Who: Isolwyn, C’aol, Casi, Holden, Terse, Eosyth, Daeserath
Where: Weyrleaders’ Weyr, Fort Weyr
What: Casi’s first birthday brings unwelcome guests.
Isolwyn is usually not one to want anyone beyond C’aol, herself and their daughter in their weyr, beyond the drudges who visit periodically to clean, but when there is no keeping quiet that it’s said daughter’s birthday, there’s also no keeping people from the door or fighting the prospect of a party. Or, at least, it looks like a party, with drinks and nibbles and cake set out for those who turn up to visit Casi, who has thus far spent much of the day just as enthralled with the various wrappings of presents as she is with what gifts she’s received, some from other Weyrleaders allied with Fort, others from Holders who have taken the time to find out when her birthday is as a matter of good manners. It’s all taken Isolwyn aback a little, but Casi looks perfectly content, currently using the couch to hold herself up as she edges her way along to grabbing for a feline plush with a big bow.
C’aol has had varying moods since the influx of people have entered a time he had anticipated quietly celebrating with his daughter and Isolwyn. To the Holders who come to fawn over and make false claims of delight, C’aol is curt and cold to. The only semblance of warmth that is shown is towards Emily when she comes to bring gifts and does not linger outside of talking briefly to Isolwyn and offering congratulations to C’aol in a manner that draws the briefest hints of a smile from the Weyrleader. The party is nearly winding down with the guests having left them in peace for nearly thirty minutes before the next two to enter freeze C’aol entirely. Holden and Terse enter, the Lord far more pushy, than the Lady who comes along more quietly with an armful of gifts. Terse has a tentative smile given to Isolwyn and then she looks nervously at C’aol. “Really,” C’aol drawls, eying his younger brother. “You would choose this day to finally meet your niece.”
Casi pounces on the feline just as Holden’s shadow passes over her, making her look up at him with eyes so like her father’s, only to bury her face in the plush toy’s fur and give a squeal of delight, pushing away from the couch to toddle and drift into her mother’s arms. Isolwyn gathers up Casi and feline both, murmuring something to her as she cuddles her close, but the very second she looks up, the little girl’s head tucked beneath her own, there’s not a flicker of anything readable on her features, despite the adoration of a mere moment ago. She gets to her feet, bringing Casi with her, and lets her gaze roam between Terse and Holden, then to C’aol, silent and watchful. Then, slowly, she walks the distance to Terse, passing Holden with barely an instant’s acknowledgement, to shift Casi and offer her to her in a show of faith, meaning to relieve her of the gifts at the same time. “This is your aunt,” she tells the girl, who looks up at Terse with wide eyes.
“I had no need to visit the child you bore of contract,” Holden’s answer is stiff and his eyes sharp as he watches Isolwyn approach with Casi. “And since this one has lived to be one, I thought it was time to come and see what your Blood produced.” Terse gives a worried glance to Holden and C’aol both before she welcomes the distraction offered by taking Casi into her arms. She’s natural with holding the child and keeps her facing slightly out so as not to overwhelm her, and allow her to reach back for her mother quickly should she need it. “I see you like felines,” she murmurs to the little girl with a small smile, “I brought you another one just like this.” She tickles the feline’s chin and then tickles the little girls before smiling more fully at Isolwyn. “She is a beautiful child.”
“I’m incredibly biased, but I can’t disagree,” Isolwyn tells Terse, offering a wry smile that softens as she looks down at the daughter who giggles and tries to capture Terse’s sleeve in her grip. The smile vanishes as Holden’s words register. “’This one’ has a name,” she says coolly, lifting her gaze from Casi to look slightly over one shoulder and back at Holden, fixing him with a level stare. “Her name is Casilyn. And if you are here to inspect her as you would breeding stock, I suggest that you reconsider precisely whether you wish to remain on the right side of her mother and this Weyr’s queen.” The rumble of thunder that ripples through Fort is by no means real, save for in the minds that Eosyth makes sure to ensnare from her spot at the star stones.
Daeserath’s roar follows that ripple of thunder as he takes himself to the fireheights. << Do not let the dragon's they come on leave. >> he demands of Eosyth, then rumbles as he realizes, << Of course it is done. >> C’aol turns to Isolwyn with a tight, cold, smile. “Darling,” he moves to step between Holden and the women. “My brother knows that I was tasked with denying my rights to Zaivar a long time ago. Now, why on //Pern// would he solicit a way for me to get my claws in that Hold again?” He tuts and then Terse quietly passes Casi back to Isolwyn with an apologetic smile. She steps towards Holden to reach for his arm, only to be rebuffed as he roughly elbows at her. She’s quick to miss the hit and it might go unnoticed. “Oh, //brother//, you would think I had interest in her for Blood, wouldn’t you? It’s what you like to use when you make your offspring.” He glances at Isolwyn and bows to her. “Weyrwoman, please. We were only here to offer our dear niece or gifts.”
