No one questioned a Falkincall with a mission, especially one with a previous purpose. She sent the necessary notes to the handlers and watched the whers carefully, hoping they got the memo. "Here to deliver," she said quietly, inching past the guards with a careful step.
The bird in the cage was well-trained and beautiful. Richet's jealous. She wanted to keep it, but she always wanted to keep the birds her family trained. Another high-ranked ninny will take their birds, Richet supposed.
She left the package containing some jesses and care notes next to the cage. She supposed it wouldn't be long until the Junior tired of the bird.
(And the extra letter in the care notes might cause a bit more than alarm...)
Currently Playing: - Richet Falkincall, 21, dragon candidate, Falvor the shoulder-bird
note for threading partners: present tense is my natural writing tense. if this bothers you, please let me know.
Artemis' room was her haven. Nobody could get near her; the guards were not allowed in, L'ras did not interfere, Rilora did not barge in. It was a place of peace, for just her and Zabrielth, where they could unwind from the daily glares and accusations - even if the dragons weren't aware that Artemis could hear them.
So to walk in and find a falcon had not been on the list of things she wanted to happen.
But where did it come from? The guards are not supposed to let anybody in our room. Zabrielth cocked her head to the side, staring at the falcon curiously. The falcon - a merlin, more specifically, though neither Zabrielth or Artemis knew that - stared back at them.
"I'll reprimand them for that later. I want to see who sent it."
Artemis slipped forward, black hair bouncing as she snatched the letters from the bed. Notes on care, on the bird, on - a letter? She ripped it open absently. A bribe, perhaps, from somebody wanting to get on her good side, or-
Fear flashed through her like a knife.
They wouldn't. They-
Zabrielth pressed her face into Artemis' hand, the little Azure's body shaking with fear, with rage.
Artemis' hand trembled as well, but the fear was fading as the anger grew.
And without saying anything, except a flash of emotion towards Archith, Artemis pushed away from the bed and the falcon, clutching the letter in hand. The wherguards scattered as she bounded out the door, Zabrielth hot on her heels.
This had better been some terrible prank. It had better be-
And before she had time to process what she even wanted to say, she was pounding on Rilora's door.
A dull day. Full of dull paperwork and dull people. Her little ray of sunshine in all this, Bel, was curled at her feat as Rilora rather unprofessionally lay on her bed with a paper held over her face. Why such a matter as inane as some trade figures from Cliffside should be her concern at all... She picked up the cover letter that had come with the data. What was it they wanted again? Something about tithes probably. Maybe she could find another person to delegate to this job. They had to reinstate a new Headwoman eventually. Maybe it had been long enough that someone would actually take the job. Not if they knew what she did, though.
Violent pounding on her door erupted into the quiet room. Rilora held in a squeak of alarm whilst jumping up. Quickly reorienting she fussed at her hair with her hands, scooped up the papers on her bed in one scoop, rushed into the other room of her quarters, deposited the papers on the desk, and then finally was at the door.
It's alright. It's just Artemis. You can open the door.
Only slightly relieved, Rilora opened the door at Archith's bidding. It was always hard to place an emotion on the girl, woman, but she could see the urgency and negativity on her face. "Artemis." It came out flat. She had known who was at the door. She didn't know what to make of it. "Come in. What's this all about?" Her worries were starting to creep back in. Had she really been so negligent of her contemporaries in her grief? She hadn't gone out much since...since T'kar-
Chin up. Came the subdued command. Archith's way of support. It gave Rilora's shoulders a boost. They would be a functioning pair yet, and her juniors and her Weyr and- One thing at a time, Love.
"Please tell me this is some kind of sick joke you concocted in your spare time." Artemis shook the letter at her even as her eyes traced the lines on Rilora's face. The anger spilled out the words even as her brain processed the exhaustion, the grief - the fact that she would never have thought to do this. "Because if you didn't I have no idea - I just -"
If she hadn't been there; no, they would have known that she wouldn't have been there, which meant they wanted to mess with her - which meant they were tracking her - what if she had left Zabrielth in there? She could never leave the little Azure alone again, not that she did much in the first place-
If Artemis could see how she looked, she undoubtedly would have turned around and fled the room. Pale and shivering, hands quaking uncontrollably; Zabrielth with her snout pressed as close to her legs as she could manage, the little Azure's eyes whirling with anger, with fear, with anxiety.
Artemis swallowed and reminded herself to breathe and then lowered the letter to where Rilora's hands hung limp at her sides. When she looked up, there was no mask that she normally wore, no challenge to the Weyrwoman. Just naked worry.
