The procession of Weyrleaders was led through the Weyr Bowl. And garnered all the attention that was to be expected. It was hard not to draw attention when a mass of gold and bronze dragons had suddenly filled the proverbial room. It surely wouldn’t take long for the more observant to quickly note the mass of Weyrleader and Weyrwoman knots and for the surprised whispers to start making the rounds and speculating what could have brought the other Weyrs to their doorstep without announcing their arrival beforehand.
And perhaps for some, it wouldn’t entirely be a surprise. Perhaps some would immediately comprehend why, in the aftermath of all that had surrounded Arolos of late, that the other Weyrs were concerned and did want to know what had been happening. It would be very hard to miss the aura of tension that seemed to surround the entire group. It bristled and crackled, like the sensation of a brewing storm on a hot summer’s night as Kassia and her Weyrleaders led the way.
“Mind the wher.” R’tal’s warning came slightly too late as he opened the room door and Tyren came bouncing out. Fortunately F’loran was there and Tyren knew the smell of an old friend enough to go bounding up to him, all wriggles and bounces like a (very) overgrown pup. Likely, anyone else would have been flattened - or at least a lot more scared - by him.
“Got him guarding the room,” R’tal added, suddenly a lot more cheerful at his guests’ startled expressions. “Nothing for guarding like a wher, really. He’d have someone’s leg off if he thought they intended harm. In we go. You’ll see we had it all set out ready for next sevenday but you seem to have got rather ahead of us.” In particular there were little signs denoting where Weyrs should be sitting. R’tal rather wanted allies next to them given the choice.
Maybe it was rude, but Kassia didn’t want to be on her feet longer than she had to. Her head was already beginning to hurt and she was starting to feel the effects of carrying two fetuses inside. She made her way to her seat and sat down.
Benden wasn’t in the mood to wait either. Telsa and L’nyr pushed their way through to their places and took their own seats. They weren’t going with subtle.
Cathern gave the wher a bit of a disgusted look before smoothing her expression, then headed towards her marked seat and took it, although R'orsh simply stood by his, clearly waiting for all the Weyrwomen to be seated.
Tedileen sat down, followed by I’tri who sprawled on his seat in a way she clearly disapproved of. She was radiating a no nonsense approach and was clearly impatient to get this all resolved as swiftly as possible if only to stop her Weyrleader embarrassing her further. I’tri on the other hand seemed to be impressed by Tyren. “Bit different from our whers” he commented with a smile. “Especially considering it’s still light. Couldn’t get our lot out of their weyrs for anything before dusk.”
Sullen grumpiness transformed into boyish glee as the wher bounced around the room. “Tyren!” Apparently it was now the best day in the world as the massive Weyrleader sprang into a crouch to immediately fuss over and scratch at the brown’s wrinkled face. “Oh you’re so good, yes you ar-- “
Maryl unconsciously shied back as the wher went bounding around, but J’lian looked interested. He’d need to talk to one of his Wingleaders--Sl’miak had been breeding whers at SEF before they came forward, and he wondered what had happened to them.
The sound of a throat being cleared by Wygelle had the man straightening up and looking somewhat, and only a little, sheepish about the lapse in decorum. But even his Weyrwoman had a twinkle of mischievous amusement in her eyes as she pointedly gestured for her Weyrleader to take a seat before she slid into the one beside him. As she did, Wygelle nodded in friendly greeting to Maryl, glad that the New Fort Weyrleaders seemed to be taking this in their stride. So far.
Andrette had stepped back a little towards the safety of her Weyrleader as the wher came bowling out, looking startled. J’lson too looked thrown, moving as though to shelter his Weyrwoman from a potential danger.
“Is that thing safe?” he demanded.
“As long as you’re not trying to attack me. Or Kassia or N’shen of course,” R’tal was suddenly downright jovial. “Come and sit down. Settle, Ty.”
