Education and Entitlement

Xanadu Weyr - Shore of Lake Caspian
The cliffs that run along the shore come and go, various weyrs nestled along the tops of them or dug into the walls, but eventually they recede enough to expose a beach. The white sand echoes the rise and fall of the cliffs with a multitude of sandy dunes, endlessly creating tiny valleys that are constantly demolished and rebuilt by the frequent arrival or departure of dragons. The dunes smooth out as the gentle slope approaches the edge of the deep blue water. The sand darkens, and a shell here and there stands out for children to collect.

The beach narrows to the southwest, leaving a path barely wide enough for dragons in single file before cutting in to a smaller, more sheltered cove. The sands are the same white, the waters the same blue, but they're calmer and more tranquil, more protected from the winds that ruffle Lake Caspian and the currents that tug beneath the surface.

Rough, wide stairs lead up to the meadow above and the road that runs along the top of the cliffs, passing through the fields and heading for the river mouth that can be just barely seen from here. The largest of the staircases up the cliff is located near the docks that jut out onto the peaceful blue waters.

At LAST, time has been carved out to take Stefyr out for a flight. True to N'on's philosophy that Candidates should see as much of rider life as possible before the hatching, the greenrider has kidnapped Stef to accompany him on a routine patrol. See, it's not fun. It's educational!

By comparison to flight with Leirith, Zhelinath's aerial rhythms probably seem quite easy to handle. Takeoff was a little hairy, with Zhe leaping high into the air and flapping hard to gain height… but once they reach a good altitude, she levels off and soars with surprising grace. There's something almost balletic about her long curves and gentle swoops as she sets a pattern of ever-expanding circles centering on the weyr. When the time finally arrives for a break, she sets her sights on a high cliff overlooking Caspian Lake, and cruises in for a comparatively gentle landing. The spot has the dual benefit that takeoff will be a bit easier, and the view is simply amazing.

By the time N'on gets himself and Stefyr unharnessed, the green has already settled neatly down in her sunny spot and spread her wings for maximum sun-soaking. N'on seems entirely unsurprised, and demonstrates how to get down by sliding down over her shoulder.

Nervy is a good word to describe Stefyr's anticipation of flight, fumbling with buckles and probably needing assistance ultimately, but once they're airborne, his hands relax by increments from their death grip on the straps where they hold him in place. They tighten again when Zhelinath makes her landing, but that's reasonable for only his second ever flight, especially when he's probably having flashbacks to one very rude gold who wanted him to be a BADASS, whether he wanted to be or not. He's even fairly steady on his feet when he reaches the ground. The candidate mimics N'on, stumbling a little as he lands, but doing nothing as embarrassing as falling on his rump. After steadying himself, he turns toward the dragon to offer simply, "Thank you," and to N'on, "both." Only Stefyr's voice holds a depth of emotion in the few words that makes it mean a lot more. He stretches his arms over his head then rolls his broad shoulders and moves to look over the view. "Wow." It's an exhale, and then there's silence. But comfortable silence. "N'on?" He should look immediately to the rider when he's initiating conversation, but he doesn't, his cheeks touched slightly with just a hint of color at what's coming. He bites his lower lip a moment before apparently deciding to commit to this conversation. He looks to the shorter man, "Would it be okay if I asked you more questions about flights and— rider things?"

Zhelinath arches her neck and puffs a bit of air at Stefyr, ruffling his hair. Then, she lets her eyes close and settles in to enjoy a nice sunbath. N'on, for his part, leads the way to a nice spot where the humans can sit and enjoy the view. As he looks out over the lake, he certainly seems content to let the companionable silence continue, but he glances over when Stefyr calls his attention back. Whatever he was expecting, it probably wasn't that, as his smile freezes in place. But it's only that instant's hesitation before he gives a little nod. "Better to know before the Hatching," he signs.

If N'on weren't the observant sort, he might miss that Stefyr flinches slightly when N'on's smile freezes. His cheeks darken very slightly and he looks down at his hands in his lap, resettling a little more comfortably. "If it makes you uncomfortable, I can ask someone else. I don't want you to feel that way. I just thought… better a friend." His voice grows quieter the longer he goes on and then there's a little shrug. "I have a lot of questions." It's half apology, half warning, but he's really waiting to see if N'on would just rather opt out of being the Source of Dragonrider Wisdom for this candidate.

