Party Foul

Xanadu Weyr - Training Grounds
A wide, grassy expanse, nestled into the gentle bowl shape where something's taken a bite out of the mountain. It's high above the level of the beach, and there's a good eastern view of the lake and a long path leading down to that sandy shore. Granite cliffs surround it on the other sides.
While much of the grounds are left in their natural state, one area has been trampled and trodden by enough feet that the grass struggles to grow. A running track circles a set of equipment - straw dummies with wooden frames, obstacles of various sizes and shapes, and targets for flaming, archery, and whatever else.
There's a dragon-sized opening to the south that leads to the cavernous weyrling barracks, and a smaller tunnel to the northeast - large enough for dragons newly emerged from the sands, but quickly outgrown by hatchlings who are then forced to take the long way around - at least, until they learn to spread their wings and fly. Between them in both position and size, a jagged crack in the stone leads to a dim cave with the sound of water.

It's around the middle of the day, just about time for lunch. Or getting there, anyhow! D'lei has been parked out in the yard for a little while, sitting on a rock he's swept clear of snow and leaning back against another one. Comfort? What's that? He's had his eyes closed, so either he's taking a nap on the worst possible bed, or else he's thinking about something. The periodic change in facial expressions says… well, either he is thinking, or else he's dreaming. Anyhow! It's into this scene that Garouth appears, flying over the rocky outcropping toward the field. He's got something! A small herdbeast, dangling limp from his muzzle. It's still warm, taken from the pens with a clean strike… and his thoughts reach out to the weyrlings, carrying the scent of meat on a cold wind and inviting them to trace it back to the training grounds where he comes for a landing with cupped wings.

Where there is a mystery to be solved soon there is a Faeth, the odd little green making a fairly quick appearance from the barracks - almost as soon as she'd had a chance to send a questing thought back to Garouth, a gentle touch scented with rosemary. Pausing at the door she scents the air, almost tasting it by the way she extends her tongue, and whatever she finds she clearly likes as her already hurried steps suddenly become faster. it's only as she spots Garouth and his kill that she slows, back legs folding until she ends up sitting in a most undignified flop and staring at him. « What is it? » Cara is slower onto the scene, no rush for her at least not that's outwardly visible - there's a smudge of ink on one cheek that almost definitely came from the larger stain on her right hand.

Rosemary and herdbeast, a fine flavor combination! Garouth lands and stands with the beast in his maw as he awaits company. The beast… dangles. The dead eyes, they stare! The tongue, it hangs out of the corner of its mouth. It was an older beast, the fur turned gray and bristly in places, and it had grown lean from the wintry scarcity… and its growing infirmity making it less capable of muscling past the younger creatures for the limited food available. Spring would have given it a new opportunity, but… this beast didn't make it through. A hunter got it! « It is prey. » Garouth shakes his muzzle a little, making the limp herdbeast dance in his jaws like a caricature of life. « This is where your meat comes from. » Somewhere behind that bristly hide, presumably… though there is the faint scent of blood and nutrition, behind the beast-musk and grass-stains. Garouth lowers the beast until its paws flop against the ground, in easy range for the younger one to investigate. D'lei… well, if he was asleep, he's awake now. And if he was thinking, that's not happening anymore. So he opens his eyes to watch, instead, offering a wave to Cara but not bothering to move himself.

Faeth stares at the beast, stares at Garouth, stares at everything until eventually… « WHAT?!? » For all her size the little green can be loud if she wants to be, and her horror at this thing that's been presented is yelled for all the weyr to hear. She can smell the blood, her eyes clearly giving lie to any protestation of not being hungry, but there is something far more important here. « But it's…. » That delicious scent of rosemary is quickly replaced by something far more pungent and bitter. « I've seen those. And you'd better tell me right now that you're lying because that… no. » Poor Garouth, and poor Cara who had begin to move over to join D'lei and instead gets pulled up sharp with an almost instant headache. "Oh crap. No point asking if you're having a good day because I think it maybe just got complicated."

