IC Date Reference: Set approximately two days after the events of “Playing the Devil’s Advocate” and “Getting the Truth Left A Taint Inside”.
She had deliberately left it at least a day. She needed that. Needed the time to shrug off the memory of her encounter with M’ayen and turn her head back in the direction where it needed to go. End of the day, M’ayen was now no longer her concern and what was left was the need to pick out the remaining Candidatemasters that tainted her team. She had received word that T’ril was now also under arrest and that would also need dealing with. But not today. Today she was going to try and focus on something far more important in all of this, Garratt.
Marith had quietly and politely bespoken Elphith. The normally demure and lady-like green sounded positively flustered but she had relayed the request nonetheless, that if he could, Hers would very much like to speak to Elphith’s in her office later that day. At least now her office was tidy again, the bedlam of paperwork and files put away and only the few that she still needed remaining. It was easier to manage than boxes and boxes of scrolls. The door that had been officiously kept closed for days on end was today, propped open. A silent invitation for any and all that wanted to speak with her, even as she tried to spend the afternoon occupying her mind with paperwork. Even Vecna, the normally prude and standoffish gold had decided that she needed to sit primly on Nayari’s lap whilst the woman’s stylus scribbled across the page of notes she was assembling.
Cuylar had never spent more time being interviewed by authority figures in his life. But he supposed that was what came along with the promotion. Elphith had told him that Marith sounded… perhaps like she seemed to think she was inconveniencing Cuylar. But this was his job, after all.
"How can I help you, Candidatemaster?" he asked as he arrived at Nayari's office.
The voice came suddenly and the normally austere woman suddenly looked as flustered as her green had sounded as she stumbled to her feet, much to the indignance of Vecna as the firelizard attempted to save face by scrabbling onto the desk where she began to groom herself furiously. “Oh! Journeyman Cuylar!“ It was hard to say if that was a tone of relief, stress or some baffling mix of the both. “Please, do come in. And close the door behind you. Can I offer you some tea? Klah?”
"I wouldn't say no to either if you've already got them brewed up, but don't go to any trouble on my account," Cuylar answered. "Is everything all right?" he asked as he closed the door.
“You’re in luck, I brewed a fresh pot of tea recently. Something I picked up from the Gather - light, refreshing with a bit of zing. I’ve gotten a bit partial and it stops me staying awake until Faranth knows what time…” As she spoke, Nayari seemed relieved to have something to focus on as she went to a covered tray on the sideboard. Despite the heat, a good pot of tea still needed to be kept warm and focusing on the task of pouring two cups seemed to bring her thoughts in order.
As she returned, setting a cup in front of Cuylar with a bowl of sweetener to hand if he so chose, she retreated to the sanctuary of “her” side of the desk. “I’m sure you’ve heard by now that M’ayen is under arrest for the foreseeable future. However, just prior to that I received new information myself - direct from the runner’s mouth if you will - that has shed some further light on the situation.” She paused, taking a sip from the mug and if Cuylar was paying attention, he would have seen the slightest tremor to her hand. “I have asked to speak to you as I know that you are Garratt’s primary Healer and I have a twofold enquiry that I must make of you.” There was something in the tone that suggested she was not asking this lightly or out of any other need than something close to desperation. “The first… as… delicate a situation as it is… but during his time with you, has Garratt suggested or indicated... any form of sexual abuse from M’ayen?”
Ah. There it was.
"I documented the hand-shaped bruises on Garatt's buttocks," Cuylar answered. "And I asked Garatt about what happened. As far as he has told me, there was no genital contact. I would not be surprised if M'ayen had considered it, but it seems that he thought better of it. Garatt also let loose a veritable flood of jumbled thoughts and emotions to Elphith, and I think if M'ayen had assaulted him sexually any more severely than we're aware of as of yet, he would have told her then."
"But… It's also possible that he may have repressed it even from her in that moment of vulnerability. I've prescribed mindhealing sessions to begin as soon as is feasible," he added. Then he tilted his head and asked, "Do you have other evidence that would change my assessment?"
She paused, Did she say? But then, this would be in confidence she knew that. A professional… consult of sorts. “Dilation of pupils, apparent… discomfort in his… trousers… a certain… emphasis on Garratt being a “good Greenrider”. Even if he did try to claim it was because Ardeth was interested in chasing.” It was clear she found the words distasteful, spitting them out as though they tasted foul and reluctantly her eyes met his own. “I do not know your background, but I am from High Reaches and… of an age where a “good Greenrider” has a very specific connotation. He… also reacted when I played into it and emphasised the… characteristics of a “good Greenrider”, particularly when I emphasised the… biddability.” It wasn’t obvious whether Nayari fell somewhere between anger, outrage or outright distress. It was some sort of hodgepodge of the lot. And it was unsettling to see on a woman who, to all intents and purposes, generally came across as unflappable as granite in a storm.
Cuylar's face showed his distaste for the entire description. It certainly corroborated his assumption that M'ayen had considered it. The old man was gross in more ways than one.
