Kassia hurried with Brogan from the Barracks to the Caverns. The guard outside the Caverns gave her a greeting, but she ignored him and stomped right up to Talith. “I need Yours to come. Now.” Remembering that R’tal wasn’t B’lin, she amended. “Unless he absolutely can’t.”
((I’ll call him,)) Talith promised, and things had been on edge enough lately that R’tal arrived within ten minutes of the summons, not even pausing to grab snacks.
“You okay? Foreth okay?
“Foreth’s okay,” Kassia said from her spot in the Stands. Brogan had his head in her lap, trying to calm her. “No, it’s these stupid Candidates.”
R’tal sat down next to her. “Well, they’ve never not been stupid before, so I’m not sure why they would start now,” he observed. “What did they do this time?”
“They have no respect any more,” Kassia went on. It was clear whether she’d even listened to him. “Between the ones that thought it was smart to go out on the Hatching Sands and then this one. This...girl. Ysolde. I’ve dealt with her before and her lack of respect of me. I was giving my talk warning the girls about getting to see the eggs when she got up and walked out.”
“Did you check why?” R’tal said. “I mean, trying to be reasonable she might have been suddenly taken ill.”
“Oh, I found out all right,” Kassia shot back. She pushed Brogan’s head off her lap so that her leg could bounce. “She was mad because Foreth let my family see the eggs first.” To be fair, Ysolde hadn’t actually said that out loud, but the implication was there. Nayari had seen it, too. “And don’t go saying she had a right to say so. Foreth wanted them to see the eggs. I sure wasn’t going to object and risk her not letting anyone see the eggs. I know what it was. She thinks that I’m somehow going to make it so that one of my cousins or daughters Impresses the golds. But there’s nothing that says seeing the eggs or touching them makes a difference.”
“It doesn’t,” R’tal agreed. “Honestly, with the way things are I’ve been wondering if this is a good idea.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Wondering if what is a good idea?”
“Letting them near the eggs at all,” R’tal said simply, and shifted a little, turning towards her to explain his thinking. “Look, we know someone tried something at the Gather. Even if they never try again, the dragons are jumpy. It was probably only luck no one died the other day..”
Kassia settled a little as he seemed to be agreeing with her. She’d had much the same thought after the Candidate went onto the Sands, but hadn’t want to deny the girls. But now...
“I agree with you,” she said, a little calmer. “One of these days Foreth is going to eat one of these stupid Candidates. Clearly they don’t have any respect or they’d never try to disobey me and the dragons. The pool of girls I even want near the gold eggs at Hatching is very small. Larger than just my family, despite what some people seem to think, but not by much.”
“Going on the way the Tiny Travellors went, I’m not sure anything we do makes that much of a difference,” R’tal admitted. “If ever there was a Clutch where dragons should have gone unmatched because no-one touched the eggs, it was that one.” He eyed her. “However. Also going on that one, there is a risk that if we let no one near the eggs you’ll get a high number of Impresses who weren’t even Standing. And gold eggs aren’t immune to that.”
Kassia was quiet for a moment as she looked out over the Sands. Foreth was currently curled up around a couple of eggs and hugging the Gilded Cage egg.
“I promised the girls with permission they could see the eggs,” she said finally, her leg had never ceased its bouncing. “I say let them see the eggs, but put a stop to it after that.” Harsh, but she wasn’t in the most lenient of moods at the moment.
“I’d suggest having extra guards around the eggs when they see them, just to put off any silly ideas,” R’tal said. “Did the boys actually get near the eggs the other day before things kicked off?”
“Not before, but at the end of the day after things have calmed down.” She reached over to stroke Brogan’s head. “They got their chance. They can live. I don’t know that Foreth’s going to allow anyone to touch them at this point anyway. I’d hate to have her eat someone.” If the last was a joke, it didn’t sound funny.
“Talith doesn’t really want anyone near them either,” R’tal admitted. “He’s still insistent those two were trying to attack them.” There was a quiet rumble from the brown on the Sands, as though to confirm this. “He’s not usually this..jumpy, but..”
“Sadly, this has happened before and I don’t want to stress Foreth out more than she is.” By now Kassia sounded almost reasonable, if still a bit keyed up. “So we’re agreed? We close the Sands after the girls who I’ve vetted see the eggs tomorrow?”
R’tal nodded, and then paused. “Eh. How much do you like your guards, Kass?”
That made her raise her eyebrows. “My two primary ones I like a lot. The ones I use less I’m comfortable with, but can do without.”
“What age range are they in exactly?” R’tal glanced to the closest, eying him as he tried to estimate it.
She thought she saw where he was going. “Kalin is 32. Kodah is 25, so theoretically in range for a Stands Impression.”
“I’d have a chat with him,” R’tal advised. “I know you like him, but that’s an awful thing to spring on someone without warning at all. And if they’re the only ones near the eggs..”
Kassia reached back to pull her braid over her shoulder, pulling on it even as she nodded. “I’ll talk to him and give him the choice. I’d sure hate to lose him though.” She sighed and made herself release her braid. “Thanks for talking this out with me. Right now everything sets me off. I’m so pent up. I don’t know, I guess I’m not getting out enough or something. I’m still not sleeping great either. I’m trying not to make stupid decisions on my own.” At least if someone else thought closing off the Sands was stupid, she wasn’t the only one who made it.
“Well. You’ll lose him for longer if he ends up with a dragon,” R’tal pointed out. “Unless you get lucky and he’s dragondeaf.” He patted her leg lightly. “Talk to K’ren about the rest.”
“He’s not, but he does have a wher.” She took a deep breath, trying to settle. “I’d like to think the wher would stop the Impression, but I’d really, really hate to be wrong.” That was a mess she didn’t want to deal with. “Anyway, I’ll see about talking to K’ren. Thanks R’tal.” Some days she and the Weyrleader fought like the Candidates they’d been talking about. And some days R’tal was her biggest ally. She appreciated the days they got along.