Stubborn Idiots

Xanadu Weyr - Stables
The stables of Xanadu Weyr are composed of one long building, lined with box and standing stalls that are kept thoroughly clean by the resident grooms and stablehands. Runners nicker and neigh at everyone who enters, save for the obstinate ones that just flicker their ears in indignant curiosity that they dare not make visible. The foremost stalls near the door to the barnyard are the grand box stalls which are home to the prized runners of Xanadu, as well as the most pregnant, those which are so far along that they require constant observation by the Herders, so as to ensure easy foaling.

A broad pathway covered in straw and sawdust leads to the rest of the weyr's stalls, primarily comprised of standing stalls. Many runners are in the standing stalls, with ropes strung across the front so as to keep the runners from leaving their designated containers. A few hay bales sit here and there along the avenue, some of which act as seats for the stablehands and grooms on their breaks, others as snacks for those runners who can reach out their necks far enough. Buckets and baskets of grooming supplies - brushes, combs, and the like - also sit here and there, occasionally knocked over by a wayward hoof or inquiring muzzle.

Disclaimer: Adult language and mild, mild violence.

DAWN. This hour is a time of sanctuary in the stables. No one here but those just beginning to arrive for the daily chores and other duties that keep the runner stock at Xanadu satisfied with their lot in life. It's just another day, with all the familiar trappings of runner-y greetings to the BeastCrafter when he arrives, and really, it won't be until he heads into the dimness of the tack room for something or another that anything will seem amiss. It becomes readily obvious that something is, because the sweet sting of a riding crop across his thigh is a very clear message. At least Tej does him the courtesy of using the crop to open a glow basket (and partially blind him? Who can say, these things happen~) in the next moment. "That was for making him cry, Wit." That's not his name… but it is now. Half-Wit. Dim-Wit. But it fits, doesn't it? Wit and Bit? "Now," she steps into the doorway, backlit in her riding gear, braids pinned up functionally. "You have two choices. You can let me help with the chores and send him a note that you'll be back later and we go for a ride so we can have a private chat, or we'll have a private chat later at a time and location of my choosing. What'll it be," Slow- "Wit?" Pale eyes dare Shiloh to try her, the riding crop hanging in idle along her thigh, the slim, dark length a sharp contrast to the warmer fawn hue than the boots that cut off just above the knee. In such light colored clothes, with her pale skin and red hair and being all of five inches shorter, she should not look as no-nonsense and intimidating as she may well be managing to appear.

“Fuck!” Shiloh can totally take a hit, but an unexpected smack of a crop is totally worthy of an expletive. And a jerk sideways, an instinctive decision to get away from the thing hitting him even if he’s not aware what that thing is. For the best that he knows that tackroom well and doesn’t go stumbling into anything along the way, especially given Tejra’s oh, so helpful blinding of him flip of the glow basket. For a moment the bewildered beastcrafter just stares at her like perhaps he’s not sure of what he’s seeing, a frustrated expression knotting his brows as his lip sort of curls. Seriously. That’s not a happy face. “That’s not my name.” And he knows that she knows that, but it’s perhaps better than arguing with the whole ‘crying’ bit. It’s a (justifiably) wary look aimed at the crop that keeps him out of reach, even if it might be somewhat ridiculous thing to dance around the tackroom. “Or,” he adds, seeking a third alternative for no reason other than to be an ass, “I can leave this Faranth-forsaken Weyr and all it’s crazy behind and go home.” He won’t. Because despite unsavory rumors, he’s not actually a coward. Just a man out of his element and trying to tread water. But what’s a man to do when he’s backed into a corner and threatened, but to lash out however he can? He doesn’t quite turn his back on Tejra (because even Shiloh’s not that dumb), but he twists toward the wall yanking one of the saddles down to balance on his hip. “But fine. I’ll humor you. But you’re tacking up your own runner. Or riding bareback.” He doesn’t really care, says the flat tone of his voice.

