After Kassia sent Mendl on her way, only Foreth and her eggs were in the Caverns with the male dragons and guards barring the way to anyone else. The next morning, however, Kassia walked out to Talith.
“Can Yours come down when he has a chance?”
Talith had spent the night in a tremendously good mood, good enough that he was still feeling friendly towards Truenoth in the morning. It meant he was feeling entirely obliging to Kassia’s request. ((I’ll tell him to come immediately.))
“Thanks.” She smiled at him and gave him a fond pat. She, too, was in a good mood and his reply only helped her along.
She headed to one of her guards with a flit and had him send along for food, then headed back inside to sit in the Stands and wait for the Weyrleader.
R’tal didn’t take long, although when he did arrive it was with his own tray of food. Evidently he didn’t trust Kassia to feed anybody.
“How’s Foreth this morning?” he greeted her, setting it down.
“Tired, but happy,” Kassia said as he joined her. She glanced at the tray. “Looks like we’re going to have a lot of food for breakfast. The Dining Hall should be sending some along.
Brogan raised his head from where he was laying nearby and since he wasn’t on duty he had no qualms walking up to R’tal and putting his head in his lap in an attempt to use cuteness to con food out of the Weyrleader.
R’tal scratched his eyeridges. “You ask your mistress, not me,” he told the wher. “She’s the one who gets looked at if you get fat. I already get enough for Ty.” Although honestly, probably not just because the wher was overweight.
“Go ahead,” Kassia said. “A small piece. He’s not going to get as much exercise as usual now that Foreth has laid her eggs.”
Foreth had been lying there with her chin on one of her legs and pretending to sleep, but now she lifted her head and the twin golds came into view where they were nestled in their place of privilege.
There was no ignoring that. R’tal gave a low whistle and stood for a better look, forgetting the scrap he still held in his hand for Brogan. “Well,” he said after a long moment just staring. “There’s a sight you don’t see every day.”
Brogan took advantage of the distraction to quickly but delicately extract the scrap of meat from R’tal’s hand and then he made his way around to put his head in Kassia’s lap instead.
“She’s very proud, obviously,” Kassia said, stroking Brogan’s head. “And I’m so excited, but scared if I’m honest.”
“Facing young you in duplicate?” R’tal asked, not taking his eyes off the eggs as he smiled with that tease. He offered Foreth a polite salute. “They’re lovely,” he told her politely. “May I come closer?”
“There’s that,” Kass said with a nod. “Two of them...” She lowered her voice. “Two Foreths.”
If Foreth overheard Kassia’s last comment, she didn’t react. She raised her head higher and watched him with a close, whirling eye. ((You may, but do not touch.))
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” R’tal reassured her. He walked closer slowly, ready to stop if she felt he was too near. His hands were safely clasped behind his back and he inspected the eggs in silence, studying the golden shells.
((My Dauthers will be the best,)) she told him. Never mind that she had two previous golden offspring. Nor that she had a clutch full of eggs of other colors incubating in the Sands and under her body.
“Talith agrees.” R’tal was smiling again; not that slight teasing smile but the wide grin that came when your dragon was pumping you full of pride and joy. “Congratulations, Foreth. Well done.”
She dipped her head in agreement and then pulled her eggs closer into her body again. Apparently show time was over.
Meanwhile Kassia was making quick work of a good portion of the food R’tal had brought. Her morning sickness was getting less better and less frequent and she was eager to get food in while she could. Every once in a while a couple of bites went to Brogan, but mostly it went into her belly.
“Someone’s feeling better,” R’tal noted, wandering back to the Stands. “How much of your nausea belonged to Foreth then?”
“Sorry.” She offered him a sheepish look, but didn’t stop eating. “It definitely might have been. Plus golds don’t eat as much when they have a Clutch on the Sands, which means less fish.” And thank Faranth for that. Kassia wasn’t sure she’d ever eat fish again after all that time dealing with Foreth’s fish obsession.
He shrugged. “Second lot of food on its way. I won’t starve,” he reassured her. “And you can’t blame her for needing so much fish. Poor girl had a lot of eggs to grow. I’m only surprised she had room left for food in her stomach.”
“I have to give her props,” Kassia said. “I only have to carry one baby and she has to carry all those, including the two gold eggs. I’m just glad that everything has gone well so far.”
“Well, she had Talith a bit worried last night,” R’tal admitted as he sat back down. “You’d have had N’shen and I coming in to check on you but Truenoth felt we should wait politely outside.”
“She had me worried, too,” Kassia said. “Mendl, who’s been checking on her a lot lately, was a great help. She really likes Foreth and Foreth likes her, surprisingly.” She shrugged. “Whatever works.”
“Foreth is allowed to like people!” R’tal laughed at her, sneaking out a hand to snag a roll before Kassia could eat them all. “Not necessarily the people you want her to like but that’s dragons.”
