Fort Weyr – Wiyaneth and Nemmenth’s Ledge

The lowest ledge reached along the ascending steps is now the roosting place for Wiyaneth and Nemmenth. Smaller than the Senior’s ledge, this area has a feeling of being slightly cramped. Two worn couches are placed on opposite sides of the vast cavern, and Wiyaneth has claimed the one closest to the exit. A huge curtain can be pulled across the narrow entrance to keep out the winter drafts, and it’s made of heavy brown fabric. This vast cavern looks out across the bowl towards the lake and the rockslide, and the setting sun often bathes this ledge in amber and rose hues.

A curved couch has been set up out here, forming a small quiet reading nook with a view of both dragon couches and the weyr. A bookcase behind it is now empty, except for several carvings that hold positions of honor. Pillows are piled everywhere in neat stacks, lining the walls and filling the space with garish colors and patterns. Elara’s desk has been pushed up against one of the walls, and is piled high with random things that have yet to be properly put away. Beside the stone hearth is an old wood china cabinet filled with a few pieces of precious china decorated with spinning blue dragons. This is also where Elara keeps her tea and herbs. There is also a copper tea kettle belonging to A’rtomus.

The far back corner of the ledge, around a small outcrop is Elara and A’rtomus’ bed, and there is a standing screen to give them some privacy. At the other corner of the cavern are three beds – those belonging to their children. At the moment they’re placed tightly side-by-side, as none of the children are currently living with their mother and father. The items from Elara’s lounge are pushed up against the wall near Wiyaneth’s couch, callously abandoned there to their fate.

The morning after the discovery of the Stonehaven massacre, things are relatively quiet in Elara and A’rtomus’ weyr. Wiyaneth rests outside on the ledge, the old queen alert and watchful with Nemmenth at her side. Inside the cavern, Elara putters around tidying up and making some tea, while A’rtomus is off at a meeting. Quiet and calm, without any indication that lurking behind that closed door in the back is a broken boy trying desperately to adjust to the fate that he has been given.

From the bowls below, Th’ero begins to climb the stairs leading up not only to his weyr, but also to the ledges and weyrs of Fort’s golds. And it’s not to his weyr he’s headed and instead he turns towards the ledge Wiyaneth and Nemmenth now rest on, though the Weyrleader keeps a polite distance. Velokraeth, from his ledge above, politely passes on his rider’s request to meet with Elara, provided the retired weyrwoman is free. The pale bronze is all courtesy and politeness and Th’ero reflects some of that as well as he waits patiently, still dressed in the much too thin jacket and doing his best not to grimace from the cold.

Wiyaneth eyes the Weyrleader intently, the old queen’s gaze unwavering until her rider strides out, smoothing down her skirts and offering the man a faint smile. “Weyrleader, please come in,” she invites, beckoning him into her home and motioning towards the couches. “Have a seat. Can I get you some tea?” she offers, walking around the couches that face the hearth and crouching down to check the temperature of the water that rests in a copper kettle above the flames.

Th’ero doesn’t balk under Wiyaneth’s unwavering gaze, turning his head up slightly to regard the older queen. He may even nod subtly towards her, but it’s hard to tell as Elara comes striding out not long after. “My thanks, Elara.” He replies in a level tone and an equally faint smile, moving forwards now that the invitation has been given. “I apologize if I come at a bad time, but I wished to speak with you before…” A pause and that faint smile falters, “Before matters take hold of what time I have.” Th’ero takes the offered seat on the couch, though his posture is stiff and far from relaxed. Folding his hands neatly in his lap, his gaze follows Elara as she moves to check on the kettle, his face a neutral mask. “Some tea would be great. Thank you.”

Elara prepares tea for them both in china cups with blue dragons flying around the outside. “It’s not a bad time,” she assures him, offering him a cup before she takes a seat on another chair, “and I appreciate the visit. First I must tell you that Ezra is refusing to give up your jacket. Perhaps once the Weavers are finished with the one I’ve ordered for him he’ll give it up, but he has clung to yours since he got here.”

