Picture An Egg (Nikolan is Searched)

Xanadu Weyr - Observation Level
Dark blue seats form a semi-circle around the sands below, the lowest row separated from the multicolored red and white sands by merely a railing. The seats climb upwards, each row a bit higher than the previous, and they are broken up into sections by three sets of staircases. Between the first and second section, a glass wall descends to separate the observers from the heat of the sands. Air is kept in motion through a set of fans, and so these seats are quieter and cooler than the rest… though the noise and heat of the sands is still present.
Lights are evenly spaced along the outer wall, lighting the seats and the sands easily, though they tend to be dimmed unless a major event is taking place. A large balcony overhead connects to the glass wall. Vents for cooling run along the bottom of it, and the ledge provides a place for observers of the draconic kind to watch without obstructing the view for others.
The sand below is variegated in hue, individual grains of red and white that have a pinkish hue when seen from across the circle of the hatching grounds but - up close over that railing - are clearly two varieties mingled.

It's late enough that the crowds admiring the eggs have thinned a bit, leaving Niko with an excellent vantage point near the Sands themselves. He hasn't gone so far as to set up camp; his tripod is present, though currently unused, but the lighting setup is absent. Camera poised before him, the young man ignores the curious stares of the few onlookers nearby as he prowls around the lower tiers, searching for that perfect sweet spot for each egg. The constant click of the shutter and whir of the film advancing mingles with the faint, everpresent hum of the fans.

Leirith is always ready for admiration of herself and the six little proto-badasses tucked in those shells. Always. Even now, as she takes a well-earned nap in what is quite possibly the least dignified position known to dragonkind. She's got her forepaws stretched out to one side, one hindpaw kind of stuck up into the air, and her neck twisted around so her head's almost upside down. She is, in fact, drooling. Also snoring. But the point is that she is comfortable, a fact that may also have something to do with how her other hindpaw - and tail - are draped against the smaller bronze beside her, his brindle hide variegated to match the sands. Garouth remains awake, even as Leirith sleeps, and those amber-flecked eyes keep a careful count of who comes and goes from the vicinity. Just because those crowds are there in the stands instead of actually down on the sands does not excuse them from that stare, the bronze's yellow-tinged gaze shifting to survey everyone. Don't make any funny moves, kid… but for all his wary attention, he's made little move to stir throughout the process. These humans are allowed on the stands… as long as they behave themselves. With the crowds thinning, his attention has come to Nikolan more often - or maybe that's just because technology being carried around might be suspicious. Either way, he hasn't moved for a while - at least, not beyond the small shifts of his head to observe and the occasional flick of his tail. His rider is a bit more active, at least at the moment, for D'lei leads the way up the steps with a small party - minor visiting holders from their knots, and from the way he sidles away through what remains of the crowd as soon as they step past him, just visitors who waylaid him instead of actually being his responsibility. There, now that he's lost them… aha! He recognizes that camera. Also that face, if we're going to get picky, but never mind that. For Nikolan he heads, hopping over the backs of seats to take a diagonal route through the rows.

R'az comes in from the ground level and he makes his way up towards the Observation Level. He's trying to be quite as he looks for a good place to sit. He spots Bikolan trying to find a good place to get a picture. He moves to find a spot and he goes to sit down. He gets that far away look as he looks out at the sands.

Absolutely nothing suspicious about a camera, nope. Not even when it's busy snapping pictures of queens lying in undignified - if comfortable - ways. What good is a shoot if you don't get a few good candids, yes? And, as… interesting?… as those six proto-badasses may be, they seem to lack the spontaneity - or personality - required for a really solid unstudied shot. As Nikolan works through the current roll of film, he swings the camera up and around, snapping a quick shot of some of the gallery-goers, to their surprised consternation. Ignoring the blustered questions from one officious man, the journeyman swings his viewfinder around, centering it unerringly on D'lei and snapping off a quick photo. Lowering the camera, he grins at the oncoming bronzerider. "Say cheese."

Smile, you're on Niko's camera! Which D'lei does, as he hops over a bench back, and then laughs at the instruction. "Just what is so appealing about cheese?" he asks with a grin. Another bench hop- wait, okay, he needs to walk over a few before he does the next row or he'll run into R'az and that would be sad - and then he finishes making his way down to the front. "Seriously, it like the beastcrafters snuck in one night and wrote it into the reference books just to get free marketing for their dairy products."

