Pausing just infront of the door, she blinked a few times, brushed her hair out of her eyes, and took in some deep breaths. As she raised her fist to knock on the door, she felt... anxious, and very...worried. Three short raps, and one long knock. The door opened, as a deep, brassy voice commanded from within the room.
"Is it you Nixfuzon? Come forwards where I can see you closer."
She made her way quietly to the bedside, it was dark, and it smelled in here. Of blood, and medicine. She heard her skirt rustle against the soft carpet, and felt her breathing quicken. She wet her lips, and looked up.
"M...mother told me that you wanted to see me...sir"
"Look at me."
She did. Nizfuzon raised her gray eyes and blinked them a couple of times to get the dust out of them. Her small mouth quivered slightly, as she chewed on it... almost thoughtfully. Her hid her hands in her skirts, to hide the trembling. She watched as his hand came forward to brush her black hair out of the way. Small wisps of red black hair fell down onto her forhead, which was starting to sweat. It was kept back away from her oval face with a barret she had gotten for her birthingday.
"I'm getting old. You are only 16, and my only daughter."
His voice broke through her thoughts, as she watched him. True, she was the only daughter, and the youngest of seven kids. Her father had married five times. All of his wives dying after giving him one son each. Except for her mother. She had given him a son and a daughter. And she looked like him. She looked like a Fillio.
Except for that slant in her eyebrows, the pitching of her voice, which was mellow, with no high or low pitch, but with depth. Depth and emotion, which she could never hide, and the color of her skin. She was dark skinned, not a dull black, or a latte brown. But a dark... color. Asian heritage, but tanned beyond recognition. It was its own color. Nixfuzon's color.
"I want you to know, that I love you like a daughter."
She laughed within. But kept it well hidden. She wanted to blurt out, if he loved her, why didn't he stop the scorn her brothers gave her for being a girl? Why didn't he stand up for her when the other kids laughed at her for being strange? Why didn't he comfort her after the nights she got her visions?
But she had worked everything out for herself. She had been the one to slowly win her brothers respect, then love by doing chores they did themselves, and managing o do her own. It had cost her alot of blisters, and calloused hands. But they had worn away over time, leaving her hands hard, but still white and soft looking. It had been her that had ignored the others laughter, and had kept going with her life, she had her brothers one her side now, yet even they did not understand. And it had been her that had wept quietly alone, after the visions.
"And while I am dying..."
Was she to care? He had never spoken to her like a real father, only like a military general. He had never shown a token of love, showering it down on her brothers. She was terrified of him, and had been terrified the moment she had entered. But now... she felt scared all right, but she also felt... frustrated.
Frustrated that she can't speak out, frustrated that no one ever realised she had emotions as well. And frsutrated that she only seemed to be able to think of herself.
"...I want you to know, that you have been included in my will. You are to have a share of the land and the Hold. Although you will not be the Lady Holder of Fillio, you will have every right to this home..."
While her brothers got shares, jewels, money, everything, she got a share of the hold. She kept her temper in check, but when she spoke, it showed. Her voice sounded like a thunder just about to clash.
"Thank you father, I am honored. May I be excused?"
"Ofcourse you may."
Smiling demurely, Nixfuzon left the room, and had just closed the door, when she felt her head split into two, and her eyes rolled into the back of her head, and she saw.
People, gathered around, watching... watching dragons leap and blood. As they leaped, more leaped after them. One after one, as some dropped out, or some switched goals. Men gathered around women, spectators cheered, when suddenly, everything went black.
And she was feeling the pain of a wounded buck.
Nixfuzon screamed with pain and with the voice of a human mixed with a voice not really human. She clutched her side, as if there was a gash, and moaned. Then, she felt herself drenched in ice cold water, and was back in reality.
Women stared at her and tittered behind their hands as they passed by. Men just stared at her, horrified. She looked up to see her mother breathing hard, with a bucket in her hand.
"Maman, I am so sorry. I never meant to do it in public. I couldn't stop it from coming in..."
Nixfuzon collapsed and wept.
Her mother sighed, and pulled her up. She led her to her room, and sat her down on the bed. Nixfuzon wiped the tears away, and watched as her mother brought out a new dress. A dark red full skirt with a white bow at the back, a square neckline modestly low, with no sleeves and thick straps, and black ribbons going across the waistline. As Nixfuzon changed, her mother asked quietly.
"What was it about?"
As she told, Nixfuzon felt herself withdraw. Her first vision had happened when she was a baby. But they had just though of it has tantrums. The firts one she explained had happened when she was 6 Turns old. Nixfuzon had been a slow learner, and before that, she didn't trust anyone.