<< Would you expect anything less? >> Eosyth is almost smug in her response, tucking her paws beneath her in a feline manner that belies nothing of the flicker of power she’s exerting. Isolwyn reaches to gather Casi back into her arms, though little fingers still try to cling to Terse’s sleeve for a moment, until they can be convinced to uncurl and let go. She’s adjusting her daughter’s weight against her when Holden elbows his wife away, making it easy to disguise the brief narrowing of her eyes as some momentary concern for Casi rather than her having noted anything. “Oh, please,” she says as Holden bows to her, “if anyone’s going to start throwing Blooded claims about, we should just declare me the winner now.” She smirks and runs a hand over Casi’s hair. “I am, of course, delighted with your sudden interest in our daughter. I’m sure she’ll enjoy what you’ve brought her very much. Thank you.”
“I’m sure their tired, Holden. We should leave Casi her gifts and go,” Terse dares to offer towards Holden, shoulders straightening as her eyes turn towards Isolwyn and Casi. “Happiest of turndays to you, sweet Casi. Thank you for letting me hold her, Isolwyn,” she offers a real smile that ends abruptly as Holden steps alongside her. Holden does not hide the deathly glare he shoots at Terse, feeling no need to mask his behaviors around a brother he believes to be as equal to violence as he. “My wife always has others’ in her mind. Of course we’ll leave you.” C’aol watches Holden closely, his eyes icier than normal, and his cheek twitching slightly as Daeserath once more roars. “It would be best if you leave before Eosyth and Daeserath do not let you,” he tells his brother firmly.
Eosyth has never been one to be concerned with breaking barriers when it suits her, though she is careful to keep the full force of her mental presence from impacting Terse when she reaches out with silver threads and whispers to tell her, << We will meet you at midday at the Healer Hall in a fortnight, if you can find reason to visit. Casi too. >> Isolwyn gives no indication that her queen has said or done anything at all, saying, “I’ll make sure she knows who brought her her gifts,” and while the bob of the shallowest of polite curtseys is angled towards Holden, it’s his wife she looks at as she lifts her head. “I don’t believe either of them are terribly good with strangers, are they, my love?” She paces to stand beside C’aol, her arms still snugly around Casi, who may not be fussing, but has gone terribly quiet.
Terse’s spine stiffens as the mental intrusion of a //dragon// washes over her mind. She blinks rapidly and then risks an incredulous look at Isolwyn before she manages to reign in her surprise and replace it with the unconcerned mask she tends to wear when in Holden’s presence. C’aol rests his hand briefly on the small of Isolwyn’s back as she comes near to him. “Good day to you, Holden. Terse.” He gives a nod of his head as a brownrider steps inside the weyr. “Lord, Lady, let me escort you to the dragon that waits to return you home,” the man says as he holds open the weyr’s door. Three other riders wait for the Zaivar leaders to join them on the steps outside of the weyr. “Not even trusting our own escorts, brother? Interesting. And to think, after what happened at Honshu all those years ago… and now, you’re a Weyrleader on the other side of the world.” He smirks at C’aol as he steps to grab Terse’s arm and lead her towards the waiting dragonriders. Once the pair have left the weyr C’aol moves to gather the presents they brought, intent on throwing them in the hearth.
“Wait!” Isolwyn lunges to rescue only the feline that Terse mentioned, sweeping it out of harm’s way without concern for investigating the rest. She settles it on the table with too much care for a simple toy, then looks down at Casi, whose eyes have begun to drift shut. “I’ll get her settled,” she murmurs, heading off for their daughter’s room, where she spends the minutes that follow ensuring that Casi has well and truly been claimed by her nap and is safe and snug in her crib. She leaves the door ajar and heads back through the weyr, to look C’aol up and down. “…He thinks you hurt me,” she says slowly, her brow furrowing. “What do you think they wanted? It plainly wasn’t a social call. And he certainly wasn’t interested in Casi.”
