Hope and Shame

Who: Zinovia, Akemi, Yukijiath, Maozheth
When: Month 2, 201 AT
Where: Lake Shore, Honshu Weyrhold
What: Akemi is going to stay a girl and Zinovia gets to keep her Hold.

With summer fading into autumn, Honshu’s warmer days are starting to dissipate as the chill air begins to signal the coming of colder days. Akemi and Maozheth are down near the lake, the blue’s favorite spot to play and watch those of the Weyr. With lessons finished for the afternoon and no tasks set before either of them, Akemi’s pacing along the lakeside with the young blue pouncing along after her. She’s still refused to wear any feminine garments since her arrival, though she has given up on her chosen name and accepted the one her parents gave her. Her wagon and team of runners still wait at the Weyr, but rumors have begun to circulate that she may be looking to sell her old life to an interesting party. Maozheth’s bubbling energy trickles and sizz-pops out towards his favorite clutchsibling. << Play? >>

What has caused argument and debate beyond Honshu has seemed to settle with little fanfare across Zinovia’s shoulders. She is to keep her Hold, keep her title and obviously to keep her lifemate, yet no airs and graces have surfaced in the weyrling trained more as a crafter than a true Lady. Others talk; she listens. Orders are given; she obeys. And occasionally Yukijiath ‘accidentally’ trips up someone who makes a particularly nasty comment. It isn’t until she’s almost upon Maozheth that the young green makes herself known, creeping up on him in an elegant, almost eerie manner, shadows and darkness looming closer and closer until she can pounce on him. << Got you! >> As for Zinovia, she appears as if from the smoke of her dragon’s mental touch, materialising behind Akemi, a hand at her back as she tells her to, “Sit.”

Maozheth is gleeful as he’s pounced and flipped end-over-end by Yukijiath. He nips at her and paws at her before he wriggles free and bounds off for a good chase. Fireworks and flames against eerie shadows, he’ll play until exhaustion claims him. Akemi looks over her shoulder at Zinovia, a small smile offered to her as she reaches for a hand to squeeze briefly. She angles herself towards a comfortable place to sit, waiting until Zinovia is settled to ask the usual pleasantries of her friend (for she has not asked for any title, though she still sneaks into Zinovia’s cot every night to sleep curled around her). “What has the day brought you two?”

Little by little, Zinovia inches herself around so that she’s sat behind Akemi, her knees just grazing her hips as she reaches for the bluerider’s hair and sets about freeing it from what pins and ties may hold it in place, drawing from her pockets an assortment of her own bands and slender ribbons, a number of tiny, black flowers that must have been Yukijiath’s choice among the lot of it. Without questioning whether she will like it or not, she sets to gently brushing Akemi’s hair, dividing it into tiny sections as she goes. “She wants to fly and see and hunt and I tell her she must wait or bleed. The prospect of bleeding seems to deter her none.” She’s silent for a moment, carefully working on teasing out a knot, then asks, “And you?”

Akemi freezes at the beginning of Zinovia’s ministrations, uncertain of the touch offered, or what playing with her hair might mean. She stills her unease with a soft exhale and lets the tension fall from her body as her eyes drift to where their two young dragons play. “I haven’t had anyone do my hair for me since I was two and my grandmother fussed over me,” she confesses to Zinovia, her smile missed from the direction her head is kept. “Yukijiath will be a strong green, it’s clear she’s destined to be a leader.” As to the subject of her day, she places her hands into her lap as she crosses her legs. “Maozheth keeps trying to outwit our weyrlingmaster’s. He’s bored by the lessons. He tries to rush what he’s asked. Today he ended up tangled in a heap because he was //convinced// he knew what he was doing. And after he fell and I chastised him he told me he was practicing //tumbling.” She puffs out the sigh of someone long-suffering with a charge. “He was just at the dragonhealer’s last week for banging up his wingspars.”

“It’s about time that you had someone to fuss over you.” Zinovia states so with a certainty that lacks arrogance, brush set aside as she selects one of the sections she’s made and begins to weave it into a small, tight braid, ribbon enveloped to display only hints of it every so often. She looks up and over and green and blue, garnering a glance from Yukijiath, who peers between rider and Maozheth before noticeably putting less force behind her leaps and bounds and shoves, mindful where her claws lie. “If the weyrlingmasters can’t keep pace enough to challenge him, they will have to up their game,” she declares. “They owe it to him.” As for Yukijiath, she gives a small, wry smile and declares, “Yukijiath will lead nothing but Silverfield. We’re not permitted to hold any rank within Honshu or any other Weyr, nor represent it. Shelled and trained; nothing more.”

