At last we meet for the first time, (but not) for the last time

Igen Weyr - Library
Located off a hallway accessible only from the lower caverns, a set of ornate double doors open to reveal nothing less than a literary paradise. Some unknown process was used to carve the majority of this immense library cavern straight out of the very living rock itself, the walls high and wide, and oddly buttery smooth without the having needed to be polished. The older construction is easily discernible from the newer, with long rectangular shelves and cubbies — stuffed with books of every topic imaginable — inset within the walls themselves throughout the circumference of the cavern, divided off into two separate floors with a single grand staircase enabling passage to each. Railings along the upper floor provide safety from accidental falls, the support columns of which are done in simple spiral pattern that has withstood the test of time. Newer additions, in the last hundred turns or so, are the large heavy wooden tables that can be found scattered about, their solid construction carried on into the matching chairs provided for sitting. However, for those that require solitude and privacy, there are a few nooks in which small stone tables and padded chairs can be found. A mix of glows and electric lights give plenty of illumination no matter the time of day, and the occasional oil painting or tapestry breaks up the monotony of otherwise bare stone walls, the floor scattered with rugs of variable age and design.

One of the glorious features of Igen, were one to ask a certain redheaded harper-cum-candidate, is the literary paradise that is Igen Weyr's library. Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise in a Weyr whose external environs has a natural appeal for a particular type of person (the sort the doesn't mind finding sand in their boots) should host so many tomes that offer endless escapes for the person with enough attention and imagination. That is probably why Tej may be found here after the evening meal, perusing the shelves with the affectionate eye of one who enjoys being just where they're at and what they're doing. Her red plait, trailing over one shoulder, is still damp from a recent bath, perhaps had in the hopes that she won't find small grits of sand in her cot for the millionth time since her arrival. Her garb is not the typical desert dress that she plundered from the Igen stores but rather one of the outfits that she brought from Xanadu, a pair of black, worn but well-tended pantaloons that are tight only at the hip and knee where they tuck into tall boots, her shirt likewise flowy everywhere but at the wrists, though this is a bright teal that sets off her hair and fair skin that does not tan but does sport the slight pinkness of one struggling to contend with the sun outside.

The library might just be the one place Alexa did not complain about upon her exile to Igen. Now, of course, she probably has a great many reasons to call the desert Weyr 'home' with affection. But the library is, and will remain, her absolute favorite. After Raaneth. And A'eyr. OK, it's her favorite place, for all those reasons already listed. Books. Who doesn't want to lose themselves among them? She might not be freshly washed, but she at least endeavors not to track in the desert with her, spending a great deal of time stomping and shaking out her clothes before stepping into that little large sanctuary of literature. There might even be a smile on her face, bright eyed and carefree. Until she happens to catch sight of that tell-tale red braid and correctly interpret who it belongs to. It puts a falter in those chirper steps and what might be a rather comical expression as the weyrwoman's wide-eyes dart toward the door and back. Contemplating escape? Maybe. Deciding that books are definitely worth awkward encounters? Definitely. So, with a sigh, she'll just… keep right on trucking. And maybe trying (and also probably failing) to pretend like she didn't see Tejra.

If there's anything harpers are good at, besides books, it's pretending, right? Look, Tej can pretend that she has nothing but the utmost respect for the blonde bibliophile. "Weyrwoman." Evidently, the redhead is not following the rules of improv and saying, 'yes, and-' to Alexa's bid for not seeing Tej. And yet, it's not wholly a deception because there is some grudging undercurrent of real respect there. After all, in this place, as was never true at the Hall, Alexa has a rank substantially higher than any Tejra can claim that requires work in kind for the perks of the job. More than that, for the first time, the slightly younger woman appears to want something from the elder one, drawing in a breath and holding it before she steps more directly toward the goldrider's intended path. "A moment of your time?" There's an edge of conflicting moods there, some humor mixed with a genuine bid for her attention. If Tej can laugh at herself later for being a little miffed that Alexa is someone she must now defer to… perhaps it's already funny now?

