Fort Region — Harper Hall — Garan's Personal Offices

Winter has the northern Fortian regions well within it’s grips now, the days cold and the nights bitter with the numbing winds and freezing temperatures. But neither storm, nor season, deterred one letter in being delivered by the firelizard sent with the task to leave the frozen norths for the balmier Western isles. So on one clear, early morning, a brown firelizard looking more to be a tunnel snake with wings appears from Between in the Weyrleader’s offices and promptly settles himself on his chosen’s shoulder. Th’ero tries not to grimace in distaste when the brown attempts to burrow into his hair, hastily reach up and over to untie the rolled letter before shooing the firelizard away and ignoring it’s hiss of protest as it seeks out another perch. As Th’ero unrolls the thin parchment, he leans back into his chair and his brows promptly knit into a heavy frown as he reads over the words.

The letter is a brief one, but the writing unmistakable. He had not expected such a prompt reply from the recipient though and sighs heavily. Velokraeth? Rouse yourself. We need to be going. He says to his sleeping bronze out on the ledge of their weyr, curled up despite being in the sunlight. His request is met with a sleepy mental nudge and the faintest hint of clear golden wine hues. Is it truly pressing that we must go this instant? Could it not wait? Perhaps you can go spend a few hours in Kimmila’s warm embrace. You always enjoy that passtime. It’s a clear sign of respect from the bronze, to use another rider’s actual name or it could be a trap, as he knows just the mere temptation may be enough to sway his rider off course. Th’ero, now risen from his chair and on his feet, simply exhales heavily in frustration, stubbornly setting his mind with the same emotions and steeling himself against his bronze’s influence. No, we need to go now. Garan is already at Harper Hall and I have some words to speak with him. For a moment, there is a small battle of wills, or at least stubbornness, before the bronze finally submits with a mental sigh, alert now as he begins to uncurl himself and stretch out his stiff and stunted limbs. Fine, then. Have it your way! But you need to settle your thoughts and temper if you plan to have any worthwhile discussions with HIM. Before Th’ero can protest, Velokraeth interjects and his mental voice takes on a firmer, edged tone. No, you listen to me, Th’ero. That little piece of paper has got you worked up — don’t think you can HIDE that from me — and you know what happens when you go into situations hot headed. You are no fool. The bronze chides him, which only has Th’ero’s mood turning broodier by the second. But he is no fool, as he was so reminded, and as he reaches to grab his thicker riding jacket, slipping it on and fastening it tightly, he silently admits the truth behind his lifemate’s words.

That little piece of paper HAD upset him, or begun to, had he been permitted to chew over it. It was not so much Garan’s reply or the swiftness of his arrival, but simply all the old wounds and memories dredged up from the mere thought of having to be in the same room with the man. That had set him and his temper so much on edge. Stepping out into the frigid cold air, a gust of wind drifts by, strong enough to ruffle his hair and bring an instant flush of red to his cheeks as his skin reacts to the cold. We do not have to discuss the past. Just the issues surrounding Gold Hill. I mentioned nothing else in my letter. Th’ero reflects to himself, willing his thoughts to settle and to ease the tension already settling into his posture and movements. He is only going to Harper Hall to speak to a Harper. That is all. The repetition slowly does it’s trick and his mind is momentarily fooled into accepting it as a truth and he can once more gain rigid control of himself. Pulling up the protective face covering most rider’s wear, Th’ero slips on the rest of his gear, slipping his hands into his gloves just as Velokraeth soars down from above to land not far from where his rider has stopped to wait on him. The pale bronze turns his oversized head to regard his rider with a critical look over with one of his mismatched eyes. He then snorts, satisfied that his rider’s temper is calmed enough and promptly settles into the necessary crouch for Th’ero to mount up.

