Priorities

Who: Isolwyn and C’aol
When: Month 11, 204 AT
Where: C’aol’s Weyr, Fort Weyr
What: Isolwyn lays some of her cards on the table.


Days pass before Isolwyn willingly does so much as look at C’aol, while even Eosyth seems cooler in her dealings with Daeserath – and not only him, but the Weyr’s dragon population at large, the majority of which she is now larger than, with adulthood encroaching and her youth soon to be left behind. Yet, one evening, with her queen settled in her wallow for the night, Isolwyn decides to take matters into her own hands and heads to present herself at C’aol’s door, knocking only out of a matter of politeness, for she makes to open said door only a scant few moments later. She doesn’t stray far into his living space, but asks, “Would you come and sit with me, please?” when her gaze finds him, a gesture made towards the table.

Daeserath’s not at all pleased with the coolness he’s receiving from Eosyth and blames C’aol for it. The bronze’s temper has been easily escalated lately – leaving most of the Weyr’s dragon popular on edge. C’aol has not done much to temper his bronze, letting the anger roll throughout the Weyr and not caring if people bring complaints to him about it. He’s pushed most of the complaints to Rori, forcing the goldrider to deal with people’s dramatics while he focuses on ‘the real work’ of running a Weyr. The evening that Isolwyn chooses to visit finds C’aol on his couch before the hearth, his shirt unbuttoned, and feet propped up on the small table in front of the couch as he reads. He lowers the document to glance up at the knock and holds his gaze on Isolwyn’s as she beckons him to his own table. “Do we need to sit at a table? I’m already sitting. Join me on the couch.”

Some hint of defiance flickers through Isolwyn’s gaze when she’s told what to do, yet she makes efforts to smooth her composure back to the more contrite manner she’d adopted upon her arrival, her progress across the room a journey that takes her to sit not on the couch, but on that little table, so that she can look across at C’aol more easily than she might do beside him. Without preamble, she states, “If you want someone who has your back and will fight your corner, then that’s me.” She glances down at her hands, folded neatly in her lap. “And if you want someone who’s going to fight and argue with you, then unfortunately that’s also me. I know you like to use women. Daeserath’s told Eosyth as much. But, all pretences and posturing aside, you said the monster wouldn’t come for me… and if any part of you actually craves affection… then that’s me too.” She twitches one shoulder. “That’s all I came to say. Maybe I’m a means to an end for you, but I think we could both do better than that.”

C’aol moves his feet off of the table when Isolwyn sits, shifting himself up on the couch and sitting with better posture as he listens to her speak. His face is impassive as he considers her words. His fingers tap against his thigh and then still. “I don’t like to use women,” he clarifies for her, “but I’ve done it and I won’t deny it. There were times after flights that Daeserath lost that I’d find the first woman I could. Some… would have rather had romance involved, but none of them were //forced//.” So he claims. He shrugs briefly, “That isn’t what makes me a good Weyrleader. Just like you being attractive and desirable to men won’t make you a good Weyrwoman.” He leans back on the couch and folds his arms in front of his chest. “I don’t expect us to never argue. That’s ridiculous. This isn’t a romance novel. And I’m not going to pretend to the world that we’re madly in love. It’s not what will make us strong leaders. It’s nice, and I like having you, but I won’t make it a requirement if it becomes too much for you to handle.” He considers her for a long moment and then he asks, “How do you envision us doing better?”

“Pretending to be madly in love will only make us easy targets and have people question the validity of Daeserath catching Eosyth – if he does it.” Isolwyn holds up a hand as if she’d forestall any suggestion that she’s making a threat. “Bronzes from other Weyrs are visiting. The bronzes here have made it plain that they want her. It’s like predators circling a prey animal and I know her and I //know// she isn’t going to go without a fight. Her maiden flight could be a bloodbath.” She laces her fingers back together. “You said that there’s no reason for us to trust each other, essentially. And outside the bedroom, we don’t know each other, it’s true. What I’m saying is that maybe we ought to try to get to know each other so that we reach a point where we can trust each other.” Before she speaks again, she glances down at her knees, gathering herself. “You keep talking about going to bed with you as if you //are// forcing me. A requirement. Too much. Maybe that’s how it’s been with other women, but I don’t do anything that I don’t want to. And I don’t think you’d hate having someone care for you.”

