Who: Isolwyn and Emily
Where: Council Room, Fort Weyr
What: Isolwyn tells Emily about Telgar’s request.
Isolwyn waits two days for the effects of what happened at the recent Council meeting to ripple through the Weyrs, confirming only the news laws that she and C’aol brought back when directly asked about events, while committing to nothing of exactly went on regarding Benden’s leaders. Late afternoon of the second day, with Eosyth not having budged from the Sands since taking up residence there (though there remains no sign of eggs), Isolwyn sends one of the message boys from the caverns to find Emily and ask that she meets her in the council room. She’s sat herself there with tea and some biscuits, and the unusual addition of the silver tabby asleep in the middle of the table, curled inside what must usually be purposed as a fruit bowl.
Emily heads into the council room with a ledger in her arms and a writing utensil tucked behind her ear. She’s dressed in her usual sensible gown and boots for her day to day work managing her various duties at Fort. She brightens at the sight of the cat and moves close enough to run her fingers along the tabby’s ears. “Hanath will be so excited I got to see this one today,” she says to Isolwyn as she pulls back and settles in to a chair directly across from Isolwyn. She sets her ledger on the table and flips it open before she grabs the pen from behind her ear and looks to Isolwyn, clearly prepared to take notes. “How can I help you today, Isolwyn?”
“You can tell her that he’s taken on a glamorous new career as a fruit bowl,” Isolwyn says dryly, reaching to pour tea into the cups available. She sets one down in-front of Emily and then nudges the smaller tray containing cream and sweetener towards her. “I need to ask you something, and it’s really none of my business… but because you’re a queenrider and my junior, it unfortunately is my business nonetheless.” Sighing, she looks down into her cup. “I need to know where it is that you’re going in your free time. Forgive me, but you didn’t seem to leave the Weyr very much before, at least not without Safiye or Priska. I only want to know that you’re safe and that no-one stands to hurt you.”
“Hanath says that he makes a very good fruit bowl and she’s pleased to see he’s living so comfortably with you,” Emily shares after a brief moment of conversation with her queen. Surprise lifts her brows up at the direction of Isolwyn’s question and then she moves to shut her ledger shut. There’s a flush that rises up her chest and dashes across her cheekbones. “Well, I go to Southern Weyr,” she shares with Isolwyn, adding, “where I’ve been dating a very nice Wingleader there. A brownrider.” She is purposefully vague around the use of any pronouns. “I would say that Southern should be a safe enough place to form an outside attachment from Fort, wouldn’t you?” she’s eager in her question, embarrassment tossed aside as she focuses more on Isolwyn. “Fort and Southern have a strong relationship.”
“Fort and Southern do,” Isolwyn sighs, “but that brings me to the other matter that I have to put to you.” She adds sweetener to her tea, then lifts her cup to take a sip. “…Nalmi of Telgar resigned her knot after that… mess… with Benden’s leaders. Rather than nominate one of her own, or of her queen’s bloodline, she told C’aol and I that she wants to name you as her successor. In that event, she would step down as Weyrwoman the next time Hanath starts to glow, to ensure that you would claim Telgar.” Folding her arms atop the table, she leans there. “It is, ultimately, your decision. C’aol believes it to be a good thing, and I can’t say that I’m of a different mind, but I’m not against being vocally so if it’s something that you don’t want. I certainly don’t know what it might do to your new… relationship.”
Emily is stunned into silence by Nalmi’s request. “Me?” she asks without thinking, “Whatever for?” She stares at Isolwyn as she tries to go through possible interactions with Telgar’s Senior Weyrwoman that would have earned her naming of the successor to be her. She blinks a few times and shakes her head in wonder. “Well I cannot turn it down,” she decides as her posture straightens. “Not only would it show disrespect to Nalmi… it may have been requested because I am of FOrt. It would stand to reason that I step in as requested and bring some levelness to their Weyr. Also,” she surprises even herself as she says, “I would like to be a Senior Weyrwoman. I don’t see you standing down anytime soon, Isolwyn. We are too close in age. I would like to go to Telgar, if you and C”aol approve.” She pauses as she considers her relationship and adds, “The new rules state that a brown may chase a gold, correct? For a leadership role?”
“No. As long as Eosyth lives and rises and claims Fort as hers, I will fight anyone who tries to take this Weyr from me.” Isolwyn is unrepentant about it, her declaration made without a hint of shame or regret. “The rules state that a brown may chase any queen, regardless of their rider’s gender, and claim any rank. But you should be advised that Nalmi’s Weyrleader will, in all likelihood, do all that he can to keep his knot, though he can take no action against an outcome that doesn’t include him.” She takes another sip of her tea. “Not all browns have the stamina to catch a queen. They may be a little more agile, but bronzes have better staying power. If you do this… there is no guarantee that the brown you want will catch Hanath.” Sighing, she glances down at the table again. “You should weigh up what would be best for Telgar. And there’s always the possibility that Hanath will decide on a mate in the same manner that Eosyth and Yedrith have.”
