Fort Weyr - Living Caverns
This cavern, having been created by bubbles in the volcanic flow of this extinct volcano, has a breathtaking ceiling — a vast dome that arches high above the heads of the weyrfolk that scurry around beneath it. A hollow echo can be heard from loud enough noises, and the chatterings of various firelizards are consequently multiplied into a chaotic babble. All in all, the living cavern is a loud place.
Tables are scattered around the room, apparently in no particular order. Over to one side near the kitchens, two medium sized serving tables are constantly spread with snacks, klah, and other goodies. The tables look worn, yet perfectly fitted to the atmosphere of the caverns. In the 'corners' of the cavern, smaller two and four place tables are set up for more private talks or just a less chaotic atmosphere in which to eat.

A birthday party is just wrapping up. Little Eldann has it on good authority that girls are icky, and sisters doubly so, thus for his birthday he didn't want Milana and Daniela in attendance. Ely managed to avoid drawing the short straw and M'lo was left with the task of overseeing the birthday party for his son and nearly a dozen other small boys about his age. They got a whole table to themselves, and there was cake and ice-cream and bubbly pies and Eldann's favorite food, peanut butter and jam sandwiches with little swords made of twisted wire keeping them all together. There was a brief skirmish with the little swords until little gold Lucy, chittering and scolding, took them away and disappeared /between/ with them. A song was sung, candles blown out, presents opened, and now the boys are conspiring together near the hearth with a large piece of paper and a small bucket of crayons, making plans. What kind of plans, M'lo isn't sure, because right now he's just sitting at the table, rubbing his thigh where three of the boys, in rapid succession, ran up and punched him for no apparent reason.

Good thing they didn't try that with Kimmila. Remember that cartoon where the big guy puts his hand on the head of the little guy, and the little guy just swings away, fists flailing and hitting nothing? That's what'd happen. While the snow comes down from outside, thick and heavy, Kimmila ducks in from that direction, shaking off her hood and jacket, trying to leave as much snow in the entrance as possible before her coat is hung on a hook by the door. Fresh back from sweeps, it looks like, as she tugs off her gloves and flexes her hands, coaxing warmth back into them. The little things by the hearth are eyed - perhaps she's wondering if she can bully them away and have the warmth to herself - as she passes by M'lo. "Hey," she says with a nod for the Weyrsecond. "What happened here?"

Snowing as it is, it did not keep one individual within the Weyr from performing his usual duties and as the Weyrleader slips inside the caverns, his clothing shows the brunt of it. Riding leathers are coated with a fair bit of snow, as is his hair and there's ice and snow clinging to his boots, as if he's been trudging through a few deep drifts and only Faranth knows where. Th'ero pauses by the entrance as well, knocking off as much of the offending snow from his boots and then brushing the rest from his jacket before slipping it off his shoulders and hanging it up as well. A hand then lifts to run through the mess he calls his hair, now quite damp from the rapidly melting snow. It's only when he finally goes to take those steps inside the caverns themselves that his dark eyes scan the area and it does not take him long to spot both his Weyrmate and his Weyrsecond not far off. Th'ero has not taken notice of all the youths by the hearth quite yet, focused as he is in approaching the two adults. "Afternoon to you both," he drawls in a low tone once he is near enough to be heard. Had he arrived just a few moments earlier, the Weyrleader would have likely snuck away back into hiding had he witnessed the party. For now though, he seems sociable enough despite his usual reserved greeting.

"That's gonna bruise," M'lo complains under his breath, but probably loud enough for Kimmila to hear. He looks up at her and flashes her a friendly grin. "Eldann's seven turns old, today," he explains. "This is his birthday party. If it's not snowing too hard I'm going to let them go outside and build snow forts, in a bit." He gestures to one of the empty seats at the table. "Please join me. Have cake, looks like there's still some left." He has a grin for Th'ero, too. "Afternoon, Th'ero," he says. Cake?" He gestures to a seat as well. The little boys are still totally ignoring everything else in favor of their master plans.

Kimmila looks over her shoulder when Th'ero arrives, offering her weyrmate a little smile. "Hey." And that's it, it seems. Eying the kids, she decides to sit at the table when it's clear that she's not in immediate danger of being overrun by the little things. "Cake sounds delicious actually," she muses, and the revelation seems to both surprise and then irritate her, since she's not a sweets person by nature. But she is right now, apparently, taking a piece and starting to eat. "Seven, huh?" she asks, trying to pick out M'lo's boy from the group. "Hey, can I ask you something?"

