Drake's Lake - High Plains
The high plains here rise to the Southern Barrier Range from the shores of Drake's Lake, which can be seen shimmering in the distance to the north. Wild and rough, somewhat arid, the rocks, scrub brush and waist-high grasses whispering dryly in the prevailing winds do little to obscure the untamed beauty of the shining snow-clad mountains rising to the south. Numerous beasts, those native to Pern an well as those brought by the colonists, flourish here. Bovine, both wild and feral graze the plentiful grasses along with feral runners, shaggy-haired porcine root the hard ground with deadly tusks, turning over the soil for new growth, which is inturn picked over by flocks of wherries. Overhead solitary raptors ride the wind while in hidden ravines, rocky streams, winding around boulders provide water and shelter for other creatures.

It’s been almost over a week now that Jajen and Iaverulth were banished from Fort Weyr. There’s no secret either that a few riders have already come to visit the young goldrider in her exile and all have return to Fort Weyr muttering under their breath about how they were treated. Is it really any surprise though? Of course Jajen is taking it poorly. Currently the goldrider is no where to be seen among the settlements and the locals, when asked, only shake their heads and mumble about her being a ‘shut-in’ and ‘recluse’ so far though none seem to begrudge her behavior. There’s work to be done and they figure Jajen just needs time to adjust from the shock of the differences between Weyr life and the near to wild outdoors of the Drake’s Lake settlements. Iaverulth cannot hide so easily as her rider and currently the pale gold has stretched out in her usual clearing. Usual meaning she’s “claimed” it as it resides the closest to the path leading up to the modest cottage Jajen has holed herself up in. Despite her riders self imposed isolation, the gold looks to be well tended to, gleaming in health as she dozes in the noon sun. Fort’s summer has been hot so far but the heat and humidity here is almost oppressive at this time of day.

Nyalle had intended to go to the settlement the day after Jajen’s exile. Then the day after. Then the day after that. Finally, though, she knew she had to go, even if it meant postponing that holder meeting and pushing back her day off. Kayeth appears high over the island, her breezes slightly cool as they reach to Iaverulth, letting her know she is there. However, the Senior queen does not approach the rebel gold. Rather, Kayeth lands near the water, leaving plenty of space between the two of them. It means Nyalle has to hike, but after the altercation between the queens, she is not at all wanting them close enough to fight. Especially with all of Kayeth’s support back in Fort. So it’s a short hike that Nyalle takes towards the settlement, and finally towards the cottage. Pausing by Iaverulth, Nyalle dips her head in greeting and then approaches the cottage to knock.

It is for the best that Nyalle gave it time. Jajen’s mood would’ve been irrational still and Iaverulth would have been bound by her rider’s emotions. As it stands, the amount of time passed has allowed both to cool considerably and while Iaverulth doesn’t greet Kayeth with happiness, the pale gold’s mind reaches back with a cold black emptiness, a near void of neutrality. Her presence for now is tolerated, so long as the fiery gold stays to her side of the water and doesn’t approach the clearing. Nyalle is permitted to pass but her stay here is also feebly tolerated and only because Drake’s Lake remains, partly bound, to Fort Weyr. Had Jajen been exiled beyond Fort’s coverage? Then this meeting would likely never take place. Jajen doesn’t answer the door and so Nyalle’s knocks are met with silence. She will, however, discover just as Abigail did, that the door is unlocked and shifts slightly open due to the door never quite closing firmly. Curse of the humidity on the wooden frame! Really, if Jajen didn’t want visitors, she’d lock it.

Nyalle will not enter someone’s home uninvited. That’s just rude. So she knocks again. She’s patient. She’ll stand out here all day if she needs to, knocking on the door.

Luckily for Nyalle she won’t wait all day. Jajen will be sick of the knocking shortly enough and by the fifth or so attempt the young woman finally answers the door by cracking it open. She’ll linger just long enough for Nyalle to glimpse her and the jerk of her head that says ‘come in’ even if no words are spoken before she retreats to her chair and flops down upon it. The inside of the cottage is modest and rustic and sparsely furnitured. It has all the necessities but they’re roughly made and old. It’s dim inside the room, despite the windows but Jajen doesn’t seem to mind it and hasn’t appeared to have done much, if anything, with the place. Parts of it still look rather dusty. Jajen herself looks unkempt, as though she does the bare minimum to keep herself presentable. Right now she’s watching Nyalle warily, tensed and coiled in her chair, as if half expecting the Weyrwoman to pounce.

