No Doubt

Xanadu Weyr - Secret Garden Refuge

How has this gem stood empty so long? Constructed of hand-chiseled whitestone, this cottage is unique in that it appears to have been here from before the time Xanadu was founded, its 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 - sitting room, kitchenette, sleeping and bathing room - is simple: stone floors are covered in vast rugs in pale, pastel shades and the walls have been painted white. Some spaces have built-in storage: cupboards in the sitting room; counters and a cooling/heating unit for food in the kitchenette. The sitting 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, the bedroom has French doors that open onto a private retreat formed by a three-walled, flag-stoned courtyard of the same material that makes up the cottage walls. In the centre lies a flower garden, neat rows of tulips and rose bushes planted in fresh soil, a non-functional stone fountain serving as decoration alone, for now.

Whilst her lifemate has found a perch somewhere along the coast to settle himself and idly listen in on what gossip and useful information he might catch passing from mind to mind or observe, Marel is once again fighting with the non-functional fountain that sits in the courtyard of her weyr. Both the front door and the French doors towards the back of the cottage have been left open to let the autumn breeze circulate through the neat and tidy home, the occasional leaf or stray wildflower drifting across the threshold, though they don't manage to stray much further than the first few feet into the brownrider's domain. Today, Marel is experimenting with a tub of water and a length of tubing that hope to turn the fountain into something more than the equivalent of an ornamental birdbath. She doesn't look dishevelled, for all her work, and sits pouring water into one of the outcroppings on the fountain, mindful not to splash.

Finally making it to that threshold without being stopped on her way there to answer repeated questions or see to something 'urgent' is Thea. Not here in the capacity of Weyrwoman, however. She's coming as mother to visit her only daughter, approaching the dwelling with an appraising eye. Sure, she'd seen the initial reports from the steward, but it's not even close to eyeballing the real thing. And how lovely the rustic stone cottage is! It makes her smile, despite the cautious glance cast at that open door. She might ought to have had Seryth bespeak Isyriath first so as to be sure she's not come at an inconvenient time, but with the way things have gone since, she couldn't be sure she'd actually arrive until she's at the door. Her knuckles knock out a cheerful series of tapping on the doorframe, followed by lightly calling, "Helloooo, Marel?"

Through the house and out to the courtyard, Marel turns as she catches her name or something that sounds like it, unable to quite identify the voice with the distance that the sound has to travel. "Through here!" she calls back regardless, the look she angles over her shoulder costing her to the tune of her pouring just a little too much water into that outcropping, which sends some splashing down across her knees. She doesn't curse or otherwise exclaim, but sets the tub down and pushes herself to her feet, hands pawing at her knees as if she could make them absorb the water that's turned patches of light material dark. "I'm just—!" In her haste, a step back sets something off, for the water in the fountain whirls into motion and she ducks in anticipation of… Well, whatever it is, it doesn't happen. Instead, the water begins to cycle its way merrily through the channels of the fountain without soaking anyone at all.

Thea's soles are silent as she steps inside. She's wearing shoes instead of boots, dressed in a tapestry skirt and jacket for the office having come from there. The room gets an interested look 'round as she traverses it towards the open doors in the back, but she doesn't pause to examine it more closely just yet. First to find the occupant, she continues towards where the answer came, stepping out into the courtyard. "Oh this is lovely," she says a beat or two later as her strides bring her beside Marel, for it really doesn't take long at all to see that the retreat is a soothing and beautiful place with the quiet sound of the fountain and the well-cared for plants. She offers a one-armed hug; the other has a rolled up something underneath it and says contritely, "Hello Love, I'm sorry it's taken me so long to come see your place." She's seen both twins from time to time in the caverns. Marel, being in Quasar Wing, she's probably seen more often than Mur'dah in the administration wing, but this is different. Wet knees? She'll notice in a moment when she steps back, then ask with a smile, "Did I catch you busy?"

"Mama." Perhaps not expecting her mother, Marel leans into the offered hug all too eagerly all the same, casting an arm of her own around Thea's waist to return the embrace. All the while, she's careful about not wet knees to the material of her mother's skirt. "It's okay," she assures. "We've been busy. We've had work to do here and we helped Mur'dah too, then there's the wing…" She gives a little shrug as if to say 'it's fine', entirely unaware that she saying 'we' for her Isyriath rather than 'I' for herself. "And the fountain's working now!" That as she steps back and dips a finger into the water as though to check, though her slightly puzzled expression speaks of not being quite sure what she's done to make it work. "Would you like some tea?" she invites.

