What a Steward Really Does

Xanadu Weyr - Steward's Office

The office of the Steward is a place for things to pass through. On the side of the wooden desk nearest the door are a pair of boxes labeled In and Out. The center of the desk provides a place to process those papers, with a set of draftsman's tools - pens, pencils, rulers and compasses - tucked in a small wooden box. The computer, as it receives fewer messages, is set off to the side of the desk.

One thing that stays in the office is the Steward himself - at least, so long as he holds that office - and so there's a comfortable chair behind that desk, as well as a pair of plain wooden ones in front of it for those passing through.

Bookshelves line the walls, crammed with tomes ranging in topic from weather patterns of the southern continent to crop output for the last one hundred turns. They are some the many things of which a Steward must have a passing knowledge - one sufficient to let him delegate the rest. To record the events so delegated, there are a pair of file cabinets full of paperwork not yet so historical as to merit relocation to the archives.

It's the day after returning from the ill-fated round up, and the administration hall of Xanadu Weyr is buzzing. Wings are coming and going from the ready room where they're briefed for their extra patrols, foresters and woodcrafters are in and out giving their reports on those traps and their own foot patrols, the junior Weyrwomen are doing their normal paperwork, air control and hold visitation rotation, helping where they can on priorities. Wingleaders head for the Weyrleaders' office, waiting for that locked door to be unlocked so they may enter and give report, some of them might be stopping by the Steward's office afterward - or before to drop off small, hurriedly-scrawled notes from the Weyrwoman. It isn't until midmorning that there's a lull, in which time there's a brisk rap-rapping of knuckles on wood of the door to the Steward's office.

Today, Jethaniel is in his office. The pile of paperwork in his inbox is larger than usual; he did spend much of the past days observing and coordinating the round up directly… as well as doing other things, not generally considered a part of his job. Still, he returned to the office last night and did a quick triage of his tasks, and today he's been here since early morning, working on the most urgent and occasionally reprioritizing as messages arrive. At the knock on his door, he looks up, and so does the tiny green firelizard curled on a cushion on his desk. He reaches over to brush his fingers over her back, and raises his voice. "Come in."

That door pushes open and it's the Weyrwoman's head peeking in to see if the Steward has got someone meeting with him. Then, upon seeing he doesn't, enters fully. Despite her neat appearance, dark hair in place, crisp blouse and calf-length skirts neatly pressed, she looks… harried. It's probably something about the eyes. Eyes which drop to that inbox on the desk and subsequently are colored with dismay as they lift back to Jethaniel. She's got a clipboard in her hand, elbow crooked to carry it where she can refer to it, but it's now lowered as she steps over to stand before his desk. One finger taptaps the inbox accusingly and she asks with a sharp tone, "What's this?" Is that? It is! Her toe is tapping.

Jethaniel looks up to see the Weyrwoman in the doorway. Even before she speaks, he has a slight frown, the sort that tugs his mouth to one side regretfully. Why, he might ask, does this particular moment have to be the one which she arrives in? He does not, however, ask. "I apologize, Weyrwoman." He sets down the pen he had in hand. "I have fallen somewhat behind." As Thea looks over that inbox, she may notice the top document and the one beneath it have the same topline of title and date. In fact, a closer inspection would show they're almost entirely similar, save that one specifies orange and the other brown… for the same set of flight straps being requisitioned. Jethaniel, however, says nothing about this, though he pauses a moment and takes a breath before saying, "I should like to request that yesterday be retroactively taken as my restday." After all, he spent entire hours neglecting his duties.

Almost as sharply, "What? No. I mean," Thea’s brow loses that pinched look. "You have no reason to apologize to me. I meant, why is there so much," her finger flicks the stack of papers, "…stuff in here. These. There can't be this many construction requests in all of Pern right now, let alone Xanadu?" Her clipboard clatters on the surface of his desk as she sets it down and scoops up the pile. The first two is eyed with squint, the second eyed with a scowl. Both are offloaded onto her clipboard. Then she holds out her hand for his pen, if she's caught him with it in hand. If not, he knows where they are. When she has a writing implement, she writes in bold letters 'DENIED - MAKE YOUR OWN', signs it and stick it in his outbox. The second, the duplicate requisition form - the orange one is deposited in the trashcan with a snort. Somewhere in the midst of that she peers up at his request, which causes her frown to deepen and says firmly, "Out of the question!" Then she's straightening back up and thumbing through that stack she's still holding.

