A Game of Kickball

Xanadu Weyr – Clearing

A wide clearing stretches from east to west, the ground packed hard although grass grows across most of it. Trees are strictly forbidden in this space, their danger to the constant draconic traffic reason enough to banish them to the forest that creates a this and sharp border to the north. Where the ground is less trampled, tiny flowers poke their delicate heads out from their shaded hiding places with upturned petals to wave to whoever may be looking.

The cliff looms imposingly on three sides, stretching upwards all the way up the side of the mountain where, high above, Xanadu's Star Stones and the ever present watchdragon sit on a lonely peak. Directly south is a massive tunnel, fully wide enough for even the largest dragon to fly down. Southeast are wide steps leading up to the Caverns and eastwards is the large entrance to the Infirmary. Somewhat north of the Infirmary is a human sized archway that has a frequent quantity of traffic — it leads to the Tavern. Southwest lies the low ledges currently belonging to Xanadu's queens while north and west a broad path cut by the side of the cliff leads to the Feeding Grounds and due north is the spacious trail that leads to the rest of the Weyr.

Another day of the Xanadu Experiment, and Desri is finding that she's still very much uncertain about residing in a Weyr that is as spread out and open as this one. That anxiety shows in the young woman's body language as she traverses the clearing from Point A to Point B. It doesn't help that she appears to have forgotten which direction is which. With her shoulders turtled up around her ears and her hands cast deep into the pocket of her loose pants, the Istan has the look of a tourist. If tourists were prone to chewing on their lower lip and casting anxious glances at the sky, or the impossibly high cliff face. "I should have made him draw me a map," she might be heard to say, although only if someone were close enough to hear the under-her-breath remark.

There's a great thing about the clearing - it's all clear and stuff. That makes it a perfect place for a young boy clad in shorts, a sleeveless shirt, and a pair of beat-up old sandals to kick around a mid-sized leather ball, with nothing about him to indicate he might be anything other than one of the numerous weyrbrats plaguing Xanadu. With a soft laugh, he punts the ball, then glances up to see the direction it's headed. Whoops. "Uh - duck!" Even as Nash calls the warning to the touristy-looking young woman, the boy is after his ball in a dash, trying to intercept it before it barrels into her.

The only thing that saves her from taking a projectile to the temple is a lifetime spent around such children. No sooner is the warning heard than Desri is curling her arms up around her head to avoid a direct shot of doom. The ball ricochets off of her elbow with enough force to make her grunt and then diverts at an angle to bounce over the grass. The young woman ends up peering through the shield of her arms at the source of the calamity. She only lowers the makeshift shield when it becomes clear that the boy doesn't possess other weapons. One hand rubs absently at the affected shoulder but no real pain is showing on her face; just a small, lopsided smile. "If you'd been aiming, that would have been a good shot."

Adjusting his path to intercept the ball as it rolls away, Nash scoops it up on the arch of one foot, popping it into the air to catch it neatly as he offers the woman a lopsided grin of apology. "Sorry," he offers in his soft baratone. "I didn't mean t' hit you and all, wasn't expectin' no one else out here." Bouncing the ball from hand to hand, he shifts slightly, then tilts his head to the side. "I don't recognize you - you new around here? Seems like we've had a lot of new ones. Good," he adds, with just the faintest hint of a smile. "M'name's Nash." Or something of the sort.

"Not expecting anyone else?" Desri, who may or may not be lulled into a false sense of ease by the apparent youth of the lad before her, lifts her eyebrows and gives a glance around. "I…might be lost, then. I was trying to find the hub of the Weyr so I'd remember where the caverns are." Her elbow is given a last rub before her hands aim for her pockets again. "It's nice to meet you, Nash. I'm Desri, D'son's sister. From Ista, yes. How are you with trying to keep that away from someone?" she asks with a broader smile, using her chin to indicate the ball he's so capably tossing around.

Harmless, is Nash. Really. "Not particularly. Always hoping to bump into someone, but mostly, just playing around." He drops the ball again, catching it beneath the toe of his sandal before popping it up once more, bouncing it from knee to knee with a casual carelessness born of long practice. "This is the hub," he explains, flicking out a hand to indicate each of the cardinal and ordinal points. "Beach, tavern, forest, infirmary, so on, and so forth. If it's the main living portion of the Weyr you're looking for, that'd be the Caverns," and he indicates a direction not found on any compass rose. "I'm not a bad hand with a ball - as your brother found out once," he adds, with a faint grin. "Welcome to Xanadu."

