Taozyuth Strikes Twice (Muir is searched)

Xanadu Weyr - Vine-Entwined Forest Cottage

The interior floor, ceiling and walls are raw wood that has been sanded and lacquered to make them smooth. Overhead, the cathedral ceiling gives the inside a spacious feel to it, the pale wood enlarging the space to the eye even though the cottage is fairly small. To the left, set under a large window, the bedroom area is plain, consisting of a wide bed and nightstands on either side. An ornately carved wardrobe, standing in a niche to the right of the door provides the only real decoration.

Past the wardrobe is a simple fireplace, the pearly stones rough-cut square, which provides both warmth and cooking since this cottage has no electricity. A simple leather couch has been placed in front of this and there are several hand-tufted rugs of lavender, moss green and white scattered about the glossy floors - Thea's handiwork. At the rear of the cottage is a simple kitchenette, countertop providing the division from the main area, while the back wall forms a breakfast nook with floor to ceiling windows that invites the forest in. A small, sturdy round oak table and chairs is set within the alcove, set simply with a few pale green placemats and an alabaster bowl for floating flowers in. On one counter, a circle has been cut out and fixed with a clay-fired bowl with a nearby matching pitcher.

It's been a long day for Thea, with work interspersed by several meetings in the office, not all of which have gone so smoothly with the Iernian Weyrleader glowering and adding little input. Letting his mood roll off of her has still been taxing, leaving little energy to confront him and ask what is wrong, so she's uncharacteristically left it for another time and the office as well before dinner instead of working late. Her trek out to the forest cottage through the early autumn woods takes her longer than the one she used to make to the Weyrbarn and the solitude has been a bit of a respite, so when she enters the cottage it's with a clear brow and a sigh of relief.

In her mother's absence, Marel has tried very much to be the lady of the house, doing her best to help with the dinner she and Muir have managed to put together between them (whether it's edible or not is another matter), whilst trying to keep Alishe occupied and out of trouble /and/ doing much the same for Brier, who is more apt to fly into the wall and injure himself than get into any serious trouble, still growing into his manners or not. At the moment, she's sat with her niece, trying to figure out just what sort of game the little girl is playing with a collection of wooden-block animals, picking up one, then the next, offering them to her one by one. So focused on this, she doesn't immediately notice Thea's arrival, and is calling, "Just keep it warm - don't burn it!" to her twin.

"I'm trying!" comes Muir's hollered reply, "but it's getting…there's less of it now!" Over reduced soup anyone? "Should I add water?" Kenpo is perched on a cabinet, peering down with interest at the soup that Muir is tending to, and the smatterings of other things. Bread (already sliced and drying out a little bit), butter, some jam, some cooled veggies that Muir forgot needed to stay warm, a salad that Muir already dressed so it's getting soggy…at least the bottle of cider is kept on ice, nice and chilled?

It could be said that N'shen is following Thea, but in all honesty, it's just happenstance that he arrives at the cottage on her heels. Looking tired and a bit worn, it seems that the bronzerider wasn't lying when he told Marel he had errands to run tonight - and whatever they were appear to have put him through the ringer. Still, as he nears the cottage, a spring enters his step and he perks up a bit, though whether at the prospect of seeing his daughter or his heart-mother is anyone's guess. Though he doesn't bother to knock on the door, he does hover in its shadow as he pokes his head around the corner, peering into the cottage. "Hello, anyone home?"

'Don't burn it' and 'I'm trying but' are not the sort of words one wants to walk in on when entering their home, but at least the twins are aged fourteen and not four the way they were the first time they tried an (unsupervised) attempt at cooking, which ended with eggs on the floor and shells in the pancake batter. Lifting her head in surprise, because she'd expected the cottage to be empty when she entered, Thea just stands there for a moment, taking in the sight and maybe subconsciously sniffing for smoke while darting an apprehensive look towards the ceiling above the hearth to look for the flicker of flames. The scene, though unexpected, warms her and she draws a deep breath, just about to say something when N'shen speaks behind her, startles her enough that she yips before turning to blink at him, then smile a welcome. "Hi, you!" She leaves him to shut the door and moves to sweep up Alishe (it's a mad dash really to get her before her daddy does) and cuddle her with murmurings that sound like, "Baby-sweetums." And Marel is offered a hand up and a kiss to the cheek while she says, "Would you like to go rescue your brother?"