The paper took up the majority of her field of view. She stared unflinchingly as it's rattling noises and abrupt presence made themselves known. All the same, it was startling, and when the paper dropped out of her view it left only a distraught Artemis. It made her more afraid. Her fear, it could affect others. Still, there was no way Zabrielth was fitting through her door. She barely fit in the hallway, all 16some feet of her, by their standards. She'd simply have to go around. A little chuckle escaped her just as Artemis announced her problem. She had thought it funny to focus on such a thing as a doorway when it was apparent between them that there were far greater matters to attend to. The timing of her laugh could have been better though.
She cleared her thought. "We need to talk. And show me this paper that has you so-" mid-sentence Rilora discovered she had no word she wished to use in that gap. They would all probably upset the situation more. "That has you like this."
One thing at time, just like that. Good.
Are you actually trying to help, or amuse me at this perceived attempt to do so?
A smug feeling was the only reply.
The wave of feeling better didn't last long. She could see too many reasons to be upset, as much as better was preferable. "There are probably a great many things we need to talk about." She did not have a full understanding of the letter, which was likely what afforded Rilora the measure of presentation she retained.
Artemis turned her head to where Zabrielth lingered in the hallway behind her, her face having just been pressed against the back of her Rider. She didn't want to leave the Azure, but - it would be best to speak in the privacy of the Weyrwoman's quarters.
Archith, would you be against Zabrielth sitting with you? She tried not to let her anxiousness taint her voice, but she knew it still seeped in; she couldn't have stopped it from seeping into her normal voice, never mind something so much more personal.
But Zabrielth was moving before Archith answered them, her tail swishing in the hallway as she escaped its confines and moved into the fresh air outside. (Or, as fresh as it could be, given the smokestacks that still stained the air in the distance.) Her eyes whirled faster than she had felt them in ages as she made her way to where the Gold normally sat outside.
Artemis gestured towards the inside of the Weyrwoman's paper covered quarters. "If we could talk in there. There's a lot - I think - they sent me a hawk."
No, she is welcome, Archith replied with a level voice. She tried not to let her surprise show through. She supposed that the feeling she had around this girl with her gift was akin to the faces made by those dragons bespoke when they were not Riders themselves. A taste of the reverse for dragonkind. Not a bad proposition, actually. She noticed the light blue hide approaching then. In acknowledgement she said, Zabrielth, good evening.
"Of course," Rilora agreed, looking into the room after Artemis' gaze and seeing that a few of the papers she had thrown on the desk had fluttered to the floor. So much for appearances. Then the words she had heard made sense to her mind, "Wait, a hawk? What? Please, do explain. You look-" her face drained. "Upset."
Artemis did not wait for Rilora to formally invite her in; she slipped past the Weyrwoman, who had not yet moved out of the doorway, and held the door in her hand until Rilora moved.
And then she shut it decisively behind her, knowing full well that it would not put her at ease as it would have a week ago.
"Somebody - I'm presuming somebody within our Weyr - left a hawk in my room as a present. The wherhandlers could undoubtedly tell us who it was; I do not think they are linked to what - what has me -"
Artemis took a breath and released the door handle finally, turning to fully face Rilora. Her hand tugged on her shirt anxiously, habitually.
"I would not have been bothered by this, had it not been for the letter mixed in with all the care notes."
Artemis' voice flattened, and next to Architch, Zabrielth crooned softly. The noise, just barely audible to Artemis' ears, was enough to keep her going.
"I know you know that there is a group watching the Weyr. Messing with us, trying to systematically - I don't know. Destroy? That doesn't seem right, because they haven't been blunt enough for that - I don't know. But..." She gestured aimlessly again towards the letter. "Seems like they're upping their game."
She understood Artemis' sense of urgency. It was written on her face. Yet she still felt rushed into her own room, shoulders up, chest tight, neck arched down. At least the dance around the door was over.
A hawk as a present. Hm. Well, if she had an admirer, it could explain the gift. Faranth knew she'd received her own share of gifts, some more welcome than others. A hawk seemed a little over the line, but it did say something. But as she continued speaking it became clear that it was more complicated than that. Wasn't it always? Rilora felt the temptation to sink into the unfeeling darkness that had haunted her in the past many sevendays. She steeled herself against it, she would stay for Artemis. She needed an empathetic, capable confidant. She had a job to do.
"about those handlers," she mumbled, but knew it wasn't her turn for speaking yet.
She waited, the letter was again produced. Systemic movements. It was them, then. Appearing, disappearing, doing what they liked with the fear they produced. Maybe this time she, they, could stand up to them. But it hurt so much to care about anything. Could she be in a better position to push back against them now? Did pushing back against darkness and shadows do anything? Those things were immaterial, much like this group. The Syndicate, the Hold was calling them. Where did they get such names? "So it seems," Rilora repeated, "May I see the letter? They've been quiet lately. They do that. Show up, disappear just as fast. Slippery, between bound tunnelsnakes, the lot of them. But..." the wheels were turning, rattling as the paper had in her face moments ago, noise filling up her thoughts as they raced down the trail of thought, "But maybe you can help me catch them." Dangerous, of course. But maybe in Artemis she had an ally with a weapon to use against them.
