Who: Echo, Emily, Melody, Hanath, Kahotaith
Where: Southern
What: Echo meets another of Fort’s goldriders, albeit in a different way.

In the mood to explore and having enjoyed their visit to Honshu, Emily and Hanath decide to explore other parts of Southern the next free day they have to themselves. It only took a brief conversation with Fort’s Headwoman for Emily to know where the best market is held for trinkets and those who enjoy looking at the latest fashions. She’s walking through one of these markets within Southern Weyr’s boundaries, a small basket already full of her purchases. Hanath has settled herself not too far from the Hold and seems content to let the braver children come and climb upon her in play

One of the children clambering over Hanath has left her shoes neatly tucked against one of the queen’s forearms and has determinedly set about climbing her way right up to sit atop her, providing commentary and apologies for any step or hold that nudges too deep, the gaze of a distant brown idly fixed upon her. In the opposite direction to Emily, a woman staring more at the items on the various stalls than the world around her carries her own purchases through the market, the contents of her own basket quite the contrast to the dark tones of her own clothing, pastel fabrics and ribbons and threads of gold and silver threatening to spill out over the sides.

Hanath’s delight in the child’s daring, and politeness as she climbs, earns a gentle croon and a flicker of sunlight reaching against the child’s mind. She does not immediately notice the brown’s gaze. In an attempt to reach the child, she broadcasts her replies to the child’s commentary. << Well yes, it is hard to climb up someone like myself. Do not worry. It does not hurt when you hold on the way you do. You are small. Take care. >> She’s all-but-flattened herself as close to the ground as she can, to allow the child easier access to her ridges. Emily is looking down at her basket, thumbing through the contents as she walks, and so doesn’t notice her path is taking her directly into another body. She bumps her basket against the woman’s and looks up, instantly startled and contrite. “Oh! I’m so sorry. How very silly of me. I absolutely should have been looking where I was walking.”

As if she knows it would be a bad idea, the girl doesn’t look down, but pauses to sweep some of her curly hair from her eyes and carries on climbing until she can settle herself between Hanath’s ridges. “I did it! Well, we did it!” She lifts both hands above her head in a cheer, then leans forward to throw her arms over Hanath. “Thank you!” As the baskets knock, a reel of silver thread leaps from one and into the other, earning a wry grin from the woman wearing the knots of a brownrider. “It’s not your fault; I haven’t even organised this lot, let alone myself.” She points to the escaped thread that’s now in Emily’s basket. “Do you mind if you bring an end to its escape? My daughter’s seen these braids with different threads running through them and wants to try. I’m sure I’m going to mess it up, but I’ll give it a shot first!” Offering her free hand, she says, “I’m Echo.”

Hanath stretches her wings out in a mimicry of the little girls’ hands lifting to cheer. << You did it, little one. Not me! >> The rest of the children remain on the ground, gaping up at the bravery of the curly haired girl. One boy cups his hands around his mouth and shouts at her, “You’re gonna get in trouble when this goldrider finds out!” At the market, Emily steps aside to not block the view of the stall she was standing in front of and to allow the press of people access to the simple silver jewelery on display. “Oh, of course,” she murmurs, reaching into her basket to retrieve the thread. It’s in her hand and offered towards the brownrider as a hand is extended in greeting. “Oh, how very rude of me,” she quickly goes to shake Echo’s hand with her other hand, only to realize it’s not the right approach. Blushing, she shuffles the thread to the other hand, then reaches to offer a warm grip to the brownriders’. “Emily,” she notes the knot on the woman’s shoulder and adds, “I’m visiting from Fort.” Her own knot is on display, though hidden in part by her hair which she is wearing braided long and draping down her shoulder.

“No, I won’t!” the girl shouts back, though she stills for a moment and asks quietly enough that no-one on the ground will hear her, “Will I…?” She sits back and adjusts her balance, holding onto one of Hanath’s ridges so as not to fall. “I’m Melody.” Gently, Echo shakes Emily’s hand, then accepts the thread back and drops it into her own basket, suppressing a tiny smile for the mix-up. “Nice to meet you,” she tells her. “I’m from Southern and…” her gaze flicks ruefully from what she can see of Emily’s knot to some distant, indistinct, point, “…I’m told it might be your queen that my Melody is clambering all over.”

