The Path of Pain and Life (standalone)

All the rest of the Northern Continent that Atricis left behind. Atricis' old Holds can be found within, as well as all the other Holds and Weyrs and old lands left behind.
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Shaihulud
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Wed Jun 06, 2018 10:56 pm

The following events took place from turns 2043 to 2047.
Warning – Sex eluded to.

Northern Winter, Turn 2043
Evening at Barbiolette Seahold, Benden

For the duration of the evening, the Great Hall filled with a numbing chatter that dulled even the brightest of minds. Aside from the occasional discussion of profit growth, which fed the inflated egos of the rich nobles and merchants alike, Holder Hesidor and his guests spoke thoughtlessly about the latest fashion and gossip.

“All of my capes are lined with only the finest of southern furs,” one of the nobles bragged. “It’s made Winter quite the luxurious experience.”

“Yes, but I’m eager for Spring. I’ve a Neratan silk gown planned for the first gather. It’s made of the finest threads,” another replied without thought to the previous braggart.

“That does sound lovely. Oh, I can’t wait for Spring! This Winters proved far too dreary for my health. I’d die of darkness if our hold were any further north.”

“Or have an affair,” another noble interjected. “Did you hear about Holder Besin and that mistress of his? Apparently, his wife suffered from melancholy as a result of the northern climate, and became as useless as a lame runner, therefore, he found another lover. She didn't agree with the weather, and she certainly did not agree with the mistress, but now she’s stuck with both.”

“Men are incorrigible,” one of the wives snorted, earning the agreement of the other women.

Inez stared blankly at the fires of the hearth, and failed to respond. Though she heard their voices, she heard not their words, for they mattered little to her even in a moment when conviviality was a necessity for the socio-economic future of the seahold. Yet a lady of the seahold mattered little to them and their self-centred discourse as she watched the sways of the flames. I know not why I am here.

Life had become hollow since her departure from New Atricis Weyr. She left behind everyone she had ever loved in her attempt to forge a prosperous life for herself. Instead, in the turns to follow Inez had come to realise she had left her prosperous life behind in New Atricis. She missed the sight of dragons who bathed in the sun; she missed the joy that sprung to life around her in the weyr; she missed those evenings with friends when they laughed about life and calculated the future; she missed her walks through the weyr yard after a warm meal and a light wine; she missed her chance with her father when he stood face to face with her, pleading for recognition; and she missed her friendship with Ambrosius, who stood alongside her loyally when she needed him most.

Above all, she missed Rhianwen, her greatest love and her greatest loss. In their youth, they had become two cherries of the same stem, and in time they had come to love one another like rider and dragon. They were inseparable until the day Inez abandoned her; now Inez lived her life like a dragonless man.

After the guests retired for the night, Inez attempted to do the same, though she could not without appeasing the needs of her husband first. It was only for the fact that he was a kind man that Inez allowed him to do as he pleased, though she took little joy from her obligations to him. As he enjoyed his liberties, she watched the ceiling to count the beams and stone, and when he finished, she rolled away from him and feigned sleep.

Hesidor’s hand found her shoulder. The tenderness of the touch did not escape her; she simply did not care for it. “Dearest?” he asked of her.

She did not answer, and after a long hopeful hesitation, she felt Hesidor sink back into the bed and resign himself to sleep. For an hour she shared the bed with him until she heard his telling snores. Only then did she slip out from the sheets, leaving her husband to rest with her firelizard, Gwen, curled upon her pillow. Inez wandered the corridors of the tower, and checked on her children. Rhianez slept soundlessly, while little Hesiden had wormed out of the sheets. She made sure to cover him once again, and stroked his head of fine black hairs before she finally left the room. Down the stairs, she continued, and made sure to wrap her thick robe tight against her. Eventually, she found her way to the parapets that marched down along the sea. As the misty winds whistled past her, she felt the wet bitter cold strike her across her cheek, pierce her ears, and slip between the fibres of her robe to bite into flesh and bone. She had never felt so alive as she did in that moment of greatest discomfort. Without the pleasure, life had become defined by pain. So long as she suffered, she knew the unfortunate truth she was alive.

But she was not alone that night.