D'lei winces at his own echo, glancing to Faeth and then giving Cara a crooked smile. "I think it might've. He…" A gesture to the bronze. "…thought it was a good idea." Startled birds and rabbits thrum to motion in the forest, though the larger creatures are unmoved. Garouth's muzzle gives another little twitch that makes the dead herdbeast dance in that morbid display. « I do not lie. » He doesn't seem upset, that startlement aside, his voice remaining calm and straightforward. He takes a step closer, and drops the beast right in front of Faeth. The dead beast. That looks just like the ones she's seen snuffling around in frosty meadows looking for grass except for being… not able to do that ever again. « They are meat, and we hunt them. » Or at least he does. « Tear its belly open. You will see. »

"No, no, he was right, they have to learn sometime." Cara's reply is fairly quick in coming, but there's concern there. "She's just… oh shells. She… well, we I guess, rescued a crawler that was stuck yesterday so she's a bit…. It's a living thing, or should be." Though she tries to explain there's a continual barrage of garlic tinged thoughts fired out to anyone that cares to listen, and likely a few that don't. « Then you're not who I thought you were, Garouth. » Faeth does move forward, leaning down to nudge the very dead beast with her nose. When it doesn't stop playing dead and get up she prods it again, this time tasting the blood that she finds. « This is wrong. »

D'lei winces a bit, and nods. "She might never have been ready for it, but she certainly wasn't yet?" he offers as his own understanding, head turning to watch Faeth and Garouth as that garlic scent fills the mind like it's trying to drown out all other flavors. Which… maybe it is, considering. « I am a dragon. » is Garouth's reply, and he settles back a little onto his haunches, watching Faeth from that vantage and the shadowed forest of his mind as she investigates. « You are also. » He sounds so certain of it, but surely it's not as simple as that, right? There must be some alternative… mustn't there? « It is our nature. We eat meat. Meat comes from animals. » Like this one!

« Well maybe I don't want to be if it means this!! » Faeth fires back, moving so that she's straddling the felled beast as much as she can considering her less than ideal configuration of body parts. Guarding it. Making sure nobody else can hurt it. Her stubby little tail lashes angrily (comically?) but her eyes whirl with a mix of hunger and confusion - a war between instinct and heart. "I'm so sorry." Cara at least aims the words at D'lei, even if her head is fixed on Faeth. "Baby? Baby it's okay." Presumably not aimed at D'lei, but then who knows.

Okay, so she's late to her own party, but that's what happens when you can't see. She had to bump into this, and that, and that other thing over there and that One Thing We Don't Talk About and then she found the door. Or she thinks she found the door; either way Leirith is taking clumsy steps outside as if this is Absolutely Normal (it is), nose up in the air as she tries to follow it and manages - in the opposite direction. « Faeth, Moon! Dead thing - dead thing. » She is addressing the dead thing. « Everything okay? Are you dead? I have no idea what's going on! » But she doesn't seem to care. Risali's trailing behind, pulling her hair up out of her face and looking the very definition of OFF PUT when Leirith takes advantage of her lifemate's vision and heads in the right direction. WUMP. Right into dead beasts and her sister. There goes her muzzle. « Awwww. He's already dead? It's really fresh, Faeth! You can still smell the sadness on it. » Is she… is she laughing? She is, and the booming, throbbing bass of her voice is beating at Garouth's and Faeth's minds alike as Risali makes her slow way over to Cara and D'lei. Though… she does stop. To make a snowball. …And pitch it at the bronzerider's head but HEY WE'RE ALL FRIENDS HERE. "You laughed at me," she tells him, all accusation in her tone (and maybe some playfulness) as she swoops in on Cara and shoulderbumps her. "You okay?"

« Perhaps not. » Garouth is gentle, soft shadows deepening. « Yet… do you have a choice? » The night is fallen, but dawn will come again, and when it does… « Can you truly change what you are? » He's doubtful, though not dismissive. Things are what they are, according to Garouth. Which… for Leirith, means running into things, and he rumbles softly for her arrival as she tumbles against Faeth and the beast whose nature Garouth changed… to dead. Not a very good alteration, from the animal's perspective! « It is dead. » The shadows of his forest shift for Leirith's beats, opening to show a brief image of the animal before… then letting them fade to leave only the now. « I have brought it here so you can learn about your prey. » Without the risk of being kicked in the head by it! Even if Faeth and Leirith can, between them, provide enough head-kicks to everyone else around. "Had to happen sometime," D'lei replies to Cara with a shrug and a crooked smile, then… snowball! Which probably also had to happen, let's be honest. And to which he responds by ducking enough that it only grazes him, and… laughing again. He's just racking up the penalty points here! In Risali's own personal score system, anyhow.

