To Protect

Who: Nala and Rori
Where: Nala and Rori’s Cothold
What: They figure out what they have to do.

The fall-out that Rori has encountered since S’ven’s punishment resulted in her admitting to being harassed for some length of time has been significant. Not knowing what to do in terms of repairing the relationships she has damaged, including the one with her wife, she has taken herself into relative isolation. She’s only present at Honshu to perform her duties, otherwise, she has taken up residence in the cothold she had built for her to share with Nala. Inaskashath has not done more than brush her mind along Jynth’s each day in acknowledgement of her bond to him, not wanting to share her rider’s feelings, nor request to know of his rider’s. Today she reaches out near mid-afternoon and asks, << We have need of you and Nala. Please come to the cothold so Rori can talk to Nala. >>

Nala has made little effort to keep Rori from isolating herself, letting her do as she chooses with a faintly satisfied air that one may assume is born of her believing to keep her distance from her is the right thing to do. When Inaskashath reaches out to Jynth, he provides no verbal confirmation that he has heard her, but for one who rarely favours words, this is not entirely uncommon. About half an hour passes before he appears over the cothold and deposits both his rider and Cinder, the latter of which goes barrelling ahead for the door, while Nala turns to him and quite literally digs her heels in. “Go.” When he doesn’t move, she repeats herself, flexing an arm that makes him unfurl a wing. Whether she forces him Between again is unclear, but Jynth is soon gone, leaving her to approach the cothold alone.

Inaskashath is resting outside of the cothold and lifts her head to warble a greeting to Jynth upon his appearance. At his quick dismissal, Inaskashath issues a low hiss of displeasure that she directs to Nala before she takes herself into the skies and blinks Between. Rori opens the door and greets Cinder as she normally would, making no comment about the disappearance of her gold in Nala and Cinder’s arrival. She looks no different than she has in months past, save for she looks to have gained some weight. She keeps the door open and looks to Nala as she waits for the bluerider to enter.

Nala seems as unfazed as ever, even when Inaskashath hisses at her, though she lingers at the door and doesn’t advance further than just in-side, as if the cothold is no longer hers in which to live. “Jynth said that you have summoned us,” is what she offers by way of greeting. “He was told that you wanted to talk.” And so she leaves the floor to her wife, clasping her hands behind her back to await the reason why her presence has been asked for.

Rori acknowledges Nala’s resistance to entering the home as if it were hers and steps back to wave her wife inside. She looks like she’s going to close the door after her but changes her mind. She moves inside where the house is as neat as it always was – though no baked goods seem to be scattered in the tiny kitchen area like it would have been. “I don’t know how to start this other than to get right to the point,” she announces with a sigh as she moves to lean against the kitchen counter and look at Nala. “I’m going to be sent to Benden to be their interim Senior Weyrwoman. That… puts even more distance between us. I don’t want things to continue as they are. But, if you do, I suppose they will get easier for you and Jynth.”

Nala takes slow steps after Rori, though not without a look back towards the door. She stays close to the wall and stays there as news of Benden is delivered, her features betraying nothing of what she might feel upon learning Rori’s immediate fate. “It is a way to redeem yourself in the eyes of the Council. If you look after Benden well and bring it under control, they may change their minds about your perceived errors in judgement in the past.” She takes a breath and lets it go. “Find Inaskashath another mate while you are there. Protect yourself. I have done my best to keep Jynth from getting too close to her. All of this… it is an opportunity you would be foolish to waste.”

Rori does not hide the hurt that slashes across her features at Nala’s answer, though she must have prepared herself for such answers to come. “I will go to Benden because it is my duty to do so and they need my and Inaskashath’s help. Whether or not that redeems me will remain to be seen. I am not in the best standing with Priska at this time, so my going may help ease that tension as well.” She takes a breath and settles her arms in front of her, hugging her arms close about herself. “Inaskashath’s flights will remain open to all who are capable of chasing her. That includes Jynth, unless you choose to bar him from it. That may be easier to achieve now that I’ll be going to Benden for the foreseeable future. I do not want it to… end our marriage. You’re too important to me. I’ve tried to give you space so I did not continue to hurt you. I never imagined it going to this level of space.”

