Joqout's Story: Chapter Seven

Written in collaboration with Phoenix


Joqout rises slowly, surprised to find that he is not in the least bit stiff. After two years and then some of not following his priestly meditations, the pattern has reasserted itself easily for this, his shared vigil with Timan. The yautjadragon does not seem to be able to say the same, rising without some of his usual predatory grace. Then again, it could simply be due to his anxiety about their appointment on the Abstract Destiny in a little less than an hour.

Though he had obviously done his best, Joqout suspects that Timan simply isn't the type for exercises that involve sitting still, particularly not right before something important. He spent most of the three hours constantly shifting position, and through their admittedly-weak bonding Joqout even thought he could sense Timan's churning thoughts. Only the assurance that this is what knights did before their knighting-- only all night, though Joqout is not about to subject himself and his bond to that!-- kept Timan at the task. Only just before time they were to rise did he seem to settle at last, and it was with a little reluctance that Joqout signaled they rise. With practice, it might be possible that Timan could make use of meditation... but not now, and not with a time limit.

The pattern, however, is not yet complete. Joqout faces his bond, who is glowering more than usual, and offers a dragonic bow: fanning his wings, dipping his forequarters, and lowering his head. "Now that your mind is clear," he intones, as he would if he were a full priest and not just a novice-- though, truly, he doubts it really is clear-- "your soul will be at rest, and you are ready for the trials of the body. Continue the pattern."

Almost hesitantly, Timan returns the bow, though his is slightly more conventional, given his bipedal stature. That bow, on both their parts, turns into the opening move of one of Joqout's favorite pattern-dances, meant for opening up the limbs, stretching out stiff muscles, and encouraging a fluidity that also helps clear the mind. Incidentally, it is also one Timan has actually bothered to learn, for there are not many. It is as if Timan refuses to admit that something his bond knows might actually be of use; this particular dance, he learned in an attempt to be diplomatic, after a particularly bad fight between them. It has since turned into something they actually do together, rather than simply in each other's company. Besides spar, that is.

The dance leaves neither of them breathless, for it is hardly a strenuous pattern to follow if followed singularly and without a weight or a weapon, but from Timan's stance it at least leaves him more relaxed. He even almost smiles, mandibles pulled apart loosely as if holding back something truely amiable. ::I start to see why you like those things,:: he admits, and Joqout really does smile, though he knows better than to make an answering comment.

"There is time for lunch," he says instead. He has left that time on purpose, on the off-chance that Timan might actually want to eat.

Apparently he doesn't. At the mention of lunch, Timan actually looks a little queasy, though he hides it quickly. ::We can eat afterwards,:: he says. ::If we leave now, we won't be too early....::

With a sigh, Joqout nods and shifts down into his human form-- this will be Timan's day in the figurative sun, and he isn't about to ruin it by overshadowing the smaller dragon, and besides, it's entirely likely that there won't be anywhere for him to sit or even stand, otherwise! At Timan's snort and turn away from him, he rolls his eyes with a sigh and goes to search out his clothing-- fine cloth, this time, with delicate stitching, rich colors, and even some embroidery on the long vest. He doesn't get many chances to dress richly, and it seems to him that this might be a fine opportunity to do so.

Timan, for himself, doesn't have much to do besides brush dust off his wings and comb out his hair, which he does with his fingers rather than a comb. ::Come on!:: he calls. ::Are you ready yet?::

"It's not like we're going to be late!" Joqout laughs, but comes out of his human-sized bedroom fully clothed. Timan, then, can't seem to get out the door fast enough, and Joqout follows, amused, at a more sedate pace.

The Abstract Destiny, the geneticist's ship, is docked for the occasion at the lowermost deck of the station, its "front door"-- what is obviously just a large, round airlock-- wide open to admit them. One of his staff, a very brightly red dragon who introduces herself as Devika and doesn't seem particularly surprised that they are almost half an hour early, leads them down the corridor and to another set of open doors-- these actually doors-- that led to what Devika called the Alpha Bay, a hanger converted to a hatching bay for future clutches. To Joqout's amusement, and Timan's mild disgust, the room is arrayed not as the waiting room for a warrior's testing, but almost like it is to be host to a party. Chairs for human-sized occupants and a table grace the mossy floor, and a huge banner with cheerful colors and lettering on the wall proclaim, "Welcome home! Good luck!"

Beneath that banner sits the doctor himself, ready to greet them with a cheer and warmth that is definitely unfeigned. Apparently, the image produced by the hazy memories of the hatching and the rambling, personal invitation holds true! Joqout is willing to do as instructed and make himself comfortable until everyone arrives-- and the testing can begin.


Not sure whether to feel worried or, at last, relieved that the waiting is almost over, Joqout sits on one of the folding chairs placed in what was obviously a hatching bay, only now on the docked Abstract Destiny, and watches the yautja-- a true member of the species, not the genetically altered yautjadragons-- and Doctor Schroeder lead Timan out of the bay and to his Testing. Whatever that will entail. The waiting is finally going to be over, and either Timan will return victorious and proud, or defeated and shamed. Joqout isn't entirely certain which one would be better, but at least he will know.