Artemis handed the letter to her without a word, eyes darting to the one small window in the room. She heard Rilora's suggestion, but didn't reply to it right away.
Instead, she conferred privately with Zabrielth.
I agree. It is a risk. But we are smart. We are strong. We can do things that they cannot. You can do things that they know not. Next to Archith, Zabrielth pulled her tail tighter around her body, pulling herself up as tall as she could. She held herself tall but loosely, as befit a Queen. But I know you fear this. Because you did not anticipate it, and you do not know how to handle it. If you choose not to, I would understand. I do not like it either. Do not like them.
It took less than a minute for them to reach the decision; however, a minute of silence in an otherwise quiet room stretched between Rilora and Artemis like a dangling knife.
As Artemis returned her gaze to Rilora, there was a tight smile on her face. "They invaded my space and made it clear that they were a threat to me and Zabrielth. They have harmed my Weyr - our Weyr - and the people in it. That cannot stand. Catching them is the least I want to do."
And on the ledge, Zabrielth's jaw dropped into a proud, draconic grin.
Rilora waited for her answer. Below the dangling knife was the tension, anticipatory feelings of negative outcomes. She clung desperately to the hope that they could work together, could find them, could succeed.
A little laugh punctuated the end of Artemis' speech. "I should say!" A smile was on her face. Something to do. Action to take! At last, at last... If only she'd had more to do sooner, but there was no sense living in the past unless to look for clues.
"We understand each other then? When we met, when you revealed to me your gift, you made your position on it clear. You are established here since we met. You're one of my junior Weyrwoman, as Faranth would have it," and she flourished this with a smile. "You come off a little rough on the edges, but I quite like you, you know. At least you're honest, which is more than we can say of our enemies, ah? With your position comes a responsibility to the people here. Your help for them, at my request, though you could almost call it theirs-- in any case I'm glad we're agreed. Time to do something."
"I've been thinking about the Lord and Lady's disappearance. Surely you're familiar with it to some degree. Seen leaving astride a Blue, and no one has seen them since. So what if it's more than just human minds among us here? You can listen, gather what they know. They seem to know what happens before we do, but with your information, perhaps our Weyr can strike back."
"There's a few ways to go about this. Perhaps you'd just like to feel out the waters for a bit at first? If I told them, if I told them some of the things I know, some of the information we obtained by a journal belonging to the late Lindalyn,-" a slight frown, "-they would all talk of it. It could prompt something out into the open. Ah, but enough of my carrying on. I've caught the chatty bug. It's...it's been a while since I've had a proper conversation, honestly. Ah, but - ahem. Your thoughts?" She tried to smile and stamp down the flood of thoughts and topics she wanted to run by her Junior. A new set of eyes, particularly shrewd ones, could turn up so many new plans of action. She had largely been working with T'kar and D'gan. For obvious reasons she wasn't speaking to the former. For complicated reasons she wasn't speaking to the latter. Men.
Her enthusiasm brought a small smile to the dark-skinned junior Weyrwoman's face, and Artemis absently ducked her head to look back at the door as Rilora's voice, bubbling and energetic, echoed through the quiet room.
She knew the details of the Lord and Lady's disappearance. (Wandering around the Weyr when drama was unfolding turned out to be quite helpful, as everybody wanted to blame her, so everybody thought about it.) But then Rilora stopped abruptly, apologizing for not having had a proper conversation in a while.
Artemis looked back up at Rilora, the small smile still dancing on her face. They had more in common than Rilora thought. Artemis, though constantly flanked by her guards and the thoughts of those around her, was alone except for Zabrielth; she sensed that Rilora was quite the same way right now, that despite all the hustle and bustle around her, she was isolated.
She could use somebody.
"I think tempting them into the open would be an obvious move, and something they're expecting. We need to do something that confuses them, not confirms what they expect us to do. They think they understand us, and they don't." Artemis tilted her head to the side. "On a most basic level, it means I have to keep that damn hawk and make it my own, because I have no doubt that they know I would have rejected it and thrown it out the window otherwise. It was bought to mess with me, not meant for me to keep."
If they could track back where it had come from, that would be helpful - though paper trails only went so far. She didn't have the connections or the organization for that, though. Perhaps L'ras could help.
But that was neither here nor there. "I've been paying attention to things, and I will give you information as soon as I have it, of course."
And then something else dawned on her. "How strong is our connection with Ice Stone Weyr? And the other nearby Weyrs, for that matter."
