Duck, Duck, Firelizard!

An arch woven from the tendrils of a willow tree stretches overhead lightly creeping with ivy as one steps in from the meadow into this sanctuary of green. Cool gray flagstone carefully spaced enables a soft velvety moss to thrive within the cracks, and creates a single wide pathway that fluidly breaks off into two paths of stone once free of the natural arbor. It is a wonder this place, and meticulously tended from the way it seems not a single leaf is out of place.
On either side of the main path expansive grassy patches are trimmed short and edged behind with natural tan colored stone selectively chosen to stack just right. Beyond these are a line of fine puffed shrubberies in vibrant green intermingled with flowering bushes of brilliant pinks varying in hue from the very light to the very dark, which causes the occasional snowy white blossoms of other scattered here and there without worry to simply pop out of the scenery.
Directly in the center of the garden is another wall of intricately stacked stone, this of muted grays, creating what from the air would prove to be a perfect circle. It's been set high for safety, but not so much as one would not be able to lean over it to admire what lies beyond, either standing or sitting at the smattering of benches whose backs are set every four feet along it. Flush to the ground inside it's protective stone outcropping, is an enormous twenty foot wide fish pond. Within one can glean the metallic glint of playful goldfish, the unhurried cruise of fat koi, and even a frog or three among pale yellow and white flowering water lilies and their thick green pads.
The trees surrounding the entire garden were planted to give the impression that they had always been here, not only lending to a rustic look, but also alluding to the beauty that can be found among the wilds if only one might just look for it. Species vary from the ordinary Birch and Pine, but the flaming red capsules of the Indian Shot to the robust orange spokes of the Firewheel tree suggest the spice of the exotic.

Winter's chill cannot scare the bold and the bold seem to be out in a small number, dotting across the meticulously cared for gardens. There are a fair few occupying themselves with littles as this just pre-dinner hour at the playground, possibly running down some steam before attempting to get them to sit for the protracted process of feeding. Others meander the paths or occupy benches and there are even some occupied with work. One such is a broad shouldered blond man, and his work is not paperwork brought with him, but rather something to do with a nearly empty wheelbarrow and a rake that's just nudging the last of some ground cover into place. Stefyr stills to take in his work and, seemingly satisfied, settles the rake into the belly of the 'barrow before letting his blue gaze slide across the gardens at large.

As much as she might have been grumbling about the weather, Rhodelia certainly ends up outside in it often enough although it might be hard to identify the assistant under the bundle of hat, multiple scarves and massive coat. While she does a good impression of a rambling mound of clothing, the woman gives a couple shifty glances to quiet fish pond before her attention focuses on the wheelbarrow and the gardener with it and she makes a b-line towards him. "Hey… are you busy?" The wheelbarrow looks empty enough that she'd gonna ignore it and ask anyways.

LEIRITH CAN, THOUGH. Scare the bold, we mean. LISTEN. She is much too big to fit in the gardens (not without destroying pretty much everything in her path first), but much too big also means that she's big enough to shove her snout right in one of those archways and prevent the comings and goings from THIS HERE ENTRANCE AND EXIT. "LEIRITH!" Yes, that is the indignant shout of Xanadu's HIGHLY ESTEEMED (hold the laughter, y'all, it's RUDE) Weyrwoman, and the answering indiscriminate thrum of bass and drums that permeates and infiltrates every single mind that it possibly can with a braincell-melting house party of sound. Laughter. Leirith is laughing at her lifemate. See, Rhodelia is not the only one making a beeline for poor Stefyr, because here comes Risali too. She's bundled up from head to toe, her mouth and nose are buried beneath a scarf, her hands are tucked in the forward pockets of a dark-dyed peacoat, and she only comes up short of actually saying something because Rhodelia gets there first and it's only polite to wait your turn. So instead, Risali HOVERS, like this isn't AWKWARD AT ALL, with the hard-to-miss-impatience of one who has a burning question. If you aren't busy, Stefyr, you're probably about to be no matter how you look at it.

"Uh," starts the obviously eloquent gardener in response to the first bundled someone. Given the physical nature of his labor, he's dressed in fewer layers, although the pullover seems to have taken on a bit of dirt in the course of the day's duties. "N-oh," turns one word into two as he answers Rhodelia only to have his attention stolen half way through the thought by the… Shall we politely call it an uproar? How can his gaze help but swing to Leirith and her oncoming rider. Seeing as how said rider shows more manners than her dragon and waits, then, he looks back to Rhodelia looking out of his depth and commits to a more solid, "No." There's a beat in which he might be considering the wisdom of his next, "Can I help you," his look includes Risali, "with something? Ma'am? Ma'ams?"

While the sudden appearance of Leirith and her laughing bass beat might send some wiser souls running for cover, Rhodelia just rises to her tiptoes to better scan the area. The scanning doesn't take long because conveniently Risali is also heading right towards them. "Actually… never mind." Rhody will just put her own request on the back burner because the whole danger-meter may be going off and makes a shooing motion as if to encourage him towards the weyrwoman. She's gonna step behind him just in case a human shield is needed cause you never know. "Someone wanting to set something on fire again? I don't think the gardeners would approve."

