A Loser, Found

Xanadu Weyr - Caverns
A massive cavern in its own right, this one has been skillfully adapted for human habitation. The high ceilings have been painted a light, soft ivory, as have walls hung with numerous tapestries that provide brilliant color and insulation from the stone. The floor has been left in its natural state, pale pink granite speckled through with glittering mica and dark flecks of basalt. The stone is carefully leveled but kept sufficiently rough to avoid slips.
The cavern itself is loosely divided into areas, each one set up to be suitable for some segment of the Weyr's population. The most frequently occupied area is the one near the Kitchens, where tables of varying sizes provide a place to sit down and eat or chat and a buffet of consumables is almost always kept stocked. It's plain that on most days, this area wouldn't accommodate anywhere near the full population of the Weyr, instead feeding people in shifts as they come off duty. On occasions when a formal meal is laid out, tables are borrowed from all the other areas.
There's also a big fireplace set into the western wall, several comfortable chairs nearby providing haunts for elderly residents or riders who like a good view of all that happens. Rugs cover the floor in strategic spots, all of them abstract or geometric in design and most in the softly neutral colors of undyed wool.
Exits lead off in all directions, the largest an archway to the northeast that leads outside. Near it there's an alcove with hooks for coats and shelves for muddy boots. A tunnel to the east goes to the infirmary, and a set of stairs just a little south of that lead up to the offices and administration area. To the south, a long and sloping tunnel leads down to the hot springs. The kitchen is off to the southwest, while the residents' quarters are reached by tunnels going west, deeper into the cliff.

The end of the day is punctuated by insects' buzz, summer infamously bringing out more creepy crawlers than other seasons. The symphony is a background to the human and firelizard chatter that punctuates the evening. Humid warmth presses the smell of cooked meats and bread, drawing residents inside and filling the space, captaining one table is a large group of dragonriders. Though most are from Xanadu by knot alone, a few outliers are from Igen, Fort, and Ista. There's no common thread among them, outside of generalized raucousness. All crammed close, they are noisily talking over one another, several small children being forced onto laps to make room. Near one end, three young riders sit, marked as a gold rider from Igen, a Comet wing bluerider, and a Comet wing greenrider. Of the three, the goldrider is somehow the youngest, and loudest, with a spot next to the greenrider being taken up by a canary gold firelizard who is reserving a spot while gazing out food with wanting chirps of the begging variety. Evi sits at the end of the table, watching the other occupants with a shy smile, nodding as necessary but saying very little. Dressed in a bright tartan neon-green and marigold skirt, her top consists of long sleeves, even in this heat, and she sticks out amongst the group in attire alone.

The hum of residents and dragonriders is - at least in here - notably louder than all those buzzing insects. Which may be something that the insects take offense it; it would certainly be one explanation for why it is some of them try to sting and bite the poor unfortunate humans with unprotected skin. There's probably some of them sneaking in right now! …but they're not actually our focus here. There's also a more human-scaled creature making his entrance, a somewhat scruffy fellow who is entirely lacking in things like a proper knot… or even an improper knot, for that matter… but does have a face that might be vaguely familiar to anyone who's been here long enough… plus or minus some aging, of course. It's all approximate anyhow, when it comes to faces. D'lei makes his way across the caverns, picking out a flatbread and some bits of food to put on it before surveying the tables. Can he find a spot to sit? (Is he sure he even wants to try?)

While the noise level reaches a tizzy, whatever loud conversation is happening between her two companions (cousins) is lost. Evi's attention roams the cavern, examining every face as if she could somehow magically make whoever she is waiting for appear. Her method of doing this seems to be squinting and quirking her lips to the side with concentration. This fails, but as a new victim enters for the staring, she tilts her head to the side and allows her eyes to bulge out. Losing interest, she goes back to watching the door, body now turned fully, allowing booted feet to occupy a large portion of the bench. Fishing requires cleverness, and a hand flashes into the air, fingers casually waving towards her. Come hither, yes. It's not a trap, or is it? It's hard to tell by her clothing is disarming enough. Right? Turning to raise her chin at the scruffy stranger man, she nods down to where her feet are planted. Come on, what's the worst that could even HAPPEN? "There's room here, sir." She calls out in a soft lilt, a purse of lips and excited eye bulge the only thing revealing her true nature.

