Joqout's Story: Chapter Three
"I will be back in a little while, Dasque."
"Be careful, Joqout!"
Joqout, feeling bulky and unwieldy today, paces out of his second cousin's apartment on his own four feet rather than on the wing. The patio or porch or whatever it is connects to a broad walkway, broad enough even for him. There are so many creatures on this Star City that, though humans designed it and seem to run it, there are accommodations for both large and small, and anything in between. When he first arrived, Joqout found the city-like space station overwhelming and intimidating; now, nearly two months later, he is slowly coming to feel comfortable here, with parts and places on its metallic streets and the myriad of people that crowded them.
Dasque, his cousin and now roommate, is a good fellow, slightly smaller and much lighter bult than he, a vibrant violet color rather than Joqout's dull brown. He is earnest and friendly, eager to please and even more eager to offer assistance. The Solistien tribesman who brought Joqout from his homeworld to the home of his cousin explained everything while Joqout tried not to realize that he was being talked about, as if he were not there, and Dasque had promptly taken him in paw with the intent of breaking his despondency and helping him find his own place in the station's life. He first set his desert-bred cousin up with a volunteer, community service organization, then helped him find a job-- it isn't much of a job, picking up and then hauling refuse to incinerators and recyclers, but it pays fairly well, presumably because not many living things want to do it and the machines that do many undesirable tasks on the station could only do so much. Friendly, helpful Dasque even tries, now and then, to take him out to social engagements, as well, though Joqout has never been, and certainly is not now, the best of social company.
Because Dasque is so easily hurt when his offers of help are turned down-- Joqout found that out early on-- Joqout lets him do everything he wishes without complaint. He is, after all, an easy-going dragon, despite his current emotional knots. In some ways, he is grateful for his cousin's attempts, as they fill his time with inconsequentials, but there are times-- like today-- when he simply needs to be alone. On those days, he does any number of things: often he simply wanders, exploring the station, but once he discovered both human-sized and dragon-sized workout gyms, it grew hard to resist the urge to visit them. He is up to every other day, now, and he is even starting to feel less guilty about it.
Today, though, he isn't heading towards the gym. A workout might have been soothing, but he is feeling restless, not tense or uncomfortable. A walk, he thinks, will loosen him up. Perhaps he can find the more human-sized gym after a while of walking.
His thoughts wander as he does. Dasque's efforts, he thinks, are at least bearing a little fruit. I'm not having as many nightmares, he realizes with a little surprise. It's been... gods, it's been almost a week now. He still doesn't particularly want to think about what he's done, or what he's lost, but it isn't hovering at the edge of his thoughts, either.
Not that anything else really is. He's done nothing since he arrived but work at the jobs set before him and think of nothing. I'm drifting, he thinks, a little disgusted with himself but completely unsure what to do about it. I'm not doing anything except what I'm told. That's all I've ever really done.... It isn't as if he's ever had any purpose in his life, and goal he's ever worked towards except perfecting his body and skill, if that counts. Does anyone?
Now that is an uncomfortable thought, and he turns into the nearest dragon-sized lift and lets it take him where it will. It stops a moment later, after a ride faster than it seemed, and opens onto the second deck, two decks down from Dasque's apartment. Joqout steps out, yielding his place to the much smaller humanoid who had been waiting for the lift, and starts down the central street. This deck, though it looks like a residential deck, isn't as large as deck four, only a couple stories high. He thinks back on his first ever tour of the station; Dasque hadn't taken him here, but he had told him what this deck was. This was the deck with new dragoner housing, candidate housing, and the hatching bays, both private and public. At Star City, the five public bays are always full.
That brings a smile to Joqout's face. Hatching bays. There is always something heartening about new life, and visiting mothers proud of their unhatched offspring might lift a little of his gloom, at least for a while, and perhaps make that brief smile last. It wouldn't be a direction for his life, or an absolution of guilt, but it might at least be enjoyable.
Since the station and its decks are circular, all Joqout needs to do to reach the public bays is walk along the central street of the main deck level, so he does. It takes a while-- though this deck may be smaller than higher ones, the station is still huge-- but finally he reaches the public bays. Private ones would be on the levels above, smaller and more tightly packed, with less room for an audience of variously sized creatures. Joqout must have come at them backwards: the first bay is marked with an 05, the fifth and last public bay. Not knowing what is in any of them, this seems as good a place to start as any.
Joqout pauses at the door, finned "ears" lifting away from his true ears, at the sound of voices inside. It takes him a moment to register that those voices are not actually vocal, but mental, and open for anyone receptive to hear them, whether a door or a wall stands in their way or not.
