Sunset Beach Ride

Xanadu Weyr - Shore of Lake Caspian
The cliffs that run along the shore come and go, various weyrs nestled along the tops of them or dug into the walls, but eventually they recede enough to expose a beach. The white sand echoes the rise and fall of the cliffs with a multitude of sandy dunes, endlessly creating tiny valleys that are constantly demolished and rebuilt by the frequent arrival or departure of dragons. The dunes smooth out as the gentle slope approaches the edge of the deep blue water. The sand darkens, and a shell here and there stands out for children to collect.

The beach narrows to the southwest, leaving a path barely wide enough for dragons in single file before cutting in to a smaller, more sheltered cove. The sands are the same white, the waters the same blue, but they're calmer and more tranquil, more protected from the winds that ruffle Lake Caspian and the currents that tug beneath the surface.

Rough, wide stairs lead up to the meadow above and the road that runs along the top of the cliffs, passing through the fields and heading for the river mouth that can be just barely seen from here. The largest of the staircases up the cliff is located near the docks that jut out onto the peaceful blue waters.

Summer has hit Xanadu like a ton of bricks. While the mornings are nice enough, the middle of the day is simply wretched. Too hot to do anything, it's the perfect time to let the horses (and the humans) nap. But the evenings… oh. The evenings are just perfect for trail rides.

The sun is just beginning to set, the sky painted in orange, pink and purple hues, as Shiloh and Avi make it onto the beach. The beastcrafter has opted to ride his little red mare this evening. She's come a long way in a Turn and, while still a little snorty, happy to plow ahead into the surf with only a moment of consideration. Shiloh is confident enough that he's opted to ride her bareback, a hand tangled in reins and mane as he lets the other rest on his thigh.

Avi has had ample time to get used to riding and is comfortably astride Lightning bareback as they stroll down the beach. He is also comfortable enough that he is wearing a dress, gauzy affair suitable for the weather and reaching to midthigh. Mind you, he has a pair of leggings on beneath it to make riding more comfortable and his hat is bouncing against his back with each step of the runner. It is the sight of the sunset that has him nudging Lightning up so that he can reach for Shiloh's hand, the wonder in his eyes more then evident as his gaze sweeps over the light reflecting on the water. "I will never get used to that," he breaths. "Not I see a million more times." It's breathtaking and more then enough to have a smile tracing over his lips.

A romantic, sunset ride is exactly what Shiloh wanted. Even if he failed to bring a picnic with him (>.>). Still, the sky is beautiful and the water glints golden as it catches the light. Red plows on, ears perked and head up, happy to prance through the water with high-stepping feet so she can splash everything. This is fine. At least as they walk/jog/jig, she can't stand and paw or roll. Reaching over, Shiloh twines his fingers with Averil, casting a crooked smile his direction. "Is pretty, isn't it?" he agrees, squinting toward the sunset. "Sunrise's my favorite time back home," he admits. "There's a mist that lays over the ground and everything looks like it's out of storybook."

"Some day you are going to have to show it to me," Averil decides. Glancing at Shiloh, his expression softens, his smile growing warmer as Lightning does his level best to join Red in her prance through the water. "I feel like if I painted it every day for the rest of our lives, I'd still never do it proper justice." Which is, and is not true. He is skilled enough, to be sure, but to truly capture that splendor is impossible. "We should ride in the evenings more often. It's cool enough to be comfortable, but still warm enough to swim if we wanted to."

Shiloh squints across the water, quiet as he considers it. "If you really want to see it," he decides, turning another look on Averil. "I'll take you." Home. The cothold is not really a place he associates with that word, but there's nothing else to call it. "If you want to meet my family…" Shiloh might hesitate on that one, but he won't retract the offer. A light squeeze of the artist's hand, and he nudges Red a bit closer, walking near enough that their legs might touch. "I think you should try," he decides, nodding toward the sunset. "Would look pretty in our rooms, either way." A crooked grin, and he tips his hat at Averil. "We can definitely do that. Come out in the evening when it's nice. Let 'em play in the water. Good for their legs."

