Hushed Voices

Xanadu Weyr - Secret Garden Refuge
Constructed of hand-chiseled whitestone, this cottage is unique in that it appears to have been here from before the time Xanadu was founded, it's stones bearing a resemblance to the ruins in the old forest. Large windows, flanked by raw wooden shutters faded to a silvery-grey, have thick-leaded diamond panes that allow the meadow's light inside. Pink climbing roses scale the front wall, the porcelain blossoms scenting the air with their delicate fragrance and providing shade over the three shallow stone steps leading to a portico in which an arch-topped door is set.

The space within the cottage is vast, but simple. Stone floors are covered in large rugs in pale, pastel shades and the walls have been painted white. Some spaces have built-in storage: cupboards in the living room; counters and a cooling/heating unit for food in the kitchen, which is accessible via a door to the right. The living room has a double-wide, deeply-inset window that make the sunny room perfect for housing potted plants, Isyriath's portion opening off of one side. Comfortable couches in pale pink line two of the walls, standing opposite each other, a long, low table set between them in the centre of the room. On the wall, above one of the couches, hangs a painting of meadow, in which both the cottage and Marel herself feature, the picture signed with a capital M. To the rear of the cottage, a door to the left leads through to the main bedroom, while French doors open up onto a private courtyard, a garden enclosed within.

The weather on Xanadu has been nice and mild. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just the right amount of breeze. It’s been perfect flying weather, and Ka'el has found himself up in the air more than he’s been spending time on the ground. There have been formations to fly, new forms to perfect, and areas to scout. Luckily, trouble has left Xanadu alone, and Ka’el’s been able to spend more time with the other wings. Comet and Nebula, although the tech-talk of that tiny wing is still ..all Greek to him, it’s been nice to get a hands-on experience with their projects. But all of this work has left him a little behind on more personal things, such as greeting one of the newest members of Xanadu! And so, Ka’el is heading to find Marel, whom he is assuming is home. And thus, that’s where he finds himself now, knocking a very soft knock on the door.

It would be easy to assume that, given her behaviour since her mother’s death and the dissolution of her weyrmating, Marel would be a new mother in danger of falling deeper into the all-consuming depression that some find themselves afflicted with. Surely the Healers are keeping an eye on her for signs of that, yet Nerri’s birth seems to have given Marel a new purpose that she wasn’t finding in keeping the shop running or throwing herself into hiding away with her lifemate. It’s true that she hasn’t been seen much, with all that a newborn demands, but those who have seen her have seen smiles and not a wary distance kept. There’s no call given to indicate that the door of her cottage is going to be opened, but, sooner rather than later, the door does quietly click open and reveal Marel, weary as she looks, her hair pinned up every which way. “Ka’el.”

Is she home? He could question Isyriath through Kanekith, but…he doesn’t. Instead he waits patiently, already mulling over places that she could possibly be if not here. Where else would a mother and newborn be? Fortunately, he doesn’t have to speculate because the door is opening and there she is! Worn and weary. He grins brightly and dips his head in greeting to her. “Marel,” he says in return as he straightens, grin crookedly playful as his eyes flit to her hair. “Looking lovely, as usual,” said in a teasingly affectionate way. His gaze shifts from her to peer past her now, nosily peeking inside of her weyr. “I apologize for being so late in seeing you. I beg your forgiveness and all of that and hope that you don’t deny me entrance to see what everyone already has.” He looks back to her. “You won’t punish me by slamming the door in my face, will you?”

“If I slam the door, then she’ll wake up, and even if I was furious with you, I’m not willing to make that sacrifice for a display of rage,” Marel murmurs, moving away from the door to admit entrance, though she’s mindful to hold onto said door to keep it from swinging and slamming against anything. “She’s a good sleeper, in general, but she hasn’t quite got the idea of night-time and daytime yet. When she learns that humans are not nocturnal, I might throw a party.” Through the break in the wall of the main room, Isyriath is visible, curled up in his barn-like extension to the cottage. Maybe he’s on the same sleep schedule as Nerri, now. Marel waits to close the door behind Ka’el, then begins to pad towards the room that is now her daughter’s.