Once buckled into the straps, Velokraeth takes to the skies and Th’ero concentrates on the visualization for Harper Hall before bracing for the cold impact of Between. It takes mere seconds, but the chill is enough to set the Weyrleader’s teeth on edge and even the bronze is muttering about wanting warmth from all the cold. Veering towards the Hall’s ample courtyard, Th’ero notes the distinct lack of folk wandering about with relief. The fewer aware of his presence, the better, he figures. Velokraeth lands as deftly as a bronze his size can manage, trying hard not to send too much loose snow flying from his wing strokes. Deftly, Th’ero unfastens the buckles and dismounts, pausing only to give the now restless bronze a firm pat before allowing him to seek the sun warmed fire heights for what little heat the stones may hold. Slipping the tinted goggles from his eyes, he shields them with his hand instead to watch Velokraeth’s progress, only moving to the inner courtyards once he’s certain the bronze has settled himself. But it is also a tactic, one that masks his true intentions: to bide his time, give himself a few more precious seconds to gather his thoughts, steele his temper in neutrality and be able to step forwards with shoulders straight and head up, all the air of a confident and calm Weyrleader.

Entering the Great Hall, Th’ero pauses by the door to allow his eyes to grow accustomed to the dimmer interior, hooking his goggles to his belt and unfastening his jacket a little against the warmth of the indoors. Few folk seem to be about even inside and those who do scurry by pause only to be certain that their eyes do not mistaken what knot they see pinned to his shoulders and to offer a respectable if not curt nod or hastily murmured greeting, both of which are returned by the Fortian Weyrleader, though his tend to err towards being blunt, despite his efforts. Fool. Still can’t manage the basics, can you? He chides himself rather harshly after one particular Harper Journeyman gives him a narrowed look for a greeting mistakenly taken as cold and impersonal before venturing off on his task. Th’ero can only sigh inwardly. Now is not the time to reflect on that, as he moves slowly down towards one of the various long hallways leading further into the structure and deeper into the mountainous rock wall the Hall was carved from. Minutes pass, but the Weyrleader knows the way and eventually his footsteps lead him to a solitary door at the end of one annex where most of the private offices or study and practice rooms lay. Lingering there, Th’ero frowns deeply, hands clenched at his sides and suddenly hesitant. Why his advice and not another? There are plenty other Harper’s who could help him with this. So why Garan? For a moment, his jaw sets and he almost turns on his heel to seek out another but just as that decision comes to fruition in his mind, his hand also lifts, as if of it’s own accord, and knocks on the door. Too late now.

“Come in.” A voice greets him, strong and firm through the thick door and yet Th’ero seems to shy and flinch away from it before he curses himself and rolling his shoulders, takes a deep breath and straightened his posture. Taking a firm hold of the door handle, he pushes it open and steps inside. The room is small and cozy and sparse in decoration. What little furniture and fixtures there are, they are modest at best and strictly kept to being useful. A tiny stone hearth with a modest fire crackling away within it, a few shelves, one slender and narrow wooden bookcase and a small working desk, complete with a few chairs are all it seems to boast. Seated in the one chair facing the door and with his back to the fire is an older looking man, his long white hair combed back and plaited into a braid. His broad features are accented by a short trimmed beard and despite the harsher angles, his large eyes are warm and kind though they focus on Th’ero with an intensity that is difficult to read. Dressed in modest clothing, the Sr. Journeyman Harper does not stand to formally greet the Fortian Weyrleader, strangely casual in the way he greets him once the door clicks shut firmly behind the bronzerider.

“Please, sit. Make yourself comfortable,” Garan goes on to say, eyes still fixed on Th’ero as the younger man simply stands by the doorway, stiff and tense and while not outwardly showing it, to a Harper’s keen eye he is obviously uncomfortable. Uncomfortable and clearly conflicted. That notion saddens the older Harper, but he knows better than to press the man he’s known since he was a child and so rather than face the issue, he simply pretends to ignore it and the tactic works. Th’ero steps forwards and slowly settles himself into the chair on the other side of the desk, though he angles it slightly so that he can still keep a peripheral look on the door. Even here, the Weyrleader is on alert, despite the mere notion of an attack taking place in the Hall being so absurd to be almost paranoid. No greeting is offered, although Garan clearly expects something from the Fortian Weyrleader. Instead, there is only a tense and awkward silence that falls, as neither Harper nor Weyrleader wish to be the first to broach the subject and so stubbornly find themselves already at odds.

