High Reaches Area - Coldstone Hold - Main Courtyard

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.

It is only the first month of winter in the High Reaches, but late fall saw the first blizzard. There are nearly three and a half months - or more of snow to be had, since winter lasts well into spring in this high altitude hold. The stuff is piled up high already - nearly waist deep except where it has drifted to deeper levels in some spots. The skies, quite often overcast, are clear today and the wind that moans through the rocky peaks above the hold, is today blessedly silent. The sunshine sparkles off the snow from an impossibly brilliant blue sky causing the peaks to shine in their pristine coats of white. Though it is midday, the temperatures are frigid enough that the snow squeaks underfoot and the breath steams while people shovel walkways and hustle about on hold business. There are no slackers in Cold Stone Hold, Thadan sees to that. Inside the large main hold, the rooms are warm, fires lit and in the main dining room tables are scattered with books while harper lessons are given by Cold Stone's ancient harper. Mouth-watering scents drift from the kitchens and thankfully Thadan is closeted in his office.

Muir is probably not where he should be. While the warmth is inviting in the main hold, the young hold-heir is outside amidst the snow drifts and gleaming white glare. Gloved hands dig at one of the drifts, packing a few snowballs and setting them aside, though he takes no shots at anyone passing by. He's building, it seems, an armory. When a pile of fifteen snowballs are packed neatly, he covers them with a bucket and buries that in the drift, marking it with a trio of holes poked deep into the drift. Then he moves on, softly through the snow, to the next drift to begin the process again. Always, he keeps an ear out, listening for some sort of signal or warning that he's pushed things too far and needs to scamper back to the hold and the lesson.

Just how many layers of clothing can one girl wear? Marel is all but hidden beneath the trouser-dress-tunic-cloak combination she's sporting today, the hood of her cloak drawn up and scarf half-obscuring her face, and yet she's not forgotten entirely about the shape that so many layers draw her figure into, a hastily-added sash drawn in at her waist to somehow prove that there is still a young woman under there somewhere. Sat on a cold bench, she observes Muir's progress from a distance, attempting to walk the line between should and shouldn't be, a book from her lesson open in her lap, while she attempts to turn pages with mittened hands and has to tip the book and just hope when she finds it's a futile effort. "Are you… expecting someone to steal them?" she calls to her brother, his stashing of snowballs clearly a concept that she has yet to grasp.

Dragons do not fly these skies. So it is an unfamiliar enough sight to be jarring, the appearance of a large gold that appears high over the hold. Her shadow racing across the snow is small to start out with. Her trumpet resounds off of rocky peaks and the reaction of some people is one of surprise and a little fear. A few scurry off inside to peek out from the safety of windows, while others just stop and stare. None seem pleased. The pale silvery-gold hide flashes as the gold banks and as she sweeps lower it can be seen that there are two people on her back. Both wave and wouldn't you know, the male is using both hands. Neither are wearing helmets, tsk! And so the long, dark hair billowing in the cold air makes the woman recognizable, if her queen dragon doesn't. Her great wingsails snap and creak as the gold backwings over the courtyard, sending up a small blizzard of snow that settles as soon as she tucks her wings and crouches, allowing her passengers to dismount. The woman kicks a leg over and swings ‘round the dragon's head to land with a small hop on the icy flagstones while the male grumbles something sarcastic and awkwardly climbs down the flight strap. "Showoff!" can be heard fairly clearly, as can the return merriment when Thea laughs.

Muir lifts his head and frowns at his sister. She's ruining his sneaking, shouting at him like that. Covering the next pile with a wicker basket, he jogs down the pathway to the bench, sitting down beside her and tucking gloved hands between his thighs to warm them up again. "Have to keep them hidden, otherwise anyone can use them," he murmurs to her. "Plus if it snows more, then they'd clump all together." Duh. "Why're you reading?" The appearance of a dragon might startle fear into others, but for Muir it causes his heart to lurch with a mixture of joy and sadness. Though the sight of the queen has him getting to his feet and waving, cupping a hand to his mouth to holler a 'hullo!'. "C'mon, it's Mom," he says, reaching out to try and grab his sister's hand to tug her towards the courtyard.

"Grandfather won't be happy if you're planning to find them again and pelt people with them," Marel warns with a somewhat (and imagined) superior air, regarding Muir with a calm certainty only unsettled by her quick glances around the immediate area, just in-case luck frowns on her and has said grandfather appear. "Because one of us—" she starts to say, only for the appearance of the gold in the skies to distract her and cast her gaze upwards, any irritation on her part forgotten when he grabs for her hand. Whether she notices the reaction of the other Hold residents or not, Marel disregards it and hastily pushes to her feet to follow after, book scrambled for and caught before it hits the floor, tucked beneath her cloak in the absence of time to set it back on the bench. "Muir, /slower/," she insists, walking as quickly and properly as possible - perhaps dragged along after him - rather than running. "Haven't you learned anything here?"

