Greeting the Thunder

Xanadu Weyr - Caverns
A massive cavern in its own right, this one has been skillfully adapted for human habitation. The high ceilings have been painted a light, soft ivory, as have walls hung with numerous tapestries that provide brilliant color and insulation from the stone. The floor has been left in its natural state, pale pink granite speckled through with glittering mica and dark flecks of basalt. The stone is carefully leveled but kept sufficiently rough to avoid slips.
The cavern itself is loosely divided into areas, each one set up to be suitable for some segment of the Weyr's population. The most frequently occupied area is the one near the Kitchens, where tables of varying sizes provide a place to sit down and eat or chat and a buffet of consumables is almost always kept stocked. It's plain that on most days, this area wouldn't accommodate anywhere near the full population of the Weyr, instead feeding people in shifts as they come off duty. On occasions when a formal meal is laid out, tables are borrowed from all the other areas.
There's also a big fireplace set into the western wall, several comfortable chairs nearby providing haunts for elderly residents or riders who like a good view of all that happens. Rugs cover the floor in strategic spots, all of them abstract or geometric in design and most in the softly neutral colors of undyed wool.
Exits lead off in all directions, the largest an archway to the northeast that leads outside. Near it there's an alcove with hooks for coats and shelves for muddy boots. A tunnel to the east goes to the infirmary, and a set of stairs just a little south of that lead up to the offices and administration area. To the south, a long and sloping tunnel leads down to the hot springs. The kitchen is off to the southwest, while the residents' quarters are reached by tunnels going west, deeper into the cliff.

Summer can't be all clear skies and soft breezes. It's raining today - the sort of rain that can't quite make up its mind whether it's just a drizzle or it wants to turn into a storm. Every so often it makes the attempt, a few gusts of wind and heavier droplets before it runs out of energy and reverts to downward-sliding mist that makes sure everything in Xanadu is rather… moist. That includes D'lei, who has a streak of wet running along the front and back of his shirt where it got past the jacket he's hanging on a chair set in front of the fireplace.

Water glistening in his russet curls, Nikolan darts into the caverns from outside, protectively clasping his camera case against his side. Once out of the drizzle, he skids to a halt, narrowly missing bowling into a pair of riders as he draws in a breath. Storm-blue eyes dart around the room, studying the gathered weyrfolk and riders, and his fingers visibly twitch against the case. Masterfully suppressing the urge to document the homey scene, instead the techie - no, Candidate - slips through the throng, edging towards the fireplace and an all-too-familiar face. "You're stalking me, aren't you?" he asks D'lei without preamble as he plants himself near the fire, closing his eyes as the heat plays over him. Nevermind the bronzerider was here first, this time.

D'lei tilts his head to look at Nikolan. "Garouth'd tell you that I'm doing a bad job of it, if so," he says with a grin. "I keep being caught, after all." One shoulder lifts in a rolled shrug, and then he looks back to his jacket again to make sure that it probably isn't going to fall off before he sits down on the chair, sideways so that his front and back can both become equally not-dried by the heat that his jacket shields him from. Or to face toward Niko, either way.
"What can I say? I'm trained to spot nuances. And nuisances." Keep on believing that, Niko. Peering around, the young man hooks a chair with his foot, swinging it away from its table and spinning it around so that he can straddle the back, keeping his profile to the fire while regarding D'lei thoughtfully. "Any second thoughts?" he asks, a grin quirking his lips as he jerks his wrist to indicate the knot that should be on his shoulder, but instead is doing double-duty as a rather off-white bracelet.

KABOOOOOM! IS THERE THUNDER? THERE IS NOW. Or… well, okay. Maybe that's just Leirith, and maybe that's just Risali throwing open the doors and stalking through them looking more akin to a drowned cat than a human being. Her hair is down and clinging to everything: her face, her lips, her shoulders, her jacket, her arms, her back. She's dripping water, slipping in puddles that other RUDELY WET PEOPLE HAVE MADE, and looking all the more indignant for it. FURY, THEY NAME IS RISALI. And here she comes, with a squelching STOMP STOMP STOMP (and a soundtrack of BOOM BOOM BADUMDUM BABOOOOOOM!) right over to D'lei and Nikolan. Don't mind her, she's just GATHERING UP ALL OF HER HAIR, and RINGING IT OUT ON D'LEI. Because she's RUDE. "This is your fault somehow," she tells him, half misery, half joking, half mischief because look at her wringing out her hair on the poor bronzerider. THIS IS HOW WE MAKE FRIENDS, CLASS. And then her hands are on her hips, grey eyes sliding away from assaulted 'mate to soon-to-be-assaulted Journeydate (like a journeyman candidate, GET IT? IT MADE SENSE IN MY HEAD SHUT UP) with a blink and a righting of her posture (and maybe a wince, though that might just be because she is in PAIN and not because she's repentant about her behavior). "Uh," she says, rather intelligently. "Hello." And there's a smile. The kind that looks painful in application as she flings back a hand to smack D'lei's upper arm. A BID FOR INTRODUCTIONS, PERHAPS? "It's wet." SHE'S SO GOOD AT CONVERSATION, YA'LL.