Risali rocks back and forth on her heels until she stops awkwardly on her tip-toes, grey eyes going a widening as if startled when Stefyr asks both women if there's something they need and Rhodelia gives up the pursuit of whatever it is she's after in favor of Risali's needs. "I -" Does she need something? There's a hesitation, as if some of the agitation at her dragon's antics has diminished in the wake of attention, her shoulders sinking as eyes jump to Rhodelia with a stab of greys that clearly say BETRAYAL before she gestures awkwardly at his rake. "Just need to borrow this." One gloved hand is already closing around the handle when she forces out, "If that's alright. Sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt." And then there's a huff of what's probably the beginning of laughter as, without waiting for an actual yes or no, Risali brings the tool over her shoulder like she's used to wielding one (she's not) and mischief colors the expression she fixes on Rhodelia. "Set you on fire," she says, as if that's some sort of insult. AND THEN SHE'S BACK ON HER WAY DOWN TOWARDS LEIRITH. "GET OUT OF THERE NOW!" Cue more laughter, and Risali shaking a gardening tool at a dragon who is UNDAUNTED and UNAFRAID of her SMOL BUT FIERCE MINION. CARRY ON. RISALI WILL JUST BE DOWN HERE BEATING HER QUEEN FOR HER INSOLENCE.

Stefyr, given his height and broad build, makes an excellent shield. His expression after glancing to take in the first bundled someone's new position behind him might not say as much. He looks a little like he'd like to do something prudent like run away, or maybe hide behind Rhodelia in turn, but his feet manage not to follow any impulse that might be spoken in his face. Possibly only just. He also manages not to do anything foolish like try to stop Risali from commandeering his rake, although he does blink stupidly after her as though this sort of thing doesn't happen to him everyday. His teeth grasp his lower lip, brows dipping down into a look of mild worry before he murmurs just loudly enough to be heard by the someone standing behind him, "Is … she okay? Are— they?" He gestures in the vague direction of the confrontation between enormous dragon and (relative to the former) small woman.

Rhodelia gives a wink from behind the gardener to the departing Risali and her maybe-insults. "It won't be the first time I've been on fire." Immolation might be a real concern around here, but stop, drop and roll does work! As for them being okay, she just shrugs, but doesn't seem too concerned. "It's kinda like it's her rake anyways, right?" Even if the weyrwoman's knot might not be visible under all the winter-clothing the BIG (LOUD) GOLD DRAGON kinda gives her away. "But they'll come to an understanding. At least there's another way out of here unlike the clock tower…" At least, she thinks there's a back way out of the gardens. "So while she's doing that and you're rakeless… have you seen any firelizards around. Green and about this big and probably trying to dive bomb anything that comes close?" While she holds her hands apart, it's not really an exact measurement, but roughly average green firelizard size.

"Right," is an automatic mimic of the correct answer to the rhetorical question. Stefyr is still looking after the woman and dragon with a befuddled expression for a moment yet before he turns himself to more properly face Rhodelia, "I wasn't really worried about the rake." Maybe he's not a very good gardener if keeping track of his tools isn't high on his priority list. "The clock tower?" The blond man's brows draw further into a 'V' as if perhaps concerned he'll find the answer to the question only more concerning still. Even with the question lingering, he casts his eyes about as if the aforementioned firelizards were going to happen to be in plain sight, dive bombing willy nilly for his easy-problem-solving pleasure. If they are, he doesn't apparently see them for his eyes come back to Rhodelia and he offers a, "Sorry. No. Maybe down that secluded way?" He gestures toward the path to the secluded alcove. Maybe they're dive bombing the romantics braving the weather. He can't seem to help adding a perplexed question, "Do they normally dive bomb whatever comes close?" Or is there something in the water today?

Rhodelia is nobody to judge if someone isn't the best at their job. Or if they let things go missing either (hellllooo all those missing reports). As for the clock tower, Rhodelia nods. "You know, the big thing just off the clearing? Has a big circle with some sticks that move around up top? Sometimes she scales it." With the little pincer motion she does, that scaling is likely of the draconic variety instead of just Risali. The goldrider can take the stairs after all. She frowns as she looks towards the secluded alcove and shifts a little away from it. "Is that… is that the area where some of the waterfowl tend to nest?" It's more of a whisper as if the avians might be lurking and listening. Her head shakes towards the last question. "Nah. Not for most. I think she must be proddy or maybe just laid an egg or something? I haven't seen her in a couple days now."

Stefyr's expression shifts abruptly to a long-suffering one that anyone with siblings might know well. "You call that a clock, do you?" He replies deadpan, although perhaps there's a little waver to his voice since he went a little pale when Rhodelia told what the dragon does to it. "My mother said I'd fit right in here, cracked as a broken teapot as I must be to come at all." This is more a mutter to himself than to Rhodelia as he studies his boots a moment. He reaches up to scratch the side of his neck as he appears to consider the likelihood of waterfowl and ends up just shrugging. "It's that place with all the moss." Surely this is an adequate enough description for a non-gardener. No? Well, he doesn't seem inclined to offer more. "So should I keep my eyes open for an egg as well? Or just the dive bombers?" It's hard to say if he's joking, as bland as his tone manages to be, but at least he seems to be trying to make sure he's clear on his assignment. "And if I find them somewhere abouts, I'm to ask for who?" His brows lift in inquiry of her identity.