“I cannot have him chase her,” Nala states, leaning back against the wall. “If I had any real choice in any of this, it is not the option I would choose, but the fact remains that they will continue to threaten us or worse every time he sires a dragon that is out of the ordinary. This is a good chance for you to put everything behind you.” She ducks her head. “Let us be honest. It is Jynth that is the problem. He is the wrong size for his colour and looks to the wrong colour for a mate. Without him, there is no taint on her; she is the same line as Fort and Honshu’s senior queens.” Looking back up, she says, “There comes a time when even you have to acknowledge that. You could even keep Benden, without him.”

“I do not want to keep Benden nor any other Weyr,” Rori’s voice is strained on that point as she looks at Nala. “That is the one acknowledgement I am not allowed to make. If I wanted a Weyr, Honshu was mine to have. I could have tried to keep Fort. I walked away from both of them. And not because of Inaskahath’s choice in Jynth or his in hers. I did it because there is more to my life than chasing a knot I happened upon chance. I did not earn it. I do not want it.” She flicks a hand out as if discarding something before she re-tucks it around her middle. “You are asking her to breed with another. If another can catch her, she will be forced to. She has no choice in who catches her anymore than I have a choice of who would catch me if it happened. If you still love me, help me work through this. I don’t want to lose you over this.”

“I am not asking, I am //telling//.” Nala’s fingers turn white knuckled, but she doesn’t uncurl her arms. “Do you want this to be something they force us to do, or do you want to keep her safe before that happens? What if they insist on making sure she cannot breed with anyone anymore? You have got to think clearly and you are not. You need to protect her from further interference.” She passes a hand through her hand and twists her arms back around herself. “Aerishani locked herself away during flights. You could do the same. There is no need to equate Jynth not flying Inaskashath with something like… divorce. Plenty of couples have dragons who are not a pair themselves.”

“Being a pair is what made all of us so bonded and special,” Rori lets slip out as she looks away from Nala towards the distant wall. “I loved sharing that with her, and you.” She turns her back on Nala then and strides into the kitchen area to wipe down already clean counters. “I’ll open her flight up to everyone as I always do and since I’ll be in Benden, it’ll be easier for you to keep Jynth here. We will see if it’s Jynth’s pairing with her or Inaskashath’s own defects that creates unusual dragonettes.” She scrubs at a part of the kitchen tiles with more vigor than is needed. “I’ll be in Benden when she next rises if things move slow enough. There’s no way to keep Jynth away and let you be there. And I’m not sure I could handle her flights with no release myself.” She looks to Nala then. “So what does that mean? Where does that leave us?”

“The kind of special that puts you and Inaskashath in danger, so there is presently no choice but to ensure that it stops.” Nala directs her gaze to the floor and doesn’t appear interested in looking up again in the near future, her dark eyes unfocused. “It means you make friends with someone at Benden that you can trust and spend her flight with them, if you cannot live with the uncertainty of it being the rider of the dragon who will catch her. With distance there, Jynth will eventually begin to chase others again. Flights are not something even those weyrmated and married can avoid.” She twitches her shoulders. “It leaves you at Benden and me here, trying to make Jynth forget. It is for the best. If she proves herself to be a capable breeding queen without him, then maybe no-one will mind so much that you married a bluerider.”

Rori bites her lower lip and looks towards the ceiling as she fights back the sudden urge to cry. She shakes her head and throws her dishtowel into the sink. “It’s hurting Inaskashath. To be forced from him. To have others judge their babies the way they do. Distance may help Jynth forget, I am not so sure it will help Inaskashath.” She draws her hands back through her hair and then twists it into a bun above her neck. “If I go to Benden, she is flown by another male, and produces a gold egg, we may be able to find some peace,” she finally acknowledges. “If I do all of that, can we work on… our marriage?” She quiets her voice and adds, “I miss you every day.”