Th’ero carefully accepts the cup of tea when Elara offers it, settling it in his lap and letting a brief moment of silence stretch out between them after her revelation concerning his riding jacket. As he mulls over his answer, the Weyrleader takes a sip of the hot drink and as he lowers the cup, speaks in a soft voice. “If it brings him some sense of comfort then I won’t have it pried from him. I can find a spare for the time being or commission a new one.” And meanwhile he’ll freeze? But that’s not a topic he’s about to linger on, as something in her reply has also caught his attention and Th’ero has the sense to look apologetic. “Ahh, so you have ordered him a jacket?” he murmurs, before exhaling softly. “I do apologize for the abruptness of having Ezra brought to you. It was the only option I could think of.” The only one he trusts and that may show, briefly, in his eyes though the Weyrleader never voices it.

Elara sips her tea and nods as the Weyrleader speaks, crossing one leg over the other beneath her skirts. “I have,” she says with a small nod. “I managed to get a few words from him as well, after telling him about it through the door for a little while.” She nods towards the door behind which the boy is, by his own choice. “He finally gave me colors that he wanted – black, copper and turquoise, the colors of his hold.” She nods slightly at his apology, before she sighs. “I appreciate the apology, but I think it was the right thing.”

Th’ero’s glance darts towards the door, which Ezra now hides and lingers there even as Elara continues to speak. His mouth draws down into a thin line and he only breaks his trance when he lifts his drink back up for another slow sip. If he’s startled by the boy’s choice in color, the Weyrleader handles it well. “Seems fitting.” He replies carefully, glancing up to meet her gaze. A little surprise does show in his features then, Th’ero not having entirely expected that response. Rather then press the matter or question it, he only nods. “Then you do not mind keeping him here, until such time as he’s well enough?” he asks, keeping his voice low.

Elara shakes her head. “Of course not. I’ve sent to the Hall for a mindhealer who specializes in childhood trauma, but I don’t think moving him yet again – especially not to his own room or to the caverns – is a good idea. So he’ll stay here until he’s healed.”

Now Th’ero does seem taken aback by Elara’s reply, but only shows it by openly staring at her, not bothering to hide the questioning look he gives her. “His wounds are that bad, are they?” he asks and the guilt and regret he had just discussed with Kimmila surfaces now before he can quell it. Again, he lifts the cup of tea, before carefully setting it aside and letting his hands fold into his lap once again. “Do you think he’ll recover?” The Weyrleader asks next, straightforward and blunt, his expression now edging on grim.

Elara glances towards the door, and then back to the Weyrleader. “Physically he’s just chilled and hungry. That will heal soon enough. His mental wounds go much deeper, and I’m sure you could imagine. Those are the things that are going to take time to heal. I think he’ll recover, yes. He’s a bright boy. He just has a long road ahead of him.”

Th’ero nods his head again. He can imagine and has some vague idea of what the poor boy must be suffering as his expression softens from grim to something a little more sympathetic. “It’s reassuring to know he has a chance.” He says, meeting her gaze. “I’ve no intentions of sending him back to the holds, less it is of his choosing. While I don’t think he’ll be forever under your care, I’m prepared to oversee that he can remain here.” Where they can watch him. Th’ero pauses then, waiting and watching to gauge Elara’s reaction.

Elara nods, “Oh, absolutely he has a chance. More than a chance. I think he’ll do just fine, if he can work through this and let us help him.” Her eyes glance to the door again, and there’s a soft scuffing of feet from within. Then she looks back at Th’ero and shakes her head. “I can’t be a foster parent,” not with her workload, “but I can help you find a family at the weyr that could.”

“Perhaps in time he will. It is still all so fresh for the boy. And if he hadn’t truly wanted help, I don’t think we would have been able to coax him. Not even with all the food Pern has to offer.” Th’ero adds as he gives another subtle nod of his head in agreement. The Weyrleader doesn’t pick up on the sound coming from behind the door, but Elara’s glance towards it has him tensing for a moment, only to relax again when she speaks. A faint smile curves at his lips, though his tone is hardly amused. “No more then I can be one for him either. I wasn’t implying that you foster him either.” Th’ero points out gently, but her offer both surprises him and relieves him. “I’d appreciate the help. You know the Weyr better then I currently.”

