something was not right. But what was he to do? As a man, his ability to intervene with his female students was limited at best. There was also the pressing matter that as a teenage girl, whatever drew such a frown upon her face could prove so volatile that even a man as empathetic as he would not have the tools required to help her.

Perhaps it would be best for you to speak with a woman on the matter then?

Naturally, Wi'mak knew exactly whom the blue indicated, though he dare not acknowledge the suggestion, not when he sat before his students. Instead, he resolved to let the matter be, and watch over Emalia for the duration of his instruction. Later, he would ask the woman suggested by his beast for advice.

She's merely a colleague, he assured his blue.

Derrith knew better than to believe him.

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Fri Oct 19, 2018 1:01 pm

By the end of the sevenday, Wi'mak found himself anxiously standing outside of her apartment.

Hinala.

The very hope of seeing her face peek through the door caused the journeyman to shift from foot to foot. Of course, it also meant he needed to knock on the door first, though he delayed on the chance she might not answer.

You'll never know if you never knock, Derrith chuckled to him.

The dragon's interjections flustered the man, causing him to wipe away the sweat that beaded upon his brow. He wanted to blame the weather, but it was the trepidation of facing her, she who made him distinctly aware of every muscle in his heart as it beat for her alone. A single glance from her green eyes was enough to make his palms damp and his breath cease. So how in the void was he to speak with her?

You have an excuse, and a good one at that. Just use it.

A hand raised... only to fall in delay so he might rub the open hand along his pant leg. Yet the blue refused to let him fail, and with an extra nudge from the meddling beast, Wi'mak found a closed fist rap upon the door panel, perhaps with more force than intended. Shards, but he hoped that was not too loud. I'm counting to ten, and if she doesn-

The wood slab gave way so that delicate fingers could grasp the rim of the door, and that emerald green eye could regard him.

He nearly forgot his words until she spoke. "Yes?"

"Oh, yes, sorry." He ran a hand over his crown of red curls before he coughed to clear his throat. "I was concerned about one of my students, a young woman. I am worried it might be a delicate situation, so thought I might come to you for some advice. But if you can't, I understand. I could come at another time."

Hinala chuckled in turn. "It's okay, Wi'mak. Please-" the door gave way to her home "-come in."

The man did not entirely trust that which he perceived, not until Derrith nudged him once more. "Yes, thank you," he managed to utter out of courtesy before he entered the living room.

The warmth was inviting, a pleasant fire roaring in fireplace. The room was clean and homely, each fur purposely thrown over the furniture in a way that made it attractive to the eye, each book placed on the shelf that beckoned the eye to read it. Curtains... she had curtains! And the fabrics perfectly accented the green and gold tones scattered throughout the house. The wooden floor was freshly swept, while not a speck of dust could be found across each and every surface. Her home was immaculate.

She is out of my league, Derrith.

"Would you like some tea?"

"Oh, ummm... No, water is fine," he answered. He wished he could have said yes, if only to appease her tastes, but he recognised the offering would have been lost on him. He honestly hated the stuff. As she slipped into the kitchen to find him a glass, Wi'mak began to organise his words. It was no different than instructing, though he quietly confessed teaching came far more naturally to him than speaking to a woman whom he fancied. He had never quite accustomed himself to the presence of the fair gender, especially when he found himself admiring them.

She offered him the water, and gestured for him to sit. He complied obediently. "So what is this about?"

"My pupil, Emalia," he began. If he focused on the subject, he would survive in Hinala's company without making an utter fool of himself. "She's... behaved oddly over the last seven, and today she appeared rather dejected in a way I have never seen-" He recalled all to clearly the day he had handed back the essays, but today the girl seemed anxiously distracted in a way that worried even the bluerider "- Normally, I try not to interfer in private matters of our students, especially since her marks have not suffered as of yet, but still... I am concerned. Her twin returned to New Atricis a few months ago, and I worry if the absence is beginning to take a toll on her. Or perhaps it is a boy who has not treated her kindly. Honestly, I am at a loss, especially because of... her... well..."

"Her sex," Hinala said outright. It remained difficult to discern if his indication of his student's sex had offended the very person who shared her sex. Every inch of Hinala's countenance remained discomfortingly neutral.

"Yes, her sex," he replied, worried he had indeed caused offence. "She is a bright woman, a friend even, if I may dare say. I worry about her, and I feel highly protective of her."

"Do you like her?"

The question had caught Wi'mak entirely off guard. "What? N-no! She is only a child. I could never feel that way about her, or any of our students for that matter." That was the truth. Wi'mak knew better than to ever let himself feel such a thing towards them. Of course, as a man, Wi'mak privately admitted he found Emalia attractive to a certain degree, but every part of him grew cold and retreated when he considered her tender age of fifteen.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to offend."