There is baggage being unloaded from Seryth and the pair in the courtyard are exchanging both banter and elbowings as those bags are unstrapped and piled on the flagstones. "Five marks says you'll be back inside a sevenday," says the female. "You're so sure? You should be making a heartier wager then!" scoffs the male. It is Seryth's trill of greeting to the pair - she's known them both their entire life and is quite fond of them - that has both turning. Thea opens her arms and steps forward with a joy that borders on hungry as she spots her children coming. It's chased a haunted grief from her pale green eyes, which are alight with the radiant smile on her face. "My sea babies," she says, a term of endearment they've heard all of their lives as she attempts to hug both of them at once. And if they don't duck or squirm away, each one will get a warm kiss on the cheek in greeting. Behind her, their Uncle Tharen makes gagging noises and rolls his eyes - green like his sister's - then moves forward to fist bump Muir and ruffle Marel's hair. He's smirking, but there's a somber expression lurking beneath his levity.

Muir shakes his head. "Don't know what I'm gonna do with them yet, but s'good to be ready, right?" He does slow down though, some of his energy leaving at her question, and he reaches up to absently tug on the nice wool tunic he wears beneath his jacket, straightening out the fabric over his lean frame. "Yeah," he mutters, his mood dulled for a moment before he quirks a rakish grin. "Learned how to hide snowballs." The lessons are paying off, then. That's an essential skill for a Lord Holder, don't you know. He grins wide at Seryth's trill, and he doesn't squirm in his mother's embrace until she kisses him. "Mooom," he mutters, trying to wiggle out of her hug and straighten his tunic, lifting his hand to bump back with Uncle Tharen's. "What're you doing here?" he asks his uncle, looking around at all the stuff with a little frown pulling down at his lips.

The hood of Marel's cloak slips down sometime on the journey across to meet the incoming party, her scarf yanked down with her free hand so that she might not seem quite so bundled up by the time she reaches her mother. She flings an arm tightly around Thea and Muir both to turn it into a proper group hug, her head tipping back to return a kiss of her own against her mother's cheek, then stretches a little, rocking up onto tiptoe to flutter a wave at Seryth. Sticking her tongue out when her uncle makes those gagging noises, she tries to duck away when he ruffles her hair, pawing motions made to try and smooth it down again, one hand snaking out after his retreating one, like she'd exact revenge and ruffle his hair in return. She echoes her brother with a question of her own: "What's going on?" Looking to Tharen first, then Thea, content to stay in the circle of her mother's arm as long as she's allowed.

Thea doesn't want to let go, but she's learned over the past few turns not to cling, so one of her gloved hands drop to her side, releasing Muir. The other she circles Marel's shoulder with, leaning her cheek against the teen's dark hair savoring the cuddle for as long as she can make it. Seryth arches her neck over her head to whuffle at Marel and then Muir, even though by now the queen knows how highly blues rate with the boy and she is merely a gold. It's Tharen who speaks up, tossing his hair back out of his face thanks to Marel's quick retaliation and his slow dodge. One hand lifts to rub the back of his neck and he stalls his answer, eyes squinting at the sun, darting to the peaks, then to his boots. "I thought I'd try my hand at this holder-thing," he drawls finally, with a voice full of chagrin and long-suffering fatalism. "See, your da gave Thadan boxing lessons so I guess he can finally stand up to me." Now it's Thea's turn to snort and roll her eyes and quip, "Just… don't let him choose your wife, Pest."

Muir will stand by his uncle, being manly and not cuddling with his mother. Looking at the adults, back and forth, the boy then stares at the luggage on the ground. "But, I'm the heir," he says, confused for a moment before realization begins to dawn. Sucking on his teeth for a moment, the soft sound of air between his teeth is the only sound the boy makes, before he turns to look expectantly at his mother. More information, please.

Marel's features light up in a smile for Seryth, though her uncle's words prevent her from returning to truly at ease, and the arm she has looped about her mother's waist slowly withdraws so that she might peer between the adults with greater ease, trying to find something in all that they /don't/ say. Her green eyes finally rest on Muir, her fingers twisting awkwardly together before her, his reaction observed as intently as that of Tharen and Thea. "Does that mean…?" He's free? They're free? "I don't want you to be unhappy," she blurts out, staring up at Tharen. Perhaps that says more of her own feelings about the Hold than what she assumes of his.

