Big Sister To The Rescue (Eighth 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.

« MINIONS! MY BADASSES AWAIT YOUR TOUCH! AHAHAHAHA. » That's right, Leirith wants you to TOUCH IT. TOUCH IT REAL GOOD. Or them. Is this getting awkward? It's getting a little awkward - YOU SHUT UP. So there's Risali, looking unimpressed by her lifemate's demands, and even less so by the number of candidates who show up to HEED THE CALL. She could have been asleep. She could have been curled up in bed, hogging heat and blankets and no. She's down here, on the sands, with grey eyes mainly focused on her kid brother when she speaks. "No shenanigans. No jumping, no running, no skipping, no climbing, no stealing brownies from a pregnant woman with your Dad, no rough housing. If I tell you to leave, you go. Leirith is being kind; Garouth is feeling less generous. At least I think. Sometimes he's hard to read and Leirith just always says his mood is badass. Regardless, if dam or sire want you gone, you don't look back. Now come on. Leirith is waiting. Don't forget to bow." LIKE LEIRITH IS, to each candidate that comes in and bows to her, probably inspiring several bouts of the giggles because that's one weird queen.

The question has to be asked, how and why is Valerian here again? Didn't he, not so very long ago (days really), tell a certain weaver that the last thing he wanted to do was go touching the eggs again? Half the half dozen was good enough right? But no, someone encased in shadow shoves the nighttime exclusive candidate into the hatching grounds and if there is a door it is closed and locked. From the outside. If not? Whoever that is stands sentinel, all big and bad and muscly-arms crossed over chest or something equally imposing. YOU. STAY. Anyway, the point is, the sixteen turn old starcrafter had no way of escape and has little choice than to hover near his only means of getting out of dodge, casting grey eyes the way of his big sister. He'd heard the spiel before, the no shenanigans one, however the brownie thing? Well, he was all awkward teeth in wolfish quality, even if he was slowly inching away from the small batch of sleepy-eyed candidates weeble-wobbling towards eggs in an effort to remain upright. He totally bumps into the barracade against freedom, wood or flesh, either getting an apologetic pat at the midpoint. "I'm good…really…no need…" An apologetic look, perhaps looks more apprehensive than eager to get back out there, given to Leirith. He liked her, he did. Garouth? Didn't know him that well, but if the queen thought he was badass, sure he could accept her opinion as fact.

Garouth is dark in Leirith's shadow today, the smaller bronze tucked against the sands in loaf form. Brindle hide is darkness mingled with bright that is - if one's being honest about it - much shinier than Leirith's mustard, and while the queen bows to greet candidates, the bronze merely lies there and watches, unmoving save for the slow swirl of yellow-tinged eyes to track moving candidates.

A beat (two, three, four) and Risali waits. She waits out her brother's dance, she waits out his brush with authority figures (or doors that want to be authority figures), and when Valerian's eyes go to Leirith, the gold tilts her head in a silent question. It's odd if only because the queen is being quiet — no exuberant beat carried on bass and drums, no ridiculous words of encouragement to DEAFEN and ALSO REASSURE. She merely remains, providing shadows for her brindle-hided sandsmate, eyes blue in absolute contradiction to Garouth's yellow-tinged watchfulness. A croon - soft, like a mother might make - and it's Risali who steps forward. The tiny goldrider has no compunctions about invading personal space, and so she's just suddenly there, looping an arm through Valerian's so that she can steer him for a walk around the eggs by sticking to the outer curves of the arena. "Valerian, I have seen you jump, and run, and be unafraid." A sideways glance. "So has Leirith; that's why she wanted you to stand. So out with it. Is it the eggs, or is somebody bothering you?" Despite the acerbic to-the-point of her words, the tone is soft — resigned, almost, or just tired.

A flash of grey eyes towards Garouth, who gets a slight downward furrow of brows. The bronze wasn't doing anything that warranted all that hesitation. Though the gentleness of that croon towards him from the direction of Leirith (who was usually all BOOM BOOM SHALACKA LACKA) doesn't help alleviate less than fluffy happy feelings, but rather compounds on irrationally established guilt. A much more prenominate guilt a few days prior to this, as R'eyn had been kind enough to clue him in on things he had not been aware of (He could continue his craft. No one told him!), but now that guilt was finding new microscopic cracks in which to dwell and widen incrementally. Candidates were to touch eggs, equalize themselves among their peers, and prepare for the day they may find their lifemate. Simple right? When Risali is suddenly just there he's unable to scramble before she loops an arm through his and starts to lead him in a very wide circle around the eggs, a wince and a deflecting dart of his gaze elsewhere, still not quite the 'himself' he let people know. Perhaps not so very simple these simple tasks of candidates, as Vale cleverly hid his uncertainties behind self-assured toothy grins and a general facade of absolute fearlessness. It implied by default that they didn't exist at all. Which makes his sister's assurances, less than so. "Nobody's bothering me…" he starts, brows furrowing in earnest as he purses his lips together and heaves a sigh, and slides grey eyes over towards the eggs begrudgingly. "It's just…they're…bringing up things I don't want to think about or remember."

