Fort Weyr - Living Caverns
This cavern, having been created by bubbles in the volcanic flow of this extinct volcano, has a breathtaking ceiling — a vast dome that arches high above the heads of the weyrfolk that scurry around beneath it. A hollow echo can be heard from loud enough noises, and the chatterings of various firelizards are consequently multiplied into a chaotic babble. All in all, the living cavern is a loud place.
Tables are scattered around the room, apparently in no particular order. Over to one side near the kitchens, two medium sized serving tables are constantly spread with snacks, klah, and other goodies. The tables look worn, yet perfectly fitted to the atmosphere of the caverns. In the 'corners' of the cavern, smaller two and four place tables are set up for more private talks or just a less chaotic atmosphere in which to eat.

Spring is here in Fort! Normally a happy time, since it heralds the end of winter's grip and winter went out with a roar in this part of the north, having snowed in the Weyr and the Holds, Halls and cotholds around it for a few days. Most, if not all, of that has melted. Now? Today is an uncomfortable day to be outdoors. Classic spring storms roll through, bring with them howling winds that gust at random. Rain pelts the ground that leaves the bowls muddied and while it's cool outside, it's not frigidly cold. At the moment, the rain has let up and so have the winds, a brief respite but not enough to lure many of Fort's residents out. Only the maintenance crews and clean up crews are out, as well as those who's Craft work or duties require them to be. Some of Thunderbird are at drills, taking advantage of the inclement weather for training. It's just shy of the noon hour and the living caverns are sparsely populated. A scattering of kitchen staff and drudges, a few riders and weyrfolk and the table that normally has the Fortian Leadership seated there is empty. That's because Th'ero has taken residence at one of the smaller tables in the "corner" of the caverns, where at most two or four could sit for easier (and semi private) conversation. None of which the Fortian Weyrleader is engaged in currently; he sits alone, head tucked a bit towards his chest and his eyes distant and thoughtful. Brooding.

Ka'el chose a heck of a day to visit Fort! What was supposed to be a random drop in on a friend before Betweening back to the dropping temperatures of Xanadu has ended up being a blustery ride! He should've checked in with Galaxy to check the weather patterns before heleft, but .. eh, who does that much planning ahead when traveling? He sure doesn't (obviously) and thus is paying the price. Not that it's a high one. The weather isn't the worst he's seen, and now there's even a slight lull! Ish. Ka'el takes the opportunity to duck in to the local central cavern, wearing a hooded riding jacket with the hood pulled up and dripping with rain. Upon stepping inside, he gives his arms a shake, grunting a bit within his throat. "Springlike weather…And here I was lookin' forward to it.." he says to himself, flinging his arms again before dropping them at his sides with a sigh. Ah well! Might as well quiet his belly with something warm while he's here! And so, the soggy visiting Weyrleaderheads inside the tavern, glad for both the warmth and dryness of it. What he grabs for food is simple. Stew! Because who doesn't like stew? And it's a perfect day for it. So with a bowl of that, a hunk of bread, and a mug of drink in tow, he searches for a table. There are plenty to choose from, some unoccupied, some not, but Ka'el finds himself moving towards one of those corner tables, perhaps wanting a little self-time while he's out and about. And, lo, here's a table! With a man sitting there. A … familiar man.. "Weyrleader?"

Those mutterings may not be heard as far as the small tucked away tables that the Fortian Weyrleader has seated himself in, but they are by the few Fort riders and residents nearby. Most of which who, while chuckling in amusement or smiling in sympathetic understanding, will offer warm greetings at least and with the proper amount of respect, if Ka'el wears his knot. Even without it, courtesies would still be extended. Stew is certainly a good hearty meal for any spring day like this and there's plenty of it. Th'ero may have already had his share or hasn't thought of food quite yet. His table will be notably empty, save for a lone glass of wine and a small wineskin. Apparently the man drinks early? Or he's following a different timezone. Roused from his thoughts, Th'ero starts faintly and blinking to focus his eyes he will turn them up… to also spot a familiar man. "Weyrleader Ka'el!" On his feet in the next breath, which is surprisingly quick given the man's build, he will dip his head in a respectful nod before gesturing to the empty chair across the table. "Fort's duties to Xanadu and her queens." Formal. "What brings you here, on a miserable day like this? My apologies, if I had known I'd have greeted you." Not so formal. Th'ero looks a touch sheepish and clears this throat. "Make yourself comfortable." he adds, before lowering himself back into his chair.

