Romance, Flights, and Friendship

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

It's… a day. It's one of those days that comes with sweeping gray clouds and rain, and despite the persistence of wet, the drops aren't nearly heavy enough to be considered more than a drizzle. And in that drizzle, there is Risali, lacking any kind of protection from the elements aside from her normal wear - and sans a jacket. And that might explain why the weyrling has taken refuge among the trees in the forest, settled on a rather large rock with her knees drawn up to her chest and her arms wrapped around them. She has her chin on her knees and Leirith is trying to catch rain on the tip of her tongue, while admiring the way it falls, and beads, and magnifies things. BOOM BOOM BOOM. She's all excitement, sharing with her rider ALL THE FUN THINGS SHE SEES with her own eyes.

Boom boom boom, like the throb of tribal drums that summons A GAROUTH. His hide glistens in the rain, the tiny drops that make the bronze shine and soften the shadows, and he prowls his way to the forest where a gust of wind sends rain sideways - if only in his mind - with a swirl of shadows after. A GAROUTH. D'lei? NO. He has been delayed and he is not here. Or maybe he's just not coming at all. WHO KNOWS?

A GAROUTH IS SUMMONED! Leirith's drums are SUPER EFFECTIVE. And they continue, as Leirith maneuvers her way further into the forest without Risali (it's not like Risali can't see that massive golden hide from where she sits), whirling blue eyes on the flowers, on the overgrowth, on the insects that scurry to find shelter from the threat of drowning in too much water even though it's not… very much. But the most excitement comes when… « Garouth! » And yes, it's terrifying when a gold goes crashing through trees to greet an incoming bronze like she's much smaller and much more agile than she is, but Risali remains in place even if she lifts her head to look over her shoulder. AND MAYBE D'LEI WILL NOT COME. That is fine; Risali will still look for him, but she'll lower her head back to her knees when she doesn't see him. The man has things to do! And company to boot.

That was an optional bush. It is okay that it is now splinters. NOBODY CARED. Garouth rumbles, a low grumble…. or maybe that's an earthquake from Leirith's feet. Who knows? It's so hard to tell these things, but either way, it's fine. Just like D'lei might be following, or… he might not. It's fine. There is company. There are other things… but Garouth greets Leirith with that rumble, the play of air under her belly that spatters raindrops (or maybe shards of crushed bushes) as it swirls around and back. « Leirith. » And HERE SHE IS and NOW HE NUZZLES HER.

Nobody liked that bush anyway. Or that patch of flowers. Or that tree. …or that rock. OKAY, LISTEN. It's fine. Leirith is doing the weyr a SERVICE, really, because those ones in particular were ugly. Unlike Garouth! Who is greeting the arguably larger gold with nuzzles that she returns tenfold with enthusiasm alone, slipping her maw along his wet hide as she presses in against him and then FLOPS THERE, because this is what she does. Still, even as dancers spill out to hang lights and knock for entrance at the edges of the bronze's mind, Leirith's attention is on the world around them. Because rain, THAT'S WHY. And maybe she is snapping at the air in an attempt to eat more of that rain, but SHOOSH YOUR BOOSH. « It is like catching little pieces of the sky in my mouth, Garouth! » BITE. BITE. And laughter, because Leirith. « I will eat them all. » SUCH AMBITION.

FORESTRY SERVICE. Leirith is here to CLEAN UP and prepare for the party that is SURELY COMING. That is totally what those words mean and it is sensible. Garouth rumbles to Leirith, his body sleek with the water and still warm beneath it, like and yet unlike the feeling of oiled hide. He stretches, against Leirith, though this time he does not spread a wing over her, because that would interfere with her exploration of the rain. « Little sky-herds, running from the clouds. » Zoom. Enhance, to tiny silver deer running in slanted paths down from the sky… and splatting against trees and dancers alike, with crystalline sparkles of translucent blood. Because SUCH PRETTY GORE. And he's pleased, and amused, and relaxed, and… « I spoke to Samiryth again. »

LEIRITH'S FORESTRY SERVICE, EXCUSE YOU. And there's always a party to make room for. Or maybe just really enormous, excited gold dragons, but whatever. That isn't important. What is important is the massacre of sky-herds as Garouth takes something perfectly innocent and turns it into gore that's still… perfectly innocent. But the implication is still there, and so Leirith's dancers suddenly find themselves covered in blood wherever the slanted rain hits them, turning translucent water into actual blood as they dance through metaphysical forests and - still. Leirith can tell that something important is being said, but she doesn't quite comprehend why those five words carry weight. But bass and drums do not quiet, they grow, as whirling blue eyes lift to take in the bronze's face, and then she bunts her cheek against his and shifts against him once more. She will stop nipping at the water, and lower her maw to the ground instead, waiting. « She was very upset. I did not understand. She is better now, Garouth? Should we throw her a party? » DOES SHE NEED SOME EXTRA HELPINGS OF LOVE?

