Call It What You Will

Xanadu Weyr - Garden
An arch woven from the tendrils of a willow tree stretches overhead lightly creeping with ivy as one steps in from the meadow into this sanctuary of green. Cool gray flagstone carefully spaced enables a soft velvety moss to thrive within the cracks, and creates a single wide pathway that fluidly breaks off into two paths of stone once free of the natural arbor. It is a wonder this place, and meticulously tended from the way it seems not a single leaf is out of place. On either side of the main path expansive grassy patches are trimmed short and edged behind with natural tan colored stone selectively chosen to stack just right. Beyond these are a line of fine puffed shrubberies in vibrant green intermingled with flowering bushes of brilliant pinks varying in hue from the very light to the very dark, which causes the occasional snowy white blossoms of other scattered here and there without worry to simply pop out of the scenery.
Directly in the center of the garden is another wall of intricately stacked stone, this of muted grays, creating what from the air would prove to be a perfect circle. It's been set high for safety, but not so much as one would not be able to lean over it to admire what lies beyond, either standing or sitting at the smattering of benches whose backs are set every four feet along it. Flush to the ground inside it's protective stone outcropping, is an enormous twenty foot wide fish pond. Within one can glean the metallic glint of playful goldfish, the unhurried cruise of fat koi, and even a frog or three among pale yellow and white flowering water lilies and their thick green pads.
The trees surrounding the entire garden were planted to give the impression that they had always been here, not only lending to a rustic look, but also eluding to the beauty that can be found among the wilds if only one might just look for it. Species vary from the ordinary Birch and Pine, but the flaming red capsules of the Indian Shot to the robust orange spokes of the Firewheel tree suggest the spice of the exotic. The two paths leading away from the entrance have come full circle, wrapping around to meet each other on the other side, yet still continue on to the far left and right. One path leads off deeper into the surrounding woods, while the other wider; cheerily decorated with brightly colored slabs of painted stones.

Outside of the archives or around the meadow in which her cottage lies, not a great deal has been seen of Marel, of late. Chances are, it's because walking has become more a chore than it ever used to be, but today she's making slow progress from the greenhouse and through the garden, a tray of seedlings carried in a basket that's looped over her right arm. Her path seems set to carry her back in the direction of the meadow and home, but it's a lazy one that involves stopping to check in on flowers and plants here and there. The seedlings have company in the basket, in the form of an awkward-looking brown firelizard, while a green clings to the brownrider's shoulders, her focus on her, rather than what's ahead of or around them.

In those same days, Soriana's certainly been seen. It's hard to avoid, actually. Something about the knot on her shoulder seems to mean that. There's meetings, there's official visits… plenty of chances to see her. Opportunities to do more than see? Those are a bit harder to come by if they don't involve going to her office or being part of one of those official visits. That, or being family. If it's not one of those things… it's hard to find time for it. Today, though, she has neither office nor retinue. She doesn't even have her knot - not on her shoulder, anyway. Soriana's just out in the garden by herself, seated on the ground and leaning back against a low stone wall. All by herself, and then she notices motion. Her eyes drift to Marel, watching for a moment before lifting her hand in a small wave.

To stop means to want to find something to lean against or somewhere to sit, and while it's plain that Marel briefly considers sitting down beside Soriana, the logistics of doing so and getting up gracefully are just as evident. "Weyrwoman," she quietly greets, opting for that mode of address, even though it seems to pain her as she speaks the word, shown in the tightening of her expression. She tries out a small smile a moment or two later, as she deviates from her path and moves to prop herself against the wall, the basket planted down on top of it. "What brings you out here?" From her shoulder, the green darts down her arm and joins the brown in the basket.

Weyrwoman. She is, but Soriana's mouth still tugs to the side, an expression that's halfway to a 'but' even if it doesn't go the rest of the way. "Brownrider." Her hand does lift the rest of the way, offering a salute that seems faded instead of crisp, the motion slow before her hand falls back to her lap once again. She watches as Marel finds a comfortable-enough place to lean, a nibble of concern at her lower lip before she looks up at the question. "I got it from her, you know. Telling people not to use the title. Because… she said it." Soriana smiles. "Don't think I really got why, at the time." The smile fades as she looks out over the garden. "It's because it gets lonely, being around people. Being their Weyrwoman all the time instead of being… you."

Marel finds that she can't quite look at Soriana as she mentions that particular her, but she manages to maintain a mostly even, calm expression as the existence of that element of the conversation settles over her. "She loved a lot of people," she murmurs, her icy-green gaze fixed on some distant point on the horizon. "I think not using the title was one of the only ways to show that she cared because she did, not because she had to, just because her dragon was the senior queen." She twists a little, to lean her back against the wall, rather than one hip. "I don't mean to make the distinction, but I'm not in the habit of claiming over familiarity, in-case it's not wanted. That's as much a habit from - or because of - her. I never wanted anyone believing that I got away with murder because I was hers."

