Who: Arlet, Rori, Akanyth, Inaskashath
When: Month 3, 204 AT
Where: Weyrleader’s Office, Fort Weyr
What: Arlet will not run away.

It has been some time since letters had been exchanged and gifts given, Rori’s guilt and shame keeping her far from Arlet and the situation at Fort. It’s only when rumors continue to circulate at Honshu about the hardship Fort’s Weyrleader must be having as the last female Weyrleader to be allowed (with the ban on browns flying golds a clear line drawn) and so Rori and Inaskashath break into Fort’s skies with the excuse of checking on the dragons of Inaskashath’s lineage. It’s only after a check on the weyrlings and their progress, and a pleasant lunch with the weyrwomen of Fort, that Rori finally finds herself waiting outside of the offices of the Weyrleader. Without Inaskashath at her side for comfort, Rori hugs her arms to her and tries not to fidget with the dress she’s worn for the occasion too much. She knocks briefly on the door and waits for Arlet to call her in.

When Inaskashath arrives at Fort, Akanyth does little but watch her. There’s not a word from his mind to hers, and though his focus is primarily on the flirtations of /his/ queen – soon to be someone else’s, if the Council has its way – he keeps a proverbial eye and ear out for Honshu’s junior, if only for his rider’s sake. It gives Arlet enough warning and enough time to try and prepare herself to see Rori again, the weight of the threat to her leadership and eight months of pregnancy resting heavy on her, her features now more angular than they should be. She’s tried to busy herself with some paperwork, too distracted to make a good job of it, and when she hears the knock at the door she starts, her focus snapping up from the documents. Still, it takes her half a minute or so to call, “Come in,” and manage to keep her voice steady.

Rori steels herself by squaring her shoulders, lifting her chin, and trying to look professional as she steps inside Fort’s Weyrleader’s office. She waivers in her call to arms when she takes a look at Arlet, seeing the telltale signs of stress upon her frame. She’s not a nervous girl anymore, she takes her assessment in stride as she closes the door firmly behind her and locks it. She turns, steeling nerves shifting into an assertive air as she walks across the office and right up to Arlet. She lets the desk remain a barrier to them but her assertiveness is not without compassion. “You should come home,” she tells her, “I know Akanyth and you have reasons to stay here. But these people have not treated you well. This… bullshit of not allowing browns to chase is demeaning and cruel with you so clearly in charge and having been a fit Weyrleader here //despite// your lack of years to have trained for such a position.” She clenches and unclenches her fist in a grip of fabric of her dress. “We may not be able to salvage what was… between us before. But I will offer you my home and I will help you with your baby. Leave these people.” Inaskashath’s ripple of frustration and barely contained disgust moves out amongst the dragon’s at Fort before she is reigned in by Rori.

Arlet’s gaze darts to the door’s lock with something akin to fear, her attention fixed there for more than a moment before she can look up at Rori, remaining seated to her standing. “We can’t leave,” she insists, folding her arms atop the desk. “If I run away, that’s what will be remembered. In history. That a woman was Weyrleader and she ran. It will do all women who hope to be recognised as men’s equals a disservice.” She exhales sharply, focus straying as she glances down at her desk and more quietly admits, “It’s too late now, anyway. I can’t go Between.” She lifts her hands, lacing her fingers together to rest her chin upon them. “If Akanyth chases, then he chases. If he wins, he wins. I will not be cowed by some nonsense decree from people who want to put me – put /us/ – in our place. It’s me now, but how long until they go after your Nala? How long until they go after /you/? All queenriders? Queens may rule, but you are outnumbered. I will not be the one to put that in motion.”

Rori is quiet in the wake of Arlet’s words, letting them settle around her even as her eyes grow distant and she battles further with Inaskashath’s fury over Arlet’s truths. Her ripples are still there, flickers of droplets, against the minds of Fort’s dragons before she snarls defiance and takes to the skies to disappear up into the clouds. A blink and Rori is back, fully present, in the room. “Do you have any allies here?” she asks, bypassing the naming of Nala, and the ‘others’ Arlet feels the need to pave the way for. “You should not be the only one to face this burden. I will ask O’rlen and Aerishani to allow browns – and blues – to fly Inaskashath. If we can’t change the North… we can make sure we change the south.” She pauses, knowing the safety in talking politics, but she shifts the attention to the real reason she came. “Are you… happy?”

Inaskashath’s fury finally prompts Akanyth to communicate, his, << Be mindful, >> full of the brush of black feathers and creak of encroaching branches; not a reprimand, but a warning against what undercurrents she may not sense and what of her the Fortian dragons may not appreciate. “My mother and her husband have declared their own Hold. We see Kyramith here sometimes, even if she nor my mother will communicate in those instances.” And still, with a shrug, Arlet has to admit, “They’re not of Fort.” If there’s anyone else, she doesn’t name them, not even her Weyroman and the father of her child. “I haven’t been happy since I came here,” she says bluntly. “My happiness isn’t relevant. There’s more at stake; too much more. You need to go home and be safe and let me deal with this. I don’t hate you or wish you ill, and I’m thankful for everything that you sent. I got myself into this and I’ll get myself out. Or I won’t.” Glancing back down at her desk, she murmurs, “…If you at all love me like you said, you’ll go home and live your life. I’m not what you need, but I can be what other brownriders need by not giving in.”

