Artemis paced back and forth outside the senior Weyrwoman's quarters, her built-up confidence from earlier fading as she looked at the closed door. To tell her would be to ask for help, which could be helpful - as help tended to be. And she needed it. She could tune out the dragons, for the most part, but she couldn't focus on one particular one very well, and she would need to do that when she was a Rider. (And she would be a Rider.)
But then - to ask for help would be to show weakness, and to reveal a secret that she desperately wanted to keep. What benefit was having the ability to hear all dragons if everybody knew she could do it? How would that aid her?
Yet, on the other hand, it could help the Weyrwoman see that she wasn't just a new Candidate with an iron will and a sharp tongue, but somebody who paid attention, who studied hard, and who innately had abilities for leadership.
But it could backfire, with her having hid the secret in the first place, and -
she shouldn't go in. She should. She shouldn't.
Black hair bouncing, eyebrows pulled into a confused scowl, she continued to pace back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
Eventually the Weyrwoman would appear, or she wouldn't, and then the issue would be decided for her, right?
Well, the Weyrwoman would be there, at any rate. It didn't mean Artemis had to say anything.
Inside Rilora's office were a stack of papers from the archives, and even some missives from the Hold. So far she'd found several bookkeeping "errors" - there was one pattern that was starting to stand out as malicious. Numbers could be tweaked, but only so much before it became apparent, whether because a new worker "didn't know" to write the "correct" amount, or because someone had finally gone too far. She'd have to take this up with T'kar and possibly the Trade Hall, if they were still to be trusted. A visit in person was more likely to sort that out.
However, a little silver feline was not as interested in papers and numbers. She was curled up in the corner of the office, knowing she wouldn't get any attention from her human while she had those smelly papers and hides on her desk. Another sniff though, and she recognized something else: potential for attention. Another human. She picked herself up and casually strode toward the door. She flopped onto her side and reached under the door with a pink padded paw and sniffed again. Yes, definitely a human. She mewed pitifully, her voice high. That got Rilora's attention.
"What is it Bel?" Deciding she needed to at least stand up, Rilora stretched as she stood and then made her way to the door. "You know I like you to stay where I can see you." Bel looked back up at her, green eyes huge. "Mew?" Then she turned back and pawed at the door.
"Alright, you can go, but don't get into trouble," Rilora acquiesced and opened the door. Outside was a dark haired, tan skinned girl. Why hadn't she knocked? Rilora started to take a step back until she could get a grasp on the situation, but then her eyes noticed the white Candidate knots on the girl's shoulder. And furthermore, Bel was rubbing on the girl's legs and she only did that to a few people she liked. "...Can I help you?" Rilora asked, still surprised.
Artemis liked cats. (Far more than she liked dogs.) They were useful creatures; they hunted and kept themselves clean and, most importantly, knew how to sheathe their claws when they wanted somebody to love them.
This cat had her claws sheathed. Artemis smiled as she looked down, the cat's tail twining around her legs. She would have bent down, too, to scratch her right behind the ears, if the Weyrwoman hadn't been standing right there.
She was shorter than Artemis imagined.
Artemis took a breath and flashed a smile. "Hi. I was wondering -"
Shouldn't, should, shouldn't, should.
"-if you had a minute?"
And she ducked her head, leaning down to scratch the demanding cat. Still non-committal, and a good choice of words, though - perhaps she should clarify. This was the Weyrwoman, not some Rider passing through. She had many important things to do, and if - when a voice in the back of her head whispered hopefully - she wouldn't want to have her time wasted by a Candidate who couldn't specify.
So she straightened up again. "My apologies for interrupting; let me rephrase. My name is Artemis. I was wondering if you have a minute, as I - may or may not - need to talk to you about something, and I can't seem to make up my mind as to whether or not I should. It would probably be best, though, and I don't feel comfortable coming to anybody else."
She scratched the back of her neck, biting her lip. She didn't like vulnerability. She liked power and position and being able to have the upper hand. This was the opposite of that.
A minute? Rilora watched as the unfamiliar girl and Bel made their first impressions. They seemed to be getting along swimmingly. Maybe she hadn't been paying enough attention to Bel lately... She'd fix that later.
