Negotiating Terms

Who: Echo, Emily, Kahotaith, Hanath
Where: Ice Lake, Ruatha
What: It’s a date.

Emily must have taken it to heart that Echo felt Kahotaith would be at risk at Fort with Daeserath’s tendency to mentally attack foreign male dragons for she has never asked Echo to visit her home. She has not visited Echo since her awkwardness once more impeded, and in Emily’s mind, she pushed her issues on her new friend. With her mind to Echo and Hanath’s often pestering for information of Melody it is not too long before Hanath reaches out towards Kahotaith with an image for him to Between too. She’s got the image draped in cold and so she feels she has adequately passed on Emily’s request to tell Echo to dress warmly. Ice Lake outside of Ruatha is not a destination that many travel to in the mind of spending leisure time to so Hanath and Emily have the shore they’ve claimed to themselves. Emily has erected a small tent and a billow of smoke travels into the crisp air to offer shelter against the consistent chill of the mountain.

Kahotaith appears in the skies over the lake not all that long after Hanath has shared her image, and while Echo shivers despite herself – and the layers of warm clothing beneath her riding leathers – he seems unperturbed by the quite drastic shift in temperature. In-fact, the moment that he’s freed from his straps is the same moment that he heads towards the water, to settle at its edge and bat at the large shards of ice floating at the lake’s surface. He even sinks down to the cold sand, to lounge there and look over at Hanath with his gaze whirling bright blue. Echo wanders towards the tent to find Emily, dropping her straps carefully to the ground before she moves to press a kiss to her cheek quite without thinking. “I’m assuming Daeserath isn’t going to scream at us from this range?” she teases dryly. “Should we whisper just in-case?”

Hanath rises from where she was lounging near the tent that Emily erected and makes her way down to observe Kahotaith’s pawing of the ice layers. << There are no small creatures that frequent this lake to play with. However, I have heard that some dragons find it a challenge to dive deep. They claim there are things way down to be observed. I have never gone. >> She sits back on her haunches and settles her tail primly about herself as she continues to watch him. Emily can’t help the blush that surfaces at the kiss though she reaches to hug Echo before the brownrider can get too far from her. The fire she’s built has done much to keep the chill from outside. She’s spread a number of furs on the ground and there’s a basket set to the side which she reaches for. “Well, he’s really only fussy about those immediately over Fort. One can’t really blame him. With all the issues with riders these days, one can’t trust foreigners overly much.” She pulls out a green bottle and passes it to Echo. “I thought we could enjoy something to warm us up. And once we’re a bit warmer, we can go out and I’ll show you how the cold can be pretty too.” She hesitates and then turns to reach for two glasses that she draws out. “It’s whiskey, so it’s very strong. But it does warm you rather quickly.”

<< Should you like to make the attempt, I would be glad to accompany you, >> Kahotaith replies, unfurling his wings into the wintery air. << Another day, I will bring you Melody. My Echo... She wished your rider to herself. And we both know well that it is not always wise to let a child believe someone new is theirs to have in their life forever, if like may not be the case. >> Echo does much as Kahotaith does and lounges down onto the furs so that she can look up at Emily, careful to keep her boots at their edge to avoid bringing in any sand or dirt. She accepts the bottle and looks it over, then turns her focus to the glasses produced and smirks. “You’re trusting me to pour? Well, okay, but if neither of us can walk in a straight line in the next ten minutes, I’m blaming you.” That said, she is rather exact in how much of the whiskey she sloshes into each glass, leaving with each with only a little over a measure before she hands the bottle back. “I don’t know why they don’t just all agree on some kind of security measures that everyone has to obey. You break the rule, you suffer the consequences. That way, everyone knows the rules and those who break them’re an example to anyone else who thinks to not keep everyone’s safety in mind. Look after everyone, for Faranth’s sake. Anyone who doesn’t want that is clearly the problem element.”

Hanath watches Kahotaith with a tilted head as she takes in his words. << We can go together if you like. I am not for or against the attempt. I was only noting some enjoy it. I know that little ones get easily attached to others. I can appreciate your restraint. However, it should be said, Emily would never do anything to harm the child. Nor would I. We may not have a little pink one yet, but someday we might. For now, we are content with my children and those I find in need of care. >> Emily watches Echo and takes the bottle back once it is handed over. She tucks it away and, when noting the care Echo takes with her boots, she feels the need to remark, “This is no fine establishment. Please do not worry about what your boots may drag in. These furs can easily be shaken out.” She takes a sip of the whiskey and her closed-mouth cough is more an indicator of how little she tends to drink than anything else. “A meeting of Weyrwomen is scheduled next seven. I am sure some agreement will come to pass. Even then, Daeserath and C’aol will not change. It is a comfort to many that they are the way they are. Safiye and Vesoviath, for example, rely on them as much as Isolwyn and Eosyth to be kept safe.” She takes another hasty sip of her whiskey. “We needn’t talk of such serious things if you do not want to.”

