Fort Region - Stonehaven Cothold

Winter at Stonehaven has been a hard one. Storms and heavy snowfall make it difficult to travel anywhere. Luckily for the residents here, Stonehaven was well prepared before the winter season began. Laurali is sitting on the edge of the bed in the room she shares with Ezra. Rauzei has long since been put to bed in his own room, though the two Turn old isn't far. Someone is no doubt keeping an ear out for him (likely Laurali's firelizard right now) should he wake. For now, Laurali enjoys a few quiet moments, dressed in her nightclothes and meticulously combing out her long, straight black hair. Waiting.

Ezra has just finished up an evening in one of the workshops, working on his stonecrafting. He's not the best but he's determined to have at least a passable skill at it, given the name of his holding and all. First he peeks in on Rauzei, and then softly closes the door of their own room. "Hello, beautiful," he greets, hanging his jacket on the wall (Stonehaven's rooms are warm, but its hallways are not, especially the ones closer to the mines) and approaching her.

Laurali looks up as she finishes running the brush through her hair and smiles. "Hello, husband." she answers and sets her brush aside so that she can stand, opening her arms up in a welcoming manner. "How're you? How was your work?"

Ezra slips into her arms and gives her a tight squeeze, smelling her hair. "Mm. Awful. I cracked another block. I'm terrible at this…"

Laurali leans eagerly into his embrace and likewise returns it, smiling again in her usual shy way when he smells her. She tilts her head back and leans up to kiss him. "Mhm. I wouldn't say you're terrible — just needing practice. You put so much pressure on yourself, Ezra."

Ezra shrugs. "Can't help it," he says, bending to kiss her in return before he grins slow and sly. "I can think of something I'm /not/ awful at…"

Laurali giggles and gives him a playful shove. Even if she does manage to push him off balance, she doesn't go far. She takes one step, half-turning her back to him with a sly cast to the look she gives him over her shoulder. "And what would that be?" she asks softly. She very well knows the answer!

Ezra follows after her, grin not fading. "I think you can guess," he says, voice lowering and getting more husky as he tries to nudge her towards the bed.

Laurali giggles low in her throat and she knows exactly what is on Ezra's mind. She goes willingly towards the bed, just as eager to play but just as she's about to step up the game, there's a knock at their door. Immediately she turns demure and proper, though she gives Ezra a startled and questioning look. Usually anyone in Stonehaven wouldn't bother them this late. Unless… it was very important?

Ezra frowns at the door. But…she's right. He can't ignore it since odds are it's important. With a low sigh, he makes sure they're both presentable and goes to open the door.

Laurali hangs back, arms crossed over her chest after she slips on her thicker robe. She's careful to keep her expression properly concerned but truthfully she's a touch annoyed at being interrupted. As the door opens, Ezra will find one of the late-night helpers fidgeting anxiously. "Sir… I'm sorry to disturb you but… We've visitors outside. Looks to be a small family — I think." He thinks? Doesn't this smack of familiarity?

Ezra frowns, quick and deep. He's not proud that the first words from his mouth are "Are they armed?"

"I don't — No, sir? They're not armed. They've some ragged looking belongings and look pretty weak. Think one of the women is sick…" The helper stammers, swallowing nervously as he wrings his hands together. Laurali steps up to Ezra's side, out of sight of the door and rests a hand on his arm in a firm but gentle gesture. She says nothing, but her eyes say everything as she looks up at him. She knows why he asked, understands any reluctance on his part. Yet… he has to decide.

Ezra continues to frown, looking at the holder. "Thank you, I'll handle it," is all he says, closing the door firmly, and turning to look at Laurali, his expression conflicted, eyes shadowed.

The helper holds up his hand as if to ask something or weakly protest but the door is closed too swiftly for him to get his point across. Footsteps can be heard walking away, so at least he doesn't lurk there. Laurali just lifts her hand to cup Ezra's cheek as she steps close to him. Her eyes are troubled too, but her voice is quiet and steady. "Ezra, love. You can't leave them to die out there. If he's right and they're weakened and sick — the cold will kill them by dawn." But? She exhales, her hand settling to his shoulder now. "That doesn't mean you let them into your home. Isn't there room in one of the barns?"