"Well, you could say that," is D'lei's not-very-considered response. "Could have kept it as a secret advantage, too, but maybe it's a show of strength that you don't even mind revealing it." Such complicated verbal chess they play! Layers within layers. Like an onion. D'lei's gaze flicks to that knotted knot, and then as he looks back to Niko. "Oh, definitely. Third ones, too." He grins. "Told 'em to make the sheets extra scratchy, too, and yet… you're still here." An arch of brows, as if to ask just what is going on here, but then… Risali. A wild storm of water and hair comes, and she makes sure that the bits of D'lei that aren't already soaked become so. "Heh. It's hurricane season in Monaco?" he offers, as if to explain just exactly why it is his fault. A hand comes up to rest at Risali's back as she discovers the circumstances, and he grins. "Risa, this is Nikolan. He's one of our candidates." A slight move of hand, as if to show the person she already saw and smacked him for. "And this," right here, dripping and wild, "is Risali, she of Leirith the Undignified Sleeper." New title, very official.

Water! Hair! Harp- no, no, wrong word. Loud noises! Chair legs scrape against stone as Nikolan prudently eases his chair back, out of smacking range if not shower range and offers a bright smile to the incoming weyrwoman. "Hello, ma'am," he greets, not quite going so far as to rise or anything. He's comfortable, if perhaps a bit wetter than when all of this started. That's what the fire's for, natch. Storm-fed eyes slide back to D'lei, and his polite smile turns cheeky, dimple winking in one cheek. "Oh, I was supposed to sleep in my own bed last night?" he asks innocently, eyes glinting. "My bad, I'll fix that… later." At least he's not reaching for his camera to document this lovely scene of domestic bliss. Yet.

"Shut up, D'lei," Risali says, words laden with the kind of exasperation one reserves for those special purveyors of long-suffering sighs. But acerbic vocabulistics are curbed by the hint of a smile and an adoring sideways glance for the bronzerider in question, a scrunching of her nose before grey eyes shift back to Nikolan for the duration of that introduction and she just stands there for a long moment. Dripping at him. He called her ma'am. SIT TIGHT, NIKOLAN. She will beat you into submission in just a moment. For now… "You just had to say, 'candidate,' didn't you?" And Risali is bringing up one hand to the bridge of her nose, pinching as she exhales and counts. "One." BADUM. "Two." BABOOM. "Three." AND AS IF ON CUE, there most definitely IS a massive golden (okay, so it's more mustard than gold but A QUEEN CAN DREAM) snout attempting to wedge its way in through the door. That might be a talon, and a little bit of a forepaw (think cats when you lock them out of a room and they try to cat their way beneath that little gap beneath the door). « MINION! IT IS THE ONE GAROUTH TOLD ME ABOUT. » Giddy, exuberant joy, literally overflowing into the minds of everybody who is receptive enough to hear her. It's not just Risali who looks like she might be going deaf. Several people cast wary glances doors-wise… but are probably used to having Leirith in their heads by this point, so do nothing. And for D'lei? « I BET YOU WANT SAY THAT TO MY FACE. AHAHAHAA. » Somehow she manages to make it sound less like a threat, and more like something she finds hilarious. Risali's stepping away from D'lei and the comfort of that hand at her back, booted feet carrying her toward Nikolan in a manner that's… tender and slow, all things considered. "Risali," she breathes out. "Just Risali." And she's extending one hand, using the other to hook a thumb towards Leirith. "That's apparently Leirith the Undignified Sleeper. Well met, and welcome." The subtext might be RUN WHILE YOU STILL CAN. "And if you call me ma'am again, you won't have a bed. Or anybody else's to share." SMILE. She's winning at this people thing (but it's mostly sarcasm, don't worry).