A little smile is plenty for Th'ero concerning Kimmila and he does not seemed fazed at all by her minimal response. He steps a little closer to her side, but does not linger for long as his gaze turns to M'lo once more. It's then that he notices the leftover cake and then his eyes are darting to where the boys remain absorbed in their "plans". The Weyrleader frowns a little and then politely lifts a hand up in a dissmissive but polite gesture. "No thank you," he murmurs to the offer, though he does slip past Kimmila in favor of one of the chairs. Which he promptly turns so that he's facing the table sideways. Most would know by now that the bronzerider does not like having his back turned on people, even children. "The snow is still falling, but not as heavily. And the winds are mild." Th'ero supplies helpfully as he leans heavily against the back of his chair, though looking anything but relaxed. Kimmila won't be the only one plying poor M'lo for questions, as he has his own to add as well. "You in charge of the whole lot of them?" he asks and from the subtle tilt of his head and dart of his eyes, he likely means the group of boys.

M'lo's boy looks exactly like him in miniature, except his slanted eyes are ice-blue instead of a warm brown, so Kimmila won't have any trouble picking him out from among the rest. He nods willingly enough at Kimmila. "Yeah, sure," he agrees. "Ask away." At the weather update, M'lo leans back in his chair and hollers around his Weyrleader, "Boys! You can go outside to play. Irelanth will be watching, so /no/ rocks in the snowballs. I /mean/ it." That's all they need to hear, and the boys leap up and stampede out the door, happy and raucous. He chuckles a bit and nods at Th'ero. "Yeah. Just for a little while more.

That would help, if Kimm was better able to tell one child's face from another. To her, they're all lumped into 'kid'. She visibly relaxes when the kids are gone, a trampling herd that she no longer has to deal with. When Th'ero turns the chair and sits, she gives him another little smile. Happy, perhaps, that he's taking first watch? While she eats her cake. Glancing at M'lo, then to Th'ero, then back to the Weyrsecond, the bluerider clears her throat and jerks her head towards the exit. "Was just wondering how you managed to do…uh. 'Dad stuff' and still be Weyrsecond. How you balance it and stuff."

Th'ero ducks his head down slightly, feigning to scratch at his jaw with his hand though truthfully he uses it to hide the half-smile, half-grimace that crosses his features when M'lo hollers at the boys to go on outside. Once they stampede by, the Weyrleader relaxes a fraction more, but still not by much. Catching Kimmila's little smile, he returns it in his own vague little way and then his gaze drifts back to the Weyrsecond. At his Weyrmate's question however, his brows lift slightly in surprise — briefly seen before he hides that all under his usual neutral frown. But the bluerider does get a lingering look, before his gaze darts back to M'lo. Nothing is said, it seems, but Th'ero's curiosity is plain enough even in the silence.

M'lo blinks for a second, puzzling over Kimmila's question. "I… I'm not sure," he says at first. "I just /do/. I mean… I guess I've learned to budget my time well. I multitask, delegate where I can. I usually work through my meals, for instance, and I have a secretary." Turns ago, that was Miki, but someone else has long since filled that spot. "It helps that I'm very organized. I don't waste time trying to remember trivialities like where things are or what I'm supposed to do next." He shrugs. "Why do you ask?" He glances at Th'ero for a second, then back to her.

Mmm, cake. Kimmila noms it while listening to M'lo's answer, with only one little side-look to see Th'ero's reaction - or non-reaction. "Did you ever consider fostering? And no reason…" Yeah, right. She's looking regretful that she asked, though. "So any news from Gold Hill about their guards?" Or lack there of, since when Kimmila last visited the prosperous Hold, there weren't any guards posted. A fact she pointed out to the Lord Holder rather forcefully.

Th'ero's gaze seems casual enough, almost disinterested in the conversation between M'lo and Kimmila. But when the Weyrsecond meets his gaze, the Weyrleader drops it to look pointedly away. The bluerider's next question though has him turning his head a bit to glance at her sidelong though and frown. Yeah, right, indeed. At the mention of Gold Hill though and Th'ero's mood seems to shift, a brightness coming to his eyes. /This/ sort of discussion he can handle with minimal awkwardness. "Reports from Captain Breshir claim that there was a request put in for available guards for transfer, from either the Weyr or the major Holds. And yet, if I read the paperwork correctly, only a small handful was taken. If it can even be called /that/. Three is by far not enough and yet it is… better than none." But the Weyrleader still seems disapproving of the lord's continued disregard to standard protocols.