And the wher did, though he thrust his head into F’loran’s lap, just in case the High Reaches Weyrleader had brought snacks.
Once Kassia was seated, N'shen walked to stand by his own seat. Despite knowing this was coming, he barely kept the annoyance over having been interrupted in his work to deal with this. Any other time, he might have been at least a little ill at ease around Tyren despite having only positive experiences with the wher so far.
But then, he was much too delighted at the others' discomfort – such as any among them were uncomfortable.
Surprise over, Maryl and J’lian took their seats by the High Reaches Weyrleaders. Maryl was alright with Telgar, too, but the other three, and Arolos, were still Weyrs to be wary of.
Yes, he did have snacks in his pockets. Completely unrelated to the hope that he would see the brown. Honest. And was now discreetly feeding them to the wher under the table. Whilst looking incredibly pleased with himself as he did. F’loran’s day had just got a lot better.
As they all settled, Wygelle was casting an eye about the room, trying to gauge the feel and look through the fraught veil that seemed to cover most of the Weyrleaders. That tension alone seemed to twist things. “I’m hoping that we can resolve matters expeditiously, Weyrwoman Kassia,” she said, keeping things formal but giving Kassia a small if somewhat tight, smile. “I’m sure that none of us want to cause further discomfort to yourself in your current condition any longer than necessary and I myself am keen to ensure a swift return to High Reaches.”
Kassia nodded, laying her own hand on Brogan who had sat quietly next to her, a stark difference from the playful brown.
“I appreciate your words and can reach an end with some expedience.” She looked around the room. “Clearly there are concerns and we would hear them. We’re ready for any questions you have.” She hoped.
"I also hope we can get through these concerns some among us have," Cathern said, pointedly avoiding looking at the Ista contingent, "especially given how we, ah, foist ourselves upon you here." This was said with an apologetic smile towards Kassia and the two Weyrleaders flanking her. "I am sure that you'll be able to answer any questions, just as I'm confident that we will forgive any lack of answers you may not have just yet." This time she did look at the Weyrwoman next to her.
“We’re really anxious to hear the answer to our questions,” Telsa said, crossing her arms over her chest. “We’re looking for honest answers.”
L’nyr looked no less irritated at the whole thing. “Yes, we are. And without delaying and trying to put us off. We deserve to know what’s going on here.”
“There have been enough delays already,” Andrette agreed. She eyed R’tal and N’shen in particular, her gaze passing from one to the other, searching. “One might begin to wonder what Arolos has to hide.”
Tedileen gave a disapproving look at the Istan Weyrwoman. “One might also be considered unconscionably rude for suggesting something of that ilk. Gracious, it’s almost as if Ista does not recall the dragon rider code that allows riders to duel if their honour is impugned. Anyway, all that aside, we are here and now is a good time to establish if there is a threat to the weyrs as a whole. That is my true concern.”
"Welcome. All of you to Arolos," N'shen said. He glanced to each of them in turn. "I am N'shen of Truenoth. I regret that our preparations were too slow for your comfort. But we wanted to have answers for you before we invited you all here. I have been conducting an investigation into what happened, and I am making headway, though I haven't yet come to a conclusion. What questions do you have for me?"
"I, for one, am willing to wait until your investigation is properly completed," Cathern responded, settling back in her chair. "I learned even as a Candidate that most questions could be answered if you listen or read the whole thing. R'orsh?"
"Yeah, no, I'm good," her Weyrleader said hastily.
“We don’t have time to wait,” Telsa said. “What if something happens at our Weyr? Somewhere else beyond here? And we won’t know because you’re fecking around about this investigation.”
She glanced at her Weyrleader, but he wisely just nodded along just as R’orsh had.
Maryl sat contemplating the beginnings of bickering already going on. “I’m with Telgar,” she said, nodding to Cathern. “I don’t see why we had to hurry and come here if there were no answers yet.” She totally ignored Ista, but did gaze at Telsa cooly. “So you’re saying it’s Arolos’s fault that something bad happened here, but it would also be their fault if something happened in your Weyr? You’ve never heard of upping security?”
