"Thank you for inviting me to dinner." Urlene finished her glass of
wine as she looked at her bare plate, scraped clean of the roast that
had been offered. "I'm sorry it's taken me so long to actually have
dinner with you. I'm afraid I've been a bit busy in the infirmary and
I've been finding it hard to get any time for myself, to be honest."
"Don't worry about it. That's the downside to having a high rank,"
N'vanik said. "Though from what I gather you've always been a bit...
maybe over-devoted to your Craft."
"Over devoted?" She blinked, at first a bit offended, but then
considering it, could see why it would be said. "Well...if I hadn't
been I wouldn't be where I'm at now," She pointed out, with a curl of
her lips. "I'd rather think of it as being dedicated."
"True, and you've absolutely earned those knots." He saluted her with
his wine glass. "But it can't be the only thing in your life."
"Thank you." She returned the salute. "I do have my son now, " Urlene
replied, then frowned as she gave it further thought. "Honestly,
except for study, I don't do much else. "
"You said you don't really have any friends. Makes sense that you
don't have someone to pull you away to have some fun. . . _is_ there
anything you like to do for fun, or to relax?"
That brought a long silence as Urlene fiddled with the stem of her
wine glass. The past sixteen turns had been dedicated solely to her
crafting goals; everything else had been seen as nothing but a useless
distraction. Even relaxing by reading had been by reading or studying
Healer hides. Her brow furrowed as she spoke slowly. "I used to enjoy
riding, but it's rare that I do that now. I have to borrow a runner
from the stables here and something usually tends to come up that I
have to take care of. "
"You should take a day and go for a nice long ride," N'vanik said.
"Your fellow healers are perfectly capable of taking care of things
for _one_ day. Even me and Cyradis escape our duties from time to
time. The Weyrhealer can too."
Urlene tilted her head at N'vanik and finally, really smiled. "Can I
take that as an order, Weyrleader?" Her eyes glinted with good humor.
"It would certainly give me an excuse to have a good ride away from my
duties. What do you do to relax, if I might ask? You may have to give
me a few ideas to use."
It was good to see that smile. "I like to visit quiet places, which is
easy with a dragon. And I like to read."
"I suppose I could find a quiet place with a runner." Going on a
dragon was completely opposite of relaxation for her. "I imagine you
don't get an opportunity for that often, as busy as you are." She
sipped her wine. "How do you manage? Weyrleader, father, flying
Thread, diplomacy with other Weyrs and Holds... it seems like it would
be overwhelming. My life is pretty relaxed by comparison."
"Delegation," he said with a smile. "The first few months I was
drowning, trying to do everything. Trying to prove myself." With his
bad reputation and no real leadership experience, many people had
expected him to fail when he suddenly became Weyrleader. "But I
figured out what work I could push off to others, who I could lean on
to help me."
"Hmm...I'm slowly doing that, but it feels so..." She struggled to
find the right words, "difficult. I took on so much while I was a
journeyman. I wanted to do more, learn more, prove myself." She gave a
short huff of laughter. "Now, it feels odd to give duties I'm capable
of to others. My senior journeymen are quite capable and talented, but
sometimes I forget that they need to learn too now." Urlene allowed a
small smile. "I don't really lean on people, though...I suppose I'm
learning that too. Complete independence was always what I wanted, but
you're right. It can be very lonely."
"Shards, yes. I had different issues, different reasons, but I sure
did a lot of work cutting myself off from other people. I didn't
realize how lonely I was until I started letting people in." From the
time he Impressed he'd always had at least a few friends, and of
course there was Loseth, but he'd still been mostly isolated.
Urlene studied him with surprise. He seemed outgoing whenever she'd
noticed him, but honestly hadn't paid much attention to him before he
became Weyrleader. Even then, it was only because he led the Weyr; her
entire world had been the infirmary and purposefully _avoiding_
dragonriders unless they were sick or injured. which now seemed funny
considering that she shared a home with one and his weyrmate. "Are you
N'vanik thought about it. "I still have moments, I think maybe
everyone does. But not most of the time, no. I'm surrounded by people
who care about me, not just because I'm Weyrleader but me as a person.
And it's made life so much better." He was angry at himself sometimes
for spending so long mired in his own shite.
"I think I had so much trouble when I first came here because, " She
finished her wine. "well, I got propositioned so much. It was like
people, especially riders to be honest, only saw what I looked like
and that's all they were interested in." Her smile was a little
rueful. "I know how I look and I'm not arrogant about it. It's caused
me more problems than not. So, I just avoided people. You know, in the
entire time I've been here, I've never been swimming in the lake or in
the ocean? I don't like attracting that sort of attention."
"That's a shame. The Weyr offers freedom, and that includes the
freedom to say no. But I suppose you can't really stop people from
asking. Or looking." He considered her for a moment. "Riders can be a
shallow lot, I know. Especially now when we know we could die every
time we face Thread. If we see someone we want to bed, we just go for
"Yes, you all can be." Urlene nodded with a smile that attempted to
take the sting out of her agreement. "But not all.I suppose it's the
younger riders and weyrlings that are the boldest. I can understand
the behavior behind that now, especially since you're all exposed to
so much danger and chances of injury. But when I came here I wasn't
yet twenty turns old and I did have a bit of a grudge against men in
general. " Her lips quirked upwards. "Avoidance has become a bit of a
habit for me." She gestured at the table. "Before I was promoted, not
even a turn ago, I would have never had a private dinner with you. I
would have questioned an offer of friendship."
"I wouldn't blame you. I _do_ have a reputation as a ladies man, and
bronzeriders in general are known for chasing women. But despite your
many attractive qualities, I'm perfectly happy with a platonic
friendship." He shrugged. "It's nice to be able to relax around
someone, to know where you stand with them."
"I've heard of your reputation." There was a soft chuckle. "A great
deal about it. You've cut quite a swath, apparently." She wiped her
mouth with her napkin, then put it down. "Well, thank you. I think for
me it's a matter of being respected for the qualities I have besides
my looks and you've shown that, so thank you. It is nice to have a
pleasant conversation without that extra tension. I appreciate it."
"I didn't know what to expect from this. I was just trying to give you
a break because you deserve it, but I've really enjoyed your company."
He took a sip of wine. "Despite _your_ reputation, you're easy to talk
"I was trained to hold conversations," she admitted with a grin, "but
honestly, at the Hold, it was mostly about looking interested when
other Holders were discussing livestock, trade agreements, marriages,
that sort of thing. Frightfully boring." There was humor evident in
her eyes. "But I can promise you that I don't find you in the least
bit boring. So... we can agree that we find each other good company
and I'm not just a cold packtail and you're more than just a
bronzerider with a very healthy libido." She offered her wineglass in
a salute. "I like you, N'vanik, I sincerely do."
"I like you too, Urlene." He lifted his own glass. "To friendship."
"To friendship." Urlene agreed.
Last updated on the January 13th 2021