“I would be assuming that the brown’s rider would want to come with us when we go. That is possibly unlikely, as she’s very settled at Southern and runs a very streamlined wing. I imagine she may want to be a Weyrleader but it’s not the same as with us. There is choices to be made to avoid that responsibility,” Emily answers Isolwyn matter-of-factly, clearly unbothered by Isolwyn’s firmness on holding ownership of Fort. She doesn’t register she’s slipped the gender of her partner into the conversation and continues onward. “I do not know P’teven all that well. There has to have been a reason why Nalmi wants to resign. I think I will ask her for the resign before I accept, so I understand fully the state of the Weyr. And I will have to meet with P’teven as well. Priska went to Honshu when Yedrith was nearly ready to fly. I wonder if I shouldn’t go to Telgar before Hanath rises, so I can learn the state of the Weyr before taking it fully on. What do you think?”
Isolwyn quirks a brow when she clocks that the person Emily is seeing is a woman, but she makes no remark of her own except to suggest, “If you hope for your Weyrleader to be your girlfriend, then I would… perhaps be prepared for there to be opposition. The Council may have agreed to the prospect, but the idea and reality… Well, it didn’t go well for Fort, for all that no-one will be permitted to directly oppose or remove her.” She holds up a hand. “In all honesty, I care not that they’re a woman; I only care that no-one hurts you. There’s no reason a brown shouldn’t provide a queen with a good clutch. C’aol, however, may need some time to grow accustomed to the idea.” Sitting back, she says, “I see no reason why you shouldn’t go to Telgar. This said, I don’t think there is some great hidden reason for Nalmi’s resignation. I believe she wants a quiet life; she looked sick to her stomach at what happened with Benden.”
“I know that it is unlikely to happen and I am prepared for that. Like I said, it’s a possibility she doesn’t want to leave Southern. She has a good life there and she’s important to their Weyr. Even if she were to want to come, it’s still a possibility with an open flight that another will catch Hanath. I have been through it before. The only concern I have, is I would like to bar Benden from Telgar’s leadership flight. I do not want to have to deal with their bronzerider, or another one, again.” Emily’s lips tighten as she pauses in her speech to look down at her ledger for a moment. “I would hope C’aol would approve of my choosing what is best for Telgar and not where my heart may want it to go. I am Fortian,” she lifts her gaze to Isolwyn, “and as Priska did – the Weyr will come first. I know she is glad it was B’lian at her side in the end. As you were that it was C’aol. I am prepared for the possibility it will be someone I have no romantic attachment of. Perhaps that would be best, after all.”
“If it’s to be your flight, then it will be your rules,” Isolwyn replies, pausing for long enough to heap another spoonful of sweetener into her tea. “I think the Council made that quite clear. Besides, I don’t think Benden is in any fit state to argue, with their leadership lost and their reputation in tatters.” She wrinkles her nose. “Though that only makes me think that we might be ‘encouraged’ to take on anyone who wishes to flee Benden at some point in the future. You might need to make it clear that you won’t accept transfers. For the moment, anyway.” Biting down on the inside of her lip, she casts her gaze down again. “C’aol will approve, provided your Weyr remains your priority. He has only the example of Rori’s choosing a bluerider to suggest what may be if a goldrider prefers women.”
“I do not prefer women,” Emily feels the need to clarify, “I would have fallen for Echo if she were a man. It’s the person that I’ve found that I’m attracted to.” She shrugs and then finally reaches forward to pour herself some tea. She does not select any sweetener to add to hers. “If I take over Telgar I will have to put the Weyr first. It’s people deserve that. Fort has thrived because of you and C’aol. Even those who speak about when Rori was here, speak well of her to a certain extent. We have a strong line of goldriders from Amorenth. I want to keep showing that we are the right choices. Do you know who will take over at Benden…? They make me the most nervous in all of this.” She takes a sip of her tea and waits for Isolwyn to answer.
“Neither of Benden’s transferred juniors are seen as fit to inherit. With Nalmi requesting you, and Priska at Honshu, I doubt that they would permit it to be another of our line even if we had another queen to send.” Isolwyn reaches for one of the biscuits and breaks off the edge to munch on. “Leaving such a contentious Weyr to potentially fall to the next queen to hatch seems unwise, so I imagine we’ll all be recalled to the Council soon to vote for a successor. We can’t leave a Weyr without a queen, even an interim one.” She shrugs a shoulder. “Perhaps Priska ought to send Rori there for a time.
“Rori does have a demonstrated history of rebuilding a Weyr, or at least, running it interim of another successor. I wonder how she would be received if she went with her wife and Jynth. I would worry about her safety if I’m honest. Still, it is not for me to decide,” Emily answers Isolwyn easily after a few more sips of her tea. “Do you have an idea of when I’d be sent to Telgar? And who would you have here as support? I believe fully in Safiye’s capability to be a full junior. I’ve trained her for a long time and now all I truly offer is advice when she asks for it. She’s still young but I believe the Headwoman and her staff respect her.” She reaches for a biscuit to nibble on. “If that would be allowed.”