"No, it's all right." Even he noted the way her cheeks reddened and her eyes fell. Perhaps it was a slight gaffe, but the fact she was capable of making them, the same as he, put the bluerider at ease. "You are well within your right to ask. But no. I feel nothing but the paternal need to protect her." He could not entirely say he looked upon her as a daughter, for he did not know her well enough, nor was he old enough to claim such a thing with his own twenty-five turns, but still, he yearned to protect her and her innocence from the dangers and darknesses of the world. "Emalia is a bright, capable, and talented pupil. She has a bright outlook on life that is refreshing. I want to see her exceed, to achieve her true potential, which is why I worry about her."

With a moment of contemplation, which Wi'mak allowed without interruption, Hinala responded. "You could speak to her."

"But... what if it involves a boy? I doubt I am the kind of person she would want to speak to about that sort of thing."

"You mean male," Hinala said outright.

Wi'mak gave a nod of his head. "Yes."

She eased into her seat in thought, deliberating over a solution with him. "I would offer to speak with her, but honestly, Will... you might have better luck than me. You actually know her. I don't.

His features softened at the sound of his nickname spoken by her. Yes, he supposed he had known Hinala long enough for her to call him such a thing. Quietly, he admitted he liked the sound of it spoken by her soothing voice. "You don't think it's... inappropriate?"

"No, I think it's entirely appropriate. Speak with her. If she is willing to speak, she'll tell you."

He ruminated on her encouragement, and quietly found himself come to agree with her. Yes, perhaps it would be all right. "Thank you, Hinala."

She offered him a warm smile in turn, one he could not take his eyes off of. She was everything he could never be, a brilliant light his would always dim in comparison to. "Tell me, Will. How are you doing?"

Eyes blinked in dismay, only for the man to blush from his own bashfulness. She was well within her right to show him out, and yet, she her question allowed him to stay. After regarding her for a moment, he smiled softly back at her in turn. "Well... I managed to finish my grading this week... and then realised I forgot to mark them in my grade book, if that is any indication of how I'm doing."

She laughed in turn, a sound sweeter than any song or melody a harper's hands could play.


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Wed Oct 24, 2018 3:00 pm

While he recognised his duty required him to speak with her, Wi'mak did not immediately act on the necessity. The nerves of the situation still stuck with him, questioning his right to ask anything of her. She was female, and he, male. Wi'mak doubted that fact would ever leave him entirely where her romantic life was involved. Even worse, he worried his sex might be wielded against him if or when he dared to ask.

Yet Hinala was right.

After a late night in Hinala's company, Wi'mak's thoughts lingered on their discussion. He needed to speak to Emalia, to address the situation, and yet he lacked the courage to do so. After some deliberation, he came to a resolution to give Emalia until midweek to resolve her emotional state, and if she still clothed her heart in melancholy, he would finally confront her.

However, discussion at dinner the following day refused to let him leave the matter for the following sevenday. He enjoyed a boisterous conversation with his friends and colleagues. Gristada brought up the topic of a rather homoerotic piece she had found back up north in the Fortrian Harper Hall Archives that she would begin to transcribe. Wanol spoke of the recent piece of philosophy he studied regarding sex and gender, and how they operated in weyr opposed to holds. Kendon spoke of the recent piece he was composing as an expression of the complexities of love. Hinala addressed the cultural conflicts between Walled and Atricis, and the theories developing regarding the mingling of developing and foreign nations. And Wi'mak delved into poetry theory as they related to the development of modern poetry styles that were becoming more mainstream among harpers. Though they all shared the rank of journeyman senior, they varied in age. Gristada, Hinala and Wi'mak hovered around the same age, give or take a turn; with his high widows peak, and the lines growing apparent on his face, Kendon was ten turns Wi'mak's senior; and Wanol, a tall and lanky man, was the oldest of them all at forty, for all he looked hardly a day over thirty-five were it not for his silver hair.

"Yes, but nothing will ever surpass iambic pentameter," Gristada scoffed before sipping at her glass of wine.

Several of the other harpers concurred, though Wanol seemed less inclined to agree with the rest. "I think the recent developments in poetic structure are actually beginning to open the door to new forms of artistic expression, allowing us to address cultural matters previously thought of as taboo, which in many ways are confined by more traditional forms of poetry, especially in regards to matters like gender."

Wi'mak gave a nod of agreement with Wanol. Even if the man was arrogant, he was right in this regard. "My thoughts exactly. Though this is not about condemning previous forms of expression. It is about opening the door to other forms of it."

Kendon made a shrug. "I just think we shouldn't be openly embrace everything because it's new."

Wi'mak shook his head. "It's not about embracing what is new simply for the fact that it is new. It is about opening our minds to the fact that traditionalism is not always necessarily right. These new verses and styles help to question that which we believe to be singularly correct. It shows us that which was never considered before." But Wi'mak doubted he could convince a man like Kendon. The man had always been hidebound.