When is it not a trap? The real question to be had is whose trap it is, and what they're seeking to capture from their victims. D'lei's gaze almost sweeps by, then is drawn back to those wiggling figures, the lilting voice sweet-chirping to call him toward… what? His eyes flicker across the rest of the table, then back to her, and… there's a quirk of his lips, curving upward at the corners even as his chin tucks slightly, and he makes his way over. "Why, thank you," he offers to Evi, his head tilting to survey the rest of the crowd again before returning his attention to her with a crooked, somewhat playful smile. "Did you give up on the other person you were waiting for?" he asks… because, well, conveniently free places don't just appear at crowded tables, especially not being reserved by the power of feet. There's some sort of purpose behind this! Gasp.

It's always a trap, and this one isn't even well laid. Hurried, sloppy, and success rate low, her newest victim has wandered over with his own free will. Marvelous. Not making more eye contact then is polite, she glances at her badgering cousins, watching the blonde pixie of a junior ww launch a piece of herdbeast at the woman beside her. Given the lack of reaction, it's probably not the first time this has happened. Twisting to reveal the coveted spot, she pats it, luring a feline to settle beside her with a click of toes on stone. "Anytime, don't um, mind them, or do. But it won't really change anything, saving your energy would be best." Bright and cheery, each word is punctuated by a tiny bounce in place and wiggle of braid back and forth. At the mention of the other person, there's a tight sigh, "He has to be busy because Tulle can't get cludge or patch to join dinner and they love to eat. Either they are helping him or they are why he's late." Scooching over again, her behind nearly touches the other woman's, "Do you come here a lot? I sorta told NeiNei it looked like you were someone I saw once or something. Except not. You know it's all tough to keep up with. Nei told me not to invite you over, said- Well, she said things." Perkiness incarnate, each word is fast and babbling with a brilliant exuberance that's overwhelming and forward.

"There's something to be said for predictability," D'lei acknowledges as to those others he's not to mind, an amused expression and then sweeping his legs around to take the seat newly vacated by Evi's legs. So convenient! There's that to be said for traps, at least - those laying them try to make sure they're conveniently close to those prospective victims, so nobody gets tired on the way to getting captured. Or… something like that, anyhow! D'lei settles himself in the seat, head tilted a bit to listen to Evi explain, and mmhs, giving her a nod. "Helping or hindering, but either way the cause?" he offers, and follows it with a bit of a chuckle before having himself a bite of his meal. That's what he's here for, after all! …well, it's the part of why he's here he knows, at least, as opposed to the part that's hidden schemes and machinations. D'lei's lips quirk as she calls him out for potentially having been here before, though he's got chewing (and swallowing) to do, so she gets that chance to keep talking. "Oh, well." A small wave of one hand. "I've been away for a while. So, no, but also yes, depending on how far back you go." D'lei smiles, then tilts his head to the side. "And what did she say about me, hmm?" There's amusement in his expression, as well as an earnest sort of curiosity. "She might be right, you know. Some folks just aren't worth the trouble."

"Table manners went sideways after Ony, I think." Evi dodges backward, predicting what might happen as the woman next to her playfully elbows the ridiculously cheerful greenrider in the ribs. Pushing back with her shoulders, the move doesn't break the conversation's tone and fails to distract from watching her new captive intently. "Uh-hmm." Clearing her throat and glaring daggers next to her, "I assume, probably. He's totally not trapped somewhere, maybe." Glancing down and hrming. The chance her mate is trapped somewhere suddenly taking up a moment, stealing her from speaking as she thinks the idea through. Before anymore thought about the terrible potential fate of her Weyrmate can be considered, there's more chat, eyes dragging back to scrutinize this new person-thing. "I um, well, I only go back four turns, Nei's about that old. Four and a half? Well, and candidacy would make it five." The master at using more words then needed, a quick gulp of food is taken to free her mouth for its real purpose. "Well, she said you um. You know sir, the things she says aren't really-." Attempting to find a phrasing that eludes her, "She said you need a shave, and she might have called you a loser but you see sh,e calls everyone a loser." Pointing to the tiny goldrider across the table as an example, "I think she called a senior queen fat once, luckily we don't visit Telgar much. She isn't sure why I choose to speak with um, vagrants? I don't even know how she learned that word." Not the friendliest dragon ever, it seems. Apologetically there's a smile, cheeks flushing, "Even if you're a vagrant, you probably have plenty to share." Kind, insulting yet somehow sweet.

