Continued from: Official

Fort Weyr - Weyrsecond's and Jr. Weyrwomen's Office

Aged by time, just like the other offices carved into the stone, these ones have lived through the ages of Fort with the only change given to time being subtle ones to the decor as new staff come to fill the space. Situated next to the Weyrleader's Office, the small cavern leads into a spacious alcove of sorts before branching into two separate directions. On the right it leads to the Weyrsecond's personal office, a modest sized room complete with all the necessary furnishings required, along with a few shelves, a book shelf and storage for records and reports. On the left, it leads to the Junior Weyrwomen's offices and this larger room is set with three desks rather than one, along with all the other necessities needed. Both offices have small hearths built in to offer some warmth in the colder months and as there are no windows, several glow baskets have been installed to offer enough light and a few tapestries hung to offer a touch of color. Doors have also been painstakingly worked in, allowing some privacy if needed, though often they are left open.

Heading down the hallways, Ezra hesitates before he darts into his room and digs out his old heir knot. Untwisting it, he shoves it into his pocket before hastening through the tunnels and out into the bowl, and then up to the offices. Knocking on the door to D’ani’s office, he tilts his head a bit and waits to see if his friend is within, or if he’ll have to go somewhere else to find him. It’s evening, cloudy and gloomy and a day best spent indoors with warm fires and warm conversations.

Normally D’ani isn’t in his office in the evenings. Early mornings are spent out and about, whether it’s shadowing one of the sweep wings or visiting one of the holds he’s been scheduled to go to. Afternoons is for office work while Dremkoth returns to wherever Kouzevelth is hanging out to keep the gold company. This evening, however, he’s behind and so a tray of (as yet uneaten) early supper sits on the corner of his desk while he works on something. It looks like he’s planning to make a late night work session in order to finish up.

Well, Ezra’s here to ruin all of that. Or try. Knocking on the door, the teen steps inside and grins a bit. “Hi, D’ani, do you have a minute?” Or a few candlemarks? Either way, the young man strides forward and pulls his knot from his pocket, setting it oh-so-carefully on the Weyrsecond’s desk. It’s an heir’s knot, with the knots tied precisely and the blood cord in copper running through the braided black and turquoise strands. And he just grins a bit, still reeling from having his path chosen for him. But the boy does not seem upset about it. Not even a little bit.

D’ani doesn’t really. He wouldn’t be here if this didn’t have to get finished tonight. But he doesn’t say that. Instead, after he’s called, “Come in!” he smiles at Ezra as if he’s glad to see him (because he honestly is!) Things have been busy with the eggs on the way and the Weyr gearing up for search so he’s finding new paperwork in his inbox daily and a multitude of smaller errands he’s never done before. His To-Do list is a mess - but his manner is relaxed and warm as he says, “I always have time for a friend, Ezra. What’s up?” Whatever he’s been working on is pushed to the side and the teen gets D’ani’s full attention.

Ezra just grins and points to the knot on D’ani’s desk. “Rayathess gave me heir,” he says quietly, his excitement and elation muted so he doesn’t look like a fool, bouncing around and screaming. Yells echo in these caves, and sometimes painfully. “He doesn’t want it. He was so happy - so relieved - when I said I’d take it. He wants to be a Harper. So I’ve got Stonehaven, D’ani. I’ve got it back.” A grin blooms on the teen’s face, eyes bright with…totally not tears, no. Bright with /excitement/, yeah, as he shifts up onto his toes and then back again, fidgeting.

Oops! There’s a knot on his desk! He missed that while clearing his stack of papers. His mouth opens, but no words come while his gaze lifts to peer at Ezra and study his oft ambivalent young friend to discern if the elation is genuine. Somewhere between ‘I said I’d take it’ and ‘I’ve got it back’ D’ani’s slow smile grows to an outright grin of triumph and joy. “WHOO-HOO!!!!” He’s on his feet at the same time his bellow resounds down the hall, the Weyrsecond oblivious to who might hear and unconcerned whether they do. He’s around his desk in an instant arms reaching for Ezra to give him a rib-cracking manhug, which if the boy doesn’t duck away from will see him also swept up, twirled around, deposited unceremoniously on his feet and back ker-thumped enough to suffice as a cardiac thump if his heart needs restarting. “Congratulations!” He can’t stop grinning.

Ezra visibly jumps at the yell, and then he’s laughing like the child he is - even squealing a bit when he’s picked up and hugged and /spun/, clinging to his best friend with more laughter. “Gak! D’aniiii!” he protests, coughing at the thumps. Flailing a bit, he manages to hug him back and thump/hit him in return. “Thank you,” he says a bit weakly as he catches his breath, leaning on the desk and reaching for the knot. Then, slowly, he pins it onto his shoulder. The first time he’s worn it, actually, since after…he didn’t want to claim the dead hold as his own. Smoothing it down, he lifts his chin and straightens his shoulders. “Stonehaven is going to be mine,” he says quietly. “It’s official. Harpers know and everything. Rayathess had it all organized and all ready…” The teen rubs his face, tugging fingers through his hair. “So, yeah…”

So yeah indeed! D’ani is euphoric - chalk that up to the fact he knows how important Stonehaven is to his best friend and he can relate - in a way - because Maiona still lies desolate. Forget the paperwork - that can be finished later tonight in the wee hours when he should be sleeping. “This calls for a celebration!” he announces firmly. They’ve had precious little of that lately and so he asks, “Have you had dinner yet? If not, come on, we can get something special at Shenanigans. My treat.”

Ezra shakes his head and grins. “I…yeah, we did eat, but, I mean, I was going to ask you a favor.” Surely in off-camera scenes he visits his friend /without/ asking him for something. Right? “I was wondering if, tonight or tomorrow, whenever, if you could take Raya and me to Stonehaven. He…he hasn’t been back and he should be. And I want to go back.” It’s his now. He needs to see it and walk around it and start making his plans. Turns off, of course, but still. Things can begin taking shape in his mind at least.

“A drink then?” Maybe that’s a bad idea, but hey, one can’t hurt, right? “Maybe ale,” he tacks on, merely as a suggestion. His treat - he’ll buy whatever Ezra wants, if indeed they go. After releasing Ezra from that hug, he listens and there’s no hesitation when he says, “Of course I’ll take you both!” Tonight? He has no windows in his office but with the autumn days shortening, he knows it’ll be dark soon. “Would you like to grab some glows and I’ll meet you in the bowl.” Surely he doesn’t mean to remain there, right? Uncertain enough to ask, he amends, “Or do you need to pack more gear?”

Ezra grimaces a bit. “I tried ale tonight. I didn’t like it. I like the furity ones Inri makes for me…” As un-manly as those are. “Maybe I’ll bring something, and we can…toast or something…” Mark the occasion? He’s sentimental enough to want to do /something/, but not creative enough to think of what. “I’ll go grab some stuff. And get Raya, he was resting when I left him.” Grinning, he swoops in to give his best friend another tight hug. “Thank you, D’ani. For…you know. Uh. Believinginme.” Mutter. RUN!

Inri! They’ll need her to celebrate too! Faranth knows where she’s at tonight. “Or we can catch her for a drink tomorrow.” he tosses out. D’ani can come up with something creative and so Ezra might find he has something up his sleeve when the time comes. His mind is working on how to juggle responsibilities here, who he’s going to tell that he’s heading out, deciding on Dtirae, when the hug takes him unaware and so he’s a little slow but returns it with a laugh. “You’re welc-” Oh! Believing in him? Blink. But how could he not? Ezra has always been so real with D’ani, so genuine. His laugh dies, replaced by sincerity, “I always will, Ezra,” he assures - thought it might be to the backside of the teen as he ducks and rruns. He’ll remain for a few minutes, re-arrange his To-Do list, write a note to leave on Inri’s desk, have Dremkoth bespeak both Zuvaleyuth and Velokraeth, then ready Dremkoth and await them in the bowl.