“She just doesn’t usually like anyone that much.” Kass shrugged. “Some days I’m not even sure that she likes me, but she’s stuck with me so oh well.” She grinned to show she was kidding. Mostly. Sometimes the arguing between them almost made her wonder.
“So, what’s got you worried?” R’tal dropped his voice as he reached for his klah. Not that it would matter if Foreth chose to use her rider’s ears for listening with.
Kassia snagged another roll, but instead of just eating it she pulled pieces of it before eating them. She flicked her eyes to Foreth who was pretending to sleep again.
“I worry about how the golds and their riders are going to be and act,” Kassia said. “I know the last time this happened it was stressful. But mostly I worry about their safety. They’ll need guards, too. And that gets tricky with a class of other Weyrlings.” Her eyes went back to R’tal. “Are you sure we can’t find more guards from somewhere? Change their shifts around? Something?”
“I’ll see what I can do. Maybe if I ask around I can find a few from the bigger Holds or another Weyr wanting to move,” R’tal promised. “We have time until they hatch anyway. I just don’t want to take anyone who wanders in.”
“Yeah, I suppose we don’t need to rush that much,” Kassia said, though she still sounded worried. “And most likely what happened was a one off. Whoever did it, screwed it up. They won’t get another Gather to try again.”
“No-one comes in and goes out of the Weyr any more who hasn’t good reason to do so,” R’tal reassured her. “And if they do the guards are on it fast.”
Kassia finished the last piece of the roll and wiped her hands clean on a cloth from her pocket. “You’re right,” she agreed. “I just worry too much over things. Having Foreth with two gold eggs is already making me more stressed, on top of the pregnancy.”
“It’s good news.” R’tal turned a little in his seat to look at her. “We are allowed to have some from time to time. Just don’t copy her and have twins, hey?”
Kassia choked. “Bite your tongue,” she said, laying har hand over her belly which was just starting to show the barest of an added curve. “You get to birth them if I end up with twins. And nurse them.”
“I think by the time we knew you had twins it might be a little late for me to help with the birthing,” R’tal said. “And I’d give them to someone who knew what they were doing to nurse. Margana or Shalia maybe.”
“I’m sure that Shalia would love to nurse her siblings,” Kassia said wryly.
Just then the rest of the food arrived and it was a moment before they were settled again with a fresh plate of meatrolls, cheese, fruit, and bread. Kassia was happy to start eating from the renewed bounty.
“Wygelle used to set up her twins in the big closet off my office when she was a Weyrwoman. I imagine I’ll just do the same thing when I have this next one. Unless you wanted to open up a spot in your office?”
R’tal shrugged. “She has her own babies, what’s the difference? A baby’s a baby, surely.” He reached over, this time ensuring he got at least a little of the food. “Are you just planning to set the baby on top of the filing or clean it out first?”
“I’ve got I’des working with me on my paperwork, so I’m hoping he’ll get me organized enough that I can move more of the files to remote storage. Or I’ll just shove it in the offices of the junior goldriders.” She shrugged as she grabbed a red berry. “We’ll make it work. And if Andreya or Trifali doesn’t Impress, I’ll find out if they’re any good at babysitting duties.”
“Seriously though, would you consider a wetnurse?” R’tal asked. “There’s surely someone due to give birth at a similar time. It might help.”
“I can keep an eye out,” Kassia said. “I’m getting a bit old to doing the nursing myself, but it has to be someone I trust, too. I’m not handing my baby over to just anyone. Maybe Brogan can learn to hold a bottle or something.”
“Unfortunately he’s unlikely to be so helpful as to grow nipples though,” R’tal said drily. “Really though, it’s a Weyr, sometimes it feels like a good quarter of all females in it are pregnant. Someone you like must be.”
“Fine, I’ll look.” Kassia shoved a berry into her mouth and made a face. “In the meantime I’m hoping Brogan will grow those nipples for me. What else is a wher for? Isn’t that what Ty’s for? Doing the things you need? Chasing off flits? Surely, it’s the same.”
“You could always switch to a female guard who’s got a baby,” R’tal mused. “Don’t we have any of those.” He rubbed the top of Brogan’s head but held the plate away from him. “Nice to see you too, but I’m hungry.”
“That might work,” Kassia conceded. “Brogan, stop bothering him. Get over here.”
“I’m really going to have my hands full with a new baby and gold weyrlings to train,” Kassia said with a sigh. “What timing.”
“So let your juniors do some of the training,” R’tal said, not seeing the problem there. “No juniors, two gold Weyrlings. And if one of them turns out to be small you in disguise then you either step in or we exile her to Arolos Island until she’s bearable, whichever seems better on the day.”
“I’m not sure Andronda knows enough about what she’s doing yet,” Kassia said doubtfully. “Or maybe I’m just having trouble letting go, as usual. I don’t like the idea of not being in on their education. If that goes wrong, that’s on me.” She wondered vaguely if Laranna had ever felt that way about her.