The corner of D'lei's mouth quirks at the 'ma'am' he hears from Niko, an amused sort of wince. Then again, it's not like he didn't make a verbal mistake himself. The C-word! …because around this time, Leirith is as fond of it as she is her B-word. "…welp," D'lei says, and the quirk turns to a full wry grin by the time the count-in is finished and the song begins. Where by song we mean Leirith. D'lei leans back in his chair, pointing his face to the door even though he speaks at normal volume. "Dignity just means holding back." That rejoinder made, his head turns back to Niko again. "So how about you?" he asks the tech-to-Leirith-bait-I-mean-candidate, and grins. "Any second thoughts?"

Outward calm is breeched by mental intrusion, and Nikolan's eyes cross, a distinctly wild and trapped expression screaming in the distance even as he struggles to maintain some semblence of chill in the face of Risali's matching dragon. "Ah - haaa," he breathes out slowly, and wood scrapes on stone as he eases back again, one painful centimeter at a time. "My… apologies, Risali. I'll remember that." He won't even try. He simply WILL, by sheer force of… well, will. "I'm sorry," he remarks weakly to D'lei, turning dazed and still slightly out-of-sync grey eyes on the bronzerider, "am I supposed to have thoughts? I think I lost them somewhere between then and now." He's probably supposed to shake that hand, or something, but all he can do is regard Risali's outstretched fingers as though they were a live wire.

One, two, three. "Okay, Leirith. You are breaking him." « THAT IS NOT VERY BADASS MINION. » Risali's making a face, dropping her hand to her side and giving Nikolan a faint smile of what might be sympathy, even as he addresses D'lei and the goldrider shifts to look at her weyrmate. A roll of those shoulders up, some kind of defeat in the set of them as she exhales, "Well, it was nice to meet you. Hang in there, Nikolan. It only gets worse." But she's moving, a slow movement that carries her first to D'lei (a hand on a shoulder, a bend at the waist as lips find his temple and she straightens), and then she's throwing her hands out in a sweeping motion towards the door. "Alright, get out, get out." « BUT MINION, I WANT TO MEET THIS ONE. » Slow going, but she reaches the door, bapping a snout in a manner that sets bass and drums to a heady beat of what's probably laughter. "Out." And finally Leirith does unwedge herself - but not without one last taunt for D'lei. « TOLD YOU THAT YOU WOULD NOT SAY IT TO MY FACE! » MOOAHAHAHA. VICTORY. Or so she would have you believe. At least that bombastic personality seems to withdraw from the minds of all those present, disappearing along with Risali as she herds her lifemate back to the sands.

"They return eventually," D'lei says of those lost thoughts. "Well. Most of the time, anyhow. There's a few cases where they just… never quite come back. Whether or not that's a good thing…" He spreads his palms to the sides and shrugs. Really, who can say what's good for brains and the people who allegedly have them? It's certainly Leirith if you ask her, though likely not if you ask literally anyone else. D'lei slides his arms around Risali a moment as she steps closer, a squeeze and press before she's gone again and so is Leirith. Mostly. "I faced facts instead," he retorts, which makes no sense and thus probably means that Leirith did win. For… whatever that means? Or doesn't. Or… "So yeah," D'lei says as he turns back to Nikolan. He rests an elbow on the back of his chair, his head against the elbow. "If you manage to get a tender and dignified photo out of her, I will be amazed and nominate you for Master immediately."

Nikolan's eyes narrow as the head-invasion - and resulting headache - recede in the wake of Risali and Leirith's departure. He doesn't respond immediately to D'lei, instead watching queenrider and gold leave, expression less admiring and more thoughtful, then turns back. "While I'm not sure a nomination from you would do me a whole lot of good, I imagine I could think of one or two things I might be able to do with more right now. Don't you two," and he jerks his thumb between bronzerider and now-absent gold, "have a new kid? Staged shoots aren't exactly my favorite, but I'll do 'em in a pinch. Might be nice to have a family photo or two lying around, for posterity's sake." Or five or six, but most of those will be 'which funky face is D'lei making this time?'.

Okay, yes, admittedly a nomination from a dragon-bound journeyman doesn't count for much of anything here, D'lei acknowledges with a wave of his hand, and sure, D'lei himself probably counts as even less than that given what some of the Masters still remember him for, but he's just going to brush all that aside with airy motions of his hand before he nods to facts he's willing to agree with. "We do - though it's us three, really. You haven't met K'vir." Just gotta make it complicated, apparently. "Kyriel's still got egg goo," or would if he were a dragon, "and Selene's a turn and a half." Aka old enough to get into trouble. "So, maybe not Leirith levels of challenge, but we could probably keep it from being too boring a picture."

