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First Visitors

Time: Lunchtime, day 23, month 2, turn 23.
Place: Jantha's Weyr.
Players: Cirse, Jantha.
Scene: Cirse comes to lunch.

Unwieldy Peirith sinks down to that ledge with a strong backwing, and between talons and sheer mass, doesn't even begin to slip on whatever ice might be permitted to lurk upon its stone. Her thoughts do roll in toward Imoth, though, a greeting that's salted with self-amused rue for that lessened balance, even as her rider takes her time and descends. Cirse is an upright figure in furs, the hood pulled over the curled tufts of her hair, and with her queen's assistance she doesn't slip or slide as much as she otherwise might. "Good afternoon, Jantha," she calls as she always does when she visits, with the comparative ease of comparative familiarity. "Good day, Imoth," she says to him as well, looking the brown over with a practiced eye. "It is a better day, I think. Do you?"

Imoth rises to his feet at the arrival of the queen and her rider, and returns Peirith's greeting with a respectful mental acknowledgement, an invitation to sit on his ledge, and a moment's warm hum. Jantha turns to face the entrance, jug in hand, just as Cirse arrives. "I think you're right: there's very good visibility today, though the wind is cold. It was bitter at drill, but I prefer that to wet. Shall I take your jacket? Would you like klah?" She sets the jug on the desk and pulls out a chair for her visitor. "Please."

Peirith does sit, though she arranges herself so that her haunches lower onto the protected area beneath the overhang, only her forepaws out where the elements can get at them. She picks up on his vocalization, too, a quieter note an octave lower that's without his hum's vibrato, and with it sends an image of the current view of his own ledge: more to see than from her own low outcropping, to be sure. "Let me keep it a little longer," requests her rider. "After the klah." She seats herself, not smiling, but with warmth in her eyes. In trade, she offers the padded sack she had with her. "There are vegetable pies, in pastry, as my share of the pot. How... are you, Jantha?"

There's a trace of reserve in Jantha's tone, as she answers, "I'm well, thank you, and more or less settled in up here now, though I could do with more shelves. Though I suppose I could leave more of my dragonhealing notes in the Infirmary. Imoth is enjoying our wing duties, and he's very pleased with the view from his ledge." She takes mugs from the shelf that she has, and sets them next to the jug, then takes down covered plates, which prove to contain bread, cheese, cold meats, and fruit, with cutlery. Finally, she pours the klah, and offers Cirse a mug and a plate. "Do help yourself to whatever you would like."

"If you would like more space, but not to leave them out in the open," never mind that Jantha may well have other ideas for guarding her things or might even not see the need, "you may leave them with me." Cirse finally pushes back her hood and does help herself, not only to one of her own small pies, but to what Jantha has to offer. She's exact about layering the cheese over the meat over the bread, just so. But she doesn't eat until the brownrider does.

"Thank you for the offer," Jantha replies, "but I think I should like to keep them to hand: if I ever need them, I may need them quickly. The Infirmary is probably the best place for them, in fact." She takes a plate of her own and starts to construct sandwiches: half a round of cheese, half of meat. She picks up a pie, too, before she sits on the other spare chair. "I hope you and Peirith are well?"

"I can see the logic in that." Cirse's lips press together a moment, but then she relaxes them with as much care as she had given her own luncheon assemblage. "The third pie is berry, but we must share," she adds. Then she moves one of her cheese slices again, into some invisible altered alignment. "We are as well as can be expected. There is no reason to believe we will not clutch fewer eggs this time, which is appropriate for Interval but feels somehow like a diminishment all the same. Do you understand how that could be?"

"I think that's very natural," Jantha affirms without hesitation. "During the Pass, when survival depends on being able to put full Wings into the air, it is essential to keep producing many eggs, and a large clutch heartens the whole Weyr. We are all used to seeing large clutches as a reassurance, a sign of success... all those things. Now, what we need is balance - but there is no obvious measure of that." She tries the pie. "This is excellent. Thank you for bringing them."

With each thing that Jantha says, Cirse is able to unfasten another button of her jacket, as though the warmth of the hearth were reaching her at last. Finally she's able to join the brownrider in the meal, and then say, "Thank you." She says further, though it's an old injury, "I'm glad you kept your hand." A newer one, "I wish you had kept your knot."

Jantha frowns at Cirse's words about her hand, appearing puzzled for a moment, though a glance at her fingers wipes that expression from her face. The second sentiment is more easily explained, and she simply responds quietly, "So do I." After a few seconds, she adds, "It was... rather a shock. But, a new Weyrleader has never been obliged to stay with his predecessors' appointments, and he evidently felt that he had cause to make the change."

Yes. It's in Cirse's low nod. It takes her a little while, a few bites, before she says, "He is not what his predecessor was. There are positive things to say, such that he has not yet gone off on wild tears, nor does he seem to form so very many impulsive attachments." She exhales softly. "I do not predict that he will find cause to appoint a female wingleader... soon." If ever.

Jantha nods slowly. "I had heard that that might be a... view of his. Fortunately, he appears to find dragonhealing a more appropriate occupation for a woman, so I am not totally without professional interest in my life." She shakes her head sharply. "Listen to me - that sounds so arrogant, when most riders are content with their wing duties. To tell you the truth, I have taken a lot of responsibility for a long time, and I don't entirely know what to do with myself without it."

