The War She Craved

Original vignette/log of Fjainoith's first flight at Fort (which several Xanadu riders attended) posted by Lhiannon~

This scene is part-vignette, part-mosaic of off-camera poses collected for Fjainoith's first flight.

Fjainoith was hardly what one could call "subtle."

The day she awoke positively shining with a cold luminosity that broadcast her impending state on sight, she turned her rage at such inevitability onto targets both convenient and not. By turns coy and dismissive in moods that varied wildly from one minute to the next, she permitted herself to turn conversation somewhat flirtatious if it seemed to suit her endgame, whatever that might be. Possibilities were discussed and hinted at when she was at her most enticing, melodic voice sweet in its promises and cruelly cold in its often equally-swift casting away of this admirer or that.

With the boundaries too easily blurring again betwixt dragon and rider, Lhiannon all but felt buffeted by her dragon's moods. It felt colder, too, leading her to seek comfort in longer sleeves and beverages more hot than chilled despite the still-lingering warmth of the end of summer in Fort. She wore the knot of a Haast wingrider in the months following weyrlinghood, but perhaps surprisingly elected to keep up her physical training in a regimen that might make some wonder if she was really gunning for a spot with Thunderbird's ready-for-anything team. As Fjainoith's anger grew, Hana's reactions in training subsequently increased in ferocity until she almost didn't know where one ended and the other began. She muttered red-faced apologies once she had recollected herself, retreating into longer runs which helped but did little to ease the building pressure.

(Then there was the evening where she tried to meet a friend to catch up and spent more or less the entire meal in a tight-lipped silence. 'If you can't say anything nice … ' her father's voice from turns ago echoed in the back of her head, and she finally begged off with the excuse of, "I have this incredible clusterf—headache to deal with, my apologies, maybe we can try again next seven, " before making a hasty departure.)

A day passed, then two. In the middle of hastily putting together a plate at dinner with the goal of retreating back to her weyr, Lhiannon almost dropped her dish as she felt Fjainoith hurl herself toward the feeding pens with murderous intent, felt and heard the fury as the green made quick work of blooding a kill before ascending with a clap of thundersnow that radiated to most males in the general vicinity. Challenge issued, with a crow of fierce, burning-cold delight: Let the bold, the fierce, the cunning wage war in her name, a battle amongst themselves in which - if she were fortunate - some of the contenders might ferret out the weak and unworthy among them and defeat them along the way.

Listen. Azirath is very supportive of a strong woman who knows what she wants and then, you know, gets it. But he really prefers to support them from a safe distance. So he might have an eye on the shining green from over here, keeping tabs on her throughout the day, but he'll leave challenge-meeting to whomever is more inclined to rise to them. No pun intended.

This leaves D'ax somewhat taken aback when Azirath slides ever so nonchalantly into the feeding pens to pay his respects to their clutchmates. It would be rude were they not to at least make an appearance, after all. And she is quite lovely while screaming a battle cry to a worthy cause, isn't she?

IT'S GOOD TO BE HOME. Or, at least in place that was once home. What brings Leia back here to Fort? Maybe she's harassing Th'ero or crashing with her cousin or chasing after another bluerider she delights in teasing. Maybe she caught sight of K'vir or heard Glorioth shouting from ALL THE WAY OVER HERE and decided to come bask in his majesty. IT DOESN'T MATTER. Look, what matters is the fact that Foryth is also here, and he just so happens to be one of the (many) males within hearing distance when Fjainoith issues her irresistible (and cold) call to arms. TO BATTLE! Okay, so Foryth is less a warrior and more a prankster, but that doesn't stop the lupine blue from dragging his star-speckled hide in leaps and bounds towards the single most Fortian thing currently residing in… well… Fort: Winter. Or rather, Fjainoith and the winter her mindscape blankets across that endless map of stars in his. What's the dragon equivalent of running your hands through windswept hair and looking not at all suave doing it? That. Foryth shows up, and the sum of his entire existence can pretty much be summed up by that exhibition — and, of course, with how quick he is to down an unsuspecting (please, they were fleeing in terror) herdbeast. JUST LIKE HE'S ABOUT TO DO TO YOU, FJAINOITH. BUT SEXILY. Oh, okay, and here come all the burly bronze dragons with their UNWANTED INPUT. FORYTH PRESENTS HIS COMPLIMENTS TO ALL MALES INVOLVED IN THIS CHASE AND BEGS THEM TO KEEP THEIR ABNORMALLY SHORT TAILS OUT OF OTHER DRAGON'S BUSINESS. Except for you, Seksi. You can be in all of his business. You're cool.

AU CONTRAIRE, LADY FAIR, there is at least one here who could call Fjainoith subtle and be in perfect truth… if he had bothered to notice her for herself and not just for the opportunity the gleam in her hide (HOWEVER CHILLY) afforded HIM to ensure all of Fort thoroughly understood just what exactly what a VERIFIABLY VIRILE, VALIANTLY VALANT AND VOCIFEROUS FLIGHT WINNER LOOKS, ACTS, AND SOUNDS LIKE. The reason Glorioth could have legitimately called Fjainoith subtle is because he does his utmost to make her seem the part, wholly unconsciously and without any additional exertion to his usual RIDICULOUS AND ABSURD MAGNIFICENTLY MAGNIFICENT SELF.

It is perhaps fortunate for all involved that Glorioth was only there for a short time before Fjainoith headed for the pens. Don't sell him short though, it's ENTIRELY POSSIBLE he has COMPLETELY OFFENDED IMPRESSED the green with his COMPLETELY SELF-CENTERED APPROACH TO LIFE OBVIOUS HEROITUDE AND BRAVERISM; it is awfully obvious, after all, so much so that it takes very little time for a shrewd mind like Fjainoith's to notice if she deigns to do so.

