The Soft Goodbye

This Log runs parallel to Requiem of the Dragons, Dark Wings and Shatter.


Xanadu Weyr - Caverns

A massive cavern in it's own right, this one has been skillfully adapted for human habitation. The high ceilings have been painted a light, soft ivory, as are the walls where numerous tapestries hang to provide brilliant color and insulation from the stone. The floor has been left in its natural state, pale pink granite speckled through with glittering mica and dark flecks of basalt, leveled carefully but kept sufficiently rough to avoid slips.
The cavern itself is loosely divided into areas, each one set up to be suitable for some segment of the Weyr's population. The most frequently occupied area, however, is the one near the Kitchens where tables of varying sizes provide a place to sit down and eat or chat and a buffet of consumables is almost always kept stocked. Its plain that on most days, this area wouldn't accommodate anywhere near the full population of the Weyr and equally plain that on such occasions when a formal meal is laid out, tables are appropriated from all the other areas.
A big fireplace is set into the wall near the Kitchens as well, several comfortable chairs nearby providing haunts for elderly residents or riders who like a good view of all that happens. Rugs cover the floor in strategic spots, all of them abstract or geometric in design and most in the softly neutral colors of undyed wool.

Exits lead off in all directions, a big archway the largest and that leading outside. Shallow stairs to the west lead to the offices and administration area while tunnels to the east lead to the infirmary, kitchen and resident's quarters. Southwards, a sloping tunnel leads down to the hot springs.

In Xanadu, the weather conditions are pleasant ones. The few clouds present are wispy cirrus formations, lacking in vertical development. Lightning as an atmospheric phenomenon is due to the tendency of electrical charges to find the path of least resistance as they seek to equalize. They do so in a series of arcs, leaping out according to a forked path until they find a ground. This, while not actually occuring due to the lack of appropriate atmospheric conditions in Jethaniel's surroundings, may also serve as a useful metaphor to what happens next.
The arc of imagery and emotions is invisible one; it extends from Seryth to the dragons of the Weyr - but Jethaniel has no dragon.
Tocha leaps from the Weyrwoman's desk. In the infirmary, Ruin holds a pose of attention. The arc leaps.
Stardust squeals. She spreads her wings and leaps.

So does the arc.

Jethaniel starts, lifting his head. His thoughts scatter like snowflakes on the wind, driven by a sudden burst of cold and pain.
He is careful as he sets down his pen on his desk, aligned with the edge of a document. The splotch of ink on that document - and the bent nib of that pen - are indications of a far less deliberate action a moment before; so is the slowness of his exhalation as he places his hands palm-down on his desk.
Outside, the keen of dragons. Down the hall, the crying of a baby. Jethaniel's door is closed, but the soundproofing of this office is imperfect. The sounds are muffled, but their existence is evident. He inhales, the counter to that exhalation, and rises from his desk, pushing back the chair as he departs his office and approaches the caverns.

Lunch is just over, the caverns mostly emptied, save for a few lingering over dessert, or late-comers still eating, those with very young children. A wing of riders, heading out on afternoon sweeps, have exited from the admin hall and that newly-renovated ready-room, laughing and joking as they troop towards the entrance and their waiting dragons beyond. The kitchen girls are carting emptied food trays, pans and full dish bins into the kitchens while others wipe tables; inside the kitchen cooks begin the prep for dinner. All in all a smooth meal hour and the headwoman's oversight there finished. Darsce is deep in the caverns, back where the hot springs and the laundry are, just beginning to push a cart laden with linens and towels for the infirmary.

At first she hears nothing. She has neither dragon nor firelizard and the corridor is empty. Faint echoes of horseplay oft resound from the hot springs, so the cries she hears are, at first, attributed to that. The sharp pain in her stomach is unexpected, the shaft swift, fleeting but accompanied by something else; she whimpers, hands grip the cart handle until it passes. "What-" She ate no lunch - she was busy - but perhaps it's that oh-so-familiar warning that her breakfast is coming back up. She continues to the caverns and as she enters, the place has erupted into an unfamiliar tableau of emotional chaos. There are riders running from the room, there are riders running into the room. Some are crying. Some are angry, apparently, for they're grim or shouting. She ducks a fair of firelizards that erupt from Between, swirl calling raucously, add to their numbers and blink out again. She can only stand there and stare. Lunch surely wasn't that bad that they need to riot?

Outside low-pitched moan, that increases in pitch and volume until the keen raises the hair on the back of her neck. Again the sharp pain that nearly doubles her over the cart.

Jethaniel can, prior to his entrance into the caverns, hear that there is something going on. He is uncertain as to what. After arriving… he remains uncertain. There is assuredly something; the maelstrom of riders is a clear indication of that. Emotions appear to be running high; the emotions so raised also appear to be negative ones. These conclusions, while possible, do not actually assist him in determining more about the situation. He steps aside from the admin hall, and studies the situation with a frown and perplexity in his grey eyes. There are no visible signs of crisis, save for the reactions of those riders. Nothing is on fire; the only shrapnel is that of plates and cups, fallen from fingers suddenly gone limp. The patterns of motion hold no indication of sources or sinks; the riders are not, as a rule, running toward or away from anything in particular. Jethaniel attempts to comprehend the situation, to determine what is required for resolution. He fails; he lacks the necessary information to make that determination.

Darsce simply allows the chaos to explode around her, iceblue eyes wide, dazed and uncomprehending. Things are breaking, floors are being dirtied - at least it's not a food fight or free-for-all…yet! Mothers are herding their young past her; she allows them to pass unchecked. Jethaniel's arrival goes unnoticed. She leaves her cart where it is and enters the melee. "Stop!" No one listens. STOPPIT!! Still no effect on the… what the- There are bronzers…ones she knows are tough… crying. Some stagger to find a seat wherever, staring at the wall or burying their faces in their hands. Other people flutter and flail and babble something about cliffs and snow and… her mind just rejects what ever else she hears as nonsense. The sounds from outside grow louder and Darsce claps her hands over her ears, marches to the cavern entrance and bellows, "SHUT IT ALREADY!!!" That's obviously a waste of breath! She turns back, stalking back into the room, ready to…shake someone…slap a few faces and get some answers - or… something. Who's in charge here? Where's… Sorrin? Where's… what the HELL is going on???