“Bleh bleh bleh, oversight rather than micromanagement, don’t make me send K’ren to talk to you about delegation.” R’tal waved a hand airily. “Look, say you have a regular green Weyrling. They progress to the Weyrling Wing then one Fall between into the middle of DireFlame. Wipe out a good chunk of the wing while we try to fix that. Do you feel responsible?”
“No, but a gold and a greenrider are different things,” Kassia said. She lightened up a little and her lips pulled up a little. “Think of all the paperwork that could go badly.”
“Mmhm. And a greenrider might be, but you get enough of the young bronzes hearing the wrong message and.. Well, we both know how that can end.” He didn’t even say the word ‘Fort’; it felt like bad luck to do so. “You’ve been delegating for turns already. This is just.. Like WeyrlingMaster training. One on one.” He smiled at her. “And the good news is, I suspect neither Andronda nor Delysia are likely to sleep with their pupils.”
Kassia stuck her tongue out at him, very mature like. “I could have easily found a woman AWLM in the right situation, but luckily that’s not likely to be a problem for whoever else we get. Besides, I really am just that irresistible.” She batted her eyes at him.
“Bet you a mark you can’t sleep with another goldrider.” Apparently yes, the conversation had reached that maturity level.
“I was stupid enough to sleep with my AWLM as a child, but I’m not stupid enough to sleep with one of my goldriders,” Kassia pointed out. “And sleeping with someone from a different Weyr is a bad idea. But are we counting previous instances?” She grinned.
“Faranth, I feel like this conversation needs more alcohol.” R’tal laughed, and nudged her foot lightly with his own. “Go on then, since I feel like I’ve lost that mark already.”
“Wygelle and I did once,” Kassia said, plunking a berry off the tray and popping it in her mouth. “It was one of those freak accident things and not something we’d have done again.” She shrugged. “Can I have my mark?”
“You can have your mark,” R’tal agreed. “Tomorrow. When I actually have my beltpouch.” He paused. “..Who was Weyrwoman at the time?”
“Wygelle was.” Kassia took one last piece of food from the tray. She leaned back on her hands and stretched out her legs instead. “Not planning on trying to do the same with anyone here now, but Wygelle and I were always pretty close. When we weren’t driving each other crazy.”
“So, I’m just saying that sleeping with one of your goldriders has precedent.” He was teasing again, content to have prodded her into a more relaxed mood.
“So I shouldn’t feel bad if it happens again?” Kassia grinned and poked him. “I don’t think I’m giving you permission to freely sleep with the other goldriders, though. Sleeping with goldriders is bad, you know. They do things like end up pregnant and cranky.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it. I’ve never had it end well - and I’ve probably slept with more than my fair share.” Thanks to Talith, he really really had. “Particularly with Wygelle, frankly. That wasn’t fun for anyone.”
“Have you ever had a Weyrwoman you’ve not butted heads with?” Kassia half-teased. She did feel a small bit of sympathy with the man who kept having to deal with so many different strong-headed and dominant women and still kept things moving forward.
R’tal paused to consider that seriously. “Laranna,” he said finally. “Laranna I tended to be in agreement on.” He shrugged. “Really though, I don’t mind butting heads. You explode, then you talk it through. Wygelle wanted us to be nice at each other but also for her to have her own way. That was harder.”
“I’m not that good at pretending,” Kassia said. “That fake-nicey stuff doesn’t work for me. I’d rather just get the fight over with and figure out what we’re going to do about it. I didn’t interact enough with Laranna beyond my early angry ‘everyone’s-out-to-get-me’ turns to have much of an opinion there. Mostly she was just the person who was trying to make me do things I didn’t want to do.”
“Yeah. Well. You gave us a common enemy which helped.” He grinned at her again then. “She was all right. Sensible type.”
“I’m so glad I could give you two reasons to bond. That was my whole goal in life. You and the whole Weyrling Master staff, too.” Kassia grinned back, happily taking the ribbing. Foreth having clutched and clutched so well having helped a lot of her stress temporarily. “I can be assured you’ve never accused me of being a ‘sensible type’, however.”
“No. I describe you as being whole-hearted in whatever you decide, and sometimes that’s brilliant and sometimes it’s not because once you’ve got a decision made in your head you’re stubborn as the Red Star itself on doubling down on it,” R’tal said. “There are worse ways to lead.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Kass said with a snort. “Close enough.”
Foreth grumbled and pulled her eggs in tighter.
“I think that’s lazy gold speak for ‘I want to be left alone now’,” Kassia said. “We’ll pick this up tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow,” R’tal agreed, standing. “But-- make sure you invite N’shen over today to see them too. He deserves a look.”
“I will,” Kassia promised.