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE— like, literally bright, because, damn, his hide is fiiiiine in all its brassy, buffed-to-brilliance natural glory. At least he looks like the hero he thinks he is, despite being one of the smallest of his color. He proves his boldness by snatching up a kill that was gonna be someone else's, but is now his. « AHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHA!! » DON'T MIND ALL THOSE DASTARDLY COMMENTS ABOUT THE PERVASIVE AIR OF VIRGIN; HE MEANS THEM, HIS COMPETITORS, NOT YOU, FJAINOITH, HE'S BARELY EVEN NOTICED YOU; YOU'RE JUST THE SHINY PRIZE THAT WILL BE PROOF OF HIS VIGOROUS VIRILITIMOUSNESS. Yes, it's that time where the made up words become as ridiculous as the dragon. SORRYNOTSORRY.

Fyr might be a little sorry. By sharp contrast to his lifemate's no quarter given nor accepted chaaaarge into the fray, F'yr is a reluctant partner towed in his dragon's zealous wake. Doubtless, his feet will eventually take him to the guest weyr. He knows the way regrettably well. He probably hopes he'll be taking another turn to learn the way out better still tonight for all the enthusiasm the large foreigner is showing for having gotten caught up in Fjainoith's storm.

It's a good thing flights are based on some vague amalgamation of speed, skill, and mental acuity - if this had been a contest of subtlety, Seksicanth would have been disqualified upon sight. Void-touched blues shatter over his hide, movements as brazen and foreign as his islandic appearance as he sashays familiarly-close to the blooding green. « Damn, lady, what'd you do to that bronze? He about mowed me over on my way in, screamin' loud about his poor injured feewings. » The spin of childish daisies and pinwheels in his mind rather matches the festival of flowers that adorns his headknobs, pale eyes whirling fast. « I'd dub you the wicked witch of the west, but you know, that title didn't work out so well for the last person who carried it. » He's just settled in atop his own kill (when did he even have time to make it, running his mental trap like that?) when Fjainoith thunders into the sky, and it's a much aggrieved sigh that finds Seksi slurping blood like A VAMPIRE his life depends on it before throwing himself after her with a grunt of, « Maximum effort. »

Ila'den shouldn't be here — Teimyrth shouldn't be here. They don't belong in the frigid cold clutches of Fort Weyr (okay, so it's Summer, but work with us), all dark-leathers and burnt-bronze hide against a more-often-than-not white backdrop. But it isn't Ila'den that answers that thundersnow clap with a furious blizzard of his own making — at least, not yet. No, the sharp, blistering freeze of a white-out flurry is Teimyrth, Teimyrth who heeds burning-cold delight with the howling fury of a winter storm, a Winter Knight come to the summons of one he knows he might serve best: a mistress of what death holds the world in quiet, still repose before its inevitable rebirth; a devourer, a conqueror, a mistress (or witch, as it were) of Winter. Somebody worthy of him. And what a fierce, brutal, ruthless beast this bronze is, a champion of endings, of harsh, cold, detached extermination carried to blood on wings ruined by honeyed bronze and windswept streaks of snow. He lands among a sea of Fjainoith's suitors, claws and teeth bared in a banner raised to her cause, a weapon forged to be utilized in a war against dragons born to Spring and Summer, unworthy of Winter's touch. But first it's the beasts in the field that must be felled, a feast procured in the aftermath-gore of torn necks and maws that drip with the wet of their blood.

It could be downright unnerving for one who has known Tsoth from the day he was shelled and had near daily contact for many months to garner a reaction as active as the one that grows in the blue when Fjainoith begins to glow. To say that he is more interactive in the hours leading up to the critical moment of finding freedom in air would be overstating things, but where he has always been universally watchful, today, Fjainoith occupies a particular place within his awareness. He is attentive to her in a way that is distinctly different from his usual passive witness. She can be coy, she can be dismissive, she can rage at him as it pleases her, he has not lost that glimmering sense of perpetual acceptance for all that she can do - her best, her worst, everything in between.

There isn't enough feeling in him to feel scorned, to be bothered by the increasing presence of other males giving her attention in whatever way seems most natural to them. He doesn't posture, he doesn't even react (as is his way) to her, to them, but what he does do is chase.

Blooding with meticulous precision, abandoning the beast to launch skyward in her wake, Tsoth's celestial sails spread in short strokes that turn long as the earth is left behind in favor of air. Fjainoith's radiance is the star that centers the only gravity that matters once he's in the air; where she goes, he will follow, and he will do so with a driven desire that skips right past want to need. True, it's not an impassioned flight, but it is essential and maybe that's bizarrely better? Maybe not.

No stranger to the whims and wiles of greens and potentially tempestuous personalities, Velokraeth is rarely put off by some fight in his latest lady-of-interest. Fjainoith has certainly snared his attention for her less subtle approach, the pale bronze hardly shy in broaching conversation whether or not it bodes well in his favor. « I try to know as many minds as I can! You never know which one you'll need. » Is often his favorite line to boast, should he be queried why he even bothers or persists — never mind that his "need" to know Fjainoith in this instance is as painfully, glaringly, obvious to anyone with half a brain (as he would also cheerfully quip, holding no shame for his appetites). Her wildly varying moods will be no deterrent to him and he has enough sense to bide his time and approach, through conversation, when he feels it will benefit him. Velokraeth isn't about to foolishly court her in the flesh; not so much because he fears repercussions and more, because, has anyone seen him? He's not anywhere near a prime specimen by physical standards but his mind is honed and sharp like a weapon and it's that that he plans to wield against Fjainoith (and later, every suitor he feels a threat).

« Schemes and plots are the same thing. » Or even promises, as she so offers this time! Velokraeth will impart (perhaps more than once), infuriatingly grimly amused by any coldness thrown his way, but equally up for meeting her head to head (so to speak) for a "game". His honeyed words, suffused with the rich and varied bouquet of wines and champagnes, could pair off well should she desire to play at his verbal game of 'chess', where pieces and moves are dictated by words. Where those possibilities and promises are likely as empty as they are cryptically woven threats and insults coming from the bronze. Should she grace him with too much furor and coldness, Velokraeth's not against a pique of temper of his own, leaving her with a curtly toned 'farewell': « A day will come when you think yourself safe and happy, and suddenly your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth, and you'll know the debt is paid.» Of course, he's still there and biding his time, but could be less eager to engage — for now.

