Fort Hold - Great Hall
Inside the stone walls of this ancient Hall, one can appreciate the profound sense of history. Here, the colonists huddled in safety as the first Threadfalls devastated the land. Here, the first dragonriders lived before the creation of Fort Weyr. And here, the most learned men and women of the Crafts gathered to form the culture of the world.
The Hall itself is formed from a gigantic cavern that is fifty-seven meters deep and tapering to forty-five metres and forty-two meters at either end. Now its purpose is mainly for gathering, a communal living space for dining and the entertainment of guests and residents here. Tables are lined perpendicular to a raised dais where the head table rests and smaller doorways lead to the kitchens and lower levels. Great hearths line the walls closest to the tables, providing adequate warmth in the colder months.
This cavern was transformed into a beautiful, opulent and ornate interior living space, the architecture almost Byzantine in nature. The stone itself is decorated with etched and painted line patterns of great complexity and a blend of knotwork designs of African, Celtic and even Indian extractions that arch high over the doorways and surround niches cut into the rock where statues and works of art are on display. Tapestries line the walls, lending vivid color to the otherwise unbroken grey.
Various doorways, eighteen almost in total, lead to various parts of the Hold and the stairwells leading up to the second levels are fashioned of metal and rumored to have been once part of the colony ships.

Late summer is now slinking to early autumn and the leaves in the forest are just beginning to turn. It makes for a beautiful sight, if one has the time to enjoy it. Few do and fewer still take the time to stop and appreciate it. On this particular day, two Fortian riders are circling down to the landing fields outside of Fort Hold. They're certainly not here for sightseeing. Wouldn't that be alarming and no doubt raise considerable suspicion if that was the excuse a Weyrleader and Weyrsecond would give. Dismounting from Velokraeth's neck, Th'ero pauses long enough to stow away his helmet, keeping his gloves as the air holds a sharp chill to it despite the sun shining in a clear sky. He's dressed in his finer gear, not entirely formal but he's not slumming it either. Glancing towards the courtyard walls, he waits on D'ani to join him and does his best to ignore the curious looks by those working outside the Hold.

In formation half a wingbeat behind and a little to Velokraeth's right, Dremkoth banks over Fort Hold, gliding to a more gentle landing than is his norm, for which he gets a clout on the shoulder and a grumbled, "I'm not going to break, you idiot." It's affectionate nonetheless, the bronze rumbling something that sounds both pleased and doubtful at the same time as his rider slips down. The weyrsecond is also attired in dress leathers, the ones stonewashed and dyed bronze-black, his collar white and that's as far as he's gone towards formality. At least his scuffed boots have been buffed to shine dully in the chill autumn air? D'ani certainly doesn't notice the scenery either. He's both preoccupied and, if one were to look closely, slightly pinched about the eyes with fatigue. What little free time he has is being spent with Inri and their new child these nights, one thing or another robbing him of sleep (both quite enjoyable, but both equally exhausting). As he steps up beside the Weyrleader, he's raking gloved fingers through his hair, leaving brown waves haphazardly askew. At least it's not helmet-flattened anymore. "This ought to be fun," he mutters to Th'ero out of one corner of his mouth (because aren't all diplomatic visits fun? Not!) even as he puts on a semi-smile whilst nodding a greeting to one of those gawking holders.

"Oh, it'll be incredibly entertaining." Th'ero mutters back to D'ani in his usual low, gruff tone but there's no mistaking the sarcasm there. It practically drips from each word. He even rolls his shoulders a bit, likely to try and ease some of the tension already creeping in. There's probably some guilt for having to drag the Weyrsecond away from time with his newborn and he may intend to keep this meeting brief even if unlikely. It's the thought that counts, right? "We've no doubt been reported already." Not entirely off the mark. D'ani's nod to the locals sends at least a few of them scurrying off. Th'ero just sighs, "You'd think after how many Turns that they'd quit being so spooked of us. Like our arrival means ill." To be fair — it usually does, doesn't it? Why else would the Weyr be at a Hold outside of a Gather or important ceremony? Grumblings aside, he gives a side glance to D'ani, followed by a vague smirk. "Let's get this over with?" And perhaps drinks later. Lots of drinks. Th'ero starts to walk up the pathway towards the courtyard wall and through the small archway leading to the inner court. Cue more staring from the holders as they wander past and the Weyrleader pretends to ignore all as he heads straight for the Great Hall without pause.