Were it actually a fight, it might also be simpler to resolve. There would be something to be done; bystanders, innocent or otherwise, to recruit and a struggle to break up. Instead, people are simply… broken up. Darsce's voice rises sufficiently above the rest that Jethaniel notes it; his gaze sweeps through the crowd, seeking for her. As the moments pass, the situation - as would a supersaturated solution - begins to crystallize. The sobbing riders clump together; the angry-seeming ones do similarly. The keening continues, unchecked by Darsce's words or any other force, but the remaining queens hold back those with the urge to depart. "-can't go," one Galaxy rider says with a thump of his fist against the table and a glare that promises dreadful fates, but is met only by grim nods from those listening. Sorrin? "She can't be…" sobs a rider, but he's not talking about Sorrin, now is he? The Juniors will be here soon, the Weyrleader and his Second. They'll emerge from their offices, from their own shattered afternoons and the quick consultations of what's going on, what comes next. They're not here yet. Jethaniel is. He's puzzled, standing in silence. Searching for a face in the crowd, but it's difficult to find anyone in the… swirling snow. The image returns to mind unbidden; he does not know why it lingers. Perhaps… it is merely an overheard word.

Darsce is on the move, threading through the crowd, eyeing both angry and grieving groups. What… the…? The sounds the dragons make is nothing like during a hatching and there are no eggs on the sands, so it can't possibly be that. She finds some space - a bit of a clearing to turn, bewildered and stare at the room in general but she's going to get to the bottom of this, takes two steps towards the huddle of weepers over there when she winces again, nearly doubles, claps her hands to - not her ears - but her eyes in a gesture that would seem to blot out some unpleasant sight. "Don't… cry…like that…" she whispers but oh, it's not to the disconsolate riders. She remains so but for a moment and when she lifts her hands she's as confused as before. She remains in place, this time her head turns towards the clearing with unseeing eyes while she swipes absently at one cheek with the back of her hand. A rider lurches past her just then and her hand shoots out to snag his arm. "What's going on?" she asks without her normal sarcastic acid, simple perplexity in the query. The answer, no sugar-coating attempted, is given in the dull bluntness that marks shock, "Seryth is dead," and he plows on without seeming purpose.

The chill along Jethaniel's spine, while explicable as a reaction to the situation, is not coherent when considered in the context of the day here in Xanadu. The weather outside is warm; so are the caverns. And yet… the cold which startled him from his work remains. Stardust - who is, if not the source of that chill, at least an effective conduit thereof - does not; she is gone from here, curled atop a metal cabinet to watch her sire carry out his self-appointed rounds as the echoes of that moment vibrate through her delicately-shaped head and over the link she has with Jethaniel. The steward takes a step toward the crowd, stops. There exist indications of Darsce's presence… somewhere. Her precise location is a matter which will require thorough investigation, and the nature of the crowd makes it difficult to determine where to begin. They… may in fact be finding that difficult themselves; the questions of where to begin and what to do next present somewhat of a challenge. Jethaniel's steps away from the door, while few, mean that when some of those in charge - of a riderly sort - do emerge he is not capable of intercepting them before other riders converge on their leaders, a rising babble of voices as they seek information and reassurance. Jethaniel does not attempt to penetrate the crowd, but he does get a glimpse of Darsce sufficiently clear that he attempts to make his way toward her.

"I… whut?!" Darsce is left gaping open-mouthed in the rider's wake. "That's not even…" Funny, she would have said, but the general chaos doesn't lend itself to levity. Not in the slightest. "Is… she?" The stunned question is asked, not to the departing rider's back, but the cavern entrance. What does that even… so goldflights. They affect the entire weyr. Does that mean..??? She has no idea - her parents haven't dealt with this - or if they did, they did not speak of it to her - or her brothers and sisters. Alarmed now, she turns to fight her way through the crowd, back towards the administration wing. There's one person who, maybe doesn't know everything but will surely know how to prevent… mass suicide. She flails through the crowd and… there he is! It's Jethaniel she sees and pushes to get to him, hands reaching for him, aiming for his forearms to grip and steady herself, iceblue eyes wide. "Siebith is crying." Nevermind that she knows that or how. This unusual fact hasn't dawned on her. "We can't let them follow Seryth!"

Under these circumstances, Jethaniel is, in fact, one of the least knowledgeable persons in the room. There are those who will prevent that mass suicide; the remaining queens exert their influence on the Weyr, holding back the dragons with windswept song. It's sad - a dirge for Seryth - but while the senior queen is gone between, the others remain. They could not cushion that sudden shock, the severed bonds lashing back on dragons and their riders, but they comfort and keep them now. Jethaniel knows nothing of this; his turns in the Weyr have seen old dragons slipped between. He's heard the keen of dragons before, but never anything of this magnitude. He lifts his head as someone hurries past, looking to the entrance of the caverns, then lowers it to see that Darsce has made her own approach. His arms lift, caught by her hands and curving back against them, forearm to forearm. He blinks. "Ah…" Siebith? He is capable of dereferencing the name, though it takes him a moment to do so. The combination of entity and emotion is not enlightening, and perplexity shows in the furrow of his brow, a faint frown of thought as Darsce continues. They cannot be permitted to follow… Seryth. That name he recognizes easily. Assembling a coherent image of the circumstances described is somewhat less immediate, but still - relatively speaking - easy. The dragons keen. Seryth. "Ah." Jethaniel closes his eyes, a downward tilt of his head accompanying it - as if his forehead is dragging down the rest, subsiding through his face until it passes along his throat in the form of a swallow. "What…" His voice is not entirely present; the 'happened' is lost. Jethaniel repeats the swallow. He does not immediately repeat his attempted query, though his fingers shift, tensing and slowly being relaxed. Jethaniel inhales; he exhales. He lifts his head again, forcibly straightening his posture and opening his eyes. "What requires doing?"