"I could see that," Hinala answered, giving Wi'mak's explanation a second thought. "I wonder how this poetry might affect the poetry currently being written by the slaves of Walled."

The very topic caused Wi'mak to smile proudly. "Interesting you ask, I have a pupil who wrote on that very subject. A young man from Walled in fact."

"Speaking of pupils," Wanol interrupted. "I don't mean to change the subject, but speaking of pupils, do any of you know Emalia."

Wi'mak fell silent.

"Yes, I know who you're talking about," Grestada answered. "She's a student in my class, same as Wi'mak."

The bluerider regarded the table, and gave a nod of his head, confirming her statement. "Yes, she is. Why do you mention her?" he asked of Wanol. In the back of his mind, he feared why.

"Well... she wasn't in class today... which is unusual for her. I've never known her to miss my class." Wanol's confession immediately alarmed Wi'mak. "Have any of you seen her today?"

Wi'mak gave a shake of his head. "No, I had her yesterday." He looked to Kendon, knowing the man instructed her as well. "What about you?"

Kendon seemed slightly distracted but shrugged after a moment of thought. "I did, but no more than usual."

Grestada frowned. "I normally have her today, but I didn't see her either. I thought it odd, so I reported it to Master Roset. I would have told the Master Harper... but the fact they are family-"

Wanol assured her. "No, no. You did the right thing, Gressie. I do believe Master Roset is handling her case due to the conflict of interest between Emalia and Master Harper Ma'lek. She's been working closely with Emalia as a mentor."

A frown deepened on Hinala's face. "Not a good one."

The remark earned the disapproval of several harpers of the table, while others nodded in agreement. Hinala's distaste for Master Roset was well known throughout the hall. Privately, Wi'mak was one of those who disagreed with her on the matter of Roset. It was one of the few topics where they differed.

Wi'mak looked back to Grestada. "Did she say anything? Roset."

Grestada gave pause before responding. "She said she too has noticed a change in her, and said she would speak to her."

"It's probably a boy," Wanol answered with a scowl. "At her age, it always is."

Wi'mak agreed, as did Gristada. Kendon remained oddly indifferent towards the entire topic of conversation.

"I was thinking of speaking to her myself," Wi'mak confessed. "I've been worried for some time about her."

"It's not your place to speak with her," Kendon frowned.

Once more Wi'mak thought of his own sex, and immediately knew the reason of Kendon's disapproval. Perhaps it was best to leave the matter to Roset. "Do keep us posted if Roset says anything," Wi'mak asked of Gristada.

"Of course," she replied.

In the days to follow, however, none of them heard anything regarding Emalia and her falling performance.


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Shaihulud
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Sat Nov 10, 2018 12:12 am

Trigger warning for mentions of sexual assault

When Wi'mak fastened his eyes upon the empty seat in his classroom two days later, he decided he had waited long enough. To those pupils who attended his class, he apologised for his sudden need to depart. There were very few disappointed faces that looked to the instructor, not that Wi'mak took offence, for he remembered all too well what it was like to be that young. "All of you now have an extension on the assignments that were due today. Between now and our next class, I suggest you use your time wisely. You're dismissed."

Now he had to attend to a sensitive matter. Derrith, where is Emalia? he pressed of his beast as he packed away his books into his rucksack. The blue always seemed to have an uncanny intuition about the whereabouts of individuals of interest.

The blue took his time to answer, but when he did, he did so with confidence, She's outside of the hall by the river with that fancy flit of hers.

Outside? Isn't it a bit cold for that? the bluerider asked in dismay. With winter settling in, the outdoors found itself persistently blanketed with a thick pack of snow and ice. Every night the snow cover grew, and in the morning it stretched across the landscape with its whiteness renewed.

Apparently she is more than capable, the blue answered back in amusement. Shall I meet you in the courtyard?

Already the rider made his way down the steps for his beast. Yes, thank you Derrith.

The blue proved himself efficient. The moment Wi'mak arrived, slipping his jacket on, Derrith lowered himself and offered an arm to his lifemate. Once the rider situated himself in his seat, Derrith lunged into the skies with such a force of his hind legs and a snap of his wings that he practically leapt over the wall of the crafthall. With a second beat of his wings, Derrith gained a little more air before he settled into a glide two dragon lengths above the powdered terrain. As they neared, the river grew before them, while the speck on its shores took on the notable shape of Emalia. She dressed in a fur lined cape with the hood pooled along her back and shoulders. Her hair was kept back in its usual braids, but a knitted band wrapped around her head and sheltered her ears, keeping her warm. No wonder she managed the cold.

A silver fancy flit zipped about Wi'mak's head as the blue back-winged for a landing. Once the rider slipped down, Emalia approached. The look upon her face could only be described as one of confusion. "Sir?" she asked of the journeyman.