"Well technically you are," allows Tharen laconically, "since I renounced my title and Holder Thadan disowned me. But." Here he holds up a forefinger and his eyes twinkle, "Bet you five marks he'd release you and take me back if I sacrificed my pride and offered." There's a mutter from Thea, "Shoulda made a higher wager…" whereupon Tharen reaches a lanky arm aiming a swat to the back of Thea's head. Thea knows all of Tharen's moves and so ducks without even looking at him, her movement coming as Marel backs up to peer at her. She's nodding, an uncertain smile for both twins and none for her brother - it seems they've already worked through the 'are you DAFT?!' and the 'are you SURE??' questions back at Xanadu. "He's offered, Muir. Thadan has yet to accept, but he did say to come and they'd talk." Her gaze flickers between the pair. "Hasn't Thadan told you?" Apparently not. "That is so like him to have not," she says dryly and then catches her breath at Marel's reaction, pain flashing in her expressive eyes momentarily. Muir gets a questioning look, "Would you prefer to remain?" Perhaps she heard him wrong all these past weekly visits.

Muir shifts his weight in the snow, stomping his boots down to clear a little patch for himself to stand in. Turning his head, he stares at his sister for a moment, sharing some unreadable look, and then down at his boots. "No, he didn't say anything," he mutters, and then looks up again at his mother, then to his uncle and back to mom. "No, I…I don't want to stay, but…" Life was one way, then another, and now it's back? It's a lot for the kid to absorb all at once. "I finally memorized all the holds around here…" And it was for nothing?

Marel's wide-eyed, tensed-jawed expression speaks of the desperate desire for some sort of telepathy to exist between herself and Muir when their mother puts that last question to him. She even starts to frown with the intensity of it, trying to tell him without words that he please-please-please must /not/ give the wrong answer. And there is only one right answer here, to her mind. Her sigh of relief at his response is soft enough to go unheard, Thea's response to her blurted words unheeded in the unwittingly self-centred way of the young. "I can test you on them if you want," she tells her brother, trying, in some small way, to make his effort have meaning. Even to her, it sounds rather hollow.

"Ah, but did you memorize who has the cutest, most marriageable daughters close to your age, is the real question!" Thank you Tharen, for prioritizing things! It is a lot to adjust to, this back and forth, especially being uprooted and not having seen their father in over four months now. Thea understands this. She does smile about the holds though, her easy, "Did you now. Those'll come in handy someday," covers the ache in her heart. It's easy enough to catch Marel's tension without hearing the sigh when Muir answers - she's been reading the pair since they were born. "Why don't we all go in and get something hot to drink while Thadan and Tharen talk? My feet have gone numb." Tharen has selected just a briefcase from the baggage piled on the flagstones, leaving the rest for someone to collect and bring in - someone will no doubt be sent - and starts the walk towards the main hall. He's making a dramatic show of dragging his feet and looking pathetic with his lamb-to-the-slaughter faces he’s making too.

Muir's head drops again and he rambles off four names of girls he's met, and from which holdings they hale from. And they even seem to be ranked from prettiest to least pretty - which doesn't mean ugly. Then he clears his throat and runs his fingers through his hair, shifting a little bit and looking up at his sister again. He answered, right, didn't he? They might not be telepathic but he isn't so thick as to not recognize her look for what it was. "Sure, Mom, let's…I'll go get some stuff," he says, straightening and trotting off down the path towards the main hold. Either being a good host (as he's been taught) or needing some time to sort this out.

Marel grimaces and sticks her tongue out when Tharen mentions girls and marriage in relation to her brother - or is that all to hide a faintly possessive flash in her eyes as she glances between the two men? She looks down at the luggage about to be left behind, leaning as if she might bend down and select a few items to lug inside in an attempt to be helpful more in what she does when she cannot seem to be in what she says, though abandons that idea after another moment's thought. Exchanging an uncertain look with Muir, she gives a minute little nod, but hangs back as he moves off ahead. "Is Daddy still sulking that you fired him?" she asks Thea, evidently believing that to be the reason he's not visited since they've been at the Hold.

Tharen and Thea exchange a look over that dropped head of Muir's, Tharen winks and Thea nods slowly. It will take some time for her son to regain his spunk and spirit. She'll have to give him time and space to do that. She knows this and yet can't stop the sigh that escapes her lips as her eyes follow his retreat. She's facing the hold as they walk, a foreboding glance sent to the office windows where, no doubt her sire has probably watched their arrival from and yet not bothered to come to greet them. Typical. Marel's question pulls her back, "Hmm? Oh. He- he's over that," she says vaguely, carefully. "He's just been… busy adjusting to being back with Galaxy Wing and drilling." The heavy door to the hall is opened by an attendant as they reach it and she murmurs a greeting to whoever it is, then double-takes at the enthusiastic greeting and hug her brother gets. There's a few moments of happy squealing and his obligatory catch up, afterwhich Tharen ducks out of the snare and makes his way down the side hall to rap on the closed office door. A voice without emotion bids him enter, he opens it and slips inside. Nice knowing you, Tharen? "Right, well. Let's… go find your grandma and Muir," says Thea after an uneasy blink at the opposing door.