To Darsce, Jethaniel knows everything. Not that… she's told him this, exactly, but it's to him she goes, rather than grab him and haul him with her into the administration wing. With the racket out here - and having just found out it's dragon-related, she's just going to assume someone with authority is going to show up sooner rather than later. In Ierne dragons surely went between - likely older ones, since they didn't have weyrlings or a hatching ground - not that she paid much attention to what the dragons did. It was a Weyrhold, so perhaps with the small dragon population of independent riders, the associations were loosely-formed and keening was less… this. Her turns in Xanadu have been spent shutting out the assault of trumpeted greetings and flying into preparation for feasts when the ear-grating, bone-rattling racket of humming started. This… she cannot ignore and the raw emotion on the room simply adds to the overwhelming sense of tragedy that envelops her. Siebith. It'll take her more time to register that she knows this, nevermind how. Right now she simply nods mutely to Jethaniel because she cannot elaborate. One hand releases his forearm to press to her stomach, an absent gesture of pain-response. "He's crying for her," she says of Seryth, adding as Jethaniel seems to comprehend, "She's…dead?" She doesn't understand how that could be, but she's heard that when a dragon goes, so does its rider. "I don't know what happened," she answers lowly and now, though she's never been close to the Weyrwoman, it's beginning to occur to her that there are people she loves who will be affected. "Papa…I-" And Mur'dah and Marel - she should go to them, but Jethaniel's question yanks her preoccupation back to the current situation. To the tumult in the caverns. What can be done for them? "Oh - I don't know!" It's more frustration than irritation, her gaze taking in the distraught folk. "Blankets…hot drinks, soup, tissues…" Lots of tissues. She opens the fingers of her other hand and drops her hand. She needs to allow him to do what a steward does in this situation. "My assistants, wherever they are… I… I'll get the cooks to brew more klah, I-" She's confused, but she can do that much to start.

Evidently what a Steward does - or at least, has done thus far according to Jethaniel's example - is stand and stare. This is unlikely to have actually been useful, though it is perhaps not actively deterimental. He has lacked context, lacked - if not the authority - the knowledge to act. Darsce provides it. Dead. The she in question might as easily be Thea as Seryth; they are strongly correlated if not always bidirectionally causational. The reason for Darsce's awareness of Siebeth's mood is not questioned by Jethaniel; he likely presumes it to be an allusion to her declarative knowledge. Siebith would be crying. It is reasonable for him to be crying. Darsce may refer to him so, because it is too difficult for her to refer to her father. This theory would be supported by how she trails off from mentioning him, and Jethaniel's frown for her hand over her stomach is concerned. The stress might plausibly create such a reaction, even absent any direct influence from the dragons. The caverns might worsen such a reaction, and so Jethaniel lifts his freed hand, brush his fingers to Darsce's cheek. "Then go," he offers quietly. To her father, he means; he has seen the evidence of her concern, even if he lacks the details of precisely where and to who her thoughts tend. As for the situation here, and the tending thereof… he nods to her list of requirements, fingers lingering against her cheek. "I can find them." Her assistants, the cooks… random passers-by who seem less distraught than the rest. If there exists a plan, Jethaniel can implement it with moderate efficiency. Darsce has her family here, while Jethaniel only has Darsce. She may provide comfort to those who will receive it better from her; he may provide for those who have no particular preference. His own comfort… he has determined may wait. "I know how to make klah."

Darsce's done her share of standing and staring (well okay a little bellowing too), thus far her effectiveness has been zero. The caverns and her family play tug of war; the brush of Jethaniel's fingers upon her cheek interrupts her internal debate and her iceblue eyes return to meet grey. "I…will…." she leans her cheek into his palm, expels a breath and adds uncertainly, "…later. Siebith says he's…" she grimaces, "…still passed out." From last night's binge or this morning's? Who knows these days? And still she's apparently not finding it significant that she's heard the lonely blue dragon, for all he's known her all her life, and she's ridden upon him with her father, probably climbed all over him as a toddler, she'd be one of the ones he would reach out to. Later, perhaps, she'll go sit by him. Right now she has more pressing things on her mind. "I… I appreciate it Jethaniel. Can you speak to the cooks about the soup? I'll go get blankets from the infirmary." The infirmary, which, as far as she knows is swamped. "If you see any of them, send the first one to the infirmary?" That's where she's going to assume needs the most help at this point. "I'll be right back." And she turns her head, kisses the palm of his hand. She has no intention of putting her family before her duty, not after her motives had been called into question back when… ah but she's also grown into the responsibility… at least somewhat. Even then, when duties are dispensed, he's coming first. D'had has made his own bed, Mur'dah has Kiena and Marel has M'kal. Jethaniel has her and his reaction to this tragedy hasn't been lost on her. "I'll be right back," she repeats before she goes, threading her way through the crowds. And she will return to help wrap blankets around trembling forms, help pass out soup to shaky hands, murmur soothing things that, coming from her lips might sound ludicrous. She can do it - today. Tomorrow her sarcastic bite will be back.

Jethaniel inclines his head, a nod to Darsce's imminent departure that pauses as she clarifies the temporal status of that intentionality. There's a question in the grey eyes that meet hers, an implicit request for a certainty that is not actually present, but he does not challenge her assertion. Nor - though there is a certain element of perplexity for it - the assertion, now made evident through the report of declarative rather than emotive knowledge, that Siebith is, in fact, conducting direct communication. Darsce - to Jethaniel - is capable of many things, discovered and otherwise. He continues his nod, a faint frown for the information concerning D'had's condition. It is, however, not a particularly unusual statement, and is unlikely to change dramatically for the worse (or better) in the near future. The state of those in the caverns may, however, be improved through strategic action. Jethaniel rests his hand against Darsce's cheek, cupping it gently as he listens. One fingertip traces the line of the cheekbone, and his eyes remain on hers. "I will." Despite, however, the urgency of the situation, he delays another moment before doing so. He might wish… but that is irrelevant; he has deemed it so, and thus it is. Jethaniel can be efficient, sometimes. His smile for Darsce's kiss is a faint flicker, his answer to her simply, "I will." He will what? That's seen when he turns away, striding through the crowds with somber efficiency to the kitchens where he'll impose sufficient order that he may delegate the further imposition thereof to those better suited to the domain. Klah will be made; so will warm milk with soothing herbs. Both are - for certain of those in the caverns - appropriate. The soup is - given the circumstances - efficiently made. Later, Cook may grumble that the vegetables were undercooked and the stock was too cloudy, but for today it is warm and simple, soothing for those who need that comfort. Jethaniel, now that he is in motion, remains so. The first of the headwoman's assistants is sent to the infirmary; subsequent ones are, if they are not already occupied with tasks, instructed to acquire them. There are blankets and soup to be distributed, soothing things to be said. The task of comforting the Weyr seems, today, an endless one, but it proceeds.

