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The Wounded: Hard Love, Hard Heads

The warm summer rays of the homesun basked the solarium of the Rhaen t’Lai Medical Facility where Destorie N’Dak sat quietly in a power chair with a silver cane across his lap and worn, leather-bound book in hand. The title had long since disappeared from the cover, and the edges were frayed. The solarium was still in the late afternoon.


“What are au reading, h’nah?”


Destorie looked up from his book to find his father leaning against the floor to ceiling windows of the solarium. He wondered how long he’d been there, but smiled. “A diary of io of the sundered,” he said putting the book down on his lap. “Mother gave it to me.”


“A message no doubt.” His father said with an easy smile. “It is good to see you well. Au were in bed when I stopped by earlier in the week. A fever they said.”


The young N’Dak looked little of himself. Gaunt and distant. He simply nodded. His ‘recovery’ from what was officially being classified as an assault and not an assassination attempt had been far slower than his doctors had anticipated, and he continued to struggle with walking, as of late, seemed to develop a host maladies every time he seemed to be on the up swing.


“Ie,” he said. “Though I am better now. The nurses told me au came.”


The elder N’Dak seemed troubled. Broad shouldered, stout with the high cheek bones and granite jawline of his house, D’Lvon nodded. “Au mother and sister send their jol,” he said. Both had kept vigil earlier in his recovery, but he had pushed them away as it drug on, telling each in turn to resume their lives. Neither had gone willingly, but had eventually acquiesced to his demands. His father’s visit had been more of a surprise. Their relationship had always been complicated.


“Hann’yyo,” Destorie said quietly. “I am sure they are both less than pleased with me for sending them away.”


“That is putting it mildly, Sheuji.”


Destorie sighed at the use of his fourth name. “In time they will understand, and if not...”


“And if not, au can continue to wallow in au own self-pity, ie?” D’Lvon had never been one to hide his feelings or opinion, and his tone was matter of fact.


“That’s not what this is about. And if au...”


“Oh spare me, will au? Au have been under the care of the best maenek and khiensa rhae the Empire and none of them can say why au struggle so much with the use of au leggs. Well that’s not entirely accurate. Na na, do au know what they say?”


“They say it is in my mind,” Destorie spat out his response. “Ie, ie. I have heard them say it.”


“And do au doubt them?”


There was a long silence in the room. It was rather true. There was no physical explanation for why it had taken him so long to regain full use of his legs. True there had been some damage done as a result of blood loss, but the doctors had assured him and his family that all of that had been repaired. Nor could they physically explain the recurrent pain he felt in his chest, or his nightmares. The khiensa said it was simple trauma, and that, in time, he would recover given proper treatment. He wondered what else they said about him, but did shook his head. “Na,” he said. “As the khiensa say it is all in my head.”


“Then be done with this. Au are an N’Dak, and we do not sucumb to self-pitty.”


“Perhaps I am not the son au would have wished,” Destorie said bitterly. “Perhaps I am not as strong as au, or au father, or au father’s father.”


“Oh for elements sake.” D’Lvon decidedly lacked the somewhat softer touch of his mother or sister, who’d both had this very same conversation only to give up in frustration. Say what you would about Destorie N’Dak he was resolute, even in disparity. “Qu’ii au life au have compared au self to others. To au namesake. I suppose I am as much to blame for that, naming au in such a fashion was a bit cruel.”


Destorie looked at his father sidelong. This was the most lucid conversation with the man he could remember. “Why are au wasting au time? We both know that I am lost. Is this about au pride, old man? Are au so worried about au status that au cannot bear to tell au dear friends in the Dehuit that au son is a broken man?”


The words stung, but D’Lovn’s jaw remained unflinched. “That is enough. I did not come to argue with au. I came to see how au were doing and I had hoped perhaps au would stop au moping, au sulking. I see h’nah that was a mistake.”


Rolling his eyes, Destorie turned his power chair and began to leave the solarium. “Well then, au have seen me. You can go back to your scheming and plotting rhae the capitol.”


“Running away, h’nah? Are au going to wheel auself off to au room and cry like a child?”


“Taunting a cripple seems beneath au father, though I suppose not considering.”


“A cripple?” D’Lvon laughed mirthlessly. “Try a spoiled brat of a Rihannsu whose pouting and sulking over elements knows what demeans all the hard work and effort he has put into his career. Au know, I was wrong to name au as I did, Sheuji. At least au great-grandfather had the honor, the bravery, to take his own life, rather than wallow in his self-pity.”


The younger N’Dak stopped in his rolling. His voice was low, immeasurably tense and tinged with roiling anger. “If au were na my father, I would yy’a au. It’s almost a shame someone hasn’t after all these years. Elements knows you deserve it.”


D’Lvon laughed again. “Oh really,” he said sardonically. “And just how would au yy’a me? Would au run me over with au chair? If so, then don’t let my paternity stop au. Be rid of me, right now. There’s na io here to stop au.”


For a moment, there was silence. How could Destorie possibly respond to that? He couldn’t. Finally when the silence had become uncomfortable for both men, Destorie exhaled. “Forgive me father, I do na wish to see au yy’a.”


D’Lvon nodded and made his way over to his son, putting a strong hand on his shoulder. “Au don’t have to lie,” he said. “I am sure there are time au do, I do na hold it against au. It’s not as if I have always been, what would the Lloann’na call it? Father of the year? Ie.


“Listen, I came because I do care for au. I do not wish, nor want, to see au waste auself like this. The maeneks have said there is na reason for au to not be able to return to au duties. Perhaps na on the Talon, or na active duty right away -- but there are other ships, other duties, other commands. I have many friends still, and au have managed, despite auself, to impress a few key individuals as well. Gharan Jaeoln continues to ask of au. He has a new command in mind for au.”


Despite himself, Destorie perked. “Ie?”


“Ie,” D’Lvon said. “Though I do na know the details. I know he has been placed over several of our foreign assignments.”


A bit less cheerful at that bit of news, Destorie sighed. “Oh,” he said quietly. “If au speak to him, tell him I look forward to seeing him again.”


“So au plan on recovering then afterall?”


“Well,” he said, “Au were correct earlier. It would be awfully hard to yy’a from this chair.”

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