"What else would you call it?" If that was a joke, it sails right over Rhodelia's head, but she'll blame that of the distraction of the rake waving weyrwoman off in the distance even if Leirith-antics might be an everyday hazard of her own job. At the mention of the moss, her knows wrinkles up in disgust and she's got her own string of mutters mostly of various curse words and ducks. She's staring at the moss covered path right next to the lake intently now, but not taking a step closer towards it. "Since you're kinda without tools for the moment…" She waves in the purloined rake's direction. "Could we poke around now? Cause if she did lay an egg over there, it's not going to survive long in the cold." But also, she's not going over there without assistance. Ducks and their bigger badder cousins the swans can be mean. She might have a scar on her shin to prove it.

At some point, amid all of the clock-tower gossip and proddy firelizards, Risali threw the rake behind her in agitation and threw her body against her dragon's snout. She must have been quite the sight, digging in her feet and pushing with her shoulders, giving up when she only slipped on the ground beneath her and pressed her back into her dragon's snout instead. She dug in her heels, she threw her entire body into it, and she slipped onto her butt then too. It's fine, really; Risali has never had much time for tact or dignity, and so while what little she may have had at the beginning of this strange encounter flees in a second jarring impact with the ground, the Weyrwoman seems little phased by it. In fact, when she grabs the rake and stomp-marches her way back to Stefyr and Rhodelia (with failure and her dragon's laughter riding on her heels), the flush on her cheeks is most definitely from exertion and the cold and not at all embarrassment. There is not an ounce of it to be found in this one. At least, if nothing else, Risali is gentle in the way that she sets the rake back where she got it from. "Thank you," she starts, having missed most of the conversation she is ONCE AGAIN interrupting. "She's stuck." It's very matter of fact, and immediately refuted with, « I AM NOT STUCK, MINION. THE GARDEN IS MY NEW HAT. AHAHAHAHAHA. » A beat, as the weyrwoman tucks her hands back into her pockets and looks back and forth between gardener and assistant, and then she's clearing her throat. "Sorry, Rhodelia. Did you need help?" Because YES SHE IS going to let Leirith SUFFER THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF HER ACTIONS. And… and she missed the conversation, so it's fine.

It must have been as a gloved and comes up and he ticks off some possibilities, "Time tyrant, drudge driver, sleep depriver," and then with a slight tilt of his head and narrowing of his eyes, "climbing tower?" Surely that last is valid as more than a joke since Leirith has been known to make use of it that way. "I suppose if we're going to be unimaginative, clock tower will have to do." Stefyr finishes with a sigh that matches the previous expression, but then he grins in a good natured sort of way as if hoping they're finally sharing a joke. He is hesitating over the dangerous request made of him when Risali returns and he offers a polite, "You're welcome," for the rake, not that it's more than words by rote, since it really is sort of her rake after all. Since it doesn't appear that Risali and her stuck dragon, who definitely gets another sidelong perturbed look from the gardener, is going to offer him an out, he straightens his shoulders and gestures the way he suggested. "Sure. Do you have any control over the dive bombing? Just out of curiosity." He manages a good imitation of nonchalance, but it's not perfect; there are some nerves in play there.

There is the glowbasket or lightbulb or possibly chime of the clock going off as Rhodelia picks up on the joke. "Sleep is for the weak anyways." That's her new mantra anyways apparently considering how many midnight wanderings she's had lately. As Risali comes over and announces that Leirith is indeed stuck, the assistant's mouth opens and then closes again. "At least she didn't decide to make it a tail ring?" because that option would have possibly had a flailing tail instead of just part of her snout stuck in with them and one could do a LOT more damage than the other. For her own need of assistance, she shrugs. "I may have lost my firelizard. Well, one of them. Or… she's just brooding somewhere that probably actually can't support an egg." She gives a bit of a side eye towards the gardener's last question. "Maybe?" Then again, she's also lost her firelizard so control definitely isn't her strong suit. Or maybe it was just poor training.

"Yes, well," Risali says with a dismissive wave of one gloved hand, "as long as we get her free before she clutches, I'm sure it will be alright." NOTE THE DRY SARCASM, because Risali is very sure that Leirith will be just fine even if the same might not be able to be said for gardens (in that area) once the aftermath settles in. But she mouths 'dive-bombing,' from Stefyr to Rhodelia, eyes narrowing on her assistant as more of the picture becomes clear and — "Ah." FLITTER EGGS. COLD. And then Stefyr asks a question about control and Risali closes her eyes against the answer as she mouths that too. Maybe, she says. Maybe they're not about to get maimed and gouged by tiny angry flitters. DISHONOR, RHODY. DISHONOR ON YOU, DISHONOR ON YOUR COWN. But also: this is Risa. She will not be deterred. Not even by stuck dragons who got themselves into their own messes. So when Risali's eyes come back open, she hooks her arm through Rhodelia's and then through Stefyr's (as if she has enough familiarity with the man to WARRANT such action), effectively forming a chain-link between the three of them. She starts off in THAT DIRECTION, attempting to lug the two even though she is, even when not comparted to Leirith, ineffectively smol (but still fierce, come at her) then leans towards her assistant so she can breathe out, "What in Faranth's name are you getting us into, Rhodelia?" Any sane person might retreat. Any sane person might, at the very least, have the grace to look as though Impending Doom wasn't quite so exciting. But this is Risali, and her face makes it seem like despite the feigned chastisement of Rhody, she's ready for this. "Don't worry," she tells Stefyr then, leaning his direction with a smile that's formed around a scrunch of nose and something MUCH TOO MISCHEVIOUS TO BE ALLOWED IN A WOMAN OF HER STANDING, "I'll buy you an eyepatch if worse comes to worse." « IT WILL BE BADASS. » "It will be badass." AFFIRMATION. YOU ALL GOT THIS. LEIRITH BELIEVES. WHAT'S A LITTLE DEATH AND GORE AND DOOM AMONG FRIENDS.

