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.

The last hints of the rich light of a summer’s evening are finally beginning to fade from the sky when Marel leaves her cottage and begins her trek across the meadow. She’s accompanied by Isyriath for some of the way, until the trees of the forest prevent her lifemate from following and mean that she must venture on alone, the skirts of her wine-red dress snagging on thin, stray branches here and there as she makes her way along a familiar path, until the trees thin out again and her steps slow, fingers knotting together. The brownrider meanders this way and that for a minute or so, then resumes her journey, forcing her steps to steadiness as she approaches her mother’s cottage. She stands there on the doorstep, staring at the door for a moment or two, features paling, and it’s with a most definitely unsteady hand that she knocks on said door, then idly smoothes at her skirts.

Seryth is absent from her clearing wallow or Thea would know who it is at her door. But the queen is, this evening, most likely sprawled in the clearing where young children are permitted to clamber over her - if their mothers don’t admonish them for bothering the gold. The knock finds Thea at the table in the nook to the rear of the cottage, a table lamp just having finally been turned on there as dusk finally begins to deepen to twilight and steal the natural light coming in from the open windows. Her steps to open the door are unhurried, her expression pleasant, curious as it swings open to see who- “Marel!” Her quiet smile is an easy one of welcome and pleasure as she offers an arm to place about her daughter’s shoulders - the sort of mother-hug that says ‘I love you’ but doesn’t cling too much. “Come on in?”

Marel makes a squeak of a sound that might have begun as a word not so many seconds ago, yet she’s happy enough to leave the attempt at an intelligent greeting behind and not fall all over herself to try and find whatever it is that’s escaped her. Instead, she lifts both arms and goes to wrap them around her mother’s shoulders - and it’s her who might cling too much. She remembers to step back not so much later, and presses her lips together as she regards Thea with an expression that won’t quite smooth out into unreadable, then she wordlessly accepts the invitation and steps inside. “I have to-“ she starts to say, until she finds that that’s not the start she wants to make. “I want to-“ Only she doesn’t like how that sounds either, and glances down at her feet. “There’s something I need to tell you.”

Thea's arms are warmly affectionate and she'll attempt a gentle brush of lips to one of Marel's cheeks before they part. Marel's face isn't so unreadable - not to the one who has known her all of her life - but ice green eyes are practiced at taking in more than they seem to, employing the art of indirect watching that takes in the nuances of vocal tone and body language. And though the mother in her knows something's up, she also waits patiently to hear it, if at all. She's learned over the turns that with this one, sometimes comfort is sought in simple companionship rather than in words. So there are no fussy questions as she steps back and allows Marel inside but rather a nod and a light-toned, "I've a pot of tea brewing. Would you like some?" And cookies, there are always cookies. And the same loving ears that listened to scraped knee woes when she was a little girl are available to hear today's.

Marel’s hands curl before her, making deep creases in her skirts where fingers clutch at fabric, and, for a moment, she might look very much the little girl and not the grown woman, beginning to curl in on herself in anticipation of the need to confess some prank gone wrong or slip of the tongue. “I— Please,” she replies, forcing her shoulders from their hunch and her back to straighten, and finally gets her fingers to relinquish fabric. Her posture suggests that she might have found the strength to wait and not blurt anything out only a matter of minutes after appearing on the doorstep, but the walk to her mother’s cottage has given her time to think and more time than she truly wants to dwell, and the build of second upon second is reaching breaking point. “I’m pregnant,” tumbles from her lips, whether she meant to choose her moment or not. “F-Flight, not… M’kal.”

The posture might fool another, but the creases in Marel’s skirt do not fool Thea. Still, it’s not her way to flutter and fret and so, “Come,” she says quietly, turning to step towards the back of the cottage where the kitchenette is located. Her intent is to lead Marel to the table and set before her a comforting cup of hot tea. Instead, the blurted words halt her progress and she turns fully around, a long moment spent taking Marel’s measure before she says anything. “Come here, Baby,” she murmurs and this time she’ll offer her arms, wrap them around her daughter securely, offering acceptance and strength while whispering, “You’re sure?” And though she doesn’t cling, she keeps them there as long as she senses they’re wanted there, a gentle hand stroking dark hair. Marel’s a child born to the Weyr; she knows how these things go. Nevertheless, there’s been enough holder influence from herself and the girl’s grandparents that she asks carefully, “Are you alright?”