“You are hardly dressed to be out here,” a voice murmured behind her.

Inez whipped around to face the source, though her heart pounded with fright, for she knew not how to defend herself against the intruder. However, when eyes fell onto those narrow hazel eyes, she realised quickly that defence was not necessary, for it was Mul’rec who stood before her. “What are you doing here?” she hissed at the man as another wind gust howled around them.

“Watching over you,” he answered simply.

With a disapproving furrow of her brows, Inez’s eyes darkened like a tempest brewing at sea. “So you admit to spying on me then.” Though this was the first she had ever seen him face to face since her marriage, it was not the first time she had been aware of his presence.

“Yes,” he answered simply, “I normally do, though I hardly expected you venture outside in the middle of the night.”

“This is my hold. I will go where I please,” she defended with her insecurities worn upon her face. Before he might note them, she stepped away from the brownrider. “You are not supposed to be here.”

“I know, though you knew that wouldn’t stop me.”

It had never stopped him, not for all the Turns Inez lived in Barbiollette. “You know my father will kill you if he finds out.”

His lips pressed together. “He is not your father.”

She answered him with silence.

Mul’rec seemed to know better than to argue with her wilfulness. Instead, he begged. “Inez,” he pleaded. “Inez, you know what I say is true.” He dared to step closer to her, a father desperate for his daughter’s recognition. For turns he had sought it, and for turns it kept Inez in New Atricis. The day he finally confronted her, she denied him.

She resented him for it. “It doesn’t matter.”

He parted his lips to speak, but the flash of a glow shimmered out of the corner of their eyes. Before she might protest, he grabbed her wrist, and pulled her into the shadow of a kernel. “It does to me. We’re bound by blood!”

The guard had spotted the movement, and began to approach. “Oye! Who’s out there!”

“You have to leave,” she demanded. If they were caught, Cador would have both their heads. Even Benden Weyr could not save them.

“Not until you accept who I am to you,” he challenged her in turn.

“You’ll get yourself killed!” Her heart began to race as she heard the steps echo down the parapets and the stairs beyond them. With each step in fast approach, though she yearned for death, and came to she realise she feared his own.

“Inez! I am your father!” he pleaded.

“I know!” she spat back with tears welled in her eyes.

He relinquished her and stepped back, stunned by the confession he never thought would come. Only the blow of the wind filled the silence between them until Mul'rec overcame his shock to reach out to her. “I love you, Inez. I always have.” A hand brushed through her damp locks. He would have held her close had she not pushed him away with a surprising amount of force.

“Go!” she cried back.

A glance was cast to his hands before he looked back to her, helpless of her second denial.

“Go!” she pressed again.

The steps were running down the stairs now, approaching the final bend of the parapets.

Inez moved quickly to intercept the guard, giving Mul’rec the time he needed to disappear.

“My lady!” the guard spoke in surprise. “What are you doing about the parapets? It’s freezing!”

“I know,” she answered. “I couldn’t sleep, and needed some fresh air, and now I’m retiring for the night.”

The guard knew better than to believe her, thus he stepped around her to shine his torch in search of a second presence. The light illuminated only stone and mortar. “You best get inside, my lady, before you catch your death of cold.”

“Of course,” she attempted to stoically respond, though she trembled with the weight of her encounter. Rather than say another word that might give herself away, Inez retreated down the parapet and up the stair steps for the main hold. She made a glance around, but Mul’rec was nowhere to be seen.

She was alone once again.
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Shaihulud
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Thu Jun 07, 2018 12:04 pm

Northern Spring, Turn 2044
Barbiolette Seahold, Benden


It was in the height of spring when a dual toned gold firelizard deposited a letter on Inez's vanity. The woman was plaiting Rhianez's hair at the time of the firelizard's arrival, who earned a hiss from Gwen who hated all queen firelizards with a single exception.

"Stay there, dear," she told her child, though what did one turn olds know about obedience. "Dina, watch her please," she asked of her handmaiden.

The servant gave a nod of her head and moved to Rhainez.

All the while Inez fetched the note left for her. She knew the firelizard, and after the recent season, she nearly tossed the letter in the hearth... and yet... She broke the wax seal and unfolded the vellum, revealing the elegant hand of the missive.