Phew! It is him. For a second, Ka'el wasn't sure, as brooding as the man looked. And perhaps, so deep in thought was he, that Ka'el should've left him alone to his thoughts. Faranth knows that there are many days that he himself feels desperate for a moment or two alone, just him and the murky words of his mind. But then, in those same days, those words feel ready to rush out to an understanding ear. Not that Th'ero knows him well enough to spill his guts to him, or vice versa, but .. still. Sometimes, just the company of someone else is helpful. And so, as the Fortian Weyrleader rises and greets him, Ka'el grins and sets his tray down in order to take his hand to give a firm shake. "And Xanadu's duties to Fort and her's," he answers before releasing his hold on his hand. "And had I known the day was so miserable, I would've stayed in the misery of Xanadu's winter!" he laughs, shaking his head as he glances to the exit and the rain that falls beyond. "I stopped to visit a friend, who I'm not sure I can still consider a friend considering the length've time it's been since I've seen her. It's been…a turn? Maybe more.." He raises his brows as he thinks of the time. Has it really been that long? He rubs the back of his neck guilitly. "I think I should downgrade myself to 'distant acquaintance' and not assume that she still considers me that. She was..or might still be, I don't know, the assistant headwoman here? Angelique? But she wasn't available, so…here I am now. May I join you?"

Th'ero is well known, at least in Fort Weyr, for his tendencies to brood. Usually he is left alone in such states as in the past it meant the Weyrleader was in a temper or wished to be left alone. There was a time, many Turns past now, that he rarely spoke to anyone less he had to and then it was very reserved and guarded. Not so now and while he was absorbed in his thoughts it may not have been all too important to affect his mood — or he's wisely hiding it. How open will he be with Ka'el? That depends. So far, the Xanadian Weyrleader has never given him reason to be guarded or wary and so he smiles a small but welcoming smile and grips his hand firm while shaking it. "Has winter been hard on your end of the world?" Th'ero asks in curious interest, only to tilt his head, intrigued when the younger bronzerider mentions a friend… or distant acquaintance now. "Funny, isn't it, how much time can pass when it feels like so little?" he muses, just before his brows lift in surprise at the name and then knit together in a frown, his mouth drawn into a crooked half-grimace. "Ah, I'm afraid she's not been known as Angelique for some time and I'm not surprised that she wasn't available… She is no longer our assistant Headwoman." With a lead up like that, all sorts of scenarios could be assumed and Th'ero's expression remains too neutral to hazard a guess… until he smiles faintly. "She's Anique now, rider of green Typriaeth and has been for… a Turn or so? Clutched by Kouzevelth and Dremkoth, the very same who sired bronze Sharuth." Who caught Luraoth not long ago in Xanadu and for only that reason does he bring it up. "And of course you may join me, Ka'el. It'd be poor hospitality if I turned you out when I am… not really busy and just lost to my thoughts." There's a low chuckle for that and another gesture to the empty seats.

"Just beginning," Ka'el answers in response to Xanadu's winter. "But any amount of cold is too cold for me. I'm a smith at heart. Fire and heat are what keeps me comfortable." And how he does miss the fire and heat of the forges! He was insane to think that he'd have any time to dabble in it during his stint as Weyrleader. He barely had time as a wingrider, and he was fortunate enough to have his own forge! Ah well. He can't really complain about the path that life has lead him down. He peels off his wet jacket and settles into the seat opposite of Th'ero once invited, listening to him with interest as he speaks of the former assistant headwoman. He nods at the news of her Impression, a smile forming. "We kept in touch a little after my graduation. She told me she was a Candidate here and knew she Impressed, but…sadly, that's all I know of her. I feel bad having not come to her graduation when she came all the way to Xanadu for mine. But, you're right. Time has a funny way of passing unnoticed, and I think all this," a slight gesture to the knot of his shoulder, took my focus for .. quite a while." One would expect! He exhales a slow sigh. "They warn you about Candidacy and Weyrlinghood. How time never really is your own. Weyrling goldriders get their lessons on what it is to be a Weyrwoman, but no one ever really prepares the bronze riders for the possibility for…all've this, do they? I suppose on-the-job training is our route. I hope she can forgive me for my noted absence in our friendship. She wrote to me. I forgot to send a reply." Ouch. He picks up a spoon to ladle up a bit of his stew. Mmm, meat and potatoes! "Thoughts can be a dangerous place to get lost in," he says with a mild smirk. "Mine are a sinkhole, near impossible to crawl out've once I've fallen in."