If Tejra were an artist, the look on Shiloh's face might join some collection of best reactions. Red brows twitch only slightly in challenge of his mind's attempt to ignore the unlikely reality before him. "You didn't like me using your other one, either. Make up your mind, Wit." Spoiler alert: the nickname never goes. He's sealed his fate. The most he can hope for is a promotion from Lack Wit to Quick Wit. She rolls her pale eyes elegantly as if this were all so passe. And yet, when he makes that third suggestion, a look of feral delight, the predator scenting the imminent flight of her unWITting prey. Laughter spills from her lips, a bell-like sound that should be pleasant, that is here spine-chilling like the tolling of his pressing doom. The sound cuts off abruptly and a smile curves her lips that doesn't reach her eyes, the crop coming up so she can lean forward across the space and jab his shoulder (lightly) with the tip. "It's cute you think that's still any kind of option." Then she's advancing on him, cutting close, but not too close because surely she anticipates his avoidance, "Don't worry, Wit, I don't want you to service me." So many meanings there, but the one that is of most immediate concern is that she's looping an arm under a saddle of her own, with strength that belies her slender frame, even as she moves to shift it to where her body can brace more of the weight. "Not all Harpers are as talented and cosseted as our Avi." This is both… comfort and threat? Obviously Shiloh is in for a pleasant ride. True to her word, though, if there are other chores that need to be taken care of before he can ride out, she will help inasmuch as he allows. Her knowledge of a stable is passable but she yields readily to his instruction as the local expert. Mind, of course, that the riding crop is tucked into her boot, so he shouldn't get any uppity ideas.

Thankfully, the tedious chores that come with caring for runners (that of getting hay and water and cleaning stalls) is handled by the apprentices and stablehands. Shiloh, while not a stranger to the tasks (and certainly willing to engage in them when necessary) will exercise his right to go right on past and get to the fun stuff — usually training runners. In this case, riding with Tejra. Which… may be fun for at least one of them (and the grim look on the beastcrafter’s face stands in testimony to which one it will be). Whatever his thoughts might be, Shiloh at least will be keeping them to himself, a stony-neutral expression plastered on his face as he goes through the motions of collecting his runner (not his beloved Red mare, but the much more trail-savvy grey, Willow). Instructions will be given if necessary, for the sake of the runner if not the rider, but delivered in curt sentences in as few words as possible. Probably for the best, as Shiloh is well aware that he’s outmatched in the verbal-sparring department. Clearly, if there is talking to be had, he expects it to come from Tejra. Saddled and bridled and ready to go, there’s only a moment taken to scrawl a note for Avi and leave it up in the loft for him, before the beastcrafter is back and swinging up into the saddle. Looking much like a man heading to his own execution, he nods toward the trail before nudging Willow into a brisk walk. He’s not running, but he’s not waiting around, either.

At least inasmuch as it involves getting a runner ready to rider— and yes, there's one that knows Tejra well enough to have a positive response to the journeywoman who deals with the beast much more gently than the man in tone and action— the redhead needs no instruction. Being one of the least popular Harpers to work with hereabouts, she gets sent out a lot, into the region to do what Harpers do for every place without a posted harper. Most times, given the distances involved, it makes most sense to go by runnerback and keep her own schedule. This, however, has resulted in not an insignificant amount of practice with all the tasks of keeping her runner in good health. Even before Xanadu, she'd had the training and some practice. This all translates to good manners, at least where the runners are concerned, though she'll take the lead. Where are they going this fine autumnal morning? Why, into the deep, dark woods, where else. Where else would a man like Shiloh find his doom if not there?


Xanadu Weyr - Glade
Surrounded by majestic trees with their boughs spread outward in the ovalesque clearing so as to create a gentle filtering of the light on the glade floor, this little area of paradise located in the depths of the forest that surrounds Xanadu Weyr makes its debut. Tiny flowers with their upturned pistles of yellow, pink, red and blue scatter here and there, some of them with definitive petals that glisten in what light is supplied, and others appearing like tiny balls of fuzz or fluff, with stamen so fine that to distinguish between themselves and the petals is nearly impossible. Their leaves are of all different shapes and sizes, some coming up to shield the blooms during the day and thus only allowing their beauty to be seen at night.