She shakes her head, Cirse shakes her own, looking hard at the brownrider. "Do not concern yourself with arrogance, Jantha, not with me. I suspect that those not raised up to service miss it less. It seems as though it might particularly be the case with a position such as yours had been, where across the entirety of Pern, you answered to only two."

"Indeed." Jantha is silent for a few moments longer while she occupies herself with her klah. "And yet, on my watch, one of my weyrlings managed to get herself kidnapped in a scheme that involved others of the class, and I knew absolutely nothing about it before it happened. Not only that, but I had not instilled sufficient common sense into them to prevent them from doing something so risky, and was of the opinion that they were all relatively sensible young women. I can see that a Weyrleader might see that as a serious lapse of judgement in a Weyrlingmaster."

"It may seem at times that women are more sensible than their counterparts. Their draconic counterparts, excepted." Cirse sighs. She breaks off some of the pie crust with her fork, separating it to many layered fragments. "Consider what elements of impulse may run in the girl's blood. I am glad, most of all, that they are safe. It would be easy to mull what she could have been thinking, what they could have been thinking, over and over again."

"I have, believe me," Jantha says wryly. "Both at the time and more recently. And I am also extremely glad that they are safe." She savours another mouthful of the pie, then lays her fork carefully on the plate. "Perhaps one of the things that we have to take into account with future classes is that they are facing a rather safer life than their predecessors. Everyday dangers, such as Betweening, soon cease to seem so threatening. Perhaps there is a desire to ... prove themselves, in some of them."

"Perhaps you are right." Cirse's forehead creases, her dark eyes looking off into the middle of nowhere that just happens to correspond to Jantha's desk. "Also, riders will likely continue to have less and less leeway, before Thread returns. I have encouraged the Searching of older candidates, though she was hardly young." She adds, musing, "Your situation has given me thought as to my own. I would like to pass the torch before I am dead. To Hattie, I still hope."

Jantha smiles a little at the younger woman. "You are hardly old, you know, and neither is Peirith. I assume you're not talking about the near future. But I believe one thing that will happen in the Interval is that the gaps between clutches will become much longer even than now, and it seems likely that there will at times be doubt as to whether a queen has stopped rising or has simply not risen for a while. That could create a good deal of uncertainty and even ill-feeling in a Weyr - I believe you're wise to plan for succession, inasmuch as these things can be planned."

The smile brings Cirse's eyes back to her, and she sets down her fork very carefully, as though that might help her listen. "I hope not," she says in reply. "That seems logical, those gaps leading to that doubt. I still wish it were easier to pin down how dragons look to others, but then instinct has never come easily to me...." Her gaze doesn't absent itself, but her features have grown softer, as out on the ledge, Peirith's sense of reassurance laps over their surroundings in slow, gentle waves. "In any case, the matter of choosing a Weyrleader can shorten or delay a cycle, but still I have thought that a queen rising twice in a row without the others alternating would be cause for concern, and three times even more so."

"I would have thought so," Jantha replies, pausing her meal to think. "And you will know better than I, but I have always had the impression that dragons were actually fairly clear about these things, in their own society. Who should look to whom, and so on. The problem is, that it doesn't always coincide with our ideas on the subject. I've known greenriding assistants - assistant weyrlingmasters - whose dragons have had difficulty with young bronzes who felt themselves superior before the end of weyrlinghood, for example." She picks up her fork again and gathers another mouthful of pie.

"What I mean is, what precisely is involved, the ratios and the countervailing factors. It's simple enough to compare greens to bronzes, though even then, there are the exceptions. We talk about self-assurance, knowledge, age, derived authority. And still there are never guarantees." Cirse's voice is calm, the more so for her own queen's not letting up on her, the brief smile at the lack of coinciding by now faded. "What makes some blues stand fast as other browns? The differences are less apparent, then."

Jantha nods, conceding, "That's true. And with blues expecially: they are so very varied in capabilities and personality. Though that is perhaps less of a difficulty in weyrling training, as the greater the size differential, the more chance that it will become an issue before the concepts of how human authority works and how it should affect their own relationships are truly accepted and internalised. Dragons are always a fascinating study," she concludes with a genuine smile.

Cirse nods, then nods again. "Do you remember, in Peirith's first clutch, when..." She breaks off to smile back, by purpose rather than reflex, but one friend to another even so. "I dare say we could reminisce for far too long. Forgive me? It seems I've just gotten warm, but I must finish and go. There is so very much to do before supper, and I only wish that oiling were the least of it. Her hide is so delicate right now, stretched and thinned as it is."

"Of course," Jantha smiles, and gets to her feet to show her guest out. "Thank you so much for coming. You're my first visitor here, apart from the people who came to set the furniture up. It makes it seem more like home."

Cirse's look carries relief with it, and then she hurries with a few last bites, a few sips to wash them down before she gathers her things. "Perhaps I should follow Jubee's example and have someone feed me delicacies as I oil, that my fingers need never touch them," she offers for humor, the sort of humor that recognizes how unlikely it is that she would ever permit it. Once she has everything squared away, "Truly, Jantha, it was my pleasure. I hope it feels more and more comfortable as the sevendays go by. Good day to you and Imoth." It isn't so tricky to mount Peirith, but the grace of the gravid queen's descent comes only through force of will.