Th'ero chuckles low in his throat for the comment of being a 'smith at heart'. "Fire and heat keep many comfortable, but I see your point. And even I have not quite adjusted to the cold here. But I am no former-smith. I was just born in a far warmer climate." And there are days he misses it. Days like this one! No complaints either from this bronzerider of what life dealt him and while Ka'el settles himself, he will reach for his wine glass and lift it slowly to his lips. "I wouldn't feel too guilty, Ka'el. Fort and Xanadu share a wide gap in timezones for one and secondly you both were at very pivotal moments of your lives. She a new rider and you as Weyrleader. It couldn't hurt to try to contact her now and see what can be rekindled of the friendship." he points out and then his eyes gleam with a look of understanding when the young bronzerider gestures to his knot. "Oh, it's true. Weyrleadership is good for that. A definite… change in priorities." Which even he chafes against every now and a gain. Another chuckle, which slowly extends into a quiet laugh. "If only! Shells, if only. What'd they tell you? That there was a chance and left it as that?" Th'ero muses with a smirk, tilting his wine glass a little in his hand before indulging in another pull of it before setting it aside. "Ahh, now that I can relate to and couldn't have put it in better words. So has there been much on your mind of late?" he asks, but his tone implies that Ka'el is free to answer as vague or as elaborate as he so choses or is comfortable with.

It's likely that Angelique, now Anique, will receive a letter from Ka'el soon. One filled with apology, first and foremost! And possibly their friendship will be saved… if it was indeed lost at all. Who knows. Perhaps the Fortian rider still considers him a friend after all this time! Only time will tell, once he gets that letter out. He settles in with his food and drink now, spooning up mouthfuls of stew and dipping his bread within it to chew and swallow. He nods heartily at the bit regarding bronzers and what they, what himself, was told during Weyrlinghood. "Exactly that, you've hit the nail on the head. It's such a passing thing. Like, a brushed-over topic. I understand that not every bronzerider will win a Senior's flight. I definitely didn't expect to! But the fact that the possibility's there for every one've us should be reason enough to have some sort of…prep course. At least the bare basics of what Weyrleading really means and how to survive the first day." A smirk there. "I meant to speak with Xanadu's Weyrlingmaster about that. We've no bronze Weyrlings in this clutch, so I've a bit of time… I hope to try to hash out the details." Things always seem to be oh so detailed no matter how simple the concept! "Was it the same for you?" he asks curiously. "And…ha, my mind is always full of something. That's normal for me. Weyr things. Personal things. Feels like something new is crammed up there every day. I fear I'll run out of room. Yourself?"

Who knows! But it is worth a shot? Better to say one tried than not to try at all. Th'ero only looks amused when it appears his 'guess' at any "advice" given on the matter of Weyrleader during Weyrlinghood was so hastily glossed over even for Ka'el. "You do bring up a very good point. It's true, not every bronzerider becomes Weyrleader but… to have that resource would almost be priceless. So have you begun then, to look into it?" He's merely curious, though possibly considering such a concept for Fort as well. Though he may bide his time and see how it works in favour for Xanadu. Bad enough he's meddled with traditions here concerning the Candidates and then his rather unorthodox reshuffling and structuring of the Wings. "I received no advice, save for the gloss over of 'it may happen'. And… it did. I was barely out of Weyrlinghood and here in Fort on a whim from Western. Zuhth was Senior at the time and… Velokraeth won. I considered it a fluke but… he won Zuvaleyuth after that and again… and again." And again. "And then Kayeth…" So much for the fluke theory? "But my first few Turns as Weyrleader were… rocky, at best. I blundered my way through, made a few minor mistakes and others… not so much." Judging from the darkened look to Th'ero's eyes, he has a few regrets… or a lot of guilt (or both). He's quick to shake it off though and smile again. "Seem we share that in common." he drawls in reply to a mind being always full of something. "And trust me… you don't run out of room. Which isn't as bad as it seems but you'd be amazed on how much the mind can handle until that limit is reached." One that he's reached only once in his life and almost broke from it.