Rilora's gaze followed Artemis' briefly to the door and back. Was she afraid they were being observed? Maybe the wherhandlers had caught up. They could move further into the personal weyr complex if-
She was looking at her again. Really looking. Eyes staring at her face, seeing her. The smile unsettled her. And then she was able to smile back. It wasn't so bad.
Then the plans and counter plans began to roll out and Rilora simply listened. It had been a long time since she had heard someone's thoughts on the matter.
"Good. Good," Rilora agreed, relieved to have Artemis on her side, the Weyr's side. The not trying to kill them side. "If you're not finding the information we're looking for also keep me updated. Even if it's not a bold prod, we can be subtle about ripples, get them thinking. It doesn't have to be me that talks, after all," a subtle wink.
"Our allies? That's a good question isn't it? Good for you to know as a Junior, and that is part of your formal weyrling education as someone entering leadership, but how to summarize? Ah." Her eyes rolled up to the corner of her eyes, looking at the ceiling. It was a thinking gaze, staring off at nothing while her brain collected the various facts for a general briefing on interWeyr politics.
"Starting with Ice Stone, historically, they exist because of our line of Riders. We have shared and nurtured that initial tie. The Senior Weyrwoman is Hedara Lune, a friend of mine. She's only recently been appointed into a difficult local political landscape. Support from our Weyr to theirs and in the reverse is, at my estimation, unshakable. We also have strong historical ties to Waterfall Valley, and since we're culturally similar we support each other in the interWeyr matters but I am not as close with their leadership. Monaco is similar in temperament but we have no history with them. Southern, being the Weyr closest north are more traditional in view and while they might support us in a push I'd rather not put them in a tight spot - it could be unpredictable. And that's it for the southern Weyrs."
"As for the north, and as you know, Benden is the northern voice, the former leading voice in Pern. That role has largely fallen to us, being at the forefront of the action and influx of information for more recent major world events. Benden doesn't like us for it, and keeps their allies close. Ista is their smaller, equal minded ally. Telgar and Igen for proximity and culture tend to side with Benden. Fort and Rainbow Mists have some history of mutual aid and so they're more neutral among the northern folk, willing to put in a good word, although a soft one, for us. The rest are variable depending on the issue, though the newer Weyrs tend to prefer us as a mouthpiece for their ideas, and we somehow have found ourselves in the good graces of High Reaches."
"And there you have it. More than you asked for on the Weyrs of Pern in a few minutes. ...questions? Actually, I have a question. Why ask about them?"
They were closest with Ice Stone, then. Waterfall Valley and Monaco were closer allies; Southern was tentative. The North was tentative though currently peaceful, with Fort the strongest - the rest fell in line with Benden.
Conferring with Zabrielth, Artemis nearly missed Rilora's question to her. Her eyes, unfocused, snapped back on her Weyrwoman.
She could give her the answer that sounded nice, or she could give her the truth.
There were circles under the Weyrwoman's eyes. She could use something nice. But that's not what Artemis' job was, and that's not the type of person Artemis wanted to be; she didn't want to use Rilora like that, and she didn't want to work around her. Things would be better for her ambitions in the long run if Rilora understood her, and if Rilora trusted her. And that meant the truth.
"I asked because I know you are too proud to go to them, and therefore they will never expect us to tell them of what is going on." Her voice was warm but curt, leaving no room for Rilora to try to contradict her assessment of her. "Because they will wonder if you send a diplomatic group to our friends. They won't know what you're trying to do, and it will confuse them. Why would you send it now? It wouldn't make sense, unless you were strengthening your alliances because of them, and that is so unlike the things you have done so far - keeping things quiet seems to be your forte - that it might honestly send them for a spin. It would also help us. They benefit if our Weyr is isolated. We do not."
The uncomfortable word rang in her mind about Artemis' words. She sounded so sure of herself. Rilora wasn't sure whether to be grateful for it or if her station should feel insulted by being prompted about by a weyrling. Her nose wrinkled and her eyes shut, flickering. Thinking. What did all of this mean?
"You have a point." No may, that would upset her. "It can only benefit us to have stronger relations with other Weyrs. Where would you suggest starting? And is there anything you suppose our enemies will do in response to this course of action?"
And there were her transfers' homes. Most of the King Riders, some of them Wingleaders, came from other Weyrs. They could help influence the others. Strengthen the ties. She had been concealing for so long. It was so tempting to share her Weyr's problems, but that wasn't something one did. She could handle it, she had to.
You're carrying on, a voice jutted in. Archith. The Gold's view of the ground where she rested, the young and growing Azure beside her, the sight crept in to in front of her eyes. Yes it's a lot to talk of. You'll get it sorted. Relax. We work to support the Weyr.
A slight chuckle. You? Telling me to relax? Ha, Archith that's rich. Alright. And I mustn't forget to talk to her about-