Up Close and Personal

Xanadu Weyr - Rustic Treetop Café

Perched on the cliff overlooking Xanadu's beach is a gnarled and massive skybroom tree. The bark and outer layers are sturdy enough to support the thriving, brushy top, but the interior, which is hollow, contains a spiral staircase that leads to a cafe built on a high platform amongst the branches. With a panoramic view of lake, sky, Weyr and the mountains beyond, the treetop eatery offers both sheltered seating just inside the trunk and tables on the wide deck that encircles the old tree.
The cafe's decor is comfortable and rustic, but closer inspection shows the smallest embellishments to be artfully combined into one detailed masterpiece. The wood of the doors, floor and walls of the trunk have been stained a dark mahogany that lends the space a sense of intimacy. Tables in various sizes have been carved to mimic driftwood, the chairs and benches padded with oiled sailcloth cushions to provide weather-proof comfort. Each table has an aged brass lantern filled with shells and agates gathered from Xanadu's shores, the sparkling natural mosaics holding tapered candles upright in their embrace. Lamps hang from the ceiling on silver poles, the thick frosted glass carved into intricate pastel shells or swirling white-capped waves. At night the colored glass softens the glowlight to enhance the ambience.
During the day, the retractable doors allow leaf-spattered sunlight to fill both the outer deck and the smaller interior with green and gold light, as well as allowing pleasant breezes to cool the interior. On clear nights, farviewers perch on the elaborately carved railing are free for use to enhance the gorgeous view of the stars over the Caspian Lake, the Sea of Azov beyond and the rock formations of the Weyr.

Midday and the heat of the afternoon is enough to set the Caverns to an oven-like temperature - at least that is what the formerly-native to High Reaches Weyrwoman had claimed as she exited them with a stack of her paperwork, a ledger under one arm and a supply of pens in hand. Reaching the lake shore, she heads not for the beach, but remains up on the cliff top, entering the trunk of that massive tree that overlooks the water, climbing the spiral staircase to the top and steps outside to snag a seat on the platform in the shadiest spot she can find. Settling with a sigh into a seat, placing her things on the table, she turns her face towards the water seeking the breeze to dry the fine beading of moisture from her face. Even though she's dressed in a scoop-necked and sleeveless loose-fitting sundress, hair coiled up off her neck, she's still sweltering, the thin azure material darkened along her upper back. Someone is going to welcome winter with open arms this turn.

It may or may not be a surprise: The 'missing' in action Weyrleader is NOT out fishing like some suggested. He's here, nearest the window as he can get, trying to enjoy a bit of tropical breeze while he drinks a tall glass of cold iced tea. His black hair, allowed to get just a bit long and curly, plasters like a carven frame around his tanned face…but his jawset and intense gaze on what he's reading might make one think he's not actually feeling the heat at all. It's maybe even a bit surprising that he glances up as someone new arrives…but he catches sight of the Weyrwoman, and gives her a slight nod…and maybe even a bit of humor, "I'm surprised you weren't up here sooner…"

GAH!!! Thea's eyes pop open as she nearly jumps out of her skin. Wide-eyed and alert now rather than heat-stupid oblivious, her pale green eyes find Xe'ter at the next table over. Her expression fades from heart-attack-startled to a sheepish smile. "Xe! When did you- I mean, I didn't see you there." The Weyrwoman is uncharacteristically jittery this afternoon but sociable enough, she rises from her table and moves to his. The rest of his comment sinks in as she regains some of her equilibrium, "I tried to get out earlier, but they caught me sneaking out." 'They' being the seemingly endless train of people with problems they think only she can solve. "I think we need a vacation," she finishes lamely as she settles into the seat across from him.

