Continued from: Babes in the Woods


Xanadu Weyr - Weyrleaders' Office

Office and retreat, this is the domain of Xanadu's Weyrleaders. The door is in the eastern wall, quite close to the southern end while the northern wall is dominated by big, expansive windows, framed by sumptuous deep blue drapes edged with a brilliant gold braid and tied back with a thick rope of braided gold and blue cord. In between, the eastern wall is covered floor to ceiling with shelves that house all sorts of records, manuals and supplies that are used on a day-to-day basis. The southern wall has the Weyrleader's desk — plain fellis wood, well polished and masculine. From behind his desk, the Weyrleader can look straight through the windows and out onto the main airspace of Xanadu. The western wall is where the Weyrwoman's desk resides: a lovely piece of furniture made of warm cherry wood. From her seat, a glance sideways gives her an equally good prospect out the window. There are a few other seats, some comfortably arranged around a low round table for small, informal meetings while there also some that can be drawn up to one of the desks.

On the south side of the door, the space is occupied by a low oblong table where refreshments can be set without someone needing to intrude. There is also an 'incoming' tray where incoming correspondence or similar items can be left.

Yeah, she'll march right in there and interrupt the weyrwoman! See if she doesn't, because this is important. Of course, little legs can only move so fast, and about the time she and Laurali are crossing the evening supper-rush in the caverns, Soriana is starting to realize that what she's doing is taking a crying little girl straight to the senior weyrwoman on the basis of an incoherent story and Sarl once having stared at her funny. It… seemed like the right thing to do. Still does, really, because it does seem like something isn't right here. Just… well. Maybe charging isn't quite the right thing to be doing. At least a glance at Muir and Marella can assure her that Thea isn't opposed to the concept of children in general, but what if the Laurali is just acting up and blowing things out of proportion? Well, then Sori'll be scrubbing floors and cleaning latrines for a week. Oh well. She heads on down to the weyrwoman's office with the little girl's hand still in hers. At least the door's partway open. That's a good sign, right? Hopefully. She knocks on the side of the door with her non-snotcovered hand before pushing it open. "Uh, 'scuse me…" Watch, there'll be an important meeting going on. Or the weyrleader and weyrwoman will be gone because it's a restday, and she'll have to go find them somewhere. Or…

Or the Weyrsecond could be visiting, in which case the kids are probably in for an eyeful, but no, then the door would have been shut all the way and possibly locked. Instead there's no one in there but the Weyrwoman, the Weyrleader either away on some important task or taking the restday as she should be doing but isn't. She's ignoring the delicious scent of cooked food wafting down the hall in favor of finishing some document she's pouring over with dark brows knit in her effort to concentrate while nibbling on the end of her pen. The tap of knuckles on her door has her calling an absent, "Come in," but not quite looking up yet. Of course Muir and Marella are still tagging along behind the pair of girls, even though most of the entourage seems to have diverted in favor of dinner. They are silent for the time being as they lag behind a few steps.

Laurali's tears have tried up for the most part by the time Soriana and the twins have lead her from the forests and back to the Weyr proper. The girl seems to shrink back a little, likely tugging on their hold on her when it's the supper rush, her wide eyes darting all over as if suspicious and wary of each face. Luckily for them she's too meek and scared and tired to put up much of a fuss or she'd likely break their grip and bolt. Then wouldn't that be a mess! When they do reach the office, as the door is knocked upon, Laurali instantly tries to hide herself behind the other children, hunching her shoulders and making herself as "small" as possible. But it has to be done and when Thea's voice calls them from within the office, Laurali makes a soft worried sound and begins to fidget with her hands. Poor thing looks miserable in her borrowed, ill fitting clothes, messy hair and wind-chapped skin. Eyes dart to Muir and Marella then and back to Soriana and she's frozen to the spot. Looks like Laurali will have to be coaxed (or dragged) in.

Being told to come in, also a good sign. And, Thea is here, and only Thea. Also something to relax over… though Laurali is anything but. Soriana starts to take a step forward, then stops when she sees how completely not being followed she is. "C'mon," she says, with maybe just a touch of impatience mostly on account of her being worried. What if this /is/ nothing? Is that what this hesitation is? She steps back to where Laurali is hiding. "She won't bite, you just gotta tell her…" Sori urges the younger girl, and reaches to try and put her arm around and half-push her forward. Into the office with her!

