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Packing Up is Not Abandonment (JP: Dytha/Ambrelli/Cremsden)


Nutmeg
 

Ambrelli had waited what seemed like a decent amount of time to give her friend some privacy after the flight. It hadn't taken long for her to be abandoned by both her compatriots. Both healers had been needed to help with the scrapes. Of course, that was only after they make sure she was far away. She'd gone back to find Ilexeth with Nimoth, the gold and green still friends.


And so she'd waited. Dytha was in no immediate danger now, H'lan locked away for his actions and the Weyr now aware of his aggressiveness at least. 


So it was that she approached Dytha’s door just as Cremsden was returning. "I see we've thought alike…" she said while she was still a bit away. Their truce was new and she didn't want to startle him. 


Cremsden paused in his steps, hesitating, eying Ambrelli with some wariness. How much to explain, how much to tell her? No matter what else there was to say about her she liked Dytha well enough, but on the other hand the more people who knew a secret the less it was a secret any more.


“She’s coming back with us for a bit,” he said gruffly. “Seemed most sensible with Zlorenth winning the flight. Margana likes her and it works for everyone.” He raised his hand to knock at the door. 


The locks had been slid into place the second Cremsden had gone through the door. And then stared at as though expecting them to slid back of their own accord and the proverbial bogeyman would be waiting on the other side. Eventually she had remembered what she was there for, throwing things into a small pile on the bed before they were stuffed hastily into a small travel bag. She wasn’t sure what she would need and the overhanging feeling that this wouldn’t help anything, wouldn’t achieve anything just made it feel as though it slowed her down all the more through her own hesitance. Dytha’s head chanted over and over, this was to help, this was a kindness, support she desperately needed. But to what ends?


Ambrelli arched an eyebrow at Cremsden’s statement.  She didn’t know him personally, but she knew Dytha well enough.  And the chances that this was a romantic gesture, despite Zlorenth winning Ponth’s flight, was slim.  The chances that this was about Dytha’s paranoia and legitimate fears were much more likely.  


“I hope you’re more believable when you tell that to everyone else.”  But she nodded.  “It’s a good plan though.  I was going to go to WLM Ko’ssen and convince him that since all the other wlgs have left the barracks, I could move in with Dytha.  But yours requires less approval.  I assume she’s agreed?  Or did you give her any choice?”  Not that Ambrelli would blame him if he didn’t.  Ponth’s flight was bound to have some blowback, even well-intentioned, but for someone like Dytha, that would be overwhelming.  And on top of the issues she was already dealing with...well, Ambrelli knew that was courting disaster.


“I’m working on it.” No point blustering and insisting that no, it was absolutely real and genuine. “But if you want to gossip about it that might well help.” A story passed on by whisper and hearsay frequently carried more weight than someone saying it outright. 


He looked a little uncomfortable at the question. “I was originally going to suggest she go to a friend,” he admitted. “Then she got all worried in case they got hurt too and… Well. I can at least give her a cover story this way so I told her she was coming to us. I hope she doesn’t need it but if it makes her feel safer that’s fine.” He still did worry a little that he had perhaps been overly pushy but it had been in a good cause. “No chance she’d have agreed to putting you at risk, not with a baby dragon.” And going from how he’d stepped in front of her during the flight if Dytha hadn’t protested, Cremsden probably would have.


“I think I know a few baby dragons that can be trusted to gossip amongst themselves, and that will spread.  I’m not exactly known to be the gossipy type, so it’d be better if I act as the confirmer.”  Inevitably, someone would come to her, or to Mendl, to ask about Dytha’s situation.  She’d figure out the Mendl-aspect later.  


At his next words, Ambrelli rolled her eyes, though not at him.  “Dytha underestimates us both; we former-Fortians are made of sterner stuff and don’t scare easily.”  Still, she had Ilexeth to consider, although she’d have figured out something so as not to endanger the little green.  Besides, two Riders were much more intimidating than one, and her less-than-sunny reputation could help against H’lan.  She leaned in closer to Cremsden, and in a low voice that wouldn’t carry through the door, said, “I think you, Cuylar, Margana, and I should have a conversation about contingencies…”


Habit made him twitch away a little, not quite broken of that in one friendly gesture. He might not scare easily but he was still, clearly, nervous around her. 