That draws a little bit of a chuckle, but it's a dark one, "I think that's called retirement…unless you count time on the Sands as time away from the paperwork, hassle, and endless demands." He very carefully folds his papers into that omnipresent portable desk of his, and gently puts the leather folio to the side for a moment. "I confess…I avoided it, went in while breakfast was still being cooked, got what I wanted to work on, and went looking for cool, shady places." Heh. The Weyrleader might be awkward, inexperienced, young, and maybe even hard to understand, but stupid he's not. "So far, no one's noticed me." Well…except for you. "I figured if I was needed corporeally, someone would yell at Romth."

"They're supposed to leave me alone when I'm on the sands?" This has Thea perking hopefully and her eyes glazing over as if she's checking on Seryth's glow-ability to gauge how soon until she rises next. She might just be jerking Xe'ter's chain though, judging by the merry twinkle that alights them right afterward. He stack of work is left untouched, the papers getting a look of dread as if she would love to stuff them in the hollow trunk that forms the cafe and be done with it. "I suppose it's small comfort to you," she smirks. She'd totally disappear for a few hours if she could! His comment has her looking bright, "Hah! Tomorrow I'll skip breakfast. Though… poor Ocelara. They'll hound her to death."

He notes after a moment, "Not with that boat-anchor she calls a spindle, they won't. I've see her take swipes at drunken fools." He's not going to call her 'poor' for any reason! "What I was thinking about was that bloody Renegade camp. Actually…what I was thinking about was the cold storage areas up in the mountains. I don't see why we couldn't set up a camp /there/…and you know. Relax away from the heat for a while. It'd be nice. We can be back here through *between* as fast as we can run down stairs….smells better, too."

Thea's mouth forms a wry smirk. "One of her many talents." Beating back the drunks and the brawlers that would lay ruin to the Weyr. She leans forward, both elbows on the table, chin propped on the heel of her palms as she gazes through her lashes out over the lake. "Mmm. that would certainly be cooler. And it's not that far from-" Her eyes open wide again and she gasps. "Have we… checked that to be sure Laris hasn't found and raided those cold store supplies?"

Xe'ter smiles a bit, almost serenely, "We keep a watch there…usually whoever's not exactly on the good side of their wingleader…and Eastern does its share too. No one gets in or out past the watchrider." He notes, more seriouisly, "I have Romth bespeak them at least twice a day. They've had some evidence of wild felines, but no humans at all." It /is/ in a remote area…and not just because it stays nice and cold Turn round!

"I hope they're well-armed!" Thea shudders and though his assurance should bring some relief to her, it doesn't seem to. Her eyes are dark, haunted by some inner disquiet. "I'm glad to know you've kept it so. I forgot all about our remote areas. I get so caught up with diplomacy between the Weyrs and domestic things like Weyr" management and my family. I've really slipped up, Xe." This quiet admittance costs her to say aloud, evidenced by the fact that she completely forgets to scan the area for eavesdroppers before saying it. In fact, she's staring at the tabletop.

Fortunately, eavedroppers aren't that many today…wait till tonight, when tired workers start clogging the small place up, looking for food and drink! He quirks his brow and his lip to the side, and tilts his head all at the same time: the effect is akin to a quizzical puppy! "Slipped…up?" Actually, the look of concern is quite genuine. He keeps himself busy…with things like watchrider assignments and keeping the wings from imploding (most of the time). He leaves trouble for his Weyrwoman! "What's gone on?" If it's bigger than Fort's own Weyrleader getting stabbed in his area….well…he's not sure he actually wants to hear.

Thea slides Xe'ter an unreadable look. "I left Kefai's mountain stronghold unchecked for turns. Simply forgot about it until the trouble with Laris cropped up. Th'ero asked me why the place hadn't been blocked up using explosives or something." She shudders. "If they'd gathered enough men and remained there, they it would have been impregnable since it’s inaccessible to dragons." So little seems to rattle her - this slip up seems to have shaken her deeply and she's not trying to hide it from Xe'ter. "I could have been responsible for Rider's deaths." And dragons, but that goes without saying.