Th'ero, for his part in this, is completely unaware of what Velokraeth is engaging in. It is how it has been and always will be. When he does begin to feel that heavy, intoxicating surge that clouds his thoughts not unlike being drunk — he'll know then. With a dark and heavy sigh, the Weyrleader resigns himself to waiting out yet another flight among countless he's already had to witness (and participate) in. Velokraeth will join the mayhem in the pens, though keep himself removed from the more rigorous of his competitors. How better to observe as he bloods, as he needs to see things the way they do, if he has half a chance to anticipate their actions, respond effectively, and (most importantly), beat them. The same could apply to Fjainoith too, as she's no 'friend' of his, but he isn't here to make friends. Fjainoith's challenge will be met with a barbed one of his own — for support of course! He is not the largest bronze and could be even outsized by a larger brown. His twisted, stunted, forelegs make him an unlikely candidate for battle, but cunning? Oh, he has that in spades! He surges up and after her, using that oft-times honeyed but oh-so sharp tongue of his to bait and pit the others against themselves with well aimed words to rile tempers.

Did someone say bold? Did someone say fierce? Did someone say cunning? Well, one out of three ain't bad, right? He can wing the rest. Xath is here, reporting for duty! Xath has, in fact, been here the better part of the day. If Fjainoith was looking for a slice of foreign flavor to fawn over her in her coy moments, to try harder when dismissed, to be appropriately fearful taken aback when she turns moody… well, Xath did not disappoint. Maybe one of those times he should have known the better part of wisdom would have been to signal his rider that a strategic retreat was in order, but it's practically a spinal reflex for him to court a green as glowy as Fjainoith; he's a sucker for any a lady in search of a suitor. Count him out for qualifying as cunning.

Dropping into the feeding grounds with the other fellows soon to be fast on the flight path after the forceful female finding freedom far above, he angles toward a running trip of herdbeasts only to be cut off by an obnoxious bronze. Did he yelp in surprise? Can dragons even make a yelp sound? Well, somehow Xath did. Count him out for fierce. He showed up for the tail flight, not to lose a claw; such a price might be too high even with every biological impulse in Xath's body systematically shutting down those few neurons that are ever apparently firing in his brain. When she rockets skyward, he twists away from the carcass of his beast without a second thought, wings snapping to carry the attractive and bold package all this brown is contained in airborne so that he might stand a chance!

Need there be an excuse for the appearance of so many dragons of the Xanadian persuasion? If so, let the presence of their leader be it, Xermiltoth's dark, gold-struck hide looming high on the weyr's cliffside. Though a constant presence throughout the day, the bronze has remained unruffled by thoughts and comments lofted his way, body reclined but tense, attention lingering but unfocused, mind hot but thoughts utterly guarded. It is only when Fjainoith takes to the feeding grounds that the bronze finally rises to his feet, harlequinned wings spreading wide, and though his head points down the weyr's cliff walls instead of towards glowing green hide, there is no doubt as to what has snared the bronze beast's attentions. It's there in the way the blanket of golden thoughts narrow until Fjainoith is his only recipient, the only one to feel the fierce golden rays of his mind beaming down, heat providing perfect counterpoint to her cold. If it is war Fjainoith wants, then it is war the icy green shall get, though it might not be of the ilk she was hoping for. This isn't a competition between suitors anymore; this is between him and her, and he lets her know it. « We are the only ones who matter. » It's why his drop is swift and reckless, landing thunderous, gouges torn deep in Fortian soil as he draws a line between them and some male that thought to draw too near. A fierce snarl boils deep in his chest as he pivots to down some poor beast, draining it dry before leaping into the sky a half-step behind her, fierce, avid, unsatisfied.

They don't often visit Fort and he'd been minding his own business just fine, thank-you-very-much, while K'vir did… whatever it was that required him to (reluctantly) leave Xanadu and come to his original home. « Just visiting, expecting trouble to jump out at us any moment. Just like old times. » Of course, the day they choose is the day Fjainoith descends on the pens in such fury that immediately draws his attention. « Definitely like old times. » who is he talking to? Zekath isn't dead (yet), so who is he to ignore her? Okay, sure. He's throwing a wrench into the mechanics of things, again, but it's not his fault! Blame his instincts to chase that shiny hide! You would think that for a bronze so committed to militaristic standards and ideals, he'd have better control of himself; or maybe he's been stressed and she's providing the right sort of spicy-lure that draws him in on the hopes of blowing off some steam. Who cares about the excuses (which are numerous)?

He's usually a hard one to please, living his life to his imagined cause, society first, Wing next — it's just her luck that she fits some checkbox of his! Her moods are a touch off-putting and only because the weathered, scarred bronze who appears to be wearing his color more than being made of it… is a dork. Sometimes an adorable dork but really, he has no idea what to do when it comes to flirting. He's a soldier-type and if Fjainoith wants a pawn fighter, a mercenary, and someone who will submit to her "command" (she's no gold, but maybe she can convince him for a hot minute), if she can prove her cause, well… he's her guy! Any coldness will draw a « Remind me to never get on your bad side. » remark, without realizing he's only potentially digging his own grave. Being dismissed brings a mental shrug of his shoulders and a sarcastic tone to his dual-flanged voice. « Imagine how I feel, but you came along and warmed my heart with your winning personality. » He's in it to win it or, at least, fight for it now, as he launches into the air along with the rest of the exodus of males. And how does K'vir feel in all of this? He doesn't really get a say in the matter. It's happening and it's (always) too late to stop it!

They flew.

Lhiannon wasn't sure what being in a flight was supposed to feel like (for her) up until that moment, where dragon and rider moved and thought as one. Where she exulted in Fjainoith's aerial prowess and obvious stamina for a green as the dizzying acrobatics continued, as chasers eventually faltered, as some lashed out to seek an advantage, as the witch's disdain for them all filled her chest, the dragon's arrogance twisting at her calculating looks that she aimed at each in turn from where she held court at arms-length in the guest weyr.