“I think she would be better received were she not to go with her wife and let them not the part of her life that makes people doubt her.” Isolwyn sighs and takes another bite of biscuit. “I’ve never thought poorly of her as a Weyrwoman… but I do believe she’s demonstrated a lack of understanding when it comes to her queen and her role.” With the biscuit gone, she inclines her head. “C’aol and I have already decided that Safiye will serve as a junior. If Eosyth produces another queen, they will be needed, but it seems unlikely. It may be that we, one day, have to ask Priska to send us a gold out of Yedrith and Imahdth.” The smile Isolwyn flashes is sad at its edges. “As for you… Nalmi wants you when next Hanath glows. She wants to take no chances in a change of environment throwing her off her cycle.”
“Maybe she’s more like Aerishani. She knew the role and responsibilities of being a goldrider but never really has the choice to live a different life. I respect Aerishani for retiring and showing a way for others. Maybe Rori should consider retiring as well. For now, I hope she doesn’t. Benden could use your guidance. No matter what we may think of her, she has a demonstrated history of taking on a Weyr in need of interim guidance. It’d be the best start.” Emily finishes off her tea with a quick sip and then reaches to pour herself more. She holds the pot towards Isolwyn to top her off if she indicates she wants some. She nods curtly at the mention of waiting until Hanath next rises. “She is prepared to wait for that? I can’t think of the timing… but I don’t believe she’ll be set to glow in the next few months.”
Isolwyn shakes her head a little at the offer of more tea. “Nalmi is prepared to wait to ensure that no-one… thinks to interfere in the meantime. As far as I’m aware, her intentions aren’t widely known. When you transfer and she steps down, then of course it will look like the plan it’s been all along, but, for now, it’s primarily P’teven who stands to give her grief, and if he behaves poorly, he has the Council to answer to for not honouring her will.” She washes the biscuit down with the remains of her tea. “It’s not an ideal situation to step into, but then ideal would have been that whole meeting not happening or being necessary. We need to make it clear that queens rule.”
“Then we will make it clear,” Emily answers firmly. “And proceed forward to create a space where we don’t have to let children like Safiye fear for their safety because of misguided hatred and anger. Where women like Priska do not fear getting assaulted during their queens’ flight. Where even that poor brownrider, you know the one we rarely speak of? What was her name…,” she taps at her lower lip in thought. “Arlet? She was the Weyrleader here once. Think of the actions that were taken against her. It wasn’t that long ago. If I’m quite frank with you Isolwyn. I don’t know if the world is actually ready for two women leading a Weyr. If that were to happen at Telgar, I think I better prepare for handling safety measures moving forward.”
“My brother’s wife,” Isolwyn states, choosing not to make the distinction between blood and otherwise. “From what I’ve seen of her, she’s never properly recovered from what went on here. If your brownrider gets it into her head to chase, for your sake or hers, you should be… prepared that what may follow could mean that she’s never the same again. The decree states that a woman cannot be removed from the post of Weyrleader, but, as you say, it doesn’t mean that people would easily accept it.” She hesitates before saying, “It might be better that she’s discouraged from it. In any eventuality, the decision isn’t mine to make. I only know that your hold on Telgar must be absolute.”
Emily’s face whitens at the mention that the woman she is referencing is Isolwyn’s family. “I’m so sorry, Isolwyn, I didn’t know she was your brother’s wife. I would not have brought it up if I knew.” She seems to diminish after that, her body curling subtly in on itself as she grows quiet and listens to Isolwyn speak further. She nods her head at the reminder of her knot’s role. “Yes, Isolwyn. I’ll make sure that Telgar will come first.” She looks prepared to leave as she gathers her ledger to her. “Was there anything else we needed to discuss?” she asks without making clear eye contact with Isolwyn.
Isolwyn rises and starts to take steps that look like they would carry her from the room, only she stops beside Emily’s chair and reaches to gently grasp her chin between thumb and forefinger. “Emily, if I were offended, you would know.” She remains there, looking down at her, and doesn’t release her hold. “Between now and you leaving for Telgar, you and me are going to have to have words. Repeatedly. If I have to be a complete bitch to know you’ll fight me and anyone else, then I will.” Straightening, she abruptly presses a kiss to the top of Emily’s head. “Be prepared.” She doesn’t linger any longer.
Emily freezes at Isolwyn’s grasp takes over her chin and she stays rigid as she listens to all. She blinks at the kiss and then rises after Isolwyn gives her space to do so. “I know I can’t say you don’t need to do it,” she comments as she eases towards the door, either in step with Isolwyn or ahead of her if the Weyrwoman is going to stay behind. “So I’d best learn to stop saying sorry faster.” She pauses at the doorway and turns to look at Isolwyn. “I may say sorry and freeze up on things. But remember that I handled that Benden rider on my own and stayed firm when he was clearly in the wrong. I am strong.” And with that, she chooses to flee rather than wait for anymore feedback from her Weyrwoman.