Elara smiles gently at the Weyrleader, nodding her head as she sips her tea. “I’m happy to help find a family for him. I have a few in mind that I’ll seek out and talk to about it. We’ll find a place that he’ll be happy with. What he doesn’t need is to think that we’re trying to replace his family. That’s one reason I ordered his jacket in his hold colors like he wanted. We don’t want to erase the poor boy’s identity.” She sighs, shaking her head. “I remember how scared I was when I first came to the weyr. And I came by choice, as a posted Healer.”

“You will let me know if a family is willing to take him?” Th’ero asks gently, knowing full well he’d get a report one way or another. The Weyrleader hesitates then, before adding. “And no, that is the last thing I wish him to think we’ve done.” He agrees firmly. His head tilts a little to the side as Elara reflects on her past and Th’ero makes a soft sound of understanding. “It is a shock.” He muses, turning reflective himself as he glances down at his hands, frowning slightly. “And one I can understand as well. I was a guard and posted to Western Weyr. So it was my choice but not in the same instance.” Th’ero lets a brief moment of silence pass between them, as he gathers his thoughts. With a deep inhale and slow sigh, he continues, “It reassures me to know that he’ll recover.” The Weyrleader begins and with each word his face takes on a grimmer set. Now he’s moving into territory he wish he didn’t have to. “We’ll no doubt be returning to Stonehaven soon. I’ve only to organize the team.” He explains, careful to keep his voice low.

Elara nods, “Of course I will,” she assures. She’s good about protocol, after all. The retired weyrwoman straightens a bit on the couch and nods. “You should take a Healer and some Guards. Will Kimmila be going with you?” she asks, eyes focusing on the Weyrleader for a long moment. “Why did you call her?” she then asks, her voice one of confusion and a hint of a mother’s pain at having a child witness something like that.

“I would have liked to take Emray, but I fear at his age the trip may prove to be too much.” Th’ero replies in turn to Elara’s suggestion. From the Weyrleader’s tone, he respects the master healer Fort has posted, but he is also openly reluctant. “Journeyman Grigoriy seems more the capable in his place. As for the guards… I’ve it in mind to speak with Captain Breshir afterwards. I’ll no doubt be taking him and perhaps his Lieutenants.” When she focuses on him, Th’ero meets her gaze though he visibly straightens and tenses when she asks of Kimmila’s involvement. “I’m not certain.” He replies honestly. “We haven’t discussed that. Right now, she’s returned to Western Weyr.” The next question brings only silence and awkwardness as Th’ero’s gaze drops down and away from the goldrider. “Because,” He panicked? Has trust issues? The silence stretches on then, as he struggles to explain his reasons for why he did what he did. “Because I couldn’t think of another at the time. Ezra was terrified and for good reason. I didn’t want half the Weyr descending on Stoneheaven. Not when he hardly trusted us three.”

Elara nods, “All good choices,” she agrees quietly, approving without making an official decision on the matter. She continues to watch him even as he looks away, patiently waiting for his reply. “I trust my daughter,” Elara says quietly, “and she is a good rider. But you should have called someone from Fort. M’lo, perhaps. Kimmila is not your Weyrsecond.”

Th’ero grimaces and it shows then that the Weyrleader knows full well he overstepped boundaries and perhaps broke a few protocols. And possibly offended a few in the process. But there’s a stubborn look to his eyes, as some part of him fights against it all. No matter how small or meager that there is some good behind his actions. “I know she is not.” He murmurs, awkwardness building as he tries not to dig himself a deeper hole. “And I mean no offence to M’lo. But at the time… I suppose my judgment was clouded by the disturbing situation.” Th’ero admits slowly and clearly reluctant. “But I do not regret the choice.” He lifts his gaze now to meet Elara’s, firm (at least for now) in that decision.

Elara shakes her head, “A Weyrleader’s duty is to his riders, and a Weyrwoman’s duty is to her weyr. But you should have called on Fort.” And that, it seems, is all she’ll say on the matter, though she does give Th’ero a stern look. Before she can say more, though, a soft voice speaks up from the back of the weyr. Standing there in the now open door, Ezra clutches Th’ero’s giant coat around his skinny frame, his light brown hair askew and his pale green eyes fixed on the Weyrleader. “You have to burn them,” the boy whispers, voice soft and flat.