Of course, he also has no idea what will happen after that.... Without his Test to look forward to, Timan might well want to actually go out into the world and kill things, rather than train to kill things while safely on the station. Joqout isn't sure what he thinks about that idea-- and maybe now should be the time to start thinking about it, or at least think about thinking about it.

He hardly gets more than a few thoughts into that thinking, however-- mere speculations, at that-- when something unfamiliar and unseen distracts him. He blinks, looks around briefly, but sees nothing paying him even the slightest attention: Aden, now Adende, is still getting his hair braided; the other yautjadragons are focused on him; the other bonds and Sahurru are also not looking his way, or even oriented his way as if trying not to look at him. For a moment confused, he finally recognizes the distraction as mental, though not his or the familiar touch of Timan. Another moment and he does recognize the presence, though it is still unfamiliar: the geneticist, Doctor Schroeder. What in the world would Timan's creator have to say to him? Telepathically, no less?

::Joqout,:: the man's mind-voice begins, sounding much like his speaking voice but with an unaccustomed note of humility in it. ::I would like to apologize to you.::

Joqout is briefly confused, again-- or perhaps still. ::Apologize?:: he sends back along the same channel. ::For what, sir?::

::For Timan's behaviour,:: Schroeder answers, much to his surprise. The faint overtones of shame and disappointment are even more of a surprise. ::I know he is not what you came to my clutch hoping for. I know I cannot affect who it is my children choose to bond, but at the same time, I feel responsible for these past two years he has put you through.::

Well, it is true, Timan wasn't exactly what Joqout had in mind when he arrived at that hatching-- but then, as he recalls, he hadn't really had much of anything in mind. But it isn't the doctor's fault who he was chosen by.... ::His heart and intentions might be in the right place, but his technique leaves much to be desired,:: Doctor Schroeder finishes, with the sense of a sigh in his words, ::so for whatever it may be worth, I want you to know I am sorry.::

Feeling badly for the doctor, feeling he has to apologize for one of his dragons' behavior, Joqout hurries to answer, ::No, sir, it's all right. Really. We've been getting along better, recently-- and he does have some valid points.::

There is a smile in Schroeder's mental voice when he responds, ::You are kind, Joqout, but valid points do not excuse making you miserable. Some say the ends justify the means, and sometimes that is true, but I would not call this one of those times. The yautja blood runs thick in him. I do respect his desire to bolster your confidence in yourself and your abilities, but it does not excuse him being a bully. I thought I had managed to soothe that tendency with draconic blood, but I was mistaken, and you have suffered for it.::

Joqout's first thought is to protest that he has not been miserable-- not exactly, anyway-- and that Timan isn't really a bully-- not... exactly-- but he's not sure whether that would be truth, or not. At the moment? No, he isn't miserable. But what about in the past?

::You might like to know,:: the doctor starts again, after another pause and a tiny chuckle, ::that Osende still thinks you're noble.::

His eyes go involuntarily to cream Osen-- now Osende. A year ago, he knows, his automatic response would have been to ask why he hadn't chosen to bond him, then. Now, though... well, maybe, just maybe, things are going to work out. There's nothing he can do about the past, when Timan was younger and even less willing to compromise, and now there is certainly no harm in being optimistic. ::I'd always wondered which one had spoken to me, before,:: he replies with a bit of a smile of his own, watching Osende, standing beside Adende with his measuring device. ::Thank you for your thoughtfulness, doctor. We're doing all right, now... we don't agree on everything, but we don't fight very often anymore, and I think he might actually learn to relax one of these days.::

::I hope so,:: Schroeder is quick to murmur. ::Oh I hope so. And it was nothing but a whim of chance,:: he sends-- quite as if unaware he is answering an "unspoken" thought-- ::that made Osende last to hatch and last in line. Some things are fated, as one of their sisters would say, but others are merely chance, and she is a fickle lady indeed. But I am glad things are improving for you, and hope they will continue to do so. --Timan is looking like he will be done here, soon.::

That brings Joqout's gaze quite firmly on the door through which Timan had vanished. ::Is he doing well? Did he do well?:: he asks, with a bit of worry.

Doctor Schroeder doesn't answer, and there is the strong sensation that he has pulled his presence back. Joqout waits with as much patience as he can muster, trying not to clench his fists or bite his nails in anxiety. Minutes pass-- though they feel like hours-- as he waits, trying to imagine what could possibly be happening in the other chamber. His bond to Timan is completely closed off, and has been since they stepped on board the ship, so that is no help... and his imagine can chose the most inopportune moments to become active and vivid.

Finally the waiting is ended by the doctor himself, sending back, ::See for yourself!:: Joqout blinks out of his focused tension, and the door slides open, revealing the yautja Rhakarndi leading a tired but distinctly pleased Timan back into the bay, half a dozen wounds dripping green fluid-- one of them on the crest of his forehead, in a very distinctive shape: it is the same Blood Mark Aden wore on his return. He succeeded, Joqout realizes. He has succeeded at his Hunter-Trial.

The yautjadragon finds Joqout's gaze first, and actually smiles-- unhindered, unshadowed, and completely guileless, in that one instant. Joqout can only, in his shocked pleasure, smile back. 

Maybe things will be all right, in the end....


Joqout's Story

Chapter Eight



Fantasa and Legend dragons are the intellectual property of Silver Midnight.