“I do not have another choice, Rori!” Nala snaps, closing her eyes and cringing away from her own words. “It would be negligent of me to let this keep happening, when I am the one who can stop it. Do you think that this is what I want? I hardly know a difference between Jynth and me on most days! If I have to break his heart and mine to keep you and Inaskashath safe, then I have to do it. Is this not what you promise when you marry someone? To protect them? To do what is best for them, even when they cannot see it themselves? //Especially// when they cannot see it themselves?” Looking up, she insists, “I love you. If you could not trust me over S’ven… trust me about this instead.”

Rori eases from around the kitchen and moves to Nala’s side, clearly looking like she would seek a hug or give one. “I’m listening to you,” she tells her, no longer digging in her heels on denial of how she handled S’ven by keeping Nala excluded from the situation. “I’ll go to Benden. I’ll allow Inaskashath to be flown by a bronze or a brown. We can hope for a gold egg, or not. If it is what is needed to get the Council from constantly looking at us as a thing to hate and fear… I will do it. To protect you.” She digs her fingers into the folds of her skirt. “Priska told me she will not allow you to join me,” she adds, feeling the need for open honesty now moreso than she might’ve in the past when she tried to shield Nala from hurt. “She should find a real reason to keep you other than for political maneuvering. I told her as much.”

“…I would serve no purpose at Benden,” Nala murmurs, letting her eyes fall closed again. “It would be up to your Weyrleader to find me something to do, when I have a wing and duties here. And I would only be a reminder to everyone of what we are trying to get them to stop thinking about.” Slowly, she unknots her arms and lets her hands reach to settle at Rori’s waist, gathering her close and then turning to nudge her back against the wall. “Staying here will keep you safer,” she murmurs against her neck. “Whether it is politics or not… I agree with Priska. Giving you this opportunity is a real reason.”

It’s having Nala’s arms around her that undoes Rori and the sobs that she’s kept back rush out of her. She curls herself around Nala, snuffling and trying to stop her tears as she shoves her fist against her mouth. “I’ve ruined everything,” she chokes out, “I’m so sorry. It’s all my fault.” No other words can be found as her tears continue and she shudders against Nala. She manages to stop herself before full hysterics hit her as she takes a few shuddering breaths to calm herself and stop her tears. She can’t find access to any other words so she remains silent.

Nala doesn’t rush to try and suggest that Rori is wrong, but opts for silence and simply keeps her arms around her, letting her hands slide from her waist to loop her properly into her embrace. She keeps her head ducked down and her face tucked into the crook of her neck as she cries, choosing not to interrupt her and let her get it out of her system without interference or the suggestion that she should stop for her sake. When Rori is quiet again, she lifts her head and looks down at her, smoothing her hair back from her face. “It is what it is, Rori,” she says quietly. “If I had left you well enough alone after Jynth had caught Inaskashath the first time, I might have saved you from all of this. It was selfish of me. You are my wife and I do not regret that… but, had you been someone else’s wife, you would have been far safer.”
“You are the one who would have been safer,” Rori reminds Nala, shaking her head as she pulls back enough to wipe her palms at her cheeks. “I’ve not been in any danger. It’s my knot and Inaskashath’s color that continues to be put as an issue. That’s on the Council. And the Weyrs. I’ve always done my duty. They want to own too much of who and what we are.” She moves back to hugging Nala, burrowing her nose against the bluerider’s neck. “I won’t regret the best thing that has happened in my life, Nala. I love you. I’m glad that you’re my wife and you’re by my side. Thank you…, for accepting me even when I make mistakes.”

“It is not about accepting you. I love you. That is that.” Nala presses her lips to Rori’s cheek, then kisses her and moves to tuck her beneath her chin. “You go to Benden and I will do whatever Honshu bids me here. If their intention is not to work me into the ground in your absence, I… will go to Bitra and demand answers about my son. He would be a teenager now, if he lives.” She touches a kiss to the top of Rori’s head. “So, we will definitely both have a purpose.” Lapsing back into silence, she does nothing but hold her for long moments until asking, “…When do they want you to go?”