Meet me tomorrow at the twelfth candle mark on the shores of Ivory Rock.
~M


"My lady?"

Inez tossed the folded letter into the hearth to be consumed by the flames without a trace.

***

After breakfast, Inez took her prized mare from the stables and rode out of Barbiollette seahold, taking the path north up the jagged coastline. Gwen rushed overhead, following her mistress as the mare cantered and trotted along the path at Inez's command. After a two hour ride, the path sloped down to the beach of powder white sands, where the waves still droned with the unrelenting force of nature as they broke upon the shore. A dragon's length off the coast was a monolith of bone-white stone. It held there for as long as Barbiollette had existed, centuries, and would likely stand for centuries and millennia more. With a glance about the beach, Inez saw no one. She gently heeled her mare into a plod across the thick sands that blew about the beach. Even in spring, the winds still howled along the Bendenite coast, warping the trees that clung to the sand and stone into a position of fear and submission. The ocean was merciless.

He's not here... She looked about once more, her lips pressed thinly in disapproval. How dare he waste her time! Inez would have guided her runner back up the cliffs, but she gave the mare some time to recover. She slipped off the beast and let the mare walk about the shore without the weight of her rider. With little care, the beast plodded along the shore, trailing behind Inez who led her in doubt. Why had she come here? For the duration of Winter, Inez lingered on her moment with a man who once loved her mother. She knew little about Mul'rec aside from what few qualities she showed to her and the rumours that amounted about him. He was a stranger, and yet Inez trusted him enough to wander out of her hold alone, to wait for him where no others could see her.

In the distance, a figure appeared.

The sight of the body stilled her steps and brought her mare to a halt. She wondered if it might be him. When she saw the flash of his gold firelizard's hide, she knew beyond a doubt the approaching man was Mul'rec.

"You came," he spoke to her once they were in earshot over the breeze. "I wasn't sure you would."

Lips pressed together once more as she looked upon this man who was her father. "What do you want, Mul'rec?"

"To see you, to know you are well." He stopped within an arm reach of her. She could tell he wanted to hug her, to comfort her, but he knew well she would not allow it. Instead, he stepped to her side and motioned for her to walk with him along the beach.

"I am well enough," she answered.

"And your children?"

She made several steps, delaying the answer until she saw no harm in it. "They are well. Rhianez is growing strong, and Hesiden survived his first winter."

"That is always a good sign," he agreed. When one lived so far north, survival was championed.

Several more silent steps passed before she finally spoke. "And you?"

He did not miss a step. "Well, Galuth sired a clutch recently laid on Benden Weyr sands."

"I thought you were banished from Benden."

"I was," he confessed.

"They must be furious." Mul'rec did not have the most prestigious reputation.

"Absolutely," he smiled back at her.

"So how did you manage it? Arriving in Benden, letting Galuth chase?"

He chuckled back. "I have my ways." He was not going to tell her, though perhaps it was best she did not know. Still, she was curious now. "I want you to stand at the hatching."

His suggestion forced her and her runner to a stop. "What?"

"I want to bring you back to Benden on search," he clarified.

Inez gave a stiff shake of her head. "I can't. My children, my family. You know what Cador would do to us."

The man gave a sigh and returned to his walk with Inez at his side. "You deserve to be a rider."

"That time passed, already, Mul'rec. I'm a lady now. I have a family, children, a husband-"

"Do you love him?" Mul'rec dared to ask.

The question stunned her, and for a moment she was taken back by the brownrider. How could he ask such a thing of her when she lived such a high life in a renowned hold? And yet he spoke a truth she did not want to recognise, that for all Hesidor gave her comfort, he could not give her happiness. She left that back in Atricis, with Rhianwen, and Mul'rec knew this. "As best as I can," she answered, though it stung her to say it. Hesidor was a good man, a deserving man, but she could never give him that which he wanted most of all: her heart.

"You belong in a Weyr."

"But I live in a hold. You can't change that Mul'rec."

He fell silent as he walked alongside of her with arms folded behind him. She thought the matter had finally dropped when he spoke once more. "Then come to watch the hatching. At least accept my benign invitation."