She — no, Fjainoith exchanged words with some of her suitors, reveled in the blizzard-like winds that carried ripostes, amusement and derision back to them by turns. She was in her element, in mind and body both; the combined rush of desire and the power it enabled her to wield was a heady sensation that led her to test the effects of a mental touch to one and the not-quite-brush of something soft to another, even as she cried her approval for the in-fighting, the war she craved.

The path to the guest weyr is not yet one of which D'ax is very familiar, but he knows his way there well enough to find it as the aristocratic bronze launches himself after regal Fjainoith and properly throws himself into the chase. The bronzerider isn't looking to draw attention to himself when he arrives, but he owns the space he takes up, blue eyes settling on Lhiannon with all the quiet confidence of a man accustomed to getting what he wants. Flights are bound to put him in his place, right?

Azirath is not known for his stunning acrobatics, certainly. But for all his soft reputation, however well deserved, he is a fighting dragon of Pern, capable of, well, fierce acts of some variety. Surely. And he Impressed himself to D'ax, a man who made a career out of handling… things. That ought to count for something.

In a flood of wings, Foryth rises to join the fray, aiming to inspire Fjainoith's confidence in just how worthy a suitor he could be (with all those daring maneuvers and agile shifts meant to mirror the dizzying acrobatics she executes in midair) if only she would give him a chance. He's capable of keeping up, though he holds back, reserving his strength and and just how swift he can truly be for the next act, for when his persistent pursuit of her might earn him an arctic victory. And it's lucky that he's small(ish) for a blue; it means he's able to draw in sails and twist to escape the fury of claws and gnashing teeth aimed for his hide, to lessen the rake of a lucky score that leaves a gash and finds ichor oozing from an open wound, but does nothing to deter the rise and fall of his aqualine form, does nothing to fell him from the pack racing at Fjainoith's heels. And he could be cool; most of the dragons in this chase are probably the equivalent of cucumber cool if we're being honest — but NOT FORYTH. The moment that frigid disdain is upon him, the blue is winging sideways, a bark of laughter pulling from his mind that sets stars dancing and marks a path to a place only he knows, a place that he — and she — could explore the depths of together. « She looked at me! » He declares to nobody and everybody. Can dragons fly loop-the-loops? Probably not, but that doesn't stop Foryth from trying, nor his joy from carrying him under and around and between the bodies that press in for a chance to be winter's champion. « She looked at me! »

Some riders, understandably, work very hard to try to keep themselves as separate from their OUTRAGEOUSLY OBNOXIOUS OUTSTANDING lifemates as possible. Spoiler alert: this is the case with F'yr. While Glorioth's unfairly agile accuracy proves that the universe's joke is on EVERYONE ELSE for hoping he'd just crash and burn as karma dictates he ought, F'yr's arms fold across his chest, eyes only coming up from the floor now and again - usually timed with one of those particularly impressive acrobatics that a bronze, no matter how small for his color nor how athletically gifted, could have a hope, a dream or a prayer of following in flattering mirror.

That's honestly, truly, totally fine with Glorioth though, for as much as he's got the treasure for this particular, airborne quest, it's FRAUGHT WITH DANGER, and DEEDS OF DARING DO. Mostly because there were a few males who got offended by HONEST ASSESSMENTS of their INFERIOR ABILITIES TO IMPALE A GLOWING GREEN GRATIFYINGLY OR THE SIZE OF THEIR— Well, listen, the point is, some of the chasers are interested in knocking him out of the mockery called a "contest" (BY GLORIOTH, Glorioth calls it that) because they are obviously aware they can never come close to competing with the RADIANCE OF HIS VALOR, the BRAVERISM OF HIS HEART, the STUPID CUNNING OF HIS HEAD-THINKING-THINGY. It's just a matter of time, and a few body checks before the prize is his. « ONWAAAAAaaaaAAAAAAaaaaaAAARD!!! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHa hahahahahha HAHAAHHAAH! » WHOMP BUT, LOOK, HE'S FEELING SO ENCOURAGED AFTER THAT BROWN RAKED TALONS ACROSS HIS HAUNCH. IGNORE THE SMALL WOBBLE IN HIS FLIGHT PATTERN AND THE ICHOR LEAKING FROM THE SHALLOW SLICES. IT'S NOT BOTHERING HIM, SO IT SHOULDN'T BOTHER ANYONE ELSE EITHER~

Is this a flight or a walk in the park? Seksicanth certainly doesn't seem bothered by the fury of Fjainoith's pace, or perhaps he's just the kind of dragon that talks his way through every single situation he's ever met in his life. « I see you've got the usual selection, » the blue drawls as he cuts a neat line in under her other suitors, pale, milky eyes fixed up on them as he wings along. « There's always the Stalwart Champion of Your Honor, the Safe Bet, the Bumbling Idiot, the Hunk— psst, hey, call me. » He whispers that last part aloud, rocketing a heart made out of his tailtips at the flashy bronze that's caught his attention. Listen. He ain't Anne McCaffrey's imagination of a dragon. « What am I, then? I'm so glad you asked. I'm that bad type, make your mama sad type, make that bronzer mad type, might seduce your dad type. I'm the Bad Guy, duh. » And there he goes, flinging himself upwards directly into another dragon's flight path, aiming to send them skidding to a halt before careening sideways to shred another dragon from the sky. What is a flight without a blaring soundtrack to cheerfully wreck someone else's day to? Absolutely nothing. As Seksi's mental trumpets blare, B'an finally arrives on scene, looking the part of a northerner, despite his dragon's island chic. Plaid flannel and dark, worn pants make shaggy blonde hair and a hint of beard seem rustic rather than windblown, helmet clearly missing amidst the rest of the rider ensemble he drops just outside the guest weyr, blue eyes - for the moment - much more rapt on the progress of his idiot dragon than the contents of the room beyond.