"Lying sideways on the table is only the correct manners in very particular circumstances, yes," D'lei agrees, not that it's actually what Evi meant in the first place, but he's still got that amused, friendly expression as if they are, in fact, sharing a joke. Something fun! As opposed to, well… to thoughts of weyrmates, absent and trapped in unpleasant circumstances. The corner of his mouth tugs inward, wry almost-sympathy for the concern about someone who's (almost-) certainly fine. Not that D'lei says anything to confirm or deny it. (Not that he'd know, admittedly, but still.) He just eats, like he's hungry or something, and the conversation moves on to… the past, first, and D'lei nods to that but doesn't offer much in the way of comment. Still eating, y'know! And yes, maybe it's on purpose, but even so. He swallows in time with Evi's protestations that her dragon is not exactly nice, and grins… which he continues to do as she explains just what exactly Nei said about him. "I mean, she's right," he admits freely, expression still amused even if his tone is almost serious. "I've lost a great deal, and there's some parts of it I've no chance of ever getting back." His shoulders lift in a shrug, lower again, and then he grins. "And the beard'll get itchy, come summertime."

The comment about being on the table lights her cheeks up, eyes glinting with memory as her head ducks down in chagrin. Yep, time to hide that thought away. No need to reveal all her secrets, or really any of them. "Tables can be good for a great many things." Staring innocently up at the ceiling with the corner of her mouth curling upward, shoulder going to ear in exaggerated contemplation. Trapped Weyrmates, much like tables, can have a great many meanings, it seems. Scooting a mug of tea closer to her, the spoon in it is swirled before it's lifted to her lips and sipped from. As D'lei confirms Nei's suspicions, there's a quiet smile, both brows lifting as her eyes glaze and flick back. "She's usually right, somehow." Listening between words, the tea is stared into. "Losing things hurts, but it's also good. You learn to like what you have, and without loss, you might never have something else to replace it all. Your first loss should be that beard, though. Start there. While you're losing things." Straight at him, humor in every word as she bounces in place. "Where are you from? I was born in half-moon bay if it has to be an even exchange of details." Offering up her story has become easier with time, even if the pain still simmers in the sudden loss in buoyancy, body sinking down, and grounding-a massive change from the airy person of moments before.

How is a weyrmate like a table? They both have multiple meanings! …okay, so maybe it's not the best of riddles, but still. D'lei laughs softly, though it's at the thoughts of loss more than weyrmates and tables… not that they couldn't also have recombinations and shared meanings, of course. "Sometimes," he says, and there's a wry smile. "But that's not the only thing that loss is. It's like a table that way." D'lei curls his fingers, taps knuckles lightly at the wood of the surface. "Sometimes, you don't realize things are slipping away until you look back and they're gone." He's still smiling, faintly, but there's depths behind it. "Doesn't mean you can't still find new things, or that you can't treasure what's still there… but don't dismiss the things you did have. They're no less valuable, just because you were a fool and lost them." A moment, lingering on those words, and then he grins. "Beard's good to keep the chin warm, too." While he's talking about treasures-to-be-lost and all! D'lei has a nibble of the bread he put his food on, then hehs. "Right in the bay? Must've been pretty wet," he says, tone light and playful. "Me, I was born at Paradise River Hold. Not in the actual river, though, just the vicinity."

Well, they both have four legs. Wait, maybe not. Evi's not the best at riddles. Keeping up, though somehow also not keeping up at all as her thoughts move around the subject in a zigzag fashion. That's how thoughts work sometimes. Nodding along, Evi follows the conversation, recovering from her melancholy with a deep drink of her tea. "I don't enjoy the past, the future is where it's at and the present." Turning her cheek as her eyes run across the baby being held by an older woman further down. Sadness and longing, the soft person before D'lei sharpens a touch. A singular glimpse of the person Neifeth knows, chin jutting forward even as her large-eyed gaze finds the man before her. "I was born in a cothold close to the bay." Rolling her eyes a touch with the ridiculous elder before her, squeaking slightly at his wordplay with reckless glee. "I was beyond rude, I'm Evi, Comet Wingrider." As if the title is also part of who she is or a straightforward interpretation of who she is. A mask she places on herself, for strangers.

