==== September 20, 2013
==== Aleile, Sytin
==== A moonlit exchange between siblings results in many emotions.

Who Aleile, Sytin
What A moonlit exchange between siblings results in many emotions.
When A couple of days after The Undiscovered Country
Where Southern Weyr - Turquoise Pools

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Turquoise Pools
Such beauty! Water the color of pure turquoise reflects the filtered light of Rukbat that comes through the small opening of the upper canopy; surrounded on all sides by lush greenery, the jungle stream tumbles into the brilliantly colored waters of the pool creating a waterfall that refracts the light into giving a near-constant, imperfect rainbow. The stream continues on, long past these hidden pools of turquoise, leaving behind the crown jewel of Southern's getaway spots. The spray of water from the small waterfall mists the rocks, and at some point in the centuries that Southern has been inhabited a quaint stone bridge was built to span the width of the small pools. Vines and jungle growth further add to the sense of seclusion, surrounded on all sides by nothing but nature. A small stand of bamboo and palm trees grows here.


Late night finds the nearly full forms of Belior and Timor hanging high up in the sky, casting odd shadows with their dual light. A light breeze drives the scant clouds scurrying rapidly across the dark expanse above, causing the stars to wink. A few insects and other fauna make their presence known now and then, but for the most part the only constant sound is that of the small waterfall, tinkling quietly into the tranquil pond.

Standing on the stone bridge, a young woman — a girl, really — idly fingers a pebble as she leans over the railing and stares blankly into the distance. She's clad in a simple, nondescript dress, her blond curls tumbling loosely over her shoulders. Her foot taps an impatient — or perhaps nervous — rhythm and leaves the impression she's been waiting a while. She heaves a sudden sigh and hurls the stone, watching it skip across the lake repeatedly before sinking with an undignified plop.

As if on cue another figure slinks out of the jungle with a rustle of leaves, looking chagrinned. Fingers nervously comb through short black strands and with a deep breath the boy moves forward to the arc of the bridge. "I'm sorry to keep you waiting."

"I know." The girl doesn't look as she responds, still staring into the distance.

The boy ascends the bridge, coming to stand beside her and turns to stare out over the tranquil lake himself. "You probably heard already."

"What?" Blue eyes slide longways to look toward him.

"That I got Searched." A sigh is heaved.

The girl turns to face the boy, a smile on her face and making it shine in the moonlight. "But that's good news, Sy!" She reaches out to clasp him on the shoulder.

Sytin frowns a bit. "But it means I won't be around to protect you." He seems genuinely perturbed by this.

"Oh, Sy, you worry too much!" She wraps her arms around him from the side, hugging the slightly taller boy close and resting her cheek on his shoulder. "I'm sure the Harpers will see that I am well!"

"Maybe." He rotates, returning the hug and closing his eyes to sigh. "But Ali, you know Vorick isn't going to be happy about this. I'm even further out of his reach." He caresses her blond locks, a gesture that seems more intent on soothing his own frayed nerves than hers.

Aleile lifts her chin to look up at him. "No, but you know I've always been able to stay out of his way better than you." She pauses, looking away. "If only your mouth weren't as big as your stomach." She prods him in the belly with a finger.

"Hey!" Sytin chuckles.

"It's true!"

"Maybe, but—"

"No buts."

He sighs. "All right, no buts."

Aleile lets him go and takes a step back and taking his hands, clasping them firmly. "If you Impress then you can protect me with your dragon."

"I'm not sure it works like that." The Smith Apprentice has a doubtful expression on face, frowning.

"The Pass starts soon. Riders will have a lot more privilege." She squeezes his hands and looks hopeful.

"I…" He breaks off, shaking his head. "I don't know."

"I know." Ali reaches up and caresses the back of her hand over his cheek. "The Harpers talk how important riders are, but especially during a Pass. He'll have to respect you."

"I'm pretty sure Vorick doesn't respect anyone, least of all me." Sytin pulls his hands from hers and walks past her a short ways, arms folding over his stomach as he stares upwards at Belior.

Aleile frowns, watching him for a moment. "You're probably right." Nimble feet barely make a sound on the stone as she moves over to him, lifting up the back of his tunic and tracing the edges of a dark bruise, about the size of a fist on Sytin's back, the edges starting to lighten. It's a few days old now. "But he'll have to respect your dragon's teeth."