Nyalle steps inside, softly closing the door behind her as best she can. Looking around the little cottage, her expression is mixed, especially when it settles upon Jajen and how unkempt she is. Well, what did Nyalle expect? That Jajen would bloom in isolation and mature in a sevenday? No. Moving forward, Nyalle takes another chair and sits softly, smoothing her skirts. “How are you, Jajen?” she begins gently. “Iaverulth looks very well.” And that’s where she’ll start.

Jajen’s eyes narrow suspiciously for where Nyalle chooses to start and her mouth opens, readying to snap something immature and snarky but in the end and with great effort on her part holds her tongue. The temptation is visible in her eyes though. “She just hunted well and was oiled not long after,” she answers stiffly, her voice low and a touch hoarse as though already unaccustomed to talking. “But I know that’s not what you’re here to discuss. So,” She lifts a hand a gives it a flick. Get on with it?

Nyalle nods slightly. “She looks well,” she repeats, praise subtle in her tone. Pleased that Jajen is tending to her queen, even if she’s letting herself go. “Oh? Why do you think I’m here, other than to check on the welfare of one of my Juniors and her queen?” Her voice is soft, quiet, kind. Nervous.

As foolish as she is in all other respects, Jajen would never neglect Iaverulth. Risk her life? Indirectly, yes. It’s probably slowly sinking in just how close she’s come to losing her gold again. Nyalle’s compliment isn’t entirely lost on Jajen but the young woman doesn’t reply. Instead, she gives a mocking snort despite the kindness shown. “Your junior and queen? Strange. I seem to recall you banishing me to this place but you still view me as one of yours? Of Fort’s?”

Nyalle nods slightly. “Yes, Jajen. You are still Fortian, representing the weyr and its interests here in this settlement. You still have your knot, do you not?” Nyalle didn’t take it, or order it returned.

Jajen is silent for a lengthy pause and her brows knit as her gaze lowers away from Nyalle and out to the window. Apparently this hadn’t occurred to her at all! She had, in her blindness, once again assumed incorrectly. “I took banishment meaning I am gone and that you only stuck me here so you could keep watch. No other Weyr would want me after all and I’m not trusted to go out alone.” Not that she could. Not with a viable queen who is still, as far as either of them are concerned, is fertile. “My knot is somewhere.” From her tone, she doesn’t seem to really care at the moment where that may be.

Nyalle shakes her head. “Which is why I’m glad I’m here to clarify things. You are still of Fort. This is just your new posting. It is,” she considers, “a chance for you to have some more freedom, and to show me what you are capable of.” There is another pause. “You will of course let me know when she begins to go proddy? She is a Fortian queen and will clutch on Fortian sands. We won’t leave you out here to rot.”

Jajen is silent again but now rather that watching the window, she’s watching Nyalle in a cautious and guarded way. She takes a moment to absorb what she’s said but it still doesn’t keep the edge out of her voice. “And now long do you intend to keep me here then?” Even she knows she cannot change overnight — if ever. She grimaces, “If I’ve time to warn you but what other choice do I have? Will Kayeth even tolerate Iaverulth being on her sands?” Snorting, Jajen mutters under her breath. Something that sounds suspiciously like ‘sure feels like it’.

Nyalle shakes her head again. “That I do not know. Clearly Kayeth struggles having so many queens in one weyr, and if you feel as if you need to challenge me…” She trails off, her brows furrowing slighty. Does she look hurt? “Why did you challenge me anyway, Jajen? Do you truly want Senior?”

Jajen probably doesn’t care whether or not Nyalle is hurt or at least is very careful not to show her guilt. “No, I don’t want Senior!” she snaps irritably. “I’m just not happy with how things ARE and that means you get the brunt of that! You say now that you want to see what I can do with my “freedom”,” Clearly she still views this as a cage. A very big and pretty cage but still what it is. “Yet I don’t recall being given this when I was at Fort. I never got sent on the good stuff. Then Dtirae just waltzes back in and everyone welcomes her with open arms but I don’t see anyone treating her with suspicion for what she’s done!”