<< We know you would never hurt her, >> Kahotaith seeks to assure. << There have been few people in Echo’s life that we have ever let close to her. Yet, she chose you. She may be young, but, in some things, her judgement is to be trusted. >> Echo smiles just a little at Emily’s reaction to the whiskey, then takes a sip from her own glass and lounges back down, digging her drink a bit into the furs and sand beneath them to keep it steady. “If nothing else, it’s best to have a dragon of firm character as a Weyr’s dominant male,” she remarks. “I just don’t trust Kahotaith to be able to keep his mouth shut if he’s challenged about his intentions. He’d be trying to negotiate terms and just piss him off even more, I’d wager.” She casts an arm behind her head as a pillow. “In the not so serious vein, then, I heard Keroon Hold is holding a Gather the week after next, if you’d like to go? I promised Melody we’d go see the runners.” Casting her eyes skyward for a moment, she admits, “Though what she told me she really wants is a brother or sister, and I said that one’s not quite so easy as getting a runner, and I’d have to think about it.”

<< Melody is a smart and delightful small one. You are lucky that you have cared for her as long as you have. I would think that you and Echo are the reason why she is who she is. I enjoyed her company immensely. Do you speak with her as well? >> Hanath’s query leads her to rise and move towards Kaohtaith so she might brush her body along his before she sits closer to him. << You have chosen well >> seems to be all she needs to say for her closeness. Emily takes the time between Echo’s words and her next to finish off her whiskey. Whether that is a wise decision will remain to be seen as the flush of the drink hits her cheeks. “I’ll go with you both. My family will be entering more than one runner towards the races at Keroon.” Mention of a sibling for Melody draws a fond smile from Emily as she ducks her head and admits, “I remember what it was to be a child and wishing for a sibling.” She lifts her gaze and her smile towards Echo again. “As a child of six, and the youngest, I always hoped and hoped for a sister who I could boss around as much as I was bossed around.” She looks to Echo more fully and then, emboldened by drink, she reaches her hand out to cup against Echo’s face. “Is there no one already who wishes to have more children with you?”

<< Melody tells me other children with dragons in their families do not speak to them, yet I see no reason why I would not. She is mine to protect and care for. To be above speaking with her would be dereliction of duty towards family. >> As Hanath shifts closer, Kahotaith lifts a wing in invitation. << And she is quite amusing at times, >> is a dryer admittance “I’ve no siblings and never much thought I’d prefer otherwise, but I…” Echo smiles ruefully. “It would make me a poor mother to assume that my feelings about a lack of siblings are more appropriate than what she’s already voiced.” She closes her eyes as Emily’s hand cups her face, a blush appearing for the first time since they met, soon identified as a flush of embarrassment as she confesses, “I believe you’re going to think very poorly of me now… but I don’t know who her father is. Deliberately so. I know who it could be, but not for certain. I wanted my child to be mine – and I’ve never had a father of my own. I suppose I’d do the same again.” She smirks. “There’s no-one queuing up to leap into bed with me, no.” Covering her hand with her own, she asks, “Have I thoroughly scandalised you now?”

Hanath finds Kahotaith’s wing offer surprising in a flash of light and then she settles in against him to allow the closeness. << Then we are of the same mind. Small ones deserve to be recognized. Those who do not understand that are missing something we do not. >> She seems content then to lean against him as they watch the ice flow along the lake. Emily is surprised by Echo’s blush more than her acknowledgement of lacking the knowledge of her daughter’s parentage. “Is that not how it is with dragonriders?” she asks with no hidden agenda outside of her surprise at what she believed to be truth. “I am a Holders’ daughter. It was expected to have many heirs. The sixth child, and a girl, has little prospects in that. I believe I surprised all my family when I was Searched and even more so when I Impressed gold.” Her hand once more drifts towards Echo’s face to brush her fingers against her cheek. She then pulls back to reach for the whiskey to pour more into her glass and offer more towards Echo. “I do not know why you would think I’d be scandalised that you have a beautiful little girl, a respected dragon, and a knot that accounts for your hardwork.” She takes a sip of whiskey without the grimace, her eyes growing a little more dilated as she adds, “Am I saying the wrong things?” she can’t hide the vulnerability in her voice.

“Women in the Weyrs may have many more partners than in Holds or Halls, but I still think it’s generally more widely accepted to know who your child’s father is than not,” Echo answers, not without a twist of dry humour. “Or at least to want to know, or be concerned about it.” Neither of which seem to outwardly worry her. She shakes her head for the offer of more whiskey, though watches Emily pour herself more with a flicker of consternation. “You aren’t saying anything wrong,” she murmurs. “But maybe I wonder at your needing the drink to say it,” she admits just as quietly. “I told you, you don’t owe anyone anything that doesn’t feel right, ever. That means me too.” Offering out a hand, she invites, “Come here and curl up and get some rest, like Hanath is. We don’t need to talk.”