"Fostering?" M'lo asks. Then he shakes his head. "No. I grew up in a Weyr, and my parents raised me. Granted, they weren't riders, but I wanted to be a parent to my children like they were to me." He cuts himself a slice of the cake, his first, because he was too busy to eat, before. "Truthfully, in my list of priorities, it's Irelanth, my children, Ely, the rest of my family, and /then/ my job. If my Weyrsecond duties took too much time away from my family, I would find another occupation." He pauses. "I know that many riders don't feel the same way as I do, and that's fine." He eyes her carefully while he eats his cake. He's known Kimmila for how long, now? A few Turns, at least. "What's going on?" he asks softly, willing to help, as always. He listens with interest to what Th'ero says about the guards at Gold Hill. "Well, they've been warned. If they're overrun by Renegades, you can tell them you told them so when they come here for refuge."

Caaaake. Kimmila actually pauses eating to look at M'lo in surprise, though. "Your children over your weyrmate?" She sounds…rather shocked, actually. The rest make sense to her. "Nothing," she says dismissively, eating more cake. And then she's looking up in surprise again. "That's…not the reaction I'd have expected from you. I think we need to insist they have more…" But as she says it she trails off with a frown, because even she knows that weyrs aren't supposed to meddle in hold affairs. And the number of guards posted is definitely a hold affair, no matter how stupid Kimm thinks they're being.

Th'ero also looks equally surprised and a touch baffled by M'lo's response. "Over your weyrmate /and/ your duties?" he adds, as if the concept is too much for his mind to grasp. Most of it makes sense to him, but the rest seems almost backwards to a man who is ruled so strongly by his strict ways. Shaking his head a little, he then turns to glance back to Kimmila and his brow knits again into another frown. "And I agree with that. I'd prefer it if Gold Hill did not fall like Stonehaven. One black mark like that is enough for Fort's history. But remember, Wingmate," he points out to the bluerider, though his gaze darts to M'lo as well to include the Weyrsecond. "The Weyr cannot meddle in Hold affairs. Though we can suggest… and perhaps push a little on Fort Hold to step in to take over where we cannot tread. No… wait," Th'ero pauses, lips drawing down as he mulls over some detail or another. "No, I was correct. Gold Hill is affiliated with Fort Hold." Hey, even a Weyrleader can't remember /everything/ right? "And I doubt they would want one of their minor holds being such an open… security risk." Sneaky, sneaky. But Th'ero enjoys playing those sort of political games.

M'lo nod's at Kimmila slowly. "Of course," he says. "They're my /children/, Kimmila. I love them. When I held them for the first time… looked down into their little faces… I knew then that I would kill for them, if that's what it took to keep them safe." He says this in all seriousness. He thinks about it for a minute. "You know, most people value their children over everything else. My great-grandfather died saving his daughter, my grandmother, from floodwaters. She was stranded on some debris that had caught against a large tree. Without even thinking about it, my great-grandfather jumped into the water. The current was so swift he was nearly swept right past her, but he managed to reach her. He lifted her into the branches of the tree, to safety. Unfortunately, the current or something in the water knocked him off of the branch he was clinging to and he was washed away. He disappeared under the water and never came back up again. They found his body kilometers downstream, days later." He just shrugs to Th'ero. Hey, he feels like he feels, but he's not judging anyone else for not feeling the same. As to their surprise about his attitude, they get another shrug. As they both already know, the Weyr has no jurisdiction over Hold affairs. Perhaps the secret to his success is that he doesn't borrow trouble. He gives his Weyrleader a slow, appreciative grin at the man's suggestion. "That's right," he says. "Fort Hold should be able to knock some sense into their heads."

Kimmila has to bite back a laugh at Th'ero's 'and duties' addition, though did she really expect anything else from him? No she did not. "Mmm, Fort Hold applying the pressure is an excellent idea," she muses, giving the Weyrleader an approving look. Then green eyes flick back to M'lo, and she frowns. "But with your weyrmate you can always make /more/ children." As if it were as simple as making more cookies when the first batch is eaten too quickly. The story of his great-grandfather has her frowning, grimacing even, but she makes no remarks on it, not wanting to stir up trouble. So she just gets another piece of cake. "When I first held Ziani I couldn't pass her on to A'ven fast enough," she mutters.

Th'ero smiles vaguely when both M'lo and Kimmila approve of the suggestion and he nods his head slowly, "Then I will arrange for a meeting between Fort Weyr and the Lord of Fort Hold," he drawls in a rather dry tone. Not exactly something to be /thrilled/ over, as it means more dull meetings and likely far more paperwork and reports and all that fun but tiresome political stuff. But such is fate and the Weyrleader cannot hide from it. "But I have half a mind to keep regular patrols over Gold Hill all the same. I am not thrilled with the current Lord or his heir's behavior. It has my back up and something doesn't seem quite /right/." Which means regardless, he'll be watching. Somehow. M'lo's elaborate explanation to Kimmila only has a blank look at first from Th'ero. Having no children of his own, all of it goes quite swiftly up and over his head. There is some sympathy in his look for the tale of the Weyrsecond's great-grandfather and perhaps a slight understanding, but the bronzerider wisely keeps his mouth shut. He knows nothing concerning these things. Kimmila's muttering has him glancing at her sharply and a hand reaches out to lightly, and subtly, rest against her leg. Easy, the gesture seems to say though the Weyrleader remains silent.

