Timande Mei'Rhakarndi's Story: Chapter Four
Timande stalks down the residential street uncomfortably, little Raesun trotting to keep up at his heels. This is a ridiculously expensive part of the station, and they are approaching the home of one of the most important people in the city.
It all began one afternoon with Raesun's innocent question, ::Will I learn how to use my other abilities, too?:: Timande had to think long and hard on just how he could train the hatchling in something he, himself, has no experience in. He doesn't want his bond to be incompletely trained, and it is obvious that he is more talented in a wider variety of things than Timande is. Well, their mutual grandfather made him that way, so it is hardly a surprise.
Healing wasn't too much of a problem, in the end. When, at two months old, he graduated Raesun to actual weapons-- mostly blunted, perhaps, but still capable of the occasional bruise and cut-- there suddenly were all manner of small injuries to practice on. When he moves him on to live steel-- or whatever metal he gets his hands on-- the injuries will be correspondingly harder to deal with, fitting to Raesun's growing strength with his power. The ability does not even hurt the injured to use, though it is a distinctly odd feeling to have one's skin knit up at a speed so much faster than natural healing.
Despite, Timande thinks, being inherently a warrior as much as he is, Raesun still works doggedly at mastering this skill, as well. Whether or not Raesun turns out to be an accomplished healer, Timande is already proud of him for merely pushing himself, young as he is, to be as good as he can be. He can find no fault in his bond's determination, and already that is an improvement upon past troubles.
The purification skill, however, is much more troublesome. The two Balespawn on the station have kept themselves quiet, it seems-- there are rumors that one has even left-- and coming across their handiwork is so rare that it seems as if they haven't even bothered corrupting anything. Timande suspects they are simply looking in the wrong places, as he only has time for the rare excursion to try and hunt something corrupted down, but he does not see how this can be helped. Short of actually asking someone aboard the ship to corrupt or warp something for him to practice on-- which, despite their aversion to the idea, Raesun has actually done once or twice out of desperation for something to practice on-- for a long while there didn't seem any way to help it.
That is, until Timande caught a glimpse of brass and red flitting across the flight deck, on their way back from a lesson and endurance-building session in their favorite on-station gym. His temper immediately prickled, and her name jumped to mind, even though it wasn't actually her he saw. He still remembers her-- still gets angry thinking about her: Netahiln, that beast who brought one of the Balespawn on board the station. Whose bond had been... corrupted.
Anger died, with that thought. Netahiln's corrupted bond: the perfect opportunity, and he'd forgotten about it until that moment. Surely the child would love a chance to go back to the way she had been, uncorrupted, a normal little girl. And Raesun needs-- wants, too-- the chance to practice his skill. It is perfect.
It takes planning, of course. Timande is certain he would never get more than a stammered word or two out in the face of the Minister of Security, who shares the girl's residence. Even worse, should his collection of archetype xenodragons-- not even mostly made up of the doctor's barely-tolerable D-strain-- be present, Timande fears he would make a fool of himself. So he made sure to find out from Samurnde a time when the Minister would be away with at least most of his personal hive, cleared an afternoon for himself and Raesun, and is now coming to visit the little girl, Kalaia Tenat, in her home.
The interview does not begin well. Kalaia does, indeed, open the door, a pair of four-footed somethings-- furry and soft-looking, both of them-- at her... heels. Except she does not have heels. Timande had not seen any pictures of the damage left on the Balespawn's wake, and the brief description in the report obviously left things vague-- probably on purpose, given the political implications of describing the roommate, even surrogate niece according to some sources, of the Minister of Security as a monster. The girl, once human, now looks more like an insect from the waist down.
She had opened the door and taken in their appearances with apparent delighted surprise-- but the smile slides off her face shortly when she deciphers the open-mouthed, mandible-closed expressions as shock and pity. Timande hurriedly shuts his mouth, shifts uncomfortably, and asks, ::Are you Kalaia Tenat?:: It sounds inane, since she can be no one else, but how else would he begin?