"Made you grin, didn't it? Absurdity at its finest." Lifting the camera, Nikolan eyes the film counter, then begins the process of winding the roll. "Three down. And who knows, maybe they did. Supposedly it's because saying that 'ee' in the middle makes you bare your teeth - frankly, I think it's just because you can't say cheese without wanting to laugh about how silly you feel saying it." Case in point, his own grin flashes as he speaks. Once the film is wound, he deftly flips open the camera back and palms the roll, exchanging it for a fresh one and tucking the finished one away in a small plastic case. His test shot is centered on R'az, and before the echo of the shutter snapping shut has echoed away, he turns towards the sands, barely suppressing a snicker. "Does she always do that, or does she know I'm here and purposely wanted to avoid a nice, tender shot?"

"Eeee," D'lei repeats, as if to test the sound. Sounding like a mournful wherry is only incidental! And also ridiculous, so he laughs again. "Could be the reason, I suppose. No more ridiculous than the saying it." He leans forward, resting his arms on the rail as he does, and surveys the sands that… he is quite familiar with, these days. And also the pair of dragons on them. "What, Leirith? Nah… she does all kinds of ridiculous things, it's not always this one." D'lei grins, turning his head to Nikolan from that view. "You might be out of luck when it comes to looking tender. Leirith's idea of romance is chasing someone across the field and sitting on them." His tone is fond for the gold, lack-of-dignity and all, and then he grins. "So what do you think?" he asks, a vague turn of one hand toward the sands.

"Like I said. Impossible to say without at least smiling." Niko slides a cap over the end of the camera's lens, then tucks the camera into the bag around his neck, moving up next to the bronzerider, and tucking his hands into his pockets as he surveys the sands thoughtfully. "I like the contrast of red and white. Most hatching grounds seem to be all gold or all white or all black - this one has some pop to it. Makes a nice background for the eggs." His eyes flicker over the scattered clutch, and he purses his lips. "They're quite the, uh… colorful bunch, aren't they?" That wasn't -quite- a wince.

D'lei nods, listening to Niko. "I doubt most dragons care," he says as far as those sands, "Or most riders notice, either." An aesthetic eye is maybe not the primary trait selected for in that popularion. "But yeah. It does." A nice background! And yet, all Nikolan can seem to come up with for the eggs is… colorful. D'lei's grin widens. "Colorful, huh? I think that counts as slightly better than saying that they're 'interesting'… but only slightly." He turns his own head to take another glance out, meeting eyes with his watchful dragon for a moment before looking back to Nikolan. "Though, they are that, too." He's still smiling, but it's less of a grin. "Interesting, I mean." A slight tilt of his head comes with a tone of mild question. "You ever thought about getting a closer look?"

"Well, they are interesting," Niko replies, with just a hint of defensiveness. "I mean, look at that one," and he gestures towards the plainest of the bunch. "Just glancing at it, it's all boring and fugly, but then, if you catch it just right, do you see the white? It softens the harshness of the gray. Or this one," and now he points towards one blotched with black. "From one perspective, simple ink stains on paper. From another, a whole 'nother world encapsulated in that shell. Interesting is a perfectly acceptable description." Blue-gray eyes slide sidelong D'lei-wards, sly and laughing. "Don't worry, I'll make Garuth's babies look all sorts of fascinating," better word? "when I get these developed." He lifts a hand to touch the camera, then drops it away, tilting his head curiously at the bronzerider. "Wouldn't they mind? I'd love to do a shoot up close - who knows what subtlty I'm missing from this distance?"

D'lei turns his gaze back toward the sands, leaning in closer to see that egg - not that he hasn't before, and from a closer perspective than this one, but… he hasn't seen it before with Niko talking, sharing a perspective on how he sees this one… and that. A slow nod, with a smile that's thoughtful as his gaze lingers. "I like interesting," he says in a tone that's a bit quieter, more considering. "It's not a bad word until someone makes it that way." D'lei's lips twitch to the side, and then he hehs, turning to face Niko again and lean with but one elbow against the rail. "They'd let you," he says easily. "I'll take you down sometime." He takes a moment, as if to look for words, and then… he grins. "You want to get the whole thing?" he asks. "The eggs, the barracks, the candidates at work and lessons… shells, the hatching if you want to risk a camera on it. All from that level." A gesture to the sands, below. "You could be an embedded photographer," he offers, and then he grins. "Or a candidate." The grin widens. "Same thing, really."