One thing that makes this area of the weyr so popular with the residents and riders would be the small moon pool that is situated directly center of the glade where even the longest of the tree limbs cannot reach. The water is smooth as glass, as the trees cause such a wind break that nothing ever disturbs it. The reflection of the moonlight at night confuses the flowers around it, so they sleep all day, and then their magnificent blooms open during the night. Concrete benches have been situated about the pool for people to sit and enjoy these rare occurrences in relaxation.

The ride itself isn't all that long, but it's plain Tejra knows where they're heading and it's into a small glade where no one will hear him scream interrupt them before she's dismounting and making move to take care of her runner before meandering toward the majestic trees at the outskirts, brushing her fingertips across them as if she were greeting old friends… She kind of is, don't ask. "Why?" At least this is an exceptionally straightforward question for the BeastCrafter. "You fluffed up like a startled cat when I put my hands all over Avi and then walked into a wall when he said he loved you. What sort of man are you to take offense in one way in one breath, and then offense in the next for the opposite cause?" Sort of. This is Tej's unique interpretation, clearly, but she turns back toward Shiloh to watch him make answer, pale gaze far too unnervingly shrewd for anyone's sense of calm, even in this place.

Horses are his happy place. When Shiloh is on the back of a runner — or around them in general — he tends to be a far more peaceful person than otherwise. It is probably only the presence of Tejra that has the heavily neutral expression lingering as they disappear into the deep, dark doom forest. And while Shiloh may not know the woods that well, he’s intentionally chosen a runner with a keen sense of direction (or at least, a keen sense of where the barn, and therefore his breakfast, might be found). So even if the nefarious plan was to lose him in the trees… Willow, at least, has got his back. But as the ride progresses without incident, Shiloh settles into the natural rhythm of the runner he’s riding, finding some small measure of comfort in that simple act, even if he has not lost sight of who is with him. The glade is met with a curious glance around, but while Tejra might dismount and greet the trees, Shiloh will stay mounted, reins loose and wrists crossed over the horn of his saddle, squinty-eyes following the woman in her walk. The ‘why’ might be straightforward, but without prelude or context, he’s somewhat baffled by it’s asking. Until, at least, Tejra is tacking on the rest. A long pause comes, but at least one might believe Shiloh is considering the answer with the poke of his tongue in his cheek and the tip of his head. Thinking. And while there might be a want to be contrary — she certainly hasn’t won herself any points in his book — he opts for the truth. Or at least, a partial truth. “Never seen anyone touch him except once at a dance, and he didn’t particularly like that.” So someone all over him with full consent of the artist? Well. “What was I supposed to think?” As for that whole love confession, there’s a snort and a shrug and a stiff, “it surprised me.”

Oh boy. When Shiloh remain on that horse, the redhead's feral look intensifies, smile twitching into existence despite the serious topic. It's wild. It's a little terrifying. It's probably fine? Surely the BeastCrafter is made of sterner stuff… Right? "I know where you sleep." So comforting, that melodic purr. "If wanted you skinned for making him cry, we wouldn't be here now. I didn't think Avi's hero," she kisses that word with utter disrespect, "would be so cowardly as to use an innocent beast to avoid the risk of being on even footing with me." It should come as no surprise that Tej is a liar, not with all the masks she can wear like a second skin. She does spread her arms wide, well away from that riding crop. "Like it or no, Wit, we are two of the most important people in Avi's world. This is me trying." She hasn't hurt him (much), right? She's trying. "So get down off your high horse runner and speak with me." She's daring him, and watching every bit of his reaction for just what kind of man Avi has named 'hero,' that Avi has entrusted his heart to. So far, Tej does not seem overly impressed. The rest can be addressed of course, but not yet.