Risali matches her stride to Valerian's, though she reins him in to make their pace a little more sedate — if only so that they have more time to talk while they walk the outer circle of Xanadu's hatching dome. Risali's brows do draw in, confusion a mere flicker of emotion that dissipates on Risali's next inhale. "Valerian," she says slowly, carefully. "You should touch them all and let them get to know you. You stood because you hoped a dragon would find you worthy, right?" A beat, only enough time for the candidate to answer yes or no before she interrupts. "I think this is how they pick us, how they get to know the people that we are and have been and hope to be. I know it's uncomfortable, but you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't give yourself the best chance you can. Having a dragon is kind of like that: you have somebody in your head all of the time, going through all your thoughts, having an opinion about everything."

Vale certainly wasn't in any hurry to make the round of the sands, so more sedate was more than welcome. He's probably tip-toe at a snails pace if it meant prolonging the inevitable just a while longer. Attention returning directly to slightly built Risali as she chooses her words with the utmost care, the starcrafter misses the furrow of her brow and fleeting expression of confusion. Hey, he was new to this personal invasion thing. He talked a good talk and presented himself a certain way to keep people near him but not enough to let them in too far. Close, but not so close that anyone could hurt him. Not again. There were, exceptions, but even they didn't really know him as well as they think they did. "I don't know if I would put it exactly like that…" he replies, but what he says leans much further towards yes than a no. It didn't matter, because his sister was interrupting him and so he falls back into contemplative silence as she explains what she believes is the inner most workings of that almost mystical selection process. How did the dragons know when their lifemate was present? It doesn't look like Valerian had given it much thought beyond his own physical and emotional responses to mental intrusion into the places he never let anyone touch, "Risali…" he breathes on exhale, sounding doubtful still but there was something in his expression that was resigned to the truthfulness to be found in her summation. He didn't know what it was like to have another's consciousness so interwoven with his own, where everything was known about one another, and ultimately accepted. He wanted that, he did, that quantitative acceptance without exception. His forward propulsion comes to a slow stop and he looks almost with reluctance towards the three eggs that he had yet to make any sort of attempt at connection with. If truth be told, he was scared, but other then the slightest of tremors to be found along his frame he doesn't speak of it aloud. What he does do, is shift his arm away from where Risali had looped hers threw it. This was it, this is where he ran and knocked down the door or bowled over whoever that was. But no, he doesn't. Instead, he takes a deep breath and finds his sister's hand with a stubborn set to his jaw. He doesn't look at her again, even as his feet progress towards one of the unassuming and innocent look egg shapes, but the stiffness of his body says that if he was going to do this he was going to need her. If only for a little bit. Pride, as ridiculous as it seemed, had played its part in this move. He wanted her continued support, but he was unable to ask for it. With any luck he would be placing his free hand on that Egg of Brown, and he'd still have the physical reassurance of his sister to help him through it.

"Valerian," she echoes, tone firm, eddied with faith if only because he's here now and she's here with him. So she doesn't shy away when removes her arm from his person only to slip his hand into hers; Risali interdigitates their fingers and gives Valerian's hand a squeeze with gentle pressure, lips curling up slowly - soft, quiet encouragement - as she lets him lead the way over to one of those eggs at his own pace. There's a wince, perhaps, for his selection, but it's there and gone because she's not of a mind to discourage him when he's only just found his courage. So she remains, a steady, calm presence at his side - mindful not to stand behind him, so that she does not trip him up if the urge to be away drives him backward. "Breathe, Valerian. You've got this." And he does! Because his hand is on that first egg, and Risali remains — patient, calm, ready to weather whatever happens next.

< Valerian touches egg 2 - Egg of Brown Egg >

It's a blessing that the few candidates that were around, were too asleep or focused on their own experiences to pay much attention to the fact that a sixteen turn old needed to hold his big sister's hand while he touched some eggs. He'd never live it down surely. Fortunately for this particular leg of the journey into hell, he doesn't see the wince at his choice, because that there might very well have put an end to things right then and there. Instead he's urged forward by the gentleness of words that come from a place of encouragement and love and the interlacing of squeezing fingers. Admittedly, amidst all that breathing he is instructed to do and has every intention on following through on, he swallows thickly in that second before fingertips slide over eggshell. A wave of dysphoria overwhelms him and the starcrafter grits his teeth, the hand he held, held tighter as he does everything he can to keep from using that precious space Risali had made for him. He had chosen, badly, from the way he pales and jaw becomes steely. The muscles of Valerian's contorts slightly and that subtle tremor increases, but he doesn't recoil or remove the light points of contact. He can feel his sister there, the warmth of her skin against his and takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly.

