Who: Arlet, J’kson, Akanyth, Malynth
Where: Cothold, Bitra
What: Bitra attempts to call in its Blood.

J’kson has never had an occasion to call on his Blood ties to Bitra Hold. His mother had been the niece of a //cousin// with claims to Bitra’s line. Her death and his removal from Bitra to Keroon, J’kson grew up without thought to the world outside of the one his father and brother presented him. He had chosen to settle their Gambler’s Den outside of Bitra Hold for the purpose of profiting from those who seek Bitra Hold for gambling and other vices. He’s not prepared for the letter that comes and he’s bent over his desk in the small office he keeps at their home, rereading the letter for the third time when Malynth reaches for Akanyth. << He is obsessing over something and I can't get him to stop. Can yours come to him, please? >>

<< I suppose if he is to obsess over anything, it ought to be her, >> Akanyth drawls with a confidence that manages to all but drown out any understanding he has of the seriousness of Malynth’s request. << I’ll send her, >> he relents not so many moments later, alerting Arlet to what her husband’s lifemate has asked of him. When she arrives, it’s with a basket filled with sand tucked under one arm, a collection of almost a dozen firelizard eggs settled within. She parks the basket before the small hearth in J’kson’s office and briefly explains, “I thought we could reward our employees with them or add them to the pots of high stake games. Should be a queen’s clutch. Not sure she’ll be happy with me for taking them, but if she will lay eggs in the roots of a tree…” She sits herself down opposite J’kson. “Who’s aggravated you?” she asks, nodding towards the letter.

Malynth’s thanks for Akanyth’s actions is a sparkling firecracker waving back and forth in a sea of black. He retreats from AKanyth’s mind and returns to his own pursuits. J’kson hands the letter over to Arlet for her to read. “It’s from Lord Bitra,” he tells her with a shake of his head as he leans back in his chair and slumps his shoulders. “It would seem that he’s finally placed me as some distant relative of his other than the simple bluerider he’s permitted to straddle his lands with this place. Now he’s seeking some amount of our profits for what Blood owes Blood or some such nonsense. It’s a good thing I’ve married you already, otherwise he’d be pressuring me to make some match to suit his aims if I know how those conversations tend to go from Isolwyn.” He looks to the basket and nods his head. “We’ll let our employees pick them and those that aren’t picked we’ll toss in the high stakes game. It’ll draw some interest, I’m sure. Though they aren’t as hard to come by as they once were.”

“Blood owes Blood nothing,” Arlet states, shaking her head. “Particularly when that Blood has only realised a connection and is now plainly seeking to exploit it. If he wants to claim you as Blooded proper and part of his family, then opportunities run both ways. If he wants profits, he can help make sure that they keep increasing. He can acknowledge you and invite you to family functions.” Her lips curls in a moment’s distaste. “And if he objects to me, he can decide whether my being a Lady’s daughter or a goldrider’s suits his desires better.”

“I don’t think I want him to claim me,” J’kson answers with a droll smile as he moves to wrap his arm around her waist to tug her towards him. “It will bring us more trouble than it’s worth. I watched how Lord Fort tried to keep a hold on Isolwyn. I don’t want that for you or me.” He stands up and returns his arm about her. “There is no way he’d object to you at all. Your ties to the Court and your mother are wonderful things. But it’s you who is worthy of admiration and respect.” He kisses her temple. “Still, I will have to tell M’tan about the letter. I wonder how the Court may try and leverage it.”

“There may be no escaping who you’re related to,” Arlet murmurs, letting J’kson tug her closer and moving to rest her head on his shoulder. “If his intention is to cause trouble, which it sounds like it is, to lay down your own terms before he can try to force through his own might be the best way to let him know that you won’t be used or manipulated.” She returns his kiss to her temple with one to his cheek. “…I wouldn’t put it past the Court to try and paint our marriage as some great alliance to further legitimise the Hold.” Regret shadows her features for a moment, but still she says, “I can’t say that I like many of the futures I can envisage for Safiye when they finally let Vesoviath rise. Maybe a good marriage to a nice, Blooded boy that she likes would make for a happy life for her.”

“Maybe I think too highly of what the Court stands for. I don’t see them using Safiye in that way,” J’kson states as he moves from encircling her to carrying the basket out of his office and towards the main living area. He tucks it near the main hearth. He turns to see if Arlet has followed him. “It may turn out that Safiye stays at Fort. For all we know, she will enjoy being a goldrider at a Weyr.” He moves towards their couch to settle on. He pats the seat beside him. “I can keep the letter from Lord Bitra to myself if you think that’s the wiser choice. I’d say M’tan will not be pleased they want a cut from here too. It shows me we’ve made something here that the Lord takes interest.” He smiles at Arlet. “I’m sure we continue to surprise many at how much two dragonriders can accomplish outside of a Weyr.”

