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Welcome Aboard Elphith Airlines (jp: Attlin, Cuylar)


Laura Walker
 

Cuylar was not sure what he expected to find. But he had a job to do. He was going out to Garatt's father's Hold, and he was bringing the man in. He had a right to know what happened to his son, and it was not Cuylar's decision to make.


But the worry gnawed at the pit of his stomach. He could only play the Healer card for so long before he would have to release Garatt from his care. And then, he would no longer have that indefatigable arrow in his quiver. He would be mostly powerless to protect Garatt then if his father, this Attlin, insisted he be sent home.


But. Perhaps, if he did this right, he could convince Attlin that Garatt could stay. That being at the weyr was still best for him, despite what had happened.


Did he really believe that? It had to be true… did it not?


Elphith burst into the sky over the Hold and then came in for a landing.


It wasn’t exactly common for a green dragon to arrive - or any dragon. There were startled faces peering up at them from the fields around the hold, a few kids taking the initiative and bolting towards them. Sometimes after all dragons appeared and took kids away to get their own dragons.


And here came the Holder himself, a soberly dressed man in clothes that while well-made made a lot of use of a palette of greys with a bit of black thrown in for good measure. He walked with the quick pace of a man who was attempting not to visibly hurry but nevertheless wanted to be there extremely quickly.


“Well-met, rider! Are you here on Search?” The query was calm and courteous but there was tension in the way he stood and worry in his eyes; a man who very much feared bad news even as he sought to will it away by finding better explanations for a visiting rider.


"Good day, and well-met, sir," said Cuylar to the man who greeted him. "I'm Journeyman Healer Cuylar, this is Elphith, and we're here to speak with the Holder, Attlin." This man matched the description, but Cuylar had not expected a Holder to rush out to greet him. "Are you he?"


Elphith dipped her head to the man.


He was younger close up than he first appeared. From a distance the style of clothing and greying hair made him seem at least fifty, if not older. It was only when he was close enough to see his face that it became clearer that he was forty maybe, if not younger. 


That face was worried now, and trying not to be. Riders on search didn’t generally know Holder names. He turned a little, signalling to the children who had clustered that they should return to their chores and letting them scatter before he turned back to Cuylar. “Then yes, it would be me you’re seeking. Is there a problem?”


And what problem might there be so big that word of it could not be carried on a firelizard?


"Garatt is alive," Cuylar began, getting that out of the way first, "and is in no danger of dying." No father wanted to wait about while a Healer dilly-dallied in explaining why he was there when that most important bit of information was what they would be worrying about most.


"And he isn't in trouble. There has been an incident with a Candidatemaster who overstepped his authority, and the Infirmary had asked me to bring you to him such that you may observe him for yourself. I am his primary care provider. If you have any questions before we leave, I will do my best to answer them."


Attlin had paled at those first words, face going grey to match his clothing, but he pulled himself together with the air of someone well-used to being the calm head in an emergency. “This conversation would be better in my office.” Those words were clipped, the intonation crisp but hurried. “Please come with me. Will your green be all right?”


"Of course, sir," said Cuylar, bowing his head as well. "Thank you. Please lead the way." He had taken note of the brief loss of color. Cuylar would have expected such a reaction if he had told him Garatt was not alive. Surely, the man could not have been hoping to hear otherwise… 


Again, that brisk pace -- not running, never going so obvious as to go beyond a walk, but nevertheless hurrying their way through the corridors of the Hold. 


It was a nice Hold. The walls were hung with paintings, many presumably of family members, and there were rugs on every floor which while not the newest were both clearly of high quality and well-kept. The curtains were a similar story -- long curtains of heavy material with rich vibrant colours which had barely faded over time. There was clearly no shortage of marks here.


Attlin’s office on the other hand was small, and cluttered with papers and looked strangely sparse in its lack of decoration compared with the Hold outside its door. He waved Cuylar towards a seat, shutting the door behind them.


“Now. Tell me what’s happened. Is he badly hurt?” Less calm in his voice now the world had been shut out, far more anxiety.


