Strike Out - You're Grounded!

Xanadu Weyr - Weyrling Grounds

Cradled in a cup shaped bite out of the mountain, this wide, grassy flat has become home for Xanadu's weyrling dragons. It's set surprisingly high above the level of the beach, visible from the eastern side of the grounds where a long path snakes its way down the hill to the sand dunes below. All other sides to the grounds are bordered by the hard granite cliffs, two entrances clearly visible. One is merely human sized and leads deep into the mountain, to the Caverns. The other is broad and high, the entrance to the Weyrling Barracks.

The call has gone out, and V'dim and Isobeth are waiting in the middle of the grounds as N'shen escorts those Weyrlings who had not yet had a chance to experience their first flights - or in the case of some, who failed them - to stand in a semi-circle about the Weyrlingmaster. Nearby, Taozyuth is stretching out his wings, preening the underside of his sails as he prepares for yet another demonstration of what it means to be a dragon in air. "Alright, everyone, settle in and settle down," the young bronzerider calls as the last of the stragglers takes a place in the arc before the elderly greenrider.

Zhaoth looks positively irritated. The more that Lan has been told to keep him held 'back' by taking 'later' lessons, the more that Zhaoth is reacting to it. There is an ingrained snarl on the dragons maw, one side of his lip lifted and his neck lowered as if on the attack. Ers'lan puts a steady hand on the side of his brown's neck, smoothing his hand over the freshly oiled hide, "Aye, dem other ones be narh as good as us. I reckon they be saving the best for last," so so he has to tell Zhaoth as they bunch into the arch around V'dim.

Catching the remark, N'shen turns his glass green gaze upon the brown pair, one eyebrow arched consideringly, but rather than comment, he merely gestures for Ers'lan to pay attention as V'dim steps forward. "Today, as you know, your dragon will take his first flight - provided that N'shen here feels that they are ready. He will inspect your dragons' wings. If you have been properly doing the wing exercises you were assigned, there should be no trouble." The old rider's eyes bore into the crowd, unerringly picking out those whose dragons have already failed their first flights. With a gesture, he turns the class over to his assistant, who clears his throat. "Alright, as I call you out, please step forward and have your lifemate spread his wings." Again, those dark eyes turn on the brown pair as he calls, "Ers'lan m, please come forward with Zhaoth."

Ers'lan snips a little murmur toward Zhaoth when the N'shen gestures, setting his jaw square with a vexed determination, eyes glinting though with the distracted gaze of one talking to one's lifemate. Still, when Zhaoth is called first for wing inspections, the large brown is a little over zealous, leaping and bounding over toward N'shen, stopping a mere foot away, wings that had always looked lengthy shadowing the smaller man. Zhaoth extends them out, head held up high, flapping with a rustle of sail against air, endtips snapping in the air like minature whips. Ers'lan catches up, nudging Zhaoth back with an elbow. "Aye, sorry sir. He be itching ta try it. Ya know he be narh liking ta be last. After all our practicin, he be eager ta prove his worth up thar…" a point in the sky. Zhaoth is completely animated in his eagerness while he stands there; tail twitching, to wings flexing, lifting, angling back down, pinions crossing, chest heaving, talons flexing in the earth, maw flexing to show teeth.

« Settle, little brown. » The soft, sonorous gong sounds in Zhaoth's mind as Taozyuth paces closer, his bulk shimmering as his hide twitches over muscle. « All things come in their own time, and patience is its own reward. Allow mine to inspect you, that you may feel the caress of air beneath your wings. » Lips curving slightly, N'shen approaches the pair, inclining his head in acknowledgement of the Weyrling's apology. "I quite understand. Eagerness is good in a dragon, and he will learn, I'm certain, the necessary patience. Thank you," he adds for the brown, as he reaches out to test the elacticity of the sails, as well as the join of sail to spar and the reaction of the muscles that bind the wing to the beast's side. Finally, he nods approvingly. "You've done well, both of you." He dismisses the pair with a grin, calling forth the next.