Muir is with their grandmother, the boy carrying in a tray of sandwiches and some hot water for tea, which he sets down on a table. His expression is hidden, a faint smile on his lips the only sign of any sort of reaction to this whole thing.

"Oh," Marel utters in answer to her mother, folding her hands before her rather than twisting them, in what is a much more ladylike fashion. "I thought he must be busy and I didn't want to ask and ask… But I didn't want him to think I /hadn't/ asked either…" Such is the quandary of trying to be good whilst having the curiosity and wanting the attention all the same. She watches Tharen more closely than Thea as he retreats, a long, searching look sent after him, yet she doesn't give voice to any further questions. Upon approaching the table, she tugs her mittens off and goes to pull out a chair for the goldrider first.

While Marel explains, Thea's face is a curious mix of pride and dismay over the words her daughter speaks, but she doesn't remark to them. She can't speak past the lump in her throat. She shrugs out of her fur-lined, ankle-length coat, and strips off her gloves as they make their way down that hall, past the dining room where the lessons are still in progress and enter the kitchens. At least they are far enough that they won't hear voices through that closed office door should any be raised. Rensea is there, just inside the kitchen and on her way to intercept them - they're taking too long! She takes Thea's coat and tosses it over a chair, then firmly wraps her daughter in her arms. The comfort is all it takes to rock the careful reserve Thea's been holding onto and her body shudders with the one sob she can't hold back, muffled from under her hair. There's a whispered something in Thea's ear, she nods and then lifts her head, kisses Rensea on the cheek and reluctantly withdraws to sit with a smile and a "Thank you," in the seat Marel has pulled out for her. Ice-green eyes are bright as she looks at her children. "Your father misses you very much," she assures them. "He sends his love." Of that she is sure of, though whether he told her that is questionable.

Muir sets the tray down and starts to make them all some tea - a skill he actually applied himself to, it seems, as he's fairly good at it. "Then why hasn't he come to visit?" he asks his mother, glancing at his sister. Did she already ask that? With the tea poured, he looks at his mother's face for a long moment, and then gets up again to take her a napkin. "What's wrong, Mom? Aren't you happy?" Does she not want them to come back? The boy sits down beside his sister, fingers drumming briefly on the table top before he clasps them in his lap. He's learned not to do that, it seems.

Alarmed, Marel fidgets on the spot, feet wanting to propel her forward to Thea, confusion demanding that she not press and push. She opts for slipping out of her cloak if only to busy herself, scarf unwound and the tunic she's put on over her dress drawn carefully over her dress to leave her attired in gown and trousers. As she retreats to take her own seat, she keeps sneaking quick glances at her mother, back rigid and expression stoic, completely unsure of what to say. "We can stay," she insists, despite it being not what she wants at all. "We'll be good. If it'll make you happy. We've /been/ good…" Mostly. Perhaps. Maybe. Sort of.

And she was trying so hard not to scare them, too. "Nothing's wr-" A clucking sound from her mother stops her and she pauses to draw a steadying breath while she takes that napkin Muir has given her and dabs the corner of one eye with it. Another breath taken and then she looks each of her children in the eye, "Your father doesn't come because he and your grandfather do not get along." That's an understatement, if the dry chuckle from Rensea is anything to go by. The elderly woman sits beside Muir, one hand patting his knee in a gesture meant to be comforting. "I want you to come home. Your father wants you home," Thea assures them firmly, getting a grip on her own emotions. There's tea, a momentary distraction and she lifts the lid from the pot, eyes the color and then pours for all of them, lifting her cup and sipping the scalding liquid. What comes next is her acknowledgement that they are growing up. Somberly, "You should know what you're returning to, my sweetlings." Troubled, very. This probably does not bode well.

Something is not right here, and Muir fidgets beneath his grandmother's hand, darting a confused look to her. Then, slowly, he reaches out beneath the table to seek his sister's hand. Whatever bad news their mother is about to give them, they'll face it together at least? "What is it, mom?" he asks quietly, watching her with worry in his eyes.

Without looking, Marel fumbles to close her fingers around Muir's and hold on tight, then seeks to twine their fingers together in her own silent show of solidarity. She lets his question stand without adding one of her own or adding weight to it with an echo, her features smoothed back out into as calm a facade as she can manage for a girl her age, which is to say, definitely under-animated, but too still and overdone.