It's been four Turns, and Alexa still goes a little blank-faced at being addressed in such a way. There's definitely a 'who, me?' sort of look, before she recovers herself. One could not call it a graceful recovery, but she does at least try. "Oh. Evening. Tejra." Polite at least. If a bit choppy. And just as quickly, she's trying to 'carry on' with that ignoring. Or at least, attempting to look really busy and really invested in that shelf of… uh… Well. Alexa probably doesn't know what it's a shelf of, since she's not actually reading the spines. Course, whatever plans she may have had to delve into something fictional evaporate at the question. And while there's a hunch of her shoulders and probably a good deal of time spent debating whether Alexa can politely decline the request, in the end she caves because duty or something. "Um. Sure?" Way to be dignified. At least she doesn't wince. A little stiff, she twists to regard Tejra with a look that is meant to be mature and probably utterly fails. She might be a weyrwoman, but she's clearly the sort that stacks books and studies papers and not the sort they send out to be diplomatic.

It may not help matters that Tejra's pale gaze on the goldrider has every appearance of being uncomfortably penetrating and annoyingly intuitive. That may just be a front, of course, or it may simply be that the journeyman is in the habit of unnerving people with the tilt of her head set just so, implying a weight of assessment that the slight arch to one red brow does nothing but help. (Does she practice these expressions in the mirror? Test them for efficacy? With harpers obsessed with movement and micromovement… it's a fair bet that that's the case). The one redeeming feature of the look that could well be compared to catlike mannerisms of observation and judgment is that she waits, patiently, for Alexa to complete her show of being busily engaged. If there's a slight hitch in the level of that eyebrow that silently communicates, 'are you done yet?' who can say if it was intentional. (Spoiler alert: it was.) Judging by the way that the candidate shifts, every movement flowing into the next, ending in a more casual posture, lightly leaning a hip and shoulder on the shelves beside where the Weyrwoman is looking, she doesn't require Alexa to summon up her dignity to satisfy that which Tej is seeking from her. "I wanted to ask you about your Raaneth and her eggs. May I?" At least where rank is a question, the redhead is making it sound like Alexa can tell her no.

Alexa apparently failed those lessons. While she might pretend at pretending, she's kind of terrible at it. That is to say, whatever she feels is usually evidenced in her expression, at least until she slaps a big ol' sarcastic right over the top. But right now, there's more confusion than anything else. Confusion, and the botched attempt to be dignified, and then a whole lotta awkward because this is so not fair right now! Alexa is the weyrwoman! Alexa is the older, and wiser (HAHAHA no), and ranked one of this pairing. She's supposed to be on top of things! But the only thing she's on top of is her own two feet. At least there's no threat of falling on her face. Penetrating looks are definitely ignored, though there's a suspicious twitching to the weyrwoman's eyebrow and a little downward quirk to her mouth. But when the question comes, it's clearly not what she was expecting. (what she was expecting is anyone's guess). "Uh. Sure? I mean yes. You can ask me about Raaneth and her eggs." She even manages to keep the 'but I am not obligated to answer you!' part out of her sentence, even if it might be in the squinty-squint of her eyes.

Meanwhile the other harper meets that squinty-squint with her patent (and hard-won, hard-trained) look of serenity. Where one of them (coughNotTejcough) might have had a reputation for being aloof and mistaken for being a snob back at the Hall, those tables may have turned because persistent tranquility of face has a way of being incredibly annoying to people feeling less than. How dare Tejra lean there looking too cool for school-ing. It is, however, schooling in matters beyond her ken that she is reluctantly (and just a little of that sneaks into the pale gaze of the candidate on the goldrider) seeking. "I like them." It's a bit of a blurt. It's easy to tell because (spoiler alert) when Tejra does something she didn't exactly plan, she has a tendency to blush. A little. Unfortunately, on fair skin like hers, a little tends to show up a lot. She rolls her shoulders, clearing her throat before she goes on, trying to recapture her inner calm (ha). "Anyway." Forget she said that. "I was wondering…" She's not actually going to choke on having to ask Alexa a question, but it does seem like she's struggling for a moment to get it out. "How does Raaneth feel about the eggs? Or if she takes care of them all the same way? Or… I don't know, if there are times of day she likes looking at them best? The blue one has silver in it when you look at it in moonlight, but you can't see it- -" And now Tej's voice is starting color with an embarrassing touch of fanaticism and that blush is redoubling in force as her voice cuts off. "Anyway." She clears her throat again. "I'd be-" don't choke, "- grateful if you cared to share any of your insights. Her insights." Whatever.