Muir is, of course, distracted enough by his empty stomach and the fact that back there in the caverns they're serving grilled wherry-burgers in the middle of winter and there's cheese melted on top to be had and thus Laurali is easily able to get behind him to hide. Marella, ever the bossy one, steps back to avoid being in front of the troubled girl. "It's just my mama," she tells Laurali with a 'silly' not quite spoken, but implied as she tosses dark hair about while shaking her head. She's all still into starry-eyed admiration of Soriana taking charge and so when the older girl puts her arm around Laurali, she attempts to help by 'herding' (aka pushing) from behind. Even though they aren't quite that yet, Muir just grunts and mutters, "Women!" That's what his father would do, which is good enough reason for him! Hearing the sound of children's voices coaxing in her office doorway is enough to pull Thea's attention from those papers and she looks up - glass green eyes lifting from desk to door without any other movement coming from her while her mental gears shift. "Tell her what?" It sounds ominous but see, Muir and Marella are involved by all appearances, so…

Laurali flinches a little when Soriana puts an arm around her, locking her in and half-pushing her forwards, the girl takes a few small shuffled steps. "B-but…" she protests meekly. Maybe it /is/ nothing! Could it be just all ploy for attention or a false alarm? Or is the strange girl just so plain scared that she's simply freezing up? To Marella, she only stares as if the girl had said something so shocking when really it was meant to be reassuring. "She's… But?she's the Weyrwoman…" Laurali murmurs quietly, hands still fidgeting and worrying themselves as she tries to wrap her head around the situation. But now she's in on the herding too and the poor thing has no choice but to be ushered in despite her weak protests. Cold feet? You betcha. So in they go, half pushing and half leading as she slowly shuffles into the office. At soon as her wide eyes lock on to Thea, Laurali's nerves begin to fray and poor Soriana and Marella are used as makeshift shields again as the young girl tries to disappear behind them both. At the ominous tone, she remains quiet though there's guilt written as clear as day all over her features and her posture.

"It's not her fault," says Soriana first off, because she knows that sort of tone Thea's using. Not that she stops pushing in order to speak, because then the reluctant tale-teller might get away. Why did Sori get herself involved again? Oh, yeah. It had something to do with those red eyes of Laurali's and her ill-fitting coat. That's right. Marella's assistance gets a brief smile for the younger girl, and as for Muir, well, she doesn't /say/, 'Boys!' in an exasperated tone, but that's only because she's too busy getting Laurali inside. She most certainly thinks it! "C'mon," she says instead, and once they're in, she keeps her hand on Laurali so the other girl can't actually run away… Well? /She's/ the one who said it was oh-so important and she had to talk to the weyrwoman, and now here she is! Time to talk, instead of just hiding. Soriana addresses Thea to explain, "Iarua's gotta tell you something important. About Sarl."

"I'm sure it isn't-" the Weyrwoman starts to drawl in response to Soriana while eyeing Muir knowingly when the sight of him cuts her words off and she pushes up from her desk to step around it towards the children. It's the male in the group that's getting a narrow-eyed look and a sharp, "What's the blood on your jacket? Have you been in a fight, Young Man?" And here her gaze sweeps the group of girls with a concerned appraisal, looking for bodily damage and mussed hair. "Did he-?" Well, he's smacked his sister, who likely deserves it from time to time, not that he gets away with that. Marella is so non-impressed with the fact that mama-is-also-the-Weyrwoman that Laurali's protest meets a blink and a, "Yeah, so?" Authority in both parents where it pertains to the Weyr taken completely for granted at this stage in her life. Muir just grunts and shakes his head while the words Soriana speaks finally sink in, "Sarl…Sarl… Oh! The woodcutter, right?" Now her eyes drop to take in the frightened stance of Laurali. Frightened of her? Green eyes soften and she drops to one knee to be at eye level before her. "Ilarua, wasn't it? Is there some problem with your father, Sweetheart?"

So much for subtle entrances and Laurali is fixing Soriana with such a incredulous look when the other girl's opening statement is thrown out so bluntly. If she wasn't so preoccupied, she might have shot a glare her way even though the other is only trying to help. Instead, her eyes only tear up again though Laurali sets her jaw stubbornly and tries to fight it back. Marella's comment isn't entirely ignored or meant to be, but the girl can only shake her head before Thea is upon them and she shuffles a little closer to Soriana's side. Well, at least she isn't bolting. When Muir gets the brunt of the Weyrwoman's attention to start, she only stares between the two in silence and it's likely not helping at all with her worries. It's only when being spoken to on eye level that Laurali seems to shed enough of her fear to /finally/ speak up. Speak up in a babbled mess that is so fragmented it makes no sense. "Y-yes. No! No, that's not right. It…he made me lie, you have to understand. That ain't our names." She begins, quietly and frightened at first but then the flood gates are open and the tale spins out faster and her tone takes on an almost hysterical edge to it. Poor Soriana too, if the girl hasn't moved away, may find that she's being clutched at by Laurali at one point and if not her, Marella will be the next target. "M'name is Laurali. Not… not Ilarua. And he ain't Sarl. He's /bad/. And he ain't my father! He made me lie about that too and and… a lot of things. I'm sorry! I didn't want to but he /made/ me…"

