Xanadu Weyr – Meadow Ridge
The meadow continues its gentle rolls and dips, grass tall and short waving in the slightest of breezes. Each hill seems to grow a bit higher, a bit steeper, as eventually, the meadow works up to a large ridge, the top flattening out at its new elevation.
From the top of the ridge, the view is certainly something to be admired - higher than the majority of the trees, one can look out over the rest of Xanadu Weyr proper. The houses in the lower meadow - each roof a different color - and the clock tower peeking upwards from the its forest surroundings are all visible, as is the cliff that houses the Weyr Caverns themselves. And yet, the ridge also holds an amazing view of the night sky - horizon to horizon - unaffected by the light pollution of the more heavily traveled regions.
As the sun begins to settle towards the horizon, the meadow is awash in pale light and lengthening shadows. A ways distant from the clock tower, Muir stands facing away from the weyr, peering off into the distance towards the forest. With Kenpo perched on his shoulder, the young man cuts a stoic silhouette in the gathering gloom. No doubt he probably has chores he should be doing, but right now he's just standing and staring, lost in thought. A few days prior he sent a message to Cold Stone, but he has no idea if it reached his uncle or not. So he stands, and thinks, and wonders.
The message reached Cold Stone but for some reason there was no return message. It's possible Thadan intercepted it, but why would he? He has what he wanted. It may have been answered but mis-delivered or it may have been lost. There was a dragon that landed in the clearing about an hour past, but with dragons coming and going all the time it's hard to tell where from. If Muir is watching the clearing he'll see a lone figure leave the caverns, cross into the meadow and head for the ridge, disappearing as the trail winds. It isn't long before a long-legged stride brings a dark-haired man into view with a whistled code that ought to be familiar to Muir, he's heard it plenty of times while growing up.
The response is immediate. Muir's form straightens, tensing, his head whipping around and causing Kenpo to spring from his shoulder with a startled and defensive squawk of alarm. Muir's already moving though, running with long legged strides in the direction of the dark haired man. Who else could it be? He slows as he nears though, too grown up to just bolt right into his Uncle's arms - if they'd even be offered. So he shoves his hands into his pockets and adopts a slower, more casual saunter as he approaches.
Tharen has a grin and a fist-bump ready and then his arms will pull Muir into a rough hug and thump on his back that might almost knock the breath out of him, if he has any breath. "Arriving with my letter wasn't my intention," he says easily, but for what it's worth, here it is." And he hands over a thick envelope that's sure to be full of Cold Stone news. "I stopped and saw your mom for a few minutes. She told me you'd probably be up here. Where's your sister?"
Muir returns the fist bump and then gacks at the hug and thump, staggering briefly though he sways less with this thump than the last one. He even returns the hug, if quickly and awkwardly. Reaching out for the letter, the teen laughs. "Got the whole tithe report in here?" he teases. "Oh yeah? Good, I'll bet she was glad to see you. And she's got chores. Kitchen today, so she's going to be busy for a bit. You came." And he looks (and sounds) a little surprised at that, as he looks up at his uncle.
Tharen chuckles as he releases Muir. Next time maybe it'll be Muir who causes Tharen to stagger. The letter is released with an amused, "All that and more. Share it with Marel, hmm? Don't make her beg, either." That last tacked on with a knowing little grin. He's looking for- Ahha! "The rock is still there, c'mon." He strides over to it and lowers himself to sit, stretching long legs out, shoots Muir a funny look for his last comment. "Of course I came. It's not like I'm a prisoner."
Muir pushes the letter into his jacket pocket and nods. "I will," he promises, grin crooked. "And I won't." Sheesh. "The rock?" It's a special rock? He follows after Tharen and sits down beside his uncle, stretching his legs as well and leaning back against braced hands. Glancing down at his toes, he shifts his feet and shrugs. "Yeah, well. I didn't know," he murmurs. Didn't know if he was a prisoner? Or didn't know if he'd even want to come?
It's just a big wide, flat-topped rock that overlooks the meadow down below. "I won't lie, it's been busy or I would have written sooner. Thadan is really piling it on." It doesn't sound like he's minding too horribly, even if he does sound a touch beleaguered. He sends Muir a side-long look for that murmur, perhaps misinterpreting it. "He knows better to try that with me," he says with a snort. He's reached the place where he's not going to be pushed around anymore. Well, here he is. He turns his head more fully to Muir, gives him a discerning look. "So…" he says. This isn't awkward is it? "I've missed you all. Your mother says you were both taken in Search."