C’aol laces his his fingers and rests them near his stomach, nodding his head at the mention of the visiting bronzes. “It has not put Daeserath in the best of moods. I will not be surprised if he outright attacks one in the days leading up to her flight. The visitors have also stopped in to see me, making it clear that they recognize the… temporary nature of my knot here.” His brows pinch downwards as he watches Isolwyn look at her knees, distrust writ on his brow and in his tone. “If you are trying the tactics that have won you favor in the past – with your Uncle, with your ‘suitors’, I would have you stop it. I much preferred you playing the part of a tempest than that of a caring future wife. Look at me,” he waits until she makes contact with his cold gaze, “If we want to ensure Eosyth’s safety, we should work together. She is a priority. I will not have her lost Between because of others. Daeserath may very well follow her if she does go. His connection with her… is beyond my understanding.” He twitches his shoulder in a shrug and then sits up, leaning forward to brace his elbows on his thighs as he considers her more closely. “I have a feeling you’d enjoy being ‘forced’ as one of your games,” he drawls, letting the low heat of his voice match the small smile he offers her. “Let us focus on keeping Eosyth safe and my becoming the Weyrleader should guarantee that. Do you agree to that?”

Bluntly, Isolwyn questions, “Do you need me to get her to stop him?” As direct as her enquiry may be, it’s not without a hint of doubt as to whether she might manage to direct Eosyth so with present tension to affect her. The smirk she produces for the accusation of tactics is not without traces of bitterness, her response as plain as the words before it. “My uncle has always known what I am. And my suitors? What use would they have had for caring when I was to be their property? Maybe I would like you to care for me too. To be a tempest every hour of every day can be exhausting.” She doesn’t flinch from meeting C’aol’s gaze, steel there despite what she’s said of herself, the nod she supplies a stiff and singular thing, for she has to confess, “If Daeserath were to be lost, I don’t know that she’d be the same ever again. Or that she’d be able to live with herself for long enough to stay.” That thought is one that keeps her from being able to confirm or deny what she’d enjoy him doing, the more practical nature she’s tried to maintain lost beneath a spiral of grief that momentarily consumes her and scatters her focus, her agreement another awkward nod through a distracted stare. Her return to reality is abrupt, her hands clenching and unclenching in her skirts. “Anyway, I’ll… leave you to your evening.”

“No, do not put that pressure on Eosyth. Daeserath will be controlled either by myself or I will involve Rori and Inaskashath, as is their duty with their rank. So far, he’s simmering. I’m hopeful he will… calm himself once we have repaired our interactions.” He offers her a smirk when she meets his gaze, a flicker of approval there for her steel to his ice. “I was raised to be a Lord. But I was not raised to have my Lady be property, despite my tendencies that contradict that. You are not to be owned,” he reminds her, “for Eosyth would not allow it.” He watches her closely and notes the lack of her focus though he does not fully grasp the reason behind it. He leans forward and places a hand on her knee. “I will care for you,” he offers her, his face softening fractionally to show his sincerity. “I do not want a partnership with you that is a constant battle of wills, nor do I want to be exhausted by the politics we can play against each other. Let us focus on… learning to trust each other.” He gives her knee a squeeze. “I know I am far older than you and that gives me plenty of years to know better. I reacted out of anger the other day,” he’s tip-toeing around an apology and he won’t delivery it, outside of, “I will try to control myself better in the future.”

Isolwyn inclines her head a little, confirming, “As will I,” as she carefully lets her fingers brush over C’aol’s, curling there for a moment before she makes to get to get to her feet, slowly smoothing out what temporary creases have settled into the fabric of her skirts while she’s been sitting on the table. She glances towards the door, only then she hesitates and inches a half-step towards C’aol instead, where she goes to rest gentle hands on his shoulders and draw him against her, fingers roaming to ghost through his hair. Her weight shifts as though she’d step away then, yet she pauses and bends to touch her lips to his, murmuring, “Goodnight,” as she straightens.