Ezra hears D’ani’s words and his heart hammers almost painfully in his chest. Pushing the emotions back he bolts down to Raya’s room, knocking on the door. “Raya! We’re going to Stonehaven now, D’ani’s taking us!” Hope you enjoyed your fifteen minute nap?

Nothing at first and then a barely audible groan and maybe a thump, followed by cursing and the sound of the door being unlatched and opened. Rayathess leans against the doorway, still looking half alseep and rather bedraggled with his messy hair and rumpled clothes. Oh, he WAS enjoying that nap, having the best dream. Thanks a lot! “Now?” What? He scrubs at his face and then blinks, peering at Ezra. “Isn’t it night? I— well, got to get changed and…” What else? “D’ani packing supplies or are we bringing our own gear?” Yawning he runs a hand through his hair, only making it worse rather than better as he waits on further instruction.

Ezra just grins at his brother. “It’s…well. Almost? Sunset isn’t far off. I’m just going to grab some stuff. He’s taking us there, but dress warm and all that. I’m going to go get some food and drinks. We’re…uh. We’re not staying the night.” He doesn’t know if he has to specify that or not, but he does. Because he can’t stay there over night. Not yet. Eventually of course, but not yet. Leaving his brother to get ready, the teen and heir bolts to his room to dress, makes sure Zoi is comfortable, gets food and beverages, and is soon in the bowl heading for Dremkoth - because the bronze is hard to miss.

D’ani is there by the time Ezra approaches because all he needed was to slip into his flight gear, grab his whip, coil it at his hip, the ever-present coil of rope already affixed to the bronze’s harness. He’s also got his sword sheathed at his hip, not that he expects to use it, but you never know. The patrols surely overfly the abandoned hold and keep watch, but D’ani is taking no chances where vagrants might be concerned. Not after Laris. There’s also a suspicious bulge in one of his jacket pockets - deep, large pockets, those - of which he says nothing about. “Is Rayathess coming?” he asks upon the arrival of his friend.

Drinks. Rayathess tries not to grimace or hold his forehead at that, but he’ll assume Ezra means non-alcoholic. Hopefully! “No, didn’t think so.” he mumbles and then makes some half-dismissive gesture. “Alright, I’ll go get ready. Meet you and D’ani in the bowl…” Once the teen and heir is gone, the door will close and Rayathess will rummage around his dim lit room before finally changing out of his rumpled clothes and into fresher and warmer ones. Snagging his worn looking but still warm and comfortable jacket, he’ll make his wait out though his steps are a bit slower. Hesitant, for various reasons but he shows up all the same and unarmed. Rayathess is indeed coming, even if slow and as if to make up for it he’ll actually wave a greeting to D’ani and then glance to Ezra. “Sorry that took so long. Didn’t mean to keep you two waiting…”

Ezra fastens up the buttons on his Stonehaven jacket, flipping up the hood and pulling on his gloves. “Yeah, he is,” he says with a smile, offering out his pack so it can be stored safely on the bronze’s straps. Then he’s offering the bronze some scritches of greeting, fond gestures from the teen. “It wasn’t that long,” he says with a smile back to Rayathess, before he looks to D’ani for permission to climb aboard.

Dremkoth easily accepts those scritches while he peers back the way the teen has come, his rumble-greeting to Ezra turning questioning. Obviously wanting to know where Zoi is. D’ani nods a casual but respectful greeting to Rayathess, chuckles at his bronze with, “I don’t think she’s up for a dragonride tonight.” Though he throws a questionmark on it, shooting a look at Ezra as he says it. He’s game if Ezra is. “Let’s mount up,” he says at length, climbing aboard, and reaching a hand to each of them if they need it. Once they’re settled and clipped in the bronze wastes no time, launches into the twilight and banks in the general of the valley they’d visited those months ago. “Point me to the right one when we get close, will you?” he says over his shoulder as the wind whips his words back to his friend.

It wasn’t? Rayathess blinks again as he looks from Ezra to D’ani and then promptly regrets having consumed so much ale. Mercifully, it’s only addled his head a bit and there’s no threat of any nausea… or one hopes. He’ll nod to D’ani’s request to mount up, allowing Ezra to go first since Rayathess will require a bit more assistance. It’s been awhile since he last rode on a dragon and despite the previous times he’s still shaky at it. Adjusting the collar of his jacket up as high as it will go, he’ll grip either the straps or whoever is unfortunate enough to be in front of him. Nervous flyer? You bet he is! Nervous for very many reasons. And he’ll be silent most of the ride there, occasionally glancing down but finding soon enough that that only lends to a nasty bit of vertigo and so he stares determinedly ahead.

Ezra shakes his head at Dremkoth and then D’ani. “No, she’s not coming with us tonight…” It’s too dangerous for the canine to be out there unleashed. Climbing nimbly into the straps, the teen settles in and makes sure he’s buckled and comfortable, jacket tight and hood drawn down. “I will,” he promises D’ani. Back-dragon-driver? He’ll make sure they get to where they need to be, until he’s directing D’ani to fly into the valley where Stonehaven resides. The hold stands stark and chill in the fading sunlight, backed up against the mountains from which it got its name. All is the same as they’ve left it, iron gate closed and latched, the hold dark and devoid of life except for the critters that have found shelter in the wild growing orchard, or the trees that grow within the hold’s protective walls. Th’ero’s original note is long gone but it’s been replaced time and again, labeling this cothold as belonging to and under the protection of Fort Weyr, and none shall enter. Except them. Because Ezra has a key. Dismounting, the boy looks around and then looks back up at his brother, offering him a hand down.

That’ll be Ezra Rayathess gets to vice-grip, but D’ani - maybe Ezra too? - who leans to help haul Rayathess aboard. Perhaps just now catching the scent of ale and understanding the grouchy-appearance is other than displeasure or fatigue. He’s careful to check the clips on his passengers and direct Dremkoth silently about taking it easy on those banking turns until they are flying up the valley and then he must tilt on his side to ease through the pass into the next. As before, the Weyrsecond is keeping a sharp eye out for activity where there should be none. Can’t be too careful! Despite the desolation of the place, he’s relieved to see nothing of vagrancy as they land before that closed gate. Clips undone, he’s helping hand them down if they need it, then dropping to the ground after. From there he’ll follow Ezra’s lead. But first, it’s with a wide, warm smile that he executes a formal bow to Ezra and says, “Welcome home, Holder Ezra.”

Stonehaven Hold

Rayathess can’t be fully blamed, can he, for the ale? It IS (and is about to not be) his Turnday. What a way to celebrate, right? The cold air and straight flight helps sober his head though and his vice-like grip will eventually ease back as he settles to Dremkoth’s rhythm of flight. It’s when they begin to approach and then land that Rayathess’ grip returns and his expression is closed off and a bit distant. He’s never seen Stonehaven from above and he’s trying to picture how it would have been against… what it is now. But it’s hard, so very hard. Again, he’ll need that helping hand down, but now more because he’s not focused on the task. Rayathess is staring at that closed gate and the desolation and trying not to fidget under the silence. A look is given to Ezra, then a sharper one yet to D’ani as he welcomes the teen home as Holder and he says nothing. Just gives them a look and then moves to walk forwards in slow steps of approach.

Ezra lets his brother go, watching him for a moment before he’s turning, blinking in surprise at D’ani’s formal bow. With a little laugh and a blush, Ezra returns the bow. “Thank you, Weyrsecond D’ani. And Dremkoth,” he adds, before he’s turning to follow in his brother’s footsteps, mood sombering considerably as they approach the closed gate. Beyond, all has been cleaned up. There are no more bodies under the tree, no more weapons and no blood stains. It’s an abandoned hold without any indication of the horrors which transpired here. Ezra then steps up closer to his brother, standing beside him and looking up at him, silent support. He remembers when he first came back. He remembers how hard it was.