Finally, with a sigh, it’s Th’ero who breaks the silence and with a barely contained smirk, speaks in a low, reserved tone. “I wasn’t expecting you to reply so soon.” he says, eyes narrowing a little as he gives Garan a lingering stare that hardly seems to affect the Harper. In fact, it only makes the older man smile faintly and in a bemused sort of way. “And here I thought promptness was often a welcomed trait,” Garan drawls in his richly toned voice and then holds up a hand to ward off Th’ero’s bristling and what was likely to be a barbed comment. “And I do apologise if it came as a surprise. But the timing was good and the issue serious enough to warrant a hurried visit.” That has the Weyrleader settling back into his seat, though not all the tension leaves his posture and he observes the Harper now with almost warily and cautiously. “Now, tell me everything that happened,” Garan asks, levelling Th’ero with a look that few would ever dare to and if any others were present, they would wonder how on Pern a Senior Journeyman Harper would get away with such brashness with the Fortian Weyrleader. And yet, the bronzerider does not react offensively, simply a touch defensively as he begins to speak in a low and almost flat tone as he relays as much of the information that he feels the older man should know.

Th’ero goes on to explain how Gold Hill’s heir and current holder’s attitudes were first discovered and how Kimmila confronted them. He hesitates though, almost reluctant to put the bluerider in any ill light in front of a man he does not wholly trust. Yet no judgement seems to come from Garan, the Harper simply remaining attentive and his features carefully schooled into a neutral and interested mask; one that Th’ero is all too familiar with and rather than being reassuring, it worries the Weyrleader and sets him farther on edge. Regardless, he continues on and mentions the lack of guards or cooperation from Gold Hill’s Lord holder, despite the efforts of Fort Hold’s Lord Laric to get the minor lord to see reason. “So you see where we stand now.” Th’ero finishes, lifting his hands to spread them out in a helpless but frustrated gesture. Garan frowns heavily now, thick brows knitted together as his unfocused gaze betrays a deep thought as he mulls over all the information shared with him. “There is little you can do, as I’m sure you’ve already assumed.” The Harper replies slowly, lips curving into a bit of a grimace. “You know as well as I how the Weyr cannot interfere with Hold business…” And he’s interrupted by a scoff from Th’ero and a dry, almost bitter chuckle. “I know that,” the Weyrleader drawls, his voice betraying some of his frustrations with it’s tone. “Don’t think I have forgotten. So we’re at a stalemate then, until either Fort Hold or Gold Hill make their move?” Garan need not answer, as his change in expression is enough for the Fortian Weyrleader to know the answer and he exhales heavily. “Great. So we can only sit on our hands and at best mount patrols while a hold, for all intent and purposes, rebels…”

“A rather harsh and potentially ill assumption,” Garan points out, interrupting the Weyrleader once more and not flinching or backing down when the bronzerider fixes him with a narrowed and slightly heated look. “I don’t approve either of the Lord’s behavior. Towards you, the Weyr, Fort Hold or even Kimmila. I’m certain too that their Harper has much to add on the situation…” The older man then blinks for a moment at Th’ero’s sudden blank look and then it’s his turn to make a frustrated sound, almost disappointed. “Shards, lad. Did you not think to check with their posted Harper?” he exclaims, as if scolding an errant child. As if by habit, Th’ero does grimace and lower his head, guilt and embarrassment marring his features until with a slow inhale, the Weyrleader masters his emotions once more. “It slipped my mind, as I had more pressing issues to deal with.” he replies coldly, enough for Garan to know that that was the end of the discussion, despite the Harper wishing to push further. Sighing in frustration, the older man gestures in a sharp dismissive way before leaning back heavily into his seat. “No matter. Mistakes are made, but I would look into that report when you can.” he intones gravely and Th’ero answers only with a stiff nod. With no words spoken, the silence slips in again and heavier this time and weighing down, darkening the room despite the crackling fire in the hearth beside them. This time though, it’s Garan who breaks it and he speaks in a low and gentler tone.