Winter in the garden should be peaceful, shouldn't it? Even with a few people here and there, and bundled youngsters at the playground, it should be a nice place to get a respite before dinner. Tonight the otherwise tranquil scene includes one dragon whose head is stuck in an archway. Among those present are a trio with linked arms - Risali in the middle with a big blond man on one side and bundled up Rhodelia on the other. Stefyr's, "Great," doesn't really sound all that thrilled about Rhodelia's uncertainty. Still, when Risali's gets them moving, he doesn't resist the pull. He also does not look reassured when Risali (of the stuck-in-an-archway gold dragon) tells him not to worry. "If it comes to that, I'll trust you to take on the responsibility to tell my mother I was maimed within a week of arriving at the Weyr, ma'am." It's the sort of thing that would be her responsibility anyway, isn't it? If there were an aggrieved mother mourning the loss of her son's blue eye? He's not really leading, but he is generally moving in the direction of the darkly mulched pathway he'd indicated before. The stairs beyond might prove problematic for a trio of links, but despite his earlier temerity, the big man will make the step to be the first in the line in case anyone slips on the leafy moss.

Rhodelia HAS FACED DISHONOR BEFORE. Nothing new or surprising here! Since her arm is linked, she'll follow with the march closer to the Pathway to Doom, still looking a bit apprehensive even as Risali is given assurances of all being well and free eyepatches. "Errr… you remember that time D'lei may have come home a couple turns ago possibly with some scratches and a few bird feathers?" She looks over as if that might be descriptive enough before shrugging. "I think the swans might remember me. And if they do… they attack worst than proddy firelizards. Although it would be shins that might be the worry instead of eyepatches." She's definitely going to let Stefyr have all the HONOR of being the first down the stairs. "I think we have some very nice letters already drafted up on the best stationary in case bodily harm does happen." It's kinda like madlibs to just fill out the blanks.

N'on has always been one of those weirdos who hangs out in the gardens in winter. Who knows why! But whatever the reason, he's here now, resting on a bench in a hidden nook and scribbling away in a notebook. At the sound of voices, he comes to some sort of natural conclusion of his thoughts and tucks the notebook under his arm as he ventures out to see who is out there. Did he notice the stuck dragon? Maybe. He's not reacting to it, in any case.

"Don't call me ma'am," Risali asserts with the very gentle application of one linked-elbow into the big man's side. "It's Risali. You can even call me Risa if you want to, but 'ma'am' and 'Weyrwoman' are off of the table." A beat, as they continue to walk and then, with a hint of humor comes a breathless, half laugh of, "And you shouldn't, you know. Trust me, I mean." Brows go up, canines are hinted at in the beginnings of that smile, and the weyrwoman's attention is back on Rhodelia. "I'll probably just make D'lei do the dirty work, or pretend to write it out trusting that Rhodelia will lose it, or take out your eye myself if you call me ma'am again." A gentle elbow-nudge comes for her assistant then, another wicked little smile spared for the woman as they convene on the path and links are broken so that Stefyr might exude nobility and become the first sacrifice to The Unknown. "Rhodelia," Risali begins, "D'lei is weyrmated to me." Which is to say that the poor man probably comes home in random states of disarray all of the time because Risali's never met a bad idea that she didn't think was the best one. And D'lei? Well, bless the poor man. He's the sort who always just goes along with all of her schemes. K'vir is the sane one. He's the only sane one. STILL, while Risali does not stop Stefyr from being first down, she does catch at the back of his clothes with the tips of her fingers and curl them in the fabric so that she can keep close, reaching out a hand for Rhodelia so they can STILL BE A HUMAN CHAIN. OF QUESTIONABLE INTEGRITY AND BRAVE-NESS. "You mean we have more?" comes deadpan once more. "I thought we'd used it all already." This bodes so well for you, Stefyr. Just run. Far and fast. YOU PROBABLY SHOULD TOO, N'ON. BECAUSE RISA SEES YOU. And she lets go of Rhodelia just long enough to give the greenrider her BRIGHTEST SMILE while waving him forward with her momentarily free-hand like DOOM AND DESPAIR are not awaiting them as they disappear down the stairs into the alcove. MAKE SURE TO TELL THE WEYRLEADER OF WHERE THEY WENT, JUST IN CASE THEY NEVER RETURN.