Jethaniel blinks at the Weyrwoman's denial. "Ah…" But he's falling behind, isn't he? He's failed to properly manage things. What if there's something important in that stack, something he didn't notice on his first sort that created the much smaller pile sitting on his desk right now? As she lifts up his stack of papers, he simply stares at her. That extended hand recieves his pen, though not entirely promptly. There's a hesitation to his gesture, an uncertain frown on his face. As Thea goes through the stack, she'll find other poorly worded and duplicate requests - some of which have notes in A'dmar's handwriting advising the Steward to look into it, and occasionally even complete with conflicting advice for how to resolve things. Should that lightbulb be repaired, or replaced with a glow? Why aren't the wingleader reports filed in a more accessible place? …and so forth. Mixed in, here and there, are more of the sorts of things Thea expects to see - there's a question about the wiring in the dairy barn, for instance, and a set of handwritten reports of materials usage from various crafts that will doubtless show up, neatly typeset, on her desk. Jethaniel stares at her as she denies his request. "But… I left the camp. I neglected my duties."

The Weyrwoman is looking decidedly displeased, but not with Jethaniel, though he can't know that. She waits patiently for him to recover and hand her the pen. Then the stack receives her ire, her hand alternately tossing papers in the trashcan and scribbling comments on those sheets before signing them. Somewhere in there, she pauses, hooks a toe in one of those chairs, draws it towards her and sits. Three stacks slowly appear before her, sorted as she goes. There's muttering going on under her breath and he might hear the name A'dmar coupled with 'sharding', 'wherry' and 'porcine' more often than not. There's also some 'arse's' sprinkled in there liberally. His protest has her blinking up from her impromptu task with perplexity. Slowly things sink in and her brows lower. The question is ominous, "What. Duties. In. Camp?"

The Steward's expression is a mixture of apologetic and confused, though as the Weyrwoman continues to work through his stack of paperwork, his expression goes more toward the confused. His hands retreat to rest in his lap as he watches her, and the little green firelizards does the same, her eyes tinged faintly yellow. The Weyrwoman's progress, it must be acknowledged, has quite a bit of efficiency. Tossing documents in the waste basket does tend to resolve them quickly. Nevertheless, Jethaniel finds himself with a sense of forboding more than appreciation. He reaches one hand up to pet Stardust, attempting to soothe her despite his own concern, and then the touch stops as Thea raises her gaze to him again. "Ah… I was collecting reports. They… ah…" He drops his gaze and his attempt at a verbal answer, instead reaching for his outbox and shuffling through it until he comes up with a document titled, 'Preliminary Resource Report' with the dates of the roundup. It lists the supplies used and the beasts gathered - compared, of course, to projections, and with the probable degrees of error (pending final reports) indicated. This, he extends toward the Weyrwoman.

Thea isn't really looking at Jethaniel. It simply doesn't occur to her to check how he's taking her invasion. The brown firelizard on her shoulder, there so constantly that she pretty much forgets he's with her, chirrs concernedly at the tiny green, drawing Thea's eyes to Stardust, afterwhich they flick to Jethaniel, perhaps noting his demeanor. Hmm. She says nothing to that, however. Her eyes narrow slightly and she asks in a foreboding tone, "Reports?" She takes the document he hands her, scans it and replaces it in his outbox. "Nice work." Her tone becomes sweet (ut oh!!!) and she's even smiling now (she loves setting traps), "But tell me, Jethaniel, were there Journeymen beastcrafters at camp?" She'll wait a bare moment for his reply, then go on down the list of personnel, "Journeymen woodcrafters? Wingleaders?" Finishing with, "The Weyrleader?"