“Gold Hill’s heir has been a thorn in many sides. Whyever did you send Kimmila and not go yourself? Or send one of your juniors or more experienced Weyrwomen?” The Harper knows the dangers of treading on such subjects and his keen eyes watch Th’ero carefully, noting the subtle shifts in emotion and posture in the Weyrleader that many do not see or fail to see. It’s not quite unlike trying to follow the steps of an unfamiliar dance, a tense and endless circling around each other, which saddens the older man. Will this rift never mend? Can it be mended? “It was, as I explained, just a delivery of medicines. Not a wholly political visit. Kimmila only became insulted when the heir Unevyr began to flaunt his jewelry at her and show a rather blatant disregard to the importance of her visit.” Th’ero explains stiffly, his mouth drawn downwards as he frowns at the Harper. “I trust in Kimmila’s abilities. She has proven herself before and I do not fault her entirely for this…” The rest is cut off as Garan holds up his hand, a gesture that has the Weyrleader grimacing and anger flashing in his eyes. “I see,” The Harper says crisply, “And I understand. But you’d be wise from now on to send other rider’s for direct contact to this lordling. Lord Unvar is one thing, but clearly the heir has some bone to pick. Or they are hiding something.” Th’ero only snorts, crossing his arms tightly over his chest and for all apparent reasons disagreeing with Garan but not voicing a single word.

Letting the issue slide again, Garan smirks and then lowers his hands to his lap, where he laces his fingers together and simply regards the man across from him with a long and studious stare. One that Th’ero echoes in turn and the stalemate continues between them. That is, until the Harper broaches another sensitive topic and one far more personal between them. “Your mother is doing well. Your brother’s child was born too. A girl.” he points out, ignoring the rather smug smirk from the Weyrleader. Both of them know Ilenki would not be pleased with a daughter. “And yet no luck still with convincing Kenali that there is nothing left for her? What does she owe the girl?” Th’ero asks and rather coldly, a tone and reply that shocks Garan despite knowing and being a part of so much of the bronzerider’s past. It takes a moment for the older man to compose himself, eyes narrowing a little as he regards the Weyrleader with a cautious look, keeping his anger in check. “Don’t be so cruel, Th’ero. You know of all the sacrifices she had to make. Perhaps she’s seeking atonement for her past failures. But I cannot force her to go, no more than you could or Kiena could.” That has Th’ero looking a little abashed for his sharpness with Garan, but the bronzerider does not apologize, lips pressing into a tight and thin line. The Harper sighs, shaking his head. “You know of their bloodline’s pride and stubbornness. Traits you’ve obviously inherited yourself,” Garan remarks dryly, which only has Th’ero flushing darkly at the truth. Even though I am only half?

As if he could sense the younger man’s thoughts, Garan chuckles dryly. “It’s not all in the blood, you know. Raised as you were, there’s no doubt you’d not pick it up. But who knows, those very traits may pass on to your offspring… What is it?” he asks, frowning as Th’ero seems to almost visibly twitch in his seat, shoulder straightening and his gaze darting away for the first time since sitting down. Instantly the Harper is on edge, more curious than alarmed. Keen eyes are not all Garan possesses though; he is also sharp of wit and even before the Weyrleader can sort out how to skirt around it, the older man has solved the puzzle. “Well, now.” Garan says with a softly exhaled sigh, shoulders dropping as he leans more comfortably into his high back chair and his mouth breaking into a crooked sort of smug smile. “There’s a bit of news. How far along is she?” Th’ero keeps his gaze downcast and turned towards the fire, tense still despite the subject. Is there anything between us that won’t cause this reaction? Garan somehow does not believe so as he leaves the Weyrleader time to respond before prying again. “Three months,” comes the reply, curt and blunt. “Give or take. We have not known for long.”

“Yet you do not seem pleased. This is your first, is it not?” Garan asks and then snorts, gesturing again for Th’ero to back down when the Weyrleader begins to bristle at his comments. “Come off it, Th’ero! I am only asking questions. Humor an old man for once and swallow your damnable pride,” The Harper snaps, his frustrations finally reaching it’s peak as he uses a tone usually reserved for his errant pupils. One that the bronzerider would be familiar enough with and even after all those Turns, he responds too. At least, in here he would. Garan knows, with faint amusement, that such public outbursts would never be tolerated. But here it seems, the Harper rules the Weyrleader and take the rank away it’s merely he as a father doing right by his son. “We are… pleased. It just poses a few difficulties.” Th’ero goes on to say and in a tone that edges towards apologetic without ever quite being one. Garan only nods, “Time and your ranks, no doubt. You’ll be fostering?”