In the wake of Seryth's death, the shock in the caverns slowly gives way to a sort of numbness. Mournful faces still cluster, draped in blankets and holding bowls of hot soup, but wailing has given way to quiet tears. The angriest of the riders have slipped away, gone to listen to Weyrleader and Weyrsecond. The most shaken have been taken to the infirmary, where - oddly enough - the Weyr's primary mindhealer appears to not actually be available for duty. The infirmary is, however, caring for them; here in the caverns, the headwoman and her assistants do the same along with whoever else has been deputized for dealing with the situation. Jethaniel has been in motion, doing whatever presents itself to him with the appearance of utility, but as the entropic system of the caverns becomes more orderly, it becomes more difficult for him to locate tasks which he is - given his lack of specific knowledge as to the functions here - capable of performing. He pauses to seek his next task, his face a somber mask that displays a weariness disproportionate to the hour and amount of labor he has performed. His eyes are shadowed as they survey the caverns from his vantage point near the edge of the room, a place to stand out of the crowd before - having obtained for himself a new purpose - he may return to work.

Comforting the weyrfolk is something Darsce does with bouts of vague preoccupation intermittently interrupting her attention to those still huddled about the caverns, her iceblue gaze at times unfocused and a soundless murmur to no one moves her lips, a nod or shake of her head in response to unheard words. She could simply be talking to herself, though anyone who knows her well may wonder, for she's not in the habit of doing so. Today? Well, it's got many of them behaving uncharacteristically. Work - what was Darsce doing when things turned upside down? Oh yes - that linen cart for the infirmary. Things are calm enough now that she can retrieve it from where she'd abandoned it - somewhere just inside the caverns from near the entrance to the administration hall. It's taken, left with the assistant helping out there and she returns to wander the dwindling crowds in the caverns, aimlessly checking the soup tureens and klah pot before drifting numbly back towards the door to the office. Work? Not even on her mind. Who could concentrate? But that's where Jethaniel is likely to be and so that's where she's going, even though she'd rather be in the privacy of their home. "There's soup and hot drinks over by the serving table," she says woodenly to the person standing surveying the room as she passes him without even recognizing that it's the very person she seeks. It might have helped if she'd looked at him, but right now… she cannot look into any more faces…

Jethaniel's gaze lifts, from people as mass noun to person in particular. Darsce is… instructing him as to the disposition of food and beverages. He's silent for a moment, letting her pass. "Yes." There are. They have been restocked as necessary in order to remain so; they are not, at present, a task. They have not - for some time - been a task appropriate to Jethaniel's skills; there are others who may more efficiently see to them. Having stopped, Jethaniel finds it difficult to start once more. Having been passed… he lowers his gaze, subsiding back against the wall. Perhaps he will go back to his office, but at this moment… he does not wish to move, nor can he find the necessity to do so.

Darsce continues into the administration hall, passes her own office to knock on Jethaniel's door, pokes her head in and nope. He's not there. The junior and weyrsecond's office is next - he's not there either. If he's in the Weyrleader's office, she's not interrupting that and so with a sigh she turns and wanders back out into the caverns where she'll look, hoping he's out there rather than closeted in with Soriana and Ka'el. Her gaze sweeps the room and ahha! She spots him by a wall and heads his way to stand before him ieblue eyes, though dry, are shadowed with the events of the day and a blue dragon's pain, "Please…" Her arms open. All afternoon she's hugged acquaintances and strangers, people she doesn't like like, some she cannot stand. "I can't…do this anymore. May we go home?"

Jethaniel may be needed later to help re-balance the budget and payscales that have been sent awry by today's unexpected expenditures, but at the moment, there is no need for him in the planning meetings and consultations. If something is possible, it will be done. If it is not possible… Jethaniel cannot make it so. In either case, his presence is irrelevant. He could have returned to his desk, to save from inkblots whatever it was he was working on before this began… but he has not. He could have gone home, but he has not; Darsce was here, and as such… ah, but Darsce has passed him, and he is disinclined to move, instead leaning against the wall in a posture of fatigue, gaze lowered with an unhappiness that hides from seeing others even in the crowded room. He wishes to depart; he does not wish to leave, because Darsce… he lifts his gaze to her again, a flicker of hope in dulled grey eyes. Jethaniel is not hesitant, but he is slow as he pushes himself from that wall, gently puts his arms around Darsce. "Yes," he says, and over her shoulder he takes one more look at the crowd in the caverns. Seeing them, holding her, he answers. "We may."

Later Darsce will need to make a survey in public areas for damage, note what needs replacing and what needs repair so she can make requisition forms to help augment the inflow into the steward's box. Likely it'll be minimal - just some broken crockery and a few cracked chairs. That can be done later though, as the shards have since been swept by someone needing to keep busy; no one's in danger of slicing their foot open, so that issue is not pressing. Tomorrow. Or the day after, whatever. Right now she's…she settles into Jethaniel's arms, briefly resting her forehead on his shoulder as a hitch of breath tells of emotion wrestled back into place. Lifting her head, she meets his eyes and her mouth trembles before it firms. "Let's," she manages in a whisper and that's all she dares say in public. Once outside, Darsce slips an arm around Jethaniel's waist, keeps her head down and away from the spot in the clearing Seryth used to lie enjoying the tots swarming her golden hide. Likewise, her eyes remain averted from the starstones. Which dragon there carolled the queen off that did not hail her safe return? She doesn't want to know. Doesn't want Siebith to see it either -if he's able to see through her eyes - she doesn't know. Crossing the Weyr, the silence broken by an occasional draconic moan… and the voices of children - too young to understand what this day has brought - at play off beyond the gardens in the playground. Home, once there and inside, she can at least breathe again, if not smile.