Ka'el tears off a piece of his bread, shaking his head. "I haven't brought up the idea to anyone but my weyrmate. She thought it was a good one," and boy does he value her opinion! "Suggested that I spoke to the bronze weyrlings of Luraoth's clutch but…there weren't any. In any case, I've been Weyrleader for … a turn. Two maybe…" What was that baout losing track of time? "If there had been any bronze Weyrlings this time around, I don't know how 'qualified' I'd've been to prepare them for anything, really. I still feel like half the time I'm…winging this," he says, voice low. It wouldn't due for rumor to get around that the Xanadu Weyrleader hasn't a clue! Even though at times he feels as if he doesn't. "So, we'll see. I thought about looking in to past Weyrleaders to teach lessons. Or maybe I'll do it, in the end, with a few more turns under my belt, if Seryth doesn't rise again. It'll be a bit before we have Weyrlings again to teach." If cycles stay true, which they don't always. Luraoth rose twice the last two turns, and no one's heard a peep from Yumeth or Sonyxaeth in some time! So who knows. Hearing Th'ero's repeated wins has him thinking. "It's common then, in some places, that the same bronze wins each time? We've had… shards, I don't know how many different Weyrleaders in the past five or six turns. I don't think Seryth gets attached enough to have a preference." If that's the way things works. Who really knows when it comes to dragons, other than the dragons themselves? He knocks on the wooden tabletop. "I haven't messed anything up too badly yet. Came close a few times, but the Weyr and its people are still intact." For now! He grins, still working on his stew, though it's vanishing quickly. "Do your mindhealers not knock down your doors, requesting appointments with you? Ours…eh, one of ours.. I think he fears those limits being reached and is very keen on meeting with us."

Again, Th'ero seems curious by another detail. "I hadn't known you were weyrmated. Ah, not that it's any of my business, my apologies again." Or is it? Not really, aside from the Fort Weyrleader trying to keep things straight for formal occasions. Who is and isn't paired and if they are, to whom and what rank if such a think applies. Ahh, politics! He makes no verbal comment on the lack of bronzes in Luraoth's clutch, though that does bring another quirked brow. Hmm. Instead he only chuckles low again and shifts a bit in his seat, crossing one leg over his knee as he leans to one side, his dark eyes still fixed on Ka'el. "And I will be honest with you, Ka'el… you will continue to 'wing it'. I've been a Weyrleader now… shards… 10 Turns now? Give or take." he keeps his voice low too. Let's not feed the gossip mills? So much time. His brows knit, as if the thought only strikes him now how much has passed. "Even with a Turn or so under your belt, that's more experience than some. Don't discredit yourself in that regard." Th'ero goes on to add before falling silent again to listen and then with a low exhale, his smile returns though crooked and a touch amused. "You do know, Ka'el, that it is not only the gold who determines the outcome of the flight or the strongest bronze? Could be that Seryth had preference, but the preference of the Weyr outweighed hers. Granted, that's not always the cause… It's part fate and luck, part the gold's choice and a good part of the Weyr." There's a slow shake of his head. "Gain the trust and support of your Wingriders and weyrfolk, Ka'el and have Xanadu behind you and it… may not matter which gold rises or when. If the Weyr wants you as their Weyrleader, the gold may be compelled into that favour. For the best of the Weyr." He'll tip his glass as if to toast, his voice not entirely without some edge to it before the last of the wine is drained. "Expect to make mistakes, too. If there's one thing I've learned from Weyrleader is… that there are sacrifices one has to make." For the better of the Weyr. At the mention of mind healers, Th'ero only appears confused until his expression clears again and he chuckles. "Mindhealers? I'd like to see them try! I don't think any of ours or our Healers even, are so bold. Is one hounding you already?"

