Whistle for the Wind (Ajral is Searched!)

Pern - Sea of Azov Crossroads
The crossroads stand in a rare natural clearing somewhere along the Sea of Azov shoreline. The small beach is composed of coarse sand, littered with colored shells so that the overall effect is more of peach then white sand. A driftwood bonfire is set for the next group to rest over here along the southern trade route. Rough beach grasses line the rest of the clearing and eventually the jungle once again takes hold. The crushed rock roads are clearly labeled with wooden signs indicating all the local holds, halls, and weyr. The sign indicating Rubicon River Road is subtitled with Rubicon River Hold and Dolphin Crafthall.

Summertime is a decent enough time to get called away to provide medical assistance at one of the smaller holds — it's Ressac, specifically, that Ajral is on her way back from an overnight stay at — in part because it comes with nicer areas to take breaks at on the ride back. If it had been monsoon season, or even if it had just been raining, this wouldn't be as nice and she probably would have pushed through, getting herself and her runnerbeast back in tired but workable shape. Breaks are better, especially here, where one can enjoy the colored shells and watch the sea … But the break has also taken a less than ideal turn. While her runner is tied up by the grass continuing to alternate between a graze and a standing nap, Ajral is now sitting on one of the bonfire's makeshift log 'seats' with one boot on, and has her bare and slightly bloodied foot up on her other knee. She's got a bottle of antiseptic — a small one, designed for travel — on the ground next to her, tweezers on her lap, and is biting her lip while suturing her own injury. Clearly not the respite she'd been looking for, because even Ajral is not weird enough to do this sort of thing intentionally.

Occasionally, that ocean view is dotted with seafaring vessels coasting towards their predetermined headings. Some shipfish break the surface behind their paths, throwing extra glitter onto the water's surface as the waves break under Rukbat's midday glow. Flocks of birds drift overhead, calling to one another, adding peacefully to the ambiance of such a resting place. Breaking that quiet melody is the harsh, muted grating of wood on the mixture of gravel and sand that makes up the thin strip of beach. It's the sound of a small landing boat being pulled up out of the water, though the sight of it remains out of view beyond a clump of tall vegetation and a few sparse trees. Momentary quiet is breached by the sound of heavy bootsteps headed towards her, unhurried, too-sure. A black-wrapped hand with glint of silver-ring pushes a low-hanging branch out of his way as the entity appears. Dark, shaded by more than just the shadows of the flora through which he passes, Ki'lian pauses at the periphery of her little campsite to take in the origin of the small fire and tendrils of rising smoke that had flagged the fact someone is here. "Fancy seeing you here, love." Drawled accent comes in rogue's nonchalance, heavied by recent but waning inebriation and curled by the crooked smirk that grows on the edge of his lips. It crafts lines into his features, deepens the darkness that comes with the presence of the arrogant predator. It takes him a beat to realize she's doing more than just sitting there, one heavy brow risen as attention strays to her suturing. "Surely you have people for that."

There's a moment's pause as Ajral places Ki'lian without looking up; she regards the voice, the sounds, the ambiance. Recognition dawns in her mind but seems to have no effect on her body, as she just keeps suturing but provides a response of, "I do. Of course. Trauma is my secondary training," technically, it is her first, but it's trauma of the mind versus trauma of the body, "And I would have a talented surgeon fix this were I in the mood to ride home with a hole in the bottom of my foot, which I am not. I also could have left the overlarge splinter in there, but opted against that decision as well." The boot driving it in deeper not being any better a choice than leaving the hole. "It's only going to need another two. Might have someone else redo them later," as the suture hook goes back into her skin and she winces briefly, pressing her eyes shut, deep breath, release, "since the mattress stitch isn't one of my talents." She ties off the third suture and finally looks up, giving the bronzerider a sarcastically beatific smile.