Ka’el snickers knowingly at her retort and follows her inside as the doorway is freed for him. The quiet zone! “I remember these days,” he says, voice a whisper. “Tip-toeing around to get things done while we could. Granted…when he slept, we passed out too.” You sleep when you can! “She’ll figure out day and night. Eventually. Can’t say it’ll be anytime soon, as Skyler still gets up whenever he wishes sometimes.” A smirk, and he continues to trail after her, glancing to Isyriath’s sleeping form when he becomes visible, then looking ahead to the room that they’re heading toward. “Has…” He pauses, cringing a little as his voice, although quiet, sounds suddenly loud with the knowledge that there’s a small baby nearby. “Has everything been okay?” he asks, barely even hearing himself.

Marel gives a small, shallow shrug. “Define ‘okay’?” she asks of the universe. “I’ve not seen M’kal since she was born. Her father came to visit her once, and he’s doing as I wish, rather than interfering or ignoring her, so I can’t really complain there.” She pauses at the door to Nerri’s room, which stands a little ajar. “Mur’dah seems to have an aversion to tiny babies, so I’ve not been pressuring him to come and get to know her. Maybe he’ll be better when she’d older, but he didn’t appear comfortable with the idea of holding her when we were in the infirmary.” She smiles slightly and pushes gently at the door. “And she’s mine. My responsibility; I made her.” With someone else’s contribution, but they don’t sound to be much in the picture. In the cradle, all bundled up in warm pinks and lavenders, the tiny, dark-haired baby girl sleeps on, oblivious to any study.

Ka’el refrains from commenting once the door’s open, although Marel is given a thoughtful sort of look. He has words, but they’ll be held until after he’s seen what he’s come to see. Not that Marel isn’t interesting to look at, but he’s seen her face for turns! The face in the cradle is a brand-new one, and he quietly moves forward so that he can properly see her. He pauses close, brows gently raised as blue eyes peer down to the tiny face and bundle that lays so still within her blankets. He smiles softly, warmly, as he watches her, then looks up to gaze around the child’s room before finally turning his attention back to Marel. “She’s grand, Marel. Just grand. Congratulations,” he says in that same super-quiet voice that he’s gotten used to using, even before this moment. “I’d ask to hold her, if she were not asleep.” He definitely has no aversion to tiny babies! In fact, he sounds rather disappointed. “Did you name her what you told me before?”

There’s something of Marel’s likeness in the slight waves of Nerri’s hair, yet the little one’s complexion is slightly darker than her mother’s, and the shape of her eyes must be thanks to her father too. The brownrider must have, by now, learned not to disturb a sleeping baby, yet she carefully reaches down into the cradle and gently gathers the baby to her chest, watching for signs of her waking. When Nerri does little more than flail one arm, she moves to offer her to Ka’el. “You’re practically her family, after all,” she murmurs. She’ll risk waking her for him. “She’s Nerri,” she confirms with quiet pride. “But really named for Mama. If she Impresses…. she can choose her own name, like so many of us do. If she wants to be another Thea… or Nerys, or both… it’s her decision.”

The Weyrleader watches on as the small child is lifted from her cradle, tensing just slightly. HE doesn’t want to be the cause for an upset baby! But luckily, she doesn’t seem to mind. There are no wails piercing the overall quietness of the room, and thus he can exhale in relief. His chest swells a little soon after that exhale though, proud of her declaration of his family status to little Nerri. “Aw, Marel..” He grins and carefully moves, shifting his arms to gently take the offered baby as if it’s second-nature to do. Ka’el is gentle with his handling of her, cradling her in both arms, securing her against his chest in a tender, yet firm hold. He’s got her. He smiles down at the tiny person that he holds, body naturally rocking now that he has her. “She’s beautiful, Marel. Whatever she chooses to go by, she’s perfect.” His voice is quiet, a gentle rumble. “How often have you asked her father to see her?”