Averil is visibly taken by surprise at the offer of meeting Shiloh's family, his head tilting as he studies the beastcrafter's face. "I don't.. I don't know that they'd be very happy meeting me," he admits quietly. The squeeze to his hand and the attention being drawn back to the sunset, though, has him smiling immediately, his chin dipping in a slow nod. "Next time we come out, I'll bring my paints and a canvas with me." Spending time on the beach is just one of those things that he's unlikely to even consider saying no to. "Maybe when we have the next morning as a rest day," he decides. "It would look nice on the wall opposite Red's portrait. Or even over the bed."

"My sisters would," allows Shiloh, with a conciliatory shrug of his shoulder for the rest. His mother, maybe. His father… That thought puts a sour look on his face, lips pressed together for a moment before he shrugs it off once more. "The offer is there," he decides, lifting Avi's hand to press a kiss to his knuckles. "To accept or decline as you see fit." Shy won't be fussed either way. He nudges Red further into the water until it's lapping at his knees. "Over the bed could be nice," he agrees. "It'd have to be kinda long. To fit the space." Landscape mode, not portrait! "We should stargaze some time," he decides, tipping his head back toward the darkening sky. "On a clear night, I expect it'd be amazing."

"I love that idea," Avi breaths as he nudges Lightning to keep up with Red. At the cold water swirling up to his knees, a quiet laugh escapes his lips, before he settles into the sensation. "I.. I would like to meet them," he decides. "It doesn't haven't to be right away, but eventually I would like to meet your family. I just.. I worry because I don't know what to say if they ask me about my own." He has no family that he knows of. Not that they are not out there, somewhere, but he has no idea who they are and no real desire to find out. "I can make the painting long, though," he assures without a hint of hesitation. It is the thought of star gazing that his eyes sweeping skyward, his lips turning up in a quiet smile. "We should go to the Starstones for that," he suggests. "I imagine that view has to be amazing."

"Okay." That's all Shiloh can say. The word holds neither approval nor disapproval, but simply acceptance for the decision. He'll take him to meet his family, but not until summer in the north. "Maybe in a few months," he agrees. "When the weather there warms up." There's no way he'd subject Averil to those kinds of winters. Another squeeze of his hand comes before he releases it so that he can guide Red through the water, keeping her from going too deep into the waves. They trudge along, parallel to the beach, the sunset ahead of them and long shadows behind, the sky darkening to deep purples and navy blues overhead. "Star stones…" It is not an outright rejection so much as a hesitation. "There might be other people there," he admits. "The beach would have the moonlight on the water, too." He's definitely trying to sell the idea of coming out here, rather than staying somewhere… potentially crowded.

"Oh," Avi breaths. "I hadn't thought of that." With the water swirling up around his thighs, his smiles warms, his expression softening almost immediately. "We could bring a blanket and a thermos of klah and just stretch out in the sand and watch the stars. That is a /much/ better idea." Flashing a smile at Shiloh, he turns his gaze skyward, pale grey eyes reflecting the purple streaks across the sky. "It's so quiet out at here at night," he notes in a whisper. "Just the sound of the waves lapping at the shore." Which, clearly, he thinks is absolutely perfect.

"We'll do that, then," agrees Shiloh. "Next clear night, or when we've a morning off, we'll come out and gaze at the stars." They might end up falling asleep on the beach, but it probably wouldn't be the first time. Angling Red so that she's most assuredly between Lightning and the sea — and Avi is closer to the shore — Shiloh reaches for his hand again, claiming it with a quick thread of his fingers and gentle squeeze. For a while, the sound of the sea and the splashing of runners through the water is all that can be heard, the beastcrafter perfectly fine with companionable silence and a quiet moment together. It is rather perfect, and Shiloh cannot help but relax for it; hat tipped back and an easy smile on his face. It is after a few minutes of walking that he finally speaks again, thumb brushed over Averil's knuckles. "I want you to start riding a different runner," he starts, the words light and cheerful; a desire to keep the subject friendly rather than potentially frightening.