If D’ani knew about turnday-not-to-be, he would be very confused. BUT! He’d definetly recommend more ale. His greeting to Ezra comes before he sees the expression of Rayathess’ face and he winces, his boyish grin fading to a more serious mein. Knowing how much this place means to Ezra, has meant to both of them and what happened here is sobering and he remembers, belatedly, that this the first time Rayathess has been back since the massacre. He hangs back as the brothers approach the gate, lingering beside Dremkoth. He was asked for a ride and so thinking, gives them their privacy for this moment.

Ale will be needed for one reason or another by the end of this, at least for Rayathess. Never mind he’s already helped himself to it but he’s by far sobered up now and likely was more-or-less before they left Fort Weyr. The eldest Stonehaven as simply come to a stop, as close as he can to the closed gate, his eyes still staring straight ahead and dark and distant. His posture is tense, hands curled into tight fists at his side. He’s unaware of Ezra standing there or D’ani some distance behind them for several long minutes until at last he blinks and seems to stir out of whatever pit he lost himself to. “We… going inside?” Can then? Turning his head to look down (how much longer will that last?), he asks that silent question to Ezra before his eyes travel beyond and back to where Dremkoth and D’ani are waiting. He frowns heavily, almost scowling as he considers… then adds in a slow tone. “He coming with us too? Doesn’t seem — right to just leave him out here.”

Ezra glances back at D’ani, giving him a little smile before his attention is on the world beyond the gate, and his brother. “If you want to,” he says quietly, resting his hand on the iron handle, pulling it up and out to free the bolt from its slot in the stone. Pushing it, the rusting iron grates, creaking, as Ezra opens it and steps inside. “He’s been here before,” he says quietly, glancing up to his brother. “I was going to invite him in, unless you just want it to be us…” He smiles a bit, gently. “Whatever you want, Raya,” he murmurs. “Even if you want to go in alone…”

D’ani’s first visit to Maoina after the initial round of fruitless searching was alone. He wanted it that way and likely assumes that Rayathess might also. So he nods back to Ezra with a smile of reassurance that means, ‘Go on, I’ll be fine.’ If they beckon him, he’ll move forward, but only if they do. He’s prepared to remain and keep watch, his eyes roving the ledges and skyline of hill and ridge, eyes drifting to nooks of rock and shadows under the trees while keeping his head still so as not to appear looking to the distant observer, should there be any watching.

Rayathess winces a bit at the creaking sound, which to him seems a bit overly loud in all the silence and stillness. He’ll give Ezra a bare little smile then and swallowing thickly, he’ll take a few tentative steps inside only to pause again. Does he want to be alone? Part of him says yes, a larger part of him says no… all for various reasons that boil down to some part of him that doesn’t quite trust what he’s become. “I might go on ahead a few steps but… company might be needed…” he murmurs, glancing back to where his younger brother stands and then over him to D’ani. He’ll be the one to make the beckoning gesture, though it’s extended to Ezra as well. Rayathess’ expression remains grim set and conflicted. Shall they get this over with?

Looks like Dremkoth will be the one keeping watch, as Ezra adds a little gesture of beckoning to Rayathess’, towards D’ani. Moving further in, he pauses to look at the tree, beneath which flowers now grow in the spring and summer - though there’s nothing but dead grasses there now. He is quiet, though his mind is rolling with thoughts and ideas. Prioritizing what needs to be done. The first part is easy - cleaning and tidying up the place. Getting the dust and dirt, debris and leaves out, the tunnelsnake dens and other critters. Perhaps in the spring and summer they can do that, bring a group up here to get that done. Leave things fresh and clean and /new/. New stones in places, fresh plaster… starting over, covering up and cleaning so that all that remains are the good memories. The happy times and not the others. And he’ll need people, too. Crafters and a few families to come populate the hold which once housed thirty to fourty and now has…one.

D’ani’s brows twitch up in a ‘you sure?’ sort of way before he pushes off of Dremkoth and strides forward. He pauses at the gate, fingers brushing the rusty iron, but whatever his thoughts are, they remain unvoiced. His feet remain on the threshhold, but his eyes also drift to the spot underneath that tree, so it’s likely he’s paying his respects. He’s promising to be there for Ezra, to support the young Holder and Stonehaven, but they are silent ones between him and the ones who once lay piled there. He then moves silently in, hands stuffed in his jacket pockets, fingers brushing the contents as if checking they are still there. He’s silent, leaving the two with their thoughts, but there as a silent bracing presence, empathic as much as he can be to the past, the desolation brought to the place and hopeful for the future.

What a contrast between the two brothers! Ezra is already planning the rebirth of Stonehaven, while Rayathess is lost to the past. He moves forwards slowly, distracted and feeling more and more like he is caught in some surreal dream that he cannot wake up from. The tree is not glanced upon by him, either not knowing or having momentarily forgotten what it implies. He’s wandering in slow, plodding steps, aimless in his path. He’ll pause when he reaches the door though, fingers automatically seeking those familiar stones. It’s almost too much then and Rayathess stumbles back slightly, shaking his head and gritting his teeth. Too much conflicting thought and emotion and it’s threatening to overwhelm… but one glance to Ezra and D’ani and he wills himself to steadiness. Not here. “You’ve the key?” he mutters to his brother, even though it’s a pretty stupid question to ask. But he’ll step aside all the same if Ezra steps forwards to unlock the door. It’s then that he’ll try to subtly catch D’ani’s attention, giving him a thankful look that does little to explain it all. He’s glad that the bronzerider is there, not only as Ezra’s trusted friend but as… precaution. In case Rayathess does break somewhere along the visit.

Ezra glances back at D’ani, giving his friend a warm smile, before he’s reaching up a hand to put it against Rayathess’ back when he stumbles. “Easy,” he murmurs, expression pained. He knows. How he knows. Fingers firm against his brother’s back, he nods, removing his hand to pull the key from an inner pocket. “Yeah,” he says, reaching forward to unlock the door. Pulling it open, he steps inside, fingers lifting to brush that stone as he does so. Inside all is dark and still. Little has moved, and little remains. All the broken furniture is gone, the place cleaned up but also depressingly empty. Hollow.

D’ani is watching Rayathess on the periphery of his field of vision, hands remaining in his pockets after the touch to gate and stone. His steps still lag, giving the two Stonehaven brothers some space, but he’s closer than he was before. He’s perhaps several yards off, silent for now out of consideration for the both of them. Overhead the twilight deepens, doing nothing to help dispel the gloom inside the hold. They might know the way around blindfolded, but the Weyrsecond isn’t about to go stumbling about in the dark: he brought a glow and it is now flipped open to shine at least in their small area, chasing shadows that remain at bay several yards away like hungry wild creatures might.

Rayathess grimaces as Ezra’s hand comes to rest against his back, taking a few more deep, calming breaths. Easy, easy. Right. Stay grounded, stay together. Not at all an simple task and the eldest Stonehaven is struggling and that is even before they step inside. Blinking as there is sudden glowlight chasing back the gloom and onset of twilight, Rayathess will stiffly nod his thanks to D’ani. Of course he knows the way but he isn’t sure what may be lurking inside, how much has changed or left changed. Stepping in through the door, mimicking the same gesture as Ezra, he’ll walk slow, head turning as his eyes sweep over — nothing. Hollow is apt to describe it and it just confirms much of what Rayathess had often wondered on all those long, long nights. Shuffling forwards, he pushes on, silent and tense. Old memories war with what he sees and he grimaces heavily, almost sickly.

