Wherry Nice to --Meat-- Meet You

The trees grow thickly here, avians nesting in their branches and flitting about after insects. Flowers sprout up and speckle the ground between, the green of small plants and their blooms of bright saffron and cheeky rose that creep all the way up to the bases of the trees and adorn the fallen leaves and mulch of the forest floor. Those trees rise upward in their aged magnificence, gargantuan limbs casting often welcome shade, the general atmosphere and scent of the path is one of freshness and wild abandon.
A path winds its leisurely way through the trees, wide enough for wagons to pass. As it goes through into the forest, a number of other trails branch away, both more and less traveled. Many of them lead to private weyrs, but there's a few more trodden paths - notable among them a road to the feeding grounds, set against the western slopes.
The forest grows wilder the further north one goes, deep growth and ancient places, and the road splits in two against it. One branch leads to a clearing with a large stone building finished with wooden cladding, while the other turns back toward the meadow. Just before it emerges, a trail veers off to the Firelizard Theatre.

Winter in Xanadu is usually thankfully mild, but sometimes that can be both blessing and a curse. Right now, Rhodelia appears to be falling more on the cursing side as that's exactly what she's doing in the middle of a forest path, cheeks a little bit flushed and hair pulled back in bun. The woman looks dressed for a run although most of the language seems directed at her leather flight jacket in her hands that's too bulk to be tied around but apparently also too warm to be wearing seeing as she's no longer wearing it. "I give up!" Surrender is declared as she tosses the jacket down and immediately after flops herself down on top of it, long legs sprawling in the pathway.

Winter means the type of prey one hunts changes - things hide, range far to find food, or disappear altogether. Kass showed up to the weyr maybe yesterday, the day before, and after a little time to situate himself and figure out his place in the weyr, took on the task of hunting and bringing back food. One normally needs to travel far in winter for something to eat, and given his somewhat shiftless look and recent arrival, nobody's going to trust him with a runnerbeast yet (not that he'd know how to ride one anyway), so here he is, pacing down the trail with a bow slung over his shoulder and a bag on his back, his steps smooth and quick in a ground-eating, efficient glide. The glide slows as he comes across a person in the path, and halts altogether as she flops down. Kass clears his throat carefully, just to make it clear he's present… and only once she's seen him does he actually step closer. "Everything all right?" His voice is just a bit quiet, reserved.

Somewhere in the vast amount of paperwork cluttering Xanadu's admin offices, surely there's a piece somewhere mentioning the new hunter, but odds of Rhodelia having both seen it and remembering she's seen it are very low indeed. The woman jumps slightly at the throat clearing, eyes widening a bit at the stranger's arrival and suddenly she's bolting back up and trying to shake all the dead leaves off of her jacket. "If you don't count my running form, everything's fine." And as he takes a step closer, she takes a step back as one does meeting the unexpected in the woods, especially someone slightly shiftless looking and armed. "Were you looking for someone?"

"Rabbits," Kass says quietly, one hand on the strap of his pack and the other at his side… yeah, he's armed. There's a hunting knife on his hip. He… positions that free hand on the strap of the pack as well. "Maybe a deer if I find one." That'll be luck if he manages it. He shifts from one foot to the other. There, no hands near any weapons. "May I ask…?" He's not going to finish that sentence. Finishing it would imply he's actually curious and helpful and that would be risky, especially considering how people tend to shy away from him. "Never mind." Finally he begins to move again, stepping carefully forward down the path, which is necessarily going to bring him closer.

And all Rhodelia has at hand at the moment is a canteen and her jacket although if she got lucky with a strike to the head the metal jug might be able to do some damage. She blinks at the answers to her question. "Rabbits? I thought the beastcrafters bred those since they bred like well… rabbits." She shrugs. At the never mind she does step forward, curiosity at least a bit peaked. "No. What were you going to ask?" She'll still keep a healthy amount of distance between the two of them, but she's at least not retreating any more than she already has.

Well… it's either go around or step closer, and the trail isn't that wide, so Kass steps closer, and stops when that becomes awkward. "I was going to ask what you were doing. But it's fine. You don't have to answer." His voice is low, as if to keep from disturbing the stillness around them. "As for the rabbits…" He shrugs. "If I find something better, I'll take it." The corner of his mouth quirks up in something a little like a smirk. That right there is why people don't trust him. "It's just hunting."