Hands folded behind his back as he stepped towards her. No matter the nerves that built up over the sensitiveness of circumstances, he managed reply. "Emalia." The journeyman bluerider spared a look about their surroundings before he regarded her again. “Unless I’m mistaken… I do not believe this is our classroom.” Though the notes of his voice were of jesting amusement, he was far more concerned than anything else.

“You… came here? For me?” Her brow furrowed. “Why?”

Did she ask out of suspicion? Was she recoiling? Wi’mak, stunned by her mannerism, quickly raised his hands in defence. “Out of concern, yes." Why would she act in such a way towards him when she never had before? "You haven’t been yourself in sometime, and all of us, your instructors, were concerned. When you missed my class, I knew I had to find you, to ask what’s wrong, Emalia.”

She hesitated, only to cross her arms and look away. Her expression warred between neutrality and sorrow. “It’s nothing,” she finally said.

“I can’t say I honestly believe you,” he answered. Wi’mak managed several steps closer, only to look towards the river. “Is it a boy?” It's always a boy, he recalled Wanol's words.

He did not see her expression, though he swore he felt it, the discomfort. But rather than hear the vehement denials he anticipated, he heard the distinct sniffle of tears. He looked to her in surprise, the sympathies he felt for her immediately causing him to frown. She nodded. Cries ensued, and Wi’mak let her. Paternal instincts pressed him to hold her, but he dare not. Instead, he stood in support as she regained herself. “I don’t know what to do… he… he…”

Wi’mak tried to give her a chance to speak, but instead she cried. His stomach sunk. He had seen this before, and already he feared the worst. “Did he hurt you? This boy?”

She shook her head, but not out of dismissal. “I don’t know.” A tear was wiped away by her, only to be replaced by several more.

Tears of his own revealed themselves in the corners of his eyes, but he let them be. It broke him to see her like this, and though hesitation initially answered her, Wi’mak finally decided to step forward and lightly set a hand on her shoulder. “If you can’t talk to me about this, I understand. But please, let me take you to someone you can talk to. Whatever this boy did to you, if it was something you did not want, then it was wrong.” Even with the thick hide of her cloak covering her, Wi’mak felt the wrack of her melancholic trembles. Emalia seemed so small to him in that moment, for she was just a child. She deserved more than this.

The lacking immediacy of her answer caused further alarm, but Wi’mak forced himself to give her the time she required. His hand had withdrawn, but he remained loyal at her side, willing to give her the ear and support she so clearly needed. Silver eyes turned up to regard him, causing the man to hold his breath, for he knew she was about to say something of importance.

“Kendon.”

His breath rushed out from him with such a force that left Wi’mak nauseous.

“It was Kendon,” she repeated. “Journeyman Kendon who..." lips pressed and the tears returned, but she did not have to finish that which she could not bring herself to say. Wi'mak already knew the unspoken, and he knew in his heart it was true. One of his own colleagues had assaulted her.

{fin}
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Shaihulud
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Sat Nov 10, 2018 11:18 am

Chapter Two
Early Winter 2048 (Fuzzy timed)
Harper Hall - Evanoria Weyrhold

Envoy Mul'rec and Brown Dragon Galuth

Turns had passed since Mul'rec last saw that look of wrath claim his brother's eyes. Vengeance had always been his brother's vice, as well as his folly. Arms crossed over his chest, the younger brownrider stood across the room from Solange and Ar'vis. All the while, brothers and wife watched the brownrider brother, husband, and father pace the room with palpable frustration and outrage.

In all fairness, Mul'rec would have shown even less restraint than Ma'lek had Emalia been his own daughter. That did not mean the brownrider did not struggle to maintain his composure when the news broke of Emalia's assault. When Solange and Ma'lek informed him of what this Kendon had done, how he had groomed the girl and dared to advance upon her... it took everything in Mul'rec not to slip into the man's jail cell and strangle him until his eyes bled. Yet that did not mean Mul'rec did not plot to commit the most wicked of deeds. If ever asked about it in the future, Mul'rec would reply, What ever in the world do you mean? No one would ever know. Not even Ma'lek, Solange, and Ar'vis. He would say nothing more on the matter, never again.

Miral was right. Sometimes it was best to let truths die in secret.

In the days to follow, a trial was held, but as Mul'rec anticipated, Kendon was found not guilty. It was the word of a child against the word of a man in a world not governed by women. In circumstances like these, Mul'rec understood why a place as brutal as Walled existed. When men treated women with such vile contempt and humiliation, could they truly feign surprise and outrage when women in a place of power returned the courtesy? Violence begot violence, a truth that was indisputable in Walled. And while the walled women now knew little about the violence men frequently bestowed upon their sex, Mul'rec had no doubt the women who had gained control of Walled in its genesis were frequent victims of it. In the end, the structures and practices of Walled culture had nothing to do with justice and reform; Walled's existence was a poetic vengeance in its rawest form. Savage. Cruel. Merciless. Unrelenting.