“I don’t think they’d use //Safiye// in that way, but that sort of eventuality might be better for her than being tied to the Court for Vesoviath to produce more dragons for them.” Arlet wanders after J’kson and settles down beside him on the couch, tucking her feet up onto it to curl up. “Especially as C’aol may not want her to stay at Fort once she’s an adult.” She shakes her head and leans back against the couch. “Avoiding whatever Bitra wants might just cause more problems and I don’t see M’tan not finding out one way or another. The issue will be not letting him make a decision that’s ultimately yours, or him trying to use you to get something he wants.” Gently, she reaches out to run the fingers of one hand through her husband’s hair. “It’s your accomplishment,” she murmurs. “Your idea. I’m proud of you.”

“Safiye doesn’t have to be leveraged for anything she doesn’t want. She could always come live with us,” J’kson offers as he shrugs and smiles at Arlet. “Not that she may want to.” Mention of M’tan tightens the lines around J’kson’s eyes. “You have to see his angle on things before you make your situation known to him. I got this place because I wanted it, and out of the Courts day to day requirements. We pay a tithe tk then for that right. I don’t think it would be bad to strengthen ties with Bitra, the how about it is where I’m not sure. I would rather keep our anonymity.” He leans in to her touch and smiles at her. “My idea initially, but it’s ours to be proud of together.” He looks around their home and reaches to draw her towards him. “We have made a nice home for ourselves. Are you happy?” he means it as a tease and still there is a catch to his voice when he asks it.

When J’kson draws her closer, Arlet lazily throws a leg across his and moves to straddle and sit in his lap, pressing her hands to his chest. She tilts her head, watching him in silence for a moment, and after a further few seconds of a more distant stare, she tells him, “Of course I’m happy,” and slides a hand across his collarbone. “I’ve no reason to be unhappy. As long as you’re happy, so am I.” Leaning in, she touches her lips to his cheek again. “The business is doing well, and Akanyth and Malynth seem content. Well, as content as Akanyth is ever going to be. Sometimes, I think he might need a female companion to tame him further, but I’ll keep taking him to Weyrs.” She bites down on her lip, then asks, “…If I send him to Telgar one day, will you stay here with me?”

“He’s going to struggle to find that here unless we somehow entice more riders to our home,” J’kson answers with an indulgent smile as Arlet straddles his chest. He keeps his hands at his side as he looks up at her. “I will always stay with you. All you need to do is ask,” he reminds her as he rips up to claim a kiss along her jaw. “If you need to ask for anything,” he reminds her, moving his hands to rest them against her hips. “You know I’m here for you. You come first,” he adds, “Ahead of Blood, no matter how thin… the Court… all of it. You and Malynth and Akanyth come ahead of all else.” His eyes dim a little and he seems like he’d add more but thinks better of it as he hugs her to him.

Arlet ducks her head a tiny bit and doesn’t get to lifting it again before J’kson holds her to him, leaving her to tuck her face into the crook of his neck and lapse back into the silence that briefly claimed her before. The quiet lasts for longer this time, her arms draping over his shoulders and around him as she fits herself against him more comfortably, taking slow, steady breaths. Eventually, she answers, “I know,” in a manner that she can’t quite manage to make convincing no matter the time she’s had to work up to it. It must sound hollow even to her, for she adds, more softly, “…Just… Just leave me be. I’ll sort myself out. I’m okay.”

J’kson holds Arlet to him and kisses her brow. “Alright, love. You let me sort myself out. I have faith you will do the same.” He seems keen on changing the subject so he nips at her earlobe and then settles his arms more loosely around her. “I’ll advertise the eggs tonight, leading up to a tournament or something to draw more folk here. I have two of our staff I think would enjoy a firelizard. Is there anyone else you can think of for your eggs?” he queries as he tries to steer them back to easier things to discuss.

“…I might ask Safiye if she wants a couple. Even if she doesn’t want one for herself, maybe she could give them to some friends at Fort.” It’s a distracted response, Arlet’s thoughts already straying from business and to what she knows and has long depended on to keep herself from considering for too long anything that might pain her: the physical. She leans back over J’kson and claims his lips with hers, her intentions all too plain even as she clambers from his lap and reaches for his hands to tug him to his feet after her, and from there to their bedroom, where she can try to forget any acknowledgement of anything other than being absolutely content with life in every possible way.

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