"There's plenty of good to be found in the present," D'lei says, his voice soft and a gentle smile in his expression. "…plenty to hope for in the future, too." He's quiet, head tilted, watching Evi as she softens a bit and then firms up so that she doesn't melt, and there's a wry smile to his own face before… "Ah, close to the bay. A much more reasonable sort of place… though I'd hardly say that reason is the most compelling of justifications for a thing." D'lei grins, as if to lay his claim to all the ridiculousness that one might possibly fling at his feet - as if to make a very throne of it, much like this bench that Evi so kindly saved for him with her own feet - and then hehs at her apology. "I'm a vagrant, remember?" Or so Nei would claim, and D'lei's shown no inclination to argue with those assessments, simply reclaiming them for himself as another part of his ridiculous treasure-hoard. "Not exactly the sort who's known for their manners." Case in point, the fact that he didn't actually introduce himself back.

"All my favorite things are present things, really. Except for Ony and Odi." The two cousins aren't listening as the insult misses its mark, though a rumble from outside indicates a large dragon has found the entire conversation amusing. Stabbing a fruit piece, it's examined thoroughly before being placed in her mouth, feet tapping on the stone as the door gets a quick look. Still no Weyrmate, a tiny wrinkle appears between her brows that's smoothed out before the next sentence leaves her lips. "You aren't a criminal, right? I mean, vagrant implies criminal, and I've met a criminal before and he was not very nice. Stole my cat." Pouting at the audacity of the act, arms crossed. At least that's how she remembers it. "Even if your manners are bad, mine shouldn't be. And of course, examples are important, and when your dragon is rude, you learn all sorts of things, like how to be a good example." And how to write apologies cards, and say 'beg yur pardon. "What will you do if they discover you here? I mean. I could introduce you to the criminal person, I guess. Not that I'd help you be a criminal." She's pretty convinced of this poor soul's life of terrible deeds.

"I only steal cats when they come willingly and demand my lap." D'lei's smile is a crooked one, even as he disavows being an actual crook. "So… I don't think that counts, really." He shrugs, though, because who is he to really know what does and doesn't count? As for his being discovered… well, D'lei seems eminently unconcerned about that, in part because, "The Weyrwoman already knows I'm here." So much for secrecy? "So I'm sure she'll report that to whoever it is she thinks needs to know." He grins, though it's a bit unclear where the joke might actually be, and then tilts his head to study Evi, amusement still lurking in his expression. "Isn't everyone an example of something?" he asks, tone light. "Just because they're different than you, that doesn't mean they don't have something worth learning." He grins. "You wouldn't be the person you are today if it weren't for Nei, would you?" Such a paragon of ill-manners, and yet!

"That isn't consent to steal, I wish cats could go between. Then they'd be harder to cat nap." Evi says this with vigor, both hands splayed out to emphasize her frustration with feline limitations. "I guess, I mean. You are the one getting in trouble." Shrugging and swallowing down the rest of the tea to avoid it getting any cooler. The fate of this poor man's freedom seems to bother Evi more than it does him, and she frowns and shakes her head. "I would not be alive without NeiNei." It's a bold statement that she rarely mentions, yet she brings it forward to this nobody man because she has nothing to lose. "Nei is, my life. I would do anything for her, and she me. Our ideas on anything vary a great deal. She changed my whole life, every single part of it. I owe her everything I am." Speaking boldly and proudly, because whoever she was before, she is now entirely a dragonrider. Moments after she declares dedication to her lifemate, a tall, long brown-haired man walks through the cavern entrance. Evi beams toward the man, they lock eyes, and she waves him forward. "I um, need to go. It was a pleasure meeting you, sir." She makes no move to get up yet, though it's clear her full attention is now far from the conversation.

"That's why I leave a window open." For the cats to escape, presumably, once they're done absorbing whatever affection they want from him and are ready to go wherever else their little feline hearts desire. D'lei has a crooked smile for his expression, one that lingers for Evi's concern about him. Is he going to get into trouble? "That's for the future to tell us." He shrugs, just a little, his expression one of wry amusement tangled with a complexities that he's evidently not going into just now. The smile shifts to something that's less humor and more warmth as Evi talks about her dragon, about the way her life - their lives - entangled and changed each other, and D'lei nods softly. "She gave you your future." He smiles, and - then this conversation is pre-empted by that arrival. D'lei glances over to where Evi's looking, then back to her, and grins. "Of course. Enjoy your present, Evi."

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