“I thought one drank when on a date,” Emily comments, looking towards the whiskey and then she sets it down. “I don’t need it to talk to you,” she continues, shaking her head. “I wanted to try… and make it obvious that… this was a date.” She shrugs her shoulders and looks up at Echo with a little grimace. She seems prepared to blunder further into the conversation when Echo’s proposal comes over. She takes the offered hand and moves to settle herself closer to Echo. “I’m not usually this horrible at things. Talking, that is,” she tries once more to explain as she moves to settle herself against Echo’s side. “I feel like the more I worry about it, the worse it gets.” She looks up at Echo and offers a tiny smile. “I promise it’ll go away. I’m not like this at all with my friends.”

“I’m not sure that the drinking is mandatory,” Echo remarks, a moment’s quiet laughter surfacing. She loops a gentle arm around Emily and starts to idly drift her fingers through her hair. “You’re getting dangerously close to apologising for breathing again,” she warns her, blinking up at the canopy of the tent. “One day, maybe I’ll get you to curse at me and then we’ll well and truly know that there’s no end to your undying affection,” she teases, unable to keep from smirking. “Or maybe you’ll have another junior to train soon and we’ll never see each other again. I’ve no doubt the other Weyrs will be jealous if Fort produces another queen. Then, they’ll probably be just as irritated if Honshu does.”

“I haven’t said sorry once!” Emily protests with a light laugh. “I can’t help it if my tone or manner hints at it.” She folds her hands in her lap and settles her legs in a cross as she listens to Echo’s words. “With Priska and Yedrith gone, Fort would benefit from another junior. I like teaching,” she clarifies with a smile towards Echo. “It’s rewarding. If Yedrith is able to produce a gold egg her first clutch it’ll be considered a good boon. After what happened to Priska and B’lian and all the aftermath of S’ven’s–, Honshu may need that.” She brushes her thumbs together. “I’m more curious to know how it will be the next time Amorenth rises and produces a clutch. I’ve heard they will clutch at Honshu.”

“If I were Silverfield and I had a way to keep the eggs warm and protected, I’d almost be tempted to keep them. Then, they’ve always relied primarily on their exports, if I remember right, and supporting a lot of dragons would put a big dent in that and any profits they make.” Echo shrugs one shoulder. “Then, if we don’t change, things stay too much the same. Maybe that’s why bronzeriders have become so bold.” She turns her head just enough to press a gentle kiss against Emily’s jaw before her hand resumes its path through her hair. “Melody’s sleeping over at a friend’s tonight, if you want to… stay,” she murmurs. “I don’t mean as in go to bed,” she hastens to clarify. “Though I do mean… sleep in the same bed, I suppose. Just… I don’t know, read and eat cookies and get crumbs in the blankets. And then maybe get some sleep like them two.” She nods towards their dragons.

“Read and eat cookies?” Emily asks, delight lighting her features as she looks towards Echo with a smile. “That sounds relaxing. And fun. I’d love to sleep over.” She reaches her hand up to brush her fingers gently along Echo’s jawline. “Thank you,” she says, no trace of her earlier jitters present. “For befriending me. I realize it’s rather odd to have a goldrider bump into you, discuss Southern politics, then proceed to visit you… and,” her lips twist ruefully as her gaze drifts towards the whiskey bottle. “Try to awkwardly announce a date with alcohol…,” she must realize she’s dangerously close to apologizing as she pauses and blushes. “I don’t know if I’m doing anything right and I realize it might be weird… for you… to have my focus like that. We can be friends,” she clarifies, “and nothing more.”

Echo watches Emily for a long moment, then shifts so that she can sit opposite her and reach for both of her hands to hold. “Sweetheart, listen to me. I’m going to say this plainly because it’s pretty much the only way I know how. I like you. In the romantic, would quite like for you to be my girlfriend way.” She waits, trying to perceive some reaction, before barrelling on. “If that’s not what you want, then it’s not what you want, and we don’t talk about it ever again. And even if it is what you want, I’m not looking to take you to bed if you never want to.” Glancing down at her feet, she says, “Melody’s never needed a father, but maybe she’d like another mother, in time. As long as you wouldn’t mind me giving her a sibling, potentially. I mean if any of it – me, her, Kahotaith – is what you want.”

“Girlfriend!” Emily’s eyes grow wide at that and it causes her to sit up. “Why, I thought it was going to be very complicated to even get to that.” A sudden boldness takes hold of her and she leans forward to kiss Echo. It’s a little more than a peck, but it’s enough to draw a blush from Emily as she pulls back from her. “You’re making my head spin. Talking about siblings and babies and, well, can I have a baby too?” she asks with a silly little tilt to her smile. “Hanath will be overjoyed at the idea.” She reaches for Echo to hug then, adding shyly, “I may not understand some things, but I know you wanting me, and me wanting all that you’re offering, is special.”