Akemi’s quiet after that declaration, letting Zinovia’s hands work with her hair and form the vision of the braids she’s decided upon. “I wish it made sense to still be a trader,” she admits, watching as Maozheth feigns an injury to Yukijiath only to nip at her and dash off once the green tries to check in on him. “I don’t think Honshu can make those sorts of freedoms allowed. If we all could get dragons and go live our lives outside of the Weyrhold, how would they have an economy? A people?” She goes to shake her head and then freezes with a snorted laugh. “See? I almost ruined your braid.” She tips her head back and to the side, allowing for better angling for Zinovia. “What do your people make of all of this? Have you had any word from them?” she asks, adding with a hint of sourness to her tone, “I have received a letter from my father. It was unsurprising. And still no word from my brother. I suppose it’s just as well.”

“You could promise a percentage of your profits as a tithe to the Weyr,” Zinovia supposes, gently adjusting her hold on the braid to allow her to pick up one of the black flowers and incorporate it into how she ties off the first of what looks like will be several braids in a neatly spaced pattern, the rest of Akemi’s hair left down. “My steward says that she,” yes, she, “will make sure construction begins on a building suitable to house Yukijiath. My people are, reportedly, glad that the Hold stays with my family – at least with one of us who knows how the relationship between Lady and holders should be. I couldn’t have them be exploited by someone cruel.” Rather than begin another braid, she spares her green another glance as she goes bounding after Maozheth, then gently rests her forehead between Akemi’s shoulder blades. “What did your father say?” she asks, her voice treading a fine line between gentle and dark. Much like Yukijiath. “We could go and find your brother. One day.”

“Your people are wise to want to keep you. Your family has importance to them, that’s clear. Also- they value all that you walked away from, and continue to walk away from, to do right by them. That is something to admire.” Akemi reaches around to pat at Zinovia’s nearest body part – likely aiming for (and hopefully tapping) her thigh. “I’m not entirely sure where Akio would have ended up. He didn’t tell. He couldn’t tell, for fear of being followed.” She grows quiet at the idea of trying to find him and eventually shakes her head at the idea. “He could find me if he wished to look. I’ll leave him be.” She sucks air between her teeth in a shrill noise. “My father? Oh, eternal family shame, dragonrider’s are thieves, return his wagon and runners. Mostly, he wanted to know where my brother was.” She turns then, shifting her body to the side to lean over and wrap an arm about Zinovia to tuck her into a side-hug. Not one for outward displays of her affection, she goes so far as to dare a kiss to Zinovia’s cheek. “Let’s not worry about my future. I want to hear more about yours.”

Zinovia is too still for a handful of moments, unfortunately right after she learns what Akemi’s father has said and that kiss is delivered, leaving it not entirely clear what has inspired it, especially when even Yukijiath pauses and crouches herself low to the ground. Eventually, she exhales, turning her head slightly to nose against Akemi’s jaw. “When you’re my Lady, I’ll dare him to shame you,” she swears, happy to ignore just what anyone might think of that – or even whether Akemi would want to be such a thing. “Yukijiath thinks she should be allowed to turn him inside out and leave him that way. She says his heart would be an attractive shade of back to gaze upon for a time.” But, in the end, Yukijiath has to settle for launching herself at Maozheth again, claws not bared. “I’m permitted to keep a weyr here, should I need to return when she rises. Otherwise… an heir within five years. Preferably two, in-case harm should come to the first. I have an idea as to that and… you’re not going to like it, so let’s not talk of it. It won’t matter for a while, anyway.”