Nyalle nods her head a little bit. “And I understand that. What aren’t you happy with?” There’s a pause. “You have to understand, Jajen, that I still feel like I hardly know you. And the effort I’ve seen from you thus far hasn’t proved to me that I can trust you with more than what I’ve already given you.” There is another pause. “Why don’t you tell me about your early training with Dtirae?” No comment on being suspicous of Dtirae. Not yet anyway.

Jajen’s jaw sets and it’s clear that she is struggling to cope and handle Nyalle. They’re not that far apart in age, though the Weyrwoman remains older… but not by much. “I don’t want you to know me,” she retorts sharply, giving her a look filled with distrust. “It’s no one business to know me. And why do you ask now? My happiness doesn’t matter! You all got what you wanted, right?” Her removed, is what she’s getting at. She snorts and looks away again, curling tighter into her chair. “We never got along, alright? That’s all there was to it.” Yeah, right.

Nyalle is patient. “Will you answer my questions?” As for Dtirae… “Did she strike you?”

Jajen glares at Nyalle as she meets her patient gaze and her jaw works for a moment. “Which ones?” she replies grudgingly. Answering questions is the only way she’ll be rid of the Weyrwoman, won’t she? Her eyes flash and her cheeks flush with color. Is that answer enough? “Once.”

“What do you want? What aren’t you happy with?” Nyalle repeats. Then there’s a frown and a small nod. “You have Fort’s formal apology for that, Jajen. And I have told Dtirae that if she ever strikes you - or anyone - again, there will be serious consequences. I will not tolerate that in Fort. Ever.” There’s steel in her voice for the first time, her eyes narrowing at the floor.

Well that was unexpected! So much so, Jajen forgets to answer Nyalle’s first two questions and for once not out of spite. Her eyes widen and then narrow again and she gives no thanks to the Weyrwoman for what she did. “She was in the right to hit me,” she states flatly. No, she doesn’t feel like she deserves to be but the young woman is used to that sort of punishment. She shrugs her shoulders and is silent, eyeing Nyalle warily. “And you never get mad enough to strike, Nyalle?” Somehow she finds that hard to believe.

Nyalle shakes her head firmly. “No, she wasn’t. And she never will be in the right to hit you.” There’s a pause, fine brows lifting. “No.” Never.

Jajen tilts her head and levels Nyalle with another disbelieving look. “Uh huh.” she mutters and doesn’t seem convinced at all that she’s so good hearted and intentioned. “Not that it matters now. You seem awfully interested in my happiness. Why? Why do you care, aside to make yourself feel better?” That’s it, right? Jajen’s assuming Nyalle’s probing questions are based in guilt.

Nyalle studies Jajen back, a bit surprised - and then not - by her answer. “Because I care about you. And, in a more selfish sense, your happiness reflects on Fort’s happiness. You saw first hand what a goldrider’s dissent can do to a weyr. We can’t have that happen ever again. But first and foremost, I want you content with your place in life, in the weyr. My feelings are irrelevant in this.”

Jajen pales and her eyes widen slightly with incredulousness. She — Nyalle — cares for her? She makes a strange sound between a strangled laugh and huff of disbelief. “Your feelings have everything to do with it. Feelings tie into motives and I don’t believe for a second that you care about me. You care about your Weyr and my being “unhappy” has nothing to do with you. You don’t want Fort Weyr to look bad.” she fires back, keeping her voice low but it does little to mask the sharpness of it and the faint sneer. “I’m not happy in Fort because I don’t like how a goldrider must be! MUST! There’s no other way apparently. It’s this or that and be damned if you try otherwise!”

Nyalle lifts her brows again and sighs. “YOu just don’t believe it because you don’t believe anyone has ever cared for you,” she says gently. “Though you are correct at the same time. There’s a lot that goes into this, Jajen, but part of it /is/ my feelings for /you/.” She pauses. “Well, unfortunately for you, your dragon is gold and there’s nothing that can change that. So you have two choices. Be miserable for the rest of your life, or work with me on a solution. What don’t you like about how a goldrider must be?”