Averil welcomes the quiet, not out of a desire not to talk, but because it is comfortable and safe and calming in ways his had not been before coming to Xanadu and meeting Shiloh. Lulled by the whisper of waves on sand and the sound of the runners, it is only the brush to his knuckles that has him turning his attention back to the beastcrafter, his head tilting at the news. And for a moment, he is quiet, his brows lightly furrowed as he unconsciously tightens the fingers gripping Lightning's mane. "But… Lightning?" Confused and more then a little attached to the runner he's been riding for the past year, he glances down at the equine head before turning his gaze back up to Shiloh's face. "Is something wrong with Lightning?" And yes, he's dancing dangerously close to tears at the moment.

But… Lightning? "Is old," says Shiloh simply, a fond look cast toward the bey runner. "He's well into his teens — closer to twenty at this point, if not already," he allows. Averil's hand gets a squeeze, the beastcrafter's expression gentle as he regards him. "He's fine," he promises. "There's nothing wrong with him other than age. I started you on him because he is gentle and slow. But you've moved past him, Averil. He is able to plod around the pen, or go out on the trails occasionally, but he isn't strong enough to keep riding fast or hard." It is the threat of tears that has him slowing them to a halt, letting the reins rest over Red's withers as he reaches out to catch Averil's chin so he can lean over and kiss him. "It'll be alright," he promises. "He's not going anywhere. You can still visit him, and ride him on occasion. But I'd like you to start riding something else. Something that can keep up with Red," he teases.

It is only in the wake of the kiss that Averil settles, the explanation met with a reluctant nod as he uncurls his fingers from Lightning's mane and forces himself calm down. "I definitely don't want to strain him," he admits as smooths his fingers over the length of Lightning's neck. "As long as we can still take him out once in a while, I suppose it will be fine." Needless to say, Avi will be spoiling Lightning something awful to make up for not riding him every morning. Which, of course, has him immediately curious, pale eyes flicking up from the runner to Shiloh's face. "Who will I be riding then?"

"We can do that," agrees Shiloh. "Once a month or so, we can take him and Willow out for a walk." Something quiet and easy. For everyone. As for who he'll be riding? There's a little grin tugging at Shiloh's lips and a bit of mischief dancing in his eyes as he turns his gaze back toward the surf. "You'll meet her tomorrow," he promises, intentionally mysterious. "Make sure you're ready bright and early. You wanna make a good first impression." The words are teasing and light, and coupled with another grin and a squeeze of Averil's fingers. With the sun nearly set, Shiloh directs Red back toward the shore, (un)intentionally herding Lightning that way as well. "Let's head back," he decides, even if that's already what they're doing. "Gotta rinse them off before we leave."

Okay, so. Avi is easily distracted. That much we know. That much also becomes abundantly clear as he all but bounces on Lightning as they turn their steps back toward the barn. "What should I wear," he asks as he twists on Lightning's back to keep his eyes on Shiloh. That he ends up splashing himself inadvertently is enough to inspire a startled laugh before he forces himself to pay attention to where they are going. Course, he KNOWS better then to ask too many questions, and while it's hard not to, he manages, mostly. "We're going to have to have a bath ourselves," he notes as he glances down at his soaked pants and the hem of his dress.

Shiloh's laugh is light and affectionate, and coupled with another look at Averil. "Wear whatever you'll be comfortable riding in. Though," he adds, eyeing the dress with a grin, "I'd suggest pants and boots." He sets the pace at an easy jog while they're still on the beach, heading back toward the meadow and the stables beyond. "We'll take it easy tomorrow, till you get to know each other," he adds as they settle back into a walk closer to the barn. "And we will," he agrees with a grimace. "You'll want to get all that rinsed out or it'll be crunchy from the sand." Crunchy. A fantastic way to describe clothing. At the stables, Shiloh slides down and clips Red to the crossties. He's quick to return with a bucket of water and a few sponges, so they can rinse off the runner's legs.