"Mul'rec-"

"No one has to know but us." He slowed his steps, and she did the same, slowly turning to face him as her runner plodded into place behind her. The mare bobbed her head against the reigns and dug at the sands with impatience, but complied with Inez's commands. "I know you want this at least, even only for a moment-" his pause gave way to a smile "-Galuth misses you."

She searched about for him. "Then why isn't he here?"

"Safest thing to do is to keep him out of sight."

He was a very distinguishable dragon. "I didn't know dragons missed people."

"Dragons are amazing creatures, always surprising us." His hazel eyes settled upon her with the warmth of a father for his daughter. "Inez, please. Come with me to Benden at least just this once."

She watched the coast beyond them, noting the how high tides swept into land. It was coming in. "If I go, will you let me be in the future."

"No," he answered simply. With that single answer, Inez knew she would always be Mul'rec's daughter. Never would he leave her again, and with but a summon, he would always be there for her in a way Cador had failed to do.

"Why are you doing this?"

"Because you're my daughter-"

"No, why me. I know you have many children, but you pay them no heed. Why am I different from them?"

He fell silent, hesitant to answer. When he finally found the will, he found the heart of his words. "Because you are your mother's daughter as much as you are my own."

Her heart lurched at the answer, and for several long breaths, she failed to answer him. He loved her mother, and loved her still, in a way Cador never head. After all these turns...

"Inez, come with me to Benden," he pleaded with her once again. "Please."

Before the words escaped her, she gave a nod of concession. "I will-" her voice caught before she regained herself again "-I'll go with you to Benden."
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Shaihulud
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Fri Jun 08, 2018 1:10 am

Northern Spring, Turn 2044
Late Afternoon Barbiolette Seahold, Benden | Benden Weyr

"I still don't understand why you have to go to Benden Weyr," Hesidor began in dismay as he watched his wife pack a small collection of belongings. "Let alone why you don't want me to tell your father."

"I've an old friend who lives in Benden Weyr, but father does not like her-" him, though the lie was innocent enough, for the old friend in question was her blood father "-or anyone else from the Weyr. I'd simply do not want to upset him, or cause any sort of diplomatic incident simply for the fact I want to visit her."

"And who is she again?"

"Miral," Inez lied once again, giving the name Mul'rec supplied her with. He said this Miral would gather her this afternoon, an older woman who would support the alibi. "She was a rider at New Atricis who frequented Southern Seahold. She recently transferred to Benden and merely wished for the company of an old friend. She thought I'd might like to watch the upcoming hatching."

Hesidor gave a nod of his head, though Inez could tell by the press of his lips and the weight of his brow that the man disapproved of her actions. However, he also knew well enough that there was no use in asking her to reconsider her actions. "And when we will see you again?"

"After the feast," she answered as she placed a vile of lavender scented oil among her belongings for Gwen, and sealed the sack. "Dina," she called upon her servant, "Will you take my belongings downstairs to the courtyard. Miral will collect me there shortly."

With a nod of her head, the woman stepped forward to collect the sack and left the room with it, leaving Inez with Hesidor for one last moment.

Rather than face him, she walked towards the window and peered outside. She saw the flowers blossom upon the cliff face, and noted the waves far below at the foot of the hold. A flock of wherries flocked about the cliffs, roosting at the peak of spring with their new brood. They called out in chaos, though Inez supposed there was some sort of order to it all.

Several steps caught her ear, bringing her husband close. Though he noticeably hesitated, he set a hand on her arm. "I wish you'd stay." He wished she would love him as he loved her, or at least that was how Inez heard it. Inez could not deny his love for her, and for turns he tried to prove his worth. He gave her the space she demanded, and the things she desired, all with the hope of having a heart she never gave him. I simply do not have one to offer, she often thought in guilt, for she had left it back in Atricis. How long would he keep her without it? She wondered at night when he called for a kiss, and she failed to answer. How long would he tolerate her reprove of his advances, and the dismissal of his affections? Inez knew that with the coming of age and her cold demeanour, a mistress would inevitably become a part of their lives, though she thought it unfortunate she still had turns left with Hesidor before such reprieve graced their loveless marriage.