Somehow, the compliment to his report does not entirely reassure Jethaniel. Nor does the smile. His fingers rest against Stardust's side, and while he does not match Thea's smile, he is at least willing to meet her gaze as he says, "Yes, Thea." There were beastcraft journeymen there. Also woodcrafters, so he nods to that. Also wingleaders, and he nods again, and finally the Weyrleader, and he can't prevent himself from frowning at that one. He does know where most of the papers on his desk come from. Furthermore, he was nearly ready to leave the camp the night before things went wrong. Then he encountered A'dmar… and he wasn't. Correlation does not imply causation, but it does condition him to respond negatively. Hence, the frown. However, he answers the question asked. "Yes, Thea."

"Why then, didn't they make the preliminary reports and just courier them to you here a'dragonback? Wouldn't that have been more efficient?" Though her eyes drop thoughtfully to that document. It certainly looks like he'd fulfilled his camp responsibilities to her! "Either way, picking up reports warrants hardly enough time to dock you for your restday." Her attention returns to the dwindling pile in her arms. Sort-sort-sort. The three in front of her grows, one noticeably less than the other two. The trashcan is filling up. Any ire now seems to have faded to a cool satisfaction but oh, underneath it there is icefire in her green eyes that, though not at all meant for the man across from her, is at odds with her pleasant tone and expression. "Any reports that cross your desk that are unfinished, messy or duplicates are to be henceforth returned to the sender. You are not a scribe." Her slim brows lift fractionally. He will comply?

Here, at least, is a question that Jethaniel can answer. His concern eases slightly. "Of my time, yes. However, the situation there required their expertise. I deemed it more effective to let them focus on their own work." Whether that's an answer that will satisfy the Weyrwoman is another question entirely. As for that time spent and restday docked, he gets an awkward expression and clears his throat. "Ah… no. That is… not why I made the request." His gaze drops to his desk, the tips of his ears slightly pink. There's a moment before he regains composure, looking up just in time to recieve another instruction. "Ah… yes, Thea." He inclines his head to her obediently.

"Oh, that's fine then," Thea says easily. He's confirmed that his presence in camp was his own choice, not forced upon him by another, so she doesn't question it. It seems she trusts his judgment where efficiency is concerned. Likewise, she's pleased with his agreement not do redo the forms others should have taken the care to do correctly in the first place and so nods, satisfied with his ready agreement. Her lips part to say something else when he forestalls her. "No?" She tilts her head, regards him curiously, eyes flicking to his pinkened ears and back. "Why did you then?"

This question proves a more difficult one to answer, as evinced by the delay before Jethaniel speaks. Not that the answer is difficult for him to bring to mind; the challenge lies entirely in attempting to construct a set of words suitable for expressing it. He begins to open his mouth, hesitates again, and then finally produces an answer, along with a rueful smile. "I do not consider spending time with Darsce to be a part of my duties, Weyrwoman. I did not return to my office until the evening."

Thea blinks, assimilates this answer, considers it. "Well," she finally says equably, "be that as it may, I was the one who asked you to look after her. So you were working for me." She purses her lips, reconsiders, then adds, "Perhaps that is not in line with the Weyr's requirements of a steward. Consider that portion of your time as having worked for me; I will cover that myself. So alright, half a restday, if you must lose time. But it sounds like you were working past hours, if you were here working overtime in the evening." And she levels a look at him. Oh yes, she is the pot calling the kettle black, but she asks anyway, "When was your last restday, Jethaniel?"

Now, it's Jethaniel's turn to blink. "Ah…" he begins. "You… did, yes." There's an uncertainty to that response, for he has once more begun to wonder if his looking after her was appropriate - or will be perceived as such. When he went to get his klah this morning, he was nearly certain someone pointed at him and… giggled. It was strange. …as is the concept of Thea paying him for it. He simply gives her a perplexed look for that part, then makes a small throat-clearing noise. "I was behind." Ergo, he worked late. Because otherwise, those papers would not have been filed. It's all perfectly logical; there's just a few flaws in his set of initial suppositions. "Ah…" Yes, when was his last restday? His gaze flits to his calendar, as if that will help him, and he draws it closer to him to take a look. Ah, there it is. "Five days ago." If he was a little wiser in the art of subterfuge, he'd have tilted it up so Thea couldn't see; while it's certainly marked as a restday, it's also marked with a meeting with one of the beastcraft Journeymen and a note to finish a report.