"There are no permanent injuries that I am aware of at this time," Cuylar began again with the conclusion first. "One of the Candidatemasters was brought out of retirement to assist in a time when the Barracks were shorthanded. He took it upon himself to bully Garatt to make him an example. To… establish some kind of sick order." Cuylar wrinkled his nose, and that same fire burned in his eyes again.


"To give you an idea of how seriously he crossed the line, the Candidatemaster in question has been not only relieved, but also arrested."


"I'm more concerned about Garatt's mind going forward than his body," Cuylar went on. "But I mean to see through his treatment until he is entirely healed. He will not be returning to the Barracks while he is under my care." Or ever, most likely. But Cuylar did not want to have that argument any sooner than he had to.


Attlin had known it would be bad news, had known somewhere deep down that anything that brought a rider from the Weyr would not be good. He’d tried to brace for it, to prepare for the worst possible news as though that could save him when it came.


He still inhaled sharply though, and held onto the back of his chair tightly as though for support. “How did-- no, never mind.” How it had happened could be dealt with later, that wasn’t the most important thing right now. “How bad is it? Please.” He had to know all of it, had to have the bad news laid out before him now so that at least he could be satisfied that there were no more shocks coming before he started to deal with it.


"He has bruises and broken skin on his back, buttocks, and left hand. I am tending to the wounds," said Cuylar. "Nothing that won't heal." There might be some scars, but… "As I said, I'm more concerned with the trauma of this unfair treatment. He doesn't want to go back to the Barracks – he will not be made to do so. And he is afraid you will ask him to come home." He might as well broach that subject now.


As Attlin had been opening his mouth to say he could easily pay for a Hall Healer, the marks were there, he could be as safe and well-cared for at home as in the Weyr that last statement stopped him in his tracks. Oh. Well. He should have expected that perhaps.


“I see.” He’d been too well-trained in manners to let that flash of hurt show. The words were crisp, neutral, refusing to show visible reaction to that.


Cuylar titled his head for a moment. Nothing at all?


"I take this to mean he has something at the Weyr he wants to stay for," Cuylar ventured. "Though he did turn down my offer to apprentice in the Infirmary." He offered a smile.


"Are you ready to go see him?" 


Breathe in. Breathe out. Think. Calm. Process. “Give me a moment to go speak to my steward,” Attlin said after a moment’s thought. “Will there be somewhere to stay at the Weyr?”


"I can make sure you have quarters to sleep in," said Cuylar, "for at least a little while if you'd like to stay while Garatt heals."


That was a good sign, yes? Maybe not for Garatt getting to stay, but it seemed to indicate there was at least some worry there. Cuylar had expected… more than zero reaction at hearing these things. Especially that a dragonman had whipped his son bloody. But… nothing much.


In fact, the biggest reaction had come when Cuylar had told him Garatt was alive.


“He’ll want to see his aunt.” It pained him to admit it, but that was no more than fact. Attlin was well-aware of his own short-comings. “She’s a couple of hours’ ride-- oh well, I suppose not on dragonback of course.” Difficult to come around to that way of thinking. “Did he want anything from home?” It took a second before he answered his own question. “Books. He’ll want books. I can get those.” Anything to feel like he was doing something, achieving something by going, contributing somehow.


"I can bring his aunt another time, perhaps. This time, he should see you," said Cuylar. "I think he would like it very much if you brought him something familiar." Maybe not books… but Cuylar thought Garatt would appreciate his father thinking of him, one way or another. "Does he like to read?"


This was progress, perhaps…


“No. No, you don’t understand, his aunt raised him pretty much.” Attlin glanced around his office distractedly a moment. “He’d pick his aunt over me given the choice.” That was said as a simple statement of fact, in much the same way that Garatt had once calmly stated that his father would have preferred if he’d had brothers. Nothing around the office apparently struck him as useful because he gave a half shake of his head and reached for the door. “Library, I think.”


Cuylar followed after him.