Ezra presses his lips together firmly. "I know, I know," he mutters. There's a slow nod. "That's what I was thinking…" But then he looks at her with an expression of terrible guilt. Guilt and fear. "At least," he finally says, "we do have something to spare for them…" So he will not turn them away.

Laurali's brows knit at that look of guilt and fear in him. She gently draws him into an embrace, firm but reassuring. "It'll be okay, Ezra. Put them in the barn then. We've some spare blankets and such — it won't be much but it'll be better than being in the cold." She's quiet then but only for a heartbeat or two before she meets his eyes with hers. In a soft, almost whispered voice she adds: "Don't go alone."

Ezra holds her close, tight, fierce. "I won't," he promises, bending to kiss her softly. "Stay here." And yes, that's an order as he grabs his jacket and leaves.

Laurali returns that embrace just as tightly and fiercely. She'll kiss him back too but his order is met with a frown and a slight purse of her lips. It doesn't sit well with her, but she'll obey. Now's not the time to argue. "Be safe." she tells him and crosses her arms over her chest as he leaves. She'll stay in the room for some time before eventually slipping out and sneaking into Rauzei's room.

Ezra is gone for at least a candlemark, perhaps more, before he finds Laurali in Rauzei's room, peeking in and whispering her name.

"Shh," Laurali hushes Ezra in a low, quiet whisper as she comes to the door and then gently slips out into the hall and closes it behind them both. "He's sleeping soundly. How are our… guests?" They're guests, right? "Was he right in saying they were weak?" Does she have to go in there as a Healer?

Ezra slips his arms tightly around her and breathes in deeply of her scent, and she can feel him trembling slightly, no doubt. "They're settled," he murmurs. "Fed, comfortable. One is sick but I don't want you going in there." Any other Healers around? He glances up and down the hallway before whispering only for her ears, "I was so scared."

Laurali's hands slide around to his back and gently caress him. She can feel him trembling and she does what she can to comfort him. She tilts her head up, brows furrowed. "Ezra… I can't ignore someone who is ill. If they need attention, I have to tend to them." she murmurs quietly. There are other Healers but she, as 'lady' of Stonehaven, should be the one to go. Leaning up on her toes, she'll kiss him. Both to distract and to reassure. "But you were brave too."

Ezra isn't so easily distracted. "I don't want you going," he says, quiet, but his tone firm.

"Why?" Laurali counters again, not at all put off by his firm tone. She remains in his embrace though and close to him, though her head is now tilted up so she can keep her eyes locked with his. Quiet though she is, she's clearly challenging him.

Ezra frowns down at her. Really? She's going to challenge him /now/? "Do I have to explain myself?"

Yes, she is going to challenge him now because he's denying her her duty as a Healer. Laurali wants to know what reason he has to keep her back, so she nods her head and looks at him expectantly. Do explain!

Ezra's frown deepens. "You're not going," he says firmly, trying to usher her back towards their room. "It's done, they're taken care of, and I'll go out again in the morning to check on them."

Laurali doesn't go quickly to their room. She frowns back at him, lips pursed. "That's not an answer." she mutters at him but she's not about to ask him further out here in the hallway. Opening the door to their room, she'll wait until he is inside before closing the door again. "Why are you afraid of me going?" she asks quietly. Is that it?

Ezra shrugs off his jacket and put it across the back of the chair before he sits heavily into it and begins unlacing his boots. "Because." Short and sweet. Men.

Laurali tilts her head and regards Ezra for moment, silent. Did he win? Hardly. She's considering a change in tactic, given his odd behaviour. Shrugging off her robe and dressed only in her nightclothes, she'll walk to where he sits, nudging aside his boots with one of her feet when he's done with them. Is this when she'll stare down at him with a scowl? Not at all. She moves to climb into that chair with him, small enough to straddle him or at least crawl right up into his lap. "I need to know why, Ezra…" she whispers quietly.