C’aol’s hands reach out to grasp her middle, preventing her from immediately leaving. He reaches her her hand and glances towards his lap and then back up at her. Not wanting to repeat what had gone wrong before, he rises to draw her back against him. “Why don’t you stay?” he asks her, keeping a hand on her hip as he looks down at her. He leans forward after searching her eyes to claim another kiss from her. It’s a gentle inquiry as he draws her closer to him. He doesn’t linger long, moving to step back and give her space to decide. He waits, watching her, trying to gauge Isolwyn’s mood. “Have you eaten?” he asks, glancing towards the table she had wanted to sit at earlier. “I will order us something to eat.” He looks back to her, smiling as he moves to button up his shirt. “And I’ll remain decently dressed as I should in the presence of my future Weyrwoman.”

Closing her eyes, Isolwyn lets her head rest against C’aol’s chest for a second or so after he claims his kiss, blinking them open again to supply him with another nod as he steps away. “No, I’ve not eaten,” she replies, her lips curving in a small, rueful smile. “Eosyth has been in a bad mood ever since some Telgar bronze decided to supply a manifesto as to why he and his rider would be the best choices for her and me. It’s… difficult to concentrate when she’s angry.” Her smile sharpens, becoming more of a smirk as she adds, “I think the last straw was when he got my name wrong.” She straightens her shoulders, her sigh audible yet resigned. “I’m sure he and his rider will be back, but I’d wager she’s got a better memory than he does. He won’t get to linger long.” Reaching towards him, she makes to do up the last two buttons on his shirt. “Whether Eosyth or Daeserath gets to him first.”

“I can request that these… suitors meet with Rori first,” C’aol tells Isolwyn, frowning at her. “I hadn’t realized they were being so brazen in their attempts. You are still technically a weyrling and should not have such matters interrupt your day to day. And it shouldn’t impact Eosyth at all.” He offers her a small smile as she finishes his buttons and then he offers her his arm to escort her to the table. He’s a gentleman enough to pull the chair out for her and push her back into the table before he goes to a side unit near his tiny kitchen. He pushes a button and speaks quietly into it before he returns to the table to sit before her. “Someone will bring us a hot meal and wine,” he tells her, “in a decent amount of time. Do you have any food preferences I should know about? I can make sure the kitchen staff knows your favorites for when we share meals like this.” He considers her for a moment, “Perhaps you should let Daeserath demonstrate to the next foreign bronze how his temper cannot be controlled in these cases.”

“I think it would end up being a matter of every male rider who turns up at Fort being sent to Rori,” Isolwyn utters dryly, murmuring her thanks as she sits down at the table. “They’re being brazen about it because they see me as valuable for more than the rank Eosyth could secure them. Sleeping with me brings the prospect of a Blooded child that they could leverage. I may no longer hold any rank within Fort Hold, but my children could. Even if not, they’d still claim their lineage and heritage.” She tilts her head slightly, eyes narrowing again. “I heard one of my distant cousins Impressed Igen’s new queen. It would be prudent for someone to guide her to the same conclusions before she makes a mistake.” That she has to actually think for a moment about what she truly likes to eat seems to amuse her. “Honestly? I like dessert most of all. There’s not much I don’t really like, but I’m mostly at any dinner table for dessert.” The idea of Daeserath’s temper sobers her, though she asks, “Do you think one incident would be enough to stop it? Rumour travels fast.”

“I will remind future visitors that you may not be the only goldrider option they have here for potential leadership prospects,” C’aol answers dryly, “and they //should// go through Rori first. I will speak to her. It’s our duty to protect you, not simply let any slobbering male at your feet.” He shakes his head and looks momentarily thoughtful as he considers Isolwyn. “Were we to have a child, they’d have connections to two prominent Holds. There’s power in that. I have a child at Silverfield,” he shakes his head, not wanting to go into too many details, “but I imagine these round of suitors are looking to earn favor for you to sway the potential win for them.” His smile is predatory, “It’s simple enough to tell them you’ve already been sleeping with me and enjoy it. That’ll give them pause to consider how much they want to push their agenda on you.” He would speak on the subject of Daeserath but a bustle of activity has C’aol rising to go and escort two teenagers into his dining area. They set down two trays loaded with dinner – roast, mashed potatoes, greens of some kind – and a plate of freshly baked small cakes. The boy settles two wineskins on the table. C’aol sees them out, ignoring their furtive glances at Isolwyn. “That’ll start some rumors,” he states as he strides back to the table to seat himself once more. “Wine?” he queries, reaching for the skin to fill his glass. “As far as Daeserath’s power… and will… should we let him, I think it would keep most males from Eosyth.”