There was a noise suspiciously like a snort from J’lian’s chair.
“Oh, stuff a wherry in it Andrette,” came the grumble from F’loran complete with eye roll as he shot the Istan Weyrwoma a withering look. “You can at least have the good grace to at least pretend that you’re not currently smug about the fact that this time we’re not picking Ista apart.” The “and last time you sharding deserved it” was only heavily implied as he looked back to N’shen with a gesture of “please continue”.
“I’m sure Arolos is more than capable of using a brain to realise that we’re all anxious to know what happened and what progress they’ve made in terms of steps forward,” he continued despite the now entirely suspicious expression he was pretending to ignore from Wygelle. “If we can actually give them a moment to tell us without bitching like a bunch of girls, we might actually find out something about the whole mess.”
The fact that he may or may not have had a jab in the ribs from Wygelle at that point could have had something to do with why F’loran stopped talking and made a pointed gesture of nodding encouragingly at N’shen and R’tal.
"Please. Ladies and gentlemen," said N'shen. "If you have no specific questions, then I will give a preliminary report. I have conducted a thorough search of the Sands with our guard and with our Smithy and found the remnants of explosives used in excavation, primarily by Miners."
"And I have begun an investigation into any and all who set foot on the Sands to determine who may have had a motive to stage this kind of attack. Once I have more information, I intend to track down the source of those explosives."
"Of course," he went on, "we suspect that the perpetrators may be related to those who attempted to attack Kassia at our most recent Gather. Since I have no additional information to give you at this time, I can offer little better for advice than that you should be careful. Again, what questions do you have for me?"
Tedileen raised her hand. “The question I have is the most pertinent I believe. Do you believe or is there evidence to show that these attacks are Arolos orientated, or dragonfolk orientated? “
“Or if there isn’t evidence, I’m gonna have to say we’ll have to assume the worst case scenario right?” I’tri said.
"Given that we have seen two attacks against Kassia," said N'shen, "and unless you all have come to add reports of your own, I presume no attacks against any of you, until we see any evidence to the contrary, it stands to reason that the attacks are specifically Kassia-related."
"In fact, it was my intention not to ask you all to be in a room together with Kassia until we had a suspect in custody."
Wygelle and F’loran seemed to be discreetly conferring with one another and Wygelle looked about the room before coming back to the Arolosian Weyrleaders. “Weyrleader N’shen… if I may… we would like to present an alternative direction of thought which may give some clarity to you as to why the level of concern has developed outside of the Weyr the way it has…” She glanced at F’loran with a nod and the High Reaches Weyrleader seemed to have lost some of his ire, some of his delight at the wher in his lap and now seemed to have an entirely thoughtful expression of concern on his face.
“H’okay…” It was a deep exhalation of breath. “... I’m going to start by emphasising that this is entirely the speculation of High Reaches. It is not based on any particular information or lack thereof. But Wygelle and I have been chewing this whole thing over. And… a couple of things have been sitting in our heads a lot. And I won’t lie, I don’t think any of you in here are going to like it.” F’loran already had an inkling that R’tal had picked up on where he was going with it and continued. “We have chewed this over. And believe you may be looking at two unrelated scenarios. Because an awful lot doesn’t add up if it was entirely Weyrwoman Kassia that was the target. It is our belief,” And there was a small nod of encouragement from Wygelle, “That the Gather incident was a blade for hire. And it’s easy to pay if you’ve got the marks. With no insult intended to Weyrwoman Kassia - but a Weyrwoman walking a Gather is a nice fat target for someone who has got an axe to grind. Honestly? I think if you are trying to link them you’re headed right down a path of frustration and no solution. The Caverns explosion however…”
He paused, looking about the room and his face was grim. “... We think that it exploded early. And that the Caverns were meant to be filled with every ranker, official and dignitary in the South. And that the explosion wasn’t about targeting the Weyrleaders because staging an explosion is a sharding clumsy way to go about it with no guarantee of it working. But if it was intended to happen when the Caverns were filled to the brim with a huge amount of people… that pretty much guarantees a lot of death and worse, a lot of panic…” He trailed off, clearly uncomfortable with planting the idea, that it wasn’t just some stirring the pot with a pile of theatrics. “... if that explosion had happened on a Hatching Day… that would send one fecking monstrosity of a message. And that’s what we think this was all about. Kicking off a massive amount of panic both inside a Weyr and out.”