Marel certainly has no protest for the praise of her daughter, and simply murmurs, “I know,” with gentled joy that nevertheless borders on being smug, though is, for once, not suppressed as an inappropriate outpouring of anything. “Thank you. Sometimes, I look at her and I can’t believe that she’s mine. I mean, at other times I look at her and I’m pleading with her to just stop crying, but you know what I mean.” She slides her hands into her pockets and smiles somewhat besottedly at Ka’el and Nerri both, yet her attention is, in that moment, mostly on the form of her sleeping daughter. “Her father’s seeing her once a fortnight, for now. If he takes to being a father, then maybe that will change, and if he doesn’t, then that’s okay too. Children are raised all sorts of ways here.”

“Good to know. As big a Weyr as Xanadu is, Kanekith likes keeping watch on visiting dragons in the Weyr proper. He’s gotten along well with the watchdragon in that way. Though greens usually don’t keep his attention long,” Ka’el says in a conversational way, looking as if he’s speaking to Nerri more so than to Marel, as his eyes are still on the baby. “It’s … sort of surreal, isn’t it? Having her here now when before she was nothing more but a thought and curious wonder,” he says, habitually beginning to walk slowly around the room. He smirks faintly. “He’ll have a difficult time not becoming smitten,” he remarks with a grin to Marel, commenting on the faceless father. “How much time will you take to be with her? Take as much as you need, of course. Quasar won’t fall apart, and I’d rather you feel ready to come back and have everything settled here instead of feeling forced or pressured to return.”

“I’m… not sure,” Marel says slowly, moving to lean back against the nearest wall. “I don’t suppose I ever really asked how long people usually take. I don’t want to be a burden, but then I’m the only one taking care of her, and I don’t want to give her to foster parents. She’ll spend time in the nursery, like I did, but I don’t… want her not to be mine, in the end.” She shrugs again, this time a little helplessly. “Even if she won’t remember anything from now, when she’s grown up. Though some people say that they do.” The twitch of one elbow gestures back towards the main room. “I’m happy to do work here, if it needs to be soon. It’s not like we’re search and rescue. The manager’s looking after the shop and bringing me the books for the time being, so if there are things that need my attention now, it can be done.”

“Shh, shh…” gently coos Ka’el, perhaps making it difficult if he means to soothe Marel’s worries or Nerri in her sleep. “She’s yours now and will always be. I took time off for Skyler. More than I intended, and the Weyr managed with the Weyrsecond. We’ve processes in place to handle things when someone is gone, whatever the reason may be. There are others who can run the shop. Others who’ll manage whatever paperwork’s been left in Quasar to tend to.” He smiles a little, shifting an arm so that he can bring a hand up to lightly touch his fingertips to the baby’s dark tresses. “Enjoy her. Figure out how to balance havin’ her in your life and your duties. It can be done, trust me, no matter what anyone may have to say about fostering. You needn’t hurry back to the office. It’ll be there when you’re ready,” he assures his friend, making his way back to her.

“I said to Soriana that I’d be around,” Marel says quietly, unwilling to make it clear if that offer that she doesn’t want to go back on is a worry or not. “I don’t want that to be an empty promise.” She pushes away from the wall, automatically reaching with the intention of reclaiming her daughter when Ka’el moves closer. “But I’m not stupid. I know the paperwork will wait, and I’m selfish enough to want to spend the time with Nerri.” A small, wry smile precedes, “Even if the paperwork is likely to be less exhausting than looking after her and Isyriath and the firelizards.” The latter of which has made themselves scarce. “I know I’ve made the right choices so far.”

“You’re allowed to change your mind,” remarks Ka’el, unworriedly. “If you wanted to. Besides, technically, you’re my rider. If I say you can be gone, then you can be gone.” A smirk, “you’re allowed to be selfish for your baby.” Faranth knows he was! Before handing Nerri over, he lifts her up a little higher as his head bows down, touching his lips to her forehead in a soft kiss. Then, he transfers her back to her mother with an affectionate smile to them both. “Seems to me like you’ve made excellent choices so far,” he agrees. “And I also know that a sleepin’ baby is precious time that doesn’t come too often or last overly long, so I’ll leave you to rest while you can. Thanks for letting me visit, and enjoy your time off,” said as he makes his way out of the little girl’s room. “If you need anything, let me know, alright? Anything at all.. I can see myself out.” He pauses to touch at her arm, his smile warm and encouraging. “I’ll see you soon.” And then, he’s off.

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