Faeth whirls as she's barrelled into, the usual happiness and amusement at her sister's behaviour replaced by a hiss, a wing flare, and a tiny little green trying to make herself look bigger than she really is (which is not very much). There's a vague threat of biting, just a brief stab of a pungent image that flashes through before Cara manages to cut it off with a well placed "FAETH!" At least Garouth seems to be off the hook… for now. Maybe. Faeth's certainly in no hurry to back down from either of the bigger dragons. There's only so much mental facepalming that can be done before it has to be an actual thing. Smack. And Cara gets another inky smudge on her face. "She just discovered where food comes from." Shoulder bump is returned, though a little halfheartedly, "And I think my head may actually be about to burst."

« I don't think that was a very fair fight! » Leirith informs him, humored as her bass distorts the vision he presents. « I approve! » Risali is less concerned about dragons - probably because she's had Leirith crammed in her head enough times to know that Garouth can handle it - and more concerned about revenge. Because of course D'lei's laughing at her, and Risali is giving a look to Cara as she gathers up more snow in her hands and forms another snowball. THIS IS NORMAL. THIS IS PERFECTLY NORMAL. "I'm sorry," she tells Cara sympathetically - and she means it! She's pulling her arm back to launch that second snowball when - on no. Risali's grey eyes swing back to her disadvantaged dragon, wide-eyed as she stumbles in off-set balance both from surprise and the need to grant Leirith sight. The little gold? She cowers slightly, scuffling backwards once she can see again towards Garouth with her own little sails open as if to make herself bigger. Give her a moment, maybe two, and then the drum in her mind is slipping into Garouth and Faeth's both, trying to send Garouth's shadow creatures dancing. « It's too cold for fighting, Faeth. You should… » wait for it. « Chill out. » And then yes, Leirith is laughing again, never losing that upbeat amusement even if the face of her sister's violent intentions and upset. « See, it's funny because 'chill' means 'calm down' - that's what Risali says anyway. But chill also means 'cold'! It's one word with different meanings. That is HILARIOUS! » Maybe she's trying to deflect; she's certainly still moving back, back, back towards Garouth until THUMP. She never said she was a badass (she totally did). D'lei is safe - for now.

Garouth remains where he is, just… lying there and watching. Green, gold, dead. These are the actors in the scenario that plays out before him! Well, though the dead one isn't doing much besides lying there, what with being… dead… and all. « No. It is not fair. » Garouth will agree to that, the flickered shadow-beast grazing on shoots of wild garlic for a moment. D'lei is entirely unconcerned about those snowballs (he knows his place) but… "Gah." Things are getting bitey! Or… threatening them, anyhow. Garouth rumbles, shifting forward to lower his muzzle between green and gold sisters as Leirith scrambles back toward him. Not enough to entirely block Faeth's view of her larger sister, but enough that any attack will (or can be made to) land on him instead. The shadow creatures gather for the beat of Leirith's drum, but it's not to dance. They're quiet, clustering together to watch from the trees. « There are many feelings in you, Faeth. » His tone is soft, gentle - a single murmur, rising from those beasts. « Do you want to speak of them? »

"So… um… Help?" Cara's gaze darts between the dragons, to Risa, to D'lei. "She's blocking me. BABY! It's okay, they're not going to touch it." Faeth definitely is dancing, little hopping steps back and forward, all posturing and not real bite other than the occassional thorny stab of a thought. « This is not funny Leirith. And you! » Poor Garouth, his shadows get a full (if immature) blast of garlic laced thorns. « You killed it. How can you justify killing something just so… so you can… It's WRONG. »

Leirith is not using Garouth as a shield. HA. That would be ridiculous. She is clearly just unable to see and he just happened to be there and - « Since I still don't hear you laughing about 'chill out', you must not understand humor in general, » Leirith tells both dragons. "Leirith," Risali grits out, because she is aware that NOW IS NOT THE TIME. But it doesn't stop Leirith! For Leirith, now is always the time. « See, humor is usually taking something that means one thing, and making it mean something else! According to this formula of humor, my 'chill out' comment was literally the funniest thing ever said by anyone. » SO THERE, FAETH. IT IS FUNNY. EEEEH? DRAGON HIGHFIVES? Okay, so Minions facepalming at the shortcomings of their own little queens, but you get the point. Grey eyes go to Cara when she asks for help, with the kind of incredulousness that says, 'Do you not see that I am small and fleshy and those are dragons?', but she moves, unwisely, a little closer to the trio. "Leirith. She doesn't need you - no, that's not funny. Stop it. Come over here, and leave her and Garouth alone." But… reluctantly… Leirith goes. The beating drum dims to nothing, leaving shadows and garlic to intertwine alone as the echoing bass that is Leirith leaves Faeth and Garouth physically and mentally, and for once Leirith projects only to Risali. BLISSFUL. AND A FLUKE. But BLISSFUL. She's lowering her wings and leaving without an apology because, well, who is going to remember this in a week anyway? Not her. Instead she will wump her face into D'lei as Risali reaches out to squeeze Cara's arm. "I'm sorry," and this time it's said emphatically. "She's learning too."