Xe'ter is silent for several long moments, as if he's gathering up his thoughts. Or seeking for wisdom. Maybe consulting with Romth. "You're right, you did. But the fact that it /wasn't/ being used for that tells you a lot. For one…even if he found it, he knew he didn't have the people to man it. And for another…if he had, we'd've seen it. We keep an eye out for unusual amounts of smoke, or for cut down trees. There's no way he could've gotten people in there and us NOT see it. It's right under a regular patrol area…just not a patrol area we do that often. The place is clogged up with feral whers and felines…and there's not that much to eat without growing it. We would've /seen/ crops being grown. Renegades don't just hide en masse…people and animals need food, water, shelter…" He's not dismissing it, he's pointing out the obvious. "So now we send someone to watch it. Better yet…we send some of the young overflows from the holds, and set them up…and KEEP the Renegades out of it and turn it to some good instead. But don't beat yourself up over it. It happened…now let it go. And then fix it and move on…that's what my Da would say, for certain."

"But it could have been-" Thea starts only to stare at him. "You've been sending sweeps way out there? See, that's what I mean. I should have been paying more attention to that. I should have told you about the place when I briefed you after you won Seryth's first flight. It ate at D'son that we never caught Kefai, so he probably kept an eye on it, but I just let it slip my mind since we hadn't had any trouble with renegades and all these turns I was living with a false sense of security. Shells!" She's not hysterical but the pitch of her voice is edged with raw emotion. "If they'd stockpiled enough stolen food, we could have been-" she's too angry to continue, obviously angry at herself, not him. Her hands drop to the tabletop, clenched into fists as she sweeps her gaze out to sea. "See, this is why I want to go with Kimmila and infiltrate their gang!" The last bit, almost a growl, is probably laughable. She does not look renegade-tough.

Xe'ter can't stop himself. He laughs a little, "You're no renegade, Thea. And it'd show. My own Da's closer to a Renegade than you are! I kept an eye out there because there's a note in the files…that the place is to be flown over occasionally. Didn't say why, and I didn't ask. D'son wasn't exactly the most communacative about things." He pauses, and then notes, "Not many are. Want to leave the past in the past and not bother the now with it…"

He laughs. See, now, if it were D'had she'd get growled at or shaken. Because D'had knows she'd do it if she could. She still might! Thea doesn't tell him that though. "I know," she mutters, slightly miffed that she is all girly and not tough like Jaye. Details! She frowns though, about the previous Weyrleader. "That doesn't sound like D'son," she says. There are so many other pressing thoughts weighing on her mind though, so she doesn't dwell on it. "So. Do you think Ers'lan will be able to handle the job?" They're in public; he knows the secret plans they have for Galaxy's wingleader, so she doesn't say it outright.

He rubs his face for a moment, then thinks better of it when he gets sweat in his eyes and they start to water. He grabs a napkin to do a better job…and shakes his head. "I believe I have all the confidence I can in Ers'lan."

Thea looks perplexed, tilting her head to one side while working through just what he means with that answer. "Hmm." But dark brows quirk in a silent question. No? Does he have anyone else in mind who might do better? "I'd send D'had but he's got too high a profile being Weyrsecond all these turns." That and she wouldn't sleep or eat or breathe until he returned. "We should pay a visit to Eastern before Yumeth clutches," she says in a change of subject. Since they've been everywhere but there in the very few spare moments between overwhelming problems they're had in the past few turns.

Xe'ter nods to that; he doesn't have any one better to offer, "I canna imagine it's that good to send a rider, is all…this is Harper work, if you ask me." But! Not here or there. "We should?" comes a somewhat perplexed addendum. "Not that we shouldn't make a friendly call or so…have you been keeping track of the notes from the Annex? About their young queen?"

"I agree. Stealth and finesse would be key. If we only had a Harper I'd trust to send! M'trin's Volenth is too young to be separated from his rider yet and Seryth is going to be hard put to keep Zhaoth calm while Ers'lan is away. At least we'll have instant communication with him being a rider." Thea nods about visiting Eastern. A friendly call. "We're so overdue." But then looks guilty about the notes from the Annex. "Not… really? With everything that's going on here… Is something wrong with her? Fiona's the rider, right?"