“Already on it, but you have a baby dragon and those tend to be chatty even without gold questioning,” he pointed out quietly in return. “Those of you with dragons need a bit more--” How had Cuylar put it? “--plausible deniability than I do.”


She noted his slight reaction, and she pulled away.  She didn’t blame his healthy fear of her, and she didn’t want to increase it.  Their last positive interaction was unlikely to undo Turns of history.  Ambrelli nodded, thoughtfully.  “Yes, that’s a good thought.  The dragons should be protected.”  She gave a heavy sigh.  “And this isn’t Fort...we should be able to trust in the Leadership to ensure her safety.  But I’m loathe to rest on that assumption.  I’m glad to see you aren’t either.”  And in truth, Cremsden could do more for Dytha than she could.  And she hadn’t told anyone yet about the warning she’d received about her own safety.  It could well be that Dytha would be endangered by her…


“Margana works for Weyrleader R’tal direct. That means she ought to be able to drop a few words in the right ears and also means she’s outside his office most days with a sharding great wher on the other side of the door.” And while his favoured position for whers was anywhere he wasn’t he couldn’t deny that if it came to a fight having one on your side was a significant advantage. “And she can take Arden with her if needed when I’m working. So I’ve no concerns about their safety. And Cuylar and I can both handle ourselves if it comes to a tight spot.” Cremsden eyed Ambrelli thoughtfully. “You though. There’s lots of ways to scare a young dragon from what I’m told.” And young frightened dragons sometimes just.. Left. “If he’s not kept under arrest, watch yourself. You and Dytha’d be the two I’d pin as most at risk.”


Ambrelli gave a small sardonic smile.  “Why Cremsden.  You do care,” she said a bit teasingly.  “I can handle myself as well, but you’re not wrong about Ilexeth.  There are advantages to still being in the barracks with two wlg golds.  It’s unlikely anyone can get to her there.”  But Ambrelli also didn’t want to hide out in the barracks.  The moment Ilexeth could reach their weyrledge, she planned on moving out.  It shouldn’t be much longer...hopefully.  “Regardless, they won’t find me an easy mark, and you’d think they’d know better by now…” she said a bit cryptically.  She shook her head to clear her thoughts.  “Right.  Let’s get her packed.  There will be time enough for war councils once we know what the Leadership is doing with H’lan.”


It didn’t matter so much if they could get to Ilexeth. All it took was Ambrelli slipping down some stairs and Cremsden had had enough young dragons giving him migraines out of sheer panic to know how that story went. No point in worrying about it now though. Deal with that later.


He knocked at the door. “Dytha? You packed? You’re safe to open, it’s Cremsden and Ambrelli.” Which was two names she probably wouldn’t expect to hear together, at least not willingly.


She knew a knock would be coming, she also know that Cremsden would be coming back. That didn’t mean it stopped her from levitating an inch off the ground in a violent jump. It was the second name that shook through her thoughts, her face crumpling in a frown as the door tentatively opened.


“Ambrelli?” And then a sudden shift of thoughts. “Is it Ilexeth?!” Why else could Ambrelli be there? Her brain completely skipped over any other possible reason and immediately went on to assume that something had occurred.


Ambrelli heard the edge in Dytha’s voice.  It was worse than when she was here during the Frost Fayre.  She frowned in concern, glancing at Cremsden.  “Lexi is fine, Dytha,” she said soothingly, smiling reassuringly.  “I’m here to help you pack, lil’ sister,” she said softly.  “Let us in now.  We’re going to keep you safe…”


Everyone was promising something they had no way of guaranteeing. They might as well have been promising her the moons. But, Ilexeth was fine. That was something at least. She would hear no end of it from Ponth if the green had any reason to think that anything was wrong with the younger dragon. The door was pulled back and she carefully inspected the pair with a small nod as though she was ticking off something in her head. “M’kay. I put some things in a bag. For just a couple of nights.” Because clearly in her head it would be just that, a couple of nights and no more.


“Mmm.” And Cremsden was eying her carefully now, edging around her. “Hoooow about Ambrelli and I help you pack up just a little more? Just..in case..” he said, the gentleness in his voice that he used with any potentially explosive patient. “You never know, you might decide you like us enough to stick around.”


