Life is May Not be Strip Poker, But it is a Gamble

Xanadu Weyr - Observation Level

Dark blue seats form a semi-circle around the sands below, the lowest row separating from the sands themselves by merely a railing. The seats climb upwards, each row a bit higher then the previous, and they are broken up into sections by 3 sets of staircases. Lights are evenly spaced along the outer wall, lighting the seats and the sands easily, though they tend to be dimmed unless a major event is taking place. A large balcony looms overhead, darkening some of the seats, providing a place for observers of the draconic kind to watch without obstructing the view for others.
When one looks over the railing, the oddly hued sand below can be seen easily, the circle-shaped area of the sands spread out to the far walls, the sand itself a unique mixture of red and white grains.

Evening approaches. Outside a light summer rain falls gently on Xanadu while inside the Hatching Arena it is as hot and dry as ever. A group of Candidates is just being ushered off the sands having spent some time with the eggs. The Weyrwoman, having watched from up in the 'level this time instead of down there closer to the heat, sits with a ledger of some sort, marking things while her eyes flicker down watching their exit. A casual salute is given the two AWLMs as they herd the young people off.

Normally sands duty is not an unpleasant chore to pull, and Matrin has had relatively few duties outside of those he's always had for his Craft. The rain, however light, does put a… damper on things though, so to speak. It means that he's rather damp as he creeps up the stairs, with droplets clinging to his dark hair and darker eyelashes, though the oiled cloak he has draped around his shoulders has saved all but the bottoms of his slate grey pants. His hood must have fallen off at some point in the journey, and his full hands would have kept him from replacing it, though whatever is on the laden tray he carries is protected by a cloth of its own. Long legs make short work of the stairs and his bright eyes scan the seats before coming to rest on Thea. "Evening, Weyrwoman," he greets as he closes the distance.

Thea is dressed lightly in thin cotton - the shirt sleeveless and the trous rolled up to mid-calf, boots kicked off and pushed under her seat at some point, toes left bare to wriggle in freedom, not that it's helped her much, nope. Her hair is done up in a twist that the heat has seen fit to destroy, bringing tendrils drooping down over the long, tedious afternoon. Footsteps draw her green eyes up to see who enters, but even before she spots who's climbing those stairs, she says, "I hope there's something icy on that- oh Matrin! Hello." She cocks her head, eyeing those droplets, "You'll steam-bathe in here until you dry, I'm afraid." Isn't she just the fountain of great news?

Sweat might be joining the fresher drops of spring rain by the time Matrin joins her with that cloak still draped around him, but it's hard to tell and he's not admitting anything. Instead he flashes an easy grin and settles the tray beside her, quick to pull off his coat and toss it onto the bench in front of them. "I miss the sauna at Ista Hold anyway," he quips with a lingering smirk, and he tugs at the pale blue t-shirt he wears in place of his usual button up, flapping it to encourage airflow. "The cook had a bowl of stew all ready for you, but I called her something uncomplimentary and picked out something else." He whips the cloth off with a flourish, revealing a cold sandwich of mostly veggies and a bit of thin-sliced wherry, a cucumber salad and a huge bowl of berry flavored ice. "The latter required some firelizard bribery, but so far it has mostly survived the trek over." There's also a pitcher of water with floating lemon and lime slices - not quite full to avoid overflow.

If the strands sticking to the back of Thea's neck are anything to go by it's hot enough in here to be a sauna; she could likely guess anyhow if she weren't so sick of the heat and thinking about how much she'd like to be done with it. But she is and so doesn't give the drops more than that one passing comment. She does make a grimace about Ista's sauna, though. "Right now I'm longing for Cold Stone's winter snows." As for the tray, she eyes it appreciatively, eyes glimmer wickedly. "Dare I ask what you called her? And you're hired by the way. If you don't impress you can be my personal Sands Attendant. This. This is bliss." And she goes right for the ice because it'll melt if she doesn't! "You should stay and have some of that lemon-lime water." She pats the empty seat on the other side of that tray, "And tell me how someone without a firelizard bribes one to do anything." One dark brow lifts slightly, in enquiry.