“Never claimed to be anything of the sort.” Hero. It’s not a title Shiloh picked, and maybe not one that he wants to wear. And the disrespect presented in that word is not about to insult him, because of it. He is perfectly at home upon his innocent beast, comfortable in body and mind and not about to cave to threats, legitimate or otherwise. So he won’t even address the slight on his honor, a shoulder shrugged for the idea of being a coward, thoroughly unconcerned with defending himself. “You’re the one that wanted me out here. Here I am. Sorry it’s not living up to your standards.” Except he’s not sorry at all. Frankly, he’s pissed and trying real hard not to show it, for Willow’s sake, if nothing else. But it’s the idea of this being Tejra trying that has him snorting and arching an eyebrow in disbelief. “Lurking in the dark so you can hit me with a crop and threaten my life is trying? Fuck, I’d hate to see what you’d do if you really didn’t give a damn.” Apparently, pleasant language has gone right out the window. “Except maybe I’d be safer.” He’s definitely operating under the assumption that being ignored by Tejra is safer than having her attention. “This ain’t a conversation. This is you forcing your way and me complying because it feels easier than fighting, but this ain’t speaking with you. You wanna talk, talk. You wanna ask a question, ask. You wanna just stand there and threaten me, then I’m riding back.” And to hell with the consequences, apparently.

"You are underestimating me and overestimating in nearly the same breath," Tejra returns without hesitation. "I told you the crop was for making him cry. Tell me you didn't deserve it." PERFECTLY REASONABLE. "I never threatened your life." No, the skinning would've been survivable, Tej, obviously. "You won't like me any better if I upset your runner, so get down, you willful Wit." She still doesn't qualify but 'lack,' 'half,' or 'dim' are all fair choices. "If you'd rather fight, then let's square off and have done. I am trying. For Averil, even if you're not." If wrestling a man taller and heavier than her is the way to get them past the bullshit, apparently Tejra is game. "It can't be a conversation while you're up there and I'm over here. Is this a shouting match you wanted to have in the barn? In the caverns? Frankly anywhere anyone might hear us?" She is not without frustration of her own as some of her temper escapes the chokehold and proves in the tone of her words, but she, apparently, knows enough to not be anywhere near her runner, or his. "How dare you hurt his heart and think you've nothing to answer for. Avi's far too sweet to make you realize what an ass you made of yourself in that moment, and I doubt you have enough imagination. So get down here and deal with it, or I will break his heart in the unmaking of you." He wanted a threat? There it is, bald, bold and no holds barred. His choice. Ride back, stay.

“You act like I did it on purpose.” Making Avi cry. “And if I had, then yeah, I’d’ve deserved it and more. But it ain’t like I set out to hurt him. I never want to hurt him.” It’s not really an answer to whether he deserved that hit with the crop, maybe because he doesn’t think he has to voice it. The rest will go unanswered, either because Shiloh doesn’t want to engage, or because he has decided it would be futile; a waste of time and energy. There’s a hardness to his expression; a tension in his jaw and in his shoulders, in the slant of his body that tries to be relaxed and fails entirely. But he picked his runner well enough, and while Willow might feel it (how could he not!) other than a nervous flick of his ears between the pair and a shift of his weight, he’s looking no worse for wear. At least the grey is not overly excitable, though Shiloh will try to keep it that way. Still, there’s an anger simmering beneath the surface, one that won’t present with shouting or threats but is obvious all the same. “What do you want? You want me to beg? To cry? To make up some pretty lies? You’ve already decided exactly what I am, and I don’t have the energy to try and prove otherwise.”

This first has brows going up and jaw slackening in genuine astonishment. "You act like intention has anything to do with culpability. I'll remember that the next time I run into someone in a tight corridor. No need for a polite apology, I'll just act like an entitled idiot and be on my way." There's growing tension in the woman's frame though given her habitual self-possession of her physical movements it's a subtle thing. What is not subtle is the way that Tej's pale gaze is narrowing toward a glare as she looks across the distance and up at him. "How many times do I have to say it before you get it through your thick head," DIM WIT. She goes slowly this time. "I. want. you. to. get. off. the. runner. and. talk. to. me." You ass. Maybe she's reassessing that nickname that was kinder than others she could have given him. "If you want to talk about who's decided what, then maybe you should check if you're the pot or the kettle." She can't resist that last, but there's a fervent, heated twist to the words that might be substitution for not taking more rash action.

