Maintaining Appearances

Xanadu Weyr - Firelizard Theatre
A natural clearing in the forest has grown a different sort of tree. The Courtyard of the Firelizard holds grass trampled into dirt around the wooden play structures.

In the northern part of this field lies a jungle-gym like fort, with two towers that soar to fifteen feet of height. One of them adjoins a large open deck with spiral staircase up and a metal slide down. That aside, the structure's made almost entirely of wood, the boards locked together either by being interlocked or by huge wooden bolts hammered into the boards. The towers are studded with uneven boards and rough spots, various climbing challenges on each of their faces. A swaying rope bridge with wooden slats connects the towers, and beneath it there's a sealed tunnel to run through or play minecraft.

Just past the fort, there are wooden sit-toys carved and painted into the likeness of dragons. They're about two feet high and four feet long, though the green is smaller than the blue. There's a place for a child to sit on the dragon's back, with their feet resting on the dragon's paws and hands on the bars bars attached to the neck of the dragon. Pushing with hands or feet will make the dragon rock and writhe.

In the middle of the field are two sets of swings, suspended by rope from from a wooden beam that's held up by crossbraces on either side. There's a set of monkey bars, made entirely out of wood but carefully polished until the dark bars glow, and a set of seesaws. The sandbox is set back a little from the rest, filled with sand from Xanadu's beach and scattered with buckets and shovels.

Trees border the area, including a massive Lemosian ironwood that has beneath its branches wooden benches with a view of the playground.

Scooch. Scooooch. Scoooooootch. Wiggle. That's Stefyr. Enormous, 6'3", broad shouldered Stefyr who arrived at the Firelizard Theatre just after breakfast with the wheelbarrow now parked off to one side containing a variety of tools and other helpful items to do general upkeep in this part of the Weyr. He hasn't gotten very far, not that there's an over-abundance of things to do what with these areas getting a regular rotation of candidates and others maintaining things, but the metal slide looks a little on the dirty side. Okayokayokay, it's mostly just water stains from yesterday's rain, some of which lingers in yet-to-evaporate puddles around the structures of the Firelizard Theatre. This day promises to be bright and hot, but it's still relatively cool at this hour of the morning. In any case, the dutiful candidate has decided the first item on the agenda needs to be cleaning the slide, so naturally, the much-too-large-for-this-slide blond is sitting on a small stack of rags and hooking his feet over the outside edges of the slide with every intention to— "Whee!" Yep. There he goes. Whee and all. He's 20, really. But he grins like he's 5 on the way down. Turns can add numbers but they can't force maturity. OH WELL.

How many candidates are there? A lot? At least enough that every chore is well-stocked for the most part, but occasionally there are areas running low on candidates and that's how Ajral has ended up actually DOING assigned candidate chores. It isn't as if she's poor at it or refusing to participate with the group so much as that her craft is considered more important, and half the time she forgets her stuff is in the barracks at this point. As Touchings proceed she ends up with even more craft-work to do, considering the candidates finding themselves needing a professional to talk to … but that's neither here nor there. What is actually here is maintenance work that is also being attended to by a Healer in her definition of grungy clothes: high-end fashions that are just old, and gloves covering her manicure and rings, and absolutely not a straight face, because her compatriot just made it fun right off the bat. She's grinning, and starts to applaud when Stefyr reaches the bottom. "That is the best slide polishing methodology I've seen yet."

Although not a crafter, Stefyr's schedule suffers some of the same lack of frequency with candidate chores given that his job is more frequently assisting the Harpers with their lessons for the Weyr's children or in the Weyrleaders' Office, where he encounters virtually the same level of maturity and similar eat-or-be-eaten concerns. Today those burdens are lifted, though, as evidenced by the big, goofy grin that the blond returns to his fellow candidate. "But not very effective," the reply is faux grave as he grips the rags under him and pops to his feet. Those same rags are held out toward the woman in offer. "I'm sure it needs another swipe or two to really make it shine." It's absolutely, completely legitimate use of their time on this chore. THE SLIDE WILL BE THE CLEAN ENOUGH TO EAT OFF OF, OKAY? The rest… Well.