Ezra also glances back at D’ani, smiling and nodding his thanks. He didn’t think to bring any light, so it’s much appreciated. He lingers back by the door as Rayathess moves forward, the young heir reaching out to put a hand on D’ani’s arm, giving it a brief but tight squeeze. His emotions are running hard and fast, but he holds himself together. He can not be the fragile one in this scenario. He needs to be strong.

D’ani nods back to Rayathess gravely, maintaining the silence, giving tacit understanding that emotions run strongly for the young man, as they ought. Anything less might be cause for concern. He has a hand free, pulls it from his pocket to flip his wrist and clasp Ezra’s arm in return for that squeeze, then drops it and nods significantly to Rayathess’ back. He’s here in support for Ezra, ready to… well, do what he can if need be should Rayathess lose it. He waits to Ezra to precede him, lifts the glow higher, making the shadows loom eerily as he moves forward.

Deeper does Rayathess venture into the hold, never straying too far ahead but he’s on the very edge of the glow light. His feet seem to take on a mind of their own, drawing him down paths once so often tread. Nothing is left though, only the dark and his memories. He had to see for himself but now he is beginning to regret it. Now it’s real, not that he ever doubted it before but this just confirms it all. Emotions surge, ones he’s shown and those he’s kept under lock and key. All the anger, the hurt, the loss, regret, shame, guilt and pain, among more jumbling in there and it becomes too much. Rayathess rounds a bend and who knows what it is that triggers it, but he goes still, freezing after he half-stumbles to a stop. Is this where he had to decide to turn and run, with Ezra and Anrila? Only to later know too late he only had his sister… It’s uncertain. But he’s stopped and his breath has grown shallow and short, eyes taking on a wild and panicked look. It’s wrong, all wrong and he doesn’t want to remember the end. “Out.” he says abruptly in a choked voice. “I need out.” Backtracking, Rayathess will push right passed Ezra and D’ani as well and if either will try to hold him back he will only shake them off before hurrying on in brisk, tense strides back the way they came.

Ezra smiles at D’ani and follows after Rayathess, and when his brother freezes, Ezra stiffens. Careful. Easy. His heart hammers suddenly in his chest at the wildness he sees in his brother, and he is swift to step aside when Raya says he needs out. Watching his brother go, Ezra stays where he is, his own breath coming shorter, faster. “Give him a few minutes,” he says quietly, brows furrowed as he looks at his friend. “Dremkoth can watch him?” Just to make sure he doesn’t do anything truly stupid…right?

D’ani is braced warily for some sort of outburst, but he’s tensed to get between fists and those stone walls, since that’s all there seems left to vent grief and anger on physically. He’s not about to bring a Stonehaven back from this venture with broken bones if he can help it! Besides, punching a wall hurts and he doesn’t want Rayathess in any more pain than he is already is. So when Rayathess pushes past, his arms reach to catch, but it’s not a firm sort of grab, just a check to discern the tension in the young man that allows him to slip through anyway. He watches him until the shadows swallow him - which doesn’t take long - then slowly lowers the glow, turning to peer at Ezra. He nods about Dremkoth, but asks dubiously, “Are you sure he should be alone?”

Rayathess won’t be doing anything stupid, he just needs to escape or so he thinks. Stumbling along in the dark, he’ll bark his shin taking one corner too tight but otherwise is unharmed as he staggers out into the night. There won’t be any punching of stone or any wild outbursts. Just a hasty exit out and so troubled is he that he doesn’t even pause to do that traditional farewell gesture. He just keeps going until he’s past the iron gate, breath still shallow and ragged as he paces the grounds, head down and lowered. His arms are stiff at his side, hands balled into tight fists to hide the trembling and somehow Rayathess holds on — barely. Now that he is out in the open, it helps but now shame is settling in. That he ran out of his own home hold… His boot knocks against a good sized stone and without hesitation, Rayathess launches it with a swift and hard kick.

Ezra grimaces, shaking his head at D’ani. “I don’t know,” he says quietly, shifting his weight. Fidgeting. He really doesn’t know. He barely knows his brother right now, and their relationship is tentative at best. And concerning Stonehaven…it’s never been easy for the brothers to discuss. He waits for a moment before taking a deep breath and nodding. “Let’s go after him,” he says quietly, making his way swiftly through the darkened hallways and back into the cool night air. Touching the door’s stone, he passes through it and then the courtyard, and finally through the gate. There he stops, looking around for his brother and calling softly. “Raya?” Is he okay? “Do you want…” What? Time? Peace? Ezra isn’t even sure what he can offer.

Dremkoth is there when Rayathess strides out of the gate, but the bronze’s head doesn’t turn to watch the young man, even though a muted rumble greets him. He’s crouched, neck arched high while he keeps watch down the valley and only after the stone goes flying does his head swivel to watch the trajectory. It’s almost human, the low whistle of approval for the force which sent the stone on its trip. An eye is cocked at the young man, glowing green with flecks of yellow that cast a subtle glow over the elder Stonehaven and his tail surreptitiously edges another stone towards the young man’s feet while a croon suggestive of dry wit seems to ask if he’d like to kick another. D’ani just waits in the tunnel, willing to be patient for both their sakes, until Ezra speaks and he answers with a simple, “Okay,” and he waits for his friend to go first, touches the stone after Ezra did and closes the gate quietly behind them.

Rayathess wasn’t expecting Dremkoth to show any interest in him and so almost jumps clear out of his skin when the bronze whistles his low approval. He almost swears out loud too but promptly chokes that back and swallows thickly. The bronze won’t tattle, will he? Both for the stone kicking or the fact that the elder Stonehaven is wiping at his eyes with the heel of his hand before daring to stare up at that whirling eye. Movement catches his attention and his gaze drops, only to notice the tail edging that stone. Cue a moment of frowning and darting look from stone to Dremkoth and back again. “Really?” he breathes in a thick whispered voice but the offering is accepted and promptly launched with another swift, hard kick and safely away from anyone or anything. By the time Ezra’s calling for him, the stone has come back to smack the ground somewhere in the distance and Rayathess is turning to face the approach of his younger brother, but not without a quick glance to the bronze. Thanks? “I’m okay, Ezra.” He looks okay, save for the slightly too-bright look in his eyes, but he’s getting that under control too. “Just… I couldn’t be in there. It’s so dark and quiet and…” Wrong. “I’m sorry.” he murmurs.

Ezra glances back briefly at D’ani, giving him a smile before he’s lengthening his stride to walk out to his brother, standing beside him and then slowly stepping closer, trying to slip an arm around his waist and give him a sideways hug, leaning against him. “It’s okay,” he says quietly. “I understand. It’s…nothing in there. But it won’t be. Not forever,” he whispers, giving his brother a tight, fierce squeeze. “Not forever,” he repeats, looking up at his brother and then having to wipe his eyes hastily on the sleeve of his jacket, taking a slow, shaky breath.

Dremkoth whuffs a warm blast of breath at the startled jump Rayathess makes, a rattling rumble that could almost surely be a laugh. He has his poker face on by the time Ezra and then D’ani arrive on the scene, however. He’s affected his most bored expression, eyes back to slow, serene green and head turned to gaze down the darkened valley, keeping watch. By the time Ezra winds an arm around his elder brother, the bronze is turning his head to greet his rider, including a one eyed wink at Rayathess on the way; it might look like coincidence? D’ani hangs back out of earshot, hands in pockets eyes scanning the ramparts above the courtyard, apparently watching for unsanctioned activity but more to give the brothers a few minutes of privacy.