"The Infirmary sent me after you," he said. "And I think I would agree with them." He was not sure just how hard he could push Attlin before he got angry, but if he was not angry already… who knew what would set him off?


“This way.” And Attlin apparently didn’t object to having a rider at his heels as he trotted back off down the corridor at a swift pace. “Who did the boy ask for?”


"He hasn't asked for anyone," said Cuylar. "But after what's happened, you deserved to be informed. I expected that you would be… angrier. At me." After all, he may as well have represented the Weyr, may as well have been the one who let this happen as far as Attlin was concerned.


“I’m sorry, I understood you were Garatt’s Healer, not in charge of the CandidateMasters?” That was politely enquiring as Attlin led the way into.. Oh. Well, that was a whole lot of books. Floor to ceiling, filling the room, a Holder’s ransom worth of books. And Attlin moved rapidly between the shelves, apparently without thought, quickly acquiring a pile picked out from various shelves.


"You understood correctly," said Cuylar. "But I suppose it's all the same to some Holders." He seemed so… cold.


"Oh." Cuylar froze as he saw the books. "Wow…" he breathed.


“You learn very quickly in this game that if you make a habit of shooting the messenger you stop receiving messages,” Attlin noted, still in that calm neutral tone. “When I’m at the Weyr, and I know who is responsible, then I shall be angry. But it would be foolish of me to upset the Healer I’m relying on to treat my son.” He offered a smile; small, polite and no more than that. “I can’t claim credit for most of the library, I’m afraid. My family collected them, not me. But Garatt liked it in here.”


"It… surprises me a bit to hear it," said Cuylar as he continued to look around the library with awe. "He seems to think he isn't very clever. And I never knew someone who wasn't very clever who liked to read. I can tell he's much cleverer than he thinks – which is why I offered to apprentice him. But. It is what he thinks."


“He’s bright enough,” Attlin observed, considering the pile of books on the table a moment and then adding one more. “Doesn’t particularly apply himself perhaps, but there’s nothing wrong with his brain.” He eyed the small stack, six books all with a well-thumbed look to them, then nodded to himself. “Will that be too many for your dragon?”


"She can carry them," Cuylar confirmed. "What are we bringing?" he asked as he looked at the spines in the stack of books.


There were two little books of children’s tales, both battered in a way which suggested they had been well-loved and passed down through a few generations. One book of histories. One bestiary (the shape and quality of the binding suggested well-illustrated and if so, that alone would be worth a decent chunk of marks). One book on runners, tracing their lineage and breeding rather than focusing on their care. And one book, added at the last with perhaps more optimism than hope, on the requirements for good management of a household. “He likes these ones -- well, most of them.” Attlin glanced at the last with a rueful twist of his lips. “Do we need anything else? Are his clothes suitable?” Being practical felt safe, as though he could at least achieve this much.


"They are," said Cuylar. "And we have plenty more to give him if he needs them. You know, these might come in a lot of handy for Garatt at the Weyr." Considering where he had found the boy, it seemed there was at least as much trust from him for Tolfast as there was for Cuylar. And evidently, Attlin knew him far better than Cuylar would have expected.


"Do you keep runners here?"


“A few. I know people prefer firelizards for message-running but sometimes a letter doesn’t convey what a voice will. And, well, we make sure the Harpers do their visits and the children get their lessons in but amongst the older cotholders especially they don’t always read well.” It was a functional answer, focusing on the runners’ purpose rather than the proud litany of breeding lines and form that might be expected from a Holder with the marks to invest in truly good runners if he actually wanted to. Attlin glanced again over the shelves, frowning a little, prompted by Cuylar’s words to look again. “I’m not sure we have anything on dragons though.” He sounded slightly peeved by this oversight, although it was truly a concern that a Hold which had little to do with dragons should not, nevertheless, have a ready selection of reference material on them if needed.


"I think Garatt would rather another book on runners than one on dragons, really," Cuylar answered. "There's a Master herdsman at the Weyr, too, who keeps the stables and oversees the pens and the like. And Garatt seems pretty interested in all of it. I bet he could learn a lot about runners from him, too."


