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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Letting Go is Never Easy


Quibby
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Nighttime was relatively quiet in the Citadel, especially on a night like this one. A light rain was falling, casting a haze over everything and obscuring details. By this time, most of the Citadel was asleep. Only guards, soldiers in taverns, and those engaged in other nocturnal activities were still up and about. Patrols in the streets ensured the safety of the civilians who had chosen to call the Citadel home, and the watch upon the walls kept a wary eye out for threats from without. In a few spots, the guards clustered in a shelter around a fire, trying to dry out a bit. For most of them, their patrol on the wall had only begun, and it could be a long night if they didn’t keep themselves dry. In the entire Citadel, the only place where the guard was somewhat easier was the Field of the Fallen. A permanent honor guard patrolled its only edge not flanked by a wall. Even in the middle of the night, the guard never ceased its patrol, and every hour on the hour, the guard would be changed, a dignified and ceremonious event. Scattered among the small, white stone crosses were flowers and other things left by friends and lovers at the marker of their departed comrade or sweetheart. Most visits were made in the daylight, and hardly any were made in such dreary weather.

 

Mehrin had counted on that.

 

The only soul present was the man on honor guard duty that night. In the constant rhythm of his patrol, he would never notice Mehrin’s arrival, and Mehrin would be far enough away that the man wouldn’t hear him unless he shouted. The wind tugged at Mehrin’s heavy cloak, driving some of the night’s moisture into his exposed clothing and skin. It was a relatively warm night, though; he wouldn’t have any problems. For once, Mehrin was mostly unarmed. His heavy claymore was still in his room, along with his bullwhip. All he carried was his belt knife and boot knife. And, in his left hand, he carried a single red. With a careful tread, Mehrin stepped among the stones, walking an ingrained pattern to one white cross, just like the others. Slowly, Mehrin lowered himself to the ground and laid the flower at the base of the stone, reading the inscription carefully carved into it: “Anya Tarin Winter: Our Fallen Sister, Emond’s Field.”

 

A sad smile came onto his face as Mehrin ran a finger across the carved letters. “Anya…” he murmured softly. She wasn’t truly buried here; there were few who were. The stones were for every Bander who had given their life for the cause. Some were buried at Bandar Eban, others at Emond’s Field, some at Cairhien. All were given a stone in this Field, though. Cavaliers were next to infantryman, privates next to captains. Ehlana had a stone here, as did Cabroci, not separated, but with the men and women that they had commanded. Old Bal had a stone here. So did Beth. And Kuro. And Gaidal. Close friends long dead, but only one stone kept Mehrin returning. The one before him.

 

“I finally gave it up,” Mehrin muttered. “I quit drinking. It took a slap to the face and three days worth of hell to do it, but I’m done.” Talking to a stone was not like talking to the person. Closing his eyes, Mehrin imagined Anya as she had been, honey blonde hair done up in small, beaded braids framing a beautiful tanned face with striking blue eyes, her features full, a slim but powerful woman. In his mind’s eye, she was smiling, pleased by him giving up the alcohol that had controlled his life for so long. “I tried to let it take your place in my life, but it was not as fulfilling as you. I always thought I needed more.” He would have likely killed himself if Drea hadn’t opened his eyes.

 

Mehrin took a deep breath, steadying his ragged emotions before continuing, trying to ignore the burning in his eyes. “I have a daughter, Renalie Malon. She found me here. I don’t know how, but she did. I know that the Citadel is not the place to raise a child, but she has no choice, now. Her mother is dead, too.” It felt awkward, speaking of his daughter to his dead lover, but she was now one of the most important women in his life. “It was partially her that got me out of the bottle. But not all.

 

“I’ve been holding on to you, hoping against hope that you would return, that everything would be as it was. But I can’t anymore.” In his mind’s eye, Anya was looking at him with a sad smile, as if to say, ”It’s about time.”. It was something that he had come to terms with. He had been holding on to Anya for too long, and he was going to let his life get away from him if he didn’t let her go. “The biggest influence to me was Drea Raylin. You remember her, don’t you? She disappeared just before Emond’s Field. I tried to fight it for the longest time, even as I was fighting the alcohol withdrawals. However, I can’t fight it anymore. I love her. I don’t know how it happened, but it did. I love her.”

 

The rain had blown beneath the brim of his dripping hat, coating Mehrin’s face in a layer of rainwater. However, the warm water trickling from his eyes was not from the rain. Rubbing his hand across his eyes, Mehrin turned his eyes to the ground, his shoulders shaking with silent sobs. He had come to say this, and it was the hardest part. Saying goodbye was never easy. “I can’t hold on to you any longer. I loved you, Anya, and you will always have a place in my heart, but I can’t stay in the past any longer. I’m letting you go.” Slowly, Mehrin let the mental image of his lost love fade from his mind’s eye. Kissing his fingertips, he reached to the stone cross again, pressing them against the wet stone. “Rest well, my beloved Anya.”

