Forever and Ever

Cold Stone Hold - High Reaches
The bones of Pern herself have been pulled from the bosom of the planet and now rest against her spine, stacked by man and beast to defend against an era not long enough gone. Built into the side of one of the many mountains in the region, Coldstone Hold stands as both a grim reminder and as a place of hope, proof of humanity's costly victory over the Thread menace.

High stone barriers serve as walls around the main hold, owing wood for a single gate alone at its main entrance. What buildings there are rise up out of the ground like the tips of great, stony fingers, structures built entirely of rock. Yet, despite the seemingly rough-hewn appearance, a more subtle artistry exists within the hold proper. Walls are arrow-straight in places and artfully curved in others. Cottages and small villas might all be mounds of boulder and pebble, yet each has its own distinct similarities. Over fifteen families live within the sheltering walls of Coldstone, their houses and other structures gathered around a larger, central keep that bears the standards of the Lord and Lady holders themselves.

Around you, the quiet hustle of a hold's daily life can be heard, and while the hold lacks some of the more modern touches seen in the south, its inhabitants do not seem to have noticed at all. The air is thick and crisp, laden with the smells of stone and earth, freshly baked bread and the sweat of beasts. Cold stone with a warm, beating heart.


The day is drifting towards the evening when Kalsuoth's tired mind reaches for Isyriath's. « We return. We have found a few of her things, but have not found her. Mine comes to find yours and the holder. » Mur'dah first seeks out his uncle to deliver his report, and then walks to look for Marel, first trying her room.

When not assisting where she can and finding any number of organisational tasks that she can busy herself with, Marel has spent most of her time in her room or with Isyriath, choosing to be with human company when she can tolerate it, and completely without when she cannot, and nothing in-between. This afternoon, she's helped with the preparations for dinner and then retreated to her room, after checking on her grandmother, and is now to be found curled up on her bed, on top of the covers, trying to distract herself with a book and the presence of her four firelizards, who have tucked themselves in around her. « She waits for him, » Isyriath promises, and that is indeed the case, Marel's gaze lifting to the door.

Mur'dah arrives a few minutes later, knocking softly before he steps inside, and closes the door behind him. "Hey," he says softly. He looks tired, grieved and worn out, his hair windblown and his cheeks flushed from spending the day in the skies, searching. "We found a few things…" Tired steps move him to her bedside and he sits carefully, glancing at his twin and swallowing thickly.

All but one of the firelizards launch themselves to higher perches in the room when Mur'dah steps inside, while Brier hops his brown self over to another of Marel's pillows and curls up there, opting to stay close. Marel herself sets her book aside and sits up properly, folding her legs beneath her as she gives a single nod to convey understanding that can't yet emerge in words. After a moment or two, she murmurs, "…So she… went with Seryth?" That that is her hope is at odds with her expression. "She's not—" Suffering, somewhere.

Mur'dah reaches into his inner pocket and carefully pulls out a pair of goggles. One lens is broken, and the gold 'T' on the temple, well. They've seen them often enough. "We're still going to look, but…we found these on the cliffs." He sets them down in his lap and then reaches beneath his shirt. Grasping something, he lifts a chain off over his head. "We found this by the lake." Opening his palm, he can't look at his twin as he reveals their mother's locket. The one with the pictures of both of them inside at four turns old. The one she was never, ever without. "It must have fallen off…" It's not broken.

At the sight of the goggles, Marel presses her lips together and bites down on the inside of her mouth to keep from making a sound or saying anything. She stares at them, then starts to reach out to touch the edge of that broken lens, only to suddenly dart her hand back and away as though burned, a visible ripple of nausea passing across her expression. In the end, she touches Mur'dah's knee instead, trying to be supportive, but the locket does her in and her shoulders slump, her eyes falling heavily closed. "…I don't—" she starts to say. Deep breath. "I don't want to know how it fell." If anyone ever finds out, because the scenario she must be envisioning is plainly not one she can deal with.

Mur'dah scoots closer and slips his arms, both of them, around his twin, hugging her against him gently but firmly. His throat works but he can't say anything either. Not for a long moment. "I think," he finally whispers against her shoulder, "I think they were lost trying to get home. After…after they hit, skipped to the lake, then…they tried to come home." And didn't make it. It's the only theory that makes sense. He stops talking again, his voice too thick as tears leak from his eyes. He's given up trying to stop them.

Marel nods mutely and lifts her arms to encircle Mur'dah, unable to give voice to anything that news makes her feel or believe, and so she just tucks herself closer to him, ducking her head down against his shoulder in a mirror image. She doesn't let any tears fall, and simply holds her twin close, one hand soothing gently at his back. It's all she can manage to do for at least a couple of minutes, lost in the silence that says too much, and then she utters, in a voice that is somehow both squeaky and hoarse: "…She's never going to see my baby."

Mur'dah nods his head against her shoulder, his voice grating. "I know…" Or his. If he ever has any. "She was so happy…she would have been a great grandmother…" His hold on his twin tightens, eyes shutting tightly. "Oh, Mare…" he whispers. "What are we going to do?"

"Well, I'm not going to be Weyrwoman like her," Marel blurts out, absurd humour striking out of the depths of despair. No matter how often she might have talked about Impressing gold when she was little, Isyriath is most definitely brown. "…We'll have to… make her proud in other ways. I don't know. We should… ask Uncle Tharen what he'd like done with what she inherited from Thadan." She's not going to assume that any of it goes to them. "And… I guess we will have to sort out her cottage before anyone else tries to. I don't know." Alternating between the practical matters at hand, and beyond that, that she can't think through yet. "Try and… be normal. Even if nothing's normal."

Mur'dah laughs, even though it's short and pained, lifting his head to smile wearily at his twin. His expression twists. Talk about their mother's inheritance? "Cold Stone should have it back," he murmurs. He doesn't want it. He swallows thickly, and nods. "Don't think anyone would do that. We will. In…in a few days maybe…I can't…" He can't fathom going to his mother's cottage now. He takes a slow, shaky breath, and holds out the locket. "You should have this, Mare." Be normal? After this? He frowns, and then he just hugs his twin again, tight and close. "I love you, you know that right?"

"We should ask grandmother if there are things of hers that she wants to keep. To remember her." Marel presses her eyes tight shut again. "She's lost her husband and her daughter." It's easier, for her, to talk about how others are feeling and what can be sorted out, to keep from focusing on what is now becoming the unavoidable truth. "Ask Uncle too. They should— They should have things, of hers. Some of her things should go… home." Like Thea never got to; not this time. When Mur'dah holds out the locket, she draws back enough to look down at it, wordless, before she makes herself say, "Don't you… You found it." It's easier to just wrap her arms back around him again. "I know. I love you too," she murmurs. "Forever and ever."

Mur'dah swallows thickly, thoughts swirling. Is she gone? Really gone? He'll still look. He'll still spend a few days searching, most likely, just to be sure, but… Thinking about what to do next is hard. "Some greenrider found it," he murmurs against her shoulder, "I brought it to you to have." He squeezes her tightly. "And ever."

Marel gives in without further argument, and silently lets the locket tip into her open palm, where she closes her fingers around it, but not too tightly. "Thank you," she says softly, losing the battle against the tears she was determined not to shed. Taking a deep breath, she tells her twin, "…We'll be okay." Eventually. Sometime. Somewhen. Not yet. Later, she'll slip the locket's chain over her head and make sure it isn't parted from her.

Mur'dah hugs her close, gently kissing her hair, silent while they both shed some more tears. "We will be." But he doesn't know when.


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