N'on shakes his head when Stefyr offers to go to someone else. He waves his hand as though dismissing some invisible annoyance, and shrugs. "I'll answer if I can," he signs, then smiles tentatively. Uncomfortable? Yes. But who wouldn't be? Apparently he's willing to suck it up and deal long enough to get Stef's questions answered.

Stefyr takes his time to consider. Those slippery words are always so difficult to catch from the sea of options, some similar and close to right and others just vastly wrong. The more important the topic, the more important it is to take one's time in capturing just the right ones. This is important. "How… did you deal with it?" His cheeks are deeper in color now, and his Adam's apple bobs. "I mean, I loved someone, I thought, but I never so much as did more than hold her hand, and only in the way that one would a friend. I don't know if you knew more than me coming into this, but… flights… That just sounds…" WHAT DOES IT SOUND, STEFYR? The words tumble all at once, probably none of them exactly right, but perhaps the deluge provides insight to the whole of the idea: "Frightening. Uncomfortable. Awkward."

N'on goes a little bit round-eyed at all that, then turns his gaze back toward the lake. Words are important, and they're even more important when they're difficult to come by. With some minor reluctance, he pulls out his notepad, but for a moment he just taps the paper. Finally, he starts writing, slowly forming the words with a deep crease of concentration. Then, he passes the note to Stefyr and pointedly does not watch him read it. OH LOOK, A LAKE. "It is all of those things. If you Impress, don't let your dragon's first flight be your first time. — You have to let go of the Holder notions about it. If you keep love and lust all tangled up in your mind, it will make it harder."

As the note is passed, Stefyr's whole body comes to get it. Well, sort of. His hand comes, but he also shifts all of him so that he's sitting a little bit more companionably close to the greenrider instead of a bit of a distance away. Maybe he feels weird being over there, when the topic is so personal. Whatever the reason, he gives the note his attention, his throat clearing slightly, before he even starts reading. That blush looks to be trying to stain his cheeks forever at this point. He's silent some moments after he finishes reading before offering the page back to the greenrider, his eyes going out to the lake. Finally, he speaks, "That sounds… hard. I guess I'd like to actually like anyone I got physical with, but if Risali and R'hyn's…" he stops himself just short of explaining the rumor of their appearances that is surely all over the Weyr by now. "It seems like it doesn't always happen that way. His fingers curl over his knees and then drum, and then basically out of nowhere. "I heard," though he doesn't cite a source, "that some weyrmatings consider flights cheating, even though it can't be helped. Is yours like that?" He hurriedly glances to N'on and looks uncertain, "If that's too personal, just… don't answer." He'll live without answers, even if he's curious.

N'on's brow furrows at that question. It seems to have hit a bit of a sore spot with him, because he looks out toward the lake to consider his answer, his expression suddenly a bit reserved. When he answers, he resorts to sign language. "No. We do our best. We talk. We work through it." He lifts a shoulder, glances to Stefyr with an awkward forced smile, then back to the lake as he continues signing. "We just love each other and hope the rest works out."

Stefyr's, "Sorry," is so soft. "It sound hard." It's equally quiet. He doesn't press more on that point, right now. His eyes latch on the view for a few moments before saying, "It's probably good that I don't have a someone, going through all of this. One of the candidates has a girlfriend back at the crafthall and that just sounds rough." His eyes briefly close and then as the blush makes his cheeks ruddy again, he adds, perhaps just so he's as vulnerable in his own way as N'on was, "I'm just blundering around kissing people. Boys." Then there's a visible wince as his hand reaches to rub his shoulder as best he can reach, "And getting bitten by flight-crazed girls. Well, one." Plural makes it sound worse, doesn't it? And it's an exaggeration anyway.

N'on lifts a shoulder a little and gives an amused little wink. "Worth it," he signs. The information about Stefyr's love life leaves him looking a bit lost for anything to contribute. He scratches the back of his neck, then lifts one shoulder. "You are young," he signs, so helpfully. "Normal." As though N'on is some sort of old man and not only four turns older. Silly greenrider.

It is, in fact, this point that Stefyr will point out. "And you're so old and wise?" His brows lift, amusement playing across the line of his mouth, turning the edges up just a little. "I'm twenty. You can't be more than…" He leans back a little as though to give N'on a more fair assessing glance. "Twenty two?" He hazards, face squinching in played up uncertainty. "How long have you been a rider? How long have you been with your weyrmate?" Both questions end up sounding almost like one question the way he delivers them, one on the heels of the other.