Muir glances back at his uncle and grimaces a bit, before he's nodding. "That's good," he murmurs. He didn't expect this to be awkward. Why is it awkward? Reaching up, he tugs a bit on his white knot. "Yeah, N'shen's dragon searched us. Marel first. Then me. Can't wait until those stupid eggs hatch," he admits, before he winces slightly at the ever so subtle impatience in his tone. "Missed you too," he adds.
"You sound… glum?" Tharen's guessing. He didn't expect dancing on rainbows here, but maybe a little enthusiasm. "Stupid eggs?" He's never been searched, never touched eggs, so he's just lost. "That… doesn't sound like my future bluerider." Muir… has never been this much of an enigma.
Muir has never had this much go wrong in his life? Rubbing his face, his fingers then rake back through his hair in a gesture that's all his father. "Did you want to go back?" he suddenly asks, cutting straight to the heart of the matter as his eyes peer intently at his uncle. "Truly. Or did you go just so we could come home?" And Tharen, if he's perceptive enough, might see some of his nephew's guilt and turmoil.
Well, Tharen knows this, in the back of his mind. He does. But being Searched is something Muir's always chattered to him about, so the listlessness regarding it is what's throwing him. The sudden change of topic has him shifting gears. It's not as fast a shift as Muir's. Tharen hmms, perceptive enough to catch that his nephew wants very much to know the answer. Instead of making a hasty assurance, he leans forward, forearms on knees and studies the grass at his feet. "I told you at Cold Stone, Muir. I wanted to go home. I wanted to go so you could come back." He turns his head to see Muir without straightening up and adds, "I take it this bothers you."
Muir exhales sharply, shaking his head. "I…there's this egg." That stupid egg. "It seemed to know everything about…us. Marel's and my trip, and us coming home, and there was…guilt. We feel guilty, uncle Tharen. Guilty that you're there and we're here and we know how horrible he is. We feel bad that you had to go there and that's your whole life now. You don't have…freedom." Muir kind of knows how that feels since he was in the same position - though briefly. "Just so we can be here."
The things that Tharen does not do is tell Muir he shouldn't feel guilty. He doesn't laugh and he doesn't hand out false reassurances that eggs can't know things no one told them. "Let me tell you something about Thadan," he says instead. Yeah, he knows Muir hasn't asked about his grandfather and doesn't care, but this will help. At least a little. "Thadan is on the hotseat now. He knows you are six months from your fifteenth turnday." He waits to see if that sinks in. "None of us are as free as we like, Muir. But as I said, I'm not a prisoner. But you should know that I can handle Thadan now. He wants an heir more than I want to be one." And his smirk right afterwards is downright evil.
Muir shifts a bit, looking down at his toes. "Yeah," he murmurs, glancing at his uncle. "But…I…I couldn't really say no…" Could he? His brow furrows. "But are you happy?" And that evil grin has Muir smiling a little bit too. "Is it okay, really? You're okay? You don't…like…hate us or anything for leaving?"
Tharen laughs dryly, "Not when you were twelve, but it's a different story when you are fifteen. Then you may have that document Thadan's holding burned." There's a little gleam in his eye that is one part devilment and 99 parts vindictive triumph - all for Thadan's weakening hold over the boy. Which will make things so much easier for Tharen too. "I'll bring it to your turnday party if you'd like?" He sits back up, eyes on the deepening twilight spreading across the meadow. "I am," he says without having to think on that at all. "both happy and okay. I'm finding the work a challenge that I enjoy. I hadn't expected to." The last question has him turning in surprise to squint through the dying light to better see his nephew's face. "Shells no! Whyon Pern would you think that? I wanted you togo home and be happy." He pauses, frowns. It's obvious they've been going through a lot. Thea writes to keep him updated. "But you're… not," he guesses.
Muir shakes his head, "I meant when I turned fifteen. I don't know if I could've - if I could - say no. I mean…what if something happens and I need to be heir again?" Turning a bit, he stares at his uncle, squinting a bit through the dim light. And something his uncle says has Muir's shoulders sagging. Just a tad, but sagging just the same. "I'm really glad you're happy," he murmurs. "And I don't know!" he says with a shift in mood that has a bit of temper showing. "It all happened so fast and I didn't get to make sure you were okay because we had to leave so quickly and Mom wanted us back here, and we just /left/ you there with him." Shifting again, Muir pushes to his feet to stalk away a few paces, shoulders tightening again. "I don't know what I am," he finally says. "All my life I wanted to be a bluerider, and then suddenly…suddenly I had to want to be an heir or be miserable. And now I'm a Candidate. But what if I Impress and Marel doesn't? What if she does and I don't? I never thought she'd ever even say yes…" So in all his fantasies, he was the bluerider and his sister was just /there/. There for him, like she'd always been. A rather selfish view of the future, to be sure.