Lips found her ear, so he might murmur his affections to her, "I love you Inez." He dared to place a kiss on her neck, and for that, Inez resented him once again.

To her relief, the bugle of an arriving dragon sparked the air before she was forced to answer. "They're here," she replied to him, only to slip away from his futile attempt.

He watched helplessly as she walked to Gwen's perch by the entrance of the room, and slipped the amethyst to her shoulder. "I'll be back in several days. I'm sure you'll be fine without me."

Before he could insist otherwise, she left him, and departed for the courtyards.

***

A well sized zultanite awaited Inez, much to her surprise, and the rider, an older woman with sun red hair, stood by the beast's side in waiting.

"Miral?" Inez asked of her.

"Inez, it has been too long," the stranger responded with a small grin. She slipped to Inez to kiss her cheek and hug her as though they had known each other for a lifetime. How Inez permitted the gesture was beyond her, but for Mul'rec she tolerated it.

"It has, are we ready to depart?" she asked of Miral and made sure to take a step back, giving a generous berth between them. The lady took the chance to marvel at the zultanite she would soon ride. Even if she did not appreciate the actions of the rider, she still managed to admire the dragon.

"Of course. I've already secured your items." The zultanite rider motioned her beast. "Do you need a hand Inez?" The way Miral supplied a hand to her gave Inez the impression she was being more than courteous.

"No, I think I can manage just fine." With a hand on the straps and a foot on the dragon's forearm, she pulled herself up the beast. Gwen shot up the dragon as her mistress ascended, and found purchase on one of the dragon's neck ridges. Whistles and trills of encouragement reached out to Inez, beckoning her to succeed until Inez found secure seating upon the dragon. Miral made sure to settle herself behind Inez as the noble woman fastened her flight jacket and reached for the straps.

"You've flown recently?" Miral asked of her as she assisted Inez.

"No, but it is easy enough to remember," Inez confessed. She preferred to do it alone, and to her surprise, Miral gave her the space she desired.

"That is always a good thing. You're a natural rider."

"Hardly," answered Inez with a bitterness in her voice. Rather than give herself away, she reached out for Gwen so she could claim her lap. "We're ready."

"Good." Without warning, the dragon shot to the skies.

They had barely caressed the cliff peaks before the cold of between embraced them. Inez swore she would not fear the darkness, and the senselessness that accompanied it. Though she felt not the firelizard curled in her lap, she reminded herself of Gwen's presence, and though the dragon felt as though she had vanished beneath her, Inez told herself the dragon was there with Inez secured upon her. When they emerged from the void, her mantras were rewarded with the sight of truth. Gwen was still curled with her, and the zultanite firmly beneath her. Shards I hate between.

Miral leaned against Inez and spoke directly into her ear. "Myrath says you are doing beautifully."

"Thank you!" Inez answered back.

"We're about to descend. Hold on tight!" With the warning, Myrath folded her wings and dove down for the weyr bowl. The gesture caused Inez's stomach to lurch into her chest before Myrath levelled out once more. "Sorry, he likes to do that."

He? Before Inez could ask what Miral meant by 'he', the dragon touched to the ground, and lowered himself down for them to dismount. With shaking legs, Inez managed to find her footing. Though the flight itself was exhilarating, solid ground never felt so good to her feet as they did at that moment. "Thank you. It was a very efficient flight."

"That is one way to put it." Though the woman's face remained difficult to read, her eyes laughed back at her fare. Inez would have asked why she looked at her so, but before she could, they were approached by a familiar man.

"Inez!" Mul'rec wasted little time in reaching out to his daughter. Though he knew better than to hug her with any sense of familiarity, he did set a hand upon her arm. "You look well."

She allowed for the gesture. "Thank you," she replied simply, only to step back and make her way up the steps for the collection of weyrs above.

Mul'rec made sure to grab her belongs and join her, if only to guide her to his own temporary quarters. "It is not much, but I do have your room ready. Galuth is also eager to see you."

