The Consequences

Who: Aerishani, O’rlen, Leesa
Where: Weyrlord’s Weyr, Honshu Weyrhold
What: A body deposited and truths confessed.

When the green dragon that breaks out of Between doesn’t bother to acknowledge enquiries as to who she is or inform the watchdragon of her purpose, Amorenth barely has time to react before she’s diving down to Roreliuth’s ledge to deposit the bleeding form held between her front paws. Agile, the green drops her burden, then twists about and is gone again when she’s barely in the sky, no sign of a rider on her back. The crumpled body does nothing but mark the stone beneath it with dark blood, open gashes in the woman’s clothing identify where the blades have gone in, most major organs avoided, but the sheer number of wounds makes up for any deliberate attempt to keep her from simply bleeding out.

Roreliuth had been sleeping with Amorenth in her wallow, even with his own rider sequestered in the Weyrleader’s weyr away from Aerishani. The bronze reacts as Amorenth does, sensing the ‘other’ and the concern of their watchdragon as he rouses beside her. He beats his rider to the ledge, his wings held out to shield the woman whose body is crumpled near his forepaws. O’rlen rushes out to the ledge with his pants pulled on and otherwise barefoot and barely awake. He makes sure that Leesa is breathing before he sends word via dragon for Healers to arrive at his ledge. He’s knee-deep in blood as he applies pressure to the various wounds while they wait, silent and otherwise stricken with the damage of the dragonhealer. He remains in the shelter of Roreliuth’s paws once Leesa has been rushed towards the Infirmary with Honshu’s entire Healer staff on hand.

Whether deliberately or not, Aerishani stays out of the way while the whole affair unfolds, Amorenth’s eyes and presence enough that there is little need for her to add another person delivering orders to the mix. Only once the Healers have removed Leesa to the infirmary does she step out onto her ledge in nothing but her nightgown, seeking shelter against her queen to keep her from prying eyes and from O’rlen to notice how she watches him. Minutes pass before she starts striding forward and across to that not so distant ledge, bare feet forgotten about along with the hem of her nightgown as they both become stained by the blood left behind. “…You should go inside,” is all she tells him, the words little more than a murmur.

O’rlen does not register the amount of blood he is still kneeling in, nor the amount that has made it across his chest, arms and hands. He has one hand pressed against Roreliuth’s hide for stability. Aerishani’s approach is met with no acknowledgment from O’rlen. He remains with his gaze fixated in the direction of the Infirmary. “Should I?” he asks, voice devoid of its usual bitterness and defensiveness. The shock of the trauma of finding Leesa begins to settle into his shoulders as they begin to tremor like his hands that he starts to consider. “Blood,” he murmurs, horrified as he takes in everything around him. “So. Much. Blood.” He doesn’t register his tremors nor does he move to get up as Aerishani has instructed him.

Aerishani doesn’t wait to ask either Roreliuth or O’rlen; she simply reaches down to hook an arm beneath one of her husband’s and makes to haul him to his feet and back the way she’s travelled without any indication that she has any intention of letting go. She doesn’t speak as the two of them track bloody footprints across the ledge and down the flight of stairs into her weyr, and she yet again does not ask permission as she removes his clothes and gives him an insistent shove towards the edge of the pool that occupies much of her bathing room. His clothes, she leaves where they fall, her own remained in, bloodstained though they are, the spot she adopts one at the water’s edge, where she sits down with only her legs in the water, keeping O’rlen firmly in her sights.

Before O’rlen or Aerishani exit her weyr, they will find the ledge and stairs have been scrubbed clean of blood. Likely, O’rlen will see blood smattering his ledge for many months regardless of it’s clean state. Within Aerishani’s weyr, he remains quiet as he continues to tremble. He lets her guide him to the pool and remove her clothes. He’s easy to settle into the warmth as he seems unable to stop any actions she takes at the moment. Roreliuth reaches for Amorenth’s mind as he launches himself into the sky. He circles the Weyrhold, scouting for any return of attackers. Other dragons join him in circling the skies. << We must not allow them to ever return >> he tells Amorenth, << is it possible for you to prevent it? >> O’rlen is not able to form a coherent thought until the pool has made his skin pucker from water. “She’s dead,” he tells Aerishani, looking haunted, “and it’s my fault.”

<< I can keep them out, >> Amorenth responds with a drawling confidence that masks any anger or frustration she chooses to keep to herself. << But others will need to be vigilant too. >> Aerishani maintains her silence and does nothing more than wave her feet back and forth idly through the water every now and then while she waits for O’rlen to decide to speak, offering no prompts for him to do so. When he does, she looks up from the ripples on the surface of the pool and across to him, her silence somehow heavier in the moments before she speaks. “Perhaps,” she says eventually, unwilling to clarify whether she’s referring to Leesa’s potential death or it being his fault. “Amorenth won’t permit their dragons to land here ever again. They won’t take anything more from us.”