Rayathess will still steal a glance towards Dremkoth, even now with Ezra joining him. That rattling rumble-like laughter and — was that a wink? The older brother isn’t so sure and aware that he’s been staring for a breath too long, he hastily looks away. Returning his younger brother’s hug, he smirks. “Guess I should have better prepared myself for what was…or wasn’t, in there. No, you’re right. It won’t be forever. Not now, anyways.” Now that Stonehaven belongs to Ezra and not him! Tilting his head when Ezra wipes at his eyes, Rayathess sighs and just hugs his brother fiercely to his side even as he lifts his gaze to look away. Oh, hey… look at that, all the way over there! Not that he isn’t troubled still by this visit, but he’s already gone back to bottling it all up again. Later he’ll try to sort out the pieces but not now. “You alright?” he asks after a lengthy stretch of silence to Ezra, only to turn and glance back to where D’ani is keeping watch and hanging back.

Ezra sighs, hugging his brother back just as tightly. Both arms, now, wrapped around his waist. “It’s hard - impossible to prepare for that,” he murmurs. “I’m alright, yeah,” he says with a nod. “I have to keep thinking about what it /will/ be like. Not what it used to be like. Are you okay?” he asks, peering intently up at his older brother. Watching, waiting…as the shadows lengthen and the sun dips behind the mountains.

D’ani can only pretend to keep watch for so long with nothing untoward spotted, even though he’s alert (will any of them ever not be?) He moves forward with slow steps eyes following Dremkoth’s to rove down the valley, drawing closer to the two brothers slowly enough to give them a little more time to exchange a few words in private. He was with Ezra on that first visit, so can make a stab at guessing what’s bothering Rayathess. He might be off, but he is probably close enough. “It’s unsettling,” he says so firmly and surely that he’s familiar with the taste of devastation, “to see home desolate, to confront the ghosts where warmth lived.” He knows and so there’s no urge to push the other to ‘be okay’ or to ‘cheer up’. It’s just a simple acknowledgement and validation of the Stonehaven’s grief. And perhaps a sharing, inadequate as it may be. He’s been there, in a sense.

“Maybe you’re right,” Rayathess agrees, a touch reluctantly, to Ezra’s comment on it being impossible to prepare for anything quite like this. He grimaces, finally allowing his head to turn so that his eyes can travel over the dark and silent hold. His home, there home. Once… and will be again. Someday. But it’s still hard to see it now and wish… Rayathess shakes his head. No good to drift into the past again. “Yeah, I’ll… be okay. It just hit harder than I expected.” A lot harder. What’d he expect? Glancing down to Ezra, he’ll manage a small but reassuring smile. Not the strongest or most convincing, but an attempt all the same. Hearing D’ani speak up, Rayathess turns to face the Weyrsecond and for a moment can only stare back at the other man. Maybe he had expected the ‘be okay’ and ‘cheer up’ canned sort of reassurances and when nothing at all of the sort comes from the bronzerider, it throws the eldest Stonehaven right off track. Of course, he knows nothing or very little of D’ani’s past, doesn’t know that he shares a similar grief. Though know he’ll be left to wonder… “That’s it.” Rayathess agrees quietly. “It’s the silence and emptiness. It just… hits hard and deep. Unexpected.” He’ll look down to Ezra. Right?

Ezra nods, glancing at D’ani. “It’s very unsettling,” he agrees quietly. He’s just listening now, letting Rayathess talk. And D’ani. He knows how good D’ani is at speaking to emotions. “Unexpected and silent,” he agrees, looking to his best friend, and then to his brother, arms still wrapped around Rayathess’ waist. A prolonged hug. Perhaps a bit strange, but he needs it. So unless his brother responds negatively, he will continue.

“I know,” D’ani says feelingly, his eyes drifting to the middle space, somewhere not-here-not-there. Sorrow, but of a muted sort, acceptance long-reached but never peace etches his features. His eyes lift to seek Rayathess’, “When the life that graced the hold is gone, hold onto the foundation, for it remains. It’s what I do and it’s what I told Ezra the night we visited Stonehaven alone.” He doesn’t go into why he does what he does; this isn’t about him. Instead, he elaborates, reaching a hand to lightly tap first Ezra and then Rayathess if he doesn’t flinch away from it. “Your folks built Stonehaven - it lives in you. You are that foundation.” That’s all. A simple, yet heartfelt sentiment. “It’s why Maiona lives yet. And Stonehaven sleeps.”

Again, there is no protest from Rayathess from Ezra’s prolonged hug and the elder brother keeps one arm looped around his younger sibling in turn. It’s a subtle thing, maybe not as tight or fierce now but nonetheless it means the same. He needs the support and wants it, he just won’t be so obvious about showing it. His gaze is fixed on D’ani now though, lifted to follow the bronzerider’s shifts in mood. Some he understands, most he does not but he can assume enough. He’s curious but will remain so, not about to pry into him… though he is tempted. Meeting the Weyrsecond’s gaze unflinching, Rayathess nods. “And I am beginning to see that… to understand.” he replies, glancing down to Ezra has he does. Neither will he shy away from that tapping, though Ezra may feel the twitch as Rayathess struggles to keep from backing away or smacking out at D’ani’s hand. Somehow that would be more harmful than good at this point and luck favors them that the eldest Stonehaven is able to control that reflex. Exhaling, Rayathess’ shoulders sag a bit and he shakes his head. “We are the foundation, aren’t we?” he murmurs, glancing between both his brother and bronzerider before he adds. “Thank you.” Soft spoken and a bit hurried but heartfelt.

Ezra has always known D’ani to be the better speaker of the two. His words have soothed him so often, and the look he gives to his best friend tries very hard to convey all of that. Thank you for being here, thank you for talking to him, thank you for putting things into words that I can not. In the end, he nods. “We are,” he says softly, but firmly, in answer to Rayathess’ rhetorical question.

It’s a featherlight tap, more fleeting than invasive; borne out of sensitivity and the earnest sharing of sentiment. “You are,” D’ani says with conviction, not elaborating on his own past, even though he can see the curiosity alight in the eyes of Rayathess. He’ll share it sometime, when the time is right, the open expression on his face says so. His chin drops fractionally to Ezra - the teen has shot up in height so quickly! - to include him in the comment. “And from what Ezra has shared, the ones who built Stonehaven ‘s foundation laid a strong one - a good one. It’s something worth celebrating.” He pauses, draws a breath that is a touch shaky and if one were to look there’s a sheen of moisture in the bright gaze that flicks over the two men. For they are both men in his eyes. It’s with that last comment that he draws a hand out of his pocket, bringing with it the bulky object he’s brought along. This is offered over to Ezra. It’s a bottle of champagne. Expensive champagne.

Rayathess will catch that open expression, understands it all too well and simply inclines his head to indicate that he does. Another time, perhaps and in a different location but not here and not now. Ezra has grown, a fact that still causes the older sibling to reel a bit at how much his sibling has changed — has matured. “Agreed,” he murmurs in a distracted tone. “It is worth celebrating. Time to focus on the present and the future, but not forget the past.” He’ll look up then to D’ani and then to Ezra. Right? As the bulky object is revealed, Rayathess will gently slip out of his brother’s continued hug, resuming his respectful distance from his sibling though he’ll watch the exchange in clear and open curiosity.

Ezra nods at D’ani’s words, agreeing silently but strongly. “No, never forget the past,” he says quietly. “But not let it drag us down either.” Blinking in surprise, the teen reaches out to accept the bottle of expensive champagne, cradling it a bit and looking at D’ani for an exlanation. “What is this?” Obviously it’s champagne, but…why? And what is it for? He assumes there is more meaning behind the gift than just a bottle of beautiful booze.

D’ani maintains eye contact with Rayathess, a hint of a rueful smile tugging at his mouth. No further comment is made, but he tacitly acknowledges that the time for that revelation is later. He nods agreement about remembering the past and celebrating the future. They are the antithesis of one another and yet… it’s oddly fitting. “It is worth it,” he says quietly. The bottle is released into Ezra’s hands gently. “For the gate,” he says softly, though he’s looking at the tree. “To christen the new holder and launch… a new beginning.” He swallows a lump, “For Stonehaven. For you.” Like sending a ship on her maiden voyage and into the world to seek her way, only he leaves that unspoken. In a sense to it’s to assuage the blood spilt here, only nothing can do that, really. The thought is a symbolic cleansing, as if the bubbles fizzing could send the ghosts to their rest. Or… at least soothe the brooding sense that they ask retribution. If asked, he’ll put it into words, but chances are he won’t be. And if he is, he won’t put it so eloquently, so he blurts, “For all the Stonehavens, also.”