One slow blink at the introduction of a third weyrmate, and Nikolan's gaze sharpens as he appraises the bronzerider. When he does respond, however, it is simply to say, "Three parents should," and from his dry tone, he doubts, "have a better than average chance of keeping their spawn under control long enough for a tender family photograph." He doesn't believe his words any more than he clearly expects D'lei to. Crossing his arms along the chair back and propping his chin upon them, he keeps his eyes steady on his companion, mulling over the possibilities. "You arrange a time and place where the lot of you can be together, and I'll be there. As I understand, my chores mostly consist of craft duties - although, for me, sorely curtailed." He can't exactly go galavanting all over Pern right now, now can he? "It's all in the name of doing my duty, naturally."

D'lei offers no further explanation, just letting Nikolan take his moment to re-process. As for their chances… "Oh, definitely," he agrees in a rather similar tone. "One in four, maybe? Or… wait, no, Selene's been teething. We're back to one in eight." He is attempting to be a realist, here. "Still. Won't know unless we try!" …optimism wins out! "Yeah, I'll send you an official summons once we sort out a time." Because hey, it's not like the candidate is going to have the difficult schedule, here. "I like the crafts thing here," D'lei muses. "When I was a candidate, it was scrubbing this, shoveling that, and seeing how many miles I could run before I fell over."

If Nikolan has any opinion on D'lei's family, he keeps it tucked away, betraying nothing in voice or expression. "I firmly believe from the ages of one to four, every child magically multiplies into four, only one of which you see at any given time. It's the only explanation I can offer as to why a three-year old can stay awake after spending all bloody day running around and screaming at the top of his lungs." Someone has personal experience with this, it seems. As D'lei describes his own candidacy, the younger man's face shifts to an expression of sympathy. "How terrible. Physical labor? Don't they know that's so pass? Really, the current rage is to simply bombard your minions' minds to a pulp and slowly rebuild them, one command at a time." Oh, so the Tech Craft did perfect its Mental Recombobulator.

D'lei takes a moment to consider on this theory of Childhood Superpositioning, then nods. "Would make sense," he says. "And it also explains how you can set them down with a toy one minute and find them across the room and breaking something the next. They just switched which one's active." It makes so much sense, really. That, or it's the sleep deprivation talking, but regardless. Just because mistakes have been made, that doesn't mean they can't move on! D'lei laughs to Nikolan, "So what you're telling me is, Leirith is right with the current trends and hottest new techniques in training." All natural genetic engineering at work!

"Oh yes," Nikolan replies fervently, his teeth flashing in a bright grin. "She's clearly read up on the research, because she was spot on first time out." He snorts against his arm, eyes twinkling. "I have a few younger siblings - mom has two, dad has one - that I know of - and I've been known to be pressed into babysitting once or twice." Daily. "I figure they're either multiplying and switching, or else we humans learn how to *between* as toddlers and forget it about the same time we start to understand that, yes, fire is hot and it is not, in fact, fun to touch a live wire." He pauses, then amends, "Well, it's only fun in certain situations."

D'lei chuckles as he listens, with a nod for the counts - neatly separated out, which is hardly a surprise but is something to note - and then a grin. "Could be both," he says. "Maybe that's all betweening is, just figuring out how to hop yourself to a different version of you that left a month beforehand." A spread-handed shrug, and then another grin. "Fun is another of those words that can mean a whole lot of things. The least fun live wire I ever saw was when a storm broke one of the power cables heading out of a hydro dam. Cord as thick as a wrist, just flailing around and sparking into the sky trying to compete with the lightning."

Paling by degrees at D'lei's description of the live wire, Nikolan shudders, eyes going opaque. "That sounds," he replies, a bit hoarsely, "absolutely terrifying. There are times when a touch of electricity can improve a mood, but that - that just sounds like a very bad time for everyone involved." His lean shoulders twitch slightly in time with his long fingers, as though responding to their own jolt. "Okay, now that you've put that in my head, definitely not sleeping in my own bed tonight." Stormy gaze sharpens, focusing on the bronzerider once more. "You're not originally from Xanadu, right? I seem to recall… How much do you know about," and his slender fingers flicker outward, indicating everywhere and nowhere at once, "this whole place?"

"Yep!" Sheer terror, and unlike some he might tell the story to, Nikolan knows enough to truly appreciate the levels of NOPE that are involved in that tale. "At least nobody got caught and it wasn't in-Weyr." Because things can always be worse. Or better. D'lei glances down to his jacket again, then back up to Niko with a heh. "Originally I'm from Paradise River Hold," he answers. "Landing while I apprenticed, then a posting here," a point down to the floor of Xanadu, "before I was searched to Monaco. Impressed, stayed a while, came back… well, quite a few times, but only recently to actually stay. So…" A grin, and a shrug to go with. "I know some of the things?"