O’rlen considers Aerishani and her feet making ripples in the pool. He submergers himself under water, returning to the surface so he can take a breath. He gathers himself enough to take soap to his body to scrub remnants of blood from his body. He gets himself out of the pool and moves to find towels to rub his body with. He wraps the towel around his middle and stands in the center of the bathing chamber. “I’ll leave now,” he tells her, still not quite looking like he’s fully aware of his surroundings. Roreliuth sends riderless dragons further outside the Weyrhold to confirm no foreign dragons are within their territory. Only when he is certain none are hiding within their borders does he return to Amorenth’s side. His eyes swirl in angry reds. << All are aware of what will be needed. Never again. >>

Aerishani observes O’rlen without seeming to stare, her focus not entirely fixed, but rather in his general direction and distant. “That’s your decision,” she answers as he informs her of his intention to leave. “I never suggested that you should.” From the edge of the pool, she finally slips down into the water without bothering to pull off her nightdress and almost immediately ducks her shoulders beneath the surface. Tendrils of red ripple out and disperse as the water catches at the blood staining her hem and what’s tainted her arms and hands from pulling O’rlen away from the ledge. “You shouldn’t be on your own,” is more matter of fact than anything else. “And if you go and sit in the infirmary, you’ll only be in the Healers’ way.”

O’rlen watches her in a very detached way, the visual of red hair and red blood swirling, in the water freezing him to the spot. Something grim takes over from the shock, Aerishani’s words doing nothing to shake him into a more focused reality. “I need clothes,” he tells her flatly, “your hair has blood on it,” he adds before he turns and leaves the bathing area. He manages to take himself back to his own ledge, pausing at the scrubbed stone before he continues inside. Once inside he manages to pull on clothes, though his shirt is buttoned in a crooked fashion he does not correct – whether because he knows it and doesn’t care or simply he may not notice. He sits himself down in the dark, his hands made steadier by the whiskey he’s found and taken a drink from.

Aerishani chooses not to hurry after O’rlen, waiting until he’s gone before she does much more about the blood clinging to her than let the water do as it wills. With him out of sight, she scrubs at it and spends time drawing her fingers through her hair and running soapsand through it time and again until she’s sure it’s gone. The nightdress, she lets sink to the bottom, to be fished out when she has a mind to, for the minutes after she leaves the pool she spends sat on the edge of her bed in a state of undress with her head in her hands. Eventually, she manages to braid her hair and pulls on a clean nightgown and gathers a shawl around her shoulders before making the journey across to O’rlen’s weyr. “What’s done is done,” she says from the mouth of the weyr. “No-one was forced into anything. And no-one will be, now. It’s over.”

O’rlen does not turn to face or greet Aerishani. He keeps his hands locked around the whiskey bottle and his gaze centered on a distant wall. “I sent Leesa as her Weyrlord. Why would she refuse me? No matter what rules they imposed upon her, she was doing her duty to Honshu. It got her killed. //I// got her killed.” He shakes his head and takes a draw from the bottle. He doesn’t bother turning to invite Aerishani in out of the assumption she will continue in. He lets his shoulders slouch as he moves to catch his face with both of his hands. He takes a few steadying breaths. Assured that he has control over his voice after the breathing exercises, he turns to fully face Aerishani. “I should not continue as the Weyrlord. I have put everyone at risk for my decisions. It’s clear to me now, I am not fit to lead.”

Aerishani only ventures a little way into the weyr, keeping her arms firmly knotted and shawl tightly wrapped around herself. “Only a short while ago, it was me you were accusing of not being fit to maintain my role. Of not being capable. Is this it, then? Are we to hand over Honshu to Rori and inevitably to Nala, for one or both of them to end up bleeding out for being different?” She advances only a few more steps before demanding, again, “Is this it? You’ll tear me down and then yourself because you didn’t want to listen to any reason but your own? You don’t want to learn from what you’ve done? You want that to be your legacy? That’s what you want me to tell our sons when they one day ask why we’re not together anymore and we don’t have a Weyrhold?” Shaking her head, she insists, “It’s over, O’rlen,” once more. “It might have come at the cost of you and me, but have the decency to see out the rest. Don’t let them brand you a coward too.”

“See? I can’t do anything right,” O’rlen offers Aerishani as he turns and looks at her with a bitter-edge to a fake smile. “I try and push past my decision, I try to own them, I claim them. I tell you they aren’t yours — and now, now that they’ve come to too high of a cost, I’m a coward for wondering if I’m fit for the position I hold.” He shakes his head and looks back to his hands and the table. “You and I both know that Rori and Nala will not lead Honshu. The Council won’t allow it. You may retire as Senior and make Rori take it on, but it will have to be a man who leads beside her.” He stands then, looking fully at her. “How shall I learn from what I’ve done, Aerishani? Should I go and face our people tonight or tomorrow? I’ll let them know that I let them down by trusting bad people. I’ll let them know that I own that mistake. But at the cost of my knot. You want to tie my knot to our marriage? I’m done arguing with you about that. If that’s what you feel is necessary, then so be it.”

