Aren't They Neat? (Sixth Touching)

Xanadu Weyr - Hatching Sands
A domed ceiling stretches high above the sands, enough open air for a queen and her mate to be comfortable with their clutch. Thin slits of windows around the edges let in a little light, though more of the illumination comes from electric lamps diffused off the dome. The sands are ringed by the dark blue seats of the observation level, the first third exposed to the sweltering heat of the sands but those in the back glassed off for the comfort of those watching.
The circle itself is filled with a mix of red and white sands, deep enough to cover the largest of dragon eggs with ease. To one side, a small door is visible, hidden away behind a platform meant to provide a place for the clutch parent's lifemates to stand during the on goings.

Another day, another touching. Risali is already on the sands this time, leaning against Leirith and looking no less like death today than she did yesterday. Hands are moving along Garouth's eyeridges, though the touches cease as candidates approach and the bronze's full attention turns to them, ever watchful. It's an Assistant Weyrlingmaster who goes over the rules this time, not that they have changed from the rules Risali gave before, and then the gathered candidates are freed to step onto the sands and touch some of them eggies.

"You should really try to get some rest, weyrwoman." Tys comments OH SO HELPFULLY after he's made his bows to you know, those big scary parents of said things he's here to fondle.. I mean, touch, yes, touch. And yet before Risali can throw something at him (maybe a shoe?) he's making his way over to a new egg and laying his palm across the top of it. He wiggles his fingers a bit and stares at the pattern on it.

< Tyssarian touches egg 2 - Egg of Brown Egg >

Tyssarian jerks his hand away from the egg with a near yelp. That was far too entirely unpleasant for his likings. And yet there's some sort of morbid curiosity that has him once more extending his arm and very tentatively brushing those finger tips, feather soft, against the ovum. Surely the second time can't be as bad as the first one? Right? Right?!

Personally Tys would much prefer to be a lizard instead of a frog, but frogs aren't entirely bad either. You know, they're almost cute sometimes. Except tadpoles, yuck! But this time it isn't quite as, well unpleasant as it was previously. So Tyssarian presses his hand a bit more firmly to the shell. Not hard enough to cause any damage to the egg, but just enough so that there's as much skin as possible pressed flush against it. As if somehow having more skin connected will make the connection, what, stronger? More benign? Who knows.

< Tyssarian leaves egg 2 - Egg of Brown Egg >

Tyssarian stares at the egg, and realizes he's no longer touching it. Almost as if it has shoved him away (or he just slowly started inching away). Either way he's not touching it any longer and that's a good thing as he gives a shake of his head and wanders onto the next egg. With just his index finger he hovers it above the shell, debating, seriously debating. At this rate he is starting to think all of Leirith's eggs are just a crazy and insane as she is. And then contact, fingerpad to ovum shell, what does this one have in store for him!

< Tyssarian touches egg 5 - Hallowed Legends Egg >

Tyssarian doesn't feel as if answering all the questions this egg has aimed at him is really something that he can do in the present situation. Or maybe any situation at all. He's not exactly a closed book, but nor is he an open book. Perhaps he's an onion, where you have to rip and tear the layers away to get to the soft gooey inside where you can answer all those prying questions. Either way the egg does not get the answers it seeks but the dancer does prove to be interesting to Tys so he decides to send a gentle caress down the egg's shell. So far this one is safe.

Tyssarian stands at the egg's side for several minutes, pondering the things the egg is prying about. Pondering about those lost. Memories of his mother flicker through his mind like an old animation reel. Even though he's seen her, no, sees her around the weyr, it does not mean that he truly recognizes her, or knows her, and that sense of loss does well up in his chest before he's shaking his head trying to clear thoughts of things he has no interest to change. His fingers drum on the egg ever so softly, as if he's chastising the occupant for bringing up some memories and thoughts.

< Tyssarian leaves egg 5 - Hallowed Legends Egg >

Tyssarian is not entirely sure what he feels in regards to this egg. But that sensation in the palm of his hand does indeed leave him scratching, even if it isn't really an itch but more just a sensation. And that leaves just one egg remaining and him and another candidate reach it at the same time. Tys gives the other candidate a nervous chuckle, because really with how these eggs have been, are his fellow candidates just as nervous to keep touching as he is? And then his hand is pressed to the shell as a deep breath is inhaled. Nice egg, nice egg! There can be one nice one right?

< Tyssarian touches egg 4 - Beauty Lies Within Egg >

Seriously, what is up with these eggs being so sharding demanding?! Tys pulls back, his body nearly moving on its own to turn on heel and book it off the sands, but thankfully he catches himself right before he has turned away and actually taken a step. It's that 'whisper' that has him leaning closer to the egg, nudging his ear closer, closer, until it's almost touching but not quite.