Jethaniel says nothing more in the caverns, at least not with words. His arms remain around Darsce, and while he continues to observe the room, it is with the wariness of one who wishes advance warning of any intrusions. His breathing is steady, if perhaps shallower and more rapid than would be precisely ideal. It is, however, within acceptable parameters, and he nods with a slow exhalation as Darsce confirms their plan for departure. As they leave the caverns, his arm goes around her back, his steps slow - not because he has any particular desire to linger, but merely due to a difficulty in motivation resulting in a generalized lack of both briskness and efficiency. They do, however, arrive at their cottage. They enter it, and the door closes behind them. Jethaniel… exhales slowly, and his eyes close. He has, in the time since that first wave of chaos, heard further fragments of report and rumor. They… have not provided any significant reassurance.

Xanadu Weyr - Domicile of Discernment

On the outside, this cottage is fairly unremarkable. It's of moderate size, though it's clearly not the home of a rider - there's no wallow, nor is there any means for even the smallest of greens to enter. It's set in the meadow, amidst the gentle roll of the terrain toward the ridge, but any adornment by flowers or ornamental plants is purely incidental. The exterior is painted white, and the roof-shingles are brown. There's a small wooden stoop, centered along the longer side - three wide steps leading up to a doorway framed by windows.
Once inside, the main room of this cottage is bright and airy, made so by a high arched ceiling and large windows that take advantage of their northern exposure, with gauzy drapes and pale golden oak sills. Overhead, there's more of that oak in the form of exposed beams, the ceiling between them painted a soft cerulean. During the day, there is likely sufficient illumination from those windows, but for night-time, there are recessed lights hidden within the beams that diffuse against the ceiling. The walls are white with a sponged speckling of the same blue from overhead, and underfoot is more of that oak.
The house has a central column of yellow fieldstone, with a fireplace facing into the room and a half-flight of stairs to either side - one leading up, the other down. Above the fireplace is an oakwood mantel, and while it may provide warmth, under most circumstances, the radiant heating system beneath the floorboards is likely to more effective. The fireplace may, however, provide a pleasant flickering warmth, and as such, a sofa and a pair of armchairs are arranged in front of it. The sofa's a velvety blue-grey, accented with a pair of red pillows, and the armchairs are brown leather - suitable for company but selected primarily for comfort.
There's a kitchen tucked off to one side, near the upward staircase. It's small, but well equipped, with granite countertops and a brushed steel cold-box and stove. There's an oblong wooden table with chairs set around it, and even some plants in small terracotta pots on the windowsill, as the presence of fresh herbs is useful when cooking.

Darsce has heard nothing. But then she's had Siebith in her head and truth be told, the comforting soothing words spoken aloud to people were likely meant primarily to the sad blue and only secondarily to them. They're home. She expels a breath in unison with her husband and turns her head to see his closed eyes. They've both been on their feet for hours and she… has eaten nothing. She's not hungry now either. But the upside is there's been nothing to throw up? She says nothing of that for the moment, just nudges him with a gentle almost-tug (more of a hint, really) towards that couch with the explanation, "…my feet." They do hurt and they are a little puffy. But she doesn't want to go there without him. If he remains standing, she'll stay by his side, as evidenced by her turn to him as her other arm encircles him. "You're…?" Because leading questions are better than stupid ones like 'how are you?' or 'are you okay?' Also, more quietly, "Do you…know anything more?"

Darsce's indication of a desired trajectory is sufficient to open Jethaniel's eyes once more. He is not in principle averse to motion, he merely lacks sufficient inclination of his own to overcome the inertia of this position. Darsce provides that inclination, the mention of her feet drawing a slight wince from Jethaniel. He follows it with a nod, slipping both arms around her for a moment - an acknowledgment and return of her embrace - before adjusting them in order that they may go to the couch. She will find it more comfortable there; so will he, but that is not ranked particularly highly among Jethaniel's current concerns. Her question - open-ended as it is - is answered by a lowering of his head. Jethaniel knows a great many things. Among the ones relevant to this context? "It was her rest-day." That fact, he did not learn in the caverns; he was already quite aware of it. "There was… snow." That, he overheard. "A storm." Dangerous weather conditions. Jethaniel knows the hazards thereof, though he is not aware of the precise circumstances which brought Seryth amidst them today. "I…" He swallows. "I do not know more." The comfort of the couch is sought, but more important to Jethaniel is the comfort of Darsce, his arms reached for her even as he seats himself.

He…doesn't say how he's feeling - not with words and though Darsce can guess, she doesn't try. His poignant expression thereof is telling enough that her eyes fill. "I'm sorry," she whispers rising on tiptoes to press her lips to his forehead. Once at the couch, she kicks off her sandals, flops down on the couch, pulls her feet up and scoots towards Jethaniel, into his arms to tangle with him even as he's lowering himself to the couch with her. A storm with snow. It's summer here, so that would mean…she went to the northern continent. Ahh. Darsce knows where the accident happened. Quietly she guesses, "She… must have gone to Cold Stone Hold. Her family's there. I've been there…once." That's the extent of her attempts at conversation, perhaps because he's quiet. She has no problem at all just holding him and being held.

Jethaniel knows a great many words, and yet under some circumstances, they may all be insufficient or imprecise. He sits on the couch, wraps arms around Darsce. Her suppositions regarding the accident receive a nod; acknowledgment, assent to the probability that she is correct. He certainly does not have any superior hypothesis to the one she presents. Jethaniel is silent at first, holding Darsce close against him, but eventually one of his hands shifts, tracing along her back. "It is… difficult," he says, his voice quiet, tone low as if it has fallen beneath emotion to find a pretense of steadiness, a lie of calm. His gaze is unfocused, distant; not looking at Darsce, nor at the wall across the room. "I… did not know her well; there exist many who have… more reason to respond."