Ezra wraps his arms tightly around her. Very firmly around her. "Because you're mine…"

Laurali almost laughs when he finally opens up a little and she'll lean into his embrace, settling firmly into his lap and her hands find his shoulders. Almost out of instinct, she begins to knead at them, skillfully finding any tension and working it out. "And you think they will take me from you? Weak and sick as they are?" she murmurs softly, her voice gentle.

Ezra shakes his head. "Of course not," he mutters. Quiet for a moment, he then softly adds, "but if they did I couldn't live with myself. WHat if you catch what that woman has? No. I won't have it…"

"That risk is always there, Ezra. Even among our own here." Laurali gently reminds him. Leaning forwards, she kisses his forehead while her hands continue to knead and massage his shoulders. She won't tell him that there's a chance that HE caught whatever the woman has, that the whole group could be infected. That they being there run the risk of infecting the whole hold. That's Healer business. Business SHE should be attending too. "You will not lose me, husband. But I've my duty as a Healer… You understand?"

Ezra shakes his head again. "I'm your husband and your Holder," he murmurs, but her massage is doing the trick. Sneaky woman. His words are not as forced this time.

Laurali can be quite sneaky. She usually isn't with him but for the rare occasion. Her hands continue to work, moving slowly along his shoulders in firm, soothing, movements. Her eyes remain mostly downcast, but she's watching him carefully. "And you respect and love me, as my husband and Holder…" Right?

Ezra nods, "I do, but I can't lose you…"

"Ezra…" Laurali sighs and her hands slide down to his chest. "You are not going to lose me. This is no different than me treating the sick and ill of our own hold."

Ezra nods, "Yes it is. It's like Laris." Only it's not. Still.

Laurali shakes her head, "Are they armed? Do they even have the numbers to overwhelm? Women and children too sick to fight… This is not like Laris. This is what comes of a bad winter and those rumours of spoiled goods and shady trading." she murmurs.

Ezra sighs heavily. "I know it's irrational, Laurali, but I'm telling you." No. "I'm /asking/ you. Please."

Laurali chews at her lower lip and it's clear that she's struggling to give in to what he is asking of her. "You're asking me to break my oath as a Healer, Ezra…" she admits quietly.

Ezra shakes his head, shifting to try and take her hands in his. "I'm not. They're cared for, I promise. They've been looked after."

Laurali frowns, "By whom?" She'll allow her hand to be taken into his but she seems almost hurt that he took over the Healer aspect of things without consulting her. Not that she doesn't trust the others.

"By Haliva," Ezra says quietly. "They're tended to, Laurali…"

It's obvious almost immediately that Laurali disapproves from the way her jaw tenses and while she wants to argue with him, there's no point in the matter now. "I should see them at some point…" she says stubbornly. "To be sure they are being treated properly."

Ezra frowns, and then he pushes to his feet. "Fine," he says quietly. "Do what you will. I have work to do in the office."

Laurali makes a startled sound when he starts to push to his feet, sliding from his lap, almost stumbling over herself and straightening her nightclothes. She flushes, mostly out of embarrassment as she wraps her arms around herself. "At this hour?"

Ezra nods. "Yes. I need to update our store records…a few other things…" And he turns to leave.

"You're upset." Trust Laurali to come right out with it. Not that she shouts it at him. It's just as quiet spoken as most of her conversations. She's folded her hands together now, holding them in front of her like she did when she was much younger and shyer. "Because of me."

Ezra pauses in their doorway and nods. "I am. But it's your choice to go." To ignore his wishes.

Laurali's jaw works silently as she struggles again and with a soft sigh, her shoulders drop. "I… suppose Haliva is capable enough to tend to their needs." she says slowly, hesitantly.

Ezra shrugs. "It's up to you," he says, leaving and closing the door softly behind him.

"But—" Laurali starts to say but he leaves then and closes the door. Which puzzles her, as well as stings. He can be so confusing! She sits on the edge of the bed and stares for awhile at that door. Now what? It takes her a moment but she makes a decision. She braids her hair again and calmly slips on some clothes before stepping out of their room. Quietly she slips into the kitchens and no one seems to question her being there. Not like she's up to anything suspicious and certainly not when she knocks on Ezra's office door.