There was a vindication for the way of Walled, and in moments like these, as Kendon walked away from the trial, Mul'rec was not only reminded of the reason for its existence, but he admired it.

No... the grand irony of it all was not missed by the brownrider. Wrong was wrong, but at least once upon a time, wrong was right.

An accused paedophile, Kendon departed with a caravan in the morning, his destination unknown. It was the most ideal of circumstances.

No one in Evanoria ever saw him again.
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Tue Dec 04, 2018 9:55 pm

Late Spring 2048 (Fuzzy timed)
Harper Hall - Evanoria Weyrhold

Over a season passed since Kendon's departure. Day by day Emalia began to regain her footing in life, and day by day she began to forget the existence of the man. The glow of vivacity returned to her cheeks after a month and a half, and her instructors confirmed that she thrived in her craft once again. Her writing, her poetry, her composition, and, above all, her dance, had recovered in full since the unfortunate events of Winter. Yet rather than assume Emalia would remain safe and sound, her family remained ever vigilant about her. Twice a week did Mul'rec come to check in on his niece. After the incident, he recognised she required closer attention, a kind she might resent from her ever present parents, but from her uncle, she was willing to receive. As a young woman, she blossomed by the day, and Mul'rec feared that Kendon would not be a sole incident.

But he dared not bring up matters of men unless she raised the topic first. Thus far, since he began his weekly visits, she refused to mention the subject of men or love. Instead, they discussed the week and her work, and often did they do so as they sparred in the circle or rode on runner back through the blooming countryside.
____

Hard across the valley did the runners loped. The runner's hooves beat across packed soil of the trail like a snare drum, the sound of their movements rolling through the brownrider's ears. The gait felt effortless, one that Mul'rec was hardly accustomed to. Unlike a dragon, the runner's back gave him pause, temporarily losing contact with the beast with every fall of its feet. The sensation made him feel vulnerable, for he recognised at any moment he might lose balance and fall. Yet despite the uncertainty, for his niece he rode.

With a glance to his left, he spotted the head of the dappled mare before they raced ahead of him. Emalia rode the beast effortlessly, with an unreserved spirit and an excitement for life that Mul’rec could not help but admire. He loved her as much as his own daughters, cherished her as one of his own. A bright mind with a woman’s finesse, Mul’rec could not help but feel a pride fill his heart for his niece as her runner thundered ahead. She thrived with the grace of youth he had long been bereft of, yet through his niece he found a vicarious way to reexperience such a sense of true liberation unfettered by the constraints of society. Even the braids could not contain her, for the tendrils were loosened by the pace of her beast and the gusts of Spring.

Emalia was alive once again.

When it was time to turn back, they did so at a gentle pace. Bit by bit, Emalia unravelled her braid, letting the voluminous curls fall at her shoulder and down her back. When the wind blew, the curls flew, sometimes into her face much to Mul’rec’s amusement.

“I would say you should cut your hair, but I doubt you would approve,” he chuckled to his niece. He knew full well that she abhorred the very thought of it.

“Seriously? Honestly, Mul’rec,” she scolded in turn, though the brownrider caught the play in her voice.

He smiled in turn. “It was merely a suggestion.”

“Well your suggestion is duly noted,” she replied.

The runners plodded several steps before Mul’rec continued. His intentions were merely to confirm his niece thrived in the craft hall, to hear the song in her voice and the joy in her eyes that told him everything was right in her world. “What is this that I hear you are preparing for a performance?” he asked her. He had heard utterances of it in conversation with Ma’lek, Ar’vis, and Solange.

She radiated with pride. “Yes, for the Master Harper of the North and several northern and southern Lords.”

“Such a momentous occasion, and yet I am just finding out about this… how shameful,” he jested in turn.

A laugh rung back in his ears.

“And when were you planning on telling me?”

“I don’t know,” she answered honestly. Her fingers dipped to give her runner an assuring scratch to the neck.

Yes… assure the beast, he reminded himself as he made sure to do the same. Runners were such fickle beasts, loathing the leathers, treating their riders as suspect, and demanding assurance with every step. It made Mul’rec realise just how fortunate he was to have a dragon who trusted him the very day they broke their shell. There was no need to constantly assure a beast who was bond to him in mind and body.

If you ever think to replace me with that bait, just remember what is required in riding one, Galuth chuckled into his thoughts.

Like I could ever replace you with this slab meat. I disdain inferior creatures.

Yes, inferior indeed. Emalia would do well to be reminded of that. Honestly, she should be standing with her sister.

Yes, Mul’rec agreed fully, but he was diplomatic enough to recognise that standing on the sands simply did not interest his niece at this time.