N'on grins a little, and taps his chest. "Old heart," he signs, with a slightly impish look. Then, more seriously, he provides his age. "Twenty-four. Zhelinath, 3.5 turns. V'ayn, over four?" He looks up at the sky, uncertainly, then adds, "I think. Only weyrmates after Zhelinath. Complicated."

"V'ayn?" Stefyr didn't mean to sound that surprised. His ears are turning pink, actually, and he's suddenly suuuuuper fascinated by that big, beautiful view. After a moment of collecting some— something anyway, he dares to look back at the greenrider. "Too complicated to put in a good word for me? I asked him to make me things so I can learn the difference between royal icing and creambutter," HE NEEDS LESSONS, SEE? IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH FLAVOR AND HIS MOUTH. "But that was sevens and sevens ago." And still. no. icing. His lips press together a moment and he looks out at the horizon, then back to N'on. "Complicated, how?" The fact that he only uses two words might be indicative of his nerves in asking, but he still does ask.

N'on darts a startled look at Stefyr's reaction, which slowly shifts to a crooked grin. He nods slowly. "I'll make sure he gives you icing and not mayonnaise." He winks, then his grin grows a bit more wistful. "When he has time." The question of how complicated things were earns a grin that is rueful, this time. "He was a Candidate, then Weyrling. Then I was a Candidate, then Weyrling. Then we lived at different weyrs."

"I like mayonnaise, too." Stefyr replies somberly. Food is serious, okay? Then he has a little slow nod, "I can see how that would be complicated. I feel like every time I start to get a handle on myself as whoever I am now, something else happens and I'm starting all over, with no more clue in that moment what the truth really is. It's hard enough to feel this confused inside myself without sharing too much of it with someone else." His lips purse a little in thought. "I mean, I'm making friends. Trying to. But it feels like we're all sort of… in our own bubbles of very intense change. Our own eggs," he looks proud of himself for coming up with that comparison and gives N'on what amounts to a pretty goofy lop-sided smile. "Sorry. I'm babbling again. It's that whole silence thing. It's like an invitation even if you don't really mean to offer it." He reaches a hand to briefly touch the greenrider's knee, "Sorry," and the meant apology delivered, his hands return to his own knees. "Are you happy as a rider? With this life? Don't wish you were back home doing what you did before?"

N'on waves off the concern about the babbling, with a slight roll of his eyes. "It's easier if you talk." He smirks a little, though it fades to a more serious expression. He glances back to the lake, and there's a moment or two where he really does look far older than his years. But after giving the question due consideration, he shakes his head. "I like myself," he signs, flippantly. "This life is me. I love Zhelinath. I love V'ayn." He shrugs, with an almost apologetic smile. Whatever regrets he might have are kept to himself for now.

"Why? Because it's 'complicated' for you to talk? 'Too complicated'?" DID YOU THINK STEFYR HAD FORGOTTEN WHAT ZHELINATH TOLD THE CANDIDATES? "What did Zhelinath mean about you being too lazy to talk?" Stefyr inquires, something that might be a little underlying playfulness hitching the edge of his lips up like there's a smile restrained. He glances to the green and then back to the rider. "You make it look appealing, you know." He doesn't say that N'on makes it look easy because that probably wouldn't be accurate of Stefyr's impression. "Riderhood. You seem comfortable, with yourself. I want that. For myself, I mean."

N'on rolls his eyes melodramatically at all that and heaves a great sigh. He flicks his fingers in Zhelinath's general direction, but there's clear amusement underlying all of it. In the end, he lets go of the act with a crooked grin and shakes his head. "Some things are not important and too much effort." He glances past Stefyr to the green, then adds, "Zhelinath disagrees." The question of how comfortable he is with himself is waved off with a little shake of his head. "Secret," he signs, then holds his fingers to his lips with a slightly comical expression. "No one is comfortable. Some people pretend better."

"I disagree, too," is at least polite for what Stefyr could be saying a whole other way. "I would think that whatever you wanted to say would be worth the effort if the person you're saying it to is worth it. I might be affronted if you start deciding things aren't worth the effort to communicate with me." He's really only half-joking here. His smile is actually strangely vulnerable as he flashes it over to N'on, some small anxiety in his face. He looks to the horizon again and then slowly, slowly dips his chin a little in what might be a nod, or simply part of his acknowledging confession. "I know about pretending to be comfortable. It's harder here than it was at home. Maybe it feels less necessary here because no one's expecting anything in particular of my character. Of my behavior and work ethic, sure, but not my me-ness." He scrunches his nose, dissatisfied with those words, but looks to N'on with a helpless shrug.