The Weyrwoman is used to perplexed looks, glares, abject terror (not really), so she is unblinking in the face of the one Jethaneil gives her. It's likely she doesn't even try to ascertain the reason for it. Her mind has moved on to other matters, the current one being his restday. Green eyes flick down to that calendar, "Mmmhmm." That's a very skeptical sounding agreement, if it is indeed one. She still has his pen, the formidable weapon of Weyrwomen everywhere! Those last few requisitions are set down in favor of twitching that calendar closer and she takes a few moments to peruse the past months. "Mmhm," says she again, this time it's a sound of satisfaction and then she flips to the current month. Her pen now comes into play and she writes in RESTDAY once every sevenday with her signature underneath, continuing on through the end of the turn. Those sevendays she can't find any blank dates, she draws little question marks. She understands deadlines and scheduled classes, so those she leaves alone, but the meaning of those question marks is clear: if he can reschedule things to have a totally free day, she'll be expecting him to do that. Poor Jethaniel. This takes several minutes and the silence while she does this is audible.

That doesn't particularly sound like agreement. However, the disagreement it expresses does not appear to be one to which he can muster a counter-argument. Besides, the Weyrwoman is still wielding his pen. There are implications there about the role of a Steward, if one cares to make them. There's silence from Jethaniel as well, and so the room is still save for the scratching of the pen. His expression makes a slow change from perplexity to outright surprise to consideration as she continues, until finally he speaks. "Weyr… Thea." He leans back in his chair, looking at her steadily. "Might I recommend this as an opportunity to set a positive example?" Hello, pot. How are you today?

Perhaps Thea will just steal the pen and hand it over to a certain blonde to employ in regards to his restday? Shep is happy to fill in the silence with encouraging little clucks and chirps to Stardust over there: It's okay little green. Humans are all over the place with their emotions. We are here to keep them grounded. Like this! And he tilts his head and strokes his person's cheek with the top of his head. See? Now you try it. Thea reaches up and gives him an absent pat, finished with that calendar, which is returned to Jethaniel along with his pen. Her smile is the first genuine one (or maybe less creepy) since she's entered his office. It matches the dance of amusement in her eyes as she replies smoothly, "Certainly. As one of my advisors you are welcome to make any recommendations you'd like. Ocelara certainly has no trouble keeping her opinions to herself." Opinions, scolding, nagging - same difference, right? She hasn't forgotten those three piles of papers either, but she'll get to those in a moment. Each of the remaining documents are puzzled over long enough that Jethaniel probably knows before she does that they're definitely in the correct office. Those are replaced in his inbox. There might be six in it now.

Stardust listens to Shep's advice, tilting her head to the side and then slipping over to rub her head along the side of Jethaniel's hand. That brings a slight smile to his face, and his fingers lift to brush down along her neck and back as she arches into the touch, chirping her pleasure. Lesson: learned. The Steward's hand leaves his green in order to accept his pen and calendar back from Thea. "Very good, then." He pauses to glance down at the calendar, with all his restdays marked out. "You are, of course, in charge." His tone is remarkably mild. "Therefore, I shall look forward to seeing the relative priority of restdays in each seven, and permit it to inform me of what is currently necessary for the good of the Weyr." The calendar is set down again in its proper place, pen still held in one hand as he pets Stardust again with the other. His gaze goes to those documents once more, and his head tilts in a silent question.

Thea laughs out loud, her own thoughts on the abuse of her Steward set to the back burner, but oh it's simmering away back there in the corner of her mind. This does not bode well for A'dmar. "Point taken," she concedes with a rueful dip of her head. When he stops by her office, he'll see her calendar similarly marked. Ah those papers. The ones that belong in here do not concern her; he knows how to manage those. "These," the toe of her shoe swings to tap the trashcan lightly, "Are rubbish." Obviously. Most, if not all of them have A'dmar's handwriting on, and are those conflicting advice on what to look into. Her pale eyes lift to him. "These," her finger taps one pile, "belong in the ready room for the wingleaders to see to. These requisitions," her finger taps another stack, "the junior Weyrwomen handle. and these," her finger taps on the third pile, "are Ocelara's domain." Then she levels her gaze to him and it's an earnestly direct one, "Jethaniel, I'm sorry."