Inaskashath’s response to Akanyth is distance and a tangle of fury that she pinpoints directly at him. << You are both //foolish// >> she declares, before sealing herself off from him in a wall of steel. She’s taken herself just outside of Fort Weyr, where her anger can resonate outward and impact little other than Holders who may not understand why they bickered more than normal on this particular day she visited. Rori takes in all that Arlet has shared with her, those fingers clenched tight in the fabrics of her skirt as she tries to separate her emotions and their unwarranted reactions to the news. “Why do you have to isolate yourself in this pursuit?” she asks, not wanting to tackle the other statements sent her way. Now isn’t the time to argue. “You know that there is strength in numbers. In allies. In friends. You are certainly not the only brownrider who has risks to face. Riel? She is of Honshu. This verdict reduces her potential and we all know she’s as strong as any bronzerider.” A quiet inhale of breath has Rori’s shoulders squaring as she lifts her posture up. “Maybe your mother has the resources to help you. Have you spoken to her since… all of this?”

“I am not isolating myself!” Arlet snaps, her hands thumping to the table. “My dragon leads Fort. I lead Fort. I don’t have the luxury of doing what I please, when I please. I have to think of the consequences of everything I do, because I clearly didn’t think of the consequences of Akanyth winning Fort in the first place!” She shakes her head, jaw clenched as she tries to rein herself back in. “If I retreat, this verdict will keep Riel bound forever and it will be my fault. She could be a Weyrleader one day and that won’t ever happen if I end what time I’ve had or got by suggesting that I couldn’t handle it without depending on other people. Whatever happens has to happen and I won’t run before it does.” Tipping her head back and her gaze up to the ceiling, she presses her hands to the small of her back and murmurs a disgruntled note of discomfort. “I think I know why my mother found me an inconvenience,” she mutters. “She says it’s my decision. My stand to make.”

Rori’s face flushes at the snapping of Arlet, her features narrowing as she takes in the onslaught of Arlet’s declarations. “You are Weyrleader. You are pregnant. You are facing a situation you have no control of, unless you plan to stand against the entire Weyr Council?” She shakes her head and looks away from Arlet. “All you’re doing is proving you’re backed into a corner and will try to fight your way out. I don’t think that’s fair of you to do. But, as you said, you are //Weyrleader//.” She doesn’t hide the slight to her tone as she looks back to Arlet. “I came to offer you my friendship and help for a way out. It seems you’re determined to do it all. Are you doing it all with the child, too? Where are your partners? Are they helping you?” She folds her arms in front of her and frowns. “Why did your mother find you an inconvenience? Because being a rider and a mother is difficult? Any amount of childbearing is hard for any woman. No matter her station.”

“And do you see the outgoing bronzerider who loses a Weyr running off? I should at least have the decency to hand over Fort to whoever it is that wins without deliberately making things more difficult. If I do that, it means all I did was for nothing.” Arlet’s hands find the desk again, slapping down now as she declares, “None of this is fair! It isn’t about /fair/! What is it about that this you can’t grasp? If the world was run on good and right and what people want, I would never have come here in the first place. You have the luxury of a liberal Weyrhold and a lover who quite frankly is probably the reason why I’m going to lose my knot.” Whether she meant to say so or not, there’s no sign that Arlet regrets a bit of what she’s said. As for where anyone who might support her is, she snaps, “I’m not interesting anymore, am I? Not even my mother wanted me, if you must know, so, between her and you, I suppose I should be used to it by now.” That must be so very deliberate, a wild kind of fury edging her gaze. “Go home, Rori. I’m not yours to save. I’m not anyone’s to save.”

Rori’s entire body tenses at Arlet’s outburst, at the accusation slung her way. A flicker of hurt and the radiance of anger enters her tone and face as she tells Arlet lowly, “Nala and Jynth have nothing to do with your knot. The world doesn’t revolve around you and Akanyth as you’d so believe.” She accepts the verbal slap of Arlet’s words in comparing her to her mother, no tears coming, no denial, no begging. “You do a damn fine job on your own pushing people away, Arlet. Have you ever thought, she’s scared? Unsure? Doesn’t know how to //be// with you? No, you assume, we all know what you need.” Her lip twitches as she gets dismissed, her skirts gathered into her fists, “Don’t expect me to come back.” She turns then and leaves, walking away, surely to regret it tearfully in the safety of her own home.

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