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I remember the first discussion Vesa and I ever had privately and how jarring it was that she read me so accurately, that her eyes saw so much.  I think it’s interesting that I read her just as well now.  Sometimes, it’s like I can feel her, too.  She worries about me because it takes her mind off of Rieldunai.  But there’s something else.    It’s like a quiet resolve in her general demeanor.  She’s made a decision and I know what it is.

Vesa’s not a coward.  She’s impulsive and sometimes irrational, but more often practical and logical.  She’s quick tempered and she has a tongue and a wit that could cut glass.  She has a way of honing in on your weaknesses and she always goes for the throat.  She’s ruthless.  She’s vicious.  I don’t think people really see that in her but it’s there. 

We’re sitting on the bow of the ship while the others load the supplies and she’s worrying over the various minor wounds that don’t really need stitching, because what’s another scar at this point, but she’ll stitch anyway and I’ll let her.   I watch her work by the light of a lantern and that weird orb light mages can manifest that floats around them, wincing occasionally when she stabs the needle into my side but she doesn’t let that deter her which is fine with me.  But she’s quiet, like she’s been.  She’s not asking me questions, which she should be. In fact, she should be bombarding me with them.  If she were a doctor, I’d be starting to worry that I was terminal or something.  I decide to fill the silence.  Not because I’m uncomfortable with it but because I want to know what’s going on in that head.

“So, when are you leaving?” I ask.  She doesn’t even blink.

“What are you talking about?”

“That’s what you do, right?  Things get to be too much and you start pulling away.  Then they keep piling up and you start to feel trapped.  Then you leave.  You’ve been pulling away for a while.  So when do you run?”

She sits back on her heels and looks up at me.  “Think you know me so well, do you?  Think you can see right through me?”

I half smile because I’m being cocky.  “Better than anyone.”

A roll of her eyes leads to a shake of her head and she goes back to what she’s doing.  “Of course, I’m not going anywhere.  I’m stuck on a boat in the middle of a river.  Where could I possibly go?  And why would I tell you if I were?”

It’s a good point, but I’ve got a good one too.  “Because I don’t tell people’s secrets and I wouldn’t tell Riel yours.  And you know it.”

She snorts.  It’s the only truly unladylike thing she ever does aside from the bouts of swearing that accompany her displays of anger. 

“No.  You’ll just tell Vyldrakas.  Do you know what happened the last time I tried to leave?  Oh, of course you don’t.  You’ve never heard that story.  When I met Rieldunai, he tried to kill me and nearly did, too.  Granted, it was my own fault, but still.  I lost consciousness and when I woke up, like any intelligent being, I decided I would be parting ways with him.  Vyldrakas, however, would not let me.  In fact, there were many times during our journey to Riften that I wanted to leave, but always Vyldrakas hovered nearby and I knew I wouldn’t get very far.  I even planned to part ways with him once we reached Riften but then that dragon happened.  So, you see, there’s really no point to even thinking about it.”

She tied the knot and bit off the thread, then laced a new one through the needle and moved to the other side of me where she started on a new wound.

“But Vyldrakas isn’t watching now and you are thinking about it.  At least tell me when you decide to go and I’ll point Riel in the other direction."  She jabbed me particularly hard on that statement.

"Why would you do that?"  I guess she finds the idea of me lying to Riel on her behalf offensive.

"Because you’re my friend, too and you’re miserable.  And I know what it feels like to be backed into a corner.

She sighed and shook her head.  “He’s even managed to make nice with Bel.  How does that even happen?  Belwas of all people.  I feel like Emaarion’s the only friend I have left and that only by virtue of the fact that Rieldunai can’t stand him.”

I nod in agreement.  I was a little surprised to find Rieldunai and Belwas getting along, too.  “Like I said.. I won’t tell him.  If you decide you do want to talk about it…”

Then came the inevitable subject change.  Vesa is nothing if not brilliant at evading subjects she doesn’t like.  Sometimes, you can’t even tell she’s doing it, though lately, subtlety isn’t her strong suit.

"Speaking of friends… how are you and Vyldrakas getting on?”

“We can’t communicate for shit, yet we still seem to be better at it than you and Rieldunai.  Go figure.”

She’s not amused as she looks up at me and cocks a brow.  I wait for a scathing retort but instead she nods toward the wound she’s currently torturing me with.  Yeah.  Things are worse than she’s letting on when she doesn’t have a scathing retort.  “How many?” is what she says instead.

I shrug.  “Don’t know.  Didn’t bother to count.  A lot?  And they were Vigilants.”

That gets her attention.    “Vigilants of Stendarr?”  she asks and I can hear the same trepidation in her voice that I myself felt upon seeing them.

“Yeah.  They killed everyone in the cave, all our contacts.  Apparently, one of them was and old Dunmer woman that Vyldrakas said was Rieldunai’s ‘keeper’.  Some kind of nurse is what I picked up from it.”

I think she actually understood it better than I did.  It was in the quiet way she spelled it out for me, the way she looked out over the river when she did.  “Someone who helped raise him, then.  If he was young enough, perhaps he even thought of her as a grandmother or aunt.”

Fuck. 

She looked up at me again, like she was pulling herself back from somewhere far away.  “Obviously, the fighting went well.  You’re here, alive and no worse for wear.”

I nod.  “Yeah.  It went very well, actually.  We didn’t cut or stab each other or get in each other’s way.  It’s interesting, actually, because it’s like she knows what I’m going to do even before I do.”

That brow goes up again and I almost wish I hadn’t said anything because what she says next is so totally Vesa that I should’ve seen it coming and didn’t.

“Is.. the sex like that?” She asks and I burst out laughing.  How did I not see that coming?  How did it not occur to me that Vesa would ask that question?  Of course she’d ask that question.

Vesa actually smiles and her body relaxes slightly as she returns to what she was doing.  “Well, go on, then, tell me about it.  Tell me everything.”

I smile at her interest.  “Let’s just say that not all of these wounds are from the fighting and there were some much worse and leave it at that.”

She shook her head again, but her smile stayed in place and that makes me feel better. 

“You’re terrible."  She finished off the wound she was working on and sat back on her heels again, then looks up at me, clasping her hands in her lap.

"You could come with me, you know.”

I can’t and she knows it.  “Someone’s got to take care of Rieldunai.  Drag him out of those taverns, be at his back when he starts those brawls.”

She nods in agreement. 

We fall into an easy silence.  I could tell her about me and Vyldrakas, but I don’t.  I don’t want to share it.  I could tell her about the way it feels like we’re one sometimes, sharing the same space, the same mind.  But she wouldn’t understand.  It’s not a secret, but it’s something precious.

I look out over the water, thinking about what it feels like when we’re separated; the distance, the emptiness.  That feeling of being truly alone.  And I realize that’s what Vesa feels like.  And when that happens, when that feeling comes over us, we feel like we’re drowning.  I lash out and she runs.  But what we’re really doing, what it really feels like, is like we’re fighting for our lives.

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