Starting Over

Characters: Dunstan Kordieh, G’fen

The Phoenix’s main mess hall had nearly emptied by the time G’fen was released from the kitchen. Among the few people still there, getting a late start or lingering over dinner, was Dunstan Kordieh, alone at a table in a far corner of the room.

G’fen carried his tray and saw his old friend sitting alone eating. Well, at least he thought Dunstan was still his friend. There was no better opportunity to find out. G’fen continued on and sat down in the chair across from Kordieh’s small round table. “Hello, Dunstan.”

Kordieh looked up, eyes wide, but then managed a smile. “G’fen. Hello. I’d been thinking about coming to talk to you.”

G’fen was glad to be greeted with a smile. Gaining back his friend’s trust would prove to be harder than gaining back his previous position. He smiled back. “How have you been?”

Kordieh sighed. “I’ve been on the biggest roller coaster you can imagine — do you know what that is?”

“Umm…” G’fen tried to think of any reference to what his friend was talking about, but failed. “…no.”

“It’s a sort of machine, that humans use for amusement. You sit in an open car that runs on a track. It goes a long ways up, then drops down very, very fast. It goes up and down, twists and turns, sometimes even loops upside down.

“Anyway, they’ve been around a long time, and it’s a human expression, being on a roller coaster, to mean a lot of up and down emotions or experiences.”

“Oh. I see. I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “Would you like to talk about it?”

“Sure, I think I’d like that. Mostly it has to do with Ryath — the technomage. She came back to the ship, and she, Chief Darquin and I travelled to Rolui 3 for a few hours. Ryath and I … well, we were getting pretty close. But a short while after we returned, something happened, and she’s been sent away. I don’t think I’ll ever see her again.”

G’fen wondered exactly how close they had gotten. And how to approach the subject. G’fen took a bite of his meal. “Did you two have a good time together?”

“Yes, we did. I — G’fen, have you ever been in love?”

G’fen laughed. “Of course, Dunstan! Many a time, in fact. Not many know that the Narn are a passionate race. As G’Quan once wrote, ‘As long as you were happy, the rest doesn’t matter.’ ”

Kordieh managed a chuckle. “Perhaps you can tell me what it is like, sometime. I think I’ve been in love twice, but both times, the lady has had to leave. It’s hard.” He decided not even to think about whether twice was becoming three times.

“I see that your love for this mage has burned you.”

“Yes, I guess it has.” Kordieh looked into the bottom of the mug by his plate, and drained its remaining contents. “So much has been going on, so far down, then up, then down again, then up again — maybe.” He looked at G’fen. “Part of that is why I wanted to talk to you. I think I owe you an apology.”

G’fen stopped in mid chew. He wasn’t really sure what to say. Maybe he should just say not to worry about it. “Dunstan, it’s not your fault. It was mine. You have nothing to apologize for.”

Kordieh nodded. “I appreciate that. I … I was so afraid, and I ended up getting out of control too. Which is exactly what I had been afraid of.”

“We all fear losing control. It is the nature of all sentient beings.”

“I suppose … given what I have been, I fear it more than most.”

G’fen nodded. He needed to cheer his friend up. “You need to have a good time, Dunstan. Do a little something to get your mind off of your troubles!”

“I’ll try. I have to get ready to go on shift soon, but perhaps first I’ll look at my new book. It’s more poetry, I’m afraid … but it is poetry written for children, and a lot of it is quite funny.”

“Yeah, poetry…that’s not quite what I had in mind.” G’fen smiled. “After you get off of your shift, come by my quarters.”

Kordieh’s eyebrows rose, thinking about the last time he and the Narn had gone out together with the object of cheering Kordieh up. They’d barely escaped being the center of a brawl. Still … it was almost guaranteed not to be dull. “All right, I’ll do that,” he said. “Sounds like fun.”

Copyright (c) 2004 Jamie Lawson and Nick Wistner. All rights reserved.


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