Th’ero’s gaze doesn’t drop this time, but guilt does cross his features. He’ll undoubtedly receive a harsher reprimand later and in private from the senior Weyrwoman when he meets with her. But right now, Elara’s words and stern look seem to hit the Weyrleader harder then any lecture from Neyuni. Acting like he had been reprimanded, Th’ero becomes oddly subdued. “I won’t happen again.” He promises, still holding his gaze level with hers. And it would have remained there, were it not for Ezra’s arrival. The Weyrleader turns his head to face the boy now; wiping his expression to something neutral though it cracks the moment the boy whispers his request. “If those are your wishes,” He replies, trying to keep his tone gentle and not too rough as he struggles to hide his disturbed emotions. “Then it will be done.” It was going to be done regardless, but Th’ero seems to say it only to reassure the child.

Elara watches in silence as Ezra stands there, his eyes never leaving the Weyrleader’s face. “You have to burn them,” he repeats. “And walk their ashes down the valley to the trees. Scatter the ashes at the base of the trees, to nourish them.” The boy does not stutter, his voice calm and even. “You must walk every step and think about those who have been lost. Rejoice in their lives and remember them.” Clearly he’s reciting something. Some old Stonehaven ritual for their dead. When he’s finished his pale green eyes blink, and he skitters back into the room and slams the door behind him.

All through the reciting, Th’ero does his best to keep his expression calm and neutral as he watches Ezra as well. Despite his efforts though, the Weyrleader is still unsettled by the end, though it only shows in the lack of smile and in his eyes. Though when he speaks, his tone is firm and reassuring. “I understand.” Th’ero begins and is about to add more but then the child skitters back into the room and the door is slammed shut. Brows arc up in surprise and turning his head slightly, he side glances back to Elara, questioning and uncertain.

Elara watches Ezra as well, and when the boy shuts himself back in the room she glances to Th’ero with a reassuring smile. “He’s going to be unpredictable. But him speaking to you is a good sign. So when will you be going back to Stonehaven?”

Th’ero gives Elara something akin to a doubtful look when the weyrwoman assures him. “I suppose I’ll take it as a good sign then.” He murmurs and then with a tired sounding exhale of breath, lifts one of his hands up to scrub along his jaw, frowning thoughtfully. “Most likely as soon as possible and preferably by nightfall. If not then, then it will be first thing tomorrow. There is much yet to be done and time is already against me.”

Elara nods, leaning forward to set her tea cup on the table in preparation to rise, “Then I won’t keep you,” she says kindly, “unless you needed anything of me?”

“No, you have already answered what questions I have.” Th’ero is the first to rise, straightening his thin jacket and giving a polite nod of his head. Despite the unsettling ritual delivered by Ezra, the awkwardness and the grim and somber news, the Weyrleader at least manages a small smile for Elara. “Thank you for your time. And the tea as well, of course.” He adds, about to turn to stride back out to the ledge though he hesitates. “On the matters concerning Stonehaven… do you wish me to keep you updated? If not just for your sake, but for the boy’s?” Th’ero asks gently.

Elara rises, smoothing her skirts with a hand, and gives the Weyrleader a bit of a surprised look. “Of course I wish to be updated. It concerns Fort.” Everything that concerns Fort concerns her.

Th’ero almost flinches for his mistake and Elara’s surprised look is met with a sheepish smile from the Weyrleader. “Of course, forgive me. It’s been a long night.” He explains by way of apology. Seems his few hours of sleep have done little to clear his head. Coupled now with a burial rite and a looming investigation, plus hours of meetings, Th’ero is undoubtebly fighting off exhaustion and possibly a headache along with it. “Again, thank you for your time, Elara and for your help with Ezra.” He gives her another polite nod of farewell and then slowly turns and walks back towards the ledge, his movements slow and somewhat stiff, signs that the Weyrleader is anything but calm and relaxed.

Elara shakes her head as he goes. “You need to get some rest,” she says, before she begins to put away the tea things, including the calming blend she made for the two of them.

'The World of Pern(tm)' and 'The Dragonriders of Pern(r)' are copyright to Anne McCaffrey (c) l967, 2000. This is a recorded online session, by permission of the author but generated on PernWorld MUSH for the benefit of people unable to attend.