The boy watches Isolwyn in the instant before he sets down the wineskins, earning himself nothing but a nod of acknowledgement from her, her features schooled into a picture of casual disinterest in the presence of both him and the girl. “Please,” she says of the wine, once the two have departed. “I’d like to meet her, you know. Your daughter. I know Lady Silverfield can’t be raising the girl on her own, but with another on the way she might welcome the reprieve if your daughter were to visit for a few days.” The prospect of a child of their own brings forth a smile full of apprehensive amusement, though not perhaps for any reason C’aol may assume. “If Blood and Impression are any indication of what might be passed down a family line, any children we might have would be a force to be reckoned with, let alone the power of their heritage. We might not need Daeserath to frighten anyone at that point.” Though, more seriously, she concedes, “I think not having him leash his temper might work until she glows. Then… I’m not sure it would be in his or your best interest to be too possessive or protective while she’s proddy. In terms of his safety.”

C’aol pours her wine and gives her a level look at the mention of meeting his daughter, his first instinct to deny her but he settles himself back into his chair and offers her a pleasant smile. “I suppose you could come with me next time I visit. I do not visit often, especially now that I am in Fort. I’m not a welcome presence… but I would be less welcome if I didn’t visit at all. She has my eyes,” he tells Isolwyn, sipping his wine. His gaze hardens at the mention of his daughter visiting. “She is not my daughter in that sense, Isolwyn. I may not take her for visits. I’m allowed to visit her and that is all.” The tension in his face at the mention of his daughter slowly eases as she speaks to a topic that he has more comfort in – power. “Yes, well, wouldn’t that be the way of it? I know that O’rlen and Aerishani would populate many Weyrs with their children and their dragon’s children. Why should we not follow suit?” He sips from his wine again and then nods his head towards her food. “Don’t wait to eat if you are hungry.” He doesn’t reach for his own plate. “He has handled himself in goldflights many times, Isolwyn. His temper has never changed. He will not be injured. I thank you for your concern though. My only concern is how Eosyth will be affected by… suitors. Daeserath has not outright tried to pressure her. He’s only offered her comfort and companionship.” He tilts his head as he considers his glass, watching as the wine swirls around and lines the glass and beads back down into the red pool. “He does not want to hurt her.”

Isolwyn reaches for her fork, studying it rather than the food, only to place it carefully back down again. “If we were to have children… Would you want them in your life? I know that leading a Weyr would be much the same as leading a Hold, in that I wouldn’t have the time to be the one to raise them and teach them every day. But if I’m to be the law here and was to be //told// at the Hold… I’d want them in my life. Evenings. Rest days. For them to know they’re mine. To be their mother and not just listed in the Records for sake of tracing lineage.” She picks up the fork again and holds onto it this time, angling it towards her plate as she reaches for her knife, but again she doesn’t quite get to eating. “…My concern is how she will react to Daeserath //and// suitors,” she murmurs in confession. “I know she doesn’t want to hurt him or see him hurt, but if she feels trapped by one, lashing out at many might be her response. I’ll stay close to her before she rises. I’m strong enough to stop the worst of what she might do, and however her being proddy affects me will have to be set aside as best I can.”

“I don’t really know how to be a father,” C’aol admits after a few mouthfuls of his food. “So I can’t say how involved I’d want to be. I like the little visits I make with my daughter, but the majority of her care is with Lady Silverfield or however they arrange her care there.” C’aol inclines his head to Isolwyn as she speaks of her concerns. “You should talk to Rori and ask her how she prepared Inaskashath for her maidenflight. I do not see why you couldn’t prepare Eosyth in some way for what will come. Why should she be left with instinct alone to guide her?” He considers Isolwyn with a lifted brow, “And might I add you do not have to fall to being the only one to help keep her calm as well. Daeserath is not a fragile creature – of body or mind. He will be fine to handle himself. If it seems like Eosyth will be unable to handle a large group of suitors, I’ll have a meeting with the Council and we can decide how many we will allow to come and throw their bid in for Fort’s Weyrleader.” His smile is cold, “Not that they’ll do much but lick their wounds and seek out other beds after her flight. I don’t intend to let them win.”