Maozheth slips up alongside Yukijiath and offers the comfort of a wing draped over her crouched body. His mind is a spark of amber against the glitter of darkness she tends to enjoy. << I will help you with this mission. >> How one turns a body inside out he doesn’t quite understand but he shows an image of his dark claws rending flesh before he eats it. << Do not tell Ileylath as she will not eat for weeks again if she thinks about our journey ahead. >> Akemi is quiet as she keeps her arm about Zinovia, looking towards her draped blue and then moves out of her cross-legged seat to rest on her knees. She wraps both her arms around Zinovia then and hugs her close, inhaling the sweet smell of her to calm her fears. “I didn’t think they’d let two women rule,” she’s not running away from that title of Lady that Zinovia has thrown her way. “I’ll spite my father and contract someone to trade in my name. I’ve an eye on a youth who might be good at it.” She leans back enough to look into Zinovia’s eyes. “Tell me,” she doesn’t ask, “because it is your life and if I am to be a part of it, I have to listen.”

<< Amorenth would be proud. >> Of this, Yukijiath is sure, curving herself against Maozheth to fit herself more snugly to him, the difference in their sizes already beginning to become more apparent. << People who hurt our family should have that hurt repaid in kind. >> There seems to be little danger in Zinovia tucking her face into the crook of Akemi’s neck, not when they’ve been sharing a cot for so long, yet the brush of her lips against skin is a further step she dares. “Even if it’s only ever me who names you my Lady, it won’t make it any less true,” she murmurs. “No matter what anyone else says. They never stipulated that I had to marry.” And leading from that, her hands on Akemi’s hips, she lifts her head and takes a deep breath. “The Weyrsecond here Impressed as I did and was denied his birthright because he had a brother suited to Hold. If he were to sire my children… Have a percentage of the Hold’s profits for his own income and his children would inherit. The contract would have to stipulate that he has no other dealings with me or Silverfield.”

Maozheth’s mind brightens at the idea of their mother – who is a distant figment to him, his interest and attachments being formed to his clutchsiblings than their parents. << She would? Then it is good you and me can take such things into our claws. >> He stretches one of his hands outward, digging his talons into the earth for emphasis. << And fire. >> His mind begins to dance with those magical swirls and colors he is fond of, pops and sparklers added in for emphasis. He’ll play a magic show for her, if she’s interested. Suitably distracted by the object of his own interest, Maozheth has no qualms to the uneven heartbeat that his rider has nor the blush that rises to her cheeks at Zinovia’s kiss. As to her plans, she does her part and doesn’t flinch away at her idea. “Is he an agreeable sort? Have you… brought this up to anyone more senior than you?” Akemi adds, wanting to assure she has no qualms on Zinovia’s choices, “I simply do not have much dealing with the Weyrsecond.”

Yukijiath is not the sort to be overtly animated in her affection, yet that Maozheth holds her attention almost effortlessly is plain enough from the fact that she doesn’t move in the slightest from his side, the warmth beneath the wisps of smoke that rise to meet sparks a subdued thing, the glimmering bubbles of some distant, fizzy tomorrow shared with him as he shares his magic. “…No,” Zinovia has to admit, allowing herself to nuzzle just beneath Akemi’s ear before she selects a ribbon from her lap and starts to form another neat braid. “He…” She swallows hard, knowing this is the part Akemi is not likely to want to hear. “He has a… reputation. For being… rough. With women. In bed. But I don’t need to enjoy it for it to work.” Sighing, she murmurs, “Another Holder would likely demand marriage and I… don’t have to do that anymore. Another male rider might grow fond of me and I don’t want that either. I just need a business deal.” She swallows again. “And you.”

Akemi can’t hide the angry flash in her eyes that level on Zinovia and then look away. She allows silence to fall between them, working through her own emotions and stewing on an inevitable outcome she cannot change. “If it is a business deal and not for pleasure then you stipulate he may not be rough with you. Negotiate for recompense if he does. You are not some greenrider he will catch and can blame flightlust on, nor are you some… simpering creature who may tolerate such treatments.” Steel enters her spine as she sits up and makes her own decision. “If you need someone to guard against it, I’ll do it.” Her hands twitch at her side. “I’ve basic training in knives and punches, learned and earned on the road. I may not be able to best him but I could //certainly// break him from //you//.” She huffs out an aggravated sigh and lifts a hand up to catch Zinovia’s wrist, wanting to stall the plaiting of her hair. “I will not tolerate it if we cannot guarantee he will be fair. They never said it had to be a Holder. You just need a… man… and so long as you’ve heirs, that settles the obligation. It doesn’t have to be this man if he can’t behave.” She releases Zinovia then and lets a more comfortable silence fall between them. She laughs suddenly, something Maozheth has said prompting her to share, “Maozheth says if we find this brother of mine he could be backup for your needs and then we could lie and say the child is ours as it may look like me too.”