Averil nods as he listens, Shiloh's laughter more then enough to inspire a pleased smile. "I'm excited to meet her," he admits as he keeps Lightning in pace with Red. "I'll definitely wear pants, though. I only wore this because I'm comfortable with Lightning and wasn't worried about losing my seat." When they get back to the barn, he slips off Lightning's back and clips him in place, as well, one hand smoothing over the length of the runner's neck. "I will visit you /every/ day," he promises. "And bring you extra carrots." Cause food is love. >.> The moment that Shiloh returns with the bucket of water and sponges, he sets to work, pale grey eyes crinkling at the corners as he smiles at the beastcrafter. "You know…. I never thanked you for what has become the best part of my day."

"The best part?" asks Shiloh, teasing in his tone. "Ouch." But he's definitely being playful, a grin tugging at his lips and mischief in his eyes, as he peeks over at Averil. "You're welcome," come a moment later, as he cleans up Red's belly and moves on to her legs, soaking the sponge in clean water. "I'm glad you enjoy riding. And the runners." And he means it, too. Runners are his passion; having Averil enjoy it as well just sweetens the deal. Raising, he offers Red a scratch on her withers before tossing the sponge aside and unclipping her. There's already hay and fresh water in her stall, and she's keen to get on it. "Tomorrow," he decides, bolting the stall door and heading back to Averil and Lightning. "We'll keep it to the pen until you're comfortable with her. But I think you'll like her."

Averil exhales a low snort, dimples flashing as he slants a glance at Shiloh and grins. "/You/ know better then that," he points out with a toss of his head that sends his runnertail over his shoulder. Still, he can't help the pleased laugh that spills past his lips as he drops into a crouch to work on finishing Lightning's legs. "I can't imagine how anyone wouldn't love them," he admits as he tosses the sponge back into the bucket and goes about the business of getting Lightning unclipped and tucked back into his stall. It is not until he emerges and bolts it closed that he winds his arms around the beastcrafter's neck and turns a bright smile up to him. "I can't wait," he admits in breathy tones.

"Just makin' sure," agrees Shiloh. His arms wind around Averil's waist, and he pulls him close for a quick, albeit chaste, kiss. His smile is met with a crooked one in return, the beastcrafter at ease and clearly pleased with himself. "Well. Sooner we get home and get to bed, sooner you can meet her," he teases. "Do you need anything else before we go?" Did he bring anything to the barn that needs to be packed up and hauled back? "If you want," he adds, shifting around to tuck Averil against his side. "You can head home and I'll swing through the caverns for food. Since you seem to be in a bit more of a mess than me." To be clear, Shiloh is definitely also wet from the knees down, but he's not sporting a dress (and really doesn't care if his pants end up stained or faded).

"Oooh," Averil admits. "Food would be perfect. I'll head home and run us a bath while you grab it?" Of course, he's going to stay tucked right where he is along the way, content to stroll along at Shiloh's side despite his wet clothing. "It's pretty, though," he points out as he smooths a hand over his dress. "And I am definitely feeling more comfortable wearing them more then I have in the past." That that is entirely due to Shiloh is something that has him turning an adoring look up to the beastcrafter's face.

"Good," says Shiloh, a smile turned on Avi. "I'm glad." And he is. Absolutely. As they near the caverns he pauses, pulling Averil in for a tender kiss, before turning him loose again. "Go on, then," he decides, a crooked smile at his lips. "Go run us our bath, and I'll meet you with dinner and a drink." A little wine sounds perfect for the occasion, even if that occasion is nothing more than a quiet evening together.

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