"Same with any word, really," Nikolan replies thoughtfully. "Except moist. You just can't pretty that one up," he adds with a delicate, and not entirely fake, shudder. "But, I like interesting, too. It's an important word in my line of work. No one's going to want to stare at a photo that isn't interesting. Beauty is all well and good, but it has to catch and hold the attention or all they'll do is glance and move on." He gazes down at the sands, eyes unfocused as he simply allows them to take it all in without processing any of it. "Huh. Inside reporter, eh? Behind the scenes at with Xanadu's Candidates. I bet I could get some great pictures for the Harper's Drum, maybe even try my hand at writing a nice article.. on.. huh?" The rest of D'lei's offer finally filters through, and he gapes at the bronzerider like a landed fish. "I beg your pardon?"

There's a grin for moist, a brief duck of D'lei's head as if to swallow a laugh (or whatever else), before he's nodding to the parts about things being interesting. "Worth studying." But then he's gone and offered a different kind of interesting. D'lei nods as Niko considers that opportunity for unusual photos, the chance to chronicle a process that many on Pern dream of and only a few experience. And… oh yeah… a chance to experience it! "Now I wish I had a camera," he says, with a grin that soon turns more serious - if not any less pleased. "You could be a candidate," he says, and he reaches to fish one hand into a pocket while that sinks in, to find a (somewhat crumpled) white knot and bring it out. "You might impress. You probably won't." His tone is matter of fact, because seriously, there are only six eggs down there. "Garouth says there's potential, and it's not like the rest of us-" aka the humans "-know how to tell if he's wrong. So… if you want that," the white knot, symbol of candidacy, is extended out in a palm. "You can have it. If not…" A grin. "I'll still get you in to take pictures of the eggs up close."

Nikolan regards that white knot warily - and, maybe, just a bit eagerly. "Huh," is all he says, but the glint in those storm-cloud eyes suggests that beneath the almost-calm exterior, the young man's mind is racing, considering all of the angles. "Well, then, if you promise me pictures," he murmurs, just a hint of irony in his voice as he lifts his gaze to meet the bronzerider's, even as he reaches out to deliberately pluck the knot from that outstretched palm. "Far be it for me to tell Garouth he's wrong. Man. Master's gonna flip his lid. Gonna need those pictures to keep him from having a herd of kittens, but it'll be worth it." Long, lean fingers clench around the knot, and storm-cloud eyes meet D'lei's, calm and decisive. "Why not?" he asks, almost rhetorically. "If nothing else, I'll get some amazing shots."

D'lei waits, palm and expression both stilled, steady, until… "I do indeed," he replies, with a flash of grin and then a laugh once the knot's been taken, tossing his head a bit as he leans back with his hand on the rail for balance, a sway in place before he comes back to upright again. "Tell him you don't get the good shots without taking some risks, whether that's frostbite or baby dragons," D'lei suggests. "But… yeah. I do think it'll be worth it for you." A smile, here. "You meet a lot of people who you'd never have reason to talk to otherwise… sometimes it seems like you've got nothing in common except that some dragon liked your faces." A crooked smile, there, and then a twitch of lips. "It's a fair bit like senior apprentice again. Don't get drunk and knock anyone out or up." There is probably a more official version of the rules, but this is not it. "Barracks was that door on the right as you came in, and…" Is he forgetting something? Probably, he's got a new baby at home and isn't sleeping much. "The weyrling staff helps out with candidates, so you'll see a lot of their faces." A grin. "Mine too, probably. You knew there had to be a downside."

"Damn," Niko replies mildly as the white knot joins the red one around his wrist. It'll probably migrate to his shoulder. Eventually. "And here I thought that tying myself to Xanadu was a surefire way to get away from you." The young man offers the bronzerider a slow, lazy grin. "I remember - vaguely - what it was like to be an apprentice. If nothing else, communal living'll probably jog my memory a bit." He wrinkles his nose, then snorts softly, closing the latch on his camera case and scooping up his tripod, deftly closing it up. "Suppose there's no time like the present to settle in and meet my new best friends, hey? See you around. Unfortunately," he adds, with a hint of teasing laughter.

"You're not the first to think that," D'lei replies in a dry tone. "But, now you know." He grins… at least briefly; it turns to a wry smile of sympathy for the return to Hearing Everyone Snore, and he nods. "It'll come back to you. Did for me, anyhow." And he survived! So that's probably promising. But for now… D'lei grins again, and lifts his hand in a wave of farewell. "See you around, like it or not."

"Sucks to be me. Or you. Or something," is Niko's parting shot over his shoulder as he winds his way off of the observation level and in the direction given. "Later!"

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