Ajral is much smaller, and thus it's easier for her to get down a child's slide anyway; does that mean her cleaning will be more efficient? Probably not, but it won't stop her from taking a moment to be more lighthearted. The rest of her week has probably been full of misery and crying (not hers), so why NOT just go for a ride down the slide. Or fifty. "Mm," she says, taking the rags with a firm nod, "I think I could handle going over it at least once. My canine could give it a try if we still haven't gotten it …" And someday, the slide will have canines riding disc-shaped sleds. But Rhezhny, the fallout of her first time Standing, isn't present, so it's all up to Ajral to scamper up the playground equipment — and she does scamper, even in heeled boots — and repeat the slide-polishing process. There's totally hair in her face at the end.

"I heard," from someone in authority surely, and not just another clueless candidate, "that a big piece of why we do these chores together is to help us bond as a class. To learn to share the load. I, for one," Stefyr's grin flashes again before resuming an expression of mock solemnity, "will share and share alike with my fellows without complaint. And I think this kind of cleaning really can't help but lead to bonding. I mean, do you see how dirty that slide is?" It's really not terrible. He really got all the debris on his first pass, though there's a little moisture remaining here or there and a few stubborn water spots which impact functionality NOT AT ALL. But he's committed, and his playfulness extends to flourishing a bow to the woman and extending an arm to invite her to take her turn. He follows her as she goes, to stand beside the slide and … uh, be on hand in case she needs additional supplies. Right! His blue gaze may also more dutifully sweep the immediate surroundings to take stock of what else needs to be done. "I don't think we've actually met, except-" a handwave indicates here and there before his arms settle loosely across his chest. "I'm Stefyr."

"Ajral," says she, lowering her head once in a move that's doubly recognition and some kind of agreement. "Journeyman Ajral if you ask people who like fancy titles," she's usually one of them, but not with fellow candidates as that's when it becomes awkward, "But Aja will do as well if that's easier. Good to put yours to a face, or your face to a name." It's both; she's heard the name, she's seen the face, and now they have gelled. "This sort of thing, I can see how it would be used as a bonding activity. Bonding in torture. Some of it I know is to prepare for weyrlinghood, though it all seems somewhat dependent on the clutch, and maybe a little on the Weyr." She squints briefly back at the slide. "Am I supposed to be able to see my reflection in it? I can't recall."

"If you're not one of them," those fancy title people, Stefyr means, "I'd be as glad to go with Aja or Ajral, whichever." His broad shoulders rise and fall in what is probably friendly indifference. "We are comrades after all, for now. 'Til this clutch hatches. And then the next, if need be." That makes him frown briefly, but it's not a look that lingers. He can't afford to have a real frown interfere with the much more serious moue he makes while considering the slide. "You know, now that you mention it, I'm pretty certain I heard Risali or someone else important enough for candidates not to question say that it did need to be mirror bright." He holds out his hands in expectation of the rags for- "My turn. I couldn't live with myself if you took my share of the torture." His grin is there and gone in a flash. This is serious, okay? And he's not holding in laughter. He's just clearing his throat because— uh… There's dust in the air? Sure. Dust.

"Whichever is fine, so long as you don't mean it literally," Ajral confirms; it would be very unusual for her to actually answer to Whichever. Unless she knew it was her who was meant without a doubt, and then she would proably get used to it. "I wouldn't expect any form of title from an equal." She absolutely WOULD expect people to call Risali The Weyrwoman, but this is also the Weyrwoman who doesn't like when Ajral calls her ma'am, so … this is fine. It's been four turns now. She's adjusting. And of course there's dust in the air, they're kicking it up with all the vigorous slide cleaning. "Here, go for it," says Ajral, handing the rags back over, "I am going to test the swings to see if they need to be oiled." Straight face, deadpan.

Stefyr manages, only just, not to smile, not to laugh, but to return just as good as he gets, his expression serious more than deadpan. Then without warning he's turning like it's suddenly a game of tag and scampering up in ways that would be wildly unsafe for the small people for whom this area is probably intended up to the slide and sliding down again. Action so sudden and exuberant might remind some people of some puppies they know. When he's at the bottom again, he pauses to examine their collective handywork and perhaps finds it sufficient because he's sauntering over to join the other candidate at the swings, plopping all but two of the rags in the wheelbarrow along the way. When he gets close enough, he holds one out in the air like a prize she might claim. "Plausible deniability," he explains just loud enough that they won't be overheard by any of the regular, arguably sane people beginning to filter in twos and fours to make use of the Firelizard Theatre to burn off small person energy in the way that this space does it best. That doesn't stop Stefyr from taking the swing alongside, though, for now, until it's needed by someone of less significant size. "So why did you agree to Stand?" LET'S NOT WASTE TIME WITH CHIT CHAT. No, really, his tone holds an earnest curiosity. He's probably asked a lot of the candidates the same question.