Xe'ter nods to that, "Fiona…techcrafter of some stripe or another." Yeah…like Xe really has much clue what a techcrafter does, other than breeds machines like a herder breeds bovines. "Just a few notes. They've been back and forth with the healers here. They're concerned the youngster hasn't risen and she's just into her second Turn." Gossip…that's what that is. Who knew the Weyrleader kept up on it? "Some of the watchriders at the cold stores were talking to the Eastern watchers and there's some sort of suggestion they might look for a fertile queen if she doesn't rise soon." But he seems to know that's mostly hogwash…prattlings of someone who is likely disaffected.

All machines should be sterilized in Thea's opinion! So they can’t reproduce. Gossip isn't Thea's thing, apparently. Of Fiona's queen she just looks confused. "But, that's normal for a gold. Seryth didn't rise until she was a little over two turns old. The healers say they aren't rising as early and as often because there is no Thread. Or because the red star no longer passes close to Pern… or both." Needing a fertile queen is something she understands, however and her offer is without hesitation. "Briana could do a rotation down there for a few turns. I offered Syra Sianne and Sakrienth before they retired."

Xe'ter nods a bit, and shrugs just a touch. "Probably best to give them that offer ourselves." He flashes a bit of a chuckle, then rattles his now empty glass. "Want some ice tea? Shards, if it gets much hotter…I think I'll go *between* bare beamed just to get some relief."

Thea is in the middle of nodding agreement when Xe'ter comments about *Betweening* nekkid - or well, that's what she thinks he just said. She snorts with a smile, "Better not! I've just got you broken in, I don't want to have to train a replacement!" Besides, they both know D'had would be acting Weyrleader if he freezes to death and the man really wouldn't enjoy the added responsibility. She just shakes her head no about the tea, giving her Weyrleader a long, thoughtful look. They've barely had a moment to speak lately, let alone breathe, so she takes this moment of calm-before-the-next-storm to ask, "How are you doing with all this, really? Doing okay?"

Xe'ter takes a breath, as he waves the server over to get more iced tea…and then speaks when she's walked away, "I still feel…utterly…incompetent. Romth says that's nonsense…but I certainly don't feel like a Weyrleader of old."

Thea's trying hard to keep straight-faced. "Maybe that's because you aren't a Weyrleader of old. It's only been three turns. And you're what? Twenty-five? You have turns before you're a crusty old Weyrleader." Trying to make light of it but lurking behind the humor is concern and respect as she says sincerely, "I think you're doing a fine job, Xe. I have no complaints."

Xe'ter looks a bit sheepish, and notes, "Nay, Thea. I'm not yet 23." Yeaaaaaaah. But he looks slightly more comforted. "And I'm grateful…I know my Da wanted to raise me up to be his heir…I hope I do what training he gave me proud." But I dunno. Funny…Xe NEVER talks about his family, hardly ever. "Still. There are days even I'm ready to take that portfolio and give it a heave into the nearest water and head off to find a better fishing spot. I suppose those'll never change."

"Really? Could have fooled me!" At least Thea thinks he looks and acts older than he is? But she's not laughing at him, no. Looking thoughtful still and maybe a touch guilty that Seryth's flight imposed on his life. "I think he'd be proud. Does he tell you he is?" Bright curiosity comes to the fore now as she asks, "Heir to what exactly? Your accent is of the sea, and I know I've been remiss in asking about your life - I assumed you were a sailor, maybe a trader. Would you have had your own ship then? Or a fleet of them?"

Xe'ter clears his throat a bit, "Wrocker's Seahold, actually…it's beholden to Western." And then, almost shamefacedly, "It's a long way from here. I've not seen them since…well. I'm not sure when I've seen them last. Not since I left home." He does look ashamed at that. "I was 15."