D'lei spreads his hands a bit, with a glance to Cara and… okay. Risa's getting Leirith out of there, which means he's left looking between Faeth and Garouth, brow furrowing a bit as he makes his own comments to the bronze. Come on, Garouth! Explain this circle-of-life thing to the angry little green. Preferably without getting mauled, but hey. Whatever works! That pungent, spiky wind lashes through his forest, the thorns prickling around trees like the chokers that climb them and filling the sensitive noses of the shadow-beasts with pungent garlic. Those muzzles wrinkle, but the beasts remain there, standing in quiet audience. « So I can eat. » One shadowbeast stands forward, stomach rumbling in hunger. « So you can eat. » An image of the dead herdbeast cross-fades into the chunks of red meat that glisten in the feeding-bucket. « So you can learn to hunt. » Not just Faeth, but all her siblings, pictured on the edge of Garouth's mind even if, right now… it's just the two of them. Well, and Leirith over whumping into D'lei, who oofs a bit but does not fall over. And does reach to give her some scritches around the head, because that seems like the closest thing to useful he can manage right now. That, and hoping. "They all are." Even his bronze, who… well, he got sent here for fighting, didn't he?

"Oh shells this is such a mess. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." Some messes can't be fixed as easily as calling in a favour, something Cara has learned the hard way since she Impressed. Her jaw sets, a deep if wobbly breath taken, one thumbnail digging into the flesh of the finger next to it as she tires to focus on calm, soothing, thoughts. « NO. » It may not be accompanied by the fierce stabs of Faeth's previous comments, but it's just as emphatic. « They did not deserve this. They DO NOT deserve this. »

Leirith turns her head into the touches, unencumbered by the barriers her patches prove to be in the really good spots. Risali takes on the role of placing her hand on Cara's lower back and rubbing soothingly if the woman will allow, a soft, "It's okay, Cara. They'll figure it out." Though there's a look for D'lei too, the kind that says, 'DO SOMETHING MORE,' even if she doesn't know what 'more' is. But then there is Leirith, with the innocence of a child; she may have retreated, but she was still open to the conversation. And it comes gently, albeit upbeat, « So then do you think we should die? » Because she doesn't fully understand what Garouth was trying to say - the dragon speaks in riddles and shadowed caricatures of thought - but she think she understands. But there is no judgement from the little queen, merely a question, accompanied by the flickering images of their clutchmates and even Garouth as lifeless as the herdbeast (in exactly the same manner because clearly she has never seen a dead dragon before). "Leirith," Risali snaps. "Stop it." And she does.

« You deserve to eat. » And there, Garouth is as unyielding as Faeth. The echoes of her clutchmates remain, only shadows but… enough to serve as a reminder, underwritten with a sense of hunger. They, all of them, must eat. Or else… well, Leirith is correct in the outcome if they don't eat, even if her mental pictures aren't the most accurate. The concept that underlies them, though… is true, and Garouth lets it stand even as Risa calls Leirith to silence. Inescapable need, meet unbending morals. D'lei glances between Faeth and Garouth again, with a side glance to Cara and Risali and an awkward shrug that's like 'would love to, buuuuut…' before he looks back down to Leirith. More scritches. Is he doing it for her sake, or just because there's something comforting about providing pets as well as receiving them? …no comment.

« There must be another way. » There's nothing but certainty in Faeth's voice. Faith even. No matter how much she has been angered, how much she fights it, the blood is calling. « Oak and Ash, Leirith, of course I don't want you to die. But they shouldn't have to either! We should find another way, a better way. » Where anger has failed to convince she tries reason. With the immediate threat of biting over Cara calms somewhat, reaching to grab at Risali's hand as if all comfort might be found there, though it's D'lei that she aims her words at, "You must think we're a proper disaster. Come here and then you get this." Of everything she could worry about, the reputation of the weyr still seems to be right up there in her mind.

Leirith's got nothing, for either dragon, but she does have a whole lot of good scritches - and the impression of understanding for her sister, as she wisely (gasp) allows Garouth to explain. Mostly because she doesn't really understand, even if she does understand. Risali is taking Cara's hand and giving it a squeeze in return, pulling her over towards D'lei and Leirith if she will follow and dropping her hand if she won't. "I doubt he thinks that," Risali murmurs, no hint of laughter, no gentle teasing, simply as state of fact as she finds a place to sit among her dragon and two of her favorite (she will never admit that aloud) people. "Are they okay? Faeth and Garouth, I mean." She's getting clips of conversation from Leirith, of course, but who better to gauge moods than lifemates?