Tyssarian is definitely debating doing just that. He may not have actually moved and caught himself like previous but the prickly gooseflesh on his arms does also cause a shiver that dances down his back. But fingers stay in contact with the egg for a few more moments before he can take no more of the heat and the sounds. Mentally he knows that they aren't real but it's hard for him to really separate reality verses fantasy and once he's hit his tipping point, that's it. He yanks his hand away, dips his head to the proud (and crazy) parents before making his way off the sands.

« COME TOUCH THEM. » Leirith means her eggs, you guys. JUST her eggs. Not her rider, not the bronze that she is currently squishing beneath her bulk; whose head she's rested her own above while he watches with cautious yellow in his eyes and Leirith looks on with endless blue. Risali's still at being lazy these days, hiding away in the shade provided by enormous bodies - especially when they are stacked. Indeed, there's not an ounce of formality to be found in her: not when the Weyrlingmaster and his assistants bring a gathering of candidates to the sands to engage the eggs, not when they explain the rules for the umpteenth time (no rough-housing, bow, leave when you're told), not when candidates start spilling into the sands and dipping into varying degrees of formality for sire and dam both. No, Risali's sipping something fruity looking from a straw, grey eyes watching faces without lingering too long, offering muted smiles to the few who greet her, but otherwise remaining relatively hands-off and in the background so as not to disturb the hallucinations of others.

Bow, bow, grovel, scrape. Nikolan knows how it's done by now and goes through the appropriate motions. Such a good boy. Casting a dubious look towards the closer eggs - that trio of troublemakers who innundated his dreams with dark imagery and caused him to lose at least one of his beds in the past seven days, he instead begins the long trudge towards the furthest away of the clutch, reaching out a hand that IS NOT SHAKING SHUT UP and pressing light fingertips against the Steadfast Satellite Egg.

< Nikolan touches egg 6 - Steadfast Satellite Egg >

Really. REALLY? Nikolan sighs, closing his eyes against the duality of vision that comes with the intrusion of the egg-mind upon his own. His breathing evens out, growing shallow against the imagined scents as he struggles not to resist the intrusion. Just as stringy muscles, tight with stress, begin to ease, he gives a soft, whispering denial and they bunch right up again. "No, really, it was nothing. Just… nothing." Just nothing…

Shallow breaths and tight muscles and Niko is as still as the grave, his hand frozen upon the curve of the egg. Fear - no, wariness; there's no terror in his stance, but his fight-or-flight response is well and truly provoked, if under control for the nonce. "It's okay." Is he reassuring himself, or the egg before him? "It's going to be okay."

Slowly, slowly, Niko's breathing deepens, eases, and muscles grow lax, trembling slightly as he eases his rigid stance. Opening storm-blue eyes, he rubs his fingers lightly over the silvery egg, soothing it - soothing himself. "I wonder, sometimes, who is more frightened. Us out here on the Sands, in control of our lives, or you, trapped within your colorful prisons, at the mercy of fate?" Uneasy with his own words, he drops his hand, rubbing it against his pants as he trudges towards the next egg.

< Nikolan leaves egg 6 - Steadfast Satellite Egg >
< Nikolan touches egg 5 - Hallowed Legends Egg >

Nikolan is. That is the only true answer. Photographer. Artist. Inventor. Son. Brother. Lover. Unloved - his mind shies from those memories, firmly walling them off from the insistant pressure of the egg-mind. Curving his palm along the shell of the egg, he rests his forehead lightly against it, eyes closed and breathing even. "Beauty," he finally whispers. "Beauty, in all of its myriad, infinite forms."

People. Nikolan perks up slightly, shoulders straightening as he lifts his head away from the egg, regarding it through his closed eyelids. "Everyone touches everyone, in one way or another. You'll be here for days if you truly want to see them all." Still, his mind skitters, shies, refusing access to the answer to that final question. Instead, focus is placed upon beloved mentors, adored siblings, treasured friends. Those who truly matter.

Withdrawing his hand from the egg, Nikolan opens his eyes, regarding the shell before him with a solemn expression. Absently scratching at his palm, he edges away, not quite ready to turn his back on this curious, sly little mind. Finally, however, he takes his gaze and attention from it, turning them instead on the last of the clutch to require his regard. "Just.. one more." For now. Who knows how many times he'll have to reendure this with each egg? Refusing to consider that possibility, he reaches out and firmly presses his hand to the Beauty Lies Within Egg.