::Get him, get him!::
::Took him long enough!::
::Well, he didn't know, before! How could he have?::
::Then he's dumb! I would have known that kid was trouble.::
::Be quiet, I want to hear what happens next.::
Curious, Joqout steps forward and the door slides open for him, revealing something not exactly what he had expected. The hatching bay, though quite large enough to fit thousands of people and a dozen large dragons, is empty but for one man and a scattering of mottled, oblong eggs which surround him. As if that weren't strange enough, the bay itself isn't as sleekly metallic and futuristic as the rest of the station, but instead coated with loops and whorls of something black and semi-transparent, layers and layers of it in bizzare patterns and formless meanderings. Joqout stares around, feeling very much like the surprised country cousin again, before another voice catches his attention and makes him blink at the bay's occupants.
"Hello, there. Looking for something?"
The man, who is currently just rising from where he'd been seated with a book in his lap on the only blackness-clear part of the bay, is tall and athletically built-- not quite so much as Joqout's human body, but then, he is built larger than most. His skin is blue, just as Joqout's is brown when he shape-shifts, his tidy hair is orange with green streaks, and ears point sharply out from the sides of his head just as phantom, mottled wings fold across his back. Joqout blinks at the brightly gold eyes-- wraith gold. A Dysiniu? Here? Reading... bedtime stories? To eggs?
"Ah... no, not really," he says with another blink. "I was just wandering around, and the lift took me here, so I thought I'd look at the hatching bays...." The Dysiniu cocks his head, and Joqout hurriedly adds, "I'll leave, if you like, I didn't mean to interrupt...."
"That's all right," the Dysiniu assures him, smiling amiably. "We've had candidates coming in and out at odd times, I doubt we'll mind one more."
::Of course not!::
::But I wanted to hear the rest of the story!::
::Who is it? Sahurru, who is it?::
"I'm-- not exactly a candidate," Joqout stammers. "I was just wandering around."
::Well, you're here, anyway.::
::What's your name?::
"You're a Solistien, aren't you?" the Dysiniu asks, holding the book shut but with one finger marking his place.
"That's right. And you're Dysiniu. I never thought I'd see one of you...."
"I'm Sahurru, guardian of the eggs," the Dysiniu introduces himself with a light bow. That seems a fitting enough title, given his reading stories to eggs.
::If he's not a candidate, can you pleeeeease get on with the story?:: one of the eggs piped up.
"Interested in hearing about the story of King Arthur?" Sahurru asks, cocking his head at Joqout.
"Uh, sure," Joqout blinks. "If no one minds."
::If he's still reading, I don't care who else is listening.::
::Do you like heros? 'Cuz King Arthur's one.::
::That's why Sahurru's reading about him to us!::
::He was reading them to us,:: the impatient one adds.
"Of course I like heros," Joquot answers, settling down on the cool, whorled substance that coats the bay. "Who doesn't?"
::I'm going to be a hero when I grow up!::
::So am I!::
::We all will be. That's what we're made for, to beat up the bad guys!::
::I can't wait!::
Joqout pauses, swallowing. "Beat up the bad guys", the egg had said. Has he stumbled upon some kind of warrior-clutch? If so, this is the last place he wants to be, with what he's done in his past. Maybe I'm one of those "bad guys" they want to beat up, when they're older, he thought glumly.
::Why? You don't seem like a bad guy.::
Sahurru and the other egg-voices don't make any comment; in fact, Sahurru has seated himself again, book open across his lap to read from it. Joqout looks around, wondering which egg spoke this time. ::I've done some bad things, in my life,:: he answers, aiming along the thread of thought that spoke to him.
::You look like you're too timid to do bad things,:: another voice scoffs, who apparently has been listening in.
::I am not always timid,:: Joqout answers solemnly.
::What did you do?:: the first egg asks, sounding genuinely curious.
After a pause, hesitant, Joqout answers simply, ::I killed nine others, and I was glad to do it, at the time.::
::Why did you do that?:: the second egg demands suspiciously.
::They killed my family, and I went a little mad when I found their bodies....:: Oddly, it feels a little better to talk about it. Joqout never spoke of what had happened to the tribe who took him in, except to explain that his village was dead and destroyed by Ignius bandits and that the bandits were dead. Dasque has tried, more than once, to get him to talk, but he has never wanted to talk. Now, with unborn dragons-- he can only assume they are dragons, in a dragon hatching bay in eggs, oddly formed eggs or not-- questioning him innocently about it, it feels a little easier. He doubts they will be pleased, but he suspects they could tell if he was lying.
::Oh,:: the second egg says dismissively, making Joqout blink. ::Well, that makes sense.::
::They killed your family. I bet they were bandits. They deserved to die. All bad guys like that do.::
::I think that's really noble of you,:: the first voice says shyly. ::You stopped them from killing anyone else. That's what any of us would have done.::
::But what if all they needed was the chance to change their ways?:: Joqout asks, perplexed by the attitude of unhatched children. ::A new life, a new start, that sort of thing.::
::They were bad guys,:: the second egg snorts, as if that was the end of it. The second says nothing, but when Joqout leaves almost an hour later, even after a lot of thinking and the rest of the story of King Arthur and his knights of the round table, he still feels like he has more thinking ahead of him.
Fantasa and Legend dragons are the intellectual property of Silver Midnight.