Thea's arm settles about Marel's shoulders and gives her daughter an affectionate squeeze, reluctant to drop it for that step back, but she's trying to practice at not being the clingy mother-type. The 'we' she assumes means dragon and rider, but it falls to her perhaps more naturally at this point in her life, so she nods a silent understanding. "Mur'dah mentioned you'd help him with his decor. I was impressed when I saw it." She turns her attention to the fountain, eyeing it more closely, then whistles lowly. "Perhaps you've some latent tech ability in you, eh?" she teases with another smile. "Very, very nice," she adds genuinely, turning then to sweep the courtyard once more with avid interest. "I'd love some! And to see the rest of your cottage, too please." It's spoken as a gentle request; she won't demand invasion.

"…I don't know. They said something about motors and batteries and… I just tried to do what they told me," Marel explains somewhat sheepishly, eyeing the fountain a little like it knows something that she doesn't. "Mur'dah tried to help and it's taken a while to make it work…" she goes on, reluctant to take credit for what could be the work of those others than herself. "Anyway, come in." She even goes to grab Thea's hand like a much younger Marel might have, meaning to tug her back into the cottage proper. That the first stop through those doors is her bedroom might be embarrassing for Marel now in ways it wouldn't have been before, the gaze that darts around the room checking for anything obviously belonging to M'kal rather a guilty one. "It was all light colours when we moved in, so I've tried to keep it that way," she explains, moving through to the main living area. "Mur'dah and Ka'el are afraid to even sneeze in here, I think," the brownrider jokes under her breath. "Look." That's to bring attention to the break in the wall that permits her to see Isyriath and vice versa. "So we're never apart." Not that they ever really are, but. "I'll put the tea on." Happy for her mother to take a seat or follow her to the kitchen area, she doesn't direct her to a specific spot.

Thea chuckles after the clarification. "Well you are braver than I to attempt it, even with directions. As much as I adore the modern technology at Xanadu, I don't understand how it works. I've given up trying." They both know how antiquated Cold Stone Hold was - still is. Her hand is grabbed and with a laugh she allows herself to be drawn along back inside. She's a half-step behind Marel, so misses that guilty flash, murmuring pleasantly about the room as they move through. Chances are, she'd have politely refrained from comment if a man's things had been noticed, waiting for confidences given when her daughter felt the time was right, if at all. Not that she wouldn't be interested though! She halts to take in the living room, her expression pleased over the opening allowing Isyriath to be a part of Marel's everyday. The rest of the room is surveyed and she says with another laugh, "I can see why they are. It's elegant!" She parts from Marel to drift through it, trailing fingers over those pink couches, pausing over by the inset window to see what plants are growing there before trailing her daughter to the door of that kitchenette. "Oh! This is for you." She removes the roll from under her arm and offers it over. "Housewarming gift."

When unrolled it is clear that this gift has taken a long time to create. The material is a rectangle one metre by three metres of cross stitched tapestry, the picture of a place recognizable with pleasant memories from Marel's childhood: appearing distant in the background, is a tropical clearing in which a pristine waterfall flows in a gentle fall over volcanic rock into a clear and limpid pool. The warm rocks above the falls serve as a sunning couch for two dragons, one blue, the other pale silvery-gold. The foreground is the focal point, however. Enlarged in the scene are verdant ferns, feathery against the more distant backdrop, jungle vines looping the moss-covered trunks of gnarled jungle trees, lush and delicate blooms of shade-loving tropical flowers, ging, orchid and lily. It is the camping/picnic spot on the deserted island to which she and her twin were often taken by their parents for family times.

Marel is careful about accepting the gift, hands steady to ensure that she doesn't drop it, the making of the tea forgotten for the moment in favour of beginning to gently unroll the tapestry. She takes a few steps away from the door to give her the room to unwind much of it, then settles down on the floor that is as clean as the rest of the place to keep on unrolling it across her lap and beyond so that she might get a better look at as much of it as possible. It could be a move made entirely subconsciously that has gentle fingers tracing over the blue dragon, for the moment she realises that she's doing so, fingers curl and she lifts them away almost guiltily. Marel bites down on her lip and swallows down something indefinable, looking up at her mother with eyes that hold a slightly suspicious shine when she asks, "…You?" It's not really a question. Who else could it have been? Fingertips brush lightly over the gold dragon now, then she rolls the tapestry back up and stands, setting it down on a nearby countertop as she goes to throw arms tightly around Thea. "Thank you."

Thea's breath catches as she watches Marel's reaction to her gift, seeing both touches of her fingers to the tapestry. She remains immobile in the doorway until the question-comment and then she simply nods, not trusting her voice quite yet. Her lean against the door's frame shifts for the hug, which is returned almost fiercely. "You're welcome." It comes out thickly and she clears her throat. Whispered into Marel's dark hair, "Treasure the things that have been, if you can, Love, and remember those." Then with a laugh she eases her arms so as not to interfere with Marel's breathing. "I've been working on that since right after your thirteenth turnday." So right before that voyage that took them to Cold Stone, before… everything. "I'm still working on Mur'dah's." There's tea brewing and a question lurking in Thea's ice green eyes that seek Marels with a dip of her head when the hug ends. One that asks without words: are you doing alright?