It wasn’t imagination that said that Attlin’s face, that very calm mask that had seemed curiously unreactive to most of the news Cuylar had brought, twitched a little into a grimace. Annoyance? Or something else? “He went to the Weyr to Impress,” he pointed out, calm statement of fact. “A book on dragons would be more useful surely.” It didn’t seem to have penetrated that Impression was no longer a thing immediately on the table; possibly it had yet to penetrate at all how poor the treatment Cuylar had mentioned had actually been.


"Sir, I don't think Garatt will be Standing again," Cuylar answered. "But he could potentially make use of a time at the Weyr to learn quite a bit more about something that could be of use to him here. Two somethings, if I guess right. He could learn about how to manage a stable and care for runners, yes, but I think he could also learn the confidence to believe he could make–"


Cuylar stopped for a moment to reconsider that particular phrasing. He was not sure Attlin would be happy to hear Garatt did not think his father was proud of him.


"To believe he can be as good a Holder as you someday."


“But you said it was just bruises.” Those words came slowly, Attlin rerunning the conversation through his head for the part he must surely have missed. “Bruises and cuts, you said. Nothing permanent.” And Attlin had absorbed enough to understand his son had broken no bones, was not crippled, and failed to think further as to what those injuries actually described. “He’ll heal, surely? They wouldn’t get rid of him for a few bruises.” Still that mask, that controlled expression, but there was a hint of appeal in his voice, that of any patient or parent wanting to be told that yes, it was fine, nothing was that bad, things were going to be all right.


"He will heal physically, yes, but as I said. I'm concerned about how he will heal from the trauma. He was betrayed by someone he should have been able to trust," said Cuylar.


"If he wanted to Stand, he would be allowed back by the next Hatching, I'm sure. But he doesn't want to."


“I don’t understand.” And now Attlin spoke plainly, keen eyes on Cuylar. “He had a scare, got bashed up a little, nothing broken. What’s to heal?” It could have been said scathingly, in a way that made light of weakness, but this didn’t feel like that. Attlin sounded like a man truly trying to understand and failing, and knowing he was missing something somewhere but unable to quite locate the missing piece. “The CandidateMaster who let this incident, whatever it was, happen, he’s gone now?” 


"He has been removed from his position, yes…" Cuylar regarded Attlin curiously. He really seemed not to understand. But then, what else could Cuylar expect? This must have been where Garatt learned to keep everything inside. So Attlin had most certainly never felt anything like that overflow of emotion and pent up pain from Garatt.


Cuylar would not be surprised to find he had his own mental dam holding back even more Turns of sorrow.


"This man who did this to Garatt, it was more than just the blows. He made him feel like he was at fault for what was happening to him. And he laid all of this on top of his fear of disappointing you. He bore everything without daring to tell anyone because he thought you would be angry with him. Disappointed in him. He wants to meet your approval very much."


Cuylar hated to violate Garatt's confidence, but if there was ever going to be a reconciliation between these two, there were things they would both have to start telling each other. And Cuylar could get that ball rolling. Perhaps.


“..Blows?” Attlin held up a hand as though to stop Cuylar, needing a moment to process those words. “I don’t-- you didn’t mention blows?” Whatever he’d understood by Cuylar’s first explanation it hadn’t been this.


"If I was unclear, I apologize… but these injuries to the hand, back, and buttocks were caused by repeated blows with a cane," Cuylar elaborated. He had been a little too cautious in how he began, apparently.


There was silence, a long creeping silence where Attlin just looked at him, stared as though waiting for the punchline -- an explanation that somehow that Cuylar didn’t mean what he thought he did. He’d thought that perhaps the boy had been injured in some over-strenuous training exercise or something, not.. This.


“I don’t understand,” he said again after a minute or two, as slow horrified realisation started to creep over him. “This is..normal in the Weyr?”


"No. It isn't. Which is why the offender has been not only removed, but arrested… as I explained," Cuylar answered. "This is an extraordinary incident. And it's one that we're taking very seriously." While it had taken a moment for Attlin to realize what had happened, it was a relief to see he was more upset when he actually understood.