She only told her mother, and they kept it a secret. But everyone knew. Or they knew something was wrong with her. She would just still, and start muttering jibberish in the middle of doing something, or she would scream.
And all her visions involved the future. Never the past or the present. And she could not control them. It was a scary thing, that she couldn't control them. But what was more scary, was that there was a place in her mind with a door, which when opened, made her remember in detail every single vision she had.
And they were always horrifying. Her mother was the one she confided in, and then in turn, her mother would talk to a old gypsy about them, and tell her the news. She was worried, that her daughter would never be able to live a normal life, that she would never be able to get a husband. Who would marry a chit who was known to be crazy?
"...and it was horrid maman. I was..."
She shuddered, and stopped speaking, as she moved over for her mother to braid her hair. It calmed both of them.
"Nixy, whats wrong?!"
Nixfuzon -called Nixy by her brothers- turned to see her oldest brother, 29 run in. Her mother just kept silent, and Nixy looked up at him.
"I had another vision."
"Oh sweetie... I'm so sorry."
She was the only one known to have these in her family. And they tried to keep it quiet, so they didn't look for others like her. Her brothers knew about it, but didn't know in detail what happened. But they knew, that she always cried, and was always in pain.
"Its alright. I'd, like to be alone now."
Her mother and brother nodded and left the room. She locked the door, and looked at the full length mirror in her bedroom. She looked like a normal person, so why was she so... abnormal?
Nixy was 16, with a height of 175cm. She was slender, with a small bust, a flat stomache, rounded hips with a small bum, and toned legs. She moved with not grace, but with the silence achieved from hunting, dueling, and living in fear. There was nothing graceful about her. But there was a silent, ghost like feeling. She moved with silence, and slipped in and out of places. She was almost like a ghost herslef.
Her was a small and oval, with mid-back length red black hair that was always tied in a braid. She had no fringe, but had wisps of hair around her face that was short, and created a cloudy, hazey image. Her hair wasn't straight, it was curly, but in a way that it was soft, and barely there kind of curly. Like hair that was left it curlers, then drenched with water.
She had eyebrows that arched upwards ever so slightly, giving her face a sad, pitying look. Her eyes were all gray, and the color was thick, like mist hiding all emotion. They were large, and above a small nose that had nostrils that flared inwards. Her mouth was small, but not a cute small. It was small, giving her face a disapproving look.
I look so normal yet why am I no?
She thought over, and over again.
Who can I talk to?
She knew the answer.
Every time she felt lonely, she would go down a path which led to a private garden. Unknown to most strangers, but known to the whole family. It had been her fathers grandmothers favourite place, as well as his mother, so he kept it private. And everyone respected his wishes.
She would walk down there, and talk to the trees. A odd habit, but comforting, as they never talked back. And never made acuusations, or told anyone else. But this time, when she went down, she found herself needing to talk to the trees more then ever.
So she ran downstairs, yet no sound was heard from her feet. As she unlocked the door, she pushed against it, and ran in, and stopped infront of a old willow tree. Remembering the door, she walked over and locked in, and sat infront of the tree. It was old, and droopy, and sometimes, she would hide in it and listen to others talk. She would fall asleep, and sometimes, when her visions lasted for too long, she would sleep for days. Yet her family never worried. It frightened her, and comforted her at the same time.
"Oh Willow, I don't know what to do. I had another vision, and this time, dragons blooded, leaped into the air, and more dragons followed them. And then... I WAS the buck a dragon blooded. It was horrible. What does it mean?
I wish, I could find a place where people won't stare at me so strangely. I want to get away from my father, and from the people who laugh at me. Is there anyone else who can help?
These visions scare me, and my brothers and my mother try to help, but they don't understand whats its like. To forget everything except for the vision. To forget everything about yourself, and to feel so much pain when it starts..."
"I can help you."
Yelping, Nixy jumped away from the tree, and watched as from within, a tall, dark skinned woman appeared. She had dark eyes, and long, straight dark hair, and she was smiling.
"How did you... how could you... that is.."
"Are you a ghost?"
The woman chuckled, and Nixy looked at her confused.
"I found you running, and followed you. You left the door open, so I slipped in and hid. I get curious when girls start running, unlocking doors, and then locking it as if it was some kind of big secret. My name is Baeris, you are?"
She replied shyly.
"My brothers call me Nixy."
"Tell me about the visions you have. Can you do anything else?"
The woman sat, and Nixy sat infront of her. She started hesitantly, and told her of the visions she had.