Hanath reaches her tail around to sweep at the boy who is shouting, sending him leaping out of the way and then he sticks his tongue out at Melody. He turns and dashes off, leading the other children away from him as he declares, “Golds are //sooooo// boring!” Hanath watches the pack of children run away with a loud huff. << How could you get in trouble by Emily? I am the one who wants to play with you. >> Emily settles her hands back in front of her, adjusting her basket for a moment and then she pauses at Echo’s statement. “Oh Hanath adores children. She told me she was playing with a group of them. She hadn’t mentioned one climbed on her. She won’t hurt her,” she assures Echo with a bright smile. “We’re of Fort. My friend Priska’s over at Honshu now and well, we had thought about coming back to visit… I wanted to get a few things. You know. As gifts. And my Headwoman told me of this market.” She reaches up to press two fingers against her lips and offers Echo a tinier smile. “Sorry, when I have klah I talk too much.”

Melody watches the children run off, then leans forward again to press herself to Hanath in a semblance of a hug. “I like you; you’re sweet,” she tells her, not bothering to right herself this time, quite happy to sprawl there, her palms pressed to gold hide. Echo looks Emily up and down and arches a brow a little, smile tugging at one corner of her lips. “You know you’ve basically apologised for being a human being two or three times now, right?” she gently teases. “Oh, so you’re friends with the new Weyrlady. Woman. Whatever the title is now. My brown chased in the leadership flight… Some of the Benden riders lingered awfully long after her queen was caught. It was… weird. Inappropriate.” She wrinkles her nose. “But then, I think I might have kissed your friend, so I can’t really judge.”

Emily’s face goes even pinker at the mention of her apologizing too much. She bites at her lip to prevent herself from apologizing for apologizing so much and then her entire nature shifts at Echo’s announcement that she was at Priska’s flight. “You were there?” she asks, all nervous behavior discarded as she sharpens her focus. She reaches for Echo’s arm, moving in closer and lowering her voice. “Do you know who was there from Benden?” the word is hotly stated, a trace of emotionally upswing offered, “if it was T’var..,” she presses her lips together. “I hadn’t wanted to let Priska know I was concerned it might have been. Seeking retribution. Because I embarrassed him.” She shakes her head, glancing around the market, then back to Echo. “If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to talk to you somewhere more private. About that.” She takes a moment to register that Echo kissed Priska and in a scattered way as she looks about for somewhere for the two of them to move to, she murmurs, “Priska hadn’t mentioned getting kissed by a pretty brownrider.”

Echo frowns, but as to admit, “I don’t really have a lot of dealings with Benden, or the northern Weyrs, though I could probably recognise who it was if someone pointed them out to me.” She’s easy enough to lead, though soon spots a stall set up like a cafe with tables and chairs – mostly empty – around a central hub for cakes and klah and starts to wander towards it. “You think I’m pretty?” accompanies a tiny flash of amusement, though her expression shades rueful and she says, “I’m not sure your friend would remember. She wasn’t very… with it. I didn’t realise how much and I shouldn’t have done it, but I wasn’t entirely myself then either.”

Emily follows along after Echo, frowning in thoughtful silence as she concludes it’s unlikely the brownrider would remember specific people from the flight. She shakes her head and frees herself of her frown as she moves into the little hub. She’s still caught up in her thoughts as she once more answers Echo without thinking through her statement. “You’re very pretty,” seems easy enough to answer but she draws herself up and sharpens her focus on Echo at the mention of the flight. “Well, I’ve only had the one, and I can tell you that sometimes it’s nice not to remember all of it. Please sit,” she moves to set her basket down on a chair. “I’ll go and collect us some treats. Since you’re being kind enough to talk to me about the matter.” She walks towards the vendor before Echo could stop her to order a variety of things to be delivered to their table. She returns to claim her chair once payment has been made.

Echo opens her mouth to protest, yet, not wishing to draw further attention to the two of them, simply sits down and watches Emily as she heads off, only to avert her gaze when she returns to make it seem as if she hasn’t been observing her quite so intently. “I’ll tell you what I can remember,” she promises. “When it was clear we’d lost, I just wanted to get out of there. I’d no business staying, after all, but not everyone actually left right then, as far as I can tell. I was still on the ledge trying to figure out whether I wanted to stay and find someone or just //leave// when I thought saw someone else go in. And then two more bronzeriders finally left. I thought I had to be wrong that someone had gone //in//, and that…” Her eyes narrow. “S’van? S’von? The Acting Weyrleader. Was still in her weyr. If he was, I figured maybe… they were an item. Him and her, or the three of them.”