Rori stays quiet as Nala talks, not wanting to say anything that may stop her from saying what she needs to say. She lifts her head at the direct question and looks at Nala. “They didn’t say ‘when’ but I would assume ‘tomorrow’ would likely be their answer if I asked. I wanted to settle my affairs at Honshu before I took myself there. My conversation with Priska… did not go very well.” She shakes her head and sighs, moving to kiss Nala gently on the cheek. “You should focus on the answers you need. Honshu should not be so demanding. I was told you could not follow me to Benden,” she adds, moving to draw her arms around Nala’s shoulders and angle herself to press her forehead against the bluerider’s. “That doesn’t mean we can’t see each other during all of this. I may not be able to go with you when you search for your son. However, taking on the Benden knot would give us leverage should you need it in finding him.”

“…I will have to ask someone else to bring me to Benden,” Nala murmurs, closing her eyes as she presses her forehead to Rori’s. “If I allow Jynth to spend time with Inaskashath there, it will be to let him assume that he is still to be her mate and that I will permit him to pursue her when she next rises. And if she is to consider other males, it would be wrong to distract her or dissuade them from her.” She sighs. “I may need to stay away for a while, until it is easier to keep him away. Until he is not so angry. He knows full well what I intend to do; there is no hiding it from him. I can only hope that he forgets.”

Rori finds herself quietly weeping again as Nala’s words further sink in. She curls herself against her wife and hugs her close, sniffling now and then as she tries to settle her emotions. “Inaskashath is threatening not to go. I don’t know if they all realize what it is they are asking us to do. The world is not in need of dragons! There is no shortage! They should let us be.” She shakes her head and then peels herself away from Nala, turning as she scrubs her hands along her face. “I’m not being fair in being upset but I can’t help it. Were she green no one would care. I don’t even know if Priska fully realizes what it is she is tasking me with. It’s this or they’ve threatened to Between their eggs. All due to fear!”

Nala lets Rori distance herself from her and clasps her hands behind her back again. “…But the world is in need of you,” she points out as gently as she can manage. “Perhaps their hope is you will put Benden to rights and then decide to keep it as your own, so they need never worry about it. Honshu itself has not exactly… had the best standing after all that O’rlen and Aerishani did during their time in power. Priska may not be in much of a position to negotiate.” She squares her shoulders. “…Though Aerishani and O’rlen’s marriage did pave the way for our own, so I suppose I should not speak too poorly of them.” Her gaze finds the floor again, briefly. “…Maybe Inaskashath and Jynth will not need to be a breeding pair to still… be mates. I do not know how it works. And maybe if their queen daughter can breed safely, they will let them be a pair again.” Lips curving in a sad smile, she declares, “It does not mean I love you any less. But you can protect yourself, this way. This is what I want you to do. Be angry at me, if it helps.”

“Everyone loves to blame Aerishani and O’rlen. I think people forget that when Aerishani came to Honshu it was felt that she was a Fortian spy. And now, who is leading the Weyrs? Fort. I wouldn’t put it past C’aol to somehow have orchestrated it all. He may be a good leader but he got to power anyway he could.” She turns back to Nala and then adds, “I will do what is needed for Benden. And I will take Inaskashath and hope that when she glows, a bronze flies her and produces a gold egg. I will not keep Benden. I do not want a Weyr of my own. I want this,” she gestures at their house. “And you. I would retire my knot to have it, if it’s what you wanted. You are the most important person to me. The world will figure itself out, if needed.” She moves into her kitchen and begins to pull out some bowls. “Let me bake us something. Are you in the mood for biscuits or cake?”

“I would never ask you to retire for me.” Nala unclasps her hands and follows after Rori, reaching to snare her fingers with hers and stop her from retrieving any further bowls. She keeps her hold on her hands until she’s sure nothing more will be reached for, then gently tugs her towards her and dips her head to press her lips to hers. “You can bake later, if you wish,” she tells her. “But if there is a chance that they will send you away tomorrow and I will have to keep my distance for longer than I already have, then you and me are going to bed.” She leaves no room for protest, making to draw Rori after her and to their bed, where she spends the next few hours trying to make sure that they both forget the past few weeks and what is ahead of them for long enough that none of it seems like anything worth spending time worrying over. At least, for now.

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