A Bad Day

Who: Aerishani and Riel
When: Month 11, 200 AT
Where: Concert Hall, Harper Rooms, Honshu Weyrhold
What: Music, ranks and usefulness.

It’s midday and most people have the good sense to be taking advantage of the midday meal while it’s still hot and in good supply. Riel is not among them, instead using the relative emptiness of the Crafter’s Area to usurp the piano in the concert hall. She has never made it a habit to perform publicly, and her skills are decent but not of such a quality to stun any accustomed to the level of skill typically performed here. Still, she plays with heart, enacting powerful emotion into a dark, worthy piece of music so that even if her finger catches on a neighbouring key here and there, it might add to the song’s sentiment. She finishes and remains seated at the bench, hands folding in her lap with her fingers tied around each other, debating some internal argument.

Aerishani is generally not one for eavesdropping, yet rarely does she deliberately interrupt anyone either, and so she lingers outside the concert hall, just a foot or so from the doors, leaning against the wall as she listens to the music spilling through the room and a little beyond. She waits a few moments until she’s as certain as she can be that another piece is not about to commence before quietly opening one of the doors to slip inside, gaze seeking out the figure at the piano with a small, apologetic smile ready no matter the person she finds. Her expression is touched by a hint of surprise when she discovers that it’s Riel sat there at the piano, but she’s no less speedy in offering her a, “Sorry, I don’t mean to intrude. I think I left my guitar in here. Well, here or the galleries.” And here seems more likely. “You play well,” she remarks, moving steadily, if a little slowly, across the room, a few more steps taken before she asks, “…Are you okay? If music says anything of its artist…”

Riel’s attention is instantly tugged towards the opening door. She smiles at the goldrider, modesty pulling her blue eyes back down to the keys of the piano in front of her. “Oh, thank you,” she beams in her usual velvety voice, unknotting her hands from her lap. “-Oh!” Riel stands from the bench and takes her leave stage-left, returning a moment later with a guitar in hand. “Is this it?” She takes the stairs down from the stage to meet Aerishani in her progress across the room, slowing as she draws close. A deep breath is taken, held, and let out in a sigh that she punctuates with a sound of self-deprecating amusement. “I am, yes. Or-…” Her hand lifts to gesture at the wall, presumably at the greater Weyrhold beyond it. “It isn’t anything important, just… a bad day. Banging on the keys makes everything better.” The brownrider opens her mouth and hesitates, a smile lifting the corners of her mouth with genuine encouragement. “How are you?”

When Riel disappears, Aerishani lifts up onto tiptoe in an attempt to peer up across the stage and see where she’s gone, her head tilted in a somewhat quizzical manner, heels only permitted to find the floor again when the brownrider reappears. “Yes, thank you,” she calls as she catches sight of her poor, abandoned guitar, ruefully admitting, “Amorenth was not happy last night when I couldn’t play for her.” She reaches for the guitar only when it’s offered, more to unburden Riel than anything else, propping it against her left leg with a light hand there to keep it balanced. “But important enough to make it a bad day,” is a gentle invitation as much as an unwillingness to agree with a lack of importance. “Can I do anything about it?” In any capacity, it would seem. Of herself, she confesses, “I think I’ll be better when the eggs hatch. I thought I’d be better when she flew, then when she clutched, and now… I see it must be a cycle of anxiety complete only when the flight cycle itself is over.”

Riel considers Aerishani with her calm blue gaze. In the end, she flashes a small smile that is more apologetic than grateful. “It really wasn’t important,” she insists, her velvety voice low and soft. “I just find it frustrating to feel as though people define me by vapid qualities sometimes, like I’m… just a face, or my voice is nice. Like those things matter more than my ability as a dragonrider or my accomplishments. And I don’t want to change who I am — I enjoy being friendly, singing, dressing attractively — but why do people have to comment so frequently on superficial things and not, say, how well my weyrlings have done? Or how well I did as C’aol’s Weyrsecond when he was interim leader — unless I did poorly and no one wants to admit it to my face.” Riel lifts a hand to stall herself. Her smile grows marginally. “I’m sorry for unloading on you. I’m just annoyed at something someone said and I’ll get over it soon. Thank you, though, for your offer. It’s very kind of you.” Her tenderness extends to Aerishani’s own concerns. “You’ve done well, Weyrlady. What is there to feel anxious over? Amorenth went proddy and you kept her from gorging on meat. She flew and was caught, and no one was injured. Amorenth successfully laid a clutch of nine. And if rumours are true, you and O’rlen get along well?”

“We’ve been born into a world still made for men, no matter how far we believe we might have come in addressing that.” And, from the dry edge to Aerishani’s voice, she cannot believe it’s been an adequately long journey so far. “Too many women want to be flattered for how they look and they’re still the majority, or so it seems to me. No matter if we wear a nice outfit for ourselves or just because, it’s always assumed we do it for others.” She cannot resist rolling her eyes, though she immediately settles her focus back on Riel. “For what it’s worth, you were a good Weyrsecond. I don’t think you did poorly. If you had, I wouldn’t have held my tongue for the sake of it – there are some things we can’t afford to overlook.” When she glances down at her feet, she appears more demure than her words betray, though perhaps it’s because when she glances up again she asks, “Would it be terrible if you were to call me by my name?” with a small, shy smile that’s soon accompanied by a blush at the thought of O’rlen or Amorenth. Or both. “Amorenth has proven herself to be unique, but I should have been better prepared for it,” she supposes. “And I guess it depends which rumours as to O’rlen and I…” Rather than linger on what the Weyrhold might be saying about her personal life, she asks, “If I were to visit the Smith Hall to try out the new weapon they’ve created, would you come with me? I’d quite like to see it before they reach out to Weyrleaders only and bypass us poor females.”