Ezra looks up at the knock, his office dimly lit by the fireplace and one open glow, as he works on records and paperwork. "Come in."

Laurali steps inside, expertly balancing a small tray in one arm as she closes the door behind her. "I brought you a drink and something small to eat." His favorite, of course. And no, it's not been spiked, laced or poisoned in any way. Lyreh would do something like that but not Laurali. She walks to his desk and sets the tray down, careful not to disturb his work.

Ezra looks at the offering and then up at her, and quickly back to his work again. "Thank you," he murmurs quietly, shuffling a few hides around. "Been to check on them?"

Laurali steps back and clasps her hands together again, holding them in front of her. She shakes her head, "No. I said that I believed that Halvia could handle it. I'll speak with her in the morning." she says softly.

Ezra glances up again, and there's a flicker of relief in his eyes before he looks down once more. "Okay."

"Will you be coming to bed soon? It is getting late…" Laurali asks him as her hands subtly wring together. Waiting for more from him and not this indifference.

Ezra nods. "Yeah. Just a few more things to do." He's still upset with her. Still trying to get over it.

Laurali can sense that he is still upset with her, which puzzles her further as she's uncertain of what more he could want. He's won, isn't that satisfaction enough? "Oh. I will… wait, then. For you." She begins to turn, her skirts rustling quietly against the floor. "…the drink is best warm." Which he should know. Then she slips out the door of his office and hurries back to their bedroom. Not before checking on Rauzei again but once that is done she returns to their room. She builds up the fire, undresses again and unbraids her hair and then crawls into the bed, curling up under the sheets to wait.

Ezra isn't long, just like he said. And he, too, checks in on their son before returning to the bedroom. Silently undressing and sliding beneath the covers to lay next to her. "Night."

Laurali perks up a little bit when he returns, but she stays quiet as he undresses and slides in under the covers. She nestles up against him, resting her head against his shoulder. "Are you tired?" she whispers softly, looking up at him in the half-darkness.

Ezra slips his arm around her and pulls her close, resting his cheek against the top of her head. "Yeah," he murmurs, kissing her hair lightly. "Early morning tomorrow." And it's late as it is.

Laurali goes willingly into his embrace and there's a quiet smile at his kiss. She slips her arm around him in return, curving her body to his. "You're still upset." With her, with the situation handed to him so abruptly. Nuzzling his neck, she whispers against his skin. "… I wish we could go back to how the night was to be." Carefree. Playful. And he not upset with her.

Ezra kisses her hair again. "I just need to sleep, okay?"

Laurali opens her mouth to say something but decides against it and nods her head instead. "Okay. Good night," she whispers and she pulls away. Not far, but she rolls over, keeping her back to his side as she curls and settles into the bed.

Ezra watches her for a moment and then he curls up beside her and drifts into an uneasy sleep.

Morning will only come too swiftly. Laurali wakes with the easily with the dawn and she'll tentatively stretch before peeking over her shoulder to see if Ezra still sleeps. Even if he's just waking, she will sit up and slide to the end of the bed, groping for an extra blanket or her robe. It's cool in their room now and she tries not to shiver too much.

Ezra is awake, just now stretching and running fingers through his hair. He gives her a slow smile, watching her as she moves, but then the memories of the last night come back and with a frown he's quick to get out of the bed and reach for his clothes.

Laurali has just wrapped her robe around herself and is shuffling to the hearth to stoke the fire back to life. She chafes her hands together and hearing Ezra moving, she will turn to smile to him. "Good morning," she murmurs.

Ezra smiles back, though its tense. "Morning," he mumbles. "I have to go check on our guests…"

"I understand." Laurali figures that his previous ban against her going there still applies and she doesn't press the issue. "I'll send Halvia, unless she's already there. You should eat, before you go." Please? Do that much for her. Even if she doesn't outrightly plead that he does. "Rauzei is most likely awake by now. I'll tend to him." Though the nanny has probably already done that.

Ezra nods. "I'll grab something on my way out," he promises, pausing to give her a quick kiss before leaving.