Cuylar would have to be careful not to leave anything else to deduction. But spelling everything out might not be much better…


“But it-- he-- that doesn’t need Healer help unless--” The calm was starting to crumble. Attlin had been switched occasionally as a boy; not frequently and not hard but just enough as a deterrent to serious mischief to understand how it generally went and to stare at Cuylar in confused horror now. Because this.. This didn’t sound like that. “And if it broke skin -- what the shards was he doing?”


"Abusing a child," said Cuylar with an apologetic wince. "Reveling in a power trip. Whatever it is that drives men to do things like this. I can assure you that Garatt did not do anything to deserve this treatment. And I hope you can accept my apology on behalf of the Weyr."


"If there had been…" Cuylar began, then sighed. "The Weyrleadership has been distracted with other things. A Hatching. A field trip for the Candidates. I'm sure you've heard of the attempted attack on the Weyrwoman at the Gather. What did they tell you about why they didn't come to bring you… oh, but they wouldn't have, would they? Garatt didn't Stand…" He sighed again.


"I tried to stop this sooner." Cuylar shook his head. "But events conspired against me, and it went this far because I failed. I am so sorry."


Words. They were words and reasons and excuses and it didn’t matter, none of them mattered right now because they couldn’t undo what had been done. Attlin took a breath and tried to pull racing thoughts under control. No point dealing with excuses right now. Fix this.. Somehow.


“He’s coming home,” he said flatly, caring little about Cuylar’s apologies at this point. “If he doesn’t want to-- he’s not thinking clearly, no-one could want to stay there after that. It’s safe here at least. I’ll-- I’ll get something. People. Those Healers who fix things when your head doesn’t work right. And he won’t have to think about it here.” An echo there of something his own parents had said once many turns ago, the same instinct they had had to wrench their son away from pain and put him somewhere he’d never have to think about it again. “I can’t, I’m not leaving him somewhere that can be missed. If he’s not Standing anyway, there’s no point, he can just-- better he be here.”


Now this was more like what Cuylar had expected from the first.


"Garatt asked me to help him stay. While he's still under my care, I must insist that you let me keep my promise to him," said Cuylar. He kept himself from standing up straight with his conviction – he was not out to physically intimidate a Holder. "And I ask that you listen to what he wants. It won't help him to heal just to be in the care of a different adult who won't hear him. Or for another someone he trusts to break a promise."


“He’s a child. He doesn’t know what he wants.” The anger was late to arrive but it was there finally and behind it its close companion, guilt. “If I hadn’t listened to what he wanted he would have been safe here, not at the sharding Weyr!”


"He is a child," Cuylar agreed. "But that doesn't mean he doesn't know what he wants. I understand you have a duty to do what you think is best for Garatt. Every parent has such a duty. And so do I. This is why I'm only asking you to delay in making your decision until he's healed. He's not fit to travel now by dragonback, runnerback, cart, or wagon, regardless. Come see him. Talk to him," he begged.


Prepare yourself for the worst news and it shouldn't hurt so much. Brace yourself, dig your heels in in preparation, and you'd survive the worst of what life threw at you. 


It wasn't working today.


“He’ll want his aunt, not me.” From one extreme to the next; from wanting the boy back with him full time to being unsure it should be him dealing with this at all. “She’ll blame me for sending him to the Weyr, Faranth take her, but it's her he’ll want if he’s..” Scared. Hurting. Other things Attlin felt entirely unprepared to deal with. “We should fetch her.”


"Can I tell you something personal?" Cuylar asked. He went on without waiting for a response. "When I found Garatt, while I was treating the wounds when they were fresh, I offered Elphith's ear to him. I wanted him to know he could call to her and she would hear him if he ever needed help."


"And when he spoke to her, he said… a lot. It was like… a flood of everything that had been on his mind for… a long, long time. And everything she hears, I hear." That sounded better than that Elphith actually told him those things purposefully. So that he could share in those feelings.