Matrin will take that bit of tactful forbearance with a deepening of his grin as he runs his fingers through his damp hair. It is less styled than it tends to be, artfully mussed and able to withstand the finger-tousling. "The eggs are hardening, it's not too much longer and you can escape to your snowy scapes. Though… is it snowing there already?" Her enthusiasm makes his eyes sparkle and he sprawls across the seat beside her, tossing his feet up on the backs of the one in front of them. "I believe it had something to do with lacking the sense of a dragon spooked wherry, and suggesting she go sit on the stove for a few minutes and see if stew sounded refreshing. I may have to avoid the kitchen for a week." He winks, then pours her a glass of the water and sets it between them. Dark brows lift then and his grin tips as he shrugs. "Ok, I may have charmed their… owner? Is that what you call it? And then fed them bits of meat from the stew I didn't bring you. I can be quite persuasive, you know."

That spoon goes into Thea's mouth and she just lets the ice sit there and melt on her tongue, eyes drifting shut in the bliss she said it would be. Her throat works as she swallows and her eyes open glittering with merriment. She points her spoon at that wink, "Oh I bet if you did that she'd let you right back in." She snorts ever so gently at his last comment while digging another spoonful of that icy treat, leaving it half-raised to her mouth, which is fighting her attempt to keep from grinning outright, "Persuasive, I don't doubt that. Why do I have the feeling we have yet to harness all of your skills for the Weyr?" She drops her eyes to the heap of chilled delight, noting a drip about to fall and catches it with the tip of her tongue before putting it in her mouth. Lips curve around the spoon as she waits for his answer to that.

Keen blue eyes go from bright and sparkling to dark and glinting as Thea slowly savors the crushed ice. Matrin is observant most of the time, but there is an intensity to the way he watches her that says if he didn't have an ulterior motive for delivering the treat this time, he definitely might next. He blinks, and his sultry smile shifts toward something more sheepish as she opens her eyes and speaks - caught - but he covers with a languid flick of his long fingers. "The stew suggester and the firelizard wrangler were not the same girl, alas. Otherwise you might not have gotten the ice." He chuckles at the suggestion that his talents have gone unexplored and his lips part on an answer. There is a pause and that sheepish tilt slinks back across his mouth as he says, "I am at your service, as ever, ma'am." There is still a faint note of flirtation there, but it's not as bad as whatever initially sprung to mind. "Soon enough my duties might be limited to chopping meat and shovelling out muck, so you may have time to think of better uses for my talents."

Whether she is distracted by the fingers flicking, the Weyrwoman doesn't seem to show but there's no reaction to show she saw the sort of smile he'd worn but a blink ago, either. "How fortunate for me, then, that they weren't," the Weyrwoman quips with another smile, digging her spoon in again, pausing then to laugh quietly. "I'll keep that in mind next time I have a particularly nasty diplomatic visit; I may send you instead." Circumspectly, she doesn't name the person she has in mind but if bets were taken, odds lie in favor that it is a woman. She glances at the sand-covered mound which Seryth lies curled about and hmms thoughtfully about his talents, "I just may do that." If she hasn't already, which knowing her, she probably has. "The question is, have you?" Her spoon rises once more, eyes upon the iced fruit darken suddenly and her spoon falters. It's a brief moment, quickly recovered and eyes that lift to his determinedly-bright.

Matrin shifts, though he remains draped across the chair, lounging and he fills the second glass and sips from it. "Or perhaps send me as well," he suggests lightly. "If it's any time soon and I can go, I'll need a ride." It may be just his usual shiny surface, but he says it as casually as he mentioned the possibility of impressing a moment ago. Not even his eyes betray the anxiety all the candidates must be feeling. Her question does make one dark brow arch, and the expression becomes more pronounced when her spoon dips on the way to her mouth. It makes one corner of his mouth curl and he tips his head, watching her for a beat. "Have I? Thought of better uses for my talents? Always." He interrupts himself for another sip of the citrus-scented water, then swirls it thoughtfully. "But I have kept myself busy enough. Xanadu seems to have most things well in hand without my meddling."