While the dragons around Teimyrth contend with words and wit, Teimyrth limits himself to the poetry of a language he knows best: violent, cold cruelty. Dizzying acrobatics are an unrealistic aspiration for a bronze built as bulky as he, which means the promise of a victory lies in sabotaging as much of the competition as he can before Fjainoith's strength wanes or their dexterity proves superior. He does this indiscriminate of who he slams with his tail on each dive, of who becomes the next victim (or lucky escapist) of rending claws and tearing teeth — sometimes it's him, sometimes it's them, sometimes he cripples only air but never does he stop. Fjainoith's disdain only fuels the fire (or rather, the blizzard) of his own fury, inspires a reach for Xermiltoth, a dive for Velokraeth, a swipe for Zekath and Seksicanth at intervals interrupted only by his own near misses with suitors angling to clip his wings. But this is what he must do, the armor he must wear, the banner he must fly in order to prove why he is worthy of Fort's Winter Witch, why he dons the lethal mantle of a Winter Knight and deserves to be the one among so many who presides alongside her in her court. It is not arrogance that bears him upward in twists and dives and magnificent violence, it is the pursuit of Fjainoith's regard, the drive to strengthen the bonds of winter and bury the world beneath a blanket of white.

"What the fu—" was the beginning of M'zal's reaction, staggering under the sudden shift in a world gone primal. The rest of the bluerider's reaction can, should, and will be filed under REDACTED. Whether or not he's touched a drop of alcohol in recent memory, he looks damned drunk as he weaves toward the guest weyr to join the others going the same way. Attractively, he stops to dry heave somewhere along the way; but that's all on either him or Tsoth or both; it's not actually commentary about Lhiannon or flight in general.

When he actually gets there, he has a bewildered, wide and wild-eyed look like he's not entirely sure what the shell he's doing there, and when his eyes latch onto Lhiannon, his feet unconsciously take him advancing toward her. Some helpful experienced rider puts out an arm to stop him and gets snarl of objection, primitive in its communication, but it's enough to shake M'zal, who literally shudders as he blinks and blinks and drags himself back and back until he's almost at the door, until he finds some curve of stone that he can grip it as an anchor.

M'zal's knuckles are white where he holds the rock of the wall. His body leans without conscious awareness toward the greenrider. Blue eyes are locked on her, attention there almost to the exclusion of all else, save for when another follower gets too close and his attention flicks there— but not to engage, but rather to shift himself away. It's the same technique his lifemate exercises above.

Tsoth is driven with just one aim: reproduce. (NO ONE TELL HIM, OKAY? IT WOULD BE CRUEL.) To do this, his basic biology wires him to zig and zag, weaving to earn places better and better in the pack of hopefuls, to prove his prowess in flight, his evolutionary superiority. CAN ONE GET MORE EVOLVED THAN PERSONIFYING A PLANET?? As an average size blue, while not the most advantaged here, he's certainly better off than some of the bulkier beasts. He doesn't try to mimic complicated moves, but rather seeks the shortcuts whenever he can - cutting an angle here, anticipating a current in his native skies there. It's progress. It's not perfection (far from it). This young blue is bound to make mistakes, but at least so far he's holding his own.

He'll leave Fjainoith to her aerial prowess and obvious stamina, both of which he is sorely lacking. Velokraeth is content to lurk on the fringes of the heart of the pack, where he can keep as sharp a focus on all and not lose sight of which he truly pursues. As with any flight, blood runs hot and so do tempers and while he avoids physical clashing, the pale bronze has other means. He'll suss out the weaknesses in their proverbial armor, finding the appropriate target among the suitors (better yet if they aim at him first) and striking. It's a volley of barbs and insults, aimed specifically or broader, depending and Velokraeth's humor is as wicked as any blade for those returned at him. He's not against some low strikes either and taking one's comment and twisting it to rile up another and turn them against each other. It's a wonder that he doesn't delight half as much in this verbal fighting that he does the flight itself (sorry, not sorry, Fjainoith — he'll save the best commentary just for you!)

« That's one way we differ, he and I. He's taller as well, you may have noticed. »
« I'm short, not blind! »
« In my experiences, eloquent individuals are right every bit as often as imbeciles. »
« I'm not questioning your honor, I'm denying its existence! »
« He's as useful as nipples on a breastplate! »

And plenty more. Does he ever shut up? Not really, not unless he finds it absolutely necessary and the midst of an intense flight is no such occasion! Mercifully, Th'ero does not follow in similar veins to his dragon and while he'll find his way to the guest weyr, he remains as far away from the gathered group. His posture is tense, if not uncomfortable, arms crossed in a closed-off manner as bad as the way he doesn't even look in Lhiannon's general direction — or anyone's (it gets awkward, alright?) for that matter.

This is not why M'tras and his lifemate were here. Judging by the look on the brownrider's face as he diverts from the business at hand to ask a refresher on his memory for the location of the guest weyr, it's not a welcome interruption. It isn't as though he has much in the way of choice, though, so he goes. By the time he arrives in the guest weyr, later than some, maybe earlier than most, the look has wiped clean. He's a tall man in his late twenties, dark of hair and eye, bronze of skin (a shade that shows ample evidence of living a life largely in the sun and elements), dressed in worn but serviceable riding gear in a brown nearly as dark as his hair and eyes. Without ceremony, he moves to find a section of wall all his own, back to it, gaze going to Lhiannon, lips set in a line, expression giving little to nothing away before he turns his eyes away from the reason they're all here to the rest of the riders attached to dragons seeking Fjainoith's favor.

Xath may be able to count his 'exotic' foreignness to his advantage when it comes to flirting, but once in flight when the contest is much more a contest of skill and a balance of physical ability and intelligence, being foreign is a distinct disadvantage. He doesn't lack in resolve— after all, who would abandon a lady in her time of need? Not the occasionally chivalrous Xath. Nevermind that his attempt to follow her pattern is not only dropping him farther and farther back in the pack but probably also jarring his stomachs sickeningly impressively. He's not giving up, that's for sure.

The longer the flight, the more M'tras seems to relax. The tension that ruled his body as he assumed his place on the wall eases out. Maybe he's confident of his dragon's loss, maybe he's just joining Xath's blithe lack of concern that things are not looking good for him. Either way, the tall man's dark eyes linger on Lhiannon, lips tugging out of their line into a smile that's barely there, the look making him look his not quite thirty turns instead of older by dint of grim expressions and stoic demeanor.