"In all of that, he never mentioned anything about his aunt. But he did mention you. I think he would rather see you."


“Then take me as well. But if we don't fetch her now I'll have to get my steward to send a message to her. She’d be there within the day anyway, and she’d not forgive me for leaving her to start.” Attlin spoke more firmly now. “If you want me to listen to what the boy wants you need to listen to me. She fostered Garatt his first ten turns. He’d want her if he's hurt.”


"I'm not sure Elphith can carry all three of us," said Cuylar.


((I can, too – don't be ridiculous.))


[[Just work with me here.]]


"So if it's acceptable, I'll take you and then go to get your sister…in-law?" Cuylar amended at the last moment. Attlin likely would have called her his sister if she was.


“Sherall.” There was clear relief in Attlin’s voice at this concession. “There's a map in here, I can use it to point out where you need to be. She was my wife’s sister.” Was, in a time long ago that had now passed.


"Thank you," said Cuylar as he walked to the map. He would probably have to between back to Attlin's Hold and then fly overland, but it could not be so far away that this would be a problem. Unless he could find someone else who had the right visualization.


Two hours on a runner was barely fifteen minutes on dragonback, one of the advantages of wings. Attlin unrolled the map and pointed it out, tracing the distance from his hold with a finger lest Cuylar struggled with map-reading. It was a much smaller hold, but there were tiny holes embedded in the hide as though from old pins. Clearly - as was perhaps understandable - this was not the first time Attlin had plotted this particular journey.


Or had it been Garatt looking after he’d been moved from his aunts?


“They have animals.” Attlin looked at him seriously as though considering this might be a problem. “Runners and herdbeast and the like.”


"I'll land far enough away not to startle them," Cuylar promised. He was used to that, anyway.


“She's an odd woman but she's fond of Garatt and he of her.” Attlin regarded him anxiously.”You will go and get her as soon as you've dropped me off?” As though he needed to know back up was coming to manage this.


"Once I've made sure I haven't left you wandering alone in the weyr bowl, that is." Cuylar offered a weak smile. "Have you ever flown before?"


“When Garatt Stood the first time.” Attlin didn't look like a man exactly enthusiastic about the experience but he set his chin and stood, picking up the pile of books. “Not my favourite way to travel but I'll live.”


"Ready to get gone?" asked Cuylar. "Can I help carry anything?" He doubted the man would let him, but he could at least offer.


“..I’m going to need to put these in a bag, aren’t I.” Attlin looked at the books, frowning, the idea clearly just occurring to him. “No way to hold on otherwise.” He considered then tucked them under one arm, turning back to the door. “Eh. I’ll get one on the way out.”


One trip between later, Elphith circled in for a landing in the bowl near the Infirmary.


"Here we are." He slid down and then reached up to offer Attlin a hand. "Solid ground."


Attlin had done passably well for an adult who had barely ever been dragonback, which was to say he had neither screamed nor thrown up his dinner. Still he looked grateful to have his feet on the ground again. “Which way is the Infirmary?”


"This is it here," Cuylar gestured toward the entrance. Garatt would likely be with the beastcrafters, but Cuylar also wanted to avoid dropping his father directly onto his head without being there at the same time.


"We have klah and snacks if you'd like some while you wait for me to fetch Sherill," he added.


Attlin had been working himself up ready to have to see the boy alone. He deflated a little as this seemed entirely unnecessary. “Oh. I thought-- is it a bad time?”


"A bad time?" Cuylar asked. He tilted his head curiously. He had just thought to himself about keeping Garatt from having to see his father alone, but it did not occur to him immediately that this was what Attlin meant.


"Oh. He's just likely not here. He'd be with the beastcrafters unless he was in for me to check up on how he's healing."


Somehow Attlin had been picturing his son on bedrest. It made sense that he was not; bruises hardly called for it. Still, it meant adjusting his mental picture and he scowled a little unconsciously. “You mentioned them before.”


"Are… beastcrafters a sore subject?" Cuylar wondered. It seemed as though Attlin was not at all very pleased any time Cuylar brought them up.


