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Author: rustydragonfly
Challenge: Green Tea 1 (daybreak), Pineapple 24 (you've got some explaining to do), Chocolate Custard 11 (In The Future)
Wordcount: 1095
Rating: teen and up, contains discussions of death
Story: Manifestations
Summary: After turning himself in, Jen faces justice and pins his hopes on Ardea.
Notes: Arc 9 begins here! Recap time: after linking with his monster and fleeing from the city of Kastek, Jen turns himself in after being tracked down. This scene picks up after that point once he's back in Kastek. It's been a long day for him, to say the least.

I hope Jen's reasoning makes sense, but if not, an explanation will come soon.



Jen stared at the floor, fought to keep his eyes open, and waited. Outside, the first day of the year must be dawning by now, but all that was a long way from Kastek’s inner chambers. It was strange how the mind occupied itself. He felt as if he were no longer here, and some automaton buried inside his wool-stuffed head kept him awake as it counted cracks on the floor. His feet had begun to lose all feeing, first from the long walk in the cold, and then from the sheer strain of being on them for a full day and night.

Not long ago, he’d stumbled through Kastek’s gates with Dhaymin at his side, as Rosa and Lakedi herded them through. Dhaymin had barely spoken a word. Jen let what would happen, happen. His fate was out of his hands now, and this was familiar territory, almost comforting, in its own strange little way.

As his eyes traced a particularly long crack (or did he just have to start over several times because he couldn’t focus?) the doors opposite swung open, and Ardea stepped inside. Jen immediately looked up. It would not do to look inattentive. Sleep would wait. Everything would wait. Nor was Ardea alone. Iktin stood by the old ruler’s side, guiding him to his place on the dais steps. He didn’t speculate what Iktin was there for. He could guess, and there was no sense in thinking of maybes or could have beens. Ardea sat, and Iktin stood over him.

“Let’s not waste any time,” Ardea said. “”I’m not interested in dragging this out any longer than it needs to be. Your names, both of you.”

Jen opened his mouth to speak.

“Your real names.”

The worst had already happened. What harm would it do? He was supposed to play along. “Jen Dhalsiv.”

Dhaymin said nothing.

“And Dhaymin,” Jen went on. “My brother.” He spoke with care, fearing that exhaustion would overwhelm him to the point that his tongue no longer obeyed. He’d not been speaking his first language except with Dhaymin alone since arriving here, but now he felt as though he needed to focus on every word.

“And is he affected?”

Jen risked a sideways glance at Dhaymin, but his brother was still unresponsive. He stood with his face turned toward Ardea, his hands clasped in front of him, and stayed as silent as ever. Jen wondered if he understood why he’d let them be brought up in front of Ardea like this. His words here were critical. If he could not make it out if this room, then maybe Dhaymin could. “No, Lord Ardea. Only myself.”

“And you promise that?”

“Yes.”

“I suppose,” Ardea said, “this point could do with a few more formalities. Rakaros himself would tell you how many people have demanded them from me.” He adjusted his robe as he shifted in his seat, and laid his hands on his lap. His blank, whitened eyes gazed up at Jen, as if they could still see him. “But when we are talking about issues of life, I think it’s better for all involved to not go on. Jen Dhalsiv. Your presence in Kastek has put my people in danger. The accepted action, the one that people will expect of me, would be to have you immediately put to death, and the same for the beast once found.”

Jen stood up straight, and did not look away.

It’s probably just as good as sleep, he thought. He met Iktin’s eyes, and wondered, deep within the fluff in his head, if he’d be the one to do it. So be it, then. He would stand, and look the beast-hunter of Kastek in the eye again, and tell him he was not afraid. On one condition...

“Then leave Dhaymin out of it,” he said. “and I’ll accept.”

“I had not finished speaking, you understand,” said Ardea.

“He didn’t have anything to do with this!”

“That,” said Ardea, is not the issue. The issue is that I have two people standing behind you who will both tell me that you appeared to be luring the beast away from Kastek. Not to mention you have been co-operative all this time. It takes a certain sort of person to know he’s going to die and accept it so well. I might be tempted to give you your freedom.”

Jen’s vision blurred for a second, and he fought to stay upright, brushing hair from his face.

“That, and you appear to be in no state to explain yourself for now.” Ardea smiled, and there was a warmth to his voice here, that put Jen in mind of long ago when he’d done something so well that it earned his father’s praise. Sometimes, when that happened, when things went well and there’d been a good hunt, he sounded a little like that. “But this is not so simple. To throw you back out into the snow would be no different to ending it here. If I let you stay in Kastek, I put my people at risk. And no matter what some people will think of me, I will not put them in danger for the sake of a pair of wanderers, good intentions or not.”

Jen nodded. He knew better than to feel relief. There was always a catch.

Now Ardea sounded like the Father from most of Jen’s memories. “You may stay in Kastek,” he continued. “as a prisoner, until spring. I’ll not have you harmed, but I can’t let you free in my city. If before spring the beast shows again, I might have to take the more conventional path. I hope I won’t need to.”

Jen struggled for words. “No,” he said. “I mean... no, you will not need to, Lord Ardea.”

“So you accept?”

He spoke as if he had a choice. Jen looked back at Dhaymin. “Yes. I do.”

“And your brother?”

“I’m capable of speaking for myself,” Dhaymin said. “Looks like I don’t have a choice but to say yes as well, doesn’t it?”

Jen barely remembered the rest. His shoulders sagged as he gave up trying to look attentive. He remembered Iktin stepping down to join Lakedi as she herded him and Dhaymin from the inner chamber. There would be a bed soon, and the rest... the rest could wait until after that. As Iktin led him away, he heard Ardea speak one last time.

“And Rosa, was it? Could you stay for a moment? I’d like to talk, if you can.”

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
ichthusfish
Jan. 9th, 2013 01:22 am (UTC)
Aww, poor Jen! I hope he gets some sleep soon; he probably could have done with it before. Hopefully Dhaymin doesn't stay in a sour silent mood all winter as well. Nicely done :)
fallenidol_453
Jan. 10th, 2013 12:21 am (UTC)
This was a pretty interesting read! I'll have to read other pieces related to this... and by clicking on the story link you provided, I've got a lot of reading to do.
bookblather
Jan. 23rd, 2013 06:23 am (UTC)
I really like this. The... weariness that Jen feels is so evident in the prose, and the way he just does not care anymore. I'm really glad that he gets off light, though, because he really was doing the best that he can. Well done.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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