Now it's Alexa's turn to stare, only she's not nearly as graceful about it. While not quite the open-mouthed variety, there's definitely a 'what sort of creature are you?' slant to the look she's sending Tejra. At least she won't comment on the blush? Though she will offer a somewhat dry, "That's good…" in return for the other Harper's unexpected confession. "Pretty sure candidates are supposed to like the eggs." Are they though? Whatever the right answer might be, she's not ready to debate it. "Anyway," she says, an unconscious repetition of Tejra's own sequitur. At least all that awkward means that Alexa's own is less noticeable. She can hope, at least. But when the question (The real question) finally comes out, awkward makes way for surprised and maybe a little amused, though she's quick to wipe that from her face. "Raaneth loves her eggs. I mean, they're eggs. So… there's not that much to love yet but… since she laid them, she's kind of really into them. But no favorites. Not really. I mean, it kinda changes with the day?" Dragons. Who can understand them. "Sometimes it's the purple one. Sometimes it's the pearl-y one. Sometimes the blue or the one with little green bits. Honestly, she fusses over each with the same, uh… passion - -" Sure, that sounds like the word. "- - at different times. And I dunno why," she admits with a little shrug. "I tried to ask but really, dragon's don't make a lot of sense when it comes to stuff like that. They're her eggs. It's kinda… instinct?" Even Alexa isn't really sure, and she lives with the queen in her head.

"I-" Tej starts and stops, then charges verbally on anyway, "-have a friend at Xanadu who had some… trouble when he touched the eggs there." The shoulder not touching the shelves lifts and falls in a 'it doesn't matter' shrug when that's clearly not the case. "I wasn't sure what to expect even with stories." Stories don't always tell the truth, after all, or not the whole truth anyway. She doesn't fidget. Nerves in Terja manifest as added layers of stillness, like individual muscles are being frozen on top of the whole grouping; it's the kind of thing that takes that daily training that she's been attempting to keep up with (though not terribly successfully) with her new duties as a candidate, the thing that keeps her so busy as to not actually be as much of a pain as anyone might anticipate the redhead ought to be. Dance is a wonderful, exhausting investment for the journeywoman. When Alexa begins to speak about the dragon and the eggs, Tejra's body and expression begins to soften in increments, as a sullen child drawn in by a Harper's yarn. It's not long before she's shifted out of her lean, posture toward the goldrider more open. She is, inarguably, listening and placing value in the answers she's being given. "Instinct," Tejra repeats the word, but her tone is thoughtful. "Maybe they're lucky to have a dragon for a mother." It's an offhand remark, a throw away that probably isn't supposed to make sense to anyone who had a mother with instincts. She certainly goes right on back to the eggs. "When I touch them, I can… I think I can," who knows what's real after all? "-feel certain things from them. A little like when the dragons at Xanadu talk where everyone can 'hear' them," they do have that tendency over yonder, "but different. Does… Raaneth talk to the eggs? Do they say anything back?" This is asked with a simplicity tantamount to shyness, though the latter probably isn't a thing Tejra has ever had much experience with (except to feign it for purposes nefarious or other Reasons).