For a minute or so, Isolwyn eats in silence, not prepared to discard manners by either letting the food go cold or trying to speak much as she consumes it. “Would you resent it… me, I suppose, if I wanted to spend time with our children and dictate their upbringing, rather than leaving it to the nursery?” she eventually asks, fork held midair before she takes another bite. She reaches for her wine, cradling the glass and observing its contents while she gives a single nod. “I could ask Rori,” she agrees. “And other queenriders, if need be. I don’t doubt her competency, but Inaskashath’s maiden flight resulted in her being caught by a blue… and that is something I cannot permit to happen.” After a sip of two from her glass, she sets it back down, head tilting slightly as she considers, “Would it be wise to further draw the Council’s attention to Fort? We may be autonomous, but it doesn’t keep them from weighing in. And it’s less than I’m concerned about Eosyth being able to manage a lot of male attention… and more than I’m worried about what will happen to those males if they overstep. Then, perhaps mentally wounding them in advance would be an advantage.”

“How could I resent that?” C’aol asks, genuinely perplexed. “You’re accountable for yourself. So long as you can perform your duties as Weyrwoman effectively, I shouldn’t have an opinion on how you choose to devote your time.” He takes the time to sip from more wine, a tiny smirk ghosting his lips. “Don’t you find it odd that we are already discussing the proposition of children?” he asks her, a spark of humor entering his gaze. “It’s not as if it’s a requirement to lead. I get the sense that you want them. I would not tell you no. You’re young yet, so why rush it?” A shrug is given as he applies himself to a few more mouthfuls of food. “The Council is all about politics. Sometimes there is politics in //pretending// you value the opinions of others. It may give Fort reasons to establish stronger ties with other Weyrs. Since the accident… and the death… I would say most Weyr-relations are strained.” He takes pause when Isolwyn claims Eosyth’s strength for mental wounds. “Have the lessons with Rori not aided you at all with her abilities?”

“Because if you want my attention and children are in my weyr, then some might suggest that they are in the way,” Isolwyn replies with a measure of her own confusion. “Most fathers I’ve ever known have wanted the children kept away and quiet so their wife has to focus on them.” She reclaims her fork and uses the excuse of eating to sidestep the matter of her supposed youth for a short while, until she has to state, “I’m not young, C’aol,” some flicker of frustration directed not at him, but towards herself. “I’m twenty-six, and had I not been so useful to my Blood, I would have been married for nearly a decade by now. I would have had children by now, provided that I can. Eosyth may be young, but it isn’t a matter of her getting to raise me now, like with the younger weyrlings and their dragons. Men are eligible bachelors a lot longer than women are good marriage prospects.” Her lips twist, food studied for a moment. “And you’ll have to forgive me if there’s only so much I feel I can learn from Rori. Inaskashath and Eosyth have some similar sense of right and wrong, but Eosyth seems… much more a law unto herself.”

“Well, I promise you I will not come into your weyr and demand our children are shoved into random corners to keep them out of my sight. That seems like an absolutely ridiculous thing to do,” C’aol replies, pouring himself another glass of wine and reaching easily to top hers up. “My parents did not overly attend to us, but they certainly didn’t dismiss us for existing in a room.” He looks surprised by her admission of her age, “I had thought you younger, but I’m thankful you’re older. No wonder Rori seems like an odd fit for you to teach. She’s barely twenty.” He sits back in his chair, having finished off his food in a few more bites. He considers her for a long time, sipping idly from his wine. “We will keep Eosyth safe. Daeserath is too strong-minded. Perhaps he is better suited to guide her.”

“Rori is not a poor Weyrwoman, age or otherwise. It’s only that… one queen is not like another, just like one bronze is not like another. If anything, I’m glad that Eosyth has full-blooded gold sisters; the better to see what traits the three of them share.” Isolwyn neatly sets her fork and knife down side by side upon her plate and reaches for her glass again. “And the better to see what she and Daeserath might pass on to any offspring of their own.” She drinks no more than her glass and another after that, enough to dull the edges of the world and nothing more, and with a choice before her then she gets up from her seat and crosses to C’aol, where she presses a kiss to his cheek and murmurs her thanks. Though she hesitates, now she turns firmly on her heel and excuses herself to return to her queen for the remainder of the night, choosing the safer path than undoing the work of words.

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