A surge of anger at the presumption and anger was not one among the wide range of human emotion that Valerian was used to feeling, not that intensely. A flicker of mild irritation only traipses across his features, but its quickly followed by an aversion of his gaze somewhere he couldn't see, all of his senses having been stolen away from him but the gesture comes automatic. Risali was still there, she was still holding his hand, perhaps even murmuring all those words he couldn't hear anymore. Just the knowledge of this keeps the touch of flesh to shell constant and another soft breath is taken in, but unevenly released afterwards.

And that anger, defensive in nature, rises up inside of Valerian once again. Excuse you, egg! Making an awfully lot of presumptions there aren't you? Who are you to ask him to justify himself? Despite this, the boy's shoulders tighten and in the end he's yanking his hand off the egg entirely and taking that step back. He was breathing a bit heavier than he was before, a not so casual glance at his physical person and then a long side-eye for that egg. Oh so innocent and only brown his backside. A glance is spared to Risali, one that was not entirely lacking in accusation (YOU DID THIS TO ME) of deeply furrowed brows and the down curl of lips, but while the expression remains its no longer focused on his sister. He had given his informed content to be a candidate and he knew that he could withdraw at any time, but now he was pissed off and with that comes booted feet to sands and the drag of his 5'0" support system towards the next unassuming ovid. An Egg Only A Mother Could Love, was his next target, and this time he doesn't even so much as hesitate to put his hand on it. Not a slap, but rather the lightest of application of his epidermis to smooth warm shell. Perspiration had appeared upon his forehead since the last time long legs carried him, the hot sands only responsible for a degree of it, but he braces himself for what was to come next.

< Valerian leaves egg 2 - Egg of Brown Egg >

< Valerian touches egg 3 - An Egg Only A Mother Could Love Egg >

There was a second, a heartbeat, in which the starcrafter relaxes while touching this egg. It's fleeting though, because he'd been fooled once, and that hadn't turned out so well. Relaxed muscle takes on a fraction of tension once again, grey eyes settling on the interplay of color and suggestion of texture that the eggshell beneath his hand suggests. Lashes fall and his jaw tightens, not to keep the presence within out, but to force himself to let it in. Little by little the strength with which he held Risali's hand lessens until it was once again comfortable and at ease, doing again as was suggested and just breathing softly in and out again evenly rather than with any strain. He fully expected to be slammed down and ravaged in the next wave of thoughts rummaging throughout his own, worse than any mugging, but this wasn't something he could run away from anymore. Not to say that there wasn't any apprehension, of course there was, but he was finding both strength and courage from what his sister had said to him. He might not be fearless, but he wasn't a coward. It was natural to be fearful, but the difference came in how you faced those fears. He would run away or he could head them off at the pass. With that, he lays his palm fully against that egg and he lets go of Risali.

Valerian had let go of Risali, but predictably she remains, at least through the increased rate with which he breathes even as the hand that once held hers is hesitantly lifted in order to place it beside the other already present on the egg before him. Now all that relaxation comes in full and any apprehension fades away into nothing as the first hints of his characteristic smile comes back at least in some small measure. That is until he stiffens all at once and pain seizes him and he shudders, but is unable to do anything other than stand there helplessly, eyes opening and he just sort of stares at the shell beneath his hands. There is emotion there, mixed and complicated, a look of heartache and loss that can't even begin to explain. He can't feel the mind within anymore, but he can hear his sister breathing, can hear Leirith and Garouth too, the soft steps of feet along the sand as the other candidates weave among the eggs. He wants to cry for some reason, but unlike the last time, he had no idea why. Perplexed, he remains, trying to sort his thoughts.

Guess who is not looking at Valerian? Risali isn't, because his back suddenly stiffens and he doesn't want her to look at him. This was not the person he wanted her to see, it was weakness and vulnerability and so he keeps the broadening expanse of his young shoulders between himself and her. No one was looking at him, even as those shoulders hunch and tremble vaguely but nonetheless enough to be noticeable. Brows knot and he sucks in a sharp breath before extracting his touch from the now silent of egg nestled in heated sand. Quickly he wipes at his face, exhales unsteadily and moves on. Without pause, tearing off the bandage, no anesthesia. He doesn't even look the way of the nesting dragons as he places his hand full and firm against the very last of the six eggs. Even though it may seem as if he no longer cared if Risali was lingering either around him or if she had slipped off to join her lifemate, he is still keenly away of her gaze upon him but he doesn't seek it out. All of his attention was focused on this, the final one and he closes his eyes, ignoring the moisture that escapes downwards over his cheeks.