"Yes, ma'am," is the drilled in response that surfaces to answer Risali's insistance. It is, of course, followed with an obligatory, "Sorry. Risa." Hopefully going with the friendliest version of her name, she'll see fit to spare his eye. "I'm Stefyr." He has no fancy title to excuse the use of, so nothing more is added; having been working in the garden when his assistance was appropriated by his current companions, his job title is probably deemed self-explanatory. The look cast back over Stefyr's shoulder is not for Risali's hold on his shirt, but is instead directed to Rhodelia and might be one part reproachful and two parts exasperated with a muttered, "Swans," under his breath, but the look is quickly schooled to something more benign. The turn of his head takes in the goldrider's greeting to N'on and he adds a nod that does nothing to help warn the poor man of what he might be gathered into by responding to any of the greetings before he even turns his head back to watch where he's going down the steps. "Do they have names they respond to, ma'am?" This appellation is directed to Rhodelia since she hasn't invited the gardener to the same familiarity.

"We were running low. I made extra," because surprise, surprise sometimes Rhodelia actually does some actual work besides losing inconvenient paperwork or blocking folks that shouldn't have meetings from getting meetings. Or she just wants to continue pulling the newcomer's leg about just how frequent workplace injuries might be in the weyr. It's a toss up. While Risa might be freeing a hand up to give a wave, Rhody will just move her hand up to her boss's shoulder because the chain must not be unbroken or something. N'on gets a what's up chin lift to acknowledge she too saw his presence. Since the previous duck adventure wasn't known, she can enlighten somewhat. "Well… shortly after I first got to Xanadu, I tried to feed the ducks. AND THE SWANS BETRAYED ME AND TRIED TO BITE MY BUTT." It's a grudge she and the swans probably still hold to this day. There's a snort for the last ma'am. "I'm no Ma'am. I'm Rhody. And I don't know what the swans go by. Probably something like ShardIt and OhNoNotAgain." That's what she'd name them anyways.

N'on is not afraid of doom and despair. BRING IT ON… Silently. And with a meek smile and little wave for all present, because it's /N'on/. He follows at Risa's beckoning, if only out of curiosity to see where this is leading, but he doesn't get close enough to be dragged along if any one link in that human chain should happen to go down. Zhelinath, on the other hand, is not /quite/ as humble as her rider appears to be. « I would not trust anyone whose head got caught in a door, » comes the green's prim, smoke-thread murmur. Did that /accidentally/ leak to Leirith? Oops! How embarrassing!

"Stefyr," Risali repeats back to him. "Well met." RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! Too bad he can't read meta to know how very, very dangerous this is. Still, she's quiet while Rhodelia regales them with tales of swans - at least, she was, until she started laughing. YOUR BUTT AND YOUR DIGNITY ARE UNDER FIRE, RHODY. And with the assistant's hand on Risa's shoulder, Risa's other hand curls into the fabric of the younger woman's shirt. "S-Shardit," she breathes out around another hiccup of laughter. "OhNoNotAgain, Champion Biter of Rhodelia's Butt." She manages to sober up her tone for that last bit, because she is the worst and also because she is biting down on her bottom lip to stifle more laughter. IT'S FINE. SHE WILL GET IT BACK TOGETHER EVENTUALLY. But N'on comes to join them, and Risali is giving him another smile from over her shoulder as she follows Stefyr down, down, down and Leirith, in perfect Leirith form, greets 'accidental' leaks of prim, smoke-thread murmurs with an explosion of bass, and drums, and too damn much sound. « I WOULD NOT TRUST ME EITHER. THE LAST TIME I TRUSTED ME, EVERYBODY DIED. » A beat, two, three, four, « AT LEAST THE WOULD HAVE, IF THE PEOPLE WHO WERE WILLING TO FOLLOW ME EXISTED IN THE FIRST PLACE. » You might find it odd that a dragon - a queen, no less - is willing to laugh at herself and capitalize on her own shortcomings with humor, buuuuuut. This is Leirith. Leirith thinks everything is funny. "Do you see anything yet?" At least Risali has the good sense to whisper, because they have to be getting close… right?

"I meant your firelizards," Stefyr responds, though he might be hiding a smile as he pauses just long enough that he might be considering 'ma'am'-ing Rhody again. There is a certain safety in titles and the civility it can engender. "You know, the ones we're supposed to be looking for, to rescue from the swans." He says it all with great gravity, that is probably mostly feigned, despite the young life at stake. Possibly, he doesn't really expect the firelizards to be the type to respond to a name since they are apparently possibly not the type to resist dive bombing even in the immediate presence of their person. "I see… oh, crackdust!" The exclamation is made with a voice of terror and he ducks to the side, as if avoiding a firelizard or possibly a swan, after the last stair. Only there's nothing there, "The bottom," he proclaims as he straightens and grins, gesturing to the normally romantic little garden that was probably not made for a chain of this ilk on a mission of this kind. He glances back as far as N'on, who's the only one to receive a slightly remorseful look for his childish trick since N'on is an innocent in all this mess, so far.

Rhodelia nudges her elbow ever so slightly into Risali's back as she's busy laughing at her own misfortune. "I might toss you towards them if they come up again." While she might not have any dignity, Rhody does have a somewhat functioning sense of self-preservation at least half the time. And today, today tossing anybody even a weyrwoman in the path of danger so she can run away is a-okay. "Ohhh. The missing one is Cosmo. And we might not need to save her. She might also just have run away to lead a swan rebellion or something." She wouldn't put it past the feisty little green. Her voice is also lowering as they get closer. "I think I hear a rustling… in that third bush." Although so far no signs of any winged threats have appeared yet.