“If it makes you feel better, we don’t plan on preforming until the High Summer Festival. So you have a few months to wait.” Judging by the glint in her eyes, Mul’rec suspected Emalia was excited by the prospect of dancing for an audience. She had always been the sort to live for the stage.

“It does, if only marginally so.”

“Awww…” she brought her runner alongside his own, “so you shan’t forgive me for my transgression of forgetfulness?”

The brownrider regarded his niece through casual side glances before he finally revealed a smile to her. “Of course, I can, though only if you will allow me to watch your practice session.” If she permitted it, Mul’rec would be allowed deeper into his niece’s world, granting him the opportunity to monitor the men who came and went in her life. After all, it was a man of familiarity who took advantage of the girl. By establishing a visible presence in Emalia’s life, a presence she often denied her own father, Mul’rec could serve as a reminder to other male instructors that Emalia was a forbidden fruit.

“I can ask Master Ovelia,” she answered in turn. “Though I don’t see why not. Actually, I think she might fancy you. Every time you arrive in the courtyards, she stares at you. Then you are rather renowned, so I suppose I should not be surprised.”

“Haha, but of course. Another admirer. Though perhaps I can use this to my advantage… beguile her with poetry if she gives you any difficulty.”

Emalia gave a shake of her head. “You really wish to watch me dance.”

“It is always a treat,” he answered, for her remark made him realise she had grown suspicious of his intention. Did she recognise his ulterior motives?

Rather than confirm his own suspicions about her, she spoke on, sealing her promise. “I will see to it that you are allowed to watch as you see fit. We rehearse every day after dinner.”

“Good, I will make an effort to watch. It will be interesting to see how you advance over the next few months.”

She nodded in agreement, only to click her runner into a trot, and then a canter. Before she could run off again, Mul’rec heeled his own runner after her in a futile attempt to keep up.
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Fri Dec 07, 2018 1:37 am

It took little effort for Mul’rec to slip into the dance hall several days later to watch over his niece and those who dared to interact with her. When he appeared, the instructor eyed him and asked him to state his business. He responded that he merely wished to watch his niece dance. Niece? Yes, Emalia. Master Ovelia blushed, and then proceeded to confirm his identity: Journeyman Muldumarec. Flustered and grateful for his presence, the master waved him into the room, telling the brownrider to make himself at home. As he crossed the granite floored room, he spotted his niece among the girls who sat upon the floor and stretched their limbs in preparation for their practice of the day.

Silver eyes met him as he neared the knot of girls, and he could not help but smirk back in turn.

“Uncle Mul’rec,” Emalia acknowledged her uncle’s arrival. “I see Master Ovelia gave you little resistance. Pity, I thought she would have been far more difficult.”

“You say that as though you held hopes I would not attend,” he answered as he lowered himself down into a squat to meet her properly eye to eye.

Leaning down, slim fingers caught the arch of her foot as she stretched. “Of course, after it dawned on me that you wished to spy on me,” she answered in a nonchalant manner.

Clever girl. “It is only for your own good, Emalia. Though I assure you I shan’t pry more than I have to. I thought you might prefer this considering the alternative.”

“Papa?” she answered for all she posed it as a question for him to confirm.

“Aye,” he answered simply.

"Well, good luck with your spying, uncle, though I assure you there is nothing to see."

He smirked at his niece as he stood back to his feet. "I'll be the judge of that." With a grin, he stepped away and reached the other side of the room where a row of chairs lined the wall.

Other apprentices arrived carrying cases of instruments; the musicians who would play the piece the performers would dance to. Mul’rec took his seat along the wall to watch the events unfold. Soon the sound of instruments twisting into tune joined the sight of dancers gatherings at the centre of the room. As the musicians tested their pitch, the dancers testing their feet legs and arms in warm up, pointing their toes and sweeping up their hands towards the sky with grace.

It took little time for Emalia to join the gathering, dressed in her light attire with a pearl bow tied around her bun. When he looked about, spotting the bows of the other girls, as well as the scarfs around the boys… green… blue… black… silver… brown… the dragonrider came to realise the bows represented dragons. This was confirmed when a young man stepped to her side with a black scarf about his neck. An Opal and a Pyrite. Mul’rec smirked knowingly, for he suspected what they were about to practice. Once he caught several notes played by the guitarist, eyes danced in amusement over how accurate both his ear and mind had proven to be, for he confirmed his suspicions that Emalia and her fellow dancers were about to rehearse Flight of the Ninth Pass.

It was a recent piece, one developed in honour of New Atricis when the Weyr relocated some time ago. The entirety of it represented everything Atricis was, from the style of it, to the story it told in its movements. He counted the girls with gold in their hair, noting there were just enough golds to represent every Weyrwoman from Marina to Aizlin. There were over forty dragon dancers in all with another twenty set to play the remaining parts. Each one readied themselves, preparing to play out the struggles of the Weyr with its intricate footwork… The dance was exquisite, and notoriously robust.