Marel's steps across to her mother are quick, her arms reaching before she's even halfway there, and she makes to tuck herself in against Thea, meaning to hide her face in the crook of her neck. She stays like that for quite some time, arms caught around her and fingers fighting to stay flat and not cling, lulled to something calmer by the motion of her mother's hand through her hair. "I'm sure," she murmurs, eventually, lifting her head enough to ensure that her words are clear and not muffled. "I don't— I want to keep it," must start as an answer as to whether she's okay, and finish with why and why not. "It's mine. My baby; your grandchild; Mur'dah's niece or nephew. Even if it can't be M'kal's." She straightens, inching back a half step or so. "I wish it were M'kal's. But I can't… let go of part of me because it's not part of him."

Thea’s breathing is steady and slow, her embrace unchanging with the answer Marel gives. “These things happen, but you know that,” she says calmly. She’s aware that Marel also knows her options in this matter and so she doesn’t voice them. “I love you and I’m here to support you whatever you decide,” she says, her tone kept carefully neutral so as not to betray any of her own wishes. When Marel lifts her head, Thea’s arms loosen and she eases back enough to meet her daughter’s eyes, a question in hers. Of course under the circumstances there would be, but there’s also acceptance for whatever the answer might be. Marel wants it. A breath out, a half-smile and a firm agreement, “Of course it’s yours! And a part of our family.” Her arms easily allow that step back, releasing Marel as they slip away and fall to her sides. She lifts a dark brow slightly about M’kal, hmming quietly while her mouth pulls a touch to one side. Disagreement, there perhaps, although it’s left unvoiced for the moment in favor of a half-turn to reach for the teapot on the counter and set it on the table. Marel will know where teacups and sweetner are kept, but if she doesn’t get them, Thea will. First though, she’s clearing from the table her writing box, pen and stationery sheet with ‘Dear Mama and Tharen’ written on it. That’s where her eyes are as she says quietly, “This is your decision, Sweet. Do it because it’s what you want. Don’t do it because it’s what you think we (that collective we of family) all expect.”

A frown chases after whatever Thea might feel about M’kal and his factoring into the situation, but Marel doesn’t get to asking the question, and, instead, automatically begins to move to collect teacups and sweetener, as though prompted by the sight of the teapot. She carries cups and sweetener separately, making two trips of measured, careful steps, in-case she can’t trust her body not to betray her and tremble. On her first return to the table, her gaze dances across the paper, then away again as she sets the cups down and goes back again. “…I thought it would be easier to… end it and move on, at first,” the brownrider confesses in a murmur. “But I can’t. And I want it to be mine - I don’t want it to have another family. Whatever that means… for me.” She’s staring down in the bowl of sweetener as she makes that quiet admittance.

There’s a tin on the table, Thea reaches for it and opens it as Marel sets the teacups on the table. It’s placed in the center and she pours a cup, thoughtfully quiet as she listens to Marel’s response. The cup is placed at the spot she assumes Marel will sit, hers is poured and she settles easily, plants her forearms on the surface and studies the dark liquid in her own cup. Her face is serene, a quiet smile grows as her daughter finishes. Only then does she look up, bright-eyed to murmur, “You’ve grown all up, my Marel.” She takes a slow breath, then adds, “I’d support your decision to foster too, you know, but I’d want to know it, be a grandmother to it. However, I’m glad you want it because I think you will love it best.” She reaches for a spoon, takes a moment to add a bit of sweetner to her tea, stirs it, then lifts her gaze to Marel. “And now, M’kal. Is he alright?”

Fingertips brush the edge of the table before Marel sits down, and, at first, folds her hands in her lap. “Not so much,” she murmurs, faint smile curving one corner of her mouth upwards. A moment later, she amends or adds, “Not too much,” as she looks up at her mother, then down at her tea, lifting hands to curl around her teacup. Of fostering, she says, “I can’t— give it to someone else. You’re my mother. You raised me. I can’t have a baby of mine not know what that means.” Carefully, she lifts her cup to her lips and takes a tentative sip, then eyes the sweetener and wrinkles her nose, opting against it. The subject of M’kal is avoided or put off for as many moments as she can, until she can find the right words, or what might be utterly the wrong ones. “…If he can’t bear it… If it’s a choice to be made… I suppose he will leave me.” She doesn’t quite manage to state that as logically and unfeelingly she hopes, voice cracking as she speaks those last few words. “Or I will have to leave him,” she adds, hoarsely.

