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My Responsibility

Writers: Estelle, Miriah
Date Posted: 10th October 2020

Characters: J'ackt, Alyena
Description: J'ackt brings Alyena and get children much needed supplies and Alyena realizes that he's not what she assumed.
Location: Elsewhere on Pern
Date: month 5, day 3 of Turn 10
Notes: Mentioned: N'vanik, Alina


J'ackt
J'ackt

Just before the sun was peeked over the horizon, Zith landed near the
small cothold, moving as quietly as the big bronze was able. The large
wherry was grasped firmly in his talons and knowing what would be
expected of him, held still while J'ackt tied the rope around the back
legs and strung up the beast. Thinking that the family would like some
change in meat other than herd beast, J'ackt thought the difference
would be appreciated. Zith also pulled two large fish away and set
them to the side.

J'ackt, as always, worked quickly, skinning the wherry and setting the
hide aside while he butchered the big animal into manageable pieces.
**Hunker down a little, let me pull the rest off of you. We don't have
much time before they're up and about.** Zith did so, letting the
packages containing vegetables, tubers and small vials of medicinal
herbs and salves he'd managed to scrounge from the stores. And
finally, some cloth and worked hides were loaded and stacked into a
neat pile. It should be enough, he figured, for at least a few seven
days.

While he worked, a figure watched from the cothold through a crack in
the shutters. Alyena remembered how her son had discovered the meat that
first day. His excited shouts had brought her running out to see the
butchered flesh laid out in neat rows, a bag of vegetables beside it, as
if a market stall had materialized from thin air outside their cothold.

She had touched a piece, warily, with one finger, brought it to her
lips. There was no bitter taint, only the metallic taste of blood. Even
so, not knowing where it was from, she'd eaten a little before her
children had any. She thought of the strange man who'd visited, the
hints of dark undercurrents in the Hold. Perhaps the Lord Holder had
decided it'd be easier if Grevan's family was quietly disposed of. But
none of them had suffered any ill effects, and the next sevenday, it had
happened again. And again.

Part of her wanted not to question their mysterious fortune. The
children thought it might be one of their neighbors, showing kindness
in secret. They planned to watch to see who it was, but when they all
went to bed with full bellies, it wasn't so easy for the young ones to
wake early. Not knowing troubled Alyena, and so she'd risen in the dark
and waited until she'd seen the shadow of wings in the sky.

She watched as the bronzerider unloaded the last of the packages, half
afraid to move. Would she be breaking some unspoken bargain if she
showed herself? Did she want the food anyway, knowing it came from the
Weyr? But if it meant the children didn't go hungry, had warm clothes...
Realizing the pair were preparing to leave, she hurried to the door and
pushed it open, shivering in the chilly morning air.

The sound of the door opening made J'ackt pause as he unloaded the last
package. He looked up, slowly straightened, then sighed, pulling out
his water bag to rinse off his hands. He spoke quietly. "Sorry for
waking you. I was trying to be quiet and not bother you. Figured you
wouldn't want to see me. " He gestured to the small pile of packages and
the line of meat. "Brought some extra supplies. And some fish. Figured
you don't get a chance for much fish around here." He shrugged.
"Thought the kids might like it." He shifted uncomfortably. "If they
don't, I won't bring more next time. "

"They like it. We haven't had fish since we left the Hold." Alyena took
a cautious step outside. She recognized the writing on one of the small
pots as a salve she could use to treat the children's skin. Furayl had
sunburn and Evalya's hands were blistered from work in the fields. "You
didn't wake me. I wanted to know who it was. Who was helping us." She
swallowed, her gratitude mingled with the bitterness that the sight of
his Weyr knots stirred in her. "Is - your injury, is it any better?"

His brows quirked upwards just for a moment, before he nodded. "Yes."
He felt awkward, knowing of her loss and unable to find anything to
say that could help. Instead, he gave a slight roll of his shoulder.
"It's all healed." He looked over at the cot, then cleared his throat.
"Thought you knew, honestly. I mean...It's my responsibility now and
no kids should be hungry. I've been there. And I heard you say your
two weren't really doing so good, so...whatever you need, I can get
you."