M'lo stares at Kimmila. "That's just… that's… I don't even know where to begin," he finally says, apparently totally flabbergasted by the idea that his children are replaceable. And slightly offended, too, if his body language is any indication. He crosses his arms and firms his mouth and stares down at the table with a brooding expression that's exceedingly rare, for him. Her closing comment elicits a nearly-silent snort from him and half a shake of his head, but he says nothing in return. Th'ero's mention of a meeting has him nodding his head in agreement. He'll be there. But for right now he's trying to keep his cool.

Kimmila blinks at M'lo, looking genuinely surprised at his reaction. She didn't /mean/ to sound callous or insulting, but it's true! "What? Did…what's wrong, M'lo?" Well shit, did she mess up again? She looks at Th'ero too, baffled, wondering if he can help shed some light on the situation.

Bring on the awkward! Th'ero tenses almost from instinctual response when the atmosphere shifts and he senses the change in M'lo first before Kimmila's reaction. But it's his Weyrmate's mood that has his hackles up, the Weyrleader already on the defensive for her sake. But just like the brownrider, he's keeping his temper in check. "You did nothing wrong, Wingmate." he murmurs softly, tilting his head to try and keep most of the words for her ears alone, but with the way he's seated it's a touch difficult. "And you know she meant no insult," Th'ero's gaze and head have turned to face the Weyrsecond now, frowning heavily and his tone oddly calm and level, though the warning shows in the unusual brightness to his otherwise dark colored eyes. "To you or your ideals. She has much a right to her opinion as you or I do." So let bygones be bygones?

"You meant no insult, I know," M'lo says quietly. "But please try to see if from my viewpoint. They're people, Kammila," he says. "Little human beings with futures, with passions and dreams and emotions and so much /potential/, and I helped to create them. I am responsible for their existence, for their safety, for their development. They love me, and I love them. Perhaps our bond isn't telepathic, but it's very real. The degree of difference between my love for my /dragon/ and my love for my children is like /this/ much," he says, holding up his hand a centimeter apart. "Imagine how you would feel if someone suggested that you could replace your lifemate if he died — just Impress another, no big deal — and then you can understand how I'm feeling right now." He lets out a slow breath. "Let's talk about something else," he murmurs.

Kimmila glances at Th'ero, her brows lifting when he comes so readily to her defense, and she rests her hand over his beneath the table. Subtly and quietly. Turning back to M'lo, she listens closely and her frown is one of concentration and thought as she tries to mull things over. "Yes…" The 'but' is there, about to be spoken, but she bites it back and shakes her head. "I did not mean to upset you, my…apologies." That's hard for her to say. Someone mark the calendar. Talking about something else? Uh. She's pregnant? No, probably not the best time to let that little gem slip. "So…it's still snowing…" Conversation FAIL. "No, wait," she can do better! "Did you know that three of Xanadu's eggs died because of that mishap with the sands? Soriana told me that someone installed a part wrong…seems awful suspicious to me." When in doubt, Laris conspiracy theories is a great way to calm the mood!

Th'ero only holds M'lo under a steady stare as the Weyrsecond elaborates again for Kimmila, though he says nothing, his deepening frown may speak volumes or it may not. When his hand is touched by hers, subtle and quiet beneath the table, he turns it so he can grip it. What awkwardness began to build still lingers, but it's no longer rapidly speeding towards a breaking point as the bronzerider's tension ebbs, shoulders dropping minutely as he too simply shakes his head. Enough has been said (or unsaid), so Th'ero favorably goes for a conversation change, as his opinions would likely have all of them at each others throats in seconds. He is not a man of tact once his temper is breached and when he's on the defensive. Blinking, his gaze shifts to Kimmila then and his train of thoughts shift back until he nods, his tone almost sad sounding as he recounts what information he remembers. "Maehwazeyeth sired the two eggs that hatched by Yumeth. The three that did not survive… were by an Ierne gold. From the reports and what news filtered in, it was a malfunction of the heating units," Did he get that right? Th'ero is no friend or supporter of technology and the Weyrleader is liable not to remember the fancier terms. He grimaces, "Are you implying that it could have been foul play?" And from his tone, he seems to be considering the idea. Somewhat. For him conspiracy theories are calming!