If Laurali wanted to be subtle, she should have started first! Her chance has /come/ and /gone/. Besides, this isn't the first time Sori's used that sort of trick to prod a recalcitrant someone into talking. A glare would only make her pleased with success. She's maybe not the most patient of people sometimes. Or the most subtle. Still, she lets the younger girl press right up against her. Even strokes against her back lightly as she starts talking, much like she might a frightened runner. There, there, it's - huh. Wow. This is either a fabulous story, or else things really *are* terribly awry and need dealing with promptly. Sori's eyes get wider as she listens, and after a moment or three of being stunned she resumes the comforting pets while her ears stay at attention.

Thea's mind shifts gears again when Laurali speaks, her lips part, but the words she might say are forestalled by Marella's scornful, "No, mama, Muir slipped and hit his chin on the rocks. After I told him not to go on them!" For this the girl earns a glare from Muir, who mutters, "Tattletale!" Thea's gentle fingers tip Muir's chin up, ignoring the spat between her two offspring, notes the cut is small and scabbed over. Her main concern is the confusing revelation from the child and so she shoos her own out the door, "Go on out and get some dinner; I'll be out shortly." A perplexed glance is sent to Soriana as she muses over the statements just made, though the look is also mingled with approval for the way she's comforting Laurali. It's clear that she doesn't know quite what to think or how serious this really is. Back to the youngest as hers depart still squabbling with each other under their breaths, she says soothingly, "Laurali then. Don't worry, I'm not mad. He's a lot bigger than you, so you had to do what he said, right?" Casually, she reaches to push the office door closed with her fingertips so they won't have ears listening in that oughtn't be. Then she offers, "Come sit on the couch and tell me why Sarl wanted you to lie."

Maybe Laurali should learn some of Soriana's tricks then, but that chance may never come. But the girl has well and truly fallen to any tricks or traps and when her makeshift "shield" doesn't spurn her, her grip on the other girl only tightens all the more. Soriana, Marella and Thea are all about to get /quite/ the tale and things are terribly awry. When the two siblings are sent away and the office door is closed, Laurali has a brief look of panic cross her features. The only thing keeping her in check is Soriana's soothing gestures and the fact that her only means of escape are shut now and when Thea moves, her wide eyes follow. "He ain't /Sarl/." Laurali stresses and her distress is obvious. It's like the girl is still conflicted in telling the truth, even though she's well and safe in the office. "It's Laris. His name is /Laris/. And he's a bad, bad man…" The couch is given a long and wary look from where she peers at it. Unfortunately, Soriana will likely have to give her a shove here too, as the girl's thoughts are elsewhere. She hasn't fallen silent anyways. "It's cause of Fort. He's mad… very mad. He found me and he snuck me away, with others with his lies and then made me lie… I knew it was wrong but I was mad too and… and… I'm gonna be in trouble for this…" In her fear and hysterics, Laurali is all over the place with her story, babbling almost incoherently at times and hindered further when the tears break through and her words become garbled.

Soriana meets Thea's eyes for a moment, and her face pretty clearly replies to the weyrwoman's perplexity with her own. She just brought Ila- Laurali here, that's all she knows! Well, that and the fascinating tale Laurali now tells, which her ears are most assuredly listening in on. Sori slowly nudges Laurali toward the couch in question while keeping up the soothing motions, then sits next to her. Through it all, the older girl stays silent. If there are questions to be asked or other things to be said, Thea will certainly know them, and besides - if Sori speaks up, Thea might suddenly realize that she's only almost-fourteen and has no particular excuse for her presence at what seems to be rapidly becoming important weyr business.

