Betrayal

Who: Isolwyn and C’aol
Where: Weyrleaders’ Weyr, Fort Weyr
What: One of the Weyrwomen has betrayed the rest.


When the letter arrives, delivered by firelizard, it’s late enough that true darkness has fallen over the Weyr. Eosyth lies curled up in her wallow, a neat oval of nose to tail gold, already asleep as her clutching draws ever nearer, and Isolwyn and Casi lie on a quilted blanket on the floor of the living area, the former contentedly watching the latter pulling at a mobile of stars and moons and firelizards. The very real firelizard drops the letter down onto Isolwyn’s stomach as Casi grabs onto a star, vanishing the moment that its duty is done. Though the Weyrwoman keeps her focus on her daughter, she breaks the seal on the paper and lifts it above her to read, only to suddenly sit up, sweeping her hair back. “Igen’s betrayed us. The goldriders, I mean. Juno says N’colas visited R’byn for his support to summon the Council and demand to know why the Weyrwomen met.”

With Eosyth’s clutching so near, Daeserath has taken to lurking on the fire heights of Fort. Those who are on watch have been shifted to accommodate the bronze’s mood – meaning, the bulk of those on a watch has shifted to greenriders until further notice. C’aol has been relaxing in his chair while Isolwyn and their daughter enjoy their time together on the blanket. He notices the arrival of the firelizard with a furrow of brows as he lowers the book he had been reading. He snaps the book closed as Isolwyn announces the news. “Igen? I would have expected this from Benden. R’byn will not give N’colas the support if he knows what is best for him. He always tries to remain neutral. I’ll have to demand he take our side in this.”

“Igen has no reason to want the world to change,” Isolwyn murmurs, holding up the letter for C’aol to take as she reaches to gather up Casi and hold her close in some subconscious need for comfort. “I’d argue that they, of all of us, make the most profit in how things are now. Change, for them, means having to adapt. Any kind of change. If Weyrs support their goldriders and other female riders better, then the Crafts will have to. Then the Holds. Where people stand on wanting to deal with women crafters with more power could disrupt their supply chains and dealings.” She kisses the top of their daughter’s head. “Perhaps Benden has wised up to the fact that someone will flatten them if they continue to step out of line.”

“No, I believe more that Benden has done a better job of hiding their intentions from us.” He shakes his head and slaps the book a few times on his thigh in thought as he watches Isolwyn and Casi. “The Weyrs are where the change has always happened. Anyone who has had any amount of education knows our Pernese history. We are going to keep pushing forward on this.” He gives a final slap of the book and then tosses it on to the table in front of him. “Women in power disrupting their profits is absolutely the fear but it’s illogical.” He shakes his head and glances up at the ceiling for a moment, his gaze going distant as he navigates some of Daeserath’s input. “We should let them call the Council together. And we will need to ask for the Masterharper at this point. We will force the issue to be a matter of new law.”

Isolwyn keeps her head ducked down against Casi’s for a few moments more, then leans forward to settle her back on the blanket, where she watches her start grabbing at stars again with a wistful edge that betrays that irony is not lost on her. “I can’t understand why these women are content with their lives being at risk, their independence a matter of debate for their Weyrleaders, and their own Weyrs not being theirs. Queens rule. They set the tone and law of their homes. There’s playing politics and there’s playing against your own gender and condemning you all.” She looks up at C’aol. “Bronzeriders being a danger is one thing… The foolishness of some goldriders is almost even more intolerable. Maybe the Masterharper’s presence would shock some of them back to the reality of the situation.”

“I believe we are in need of the shock to take effect. We need people to understand that change will and should happen. That this has been tolerated for so many years will end as well. I don’t care if you have to form a separate council for the Weyrwomen. But you need to find a way to unite them to this plan. Either through removal of them in power, or restructuring them, I don’t care.” He sighs and looks to Casi for a moment, hardness entering his gaze. “I won’t have her grow up to face these same issues. We need to repair this before she’s of an age where it would impact her.”

Oblivious to her father’s study, Casi nudges one of the firelizards above her with her feet, then gives it a stronger kick that elicits a smile when it sends the critter in a loop. Isolwyn too, smiles despite herself, letting that moment of their daughter’s glee pierce the dark cloud of the subject at hand. “If I can’t unite them and my hands are tied, then hoping for queens from Eosyth, Hanath and Yedrith may be the only option. As limiting as it is in terms of bloodlines, it may be that queenriders we have picked and trained are better than a blade hanging over Weyrwomen’s heads.” Carefully, she reaches to untangle the firelizard for Casi to kick again. “That I have Priska and Juno on-side is a given. Nalmi listens to me more often than not, so that’s Honshu, Southern and Telgar. Igen is clearly a no, as is Benden. High Reaches has been more malleable since their last Weyrleader met his end. We need them or Ista to pass anything by vote, purely on numbers.”