N'on actually does startle a bit at Stefyr's con, though he follows it up with a few owlish blinks and then a wan smile and eyeroll. He's not quite so reluctant to head into the garden, himself, but that could be as much to do with having no idea what's going on. He wanders off a short distance, peering around the space, before looking back to the trio with a questioning expression. Zhe, meanwhile, affects a kind of lazy interest, her voice retaining that mild stillness even in the face of Leirith's booming mindvoice. « What is yours even doing? Shouldn't she be looking for oil? You're going to require quite a lot of it, I should think. Perhaps a nice strong bronze to push on your nose… » A flash of humor is delivered in a shadow-puppet image of Leirith's cartoonish silhouette making a rather amusingly alarmed face as another dragon attempts to extract her from the archway.

Risali gives Rhodelia a gentle push back as she breathes out a, "Do it, Rhodelia. I dare you," with conviction. And while it might, coming from any other woman, be a warning that doing so will result in punitive actions, Risali says it a breath riddled with too much amusement to be a real threat. "I will -" KICK YOUR ASS? Probably, except Stefyr is terror-gasping, 'crackdust!' and Risali's body is trying to come to a halt except that her feet didn't get the memo and so first she smashes her nose into Stefyr's back (seconds after the startled gasp and slight jump that almost has her letting go of his shirt), and then he's proclaiming it's the bottom and THIS IS SOME REALLY BIG JOKE and Risali, having had to let go of his shirt to momentarily nurse her nose, then punches the big man (semi-gently, not really enough to hurt for long anyway) in his shoulder if he DOESN'T DUCK. Or, well, block her. Ducking might see his face at the smol end of her tiny, ineffectual fists instead. "You sharding prick," comes with THREE SECONDS OF HEAT, and then a slow pull of lips as she fights back a smile and gives another shove to his shoulder for good measure. HOW DARE. And then she sees you N'on, and as if she did not fall victim to the same trick, she's breathing out a teasing, "Ha! You should have seen your face." YOU LOOKED SCARED, NEENER. So did she. Listen, just let it happen. But that humor? It lasts only seconds, because her fingers are back in Stefyr's shirt and she's pressing against him as she leans around him to peek from behind him. WHAT BUSH, RHODY? THA - ah yes, that rustling third bush that - NUDGE, STEFYR. "Well go on then. Aren't you going to check it out?" She's just going to twist her hand tighter in Rhodelia's shirt/coat/layers/WHAT NOT. « SHE IS BEING A BADASS, BECAUSE SHE IS FIERCE. THAT IS WHY I CHOSE HER. » And for a moment, the gold observes that cartoonish silhouette before she booms even more laughter, attempting to shake the darkness and reshape it into HER, LEIRITH, WITH THE GARDEN AS A HAT ON HER HEAD. « AHAHAHA. I DO NOT WISH TO SHARE MY HAT. THAT WOULD BE RIDICULOUS. »

"Cosmo, leader of the rebellion," Stefyr rephrases what he's garnered from Rhodelia to digest it. That's all he has time to do, though, before Risali punches him. He's so big and muscular that it probably doesn't hurt that much, but he awards her an apparently authentic, "Ow!" and a rub to the spot that she struck only to be jostled, and he sways with the motion, a moment later. The grin for Risali is unrepentant where the look for N'on was otherwise. His blue gaze lands briefly on the greenrider to take in the smile and eyeroll and there's some vestige of relief in the gardener's face that his prank wasn't taken poorly by everyone. "Is checking bushes for strange sounds something you make all your new residents do?" Or it just his lucky day? Maybe Stefyr thinks it would be unwise to refuse the Weyrwoman he already provoked, so he does step toward the bushes, clapping his hands as he goes just incase a loud noise might startle something free before he gets there.

Rhodelia winces at the punch as smol as Risali's fists might be. It might make them all the more poke-y! She'll cling to the back of the goldrider's coat because the more she can put between herself and the maybe rustling bush the better. "I mean… you are a gardener. Isn't it your job to care for all our bushes? And that," she points to the bush that's now emitting a low hiss. "Is a very suspicious bush." And she's not going near it. As Stefyr claps though something darts out and Rhodelia doesn't even need to see what it is. She'll let out an earpiercing eeeek anyways. Because Leirith and her garden hat clearly aren't the only ridiculous thing around here.

Zhe's shadow puppets resist being swayed, and when Leirith persists, there's a sort of mental sigh as she /puts them away/. So mature, taking her toys and going home. Down in the garden, N'on eyes the bush with some trepidation, with only a glance toward Stefyr. For his part, the greenrider is not making any moves toward it. In that moment, Zhe jumps in with a comment that changes the subject. « Mine wishes yours to know that swans can break arms. You know, if yours is going to be /in charge/, she really ought to learn how to hear /all/ of her people. » And by 'hear' Zhe obviously means 'understand N'on's goofy hand-dances.'