It's pretty gore. Because… Garouth appreciates the spatter of blood, the chasing waves of water and blood that soak down over the dancers, and for all the macabre scene it's innocent and playful like the wolf-pups tearing apart a carcass dragged back for them. It's pretty, and Garouth rumbles as he nudges back to Leirith, with a cheek-rub and then a gentle mouthing up at her before… a whurrf, a breath exhaled. « Nor did I. » And traces of uncertainty still linger in his tone. « She is better now. » He's more sure about that, at least. « She said… when she spoke of mates she meant that I caught her mating flight. Which I did, and we enjoyed it. » True facts are true, even if… « She has a desire for something more. A mate who… is like a flight-mate, but always. » He does not get it. He is curious about it, but… his lack of comprehension is left clear to see. « I thought she meant we were that. We are not. » Implied: because how could he be, when he doesn't even really know what it is?

It is pretty gore, and the dancers do not shy away from it - they revel in it. They dance, and stand still, and dance, and stand still, until they are soaked with rain-blood. And the gore makes rivulets of macabre beauty that drips from their hair, and the tips of their fingers, and catches in their lashes as they move once more to string up lights and carry the scent of spun sugar with them. But for a time, Leirith does not speak; instead she tucks her nose in between the both of their bodies, and absorbs Garouth's heat, and she listens. The wubwubwub of her mind goes hush, as quiet as the feet of her dancers as they move through the forests and - « This is important, Garouth? » she asks him, and despite the ever-present upbeat tones, there is a hint of her own uncertainty. As if she does not understand what he is trying to tell her, or why he is trying to tell her this, or why it is important that she knows. « I… do not think that I understand. » And maybe there's a flicker of something in the back of his mind - humorous still, despite the razor-edge of self-deprecation that follows. "You are not stupid, Leirith," Risali breathes from where she sits, privy to the conversation while she watches the dragons and does her best not to intrude. « I cannot be! I have a clever and fierce minion. » Leirith laughs, but she's moving against Garouth again. « This is… a special friendship, as she said? »

« Maybe? » Garouth says, but it's with a laugh that's almost a shrug at the same time, a gust of wind to the treetops to spatter the leaves with rain-blood to give them their autumn hues. « I am telling you because she asked me. » A duty given him, and now discharged! …even if it's brought other questions in its wake, like the rain that follows the winds until the clouds are empty. Garouth does not shy away from those questions, or Leirith. He curls in around her, even if she's grown big enough that he can't encircle her as fully as he once did. His tail goes over hers instead of around, his neck curls in against her as she shifts. « I think she is my friend. Mating flights… make things different, but they are not more, only different. Like Faeth and Sirhyth are different. » Garouth's wing shifts, the flight fanning of a motion over Leirith that changes the spatter of wind. « She thinks something more. She calls it romance, and says she feels it for me. I… do not think I feel it for her, but I do not know. I do not understand it. » A moment, and then a rumble. « All friendships are special. » But are some special-er than others? MAYBE but Garouth is at nearly as much of a loss as Leirith, even if he does have a bit more experience and understanding of at least certain parts of it.

And while the rain-blood soaks leaves like it soaks her dancers, and the ground, and Garouth speaks, the gold tries to process the information given to her. She remains pressed against him, almost silent except that she's there because the dancers are there and they are still moving, still reveling, still at home in Garouth's forest even if their grace falters, and they stumble, unsure of their next steps. « I am not sure why this distinction matters to me, Garouth. » And she stills, as if she can examine the words given to her, and make sense out of them, and she tries, but she… « I feel that something is being communicated to me, but I do not understand. » And the dancers move out of the rain into the shelter of trees, winding lights down the trunks of them as they escape the rain-blood. « Have I done something wrong? Have you? » A beat, and then the dancers burst into motion, abandoning tasks so that they can band together and huddle close to one another, waiting. « I do not want these mating flights, Garouth. » And perhaps, for the first time, Leirith will slip on some of that humor and cheer she always projects, to give way to… fear, unease. « I do not want to be different. I do not want you to be different. I do not want things to be different. » And then it unravels, hidden behind that proverbial mask, chased away with laughter as she tells the bronze, « I do not understand it either, Garouth. But that is okay. We are badasses. We will figure it out together. And then maybe Samiryth will not be upset again. » For now, she understands that he is warm and wet, and she I just wet, and she doesn't move from where his tail is draped over hers, or were her snout presses into his hide, or where his neck curls in on hers. « But this romance thing seems boring, whatever it is. » And while there is a hint of humor, it is overshadowed by confusion as the gold thinks.