"Your father was very angry with your grandfather's suit and equally with the Conclave's directive." It's a start, but it takes Thea a long time to force the words that continue, in which time her tea grows cold. The silence is only broken by the murmurs of voices from the harper lessons down the hall and the tick tocking of the large clock by the door. She stares at the lace edging the ivory tablecloth and continues, "He went to them and tried to dispute it, but to no avail. However, it is myself that he focuses his anger on because I sent you here without consulting him first. We aren't, we haven't…" A deep, somewhat shaky breath is taken. "We aren't together anymore." There. She said it. Pale green eyes lift to theirs and she breathes, "I'm sorry, loves. This is my fault. I thought it best to keep you from a nasty suit before the conclave which most likely would have ended in a physical fight between your father and your grandfather." A fight she says, when duel is the real word, but she can't quite make herself add that one of them would be dead.

Muir's hand squeezes tightly around Marel's, fingers twined tightly, when their mother says those words. "You and dad are broken up?" This is far worse than he'd thought, as he stares at his mother and then frowns. "Why didn't you talk to him about it? And…and why didn't you tell us why we were coming here, either?" The boy has some anger in him, that much is clear, but he wrestles it back down. For the moment, and just looks at his sister.

Marel stares, green eyes going glassy, her jaw tightening with the effort of letting neither tears nor words escape her. To start with, she simply squeezes Muir's hand all the tighter and swings her gaze back to him as if he might have the answers she seeks without asking. Only then, /then/ it happens all in a rush and her young lady facade crumples and cracks, leaving little girl in the throes of a rush of temper instead. "He wouldn't," she murmurs, anger cold and slow-building. "He wouldn't. Daddy wouldn't." She doesn't slam her chair back, but rises very properly, reluctantly reclaiming her hand from Muir. "He wouldn't! He loves you! He loves us!" Voice rising now, she backs away from the table, arms folding across her chest.

A nod confirms it. "I tried to talk to him, but he wouldn't listen to me," Thea assures them both. "I even wrote him a letter but it didn't help. You know how he his." The man is the epitome of stubborn! She lifts her teacup, sips without seeming to notice that the tea has gone tepid. Muir’s anger she can understand. He is so much like his father. Why didn't she tell them beforehand? For so many reasons! The arguing, the trauma, the tears, the delay, the chance that D'had would return from those sweeps before she had sent them away and they'd have seen a rage in their father that would destroy their sense of trust in him. But she sums it all up with a stark, "Because you wouldn't have gone otherwise." Marel's outcry causes Thea's throat to tighten, but she allows the child her space. "He does love you and I still love him," she assures both of them firmly. "But you should know that he-" "If you must know," a cold voice interrupts from the doorway, "He has no love for me and the feeling is mutual. I should have killed him long ago when I had the chance." Holder Thadan is there, smug supercilious and gloating as he eyes his daughter lips curling into a sneer, "He left you, eh? It figures. Dragonmen!" The last word spat out in disgust. The man's fingers flex as he remembers something and Thea's hand lifts, her fingers touch her throat, then resolutely curl into a fist that is lowered to the table. She will not grace his insults with an answer.

Muir stands abruptly when his sister does, stepping back to stand by her side, quick glances from his twin to his mother and back again. Mouth opens and eyes narrow, but any reply he might've had is interrupted by their grandfather's arrival. The boy spins on a heel, hands clenched, and stares at Thadan in surprise, which swiftly turns to anger and rebellion. "Don't you talk about our father that way!" the boy says firmly, taking a step forward and drawing himself up.

Took the words right out of her mouth! "Don't you dare!" Marel echoes, drawing herself up beside her brother. "He's a sweeter, kinder man than you'll ever be! He loves us and he loves Mama." So she firmly believes. She takes a breath, meaning to go on, but /just/ manages to check herself and instead retreats further into her cold, uptight anger than let it all spill out in-front of her grandfather. "We should go," she tells Thea and Muir in as calm as voice as she can manage. "We should just… go. Now."

Thadan's laugh is unpleasant. No wonder D'had did not want them here! The holder doesn't argue with his grandchildren, however. The rumble of agitation from the courtyard keeps Thea in her seat, busy restraining Seryth, but Rensea has risen right along with the children. "Let’s go upstairs and pack," she suggests. Meanwhile, out in the hall, the front door opens and a few men stagger in with Tharen's baggage. It appears that Thadan has made a decision. "You have papers to sign in my office," he says with a flip of his hand that dismisses Muir as future holder of Cold Stone without bothering to ask what the boy would decide. The man then turns on his heel retreating back the way he came, so confident Muir will do as bidden.

Muir reaches out to put a hand on his sister's arm, giving it a tight squeeze. His body shifts, too, slightly ahead of Marel's, in a subtle protective stance. His eyes narrow with more anger simmering, and he lets Marel's arm go, jerking up his chin proudly, as he marches after his grandfather to go sign those papers. There's no hesitation in the boy. He might be baffled by these events, but he knows one thing - he wants out of here. And now.