The Candidate winces slightly at the touch. "I don't think he's that ignorant of dragons."

"A trip between then. A permanent one."

Sytin turns around, grabbing Ali by the shoulders and staring down into her eyes intensely. "Don't even joke about that." His tone tries to be firm, but it cracks out of emotion and he lets her go a few moments later, slumping down into a gangly heap on the bridge, taking in a shuddering breath.

Aleile sinks down to her knees in front of him, looking distressed. "Surely you want it just as much as I do." She reaches out to touch his cheek, only to stop as he flinches away. She sighs, dropping her hand. "I just want him to stop hurting you."

"He's trying to toughen us up, make us strong."

"By beating us black and blue?"

Sytin's mouth opens and closes a few times before he sighs, conceding her point. "It's not the right way, but surely he must have a good reason." His words sound hollow, even to himself.

She pokes him in the chest now, eliciting a wince from the boy. "Sorry! Just— look, he can't keep doing it forever. Shells, you'll probably be taller than him in another Turn or two, even if you don't Impress! And we're both in Crafts now." She doesn't sound terribly confident as she tries to reassure him, her words tumbling out in a rush.

He takes her hands again, running his thumbs across the soft backs. "We'll find a way. Even if I don't Impress, we'll find a way." He meets her gaze, amber eyes almost glowing with determination.

She smiles and tilts her head. "That's the Sytin I know." She squeezes his hands and then suddenly throws her arms around him in a big hug. They sit there for a few moments, silence reigning as they just hold each other for what may be the last time for a while.

"Sy?"

"Yeah, Ali?"

"I love you."

There is a bit of a beat and Sytin closes his eyes, holding her tighter as his throat tightens. "I love you, too." He smooths her hair, swallowing heavily as a single tear escapes him, sliding down his cheek. He takes a deep breath and lets her go, sitting back up. "I have a firelizard now. Maybe I can teach him to bring you messages."

"Oh, that's wonderful! What color is he?" She offers him the most genuine smile she can manage, eyes watering as well.

"He's blue. You'd like him. He's almost the same color as your eyes."

Ali laughs softly, the tears finally rolling over her cheeks. "Oh, Sy, you're so sweet!"

"Am I a good brother?" His tone is heavy.

"The best!" she assures him enthusiastically. "I couldn't ask for better, not even blooded."

He seems to hearten with her praise and stands, looking at the two moons and their paths among the stars, frowning. "I should head back, before anyone notices I'm gone."

She stands and nods. "It wouldn't do for you to get kicked out of Candidacy before you've even really started." She punches his shoulder playfully. "Don't you dare forget to write."

"Hey-ey!" He takes a mock stumble backwards as she jabs him. "I promise I won't!" He's a bit grave as he assures her. "I miss you too much for that."

"Good." Another playful blow and Aleile seems satisfied. "I will hold you to it." This is her serious business face. Take a good look at it.

Sytin kisses her forehead with a chuckle at her expression. "I know." Another grin, more genuine and youthful for a change. "You never let me forget."

She swats at him. "Oh, get back to the barracks with your scrawny hide!"

He laughs, dancing away. "I'm going, I'm going!" He makes his way down to the foot of the bridge and half turns, looking at her for a moment, amber gaze scanning the whole of her as she stands at the stone summit, arms folded across her torso and the breeze scattering her hair. The memory is sealed and he forces himself to turn, vanishing with a rustle into the dark jungle, soon silence erasing the memory of his passage.

Watching him go, Aleile's eyes suddenly mist over, tears welling up as he disappears from sight and the emotions she'd held in check come broiling over with a vengeance. She chokes back a sob, shuddering silently, and then simply collapses to her knees as her delicate form is wracked with emotional turmoil.

It's sometime later when her tears are finally spent. The moons have sank lower in the sky and the night is perhaps half gone now. She sniffles, her breath shuddering as she wipes her cheeks and digs out a cloth for her nose, blowing it ungracefully. The sound disturbs several avians, sending them scuttering into the sky. She watches them diminish and closes her eyes with a sigh. "Sytin would want me to be brave," she tells herself aloud.

Her shoulders straighten and she sits up, adjusting her garments and covering the edges of several purpling bruises around her collarbone. Chin lifts and she stands, glancing at the sky. Whatever she sees there, she takes one last look at the point of her foster-brother's egress and turns away, slinking into the jungle like a wraith, silence again reigning supreme over the tranquil pools.

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