Come Fly by Soawen
Characters: Rannon, Khata
Summary: After the Final Battle, Rannon has trouble seeing anything but a battlefield when he approaches a zenaqet board. Combine that with the darkest night coming up, and he’s in free fall. Fortunately for him (and his surroundings), Khata is used to dealing with foolish ZanTaoyakas.
Warnings: Mentions of battle, a so not realistic cure for the aftermath of war
A/N: This is the cause of this. I realize Rannon and Khata are being all bad-ass here (no better player indeed!), but maybe the aftermath was less … fun.
For art and other works inspired by this, click here.
Isokell was careful not to scowl when Rannon carefully stepped around their zenaqet board and ignored their game completely despite it being his turn.
Not that she minded how he sank down next to her with a murmur of her name, not at all, but it was so frustrating that he didn’t want to talk about the lack of- of- she didn’t know what, only that he had stopped playing after what had become known as the Final Battle, claiming that he had played enough, and only that he was not getting any better with new year and its dark night closing in.
She would have pulled down the sun and tied it to his arm if she could, just so he would have light.
Or maybe she should just settle for a good whack at his head, knock some of his former sense into him.
“Rannon-“ she began, but another voice dwarfed out hers and it took her a hammering heartbeat or two to recognize it as Khata’s.
“Rannon. Come fly.”
Khata was a patient being, she thought. For instance, she hadn’t eaten any of the stable boys, tasked with keeping her home neat, even when they squealed so amusingly when she sneaked up upon them. (One of them had earned her grudging approval, though – he hadn’t made any noise, just looked her up and down, bowed, and waited until she was outside before fainting. Good kid.)
She also liked queen Isokell and would graciously allow the human to feel her face, fangs and spines included, because no one else had dared ask if she was as warm to the touch as they imagined.
But Rannon, the man who had dared climb upon her back when told to do so, who had kept his composure and played an exquisite game of real life zenaqet while so many others had died screaming in fear under them, who could sympathize with her loss of her twin… He was so different once on firm ground.
Gone was the hastily squashed joy of flying – and yes, she had known from the light in his eyes, no matter what he had denied to himself.
Gone was the human that had won her respect.
She had overheard some of the court gossip as they walked by her home (at an appropriately respectful distance, of course, but her ears were keen), and apparently it was ‘worse than usual around this time of year’.
Now, Khata wasn’t stupid and had made the connection between the encroaching darkness and her rider’s sour mood (surely it couldn’t be the battle – it had turned out well, had it not? Despite her not being allowed to eat anyone). What she didn’t get was why he didn’t just set something ablaze and warmed himself by the fire, but Isokell had very politely told her of the custom of the darkest night and requested no sudden bonfires, so that was out.
She rose from her resting place and went to the nearby royal gardens, sniffing a few flowers on the way, taking her time to make sure that quiet had descended everywhere, before rising to her full height and sticking her head through the balcony doors.
“Rannon. Come fly.”
“Rannon. Come fly.”
Staring blankly at the enormous head poking through what had been very pretty but apparently also very flimsy balcony doors, Rannon slowly let go of Isokell whom he had grabbed hold of as soon as the doors gave away.
“Khata,” he managed, “this is a surprise.”
“Khata, what a pleasant surprise!” Isokell said and eeled out of his grip, no doubt wanting to greet her guest properly.
The dragon growled and fixed him with a narrow stare. “Now.”
“Good thinking! Rannon, dear, remember your gloves and have fun.”
Flexing his hands, still a bit stiff after the many hours clinging to a sharp-edged dragon at the Final Battle, Rannon tried to formulate some form of protest, something, anything that would mean not going into the black night where even the stars were blocked by heavy clouds.
He failed, and suddenly his gloves were on and he was sliding down Khata’s neck to sit in place just before her shoulders, and Isokell was laughing in that way she did when she was trying to be quiet, and the ground disappeared with a high jump and a beating of mighty wings.
“Khata,” he finally managed, “Khata…”
“The words you are looking for are ‘thank you’,” she rumbled.
“Thank you,” he said automatically and then his stomach lurched as they rose steeply further up into the air and hit the clouds.
Rannon was now engulfed in darkness. He could see nothing. There was no light, no-
“Close your eyes,” Khata snapped, and he obeyed, taking the order to do anything that could get him away from this place with gratefulness.
He drew a shuddering breath. He might not be able to see anything, but Isokell lived with that every day and she was fine, she was fine she was fine she was stronger than him she-
It took him a few deep breaths but then he risked it, trusting Khata. If she had wanted to hurt him, she would have set him on fire, no doubt there, but quite frankly the damp cold that now permeated him made him welcome some warmth…
There was the palest of gold everywhere.
Clouds lit with starlight covered the darkness underneath, and when Rannon looked up, he could see the stars bright and clear, the familiar constellations being somehow even more eye-catching than usual, as if they were closer, and they were, they were, there was nothing to dull their light here, and there, a star shooting brighter and clearer than the others, and there an unfamiliar formation until he turned it over in his mind and it became part of his favourite constellation…
Khata carried him silently through the night until he went from shivering from cold to downright shaking and then took him down.
For some reason the clouds didn’t bother him this time around, his mind filled with stars, and he tumbled gracelessly to the grass, looking up at Khata with wonder.
The dragon reached out with a paw and allowed him to support himself there as he got back on his feet and gathered himself.
“There is always light somewhere,” she said, surprisingly gently before adding, “foolish human.”
Rannon bowed with as much grace as he had ever presented in the presence of other royals. “Thank you,” he said simply.
“Hmph.” Khata turned and stretched a bit before sauntering back to her stable.
Rannon winced as his inner thighs and hands reminded him that even leather was no match for dragonhide before going back to Isokell’s and his chambers.
She had long since retired to their bedroom, so she wasn’t there to see him approach the zenaqet board.
It was his turn.
Rannon made his move.
The end 🙂