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Returning First Steps

Writers: Miriah, Yvonne
Date Posted: 13th December 2019

Characters: Taril, Humari, Tumaril
Description: Humari returns to Taril, but not everything is alright, despite what she says
Location: Sunstone Seahold
Date: month 13, day 25 of Turn 10


Taril's brother had been right about the ship's speed. The little
vessel didn't look as flashy or as grand as some of their ships at the
dock, and the crew, while very polite and solicitous to her, didn't
look like the common sailors she'd seen at the docks before. She and
Tumaril had been the only passengers and upon arrival at Sunstone, the
captain had acted quickly to help her disembark with her belongings.
It made her wonder, but now that she was standing on the docks, she
wasn't as concerned.

The ship was fast, and that's why Taril was a bit late as he hurried
down to the docks. The Seabridger was supposed to dock at eleven
candlemarks but he caught sight of Humari and Tumaril as he stepped
onto the dock. And paused-- fear momentarily tangling his feet. But
then he set his jaw and stepped toward his wife and his son.

"Papa! Papa!" Tumaril's high pitched squeals of delight parted the
crowd on the docks. Chubby little legs carried him forward while he
waved a wooden dolphin with jointed fins in the air and rushed towards
his father as quickly as he could. He met his father quickly,
reaching up his arms in instant demand. "We home! We home!"

Humari held back, walking with the porter who carried her things.
There was some reservation in her steps forward and as she came
closer, murmured a soft request to the porter, handing a sixteenth of
a mark to him to carry the belongings to their apartments.

He'd been watching Humari, but the moment Tumaril called him 'papa'
Taril knelt and held his arms open for his boy. The child barreled
into him and he embraced his son in a tight hug. He cleared his
throat. "I missed you," he said, pressing a kiss onto Tumaril's downy
head.

"Papa..." Tumaril hugged Taril back tightly and placed several kisses
on his cheek, his little face beaming. "We fish and pway and I catch
big wed fish! Nana cook it an' I ates it all up! Then we go big boat
and see sipfish!" He held out the toy that Taril had sent, a big smile
on his face, showing it to him proudly.

Humari listened, a soft smile on her face at her son's rambling
account. Taking hold of Taril's crutch to steady it as she'd done so
often before, she simply waited as Tumaril began to recount a fishing
trip with Taril's brother and then playing with his 'Nana' and
'Gampa.' When he paused to take a breath, Humari softly spoke. "You
can tell your papa more stories at dinner, Tumaril. Let's get back
home, okay?"

"Tell me later." Taril stood to face his wife. She was-- he smiled, a
bit sadly. Not his. She'd come back, but she would walk her own path.
He held his hand out to Tumaril and accepted the crutch from Humari
gratefully. "How was sailing?"

Her eyes studied his face before she began walking on Tumaril's other
side. "It was fine. The moment I told your mother that I was
returning, your brother got the ship ready. It's... she's, " she
corrected quickly, "very fast. Tumaril loved it. The sailors were
very nice to him, but I wouldn't let him up on the rigging. He's too
young for that."

"I think I learned my knots when I was about five turns, but wasn't
climbing in the rigging when the ship was moving until I was about
seven," Taril said. It felt like such an inconsequential thing to say.
"And you're right-- the Evening Star is the fastest ship in the Red
Tide Rocks fleet. I'm glad that they treated you well."

Humari couldn't recall ever seeing the ship's name on the ledgers, but
now she knew that it meant little. Instead, she nodded. Her eyes
studied their surroundings and she felt a growing sense of fear at the
sight of the crowd. At Red Tide Rocks, she'd kept herself away from
any sort of crowd, but the milling people made her stomach twist like
it never had before. Memories of the stampeding runners and then what
followed flickered through her mind, but if she sped up, it could
create a scene that she didn't want. So instead, she swallowed,
feeling sweat trickle down her backbone. "They did." Her voice didn't
hide the strain of anxiety making her fingers tremble.

Taril gave her a sideways look, then stopped and let go of Tumaril's
hand. He quietly held his open hand out to his wife, both hoping that
she'd take it and sure that she wouldn't.

At first she didn't see Taril's proffered hand, so intent was she on
watching her surroundings. But when she turned and saw it, she
hesitated only a moment before taking it. Her hand was cold and
clammy, revealing the anxious nerves she was trying to hide. The
warmth of his hand offered comfort and a sense of safety that she'd
thought wouldn't return. So she stepped closer, taking Tumaril's
hand in her other to keep him as close.

Taril raised Humari's hand and brushed a kiss across her knuckles. He
felt almost giddy that she'd taken his hand. It was on the tip of his
tongue to say that she shouldn't worry, that the road to the Hold was
safe. But he couldn't. Instead he held her hand a little tighter and
resumed walking.

It was only when they finally reached their apartments that Humari
fully relaxed, then wobbled her nose just a little. The apartment
wasn't _dirty_, but it looked dusty and a bit cluttered; it wasn't
anything that she couldn't fix within a candlemark or two. Releasing
Taril's hand, she looked down at Tumaril. "Tumaril, go play in your
room while Mama gets lunch ready, okay? Then you can tell Papa all
about your fishing. " The boy was about to object, but immediately
distracted by the toys he had missed, hurried to his small room. The
crash of toys being removed from his play box was evidence of his
glee.