Perhaps it speaks of how much Marel is growing up that she lets her so oft-lectured brother be the one to protect her without protest, one hand lifting to cover his when he touches her arm. She likewise lifts her head to watch him go, pride easily readable in the otherwise stern lines of her expression, and as Muir goes to sign those papers without hesitation, she too turns, to do as their grandmother suggests and start packing their things to get away as fast as possible.

It will be Rensea who eases Marel's packing with soothing chatter so the girl doesn't have to talk if she doesn't want to, her grandmother who ensures that the pretty things she's outfitted the girl with get packed. Things like gather gowns and fine dresses, pretty shoes and the turnday gifts she's given while the pair have been here. A packet of heirloom jewelry is tucked within an inner pocket with a secretive twinkled wink and a shush as the elder woman says with some spirit, "I won't have Thadan selling these off after my death, child. Your mother will know what to do with it." Thea has come up the stairs and entered the room that used to be Tharen's, packing Muir's things with quick efficiency, not holding back what she takes for the boy either. The bags are piled in the corridor while workers bring up Tharen's bags and maids ready the room for the returned son of Thadan, carrying on much whispering and chuckling about how mature he's become and speculation whether he'll really buckle down and learn holder-ing. Thea has drifted into the room Marel has used, a wistful smile on her mouth. "You were born right here in this room while your father wore the hall carpet thin with his pacing," she notes.

Muir signs the papers set before him, but like a good ex-holder-heir, he carefully reads everything before he signs it. Just like his grandfather taught him. And maybe - just maybe - he's being a bit of a smart ass. He's signing his rights away, but if there's one thing the boy has learned it's that nothing is certain, so he is very careful what he signs, glancing at his grandfather from time to time. Wondering if the man will say anything, or just hold on to that silence.

Marel is mostly silent as she packs up what she can, aggressively folding some garments until her temper is mostly spent through it all, and without her saying anything inappropriate about her grandfather too. She peeks up at her grandmother every so often as she chatters away, questions there that she can't find the words to ask, staring at all the pretty things with a regretful, defeated edge to her suddenly forlorn gaze (even if she so very much wants to keep and is grateful for all she's being sent off with). In the absence of words, she steps forward to impulsively hug Rensea to express what she can't in any other way, aiming to hold her tight, releasing her when Thea enters the room. "…I'm sorry, Mama," she says softly, not knowing exactly what she's sorry for, only that she /is/.

Thadan is, at first, signing the documents he's had Tharen sign with a very satisfied cat-got-the cream smile curving his firm mouth. Perhaps extortion was his goal all along and he's pleased that Tharen couldn't stomach Thea's misery and caved? That he's instigated a split between his daughter and that dragonman is an added bonus and one perhaps he was hoping to achieve, given the smug comment he makes after the boy has finished signing his. He is blunt, matter-of-fact, not seeking to spare his grandson's feelings and might even expect gratitude for what he says next, "I've kept the document that claims you as an heir so you won't be considered a dragonman's bastard." Ut oh? This means if Tharen doesn't cut it Muir is still eligible as heir to Cold Stone Hold. Tharen is still there, seated beside Muir, silent but ready to step in and keep Thadan from bullying his nephew. Upstairs, Thea enfolds Marel in a warm embrace, shushing her and murmuring, "Not your fault, Love. Not in the slightest. We'll… be alright." While behind her, Rensea slips a few more things into those bags that she'd noted Marel looking at so longingly. Neither should be surprised if over the next turn they get packages from her with more in them!

Muir stiffens at Thadan's words (he's resolved now to never again think of him as 'grandfather'), and frowns. Clenching his jaw, he eases back into the chair and simply nods.

Marel nods against her mother's shoulder, her arms wrapped tightly around Thea's waist, like she could stop them both from being upset if she just clings tightly enough. "Can Grandma come with us?" she asks, loud enough for Rensea to hear. So, it's not just pretty things she seeks to take with her. "I mean… Grandma can come with us, right?" Even if she knows the answer, really. She has to ask, voice trembling. "She should come with us." If she just says it enough times…

Thankfully Thadan doesn't push his luck by saying anything further to goad Muir. Perhaps it is the clenched fists that Tharen uses to push himself up with, or the long, level glare boring into his sire's that warns him to say no more. "Help me load Seryth," Tharen says to Muir and will wait until the boy precedes him from the office. It is Rensea who answers Marel, "My home is here, child. You come visit me sometime." Me, she says, not us. She reaches to give her granddaughter a gentle chuck under the chin. "I'm the only family he has," she says serenely, tacit acknowledgement that Thadan has estranged all of them. "And family gives one hundred and ten percent." The workers are at the door, waiting to take the baggage down to the courtyard where they've left Muir's bags. "Come," Rensea says, ushering both Marel and Thea, who keeps an arm around her daughter, on out and down the wide stairs. "I'll come bring your grandmama down to visit often, Marel, I promise," replies Thea when she can keep her voice steady.