 

His eyes still full of unshed tears, Mehrin stood, his gaze lingering on the stone, the last remaining testament of the life of Anya Tarin Winter. The first step was the hardest. The second step wasn’t any easier. Step by step, Mehrin left Anya behind. A sudden shift in the wind blew at his back, carrying the scent of lavender. One of Anya’s favorite scents. Despite having sworn not to look back, Mehrin turned his head, looking back at the stone.

 

It was only for a second, but Mehrin saw it. Standing next to Anya's stone was a woman, her hair done up in beaded braids. She looked at him and smiled lovingly. Then, with a mischievous wink, she faded from sight. Again his eyes welled up with tears, but there was a smile on Mehrin’s face. His voice ragged from the effort of speaking without crying, Mehrin said again, “Sleep well.”

 

Taking several deep breaths, Mehrin turned away from the Field of the Fallen, his steps growing stronger. Saying goodbye may not be easy, but he had held on long enough. Too long. As he passed by one of the outbuildings, Mehrin paused, taking a moment to look into the sky, letting the drizzle wash over his face. Then, without looking, he said, "You can come out now, Drea."

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Drea stepped out from behind a nearby tree, a vision of confidence, innocence and pride, while on the inside she was heartbroken and was fortunate the misty rain was coating her face to hide her tears. She hadn’t meant to eavesdrop. She had only been on a walk back to the Citadel when she heard someone talking. To her frustration, it was the very man she was trying to avoid.

 

“I’m sorry. I… I was only… My tree is… I couldn’t sleep so I thought…”

 

**

 

Signing her name to the bottom of the report, Drea smiled with pride and handed it to Lachlan. She had worked all day on it, and even had to fend of Shep himself when he came to collect it. She had told Lachlan not to let anyone in, but Shep held authority over her anyway, and they all knew it.

 

“I’m almost done, Shep, just give me a few hours.” Drea pleaded quietly. She was in no mood to work but no mood to upset him either.

 

“Drea, you’re already late, and I have other work that this report depends upon. My desk is starting to look like the bloody, White Tower! Besides, what type of example would I be setting if I kept giving you extensions?” Too late, he was already upset.

 

Drea snapped. She slammed her fist onto the desktop, making the ink jar rattle and the parchment shift. She glared up at him. “I am sick of setting the example! There are plenty of men and women out there who can think and act for themselves without a has-been like me to follow.”

 

There was silence once again, an all too familiar silence. Finally, Shep spoke. His temper had subsided and he seemed almost accepting, pitiful. “You have until this evening. If I don’t have that report by the time the sun goes down, it’ll be you digging latrines all next week. I don’t care what your relationship is with the Commander.” He turned and left, the door slamming shut behind him.

 

Drea opened her mouth to protest there was no relationship with the Commander, but jumped in her seat instead at the sound of the door closing. The flame on her desk flickered and she set back to working.

 

She was nearly a half hour late of giving the report to Lachlan for delivery, and knew Shep would have to take a lot of talking to get out of latrines. Putting that off for later, she decided to go out. The hour was late, and few people would be out of their rooms anyway. Drea threw on her dark blue cloak, pulled the hood up to keep herself from being recognized and headed for her favorite climbing tree.

 

**

 

That’s when she heard him. The only path Drea knew to her tree was past the Band’s memorial grounds, Field of the Fallen she thought she remembered it being called. The rain from the storm clouds she saw earlier that night had started to fall, and she was glad she wore her cloak. In the distance is when she heard it: a soft murmur, mixed with what sounded like muffled crying. Curiosity got the best of her, and she made her way through the field.

 

There he sat, Mehrin, on his knees in front of a grave, talking. Not to impose, Drea crouched behind a bush and listened. After a while, Drea felt a stab of guilt rush over her. She was eaves dropping and where it would have been fun any other day, this one lacked luster. She got to her feet and turned to leave. Her tree would be a lot quieter, secluded and dry.

 

“The biggest influence to me was Drea Raylin. You remember her, don’t you? She disappeared just before Emond’s Field. I tried to fight it for the longest time, even as I was fighting the alcohol withdrawals.”

 

She turned on a dime at the sound of her name. He was talking to his dead girlfriend about her? Something didn’t feel right about that. The hair stuck on end on Drea’s arm.

 

“However, I can’t fight it anymore. I love her. I don’t know how it happened, but it did. I love her.”

 

It’s true. He really does love her.

 

Seconds turned to minutes and before Drea realized it, Mehrin had gotten up to leave and she was barely hidden. ”You can come out now, Drea.”

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Despite the look of innocence on her face, Drea's voice gave away her state of mind. “I’m sorry. I… I was only… My tree is… I couldn’t sleep so I thought…” Raising a hand, Mehrin cut her off, his eyes seeking the ground. Light, why had she been eavesdropping on him? What must she think of him, weeping and mourning at the grave of a love long gone? He couldn't even meet her eyes. Running his right hand over his face, Mehrin tried to compose himself. Even after a moment of silence, Mehrin wasn't sure of his voice. Walking past her as if she didn't exist, Mehrin settled himself on the ground underneath a nearby tree. He removed his hat, leaning back against the rough wood, his face pointed skyward. She had been eavesdropping on him.