Alyena looked up, startled. "They're doing better. Now they have enough
to eat." They were grieving for their brother, she thought, but left
that unspoken. It hadn't been him who'd passed the sentence on Grevan.
Recalling the grim faces of the judges at the trial, she closed her eyes
for a moment, trying to steady herself. "This is...it's more than
enough, and I don't know why you would do this for - for us, after all
that's happened, but..." She hesitated, pride warring with the sense of
sheer relief and gratitude she'd felt when they'd found the gifts left
outside their cothold. "Thank you."

J'ackt's brows rose even farther at her surprise. Perhaps he was being
foolish; certainly N'vanik and Alina didn't think supplying this
family was his responsibility, but he felt that in a strong way that
his actions as a weyrling had directly contributed to her losses. He'd
been punished by the Weyrleaders certainly, but what was digging
ditches in comparison to what this woman had lost? He had known loss
and he had known what it felt like to be abandoned, but he'd not had
anyone. And the kids...They needed the food. He repeated his reasoning
quietly. "You and them, you're my responsibility now." He scuffed the
ground slightly with his boot, frowning. "That's how I see it. Don't
trust Holds much, and don't know if they'd take care of the kids and
you like it should be. Didn't take care of my mum after..." He stopped
and rolled his shoulders in a shrug. "You don't gotta worry, that's
all I'm sayin'. If they need something and you don't want to talk to
me, just leave a note or something and I'll get it."

Zith huffed softly, lowering his head to look at the woman before
turning to peer at J'ackt. J'ackt blinked at the mental reminder and
then dug into the small pouch at his side. He pulled out a handful of
carefully wrapped sweet toffee bits he'd pilfered from the kitchens,
then thrust them forward. "Here. Zith reminded me. Someone said kids
like them."

For what felt like the first time in months, she felt the corners of her
mouth lift into a slight smile. "Yes. They do." They hadn't had sweets
since the Hold, either. She wondered for a moment about his childhood,
when he'd been hungry. All she knew was that he'd been holdless, but
she'd never heard of a holdless man helping a family he didn't know.
Everyone had always said they were thieves who wouldn't work for a living.

She reached out, took the sweets from him and tucked them into the
pocket of her dress. "Will you thank your dragon for me too? For the
reminder, and for coming out here so early, with all of this." She
gestured to the packages.

The big bronze then turned his head towards the woman and huffed softly,
bobbing his head. J'ackt's lips lifted, if only a little. "He can
understand you. He doesn't mind. You're welcome." He inclined his head.
"I've gotta go. I'm expected back shortly. That should be enough for a
couple of seven days. If you have extra, just trade it for whatever
you need. Uhm... can you think of anything that you might want or need
next time?"

Alyena tried to think, but they'd been making do with so little that
what he'd brought already was almost more than she could take in. As
he'd said, she could trade, for new shoes for the children. Perhaps some
materials for Furayl to draw and practice writing. He'd not been able to
do that in a long time.

Thinking of what she might buy, she remembered the bag of marks from the
strange man, hidden under her mattress, and felt a sudden flicker of
fear. The sky was brightening, the sunlight would soon wake the children
and the other farmers would be up...and others might be about, too. Was
it safe, for either of them?

She shook her head. "No - only perhaps..." She took one of the wrapped
sweets from her pocket. "Some more of these, for the children?"

J'ackt nodded briefly. "Sure. I'll bring more next time." He gave a
quick nod of his head and Zith crouched, proffering his forelimb. "In
a couple of sevendays. I'll try to be quick and not wake you or your
kids." He climbed up to strap in and Zith backed up to get clearance.
Before long, the dragon was in the air, and they blinked /between/ in
a flash of cold air.

Alyena watched the empty sky for a while after they'd vanished, alone
with her troubled thoughts. He wasn't at all what she'd imagined...

"Mama?" Her son came out of the cothold, rubbing sleepy eyes. "What are
you doing out...oh!" His voice rose in delight as he caught sight of the
food and the piles of cloth and hides. "They came again! Evalya, come
and see!" He darted back inside, calling for his sister.

"Both of you, get dressed and help me bring this all in. Then we'll have
breakfast." She picked up one of the packages and followed him, her
heart a little lighter to hear the joy in his voice. The gifts might
come from the Weyr, but she wasn't going to question that when she saw
the good it did her children.

Last updated on the October 13th 2020


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