Laurali returns his kiss and may even try to slip a brief hug and embrace in there before she lets him go. A silent spoken 'be careful' before she too slips out into the hall and down to their son's bedroom. The rest of the cothold is waking up as well and Ezra will have the usual greetings sent his way. All is normal… until he goes outdoors. Then he'll see a certain Healer rushing back towards the cothold.

Ezra's steps quicken at the sight of the Healer running towards the cothold. He holds up a hand to try and halt them. "What's wrong?"

It's Halvia, the one who tended to the travellers last night. She comes to a stop, catching her breath. "Ezra! Sir. Is Laurali within? I need to speak to her." she informs him, her voice dropping to a grim and hushed tone. "The infant that was with one of the women has died and the mother herself ill. I think it's a winter sickness…" Not entirely unusual but still a concern.

Ezra blanches, looking towards the cothold and taking a step back. Sickness. "Are you clean? Don't go into the hold, let me fetch Laurali…" And maybe send their son away for a bit. To Fort, perhaps…

"Of course… I've taken all precautions as by Healer protocol." Halvia is quick to reassure Ezra but when he offers to fetch Laurali for him, she nods her head. "Thank you. I'll wait for her then by the barn."

Ezra nods, turning to move quickly away from the Healer and back towards the cothold with a deep frown. He checked on their son last night. Has he touched him? No. Laurali? Yes. His steps quicken as he seeks his wife.

Laurali is still with their son, but in the living area now and trying to get him to eat his breakfast and not make a mess of it and everything around him. When she sees Ezra, she smiles softly. "That was quick," she murmurs. "How are our guests?"

Ezra doesn't approach much further, glancing around to make sure the area is clear. "There's sickness. The travelers' baby died last night. Halvia is looking for you outside. I wonder if we shouldn't send him to Fort…"

Laurali blinks but to her credit she doesn't go pale or panic. There is a tenseness to her jaw, but it's a lot to absorb all at once. "I don't think we need to fret quite yet, Ezra. Did Halvia say anything more? What kind of sickness?" she asks firmly.

Ezra shakes his head. "She didn't. But she's waiting to talk to you."

Laurali exhales heavily and shakes her head, "Of course. I'll — I'll go to the stores first. Be sure that the nannies know to keep Rauzei for the day. Until then, you'd best bar anyone else from going to that barn." she murmurs before gathering her skirts and striding down the hall with purpose to her steps.

Ezra nods, "I will…" And he will also order that everyone who /does/ go have a complete washing up, with their clothing carefully cleaned in the hottest water they can make.

Smart man! Laurali will take her own precautions later but first she has to gather her things and chase down Halvia. The discussion she has with the woman is short and somewhat terse but it ends with Laurali heading off to the barn and Halvia returning to the hold. It'll be candlemarks before the work is done and there is an ominous plume of smoke coming from far behind the barn. No need to guess what that is. Closer to the dinner hour, Laurali returns but not before secluding herself to wash up and disinfect. It's the least she can do, along with the other safe guards. Halvia's been busy organizing a few additives to the food to be served.

Ezra has been working, as he does, to avoid having to think about things. Possibilities that frighten him and make him very, very nervous. As the evening approaches, he makes his way back to the house to wash up, using the soap vigorously before he takes their son into his arms for some bonding time.

Laurali won't be hard pressed in tracking Ezra down. She slips in through the door of their son's room and though her face was once stripped of emotion, she now smiles softly at the sight of the two of them. "Here, Rauzei. Some juice?" His favourite, no doubt (and spiked with herbal goodness). The special cup is held out for Ezra to take and hand to the toddler.

Ezra takes the cup and hands it to their son, looking up at her again. "I want to send him away. This sickness…it worries me too much. I'd send you away too but I know you wouldn't have it, so I'll give you the choice, to stay or go. I'm going to ask Rayathess and Tyani to watch him."

Laurali gives Ezra her full attention when Rauzei is occupied with drinking his juice. She frowns, jaw working silently meaning she's thoughtful but not at all pleased by the terms. "I don't want to discuss that here." she tells him. Their son may be young yet but she knows full well the boy can pick up on their tone of voice.

