A breath. His lungs stabbed at him, and his body was complaining for too long spent lying in one position on a hard Temple bed. Drai moaned without meaning to and rolled halfway over, trying to get his bearings.
The first thing he saw was Shizzal staring at him in disbelief and painful hope, as if not quite daring to believe what he was seeing.
“Oh, b’Vehk… Drai!”
And he was tackled by a very excited Buoyant Armiger. For that was what Shizzal was, after the successful routing of Mephala and Zeketah’s attack. Drai groaned again, patting absently at Shizzal’s arm as the outlander squeezed him and patted Drai all over like he still couldn’t believe it.
“Alright, alright. I am alive. You can let go of me now.”
Shizzal did, grinning ashamedly. “We thought…gods, Drai, we thought we might have to kill you! You wouldn’t wake.”
“Well, you didn’t kill me.”
Shizzal swallowed, eyes going very round. Drai realized he was still expecting to have to counsel a Drai who had practically committed suicide. “I’m so sorry,” he said, flustered. “If we had realized you had been this upset, we might have–when I realized you had left, I tried to–“
Drai held up a hand to stop him, and despite himself, smiled. “It’s okay, Shizzal. Truly.”
Shizzal relaxed, rubbing at his face and then regarding Drai curiously. “Something happened to you while you were away, didn’t it?”
Drai nodded. “I discovered some things, about myself…and others…”
Shizzal unconsciously craned his head forward to listen. Drai snorted at the ridiculously anxious look and gave Shizzal a shove backward.
“Shizzal, it’s okay! I am not angry. As for the others…what they did was neither right nor good, but it’s over now, and they’ll have to accept the consequences of their actions, as I have mine.”
“What will your actions be now?” Shizzal asked, chewing his tongue. “The remaining Tengri are… well, scattered. The Temple won’t tolerate their presence anymore, despite everything I’ve said to them–“
Drai looked away, sighing. “So they will go, as Ashlander tribes do. It’ll be fine, Shizzal. I will miss my people, and that will never stop being true, but I realize now I can’t force a family out of the ash.” He smiled strangely at Shizzal. “…speaking of family. Shizzal, there’s something I need to tell you.”
“I met your father, and we spoke.”
“And…I met my father as well.”
Shizzal nodded, smiling. “That’s good. Oh, who am I kidding? That’s really good! You found your ancestors, after so long worrying why they kept away–“
Drai nodded, waiting for Shizzal to come to it.
“Did my father and your father get along? You said yours was also a House Dunmer…do you think they were from the same House?”
“Mm, yes, he was a privateer who had…lain with my mother for some nights while he was berthed in northern Vvardenfell.”
“A privateer, huh? Sounds similar to my father.”
“There’s something you’re not telling me, isn’t there?”
“Mm hm. But I think you can figure it out.”
Shizzal shrugged, and kept on. “Wouldn’t that be funny, if your father and mine were the same person?”
Drai rolled his eyes. Sometimes the outlander really was very dense. He still sustained a bit of pleasure as Shizzal’s eyes grew wider and wider as the idea finally crystallized in his head.
“B’vehk! You’re not serious!” Shizzal flailed his arms in random directions that resolved into pointing at Drai and then pointing at himself. “You! …me? You!! Me!“
Drai chuckled despite himself and nodded. “We are half-brothers, Shizzal. Our meeting was by more than by chance, I think.”
Shizzal continued to stare, until a grin broke out on his face, and he rolled back and forth in his chair like an excited school boy. “Oh, mate, I knew there was a reason I liked you…!”
“Alright, alright, look, it’s not–“
“A big deal? Of course it is! Wait until I tell Drethas–“
“And this means you can meet my family and–“
“…quit that. I am not hugging you!”
“But we’re family now…! Well, actually, we always were, but–c’mon?”
Shizzal laughed, holding up his hands to show Drai he was joking. Annoyed though he was, Drai found a grin growing on his own face. Slowly their expressions grew serious, and theyclasped hands, considering each other with new eyes…
Shizzal licked his lips and swallowed. “Somehow, Drai, I think I always knew. It was like the act of a god that you were there to save me in the beginning, and what else had the two of us been praying for?”
It struck a chord in Drai, but he hid it behind pursed lips. “Perhaps, yes.”
Shizzal beamed at him.
“…there is one other thing you should know,” said Drai.
“Mm hm? Uh huh?”
“My real name is not Drai.”
“Oh, pfft, I figured out that much already! It’s not really a very Ashlander-like name, is it? Not nearly enough of a mouthful…”
Drai scowled. “…yes…well. It is Rakhulbi-Sul, though you can call me whichever one you want. Drai is…the name I took during a bad time.”
“Rakhulbi-Sul,” said Shizzal thoughtfully.
“And what are you going to do with yourself now, eh, Rakhulbi-Sul?” said Shizzal with a sneaking smile.
Drai sat back, sighing. “I do not know. North, perhaps. There is a company that was always kind to me despite everything else, and I think if I am going to find a permanent home, it is better I start there, among people already open to forgiving me.”
Shizzal shrugged. “Makes sense, though we’ll miss you, you know. What about after that?”
“After…mm. Maybe I will return to Vvardenfell. There are…things I need to talk over with the gulakhan of the Urshilaku.”
“I’ll come with you. I can be there for you, keep your head on your shoulders–if you would have me, I mean.”
Drai grimaces, and nodded slowly. “Your company would be…welcome. Family…should stick together, yes?”
Shizzal broke into a grin and slapped his hands together. “It’s settled then! The life of adventure and drama, here we come! Whether we but meet death or–uh–ehh, I can’t remember where I was going with that. Vivec would always say–“
“Eh, what?” Shizzal blinked down at him.
Drai gave him a droll look.”I don’t follow your…nevermind. Just keep your divine poetry to yourself while we’re on the road, yes?”
Shizzal stared at him, trying to work out whether it was a compliment. When he came upon the answer, he just grinned ever more widely. Slowly, Drai found himself smiling back.
It was going to be a long road. For once, Rakhulbi was okay with that.