“Would it not show fear? To stipulate ‘please don’t hurt me’ in writing?” Thinking aloud, Zinovia merely tilts her head, not mocking the concept but trying to think it through. “…You could… be there. If you wanted. If we found someone we both liked enough to… If you could stand to watch a man take me. Or to keep the Weyrsecond from harming me, if it turns out it must be him.” Somehow, she manages to talk about it all without blushing, despite her lack of experience, though she makes a disgruntled sound when Akemi tries to make her stop plaiting, using thumb and forefinger to keep her place without tugging at her hair. “I would have punched one of my siblings if they bedded you,” she says bluntly, though it’s not outright rejection of the idea. “That… arrangement is not something that would hurt my reputation, but yours. If some believe they know you are a woman and others think you are a man… However much it would be nice to have a child that’s genetically yours in a manner of speaking.” She sounds more fond of that than of C’aol, at any rate. “No-one’s touching me before you, anyway,” she states, matter of fact. “…And… if we keep sharing a cot, I don’t know how much longer I can keep my hands to myself.” //That// makes her colour, of all things.

“It’s not fear, it’s reminding him you’re in control and he doesn’t get to sign a document and have free rights to your body!” Akemi’s explosive answer is mirrored by Maozheth’s anger hiss and flaring of wings. She calms herself with his help, eyes closing as the blue resettles about Yukijiath. “I don’t think I can pass as a man anymore,” she tells Zinovia, soothed by the comfort of her blue. “Not in the way that I did. It was hiding who I was and that was hurtful to //me//. But I won’t wear dresses and I won’t… be treated as less because I have these.” She pats her chest for emphasis. The conversation shifts to the discussion of touching and Akemi softens, her fingers lifting to trace at the corners and bottom portion of Zinovia’s lips. “You’re so brave to talk the way you do,” she confesses, “so sure of what you want and how to achieve it. Your talk of… all of that we can try… I don’t know if I’m as brave. It frightens me to open myself up to anyone that way. But if I’m going to, it will be you.” She moves her hand to the back of Zinovia’s neck and tugs her gently forward so that she can steal a kiss – the young dragon’s reactions be damned.

Zinovia’s response is more contained, her focus on getting to the end of that braid so that she can tie it off and weave in the dark flowers as she did for the first. “You’ll never be less to me,” she says quietly, just as she finishes settling one of the flowers just where she wants it. She looks up again only as Akemi touches her lips, lifting her gaze to hers and listen and not speak, letting her take the lead and decide what she wants – and claim that kiss, which she gently returns while her fingers graze Akemi’s ribs, wandering without true purpose and only to touch her. “And you never have to do anything you don’t want to do, not for me or because of me,” is what she eventually murmurs, Yukijiath’s only reaction having been a low, warm thrum that’s a much softer sound than it would be were she to be grown already. “I suppose… I talk the way I do because I’m afraid that if I don’t, and I don’t try, then it will all go away. Like everyone went away. I have to be what I can and as I can for those who’re gone. But I never want you to feel you have to do anything I say I want.”

Akemi risks another nonverbal response, her lips once more finding Zinovia as her hand rests against her cheek. She deepens this kiss, letting loose the control of her passion enough to let the taste and smell of Zinovia guide her forward. She breaks when Maozheth begins to question, his response to nudge at Yukijiath for more play a pushed distraction. Akemi breaks away from Zinovia reluctantly, her cheeks flushed. “You don’t pressure me,” she assures the Lady Holder. “Finish my braids and then let’s walk,” she decides, “I’m done with talk of our past and future troubles. I want to focus on the here and now with you.” She turns around then, patiently waiting for the finished product of her hair. Once Zinovia’s satisfied with it, she rises and holds out a hand. She’ll keep hold of Zinovia’s hand as they wind their way around the lake. Maozheth will encourage Yukijiath to run off and play, then return to their rider’s side when hunger strikes him. Akemi may not always be brave with her public displays of affection but today she feels bold enough to hold it all the way back to the barracks.

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