Emily folds her hands in her lap and sits primly in her seat, shoulders pulled back in a practiced and elegant posture that now is more habit than forced behavior from her. “S’ven,” she clarifies, “most certainly was not an item with either of them. I do not like to speak ill of people in leadership positions. However, his actions clearly show he was a poor leader to begin with. He was not pleased with the loss of his knot.” She does not elaborate further, choosing to add one more detail, “the person you saw did go in. And that person helped preserve the dignity of Honshu’s leaders.” She drops the conversation as the vendor comes with a tray full of small cakes, sandwiches, and tea and klah which is set out before the two women without much of a comment. Emily offers her polite thanks and a sincere smile to the vendor that earns her a smile in return. She gestures for Echo to take her pick before her own. “I’m glad Benden came to their senses. But I wonder if they did so because of that person, rather than knowing their actions were wrong.” She shakes her head and smiles at Echo. “I’m not trying to gossip with you, I hope you realize. I was hoping you could shed some light on the situation so I could help Priska and B’lian find out if there were more bad actors to be concerned about.”

Hands gesture towards cakes and sandwiches in what turns out to be a futile effort to encourage Emily first, but Echo admits defeat without too much protest and slips two small sandwiches onto her plate with a murmur of thanks. “If I were them, I’d get rid of S’ven as soon as possible. It’s just… weird, hanging around in the weyr during a flight, whatever his intentions were. That in itself shows he’s a danger to green and goldriders. If someone in my wing did that, I’d have ‘em up in-front of the Weyrleader the moment I found out.” She takes a bite of sandwich. “I think I was the only woman there. They still don’t like us chasing golds. Bronzeriders, I mean. A lot might’ve changed, but that won’t.”

“I had thought Honshu was different, with Inaskashath and Jynth,” Emily comments, looking at Echo with a thoughtful frown. “There is a general belief in the North that the Southern Weyrs… are more liberally minded.” She waits until Echo has taken her choices before she reaches for her own items to fill her plate. She opts for more klah to drink. “If the bronzeriders are so concerned about having the only rights to goldflights, they should do a better job at it then. Seems to me that goldriders are tired of them being the only option. Especially with their behaviors of late.” She shakes her head and then dips her face behind her mug of klah, looking away from Echo. When she lowers her mug, she doesn’t stop herself in time when the apology spills forth. “I’m so sorry. I’m really not usually this outspoken about things.” She looks ruefully at her klah. “I shouldn’t allow myself another cup.”

“I don’t take any issue with any colour male catching a queen, but many men see Weyrleader or the mate of a queenrider as something that should specifically be theirs. I suppose the first is the one leadership position a man might be able to obtain without any merit or anything to recommend him whatsoever.” Echo delicately pours some tea and adds milk and sugar. “You’re allowed to say and think what you want,” she says quietly. “Even if that’s what they don’t want you to do. How you spend your time outside your duties, how you conduct your flights, your choice of mate: it’s all yours to decide.” Her smirk is not one of pride, but with a rueful edge for words that sound full of it. “I made Wingleader because I worked hard, Kahotaith is a fair and clever dragon, I like dealing with people and I’m good at it. In the South, I’m not such an abnormality, but to others? I stole a man’s role.” Lifting her cup, she says over its rim, “I hope Fort gives you the freedom you deserve.”

Emily observes Echo with clear approval for her statements, her eyes brightening at the mention of her role, and her assertion of having earned it. “We may gain our rank from our Impression of gold. It still is something we try to earn and do right by. I can see where some men may feel threatened that the same does not apply to their rights.” She lifts a shoulder in a brief half-shrug and takes a sip of her klah. “Isolwyn is a wonderful Senior,” that she has known no others is not reflected upon, “I had the option to keep my first flight closed to outside Weyrs. I had hoped opening it would ease tension with some of the Northern Weyrs,” her face grows pensive, “and I do not believe that happened.” Her eyes grow unfocused and then sharpen again on Echo, her smile bright and her thoughts instantly moving away from the topic at hand without hesitation. “Hanath says that your girl has fallen asleep on her.” She’s amused as she adds, “And would like me to tell you she will adopt her if you want to put her in her care.” She winks at Echo and leans forward, adding conspiratorially, “Forgive Hanath. She is used to fostering kittens and puppies. I don’t currently have the heart to tell her she may not do the same with human children.”

“Well, I’d say she can keep her, but she’d have to fight Kahotaith for her, or live with him being stuck at her side for the rest of her days.” Echo grins and hesitates for long enough to select one of the little cakes and take a bite. “Sounds like I should go and retrieve her. She’s only eight, but she throws herself at everything and anyone as if she doesn’t know what fear is.” With another bite, she demolishes the cake, then brushes her fingers off and reaches to collect up her purchases. “Thanks for this and… Well, sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.” She waits for Emily to accompany her to Hanath, where she does her best to gently bring her down from where she’s clambered and settle her onto Kahotaith instead without waking her. Melody does stir, but she’s tired enough that she just curls back up in her own harness on her mother’s brown and gives Hanath a sleepy wave. It seems only second nature for Echo to throw an arm around Emily’s shoulders and press a kiss to her temple in farewell, before the three of them depart and return to their Weyr.

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