Cremsden was eyed warily, as suspicious as a wherry being confronted with a particularly friendly feline. “I have a change of clothes, some clean underthings, my washkit, my pyjamas. And my blanket. And my kit for my feet…” Suspicion tangled with confusion as well. Cremsden knew it wasn’t about liking but that he and Margana would be made far more of a target the longer she stayed there, especially if the gossip began to trickle through the Weyr. And inevitably to H’lan’s ears. 


“Tell you what. Ambrelli can make you a cup of.. Whatever sad kind of tea you have left in the cupboard here and I’ll just pack up anything you might need, anything you don’t want to leave lying around in an empty weyr where someone could walk in.” And that was the real concern; not so much that she might need everything she owned but that it was easy for an empty weyr to get wrecked as a chance for revenge. “Or where it can get leaked on for that matter,” he added. “You remember what this place was like when you moved in? I’m not trusting it to not leak when you’re not looking at it. It can just sit in a corner in boxes all ready for you to bring it back.” He was moving as he spoke, heading towards the closet first.


The problem was, Dytha knew Cremsden’s calming voice. After all, she had heard a variant of it when he was using scarily sharp implements near her feet. And when you knew what it was used for, it did little to assuage extreme suspicion. Her eyes had been momentarily distracted by Ambrelli also moving carefully to one side, not in her usual manner and although her mouth had opened, something else happened first.


“NotInThere!” It came out in a garbled rush of words only except looking afraid, she looked more embarrassed, spots of pink appearing on her face like a rash. Besides R’bor, only one other person knew of the things that had been purchased at the Black Wagons, although they were likely now doomed to collect dust given R’bor was likely stationed at High Reaches for the foreseeable, if not permanently. But even so… it was one thing to have gossiped with a female friend about it, something else entirely for the likes of Cremsden to get a sudden and rapid education in how Dytha… entertained in the bedroom.


“Okay!” And Cremsden put his hands up in front of him, quick to display his harmlessness, quick to reassure her he was going no further. “How about you tell me about where to look for.. Anything you would be sad if it got mouldy or stolen? Keepsakes, valuable stuff..”


Ambrellil gave a genuine chuckle.  She had a sneaking suspicion that she knew what was in that particular closet, given Dytha’s face.  There was good reason to not want Cremsden to see it, besides the general embarrassment.  A woman who was into bondage, well, what was to say she hadn’t asked H’lan to do things to her as foreplay?  And now she was just a lover spurned.  It was ridiculous of course, but that didn’t mean some wouldn’t believe it.  “Leave that to me Cremsden.  Some things should be kept between just us girls,” she said with a sly smile to Dytha, trying to normalize all of this a bit.  “I’ll put this up in my old weyr for the time being.”  And thus out of sight from any prying eyes.  She had enough hidey-holes in the rockfall that still existed in her old weyr.  It was hard for some to understand, but yet the nooks and crannies made for good hiding spots.  Most of her valuables were tucked in there, some only known to Merck.  Z’go and her business ventures had made them both a fair deal of marks, and Ambrelli had stashed quite a few before that.  She’d hidden the bulk of her ‘fortune’ in there, along with some of the nicer jewels she owned.  THere was no need to wear those as a wlg.


She busied herself, giving Dytha a reassuring glance.  


Dytha looked as though she was about to fold up on herself in relief as Ambrelli cottoned on to the source of her alarm. Of course, her thoughts hadn’t even considered the same direction just as she was completely oblivious that with the aid of a firelizard, H’lan had already discovered the chest and had already claimed some of the smaller items for himself. “That works, if you could,” she managed to say somewhat weakly to Ambrelli as she vied for control of her thoughts again. It didn’t take long for her to realise where Cremsden was going with his thoughts and the sombering realisation sent invisible, icy water down her back.


“Any paperwork should go back to the Infirmary.” Something else dawned on her too and her eyes jumped between Ambrelli and Cremsden. “My notes… my notes on Ilexeth’s… hatching. I’ve got everything documented here, everything.. I did, what happened afterwards…” Because if there were concerns about her weyr being “gotten into” that was something that could not come out. Stuffed pillows she had frittered her wages away for or tiny luxuries that had cost her almost a Turn’s worth in marks, they seemed unimportant and trivial by comparison.