Each destination is noted with a glance, Desri's lips moving to silently mark it with the name in order to commit it to memory. In ridiculous fashion, her brows scrunch down over her eyes as well; thinking looks painful. "The caverns, yes." The silly expression is scattered by that confirmation, leaving her able to smile again. Relief! She wasn't as lost as she'd thought. But rather than continue on her way, the Istan looks back to the boy and tilts her head, seeming amused. "That sounds like there's a story behind it. Did you embarrass him?" She gestures with one hand, either indicating the ball itself or possibly her feet where they are doing what feet do best by remaining firmly attached to the ground. "I'm the best player in Ista, if I'm up against ten Turn olds."

"Nah," Nash replies easily, as he continues to bounce the ball, extending its range from ankle to foot to knee and back again. "He wasn't so bad, for an older guy." Smirking, one dark green eye closes in a wink to show he's simply teasing. "It was fun, and he was nice. Y'got a nifty brother." Ball is captured in hands again, tucked under his arm as the boy rests his free hand on jutted-out hip, grinning cockily at her. "I ain't no ten-turn old, but if you wanna play a bit, I'll never turn down. Otherwise, I'll be happy t' show you around. Got a bit of free-time while V'dim's drillin' the Weyrlings up yonder," and he jerks a thumb skyward.

"He is pretty nifty," Desri responds agreeably, securing and confirming her place as non-pesty little sister. If only D'son were around to hear it. "It's too bad enough the old thing. Now me, I'm younger…" She gestures again and shifts on her feet, trying to appear light on them. Unfortunately, the lightness required of chasing after toddlers is not the same lightness that will win a soccer game. But she's willing to laugh at herself, settling again with a grin…only to have that fade into uncertainty at Nash's last remark. She looks up then glances at his shoulder. One can almost see the wheels turning. "Free-time while the Weyrlings are being drilled?" She's not so rude as to come right out and /ask/ the question but it's there, implied between the lines.

A guileless blink is offered to Desri as Nash grins, shrugging one lean shoulder. "Older or not, he's pretty fit - gotta be, t' be a dragonrider and all. But you don't move too bad, bet you could gimme a fun game. Wouldn't make ya, though," he adds, teeth flashing bright against his dark skin as he grins at her. Her uncertainty is noted, brow furrowing slightly as he tries to figure out what's causing it. "Ye-ah," he says slowly. I'm V'dim's - he's th' Weyrlingmaster - assistant. I do his paperwork an' kinda help him run rein on the Weyrlings when they're done with drills for th' day. Sometimes I help him with classes, but he's not allowed t' work me too hard. They say I'm too young," he adds, disgustedly. "Kids apprentice younger'n me, but I gotta be sixteen to hold a real job in th' Weyr."

Whatever the source of her unease, it passes with Nash's explanation. Desri's smile returns, somewhat more subdued. It's no easy thing to express sympathy while simultaneously thinking something to be a wise policy. "Apprentices aren't usually responsible for so many young lives, and few things can get into trouble as quickly as dragons. But if you feel you can do the job, it must chafe to be held back." That might be why she skips back a few steps; no sense in dwelling on the annoying things in life. Game on, kid! "Let's go a round and then we'll see if I can make it all the way to the cavern without losing my way."

"I just want a real job, like the rest of 'em." 'Them' who goes unsaid, as Nash lets the ball drop into his oversized palm with a soft smacking sound, then places it on the ground at his feet, lifting his toes to rest carefully on it, keeping it from rolling off. "Afore V'dim tapped me, I was a messenger - but that's even more boring'n the paperwork he puts me to," the young man confides in her as he bunts the ball backwards, walking with it to increase the distance between them. "Got me in trouble once, too, which is why I ain't too put out bein' some old man's gofer. V'dim ain't all bad, just tough. Gotta be I guess, with Weyrlings." Tapping the ball with his toe, he gives her a quick grin, then bats it gently to her.

"How did being a messenger get you into trouble?" Curiosity piqued, Desri asks this while she should be warming up or positioning herself for an energetic onslaught of kicks and ball-to-the-head. In fact, she stands there with hands on hips and head canted, looking rather puzzled. "Being an assistant is a real job, anyway. I was an assistant in the nurseries and I'm older than you are," she adds. Can't fight the logic. This is why and how older people frequently annoy the young. The less than forceful roll of the ball towards her brings a laugh from the Istan, and she just /has/ to remark, "I'm not /that/ old." To prove it, she ambles forward and begins toe-tapping the ball to the left. After getting up some speed, and proving she can run and kick at the same time, she sends it tumbling with rather more speed back at Nash.

Delighted, Nash darts to the side, intercepting the kick and popping it up with his toe, batting the ball to the side before slamming it with his instep, sending it skidding across he grass back to her. "It's a real job, but it ain't my kinda job," the boy explains as he plants his hands on his knees, his eyes on the ball, rather than her. "Me, I wanted Search an' Rescue, but I'm too young for that - gotta be at least sixteen t' be in any wing, an' not sure K'ael'll let me fly S an' R even once I hit that. An' I think V'dim's angling to keep me in the Weyrling wing until I'm trained up enough t' be an assistant weyrlingmaster, rather'n the weyrlingmaster's assistant." Fingers drumming on his knees, he coughs slightly. "I was runnin' messages t' Fort when Zuhth rose," he explains softly. "Couldn't keep Tao down, an' he went and caught her - spent months up there in th' frigid cold while my bonehead bronze babysat his eggs."