Xermiltoth is not here to play. Long gone are his days of chasing anything that rises, feigning interest in females with little more in their heads than tufts of down and the sound of a passing breeze. He chases for the feel of a particular female's mind against his, for the thrill, for the spill of blood down his throat, for the harmony of two souls combining in the most intimate way they know how, blending said rider-dragon harmony with another to build a melody, to form a song. Each experience is an imprint, leaves a mark on him, and this one is no exception. The marks might well be physical, might be all he earns in the end, but Xermiltoth does not deign to deliver retribution - he knows his limit, knows he can take it, has proven he can can outrun and outlast competitors time and again, and so the beating of many wings becomes little more than noise, sound, patterns and beats woven into the background beneath the thundering drum of his heart, the whistling of wind, and the violin-crisp searing hiss of the place where her frosted world meets sparking diamonds and sun. « You are resplendent, » might well be lyrics for how he speaks them, voice wry and young and melodious, « fast and swift and strong, but this is not what was promised. Fight me. » Forwards he lunges on a powerful push of wings, foot catching on dark bronze hide as an exceedingly familiar beast gets too close for comfort, pushing off him as he dives to too-fast, too-hard, too-soon after Fjainoith's winter-licked hide. It is not the time for catching, and yet, « Show me what you are made of. I do not think it is just this frozen disdain. » And if he has to melt her down to her very heart with the blaze of his own intensity, force the issue before its time, so be it.

Zekath isn't about to mimic Fjainoith's acrobatics, as tempting as her aerial prowess may be. He'll cautiously use his finite reserves of strength and stamina, much of it to keep the glowing green ahead and ever-so slightly above in some tactical plan of his. For a bronze, he looks battle-ready from the start, given his weathered appearance and all-sharp angles; even his burnished look gives a bulky appearance, but in truth he's the opposite. Not to mention, his scars! He's roughened, marked in a variety of ways, but the ugliest largest bites deep into the tapered length of one side of his head; it takes up most of his jaw and muzzle, but luckily spared his eye. « Some find facial scars attractive! » He's always happy to discuss it, if someone should try to insult him (jokingly or not) about it. « Probably for the best! They were all ignoring you and hitting on me. About time you got a fair shot. » Zekath doesn't ever rely on his roguish good looks anyhow! He figures skills are what count, right?

« We shouldn't be fighting — damn, almost said that with a straight face! » It's not his immediate goal to start a fight, but if there's others wanting to pick one, well — he's game! If it's what Fjainoith wants, too? He can't resist, either way, once the first scuffle happens. « What's fun to fight through? Gardens, bazaars, antique stores, but only if they're classy… » Greenflights, goldflights, nothing is sacred! And once one skirmish happens, Zekath can't seem to avoid another, especially if there's some dirty fighting going on! Often it's the other side who instigates first (he doesn't go after the weak, only the strong assholes looking for it or deserving it), but sometimes he can be goaded into throwing a barb or two to get things flowing. « This guy couldn't tie his bootlaces, let alone fight! » Hey, if he can't join them, he can be the unhelpful peanut gallery, as he wheels and dives away to regain a better vantage point to hunker down in — at least until the next 'fight'.

K'vir knows the way to the guest weyr, even if he tries and fails, to dawdle along the way. He'll step inside, find the nearest unoccupied spot that isn't too close to anyone and just try not to fidget. There's reasons for his growing discomfort that has nothing to do with Lhiannon (who he is definitely eyeing in what he thinks is subtly), and more with the probable 'company' surrounding him. Awkward? What's awkward? Flights are always awkward! He's not going to think about it and let his mind drift further down and wait out the storm flight.

She could sense her strength flagging by the fourth (or was it the fifth?) spiral high over the bowl, craning a look behind her to assess those who remained with purported indifference. Purported, for the outcome could yet prove useful. Choose wisely, entreated the holdbred girl, cautioned the harper-rider — woman — whose fingernails dug into her palms below. Gaze sliding from one to the next, she deliberately turned on a wingtip, withholding a beat so that she could more easily drop, roll and aim unerringly to plow right through those still zealously in pursuit, tail and talons grasping only for one if her trajectory rang true.

As Fjainoith turned to confront her pursuers, Lhiannon's expression darkened, arms folding tightly about her as if it weren't too warm to be cold, frame pulled taut in a posture that may as well be vocalizing, 'but not yet — ' while pale eyes rapidly scanned the faces of the familiar, the unfamiliar. With a blink, the riders were the dragons; suddenly she had to swallow hard with a mouth gone dry as they dove headfirst into the fray.

Lacking experience, agility, and almost certainly Fjainoith's most desired personality traits in a mate, Azirath is banking entirely on his size and the stamina it affords him. Maybe a bit of D'ax' confidence. Which, you know, might not be the best bet in pursuit of a much more nimble green, but it's what he's got going for him. At least until she's turning back toward them. It earns a surprised honk out of Azirath, but that won't stop him from grasping instinctively with well-groomed talons and eager limbs to draw her against him should she pass within reach.

FORYTH WOULD LIKE TO THROW IN WITH SEKSI'S ASSESSMENT AND ADD THAT TEIMYRTH IS AN UGLY GIT. But even with that knowledge out and on the table, it's hard to say whether or not Foryth would be the wise choice at the end of all of this. « If you pick me, » comes with the kind of confidence built on a simple joy, an endless, depthless mischief teeming with laughter, « I will make sure you do not forget it! » As if he, by some divine intervention of queens long dead, can possibly render the finer nuances of a dragon's lacking memory moot. But back to what really matters; back to the way Fjainoith throws herself upon them, on the anticipation that shivers down Foryth's rigid spine and turns quiet, clever mischief into an undaunted kind of determination. There are faster, quicker, bigger, stronger, suaver (and more clever) dragons about at every turn, but sometimes it's not about size or brawn and linguistical prowess; sometimes you just have to be lucky. Here and now Foryth stretches, extending talons and wings before arching, snapping sails close to his body and dropping into a daring dive. It's clear that his aim is to catch the only dragon in this entire mess that matters: Fjainoith.