 

The silence stretched for a few minutes. Not even thinking, Mehrin sat in the silence, his eyes still turned skyward. What could he say to her? He had shared with her his love before, and she'd rejected him. What could he do after that? A quick glance towards where Drea had been standing showed that she was still there. "I guess you heard most of that, didn't you?" The question needed no answer; Mehrin already knew it. "Every word of it was true. Lying to the dead serves no purpose." Mehrin's eyes shifted from the clouds overhead back to Drea. Even as he was, Mehrin couldn't help but smile at the sight of her. As beautiful as the dawn, and just as unattainable. Mehrin's smile became noticably sadder.

 

"As you can see, I'm still human. Even this job won't change that." Why was he explaining to her? She was the one that had been eavesdropping on him. She couldn't have been following you; she had work to catch up with. Work that had accumulated because of you, if you'll recall. "This isn't your fault; you couldn't have known that I was here." With a sigh, Mehrin leaned forward, resting his arms across his upraised knees. "Life was so much simpler before you got back, you know. What I said back in my room and in the Field of the Fallen is still true; I do love you, Drea."

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Silence. Would there every be a day when their conversations didn't consist of unremitting awkward silences? She wanted to laugh with him again, have a normal conversation that didn't end in one of them storming away from the other. Light, she prayed for days like that again. And whose fault is that? Yours.

 

All she could do was stand there. She felt like a child being scolded for something she didn't know she had done wrong. Even though she'd been yelled at many times, this one felt different. She truely felt guilty for eavesdropping. Her mind raced to find a way to repay Mehrin, to make it up to him. He deserved that much.

 

"Life was so much simpler before you got back, you know..." Drea held back a groan. Now that was something she had heard many times and mostly from men. That's not a good thing, Drea. Taking a deep breath and mustering all her nerves into on giant ball, she took a step forward, then another and another, until she was standing right next to Mehrin. The ball fell as she sat next to him on the wet grass. The tree provided a bit of relief from the rain but not enough for her to lower he cloak hood.

 

"Can I tell you something?" She tried not to sound so... pathetic. She waited only a moment, just long enough for Mehrin to nod. She couldn't take any more of this silence, she'd almost rather say something stupid than hear nothing at all. "I like you. I really do. And I'm flattered about... how you feel about me. But I don't know if I really love you yet. I need time, Mehrin. Cab may have been gone almost as long as Anya, but in my mind he was still alive until a few months ago." She sighed, but was quick to continue, fearful of the quiet. "I want to be pursued, Mehrin. I want my heart to be won over because of who you are not because you tell me things I want to hear." Shit, she didn't know what else to say. There was silence once again and Drea subconsciously pleaded with him to say something.

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Mehrin was surprised when Drea decided to approach him, and even more so when she sat on the ground next to him. "Can I tell you something?" He nodded once, curious and worried about what she was going to say. He doubted that he could withstand another rejection. "I like you. I really do. And I'm flattered about... how you feel about me. But I don't know if I really love you yet. I need time, Mehrin. Cab may have been gone almost as long as Anya, but in my mind he was still alive until a few months ago." Cab. Mehrin hadn't even thought about him, and what his loss would have done to her. Suddenly, he felt a bit foolish. Here he was expecting her to fall for him, and she was still trying to get over Cab.

 

"I want to be pursued, Mehrin. I want my heart to be won over because of who you are not because you tell me things I want to hear." Pursued? That's it, I know nothing about women, Mehrin thought with a tinge of amusement. The only sound that broke the silence that followed was his quiet chuckle.

 

When Mehrin finally spoke, his tone still hadn't lost the slight tinge of amusement. "Pursue you, eh? I've been going about it all wrong, then." Pausing to wipe the rainwater off his face, he said, "Still, if that's what it will take, I will follow you to the Pit of Doom and beyond." As he prepared to continue, Mehrin suddenly realized how hard his next words would be for him. "And if time is what you need, I'll wait." Suddenly, he couldn't help but laugh. "However, I will say that, between Renalie and me pursuing you, the entire Band's going to think that I've lost my mind. And I'm not too sure that they're wrong."

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Renalie? Light! Drea had completely forgotten about that little girl. Jealousy panged in the pit of her stomach. Could she dare to be with a man who had a child when she had lost her own? Mateo would be about the same age as Renalie, maybe a few years younger.

 

On a second note, Drea's heart fluttered. If everything worked out with Mehrin, she could become Renalie's stepmother. Drea would actually have a child, hers or not.

 

She smiled. For the first time in days, she smiled. The grin on her lips felt good, refreshing and natural. That's what she wanted: to be natural around someone, not to put on a front or hide, but to truely be liked for who she is.

 

"...the entire Band's going to think that I've lost my mind. And I'm not too sure that they're wrong."

 

"Just tell them you're sleeping with me for information. I was the Undercommander, remember. I know more than I've let on." She said with a wink.

 

"I'm not?" Mehrin teased.

 

Did she really just giggle?

 

 

OOC: Sorry it's taken so long. I've had it written, but I've been so busy. we'll talk later.

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