« I do not know one. » Garouth's words are honest, but here he can admit uncertainty. He doesn't know - not for a fact - that there isn't another way to feed and nourish their bodies. His winds stir, rustling the branches of the trees and letting the scents of the forest drift once more and bring the possiblity of things far in the distance, yet undiscovered. « If we help you search… will you eat, when you are hungry? » He's moved on to bargaining, to match her reason. « It will not be easy to find. You must have strength, if you are to make such a discovery. » And that strength… well. Her instincts know where it comes from, even if her heart desires nothing to do with it! D'lei looks up to Cara and smiles crookedly, though his fingers keep moving to scritch as he shakes his head. "You forget. I'm here because Garouth actually clawed someone. Faeth's doing fine." Only making threats? Much better behavior! D'lei reaches over a hand to Cara, sparing it from those scritches long enough to make either a gesture or an attempt at a light pat to arm, then looks to Risali as he resumes double-scritching duties. "He's okay." The beast in Garouth slumbers deeply, not even near to stirring… though that reminder does make him glance to Cara, adding an earnest reassurance. "He's not going to hurt her." In case she was worried, after that mention of clawing! Well, okay, her feelings he's… already hurt, but… she knows what he means! He hopes.

Cara moves easily enough, though there's a little disjointedness about it as she tries to keep her eyes fixed on the dragons while moving sideways. Her free hand moves over towards D'lei's questing one, a brief attempt at a touch in reply to his arm pat - gesture accepted and appreciated. "Even so." She pauses, then simply repeats the same phrase again. "Even so." And then, "Did he always just understand it? All this?" Perhaps its her own relaxation that's helping, perhaps it's the climb down from Faeth-factor-10 to something more reasonable, but both halves of the pair seem a little more reasonable and calm. « We will find a way. » Faeth doesn't make any other promises, at least not immediately, but she does back off from the dead thing a little bit to allow someone that isn't her to deal with it.

D'lei nods to Cara. Even so, but… Risali does seem to be right (shocking news, indeed!) that he is not, in fact, thinking terrible things. And in fact, as Cara asks her follow-up question… he laughs. Partly from relief from the situation slowly diffusing, admittedly, but… "Shards, no. I mean, he didn't have a problem with it, really…" There's an uncomfortable shift of D'lei's mouth as he remembers some of Garouth's early hunts. "But he definitely didn't get it. Not like he does now. He just… knew he liked food and liked chasing things." Morality? Yeah, Garouth was a bit of a late bloomer on that one! But hey, he got there eventually. Mostly. D'lei shrugs, a wry look on his face, while Garouth rumbles softly. « We will search. » It's not quite a full agreement, though the shadow-creatures nod with the words. If a thing is possible, they will find it! If it is impossible… they will still look. Does Garouth think it exists? …no, but he's willing to look. For now, he rises to his feet. « I will not waste this. » There are hungry dragons! Even if Faeth is… too upset to want to eat, just now. Perhaps Leirith will, or one of the other youngsters. Someone will eat this, and if - out of sight of Faeth - they play with their food a bit to learn how it works? Well… Garouth won't be stopping them.

Cara nods slowly, "She found a firelizard egg, so we adopted it. I guess this shouldn't have been a surprise really. I just… so angry. I never thought…." She breaks off once more, taking her hand back from Risa to rub at her temples where the hammering in her head is simply getting worse now there's no actual shouting to concentrate on. "I think I… you know." Her head jerk back towards the barracks though it's clear she regrets the move almost as soon as it's happened. « You are a good one. » It's never thank you with Faeth, always some subtle compliment that hints at it but never the actual words. As Garouth once again claims ownership of the beast she backs off completely, though makes sure to avert her head a little so he can do as he must with it just outside of her line of sight. It takes a moment for Cara to reach her side, and this time whatever passes between the two is mostly silent, just the briefest of sad, lily scented, flickers that broadcast on a wider spectrum. Cara takes a second to mouth another silent apology towards the others before declaring, "I need to go lie down. We'll be back out later. Once my head stops throbbing." There's a brief second where she looks like she wants to say more, where she might say more, but the pair move off instead. Back inside. Away to rest and rethink until hunger takes over any thoughts of stubborn refusal.

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