“All right, everyone take your places,” the master called to her pupils.

In the beginning, as a sweet violin opened with the piece, the dance initiated with delicate duet of the first gold and bronze pair, the original leaders of Atricis at the start of the ninth pass. With such elegance did they move, the young girl flowing with her partner to the feel of the music, but soon the guitar struck, and the remainder of the dancers entered as the first pair vanished. As the piece moved, the gold riders danced their solos and were frequently replaced with each change in leadership… Athira, Myrna, Kharua, Solange… All the while the dance became more harrowing as dancers with streamers of silver slipped between the dancers who played the dragons. New colours emerged during a gentle break in the piece, girls with sage green ribbons representing zultanites, boys with grey scarves that made up the pewters, obsidian, opals and pyrites – he grinned as Emalia made her entrance with several perfectly executed spins – and the red for garnet…

Over the next two hours, the dancers dashed and leapt across the dance floor with such breath-taking grace. Every part danced by the sixty dancers proved to be demanding, leaving no dancer neglected. From dragon to thread, every performer made a great effort until every one panted with exhaustion. The dancers massaged their feet, attempting to work out the aches that built during their practice. By then, most had finished, but a small group were separated by Master Ovelia.

“Emalia, Saverna, Trinella, the three of you stay. The rest of you, good work today. Tomorrow, I want to focus on all of the browns and bronzes. Remember to practice your jumps. You need more force. You need to show the audience your ferocity; show them your power.”

Several other dancers chuckled, though no one said a word as they began to pack up their things for the evening.

But not Emalia and those whose names were called. Instead, they remained. They drank from their skins and wiped away the sweat from the brows and their shoulders. As they did so, the rest of the dancers and most of the musicians filed out of the door, only for a young man to slip in once the bulk had gone.

Mul’rec immediately recognised the redheaded individual as one Journeyman Wi’mak, one of Emalia’s instructors, and the one who brought up the matter of Kendon several months ago. But from what Mul’rec could recall, the man was no dancer. He was a proper harper, a poet, as well as a scholar. But why was he here? The gaze of the brownrider chased after the man who approached Ovelia at the centre of the room. Enough of the others had left, leaving their conversation audible enough for any ear keen to listen.

“Wi’mak!” Ovelia called to him with what Mul’rec considered her typical flare for the dramatic. She truly was an artist at heart. “What brings you to my dance hall?”

The bluerider smiled kindly to her. “Hinala wanted me to give you these-“ he handed over a gathering of leaves “-she said she would speak with you tomorrow about it after you’ve had a chance to look it over.”

Ovelia fingered through the pages, only to smile back at him. “For the wedding?”

The bluerider blushed with a broad smile and nodded. “Yes.”

“I’m so happy for you Wi’mak, though I must admit that is awfully holdbred of you. I never got a chance to ask earlier, but I had no idea dragonriders married.”

He brought a hand up to run it along the back of his neck in embarrassment, but he did not seemed truly ashamed so much as he appeared nervous about her prying, or at least that was how Mul’rec interpreted the gesture. “No, they often don’t, but we are both holdbred,” the bluerider answered.

“So long as you’re following your heart. How much longer do we have to prepare for your promising day?”

“Three weeks,” he answered. “So I hope our request won't be too difficult to accomplish.”

“So long as you have the time to offer, I’ll have you both dancing to this in no time. Wedding dances are quite important you know, good luck and all.”

He nodded in agreement, though Mul’rec deduced from previous dealings with the man that Wi’mak was not the most superstitious of men; but he certainly was a complacent one. So the man was getting married. Mul’rec was amused by the thought as the bluerider concluded his conversation with Ovelia.

Drifting his eyes back to the remaining three girls, he spotted Emalia, and noted the curious way she watched Wi’mak with those coy side glances as she stretched her form and drank her water.

Mul’rec looked back to Wi’mak who took a step back from Ovelia, a signal of his departure.

Emalia raised her eyes as the man began to leave, as though to catch him before he left.

The girl was not missed by her instructor, who gave a nod and a wave to her in acknowledgement before he retired from their presence.

She blushed, a bright and unmistakable rouge that could be clearly seen blooming upon the cheeks of her golden complexion. And the smile, the way it made her eyes become alight… When Emalia stood to her feet for part two of her practice, she seemed renewed with energy as she began her next dance, a coquettish piece, though Mul’rec knew full well the dance itself had nothing to do with her own coquettish glow. Instead, it had everything to do with the bluerider who had so recently departed.

For the second time, Mul’rec found his concerns for his niece revived, only now it was her heart and soul rather than mind and body that he worried over. All this time he remained suspicious of the older men in her life, vigilant on the off chance a second one might take advantage of her. But it never dawned on Mul’rec that she was capable at her tender age of fifteen to love one in turn. After watching his niece with Wi’mak in the room, it had become abundantly clear to Mul’rec that Emalia was in love with a man ten turns her senior.