Ka'el grins a little at the weyrmate business, shaking his head at the offered apology. "S'been less than a turn and.. ha, I don't expect anyone to make it a point of keeping up with every thing I do and make a show of it. It was…a small affair," but a big step, truth be told. But Th'ero would know that, wouldn't he? He himself as a weyrmate! Ka'el knows this only due to the fact that it's rare not to see one without the other. So in short, he hardly looks put out that the Fortian Leader wasn't aware. "Soriana," he informs, feeling like he should since the subject is here. "Junior Weyrwoman and rider of Luraoth. She … we've been friends practically since the day I stepped onto Xanadu." He moves to take a drink from his mugnow, listening as The'ro continues on. He can't help the widening of his eyes at the length of time that the fellow's been Weyrleader. ..Ten….turns…? He swallows, gulping down his drink. Shards. Can he imagine being where he is for a decade more? He doesn't interrupt though, even though his mind is still swirling with that number. He hasn't known a Xanadu Weyrleader who stayed where he was for more than .. three or so turns, if that. Could it be because of what Th'ero's saying now? The Weyr had something to do with it. "I try to," he answers, nodding to himself. "I…try to be fair to the riders. Back them when they need me. M'sure they don't all trust me, but.. I hope they respect me.." The corner of his mouth faintly quirks up a second, and he half smirk grows to a grin a he lifts his glass to toast as well, drinking to that. And to mistakes. Which he knows will come and have come already. A breath is exhaled at the word sacrifices. "I brace and hope that I'm ready, if and when they come." As for the mindhealers…he laughs. "He was hounding me the moment I stepped off the sands with Kanekith. I'm not sure how comfortable I am with the thought've someone poking around my brain, you know? I mean, someone other than Kanekith."

Th'ero has to give that to Ka'el in regards to not everyone knowing his every move and keeping up. Of course he would know. He kept his relationship with Kimmila secret for so long and so well that many Fortians thought the pair hated each other (when it was the farthest from the truth!). Only when he learned to relax and be more open in front of his own people did they realize Kimmila and Th'ero were, in fact, weyrmated. Oops? "Those are often some of the best relationships," he muses to Ka'el. Ten Turns is a long time indeed and later Th'ero will reflect on it too. Time flies and… he lost track, until now. "Respect and trust go hand in hand. You start with respect, build to trust. Vice versa too, I suppose. Good that you've already started on this. Already a step in the right direction," he explains in a low voice, his dark eyes lifting to seek Ka'el's and hold them. Now his voice takes on a curious inflection. Serious, as if imparting wisdom he so rarely shares. Or is it a warning? Regardless, there is a certain heat to those dark eyes. "Remember this, Ka'el. You are nothing without your Weyr and it's people behind you. You are a servant. You serve your Weyr, protect her people and if it comes to pass - and Faranth help us it doesn't - you die for your Weyr." Does he speak from experience? Th'ero eases back then, features relaxing as he exhales heavily. "It is not easy, being Weyrleader but it comes with it's own merits. When I was in your position, so new and untried, I often wondered if I'd stay. I did. I do not regret it." Nor will he let it go so easily. Back on the topic of mind healers, Th'ero is startled and doesn't bother hiding that fact. "Why…ever would they sic a mind healer on you at that stage? And well… no. I thought mind healers only worked with those who were…" How does one put it? "… already broken?"