Soriana doesn't seem to pay much attention to Marel's face. Not that it'd help much if she did, but… she nods to what's said. "She did." Love in the air. Or, well, not just in the air, because that's dragons. Love… just because. Soriana glances to Marel again as the brownrider shifts, then sighs slowly as she looks back to the garden - ground, more than horizon. "You can if you want. I… dunno if it'd be easier or not." One corner of her mouth tugs up in a half-smile. "It's all about what they believe, sometimes. I'm Weyrwoman because they think I am. If they stop asking themselves if they should salute… then the Weyr falls apart. I guess… that's another reason to tell people. Remind them that… well, I'm Weyrwoman, but I'm their Weyrwoman."

"I think it'd be easier not to use the designation while I still expect it to mean my mother." Not that Marel agrees to drop or employ it, with what's ultimately a guess at her own feelings before anything else can be factored in. "Not that that is really any excuse," she adds, seeming to veer away from the choice with that thought. "It depends what you would prefer, in the end. Most of your decisions have the power to override mine." Matter of fact, not bitter or objectionable. She considers the horizon for a moment or two, then hazards, "In my opinion, you're Weyrwoman as long as you do right by the Weyr. If you start exploiting it for your own gain, or punishing people just because you can, then people won't want to call you by name or rank." Her lips tug to one side. "If people want to call you by name because they want you for who you are, then I think you're safe."

Soriana nods to that guess about a hypothetical, then looks up to Marel for her lack of excuses. Her eyebrows rise, and then she nods. It's hardly some deep secret, this Weyrwoman thing of hers. "That's true." Not that she goes on to explain further what it is she wants, but this time her gaze remains on Marel even as the brownrider looks away to the horizon for her thoughts. "Heh." Doing right by the Weyr. It's an amused sound that Soriana makes, albeit a faint one, and she has a smile… briefly. It fades as Marel goes on to give examples of ways to not do right by it, all the way into a frown. She exhales at the end, a little of the downward turn of her mouth escaping with that sigh, and shakes her head. "Course, I'm never going to know that, am I?" She smiles wryly. "Not if I tell them to call me by name. They might just be doing it because I told them so." She tilts her head to the side, considering as her gaze drifts away. "Which at least means they still believe in the rank part of things, so I suppose it'll do."

"Then don't tell them to," Marel supposes, planting her palms down flat against stone. "The ones who respect you as Soriana first will most likely make the mistake of addressing you by that, then correct themselves. Then's your chance. Those who don't, and are looking to take advantage, won't make any effort to correct themselves, either because they don't realise their mistake, or they want to make a point of being disrespectful." She shrugs one shoulder, then eases both wearily back. "You might only be irritated by those you don't want to be on name-only terms with, and… well, maybe that's useful information, if you haven't realised that you dislike someone." The brownrider closes her eyes for a moment, then looks down at Soriana. "If someone were to ask me, then, first and foremost, you're my clutchsister." With whatever hidden meanings that has. "Then you're the Weyrwoman." Not hers, yet, but they've been through that.

Soriana tilts her head, watching Marel. "First reactions, huh." She smiles, a soft and faintly wistful expression, and her hand drifts down to brush against the ground beside her, fingers splaying. Her gaze begins to drift as well, then looks up to Marel with more speed than it drifted away. First and foremost, that first reaction… she nods. The second reaction, well… "I was clutchsister first." She shrugs. "Was other things before that, but that's hardly the point anymore." When did it stop? Soriana looks up toward the sky, leans back to the wall. "I don't think it's a mistake, calling me just by name." Her tone's considering, and then her eyes lower to Marel once again. "But it does say something, what they reach for… and whether they think twice about it." Soriana smiles wryly. "Or seventeen times."

"…I mean more that… they'll perceive it as a potential error; that they'll respect you enough to let the choice be yours." The bulk of her belly makes turning to briefly address a squabble going on in the basket not so very elegant, but paws and wings are prevented from buffeting at respective opponents, and results in the green going Between in a huff. "It's what you make of it, I guess," Marel sighs, turning back to lean again. "The Weyr is yours, regardless. I've seen a lot of damage done by knots and decisions related to them, so I do, admittedly, over think things." A moment, then she concedes, "That, and if I didn't, I imagine that I'd be slung into another wing pretty quickly. Our children might grow to play together, one day. I hope I wouldn't be addressing you by rank alone, then."

"…they'll care what other people might think?" The tilt of Soriana's head and the skew of her lips don't quite even things out between them. "Of me, of the Weyr…" She shakes her head, looking to where that green vanished. "That's part of it too." She's not wearing her knot today, but really, what difference does that make? The Weyr's hers, and she nods as Marel says so, then grins. "Oh, I don't know about that. There's a lot of very dull paperwork that could use some neat handwriting." Soriana's expression grows more serious again, eyes remaining on Marel. "I'd hope not rank at all. Skyler… he's going to have enough people reminding him that I'm Weyrwoman. It shouldn't be the first thing he thinks about." The smile returns. "Else he'll be the most spoiled brat this continent."