"Yes, Artemis, I have time and want to hear this news, come in," Rilora gestured at the door and backed into the room. The girl seemed hesitant. Did it have something to do with any of the messes they were in? Lindalyn? She might have looked more nervous, but then not everyone reacted the way Rilora did to things. Or maybe something to do with, well, one political quandary or another. She didn't want to ask until they were behind a shut door. Too many delicate matters, and Bel was generally good at making sure her room stayed clear of eaves dropping firelizards, though it was usually just Lithena's Iolanthe who had taken an unhealthy liking to teasing the little cat.
Giving one last scratch to the cat beneath her, Artemis looked up, took a breath, and glided into the room.
It took all of her strength to keep her mind from drifting towards what she would look like in this room - because she could see herself here, surrounded by paperwork, even with a cat in her lap. (Though, part of her scoffed, she would keep it a little more organized.)
But not certain of where to sit or what to do once she was inside, she waited for the cat to twine herself back into the room and shut the door behind her, turning with a hesitant smile to the Weyrwoman.
Well, she was here. Go big or go home.
"Is there, perhaps, any way you could keep a secret? I know you can't if it bothers the rest of the Weyr, but I don't think it will, and I would feel more comfortable discussing this if I knew it would stay between the two of us, Weyrwoman."
She ended with Rilora's formal title, knowing that wouldn't hurt in her presentation. And even as she knew Rilora could lie and not keep the secret, if she so chose, Rilora seemed... honorable. A good quality, in a Weyrwoman. Perhaps she should try to cultivate that as well.
Rilora waited with a bit of nervous flutter as Artemis and Bel lingered in the door. And with it finally shut the girl spoke. Asking her to keep secrets, which she reflected was not unlike her own life and conversation with V'ridian some time ago. The assurance that the girl possessed that this secret would not bother - or hurt rather - the rest of the Weyr made Rilora think it was personal. And unless that secret endangered the girl, well it was within reason that she could keep another secret.
"If it causes no harm to my people and is without my duties to share, I shall keep your secret, Candidate Artemis -- who does admire my office a bit much," she smiled at the ending comment, meaning to tease. "Now, knowing this will you still proceed to share with me?"
She could lie, come up with some sort of personal problem, and continue to figure it out on her own.
But then Archith teased her Rilora for her choice of language, and Artemis couldn't help her smile. The Gold's voice was everything a Queen's voice should be, at least to her mind. Though was it because she wanted her to sound like that, or because it was her actual voice? There was so much she didn't know, so much she needed to learn -and yes, perhaps, it was best to tell the Weyrwoman, because she could keep this a secret, and Artemis (though she loathed to admit it) needed the help in learning and controlling and stopping the headaches that came with too many dragon voices.
If she was going to tell her, might as well do it in style, yes?
So instead of answering the question, she responded to the things unspoken.
"You know, I have to agree with Archith - that sentence was a bit flowery."
"A bit-...?" Rilora repeated, confused. She was sure Archith had directed that comment at her...the Gold usually addressed people when she chose to speak to them. "You-?" It was all a bit much to take in at first. She'd heard the stories, but truly, one here in her Weyr and a Candidate (though that last bit shouldn't be so surprising).
She had to be sure.
Archith, did you just talk to her?
No. came the flat response, followed by I would never dream of teasing you and your fragile sensibilities in public. The amusement of the Gold helped stabilize Rilora's thoughts. It was just sudden, that was all. A little intrusion, but not unlike being heard through a door, though she supposed Artemis wasn't really eavesdropping. If Archith had a voice like her own, she would easily be heard by anyone in the room.
"You can hear her," Rilora stated after finalizing her conclusion with Archith's input. "Amazing. Have you, always heard them? What's it like?" While at the same time as her interest played out on her face, below the surface Rilora's mind raced. Another form of surveillance, of hearing what perhaps wasn't meant to be heard. This girl could be very useful if she were loyal to the Weyr. They still had problems abound and, as much as she brushed off the comments by the Aerieleaders, dragons did pick, on the whole, more trouble in humans than LifeWings. It was a little sticky to work out, she'd probably have to talk to T'kar about it, D'gan too maybe...oh, but shards she'd promised not to tell. And that would be the best way to loose this girl's trust. And she needed that, the Weyr needed that. There were still criminals and worse lurking in the shadows, and one more set of unusual ears might help tip the odds of finding them further in their favor.