“Never said I didn’t apologize. But your example’s wrong. In your world, accidently running into someone in the hall demands a punch to the gut, delivered by a stranger.” Or a crop to the leg, delivered in the dark. Those narrowed eyes are returned in kind, Shiloh leeeeeaning forward onto the horn of his saddle as if it might somehow close the distance. “Then. Maybe. You. Should. Ask.” At least he leaves name-calling out of it. “Demandin’, threatenin’ and yellin’ at me ain’t exactly conducive to a conversation.” That word is definitely spoke as though it left a bad taste in his mouth; as if he couldn’t possibly see how this would turn into anything other than a verbal attack. And maybe a physical one. There’s a suck of his teeth, a snarl that wants to come out but doesn’t, and eventually the swing of his leg over the saddle as he drops down to the ground. Closing that distance however? That’s gonna come a bit later, Shiloh using the (legitimate) excuse of loosening Willow’s cinch and securing the reins so he won’t stop on them, as reason to delay. “At least I ain’t resorting to name calling and belittlin’. I may not like you,” and that’s definitely no secret, “but you don’t see me promisin’ pain and retribution for perceived injuries or making slights about your intelligence.” Cause really now, is that doing anything to encourage him to talk?

Tej's fingers twitch slightly, but manage not to curl into fists. Pale eyes twitch slightly narrower, but now she's drawing tight the leash that chokes her body's ability to move without her conscious consent. The stillness of her is extreme as she watches Shiloh's face, his mouth, his movements as he finally moves to dismount. She waits, a frozen statue, breath drawing shadow. It might be ominous? No one should be that still. And yet, she doesn't launch herself at him when he's finally finishing up his exercise in delay. Her chin turns, but just what must necessarily move with it, not shoulders, not core, not legs, just chin up . "So it's your pride I've stung." She observes, divorcing her tone from any emotion. "What is your pride worth to you?" A single brow lifts. "Is it worth him? That's where this is going. It's not a threat. But you ask him to choose between you and his family and you will break his heart whichever way that goes in the asking." Lower, darker in her usual melodious purr, "And just how much restraint do you expect you'd have if some thoughtless man made Avi cry?" She's daring him to say he's better than her in this. Really, the single kiss of the riding crop may be getting off lightly.

Shiloh is angry, make no mistake about it. But he’s not the sort of angry that screams and yells and stomps his feet. He’s not even really watching her, his gaze for the trees until he’s required to look, the tip of her chin met with a tightening of his jaw and little else. He’s not even going to dignify that with an answer, offering nothing more than flat look in return for the accusation that his pride has been stung. In fact, he’s just not going to say anything at all, though he’ll do her the courtesy of his attention at least, even if it’s fraught with tension and just short of a glower (scratch that, it’s absolutely a glower). Say what she wants; ask what she wants. What Shiloh finally says, in a voice that has gone flat and neutral rather than heated and angry, is, “I am not in love with him.” It’s not the only thing he’ll say, but it seems to be a rather important point for him to make. “An’ he shouldn’t be in love with me. I’m not a fucking hero and I never claimed to be. But I’m not a monster, either.” A little curl of his lip, a feral thing that belies the flat tone of his voice. “An’ if I go after someone for making him cry, it won’t be in the dark without warning.”

There's the tiniest twitch of a muscle unsanctioned near Tej's pale eyes and a touch of heat colors her cheeks - just lightly, just enough, just because her control slipped that much. She moves, walking slowly, with an eerily graceful gait that is more dance than walk approaching the Beastcrafter but not coming nearer than two arm's lengths. Her hand drops to the crop, hand hefting it up and offering it across the space between them, her arm at full extension. "I've had worse hurts altering my costuming than the sting of one strike." Evidently, he's being offered the opportunity to pay her back in kind, or perhaps at least remove the (seen) weapon. To say nothing of her choice to carry concealed knives on her person, it's fine. They're for self-defense. And not against a riding crop. "It's not me you have to convince. I know another flawed human when I see one." Takes one to know one. "But tell me," she bites her tongue to not use her personal name for him, stepping in whether he's relieved her of the crop or not (it will come to her side then, if he doesn't have it), coming enough toward him to make her point: here is tiny Tejra; not so tiny as Avi, true, but willowy in her musculature and oh, yes, inches shorter than the strapping cowboy for all that he's leanly muscled and not brawny, "do you suppose I'd have stood a chance against you or any of the other men-" and here her lip will curl with disdain- "that have threatened him since he was not even ten if I played fair?" Still, through this, she's managed to keep her own voice cool, and now pale eyes nail him with a cold look. "Tell me you want nothing more to do with him and I'll go start mending his broken heart, again." How many heart wounds can a sweet soul like Avertil sustain from people who didn't appreciate the beauty of his uniqueness before it's battered and made tragically less? "If you do want more to do with him, then talk with me. Do you want an apology for the crop?" EVEN THOUGH HE DESERVED IT?