"Where would you recommend for some good natural shots?" Nikolan gives a lazy grin. "I'll explore, but it'll go easier if you know of some sights to keep an eye out for. The less civilized," he adds, "the better. I like people and I like taking pictures of 'em, but my master prefers the raw wild, and I have a feeling this," he rattles his wrist, sending the white cords spinning, "will go over better if I can get in some good nature runs." Not that he has any illusions that it will go over terribly well at all - but at least it'll probably be D'lei who comes under fire, rather than the sweet, innocent, impressionable young journeyman so cruely co-opted into slavery at the Weyr. Or something.

D'lei huhs, with a nod as Nikolan explains what he's looking for as the two sit near the fire in an attempt to dry off from a Very Rainy Day. His head tilts back a bit, a thoughtful look that… is derailed, at least for a moment, at the reminder of just how it is that this news is likely to be received. "It's the dragons, causing trouble and ruination for good journeymen who respect their elders," he says with an expression far too somber to actually be serious. "Worse than firelizards, they are!" …and really, he's lucky that Leirith isn't here to hear him. But, she isn't, which means D'lei does actually get to return to the question already asked. "There's some places out along the shore with cliffs and tumbled rocks that might suit… once you get away from the convenient parts of the beach, anyhow. There's a waterfall out in the forest, but it's rather a hike and the footing's not great." A wry smile. "Neither are the trail markers." So maybe not the best idea, but what could go wrong wandering in the woods? "Oh, and if you're up for the hike, there's some nice rugged hills and roaming herds over in the direction of Elysian Field Hold."

Nikolan flexes his guns. Or would, if his arms weren't still crossed over the back of the chair and pinned down by the weight of his big, fat head. Instead, his shirt just kind of - twitches - in the general vicinity of his biceps. "Fear me, for I am athletic. Or, natural. Or whatever the kids call it these days. A hike doesn't scare me, unless it's into the depths of the 'Reaches in search of the perfect snowfall. Then I might fear. Just a little bit. But only because I know exactly what to expect." Niko muses - or broods - at D'lei as he considers the bronzerider's suggestions. "Might try that waterfall. And the herds. Can't go wrong with a nice buccolic scene - sells well to the smallholders. They seem to like sticking them up all over their holds. Just stay away from the Hall until I get a few developed, and you can run 'em in for me. Make nice with my Master and all." Beam.

"Fear you, for you know how to put one foot in front of the other and not fall down?" D'lei suggests with a light tone, then nods. "Let someone know when you're heading out. It'll let us know where to send the rescue wings." A grin, for that, though he's not actually entirely joking. As for being a photo-messenger… "Hmm. Do I get to bring Leirith?" Because showing up on a queen will confuse the hall, and then that particular queen will stun them, and D'lei could just deliver the photos and walk away before anyone recovered enough to ask questions!

"D'lei, if you manage to figure out how, feel free to bring an entire wing," Nikolan replies mildly - and, perhaps with just a hint of taunt. Is he daring the bronzerider to take a wing of dragons just to deliver a few photos to his Master? Probably. "I promise, I'll leave a note. A great big one, in pretty colors. I might even leave it in my own bed." For all of the light, teasing mockery in the candidate's words, his own expression suggests he isn't particularly joking, either. At this point, not only is he dry, he's actually fairly toasty - and heading towards roasty. With a groan, the journeyman shoves himself up, kicking the chair aside, then catching it on an ankle to swing it neatly back into place behind him. "Okay. I should probably go and do… Candidate… things. Whatever those are." Two fingers flick against his forehead in some kind of salute. "See you around, I'm certain of it."

"If only my wing were still returning my firelizard notes," D'lei replies, the tone trying for a jest but not entirely hiding a touch of something actually rueful… but he'll not dwell on that. "I don't know, the note might actually be better in someone else's bed. That way, they'll have an easier time finding it." Assuming they actually sleep in their own bed, but… details! And not D'lei's concern, either. He tilts his head up to follow Nikolan as he rises, and then… "Heh. Probably a good idea, that. Find a weyrlingmaster to convince that you belong there so they'll give you dinner. If you're lucky, you might even manage dessert." His own hand lifts in something ambiguous between salute and wave. "I'll try to stalk better."

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