"The first one, was of a tiny kid goat being killed by a black cat. I can't seem to see anything except grief. It would start out nice, and its as if someone wanted to ruin things for me. They had to make me feel some kind of pain...
I can't do anything else except let the visions run its course. Sometimes, my mother will have to tie me up to stop me from scratching my eyes out and stuff. I have a scar here..."
She pointed to her shin
"Becuase of a vision I had."
"Lets see. What was the vision?"
Nixy lifted her skirt, to show a ragged scar, thin and healed running from the base of her front ankle, up to her knee. It was zigzagged, but neat. The healer had taken ages, as she had cut through skin, tissue, muscle, and had almost reached the bone.
"It started out as dragons were hatching, when a shell hit my shin. Then suddenly, everything when black, and I saw my knee, with tiny maggots crawling out of it."
Her voice was full of pain.
"I just saw this maggots crawling, so I reached for a sharp object and dug in, trying to get them out of my skin. I couldn't feel the pain, I felt nothing except for a numbess as I saw them crawl..."
She choked and blinked a couple of times.
Baeris looked at her, and sat, thoughtfully for awhile. Nixy watched her, bewildered at this woman, and the amount of knownledge she had told her. She usually never opened up to strangers.
"I Baeris, rider of a dragon named Dulath. The recent vision must have been about a flight at a Weyr. Tell me, is there anything you remember about the dragons? Because I find it strange you will have a vision of a flight."
Nixy paused, and closed her eyes, and opened the door slightly.
"All the dragons, they had more then two colors."
"Why don't you come with me? We came on a visit to find some candidates for a recent clutch laid by a flight frenzy. A flight frenzy is when more then one female dragon rises at the same time. They flight you viewed, must have been our flight. All of their dragons had two colors or more. The mothers of the clutch might know why you have that... vision. Afterall, it was their flight."
Nixy looked up.
Unlike most of the girls she hung around with, Nixy found dragon and riders fascinating. They were so... normal, like everyone else, yet they were so much more... different. Like her in a way. She felt a strange kinship. But then, Nixy talked to trees. She had sometimes wondered, what it would be like to be a rider. But she never talked of it aloud. Her parents didn't hate riders, they never talked about it. But others... alot of her friends found them disgusting... distasteful... so she didn't have the courage to voice her opinions. And her thoughts.
"Yes, that was what happened. Listen, I'll go find that dragon, and you go tell you parents okay? I'll meet you outside, in the field near a blue dragon. You won't be able to miss us."
Nodding eagerly, Nixy all but skipped out of the room, in search for her mother. No way on Pern was she going to approach her father! Besides, her mother would say yes. While her father... she was too scared.
Nixy spotted her mother talking quietly with some women, so she slowed down her steps and approached her quietly.
Her mother turned to look at her with a worried look on her face.
She assured her.
"I was wondering, if--"
Nixy hesitated, should she tell the truth? But what if her mother was one of those people who didn't like riders? She really wanted to go. Reaaaalllly badly. So she decided to tell... a little white lie.
"A friend invited me over, can I go?"
She asked, surprised, and Nixy knew why. No one ever invited her to do anything with them. Except her brothers.
"Um... you don't really know her or her parents. Can I go?"
Nixy felt a twange of guilt, but pushed it away. Nodding her farewells, she walked outside and looked for the field with the blue dragon. She found it right away.
"Are you allowed to go?"
"Only for awhile... ma'am."
She added hastily. What would her mother think? She had no manners for someone of rank. But then, what would her mother think when she found out she had lied?
"Okay, I'll help you up. Then hold on tight, okay?"
Nixy could barely run. Adreline was rushing through her veins. She was about to ride a dragon! As she was helped on, Nixy felt the dragon rise, and then, they were in a very cold place... with no feeling, no emotion. It was... it was like the blackness she fell in during a vision. It was almost like it!
As they appeared over a... strange looking place, large like a crater, with tiny holes in the walls, a lake and just... strange places inside. Strange to her that was.
And dragons of every color flied in, flied out, waunders aimlessly, or fed. She felt the blue land with a soft thud, and was helped down by Baeris.
"Now lets go see the mothers, shall we?"
Nodding, Nixy followed Baeris. But she couldn't keep her mind on one thing. This was the first time she'd come to see a... was it called a Weyr? And it was... breath taking. It reminded her of the busy days at her Hold when parents were expecting to hold a gala.
"So, what do you think?"
Nixy was about to answer, when she realised that she hadn't been asking her. She had been asking a group of female dragons. And they looked just like they did in her vision.
I know the answer. Girl, come near me for a while.