"Y-yes," she stammers.
A high-pitched noise, not quite a screech in volume but definitely more than a squeak, makes him yank his Smart Disc off its hip-holster, mandibles bared and an instinctive growl starting in his chest. A pair of domed, shiny heads are peering around the corner-- eyeless, one brown and black, and one tan and powder blue. Xenodragons! And definitely not D-strain ones! Even Raesun bared his teeth, crouching tensely, at the sight of them.
"Um." Kalaia looks between her guests and the creatures behind her. "Maybe we'd better talk outside. Charity, Joy?" Kalaia moves out into the hall, beckoning the two furry ones to hurry after her-- one white and dog-like, the other black with six restlessly-coiling tails. "Igess, Nonryph, stay inside!" she orders when the xenodragons make chirping noises and take steps to follow her, before Timande can actually get another weapon out to brandish at them. The sounds they make, if anything, seem disappointed.
Then the door slides closed, cutting them off, and Kalaia turns back to Timande and Raesun. "Can I help you with something?" she asks, eying the weapon Timande, feeling somewhat foolish, hastily puts away. "You're not salespeople, are you?"
::Of course not,:: Timande says, frowning at her.
::We're venator callidus draconis,:: Raesun puts in helpfully, his own growl vanished as if it hadn't even been there. ::--Es. --Ae?:: He looks briefly confused, unsure how to pluralize their technical species name.
::I am Timande Mei'Rhakarndi, this is Raesun Mei'Dtande.::
"Ooooh, you're the yautjadragons!" Kalaia exclaims, looking delighted again. "I've always wanted to meet one of you! You all look so fierce! --Oh, this is Charity and Joy, they're my friends."
Nonplussed but determined to get to the matter at hand, Timande suggests, ::Perhaps we can walk together a ways, and talk?::
"I'd like that," Kalaia beams, but the smile is short-lived. "Um, if we don't go too far... Igess and Nonryph might try to come after me, and, um, I don't really...."
::It's okay,:: Raesun says when she trails off, patting her-- er, tail-- in childlike reassurance. ::We'll stay close.::
They start towards one of the false-parks nestled between apartments, Kalaia babbling a bit at first of what all she's heard about yautjadragons. There is a surprising amount. "I like you," she shrugs when asked. "You're different, and interesting, and good even though you don't look like it."
"Or act like it," Joy mutters behind them, giving Timande nervous glances. Timande chooses to ignore that.
::Did you know about the new strain, that Raesun is a part of?:: he asks, instead.
"A little bit," she frowns. "Mostly that they were happening, and they'd have more abilities. Nobody really talked about them in front of me...."
Timande, a little sadly, can see why. ::They were engineered and improved to resist and counter... well, a specific enemy.::
For someone who looks so young, Kalaia is sharp. She looks up at him seriously, then over at Raesun. "Balespawn. Right?" They both nod, uncomfortable with her tone: odd for a little girl who had been so cheerful a moment ago, and almost bitter-sounding. "I suppose that's why you wanted to see me.... Some kind of lesson on what Balespawn can do. Right?"
::No, no, not-- not like that at all,:: Timande stammers, surprised. ::Raesun is--::
He breaks off in further surprise, and wariness, at the sound of a growl somewhere behind him. ::Who's there!:: he barks, spinning to face the sound.
Whoever it is chuckles darkly. A shape melts out of the shadows, momentarily black and eerie-looking, but then the darkness seeps away and leaves garishness: gold and red, messy fur and glowing red eyes. Raesun stares at her, more fascinated than afraid or angry, but Timande growls warningly, taking a step between Kalaia and the brightly-colored beast. She has grown since the last time he's seen her. Netahiln... what is she doing here?