“The boy’s bright. He doesn’t need to waste his brain fussing about in a stables,” Attlin said shortly. He was at least self-aware enough to understand that ‘and runners are dangerous’ made no sense from a man who had sent him son to be a rider even if his gut told him it was correct.


"Master Tolfast is a clever man himself," said Cuylar. He supposed there were apprentices who were really not cut out for progression in the stables, but one did not make journeyman in any craft without being a bit clever.


"Garatt seems to like him. Well, the stables are there." He pointed. "And the herdsmen's quarters are not far off. There, I think. But I don't often have occasion to visit."


Just walk in, find him and say--


What? He’d never been good at conversing with the boy at the best of times. Now his bank of easy topics felt almost empty. 


“..Maybe I’ll just wait for Sherill.”


"Would you like me to go with you? And then I'll go get Sherill?" Cuylar offered. If he could "reintroduce" them, so to speak, it might not seem so much to Garatt that Cuylar had let his father ambush him.


Attlin offered an uneasy smile, one that seemed almost nervous. “If the boy’s at -- chores, is it? Lessons? Maybe I shouldn’t interrupt.”


Cuylar smiled back reassuringly.


"By the time I get back, I bet he'll be ready to break for lunch. And then maybe you all can eat together." He wanted to include himself, but perhaps it would be better to wait to be invited. "Come on, I'll show you where you can wait."


Elphith leaned in slowly to sniff Attlin's hair.


It was a little unnerving to have a dragon sniffing at you when you weren’t used to it. Attlin didn’t flinch but he did edge carefully away, no sudden movements, nice and slow just in case the dragon should take it badly. “Ah. Does the dragon want something?” Hopefully she wasn’t hungry.


"I think she likes you," said Cuylar. He offered another smile. He had been around dragons long enough that it never occurred to him that someone might be uneasy.


((I think he is nicer than he lets on. He reminds me of the Runner.)) That was Garatt now to Elphith, the Runner.


"Yes, she likes you," he confirmed. "If she's bothering you, she can back up a bit."


“I don’t have any food or anything to give it-- er-- her?” If a dog were sniffing at him like that he would assume it wanted food. Similarly with a runner. Which made a dragon sniffing at your head a touch worrying. Careful still he retreated towards Cuylar, moving as one might be expected to around a dog that might suddenly decide to bite, very slowly, arms and hands very still. 


((I will not hurt you,)) Elphith said to Attlin. She was only a little offended that he would think she might. A little. She slowly backed up as well to give him his space.


"She was just trying to be friendly. Nothing to worry about," Cuylar explained.


Attlin startled at the voice in his head; the control required to not flinch back from the unexpected contact was like iron, holding still by sheer will.


And then he processed the words and relaxed a little. He risked a smile, small and hesitant. “I am sorry,” he apologised to Elphith directly, dipping back to well-trained Holder courtesy. If this dragon could talk to him like a person it was polite to reply as to a person.  “It’s just you’re very.. big, close up.” Not what most of the Weyr would have described her as perhaps, but it wasn’t as though he’d met many golds to compare her with.


Elphith bowed in return and refrained from speaking again. She did not want to disturb him.


"No worries," Cuylar assured him.


Or maybe she would speak again. ((You reminded me of the Runner. Your son. I should not have assumed the same familiarity. So I am the one who should apologize.))


“The runner?” Attlin’s eyebrows rose a little at that name, quirking slightly. 


"That's what she's calling Garatt in her head now. Dragons have a different sort of memory, so she remembers people more as… roles rather than names. Garatt is the Runner for her," Cuylar explained. He left out the bit about how that was true for the moment because he had just attempted to run away.


“Never noticed the boy running that much,” Attlin said quizzically as he turned, and hesitated as to where he was meant to be going. Well, maybe he had for the first little bit after he’d come from his aunt’s. But he’d stopped, and Attlin had thought of it as a piece of boyishness grown out of. 


"Well. Who can know the mind of a dragon?" Cuylar laughed. "Here. I'll show you to the waiting area."