“I can take those. If you’ll trust me with ‘em,” Cremsden offered. “Got a few papers that already don’t exist ferreted away. Master Kregg didn’t find them, and believe me he tried, so I reckon they’ll be safe enough from anyone else.”


Ambrelli looked up at Ilexeth’s name.  “They can come with me as well.  Ko’ssen and Ked’son both know, and I’d like to read them as well.”  She turned to Cremsden.  “Actually, I need to talk to you about her at some point too…”


She patted Dytha’s shoulder.  “Don’t worry about the rest of the stuff.  Merck can come grab it pillow by pillow and take it to my weyr.  It’ll be safe there.”  She knew how much these things meant to Dytha.  She remembered the pride the woman had showing off her weyr and how lovely she’d made it.  While those things weren’t important in an emergency, they were crucial to rebuilding your life once the emergency was over, and the lack of them could create a trauma all their own.  


It was beginning to feel as though the gravity of the situation was coming crashing down around her. It had been so much easier to manage when it was just her. So much easier to keep under control. Now it felt as though it had all taken on a life of its own and was spiralling wildly in every direction and she couldn’t pin any of it down. “Dragons can Time It, can’t they?” she suddenly squeaked as a wild and thoroughly appealing idea flew into her thoughts. “What if… what if Ponth and me… we just went back. To before!” True, no one really was supposed to know about the ability to move through time - but when you brought half a Weyr and a hatching clutch two thousand years forward, that super secrecy sort of went out of the window.


Cremsden paused in looking for things to pack up and looked at her and then to Ambrelli. “Not really my area,” he excused himself with a half shrug. “I wouldn’t know anything about how that stuff works. Too dragony.”


Ambrelli knew all too well how that line of thinking went.  “Aye Dytha.  You could.  I’ve thought about it a million times myself.  Go back and save my parents, do now what I could not do then.  And if I did that,” she glanced at Cremsden, “I’d never have gone to Fort either.  I won’t stop you.  But we have no idea what happens if you see yourself.  Would you endanger Ponth so?  Promise me that you won’t attempt that until all hope is lost here.  If you are going to go back, then wait to do so until there are no other options.”  She gave her friend a soft smile.  “Let us try helping you in the here and now first.”


It was a dangerously tempting direction of thought, even if all the the sensible ifs, buts and maybes were already pointing out that if things were changed then, then they could change now. Going back several months might not seem wholly consequential but thinking of all the things that had happened in that time… Not to mention regarding the Weyr’s troubles. But it felt as though she was in a dark room with no doors, no windows and the walls were sliding ever closer.


“Hiding me won’t do much. A dragon can always be found. And it’s only a matter of time before he charms his way out of it..” It was a glum statement that felt to her as thought it was being carved in stone in its inevitability. Her face was almost expressionless as she went to a small cupboard, pulling a key from about her neck. The folders were placed almost hurriedly in front of Cremsden. “All my notes, all the experiments on egg fragments, all of the… Ilexeth notes, it’s all there. If the other Weyrs catch wind, they’ll stake me out no doubt. Interfering with eggs is probably tantamount to murder in their eyes. These are the ones that will really get me in trouble if they are seen by the wrong eyes…” Because it wasn’t just notes, it was dangerous, idly speculation about examining dragons on the inside. The sort of professional speculation that in the hands of another professional was no doubt seen for the idle musing it was, but for someone like a Rider… it was practically sacrilegious. Her eyes flickered almost guiltily to Ambrelli and then away again. “This is the stuff even you haven’t seen, the stuff that would have been dangerous for Ilexeth to see in your head.” The notes about what to do if the little green hadn’t and didn’t survive.  


“I suspect if we truly knew how much research like this was hidden in various Weyrs we’d all be a bit shocked,” Cremsden mused, tone thoughtful as he intentionally steered the conversation away. “I know Master Kregg has vast amounts he’d only let anyone near if he thought they would be useful to him. New Fort probably has a great deal. I’d be surprised if most places didn’t have at least one person quietly doing things no-one talks about. I wonder how many things we know but don’t know we know.” He tidied the folders absent-mindedly, straightening them up. “Tell me when you need them. I’ll make sure they’re safe until then.”