They are the antithesis of one another, but Rayathess still has much growth to do and recovery to undergo. He’ll watch carefully as Ezra takes the bottle of champagne, brows lifting in surprise and mouth quirking into a half-amused smile, briefly lived before settling back to a more neutral expression. The eldest Stonehaven expected it to be a gift to drink as celebration and so D’ani’s mention of the gate has him frowning, curious but confused but he won’t interrupt. Rayathess will turn his head to look towards the gate, missing that the bronzerider is looking at the tree instead. He won’t ask, but he will quietly murmur. “A very thoughtful gift.” And simply leave it as such.

Ezra looks at the bottle, and up to D’ani, a bit confused. “For the gate?” he asks. “You…pour some on the gate?” Remember the kid had never even /seen/ the ocean until D’ani took him there. He knows this is special but he’s confused, and that frustrates him. Still, he cradles the bottle in one hand and reaches out for D’ani’s hand with the other. “Thank you.” Just tell him what to do with it as he looks from the bottle to the gate, trying to figure out how they go together but not wanting to seem /stupid/ about it.

D’ani includes Rayathess in the explanation he gives Ezra. He nods simply to the question, affirming, “For you to pour on the gate.” He’s unsure what Ezra knew from story books and harper’s tales or what he’s seen before the massacre and his whole life turned inside out, so he elaborates, “When a brand new ship was finished being built, and right before she was loosed into the sea, they would pick someone very important to break a bottle of champagne on her bow as she eased down the slipway to the harbor. The champagne drenching the hull was symbolic of hope, protection from the storms, a prosperous journey and a safe return.” He tips his head back to allow his gaze to travel up the stone cliffs that form Stonehaven, drops them to Ezra by way of the gate and adds, “I know it’s not a ship, but it seemed fitting.” With a faintly sheepish half-smile, he admits, “And it’s all I could come up with on such short notice.” His fingers curl ‘round Ezra’s and give him a brief squeeze of encouragement. “If we open it carefully and pour some, then we can all toast afterwards?” It’s phrased as a question. They can do it, but only if Ezra is willing.

Rayathess looks to Ezra when his brother seems to be confused on the meaning behind the gift, but he does not correct or speak up — as he too is not entirely certain. So it’s D’ani to the rescue and he will listen attentively, even if his gaze drifts back to the hold and then up to the night sky. “I like the meaning behind that tradition,” he says in a quiet spoken reflection as he slowly brings his gaze back to Ezra and D’ani both. “Simple and yet… not. But fitting. It may not be so much a journey but hope for a prosperous new beginning?” Right? As for the suggestion of a toast, Rayathess holds his tongue for Ezra to answer that.

Understanding dawns as D’ani explains, and Ezra gives his friend’s hand a tight squeeze. “I like that a lot,” he says quietly, looking at his friend in appreciation and awe. “It’s perfect,” he says, turning to offer the bottle to Rayathess. “You want to open it?” He doesn’t know how. “I like that it’s…hope and protection. And to prosper. Because that’s what Stonehaven needs. And a new beginning. Clean…” Kind of. “I want to toast, too.” So don’t spill it.

D’ani’s attention is divided between the two Stonehaven’s, assessing their reactions to his idea for the impromptu ceremony, ready to back off instantly should they seem reluctant. This is for them, so he’s not at all going to push it. “Aye, a new beginning,” he agrees with Rayathess. He takes a half-step back, dipping his head to Rayathess when Ezra asks him to open the champagne. Please do. “It does,” he agrees with Ezra that Stonehaven needs prosperity. The two brothers need it too.

Rayathess’ reaction is fairly positive towards the impromptu ceremony. Considering that moments ago he had snapped under the oppressive atmosphere and memories clamoring in his head, this is almost eagerly welcomed by the older brother. There had to be something positive to mark this, even if small. It will do just fine and when Ezra offers for him to open the bottle, he glances first to D’ani and then back to Ezra. Him? “Alright. I… think I know how?” he says with a crooked smirk. “At least hold the bottle too?” All together now! It may take him a few fumbling moments and perhaps the Weyrsecond will have to step in or at least prompt Rayathess’ memory but the champagne will be opened and then left again to be in Ezra’s hands and control. “Then we’ll toast too.” he agrees.

Ezra smiles widely at D’ani. “Thank you for thinking of this. It’s…important to make…new memories. Good memories,” he says, smiling at his brother before he reaches out to take hold of the bottle a bit awkwardly. When it’s opened and doesn’t explode Ezra breathes a sigh of relief, carrying the bottle towards the gate. “C’mon,” he tells both other men, walking up to the gate and staring at it. Looking at the bottle in his hands, and then the gate, he takes a slow breath. “This is for Stonehaven,” he says quietly. “For…for her past and for her future. This is to…to wash away the bad memories and to make some good ones. This is a drink to…to share with those that aren’t here any more.” He glances at his brother and his friend, to see if he’s doing a good job and to give them a chance to speak.

D’ani doesn’t step in, but he does murmur something about twisting the cork slowly enough to make the bottle ‘sigh like a woman’, cough. It’ doesn’t really matter if the stuff foams out and washes over their hands. It might even be so much the better, the symbolic cleansing touching them too - if they catch it. He nods a ‘you’re welcome’ to Ezra, the warmth in his eyes not one bit dampened by his solemn expression. He lingers, then follows a half-step behind Rayathess, wishing for the two brothers first and foremost to conduct the - for lack of a better term - renewing of Stonehaven. As Ezra speaks, the hair on his arms and the back of his neck lifts, tears prickle at the back of his brown eyes and he’s deeply moved. Enough so that when Ezra looks to him for approval, all he can do is nod, for his throat is too tight to speak. He’ll need a moment or two to get it under control and so looks to Rayathess to speak first, then he’ll lift his head, stand tall while raising his right hand and say the traditional words, “Heard and witnessed!” firmly, the words ringing with pride for the pair and with a fervency that bespeaks how deeply he wants this for Stonehaven - for them.

Rayathess won’t shake the foam from his hands when it does wash over his fingers, likely taking it for that very symbolic meaning or another one of his own. Could be too that his thoughts are growing troubled and distracted again, but regardless he does not pay much mind to the drying foam to his skin. As Ezra steps forwards, he’ll turn to follow and only glance sidelong to see if D’ani follows and when the bronzerider does there is only approval and… acceptance. Even if D’ani had stepped ahead of him, he would not have protested. The older brother is beginning to understand some of the bond shared between his younger brother and D’ani and for that reason he wouldn’t do anything to come between them. Especially now. Ezra’s words are well spoken and touching and they hit Rayathess hard. When looks are passed to him from both of them for his turn to speak, he can only shake his head, mouth drawn back and jaw tensed and hands curled into fists at his sides before he looks away and pointedly at the gate. Awkward perhaps but D’ani’s reciting of the traditional words jars him back and Rayathess gives himself a firm shake before inhaling deep and straightening to echo back. “Heard and witnessed!” Ezra did just fine with the speech and as if to make up for his lack of strength, he’ll clasp his brother’s shoulder and murmur low, “Told you you’d make the better holder.” in a voice that isn’t entirely stable but… best not to be remarked upon.