The best way to oil-test this swing is to be aggressive with it, Ajral is pretty sure; she moves to standing on it just after Stefyr comes to join her. Thankfully she's short enough t o not hit her head on any framing, and considering the disproportionately long length of her legs, this is almost easier. Almost. Its' harder to swing much when you're standing, but she can inspect the hinges with a rag in hand and make it look like she hasn't been playing, if anyone was going to comment upon it. The actual children do get brief glances, and she's looking for a particular series of faces but doesn't find them. "I couldn't think of a reason to say no," is her very boring, very honest answer. "It was something to do and has begun something to continue to do, though I think I'll stop soon. Probably at twenty-five. Yourself?"

"So you've done it before?" Stefyr seeks confirmation of the inference drawn, moving his rag down along the hinges that attach to the swing beside his thigh, though his motion is a slow thing that is more a side to side wiggle, using one of his feet as pivot point than a more traditional swinging motion. "Hinges look good?" He inquires helpfully and politely before making reply. "I'd heard that dragons don't make it if they don't Impress. If their person wasn't there. So I accepted because I didn't want something like that on my," well-developed, "conscience. Now, it's that and I want it. Well, I think I do, anyway." That has his brows creasing a little bit. "How long have you been living at a Weyr?" That question is tossed toward her with a sidelong glance that would be calculating were this anyone other than Stefyr; on him, it's more meditative. (RUN, AJA, RUN!)

"Six times," that's to how many times Ajral has stood before, "I mean, this is the sixth. I think." IT MIGHT BE THE SEVENTH? She's losing track pretty rapidly at this point since clutches are background noise for her more than anything. She's also still swinging while standing; it is also meditative and fits in well. "And I was born at a Weyr. Not this one. So I was there until thirteen, and then I've been here for four and a half turns, so … seventeen turns, ish? Where are you from?" She is going to turn ALL the questions right back and probably not come up with any of her own, but — she might.

Stefyr's brows lift in some combination of hope and approval. She's not only a knowledgeable resource for matters of candidacy, but she's also a voice of experience in Weyr matters. He doesn't verbally seize upon her immediately though. His brows resume the usual level as he continues polishing the one joint and moves onto the next in the chain. "I came from a farm, out there." That probably means Xanadu's region if not immediately in close contact with the Weyr. "A lot of farmers there. No dragons or dragonriders. This is all new to me." His lower lip gets gripped by his teeth briefly, a nervous tell that will only take a couple of sightings to be categorized as such, no doubt, but he seems to come to some decision. "Will you tell me about what it's like to be on the sands when the dragons hatch? I've never seen it and being out there with the eggs is intimidating enough. I feel like…" He slows his back and forth wiggling on the swing, coming to a stop just as his thoughts do and then starts up again when he finds the words. "It feels like I can see all the parts of a painting but can't grasp what the whole really looks like, or is. Does that make any sense? I'm missing important things, but I'm not even sure what questions I really need to be asking to find out what." He waves his free hand in the air as trying to throw away the idea that is in some way unsatisfactory to him, if his expression is anything to go by.

Farms are ALSO going to get interest from Ajral, because she actually finds farming about five hundred times more interesting than Weyrs. Talk to her about plants; who cares about dragons? But Stefyr has more important things to say; it's not a value judgment, so much as that the kind of conversation happening now scans to her as genuinely more important. These are perspective things and they need to be said! "It makes perfect sense to me, but a lot of things that make sense to me don't to most people. I try to be open to listening because I can follow what people mean more metaphorically than the average listener. It's just also hard to describe because 'outrageous chaos' is all that comes to mind. There are baby dragons all over and people doing all sorts of different things to cope with being surrounded by confused, hungry baby tooth machines."