Tharen shrugs, "After you're fifteen? If you wanted to be heir, I guess you'd go do that. If you don't, Thadan bites it. So what?" He chuckles at what his nephew says next, shaking his head a bit. "Muir, I'm not a little boy. I didn't mind you leaving me there. But I can see you minded." He can understand the misery all this has brought! "It sucked. It wasn't fair to you," he says without trying to talk Muir into feeling differently. He listens soberly, "Then she will still be here and love you and you will adapt. For her. For your dragon." Sacrifice? He makes no attempt to explain it because if the boy impresses, he will be learning that firsthand soon enough.
Muir shrugs. "I don't know," he mutters. "Don't know what I want, don't know what's expected of me, don't know what's going to happen." Turning, he crouches and plucks at the grass, facing his uncle without looking up at him. "I know you're not a little boy but I didn't like it," he murmurs, brows furrowed. Then he sighs, running fingers through his hair in agitation. "I just want it to be over so we know," he murmurs. "I can't stand sitting around just…waiting. And nothing I can do to change things."
With a subtle humor, "Welcome to the transitional turns, my boy. They're hell, but they don't last forever?" It's a small comfort, Tharen knows, but he went through them and survived so Muir will too. "I know. It's a helpless feeling," he agrees of waiting. Timor has risen out over the Sea of Azov, barely glimmering on the horizon above the trees and the nocturnal insects begin to sing softly. It's fall here, warmer than the spring in High Reaches’ Cold Stone Hold, but Tharen's light jacket isn't warm enough. So he rises to stuff his hands in his pockets and move a little. From this height he can better see the water and it's to it he speaks. "Nothing is certain in life. It's hard accepting that when growing up secure and happy. Things… change the way we don't want more often than the way we do oftentimes."
Muir snorts softly. "I thought it'd be all girls and parties," he murmurs. "Carefree. Not worrying about the rest of my life." He sighs heavily, eyes lifting to follow his uncle's movements. "It is," he says. "I'm still…adjusting, I guess. Reeling. Heir, not heir, Candidate, Mom and Dad broken up…" It's a lot to take in! They say the three biggest stresses in a person's life are moving, change of job, and death. Two out of three? "I'm not sure how to get my footing because things keep changing. And they will, until the hatching. And then I'll know, but then it'll be dealing with that too. I just…haven't felt like me. Not sure how to." Ahh, teen angst.
Don't forget divorce. That ranks up there with death of a spouse which is sort of like what his mother is going through. But Tharen doesn't say that. Instead he smirks and says, "Girls and parties, eh? Like my life was when I came to Xanadu. Much to Thea's chagrin." He quiets to listen and nods. "I don't think life ever stops changing, Muir. The key is to learn to expect the changes and roll with 'em. But if I was to give you any advice, it would probably have been to decline Search for a turn or two until you've…" What's the word he wants? Not recovered. Not adjusted. "Caught up with the ones that came this turn. There were an awful lot all at once." He has no words of wisdom for Muir feeling himself save to say quietly, "Give it time."
Muir can't help but grin a bit at his uncle. Then he exhales softly, plucking at the grass though he nods. "I'm learning to roll with them, but I feel like I'm scrambling." And then he shifts a little bit. "I couldn't. Not with Marel already accepted, and me always wanting it…" But he can see the wisdom in waiting. He can, even though it's too late now. "I will. Got no other choice," he says with a faint but crooked smile, just a hint of his old humor showing through.
"You're still young; you've the energy. Just wait until you're Thadan's age." There's another vindictive smirk, but hey - the man deserves his comeuppance. Tharen's grin turns cocky, "Come on. Let's go find your sister and tell her I'm coming to watch her impress a queen and you get your blue, hmm?" And if Muir is willing, he'll throw a companionable arm about his nephew's shoulders and walk with him down the hill to the Candidate barracks. Why, he might even offer some low-voiced suggestions into Muir's ear regarding those pretty gal Candidates in his group.