And Garouth is also there, as the rain shifts in intensity from drizzle to mist and back again. He is there, with the small shifts of his body, the movement of his chest as he breathes and the curl of his neck and tail around her. « I do not know what she means. » He doesn't know. Neither does she. Is something being said by the older green, some subtle message intended for the bronze to pass along? He doesn't know, but he opens that lack to Leirith, sharing it with her as fully as he has his eyes… and with it are other emotions, there in his mind as he opens it to her and lets her see. He keeps nothing back, though some things are nearer to view than others. Among the closest - pressed to her thoughts like his body is to hers - are his own feelings for Leirith, affection and joy, concern and presence. « I do not think you wrong. » Garouth is certain there, the warm protector who curls closer, responding to the shiver of uncertainty and fear with the press of his body, the splay of his wing to shelter her beneath it even as her dancers slip beneath the trees for their shelter. He does not know what Samiryth means, what she intends… but his own self, he knows. Leirith… he knows, at least as she is now. After flights… Garouth rumbles, deep and low. « Then do not. » His words come quick, a rush of raw urge and a complex torrent of feeling. « Be Leirith, forever. Let me be Garouth. Do not change. » It's almost a plea, a passionate desire for… what, really? « Let us be like this. » Wet and pressed together in that wet, his body and mind with hers. Let them be… and he laughs, a gust over the shadowed depths of that passion. « Badasses. » Henceforth and forever more! None of that boring romance or those confusing difference-making flights. Just… this.

This is important. Leirith knows that it is important, even if she does not know why - and she expects nothing of Garouth, asks nothing of Garouth. So when Garouth opens his mind, giving her an open invitation to explore these thoughts and feelings that are Garouth, she does not explore them. The gold remains at the edge of thoughts, balanced on the precipice of where their minds meet, trusting implicitly that Garouth will bring to her the things that he wants, or needs her to know. It is not because she is afraid, it is because she trusts him, and respects him, and what do the other things matter anyway? Because they are all Garouth, and he is Garouth regardless of what those other things might reveal. So when he presses his thoughts to hers, she opens her thoughts back to him with as much open invitation as he gave her, pressing his importance back at him. She adores him, she thinks he's a badass; she wants to party with him, and hunt with him, and fly with him; Leirith finds joy in his presence and, when he is not there, in his existence. But still, she is confused, and for an indeterminable amount of time, the gold remains pressed into Garouth's heat, under the shelter of his wing, breathing against his hide while leeching comfort from Risali's mind as much as she leeches it from Garouth's body. And finally she speaks again, upbeat joy that presses at his mind with too much sound and the movement of dancers as they step out into the open again and dance. « I do not understand what is expected of me, Garouth. But we will figure it out together, you, and me, and my Risali. And I will always be Leirith, and you will always be Garouth, and we will always be badasses. » And she's laughing, sending the rain dancing through the forest as she does. Because forget the romance and the flights. « I love you, Garouth. » And she means that, too. « I see you. »

And Garouth is against Leirith, in body and mind. Her mind is open to his, his to hers; the radiance of their bodyheat, the sensation of their emotions that glow… that sense of presence. They are here, together, and he feels no need to dig further. He'll take that back hallway to the dressing rooms readily enough when a dancer tugs him there… but he feels no need to sniff around without her. They're just here, at the interface of themselves… and it is a warm place, and a comfortable place even in the rain. They can lie here in silence, together complete. There's no rush from Garouth to speak again; no hurry for words to move them. They are here. There are many other places they could be - will be - whether that's together or apart, thinking of each other or simply knowing that they are. He's not oblivious to the future - nor to the questions - but they don't matter. For all he thinks on them, turns them over in his mind… for all he worries about some of them, an echoed ache of fear and rage for futures that might or might not be… here and now, it doesn't matter. It may never! For he is Garouth, she is Leirith, and that is endlessly complicated and fascinating and yet simple. Even if they do not understand. Garouth's mind cants toward Leirith's as she speaks again, his attention focusing to her words instead of only basking in her presence, and he rumbles his own laugh to harmonize with hers, the sounds together to make their own peculiar song. « You do. » He tucks his head over hers, eyes closing as he does. « I love you, Leirith. There will always be questions… but you, and me, and yours, and mine… we will find answers. » The road may sometimes feel too long, but… they can find the way. Or carry each other. Or… whatever else. « My friend. » So much to that word. So much loyalty and love and companionship, so much truth and caring and trust without the complications of flights or romance. They can ignore those. (Until they can't. But for now? They can.)

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