Marel is staring down at one of Soriana's feet, her gaze distant, when she answers, "As someone who was faced with that reminder… you'll be the one able to do away with any ideas planted by others. I don't remember there ever being any suggestion from her that I was above reproach because she—," she falters, then makes herself say it, "Thea had the knot she did. Other people believed differently, but they were always going to, no matter what." She's blunt when says, "…I'm sorry, that I'm… awkward. Most of the past turn is one that I'd rather forget, and I find that I'm out of practice communicating with people who can't simply just read my mind. I don't mean anything by it."

Soriana nods, though Marel may only see it from peripheral vision, then tilts her head and arches brows for that apology. "…of course. I mean…" She shakes her head slowly. "I'd hardly expect it to be easy, any of it." Soriana glances to Marel - face, stomach, down to feet. "…but I think it's more useful when it's not perfect. If my mind's being read… I don't know if I'm saying it wrong." Soriana looks away, out over the garden. "Or thinking it wrong. So… if we're clutchsisters, that means we saw each other when we were falling over and figuring things out, right?" She looks back again. "Me, I'm not so sure I ever got past that part, but I found new things to figure."

"Even if we are thinking it wrong sometimes, at least the dragons in our lives will never really betray us." Depending on what you consider true betrayal to be. Marel flinches and adjusts her posture against the wall, aiming a look down at her stomach; a look that suggests she might be in the habit of thinking at the baby, even if it can't hear her. "…I'm not so sure that I ever grew up," she confesses in a murmur. "I know I started pretending to be a grown-up before I was even a teenager, and I guess I've never stopped. Except… now I am a grown-up." She takes a deep breath, as though to re-centre herself, then lifts her focus back to Soriana, rather than just her feet. "You'll figure this all out, even if you fall sometimes when we can't see. We managed to raise dragons and make it look like we know what we're doing all the time. Isn't that what we're all doing, really?"

Soriana frowns, though it's more thoughtful than displeased. "…of course not. It's only betrayal if it's planned that way. Otherwise it's just… a mistake." She exhales, gaze drifting for a moment to Marel's stomach. It's rude to stare, and so she drags it away again to wherever else is there to look. A tree, that'll do. "I think that's what grown-ups do. Pretend." She looks up to Marel, and smiles crookedly. "Because really, if there were something else to it, I can't imagine V'dim wouldn't have drilled us on it until we could do it in our sleep." Soriana's smile lingers, this time. "Besides, I've got a whole Weyr that wants to not fall down. If I trip, there'll be someone to catch me and pretend together."

Slowly, Marel pushes away from the wall, one hand kept propped against stone to balance her as she shakes one foot, then the other. "Well, if he held out on us and taught the next class some secret, mysterious method of achieving near perfection, then nobody is going to stop me having words with him," she says dryly. "If someone just rolled me towards him, I could probably do some damage." She reaches back for the basket in which seedlings and a now dozing brown firelizard still sit. "I should try and get home before my feet give up on me and fall off. It'd be embarrassing to be found sobbing over something so trivial." But, before she moves off, she hesitates. "Are you okay…? Out here." She must mean more than that, but the words don't present themselves.

"Stop you, nothing. I'd hold him down." Soriana grins, then blinks. "…shards, I'm sorry. I should've…" She looks around guiltily for the nearest bench - not that stone would be all that much better, with the way circulation can go. Soriana reaches to the dirt, starting to lever herself up before she stops, back to the wall and legs half-bent under her. It's hardly a comfortable position to be in, and yet at Marel's question she pauses there. Out in the garden, which is hardly one of Xanadu's more dangerous places, and yet she doesn't laugh at the question. "Yeah. I am. It's just… awfully big, sometimes." The garden as well, perhaps. "But… I'm okay. And…" She smiles. "Thanks."

Marel waves a hand, like she could literally bat away apologies. "It's fine, don't worry," she hastens to assure. "I—" But then Soriana pauses as she does against the wall, and for a moment it looks like the brownrider is going to reach out and try and help her, in-case she's stuck. However, once she hazards that it's by choice, she opts not to risk sending the both of them to the ground. "I'm glad it's you," she says out of nowhere, "and him." Not V'dim, but another him; the one with the bronze knot that goes with the goldrider's. "And… you know where I am. I'm good for paperwork, if not for much else right now." A deep breath, then she makes herself start walking again, off towards the meadow and home.

They may have discussed falling - where nobody can see - but it's likely better to keep that metaphorical. Besides, if Soriana topples once Marel departs, she's close enough to the ground it'll make little difference, and then she can pick up both self and dignity while she's got some privacy. For now, her eyebrows lift with surprise, followed by a slow nod and a smile that's carried more by eyes than mouth. "I do know. And you know how the Weyr runs," and really, she could stop here, there's a little pause like she's considering it, but she keeps going anyway. "…on paperwork. So… thanks." She stays there, leaned against the wall, and watches as Marel returns home before she finishes rising… likely to do the same.

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