Shiloh will absolutely take that crop. It is not snatched away in haste, but he does not hesitate to reach out and take it, tucking it handle-down into his boot to be ignored. “I don’t hit people out of spite.” So no, invited or not, he won’t be returning the favor. Crop neutralized, his arms cross over his chest in a position unintentionally defensive as they spend a moment just facing off. “Those other men were not me.” And if there is heat in his tone now, if he has finally taken insult, it is only because she has compared him to those that have hurt Avi. “I have never threatened him.” The venom in those words has nothing to do with Tejra and everything to do with those that did threaten Avi. “And I never will.” And here at least there is heat; there is anger; there is a hatred that lurks beneath the surface of the beastcrafter that bubbles up against his will because those men monsters are what he cannot stand. “I don’t want an apology.” And he probably wouldn’t believe it if she gave one, anyway. That flat, even tone is back once again. Because for all that he is angry (and he is definitely angry), Tejra at least does not inspire him to violence. “What do you want to know?” At least he hasn’t left yet.

"And I have always protected him. The first thing you do is behave like a possessive tomcat and then you make him cry. Aside from the fact that Avi loves you," which is about Avi and not Shiloh judging by the slight emphasis, "what evidence have you offered that you aren't like every other man? You've just told me that you don't love him and now you tell me you'll never threaten him. How many monsters do you think he's met? How many do you think looked anything like one? You say you're not and yet you won't even speak with me, even knowing as you must that I'm kin to him." Not blood, true, but that hardly matters a lick where Tejra's fierce protection is concerned. "I love him." She doesn't hesitate to make sure this is abundantly clear. "I cannot stop his loving you," but boy could she make that difficult, "but what I want to know is what kind of damage you're going to do to him with all your good intentions? I had hoped, you would be reasonable and speak with me." After hitting him with a riding crop. Tej makes friends in mysterious ways~ "But you can't get over everything that doesn't matter in the slightest to talk about what does." And now she's whirling, and given her muscle control, it is an impressive movement, stalking in the direction of her mount. "Why I let Avi's opinion of you sway me to thinking you had a brain in your head, I don't know." That has heat. That is just the edge of Tej starting to become pissed. RIP Shiloh.

“I don’t know anything about you.” It’s the truth, at least. “And you’ve made a fantastic first impression.” He may not be a monster, but he’s not above a little sarcasm. And for better or for worse, Shiloh will not be offering up that evidence; won’t be arguing for himself because anything he might say would sound like an empty defense; just words to throw in the vain hope they might stick somewhere. So, he’ll just stand and take it, arms crossed and jaw tight, an anger in his eyes even if he won’t let it into his voice. Even if it doesn’t display itself outside of the tension in his frame and the little ticks that curl his lip or furrow his brow. Her parting words bring a rough sigh and a roll of his eyes; the sort that says this is exactly what he’s come to expect of her. That this is exactly how he anticipated their meeting in the woods to go. And that is it. He’s done. She wants to walk away, and he’s not going to stop her. But he won’t follow, either. He’ll just stay where he is. Maybe put his back to a tree and sit on the ground. Maybe threaten to break that damn riding crop across his knee. But if she leaves, then she leaves without him.

"No, you don't." Tej's voice will fling over her shoulder as she settles her runner's reins and checks the saddle. "And you won't because I can talk myself blue before you'll listen. Your mind was made up before you even knew my name." She probably should not be able to mount up as she does, with graceful moves and a self-assurance to where she'll find herself when the collection of muscle movements is complete, but there's the slightly improbable Tej in action. "I'm going now, for Bit." Because banging her head into the barn door of Shiloh's closed mind will do naught but make it all much worse in the long run. So with a deft hand and heel, she's nudging her mount into motion, heading back to the well-worn trail without so much as a look back at Wit.

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