Thea could stare. She could act aghast and splutter with whys and wheretofores or eye him and cry out, 'Go visit your poor mother!' She does none of those things, however. Instead, she levels a look that might be understanding at her Weyrleader. "Do you miss it? I… can't visit home often. And I miss it more and more each and every turn."

He's quiet a moment, then shrugs. "I might've missed it, once. But there's no goin' back. It's a Seahold…no room for a dragon. Barely room for the fishing fleet…and I've brothers. Well…adoptive brothers. We were all adopted. Mum never had children of her own."

Xe'ter is given a long, measured look. "Of course not! But it's home. Don't you-" Wait-what? "You're adopted, hmm?" That's not so uncommon with all the fostering that goes on, but this is Xe'ter they're talking about. She's never met his folks and she's just learned he hasn't been home in turns. "Tell me," she says simply, implying there's more to the story and she's interested if he wants to talk about it.

Xe'ter shrugs a bit, as the tea finally makes its way back, along with ice fresh from the ice maker…ooh. Ice. And two glasses…because, well. It's polite. "I don't have much story to it. They decided to surprise me for my 15th turnday, and let me know they'd picked a wife for me…and that it was time I knew the truth." He offers a very level gaze, "Mum and Da are both red headed…" And Xeet…he's got raven black hair. "Told me they'd found me in the courtyard, and that there were a set of boottracks down to the water's edge, where the marks of a dragon landing hadn't been washed away by the tide yet." He shrugs, "S'all I know. I…" am not proud of what is about to be said, "I demanded marks and got on the trade ship going to Western Weyr the next morning in a huff." And I didn't go back.

Though she had declined tea, it IS hot regardless of the shade and lake breeze up here, so when the extra glass is set before her Thea smiles and gladly accepts it. Listening without interrupting, she sips quietly. Lowering the glass to the table, she traces a finger through the beaded moisture thoughtfully. "That would be some turnday surprise. A wife and a revelation that you were adopted both. That would be a lot to swallow." With a mirthless smile she asides, "My da didn't try to marry me off to the holder across the valley until I was around twenty-two. He tried to throw Seryth in to sweeten the deal. D'had set him straight with his fists." She can smile about that now… She glances up at Xe'ter. "Bet they miss you," she says quietly.

Xe'ter just looks distant for a moment, "Maybe. I wrote them when Ryxeter was born…I didn't hear back. Not many dragons get down to there…everything goes to Western, and then by ship." He shrugs again, "Sometimes, you do something stupid enough…it's not worth going back."

"Maybe, maybe not," Thea says softly. "They kept you, Xe'ter." That's all she says about that, not seeming to want to press him, sensitive to his mood but she looks… sad. Lifting her glass, she pauses with it almost to her lips, looks over the rim at him. "Interesting that dragons don't get down there often yet one did the night they found you." Dark brows lift slightly as she drinks.

He makes a very slight face…as if that argument does apply. But still. "A lot of sand's washed away from that beach, is all I'm saying. Da's not exactly a sentimental sort." He wrinkles his brow and rubs his hairline a moment, and then sips at his tea. "It's out of the way…and they like it that way. Da's of the opinion Pern'd be a better place with Thread."

"Sometimes… I think that myself. I think dragonriders have sort of lost their purpose without Thread. Too much aimless partying." The Werywoman falls into a troubled silence that stretches. Perhaps she's debating the wisdom of what she's about to say. Finally she reaches a gentle hand out to rest on his forearm for a moment while seeking to meet his eyes. "Xe. You're my friend and colleague. I hope you'll understand this comes from the heart: Your da might not be the sentimental sort, but I'll bet your ma is. I'd… go with you for a visit if you ever decide to go." She doesn't say why she'd go, just leaves the simple offer to lie there, on the table as it were.