Cathern looked grim as she listened to them. "I was thinking it might have just been a matter of opportunity, for both attacks. None of us have been doing major construction, as far as I know," she looked around at the gathered faces. "Easier to smuggle the materials in that way. And if it was meant to be during a Hatching itself… it makes sense," she finished with a slow, reluctant nod of agreement. Taking out a Weyrwoman and several eggs, maybe even a Weyrleader, would have been bad enough. But with *two* gold eggs on the Sands? The Stands would have been packed with Lords Holders, Craftmasters, and possibly even a few of the people currently in the room.
“It is a valid point,” Tedileen said thoughtfully. “However, I think it undersells the importance of the attempt on Kassia’s life. But it does raise the possibility that we might be dealing with two opposing factions both independently with goals that involve destabilising the weyrs. Tell me, what would have happened if Kassia had been killed or incapacitated as weyrwoman? Destabilization at the weyr. Now this is a tactic we have seen before.”
“Both are bad things, of course,” Telsa said as if she was all that sympathetic, but didn’t manage to pull it off. “But maybe this is something that is going to be limited to here. You guys haven’t made a lot of friends over the turns. Maybe someone is just targeting you in specific.”
“Is there anyone in particular you think you might have made an enemy of for this?” The question came from J’lson rather than his Weyrwoman. “Are there any factions in particular you are considering likely to be responsible?”
Kassia was starting to get a major headache. She resisted the urge to rub at her head and tightened her hand on Brogan’s head.
“Not that we know of,” she said. “Beyond the Redstars, but they’re not a new threat and they’re certainly not a threat only to ourselves. Believe me, I would love to know who wants me dead - whether singly or as a group.” Wishing for some of that tea for headaches. “But perhaps we could take a break soon. I can’t sit as long as usual what with being pregnant with twins.”
R’tal, not usually the type to get publicly (or indeed privately) affectionate with his Weyrwoman shot her a concerned look and even went as far as to slip an arm around her waist. “Does anyone else have anything they urgently need to ask before we have a pause?”
"Not I," Cathern responded, giving Kasdia a sympathetic look. One child had been bad enough on her bladder. A quick shake of his head indicated R'orsh's agreement.
“Oh sure, convenient place to distract us with a stop,” L’nyr said only to get a jab in his side. Apparently Telsa’s ire stopped at making a woman pregnant with twins sit around uncomfortable for candlemarks on end.
“We welcome the chance to take a break,” Telsa said.
Wygelle nodded in equal sympathy, even if F’loran was now starting to feel as though things were just starting to pick up. “I think we might all benefit from a short breather to process the different information we have been given. I for one have no interest in perpetuating bickering and would like to see this done and dusted before the day is through.” She glanced at Kassia, “Perhaps a quarter candlemark or so for everyone to take a moment to clear out their ire and come back to the table with curious concern instead?”
“Agreed,” Kassia said. She nudged her chair back with R’tal’s arm still around her waist. “We’ll meet back then.”
"As I still haven't had the good fortune to make your acquaintance," said N'shen to the lot of them, "I'll be staying close at hand. If you'd like to get to know me and don't need to tend to anything more pressing, I welcome the conversation."
Nutmeg on the Wizzy.
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