She's only moved a half step away, to shift and push the door shut. Still on her knees at that. "Okay, not Sarl. What is his-" the Weyrwoman's gentle question is forestalled as Laurali provides the name. She nods understanding to this, although there's no recognition of the name. She makes no attempt to force the child to the couch, but follows only after the pair move, if they do. As the rest of the girl's words tumble forth, she just murmurs in her throat in attempt to soothe the little girl while she speaks. And though Laurali has a grip on Soriana, Thea is a mother and would like to attempt a hug to reassure the child, but the fear of her – and the authority she represents - prevents this even as her arms lift briefly to offer one, then fall. Oh, she knows Soriana is just a teenager, but the girl gets a silent appeal to remain, a flash of a smile for the way she's handling herself and the situation. Back to Laurali, she finally interjects firmly, "Laurali. You are not going to be in trouble. Not from me and I am sure not from Fort. You are not an adult and I know how it is to grow up in a hold - I grew up in one myself. Children are taught to do what the grownups say." Glass-green eyes attempt to meet hers, sincerity and a sparkle of determination flashing in them. "We're on your side. I think it's time for you to know you can trust someone to help you. Now, if this Laris isn't your father, then who is and where can we find him?"

Nudged and encouraged on by Soriana, Laurali slowly moves towards the couch in hesitant steps. When she does sit, it's on the edge and her posture is tensed and her shoulders remain hunched, her head lowered and her tangled hair falling forwards enough to mask some of her features. At this point she's staring at the floor between her feet and Thea's gesture is missed and luckily at that. Her head tilts a little at the Weyrwoman's words, indication that the girl is listening despite her distraught nature. But her question is met with a tearful upwards glance and Laurali dissolves completely then. Neither she or Soriana will have to encourage her now. It all comes tumbling out, not so much from reassurance of safety so much as it is just a relief to end the games. The girl is /tired/ and now that it's started it's almost as if she can't stop. "They sent him away!" Laurali exclaims and her voice breaks into a sob. When she's recovered, she wipes angrily at her eyes. "We were holdless. Laris… is a bad man. He pretends to be good! He had my dad follow him and others. Then he went 'n killed all those cotholders. My 'da… my real one said it wasn't right of him. A v-very bad thing. So he turned sides and gave himself up to Fort Weyr. T-to protect me and him. But things went wrong. They wouldn't let me see him no more…" Hands clench on the couch then and Laurali is suddenly angry, of all things, as the story she weaves grows ever more complicated and confusing. "They sent him away. Laris got away too and it was said he was crazy enough to take on the Weyrleader. He's /bad/. He kills folks. All he talks about is Fort and… a-and other things I don't get. Holds, Weyrs… says things are wrong and good folk suffer." She shakes her head then, falling silent as her words fail. Suddenly, she's focusing intently at Thea and with Soriana still clutched to with one hand, she reaches out to clasp at the Weyrwoman too. "You /have/ to warn them." Laurali pleads, suddenly frantic as a child is wont to be under such stress. "He's going to do more /bad/ things. I just know it. Fort, maybe Xanadu now… cause I-I… lied and now he's gone." More tears now as guilt comes into play.

If her curiosity wasn't enough to keep Soriana, Laurali clinging to her certainly is. With Laurali on the couch, Soriana sits with her own leg touching the younger girl's, and keeps up the gentle touches. She's hardly going to go pushing the near-hysterical little girl away, despite the pushing her into and then across the room. That's different. For all she most certainly wants to stay, there's something about her presence that feels transgressive, enough so that the smile from Thea leaves her surprised for a moment before she gives a little nod in reply. No time to think on that now, because Laurali is continuing with… wow. Murder and vengeance and… taking on a Weyrleader? That's a thing more shocking than just death, because the poor dragon! Sori's eyes widen, looking down at the child beside her and listening. As Laurali starts to cry, Sori impulsively puts an arm around her and squeezes the younger girl firmly against her side. She, too, looks at Thea with something like beseeching. Well? She's the weyrwoman! She'll take care of it, right?

With the words 'killed the cotholders', the Weyrwoman's face becomes very grave, but she otherwise remains poised and relaxed for Laurali's sake. "I see," she says calmly although inside it's a totally different matter. Her handclasp is warm, meant to be reassuring and she's silent for a few beats while she's bespeaking Seryth, who is relaying her terse messages to Xe'ter's Romth, D'had's Siebith, Sorrin's Yumeth, Briana's Sahazyth and also Fort's Weyrleaders - Th'ero's Velokraeth and Dtirae's Zuvaleyuth. "I promise I will warn them, Laurali and we'll set the guards to be extra watchful here tonight. It will be alright," she tells both girls firmly. The crying has her looping one arm around Laurali's shoulder, augmenting Soriana's support. It's obvious even though there's more to the story, that the girl is nearly overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted. "I'm going to have dinner and some hot cider sent in. I want you to let me know if there's anyone here you feel comfortable with - your harper maybe? - who we can have you stay with." And then she's making brisk preparations to make the girl as comfortable as possible - ordering clean, dry clothing for Laurali and hot dinners for all of them while adding via Seryth to her staff to give them at least 30 minutes before coming in.

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