::Keeping an eye on my bond, Ugly,:: Netahiln's mocking voice answers his unspoken thought-- wait, how did she-- ::Keep your thoughts in your head, if you don't want other people to hear them. I saw you two coming here, and if you think for one minute you're going to use Kalaia for an example, you have another thing coming.::
"Neta'," Kalaia sighs. "I can look after myself, you know."
::You knew I was there,:: the chaos-mutt clucks at her sourly. ::You could have told me to leave.::
The look Kalaia gives her makes her look away.
::We were just here to see if we could help,:: Raesun pipes up quietly.
"Help?" Kalaia repeats blankly, and Netahiln growls, though it is not as threatening a sound, now.
::There is an ability the doctor gave Raesun that purifies corruption-- puts corrupted things back to how they're supposed to be,:: Timande explains. ::Raesun wishes to learn how to use his better, and as I could not imagine you wishing to remain like....:: He shrugs awkwardly rather than try and put words to her... condition. ::I thought we could help each other.::
All four creatures-- Kalaia, Netahiln, Charity, and Joy-- stare at him and Raesun. ::You wanted to... use her?:: Netahiln guesses, eyes going narrow. ::For practice?::
::To help her,:: Timande frowns at the chaos-beast.
::For our own purposes.::
::For her benefit!::
::That you get something out of.::
"Does anyone care what I want?"
Kalaia's loud question stops them both, and both turn to look at her. ::Not to stay like that,:: Timande says, startled, ::Surely not.::
The girl's brows come down, and she props her fists on her hips. It emphasizes the distortion, since her "hips" are insectiod under the fall of her vest. "And what's wrong with being 'like this'?" she demands.
Struck speechless-- he has never once imagined that Kalaia would refuse; be concerned, perhaps, at what might happen with a relatively untried power being used on her, but refusal?-- Timande is silent. So, to his mild surprise, is Netahiln, who looks rather as if she might be ill in a moment. It's Raesun who answers. ::Nothing at all,:: he says, ::if you don't think there is.::
"Just because I'm ugly to look at now doesn't mean I'm-- I need to be fixed," Kalaia agrees crossly, glaring now, one spidery "foot" tapping impatiently and one of her tails dripping a vicious-looking liquid from the end. "I'm just fine the way I am. People will just have to get used to me."
Netahiln's voice is very small and unsure, unbefitting her fearsome appearance, and her bond's expression softens a little, looking at her. "It's too late to go back," she answers quietly. "So I'm going to learn to live with it."
There is a pause, and Timande is sure Netahiln is saying something he can't hear. Kalaia nods faintly and says, "I know." Netahiln growls unintelligibly and melts back into darkness before Timande can do more than grab his Smart Disc again. With a fury he hasn't felt in months, nearly a year-- not since Joqout replaced him, in fact-- he wishes savagely that he could just launch it at her and remove her bloody head from her body-- save this child the burden of her presence-- but he doesn't have the chance, and Raesun is looking at him with such a confused expression that it is probably just as well.
"I'm sorry," Kalaia says, not looking at either of them, "but I don't want to be changed back. I'm sure you can find something else to practice on. Good-bye."
Timande, feeling ridiculously guilty for his assumption and still confused at her refusal, doesn't follow her when she steps silently away, her two furry friends scurrying after her, looking over their shoulders at the two yautjadragons. Raesun, crouching at Timande's feet and radiating guilt, himself, murmurs, ::Maybe we should've called ahead and asked.::
Sighing a little, Timande nods, and he lets Raesun ride on his shoulders for the trip home.
It is to his great surprise that he finds, the next morning, a message. "Ugly: Bring that yellow whelp of yours to the bar we met at, that first time. I'll show him some corruptions to fix, as long as you trust me enough to let him out of your sight with a monster like me. --Rude"
Timande stares at it for a long, long time before putting it away and going about his daily business. He doesn't trust her-- but he also doesn't know how else to give his bond the training he wants. Perhaps he will just have to see what happens.