Thea’s soft laugh follows Marel’s admission. “Not too much,” she agrees. “You’ll always be my little girl and yet…” Her eyes drift over the figure seated opposite her, fond and fiercely proud of the young woman she’s become as is evident in way she speaks her mind and is heard by the woman who bore her. She nods approval, for the sentiment or the resolve or perhaps both but makes no comment save to smile once again and take up her own teacup, sipping quietly and allowing the silence to stretch after her question, unhurried. The sounds of a forest preparing for sleep drift in through the screened window beside them; sleepy chirps of birds finding roosting places, the intermittent patter of moisture on leaves as night begins distilling her cooling dew upon them, the hesitant cadence of nocturnal insects, unsure whether it’s quite time to sing yet. Marel’s words draw her mother’s eyes from the window and she tips her head, considering her daughter. “He might,” she says at length, with matter of fact calm. “He might not.” Here, finally, is what had pulled her lips in silent disagreement, “N’shen is mine.” How could he be? He’s dark skinned and the tight curl of the young bronzerider’s hair is nothing like Thea’s. “He was born to Anatasha, her flight baby with your father. Nash is…the son of my heart.” Light fingers reach to brush the ones across the table, “If M’kal loves you, it’s just possible he might love the child you bear.”

The brownrider swallows hard and glances down into her teacup, which offers nothing vastly entertaining, then darts a quick look back up at her mother when her fingers brush the back of her hand. “But…” Marel starts to say, only to seek out silence one more, while she gets what she wants to say in order. “It’s not… the same. He’s going to be faced with the constant reminder that I’m having someone else’s baby. I can’t hide away. Even if he grows to love the baby, we’ve still got to get that far, if we can.” She bites down on her bottom lip, then lifts her cup again, if only to stop herself from doing so as she takes a sip. “…He might just grow to resent me instead. And I can’t blame him.” Not yet she can’t, anyway. “I know it’s horrible of me to think it, but if he got some girl—“ Before she can finish that thought, she stops. It’s as good an admittance of less than charitable feelings on her part, were the situation reversed, without the rest.

“It’s not the same,” Thea agrees unperturbed. “But it can still be good despite the difficult parts.” Her eyes seek the window yet again. Silent for a few beats, when she speaks, it carries the sound of one who has done so, “There are things to work through. Despite knowing with flights that it’s the dragons, human feelings will be what they are. Jealousy… is normal. The fact remains that you’ll have ties - flight-induced consequences - with the child’s father, if he chooses to be involved.” Ice green eyes swing to her daughter, a silent question there. Has she told the biological father? “The other,” she continues, “is the reality that the child isn’t from M’kal.” Again the silent question, this time accompanied by a lift of one brow. “I’m not saying it’s easy, but if you two truly love each other, you’ll find a way to make it work.” Her face registers compassion, understanding. Riders will ever struggle with this aspect of their dragons, some never come to grips with it. She breathes in, out. “Have you told M’kal?”

“It’s the idea situation, that M’kal might love me and the baby.” Marel states that as if reciting a line from some tale or another, distanced from her own situation. “But I don’t want to hope. I don’t want to be more hurt when it doesn’t happen.” When, not if, in her mind. Does M’kal know? Has she told him? That Marel won’t look at her mother is, perhaps, confession enough of guilt. “…No, I haven’t told him,” she quietly admits. “Or the father. Yet.” Might as well get both of those admittances done at once, though, if anything, having confessed so much makes her look uncomfortable again, hands curling too tightly around her teacup. “I needed to decide how I felt. All I could think of was what they might want, at first. Then, I thought that if I let that lead me, I’d end up miserable and resentful either way. If I know how I feel when I found out how they do, then… it’s something.”

“It is,” agrees Thea neutrally of ideal outcomes, taking up her tea to sip, making a face when she finds it has grown cold. The quiet clink of china as she replaces it in the saucer is the only thing that breaks the silence after her question, but she doesn’t rush to fill it with more words. When Marel answers, she nods quietly, acceptance writ upon her features. She won’t try to force the young woman to hope but, “I will always hope for the best where all my children and grandchildren are concerned.” It’s calmly spoken before she once again falls silent to listen to her daughter’s reasoning. There’s thoughtful hesitation and then firmly, “I think you’re doing the right thing, Marel, to sort through how you feel before dealing with everyone else. A life spent doing what everyone else expects isn’t…fulfilling or healthy. You do what you want.” She’ll reiterate that as often as needed until she sees some easing of the tense discomfort in her daughter. “M’kal might need some time. He’s family, we love him and his feelings are as equally valid as yours. You’ll tell him that I hope?” She’s thoughtful, then offers, “If you’d like myself or N’shen to speak with M’kal at any point, let us know, hm?”

Marel gives a slow, shallow nod and tries out the idea of a smile when she replies, “If we get that far.” Then, of course she’ll tell M’kal. If he’ll listen. “If he— If he’s… okay with… the situation,” which seems the best thing to call it, “then, perhaps a little later, if he’s struggling with it. I think… right away, it might seem too much; like we’re all pressuring him into doing what ‘we’ want.” Something in her choice of words or where those thoughts lead her has her suddenly leaving the table, in a manner of speaking. She darts down, disappearing beneath the tabletop, and there’s the sound of a thud that heralds one of her boots hitting the floor, then a crackle of a noise before she appears again, still minus one boot. Around the fingers of her right hand is wrapped what looks like a bracelet, which she holds out to Thea. “Look after this for me?” she asks solemnly. It shouldn’t take so many moments to figure out that the ‘bracelet’ is, in-fact, the shock anklet she always wears.