Muir nods his head, darting a look at his uncle. "Yes, sir," he says softly, a rebellious offering of respect - since he never called Thadan sir. Then he'll follow, marching with long, angry strides and his hands still balled into fists. As they walk though, his temper cools enough to look up at his uncle. "You're sure you want to do this?"

"But—" Marel argues no more than that, a sober look aimed down at her feet whilst she listens to Rensea, one slow nod all the acknowledgement she can manage. She reaches for her grandmother's hand to squeeze gently by way of promise to visit, and lets herself be ushered downstairs, keeping close to Thea's side. Lapsing into silence, she's quiet unless she absolutely must speak, still dancing the line between anger and regret, and therefore trying to do her best by all by not making things any worse.

Tharen keeps pace with Muir, letting his nephew expend his anger in the act of rapid pacing. The pile of bags has been left at the edge of the courtyard, the workers not daring to take them any closer to the irate gold, whose eyes are yellow, sparkled with hints of red. Tharen has been around her enough to know why she's riled. He barely pauses in taking two bags in each hand, then striding right up to Seryth's side and shoving them into the cargo nets. His grunt might be all the answer he gives, but then, he pauses, looks down at Muir and very bluntly answers, "I'm sure I don't. But I'm not standing by while he destroys my sister's life piece by piece. I can't do anything about D'had, but you and Marel are her world. The least I can do is give you back to her. I've avoided my obligation here long enough." And then he smirks, "Thadan is nearing seventy turns. Think about it. How long can he make me miserable?" By then Thea, Marel and Rensea are making their way out into the courtyard, the two older women bringing more bags over.

Muir gathers up a bag in each hand and follows, stumbling a bit with the added weight and speed. By the time they reach Seryth's side, he blinks up at his uncle, a bit floored by his answer. "So this is all just so we can go home?" he says, his voice suddenly rather young and soft. Then he's quickly clearing his throat, holding out his fist. "Thanks, Uncle Tharen," he says quietly. "I'm…mom…I'm glad to be going home. So's Marel, I'm sure. But if you need help or anything…I learned some stuff while I was here." Comical, perhaps, to think a man like Tharen would ask a fourteen turn old boy's help, but it's all Muir can offer.

It's a subdued Marel that arrives at Seryth's side, her attention lifting to Tharen, yet she doesn't ask the same question that she asked about her grandmother, no matter how loath to leave him at the Hold she seems. And because she still can't find the right sort of words - meaningful, memorable words - that she believes would be expected of a lady in this situation, she steps forward to deliver a hug to her uncle, tucking herself in against his chest. In the wake of that hug, she finds she's almost able to be a grown-up again and draws herself up tall.

Tharen fistbumps Muir, then pulls him into a rough embrace. Probably the first male hug the boy has had since before he left home. "I'll miss you both," he says gruffly, thumping his nephew on the back, "But truth be told, I wasn't doing a whole lot for the beastcraft at Xanadu." He releases him with a wink, "When the old geezer is out of my hair, I'll visit for a consultation now and then." He spots Marel coming and opens up his arms, Thea reluctantly dropping her arm so her daughter can go to him. The squeeze he gives is the same one he's always done, purposefully strong enough to make her squeak or breathless, which ever comes first. "I expect that when Xanadu's summers are enough to melt your eyeballs you'll pop up and go sledding and ice skating with me," he says as he lets her go. Rensea is holding Muir's jacket, wriggling it. Hint hint! You forgot something! The older woman's eyes are dry, but only from iron control as she waits to hug the children once more, then motions to them to climb on up Seryth's back. Thea is back and forth with more bags, as is Tharen and the two of them get the bags stowed in short time. Then it's another long hug for her mother and a struggle as she faces Tharen, eyes full and her heart in the look she gives him.

Muir returns his uncle's hug with a tight, fierce embrace. He's floored by this, clearly, but doesn't have the words to express it. So he mutely goes to his grandmother and takes his jacket, pulling it on before slipping his arm around her in a hug. "We'll be here," he promises his uncle, leaving his grandmother's side a moment later, and climbing up first onto Seryth, offering his sister a hand up when it's her turn to climb. Once she's mounted, the boy turns to whisper something swiftly to his twin.

"I will," Marel promises Tharen, stepping aside to press a kiss to Rensea's cheek before she accepts Muir's assistance and lets him help her clamber up onto Seryth. She tilts her head towards his to better hear him, then looks sharply, almost desperately, at Tharen when he speaks. She starts, as if she'd climb right back down to the ground, but forces herself to stop and twists a little, shaking her head when she turns to Muir, rather defeated. How much can they really do right now?