“T’var’s been a steady leader at High Reaches since he took over. I don’t know enough about Amina to understand where her loyalties may lie. High Reaches has effectively been doing what Southern has – not choosing sides and waiting until the rest of us figure out how to move forward. Maybe we can look to lean on them more,” C’aol muses as he keeps his eyes on the activities of Casi rather than focusing on Isolwyn herself. “She’s gotten good at reaching that toy,” he observes in a rather out-of-character acknowledgement of their daughter. He shakes his head and leans back in his chair, sighing as he refocuses on the topic at hand. What are Ista’s ties to Igen?” he looks to Isolwyn then. “Is it possible they will side with them and Benden?”

“She’s going to be on her feet and ordering around everyone in the caverns soon,” Isolwyn declares, lounging back down beside Casi, which brings her into close enough range that she earns little fingers grabbing at her hair for her trouble. “I think, if Ista feels their loyalty ought to be with their nearest neighbour, they’ll side with Igen. Or if it feels like a matter of north verses south. We’re apt to have more immediate impact and success leaning on High Reaches than trying to bargain with Ista, I would wager.” She’s gentle in untangling Casi’s fingers from her hair and pressing a kiss there before batting at one of the stars to capture her attention. “If they summon us all in the next few days, Eosyth ought to remain here. Her mental reach is enough that the distance would be nothing for her to be there in that manner, but with her clutch being here soon, I’m not sure I want her so physically close to queens we cannot trust.”

C’aol’s features relax slightly as Isolwyn returns to lounging with Casi, calm slowly being returned to his body after the news hit. “Daeserath will not leave Eosyth’s side at this time. We will have to seek someone to take us both to the Council. I won’t even consider risking hosting it at Fort. We should reach out to High Reaches first, I agree with you there. I do not trust Igen or Ista at this point. Their neighborly intentions may be more to themselves than the rest of us.” He rubs briefly at the bridge of his nose and puffs out a breath. “Who would you trust to take us to the Council? We could involve Emily and Hanath.”

“Emily and Hanath are probably the best choice,” Isolwyn agrees, looking up from Casi and to C’aol. “Asking Safiye might make her feel important, but Vesoviath has no compulsion and drawing attention to them could just make them more of a target.” She frowns. “Have you noticed that they’re spending more time outside the Weyr lately? Emily and Hanath, that is. I’m not complaining – I’m glad she’s found something to interest her, if that’s it.” Gently, she reaches to gather Casi up, tucking her close as she gets to her feet. “I should put her to bed,” she says quietly. “Then I’m coming back out here to claim your lap.”

“I would not ask Safiye or Vesoviath not only because it could put them at undo risk but also,” C’aol frowns at Isolwyn as he continues, “It would not send the message I want these other Weyrleaders to hear. We will not encourage a display of Inaskashath and Jynth’s mating.” He shakes his head and then he pauses as he listens to Isolwyn share more information about Emily and Hanath as she gathers up Casi. “You should ask who it is she is spending her time with and where. If it’s at another Weyr, it’s important we know at this time where she goes. For her safety. And our politics.” He nods his head at the mention of putting Casi down to sleep. “I’ll be waiting.” He does not rise to kiss Casi or say goodnight to his daughter.

Isolwyn is gone a fair while, taking the time to ensure that Casi is clean and warm and comfortable before she leaves her, waiting to make sure that she’s enough on the verge of sleep that walking away doesn’t set her to crying for her. When she returns, she does exactly as she stated she would, folding herself down into C’aol’s lap to curl against him without any question that she might interrupt his reading again. It’s difficult to discern whether there’s simply been something easier or more confident in her affections since Casi’s arrival, a hand pressed to his chest while she rests her head on his shoulder. “I’ll ask Emily where she’s going,” she murmurs. “I’d like to think she has better judgement than to let some bronzerider who’d be bad for Fort romance her, but sometimes the heart is not to be trusted.”

C’aol relaxes noticeably when Isolwyn settles in his lap, his arm moving to encircle her and pulls her closer as she settles her head on his shoulder. He presses a kiss to her head as he takes in a calming inhale as her scent washes over him and provides comfort. “Emily already proved to us that she puts Fort first when she had the open flight for Hanath as our junior. That it went south was through no fault of her own. I trust that she has a good head on her shoulders. You train them too well for them not to.” He hugs her against him and closes his eyes. “Enough politics for the night, Isolwyn. Let us find our distraction how we will and settle in for the night as the family we are.” That he said ‘family’ is not acknowledged more than that – though it is the first he’s called it by name.

Isolwyn noses her way along his jaw, then drops her head back down to tuck her face into the crook of his neck, closing her eyes with a content sigh. She lets stillness and silence settle between them for a while, happy in the simplicity of their closeness, the quiet eventually broken only when she speaks a low, “My love,” across his skin. Shifting then, she reaches to draw C’aol down to the floor and beneath her before the hearth, where she wiles away the time by divesting him of his clothes and slowly taking him apart, piece by piece. She’s grinning fiercely into his shoulder by the end, then gets her feet beneath her and stands, pulling him up after her to run a bath and settle into the warm water. The next few hours are blessedly uninterrupted by any baby’s cries, yet when Casi does wake, fretful, she gathers her up and brings her back to bed to curl her close and fold herself back into C’aol’s arms to watch over her until their daughter drifts back to sleep.

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