Riel permits herself to run her fingers through her blonde hair, tucking it behind an ear haphazardly. “Maybe too many women want to be flattered for how they look because they don’t believe they can achieve recognition on any other merit.” A theory that Riel looks prepared to put to bed in the arches of her brows and the downward turn of her lips. That mouth does eventually turn up again, an appreciative look aimed at the younger woman for her compliment. “Thank you. That means a great deal coming from you, especially given what led C’aol to step in as interim leader and ask me to be his ‘second. It might have been awful circumstances but I was honoured to have been of service to my Weyr.” To Aerishani’s request, Riel gives a polite, respectful smile. “Why do you not want to be addressed by title?. I typically only call my friends by their names.” To which she quickly adds, “Although I wouldn’t mind becoming your friend if you wanted. And if we’re to be friends, I should be upfront and admit that the rumours are that you and Weyrleader O’rlen are in love, or at least keeping each other quite occupied in… an unofficial capacity.” The prospect of a trip to see the latest weapon has Riel’s feminine features outright glowing with disbelief and excitement. “I would be honoured to accompany you, absolutely!” Her arms cross under her ample breasts, playfully narrowing her eyes at the younger woman. “This isn’t just to make me content, is it?” Given that Aerishani admitted to wishing to satisfy as many people as she could, last they spoke.

Aerishani ducks her head again and attempts to smother a low ripple of soft laughter. “You’re not obligated to be my friend because you think it’s what I want, you know? I don’t think that’s how friendship works. Everyone calls me by my rank, it seems, except for… well, the man they’re all saying I’m in love with.” Which she neither denies nor confesses to, for all that it’s likely far too late for either now. “Maybe I’m too informal with everyone. But… people are people. Rank is only one part of who they are.” She shrugs, unabashed and unashamed of that, just as she is of the explanation that follows. “No, I truly want to go and see the Smithwork with someone who might appreciate it, instead of someone who might look at me sidelong and suggest I should go home and mind my lists and ledgers and queen.” Speaking of said queen, only a few moments pass before Aerishani has to admit, “And she wants to see too. If it’s any good and we end up being the only women there or the only ones to have shown an interest, there are women who’ll need us to speak up and ask for training and testing in-case the opportunity is locked down later to men because of a perceived lack of interest. Or propriety.”

“I only meant in case you don’t want to be friends!” Riel herself laughs, her velvety voice bubbling with mirth. “What an unreasonable weyrwoman you are.” A jest, for certain, given Riel’s very poorly veiled amusement. “I’ll agree that rank is rank, people are people, but in most cases, the individual has worked hard to achieve their rank,” is Riel’s gently-opposing opinion on the matter. “My acknowledgment of rank is, to me, a sign of respect for your hard work or deserving qualities. Amorenth may have made you Weyrlady by fluke but you have worked to be a person deserving of it, clearly, and I get the impression that a Weyrwoman’s hardest work happens after she becomes a leader. It can’t be easy, surely?” A beat. “Though it seems to have its perks!” The last is intended to lighten any heaviness of her message, as Aerishani shares one such ‘perk’ with her newfound friend. “I’d be delighted to go, thank you,” is said in a truly genuine, tender tone and accompanied by a warm smile. “Any opportunity to be useful to you, I’d gladly accept.”

For an instant, Aerishani looks quite as if she’d like for the ground to open and swallow her up, yet she steadies herself quickly enough that it’s not so clear just how Riel has struck so close to home. That is, until she squares her shoulders and lifts her chin the tiniest bit, acknowledging, “It’s not lost on me that there are women in my position who would rather try to conceal their inadequacies by ruling through fear and sidestep the work. I suppose there might come a time when I believe I’ve earned the title… but perhaps that day isn’t just yet.” Lifting the guitar up so that it no longer touches the floor, she flashes a quick smile that belies any lingering nerves, saying, “You never know, this trip might even be fun and useful,” with easy humour. “I’ll let you know when I’ve a date confirmed with the Hall? I should go give the lesson I promised and let you get back to…” She gestures towards the piano. “If you still need to, of course.”

If Riel notices, she shows no remorse for her words. She does offer a supportive and encouraging smile, earnesty in the warmth of her shining blue eyes. “I have no doubt you will be deserving of that title,” she assures. “I hope you are able to recognize it when that day comes.” She gives a slight nod of her head and flashes a playful grin. “I’ll look forward to it, Aerishani.” Riel will return to the piano to play something a little less volatile after Aerishani has left, the song inevitably interrupted by the filtering of true crafters returning to their work and thus, forcing Riel to return to hers.

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