Desri might have done better to turn her ears off while moving to intercept the ball's new course. But no, one ear on the conversation, eyes on the prize, and the nanny ends up stumbling over her own feet as a result. She recovers but only after flailing forward and painting a terrific picture of just how graceless a female can be. It takes a moment to find her pace again, and another to fetch the ball which has gone rolling past while she made a fool of herself. Upon her return, Desri's face is painted a dark pink that isn't entirely due to exertion. Her foot settles against the ball, holding it still for the moment. "You're N'shen," she remarks, accusing and ruefully amused in the same breath, "A bronzerider."

"Sorry, didn't mean t' kick it so hard," Nash replies, biting his lip to hold back a laugh as she stumbles and recovers. Rising from his half-crouch, he shifts a bit closer to her before settling down again, palms once more splayed against his knees. Her words - and her tone - have him blinking in confusion at her. "Ye-ah…? Didn't I say that? Well, I mean, I said I was Nash, an' Tao's all bronze and stuff…" Trailing off, he straightens up again, frowning anxiously at her. "Y' say that like you've heard o' me. I ain't got no kinda reputation last I checked…" Well, okay, he's a bronzerider. He has reputation by proxy, but… "S'ere a problem with me bein' N'shen, rider of bronze Taozyuth? 'Cause if so, you can just think of me as Nash, player of kick-ball…"

The ball is tapped back and forth, back and forth, with Desri accomplishing (without falling on her face!) a little hop between each tap to switch out her feet. It keeps her mind off of replaying the details of this encounter through her mind to pinpoint how else she's made a fool of herself. Yeah, the awkwardness is writ plain on her expression. "I haven't heard of you. I mean, not exactly, I heard about that flight and…um. I didn't know you were a ranked rider, I was…treating you like one of my kids." /Awkward/. She looks as if she regrets this honesty a moment later and ends up kicking the ball right at him with no little force to cover for it. Bam! "So…ah, duties to your Taozyuth. And my condolences for being stuck at Fort, I'm sure the eggs were lovely though."

"I'm not a ranked rider," N'shen points out patiently, as he barely stirs to catch the ball under his foot, frowning down at it. "I'm a bronzerider who's too young for any real job, so is relegated to makework until he reaches the age o' sixteen. An' even if I were Weyrleader, which, thank Faranth, Tao totally did /not/ win that flight, well - so? I'm still a kid." Reaching down, he picks up the ball, spinning it in his hands as he studies her, brow furrowed. "Can't think much of them Istan riders if they make y' feel like y' can't treat us like normal people," he mutters. "No wonder yer brother liked it better here. Look," he says, voice raising as he directs his next words at her, "just think o' me as Nash if it makes you feel better. I'm fifteen turns old and I like t' play kick-ball. Th' fact I got some big ol' wise-man bronze don't mean diddly, other'n I occasionally look like I'm talkin' to myself, but I'm really talkin' to him."

"You're a bronzerider," Desri counters, "And I'd have been more polite if I'd known. There's nothing wrong with showing respect. You could be fifteen or fifty and I'd still be more polite." Translation: formal. This is what happens when one gets to play role model to young minds all day. After awhile, you start actually believing the lessons you're handing out. Her eyes drift towards the ball and she hesitates for a moment before rolling her shoulders back. Right. Kick-ball. "But if you prefer I call you Nash, I'll do that. Are you going to pass that back? If not, I'm going to declare myself the winner and go celebrate with something spicy for lunch. Provided they /have/ anything spicy."

"Polite's for when I got my knot on and gotta be all… bronzerider-y and stuff," N'shen replies dismissively - nevermind that not too many turns ago, he himself was rather stiffly formal with all of the riders he had contact with. "If I wanted t' rub my dragon in yer face, I'da called him here from the weyrbarn and paraded him before ya. Ain't nothin' to being a dragonrider other then havin' a loudmouth in yer head all the time." He pauses, eyes rolling skyward for a long moment, then snickers. "My pardon," he says. "Make that a sanc- sancti - eh, I dunno what that word was. Tao uses all kindsa words I dunno." Dropping the ball, he catches it under his toe, then boots it to the side a bit before sending it spinning towards her in a slightly more gentle kick than last time. "Call me Nash. Doubt I'll be some stuck-up prig like th' Weyrleader even when I am his age." Sniff.