Marel looks momentarily startled at the arrival of N'shen, which makes three of them out of four who know her not-so-secret secret, and so she shakes her head at him, wide-eyed, silently pleading with her older brother not to say anything just yet. Those wide eyes might also be because of her mother's mad dash, but she finds her feet without remark, relinquishing her niece as she presses a kiss to Thea's cheek in turn. "I think I'd better…" she says wryly, low enough to be kept between them, a quick smile flashed before she heads off to 'rescue' Muir. "Do we have any milk?" she asks him. "Or maybe…" Eyeing the no longer warm vegetables, she must think them a reasonable sacrifice to make. "I can try and make some stock. …I don't think that soup's going to feed five…"

Muir turns his head at the arrival of others, and looks relieved when Marel comes to his rescue. "Five?" he asks, peering out once more. "Might have some milk we can dump in. Or…um. What if…" Yeah, he's got nothing. "We could just use the little bowls?" All about portion size!

"Don't fret on our account," N'shen remarks to Marel as he boots the door shut behind him and moves to tuck himself onto the couch, stretching long legs before him as he watches Thea and his daughter with an indulgent smile. "Alishe and I can russle something up at our weyrhold - we wouldn't want to intrude on dinner." He flashes a grin, made bright by the burst of white teeth against his dark skin, but makes no move to collect his daughter and vacate the cottage. Marel's pleading does not go unnoticed, but remains unacknowledged other than a sharp glance and a brief shrug of broad shoulders. "So, I brought those three that Telgar promised us," he tells Thea as he watches her and Alishe thoughtfully. "And to be frank, I'm not surprised they were left Standing. In fact, I'd like to know what Telgar's riders were on when they picked them for Search." Sighing, he rubs one hand against his thigh. "Still, we've been surprised before."

"Try the ice chest," interjects Thea to the pair before focusing her attention on Alishe. The precious toddler is just the balm she needs for frayed nerves and so she's going to savor every moment she has to cuddle her. In the cooler they should find milk, cream and some cuts of meat - both wherry and beef. It's raw, but with two baby firelizards having joined their household, that's what she has on hand. At least it's good quality meat and edible if they choose to use it. Resisting the temptation to rescue her children, instead she allows them their dignity to handle the moment on their own. Turning a fond look to N'shen as he sits, she pleads, "Oh stay, I don't see you often enough anymore." It's her fault for moving, but still. And she sways from foot to foot to gently rock Alishe, tucking her little head under her chin while she listens to N'shen, a slight frown on her lips. "Time will tell," she says with a brief sigh, "though I guess those living in barracks will be having a time of it adjusting."

"Smaller bowls," Marel agrees in a whisper, though she looks up at their mother's advice about the ice chest, and heads on over to check it out. Upon discovering the milk and cream, she lifts both out and carries them back to Muir and the cooking in progress. "Try some of this," she suggests, meaning to hand over the cream. "Not much. Then some milk." And in the meantime, she steps away to try and bring some life back to the salad, for all that it looks like it will be a futile effort. She keeps her head ducked as all the talk of Candidates and Standing goes on, putting more effort than is strictly necessary into trying to rearrange leaves and vegetables.

Muir nods, eagerly taking the milk and cream and adding in a splash. He stirs it and nods, tasting it and then getting a little spoonful for Marel to taste as well. If they agree, he'll add some milk and keep with the stirring. "Hi, N'shen!" the teen calls, recognizing their brother's voice. Of Candidates, he says nothing, though for different reasons than his sister. Stir, stir, stir. "Is it done? I'm starving," he hisses to his twin, reaching over to try and grab some bread.

"Hey, Muir," N'shen calls back, though his attention is caught as Alishe tucks her head down on Thea's shoulder, little arms wrapped loosely about the Weyrwoman's neck as she watches the goings on with sleepy interest. "Well, one of them is a hold girl who thinks the world was placed here to give her somewhere to do her hair. She's not malicious about it, but she's vain, and none too bright. I have a feeling whoever Searched her had other plans in mind, but that kind of vapidness palls quickly. The second is a smith near as tall as I am, and scared to death of being more than a foot from the ground. And while I'm not sure on the third, I wouldn't be surprised to find he has some marks on his head for theft. I'll make sure the other Candidates know to keep their presses locked." Nope, not even a glance at Marel. "I'll be off to the 'Reaches come morning, and hope the catch is better there. Though we've some good homegrown Candidates this time," he adds innocently.