Ambrelli smiled at Dytha.  “We’re not there yet,” she said firmly but with compassion.  “Let us try this way before you do anything more drastic.  There are plenty of places on Pern to hide out for a bit, and ways to get there if needed.”  She pointed to the things that Dytha still needed to gather.  “Come on, focus on this stuff.”


As she discussed the notes, Ambrelli chuckled.  “Oh, there were already plenty of those thoughts in my head.  I know how to make sure Ilexeth doesn’t see those, but she was always pretty realistic about her own fragility in those days.  Nothing you wrote here would have been worse than the eventualities I went through.”  She turned to Cremsden.  “Let me have some to read through and then I can bring them back.”


Cremsden hesitated, and then realised how she would read that hesitation. “If these are what I think they are, I think we’re safer not having them in the Barracks. Or anywhere without a door that locks,” he said, explaining it before she could roll her eyes at him again. “I’ve seen a few Weyrlings coming out of there who have light fingers, and baby dragons are famously poor secret keepers. I--” He hesitated, then scowled, knowing what was needed. “You can read them in my office,” he allowed gruffly. “Just give me notice as to when and leave the firelizards alone.”


Ambrelli nodded at his thinking.  “I’ve got a little locked box I keep my Infirmary notes in when I’m not around, but you’re not wrong in your thinking.  There’s a difference between the apprentice schedules and Ilexeth’s Hatching.”  She then cocked her head at him.  “Tyne mentioned something once about you having a fayre of flits...I didn’t understand it given you’re dragon-deaf…”


“I would… give Ilexeth a little bit more time before you go through the ones with the purple tabs on them. They’re… in-depth.” Now she looked a little as though she had been put on the spot, a child caught with their hand in the pastry jar. “It refers a lot to the other foetuses. Plus that Harper did a bunch of sketches for me that I’ve hypothetically extracted. Graphic content.” And whilst Ilexeth was bafflingly calm for a dragonet her age, there was content there that even someone like Ambrelli might find herself chewing over uncomfortably. “And definitely away from other Weyrling eyes.”


“We can work that part out later,” Cremsden reassured. “No need to rush; you can sort out what you think she should have later.” He seemed stunningly calm about it, a thing that made sense when you recalled he had worked for Master Kregg, a man who seemed to throw Healer ethics and norms out the window at least once a sevenday. “It’s not exactly my fayre,” he explained to Ambrelli. “More Bitey’s.” The blue firelizard was still in his office now, though considering his usual temper it might be wise to carry him about a bit more. “He attracts them somehow. Just leave them alone if they’re in there. I’m fairly sure at least some of them are wild rather than pets.”


He scratched absent-mindedly at the scarring covering one ear, a permanent reminder not to treat firelizards too lightly.


Paperwork could be kept safe, right? But of course, it was hard to be convinced. But now the idea that it could be somehow found or worse, tampered with, getting it out of her weyr suddenly seemed like the most important thing in the world. Folders appeared and were hastily pushed into the pile. It seemed like she had it secreted all over the place. “That’s all of my egg work,” she said indicating to one pile. “And that’s general papers - patient follow up notes and the like,” she said indicating to a second. “They’ve each got their own sensitive information that should be for Healer eyes only.” 


Pausing, her eyes flickered around the room. Why was it part of her felt as though she was saying goodbye? That she would never see her weyr again? It was a strange feeling that both sat heavy in her stomach and yet light on her shoulders. Later she would try to analyse it. “Ambrelli, could you grab the second travel bag from under the bed, please. I need the clothes out of the top two drawers.” Something in her voice seemed almost resigned. Probably because all of this still seemed so futile. Mostly because now she was wondering what would happen should H’lan manage to get in and realise that her weyr had been deserted. 


Ambrelli heard the changes in Dytha’s voice.  Momentarily, as talking about her work, her voice returned to normal.  And then it was gone again, the frightened cornered girl replacing it again.  Ambrelli took the patient files up, scanning through them quickly.  “These can go back to the Infirmary and properly filed.  I know you only had them up here to work on them,” she added in an even tone.  She set the files down, and moved to grab the other bag from under the bed, laying on the floor to grab it.  


“Come now Dytha,” she said softly.  “All of this won’t last forever. We’ll get you settled back in here before you know it.  And I’ll make sure this weyr is left for you.”  She might not have rank, but she knew a few people who did, and it wasn’t as if Dytha and herself hadn’t treated quite a few Rankers dragons.  Not to mention that the Leadership knew about the situation now, and it might be easier to keep Dytha’s weyr.


