People, Dragons and Dens - oh my!
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Xanadu Weyr - Forest's Edge

While the forest is thick for a long while, in time it begins to thin, as the ground becomes rockier to the south western stretches of the Weyr's land. The trees are further apart, and the rocks become larger, before rocky outcroppings seem to be more prevalent than the trees around them. As the hills begin to gain in height, the shruberry upon them become more stunted.
The small cave that was opening up by an Earthquake has been widened, the initially small opening turned into one large enough for whers and humans alike, and the carefully placed support beams can be seen in the opening. Outside, it seems that more construction is due to begin, given the building materials currently being stockpiled.


Turnover Eve is a big day all across Pern, and at a major Weyr like Xanadu the chaos is only intensified. Bustling cooks, Harpers rehearsing, the Headwoman and her staff decorating; anyone without a clear purpose has been dragged in to help. So there are little knots of people here and there hiding out, others trying their very best to look busier than they are, and even here in the relative seclusion, the sounds of laughter and conversation is brought in on the breeze. Matrin makes no such efforts at maintaining the right appearances. He's lounging on a log, whittling a stick into… a narrower stick (no one said he should have been a woodcrafter) and casting frequent squinting looks into the forest's shadows expectantly.

For a time there is nothing to be seen but trees, underbrush and wild weeds, the forest silent save for the occasional hum of insects or whisper of breeze-stirred foliage. The trail, made wider by the recent excavations of the forest sinkhole yonder, is empty. Then from behind the spot where Matrin is sitting a long pole slowly and soundlessly emerges from the cloak of greenery aimed for a gentle prod at the center of the harpers back. Should it make contact, it'll be withdrawn so that by the time the harper turns around, he'll see Gabit, lean shoulder propped against a tree trunk with a smirk on his face, but sharp eyes sweeping the area. "Back home we cut 'em before they grow too thick. Saves a fella's blade, y'know?"

If they had shown up an hour earlier, Matrin might have been paying attention enough to hear some small sound or detect a shift in the air that would let him know of Gabit's approach. Or maybe he did know and he was just playing dumb so Gabit could feel superior. Let's allow Matrin to pretend that one of those might be even a little bit possible, even if in truth he startles visibly and reaches to swat the nimble staff away as he turns with a grin. "It's supposed to be a soothing way to pass the time," he drawls, and flicks the ridged and uneven bit of stick out into the trees. "I am assuming the journey was uneventful." Standing, he brushes his hands off on his pants and tips his head to look around Gabit for the rest of the expected 'party'.

Gabit's snort seems to be all the reply he's going to give to Matrin's claim before he lifts his chin and whistles a weird birdlike call, the liquid notes floating hauntingly on the bit of breeze there is. It's really only a few seconds before miah, backpack slung across her shoulders, melts into sight a few paces off. She too gives the area a thorough sweep but she's walking towards them as she does so. "Aye, uneventful. Though ya want soothin', come learn to pop fish sometime." At least Gabit doesn't laugh at Matrin's jumping, even steps aside as his cousin draws up. "This's as far as I go. I'll be around though." Both Mire Holders give wary glances towards the Weyr as a spate of the merry calls and laughter float their way. Mishkia's smile is fleeting but genuine. "Here I be- am. I'm here and hello again Matrin. Gabit, I'll be in touch."

Matrin listens to the way those notes slide off of Gabit's lips with raised brows and more than a bit of interest. But then Mishkia appears and he has a wide smile for her and a nod of greeting. "Welcome. You picked an interesting day to arrive, and I apologize for not thinking of it before. There's a big party planned for Turnover tonight." He turns his eyes to Gabit then and the smile lingers through, "You're welcome to stay for it too. No mudbugs or… popped fish," the last said quizzically and after a pause. "But there should be lots of good food and dancing." He doesn't burden Gabit with too much pressure, crossing over to reach a hand out for Mishkia instead. "Hello again, and good to see you. Can I take your bag?"

"We celebrate Turnover with a gathering like that too!" Mishkia sounds delighted, but really. She has noooooo idea. Gabit merely shakes his head, declining the invitation, instead giving Matrin a somber, level look, "Take care a' her." It's as close as he'll come to saying he trusts the harper and he'll deny it if he's asked! He doesn't linger - at least where he can be seen, but fades into the woods as silently as he came out of it, pole in hand. As for his cousin, she dips a shoulder, slides the pack off and hands it over to Matrin with a grateful, if semi-apprehensive smile. Strains of music, faint notes from harpers tuning their instruments, some hammering prompts her brows to twitch as she shifts uneasily. As though she is trying to convince herself, "It sounds busy. That's… like home."