Zhaoth shakes out his head much like a bird would with wet feathers as the gong sounds in his mind, crouching lower out of respect for Taozyuth after the reprimand. For a time, Zhaoth stays as still and flexible as N'shen wants him to be, eyes whirling with curiosity as he keeps the weyrlingmaster in sight. Ers'lan steps out of the way for the inspection, just standing back from a distance to observe each and every prod of his lifemate. There's even a flinch made as the elacticity is tested, mostly because of anxiety that Zhaoth would not yet be allowed to fly for some unseen failure. When they pass, Ers'lan's excitement is multipled tenfold in Zhaoth. Approved as he is of inspection, the brown gets it in his mind that this was approval for him to fly!! Before Ers'lan really has a chance to plead for the brown to stay grounded, Zhaoth has taken the necessary hop-skips before throwing himself into the air, wings beating strongly to lift him several feet up. Ers'lan roars, "Zhaoth!! Get the (sailorcurse) down!! NOW!!" There really wasn't a time before this that Ers'lan demanded so harshly of his lifemate to listen. Zhaoth was enjoying the wing beats and mini-glides he was getting, while Ers'lan looked utterly livid! "Shardin dragon!!! Get yer bedamned tail back down here! Tis narh safe fer ya to jus go and do that!!" Zhaoth does round himself back closer, dipping his wing, with a landing that the brown takes in stride. It's as if the brown was marking a spot on the landing strip, waiting for that precise moment that he could grapple the ground to hold him. Backwinging, the brown is back on the ground, a minute or so after his abrupt lift off. No injuries, just a smug golden silk breezing across most minds, « It is instinct that calls me. Like avians. We fly because we have wings. I will go higher next time! » A promise, not a request.

"WEYRLING ERS'LAN." It is not N'shen's voice that booms out - the bronzerider's expression is stony, his eyes agate-hard and his lips compressed in a thin line. No, it is V'dim, face mottled purple with rage, who stalks across the ground. Isobeth and Taozyuth both trumpet together, their voices holding equal notes of reprimand as they both say, in unison, « STAY. » "Did N'shen or I say that Zhaoth could take off?" Without waiting for an answer, the greenrider drills one finger through the air towards the weyrling, halting only inches before impaling the young man in the chest. "No. I don't care," is added acidly, "how impatient he is. I don't give one damn about whether or not he, or you, or both of you felt he has been unfairly held back. It is just this reason - this need for restraint - that has kept you to the later lessons, rather than some imagined slight." Turning to the brown, the Weyrlingmaster draws himself up, addressing the dragon directly. "You will not leave the ground again until you are cleared by myself. I don't care if any of my assistants take pity on you - you are grounded. Indefinitely. N'shen." Leaving the pair in the bronzerider's hands, the greenrider moves off to continue the lesson with the rest of the class. Sighing, Nash rubs a hand over his hair. "That," he says flatly to Zhaoth, "was foolishness. Would you like to know what could have gone wrong? You could have taken off poorly and strained a wing. An injury like that done this early could have ensured you might never fly properly. You could have landed and bungled a claw. A claw injury can also curtail your flying, for if you cannot land properly, you cannot fly. You could have landed and caught on the ground and broken an ankle, or your leg, or even your neck. Never mind that this did not happen, it /could/ have. What if your rider had been on your back? Such a sudden ascent, without his knowledge, could have flung him from the saddle, or injured him in some fashion." Disgusted, the bronzerider crosses his arms. "You," he marks Ers'lan with his pitiless gaze, "need to learn control. A dragon is intelligent, but he is also wholely dependant upon your guidance. It is you who will give him the signal to fly, you who will tell him where to go, when to land, and even when to go *between*. If your dragon continues to anticipate commands, you may find yourself grounded - or worse, dead, lost *between* forever."