"Of course," though she knew not what she thought about this. Despite her determination to come to Benden Weyr, if only to defy Cador, part of her wondered if she should return immediately back to Barbiollette. Another part of her feared the silence that might follow in the company of a man she hardly knew for all he called her daughter.

"I suspect it has been a long day for you. Did your husband give you any troubles?"

"Not many. He is suspicious, but he knows to hold his tongue on the matter." Hesidor would keep their secret, even if he knew it was a lie.

"That is good to know. Perhaps he will hold his tongue in the future as well?"

"I wouldn't test it," Inez replied. Even Hesidor had a limitation to his patience, and Inez knew it had begun to wear thin. She cast a glance down the stairs to Miral who mounted her dragon and ascended back into the skies. "Who is your friend? An old lover?"

"Yes," he answered simply. "A long time ago."

Inez was not surprised. "You seem to have an abundance of them," she answered with mild annoyance. During her time in Atricis, she had seen her fair share of them, and it seemed her time in Benden would be no different. It begged the question of whether he ever loved her mother.

Mul'rec seemed to know better than to respond... though his next remarks caught her off guard. "You have a sister here, a half-sister. Miral is her mother."

Inez's steps came to a standstill before she looked to Mul'rec incredulously. Why did he think such things concerned her. "One of many I imagine." His promiscuity likely led to an horde of siblings she would never know. What did it matter to her that Miral bore one of them?

"One of the few who matter." He motioned for the steps that took them to the second Weyr on the right. "Her name is Irali, and I would like you to meet her."

But did Inez wish to meet her? "I do not think that is such a good idea. My visit here was meant to be unnoticed, and I would like to keep it that way."

"Irali has a good head on her shoulders. I had hopes of us eating dinner together tonight," Mul'rec suggested at the top of the stairs.

Inez joined him, and moved passed him. "You'll have to excuse my absence then, for I plan on dining in peace tonight." This Irali was none of her concern. Inez already neglected the bulk of her half-siblings through her mother back at Benden Hold. What made him think she would accept any she had through him?

His disappointment was palpable, but he managed to breathe in his patience. "Of course." If he was to achieve any sort of relationship with his daughter, he would need all the patience he could manage.

Once within the weyr itself, Inez immediately looked for Galuth. It only took a glance to the right to spot the shift of a massive dragon, one of the largest Inez had ever known. The brown unfurled himself from his couch and moved over to his rider's daughter, and dared to lower down and sniff her. The very sight of him earned him a croon from the firelizard at her shoulder, while Inez offered him a pet. Galuth warmly accepted the gesture, and for a moment no one else in the world mattered to her. "It's been a long time Galuth."

Mul'rec joined her side and reached out to brush his dragon's muzzle. "He misses you too."

Inez smiled warmly for the dragon. "He's always been a lovely brown." Her hand reached for his eye ridge. "How old were you when you Impressed to him?" she asked in genuine curiosity.

The question seemed to surprise Mul'rec, though he did not fail to answer. "Sixteen," he answered simply.

"It is a good age for Impression." If only Inez had been just as fortunate. I gave up too easily. Part of her wished to linger with the brown, to shower Galuth with all the affection he deserved. The other part of her filled with regret, could stand the sight of him no more. "Is my room over here?" she asked with a gesture towards the apartment.

Mul'rec watched her move away from both him and his dragon, and slowly followed after her. "Yes. Near the back." He moved ahead to uncover a glow and gestured for her to enter.

Inez stepped into the room, and noticed the tightness of the quarters. There was hardly enough space for the couch and hearth, while the desk with piles of his work was tucked away in a small corner. The bathing room was nestled out of sight, though she heard the rush of cycling water...

"The bedroom is here," he offered. He opened the door, exposing a small room with a narrow bed meant for a single body. Near the foot of the bed, along the wall, was the entrance to the bathing chambers. There was little room for anything else. "I know it isn't much, but the bed is comfortable at least. It should suit you for the night."

"I'm sure I've had worse," she answered simply.

He deposited her items by the door as Gwen slipped from her shoulder to the bed Inez settled upon.

"Will you need anything more?" he asked of her, hopeful she might join him out of the apartment and enjoy the weyr in his company.

"No, I think this will do."