Humari waited a moment, then turned to face her husband. She'd
thought hard about what she would say to him, gone over the words in
her mind, but it was difficult to put them all together in coherent
sentences without weeping and she felt she'd done enough of that. She
took a breath, looked him right in the eyes and spoke softly. "I
love you, Taril, I promise I do. But I'm still angry with you. I
don't know how I can start trusting you again. But don't you _ever_
lie to me or leave me out of something that can effect me or Tumaril
again. I don't care what it is."

"Sometimes knowing is a danger in itself," Taril said softly. Then he
sighed. "As you wish."

Humari frowned. "You told me before we were married that you wanted a
partner. Faranth knows that I've tried to be that and I wanted to be
that. Do you think I'm incapable of it? What you told me you do,
I've tried to wrap my mind around it and I have to accept it, because
it's you and I love you. But at least prepare me for things and don't
leave me in the dark if something's dangerous. What if next time it's
Tumaril that they go after? If I don't know about it, I can't keep him
safe." Her eyes welled up with moisture. "Don't leave me blinded,
Taril."

Fear warred with resignation. **She'll leave once she knows about
you...** But she was going to, eventually. That thought hurt more. He
held his hand out to her, hating to see her cry. "Why did you come
back?"

She took his hand, folding her fingers around his tightly. "I told
you. I love you. You're my husband and Tumaril's father. We both
need you. Being away from you hurt me every day and I could tell that
it was hurting you just as much. I couldn't bear that anymore,
especially with you thinking I didn't love you. I want us to have a
chance to have another baby and to be happy again. I want to feel like
you can protect us so that I'm not afraid to go to sleep. " Her lower
lip trembled. "I wanted to feel you hold me again."

Taril looked down at their linked hands. "I'm a cripple, Humari. I
couldn't keep you safe from your mother or brother. I couldn't do
anything when you were trampled by beasts in the marketplace. And I
couldn't do anything when you-- when someone attacked you in the
Infirmary. I can only try to fix things after and hope that it won't
happen again... so I can't tell you that I can keep you safe."

Her brows snapped down and she squeezed his hands tightly. "Don't call
yourself that. You are _not_ a cripple and you're not a half man or a
part man or anything like that." With an aching heart, Humari did the
only thing she could think of. She released his hands and cupped his
face. "You're mine. My man. I don't understand everything, but I
know you have ways to keep me and Tumaril safe. If you can't tell me,
then you can't tell me." She remembered what his mother had told her
and finally accepted it. "Nothing was your fault. I don't blame you.
I love you."

She was wrong-- it was his fault. But Taril hadn't known how much he'd
wanted her to say it anyway. He dropped his crutch and pulled her to
him, barely hesitating before he kissed her.

Humari didn't hesitate for a moment. She kissed him back, both
supporting him for his balance as she wrapped her arms around him, and
soaking in the feel of his arms around her. The two months they'd been
separated was felt keenly through the kiss, but there was a healing to
the embrace and press of his lips against hers. She pulled away just
for a moment. "I love you."

She pressed her lips against his again, but was distracted by a little
giggle. Humari turned her head, pulling her lips from Taril's and
looked down. Tumaril stared at both of them, the tail of his wooden
dolphin in his mouth.

Taril reached down and ruffled his son's hair, without letting go of
his wife. "I seem to have dropped my crutch. Can you help me?"

"Hold still." While Tumaril kept looking and giving little giggles,
Humari bent, picked up the crutch and handed it to her husband. "We'll
talk after he goes to bed, okay?"

Reluctantly he let her go and nodded. "Humari, I-- missed you. I
missed you both."

She studied his face, then sighed softly. "I know. But I had to
leave. I had to think and I couldn't do it here."

He wanted to tell her not to leave again. The words were on the tip of
his tongue, so he kissed her again before they could escape.

She returned the kiss again, but was stopped by a tug on her skirt.
The tug was met with a bit of relief; she wasn't ready for more than
kisses, though she sensed Taril was in need of more. Though she'd not
refuse him, she wanted...no, she needed time to settle. Humari looked
down at their son. "Yes?"

"Mama, lunch?" Tumaril looked hopeful. "P'ease?"

"Yes. Of course." She looked back up at Taril and gave a half smile.
"There's time, Taril. But he's hungry and you don't look like you've
eaten either."

"I haven't. But there's not much to eat here." Taril looked a bit guilty. "I've been taking meals in the Dining Hall or down at the docks."

"Oh." She supposed she should have expected that. So, she'd need to go to the market, an idea that still chilled her. Perhaps she could persuade Torinya to go for her after visiting with her. "Well, why don't you take Tumaril to the Dining Hall for lunch? Spend some time with him, since he's missed you. I'm not very hungry, so I can start cleaning up and seeing what I can do about dinner. "

It stung a bit, but if that was what she wanted.. "All right." Taril let Humari go and held his hand out to Tumaril. "Let's go to the Dining Hall. Maybe there's sweet rolls today."

Tumaril took his father's hand the moment it was offered and beamed up at him with delight. "Yay! Go!" He immediately began to tug Taril towards the door, bouncing in eagerness.

Humari hung back, then with a sigh, turned to face the parcels that had been delivered from the ship. They'd need to be unpacked first...

At the door, Taril paused and looked back at Humari's bowed shoulders and lowered head. He almost said something-- he wasn't sure what-- but then the door was open and Tumaril was tugging at his hand, so he left.

Last updated on the December 18th 2019


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All references to worlds and characters based on Anne McCaffrey's fiction are © Anne McCaffrey 1967, 2013, all rights reserved, and used by permission of the author. The Dragonriders of Pern© is registered U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, by Anne McCaffrey, used here with permission. Use or reproduction without a license is strictly prohibited.