"That's because no one ever HAS!" Jajen snaps back and her cheeks flare with colour, eyes snapping with hurt and anger as Nyalle chips away so easily at the truth of it. It's infuriating to Jajen, who wants nothing more than to be left alone (and yet doesn't want to be — but surely doesn't want to be pitied). "It has nothing to do with Iaverulth being gold! It's to do with the stupid traditions and expectations on us as goldriders! So long as you believe in all that stuff there's nothing you can do! You wouldn't understand." Or would she? Would Nyalle put two and two and see that the reason Jajen hasn't grown up is because she was never permitted to BE a child? She Impressed at thirteen with a dragon that matured by the time she was fourteen, maybe fifteen. Barely an adult even by Pernese standards and given too much responsibility too fast. Add to that all the suspicions around her because of Laris and the uneasy times… and is it any wonder Jajen is bitter and angry and frustrated?

Nyalle nods. Yup. She figured that out. "Well I do." There's another thoughtful pause. "Which traditions and expectations do you take issue with? If you could live your life however you wanted…what would you do?" Alas, Nyalle fears that but there's nothing she can do about it. She can't very well tell Jajen to run off and play for a turn.

Jajen glares again at Nyalle but by now the Weyrwoman should have worked out that half the time the young woman does it it means nothing. All bark, no bite. "No, you don't." she counters her stubbornly. Stop saying that! "That I somehow have to be perfect? A goldrider can't do this, a goldrider can't do that! I walk into a tavern or a room and everyone jumps and it's annoying. People pretend to be friendly. Men try to sleaze their way into my bed…" Okay, so she really hasn't been helping with that either given her behaviour! "… I really don't mind the work but I hate that I'm always expected to do it. Never can relax." Yeah, she totally does expect to run off and play.

"Can't do what, exactly?" Nyalle presses. She wants /specifics/. "It is difficult being the center of attention. Best you can do is try to divert it to someone else. As for the men…" She frowns. "Politely decline, and they'll get the message. They'll call you a frigid bitch behind your back, but you can't help that." Sounds like she speaks from experience, if her soft sigh and distant look is anything to go on. "You have your rest days," she reminds.

Jajen just makes a frustrated sound, not far from a growl as she tucks her knees up against her chest and glowers at Nyalle. The Weyrwoman may be asking too much in one day. "That doesn't always work and you know it!" Was she meaning the attention or the men? Could be both. "Rest days? Ha!" She laughs harshly. "Hard to rest when you can't GO anywhere!" Is Nyalle frustrated yet? Jajen just shakes her head and looks down at the ground, scowling. Maybe Drake's Lake IS the best option for Jajen right now… even if she's treating it like a prison.

Nyalle tilts her head, confused. "What do you mean you can't go anywhere?"

Jajen blinks and then scoffs in high frustration, spreading her hands out as she suddenly leaps from her chair and paces. "Haven't you listened to anything I just said? Folk get all bent out of shape when I'm around! And Th'ero doesn't like it if I go outside of Fort Weyr! None of them EVER did! They held my failures above my head and tied me down with them."

Nyalle's brows lift. "I'm listening to everything," she says, watching her start to pace. "But no one has told you you /can't/ leave Fort." There's a pause. "Where would you go? On days off?"

Jajen pauses and just gives Nyalle a heated look. "They may as well!" she fires back. She will NOT be proven wrong! She doesn't want to admit it yet to herself that all of this is her fault. "I don't know? Anywhere! Everywhere." Her pacing resumes.

Nyalle shakes her head slightly. "But," she says again, "no one has told you you can't leave Fort. You've put that on yourself."

"I have not!" Jajen protests loudly and her emotions surge strong enough that Iaverulth's warble can be heard from the clearing. Back inside, Jajen calms a bit but she's glaring at Nyalle again. "I think you should go." she states firmly. Can she dismiss the Weyrwoman? She's certainly trying!

Nyalle's brows lift a bit. But then she pushes to her feet. "I'll be back in a sevenday." Weekly checks. That's what Nyalle has decided on. "Next time," she looks around, "I'd like to have some tea." So get at least /that/ together. And with another nod, Nyalle takes her leave.

Jajen looks as though she just bit into something very bitter and sour. "So I am being babysat then?" she spits in a near angry snarl while Nyalle takes her leave. As for that tea? "Bring it yourself!" And then Jajen stalks off to her room and hauls the curtain closed. Hopefully the Weyrwoman has left by then and she best hurry by Iaverulth, who looks rather agitated now.

Nyalle pauses in the entrance and turns towards that closed curtain. "I just want to continue our talk and check in on how you're doing, Jajen. Like people who care about each other do." And /then/ she is gone. Last word, hahaha! Nyah.