Snow drifts lazily past the windows and has been for most of the morning, lightly coating the stone of the courtyard below. Rayathess watches it from the common room in the Journeyman’s Wing but his eyes have that far away look of one lost deep within their own thoughts. His mind isn’t on the onset of winter but of fires and the troubling fallout from the latest one to consume some of Fort’s forests.

It wasn’t so much that the news being spread, even here in Harper Hall, that there’s a possible arsonist on the loose (that, in and of itself, was an entirely other disturbing thought) but of what said arsonist flushed out with their last fire. Turning away from the window, Rayathess’ eyes fall to the hidework and papers spread out on the old wooden table, fingers automatically reaching for a few among the pile. He’s read over these multiple times and so often now he could rehearse what is written word for word. Still, it doesn’t lessen the sting to see the quick sketch and written notes of one of the captured renegades from Ustrr’s band.

He knew she was there.

He knew too what she’s done. That nothing would change her, that’d she’d chosen her path.

Why did he ever hold hope she’d escape or not be among them when the end came?

“Idiot.” Rayathess growls under his breath and it’s meant for him, not for the young woman in that headshot sketch which his fingers now linger on. She’s changed little since last he saw her but it’s still her. Lyreh.

Now he faces witnessing the trial that will no doubt see her and her comrades (if they’re even that — Rayathess holds his doubts) exiled. There’s no escaping this time, no second chance, no way he can convince either Weyr, Hold or Hall to give her her freedom. He spoke for her once and she tossed that back in his face the day she turned in her Apprentice knot from Healer Hall and vanished.

Why should I even care? She made her choice. Now she has to pay the price for her actions. Yet try as he does, Rayathess can’t let go and it’s slowly driving him mad how it eats at him, nagging him and keeping him awake at night and distracted during the day. He thought he had severed that foolish notion of ‘love’ for her Turns ago. Apparently not and that too upsets him further. No matter how hard he tries and tries again, Rayathess cannot stop caring for her.

Could he try to speak for her? Is it even worth it?

Does he just let her burn for her crimes and deal with his own fallout?

He’s a man of the law now. He cannot let his emotional ties, whatever they may be, affect the truth or sway the trial to save her.

Rayathess’ expression twists to one of frustrated anger and after swiftly grabbing the sheets off the table, he gives it a kick with his foot, sending it clattering over the stone floor in a burst of temper. Thankfully no one is sharing the room with him, but the noise would likely draw attention from those in their personal rooms and so he doesn’t linger about to be spotted and asked awkward questions.

Storming off down the halls and the lesser used stairwells, he recedes to the quieter parts of the Halls. The forgotten and neglected rooms that he’s found on his previous explorations as an Apprentice and where he goes to hole himself up now, where he need not talk to anyone or pretend all is well in the world. Eventually he’ll have to attend to this duties but for now he seeks that safety and solace of being alone.

Rayathess has some difficult choices to make.

He has to prepare for the worst.