Thea shrugs to that offer, shaking her head with a rueful, longsuffering sort of sigh, "There's nothing more pressing at the moment than making sure I send personal invites to people who already know they're welcome to come to the hatching." He's given his future some thought, which meets approval from her but no surprise; likely she'd expected such from a journeyman harper so dedicated to his craft. He is awarded an absently curious look for the composure he has regarding such a potentially life-changing event ahead of him, but her eye drop back to the melting ice, as she murmurs to herself, "A warmish spot…not far from here…" Her spoon clatters into the bowl of half-eaten treat, the bowl set with an abrupt clink on the tray, the glass taken up and lifted to her lips, drunk from and lowered. "I'm sure it hasn't been hard to be busy," she comments awkwardly.

"I have impeccable penmanship if you need assistance," Matrin offers with an easy smile. "Though I can't imagine how that ends up being your job instead of one of the juniors, or even the headwoman." He sips at his water, watching her over the rim quizzically. His curiosity meets hers, but instead of replying to what he assumes is sparking it, his brow furrows. "A warmish spot not far from here?" His prompting is gentle and he glances toward the sand, or perhaps toward the gold curled up there, and the Weyrwoman's follow up awkwardness only deepens his frown a bit. "Not with the Weyrleader adding to my duties both by having me write up protocols and by asking me to become a candidate. But at this point I sort of welcome the distraction." A rough clearing of his throat and another glance flicked at the eggs exposes a chink in his smooth armor.

Not trying to hide the irony in her tone, "Oh because they feel the Weyrwoman slights them if she delegates the matter to anyone else," Thea says with an eye roll. "Minor Holders can sometimes be… " A pain in the arse, but she doesn't say that, instead finishing with, "particular." She takes another swallow of water before answering his gentle prompt. "I was remembering where I got my last iced treat while sands sitting, that's all." Light as the words are, there's nothing casual about her tone but she says nothing more regarding that. She does wrinkle her nose at the mention of those protocols. "Oh those. Supposed to start reading through them." But she hasn't yet, go figure. His throat clearing shakes her out of where ever she's gone, green eyes lifting to stare at him thoughtfully for a beat. After a short pause, she asks quietly, "Distraction from what exactly?"

Matrin seems far less dubious about the persnickety Minor Holders. She just receives an understanding nod for that and he rolls his shoulders in a loose shrug. "I probably shouldn't tell you this, but if you write out a sample I can probably do a passable job of mimicing your handwriting." The tip of his tongue finds the corner of his mouth and he drops his eyes for a beat. When he looks up it is through dark lashes and a hint of mischief sparkles in their blue depths. "I even promise to only do it by request." The coy look turns searching at her tone, but since that is all she offers, he doesn't push. "I will bring you one anytime you wish. I now have a gold and two bronzes under my thrall and they know where to get ice chunks." A wink aims to lighten the mood a bit, and in that vein he waves off the idea of reading protocols. "They are perfect, trust me, just sign off on them." His grin lingers even through her question, though it does grow a bit weak around the edges. "The future and the present, I suppose. It's hard to make plans when you have no idea what the next few months will hold."

Thea actually gapes for a moment after that little bit of news, then a shout of laughter bursts from her. There's no clapping hand over her mouth, not a bit self-conscious about laughter and here, of all places, from this weyrwoman. She just shakes her head, disbelief mingled with amusement, "If you weren't a harper and honor-bound for Pern's best interests I think you might worry me a little, Matrin." Of firelizards and ice, she looks a touch disconcerted but allows that wink of his to do its work and she laughs again, this time somewhat ruefully, "I'm sure they are perfect, but Xe'ter may quiz me on their contents. And then where would I be?" She considers his answer to her question, understanding lighting her expression. "It is. Though even the best laid plans may go awry; most people free to make them only differ from you in that they believe theirs to be firm. No one really knows what tomorrow holds." Her eyes twinkle, impish thought conceived, "If you need a distraction, find a beautiful woman and ask her if you may paint her nude. Just. Be ready to dodge crockery or run fast." She's naughty this afternoon - blame it on the sands. She's been here a long time.

