Strange Things Between Strangers

Xanadu Weyr - Rustic Treetop Cafe
// 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.//

At the time after the main lunch rush the Cafe is almost deserted. But not quite. Around the stage cluster a small group of people in their late teens and early twenties and a hidden guitarist is playing a lively tune. When it ends the small audience calls out for more. A smooth alto voice laughs and answers "Well thank you but no! I'm on tonight so you can have anther concert then! I need to get some lunch for myself…if there's any left now! Go on now, I'll be here tonight if you want to hera more!" A tall, willowy young woman with hip-length wet-seal brown hair and silver eyes rimmed with gold rises to her feet, a beautiful guitar of dark mahogany wood carefully held before it is slipped over her back. She is clad in dark maroon capris, a black sleeveless v-neck pullover shirt, strap leather sandals and wearing a ring of black stone on one hand and a Candidate's knot on her right shoulder. She goes to the buffet to generously load a plate as her audience slowly disperses and then moves in the back, to a shady corner on the right. The guitar is carefully laid to rest at her side and she pats it fondly. A few sips of water later and she is talking to empty air. "Alright Dad," she says brightly, "What do I do now? You've been here three times before and this is my first."

A young rider watches the performance and claps politely at the end, before returning to her sandwich and fruit. Dark curls are pulled back into a stern runnertail, green eyes constantly sweeping the area as if on watch for…something. It's hard to tell. Her knot is that of a Fortian greenrider, fastened onto riding leathers without a single wrinkle. Her clothing may be simple, but it's well cared for and expertly crafted. Her eyes track Zaria's movement as the woman chooses a seat nearby. Her talking aloud, though… Aranthi's eyes flick to the woman's knot - no dragon yet - and then to her face. "Um. Sorry?" she asks, voice pitched low.

Zaira starts slightly but not too badly. She's getting used to strangers, with so many coming in for Candidacy. She turns to meet Aranthi's gaze and speaks softly. "When I am not sure what to do I speak to Dad. I know he won't answer me since I lost him when I was ten Turns old, but I still feel better talking to him at times," she tries to explain, eyes flickering gently.

Aranthi blinks a few times and then clears her throat, a touch awkwardly. "Oh. Well. Um." Ahem. "I'm sorry to hear that," the greenrider mutters. "Sorry, I didn't mean to intrude on your…conversation…" That's not the right word but it's the best one she can come up with at the moment.

Zaira 's smile is bright. "It's alright," she offers. "Sometimes I just think out loud. And I just recently finished touching the eggs…the experience was totally new to me. A couple were somewhat…usettling. But be that as it may, I am enjoying being a Candidate and I hope for the best in the end, but if not I can go back to the Harper craft and try again later on.

Aranthi tilts her head a little bit and regards the younger woman. She looks around again, and then back to her. "Oh. I like to think quietly." There's a shrug, acknowledging their differences. "Um. So you're a Candidate? How were the eggs unsettling?" She's trying to make conversation. Trying to be polite, even as she takes a few big bites from her sandwich.

Zaira is certainly ready for food and drink and conversation, A rather free soul, she'll talk to just about anybody. "Yeah, Searched maybe a month or so ago? It's hard to keep track. A couple of the eggs had visions that were pretty scary…like eaten alive and almost drowning in a flooding river. Dad said you're never in danger from the eggs…he stood as a Candidate as a youth three times himself before growing too old…but I sure felt like I was in danger." She suddenly cocks her head. "Here I am being rude." She offers a strong, longfingered hand with calloused fingers from guitar playing. "I'm sorry. My name's Zaira!" And she pronounces it Zah-EE-rah, not Za-ER-rah.

Aranthi winces, "Eaten alive? That sounds sharding terrifying. I wouldn't enjoy that at all. Don't blame you for being weird about it." She wipes her fingers on a napkin and extends her own calloused hand. "Aranthi, Siyaneth's of Fort. Nice to meet you, Zaira." And she's careful to say it correctly.

Zaira 's smile is warm. "Welcome to Zanadu," she greets with casual formality, not holding on too long, long enough for a firm squeeze but not uncomfortably long. She notes her name pronounced correctly and the smile widens to show a flash of white teeth. "Msyhap I can help you find something or someone. I know a lot of people here though I don't get out too much right now save for performances, music lessons and chores. I'm running a dual apprenticeship…Candidate and when I have time in my schedule I work with my journeyman in the Harper Craft." She laughs, the sound free and ringing. "It feels like I'm always playing catchup but it also feels so good…and my journeyman's agreed that my Candidacy has priority."

Aranthi shakes her head slowly. "Ahh. No thanks. I'm pretty familiar with Xanadu…my brother lives here. I'm just here dropping off some things from Fort, having some lunch, and then I'll be heading back home." She pauses. "But thank you for the offer." She offers a slight smile.

Zaira nods. "You're welcome," she says with casual interest. "You'll have to forgive me, I fear. Since I'm a Canidate now I'm always looking out for riders to see if they can…" She hesitates. "Assist my learning. There's no teacher as good as experience. Dad told me a lot about Candidacy but he only spoke in passing of the Hatching, probably because each time he Stood on the Sands he was turned away by the hatchling dragons…and he did say never lose a chance to gain knowledge if chance offers it to you. Though if I'm being intrusive you can tell me to knock it off and go tune my guitar.

Aranthi clears her throat a little bit, taking another bite of her sandwich so she can continue eating
around the conversation. "Well," she says slowly, "I…don't know. What questions do you have? I can try to answer them best I can? I only Stood once, and Impressed, so…I don't know anything about being left."

Zaira nods. "Whatever happens…or doesn't happen to me…is up to the dragons. I was more interested what to expect at a Hatching. I've never attended one. Never had the chance to. I imagine there would be lots of people there. And I know that the Sands are hot and they told us come Hatching Day they'll be hotter than usual. Aside from that I know little. I know we have eleven eggs and lots of Candidates so things might get crowded but anything more would be guesswork on my part. Perhaps I'm trying to get ahead of my lessons but I find myself possessed of an unusal…for me…impatience to learn."

Aranthi looks a little surprised. "Well there's plenty of stories about Hatchings. And maybe the weyr can find a hatching for you to go and watch? Before this one? I don't know. I grew up in Fort, so." She's seen a lot of hatchings. "Well you've been on the Sands for the touching, so you know what that's like. Just keep your wits about you, you'll be alright." Aranthi isn't that helpful, sorry.

Zaira 's expression changes, silvery gold eyes crossing as she files the tibit of information along with all the other dragon-related teachings and lore that she knows. "I'll see about that. I'm holdbread, grew up at Shadow Ravine but ended up at the Harper Hall near Fort. I've been to Fort but somehow never made it to a Hatching…probably too busy practicing and studying to know one was happening. I'm terrible like that…give me something to learn and I will focus on it intently. But Candidacy is different…you can't focus on just one thing since they want you to learn several things at one time. Chores, lessons and keeping a finger in my Craft. It's all quite exhilerating really. I just have to be careful not to get overtired."

Aranthi nods slowly, green eyes watching the young woman closely. "Well," she says, finishing off her lunch and getting to her feet. "I wish you the best of luck in…everything you've got going. It was nice to meet you, Zaira."

Zaira nods, her smile flashing once again. "Thanks, it was nice to meet you too," she answer, freeing a hand to push her bangs out of her eyes. "Hope you enjoy your time here. If you're still here at dinnertime I'll be performing here."

Aranthi dips her head as she gathers up her dishes to return them up front. "Thanks for the invitation." She won't be here, but she appreciates it just the same. "Take care." Then the brisk greenrider leaves, door closing softly behind her.

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