The pain in his eyes was not missed by her, yet still he closed the door in concession to her demands of solitude. Once the slab closed into place, Inez asked herself why in all of Pern she had come to Benden Weyr. She thought it was for Mul'rec and to spit at Cador, and yet another part of her wondered if it was for escape. Life in the seahold had become death to her, but in the weyr... She felt alive in a way long missed by her. The feel of the air, the speed of Myrath, the warmth of hide, the smell of spice... the Weyr brought her a sense of life she had not felt in Turns. It was not defined by misery and worthlessness, and by the ache of her heart. Instead, it was defined by a promise that Inez feared to face.
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Shaihulud
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Fri Jun 08, 2018 2:13 pm

Northern Spring, Turn 2044
Benden Weyr

How she managed her way down the stairs from the stands to the sands completely eluded her from the sheer shock of it all. One moment, she sat with Mul'rec, Miral, and Irali. The next... she found herself collapsed on the sands with Iorveth nosing her shoulder in alarm from the unexpected fall. Later she would realise she caught her dress with her the point of her shoe when she descended the steps to answer his desperate cries, but for now, all she could understand was that he needed her. He would have her or no one. She pushed herself against the compact powder, and looked to the hatchling, only to see his nose lower down to her, and wedge itself beneath her, if only to lift her up. She accepted the assistance, and once upright, she pushed back her veil to regard his rainbow eyes. Slowly, she pulled down her wimple so he could fully regard her.

I am Iorveth, my love and my lady.

A warmth swelled within her, flowing from her mind and her heart. In that instance when minds became one, Inez realised the impossible had happened. The Impression felt like a dream to the woman who now clung to the neck of a massive hatchling brown. How?

He nuzzled her cheek in turn and folded his wings about her. Because you are mine, and I am yours.

Another warmth touched her shoulder, and when she looked up at the source, she saw Mul'rec and Galuth standing before them. Her father lowered down and set a hand at her back in support, and then turned his attention to her own brown. "He is a very handsome brown," he answered, his voice thick with the emotion of watching his daughter Impress. "We need to get you off the sands. Here, come with me." He set a hand at her elbow, and helped to pull her to her feet.

Immediately her ankle buckled at the pain that shot through it, but Mul'rec managed to catch her.

"Easy, easy!" he called out as Iorveth called out for her.

What are you doing to her! You're hurting her! the brown shrieked, ready to attack the man for the harm he caused his bonded.

Galuth was quick to interfere, and slipped his arm between Mul'rec and the defensive hatchling. He is helping her. She fell to be with you, and hurt herself in the process. She cannot walk alone.

Iorveth hesitated, unsure of what to do, so Galuth took the initiative and nudged him to follow after Mul'rec and Inez. Together, they left the sands for the feeding room where the newly Impressed could recover.

***

"How did you know?" Iorveth had fallen asleep after his first meal, giving the healers a chance to see to Inez ankle, and her to confront Mul'rec.

"I didn't," he answered.

"You had to have known," Inez pressed him once again, the anger sharp in her voice.

The man gave a slow shake of his head. "One can never predict these things. For all I might have hoped you would Impress someday, I never dreamed it would be like this."

Inez's lips pressed together, and once more the tears returned to her eyes. The impression had broken her barriers, giving her emotions free reign to trample over her and anyone who crossed her. "You wanted this?"

Rather than answer, Mul'rec turned to the healer who wrapped her foot. He let the man finish and leave before he spoke again. "I only wanted what you had wanted yourself, and what you pursued in Atricis."

"I have a family now!" she snapped back, only to feel the immediate shame of daring to want a life away from Iorveth. Fortunately, he slept soundlessly with Gwen at his side, completely unaware of Inez's former desires. And yet she loved her children. "If Cador finds out... what will he do to my family?"

Mul'rec had the decency to look ashamed. "He'll hurt them in every way he can-" before Inez could panic at the thought, Mul'rec set a hand on her shoulder "-but we won't let that happen."

Inez looked to him, and wanted to say more, but they were graced with the company of the Weyrleader and Weyrwoman before she could say more.

"Mul'rec, I should have known you had something to do with this," Weyrleader F'nyh began. "Care to explain what happened?"