M'lo knows how hard it is for Kimmila to apologize, so he nods a few times. "Thank you," he says. He glances toward the door to the bowl as if he could look through it to the snow outside, and for a moment his eyes go distant as he sees through his dragon's eyes. He regains his focus again when she starts talking about Xanadu's eggs. "That was a terrible tragedy," he murmurs. His gaze turns razor-sharp when she hints at foul play. "That's horrible," he says, nearly aghast. "Who would do such a thing? And /why/?"

Kimmila shakes her head, "That's not what Soriana told me. She said Yumeth clutched five eggs, and only two hatched. The eggs from the Ierne gold were infertile to start. Eight of them. Apparently she's never clutched fertile eggs, for some reason. The dragonhealers don't know why. But three of Yumeth's healthy eggs died because of the heating issue." Green eyes flick to M'lo, and she frowns. "Laris, obviously. He was in Xanadu around that time…"

Th'ero grimaces when Kimmila corrects him, but not from annoyance. If anything, he's annoyed at himself for muddling the details and he can only shake his head again. The news was troubling even for the Weyrleader, it seems. "It is still a regrettable loss. But fortunate that at least /two/ survived and Impressed. That alone is a triumph." he points out firmly. Again, he looks a little surprised by M'lo's reaction and Th'ero's frown deepens all the more, his mood now brooding as well for what Kimmila implies in response. "We don't /know/ that. And there is no proof either. It could just be a… a failure of that damnable technology." Glancing just as sharply to his Weyrsecond, he adds in a quieter tone. "Laris is a twisted man with twisted ideals. While I'm not certain he'd do such… an attack, he may have stirred up others with his fanatical ideas. The man is unhinged, M'lo. It's hard to say why or what he'll do or what he's doing /now/. Which is why I agreed to sharing resources with Xanadu. The man needs to be found."

M'lo rises abruptly, "Excuse me, rocks are being thrown," and hastens to the exit. "BOYS!" he hollers, and then he's gone.

Kimmila watches M'lo go, and exhales quietly, giving Th'ero's hand a squeeze before she pushes away the remains of the cake. Mostly the extra frosting. "No, we don't know it, but I am suspicious of it," she mutters under her breath. "I'm so glad Fort's Sands maintain their own heat, even all these turns later." Fort was built to last! "What's your priority list?" she asks, glancing sidelong at him and lowering her voice.

"As am I," Th'ero murmurs in a low agreement to Kimmila, distracted though as he is by M'lo's abrupt departure. His gaze follows the man out of the caverns and once the Weyrsecond is gone, the Weyrleader simply shakes his head again. Shifting a little in his seat, he turns to more or less face the bluerider now, his weyrmate and now the sole focus of his attention. Unless, of course, someone moves or wanders in or out. Then his gaze is darting to watch them briefly before his attention drifts back to her. "Another reason to be proud of Fort's design. Not to fault Xanadu, but I would never trust that technology ever again. Not that I ever did to start." Fort was built to last! Thankfully. "Mine?" Th'ero drawls and his grip on her hand only tightens as he glances about the caverns again, subtle and quick before lowering his head to murmur closer to her ear. "You, the Weyr and my duties, Velokraeth, family…" He pauses for a moment and then with an exhale, adds, "It's hard to explain it so simply though. And the margins are not as broad. Neither is it just simply black and white. They… shift."

Kimmila's brows lift when he gives his list, and she nods. "They shift," she agrees softly, "depending on who - or what - needs what at any given time." Eying the cake, she pushes to her feet. "Like to join me on a walk through the tunnels?" she offers, making sure her gloves are secure in her pocket, and looking towards the door. Deciding, perhaps, if she wants to get her jacket and carry it around, or leave it there to dry.

Th'ero smiles that small smile he uses when out in the public eye, but all the same it shows he's both pleased and relieved by Kimmila's reply. So she understands. "Yes. Though I'll admit there are times I still try to work it all to my favor…" Which means he will always try to have it that she comes first, if it can be managed. He's done it before. "Of course." he says, eagerly accepting her offer and already rising from his chair while she debates on taking her jacket or not. Once standing, he reaches to lightly touch her arm, "Lead on?" Th'ero murmurs, leaving it to Kimmila to set the pace and path, it seems and the Weyrleader looks to be leaving his jacket behind. He's had enough of the snow for now.

'The World of Pern(tm)' and 'The Dragonriders of Pern(r)' are copyright to Anne McCaffrey (c) l967, 2000. This is a recorded online session, by permission of the author but generated on PernWorld MUSH for the benefit of people unable to attend.