Her laughter only serves to deepen the impishly crooked grin, and Matrin allows himself a lighter chuckle. "Only a little, Weyrwoman?" Up goes that brow again, and this time the incredulity is impudent as well, especially when paired with an insulted hand to his chest. "I think I am offended to be so underestimated, though when it comes to my honor I suppose your assumptions are beneficial." He drops the theater to reach for his glass, sobering for a beat as she speaks. "I suppose that is true. What is hard at the moment is actually… the moment. Trying to decide what to do or not do before the hatching has me a bit…" he trails off, shaking his head. And of course she is totally successful in distracting him from his reverie, tickling another bright laugh from him, and he leans toward her, reaching to pluck an escaped damp tendril from the curve of her shoulder. "I don't know, there isn't any crockery here but it is awfully public." She's not the only one for whom the weeks have stretched, and he seems to follow down her path instead of discouraging her from it, with that rogueish grin back in place.

"You… suppose. Okay, there goes my worry-meter, ticking up to More. Feel better?" Thea asks archly, lifting one finger to forestall his answer while she adds, "And yes, I noticed that you didn't exactly say who my assumptions benefit." Oh she's very amused, right up until he reaches for to pinch a strand of her dark hair and comments. She'd just lifted her glass of water and sipped and while swallowing catches the meaning, thus splutters a laugh, eyes widening with both chagrin and amusement, attempting to swat at his hand. "Oh no you didn't!" She snickers a little more, then she backtracks to his former comment. Anything to move the topic along right? "What, ah, are you trying to decide to do or not do before the hatching? I mean, you're Bitran right? Don't you people just… flip a coin usually?"

Her worry and his pointed omission just make Matrin smirk. It's only when she splutters and actually swats his hand that he laughs, snatching his fingers out of the way and cradling the offended hand against his chest with the other. "Ouch, hey, you asked for that," he insists through a chuckle, shaking his head to add, "I can't believe you actually just slapped my hand like I was some errant schoolboy. I thought I was safe, since throwing crockery would mean missing out on part of your dinner." A tsk, and he shakes the (totally exaggerated) sting out of his fingers. The motion fades along with his smile with her question, and something serious flits through his eyes before he can squelch it. "You people is it now? But yes, usually I would act first and think later. Unfortunately in this case I am trying to do the… right? honorable? thing." Another shake of his head and he lets out a sigh, collapsing back into his seat. "I like a girl - a woman - very much, but the timing is sort of unfortunate. And actually being a good guy instead of just acting like one for a time is sort of foreign territory." He has the grace to look chagrined at the admission, but she asked.

"Ouch my foot! I barely tapped you." Thea is unrepentant, eyes glimmering with amusement. She's thoroughly enjoying herself, this rare and refreshing exchange devoid of all the formality she's been sentenced to by that fancy knot she wears. She tsks right back at him, "Assumptions. They're wrong fifty percent of the time, you should know that." She's unsure where that somber flicker in his eyes comes from but offers a sincere apology, "I'm sorry, I meant nothing more than I don't get betting myself. It's not that I look down on people for doing it - I just don't understand the process. Or the obsession either." She ducks her head to try to catch his eye if she has to do that, then listens carefully to what he's saying about his girl, not really clear on what the issue is. There's no judgment in her expression, just thoughtful consideration. Finally a whimsical smile twists her mouth, "Unfortunately?" Yes, she caught that. Though she does say, "Impressing..?" It's a guess but human relationships are tricksy at the best of times.