While Isolwyn is tending to Casi’s nap, C’aol takes the time to systematically burn all the clothing and objects that were packed along with the stuffed feline. He can’t burn the jewels, jewellry, and other gifts that serve nothing to a one turn old; these he sets on the table for Isolwyn to inspect. He’s stepped outside to discuss with the riders’ how the escort went to get the Zaivar couple home. He returns, looking far more angry than he has in some time, and turns to pouring himself a stiff drink.
Isolwyn doesn’t touch the jewels or any of the other shinier items that would mean nothing to Casi beyond being pretty things to grab for, but she studies each piece with the intent focus of a woman well used to appraising jewellery. “None of this is cheap,” she hazards. “Do you recognise any of it as having belonged to any of the women in your family? Your mother? I wouldn’t part with it on principle alone if it’s something Casi would have of them.” She looks up from the table and to C’aol. “I said he thinks you hurt me,” she says. “Or assumes it. He concealed little of his manners.” Pushing up from where she’s perched to examine the goods on the table, she goes to sit on the couch, at its edge. “What happened?”
“My father sold all our mother’s jewelry upon her death. Holden may claim some of that is family heirlooms, I know better,” C’aol answers sharply as he gives a narrowed stare to the objects before he moves to settle himself in his favorite chair. He takes a sip of his drink before he cradles it in his hands. “Of course he would assume I hurt you. You can’t say you didn’t notice how he was with his wife.” He shakes his head and eases himself back more fully in the chair. “I don’t know what he’s up to,” he amends, looking to Isolwyn. “I haven’t spoken to him since I left Honshu. I’ve had no need to. Why come now?” he plucks thoughtfully at his lower lip and then closes his eyes. “The rider that brought them here was one of Honshu’s journeymen smiths. Whatever that means, I’m not sure. Weren’t they pulling knots from their crafters?”
“We could always sell this,” Isolwyn gestures towards the gems and jewellery, “and the ones my cousin sent for Casi’s birth and set the money aside for her at the Harper Hall. In-case of emergency, if we aren’t around to support her when she needs it. In that eventuality, we won’t be here to be irritated at where the funds originated.” She shakes her head. “Honshu can’t have taken their knots or the crafthalls would be refusing to post any of their people there. Last I heard from Priska, they were fighting to get them to drill properly instead of craft. Which, if they’re set in their ways, is probably enough to irritate loyalty away from Honshu. That doesn’t explain why here, now, and anything to do with Casi, though.” Shadows fall across her features as she contemplates, “…Unless they want her to be their heir.”
“You may use them as you see fit for Casi or yourself,” C’aol answers her, darkness unable to leave the furrow in his brow and the sour expression he directs towards the drink in his hands before he drinks more. He looks up sharply at Isolwyn and his smile is full of bitterness, “It is true I have two children of Zaivar Blood and Holden has none. Regardless of his desires, Casi will only be named heir when she is old enough to want it. Not when she’s a child. He’d likely make some claim she’d have to be raised by him and Terse. I won’t have it.” He shakes his head and downs the last of his drink. “No, the loyalty of the riders at Honshu was always shaky. I had thought Priska and B’lian both could bring them in line. We will have to keep an eye on them. If Holden is going to use instability to his favor…,” he shakes his head.
“I certainly have no interest in them,” Isolwyn declares, shifting to finally sit back against the couch. “If you want to dispose of them, do. It should be your decision, it being from your family.” Jaw set, she utters, “I’d have your brother meet with an unfortunate accident before I let him take Casi from us.” No sooner has she settled than she gets to her feet again to pour a glass of wine from one of the spare bottles left. “Since my cousin’s in no position to argue with us, if you wanted to make a clear point and prevent further posturing from Zaivar, we could have something built on the land you signed over. Right on your brother’s proverbial doorstep.” She takes a sip from her glass. “Well, it can’t be said that Priska and B’lian had the best of starts at Honshu. They had their feet taken out from under them before they even got them on the ground.”
“Isolwyn,” C’aol looks to her, sobered from his anger by the alcohol he’s been sipping. There’s a rare flash of vulnerability on his face before it’s closed off. “You may disagree with me on this. You are Casi’s mother, so you have the final say. I do not want her to be exposed to the Holder lifestyle. That means, no posturing, no plotting, no planning. When it comes to her Blood, I’d rather us let her live here without the taint of the venom it can bring her.” He shakes his head and grows quiet, having said more than he was prepared for. “Do you feel that Priska and B’lian are out of their depths?”