Peira crossed her arms and awaited an explanation. She was clearly too peeved to trust herself with words.

Rather than feed Inez to the whers, Mul'rec stood to his feet to face them. "I brought my daughter from Barbiollette Seahold to watch the hatching, only Iorveth had different plans in mind. It was a Stands Impression."

"More like a sands one," F'nyh growled back.

Mul'rec pressed his lips together, eyes narrowing. He would have spoken up, but before he could part his lips and make a snide remark at the man, Inez answered for herself.

"I heard him call to me," she looked up to the leaders as the tumult began to rip at her. "I couldn't leave him. I hate myself for saying this, but you think I wanted this? I am a the Lady of Barbiollette Seahold. My family is ruined!"

The Weyrwoman was stunned by the claim, and stepped forward to Inez. "Who are you? I've seen you before..."

"I am Inez, daughter of Lord Cador and Lady Enide, and Lady of Barbiollette Seahold."

F'nyh stuttered in response. "B-but Mul'rec said you were his daughter!"

"Because I am," Inez answered as calmly as she could. "He made Cador a cuckhold."

Peira eyes traded between the father and daughter before her. Now revealed, the woman could not deny their uncanny resemblance.

Rather than let Inez explain the rest, Mul'rec spoke on. "When I attempted to contact Inez Turns ago, Cador found out and framed me for tithes theft. I would have defended myself, but he threatened Enide and Inez, so I let myself be imprisoned."

"If he finds out about Mul'rec and I, or that I've Impressed to Iorveth... he'll destroy my family," Inez added, her desperation palpable.

"It'll also cause a diplomatic crisis between Hold and Weyr, and we cannot afford to fall into Benden Hold's disfavour so close to the end of the Pass," Peira expanded upon. "This Impression has put more than just your family in jeopardy. We are all at risk." The woman began to pace in thought, and made a glance to the other newly Impressed whom Inez was kept apart from. “Who else knows that you’re here?”

“Miral and Irali,” Inez answered.

Mul’rec stepped forward as well. “There are also several transfer riders from New Atricis who would recognise her without hesitation.”

“What are their names?” the Weyrwoman demanded.

“Why do you ask?” F’nyh butted in. He clearly disapproved of not knowing her plot.

“We need to stop the bleeding,” she answered simply. “Anyone who knows her either must be sworn to silence, or transferred where they can do the least damage. As for you,” she looked to Inez, “You’ll need a new name, and to cut your hair.”

For the first time in since the Impression, Inez’s vehemence appeared. “I will do no such thing,” she retorted.

“The name or the hair?”

“Both!” Inez prided herself on her identity and her hip length locks. Since childhood she had grown her hair. Her illustrious mane and name were the signatures of her prestige, while her hair at the length she maintained as a luxury. The very idea of cutting it off and erasing her name struck her to the core, for both were a definition of her sense of self. The Weyrwoman crossed her arms at Inez, but the newly Impressed woman sat proud against her. She wore noble’s attire not because she fashioned herself as a noble, but because she was one. Some people aspired for prestige and nobility, but she was born into it. Like hell would she bow to the likes of Peira.

The woman finally pointed at her. “If you love Iorveth and your family as much as you claim, you will do both.”

Teeth gritted against the woman’s command. Inez hated her for it. Yet how could she deny the truth of Peira’s claim? If she was true to her love, she would make the sacrifice. She would remain with Iorveth, and she would keep her family safe from Cador’s malevolence. The tempest of her eyes shifted to Mul’rec, gauging the man’s thoughts on the matter by the form of his countenance, and then to the Weyrleader she turned.

Mul’rec looked as though he approved with Peira.

F’nyh looked constipated.

She spared a glance to her dragon, and reached out to him to run a finger along his eye ridge and delicate head knobs. Even at his size, he still seemed so small. He needed her, as did her children, her mother, and even her husband. Iorveth nuzzled closer against her thigh and buried his face between his claws. He was just a baby… “I’ll do it.”

“Good,” Peira concluded, only to move onto the other facet of the matter. “What are the names of these people who know you?”

Inez looked to Peira in defeat. “A’rosius and Revanne.”
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