Ka'el's interest in his food wanes now that most of it is gone, and his focus is now almost entirely on Th'ero. Especially with that change in his tone of voice. The spoon in his hand is set down and his hand lowers to the table as he watches him, brows faintly lowered in sign that he is indeed listening to him. Intently. This is .. advice, and thus far he's never had any of it. Sure, there's the advice from the Juniors and Thea herself, and advice from Weyrfolk who think they know a thing or two about what a Weyrleader should be. But here's a man who has ten turns worth of experience that he can learn from, and so he hangs on to his every word. Even when that word is 'sacrifice'. Even when that word is 'die'. .. Die? His brows raise fractionally. Die his for his Weyr? Would he be able to do such a selfless act? Life is so … good. If these good times turned to bad, and his people needed him to make a choice, them or him…would he be able to choose death over his own life? He slides his tongue between his lips, brows dipping gently now as his eyes lower to his stew bowl, though it's more of a thoughtful look than an angry frown. "Do you … know of a Weyrleader that's had to make that sacrifice?" he can't help but to ask, eyes seeking his again. "That's … a heavy choice." A task of a hero. Is he anything close to heroic? Most days, he certainly doesn't feel it. Anyone can sign off on papers and sit in meetings, can't they? Not exactly the work of a hero. "I don't regret Kanekith catching Seryth. There were days that I did. Days that I hated everything that had happened and wondered 'why me?', but…I like where I am." A light smile. "And heh, I think mindhealers believe everyone's broken in some way."

Likewise, Th'ero has all but forgotten about the wine at his side and the fact that they're seated in the living caverns. He's focused solely on Ka'el now and peripherally aware of the movement about the room. Folk know to keep their distance and so the Fortian Weyrleader does not feel the need to be guarded and cautious. He does keep his voice lowered and he will observe in silence as Ka'el absorbs his 'advice'. Unknowing of the inner questions, of which only he'll be able to work out for himself, the Fortian Weyrleader is none the less pleased with how the younger Weyrleader handles it. No scoffing, no blowing it off like it's nothing. Thoughtful. Good. "I do." Th'ero says with ease but now looks like he's trying to keep from laughing. It wouldn't be a very happy laugh. "I did. Only I cheated death. Twice." Stubborn, they call the Irondells. Apparently too stubborn to die too! "As for any in our recent history? No. Not personally. Historically, there are Weyrleaders who died before their time." Back in those times where being a dragon rider WAS an act of heroism. Not that it's without it now, just the threats are different. It's true that Ka'el is a Weyrleader in a happy time for Xanadu. Th'ero's start was happy too… until Stonehaven and that madman Laris surfacing from whatever pit he came from. Back to regrets and again, Th'ero looks faintly pleased by the answer Ka'el gives and nods his head. "Normal for any thrust into the position. I'd… worry if a rider took it too casually or clearly took it to heart as a thirst for power." That brings a snort from the Fortian Weyrleader. Power? What power? "Aren't we all?" A bit broken.

He does? Well, who was this strapping hero who threw his life to the jaws of death in order to save his people? Who was it that stared bravely at Death's face and laughed daringly? Who was it that….wait. It was Th'ero? Ka'el's head jolts back a little in a movement of shock. So .. is he speaking with Th'ero's spirit? The ghost of a dead Weyrleader who haunts the living caverns and strikes up conversations with unknowing and innocent visiting Weyrleaders? … Ack! .. Well. No. He cheated death. Not once, but apparently twice. The fact of that is enough to keep the shocked look on his face, even though he now knows that he's not having a conversation with a dead man. Not that he really believed that! "Two times your life's been spared?" Two times in ten years. Ka'el .. has some time before Death starts looking his way, right? "Is it too prying to ask what happened?" He's always up for a good story, especially those that are true.