Rhodelia remains a stubborn and curious roadblock in the trail but at least she isn't sprawled across the path any more, just awkwardly standing in the middle of it. "I was running. And then I gave up." She shrugs, not like it was a very interesting or secret activity. "If you want something better… I think a pack of wherries managed to escape when a green flight damaged the fence a seven or so ago." The giant winged birds probably didn't get too far with wings having been clipped and the path to the feeding grounds isn't too far from the path the two are currently occupying.

That 'and then I gave up' gets a furrow of brows and a tilt of the head from Kass, whose lips twist in a way that could've been a smile if interpreted very, very charitably. "I'll take a look, thank you." The hunter gestures at the path, since she's not moving. "Walk with me?" Since she seems inclined to keep an eye on him, probably for good reason. "You can show me where." Some thought or other makes his lips twist that way again and he turns his gaze elsewhere, cast out into the forest in a curious search. "Though I have to think the beastcrafters won't be too thrilled if I do bring one of them down. Or is that not how things work here?"

"I don't know where they are, just that they're supposed to be around," Rhodelia shrugs, but she does turn and start walking slowly in the other direction, glancing over her shoulder to confirm if she is being followed. Overhead, a very large shadow passes, but it is a weyr so dragons flying is to be expected. "The beastcrafters looked a bit, but where more focused on repairing the fence. The wherries were meant to be a dragons dinner, so if they haven't ended up a snack for a feline, why shouldn't a hunter catch one for the Weyr? You are one of Xanadu's right?" She glances back with an eyebrow raised as if there's an off-chance he's something like the world's most foolish renegade and would admit to it.

There, now Kass can keep going, and he relaxes slightly as he begins moving again. "I'd figure they'd have some they keep for breeding and some for feeding. These must've been the feeding sort or they'd have looked harder. And yes, I've just come to Xanadu." Nope, not foolish enough to admit how sketchy he /really/ is. His pace is picking up back towards that ground-eating stride. "Do you know where the fence broke? It might make tracking them easier." It's easier to talk to someone when he doesn't have to look them in the eye, but he's not really paying attention to how quickly he's going, and he does have long legs.

Rhodelia doesn't mind not making eye contact although she will not so subtly keep glancing back at the hunter. "Yeah, it'd be pretty foolish of them to keep their breeding stock in the feeding grounds. And I guess if you're new and don't have a dragon, not really much reason for folks to point out where it is, but it's right over here." She'll beckon as if he wasn't already following. The walk isn't that far along, only have to pass a few more smaller offshooting paths before a wider one opens up and Rhody turns down it. "It doesn't sound like it's very busy today." There are some general animal sounds if one listens closer but not the frantic cries that come from penned animals when giant predators are about.

"I assumed the dragons could tell them apart somehow. But you're right, messy." Kass is following, measuring his pace to hers if not just about impatiently passing - he hates holding still - when finally, belatedly, he remembers to add, "My name is Kassander." There. "Call me Kass." Now that the pens are in sight, he's moving faster; the newer parts of the fence are probably fairly obvious, and those will make a good starting point.

"That seems like it'd be pretty hard. Dragons don't have pretty long memories. Easier just to say, go here when you're hungry. This is where we keep food for eating. Otherwise it's like trying to tell a child that the cookies with the raisins are for snacking now and the cookies with dried cherries are for later, but also putting them all in one platter." Rhodelia continues to talk as she's passed by. She just leans up on the first, older part of the fence near by. "I'm Rhody. Or Rhodelia." As introductions are being given, there's a loud warble from overhead, the only warning before a tawny gold plummets down from the sky to land a few yards from the fence, paying absolutely no attention to the animals, but eyes whirling as she inspects both humans at the fence and gives another warble of greeting now that she's landed. The rider doesn't flinch at all at the sudden appearance, smiling instead. "And this is Inasyth. She asks how do you do?" The enormous dragon's massive paws are crossed delicately in front of her as she waits for her answer.