Matrin's grin quirks lopsided at Mishkia's obvious excitement, and he doesn't burst her happy little bubble even though the picture in his head of any sort of gathering out at Mire Hold can't come close to the hubbub happening in the meadow. It lingers through the flick of bright blue eyes to Gabit, but fades into something more serious as he dips a firm, somber nod to the young man. "You have my word," he murmurs to the departing holder. Then it's back to brightness and optimism as he swings Mishkia's pack up over his own shoulder. "It is busy, but just remember this is one of the busiest nights of the year. It might be a little chaotic but it isn't always this way. And we'll find a quiet spot if you need one, alright?" Encouraging, his smile as he offers her his elbow. "I got a cottage ready for you. It's small but it's a little secluded and I think you'll like it."

"I'll be back," is the disembodied promise from the thicket where the holder lad has gone. If you feel like you're being watched over the next several hours Matrin? It's Gabit. No doubt he'll be keeping an eye out to make sure Mishkia is settled. The casual departure between cousins may be telling that Mishkia knows he will be in the area for several days and she'll see him before he heads back into the swamps, though she says nothing about that. As she takes Matrin's offered elbow, her smile up at him is a little baffled. "A cottage. Doesn't… everyone live in those?" Busy, yes her expression seems to take that in stride. "There's a flurry of baking to do, chores to finish before we can sing and dance too." Survival habits die hard and thus between glances at him as he speaks, she's surveying their surroundings as they walk along - at least of the way ahead and behind. It's when a large shadow flashes overhead in a glide that grazes the treetops, that her lack of scanning the skies is made apparent. The huge brown dragon passes so close that the sound of wind rushing over his wings, rattling his membranes is clearly heard, loud in this relative peaceful spot. And Mishkia? She doesn't make a peep but silently hits the dirt, landing on her belly while trying to get a glimpse of the airborne menace.

Matrin lifts two fingers to his brow as if he is tipping a hat at that disembodied voice, but he has no hat to tip, so it's just the gesture. His pace is slow, allowing for Mishkia's alert appraisal of their surroundings. "No," is gentle and instructing in tone and he continues, "Some live in the caverns, a few of the dragonriders actually live in weyrs which are caves up on the cliffside. And most of the non-ranking residents live all together in dorms." He gives the hand on his arm a little pat but his voice is nonchalant as he adds, "I didn't think you'd like being away from the outdoors that way, but if you'd prefer that just let me know." He is about to reply to the busy happenings of the day when suddenly the hand is no longer on his arm and his visitor is prone in the dirt beside him. He drops easily into a crouch, clearing his throat and laying a hand on her arm. "It's alright, that's just a dragon. They can be unsettling, but there are hundreds of them here and they fly low frequently so… just realize there's no danger. You will get used to them." Brows up, he offers her a hand.

Mishkia's grey eyes are wide as she turns them from the now sunlit-dappled treetops back to him and her slow-to-clear startled expression turns sheepish. Accepting that hand up, she regains her feet with a low laugh of chagrin. "Dragons. Of course. I knew that, yeah." Besides people and harpers, yep. Her head tips forward as her hand swipes a time or two across her tunic and trous, her hair sliding forward as she does so only partially shields her expression of dismay. Hundreds! Shards. Further off there's a roar answered with a higher-pitched bugle and she flinches briefly, "Hopefully sooner than later. But caves?" She shudders slightly, "I don't know how they stand that. A cottage will be wonderful. Where is it?"

Matrin is quick to shake his head and tuck a bit of that auburn hair back behind Mishkia's ear. "Hey, it's alright. You've only ever seen one small careful green at a time. They can be overwhelming. The golds still kind of intimidate me, and I've ridden a fair number of the smaller ones. Just remember they aren't like beasts - they're smart and linked with humans." He says it like he knows it isn't enough to make it better, not really, but starts back down the path again. "Not far from here, actually, in the trees. I thought we could drop your things off then walk up to the main caverns so you can see how to get there. Maybe grab a bite to eat?"