Darsce remains curled into Jethaniel, with her arms around him, hands at first make the soothing motions on his lower back - similar to those that she's been making all day - only for others she did more patting. Not so now. Now her hands are gentle and slow, without conscious thought yet saying how much she loves him, how sorry she is. Her touch gradually slows, then stops and she remains so still she could almost be asleep, for she's nestled her head underneath his jaw with her face snuggled up against his neck. She can feel his pulse with the tip of her nose and when he speaks, the vibration of his voice as well. She remains quiet after he speaks, long enough that he might assume she didn't hear. But no, she inhales, "I didn't either but… You worked with her. Do you…wish to go?"

Jethaniel is not unresponsive to the motions of Darsce's hands, though his reaction is relatively sparse. His breathing slows, becoming a little easier. His arms remain close around her, though they are slow to reciprocate with motion, only doing so after hers have already ceased. She might sleep; were it so, he would not begrudge her that, and while his words fade into silence again, his hands, now that they have begun, continue to move with slow affection. Jethaniel has held Darsce to him; now he moves beyond the mere having of her to the appreciation thereof. He does not look down to ascertain her awareness; his words were meant for no audience beyond her, but that was a limit, not a necessity. He would let Darsce sleep… but she is not actually asleep, merely quiet, and in time, she speaks. She'll feel the fractional shift of his head that is, given their positioning, a sufficient nod. Jethaniel worked with Thea, yes. He has done so for longer than her Weyrleader, longer than the Weyrsecond and half the Junior Weyrwomen. For five turns, he has seen her nearly every day in the office… save for rest days, written on her calendar by his hand. There do exist those closer to Thea. That same hand might count them with moderate efficacy, were Jethaniel to change the presumptions from which he assesses that proximity. He closes his eyes for Darsce's question. "Where?" he asks softly. "It is… unlikely I could render any assistance. Nor do I… particularly wish company." His arms tighten perceptibly around Darsce, clarifying his perspective on her presence even as he states his general valence.

Perhaps it was the way he'd mentioned responding… "To Cold Stone Hold. To…see her family. They might wish to hear from someone who kne- knows her…" Darsce trails off uncertainly. They know Seryth is gone, but her rider? That's yet uncertain. Assistance? Maybe. She lifts her head, carefully ducking out from under his jaw to level a frank look at him. "I was thinking it might help you." She weasels one hand from where it's tucked between couch cushion and the small of his back, lifts it to brush his cheek with the back of curled fingers. It's a featherlight touch and though she doesn't flutter-fret, her eyes are shadowed with concern for him. "Maybe seeing her home… I…" She finishes in a little rush, "I don't know how to help you, Jethaniel." Her motion on his cheek stops, leaving her fingers near the corner of his mouth. "I… I don't know what to say, but I can listen?" If he'd like to talk, that is.

The appropriate tense for knowledge of Thea is… questionable. Jethaniel is aware of that, but he nevertheless winces to hear it expressed, an inward draw of his lips that lingers in a pained frown. His head lowers slightly as Darsce removes her head from beneath it, as if her presence was providing support in a more than emotional sense. His eyes shift to hers, slow though not hesitant. They are… weary, dragged down by the thoughts that have been in his head these past hours, the same weight that makes his limbs heavy and increases the coefficient of friction for any action. Jethaniel considers on Cold Stone Hold, on Thea's family, but his eyes accelerate the process of focusing on her as she clarifies. "Ah," he says. His head tilts slightly, leaning toward those fingers. "Perhaps." He exhales slowly, gaze lowering as he listens to her thoughts, then lifting again. "Nor do I." The words are quiet, grey eyes shadowed as they linger on hers, and while Darsce says she can listen, at first there's only the sound of breathing to hear. "We… often spoke regarding the Weyr; seldom of other things. There… were a great many projects." Jethaniel swallows. The spot where Seryth lounged, the starstones… but also the construction projects of the past turns, the new ready room, the crack in the cliff… Jethaniel has reminders everywhere. Would a trip to Cold Stone bring him closer, or further away? "She… did not always comprehend my plans." There's a faint smile, mingled inextricably with pained wince.

Darsce has deliberately avoided applying a prepositional phrase to Thea's name in answering Jethaniel. Certainly there have been mutterings about 'going to look' and though Darsce's not a rider, she's well aware that the Weyrwoman may be somewhere none of them can go to search for her. She doesn't voice that, doesn't wish to add to the heaviness she observes in Jethaniel, nor does she seek to artificially lighten his mood with false cheer. She can't. Not that it's too much effort; there isn't anything she wouldn't try to do for him if sufficient energy were the answer. Instead, her iceblue gaze remains steadily meshed with grey, reading the…dejection? there, hers reflecting regret, but nothing to the depth she sees - or thinks she does - in his. When his eyes leave hers, she focuses on the unhappy line of his lips and hers darken, pained. She is quiet while he speaks halting words that…make sense and despite the inadequacy of the bare information to express emotion, they manage to do so anyway. She…understands sorrow when she sees it even if she doesn't quite share it. A flicker of what might be a smile moves one corner of her mouth, "She gave you many puzzles to solve; you liked that." At the slight twist of his lips, her curled fingers move as one unit to gently graze his lower lip with a knuckle - just once - before her hand moves, the other joins it - to cup his face between them while she, giving his grey eyes an earnest appraisal, considers, and then finally remarks, "You know I wasn't close to her, but I think that says a great deal about the depth of her trust for you."