"Not your foot, my poor injured fingers," Matrin corrects, though he can't quite summon the wounded expression back to his face. Her enjoyment brings his smile back again, though he doesn't know the precise reason for it. He probably just assumes he is that charming. Her apology is waved off easily and he scoots a bit closer, shaking his head. "Not at all. I'm not a big gambler myself to be honest, and I…" he closes his mouth a bit abruptly and then just ends with, "Haven't done it at all in a while. There's a certain rush from the risk I suppose, and winning is fun." He is back to casual, shrugging, and maintains the nonchalant air through the more serious answer. "I am not sure how much she'd appreciate me discussing it, but we have been taking things slowly and I feel a bit torn since time may be short. I don't want either one of us to have regrets. Weyrlinghood is long, you know?" The words are all spoken deliberately and with care and thought, capped by an uncomfortable sort of shrug.

Thea smirks at the correction and lets him have the last word there. She simply nods along with the explanation of gambling. "Someday you'll have to show me how it works. My father was frugal enough to make the idea of losing lots of money a very sobering thing; I wouldn't find it anything but a rush of terror, to be honest." His abrupt halt followed by nonchalant receives a quizzical look but she nods understanding of his plight. "Not so very long, really. You did know that weyrlings are only restricted for the first several months, right? While they're settling the bond with their lifemates." Who knows how other Weyrs do things or what he's heard. She shrugs and laughs lightly, "They aren't living in the Barracks beyond the first turn."

Matrin allows a low, dark chuckle to escape and slides his fingers through his now tousled hair. "You just asked a smarmy Bitran harper to teach you to gamble, Weyrwoman. It makes me question your judgement." But he's grinning as he gives her a sidelong look and a wink. "You don't have to bet money anyhow. Haven't you ever heard of strip poker? It's warm enough in here-" he trails off to give his brows a shameless waggle, but then he straightens, arching his back before slumping foward with elbows on his knees. "I'm not complaining about Weyrlinghood, should I end up in that place. Just thinking about it. It's already been-" but he winces, breaking off and quickly shaking his head. "It's really not that big of a deal. I think I might be overthinking it so that I don't dwell on how I will feel if I don't Impress, or how it will be to have some foreign personality in my head all the time if I do."

Of being shown how to gamble, "I'd prefer to consider it a cultural exchange," the Weyrwoman counters with a wink of her own. But then she's left open-mouthed at the mention of strip poker. "No?" She affects innocence, "But then, I grew up where it was winter three-fourths of the turn." She actually reaches out to offer his knee a little pat when he talks of over-thinking. "Maybe you are. You might be surprised how life… just happens if you let it. As for the voice in your head…" She trails off, her eyes wandering to the sands where Seryth sleeps, a fond smile grows on her face, "You get used to it. I've only ever met one Rider who didn't deal with it so well. But then, he was sort of a ninny to begin with. He ended up getting shot in the butt with my crossbow." There's a very satisfied sort of smirk on her lips in the telling of that.

Sitting here discussing strip poker with the Senior Weyrwoman is a bit surreal, and when Thea mentions cultural exchange Matrin can't help but regain his grin. "No strip poker? Well you and I can use bits of paper instead of money and I bet the Weyrsecond can help you figure out strip poker if you like." He glances down at the touch of her hand to his knee but the pat deepens his smile a bit. "I am sure you're right, but I can't seem to help overthinking things." His eyes follow hers out onto the sands and his eyes narrow in thought. "What's she like? Seryth I mean. Do you end up more like each other, like the thoughts you think on your own, or are you still… distinct?" He mulls the thought around, but blinks out of his reverie to eye her at that last. "You really did shoot someone with your crossbow? I heard the story but assumed it was an exaggeration. You're incredible."