"I try," Marel murmurs into her mother's shoulder, trying (and failing) not to cling to her as she speaks. "…It's why I don't see…" There are only so many things that can end that sentence, the most likely being mention of her father, but instead she turns her face into the crook of Thea's neck and just breathes for a moment or two. Composure. "Thank you," she says again, this time more quietly and with a hint of the tears that might have been now in her voice for a fraction of a second before they are locked away for good and her composure is more or less clawed back. When she steps back that bit to look up at Thea, she begins to nod, then must think better of it and chews on the inside of her lip. "…I'm okay," is not an untruth. "I'm trying to look after people." Naming no names. "And I guess I have to wait to see who buys the garden shop, because I want my job back. And…" Still young enough to be awkward about this sort of thing in-front of her mother, Marel stammers out, "I-I'm with M-M'kal. We're…" Surely she can trust Thea to fill in the blanks there.

The shoulder under Marel's face relaxes as her mother continues to embrace her daughter, changing to one of comfort. She is silent for the span of time Marel takes those steadying breaths. Then, "I know," she says simply, with naught but acceptance. Siebith is, after all, still Seryth's friend, and the two remain in contact. It may often consist of nothing more than a daily check in, sometimes chatting, perhaps prompted by her rider and shared with her. Thea could say more of the man, but she doesn't. Mother and daughter share some traits and this one, the locking inside of things too painful to voice is one of them. Her arms loosen and drop as Marel steps back and to that assurance she hmms in her throat, which could be either skepticism or simple acknowledgement. "Don't forget to take care of yourself too-" she begins, then halts the impulse to mother-hen her. "No one has so much as inquired about the shop to my knowledge, though I guess Jethaniel would be the authority. You might ask him if you see him." Her lips part, but further comments about the garden shop are forgotten in the wake of Marel's admission. Silent for a moment, absorbing this news, she finds her voice, stalls for time, "Are you now." Not a question. Well why not? She is an adult, has been for over a turn now. Where did the time go? And so it’s M'kal, is it? She's read V'dim's reports, knows something of the bluerider, so there's no disapproval at least. With a soft laugh, she reaches light fingers to brush her daughter's cheek. "He's special, this one?"

"…I liked him before Isyriath's egg hatched," Marel confesses, dipping her head a little into the touch at her cheek. "And then there was Isyriath and everyone… suddenly people weren't who they were before, but he was there and… and then I knew. He understands." Just what M'kal understands, she doesn't elaborate about, but it seems to mean a lot to her. "He looks after me." As much as she appears to believe it's her job to look after everyone else, there's a certainty in her voice there that speaks of her understanding just how important the fact that he can look out for her and she'll let him is. "I don't think… It's not a… fling or fixation kind of thing," she struggles to explain. "There isn't anyone else." Her gaze momentarily finds her feet, yet when she looks up at Thea there's not a hint of doubt to be seen.

Thea cups Marel's cheek for a moment, then lowers her hand to focus on the answer. She listens intently while maintaining the outward calm necessary, though her breathing might be a touch shallow; anxiousness - and judgment - held firmly at bay. She nods encouragement, relieved as Marel says she's known him for quite some time. She doesn't ask clarification to the disjointed series of comments that follow. She understands impression changes, both experienced personally and those observed in others over the turns and so murmurs, "It can be a very confusing time," allowing Marel to continue uninterrupted after that. She studies the expression on her daughter's face, absorbs the nuances of her tone. Somehow she manages not to laugh outright at the assurance it's not a fling, though her lips do twitch with the effort. No, Marel has never seemed to her the type to have a fling. Instead, she smiles warmly and says, "It doesn't appear so, no." Holding her daughter's gaze if she can, assurance and acceptance in her clear-eyed one, she gives her blessing, not that it's been asked for but, she gives it all the same, "From what I know of him, you couldn't have made a better choice, Marel."

She might not have asked for it, but something in Marel seems to ease when Thea gives her approval, a slow nod given in answer to her mother's comment about her choice of partner. "I think you'd like him," she says quietly, suddenly reanimating all at once with that burden surrendered, any worries stowed away and set to rest for another day. "I should get the tea…" Remembered all at once, she heads through the door to the kitchen, holding it for Thea so that it doesn't swing closed on her, and sets about finishing putting the tea together in an efficient way that suggests she may have taken to playing hostess and running her own little 'hold' a lot better than some might expect of a weyrbred girl. "Anyway, how's Seryth?" It's a roundabout way of asking about Thea herself without outright putting the question to her in a way that often seems impolitely interrogative coming from a daughter to a mother. After bringing the tea through to the living room, she takes the time to store her tapestry safely in her bedroom before seeking to curl up beside Thea on one of the couches as they drink their tea, taking the opportunity to keep her mother to herself for a bit, until work and all manner of other things separate them again.

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