Thea gives a little bark of laughter, gasping, "Some…marks…in…his…head…" then just chortles, shaking her head. "The AWLMs will have a time of it, if they impress." Hopefully the dragons will choose wisely? But then, Mazunth picked E'gin, so. "Do we?" she asks N'shen with interest next. "A lot seem to be from elsewhere. Did you know my cousin Qirin from Fort was searched? His mother wasn't counting on that complication when she sent him to visit." She turns her head with s surreptitious peek towards the kitchenette to see how the twins are doing. They look okay to her and so she asks, "Need me to do anything?"

Marel looks far from /thrilled/ at the taste of the soup, but it'll have to do. Even if it doesn't taste absolutely fantastic, they're still not likely to poison anyone with it. She gives Muir a nod and abandons salad-revival to try and swat her twin's hand away from the bread. "Not now!" she insists in a low voice. "Pour the soup into the bowls, quick, before it gets worse." When she lifts her gaze to N'shen, she /glares/ at him for no good reason, her fingers knotting and unknotting before her nervously, her cheeks colouring when Thea goes on to mention her second cousin. "…It…" she begins to call back, needing a second go at it. "It's fine." Even if it's a semi-disaster. Slow, shuffling steps carry her further towards N'shen and Thea as she fumbles in her pocket, having removed the knot from her shoulder when she returned home. She pulls the tangle of white cords free now and holds it cupped between her hands, plainly visible to see. "Actually, there's… There's this."

Muir winces for N'shen's words, and then for Marel's hand slap. But when she turns away, he steals a piece of bread anyway. Lifting the soup from the fire, the boy is suddenly very focused on pouring it into those little bowls without spilling a /drop/. Not looking at his sister and her surprise. Nope.

"A few. There's Korel, the baker's son. And Jadryn, that bluerider's daughter. The twins. Lorelai. Kale, technically, as Black Rock is home territory. A couple of others. And some of the outsiders aren't too bad, either," N'shen adds soothingly. "There's always a few in every bunch that make you wonder if the dragons have been into the firestone, but it almost always works out in the end." Marel's revelation doesn't garner so much as a battered eyelash, though he offers a smile of encouragement to his sister from where he sprawls on the couch. At least Thea has her hands full with her granddaughter - perhaps Alishe will distract her from the import of her daughter's news. Shifting his gaze to Muir, he sniffs at the air and barely manages to hide a wince behind a not quite true grin, declaring, "Smells great." Hey, even big brothers can be supportive - when they're not mercilessly teasing their younger sibs.

Thea misses the glare Marel sends N'shen because she's looking at N'shen but the next moment she's doing her kitchen peek and does catch her daughter's flushing and nervousness, which she chalks up to the fact that they're cooking for her. Not that she taught them, so it must have been their grandmother. "I'm sure it will be delicious," she seeks to reassure them both, chuckling as Muir nips the bread. So like his father! And her thoughts skitter away just as quickly from that heartache, the woman burying her nose in Alishe's hair to inhale the sweet baby scent and kiss the top of her head while flickering a telling look at N'shen. Can he please make more pretty babies soon? She makes a disparaging sound about Lorelai, muttering something about the woman leaving her little ones to Stand. The knot is produced and Thea leaves off her judgmental remarks to peer down at it blankly, then ohs. "Where did you find that, Marel?" Well, she must have picked it up off the ground, right? Because it's all damp and ratty.

Marel ducks her head again as if some unseen force is weighing down on her, any hope she had of her mother interpreting her few words and that knot for what they really are dimming the light in her eyes. She keeps her back to Muir, if only so that she doesn't have to see his face when she confesses, "I was given it," without ratting N'shen out just yet. "It's mine." And then: "Some of my things, they're… in the barracks." Before it's noticed that a considerable amount of her clothes are missing from the cottage. "I said I'd Stand," she states, just to try and make sure that it's absolutely clear, without having to explain anything further or speak about it for too much longer. Her shoulders hunch and she sets her jaw, fighting the urge to look back at her twin, to check on him or for support, or for any number of other reasons.

Muir steps up to stand (pun intended) by his sister's side, a small bowl of soup in each hand. His support is silent but present, as he turns his head to smile encouragingly at her. Despite the thudding and clenching of his heart, he's there for her and he gives her a nod, before turning to look at their mother to watch her reaction. And ready to move, too, if Thea rushes forward to embrace Marel, like the girls like to do.