Thea’s echoing smile is a pale thing compared to her normal one. “If you get that far,” she’ll agree, still her tendency is to look on the positive side and so her expression remains hopeful. “We don’t want that,” she says earnestly of pressuring. “I was thinking more towards the line of reassuring him we’d understand whatever he decides,” she says quietly. She might perhaps be about to say something further but Marel’s ducking under the table and Thea’s parted lips remain so - but out of surprise. What the- ? She half-rises, leans over to peer at her daughter in perplexity, then re-seats herself as Marel re-emerges. The bracelet - oh yes, it’s recognized - is blinked at, her hands reaching to cup underneath it automatically as bidden. Thea is speechless for a few moments, then lifts her eyes, seeking Marel’s are grave, concerned. “…should Seryth rise…” It’s not a protest, exactly. It is acceptance of her prior handling of the situation with Isyriath even as her trepidation is voiced, “Nine months is a long time to live on the knife edge of that sort of uncertainty. Are you sure you want this?”

“…The alternative being that I inadvertently - or deliberately - shock myself and cause serious harm, or worse, to the baby,” Marel says slowly, though it’s taken nothing more than Thea’s doubts to have her eyeing the anklet like she doesn’t want to surrender it at all. “I don’t know what shocking myself could do, right now. I don’t imagine it’s anything good, so I don’t really want to find out.” So, she keeps holding it out, unmoving, as if the slightest twitch back towards her could have her keeping it. “I asked Ka’el to tell me if Kanekith picks up on anything before Isyriath does. With any luck, if it happens, it’ll be enough warning to leave the Weyr entirely, or get far enough away.” Biting down on her lip, she gives an uneasy roll of her shoulders. “If I don’t have it, I can’t use it by accident or to stop him of my own choice. That’s as big a worry as… anything.”

Yes, that alternative is something Thea has thought of, as evidenced by the solemn nod she makes on the heels of Marel’s statement. She continues to watch her daughter steadily, concerned still, but silence reigns rather than arguments. “I know the situation is uncertain in so many aspects. I just want you to be as sure as you possibly can, ” she says quietly and while her cupped hands rise from below the anklet to accept it, they remain open and extended for her to reclaim it if she wishes. “I’ll put it someplace safe. When you want it back, it’s yours,” she says evenly. And then very softly, wistfully, “I hope things with Isyriath are better…these days.”

The brownrider watches as her mother accepts the anklet, and though Marel watches rather intently, she doesn’t reach out to snatch it back, nor does she give any verbal indication that she’s changed her mind. “Thank you,” she murmurs, hands returning to her cup of now cooled tea. “I guess… once it’s born…” Is when she’ll seek the return of the device, but there’s so much of that uncertainty to follow in the next few months that Marel doesn’t finish that thought, leaving only the vague suggestion to hang without completion. “He… doesn’t remember,” she says, of Isyriath. “And I tell him it was an accident, when my leg hurts. When we want to chase, we do, but he’s never gone after any gold since, and I’ve— never used the anklet, so.” So maybe that’s not what’s holding Isyriath back. She doesn’t dwell long on that thought, lifting a vulnerable look to Thea. “…Can I stay here tonight?”

Thea inclines her head at the thanks and her fingers curl over the device. As Marel speaks, she withdraws the anklet to her side of the table, then into her own lap without even looking at it; perhaps because her attention is on the young woman seated across from her. From there it goes into the large pocket of her voluminous skirt. Later she’ll find a place for it. For now though, she’s intent on Marel’s answer regarding Isyriath. The information eases tiny lines of concern gathered at the corners of Thea’s eyes and she nods mutely, leaving her comment on chasing to hang while she exhales a long breath slowly. Was that what she’d meant by better? She does not clarify or reiterate her question, simply says, “He’s a sweetie,” and leaves it at that. Musing on her cup, the question draws her gaze up to meet Marel’s where she regards that appeal with warmth slowly stealing in to replace the gravity in her ice green eyes. “Of course,” she says firmly, her smile faint, but welcoming, relaxed. Of M’kal she says nothing further; she knows Marel will deal with that aspect when she’s ready. “There’s room for Isyriath in Seryth’s clearing, if you’d like to invite him.” The rest of the evening, if quiet, is peaceful. Time spent preparing a simple meal, newsy letters shared from Cold Stone Hold from both Rensea and Tharen, a fire crackling on the hearth and the song of the night woods through the open windows.

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