Ezra watches the foam slide over his hands, dripping down to soak into the soil, and he breathes in deeply. Looking at Rayathess and D’ani, the teen waits for them to say something. And when all they say is ‘heard and witnessed’, Ezra figures he’s done an okay job. Especially when Rayathess mutters to him. The boy blushes, shoulder straightening beneath Raya’s touch. Taking a deep breath, he steps to the gate and carefully tips the bottle. “I miss you, Mom and Dad,” he says softly as he dribbles some champagne onto the iron, letting it foam down around the wrought pillars to the ground. “This is for you.” With another slow breath, the teen tips the bottle upright again and looks at D’ani and Rayathess, uncertain of what to do next now that he’s said his piece.

The burble of the champagne bathing the iron, pudding on the stone below with a soft hiss is almost loud in the still night air, as if Stonehaven holds its breath to hear the next words Ezra speaks. With winter just a few days off, his fingers are likely to be a bit chilled, but D’ani foregoes being the fussy caretaker, instead treating the boy as a boy no longer. He’s a man. “You’ve said it so well, Ezra,” he murmurs with pride for the young man, his best friend, shining in his eyes. A look is shared with Rayathess then, prompted by the uncertain look Ezra sends to them. Reaching a hand in a silent request for the bottle, he waits for the teen to hand it to him and then he lifts it to the stars. “To Stonehaven, may she again be a refuge and sustainer of her people. May she and hers prosper in peace.” He raises the bottle and sips from it - he purposely brought no glasses, because this - this is meant to be shared in a more intimate fashion, a brotherhood of sorts. The toasting will not be complete until the others drink too and thus, he passes it solemnly to Ezra next. This ritual may just continue until the bottle is empty and the three are pleasantly, warmly euphoric, adding new toasts to Ezta with each round.

Ezra has done more than just an okay job, at least to Rayathess and his hand will remain clasped to his younger brother’s shoulder until he steps forwards again. He’ll bow his head in respect or to perhaps hide his expression and features as he again struggles to keep his composure. There are words muttered, but they are too low to be wholly audible and he does not trust himself to voice them louder but they are spoken all the same. He misses his parents too and all the family lost that horrendous night. Right now though he is just not strong enough to find the strength to speak. Not yet and perhaps in time. Rayathess will look up as Ezra fumbles, his expression conflicted but there is pride there, both for his brother and for their family name and hold. D’ani’s rousing toast is met by a surprised look from him and he finds his voice at last even if a soft and gruff spoken: “To Stonehaven!” is all he manages. There is so much more he would add, if he could and he can’t. Rayathess will wait his turn for the bottle, watching Ezra closely while he takes the next sip and then reaches to take his share and passing it back.

Ezra blushes a bit at the praise, taking the bottle and drinking from it before he passes it to his brother. “To Stonehaven,” he echoes, taking the bottle from that toast and drinking. A moment’s hesitation, and he tips some of the liquid onto his palm. Passing the bottle to D’ani, the boy opens the gate and steps through, walking across the courtyard to the door. Lifting his hand, he plants a damp palm print of champagne on that touch stone, holding there for a moment as he whispers something, before he’s turning to return to the others by the gate and continue the toasts.

D’ani looks on as Ezra carefully pours that palmful of liquid into his hand, flickering a look over his bent head at Rayathess. He literally chokes up as Ezra moves through the gate and touches the stone with it. Tiny rivulets weep down the touchstone and he decides somewhere deep inside that it’s okay to let his emotions loose. Oh, it’s not umanly blubbering, just the silent letting go of clenched jaw and stomach muscles as his own grief over what his friend has been through is released and the sheen of moisture leaves a quiet track from his eye to find it’s way through the rough stubble on his jaw.. It’s a sort of healing for him too. The bottle is taken almost reverently. Could it be re-corked, he’d suggest this be stored in the dim recesses of the hold and revered, but it cannot and this spending of the liquid between three touched by what has happened here, both past and present in differing ways is almost… spiritual. Again he again lifts the bottle, this time towards Ezra and says gruffly, “To Ezra-” his throat closes momentarily, but he continues doggedly on, “-holder of Stonehaven. May he wear Stonehaven on his heart and bear her on his shoulders with grace and wisdom and learn to lead with not perfection, but joy and humanity.” He passes the bottle back to Ezra with a bow that acknowledges her holder with profound respect.

Rayathess will frown, curious but uncertain as Ezra pours some of the champagne into the palm of his hand before walking through that gate. He’ll watch and then it becomes all too clear what his brother is about to do. New traditions to old ones and he inhales sharp and swift through clenched teeth, breath hitched as he wills himself to remain steady and firm, to not cave to his emotions when he should be doing just the opposite. The toasts, the emotions all running high and yes, the near to spiritualness of it all becomes too much. Eventually a limit needs to be reached and he is just about maxed out. D’ani’s toast to Ezra may be the tipping point, but he will hold on long enough to hear it, long enough to register some degree of respect for the bronzerider to find such words of praise for his brother. There are words Rayathess has and wants to express but they stick in his throat, despite his attempts to swallow and clear it. “To Ezra!” he manages at least to say in a thick and choked voice. A hand lifts then, faintly trembling as he seeks to press his fingers against his brow and then firmly pinch the bridge of his nose in an attempt to both withhold and mask the tears he can no longer deny.

Ezra looks a bit surprised to see D’ani’s reaction to his toast to the touchstone, but he dips his head a bit. And then he’s blushing, heat creeping up furious and dark into his cheeks at his best friend’s toast. “Thank you, D’ani,” he says thickly, before a mighty sniffle as he takes the bottle and takes a swig. “Rayathess,” he murmurs, holding out the bottle to him, giving his arm a gentle nudge. There’s another sniffle, tears running freely down his cheeks now, but he doesn’t try to stop them or hide them. It’s a release. A letting go so there is room in his heart and his head for /more/. For more good things. For plans, and happy memories.

When he has the bottle once more, D'ani again lifts it and his brown eyes are steady on the one who relinquished his right to Stonehaven to his brother. Sensing the unraveling control Rayathess is gripping spinning out like a fishing line of a rogue denizen that has been hooked, but refuses to acknowledge he's fighting in vain, he says clearly, "To Rayathess, who endured deprivation and uncertainty to provide watchcare over the kin he could not leave to find the scattered family left behind. To instead stalk a killer and bring him to justice, not holding his own reputation as more precious than the sacrifice necessary to do so. May you find what you seek, Raya," using Ezra's nickname for his brother, "and believe once again that the love and trust given to you by yours is based on who they know you really are and is not misplaced or undeserved. May you know that Stonehaven needs you, whole and healed, or not." Applying match to powder keg? Maybe. And yet, this is something he wants to say because he means it. Afterwards it is punctuated with another bow of the same calibre as Ezra got.

Rayathess lowers his hand when Ezra nudges at his arm and accepts the offered bottle, keeping his head down and averted as best he can to take a deep shot of it before passing it back. It does little to help and it’s obvious then that he’s slipping, a few tears having escaped despite all his efforts to regain control. He may have been fine too, able to rein in and back under control if D’ani hadn’t turned to speak to him then. It’s unexpected and for a moment the elder brother only stands there, staring and utterly silent, unaware of further tears tracking their way down now that he’s too distracted to keep his strength and barriers up. Suspicion flickers in his eyes, followed by a wariness borne of old habits but soon left to crumble away. He knows D’ani speaks truthfully and honestly, there is no way Rayathess can deny that. Not after witnessing all the bronzerider has done for Ezra, all the words he’s said and shared. He may not feel as though he deserves all that was said and given, but rather than block it he takes it, for once, to heart. Match to a powder keg, indeed, and it’s sparked the last of any resistance left in Rayathess. He can’t find the voice to speak, not with a throat too tight and choked but his thanks is given by returning the bow from D’ani, only his is a bit fumbled and stiff from the tenseness of his body. It’s the only way he can think of to even begin showing the slow forming gratitude he’s feeling and perhaps once his mind as cleared, he will think of something more. For now though, Rayathess only keeps his head bowed once he straightens.