Ers'lan swears under his breath as V'dim's voice cuts through anything else going on, causing him to react as he once would have on the deck of a ship. He turns toward the directed booming, back straight, shoulders square, grim faced. He doesn't move when V'dim comes hunting him down with that finger nearly stabbing him through. It seems expected on Lan's face for that much if not more. Zhaoth systematically starts to preen himself, as if nothing is going on, nibbling talon claw where dirt has balled up underneath claw. The affect this has on Ers'lan is immediate. His chest starts to swell, rising and falling in an accelerated fashion. It is clear as V'dim starts to berate Ers'lan that the anger is mounting, answering V'dim's question with a sharp 'NO SIR' … unable to help himself from nearly yelling it in return. Rather than excuses to the momentary loss of control over Zhaoth, the young man just takes the brunt of the reprimand without a word in return, jaw flexing and teeth grinding, but no words. There is even a fist that bunches up at his side. Zhaoth picks up on this, his preening interrupted by the acknowledgement of the rage in his rider. Eyes turn to reflect the emotion, nostrils flare, teeth show as lips on his muzzle curl up. The pair are bristling as their sentence is handed down; Lan's eyes turn on Zhaoth, almost a look of hatred there in his glare. Zhaoth's mind voice is clearly steel on a chalk board as he answers, « Foolish is to keep the strong from succeeding. We will wait. I have proved I can fly. » Ers'lan is shaking visibly from the restrained seething rage inside, his eyes now on the ground, attempting to take control of an emotion only heightened by his lifemate. Zhaoth continues, voice edged in steel, « If we lived being concerned about the what ifs, then we will never live at all, for our fear alone will keep us grounded. » Ers'lan flashes his eyes at N'shen, a stiff nod the only reply given to the weyrlingmaster. It seems as if the young man is merely waiting to be dismissed, since he clearly isn't allowed to continue in the session any further.

« Foolish is the child who seeks to run before he can walk. » Taozyuth's booming voice is untempered by anger - he will not waste time on such emotion. « Foolish is the one who makes assumptions without proof, who hares off without direction. Lost is the one who will not accept guidance from the knowledgable. » He is not, of course, answering the private words between weyrling and dragon, but rather imparting his own philosophy, gleaned through turns of experience and his own depth of understanding that stretches eons beyond his own turns. « Zhaoth, you have been foolish and prideful. » The roly-poly bronze rises to his feet and stretches, his length unmatched by any but a queen, his bredth exceeded by none at all. Sighing, the bronze lowers his muzzle to peer at the brown with slowly whirling eyes. « But words will not teach you, » he adds with true regret. « You are one who will only learn when the stakes become too high. » As if acknowledging that they are already lost, he turns his back on the pair, ponderously moving to where Isobeth is glaring red-eyed from her stance next to V'dim. "Ers'lan." N'shen's voice is quiet - he notes the signs of rage in rider and dragon, but does not react to them. "Take Zhaoth to the beach. Go swim." An unexpected punishment, perhaps - but the young bronzerider knows that activity is needed to quench the fury burning in the pair. "Once you are done," read: cooled off, "return to the barracks. By then, V'dim will have determined what, if any, further restitution is necessary for this breech of decorum. And Ers'lan," he adds, waiting to see if the Weyrling looks at him, "understand his anger. One in four classes loses Weyrlings to carelessness. V'dim has been a Weyrlingmaster here for over forty Turns."

Zhaoth tucks in his wings neatly at his side, muzzle turned down in a regale curl of his neck, snorting from time to time as the challenge between rider and dragon continue, even as the philosophy from the older rings true. Although, as if picking up on something from his rider, the brown seems to hunker down as if sulking, a gritty steel against steel sound heard, as if something was grinding down a blade to make sharper, bursting with a sudden, « Without failure, one cannot grow to learn. We made a mistake. It will not happen again.» That seems the final answer, as Zhaoth closes off his mind to the others, ignoring any attempts to further communicate with him, just a prickly wall of thorns. As for his rider, Ers'lan frowns at the order to go swim, though some relief is evident as his fist releases at his side, fingers flexing and rolling in a more restrained manner than to so visibly show his anger. Eyes flash up again to N'shen at the latter, "Aye, I narh be angry with V'dim sir… I be angry at Zhaoth. Should beat him senseless…" And so, the beach is indeed going to be a much needed moment for rider and dragon to challenge one another, as Zhaoth hisses quietly at the threat, slinking off toward the beach regardless of it. Lan doesn't wait for further action to be taken against him, stalking passed N'shen and the rest of the class with heavy steps taken in a rapid long stride.

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