Save Stefyr from the day Ajral finds out his first job at the Weyr (before Risa co-opted him and the Harpers found he was neglectful with his reading, writing and general knowledge) was as a gardener! No, actually, he'd probably be totally content to talk plants with her for as long as the subject holds any interest. BUT ANOTHER TIME. "Thank you for listening," has authentic gratitude behind it, but it's not over-done, just simple and straight-forward, like the man seems to be, really. Most days. "Can you think of anything as chaotic to compare it to? Anything I might be able to grasp?" His blue gaze strays toward the enlivening play structure as more littles join those already arrived in the instant games that manifest their existence and can dissolve with the same amount of warning in a strange ebb and flow rhythm that might mystify even a trained observer. "Toddlers at cookie time?" He tries out the idea, lifting his brows in question to Aja, adding disconcertingly (to himself), "And we're the cookies?"

"Well," Ajral says helpfully, sliding down into sitting-on-swing mode again instead of standing — but she DID clean those cobwebby hinges while she was up there! "Not exactly, because dragons don't want to eat people. Injuries usually happen if someone doesn't get out of the way fast enough, they're generally accidents. I've not heard of dragons being violent on purpose. But — ants?" There's a little bit of a shrug to go with that uptalk, but if he came from farms, ants swarming probably creates a good image!

Stefyr lets that image sink in for a few wiggles before he rises and rubs the cloth over the swing chains, rather haphazardly. Then he's moving around the immediate area, adjusting bits of dirt by tamping them down with his foot, picking up a stray lost hair tie, and a random weird bit of cloth from the far side. He needs to move while he processes, so he does, and productively. "Sounds scary," he'll at least finally admit. "So, basically, remember to breathe and be ready to dodge?" This is probably the sum of the most important hatching day advice already offered to the candidates, but Ajral's first hand testimony probably brings new significance to it. "Do you ever do anything special to get ready for the hatching?" He's probably not sure what he even means because he doesn't volunteer any examples.

As much as it is tempting to suggest 'calisthenics,' Ajral doesn't; instead, she is just going to keep swinging on the swing for a minute and think. "Essentially, yes. The ants are the people in addition to the dragons. It's just crowded. And there used to be more of them when there was Thread, then you'd be looking at more than twenty of them running around." Things she is glad she never had to see. "A couple times ago I cut my hair. It's grown back now, but it was nice to have it off my neck — the sands are hot — and very aerodynamic. I would not recommend doing anything that involves becoming intoxicated."

"I lost my drinking privileges anyway." Those words just pop right out of Stefyr's mouth as half a grumble, half a guilty admission. The sheepish way he looks toward Ajral briefly as he starts to make a wider circle, engaging in what suspiciously looks like actual chore work would seem to indicate that the admission was an unplanned one; just a consequence of his candid nature. "But I wouldn't want to drink then, anyway, I think. I mean, what if I missed something important? It seems like the kind of experience you drink to forget if it doesn't work out, but would want to remember every moment of otherwise?" His intonation rises in question because, clearly, he's just winging it and she's the authority on this topic. "Will you cut your hair this time?" He inquires, another furtive glance given specifically to the hair in question.

"I've gone drinking afterward a few times, but mostly to sample fine wines and make sure no one else does anything stupid," Ajral admits. Doing anything to excess isn't her, and she barely drinks as it is (and, again, it's part of her image of elegance and not anything about inebriation or taste). "Since I didn't find it to be that soul-crushing. Simply a thing that ended with one of its two most likely outcomes. But a lot of people, mostly younger ones," and he's younger than her but not young for a candidate, so whether or not she means Stefyr is unclear, "put huge stock into Impressing and so they engage in that kind of partying behavior afterward. Which is fine, just not something I would do. As for my hair … depends on the weather. I'm leaning toward it."

"Oh hey," comes the bolt of revelation. (RUN, AJA, RUN. RUN FAST. RUN FAR.) "You're a healer," duh. It can't lead anywhere good after that. Stefyr comes to lean on the frame of the swings for a moment. "Do you, by any chance, have any interest in cliff diving? Or teaching first aid to people who might need it?" TOTALLY UNRELATED REQUESTS, Y'ALL. HE'S PROBABLY EVEN ASKING FOR A FRIEND. Nevermind that he's still distracted looking at her hair, at her face, maybe trying to picture her as different than she is now. "If you don't Impress this time, I guess it follows that you'll just go back to doing what you've been doing?"