At the warble, Kass freezes solid - a reflex in the world of large predators. He'd been nodding right along up to the point of the cookie analogy, a thoughtful look on his face, when… bam. Dragon. He blinks once, quite carefully, as if motion takes a distinct effort, then unfreezes himself and tips his attention up towards the dragon quite seriously. "Very well, thank you." Because does /he/ want to be the one to tell a dragon the discomfort and restlessness that follows him around? Given that cookie analogy, it might be taken the wrong way. "Hello Inasyth. Rhody." The shorter name is picked automatically, without a second thought. He's going to have a very hard time looking away from the golden creature.

Inasyth is a lot to take in, but she's fine with the gawking! She's massive and curvy and lovely and golden and who wouldn't want to look at her? She seems delighted enough with the answer as she croons back her own response, lowering her head so she's nearly within arm's reach, although lucky for Kass the fence is still in between them. Despite the massive size difference and the looming and any misunderstood cookie analogies, biological hardwiring means humans are perfectly safe and definitely off the dragon menu. Rhodelia rolls her eyes, but continues translating even as she swings her legs over so she's sitting on the fence. "Now she wants to know how you're liking the weyr. And your family." There's a glance over to the nearly frozen hunter as she slips back into her jacket, the senior weyrling knot still on it clearly threaded with gold. "Can you back up a step or three, love? I think you're scaring him." Inasyth's head snaps back up as she gives a confused rumble, but she'll obediently enough take the requested steps back. "She would never hurt anybody, you know." Even as Rhody says the words, the dragons head bobbles in agreement.

Normally Kass would be protesting the implication that fear has anything to do with him, but something else about that comment caught his attention and he eyes the dragon just a bit warily. That bit about family made him /twitch/ and it shows, no matter how he tries to hide it. He controls his words, however, and instead of asking questions, just takes a careful step closer - see, not afraid! - and says, "It's comfortable. Interesting. I don't quite know what to make of it. Everything is loud sometimes." Surely a dragon can appreciate that. He dares to come up towards the fence not far from Rhodelia. "It's fine. I've seen dragons before. Just… never up close." Also, she's huge. Has anyone mentioned that? The wherries are probably going insane.

If he has a problem with the implications, he can always submit an official written complaint. To Rhodelia, about Rhodelia, which will then get promptly lost in her patented mystery filing system of no return. The bit about Xanadu being loud actually gets a laugh from Rhody up on her safe fence perch. "Try loud almost all the time. If it's quiet, just a matter of time before Leirith or Xermiltoth appear." While Inasyth might be vocal, she pales in comparison to the Weyr's Senior gold and her own father. She's at least trying to behave and funnel messages to non-riders through her rider although Kassander might notice a surprising scent of sparkling wine and popping bubbles appearing on the wind. When he mentions that he's never seen a dragon up close, Inasyth's jaw drops in her surprise. An innocent enough gesture even if it does display that ferociously well equipped set of teeth. The whirling of her eyes pick up as she swishes her tail back and forth and lowers her head back to the ground. "If you want to look closer…" Rhodelia waves a hand at the waiting dragon, mouth thankfully closed now. Inasyth doesn't have any eyelashes to bat but she does let out what she believes is a friendly croon of invitation as well.

Well, as long as no one pounces on Kess's twitchiness about the mere concept of family, it's all good. "Dragons, I assume," he murmurs, regarding the other names, which sound like the sorts of names that would belong to a dragon. "Do they name themselves?" And then it happens. The hand that was on his pack with the other, being studiously far away from his hunting knife, drops from the pack and extends cautiously out towards the massive, toothy golden monster who is, despite her enormous size, somehow emitting an aura of /cute/. Well, if this is how Kass dies, at least it'll be an interesting death - and a rare one, if he's heard right. They don't generally eat humans, from what people say. Inasyth is getting touched cautiously on the snout, right between her nostrils. "You're huge," he murmurs rather distractedly, as if she didn't already know - and then quickly amends, "And beautiful." Because one never tells a lady one single word about her size, even if it /is/ a good thing and impressive among her kind.