< Nikolan leaves egg 5 - Hallowed Legends Egg >
< Nikolan touches egg 4 - Beauty Lies Within Egg >

"Oh, come on," Nikolan actually says those words aloud, less frightened and more irritated by the next nightmare vision to assault his brain. Scowling, he stands his ground, resting his the knuckles of his fisted hand against the curve of the egg. "Come at me," he mutters, baring his teeth in a wild, maybe not quite sane grin. Then again, he is talking to eggs - sanity probably isn't high on his virtues.

Nikolan's expression softens, the tension in his lean frame easing. "No," he says softly, firmly, spreading his fingers wide and pressing the whole of his hand against the shell, almost protectively. "I won't go. This is why I'm here. You are." Plural - all of the eggs.

Withdrawing from this, the last egg to touch, Nikolan draws in a deep breath, opening clouded, cloudy eyes. His gaze seeks out the stacked gold and bronze, the lounging Risali with her sippy drink. Slowly, stiffly, as though moving after a long - so long - respite, he approaches the queenrider, pausing just beyond range of snapping jaws and swiping claws. Just in case. "Is it real? Is it… what we hear, see, feel - is it them? Or is it just…" He trails off, groping for and unable to find the words to express what he means. Surely she knows. Surely, with a mind like Leirith riding tandem to her own, she can understand.

< Nikolan leaves egg 4 - Beauty Lies Within Egg >

Risali is… startled to find one of the candidates approaching, eyes blinking up as grey hues find Nikolan's and hold fold the duration of his question. "Uhm," she says, rather intelligently even as dragons behind her shift and Leirith moves from Garouth, good-nature broadcast in whirling blue eyes as she lowers her snout to be closer - closer to Risali, closer to Nikolan, closer to her children. Risali reaches out to press small hands against that snout, a motion that might be necessary to regain mental equilibrium as she blinks once, twice, and then tries for a smile that might have been reassuring had it not stretched into a grimace and been lost altogether with fleetingly painful awkwardness. "I don't know." And brows draw in as she tilts her head to look at Leirith; as Leirith tilts her head to look back and they both turn their attention back to Niko in tandem. "When I was a candidate, I remember touching Leirith's egg and… it was like dancing. I was…" Brows furrow, because there are no Pernese equivalents to the beauty of Leirith's world. "Dancing. And lost in a lover's embrace. There's still some of what I saw in Leirith's mind - dancers wearing feathered masks, and a place with lights and wonderful smells that I don't know the words for." And Risali's smile comes again - that tender, endless fondness that only a dragonrider can feel for their dragon. But she's reaching out her hand, scooting over in her chair because she is small and they might be squished, but there's room for them both if they can manage it. "Do you want to talk about it?" It's a whisper, an offer to listen, an opportunity for Nikolan to stay if he wants to, or to go if he does not; there's no pressure, no expectation, merely patience as Risali allows the Journeyman to decide what he wants to do.

The invitation tempts; it's visible in Niko's blue-grey eyes, in the tentative hesitance of his stance. He yearns - how he wants to talk about it, to assure himself that he - they - are not going mad for the seeing of shadows and substance in the touch of fingers to shell. "I - don't know," he whispers, looking just a little lost as his gaze bounces between gold and goldrider. "It - they say things, do things, and we just want to know, are we mad for the hearing, seeing, smelling, or is this all part of..," he trails off, instead gesturing broadly to indicate the Sands, the Weyr - the world at large. Everything.

One, two, three, and Risali's leaning sideways to abandon her Something-Fruity-Drink to the sands for just a moment. She drops her extended hand, legs coming up to her chest as arms wrap around booted shins and Risali drops her chin to her knees with another smile. "You're not going mad. We all see it, we all feel it, we all smell it - and that part doesn't leave. It's imperative to how they communicate with us; subtle nuances in color and smell and tone that tells us they're content, or angry, or -" An exhale, and Risali's looking at Leirith again before looking back to Nikolan. "She wants to show you." But Leirith doesn't wait; she presses the advantage: bass and drums thunder into existence, a communication of joy and affection that somehow dims as a house-party quiets and the doors locked to the outside world open. And it's so much more comforting here; there are no loud sounds so at odds with the rest of the world. It's a carnival, lights strung up and winking, beautiful dancers waiting in corseted gowns that hide behind feathered masks en masse. The smell of funnel cake and spun sugar permeates, Leirith's voice no less exuberant and sunbright even if it's different - calmer, somehow, without losing its endless cheer. « We are all a little mad, minion! At least, that is what my minion tells me. » And then just like that, Leirith is retreating, the doors slammed close, bass and drums muted, blue eyes fixed on Nikolan as Risali holds her breath, and raises her brows, and gives a tentative smile because this could all go horribly wrong and she is terrible at people. "I promise you're not crazy." Another whisper, because Risali doesn't know what else she can say.