“Not like many others would fit on that ledge anyway,” Cremsden pointed out rationally. “And you’re close enough to the Infirmary here that I can poke my head in regularly and check on it.” And if anyone did happen to mess it up -- well, that might be cleared up before Dytha ever got to see it. “Meanwhile a few days helping us with Arden might distract you a bit and give me the occasional five minutes to set water to boil, hm?” He kept his voice calm and easy, as though it was no big thing. “Might even have some research you can help out with at that.”


They were being nice, she knew that. No, more than nice. They were trying to help. She wanted to rage at them that they were fools for getting themselves tangled up in this, drive them away so they couldn’t get caught in the middle all the more and make themselves targets. Because if H’lan found out they helped her, they would be targets, there was no doubt about that. More than once she had wondered what the older Rider might have “accidentally” done to R’bor had the Bronzer not headed to High Reaches. “Not unless he’s staked out,” she muttered glumly but loud enough to hear as she opened a cupboard, pulling out a small box that clicked with the unmistakable sound of marks. It wasn’t a fortune, it was all she had in the world. But if that went missing, she would be a lot further down the ladder if she needed to make an escape.


“He won’t stop unless he’s stopped. And no disrespect to the likes of Weyrwoman Kassia - but he’ll be out before you know it. And have them all wrapped around his little finger. Because that is what he’s like. He knows what to say and how to say it. And who’s he up against? Me.” She snorted, the sound full of annoyance and disbelief. “The crippled Dragonhealer with a dragon she had no right to Impress in the first place. That’s his argument. His… quest to cleanse Pern of the impure, the disease-ridden, the not worthy. Give him enough time and he’ll make them all believe it.” Despite the anger there, it still was very clear that she believed in H’lan’s capability, that somehow he would convince them all he was justified in his “righteous crusade”.


Ambrelli listened intently at Dytha’s statements, with a worried look to Cremsden.  Strange, she thought, that after all this time, it was the underpinnings of the same grievances as Fort that brought them together.  “I’ve heard that talk before, Dytha.  I heard it from the Rankers who sought to cleanse Fort of any unworthy candidates and dragonriders.  And then I heard it from the Resistance who sought to cleanse the Rankers of corruption, greed and abuse.  Neither ended well.  Don’t forget how many Fortians escaped here to Arolos.  WW Kassia, for all her faults, is not a fool, and is not unaware of such extremist views or their nuances.”  Of course, the debacle with M’ayen had thrown her shrewdness to root out such types as he into question, but hopefully, it would also make her more sensitive to it.  She shook her head.  “You are NOT powerless Dytha.”  She threw an apologetic look to Cremsden before continuing.  “I’m not going to tell you to trust in the system, but trust in yourself.  You’re smarter than he is.  He’s just crueler.  But men like that can always be outsmarted.  I did it time and time again at Fort, and I did it without a dragon or friends.  You’ve got both here.”  


For once Cremsden didn’t flinch. He was nodding in agreement. “At Fort the system was against people trying to protect themselves, and yet people still managed to survive. If we can live in an actively malevolent system which is fighting us all the way then we can manage to help you out in a system which wants to help you, even if we maybe need to give it a nudge.” He looked ruefully at Ambrelli. “One day maybe we’ll tell you horror stories that explain why we’re so calm about this. But not today.”


It was one thing to be told she wasn’t powerless - and Dytha did believe that they believed it. However it was something else to believe it. Right now she didn’t, couldn’t. But there was a tiny spark of desperate hope that maybe, just maybe, the likes of Ambrelli and Cremsden in the way could… could… shells, she didn’t even know anymore. All she knew was that she wanted her life to be the quiet, uninterrupted bubble it had been. 


Instead, Cremsden and Ambrelli got a small nod of acknowledgement that she had taken their words on board. They just… seemed impossible. Clothes were stuffed hastily into a bag with no thought or care for rumpling them or not. Dytha tried not to pay attention to the small ball of emotion in the pit of her stomach, to listen to the worried little whispers that she had worked so hard for the small bits she had and now it felt like they were all being taken away. Except Ponth. No one could take Ponth. Carefully her eyes looked at Ambrelli, stubbornly blinking back what felt the prickle of treacherous tears. “You know what I worked for. Don’t let him have it. Anything you can hide from him, if you need marks we… we can sort something.” Somehow. Wasn’t like she had many to spare. Her voice was small and ultimately, defeated. Because she believed that she was.