Jethaniel's smile of victory is a pleased one, his expression warming from that careful mildness as he nods acknowledgment. He'll be checking that calendar of Thea's, because after all: she's just the one who can fire him. His actual job, as he sees it, is to serve not her but the Weyr, and that may sometimes include attempting to keep the Weyrwoman in working order. He leans forward to take a closer look as she begins to discuss the papers. The first set - the rubbish - recieves a smile remarkably unlike the one he gave to her. It's not even quite a smile. His lips are pressed together far too much, despite the curve at their ends. At best, it might be considered satisfied. He says nothing, simply nods to that and moves his attention on, but the expression makes it clear enough that he knows the nature of those papers… even if he had been dutifully dealing with them. Thea, however, is in charge… despite his occasional tendencies to tell her she's wrong or threaten failure to comply. The other stacks - the ones merely misfiled instead of outright nonsense - he reaches for, beginning to flip through and familiarize himself with their contents so as to be better able to direct them in the future - but then he pauses, looking up at the Weyrwoman. He is perplexed once more, though his gaze has no difficulty in meeting hers. "For what?"

And sleep-deprived decisions tend to be just those sort of unbalanced, crazy sort that might unhinge the Weyr, don't they? Her eyes flicker towards him just as her toe taps his wastebasket and she shoots him a devilish little grin that matches his satisfied one. She is silent while he goes through the stacks and when he looks up, her gaze remains steady. "For… throwing you into this. For not showing you who does what in the caverns and Weyr. For not considering your own chosen craft. For not realizing what A'dmar was up to." Her expression changes and it's clear she is deeply displeased with the Weyrleader. "Those requisitions were purposely mis-directed. You no longer answer to him. For anything." After a beat, "I fired him." And lest he think it's only for this, she adds, "He lacks diplomacy and treats my people as rugs underfoot or worse. But this… subterfuge of his was not only inefficient, it was unprofessional."

Jethaniel's gaze remains steady on Thea's as she explains. He nods to having been thrown into this, though it's with a small lift of his shoulder, a shrug to lessen it. He could have said no. He could have tossed the knot back at her and asked his Hall to reassign him elsewhere. He didn't. His craft… there's a momentary frown there, a thoughtful one. He is fond of technology, and there's been less time for that of late… but his own expression changes at the mention of A'dmar as well. Still a frown, but displeased now, and with some measure of surprise. Not complete surprise. He had wondered, from time to time. Those notations seemed… questionable. Still. There's surprise, and as Thea continues, the surprise increases and mixes with satisfaction. He no longer answers to the Weyrleader? "How-" Thea fired him. "Ah." Jethaniel leans back in his chair again, his expression growing thoughtful as she continues. He's silent for a moment after she's done. "I may be partly responsible for his attitude," he says consideringly. "I am not always tactful." As, perhaps, walking into a Weyrleaders' office to inform them that they're wrong. He's been getting better at politics lately - most likely due to this trial by fire, and a Weyrleader who was fond of over-correction. He would still not consider it one of his strong suits. "However. I… am glad he is gone." Jethaniel smiles, pausing for a moment before he adds. "It would seem I have a great deal yet to learn, if I am to continue being your Steward."