N'on shoots Stefyr a sour little look. "Easy for you to say," he signs. He's totally deadpan except for the faintest glimmer to suggest that he is entirely aware of the horrific pun he just used. But then he gives in and claps Stefyr on the shoulder. "Gets easier," he signs, with a little grin. "You'll find you." With that odd little declaration, he starts climbing back to his feet, then offers Stefyr his hand.

"Easy for me to say?" Stefyr replies with a tilt of his head, lips pressed together in somehow still subtly challenging line. "I only learned how to flap my hands," no, N'on will never live that one comment down, "so I could understand." And maybe other reasons, but those would undermine the present argument so Stefyr's smart enough not to bring any of those up. "If I can make that much effort so we can converse more easily, don't you think it's fair for me to hope you'll put in the same effort to let me hear you when you have things to say?" He doesn't mean audibly, of course. Hear, here, means understand. He won't stand yet, he'll look up at N'on and wait for a rebuttal. Some things are worth delaying a departure for.

N'on looks vaguely exasperated, but he takes a moment to gather himself before responding. When he does, he keeps it rather short. "That is not the same. You don't—" He stops, brow furrowing as he realizes the signs won't quite cut it. Instead, he signs, "This is an idea worth effort." Notepad time! He's not quite as kind as usual in composing his note to be sure Stefyr can read it. It's a bit scrawly, and if Stefyr doesn't know the vocabulary, he might just have to puzzle it out for himself. "You aren't entitled to my every thought just because you offered me accommodation for a disability." With that note passed over, he raises his eyebrows and offers Stefyr his hand again.

Stefyr stays seated. If anyone's doing deep thinking about this, one might come up with the idea that the very tall, very broad shouldered blond does not want to tower over N'on during this not entirely peaceable exchange. It's not exactly a fight, but it is a Discussion. He reads the note, and offers it back up to the greenrider, not appearing to have difficulty with what's written. In fact, he's verging on downright total competency (vocabulary issues aside). "I agree with you." He replies after a moment, tone firm. "Both about signing and about not being entitled to your every thought. But consider, please, that it's an effort for me to find the right words to talk with you. Not because you have a disability but because I like you and I want you to like me." There's a quick gesture that might mean to dismiss more complicated meanings of the word like. Right now, it's just plain likability. "You helped me when I was buried and sunburnt. You didn't have to. That's reason enough for me to want to get to know you better, but I don't want to have a friendship with you where I get less than a sampling of all of who you are just because you have the extra processing time to decide whether or not to spend the time writing me something that's too complex for signing. I don't want censored N'on. I don't want you vulnerable with every thought shared. That's not what I mean." He glances toward the green as if to allow that her definition might be different. "I just mean I want to know N'on. Whoever N'on is. Even if it turns out that you're usually just an enormous asshole and that moment of getting me numbweed was a rare quirk of benevolence." It all sounds unlikely, but he's making a point here. Or trying to. When he finishes speaking, his brows go up as if to question if he's made that point or needs to blunder-babble on. It certainly doesn't sound like any of this was a planned thing on his part.

N'on stands there listening to all of this. In fact, he pointedly crosses his arms while waiting for Stefyr to finish, one eyebrow slightly quirked. When it's clear that the Candidate is finally finished, the greenrider unfolds his arms and slowly brings pencil to paper again. When he's done scrawling the note, he tears it off, passes it over, then turns and starts walking toward Zhelinath. BETTER HURRY UP, YOU'LL MISS YOUR RIDE. But whether Stefyr reads it now or later, the note says, "You don't get to decide which of my thoughts are private. _I_ will decide when and why I share the ones I share."

"I didn't say that I did!" Stefyr's voice is exasperated as it comes from behind N'on, his long-legged stride catching him up as the note gets shoved into a pocket. "Shards." He'll swear, too. "That is not what I said." OR not what he meant to say. And see, SEE, N'ON? This is not easy for him to say. None of it is. But regardless, Stefyr will settle into a brooding silence for the ride home and farewells will hold real gratitude and good manners, but the candidate will waste no time making himself scarce. Maybe N'on doesn't see it, but those words were all hard for Stefyr and some part of him had to be laid bare to get there, and now it's time to nurse wounds the greenrider probably had no idea he was even inflicting. Friendship is rough. Life is rough. Time for a blanket nest.

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