Jethaniel has heard those mutterings as well - passing references to plans, flight patterns… none of them things with which Jethaniel could assist. He is no rider, and the logistics of stewardship have little to do with search or rescue operations… so he is here, not there. Those puzzles are not his to solve. The ones Thea gave him, however… "I did." Had he not, he likely would not have retained the knot given him… but he did. His acknowledgment of that fact is a simple one, unlike… certain other constructions Jethaniel may at times employ. Even these simple words require interpretation, but Darsce possesses the skills to do so; she holds familiarity with the domain that is Jethaniel. His eyes remain on hers, but he does not search; he merely watches, keeps his gaze on Darsce as he keeps his arms around her. She may see him; he does not hide the pain as it seeps up after hours pushed aside, the slow words that express the complexities of his thoughts and feelings. Darsce was not close to Thea; this, he acknowledges with a slight nod, minute against her hands. He listens to the rest, and his lips quirk faintly as he restates it in fewer words than Darsce employed. "She trusted me." There are no modifiers actually required on that statement, but Jethaniel continues and further clarifies. "More, perhaps, than would be ideal." He smiles, though it wavers on his face. "She approved plans she did not comprehend." Which, while it could theoretically have been a general characteristic, is much more plausible when subspecified to refer to those plans coming from Jethaniel.

Darsce observes rather than retreat from Jethaniel's grief. It's not easy, it's not pleasant, but she could no more leave him to endure it alone than he could leave her on that cot when she lay in the infirmary unconscious. Her fingers are gentle upon his cheeks, he may escape the hands and turn away if he so wishes. "I mean, I thought she was alright though. She made my- my papa happy, so." She's not delving too deeply into her own feelings just yet; her mind skitters away from what the Weyrwoman did for her (others may say to her - or maybe to the Weyr). Right now her focus is upon Jethaniel. "Why's that?" she asks softly, tilting her head slightly, inquisitively. Thea's trust was more than it ought to have been? Of comprehending plans - his or otherwise - but mostly his because she's watched him down in their basement working over such, she bites back a faint smile, iceblue eyes go shifty for a moment, then, "Jethaniel? You do know that what's simple to you is sometimes complex to others, yeah? And that…even masters don't have the answers to some of the…things you…accomplish?" There is a note of pride in her husband in those two questions. Because Thea didn't seek the masters for her projects, she retained Jethaniel.

"But you were not her friend," Jethaniel agrees to Darsce's statements concerning Thea. This, admittedly, raises the question of whether he was, but it is not one which Jethaniel chooses to address… at least not out loud. It may be that it is not a simple one to answer; that may, further, imply certain things regarding the correct form of its answering. These implications… are also not stated by Jethaniel, though he does not retreat from Darsce; he could escape if he wished, but he does not have the desire to do so. His gaze is earnest on Darsce, open to her, and while he exhales slowly through the latter clause of her question, he does not draw away. "I am aware. I… do not necessarily believe she could have checked my work." Which does not, to Jethaniel's mind, entirely obviate the should; they are distinct concepts. The exigencies of Weyr management require a certain degree of compromise to the processes by which it is conducted, a lack of theoretical purity. Those masters might lack answers, in some cases, because they object to the practical considerations through which Jethaniel makes his projects feasible. His arms curve a little more firmly around Darsce. "I am capable of mistakes."

While her eyes remain steady, the expression therein turns wry, accompanied by both a slight twitch of brows and a tiny quirk of her mouth. Dryly, "I'm not… anyone's friend." Other than Jethaniel's, says the brief, sort-of-smile that sneaks across her lips right afterwards. He already knows why; making friends involves trust and that… It occurs to her that though reasons may differ, the end results may align. "I wasn't," Darsce agrees more seriously, "But I'll bet you were." A little whoosh of air through her nose will do for a laugh; the events surrounding this conversation aren't conducive to mirth. "Probably not," she agrees easily of Thea's technical abilities. "But I'll bet she'd be the first to know when something you tried went awry." Ah yes! Improvisation. He does that. And though she nods unsurprised agreement at his last comment, it may not be from personal experience; to her he is perfect. "Who isn't? You are also capable of telling her no. And how many people in a Weyr do you think a Weyrwoman can trust to do that?" How does Darsce know? She's never been privy to meetings between Steward and Weyrwoman. Ah, but she knows Jethaniel.

Jethaniel lowers his head slightly, turning it enough to brush his lips to one of Darsce's hands. It is not a denial of her lack of friends, but neither is it an outright agreement; it may perhaps be considered an orthogonal acknowledgment. Her observation regarding his own connection to Thea is met by a further lowering of his head - though he's not upset with Darsce; that much is made clear by a second touch of his lips near her wrist even as he hides his face behind her fingers. He's slow to lift it again, but he does so after a moment, grey eyes rising to seek Darsce's once again. When things went awry? "…that is sometimes dependent on the nature of the incident," he notes with a faint upward twitch of his lips, then swallows. "But yes. I informed her when things went wrong. I… omitted pertinent details only once." He lowers his eyes for a moment, then lifts then again to Darsce, nodding slightly to agree with his capability for disagreement. His brows arch in puzzlement regarding the relevance, and when it is provided, his lips curve in a wry smile. "Not enough." The smile lingers, but there's a gleam in his eyes to accompany it. "I believe that is… why she made me Steward."

It's hard to know just what the lowered head means today, though Darsce understands he's not displeased with her. She might read it as disagreement, the wish not to engage or at the very least, discomfort and so is silent, exhales a quiet breath at the touches of his lips to hand and wrist. "I'm sorry", she murmurs after a moment. "I didn't think it was a bad thing." Her hands slip from his cheeks, her intent to allow him freedom to keep his head lowered. "Mm," she agrees about scenarios of chaos; of course those in the immediate area would know, likely Jethaniel before the Weyrwoman. "I was generalizing," she notes, nodding acknowledgement again of reporting things to her. He surprises her with the admission of leaving out relevant information. "You did, huh? Why?" A half-smile pulls at her mouth in answer to his wry expression, "Maybe partially. I think she liked you." Okay, so she's biased. "It certainly wasn't to make you stop misbehaving!" He's given a faint smirk of semi-challenge while so saying.