« SHE IS ALREADY IN CHARGE, » Leirith booms, amusement threaded through every word. « PERHAPS IF YOURS WISHES TO BE HEARD, HE SHOULD FIGHT HER. TO THE DEATH. » Yeah. Cue Leirith's laughter. Listen, Zhe, if you're trying to rattle or shake Leirith's very deeply rooted foundations, you've picked the wrong dragon. Risali spares N'on a look that's half exasperation (at her own dragon), half an apology (for her dragon), and a roll of her shoulders maybe swans are dangerous but Stefyr is OBVIOUSLY A BIG GUY. HE CAN TAKE IT. Which she states after a smug, "You deserved that," for his 'ow'. So is checking bushes for strange sounds something she makes all her new residents do? "Only the important ones," because maybe if he feels special, he'll be more willing to be the sacrifice. "Anyway, you're a big guy. You can take it." SEE? TOLD YOU. Then she's biting back laughter for Rhodelia's observations and - WAH-POW! A WILD SOMETHING APPEARS! Risali jumps, Rhodelia shrieks, and the Weyrwoman holds even tighter to Stefyr's coat. "WhatIsIt!" comes muffled. Listen, she's not hiding. You're hiding.

Stefyr's nose briefly wrinkles as he proceeds with the clap and move forward, "Bushes, yes," he confirms. "Animals in bushes…" Well, he doesn't say no, especially with the Weyrwoman right there, but he does hold a hand flat in the air, palm to the ground and tilts it side to side. Sort of. Only sort of. If he has to. Apparently he does, because as he advances out flies a firelizard. This time, he's completely legitimate in his duck and dodge to the side, with a little squawk escaping along with it. It's not that he's scared of firelizards, it's just— okay, maybe he's a little afraid. Maybe it's just these firelizards that they're looking for since they dive bomb people who come close. Is this one dive bombing? "Is that Cosmo?" he manages as he tries to turn so he's facing the general direction the firelizard went. He probably didn't even see what color it was.

"COSMO!" Rhodelia confirms as if she didn't just scream for her life. The little green doesn't seem particularly thrilled to see the woman, but at least there isn't any dive bombing. Okay, maybe there is a pass or two before the green darts right back into the bush with another hiss. Now that Stefyr has so valiantly proved that the suspicious bush is harboring just a firelizard and not the maybe arm-breaking, butt-biting swans, she releases Risali's shirt and heads to poke about the bush. Her hands are only pulled back a few times to narrowly avoid possible nipping before she finally manages to spot something. "Ohhh… that's not an egg at all. Anybody missing a hair pin… or shot glass. Or a pair of dice?" If they are, they might need to claim them on their own because she's not risking digging in that far.

« He chooses not to, because he would win, » Zhelinath retorts, without hesitation. « /Honestly/, Leirith, one would think that you of all dragons would wish to foster an attitude of kindness toward the disabled. » Did she just call Leirith disabled? Probably! But since Leirith's foundations can't be shaken, that shouldn't bother her. N'on, meanwhile, seems oblivious to his dragon's shenanigans, because he's busy half-ducking as a firelizard explodes from the bush.

He would win, Zhelinath says, and Leirith's answer is another pulsating boom of laughter. Contrary to how it may seem, Leirith is not being cruel or dismissive of the green's opine; on the contrary, the queen is genuinely amused by the implication asserted by her fellow dragon. She finds even more humor in the implication that she is disabled because, indeed, the queen was born with infections that plagued her youth and deformities that never went away when she grew to be this condiment colored monstrocity. « YOU THINK HE IS INCAPABLE BECAUSE HE CANNOT SPEAK. I AM A QUEEN, THOUGH I AM NOT AS BEAUTIFUL AS YOU. PERHAPS, MY ZHELINATH, IT IS YOU THAT MUST LEARN KINDNESS. » And still, Leirith is as sunbright and cheerful as ever, not a hint of anger or ill-feelings issued on that thrum of bass and drums that's ever giddy. SEE? UNSHAKEABLE. Unlike her lifemate, who is only giving up cowering once it's confirmed that it's Rhodelia's firelizard. "Careful," Risali breathes as she leans sideways towards Stefyr. "I think it can smell fear." SHE IS POKING FUN AT YOU from around that hushed smile, brushing out her clothes as if she did not just also cower away. "I'm missing a couple of years of my life, actually. Do you happen to see that in her pile of… ah… things, Rhody?"

"Careful then, 'cuz you stink." The words slapping back to Risa are out of Stefyr's mouth before he could possibly process that he's not with siblings, cousins and other assorted known elements and instead with three practical strangers. His cheeks suffuse with a blush as his brain catches up with his tongue. Nevermind that it's only as true as far as their hiding and shrieking went. He does manage to straighten up and clear his throat as he takes a couple steps back away from the bush since it is reinhabited by the firelizard. To Rhodelia, he inquires, "Is she likely to leave there any time soon? I can always come back later and clean up," he gestures in the general direction of the apparent treasure trove. By way of further distraction, he looks to N'on with raised brows, "You okay?" since the greenrider was the other one to duck when he did, a fact that apparently wasn't missed on Stefyr.

COSMO IS SO PROUD OF HER TREASURES! SO VERY PROUD. SHE COLLECTED THEM ALL HERSELF. Rhodelia however is a little less proud as she digs through. "No extra turns here, though there is this." She pulls out a tiny little glass flower on a pin and tosses it towards Risali. She steps up from the bush and wipes any of the dirt accumulated on her pants. "So no eggs. And no swans. Do swans even stick around for winter or do they fly south for winter? Or north?" Sometimes geography is hard if you grew up on a completely different continent. "Since firelizard mystery is mostly solved…" She's not even going to bother with getting the stuff back to whoever might be the owners. Rhody is more than willing to go with finders keepers in this case. "Should we see about Leirith before she tries to get her head out on her own and possibly destroys everything?"