Echo can only smile after Emily kisses her, in a faintly besotted way that she soon tamps down beneath something more even. She keeps her hands curled somewhere about the goldrider’s elbows when she draws back from hugging her, saying, “I have to… be quite direct about what is and isn’t possible, because my life isn’t really my own. That Melody is happy and grows up feeling safe is my priority… Me and Kahotaith are much the same. If he’s happy, I am, and vice versa. I only mention giving her a sibling because… that isn’t something that could happen between you and me. I wouldn’t want it to become a problem somewhere down the line, if there is a line, I mean. If you want children, that’s entirely your decision; I’d never stand in your way. It’d only ever be an issue if the getting of them led to anyone hurting you.” She wrinkles her nose. “Though, on the subject of hurting, I can’t imagine your Weyrleader would be thrilled at the idea of me being more than a friend to you. If he decides to make me a target, he makes Melody a target too.”

Emily looks thoughtful and concerned as her brows crease and she asks, “Do you really think that C’aol would do something?” She shakes her head. “It isn’t the same as Rori. Hanath isn’t bonded or caught by a blue. If Kahotaith did end up catching her, it isn’t as if I am a Senior Weyrwoman. A junior gold caught by a strong brown is a good catch.” She leans back from Echo. “C’aol has been as much an influence as Isolwyn in protecting young Safiye. What others may think of him, I cannot change. I know he wouldn’t harm a child. If you’re truly concerned about that… we should keep what’s between us, private. All we’ve done is kiss,” she adds, moving to reach for Echo’s hand to hold. “And I like the kissing very much. That isn’t anyone’s business but ours.”

“Senior or not… It can’t be said that the last brownrider whose lifemate caught a queen had a good time of it at Fort,” Echo murmurs, twining Emily’s fingers with hers. “Though that was before C’aol. My worry is less about what he might think to do to me… but to you and to Melody. I don’t have to live with him, for a start – if and when any rumour might get back to him, I’d think any… disapproval from him wouldn’t be a quiet or easy thing to live with, day to day. Putting Melody aside, if we’re to think as Safiye as a junior of Fort… I want to hope he would protect you too.” She leans in to brush her lips over Emily’s. “My Weyrleaders will care little if they note you staying with me. However, if anyone sees them,” she nods towards Kahotaith and Hanath, with a tiny smirk, “like that, I don’t think anything will be secret for long.”

Emily’s features shift towards sadness as Echo’s fingers twine with hers and the reality of the past is presented to her. “I don’t know what to say to erase the truth of the past, or the present. It is not as if I got treated well by the bronzerider whose dragon caught Hanath. I did the right thing by having an open flight and still I ended up being to blame, at least in some people’s eyes, for his behavior.” Her fingers tighten along Echo’s. “C’aol and Isolwyn put the Weyr first, this is true. I do not think that he would treat me any different, so long as my personal life does not cost the Weyr the quality of my work.” She leans towards Echo, almost slumping into her with a sigh. “Why does this have to be so complicated? I wish people would let us live how we wish without constantly finding faults in our choosing.”

“Because people like to tell others how to live their lives and always assume that they could do better than anyone else does,” Echo mutters, gently wrapping her arms around Emily. “Anyway,” she says more quietly, “it isn’t as if Kahotaith is a small and unruly brown. He leads a wing and knows right from wrong. If him and me have to square up to Daeserath and C’aol to prove we’re not miscreants and show our way of doing things is just as valid as theirs, whether we agree on things or not, then we will.” She runs a hand over Emily’s hair. “It’ll be how it’ll be. It just might be more difficult, is all.” Overdramatically, she reaches for the basket she assumes must contain food and nudges it towards the goldrider in a deliberate effort to distract her. “I’ll assume your intent wasn’t to get me drunk and have your way with me,” she teases, “so I’ll let you serve. And you can tell me what books you want to bring tonight.”

Emily smiles at Echo and her theatrics. She reaches for the basket and goes about pulling out the various edibles she brought – small cakes, sandwiches, fruits – and arranges them neatly on the plates she brought with. Having only shown the whiskey, it may come as a surprise when she brings out a thermos of tea that has been kept warm. She serves the tea and food to Echo like she would if they were at a grand party. It’s easier to talk about books and light-hearted topics, so Emily finds her pace with Echo in the conversation that is more centered around laughter and gentle teasing than trying to find ways to show Echo how much she likes her. It’s near dark when they finally leave the North and Emily goes home to collect her things before she and Hanath head into Southern’s skies. How the rest of the evening may go, will be entirely up to Echo.

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