Ezra has the bottle again. He seems to get it more than the other two. Tipsy Holder? Maybe. When D’ani speaks to Rayathess though, Ezra’s eyes widen and brighten sharply, and he lifts the bottle once he has it back. “Heard and witnessed!” he shouts, voice ringing off the stone of the courtyard and the cliffs behind. “Raya, you’re amazing,” he says quietly, wiping tears from his eyes with the back of his hand. “And I’m so proud of you and I love you /so/ much.” He lifts the bottle again, says, “To Rayathess!” drinks, and passes it back to D’ani before the teen is looping both arms around his big brother’s torso, giving him a tight hug, face buried against his tunic. Sniffle.

Heh, well they’re mainly toasting Ezra’s rise to leadership and if he gets tipsy it’s okay. This is a celebration of sorts. D’ani maintains eye contact with Rayathess while he’s toasting the elder Stonehaven - at least as long as the other will allow it, sincerity in the brown gaze. Perhaps he’s hoped to crack the protective shell he’s sensed that Rayathess has built up around his heart and so he’s unsurprised by the other’s response. He silently inclines his head, acknowledging the bow. “To Rayathess!” he echoes Ezra firmly, accepting the bottle back. Lifting it to the stars again, he drinks. He is silent after that, almost reverently so, while the brothers embrace and shed a few tears, his own throat tight and eyes wet. What more is there to be said and wished for them and Stonehaven? And so he deems it fitting to simply offer the bottle over to them - which being a large one - has plenty of champagne left to give them all that gentle haze of warmth sought to cushion raw emotions. Overhead the clouds drift to shroud sharp mountain peaks, drawing a light veil over the heavens. Moisture condenses to fall in a soft and gentle whisper, sprinkling the courtyard, the gate and the trio standing there until tiny rivulets trace down the cliff that houses the hold; Stonehaven cries too.

If Ezra wanted to get rip roaring drunk after all this to celebrate, Rayathess wouldn’t likely bat an eye on it but tipsy works just as fine. There is enough with the emotional release and healing by far to have this moment remembered. “I am too.” he finally manages to choke out to Ezra, repeating it again in a lower gruff whisper. “I am proud of you too, Ezra. I do too. I do.” Even if he doesn’t quite show his emotions as openly as he once had. Hugging his brother close, he’ll forego another pull of the champagne, occupied as he is in embracing his younger sibling. The tears will come, mostly silent but healing, most evidence washed away once the rain begins to fall. It is just a short span of time before Rayathess is lifting his head again, using his hand to wipe at his eyes though it’s truly unnecessary at this point. Taking a slow and steadying breath, he swallows thickly and turns to look towards D’ani. What follows is perhaps not the most eloquent of speeches, just plain and blunt but heartfelt. In the end, all that matters is that he means it and he does. “You’re a good man, D’ani. A very good and decent man and if I had known what I know now, that Ezra here had found a friend in you then I’d be happy knowing he had someone trustworthy that he could turn to. That if anything happened…” he has to pause for a moment, fumbling as he fights to keep his voice level. “…or had happened that I did not return that he’d be safe and cared for but most of all had someone to turn to. I never did thank you for all you’ve done.” So he does now — sort of and Rayathess will lift his hand to hesitantly attempt to reach out and clasp the bronzerider on the shoulder as he levels him with a look and a very shaky smile. “Sorry I was such a rotten bastard to you at the start.”

Ezra closes his eyes at the mist, tilting his head up to the sky to let it bathe his face. Taking the bottle, he takes another swig and then offers it to Rayathess. Glancing up at his brother, Ezra’s eyes are red and thicker tears mingle with the thin tracks of mist down his face as he squeezes Raya’s waist closely. “We can do this,” he whispers, and then he’s silent as Rayathess speaks to D’ani. A smile spreads across the teen’s face and he nods, reaching his free hand towards D’ani, wanting to have him close too. “He’s a great man,” Ezra whispers. “He’s my best friend, Raya. He…he saved me, when I was so broken I didn’t know what to do or who I was anymore…” Sniffle. “To D’ani!” Whoever has the bottle now should drink and pass it around. “To the best friend I could ask for, and to a man who always has all the right words, and who encourages me but doesn’t push me, and who knows…who /knows/ me…and…and…” He pauses for breath, fumbling thoughts giving him clarity. “I wouldn’t be able to take Stonehaven if it wasn’t for you, D’ani,” he says, heartfelt and true. “I wouldn’t. You…taught me…and…helped me to…to believe I could do it…” There’s a soft hiccup that might be because of his tears, or might be the booze. Hard to tell as he reaches again for his friend. Group hug?

D’ani is gravely attentive to Rayathess throughout, accepting of the words of praise with a little dip of his head. If he’s embarrassed, it doesn’t show. He’s not vain enough to smugly agree, though. He tries to be the man his father taught him to be, hopes he succeeds and tries harder when he fails. Of the apology, “You’d been through a lot and I’m sure lassoing you didn’t help much, but if it helps, all’s forgiven.” He chuckles dryly, but is quick to reach with the opposing arm and grasp Rayathess’ shoulder in return, before stepping back and offering his hand in a firm handshake. Ezra, you’re going to make him cry if you keep it up! His grin is crooked and now a bit embarrassed but he is thrilled that his best friend feels he’s up to the challenge of taking on Stonehaven to restore - and that he feels supported in doing so. He’ll allow himself to be pulled into the group hug, awkward because y’know, he’s a guy and Rayathess and he are barely past step 1 - maybe 2 - on the 12 Steps to Buddies Program?

“I know. I know that now, Ezra.” Rayathess mutters in a low voice to his younger brother, still holding him close so long as he’s willing. To D’ani, the only snorts but his mouth quirks into a crooked smile that may actually be edging towards genuine. “No, it didn’t but I don’t blame you either. You did what you had to do. All’s forgiven.” he says, echoing the last of the bronzerider’s words before taking his hand in that firm handshake, keeping it respectful and brief before severing contact. Quiet throughout Ezra’s speech, Rayathess nonetheless looks proud — even if subdued — it’s there. Where has that bottle gone? He’ll no doubt take another swig or two of it, before the awkward but not-awkward group hug begins. Perhaps he’s barely past step 1 of the Buddies Program but if Ezra wants it, Rayathess will temporarily skip a few to at least allow D’ani close enough, though it’s obvious he’ll be leaning a bit more towards his brother. No offence? And as much as all this bonding and healing is doing some good, Rayathess will peer up at the skies and then down to them both. “We should get out of this weather.” he suggests. Time to go ‘home’?

Ezra stands in the middle, the bridge between these two men. One arm around each of them, he doesn’t seem to mind or care if they end up hugging each other, because /he/ is hugging them both and that’s what he wants. “I love you, D’ani,” Ezra whispers, beaming up at his friend. Ezra’s an emotional drunk, we have discovered something new. Not that he’s drunk. Only nicely buzzed as he gives them both a squeeze and then lets go, wiping eyes and nose and mouth on his sleeve. “Yeah, we should,” he agrees with a little shiver.

D’ani can deal with a girly moment - “I love you too, Ezra,” he says back promptly. And if either of you ever tell anyone he said that - he’ll… he’ll think of something! But he means it and where is that bottle indeed?! If there’s any left, he’ll take a swig, then pass it right back to Ezra because, “You get to finish it, Holder Ezra.” There’s a grin to go with that. Maybe he will be a little more than tipsy? Just don’t throw up on him on the way back! An eye is squinted at the sky and he agrees with Rayathess. “Yeah.” So wordy, huh? But the word alone will suffice because the rain is picking up. Rather than linger, as soon as Ezra is finished with that bottle, he’ll get them aboard Dremkoth, back to the Weyr and out of the cold rain.