"I'd understand if you'd prefer not to do it," Thea continues, "but I'd regret it if you did not." She at least is well-pleased with her choice of steward. Jethaniel's comment about tact, is the first time he merits a frown, but it's a mild one, merely of disagreement. "As Weyrleader, A'dmar is going to encounter a great many tactless people in his service to Xanadu Weyr. His behavior is willful, reckless and unbecoming." Not to mention picking apart her staff and admonishing them in public. But that's for her to take up with A'dmar, so she foregoes adding it to his list of sins. Moreover she has to voice a protest at Jethaniel’s self-criticism, "I have never found you to be lacking tact and decorum, Jethaniel." His last comment draws a surprised smile that dispels the anticipation of that knot being somberly slid back across that desk to her. "Really? You still want to after- You know, I really only meant to give you authority to pre-sign building contracts, not-" her hand waves to the office and all of its busywork. "-bog you down in this. I didn't mean to steal you from your craft."

Jethaniel is not inclined to argue excessively with Thea's characterization of A'dmar; in fact, he nods to the list of failings she provides. For himself, he seems less certain, his expression appearing for a moment as if he might protest back before it resolves into a smile. "Perhaps you are correct," he says to her. "I may yet suffice." Though, the gossip around the caverns may have a different picture of his decorum. Regardless, he settles back into his chair again, his gaze tracing around the office, its many documents and tomes and various bits of information, before settling once more on Thea. "In the future, I might advise giving more precise assignments. Otherwise, your orders may be interpreted in ways other than you intend." His voice has a wry tone to it, and he smiles before continuing. "I have a great deal to learn. That is, in some regards, a good thing. I have enjoyed learning more about this Weyr, though I am far from expert." There's another smile at that, as though it's a private joke, then grows more serious. "My focus in the techcraft has always been on engineering and repair. This is, in some regards, a natural extension of that." Ah, but will the tech hall see it that way? Some of the other journeymen here already don't.

Thea has long formed her opinions on personal experience rather than gossip, which might explain some of her tolerance for Darsce, even though she hasn't turned a blind eye to some of her escapades. If any whisper of what happened in the back halls of the Weyr has reached the Weyrwoman’s ears, her expression does not reflect that now. "I think you already do," she interjects before quieting to listen to his next words. Her own expression is rueful in light of the advice Jethaniel gives her, "Indeed." There's really nothing she can add to that, save to admit (and he may be the first to hear her say it), "As am I." Far, far from expert as a Weyrwoman. "I suppose it is," she agrees slowly, though, really when it comes to the scope of techcraft coverage, she falls so far below inexpert it doesn't even register on the scale. "Okay then," she says briskly, rising from the chair she'd claimed. "So Ocelara covers domestics, the junior's cover storeroom requisitions and you cover the Weyr's purchase requisitions, accounting and outside Weyr management. Public relations - we all share." It's a vague sort of precision?

To Thea's own admission of inexpertise, Jethaniel simply nods. His expression is neutral; neither approving nor disapproving of it, but simply acknowledging it. Agreeing, perhaps - after all, one of his own lessons of late has been that expertise is not required. He may finally be coming to terms with that as a general principle, as his focus changes from the specifics of Technology to the generalities that are a Weyr. As Thea explains the nature of his job, Jethaniel nods again, expression considering. "I believe I understand." A moment, and he says, half to himself, "I should offer an apology to Ocelara. I may have unintentionally interfered in her domain."

Which is perhaps why Thea doesn't mind him hearing her confession. As for domains and stepping into them, he can always request a written job description but he'll probably find one in here amongst the old records faster than the Weyrwoman can think up what a steward actually does, seeing Xanadu has never had one since she's been in Xanadu. She's on her way to the door when he speaks again, causing her to turn with her hand on the knob. "Ocelara is probably more regretful that she can no longer circumvent A'dmar than she is offended at anything you've inadvertently done, Jethaniel." In other words, the headwoman has likely intercepted much of the former Weyrleader's mis-directed work. "See you later," she says, stepping out the door to return to her office. Now why did she rap on his door in the first place? Probably to tell him who is Acting Weyrleader. Ah well, she'll remember the reason later.

"I suspect so," says Jethaniel with a nod. "She is skilled at her job." The tone of that compliment is sincere, and then he smiles. "Nevertheless." He glances to his inbox again - his far, far emptier inbox - then lifts his gaze once more. "Ah… yes. I shall see you later. And, Thea? Thank you." He does not specify for that. That's rather imprecise of him.

Add a New Comment
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License