Isolwyn pauses with her glass halfway to her lips, then lowers it again and sets it on the table, her gaze never leaving C’aol. “We’re her parents,” she declares, starting to take steps towards him. “I don’t have the final say. You’re her father. You love her and you want to protect her. I’d not deliberately do something that you don’t want for her, and I hope you wouldn’t choose to do anything that you know I’m against.” She moves to seat herself on the arm of his chair, leaning her shoulder into his. “If you want to cut any Holder ties from her life, then that’s what we’ll do. It isn’t as if she’s met my family, anyway. The problem will be what to do about that land, given she’s due to inherit it when she’s older.” Closing her eyes, she murmurs, “I think B’lian is a leader and Priska is technically competent, but emotionally wounded. They may fight for air for a while before they swim.”
“She can choose the land or not when she is of age to understand it,” C’aol decides, not looking at Isowlyn as he finishes his drink. “Until then, I don’t want to have it mentioned. She’s not to be bartered as some item to be used against the Holds.” He shakes his head and looks sidelong at Isolwyn. “How can she be so wounded? S’ven has been handled. I don’t understand. You’ve faced worse, and I do not see your wounds. You still lead with a razor edge.” He reaches to rest his hand on her thigh. “If she was not ready for the posting, we may need to see about assigning another goldrider – older – to help her transition. I had thought she was ready.”
“I… can’t remember a time when my family were… affectionate. When I was a daughter, a niece, a cousin, in anything but name. Before the Weyr, my life was a series of business transactions and long games. I fully expected everyone I knew to stab me in the back.” Isolwyn hesitates, her focus fixed on some distant, intangible thing. “… The rest… You or Eosyth will tear apart anyone who tries to touch me ever again. And I don’t let myself be alone in a room with men.” She shakes her head. “It was evident at the celebration for the clutch Yedrith was hatched from that Lord Telgar loves his daughter very much. And he still cast Priska aside. I imagine her family was just that: a family. They stabbed her in the back, and now she’s in a world where Weyrwomen are judged and targeted and betrayed. What S’ven did has only highlighted that. She’s learnt that people she loves will hurt her and that she can’t trust anyone, after living a very safe life.” One shoulder lifts in a light shrug. “She’ll either crack or Honshu will be the making of her. It’s too soon to tell.”
“I do not have the ability to make it any easier for her nor would I. It’s up to her and B’lian to square the Weyr. It’s why they were sent. If they aren’t fit for the task, we’ll have Priska return as our junior. We might have pushed her too fast,” C’aol muses and then moves to tug Isolwyn into his lap. His arms move warmly around her middle and he tucks his chin on her shoulder. He doesn’t have any other words to offer, his physical closeness meant as the balm his words would not be able to express.
“It’s not up to us now,” Isolwyn utters quietly. “The only way out for them is through resignations, and I don’t see either of them doing that, simply as a matter of pride.” As C’aol tugs her into his lap, she leans into him and rests her head against his, letting her eyes fall closed again with a content sigh. She doesn’t speak again for quite some time, happy in the silence that settles over the two of them, and when she finally breaks it, it’s with little more than a whisper. “You’re my family. You and Casi. Eosyth and Daeserath. We’ll keep her safe and away from the kind of people who raised us.”
“It is as it should be,” C’aol agrees without any hesitation. He hugs her a little tighter and then moves to shift her off of his lap so he can stand up. He takes a glance around their weyr, where various guests have left presents, wrapping, food and drink items on all the counter surfaces. “You should go and rest with Casi. I’ll go and see if the Headwoman can spare a resident or two to come and help tidy this up. There are a few things I need to settle…,” he does not elaborate to her, though the tightening of his jaw may indicate the ‘who’ of settling. “And will return shortly.” He looks down at her, moving to squeeze her hand briefly before letting it go. “I saw you be kind to Terse. She does not get much of that in Zaivar.”
“I intend to be kind to her again,” Isolwyn confesses, carefully smoothing her skirts down. It’s as much as she’s willing to share on that particular subject, for she tightens her hold on C’aol’s hand in turn and gently adds, “If she’ll let me. There are some things that I think are best shared between women.” As they part, she says, “Don’t worry about having anyone sent over. I can do this myself and I think I’ve had enough of other people for a little while.” It’s the wrapping that she goes after first, beginning to pluck it from where it’s been cast aside in various places, only she pauses for long enough to look up at him again. “…Don’t let him make you someone I wouldn’t recognise.” In his absence, she cleans up the weyr bit by bit, carefully stashing the majority of the gifts away and out of Casi’s sight to make the novelty of new toys last longer. When he returns, she’s cuddled up with her on the couch, reading to her from a book about a band of animals that go on adventures together, their daughter oblivious to the tensions of earlier in the day.