Artemis had never seen somebody's eyes go so wide so quickly - and considering the insults she had fished out while working, that said something. But she could understand why.
She was a rarity, after all. A gem among candidates. Able to hear Queens and Kings and all dragons alike. It killed her, a little, that that was why she was a gem. It should be her cleverness, her ambition, her intelligence - but instead, it was something she had no control over. Still, she could use it to her advantage to all of those other things.
Rilora's question made her smile, and she tilted her head to the side. "There aren't many dragons where I live; I thought I could - but I wasn't sure, and it wasn't something people usually talk about, y'know? But it's always been like that. Dragons fly overhead or stop in for a day, and I could hear them. Knew it was abnormal, but I didn't know how much until I got here."
And as for what it was like...
In the safety of the Weyrwoman's chambers, farther in proximity from the dragons, it was easier to shut them out, especially as she was focused on one thing. But they murmured still in the back of her mind, ready to break through the barrier she had thrown up at a moment's hesitation.
"It's... interesting. Fascinating, sometimes. But I can't control it, I don't know how. I get headaches and can't focus. It's beginning to interfere with my Candidate duties." Loathe to admit a flaw, her grin tightened. "That's why I'm here - I can't access documents about people like me, not without drawing suspicion as to what I am, and I'm not - I don't want people to judge my worth based on something I don't have control over."
And shoulders squared and back straight, she waited for Rilora's response.
Rilora nodded as the girl explained her hometown. It seemed strange to her, a place without many dragons, but then she'd grown up by quite a large Hold with a decent amount of air traffic, comparatively.
When the girl confessed her troubles, Rilora felt that was the crux of the Candidate's plight and the reason why she had confided such a thing that for so long, it seemed, she had kept secret. "I see," she said, a little stiff in a reflection of Artemis's posture. But then she made and effort to drop her own shoulders, took a step forward, and put a hand on Artemis's left shoulder. "As you've deduced, if I've read your face right, you know I've not met anyone like you before. However, you are a part of my Weyr now and I will do what is in my power to help you. I have access to our archives, and to quite a few others with the right connections and polite words. I will see if V-, well...my contacts can provide us with any past knowledge."
"As for your headaches, I would imagine it'd be easier to train you if you had Impressed already, but perhaps then you would not have sought my help. It is good you came, Artemis. Your gift is a tool. I grew up a farm girl, and worth comes from use of tools, not merely possessing them. There's," Rilora paused, fishing for words. When they did not come in a neat flow she wrinkled her forehead and her eyes darted in Archith's general direction, though the Gold was not in the room or visible.
Rilora gets ahead of herself. Let us see what you can do and learn. You have confided in us, you will practice with us, or me, rather. I should hope there's nothing like learning from a dragon when it comes to the voices and speech of dragons. We will see how we can be of use to each other. Let me hear your voice.
But it was her tool, not Rilora's. For Rilora to use it would be for Rilora to use her, and Artemis was a player of games, not a pawn. But she needed Rilora's help, for the moment, to access that information - and Rilora was clearly willing to keep it a secret, as honest as she was.
Rilora would want her aid. What would that be, to help the Weyrwoman? She wasn't in awe of her like some of the Candidates were, though Artemis aspired to be her - to be better than her. But it would be good for her, perhaps, and Rilora could be of service to her ambitions, and maybe even a friend if it suited Artemis.
She hoped it did. Having friends in high-ranking places was... good.
Archith's voice caused her head to twitch to the same spot Rilora had glanced at, tilting her head at the request of the Queen dragon. She wouldn't just be working with the Weyrwoman, but Archith as well? Excellent.
But her voice? She didn't often speak to dragons, preferring to listen. She had spoken to the one who had recruited her, of course, but... it wasn't that hard. Listening and talking was a two-way street. It was shutting things out and focusing that was the problem.
I suppose you mean like this? Even to Artemis, her mental voice was quieter, somewhere between a whisper and her normal voice, but it was... harder, like hiding a knife under a velvet blanket. Closer to what she actually was like than her real voice. Does that help?
Depending on where this went, on how Rilora treated her - many things could happen with this. Artemis couldn't wait to find out which direction it would go.