Can a ghost look startled? Because Th'ero does, when Ka'el reacts in shock to his admitting to having made that sacrifice… or at least come close to it. Take that, Death! In seriousness, he is no ghost. He's very much alive, very much whole but with ten Turns of memories and some hardships and hurdles that he had to overcome and barely managed to pull through. For all that it appears that he has coasted through his time as Weyrleader… there have been days where even he cracked. No one witnessed that and if they did see the tell tale signs of the start of it, well — they'll keep silent on it. Because he recovered, became stronger for it. Th'ero is not the man who stood and Impressed on Western Sands, nor the one who first came to Fort that winter oh-so long ago. Kiena can attest to that. "Mhm." Th'ero confirms and then chuckles dryly. "No, it's not too prying." But he'll need some wine for it! Which he pours, only to realize he's never offered Ka'el any. "A glass for you as well?" Now he has! And boy, is it ever a story he's tapped into! "The first time was when we discovered we had an issue with some holdless… or rather a man leading them. Laris. A madman but cunning enough to recruit those to follow his perverted ideals. After he massacred a cothold to the north of here, we'd been hunting for his camps. Found them. We were to go in with the Guards, Weyr and Hold, act only as backup. Get the Guards in, get them and any prisoners or innocents - he had women and children in one camp - out. As bloodless as possible." Since generally, dragonriders do not fight. Only: "… it went wrong at the negotiations. We had Laris and a few of his tougher men cornered. Someone loosed an arrow. Never found out of it was us or them. Chaos then. I'd begun to call for the retreat when one of the holdless fired on Kimmila. Wounded her severely. I… am ashamed to admit that I lost control then. At the time, however, I felt it was justified." Blood for blood. One of his riders hurt (never mind it was his weyrmate) and the gloves are off. "I charged Laris, a man twice my size and weight and maddened. A man who didn't care who he killed, so long as he was victor." Th'ero speaks quietly, his eyes lowered and brows knit in thought. Unconciously, his hand goes to press against his right shoulder, just where muscle and skin meet to the chest. An old ache? "Laris' weapon caught me, rendered me defenceless. If it hadn't been for A'lin, a brownrider, Laris would have struck me dead with his next blow. That was the first time." he says, his smile wane and a little tense. He sighs, "That man was a constant thorn in my side from then on. He vanished. I spent Turns hunting him down, assuring the Weyr and the Holds that all was safe despite him being on the run. When he turned up in Xanadu…" Things got interesting? He waits to tell the second story, which is, in all honesty, the second half to the first.

Wine? It surely is tempting, and Ka'el glances to the poured drink. It'd be rude not to accept the offer, right? One drink won't affect his flying or ability to Between, and with the rain still coming down, albeit not as violenty as before, he isn't inclined to run off of Fort immediately. Thus, he nods in answer to him, voicing his thanks as a glass is poured for himself and a sip is taken. Now, with drinks in hand, both can settle into the story. Th'ero, as storyteller. Ka'el, active listener. .. Laris. He knows that name, and it's been brought to light a handful of times recently. A memory that refuses to die in the minds of those unfortunate to have it engraved within. The edges of his lips pull downward into a frown as he nods, not interrupting as the Weyrleader continues on. A madman. Massacre. And to think he was on Xanadu. Mingling with the people. Having lunch with his friends. None of then knew any better. How innocently ignorant they all were, until they weren't. Until the fear that followed the man and his reputation caught up with him. He remembers. The constant sweeps. The limitations on where people could go. Their home suddenly felt restricted because of this one man. This manman of Pern who escape the brave Fortian warriors. And Xanadu's too, although Ka'el himself knew of no battles like the one that unfolded here in this tale of a memory. His eyes follow the movement that Th'ero's make to his shoulder, and he brings his glass back to his lips to slowly sip the contents within. "I remember him," he says with a slow nod towards the end. "Soriana saw him. Ate with him in our Caverns…" He shakes his head, probably thinking of what could have been for her and the people that were in there, if Laris had felt it fit to murder. "No one knew until it was too late. I remember…something about a little girl. A kidnapping, maybe, but all that got to me were rumors."