"Loads," agrees D'ani dryly with the same sarcastic humor, though intentioned for that hold ahead of them rather than at the man by his side. Because how many of these have they been to together that haven't been entertaining? Why most of them, what a coincidence! Although he's missing both weyrmate and child, it's business before pleasure, D'ani knows this, though definitely it's the thought that counts! By now he knows Th'ero well enough to guess his dichotomy. He says nothing about that, but he does aim a subtle elbow at the weyrleader's ribs as he shoulder-rolls in an 'I saw that' gesture. They'll get through this, it means. And then Faranth help their weyrmates with their grumpy, liquored selves later? The remark, oh the irony of it brings and answering side-eyeing and smirk. No snickering though. Serious face time! He agrees, "Might as well face the music." Which will likely be discordant shrieking uless they're lucky enough not to run into- D'ani masters his expression as he strides along with Th'ero, even if his vague smile to people is a touch forced. Hi people I don't know! All is well. Really. Truuuuuust uuuuuuuus. Somewhere past the arch he mutters, "Perhaps His Lordship will be alone." Luck might be on their side?

Th'ero grunts when D'ani manages to elbow him in the ribs. Subtle or not, he felt that! And he knows the Weyrsecond well enough to know why he did it. Yeah, yeah. Faranth help them ALL if they end up pickled by brew later — though it likely will be their weyrmates cleaning up their mess. Hopefully just in a figurative sense and not literal. "We could only hope he's alone. It will make this… easier." Not. Th'ero can generally play a cold game of crypticness and lie through his teeth but D'ani would know enough to see through it. They both know by now that something has been wrong with the Holds for a long time and even the Weyrleader's patience is wearing thin (and boy, he's not looking forwards to finding Ha'ze and admitting the bronzerider was RIGHT). When are they ever lucky? When do things ever go SIMPLE in Fort? The most they can hope for is not to have a knife (or three) stabbed into their backs… which isn't fair to say given Fort Hold is in very good relations with Fort Weyr, despite Th'ero's 'must we do this and be here' vibe. As they enter the Great Hall, he does slow his steps a bit. For all his grumbling, the architecture here IS something to take in — or he's wanting an excuse NOT to make eye contact with the holders within. It was one of the first northern Holds built and the vaulted, Byzantine-like ceilings are quite the sight. Alas, there is business to attend to and they've barely crossed the vast room when an older man appears, stepping towards them with a purposeful stride and a rather pinched, grim look. "Steward." Th'ero almost growls under his breath to D'ani in a whisper of warning before he straightens himself and dons a mask of neutral welcome. No escape now!

If not easier, less shrill perhaps? Hopefully. Surely Lord Fort will want their report of those other holds and they don't come bearing good news. How's Gold Hill Hold doing these days? (cough) Privately they've likely both expressed to each other that they hope things 'out there' are miserable enough that lords and their holders patience is wearing thin enough to ask for intervention. As for young Ha'ze, the weyrsecond has remained both sympathetic and baffled, judgment reserved for the time being. He favors the holders with brief eye contact, those his wan smiles are likely not reassuring any of them, tries not to wince as the steward appears. Shoot - no backing out? Grarrrgh! Here they go! Yay? He bows slightly and as briefly as possible as the man draws up - just enough to be polite. "Fort's duties to Lord and Lady Fort. I hope they are well." And by that he really means absent.

One does not mention Gold Hill Hold unless they wish for things to escalate quickly beyond a shrill shouting match. Privately that is the very hope Th'ero is clinging too that this meeting will FINALLY spearhead something (and not him taking his frustrations out on some poor Holder). As the Steward storms his way up, the Weyrleader folds his hands behind his back and remains stone faced and a little cool with his greeting. "Afternoon. Fort's duties," He's not going to repeat what D'ani just said. Which is just fine and dandy, as the Steward eyes them both sharply and executes a rather stiff half-bow of his own. "This way, if you will follow me? We need to speak somewhere less, ah, public." Oh goody. That never bodes well, right? Off they go, down a few side hallways and noteably not upstairs where the Lord Holder holds office. Th'ero glances briefly to D'ani and quirks a brow. Hey, look? SOME luck! Lord and Lady Fort are not home! Or they are but are "busy".

Good thing D'ani hasn't mentioned it then? Though the hour is young and one never knows what Lord and Lady Fort - or the storming steward will say. As much as D'ani might want to take a half-step backwards after his bow, he doesn't. But he does hold his breath and subtly brace for impact. He exhales quietly (though with little relief) and they're off…into dark hallways on the first level. How… fortunate? Or would that be clandestine? Either way, chocolate-brown eyes meet Th'ero's and his eyes flick ever-so-briefly up those stairs as they pass them despite his best effort not to. He nearly chokes (because somewhere in every man's head is a third grader singing "…sittin' in a tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g). Hopefully they'll be "busy" long enough to cover this visit?