After turns of avoiding any talk about her own family drama, Rhodelia would be the last one to press the topic with someone else and Inasyth is thankfully already distracted with more important things like DRAGONS. Rhody raises an eyebrow as she catches the murmured assumption, but shakes her head and moves on. "Yeah, they do name themselves. And some name their riders too although Ina seemed to like mine just fine. For some reason all the guys get their names shortened. I think it's tradition or something at this point." After several thousand turns, it's certainly old enough to be called a tradition. Inasyth holds still enough as the hunter cautiously approaches, but once he touches her snout, she'll push a bit closer so he can get a proper feel of the soft, almost buttery hide that's been so well cared for and definitely not scale-y. At the compliment, she gives a whuffle of laughter. Luckily for Kass, Inasyth is gold and so there's not any lingering sulferous scent of firestone on her breath. But since she has lured him this close, she can't quite hold her own excitement any more and translate just through Rhody. The scene of champagne concentrates as words bubble into mind. « I AM HUGE! That's 'cause I ate all my herdbeast as a weyrling. Maybe if you ate a few more, you wouldn't be so tiny! » Because regardless of actual height, all humans are relatively tiny when compared to over forty four meters of dragon.

Holy — Kass stumbles back a step, breaking contact, his eyes now /very/ wide. "I hear—" Well, Rhodey probably knows exactly what he hears, and that first moment of panic/wonder is probably the same for everyone - the breath whuffs out of him and he drops right back onto his backside. There's a litany of cursewords starting up in his head - there are /secrets/ in there and if she can just pluck them out of his mind there's no way he'll survive here long enough to find what he's looking for and… breathing, deep breathing commences, measured and careful and as under-control as Kess can get right now. It's fine. It's all fine. That's not how it works, it /can't/ be. Then again, there are stories about dragons ferreting out guilt like swift fish chasing the scent of blood. Gah. More breathing. "I need a moment." His voice is a bit strained and rather quiet.

"I'm sorry!" Rhodelia certainly knows what it feels like but having lived life with Inasyth constantly in her head (and before that even louder Leirith intruding almost as frequently), she might have forgot just what a shock it could be. The woman jumps down from her perch and freezes between going to the man and stepping up to her dragon. Inasyth takes a few steps back as the man falls on his butt so she can get a better look. The massive wedge shaped head swivels between the man and her rider before she gives a tentative rumble of question. That at least unfreezes Rhody as she steps forward to comfort the dragon and give Kass his requested minute, her back is even turned to him as she focuses on the gold. "He was just surprised. This is why we don't talk to everybody." She'll leave out that some people don't like it before she turns to look back at the man. "Are you alright? She didn't mean to scare you and is very sorry. We can leave…" Even though them leaving would still leave him at the feeding grounds where an actual hungry dragon could swoop down at any minute.

The deep breathing helps, and so do certain repetitive, careful thoughts. Carefully turning a well-known object over in his mind helps keep Kass's thoughts on the things that matter and off the secrets. "No, it's fine." The last thing he needs is to give a gold-rider a reason to eye him closer. "It's just…" He looks up, and there's the faintest twitch of his lips that might be a real smile. "This is the first time that's /ever/ happened." So surely it's understandable. He moves to pick himself up. "It's not fear," he addresses the dragon seriously. "It's awe." So there. Flattery works on lots of creatures, and honestly, doesn't the massive gold deserve it? He straightens his pack and his bow back onto his shoulders and nerves himself up to approach the dragon again. "It's fine." He might just be trying to convince himself.

A dragon inserting themselves into thoughts not their rider's is weird and often unsettling for the unprepared so Rhodelia's eyeing is more of the concerned variety than the suspicious type. And there's still about a month before Rhody will be a full goldrider, the weyrling training knot still sits on her shoulder. "If you need more time, like the rest of the afternoon, you could just blame it on me if the headwoman asks why you didn't bring anything back. It wouldn't be the first time." Honestly, Rhody's most useful skill is being a willing scapegoat and she's PERFECTED it so it really wouldn't even be the first time the headwoman has heard that excuse. Inasyth is still remaining safely behind Rhodelia, although her head is on the ground now, mostly so Rhody can reach her eyeridges for some comforting strokes. As Kassander comes forward again and offers the flattery, she'll tenatively snake her head around her rider and closer towards the hunter with another whuffle.

"I might take you up on that," Kass muses, because really, thinking is difficult when staring at a dragon. Ina's nose is getting petted carefully. "You're very lovely." The corner of his mouth quirks up. "And very smart. And large." Since she liked it last time! "I don't think I could be quite as big as you even if I ate entire wherries." He's doing all right, yes? He looks to Rhodey for assurance. Complimenting dragons is… not tricky but definitely /interesting/. Back to Inasyth his attention drags. "I can see why she likes you so much." That half-smile is back, reluctantly pleased.