Ezra is probably oblivious to their son's age and abilities. He's still a baby, in Ezra's eyes. "Fine."

Laurali reaches for their son, having a few minutes with him as she makes sure he's finished his juice and is comfortable. He's three Turns now and while she still fondly remembers him as a baby, she knows he's growing up. Kissing his hair, she'll explain how the nannies will watch him now, that they both love him but by then Rauzei is already wanting to play with his toys. He's used to this routine. Assured that he's not going to throw a sudden tantrum at their exit, Laurali gestures for Ezra to follow her while a nanny takes their place. She goes right for the privacy of their room and barely has the door clicked that she gives her answer: "I'm not going. Rauzei shouldn't go either. Not yet."

Ezra follows her into their room and he frowns at her answer. "Why not? If there is a sickness. Their child died." So Rauzei could die too.

"You don't have to remind me." Laurali says with a quiet sharpness to her voice and an equally sharp look to Ezra. Really? She shakes her head, turning to walk towards their bed with her arms wrapped around herself. "There is sickness and until I know for certain it hasn't spread beyond that barn, sending anyone out would be unwise. We could send Rauzei to Rayathess and Tyani, only to have him infect them both and their newborn child — or he'll be weakened enough to catch one of the virulent Southern infections."

Ezra frowns as he settles into a chair, fidgeting a moment before he stands once again. He's silent. Because he knows she's right and he hadn't thought of that, but he'll never admit it aloud.

Laurali motions for him to join her on the edge of the bed where she sits, her arms still wrapped about herself as though she's warding off a chill. She may not be showing it, but she IS concerned. Scared, even. "Give it a few days. If he's still showing signs of being perfectly healthy, we can see about sending him away." Not that she likes the idea of being separated from their only son.

Ezra nods, moving over to sit stiffly beside her. "Okay," he says quietly, reaching for her hand. "What else do I need to do?" Him, as Holder.

Laurali gently takes his hand and then squeezes it firmly as she shifts closer to his side. "You keep your people calm. I've had Halvia put some supplement herbs in the food tonight. We know the symptoms to look for. If anyone so much as sneezes…" Well, they'll know about it and deal with it. "We're a hardy lot here."

Ezra nods again. "I know, but…sickness…" It's an invisible enemy and he doesn't deal well with that.

"A contained sickness." Laurali reassures him and leans in just enough to kiss his cheek. She continues to hold his hand. "You can't let it unsettle you and cause fear. At least we know it is here and it doesn't sneak up on us."

Ezra sighs, giving her hand a squeeze. "I'll try." But she will know how he really feels. Terrified.

Laurali does know how he feels. She's feeling the same, in a way, but is trying to keep it controlled. A panicked Healer is a useless one. Exhaling softly, she begins to unfasten his shirt. "You should rest." she says quietly.

Ezra leans into her touch and nods, kissing her hair. "So should you."

Laurali smiles at his kiss as she continues to gently undress him, still working on his shirt. Her hands are warm against his skin and she does not move away from beside him. "I will rest well if I have you with me…" she murmurs quietly but there is a hint of coyness there too.

Ezra nods. "I won't leave unless I have to," he promises, missing the coyness.

"Hopefully you won't have to." Laurali murmurs as she slips off his shirt and tosses it aside before taking both his hands and leading them to the laces of the front of her blouse. Surely he'll catch the hint? Leaving him to have 'fun', she'll lift her hands up to start unbraiding her hair.

Ezra finaly gets the hint and his hands begin to slowly undo her blouse, taking his time, his hands gentle.

Laurali allows her hair to flow forwards and over her back as it would naturally as her hands slide up over his shoulders as she shrugs out of her blouse. Her touch is gentle as well but she knows where to apply just a bit of pressure. "I can help you forget, for a little while." she quietly offers.

Ezra smiles, softly, leaning in to kiss her firmly. "Please…"

And she's true to her word, for however long it will last. A brief respite from the realities they'll both have to face when it becomes apparent that the sickness is no ordinary winter sickness and despite Laurali's precautions, with the unseasonable Spring they see even this far north the virus will spread into Stonehaven's people. Later, word will travel that other holds have it too.

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