One could only hope! As it stands, they're being led to a rather small, cramped office. Apparently the Steward isn't offered as handsome and spacious a room as the Lord himself to conduct business. It's a touch musty smelling too and it takes all of Th'ero's strength not to wrinkle his nose. Sigh. This is just getting better and better, isn't it? "Skipping the usual pleasantries," The Steward goes on to say in a rather flat, monotone voice as he gestures them forwards while he walks around his desk. It'll be left to someone to close the door and it won't be Th'ero, as the Weyrleader is now watching their "host" with a wary eye. Aside from the musty smelling room, anyone else smelling a trap? Call him paranoid… but he really hates being cornered. "I presume you're here to ask about the welfare of the Holds?" His tone implies an almost sighed: again? Really? Maybe this is where D'ani should step in to answer, while Th'ero bites his tongue.

D'ani'll just remain in the open doorway, one shoulder casually braced against the frame. He knows well the Weryleader's preferences. Besides, someone needs to keep a lookout up and down the hall - as well as allow fresh air into that stale office. Faugh! He stifles a sigh at the foregoing of formalities. Wine might've helped the tedium, oh well. And if Th'ero is biting his tongue, D'ani will be happy to speak up! Forgive his blunt correction (the steward did say skip the pleasantries), "Not really, no. We'd like to know if the holds plan on starving through the next winter also," he drawls not attempting to hide his sarcasm in the least. What happened to that well-mannered patience he's known for? These days he saves it for a bawling infant he cradles while pacing the floors on sleepless nights.

Wine will come later! A lot of it. Th'ero has to keep himself from chuckling for D'ani's blunt correction, jaw working silently while the Steward just stares at the Weyrsecond and is obviously thrown off his game. His eyes dart from D'ani to Th'ero and then he makes a dissatisfied sound. "Don't know how you figured that out." the man grouses, which has the Weyrleader raising his brows as he turns to look to D'ani. Huh? Oblivious, the Steward is rifling through a pile of hides and paperwork. "Fort Hold and many of the major and minor Holds are fine storage wise." Sniff. "It's the cotholds that are the problem." His tone seems to imply that they always are. Th'ero frowns at this, "Aren't they your charges? What is this problem?" Oh great, here we go! The Steward might not see it, but D'ani could glimpse the way his one hand curls and uncurls from a fist.

D'ani sees that fist. Yep, it's going to be one of those meetings where the walls, if they weren't made of stone, would likely get a hole punched through them at some point. While the steward is focused on those papers, he shares an eyeroll with Th'ero that says, 'Is this guy for real?' "Lucky guess?" suggests the weyrsecond with exaggerated patience like one would to a four-turn old. "Riders do check in at cotholds randomly while on sweeps, you know. They hear vague… things. But if you're not worried enough to have mentioned it to us…" He shrugs and half-turns as if they're leaving. "…I'm sure you can supply them all easily enough."

Th'ero might attempt to be the first man to punch a hole through stone. It's D'ani's eyeroll that keeps him sane for just a little longer. The Steward will live a little longer too, though depending on his answers that may span a few minutes… "We've been well aware of the 'vague things' you've been hearing for over the last Turn." the man adds dryly, not at all falling for the Weyrsecond's bait. For one, the Weyrleader hasn't budged. Instead, Th'ero just crosses his arms. "Get on with it." It's not a polite request. It's a warning. The Steward straightens and licks his lips, the first hint of nervousness. Uh, right. "A good number of our cotholds are reporting that they're so low on reserves that they are in for a hard winter season. Some haven't even tithed to us." Rather than making it seem like a concern, it's spoken more like an incredulous insult. The nerve! Of course, this is the Steward speaking. Perhaps Lord and Lady Fort are a bit more sympathetic… when not absorbed in "other affairs".

If he does, he'll need something stronger than wine afterwards. And what fun will that be? D'ani casts a look up and down the hall, then shifts back to re-settle in the doorway, bracing his shoulder once more and jamming his hands in his pockets. He flashes Th'ero a barely-there wink, then adopts the air of one appearing to do his best not to look utterly bored. By that of course, he conveys instead that he'd rather be anywhere else than waiting for the steward to get to the point. When the steward first speaks, the weyrsecond's brows twitch up a tick in an sarcastic 'do tell' manner. There's a very quiet snort on the heels of the tithing concern and rather than point out that the steward just said Fort's stores were fine, he simply drawls, "Huh, wonder how that happened." And now he's avoiding eye contact with Th'ero lest he start snickering.