That's what he gets for trying to be clever. N'shen sends an exasperated glance towards both twins, then sinks into the couch, turning his gaze on Thea. "I Searched her," he states bluntly. His sister may be trying to spare him their mother's anger, but for himself, the bronzerider clearly believes that he did the right thing, and is more than willing to stand for his actions - and for his sibling. "And," he adds, green eyes focused on the goldrider, "I plan to Search your son, as well." Siblings, apparently. His gaze flickers to Muir, thoughtful. "I've told you before Taozyuth favors them both - he has since they were little, and it hasn't changed now. They're the children of dragonriders - two good, solid dragonriders - so this should come as no surprise to you."

It shouldn't, but it does. It seeps in slowly past the numbed shock in Thea's mind. Marel's knot. Her daughter was Searched. And she's accepted. Already. Nono, this isn't supposed to happen for turns yet, if ever. She's so young! All this must flit across Thea's expressive face, which has gone a touch pale, as she takes a sharply inhaled breath, lifting stricken eyes to N'shen. Her lips part to protest weakly, "But I just got her back." She nods imperceptibly and he'll see her muster the determination she's developed in the turns leading the Weyr, so instead what comes out is a careful, "Honey, that's wonderful. I'm sure you'll be a fine Candidate!" The last part coming out much more firmly because that's one thing she is sure of and her mind isn't going any further than that at the moment. Candidates impress, her mind is screeching, but she isn't listening to it. Lalala. Instead she peeks at Muir to see how he's taking not having been Searched too. And then the other shoe drops. Muir too?

Too busy trying to match N'shen's frustrated look with one of her own volleyed back at him, Marel misses much of her mother's reaction, making her stricken look hit home all the harder. She flinches and stares down at the floor, her miserable guilt clear to be read in her posture more than across her face, which she tries to keep in calm order, fingers curling back around the knot that she hastily shoves back in her pocket right before Thea speaks. Daring a peek up at her, it's then that she likewise begins to process the rest of when N'shen has said, and it's not to him that she looks, but to Muir, turning rapidly on her heel, green eyes wide. She doesn't dare speak; probably can't, with too many questions racing across her mind. Can it all possibly be true?

Muir's mind races. Thea doesn't have another son. He's her son. So. Wait. What? And that's when he drops the soup. Just one bowl, mind, but it crashes to the floor, the pottery shattering and sending hot (not scalding any more, thank Faranth) liquid splattering onto his feet and legs, and likely Marel's as well. "Shaffit," is his immediate response, trying to push his twin out of the way. "Wait. Wait." He straightens then, jerking up his chin and fixing his brother with a narrow eyed, intense and utterly focused LOOK. "This is Taozyuth's decision. Right? This isn't some…some twin, family sticking together, we know he wants it so badly bullshit, right?" he demands. "Because I'm standing because a dragon wants me to stand and nothing less. I'm not going to ride into the barracks on the Coldstone name."

Meeting Thea's stare with his own calm gaze, N'shen nods slowly, approval glinting in his green eyes. And, perhaps, a touch of disappointment. He spent hours working up all of those logical arguments against his mother's certain disapproval of the Search of her spawn. Ah well - there will be other times, no doubt. As Marel and Muir react to his casual announcement of intent, he allows himself only the slightest smug smirk, tapping long fingers on the arm of the couch as he preens at having snagged both of them. Muir's questions, however, shake him out of his pleasure, and he turns a haughty look on his brother. "Please, like I'd Search you just because you're my brother," comes the dismissive reply. "I'd be more likely to hide the knots, but Taozyuth insists, and he's a pain when he doesn't get his way." Pushing himself to his feet, he moves towards the kitchen, stopping short of the soup puddle. "Muireadhach, son of Thea and D'had, you are formally requested to Stand for Sahazyth's clutch by bronze Taozyuth." At least the knot he pulls from his belt pouch is a fair sight cleaner than that which he offered to his sister. Then, relenting, he adds, "Tao's been waiting ages for me to be able to ask you that. Both of you. Honest."