Attlin looked at the Infirmary they passed through in much the same wondering manner that Cuylar had looked at his bookshelves. “You have a lot of Healers,” he noted, clearly struck by the busyness of the place. His hold was not a small one and still they were used to two Healers at most. This was somewhat awe-inspiring by comparison.


"Well. Thread does what Thread does," Cuylar explained. He had ever and always been near a lot of Healers. He noted their absence, not their abundance.


"I came here to heal and ended up Impressing anyway."


“Those -- the MindHealers we mentioned. You have a lot of them?” Attlin was viewing the area they walked through with an assessing eye, a man ready to prioritise good medical treatment for his child right now. If that meant paying, he could pay. If it meant the Weyr.. Well, he could think about that.


"We have plenty," Cuylar confirmed. "And Garatt will have free access to them, of course. I'll be prescribing sessions as part of his recovery."


“Hm.” Attlin contemplated that for a moment. “Do they work generally in your opinion?” It was a frank question, asked of a Healer he was able to accept as expert for now.


"They do," said Cuylar. "I have personal experience with benefitting from treatment with a Mindhealer." He was not sure how much he wanted to go into that, as it would only feed fears about the danger in a weyr.


Attlin scowled a little, but it was a thoughtful scowl, not really aimed at Cuylar. Just the way his face seemed to settle into a frown when he was chewing something over in his head. “I was always taught that the best thing was just to take your mind off it,” he observed neutrally. “You don’t think being here is just going to remind him?”


"I can prescribe a session for you," Cuylar suggested, "so you can test it out and see for yourself whether you think it will help Garatt." Considering how much Garatt had been taking his mind off all of the things that were truly weighing on him, Attlin could probably use it. Even if he had to trick him into it.


“Ah, no. Thank you.” Unsurprising perhaps that Attlin grimaced at the idea. A man got to that age without talking about his problems the idea started to look rather unpalatable. “More seeking your professional opinion.”


"My professional opinion is that the Weyr is a big place. Being in the Barracks would probably not be good for him healing. But the Stables are a safe place for him," Cuylar answered. He supposed it was a long shot to get Attlin in front of a Mindhealer, but it had been worth a try.


“And there’s the other problem,” Attlin admitted, rubbing his forehead and looking a little worried. “The boy might want to be at the Weyr sure enough, but if he’s not going to Impress there are things he needs to be learning. And he’s not going to learn them in a stables.”


"We have Harpers here, too," said Cuylar. "But you did already say Garatt was clever. What if he were to receive lessons on managing the Stables?"


“And if we were Callamere it might be useful for him,” Attlin said dryly. “But we’re arable, I’m afraid. The few runners we’ve got in our stables don’t take a great deal of managing. The men who work our fields on the other hand need looking after.”


"Stablehands, fieldhands… There's some amount of overlap here when it comes to managing people," said Cuylar. "He doesn't have to stay here forever, but that doesn't mean his time here can't be well spent."


“It’s time,” Attlin said frankly. “It would be different if there were more steps between him and the hold, but as it is if something happened to me..” He shrugged a little. “He wouldn’t be ready.”


Though Attlin didn’t really look old enough that this should be of significant concern yet; but then he was old enough to have inherited himself and have been running the Hold for some turns already.


"He's fourteen," said Cuylar. "If something happened to you, Faranth forbid, he would have a steward. Someone to help him. He won't just have to do it on his own. But you'll be living to a ripe old age, so it won't come up."


“Yes. Well, it would be nice to plan for that but sometimes things happen.” Attlin sighed. “Never mind. I need to talk to the boy about it anyway.”


"Of course," Cuylar nodded. "Should I fetch his aunt, then?" he asked.


“If you don’t mind,” Attlin was polite and settled himself on one of the seats in the room Cuylar had shown him into with the expression of a man prepared to wait a while. As long as it took in fact.



--

Blackadder: I mean, what about the people that do all the work?
Baldrick: The servants.
Blackadder: No, me; *I'm* the people who do all the work.