“We’ve considered it,” Th’ero replies and without hesitation, though his tone remains flat and his eyes are now turned to Garan, watchful and cautious. The Harper does not seem to care, pleased that he got the younger man to talk at all. “Wise choice.” That has Th’ero a touch surprised and Garan only shoots him an incredulous look. “Why not?” Garan drawls, “It’s traditional of the Weyrs to foster. No harm in it, truth be told. Have you considered whom?” At this, Th’ero smirks and shakes his head. “I will have to find the lists,” The Weyrleader remarks dryly and silence settles again as the Harper does not reply at first, brows furrowing. “And what of… what of his lineage?” he asks carefully, the question bringing a long stare from Th’ero as the Weyrleader struggles to understand. When he does, his features twist and close and his temper held by the barest of inches as it flushes his cheeks red once more. “The child will have nothing to do with Irondell. I won’t allow it. Unless when it comes of age and chooses to.”

Garan’s brows lift up, baffled by Th’ero’s vehemence once more and then he too is close to scowling, his tone low and gruff. “You should not hide the child’s heritage, Th’ero. Irondell has it’s faults, but he should not be ashamed.” Just as you should not be ashamed. “And what of Kenali, your mother? She should be a part of her grandchild’s life.” This time, it’s the Weyrleader who interrupts the Harper and Th’ero’s temper is growing rapidly thinner. “I will not go to Irondell and neither will that child. So long as Ilenki is in charge…”

“Ilenki spends half the Turn at sea! You know this, Th’ero!” And he does and the truth of that shows in the guilt etched on the Weyrleader’s face. Garan scowls, angered and a little hurt by the younger man’s choice, but when he speaks, his voice is level as he pleads to his son to reconsider. “You can time the visits. Kenali will come to the outskirts if need be, if it’s too much to come to the hold proper. At least do that much for her?” But the Harper has pushed too far and too fast and Th’ero only shakes his head stubbornly and abruptly rises to his feet. “You ask too much,” he replies flat and coldly to the older man, dark eyes narrowed as they stare down at him. Garan can only grimace, unwavering beneath the Weyrleader’s stare though there is no mistaking the disappointment in his eyes. “So be it, if that is your choice.” he says with equal bluntness, rising slowly. This one he will not win and the Harper knows it, as much as it pains him to end their meeting on this tone.

But Th’ero has already begun to fasten his jacket, giving all signs and cues that he has full intentions to leave, regardless of Garan’s desires. “Give my well wishes to Kimmila, as well as my sympathy for her rather rough treatment from Unevyr. Be well, both of you.” he says as he strides to the door and as he opens it, pauses to give Th’ero one last lingering look. So much left unsaid and unresolved between them. Such a pity. The Weyrleader only nods briskly to the requests, giving no verbal farewell before he’s striding out the door and down the hallway, leaving Garan with nothing but the sight of the man retreating and his heavy footfalls fading away. And not once does Th’ero glance back, never seeing the pain and conflict in the older man’s eyes before the door closes shut and leaves Garan to his thoughts.

Out in the courtyard, Velokraeth has already placed himself in preparation of his rider’s arrival, his eyes not quite whirling with the yellow of concern but the pale bronze is clearly uneasy. Th’ero does not linger either, pausing only to give a few curt farewells before mounting up, his movements stiff and tense as he sits rigid in the saddle. That did not go so well. Velokraeth admits in dry humor, earning a low grunt from Th’ero as the bronze then leaps upwards, wings beating in strong, sweeping strokes that carry them swift enough into the chill and frigid air of the skies. Just bring us back to Fort Weyr, Velokraeth. I’m in no mood to talk. That has the bronze snorting loudly, turning his head just enough to regard his rider with his larger eye. And I’ll be a wherry’s uncle to believe that nonsense. I refuse to Between with your head so cluttered. Oh! Going to fight with me now, are you? Velokraeth scolds and rambles, his tone drawling and amused on the front but there is no mistaking all the hidden emotions and meanings beneath. Th’ero won’t win this argument it seems with his lifemate, the pale bronze having far more level headed sense than his rider. Not wise, rider of mine. Don’t forget, I can drop you from here if I feel it’ll serve a lesson. Now. You are going to talk. You and I. All of it and you will not hide yourself from me, or even hint at a lie or I will make this flight back as miserable as possible for you. Do you understand me? And like a much scolded child, Th’ero sullenly submits and Velokraeth smugly settles into a steady pace as he turns on wingtip to angle them in the direction that will slowly, but surely, bring them home with ample enough time for the Weyrleader to work out his thoughts.