She has N'shen, technically her step-son, but she's long ago dropped the step and considered him her own. He's already (obviously) been Searched, though. "Watch your language, Muir," Thea corrects mildly and automatically because that's what she's always done. Because D'had would want her to. Because she's still numb. N'shen's oh-so-brotherly reply to Muir's question breaks over her in a wave that shatters her inner immobility. She can't help it; she laughs. And then stifles it as he moves past her to stand before her twins. Watching the trio, her throat tightens and her eyes shine with pride for all three. Taozyuth could have waited longer and she wouldn't have minded. But for them, this seems timed just right.

Marel might not curse, but she gives a strangled little cry when the bowl hits the floor and the soup goes everywhere, more for the mess than any of the hot soup that hits her legs. She lifts each foot in turn and shakes them off, much like a feline after passing through a puddle, but is otherwise too much in a state of abject confusion to be sensible and actually move /away/ from the puddle. "Lang—" she starts to tell her twin, almost in tandem with their mother, though she leaves that duty to Thea in the end. As N'shen speaks, she finally (/finally/) dares to smile properly since she was given her own knot, fumbling to try and grab Muir's free hand as she looks between her brothers and their mother. Who cares about the soup on the floor?

Muir stands straight and proud and looks his brother in the eye, before he nods, unable to keep the edges of his lips from curling upwards in a smile. Joy. A joyous smile. "I accept," he says formally, before darting a look at his mother, and then gacking softly when Marel grabs for his free hand. Which…leaves him no hand to accept the knot. So he offers the bowl instead towards N'shen. "Soup?" With a laugh born of nervous energy and relief. So much relief.

The boy's relief is palpable, and N'shen looks distinctly dismayed by it. Clearly, he hadn't thought ahead to what his Search of Marel must have done to his brother. "I'm only sorry it took me this long to get around to it," the bronzerider manages, deftly replacing the soup in Muir's hand with the knot. He studies the liquid in the bowl thoughtfully, then finds a spoon, dipping it in to take a taste. There's a few moments where he considers what he's eating, then, "Well, I doubt I'll die from it." Green eyes glinting, he sets the bowl aside, then reaches out to place that hand on his brother's shoulder. "Let's eat," he says, not only to Muir, but to everyone. "After dinner, your sister and I will take you to the barracks." He turns to glance at their mother, one eyebrow tilted upwards.

There's soup on the floor. And a shattered bowl. And though Thea is mindful enough of that to restrain Alishe, who would probably like to get down and inspect it, she's wanting to offer proper congratulations to the pair. So when she can, her granddaughter is handed over to her father and she then opens her arms for Marel and Muir. If they'll come to her, she'll offer a tight embrace and a warm, "Congratulations," to the pair of them. Over their heads, in response to N'shen's lifted brow, she quirks him a lop-sided smile that is one part brave determination to relinquish them to his care and one part devilment. "I'll let you break the word to your father." That ought to be fun.

Glancing down, Marel does her best to avoid the soup-puddle as she steps into Thea's embrace and huddles herself in closely against her mother, eyes closing as she dips her head down. It may only have been a single afternoon of stress and worry and all sorts, but it's evidently one that she wouldn't care to repeat again. When she eventually steps back, she mouths a 'thank you' to N'shen and squares her shoulders and announces about far more mundane things, "I'll get the floor cleaned up and another bowl of soup. And… changed." Given the state of her skirts. "Everyone start and I'll get this sorted." Back to playing at lady of the house, she hastens to do as she's said and heads off to get things tidied up as quickly as she can.

Muir grips the knot tightly and turns, sweeping Marel into his arms and laughing. Then they're pulled into their mother's embrace and Muir, for once, goes willingly and lingers a few seconds longer than usual. Stepping back, he just nods to his sister's announcement, not even offering to help as his main focus is pinning the knot carefully to his tunic.

Food. That's all Nash cares about. He's ready to start, and no amount of lovey-dovey family junk is going to keep him from his food. Placing Alishe in a chair kept especially for her, he plys her with some bits of bread. As the other three indulge in a group hug, he's making his way around the kitchen, gathering noms. Nom nom.

Thea will, of course, allow them to go, helping Marel clean up and get settled around the table so they can all eat. The soup is lavished with praise (probably because she doesn't taste a bite of it) and Alishe given cookies from the tin kept in the cupboard especially for her. When it's time to go, she allows them to leave with a minimum of fuss, refraining from clinging and offering endless advice, packing their bags for them or even tagging along. When they've left and the cottage is empty, she'll hug her pillow and dampen it with her tears, but that will be short-lived. She will draw on a mother's courage and see this through. The letting go of them begins now whether she likes it or not.

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