{fin}
Last edited by Shaihulud on Fri Dec 07, 2018 12:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Fri Dec 07, 2018 12:43 pm

Chapter Three
Mid Summer 2048
Harper Hall - Evanoria Weyrhold

Journeyman Harper Wi'mak and Blue Dragon Derrith

Several months passed since that moment when Wi'mak was robbed of his sense of self. The approach of the prestigious Muldumarec shook him, making him doubt everything he had strove to become. Nearly every night in the weeks to come, the bluerider paced anxiously, wearing paths deep into the floor as he questioned his purpose at Evanoria.

Even on the night of his marriage to Hinala, Wi'mak could not entirely allow himself to forget his jarring conversation with the massive man.

And what are your feelings for Emalia?

Wi'mak had stood before Muldumarec that evening in Spring, stunned by the nature of the very inquiry. M-my student, a mentee. I've always regarded her as a wonderful and bright student, he assured the man. At the time, he could not believe the nature of the conversation, that he of all people was being examined in such a way that questioned the very content of his own character. It made him doubt everything he had become as a man and a teacher, and in the darkest corners of his mind, he began to distrust everything he ever thought he knew about himself, wondering if he was ultimately no better than Kendon. Was he capable of committing the same detestable act? If given the opportunity by an eager pupil such as Emalia, would he be able to restrain himself to act?

The moment that final question seeped into his thoughts, he was forced to admit he had not been entirely truthful to Muldumarec that night.

Such a conclusion caused the man to fret... to pace... step by step encouraging the grooves to form along the floor boards. One night, when Hinala came to confront him about his inability to sleep and his constant fretting, it led to an explanation of the conversation he had with Muldumarec nearly a month earlier. He shook as he spoke of the indication in the brownrider's line of questioning, that Wi'mak himself was capable of causing harm to one of his favourite students whom he had become protective of.

"He treated me like I was guilty," he confessed to his wife. Hands worried at the hem of his own tunic, loosening the threads with persistent fingers unable to still themselves. "And now I can't help but believe that maybe I am... maybe I am capable of hurting her like Kendon."

"All because she fancies you?" Hinala asked him.

He sighed. The logical part of him realised how paranoid he was being about himself. "Yes..." and yet he wondered if there was any sort of truth in the suggestion.

"You work with students, and you're young... They are bound to take a liking to you, Will, but you're a good man. You would never hurt them." She sounded so confident about his character that he managed to look to her with wary eyes.

Still, he felt ashamed. "Are you sure?"

"Do you desire to be with a fifteen turn old girl?"

He shook his head vehemently. "No, of course not. She's only a child." Though holdbred and a man from the cotholds, even when he lived as young Wilimak, the man always detested the culture of a vulnerable cot girl coupling with an older man. When he moved to craft halls and then Fort Weyr, he was relieved to meet like minded people who recognised the error of such practices and their startling limitations on the young girls' lives. Though on occasion, he met a hidebound, holdbred rider, the sort who called girls like Emalia "nubile". It was a revolting term, especially when used on adolescent girls. The very adjective described a form of total domination meant to limit the potential of all women, objectifying them, so they could be treated as no more than desirable property to be bought and sold for the highest bidder, used... and discarded. Nubile. He recoiled at the very word.

Hinala's voice brought him back. "Then you need to stop worrying." A hand reached up to brush back the ginger curls from his brow in a way that brought him to peace.

Eyes closed to the sensation, and for a moment all he could do was breathe in the comfort his wife offered. Always did Hinala bring him to a state of peace. Even if the assurance was fleeting at best, it lingered long enough to make him remember himself. The warmth of a kiss greeted his lips. Tenderly, he accepted it.

A precious silence between husband and wife was savoured, or at least he enjoyed it until she cracked a light joke. "In our field, you are likely going to have frequently dealings with worried fathers who disapprove of their lovely daughters being taught by such a handsome harper. Don't worry about them. Besides, you're married now. You can use me as your shield."

The bluerider chuckled. "You saying I should use our marriage to my advantage?"

"It has its perks. Might as well enjoy them," she grinned back, only to lean up and kiss him again.

He responded far more eagerly than the first, for he felt far more like himself now than he had in some time... and yet in the back of his mind, he felt the worry linger.

And what are your feelings for Emalia? he recalled the brownrider's question an hour after Hinala fell asleep in his arms.

With the weight of his wife partially upon him, he could not escape to pace once more. Instead, he was forced to stare at up at the ceiling as he dwelt on that conversation, and once more, he arrived at an unbearable truth when the inevitable question was asked: If confronted by Emalia, could he say no?

He wanted to say he could, but the very fact he questioned himself forced him to always arrive at the one truth that kept him awake night after night. Wi'mak, a now married man, did in fact have feelings for the girl.
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