Mishkia's cheeks color slightly as Matrin's fingertips graze her ear. She smiles though, murmurs a thanks and steps along with him though her stride is a touch less confident than before. Her head turns this way and that curiously now seeking to get a glimpse of the great beasts, no doubt. "Mmhm, I remember the harper teachings about that bond, though sharing it rather than hearing about it is, I'm sure, an altogether different thing. Seeing them sure is." He gets a look then, bright with curiosity upon mentioning he's ridden one. Yes, he came to her hold on one and she knows he's ridden Alosynth. "I have no idea what that's like, but come to think of it, mattress surfing must have been tame by comparison." As for food, her stomach rumbles - what nice timing! Her eyes crinkle with humor, "I could use a bite to eat, yeah."

Matrin doesn't jerk his arm away this time, though his gaze slips to the hint of rose climbing into her cheeks, and his smile deepens a little. "Mmm," he allows with an easy roll of his shoulders. "I am sure even the best Harper would have a hard time really putting that sort of bond into words. I just meant to remember that they are… civilized?" He tries that word out with an arched brow and a shrug that says he hasn't quite hit it right. "They won't eat you." There, that's better. He nudges her lightl with his shoulder and directs her toward the cottage claimed for her. "There it is. Go ahead and get settled. There's wash water that's fresh if not warm by this point, and I'll wait here to guide you up to lunch."

A rustling of heavy cloth marks the emergence of one large miner from one of the wher dens that are scattered about the forest's edge. Derin lets the heavy cloth fall back over the opening and stretches mightily, he's got bed head and looks to still be half-asleep, obviously just rousing from a good day's sleep.

"I'll try to remember," Mishkia promises laughingly, though by the sounds of it, she's well aware there are going to be some slip-ups until it becomes ingrained. She stops when he does and peers down the turn-off to the place indicated as hers. "Oh how pretty!" She's eyeing the moss-covered walkway, flanked thickly be ferns, bending a little to see past the willows sweeping the tops of them and catching a glimpse of a stone cot secluded in the shadows beyond. Just as she's about to step that way, the sounds of Derin's cloth rustling has her turning to find the source. Her face is a comical mix of bewilderment and mild consternation. "Did you just… crawl out of that hole?" Flashing a look to Matrin that's almost accusing, "You didn't tell me they live underground here also."

For Mishkia's lack of confidence - a marked contrast from her bearing back home at Mire Hold - Matrin just flashes her a crooked grin and a bit of a wink. He is as sure that she will get along as she is unsure. Her pleased exclamation has his smile deepening and he starts to gesture her foreward when Derin appears. He gives the miner a nod and a wave, but Mishkia's unique summation of the situation has him chuckling outright. "I suppose he did at that. Derin's a wher handler, and the whers are very light sensitive so they tend to live in dens." A see-saw waggle of his hand speaks to the not-quite-accuracy of that statement and he nods to Derin. "He could explain better, but it's not just a…hole."

Derin is a ground-dweller! Well, isn't that what all Miners are, though, if you think about it? Of course, Derin is kind of taken by surprise as he spots the pair so nearby the wher dens. Matrin is offered the slightest of finger wiggles in greeting, and Mishkia is eyed briefly. "S'not a hole. S'mine an' m'blue's den. It jus' looks like a hole from th'outside cause we try ta keep it dark inside fer 'im." He does offer the unfamiliar woman a grin, though. "We're like..th'opposite of dragonriders. Only we bond t'dark-dwelling growth-stunted dragonkin that kin only work at night or deep in th'mines."

Mishkia flickers uncertain glances between Matrin and Derin, her smile bordering on tentative as first the harper, then the miner explain. Her grey eyes focus on the miner's lips and it's clear she's trying to lip-read in order to augment what she's hearing of the young man's rough accent, squinting a touch in concentration. Her own accent is different than his, but just as thick when she drawls, "Den sounds an awful lot like a hole to me, especially if your floor and walls are made of dirt." And how ironic is it that the newcomer, she who lives surrounded by bubbling, fermenting swamp ooze adds, "I'd think the dirt smell would be strong in there, too. And what do you do when it rains a lot?" Forthright and outspoken is Mishkia, but she means no offense. Completely curious, she's eyeing the curtain then Darin with the engaging innocence of a child.

Matrin takes the slightest step backward, easing himself out from between the two as they meet. He isn't abandoning Mishkia by any means, and lingers there at her elbow. But his keen blue eyes flicker from one to the other, listening as Mishkia meets her first outsider on other than her own land. "I've actually never been inside one myself. I know less about whers than I'd like." So he gestures to Derin, palm up in a fluid motion, encouraging him to educate them both with a smile.