"I was a Candidate at Fort some 20 Turns ago or so," he said. Not quite, perhaps, but close enough to round up if not. "When I examined him, he was very… sensitive. When I applied the numbweed. M'ayen most definitely made him uncomfortable beyond merely striking him. But as of yet, I wouldn't say I have evidence that he raped the boy. It's something I would keep fresh on the mind of whichever Mindhealer will be working with him."
Shells. If Cuylar had to go back to Attlin to admit that Garatt had been hurt like that. If… if Cuylar had been too slow to move, and it had resulted in that. How could he live with himself?
“I… don’t think it went that far…” Nayari admitted, “But I believe it may provide more insight into his motive. Far more than his proclamations of merely carrying out the Weyrwoman’s rules and his “way” being misinterpreted because Arolos is too soft…” In her ears she felt sure it sounded like she was making an excuse for M’ayen, even when in fact her words were damning him. “In a nutshell, I believe, and it is belief only, that M’ayen was beginning to set the boy on the path for… grooming. Had we found this out six months from now? I… I shudder to think how far it would have gone.”
"I think he overdid it on the caning, beyond his own intent," said Cuylar, nodding as he agreed with Nayari's assessment. "Ruined his own plans. Thank Faranth. But I had already started documenting this from the first, when he gave him lashes before the Candidates' excursion. We would have stopped it before it got that far. Even the explosion couldn't have disrupted the process for six months."
Now there was genuine confusion on Nayari’s face. “Lashes? Before the excursion? You’re quite sure?” If she was a Harper, then she would have won an award for acting if it had been faked. But no one could fake surprise that well.
"Not lashes," Cuylar corrected himself. "Caning. On his palm. And the sleep trouble, remember? But yes, this was part of the reporting I submitted… and even if that was disrupted because of the explosion, I still would have followed up after everything settled down, even if he had not run away."
No, the confusion was still there. And now it was tinged with something perhaps a second away from an explosion of fury. “He was caned?” It came out as a hiss of sound, her eyes wide in horror. Clearly Cuylar was the bearer of bad, unknown before news. Because if she had known, M’ayen would have been out on his ear before any of this had come even remotely this far.
Cuylar winced and nodded.
"Kassia had much the same reaction, so I presume I can conclude that you never got the initial report, either. When the explosion hit, it must have been lost somewhere in transit," he explained. "I'll get you another copy of the report, if you like, ma'am."
“Yes. Please do.” The terse response wasn’t aimed at Cuylar, far from it. But when she got her hands on whoever had been responsible for couriering the report to her, there was going to be a dragon’s wrath to pay. The cold pit of anger in her gut was roiling and churning, an angry beast clawing its way to be free. There was silence for several long and awkward seconds before she took a long and deep breath, clearly forcing herself back under control.
“So there you have it. My suspicions. But that is hopefully food for thought in your dealings with Garratt. But I do have a second request to make. Or rather, something more to throw your way in idea and get your thoughts on.”
"I'm happy to help however I can," said Cuylar. He felt the guilt for the lost report more than anger. It had been his responsibility to see that the report was delivered, and he could have followed up sooner.
Another breath. More calm. When she finally looked up from where she had been glaring into the bottom of her cup as though trying to bore a hole into the bottom, she seemed far more composed. “Now, I’m going to preface this by saying that I wholly understand if you think this is beyond the realm of sensibility. It’s why I wanted to speak to you first before acting on anything.” Nayari paused, “I would very much like you, if you see fit, to broach the subject of me visiting with Garratt. But if you do, I would also very much like it emphasised that it is perfectly fine should he say no, that I do not mind if he says no. If he was willing, I would also like you to be there. So he can see that there is nothing secretive about it, that people he trusts are present. But, I would also like your thoughts on whether you think the boy is fit to have such a matter raised with him.”
"I think," said Cuylar as he rolled the idea around in his head, "that he will say no. But I can ask him. He will want to know why you want to speak with him." It would likely be the first thing he asked.
“And you can tell him with absolute honesty that if he says no, that is fine. I want him to feel as though he has control over that. That it’s not an order, not a polite “request” that’s not actually a request at all. That he has the control. And that at his say so, he can and will be left alone.” She couldn’t emphasise it enough. That need for the Healer to understand that she wanted Garratt to be given that morsel of knowing he did have a say. “As to why I want to speak with him, I would like to see him with my own eyes. To apologise. And to beg for any forgiveness that he might have it in him to bestow upon me. Although I would not hold it against him if he had none to give.”
Cuylar was pretty sure he had some idea of how Nayari felt. He already felt lucky enough that she did not blame him.
"I'll tell him," he said.
She seemed relieved that he hadn’t shot her down. But she didn’t know why it was relief she felt. “Thank you. That’s all I can ask.” And indeed it was. All she could was ask and hope. And to not take it personally if Garratt said no. The reality was, she knew that he might never want to see her, might never be able to trust her. As much as that hurt, that was a reality. Picking up the pieces would take time. Some wounds might never properly be healed. If nothing else, Garratt couldn’t be hurt any further. Nayari knew well enough that might be what she made her peace with.
However it came, whatever form, she knew that she would have to live with it forever. Live with the knowledge of failure. And as little good as it would do Garratt, she could make sure that it never happened again.
Nutmeg on the Wizzy.
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