Yes, that will do. Archith replied. She would like to see this girl with her own eyes, not just through Rilora's trusting ones. I should like to see you for myself. Climb the stairs to the Heights, I will be waiting. I want to get a good look at you, shadow girl. Her request made a sliding against stone could be heard in Archith's direction as she picked herself up, walked to the outside and leapt into the air to circle out and rise up to the Heights.
"It seems Archith has want of you. Speak well,-- Artemis," Rilora deduced from Archith's departure and the Gold's mood. "You could be of great service to Pern. I hope you see that clear as I. ..." Rilora suppressed a sigh. "Well, then, off with you. I've work to do," Rilora gestured loosely at the door. "Staircase is out, go right, then right to the outside. Walk the half of stairs remaining. Clever thing like you should find it..." Rilora said in a bored, somewhat distant voice. There was something about all of this that wasn't setting right with her yet. She supposed it was the girl's secretive nature and she didn't like volatile new possibilities. Leave it to Archith then, she had a much harder sense of spirit about her. And a thought about bridges to cross when they came drifted through Rilora's mind as she picked up a letter from the Lady Holder at Cliffside.
Artemis nodded quietly to all Archith's and Rilora's comments, turning to leave the room, but the tone of the Weyrwoman not going amiss on her. It would do no help to her if everybody thought she was a tool. It would be better to have her alliance. It would - it would be easier, perhaps, if she already knew where she ranked as a Rider.
So she turned back around. "Pardon me, Weyrwoman. I've trusted you with this, and I know that you'll keep it. But I am more than my ability, and more than a tool. I hope you realize that."
She didn't smile. She just nodded at the Weyrwoman again, and turned to meet Archith before the young woman could answer, the door clicking shut behind her.
The stairs were a little steep, as far as staircases go, but most of the staircases in the Weyr were steeper than those in her Hold. Artemis blamed it on the fact that the Weyr was older than most places. By the time she had gotten outside, she was certain that Rilora would have said something to Archith about her comment - and more than certain that Archith was clever enough not to answer with Artemis around.
And then Archith was in front of her, shining gold in the sun, and regardless of the situation, a smile crossed her face.
She's left. ...before a reply too. Were you listening? I had dismissed her though, Rilora monologued to the Gold, opening the letter. Boat arrival dates for herdbeast tithes, some general reports, petty thievery was up. She frowned. Archith, I feel it from you. You say I'm ahead of my hopes, and I fear you're right. It's not about tools, this girl seems to be stuck on. It's about the Weyr, about Pern, and the dangers in and around it. It's bigger than her,...than us. And until you know whose side she's on...I understand. Faranth protect us all.
Archith sat, listening. It irritated her immensely that she was not permitted to speak. She felt it in Rilora, she knew it herself. It would not just be getting Artemis to listen, but learning herself how to whisper. She had not had a need of it before, and dragons knew well enough to keep their business to themselves. At least around her. However, humans had their own set of rules. And with time and study, it should become apparent where this girl's loyalties lied. Archith had a feeling that they lay in a very dangerous spot: with Artemis herself.
Archith straightened herself to watch as the girl walked up, appearing over the rim of the Heights.
Prompt. she commented as matter of fact. If nothing else, she added privately to herself. Well then, join me. See the view of your home. Tell me, in your own words, what it is you hope to learn, and what it is you hope to accomplish.
Why would she want to look at the Weyr when Archith was in front of her? What could rocks and people hold to a shining Gold dragon, to the Queen of the beasts that she loved?
But when a Queen asked you to do something, you listened, even if you didn't like what she was asking.
Artemis turned to the Weyr, smiling twitching upwards at the Bowl below. It was pretty. Nothing to Archith's golden hide and whirling eyes, but it was pretty. Prettier than her old Hold at been.
What would I like to learn? I can block things out sometimes, if I don't have to focus on anything else. And I can hear everything. There is no inbetween. Artemis reached up to touch the back of her hair, twining her fingers in among the threads. If I could just stop the headaches, it would be enough.
That was one weakness she was okay with admitting, because she needed it fixed. Other weaknesses - well, she knew what hers were, and Archith didn't need to know them.
She looked back at the Queen, pink lips curling up in the first honest smile of the day. I'm honored you're allowing me to work with you.