"Don't say it, Thee," warns Tharen, narrowing his eyes at her with mock severity. But does Thea ever listen to him? "Love you, Pest," she manages to choke out and he's pantomiming gagging and rolling his eyes again before pulling her into another rough hug and whispering, "Don't know why I put up with you, Bother." Then he gives her a little push towards Seryth, "Go on now. Get out of here." It's gruffly fond, an oh-so-typical Tharen farewell, brother to sister that Thea has to do it, for old time's sake: she punches his shoulder - hard. He nudges hers - gently. Thea snorts, "Chicken." And then sniffs. Whirling around before she gives in to the tears that surely will start if she doesn't, she climbs rapidly up Seryth's side, clips herself in, the queen rising from her crouched position as Thea settles astride. Huge wings lift, casting them all in the hazy gold light filtering through her translucent wingsails and she leaps, the heavy flapping filling the courtyard. The wind currents off the peaks lifts them higher and only then does it hit Thea: this will be a first for the pair and no time to really prepare them for what’s to come. "We're going *Between* now," she gasps, turning back to the two behind her. They at least know the theory of it, even if they have yet to experience it. Seryth has the coordinates from Thea's mind and makes the jump…

Muir took the back seat, so Marel could be between him and their mother, and as they rise he grips his sister's shoulders. Giving them a squeeze as they rise, he freezes when their mother says they're going to go between. "Finally!" the boy has time to shout, before the blackness and cold envelops him.

Marel does not scream or flail as Seryth makes the jump Between, but her unease is easily betrayed by how rigid she goes, quite like the cold of Between has seeped through and into her very bones. The hand she's fumbled for Muir's knee with in the moments before the jump clamps tight without her meaning it to, and even once they're back in normal sky, she's still frozen solid (someone might have to remind her to breathe). But still! Not even a squeak or a panicked look: she hasn't disgraced herself.

Thea goes through *Between* facing backwards, wide-eyed in apprehension for their response. Muir's shout of exultation is the one thing that comforts her on those three long heartbeats of cold darkness until they pop out over Xanadu into Summer heat. Seryth's roar of triumph reverberates over Xanadu, answered by her blue friend Siebith from somewhere down there as the queen circles her Weyr and banks into a gentle descent that will take them to the Coastal Road. Marel is given a reassuring smile. See? Nothing to it, really. And Muir, she leans out to get a better look at him, even if he did sound enthusiastic about it to begin with. Is he okay?

Muir is a little pale, but the boy is grinning from ear to ear. It only lasts a moment though, as he sobers up quick when he catches his mom looking at him. Squeezing his sister's shoulder, he leans over Seryth's side to peer down at the weyr he didn't really think he'd come back to again. "Where are we gonna sleep?" he calls over the rush of the wind.

Thea hides a smile at Muir's hastily-stifled grin. SO like his father! Though she heard the question, she doesn't answer right away, but turns around for the duration of the remainder of the flight. It is seconds, really, before it ends with Seryth landing on the coastal road before the Weyrbarn she and the twins called home for the past 14 turns. She turns to help them unclip, saying only, "Your father will want to see you. Go to him? He… didn't know I was going for you." As for Muir's question about where they're staying, she is somber, "Your da has changed, Muireadhach. He finds his comfort in too much whiskey these days." And perhaps the arms of… no, she won't go there, in her mind or aloud. "Afternoon sweeps just got over, so he should be…" sober. "You are both welcome to stay with me in my old cottage - you know the one. It's the old boarded up one with the giant fellis tree in the clearing." The one they both climbed many times. "Or, there's always the resident's dorm where Hali and Darsce have a room. If you want one of your own, just let me know and I'll poke Ocelara."

Muir helps his sister down and sucks on his teeth, looking at the weyrbarn and then at his mother. He winces when she uses his full name, knowing things are very serious when she does that. "Okay," he says quietly, taking his sister's hand and giving it a squeeze before he lets it go. "We'll pick, then. And…let you know." This is all so much. Loosing their home on top of it? Too much.

"Your papa loves you very much," Thea reassures them both with a gesture that they should go in and see him. "I'll keep your bags loaded until you tell me where they're to go, eh?" She remains atop Seryth, smiles down at them and adds, "I'm so glad you are home, Lovies." Her eyes glitter with unshed tears in the late afternoon sun as she turns around and Seryth moves off. They'll see the gold waiting in the clearing later, bags still in the cargo nets. Or Siebith can bespeak her and let her know where to take them. They know the routine.

Muir nods to their mother and squares his shoulders, putting his hand on his sister's shoulder as they go into the unknown - to see their father after so many months. In the building in which they were raised. So much has changed…

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