The Steward glares at D'ani for that remark and saves some of that for Th'ero too when the Weyrleader doesn't correct his 'second. Th'ero actually smiles! Just a hint of one but it's enough to make the old man bristle a bit. They may as well should have started snickering. "Bad trading!" The Steward says haughtily, "Is what happened. Someone's gone through a lot of trouble to muddle their tracks too and make sure that the… problematic items wouldn't be problematic until was too late. Bad seed, shoddy materials — the lists go on." Now some papers are held towards them. He said lists, here are those lists! Take 'em! Frowning again, Th'ero snatches them, briefly scans the writing and then passes it over to D'ani. "And now you want the Weyr to do something about it?" he says cooly. The Steward just looks at them. Uh, yeah? Duh? Th'ero takes a deep breath and exhales, not bothering to hide his frustration there. "Just exactly what do you think we can do?" His answer? The Steward just smirks. "I'm afraid I can't presume to SAY what you would do, Weyrleader. Sir." Dry, dry sarcasm there. Maybe this meeting should wrap up soon? Before a Steward winds up in a choke hold.

D'ani returns the steward's glare with bland unconcern though he does listen without interrupting as the man goes into detail. He's quiet too, through the verbal ping-ponging between weyrleader and steward, reaching to take the lists when they're passed to him. He takes time to go down the lists, pauses once to lift brown eyes to see the steward's response to Th'ero's question, keeps them pinned on the man for a long span afterwards. Into the puddle of quiet he drops but seven words, "Looks like you need new cothold management." He offers the papers back to the steward. His problem, not theirs! "I mean, those minor stewards, they're not on their A-game, are they?" Tsk! After a with a rueful headshake, he looks at Th'ero like he's beginning to wonder: Why are they even here?

Th'ero is wondering the same thing at this point and more so when the Steward waves off the return of those lists. They must be copies. "I'd not put the blame in the stewards quite yet," says the very picture of problematic Steward. Th'ero just grimaces and doesn't even waste his time in giving his fairways — or promising anything on their part. He just signals, subtly, to D'ani for him to follow and out the Weyrleader strides, leaving a rather shocked Steward gaping stupidly from behind his desk. Probably not the best exit and he's likely to hear about it later but right now? Th'ero don't care. He needs a drink! To the bat cav— err, to the Weyr! "Sharding waste of time." he growls under his breath the moment they're back in the narrow hallways.

D'ani makes an exasperated sound in his throat for the denial that the steward makes. That's the first place he would start! He bites his tongue on the words he'd like to say, instead turning subtly incredulous eyes to Th'ero. How the hell did the man get promoted this far up the food chain? That signal of Th'ero's is caught. Tempted to make a paper airplane out of that list, aim it at the steward's left nostril and send it flying, he instead crams it into his jacket pocket, pivots on his bootheel and follows the weyrleader out.

Shame that Th'ero takes them away before D'ani can make good on that temptation. Granted, if he had allowed it, they'd be making quite the hasty retreat. Not the mention the reputation they'd earn! Nyalle would have their heads. In fact… she might still given Th'ero just walked out without a word to the Steward and was hardly cordial or polite. Weyr to holder relations, what? "Let's get back to Fort Weyr." Sooner rather than later would be preferred. By the time they get to the courtyard and out that side archway again, even Velokraeth is restless and antsy — or he's just bored out of his mind and wants to go snuggle up with some willing greens. "Office?" he queries to D'ani, expecting him to understand everything else underlying that simple word. Office, summon others, discuss and get drunk. Deal?

They still might have earned a reputation today, though what the steward will say beyond complaining the Weyrleader and his weyrsecond were less than politely helpful will make him look girly and emo. Right now D'ani doesn't care. He stomps along beside Th'ero with a black expression having wasted a whole sharding afternoon with a man in denial about his underlings. Feh! "Aye," he agrees, knowing what's to come and looking forward to it. Uh. How's he going to hold, rock and comfort a sleepless babe tonight so Inri can sleep? He's not even thinking that far ahead right now - oops. Dremkoth is only too willing to take him back and get his rider in a better mood because D'ani's giving him a headache. Shared headspace - gotta love it!

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