Nixy walked forwards infront of a white dragon, with a red muzzle, and a sort of demi-mask over her eyes. There was a bold, heart shaped mark on the corner of her wing, and she realised her claws had a tint of red in it as well.
She didn't know what to call the female dragon.
How did she know what to say to a dragon?
Yes, you will know what to say soon. The white turned amused feeling eyes at Baeris, and asked. I think she'd make a good candidate. Ofcourse, my eggs will get the best candidates, won't they?
And that remark started a large squabble, noticed by others from their hissing and the mad look in their eyes. But for the sake of Baeris and Nixy, they spoke aloud.
And on and on it went. Nixy giggled, and turned to Baeris, with laugher in her eyes, in her throat, and in her whole being.
For the first time today, in this womans presence, she felt a tremour of fear.
"But, I'm not normal, am I? What if I don't impress? What if my visions stop a dragon from choosing me?"
She was inturrupted by a shrill scream, and she wondered where it was coming from. It was coming from her own mouth. She sat there, holding her head, unaware of the dragons and one woman watching. Images flashed in her head, of People gathered around eggs, eggs hatching and some men and women crying with joy. Others glaring with envy. Then....
One person, left all by themselves, feeling rejected, trying to comfort themselves...
The, Nixy felt someone press into her mind. The one person realising there had been one egg left for them And she felt such comfort, she relaxed, and realised that the dragons were watching her, concerned.
"Who just did that? I mean, who, that is... umm... never mind."
As she turned as scarlet as the marks on the red dragons. She turned to Baeris.
"Someone just eased the pain, and somehow submitted a thought so that it wasn't grief, but hope..."
She blushed some more.
"I'm just going on about nothing right?"
Baeris grinned at her, and shrugged.
"Its time we got you back. You need to tell your parents. Candidates usually stay with the eggs so that if they hatch early, they are prepared. And so that they can learn more about dragons and duties and all."
Nixy looked up at her.
"What if my parents say no?"
Nixy blushed, and paused.
"Yes, I am."
The two returned to Fillio Hold, and Nixy calmed herself. She grinned as Baeris winked and gave her a thumbs up, and walked slowly. She reached her mother first, and asked calmly for her to gather up all her brothers, and to come to her fathers room. She glanced at her, as if she had sprouted horns, but nodded. She walked up to her fathers room, and knocked. Entering, she waited for him to notice her, but by then, everyone had gathered.
Nixy shook her head, and felt her negatives feeling rise. But she firmly pushed them away, and ignored them.
"I'd just like to say, I've been selected as a candidate for a clutch that has been laid in..."
She realised she didn't know the name of the Weyr.
She finished lamely.
Afterwords, it was a day of chaos. Hrr mother gasped horrified, so Nixy guessed her suspicions were right. Her father just glared and his lips tightened, her brothers just stared at her.
Nixy felt her negative emotions rise. So she channeled it all into her words.
Her mother replied.
Nixy glanced at her with hope.
"There is someone there, who helped me. They entered somehow, and injected a hope, a good ending into it. Maman, its better for me to go there, and have someone who might help me again, then stay here and be avoided by others."
Nixy glanced at her brothers in surprise and hurt. She tried to reply calmly, but her voice expressed her hurt.
"The clutch is for unusual, or for not that normal people like me."
She hopes she was right.
"I am the head of this house, and your father. And I say no."
Nixy looked at her father in the eye.
"You can't stop me from going."
Her voice was low, dangerously low.
"I am going, and when I return, it will be as a rider."
Her father was the first to look down.
"Then you are not allowed to stpe one foot into this house again."
"The minute you leave this house to head for a Weyr, you will not be acknowledged as a Fillio."
Nixy felt pain stab into her heart. She knew her and her father didn't get along, but this was too much. But Nixy had made up her mind, and she had gone this far. She wasn't going to back down. And if she didn't go, she wasn't going to live a life of what-ifs.
"Then I guess father, mother, brothers, this is the last time I will see you, unless you will visit?"
She asked, hopefully.
Nixy glanced at the quiet members of her family, and nodded stiffly.
"But I will wait for you, and watch for you at the hatching."
She said softly, a voice with resgination.
"I will wait and wait, I will look. And I will return, not as a Fillio, but as a rider. And I will wait, when the dragon I ride is a adult, I will wait on the very steps of this Hold, so that everyone knows that you have disowned a daughter, who could have brought pride to her family."
As she said this, she felt a glimmer of hope. The words were rash, what if she didn't impress? But for the first time in her life, she felt she had a spine of steel, not of rubber.