« F'YR NOT, MY ROBUST RELIC, » Glorioth BOOMS in his voice that is just chronically too damn loud, and always potently HEROIC in timbre. This isn't any kind of new thing, though, since he's been LIKE THIS since he was shelled entered the feeding grounds. The musk of man— er, dragonly dragon-ness proliferates along with the smoke of battle fire, leather and blood. The clash of weapons in this mental space where banners snap and, OH YES, AN OFF-KEY HEROIC THEMESONG IS PLAYING LOUD AND PROUD, is only secondary in VOLUME to the way hide slapped hide thanks to Teimyrth's bid to knock him out of the flight and give everyone some peace MAKE SURE GLORIOTH DOES NOT LOSE FAITH IN HIMSELF — if he ever, ever discovered what a doubt was like, that is, having never doubted in his life to date. BUT HE KNOWS HIS ANCIENT TEACHER MEANT WELL. « I SHALL PREVAIL! » He assures the older Xanadoan dragon with EXACTLY as much confidence as he LITERALLY ALWAYS FEELS all of it, he feels it brim-full and spilling over. HE'S GOT THIS. It's just a matter of time.

« AHAHAHAHAHAH!! » The GLORIOUSLY GLORIOUS GLORIOTH swings upward as Fjainoith falls, almost wholly heedless of the FAN CLUB rooting him on with various attempts to make him mince meat ENCOURAGE HIS SUIT ALL THE MORE. He might even prove it again, his ARROGANCE? DONE. IDIOCY? DONE. SENSATIONAL SKILLS AT STABBING THE LADY FAIR… only, someone might just get the better of him— or her— first.

In those final moments, F'yr's broad shoulders are tense, his look apprehension suspended for the moment of truth. He keeps to his place nearer to the entrance and exit, the better to perhaps persuade things in the sky that he need not stay. Defeat would probably sit pretty well with him just about now— though that has as little to do with Lhiannon as Glorioth's flight has to do with her lifemate.

Listen, Seksicanth just chanted a whole song explaining exactly why he is far from the wise choice, but that isn't going to stop him. Not a chance. « What can I say, I like my women like I like my klah, strong and will kill me if I consume too much, » the blue notes to nobody in particular (and therefore most certainly to the reader), wings tucking as he darts beneath the body of a singularly ugly bronze, avoiding the worst of an attack that by all rights should have debilitated him. A few scratches leak green, but he's had worse, judging by the drawled, « Ooh, kinky. Daddy also likes a l'il mono e mono action, but maybe save it for later, eh, handsome?, » he croons over his shoulder, almost missing it when Fjainoith rolls through the air and drives herself towards them. Almost, but not quite. See, they're all a little bit clustered close, and she could be diving for any one of them, truly, but he's not the kind of dragon to just leave things up to fate. Fate is for pus- « -hovers! I'll show you lads how it's done. » Blunted nails dig into another dragon's spine, not hard enough to injure (one hopes), but certainly hard enough to use him as a living diveboard, their combined momentum rocketing the void-dark blue through the air with the greatest of ease, destination: Fjainoith. Mission: to snare her in his paws, but failing that, to use prehensile tailtips to fling his flowercrown her way with a laugh-ridden, « Haha, you just got lei'd! » Sigh. He's the worst. Meanwhile, a shudder ripples through B'an's body as his dragon executes his final, desperate move (whichever it may be), tension flooding his every inch, borrowed need finally driving him into the guest weyr. Hands shake so hard he tightens them into fists, but nothing can seemingly blot out his everpresent good mood. Fellow maleriders are flashed a wide, sideways grin, nods offered to any he might recognize before he flicks a wink in Lhiannon's direction. "Almost through," is as much encouragement as he can manage before Seksicanth's emotions rip through him. Elation? Disappointment? Either will break him, render him silent, find his massive form dropping to one knee to breathe through it while he can.

Teimyrth would not be the wise choice; there would be dissent in every incremental inch of obedience he gave to Fjainoith throughout the duration of her dominion, no romantic aftermath to be had with a bronze frozen deep beneath frost-tipped thoughts, even when the green is a green of his ilk, made of ice and bleak, arctic snows; even when she, too, is a child — a ruler — of Winter. But he is a choice, one prepared to subjugate himself to a single, barren season in Fjainoith's service, to obey her laws for as long as it takes talons to snare and tails to twine, for the duration of their freefall, until they reach critical velocity in their descent towards earth, and sea, and land and are forced to break apart, mated and victorious. It's in one final show of violence (perhaps borne on the wings of mounting fury) that Teimyrth scores a hit against Glorioth mid-flight, a bid to thwart his success or finally shut him up, but Teimyrth does not pause to observe victory or failure. Red-and-orange eyes fix instead on the one point of green in a sea full of too many unworthy colors, colors he could kill, should kill, to show her why she belongs with him. But eliminating the (literal) wings of his competition is a thought secondary only to this, to the moment when the predatory nature of a dragon suited to longer, stamina-taxing flights senses the flagging strength of his prey and puts on a burst of speed to capture her. Ila'den appears only then, calloused hands catching at the enclosure of Fort's 'beasts, grey tracking Teimyrth's progress across the sky. Fjainoith strikes, and Teimyrth's talons extend, aiming to secure Winter's unforgiving reign in this fight.

It isn't unprecedented that Tsoth makes a noise, but it's certainly a rare enough occurrence that under any other circumstance (and maybe even for some in spite of the circumstances surrounding this moment) hearing him roar, feeling the mental presence of him, so unnerving in this primal state with one driving aim, go eeling past the minds of the other chasers to direct to the green alone. The susurration of overlapping whispers, rising in volume until somehow the raw, desiccated sounds are a tumult of noise through which his gritty baritone breaks, « Fjainoith! » Just her name. Is it a plea? A demand? An unwitting, unwilling expression of his need that is ripped from him in this moment where his mind roils and rushes to become enjoined with her? This much has not changed in Tsoth: there are no more certainties of the blue's motives now then there ever seem to be.