"It was not. I merely…" Jethaniel trails off, and while a lack of words may be an element in that silence, it is not the only one. The inability of his throat to produce them coherently is also relevant; the consideration is… difficult. He has not previously conducted any particular analysis of his interactions with Thea, merely… enjoyed them. The retrospective analysis - while enlightening - also reveals the potential for regret. Jethaniel nods to Darsce's generalizations and agreements, and his lips tug to the side for her question. His answer is quiet and factual in tone. "When I reported the incident of the telescope's miscalibration," which is a quite generous way to state that particular series of events, "I did not mention your involvement." That incident also provides evidence that Thea's plan to stop Darsce from misbehaving - while perhaps ultimately at least somewhat successful - was neither instantaneous nor complete. It is certainly likely that Thea's motivations for that were different than the ones involved in promoting Jethaniel. For one thing, the case for it being a promotion (instead of a punishment) is far less tenuous when it comes to the Steward. There may, in fact, have even be some element of like involved, something Jethaniel acknowledges with a faint smile. "Perhaps." If not when she initially gave him the knot, then certainly it seems not only plausible but likely that Thea came to that perspective during their time working together. Jethaniel smiles, small but present, as he considers the role of misbehavior… and in particular, the reactions of the then-current Weyrleader. "It may, in fact, have been an encouragement to begin."

Darsce considers Jethaniel thoughtfully, understanding percolating through the back of her mind while she gives her attention to his answers. She… rather enjoys pushing buttons, though these days verbally rather than manually. She remembers the button she'd pushed that day and so his generosity is not lost on her. She blinks, then coughs, "You… Thank you, Jethaniel. I…I'm glad she wasn't the type to fly into a rage over..problems." Since, heh, she was one of them often enough. And who could not like Jethaniel? Darsce still doesn't understand Cyrus and A'dmar doing so. A'dmar's being the more virulent from the one interaction she'd witnessed. Neither did she miss the former Weyrleader's dissatisfaction with the appointment, her radar for trouble being attuned to ripples such as that. It's a talent that certainly serves her well in keeping the caverns running smoothly as headwoman. "Perhaps she was hoping we'd rub off on each other." She says it with a faint smirk, then adds more seriously, "I think she trusted you to handle that… with precision whereas I…" She leaves that hanging. She'd have gotten carried away and continued to make messes. "Siebith is asleep," she says seemingly out of nowhere, but the tension she'd been carrying around her eyes eases with the notation. With a silent question in them, she moves to creep onto his lap and curl into him. As her arms slip back around him, she leans her forehead against his and sighs. Then gently, "You're going to miss her." It's not a question. If they find her, she won't be the same. If they do not…

Perhaps Jethaniel should recall Darsce's affinity for buttons when the next occasion arises such that he wishes to present her with a gift. As regards the gift of his silence in the case of the telescope, he simply nods slightly to acknowledge her gratitude; not a dismissal, merely something he finds… unnecessary to clarify. It was for Darsce. For… love; a force which - while not sufficient to cause him to actively impair the good of the Weyr - was enough to cause him to mildly obscure a non-essential but pertinent detail in order to assure favorable outcomes for both equipment and miscreant. He grants more consideration to her statement regarding Thea's temper before providing it with another nod. "She was not. She was…" A slight smile. "…often quite calm." There are fragments of memories to prompt that smile, moments when Thea did not entirely maintain the calm expression generally suitable for a Senior Weyrwoman. Jethaniel's reminiscent smile lingers for the concept of behavioral transfer through frictional forces, and he indicates an assent to that possibility by the inclination of his head. "She… wished the best for me," he says quietly. There remains pain in his expression, but it's carried more easily now as he considers on Darsce's words and on the concepts he himself has expressed, both the ones he has not previously spoken aloud and perhaps those he has not previously expressed even to himself. For the moment, he may focus somewhat more outside himself once more, and he studies Darsce's face as she updates him regarding Siebith's status. Her relaxation is sufficient that he may deem it good, and so he nods. His arms adjust around Darsce as she settles onto his lap, his eyes unfocusing with the increase in proximity but remaining on hers. Darsce asks no question aloud, but he confirms the truth of her statement with a soft, "Yes."

A remote control device that 'explodes' scoundrels perhaps? With a big shiny red button she may hover her finger over while giving the weyrbrats who wreak havoc in her caverns the stink-eye if they don't go outside to play? Refraining from disclosure for love rather than informing. It's an art rarely practiced and might, if applied in other cases with other folks, do a world of good. Darsce will take Jethaniel's word for it regarding Thea's temperament - he worked closely with the Weyrwoman while she spent most of her time avoiding her save for the daily status report or… updates of problems large enough to require her attention. Though mingled with pain, the smiles ease some of the concern pinching her brows. Of the Weyrwoman wanting the best for him, her mouth twitches, she swallows and then nods slowly, "I… believe you." The wheels are turning in her head - which has dropped to study the headwoman's knot she still wears upon the right shoulder of her suit. She doesn't speak her thoughts aloud. Instead when she is astride his lap and curled against him, hears him agree to her statement, she whispers, "I'm sorry," and her forehead leaves his so she can brush a tender kiss to his cheekbone. The words, rather than apology are meant as sentiment that he's lost his Weyrwoman, his colleague…his friend. She falls silent then, returning her head to where it had been tucked under his jaw. Her arms will hold him until he is ready to leave them.

Jethaniel appears to understand the nature of Darsce's non-apology. It expresses sympathy; perhaps regret. Certainly, it appears to express an understanding of his regrets, the sorrow with which he faces the prospect of a lack of Thea in the future. Even if she survived, she will not have done so unchanged. Jethaniel would still seek to be her friend - the more for having realized the unstated truth that he has been so - but it will not be the same. That is both true in the general case and - in this one - something for which to be sorry. Jethaniel half-closes his eyes as Darsce kisses his cheek, lifting his head to touch his lips to her forehead before settling his head over hers, holding her nestled in against him. When he sat vigil over Darsce, Thea came to visit him. Now… Thea is gone, and Jethaniel sits with Darsce and his memories of the former Weyrwoman. He was not ready for Thea's departure; neither is he ready to depart Darsce's embrace, and it will be some time before he does so.

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