< Valerian leaves egg 3 - An Egg Only A Mother Could Love Egg >

< Valerian touches egg 5 - Hallowed Legends Egg >

Grey eyes appear, though the lids over them remain decidedly low, unfocused where they are affixed at the apex of that egg his hand was rested upon. There is no expression on his face in that moment, perhaps weary of the cycle of up and down, perhaps regretting he had gone from one to the next. Again with the ease of breathing, in and out, neither depressed or progressive. A brow quirks upwards for whatever reason, but otherwise there isn't much variation in the way he stood or held himself. Not braced or at ease, as if he had prepared himself for anything, which really might have been the best way to approach all of them had he taken the warnings of his fellow candidates to heart. Moistening his lips, he exhales and closes his eyes once more, doing the same as he had with the last and letting the being who walked the halls of his mind through every door and access point. It was easier, better, than having them torn off the hinges forcibly and questions that are asked perhaps find their answer. It seems that Vale was learning, but as was common in youth, that journey was not one made easily or without mistakes. Perhaps now, on the sixth egg, he'd come to fully understand what Risali had been trying to tell him.

Valerian had known it was coming, these were all Leirith's offspring after all, and while some were harsher than others they all contained the same basic theme and ideas. It doesn't make those deeper questions asked any less difficult, but there was an acceptance of it this time around, even if the answers were drawing from him the sort of response he didn't want anyone else to bear witness to. Vale wasn't running away, his hands were still on the surface of that egg, despite the pain on his face and the resulting show of emotion. It was only the one time, it wasn't going to happen again, ever again. It was pointless to explain, because the intelligence on the other side of shell and membrane floating in the safety, knew everything already. The starcrafter doesn't bother defending himself, he just lets it further in and see it all.

It was done, it was over, the last wave and it drifts off as Valerian's hands do from the shell of that final egg. There was no more, he'd touched them all, and it might very well be turns before he fully comprehends how much this experience had changed him. Cliche or no, it was as it always had been, a tale as old as time itself from that of the very first dragon. There was nothing blocking the exit anymore, there hadn't been in quite some time, only it was just now that he's noticed as grey eyes wander that direction and his rises a hand to his face to wipe at it. It was itchy you see, between sweat and other things, the skin felt tight and hot and there was little doubt he looked like crap all over again. At least this time, things were settled, and he no longer felt turmoil or a sense of being off-kilter. Equilibrium had been reestablished even if he was feeling sheepish about certain aspects that had lead him back to this peace of mind. A sweep of his gaze finds that he was not alone in this, the other candidates touched in their own way, perhaps to find serenity or the opposite but no less effected. Not that this had been about them or even himself, and he walks away from the eggs and straight into the arms of his sister. Of course she was still there, of course she was waiting for him, and he hugs her tightly against him. Burying his face into her hair, he quickly discovered that he needed a moment, just one more, and he'd be okay again.

< Valerian leaves egg 5 - Hallowed Legends Egg >

And Risali receives Valerian, arms coming around his middle, tiny frame pressing into his, going up on the tips of her toes as fingers splay and hands move in a gesture meant to inspire comfort up and down his back. "You did good," she breathes into his shirt, around the kind of smile that says she's proud. "Leirith has deemed you a certified badass." And the gold wuffles from where she is, an agreement even if it is not carried by her endless, bombastic mind; she leaves the siblings to their moment for now, until Garouth makes a shift of muscle and Risali's drawing back. "Alright, enough! They want us off of the sands, so move it!" But she does keep her arm around Valerian's lower back as she gives instructions, leading him out with her shoulder pressed into his side.

Something is murmured against all that darkness of hair, lost and muffled to it. While Valerian may be holding Risali in a fashion that suggest he might not ever release her again (not at all awkward for her two weyrmates), he finds that maybe that's all he really needed: a hug from someone exceptionally short, because as she gets on the tip of her toes and moves her body against his to wrap him in the comfort of her embrace, there is a hot exhale of breath only against the top of her head. A second later, a chortle and then the soft bounce of his shoulders. Did the starcrafter just laugh? Yes he did. Not at the proclamation that he had somehow achieved something worthy of praise, but rather for the knowledge that he had in Leirith's mind been lifted to the status of certified badass. Another round of laughter comes for the wuffling queen just overhead and he tips his face upwards to grin at her that was less too many teeth but still entirely of wolfish quality. It was in his blood, after all. Genetically predetermined, "Thanks, Leirith." As she wanders off to let brother and sister do overly long hug thing, Vale squeezes the tiny woman tighter, knowing she can take it. He is not at all surprised that when Garouth moves, his sibling does too and reflexively he releases her once again. Fingers remain in contact with her somewhere though, likely at the base of her neck and together they head off from the sands. But this time, Valerian looks back.

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