One thing may be certain, Fjainoith's flight has moved him — her gravity snagging the very core of him from its predestined path to be here instead of there, with her instead of solitary with his planetary population of one prisoner. M'zal's mouth opens but the only sound that comes is a choked gasp, wild, bewildered eyes on Lhiannon. Who can say what is happening to that inner landscape he can never escape? Whatever is happening here, it means his hand pulling free from the rock with enough resistance to imply the result is something his very life depends on. In the next moment, the contact is broken and he's moving. Whether to Lhiannon or rapidly away is all in one choice so far removed from anything he can control that it might account for the guttural snarl that leaves his lips even before the choice is made.

All good things come to an end! And this particular 'ending' couldn't come soon enough. Velokraeth's exhausted much of his repertoire of snarky comments by this point, immediate threats either dispatched with by the talons and strengths of others or still among the throng (and quite the pain in his boxy ass, if he's so obliged to gripe) and strategically avoided. As the last of his strength flags, he will be much more keenly focused on just keeping pace and the glowing green within his sights. Never let it be said that he isn't determined (to a fault) and stubborn (also to a fault) when he has it in mind to see something through. In this case, it's to remain among those still chasing just long enough for that sliver of a chance! Fjainoith's maneuver shouldn't be new to him but by the failings of draconic memory, it is and he holds fast to his own course of action. Despite the very real threat of the green slamming right into him, he fires off one last retort in an attempt to sway her trajectory straight into the gleaming curve of his talons. « When you've known me longer, you'll learn that I mean everything I say. » Especially the lies. Perhaps that will be the usefulness in him, a mere fleeting puzzle game of truths and lies wrapped in sardonic humor? Or, maybe, that his rider holds the highest form of rank afforded among them (at Fort, anyway) and surely such alliances between hers and his will prove… mutually beneficial ( it won't be, but let the bronze imply it will, cheeky bastard that he is)?

Some wars are won by the unlikeliest of idiots in moves carried off by forward momentum alone. Inertia as a problem-solving strategy has its merits, whether or not it bears out in this particular flight for Xath. He's in motion, even if he's in a disadvantaged position to make his move. Dedication to the cause isn't lacking, but who can say whether his attempt to weave through the narrow opportunity afforded him by the movement of blue, brown and bronze wings will snare him a shot at showing Fjainoith where his real skills lie. He tries, anyway. Isn't that precious?

M'tras' tension returns as his dragon executes fancy flight maneuvers to evade the less nimble or more numbskulled and position himself where Fjainoith has the chance to choose him — or be chosen by him, however these things happen. The smile is gone, replaced with a look of focus that, in truth, might default to a fierce look that doesn't lack a predatory edge. He's not going after her, though, the woman whose mind is tethered to the events above, not unless Xath's last ditch effort proves unexpectedly effective. He might even be more ready to make an efficient exit when the girl is got and the flight finished.

Indifference. The very thought makes Xermiltoth seethe with laughter as he arches back up out of his dive, hissing sparks of diamonds shattering under the pressure of too much heat, blowing apart in firework cascades as Fjainoith tries to assert that her shoulder remains cold towards them - towards him. He doesn't believe it, not after watching the ebb and rise of her tide throughout the day, not after following so close on her tail as her frost-shrouded form tore Fort's skies asunder. Disdain, yes, condescension, naturally - these he expects from such a powerful female as she. But indifference? His doubt flows from his mind to hers, feverish ardor playing second string, provocation underlining all in goading intensity. Come on. Give in. Be what you are or be nothing at all, but do not feign to be a liar in this moment, when it matters most. All unspoken, but implied as his light all but glares off winter white, snowblind thoughts pitching to a fervor as she tilts on one wing and drops towards them. « Finally. » And though their personalities could not be more stark, it is never more apparent than in moments like these that Glorioth is his son, for there is no room, no thought, no world in which that dive is intended for anyone but him. Teeth bare, a snarl the last line of a symphony waiting to be if only his thoughts could twine with hers, potential unlimited, utterly unlimited in that moment right before her body touches his— or passes him by. Victory, despair - both sound the same, a gold-pounded shriek that sounds far and wide in the skies over the weyr. It draws the gaze of the bronzerider making his slow way through the bowl, lack of rush belied by the shaking tension of his body, fingers trailing over shoulders of a rider he knows, has memorized, progress towards the guest weyr encouraged or halted depending on whatever thought of his dragon's will assault him next.

Blood-lust and flight-lust combined have Zekath following Fjainoith through three of her upwards spirals, before he has enough sense to back off. It's burned through some of his reserves, but he's not about to drop out now! He's picked his fights and comes out on top with each — even if his hide bears a few new superficial wounds that betray an otherwise unscathed victory. Like a few scratches would ever stop him! As she turns into another spiral, he will drift back to follow her trajectory while recuperating for the final push. He can almost sense it and he takes that last chance to recover, a little slice of calm. Not a terrible decision by far, as Fjainoith makes her move and he readies himself to follow … only she's now dropping and rolling towards them. « Oh crap… » Delivered broad-ban across minds, as though he'd just discovered a bomb in the lift upon its arrival to the floor. He buckles down, scraps all his carefully laid out plans and just goes with it. His wings fold, as he skirts around one suitor and potentially shoulders them roughly out of the way. One less to worry about! If she can plough down through them, he'll plough up (kind of)!

« I'm hard to kill. You should know that. » His final boast, oddly worded and more than unusually timed, but not without some truth. Zekath does not stop, until he's either successfully captured her or is left grasping at nothing; even if it means more pain, more cuts and scrapes to add to his growing map-work of old wounds and scars. What does she gain from all this? Zekath doesn't have much to offer, other than his service (don't read too far into that) as a would-be vigilante. A witch green such as her could always use someone to do the dirty work?

It was a close call, for many. Fjainoith breezed past most of the grasping talons and tails, mind brushing a cold, not-quite caress against those who have particularly reached out to her, in turn. Perhaps some are deemed better left wanting rather than worthy or un-, that such desires can better be twisted to her aims next time, but in this battle, she twisted away from momentary contact with another to better allow herself to be ensnared by one intriguing in his similarities. He might either be favored by fortune or a choice of (curious) calculation, but how she met Teimyrth with a wall of white isn't as important as the fact that she did, with winds so cold that they burned as fury met fury.

Bury the(ir) world in white, indeed.

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