There's a mild snort from Zhelinath. « You /are/ a /queen/, » she murmurs. She leaves it at that, implications left unspoken as she withdraws both physically and mentally. There's got to be a high spot where /some/ sunlight can be found, right? If so, Zhe will be the one to find it. The moment that Zhelinath decides to share her thoughts is practically visible in N'on's expression as it goes from mild amusement to a flash of horror, and then a faintly worried look that he sneaks toward Risali. He was never very good at hiding his thoughts. Stefyr's rather well-timed question is met by a smile that… well, looks a bit ill, if we're being honest. But he nods swiftly and waves off Stefyr's concern. THIS IS FINE. HE IS OKAY WITH THE EVENTS THAT ARE UNFOLDING CURRENTLY. THINGS ARE GOING TO BE OKAY.

Leirith is basically the physical embodiment of laughter. She finds humor in all of the implications, but she does not pursue the telepathic connection once Zhel withdraws from it. At least, NOT TO THE DRAGON. All of the humans still get to suffer that crash of sound because Leirith isn't kind enough to stop projecting. Don't worry, Stefyr. The insult about stinking makes Risali laugh much like her dragon, hands pressing to her mouth as if she might stifle the sound, grey eyes dancing with mirth and mischief as she watches the younger man blush and then reaches out to gently push him again. "Only because I was clinging on to you." SEE? It's fine. Risali knows how to roll with the punches — and take jokes where they are meant to be jokes. She's reaching out to catch what Rhodelia tosses her way, blinking at it as she turns it in her fingers and then tilting her head and looking back and up at N'on. "What is this?" she's still asking Rhody, even as her eyes fix on the greenrider and her brows knit. HORROR? LOOKING ILL? "You okay, N'on?" she inquires, because she is fully aware of the conversations the dragons had. It's not like Leirith bothered keeping her half only to herself. SHE BROADCASTED IT FOR EVERY AND ALL. SHAMELESSLY. But, a shift and another glance at Rhodelia. "Ah - right. I probably should see to her." A sigh, a pat for three separate shoulders as she starts the climb back up the stairs. "I'm going to have to call in some favors." Probably.

Risali's retort makes Stefyr crack a wide smile. It might be temptation to linger now swan doom is not impending, but he didn't catch his cue to run when it was originally presented to him. He may be slow, but he must learn because he doesn't miss his cue this time, when Rhodelia suggests they go see about Leirith. His gaze lingers on N'on's smile and nod, his brows darting down minutely. For a moment it seems he might be inclined to follow up, especially since the man hasn't said a word (and that might be what causes the touch of confusion in his blue eyes), but in such circumstances as these, it's every man for himself. "I'd best…" What should he do? "Go get my tools," right, those things he abandoned. "I'll only be a shout away. Excuse me." No, no, he will be much more than a shout away because he knows this is the moment to run. To his credit, he walks, backwards, to the stairs, and then turns to walk-nearly-scamper up them, which is sort of a strange movement for a person so large, but it last only a few moments before the gardener tops the stairs and is gone.

"Favors? Galaxy could probably use this as some good training. They won't even need to do any Searching for this Search and Rescue," Rhodelia definitely isn't calling Leirith fat, just that it is literally impossibly to miss the gold unless you are literally a rock and not just living under one. The fact that everybody else is asking N'on if he's fine has her turning towards the greenish greenrider. "You look like you're going to hurl." Just in case he didn't notice. And while Risali might be going that-a-way, she's going to remain right here and try to coax the firelizard out of the bush with some strips of jerky that she just so happened to have. Bribery can always work wonders.

N'on shakes his head and waves off Rhodelia's concern. No hurling here! Not /yet/, anyway. But as Risali starts for the stairs, he manages to unstick his feet from the ground, and trots to catch up. As he goes, he reaches for a chest pocket and a scrap of paper, which he scrawls a note on while walking. He passes it to Risali on his way past: "I'll help." And he heads up the stairs ahead of her. Presumably to figure out a way to do what he just promised.

"Kyzen is going to murder me," Risali sighs, because of course she's going to harass him to SOUND THE ALARM. "Good luck," she breathes out, motioning to the BUSH and the flit and the hoard of treasures. "Let me know if you need help. Or if you find anything good." And there she goes, blinking only when N'on halts her progress to pass her that piece of paper. Risali's feet still this time, eyes darting across the words before she blinks up at N'on with a smile. "Thank you!" she calls from behind him, going up on her tip toes as swaying from side to side as if she might see him better. She tucks the note back into her pocket, and ALL IS WELL. Except, perhaps, that when Leirith sees N'on, her response is an enthusiastic, « WAHEYYYYYY, KILLER. I HAVE HEARD TALES OF YOUR FIERCE BADASSERY. I LOOK FORWARD TO THE EXHIBIT. » But it's good natured. It's not meant to tease or poke fun, it's genuine, giddy joy. Risali's the one barking her dragon's name, and then calling for Galaxy while putting her head (and hands, and pieces of paper) together with N'on to try and figure out just how they're going to get the queen out of this one. Spoiler alert: she's just got to twist her head a little and pull, and she's FREEEEE!

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