To say that Xeet looks surprised is an understatement…funny. He almost looks more surprised at the declaration of friendship: after his awkward attempts to try and figure out what was going on between Thea and D'had. Well. Maybe he didn't think that was possible. Strange lad, this one! "I…might take you up on that. When we're not busy hunting down Renegades and worrying about whether or not we're going to have heat for the Sands…at least we're not alternating between death by starvation and drowning this Turn!" He tries to make that a joke, but it falls a little flat and a little short.

Perhaps Thea expects the surprise. At least she doesn't look surprised by his surprise. While he may have felt that whole awkward situation back a few turns ago was a fail, Thea apparently didn't see it that way. She gives him a look that outright challenges him to ask her why she feels the oft distant-appearing Weyrleader is her friend or even why she'd want to visit his home - she'll be happy to spell it out for him! There's a little quiver at the corners of her mouth, as if she'd like to break into a wide grin. She gives his arm a little pat before withdrawing her hand. "These things will pass - they always do."

He chuckles at that, and nods… "I suppose…I suppose they do." He looks out of the seating area, out of the view window…and takes in the vista beyond, thoughtful. His brow tightening like that makes him look a Turn or two older, but his jet black hair doesn't have a single streak of grey … yet. He's still too much of a baby! "But I'll make sure…we get a regular daily watch on the place…and maybe we can still put a holiday camp out by the cold stores. Just for…a relaxation on a Restday or so."

Ahh, so he doesn't ask and thus Thea offers no explanation. Concern for that stern look he adopts flits across her face but by the time he looks back her expression has smoothed back to her normally serene one. His abrupt reverting back to business is taken without a blink and she nods. "I'll leave it in your hands," she says easily about the watch. As for the cold stores, she looks wistful. "It would be nice to get a break from this heat. Even a good rainstorm-" Her eyes lift skyward. Maybe she'd better not jinx the weather.

Eyes dart sideways, and he almost laughs, "Bite your tongue, or we'll be swimming to Eastern!" And that would just be awkward. But then he wonders, something that'd been poking him a bit, "What about the emergency sands in the Annex…if something goes wrong, we'd have room for the clutch there…I'd hate to see her have to go to Telgar or something…." Yumeth, he means.

But they'd be in great shape by the time they got there! With a laugh, Thea says no more about the weather. Instead she says, "Jethaniel seems to think he'll have the sands heating unit working as soon as he gets the pipes refilled. But first he's got to pump the water from the river to do that, still that shouldn't take long. But yes, the dragonhealers could take the eggs into the incubator as they are laid, but they’d have to do so immediately because the artificial sands aren't heated.” Which would be stressful for poor Yumeth. "Keep your fingers crossed, because at this point Yumeth isn't cleared for flight. She's been grounded by the dragonhealers. Too eggheavy to fly." So they'd better hope those sands get repaired.

Xe’ter shakes his head a little, "I suspect if she wanted, she'd find Sands…dragonhealers or no dragonhealers." He flattens his lips a bit, "It'd be a long direct flight to Eastern, but we could. Jethaniel had best have them done, then."

"Absolutely not! I won't be responsible for Yumth falling from the sky under the weight of those eggs." The Weyrwoman says firmly about Yumeth attempting a direct flight to Eastern. Overruling the dragonhealers by an eggheavy queen is not something she'll permit and will have Seryth inhibit Yumth if necessary. "Don't forget, Yumeth has that old wing injury," she says in a softer tone. "Flying is difficult for her under the best of circumstances. I'd rather she clutched on cold sands and lost the eggs than risk her life and Sorrin's doing that, Xe'ter." Perhaps knowing she's taxed his patience enough with getting personal (gasp) and now objecting to the only solution he's come up with, she smiles a lop-sided sort of apology and rises, "I'll just… go check on Jethaniel, Xe. If you don't see me in an hour, come rescue me. He may well impress me into service." And that would surely doom the repair!

That last bit, at least, garners a chuckle instead of a 'you smacked the puppy' look you might've gotten if she hadn't changed subjects! "Alright then…one hour…and then you're under Weyrleader's orders to get out of the heat again."

Watch Jethaniel ensnare them both, Xe'ter!!

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