Nikolan's stormy eyes close as Leirith's world washes over him, his lips parting as the sheer rush of color and music and madness rushes into his mind, drowning him in a carnival of delightful excess. And he laughs. Not loud - no belly laugh, this, but rather a soft, breathy release of relief. "Thank Faranth," he whispers as the queen withdraws her mind from his, and he opens grey-blue eyes to meet Risali's, his own smile less tentative, more grateful. "I - we - were… concerned." He sobers slightly, his gaze trading between woman and dragon once again, and when he speaks, his voice has dropped, barely audible. "They seem so… sad. So lonely. So…" He trails off, unable to articulate what he feels within those six strange eggs, and he half-twists, casting his gaze out over the Sands and the scattered clutch. "I suppose we all get that way, sometimes." Turning back, he looks Risali straight in the eye and gives her a deliberate bow. Straightening, he casts a slight smile at her. "Thank you, Risali. You, and Leirith, have done much to ease my mind. And I know Ricki will feel the same," he adds, with maybe a little less certainty.

"I'm too afraid to touch them," Risali says, almost wistful as those grey eyes flicker towards those six deceivingly innocuous eggs. "Which sounds silly, but not because I'm afraid of what I might hear. More because what if I hear nothing? Or what if somehow everything that can go wrong does go wrong and I find himself with two dragons imprinted on me." The last is a JEST, the quiet smile managing to communicate that much even as Risali listens and nods her head to agree. They all get sad, they all get lonely. Brows draw in, Risali's smile falters, grey eyes look away and don't meet Nikolan's gaze as she ponders his words and what she might say next. But his bow draws her attention back, earns him a soft huff of laughter that's in no way meant to condescend, but instead lend clarity to an awkwardness borne in the face of formality. "You're welcome, Nikolan. It was my — our — pleasure. Really." And there she goes, relaxing out of her position so that she might stand to her FULLY UNIMPRESSIVE HEIGHT and dip into a curtsy for Niko. TAKE THAT. She fights formality with formality, and a devious smile when she corrects out of it - one that eases into something a little more gentle. "I'm not very good with people." A beat, brows drawing in. "I'm not very good with talking to people, but I am happy to listen if you - or Ricki, or anybody — needs to talk. I'm also very good at doing things that other people consider reckless, like jumping from cliffs, and dancing in the snow, and shooting pictures of Weyrleaders with bow and arrow that I've pinned to the trunks of trees." ANOTHER SMILE, a hint of mischief. "So if you all want a mental escape from the suffocating press of the unknown, let me know." And back into her chair she goes, retrieving her drink. It's not a dismissal, but it's certainly an indicator that she's not going to keep Nikolan if he wants to go. "And it gets better. I promise. Unless you impress and your dragon is like Leirith. Then it just gets worse."

He has already lingered too long, has Niko, and he's aware of it - from the heat of the Sands, the curious - and too-knowing - looks of the other Candidates mingling with the eggs. Casting a weather-wise look over his shoulder, he huffs out a half-irritated laugh, then turns back to Risali with his lips twisted in a small, ironic grin. "Far be it for me to contradict the esteemed weyrwoman," he replies with exquisitly overblown courtesy, "but I have seen no indication that you lack… people skills. Although," he adds, with a sarcastic twist to his voice, "I think I'm the last person to properly judge that." He likes to take pictures of people. Pictures don't talk. "I should probably go," he sighs, glancing once more over his shoulder, "before tongues wag. The offer is appreciated - and who knows," he adds, somewhat whimsically, "perhaps someday." His bow this time is clearly directed to Leirith - a courtesy for her kindness, and with a murmured, "Goodbye," the young man quits the Sands.

Leirith sinks into her own bow when Nikolan bows to her, dipping forward on her forepaws as amusement trickles down the line through Risali. It would seem the weyrwoman is not the only one at odds with society-dictated formalities. "Goodbye, Nikolan." A beat, as grey eyes watch the retreat of the Journeyman's back, and Risali echoes, "Someday!" to him. A someday that might come sooner than he thinks, if that shared look between herself and Leirith is anything to go by. TROUBLE, THY NAME IS RISALI. But then Risali is gaining her feet again, calling out to all of the candidates left, shooing them from the sands and back into the waiting arms of Weyrlingmaster's because it is time to feed, and that means Garouth, or Leirith, or both are done with candidates for the day.

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