Glossing over about egg-trouble (almost definitely because Alexa has no experience of which to speak in that regard) the goldrider simply stands and stares and listens and tries not to look as weirded-out by this odd conversation as she feels. Though perhaps it is not the conversation that is weird, so much as just who she is having it with. Mothers? Instincts? A snort and a quick "Agreed" for that one. But likewise, there's no further touching on that taboo topic. At least there are questions about eggs to distract from it. They pair might just trade places, with Tejra standing tall and Alexa suddenly leaning against the shelf like she can't be bothered to hold herself up anymore. Tough job, standing. Her fingers pluck at the edge of a book spine while she things, a little frown creasing her forehead. "I felt things when I touched them. Not this clutch," she adds hastily. "I haven't touched any int his group. But with Raaneth's— with the group I stood Candidate for. Yeah, I felt things. Different from what Raaneth feels like though. Even how she felt in the shell isn't what she feels like now." So there's a little tidbit to consider. And while the question about whether Raaneth talks to her eggs might make Alexa giggle (at least a little, because it's apparently amusing), she does think about it and provide an actual answer. "No. Not really. I mean… She'll croon a them at times. But she doesn't like… try to reach out and mindspeak with them. Or if she does, it isn't words. She knows they're in there, and they're alive. So she must sense something. But it's not a conversation. How weird would that be?" she wonders with an amused little snort. "I mean, I dunno what these eggs feel like, but the ones I touched… I dunno if they could carry on a conversation."

If anyone could agree on a number of the first points, it would be Tejra. Perhaps most of all about standing, and yet she's doing just that, shifting a little, so she can turn toward Alexa where she leans her eyes going on the spines. There may be small consolation in that Tej doesn't appear anymore at home with this conversation than the goldrider, even if her personal discomfort manifests only in micro expressions. She is still paying attention to what's being imparted, her quick mind turning over the ideas and turning them from information gained and mentally filed to new questions to replace the old. It's not quite an interogation for her manner continues to be more casual than that, her hands coming up to steal the tie from the end of her plait and start to separate the strands for something to do. It might almost sound like Tejra is trying to get to know Alexa, except that her focus remains on the dragons. "I don't know very much about dragons, or eggs. I mean, I know what I've learned being in Xanadu, but at the Hall, there wasn't an informative course about candidacy," perhaps because the Hall doesn't want to lose the focus, the talent? Or maybe it's just not relevant to most harpers in the same way it is to those who end up posted at the Weyr. This admission is possibly a frame for her next questions, "How was it different? For you and Raaneth. From egg to… now? If you remember." The last isn't added as a challenge, but rather as an allowance that time does have an impact on memory, replacing much of the then with the more immediate concerns of the day. "I mean, dragons can carry on conversations as soon as they're shelled, mostly, right?" She sounds like that's one she knows, but she is, perhaps grudgingly, looking to the local expert for confirmation.

SURE FEELS LIKE AN INTERROGATION! But then again, Alexa is perfectly capable of that thing called walking, and is not a stranger to employing it when she wants to avoid things. That she's choosing to stay either says she's comfortable (-ish) with the conversation, or at least willing to maintain it because dragons. Or maybe too surprised that they're having it in the first place that she's forgotten she could, like, leave. Either way, she's leaning on books and holding up shelves (or they're holding her up) and poking at the spines of things she's definitely not reading, even if she's pretending to do so if just to avoid Tejra's eyes. JUST TWO GIRLS TALKING ABOUT DRAGONS. Nothing weird about this! "Xanadu is weird," she decides. Only a half-second later she seems to catch herself saying it and, while she won't blush, will at least look a mite contrite. "I mean. Not weird but, abnormal?" Is that better? No? How about, "Unusual? Uh. Different. Their dragons are different. Very loud. That's not… most dragon's aren't." There. That sounds a bit better. At least, Alexa is gonna just roll with that and move right on into the next question. Which, apparently, requires the scrunching of Alexa's nose to aid in her thinking. A totally mature move for a totally mature woman (cough). "I don't know how to explain," she decides at last, adopting a dismissive shrug of her own. "The thoughts and feelings that I got from the egg are not the same way that Raaneth feels in my head. Like… one was a picture book and the other was a novel?" It's not a great example, but it's the best she can seem to do. "Her egg was bright and flashy and fun, but without depth. Raaneth herself is… deep. Complex." As most thinking, sentient creatures tend to be. "And yeah, sure, they can. I dunno how it works. Maybe ask a dragonhealer?" It's not defensive or anything. Well, maybe a touch? "I might have a dragon in my head, but Faranth help me, that does not mean I understand them." Alexa's local expert status has clearly been declined; maybe town gossip is a better title?