Well, cliff diving is a partying behavior, so it WAS tied in to the previous conversation! Ajral's attention was briefly grabbed by the side of the swing set, where she notices actual wood in need of maintenance and has started groping through her kit of cleaning and fixing items for sandpaper, but, "I do not teach unless required, but candidacy often asks that one of me, so I've got experience," is the full disclosure there. She definitely has done a lot of basic lessons! It's usually not as simple as she wants it to be! "But cliff diving sounds interesting. I haven't tried it. It also sounds like something that might be better with a dragon, though not that it has to be your own dragon." Diving off dragons into open water! "But yes. I like my job and intend to do it regardless, I just think maybe I should stop taking breaks from promotion track for — this." Sanding a swing set. "Taking a break for cliff diving, I could be persuaded to."

"Keruthien wants to take a group," Stefyr explains, "and I was thinking it would be good to have a healer with us. You know, just in case." He wrinkles his nose a little, "Though I guess maybe Ruthien will wait it out until after Hatching? Just in case someone… breaks something important." Would that disqualify a candidate from ending up on the sands? He doesn't seem clear on that point, but the principle is probably sound. "I would appreciate your company, in any case." And her skill set. "I think Keruthien would be happy to have more people. Rhodelia's going to go along, too." He tamps down a bit of dirt that, oops, his own boot toe dug up while he was talking. "I think I'm going to start making a wider circuit. See what else needs help before someone reports me for idleness." Even if he can use the bonding as argument why it was still serving the purpose (it's not a winning argument, but something is better than nothing). "You want to start on this side after you finish that very important sanding," he has a very bland tone and a deadpan expression for that, "and I'll start on the other side and we can meet in the middle?" Before she can answer, though, he adds, "I'm glad you're Standing. I'd hate for one of those hatchlings not to make it because you were the person it was looking for. Even the terrible egg deserves to try out the world." NO ONE TELL ILYSCAETH HE SAID THAT. OR ILA. LISTEN, JUST DON'T TELL ANYONE. OUR ENORMOUS SECRET.

One of those is someone Ajral knows because she knows them; Rhodelia is one of that very short list of people who she would take hits for. If she'd be punched on her behalf, she'd definitely try something nuts like cliff diving. It is a lot less nuts than other things she's seen people in Xanadu do, but the one she's commenting on isn't actually Rhodelia, it's: "Keruthien is either brilliant or insane. Or both, but the combination should be a Harper Master, not a dragonrider." Still, the one-shouldered shrug is with the other shoulder, and she's agreeable. "Just pick some gradated cliffs so there's a learning curve. And again, maybe bring a dragon." Someone must have a rider friend who won't care much about actual judgment calls in candidates! "That was," swallow, "That reasoning was part of why I decided to keep going. I think 25 is a good age to stop, but until then, I'm going to take what you just said as justification not to quit. And they're all terrible, but they grow out of it." That last parting advice brought to you by someone who absolutely adored one egg in particular and was petrified of all the other ones more than once — but even if she knows which egg he means, they're kind of all terrible! But in a good way: "It would be alarming if they were normal. I'll be right over as soon as I've gotten the splinter." Which, eventually, she does get free of the swingset before a child gets cut in the head. It was a very bad height.

"Both," Stefyr contributes without compunctions. His bro is definitely brilliant and insane. He's got his back. "I think he likes being a Smith," in case that matters to Ajral's assessment of the young man's character, however naively basic his assessment may be. "I'm not in charge of the trip. He is." That's reassuring, right? "But if you don't get to him first, I'll tell him you said so and that you'd come." He flashes a grin to the healer. But then, with another toe scuff and hands tucking into pockets, the rag still in one taken along for the ride, in another of his nervous tells. "I don't think they're all terrible. In fact, for just a moment, the blond gets a sappy love-struck look. He clears his throat. "So, this side-" he indicates the side he intended to take, and then without lingering so the embarrassment over her his eggsexual orientation as it presently stands can't set in too deeply. "See you in the middle, Aja," he calls over his shoulder as he goes to the wheelbarrow to collect the appropriate supplies and get to it.

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