Rhodelia wouldn't have offered the excuse if she wasn't serious about it. Besides, would she really want to be responsible if the still startled hunter accidentally shot himself in the leg or something which takes REAL skill to do considering the angles involved with a bow. As Inasyth is patted and complimented, she'll croon her delight back and avoid any telepathic intrusions. Although she does tilt her head slightly towards Rhodelia expectantly and then nudge at the woman with her paw when Rhody doesn't actually pass on the message fast enough, before the woman gives in with a sigh and a roll of her eyes. "She says wherries are for little dragons like her sisters. It's herdbeast that make you big and strong and you'll never know if you can eat a whole one unless you try." That gets a head shake, but the rider is smiling until the compliments are turned on herself and then her cheeks redden slightly. "I mean… it really would be my fault if you're not able to finish the rest of your hunting today. So that's true and not really anything extra I did…"

"Not my best impression ever," Kass says ruefully, "but I've done worse. I'll be fine." He experiments - do dragons like scratches? Probably not on the nose. Maybe the eye ridges and cheeks? "Tell me if you don't like this," he adds to Ina, mouth quirked up. Then over to Rhodey, "I like her. She is…" How to put it. "Good." So there. Just like every canine is a Good Boy or Good Girl, is there even such a thing as a Bad Dragon? Probably, but Ina isn't one. He sighs and admits, "Even if that was a surprise." A very, very big surprise. "Thank you for introducing me."

Continuing with the Good Dragon trend, Inasyth will so helpfully tilt her head until Kass is scratching just the right spot on her eyeridges and give a contented hum that thrums through her throat and anybody touching her as well. "That would be a yes. And she'd probably have you do it for hours if you didn't stop. I think your hand would fall off long before she got tired of it." Rhodelia nods along with providing the verbal confirmation. And depending on what misdeeds they might be doing at any moment, there can be some relatively bad dragons, but none present at the moment. "And again, sorry. Most dragons aren't so… in your face, but she's young…" Rhody shrugs as she offers the excuses. "And Leirith is always loud and in everybody's face so she probably hasn't had the best role models. And uh… Leirith is our Senior weyrwoman's dragon." Or rather, Leirith being the Senior Gold makes Risali the senior weyrwoman. Weyr ranks are tricky like that.

"I… see?" Yeah, Kass hasn't got much experience with weyr structure. "If she's anything like you," he murmurs to Ina, still scratching, "I can't wait to meet her." Which is madness, but there's a peculiar kind of madness dragons spawn. Already he can see a point to remaining here. "If I get the chance." Dammit. His mouth is doing that thing again where it's actually threatening to smile. "Here." Double-hand scritches. Gotta get that itchy spot just right. "I really should be doing something productive," he adds with a hint of amusement. "How did this happen? I can't refuse." It would be rude!

"She's a little bit smaller, but you'll definitely meet her if you stick around long enough," Rhodelia assures and really, there it is hard to avoid meeting the Unstoppable and Unavoidable Force that is Leirith. "And there's always a chance you might meet her closer than you'd expected. We'll be having a clutch on the Sands before too long and they'll probably be looking for candidates if we don't have enough from the last Hatching." While Rhody tosses that statement out as easily as she had about the herdbeast discussion, she watch closely to see if there's any reaction to the statement. "And you are doing something productive. This is a… Manual Inspection of Draconic Hide for Any Imperfections or Blemishes that would require assistance." Along with being a scapegoat, Rhody is also skilled in giving simple tasks very lofty sounding names as well.

The idea of candidacy does give Kass pause - he blinks in the way one would when thinking about that at /least/ twice. And then he snorts out a laugh. She finally got him - that was real amusement. "Imperfections? Impossible." Scritchscritchscritch. "There is nothing whatsoever imperfect about Inasyth." He even likes her name. "Clearly you need your eyes checked," he adds to her rider, and flashes a wicked smirk, before moving to scratch… let's see. The dragon's jaw looks sadly neglected. Right along the jaw ridge and maybe under the chin, if she'll tolerate it, so he can look again at those amazing and terrifying teeth. "Isn't that right, beautiful lady," he croons to the dragon. Shut up, she's cute.