Fairly, walking is more work than standing. That and the fact that Tej is still standing her, just casually undoing her braid, just so she can do it over again. Obviously, everything is very normal in the library tonight. It might say quite a deal that Tejra does not make any move in sound or action to protest Alexa's assessment of Xanadu. What the younger woman does choose to say is, "Xanadu is my first posting. It's been my only point of reference aside from visits to the other Weyrs, until now." Thanks to R'sner and Toith, Tejra is getting a chance to see and get to know more of the version of normal that Igenites know. Sand, sun and all. "Some of the dragons there aren't loud," the harper does add, perhaps to lend a new data dot to the baseline for these questions and answers. Book analogies are something Tejra can appreciate and her pale gaze slides away from Alexa's face to the books like the spines are helping her internalize the comparison. "That makes a certain kind of sense." Perhaps Tej means it makes an Alexa kind of sense, but if so, it's one she seems to follow at least provisionally. "A little like 'hello, isn't the weather nice today' conversation compared to one that goes all night and empties out the mind of haunting thoughts until nothing's left that isn't shared." Where would Tejra get such romantic ideas? Well, she is staring at much of the reasons. Those books that give people such wild ideas. "I'll do that." Ask a dragonhealer. She squints at the spines. "This is not the section I need." If she has more questions about dragons, perhaps she's not going to ask the town gossip, even if Raaneth's rider was the most appropriate choice to inquire about the dam's reaction to the eggs short of Raaneth, herself, though that likely would have been a fruitless endeavor. "Do you know where they keep the adventure novels? Something that might spark a non-existent imagination into being? Maybe historical fiction?" She seems to be contemplating this idea, but surely, Tejra is not lacking in imagination herself, so the search must be for someone else. Can Alexa guess?

"None of the dragons at Igen are loud." Is it a competition now? Maybe. What of it? Alexa is totally an Igenite, so local pride is expected, right? She'll even sniff a little, as though the very thought that loud dragons might live here is offensive (it's not). But debating the appeal of loud versus not-loud dragons is definitely not the topic of conversation, and Alexa isn't really ready to make it one. So instead she frowns again, giving up the pretense of reading book spines (are they in the healer section? Are those even pronounceable titles?!). "Uh… sure. Yeah. I guess that's a way of looking at it." Surface-level. Definitely not deep. Alexa can get behind that for eggs versus dragons. A little squinty-squint comes for Tejra once again, green eyes narrowed in a manner that is not at all subtle (but perhaps Alexa thinks is?) before she decides, "No, it's not." The adventure section. "They're uh…" Cue a quick peek around to make orient herself to where she is in the library, "Over there." At least it comes with a point of her finger, and not just a vague chin-jut? And while she's perfectly happy to let this conversation go, curiously decidedly gets the better of her when she asks, "Who are you looking to spark an imagination in?" a half-beat before she adds, "Never mind. But good luck. And maybe try pirates, if it's a guy." Yaromil will be so pleased with the overload of adventure on the high seas, right?

Is it a competition now? That it might be sees Tejra arching a brow elegantly. The thing is, Alexa has a pony in the race, the harper does not. She will generously give Alexa the point. (Is is still victory if the competitor forfeit, Alexa?) The goldrider's more or less confirmation of the alternate example has her tipping her head slightly in a nod that doesn't quite slip to 'thought so' so much as a simple acceptance of the confirmation that that's the right direction anyway. The squinty-eyes are met with a convincing look of innocence as fingers work deftly through the process of replaiting. Seeing as how the redhead isn't finished with that, though, she makes no move to rush off to the section Alexa indicates, though pale eyes do mark the location. "Pirates are exciting," Tej grants with a thoughtfulness that has nothing to do with the kinds of pirates found in books, adding, "…for most people," a few beats too long. "Maybe adventurous dragonriders would do better for this candidate. What kind of people does Igen want for riders anyway?" A pause, as she enters dangerous conversational waters, one hand leaving her hair to wave it in the air between them, "I mean, I know the dragons let you know who they think is promising for a clutch, but by the time they're done weyrlinghood, what kind of people does the Weyr want them to be? We're taking all these classes," a vague wave, "about rider things, but you're… well, one of the people who sees a lot of the paperwork." Not the Weyrleader no, but one of the filers? Something. "Is imagination in the criteria?"