One glass won't hurt and Th'ero isn't about to chase Ka'el out of Fort either. That'd be bad manners as a host and fellow Weyrleader! And he's starting to warm up and like the young Xanadian. Nothing like a story of blood, fighting and hardship to… solidify bonds? How manly. Laris name is known to many and when spoken in Fort Weyr or it's territory, it still makes some jump. The man is long dead now but it's as though his name invokes a sense of 'boogeyman' or haunting spirit, if the Pernese ever believed in such things. Yet he is not forgotten and the tale is likely still recounted as it is now in the caverns and between them. Not meant to scare, but more to teach. Th'ero has always harboured guilt over the trouble caused in Xanadu by Laris and the other areas he slunk and snuck through, leaving destruction behind. His numbers had swelled by then. Fort's "quiet problem" suddenly wasn't so quiet anymore and the Fortian Weyrleader had a lot to answer for and a lot of his pride to be swallowed when he realized the situation was far greater than he could handle alone. Brows lift as Ka'el speaks of Soriana dining with Laris and his mouth draws into a grim line. "She was damn lucky. That must've been…" He allows him to finish and then exhales, lifting his glass to sip before answering. "… so it was. That would have been Laurali. Daughter to one of Laris' former men. One of his right hands. He turned on Laris, came to us with the information we needed to find him the first time. Bartered the safety of his girl." So where is the man now? Th'ero's eyes have gone dark again, darker and hard. What did the Weyrleader do? "Hatskel, however, was guilty in the massacre of Stonehaven. I, along with Fort Hold and Harper Hall, oversaw his exile." Ouch. "We exiled most of Laris' people. Men." Pause. "Women." Harsh. There must have been good reasoning for that. "But you are right or those rumours are. Laurali was kidnapped. It was… a mess, Ka'el. Simply put." Th'ero leans back in his chair, crossing one leg over his knee and keeping one elbow propped against the side of his chair, glass in hand. "And when it came down to the last confrontation on Drake's Lake, I had had enough. I was ready to do anything it took to see Laris caught and dealt with." Sacrifice. "He refused to listen to reason. I had him backed and cornered to a ledge high above the lake. I tried to get him to surrender. He didn't. He attacked me and I drove my blade straight through his heart." Th'ero says it without pride in his voice. If anything, he sounds conflicted on the matter. It was for the greater good, but it haunts him all the same. "We fell. When he staggered, I lost my footing and he was gripping me… I couldn't break free and we fell to the water below. I was drowning… or drowned. I blacked out and my next memory restarts to Kimmila sobbing over me and two Healer-trained riders babbling that I was alive." Happy times! Th'ero doesn't look overly happy, but certainly grateful.

This is a swashbuckling tale though, isn't it? Minus the sea, but with all of the action! Laurali. The name is unfamiliar. If the little girl did give a name or the rumor came with one, it wasn't that. Slowly does Ka'el swirl the contents of his glass, the scene painting itself in his mind. Th'ero, facing grim decisions. Execution. … Could he do that? Ka'el's hardly brought harm to anyone in his life. Fistfights? Sure. He's a twenty-one turn old male, of course he's had scraps in his past. But…death? He has that power, doesn't he? To sentence someone who's done some awful crime to death. To make it certain that such wrongdoings will not be committed again by the criminal. Execution. Exile. Could he? and not bear the weight of guilt, however unnecessary it'd be? He shouldn't feel guilty … but perhaps, like Th'ero, he'd hold a shred of something that'd cause him to be at odds with his conscience. He's always striven to do the right thing. He's the good guy, or at least he tries to make those good decisions that would lead to positive things. How could ending a life… possibly be the right thing to do? But would he feel this way if he saw his riders slain? His weyrmate attacked? Would he, like the Fortian, give in to his rage and seek vengeance? … Maybe. Ka'el can only hope he never has to find out. His eyes slightly widen as Laris' last stand is spoken. He knew, from some past conversation, that the Weyrleader killed the man, but didn't know of the circumstances of it. The falling. The near drowning. Almost dying himself. … Sacrifice. "Shards…" For a few ticked seconds, that's all he has to say while he allows the story to be absorbed in his thoughts. Then.. "I'll never again complain about any long meeting I'm dragged in to," he says. "If that's the worst I'll face, I'll take it!" Light humor! An edge of his mouth quirks up as he lifts his wine glass. "To you, then, and the turns of service you've given to Fort, who is truly lucky to have you as her Weyrleader. I hope to be as successful as you to Xanadu." A smile, and he drinks a toast to him. He'll continue to sit with him and talk of lighter things than Laris until the rain ceases enough to warrant his departure back to his home. And when he does fly and Between back, he'll be content with the knowledge that Fort holds a friend in Th'ero, a Weyrleader who is earning the respect of yet one other.