Will those comments go directly to Inasyth's head and already oversized ego? Definitely. Thankfully draconic memory doesn't last very long so Rhody won't have to live with the gloating for more than a couple days and plus she has her own ways of bringing her lifemate down to size when needed. "Well, it'd be negligent of me not to check. Improperly cared for hide can crack when we go between, so the weyrlingmasters and dragonhealers always say." Rhodelia is busy scratching on Insayth's other side while giving out little tidbits about how dragonriding isn't all fun and games. "Like right now, there's a spot under her left foreleg where her last set of straps were wearing rough. We've fixed the straps but I'm watching that spot close." Those teeth are amazing and terrifying and oh so white as Inasyth curls her mouth open in what is probably an attempt to mimic a human smile. Not so effective on a dragon face, but at least the gold still thinks she's cute. Mind over matter.

"Yeah?" All right, he's curious. Kass comes around, keeping a hand instinctively on the dragon so she can tell where he is, to have a look under at said spot, brows furrowed. The smile really doesn't appear to bother him - then again, he hasn't gotten much of a faceful of teeth yet. "I see what you mean." Yes, he's curious, sue him. Kass likes animals - though dragons really shouldn't count as animals given they're sapient and can speak, probably. Had he been raised properly, he'd probably be in Beastcraft. He straightens up and eyes Rhodelia a bit intently - he's finally caught on that this isn't quite your standard 'meet your first dragon' interaction. Whether he'll call her on it remains to be seen.

Said spot is pretty easy to see when you're looking for it. A patch of slightly lightened hide that looks like it's formed a slight callus now. Rhodelia's happy enough to point out after feeling like her dragon startled the man nearly half to death and Inasyth is a greedy glut for attention any day of the seven. "Probably a good thing she doesn't have her straps on or else I don't think there'd be any way to get her out of offering you your first flying trip." And then in a lowered whisper. "Since she can fly she thinks it's a horrible shame that people can't fly without dragons. But she's all about sharing." Ina will just go ahead and redistribute that flight wealth around in Soviet Xanadu. And sure, this probably isn't standard but Xanadu and Standards haven't really been seeing eye to eye in well… forever.

Oh, Kass's eyes just got very wide. "I have to ask," he says after a moment, "What happens if you fall off?" There have to be safety straps, right? He's leaning on Ina's side, absently scratching some spot of hide where the muscle makes it more difficult to really get the itch on one's own.

"Depends on how high up you were, but if your dragon didn't catch you, you'd probably die," Rhodelia responds quickly enough with a shrug for the hypothetical. "But that's why you have straps. And why riders are sharding near obsessive over their straps. And for like a quick hop somewhere can usually be safe enough snug between the neckridges." Rhody will point out the said body parts. "But again… we don't have our straps and so I wouldn't let her fly you anywhere right now." That clarification is directed as much at the dragon as the hunter.

Kass breaks into a grin at that. "It's fine, I'm sure we'll have time later. In the meantime… I have stray wherries to hunt. Shall I see you again eventually, lovely?" Dammit, he's sweettalking a dragon. Well… at least she likes it. He's going to have to give this some thought.

« I'm not going anywhere, except when I am! But we'll fly someday! » Look, Inasyth really couldn't help herself with that as she butts her head into his hand before he pulls away for his not-so-wild wherry hunt. At least she modulates her volume so it's more of a telepathic whisper awash of in a splash of golden, bubbly wine while she stretches out her wings for demonstration. "Good luck with the wherries. I'm sure the beastcrafters would be relieved to know they found their way to someone's belly. I gotta get back to reports." With a wave, she'll head back down the path towards the weyr proper. Inasyth gives one last rumble before she takes a few steps back to a safe distance and then leaps into the air and wings away. It's not particularly graceful as far as dragon launches go, but it's not like a total dragon novice like Kassander would notice, right?

It's true, Kass just watches the whole thing with awe, bemusement, and distracted consideration. His family always had… things to say about dragons. Never were those things nice. Just one more thing they lied about, apparently, which… Kass will have to keep in mind. He turns away once the dragon's in the sky, raising a hand to wave after them both… but mostly Inasyth. How can something so big be so damnably adorable?

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