A win is a win, even if it's a race of one (or none?) Either way, Alexa would totes count that as a victory, but at least she won't be smug about it. Probably for the best, when the conversation takes a turn that has her clearly puzzled over whether insult was meant or she's simply too sensitive not to find one. "Pirates are exciting for most people," she'll correct in a manner not quite delicate but definitely not gruff. "Particularly those with imaginations." But since they're talking about an unimaginative sort (cause they're totally talking about NOT THEM right?) she'll let it go. Or well. She'll try to let it go. With dignity and grace, or at least the attempt at it. Even if there's a certain sort of sour look about her for the wondering of what sort of weyrlings the Weyr wants. "Maybe the sort that chase pirates. Not all books are about the bad guys." Most aren't, in fact. On a more serious note (if one could call it that) there's an idle-shoulder shrug of dismissiveness as Alexa decides, "Maybe? Though there are plenty of boring dragonriders. A whole wing of them, in fact." Well, now she's just making gross generalizations that are probably, entirely unfounded. "Someone's gotta work transport, after all." And some people file paperwork, but apparently Alexa isn't going to count her job among the boring. "I think the classes are meant to prepare you for what it might be like. Some people have silly notions about what being a dragonrider is like." Books about adventures probably have nothing to do with that. Total coincidence. "This particular candidate isn't a lanky guy with curly hair, is it?"

"They're better in books," Tejra's expression which may have started to open just slightly is bored now, a perfect mask of boredom. Of course, she doesn't go on to elaborate about the pirates who aren't better in books. And if that happens to slot into certain rumors that might have circulated about her at the Hall, welll… maybe they weren't just rumors? Unfortunately for everyone who was having a perfectly normal, not at all unexpected or surreal time up til now, that expression remains while Alexa goes on with that certain sort of sour look. Perhaps this is the interaction they both anticipated (if not wholly expected) is now occurring. "Igen," she observes with a dry tone that may be readily taken as something other than the humor it may or may not be, "would seem to have a dearth of dastardly ne'er-do-wells on the high seas to pursue." This is not true of other places. It's her turn to squint, but it's at the spines of the books, before she flicks that narrowed pale gaze toward the goldrider to inquire, "Do they have sand pirates here? Air pirates? Surely no dragon would dare." Right? If her lips spread in a Cheshire smile that might be more obnoxious than friendly, it's probably a sure sign that she should nod to the words about boring dragonriders and what the classes are meant for before she offers a mannerly (but is it really or just an homage to rank and circumstance?), "Thank you, weyrwoman Alexa, for your time. Over there, yes?" The adventure titles, she indicates with a pointed finger, making as though to go that way now that she's just finished tying off the braid that hangs over her shoulder. She doesn't go unless the goldrider seems to have no objection to being rid of her, of course. (But could anyone really blame Alexa if she were quite ready to be done?)

Those pesky rumors probably just got stamped with a big ol' 'CONFIRMED' in Alexa's mind, and then neatly filed away under 'T'. For Trouble. (and Tejra. Which might be one and the same, in the weyrwoman's book). Bored looks get haughty returns, though two can't really play at this game. Namely because Alexa is the sort of Harper that alphabetizes bookshelves and doesn't know how to banter with words. Which means her most clever comeback for the comment on sand pirates is a sniff and a sarcastic, "I wouldn't know. *I* don't go looking for trouble." Like that means something. But she's not flustered. No, of course not! She always looks a little bright-eyed and flustered and totally uncomfortable in the presence of candidates. But no. The gig is up, and Alexa is happy to take that 'out' presented to her, a wave of her hand and a dismissive, "Yeah. That way," offered in return for Tejra's. It's only belatedly (probably while Tej is already on the move) that she tosses out a totally unbelievable "You're welcome," in the semblance of manners. Because she likes to pretend she has those.

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