Derin blinks, a little, at the commentary. "Well, s'not s'bad, really. An s'not s'much dirt inside as rock. Kinda like th'mines I guess. Maybe that's why it doesna bother me s'much." He glances towards the covered entrance to the den. And as he watches her trying to make out his accent he sighs, brushing a hand over his bedhead and trying to slow down his words so the woman might be able to understand them better. "Th'rain doesn't get in there too much, unless it's a real big storm. But it's cozy an' there's not a hundred people sleeping in it with me, jus' me an' Dersk. Guess I'm jus' not really a people person. Why else would I choose minin' an' wherhandlin' as m'career, right?"

"I've never even seen a wher," Mishkia's aside to Matrin is admitted easily without any self-conscious thought at all. She nods encouragement to the miner as he slows to show she's following his explanation, a fleeting glance following his hand to head has her lips curving in an impish smile. She doesn't tease the young man though. Instead, she ahhs quietly, "Stone, not dirt. Den, not hole." Though really the glance shifted towards the den curtain is frankly skeptical. "I wouldn't want to live with that many people either, but the dark might close in on me. It seems to be working for you though." His rhetorical question simply draws a shrug and a quipped, "Probably for the same reason my ancestors chose to live way out in the swamps. I'm Mishkia, by the way."

Derin gives her a smile, "Name's Derin." And he's starting to offer her his hand when a sound from within the den gets his attention. "An' that means Dersk is up, I should go see why he's wakin' at this hour. Maybe iff'n yer still 'round come dark y'kin meet Dersk iff'n ya want." And with that, meaning no disrespect of course, the young man is turning to disappear back into the dark void below.

Matrin crosses his arms over his chest, shifting his weight to one leg and leaning against a nearby tree as they talk. "Important distinction," he murmurs. There are two Mats - the observer who watches and takes notes and paints pictures, and the meddler. He's clearly got the former hat on at the moment, interjecting only to wave and call, "We'll look for you later then," as Derin moves off. Pushing himself up and away from the trunk, he snags Mishkia lightly by the wrist and tugs her toward her new cottage. The windows are open and a gust of breeze stirs cheery yellow curtains in the windows, just visible as he leads her that way. "So. Lots of people, lots of dragons, dens, and whers. You should keep a journal of all the new things you're seeing." He says it lightly though, without an ounce of condescension.

"It's nice to-" Mishkia's hand half-lifts to meet Derin's but she's left blinking at it with rueful amusement as the miner retreats hastily back into his ho- den. Somewhere in the underbrush Gabit is sure to be quietly smirking as his cousin is left talking to thin air. The moment is smoothed over so naturally by that casual gesture of Matrin's that any awkwardness she might have felt evaporates as she follows the tug with a laugh. "You know, I think I will do that. They'll never believe me otherwise. Though when I do read it to them on long rainy evenings, they might just say I've made up stories." Their footfalls are completely muffled by that thick moss carpet and though she is curious about the cottage, she has to stop and prod the bright emerald green with a toe. But oh! There's a party to get ready for and she's keeping him from whatever he's got to do, so her pause is brief before skipping lightly up those stone steps to the porch. "No one else lives here?" There's wonderment in the question as she gives the willow-curtained place a backwards glance.

Matrin's got that amused glint in his eye as he draws her to her new home. "Well you are going to be studying with a Harper, so maybe you can make up a few, too. Keep them guessing." She may be looking over the little clearing from moss to sun-dappling willows, but he is watching her reaction instead. By the time she speaks he has a firm, satisfied nod that goes both for her pleasure and her question. "Just you, m'lady. If there's anything you else you want, just let me know and we'll get it." He pauses to fish a key out of his pocket and hands it to her. "Shall I wait, or would you rather have privacy?" Which makes all the things he has to do seem not so important after all.

Mishkia's face is a study of contrasts, her too-visible thoughts flickering across her face in succession as first she watches the dance of willow-boughs tickling those ferns, a herdbeast bawls from the distant feeding pens, a bird flits through the bower-like enclosure to land on a stone railing of the porch an arms length away, the watchdragon on the starstones greets an arrival, echoing with a high-pitched warble as the other dragon carols a greeting. All serve to remind her that though home-like, this place is anything but. She turns with a rather dazed expression to Matrin, blinks for a moment. "Oh!" She holds a hand out for the key in a rather absent fashion while the other brushes at her clothes. "I suppose trailworn clothing isn't fit for a party, so I'll change. I won't be long." Well the things in her pack, he can likely guess, are similar to what he's seen her in back home. So when she emerges it's in her hide boots and a simple homespun dress, nothing fancy but appropriate at least for lunch.


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