“Sweetheart.” Cremsden’s hand on her shoulder was gentle. “Don’t worry about marks. We’ll sort it.” Because even if he grumbled -- a lot -- about how much riders were paid as compared to Healers he’d always supplemented his wages with a decent amount of gambling.


Besides, it turned out living without needing a wineskin or so every night was a lot cheaper.


“You’ll be back before you know it. This is just a little holiday you’ll be having and we’re going to make sure everything is safe for that. And it’ll be nice to have a bit of “extra company.”


Ambrelli nodded at Cremsden’s statement.  “As if I’d take marks from you,” she said with a huff.  “Don’t insult me.  I’m helping you because I’m your friend, not because you’re paying me.”  Not that she needed the marks either.  Z’go and her had run a nice side business for a bit, and had profited greatly.  And she hadn’t been poor before that either.  And then, with more grit in her voice.  “Merck will have it all moved discreetly.  And what can’t be moved, well, there are other ways to make sure it’s safe…”  When was the next Fall?  If a bronzer got hurt, they could move him in here… How convenient to have a temporary watch-wher in the place, and one that H’lan wouldn’t be able to bully.  Not that she was hoping anyone would get hurt, but it was inevitable during Fall…


“Can someone water my lavender?” It was added as an afterthought, suddenly remembering the large plots where the young plants were still being carefully cultivated. “Or take them down to the Infirmary garden so Master Mifeng can watch them.” The tiny, wizened old Healer was terrifying, but she was good with plants. 


Another look and another sigh. This was it. Whether she liked it or not. “Okay, I’ve got stuff. Not too fussed about too many clothes but I’ve got the essentials.” Unlike Ambrelli who was positively glamorous to Dytha, her sense of style was extremely limited. She had smocks, she had leathers. Add a few extra bits and that was all she needed to function.


“I’ll set some of the apprentices on it. Gets the ones who are just using up their Candidate hours from under my feet,” Cremsden said easily. He eyed Dytha a little uncertainly, hand still resting on her shoulder. “...you going to be okay?”


“No.” It was said bluntly with a flat edge to it. “Not until I figure out what I need to do.” Why beat about the bush and put on a brave face she didn’t feel? It achieved absolutely nothing except made people ask more questions because they weren’t stupid and knew how to probe.


Ambrelli looked appraisingly at her.  “Good.  There’s an honest assessment, and that’s a good place to start.”  And better than the defeated state the girl had been in earlier.  She looked around.  “If you two can handle all the bags, I’ll stay here and get started with Merck transferring the remainder to my weyr.”  She also knew Cremsden probably wouldn’t want her in his weyr, so this gave her a good excuse to separate from them now.  She called the little brown to her, turning away from them as she picked up a pillow, handing it to Merck’s outstretched claws.


“I can carry them.” Knowing the state of Dytha’s feet Cremsden tackled them single-handedly, happier to carry the lot and be overloaded than have her wobbling along. “Off we go then. Come along and count how many baby things we’ve left lying around today.”


Grabbing the smaller bag she could manage easily, Dytha paused as she looked around her. No, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she wouldn’t be coming back ever again, a finality that told her that this was it. Although some people lived by sayings such as another door opening and all that, the Greenrider definitely felt as though all of the doors were slamming behind her and being locked up tight. Giving Ambrelli a small, appreciative nod, Dytha’s face was set in tight determination as she stepped towards the door.


The sound of it closing behind them seemed to echo in her mind. She had pressed a small key into Ambrelli’s hand, Dytha mumbled that she would send word to her if anything came to mind. She felt as though she was being funnelled into a direction where she had no say over anything. Right now, when she felt she had no trust to give, it felt as though she were expected to give it freely and without hesitation. 


It was the only choice she had.


= End =



--
Nutmeg on the Wizzy.
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I'm sometimes slow and have the memory of a sieve at times, so don't hesitate to poke me if you think you've been forgotten!