Thea should write a book someday titled, 'Weird Words with the Weyrwoman' or something like that. The things people talk to her about when a hatching is imminent would fill the pages with riveting stuff! A slow, amused smile grows on her mouth, "I'll mention it to him and let you know how that goes." There's a nod for him think and she points out, "Sure, thinking is a logical responsible thing, but you know what I've learned? Things rarely turn out how you think they will." She shrugs and leaves that in favor of considering his question, her face softening. "Seryth? She's her own distinct person. She's my refuge. And I am hers." It's not a great explanation and she's unaware that her expression has taken on a mix of one talking about the love of her life, her firstborn and her best friend. She breaks out of that to look regretful, "Nono, it was my crossbow, but I didn't shoot him. I would have liked to though!"

Matrin would certainly try to have it published Pern-wide if Thea ever writes that book. Her slow smile is enough to actually make him drop his gaze and take a sip of water, though he manages to murmur, "You do that," over the rim. Thoughts on Seryth give him an excuse to keep his eyes out on the brooding gold, and he slowly nods. "I suppose I should ask a few other people who actually have lifemates," he notes. When his eyes finally find her face again, softened by that singular expression, his brows go up. "No regrets for you then, hmm?" A beat, a smirk, and he adds, "Well, other than not shooting that one person in the bum yourself. I will try my best to stay on your good side."

Lightly, "I suppose strip poker might not be the best solution for you and your girl, but maybe since over-thinking it isn't really giving you the answers you could try just… taking the gamble that she'll have something to say in the matter? You'll never know if you don't talk to her." Thea shakes her head emphatically at the following question. "Not one regret! Do you know that my father would have bargained me for the adjoining hold's lands, despite the fact I'd impressed and he’d Seryth thrown in to sweeten the deal? He tried. So regardless of impressing or not, all my business training, all the turns spent on mountain trails representing my father's fine wool, I would have been wife to some holder not of my choosing and still under my father's control and-" She shudders. "No. Not one regret." She drops her head, "Except maybe one, if you could call it regret. It's more like something I live with because of her needs: Flights are not easy for me. Ever." She shakes that off to grin over at him. "Just don't ever expose my Seryth to a dragon plague, lie about it then whine and dither like a woman when called out and we'll be good. The rider is… troubled. I have a feeling you'd never be like that." After a pause, she adds, "Talk to R'owan if you want another rider's views. He's very easy to talk to."

Matrin's eyes first flare wide then narrow, and finally he just has to laugh at the thought of strip poker with Mishkia. "I have no idea what she'd say to strip poker, actually. It might be fun just to see the look on her face." Clearing his throat, he manages to bring himself back to the moment, nodding with a bit more sobriety at Thea's suggestion. "I'll do that." Brow furrowed, he grows more serious still as she talks about her father's plans and he gives his head a quick shake. "I am sure he has many good qualities as you are his child, and clearly he had a hand in creating a remarkable woman. I still might have to resist the urge to give him a tongue lashing if I met him though." His frown deepens a bit at her difficulties with flights and he returns her earlier gesture - giving her knee a gentle pat. "I'm not as holdbred as my history might suggest, but I can still imagine. At least it's less often than most other dragons, right?" As for not being troubled and R'owan as a suggestion he simply nods, then stretches and pushes up to his feet. "Is there anything else I can bring before I head off to my own dinner, Weyrwoman? A big block of ice carved into a chair for you, perhaps?" His frown is banished in favor of the teasing lilt, his eyes warm with gratitude not put into words.

A harsh, short laugh follows on the heels of Matrin's assurance that her father has good qualities. "For a man who tried to strangle me when he found out I was pregnant with the get of a dragonrider, no. He has no good qualities." She lets a long breath out and mentally shakes that topic off, smiling serenely enough as Matrin rises. "Get the eggs to hatch sooner rather than later?" She waves him off though, giving him leave and the freedom to go and do what he needs to do. "Thanks, no. I'm set. This is wonderful. Go eat. And good luck with your girl." And she will actually eat, drink the lemon-lime water and remember a time when a younger man came with a bowl of 'poisoned' ice and the promise of fine conversation. Then disappeared not long after. And she won't cry… outwardly.

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