“No, I’m tying our marriage to the fact that you broke my heart and let me feel like less of a decent human being for having doubts about something that has turned out exactly as I expected it to!” Aerishani shouts, letting her shawl fall to the ground as she gestures towards him. “That’s what I’m doing. That’s the truth. The man I woke up next to after Amorenth’s maiden flight would never have spoken this way to me or done these things. You aren’t him anymore.” She bares her teeth, an inarticulate sound issuing forth that does nothing to prevent her tears. “And though you may have been set on looking down on me and not cared about what you broke, I’ve still no wish to see you fall to this. I’ve not implied that //you// are unfit. When I say don’t let them make you a coward, I mean don’t run away or let it finish you. Acknowledge it. Express regrets, if you have then. Be human. And carry on. Don’t let this be what breaks //you//.” She twitches her shoulders. “Take Roreliuth away when next she rises, if you no longer want the knot. The decision is yours. All I can do is try to save you from yourself.”

O’rlen says nothing as Aerishani shouts, his face drops all premises of bitterness or rage as her words hit him as hard as a slap might have. He remains rooted in place as he lowers his gaze to the floor. His hands move to cover his face as he lets his head slowly shake. When he lowers his hands, tears make the tracks along his face that he doesn’t wipe away. It’s not rage that fuels his shaking voice as he offers her, “I’m sorry,” and once that word is loosened something continues to crumble as a guttural sound escapes his face as he turns from her to hide the tears from her. He wipes angrily at his face, unable to stop the shaking that racks him as he is unable to stop the outpouring of frustration and sorrow. He holds a hand up, trying to communicate wordlessly as he once more manages to get out, “I’m so sorry, Aerishani.” And then he walks towards the nearest wall to rest his hand against as he tries to quell his tears.

Rather than acknowledge O’rlen’s apology or make efforts to verbally express that she understands, Aerishani stays silent and exactly where she is, her arms knotted back around herself as she watches him crumble. The quiet from her is broken only by a sniff as she tries to rein in her own tears, eventually averting her gaze to let them fall, any further need to shout or sob swallowed down as she closes her eyes and ducks her head. Moments pass with her nothing more than a vision of misery, but then she lifts her head and makes her feet move to close the distance between herself and O’rlen, where she wraps her arms around him and rests her cheek against one of his shoulder blades. “…It’s done with now,” she says quietly. “You have no obligation. You’re free and so is Honshu. The price has been paid. Just make sure it’s the only one.”

O’rlen doesn’t move as he stands with her arms wrapped around him. He waits until his tears are finished before he turns and roughly hugs her against his chest. He still can’t find words for her as he keeps Aerishani pressed tight, his arms shaking with continued tremors from the mixture of residual shock and emotional upheaval. His voice is hoarse when he says, “The price was too high.” He pulls back from her enough to look at her, before he rests his forehead against her own and closes his eyes. There is plenty of things he should say – and plenty of things he should do – but he remains there sharing breath with her before he finally leans forward and claims a questioning kiss from her lips.

Aerishani lets O’rlen claim his kiss, yet she hesitates to return it, drawing back to lift her head and both look up at him and through him as she murmurs, “You have no obligation there either,” without the strength of will to truly watch for any answer she might read in his gaze. “To retain your knot or otherwise is your choice… I’ve no expectation of you wanting me too. You…” She looks down at the ground. “You made your opinion of me quite clear,” is barely audible. “I’ll support you in whatever it is you want to do now. Whatever you want to tell everyone about today. But I don’t need… You needn’t think that it’s conditional.” Her hands shift to settle on his hips. “It’s okay.”

“Please,” O’rlen’s voice is rough as he moves to stall her from leaving his side. “We can talk to someone… work out the hurt I’ve caused. I don’t know if I can fix it on my own. I–,” he shakes his head, regret and fear haunting his gaze. “I never wanted to lose you. I’m so very sorry,” he lets his voice drop into a whisper as he holds her gaze with his own. “I would pick you over the knot any day. I want us back. I miss you. I miss seeing my boys tucked in every night.” He takes a steadying breath as he moves to press his palm against her cheek. “If you can find it in you to forgive me. I want to fix us.” His fingers tremble against Aerishani’s cheek. “I know it may be too broken… but I’m willing to try.”

Aerishani stays so still that it’s difficult to see if she’s even breathing, but, eventually, she manages to form words, if once again avoiding an expression of understanding or acknowledging O’rlen’s words to be ones that she knows to be true. “…You can’t stay here alone tonight,” she tells him quietly, reaching for his hand to capture it with hers and firmly draw him along after her as she turns to move from his weyr and make the short journey back to hers. Once there, she wordlessly encourages him down into her bed and curls up around him, her face pressed into the space between his shoulders, and does her best to sleep. It’s a fitful night, and one of not many more words from her, but that she refuses to leave him on his own serves better than anything she could say.

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