The rant is listened to with the sort of small half-smile that all nannies are capable of; they don't mean to be patronizing and Desri tempers it by appearing somewhat concerned at being the cause, but… "Just because I want to be respectful doesn't mean you have to behave sanctimoniously in return. If that's what he was saying. You could be polite back instead. As you have been," she points out. At least until he referred to a weyrleader with that phrase. She purses her lips, on the verge of disapproval. Fortunately there's a ball to chase and this time, instead of booting it back towards him, she begins zig-zagging towards the young man with the ball rolling rapidly ahead of her tapping toes.

If that was a rant, Faranth forbid Desri should ever hear N'shen when he's really got a head of steam. Snickering softly, the boy nods his head. "That was th' word, only it was applied t' Taozyuth, 'cause that's what he called himself. He's all… wise-man." There's really no better way to explain the old-soul bronze who attached himself to the boy at his birth. "Always tellin' me what to do, how t' behave… tryin' t' get me in trouble, I say," is added, with another snicker. As he inches back and forth, rolling on the balls of his feet, ready to intercept her, he wrinkles his nose briefly. "I dun mind you bein' respectful - I mean, I can be pretty respectful when it calls for it, but I don't like no one goin' all stiff on me just 'cause I'm a rider, y'know? I'm me. Just me."

"I like him already!" The response is rather breathless, since Desri is running and running is not something she brings herself to do for any extended period of time. Zig and zag and /kick/! No, she can't bounce a ball from one knee to the other but there's some oomph behind that kick. Whether Nash is able to stop the ball or not, the nanny has to pause. Her hands hit her knees, leaving her bent over while re-filling her lungs and looking up at him at an angle. "Maybe…maybe manners are different here. Polite doesn't mean…stiff. Keeps you from…looking like an idiot." Which is probably why one rarely if ever sees Lord Holders playing kick-ball. They'd die before putting themselves in the position Desri is, red-faced and panting. "But you…you made your point. Nash it is, I'll save my manners for Taozyuth."

"He's the likeable sort." N'shen darts off to the side, barely intercepting the ball with his fingertips splayed, batting it down to the ground then lashing out a foot to stop it before it goes bouncing back to the nanny. "We're kinda laid back here," he admits. "Mayhap it's the riders' fault for coddling me - Miss Moyra, she tried t' teach me manners, but most of the riders 'round here are a lot like me - they don't stand on ceremony, and don't expect no one else to. My father gets mighty annoyed if I call him Weyrsecond or even father, 'stead of da or D'had. Even yer brother never liked me callin' him sir." Punting the ball into the air and catching it, he saunters up to her, bending over slightly to grin as he offers her an arm. "I cry forfeit - you're just too good for me. Lemme walk y' to the caverns and we'll get y' a nice glass of water and somethin' spicy to celebrate your resounding victory, hey?"

Desri is not so old that she requires a hand up but she gives the offered arm a pat of gratitude anyway. She flaps her hand near her face to stir up a breeze once she's upright. "That's kind of you, I appreciate you going easy on me." See? Manners. "Thank you for the tip too, it'll save me embarrassing myself even more if and when I meet any of the others. Water sounds great." She has to turn to reorient herself but the earlier lesson on directions is remembered and she ends up facing the caverns. "Somehow I think I'm painting a poor picture of Ista for you. It's too hot for stuffiness there and we're not all about the salutes and duties to you and yours and et cetera. But I'm a visitor, and I don't want to make the wrong impression."

Having his fair share of manners, N'shen backs away as his arm is rejected, though with an easy enough smile to show no hard feelings. "Hey, don't worry about it. I was in Fort for several months, an' I was constantly all formal. Even had to speak right, which, lemme tell you - it ain't easy to do when you're used to having a drawl. But - well, appearances. I had a reputation t' maintain for my Weyr, just as you do, so I get it." It's clear the boy is getting more than makework from his Weyrlingmaster boss, if his words are any indication. "I'm sure Ista ain't so bad as all that." And if his voice is dubious - well, Xanadu and Ista haven't had the best relationship over the past several turns. "But I sure hope you like it here, 'cause we've got a real nice Weyr, and you're not really a visitor - practically family. I bet D'son's over the moon t' have you here." Chattering away, he starts towards the caverns, ball tucked under his arm and a sly twinkle in his eyes as he glances over his shoulder. "Comin'?" At the very least, he'll make sure she gets where she's going before he heads off to attend his own duties.

Being chattered at is no bad thing, at least in Desri's opinion. She is content to take a few quick steps to catch up and then fall into a matching pace, hands slipping into her pockets again. "It's been nice so far," she reassures him, doing a better job of keeping the dubious out of her voice, "I mean, everyone's been nice and I get to see D'son more than I was. When I go back, if you ever want to visit, just let me know. I can show you around, maybe teach you how to play a new ball game we use out on the beaches…" Descriptions of said game will have to wait until next time but she sees him off with a friendly wave before ducking into the cavern to search for drinking water.

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