No matter how many sutures he's had put into his body in all too many various places, the details of the concept and skill involved evades him completely. So he listens, looming once he's come to stand just on the otherside of her fire, the light dancing across too-light ice-touched eyes rimmed in kohl. It is almost as-if the flames gate him from her in this delayed approach, like the ominous presence of a wild animal circling some lone and vulnerable camp in the depths of the night, its tapetum-glow stare caught just-so in the periphery. The bemused expression lingers, his head tilted just-slightly, interested in her expression and the discomfort that plays across it rather than the treatment she's administering to herself. "I'm no bloody healer, but that looks particularly unpleasant. I'm unconvinced you have adequate distraction." His good hand searches into a pocket of his long leather duster jacket that it must be far too hot to be comfortable in, retrieving his flask, and unscrewing its top with deft motions of thumb and forefinger before holding it out to her. It doesn't so much matter that she has no hands available with what she's engaged in. His priorities are showing. "There are faster methods of travel than that beast you have there." He reminds, his condescension to her elected means of movement shaded in his obvious biases.

This is indeed another meeting of the Perfect Eyeliner Association, yet Ajral's is a little bit smeared at this point from all of the eye-wiping and eye-pressing of the past day and most specifically the last twenty minutes. Pain makes one's eyes water often, whether or not you are inflicting it on yourself — or stepped on an overlarge wood chip while stupidly being barefoot on a beach full of pointy things. She has had her smarter moments. "I actually thought of asking if you had anything to numb my senses a little," she quips, though at this point she's far enough in she simply powers through the last suture first, ties it off quick and then accepts the flask in a quick fluid motion that has her tilting her head back and taking two long swigs before returning it in a fashion as ladylike as the long drink wasn't. "But," she continues, "I'd then dismissed it. However, when you put it in front of me, well. Thank you. I don't like bothering the Comet riders unless I need to, and this was a simple enough overnight on my own. I do like traveling." Considering that since she's moved to Xanadu she's spent about a third of her time not there, that would be obvious to some: as her and Ki'lian's not-theres often overlap, it was likely less so.

Movement is prompted when she accepts his offering, like some Deal taken without the fine print uttered. His long coat sways as he tosses it out of the way, inviting himself sitting down on a downed log very close to her, in that flagrantly bold manner that is so encompassed in his authoritative arrogance. He's close enough that he'd probably be in her elbow space if she has to lean to get a needle bite at an awkward angle. "Isn't that what they're there for?" The Comet riders, he implies. "I would assume they enjoy being bothered for a chance to sail someone like yourself from one harbor to another." His leathers rustle as he reclaims his flask, drinking from it after she's finished her take of his rum. Being this near, he brings with him the smell of seaspray, earthy leather and rum, and that underlying something that is him. He settles one elbow on his thigh, head turned enough for those intense seablues to never leave her. Studying her. Taking too-long between his words in expectation that the world waits for him alone. The crackling of her fire takes up these intervals, that sort of quiet-loud that is all too fitting. Serpentine smoothness embodies this man, his words that same honey'd venom as he spins them. But despite the questionable direction he'd come from, the suggestion of danger that drips from attire and voice and posture, there is a familiarity that blunts the edge of that blade just-enough. "Traveling to the same places over and over? Aye, sounds thrilling." Dry sarcasm remains amused, needling lightly. "Have you still a desire to go farther? Chase your own horizons? Or are you sated now, with this." Not this, not stabbing herself with suture material. But the much more broader this.

"Well, not always the same places, but — " Ajral has to give it to him, really; since taking the promotion, she has been doing a lot of that. A lot of it. The same few places, the same tasks, the same jobs. Chasing down people who are running away from mindhealing is thankfully something she can still refuse to do; enough are forced to see her by their wingleaders or family or other loved ones that she does get to do what she likes to do some of the time. In one place, maybe two. With finishing touches put on the sutures, she starts to wrap bandage around the wound — it's closed up now, but keeping it open in her boot would simply compound the problem she started with. She moves more carefully, so she doesn't whack the bronzerider with her arm or end up lolling bandage over him incidentally, but otherwise seems not to note the closeness. Rarely are people this close to her, so in some ways it's a novelty. An almost uncanny one, a novelty all the same. "No, you're right, it's dull. My job isn't dull, but the restrictions on where I can go and what I should be doing are. I am not — I am happy with my knot and position, but there is always more, and I would always try to seize it, if I could. Things need to dangle in my reach, though. I'm not young enough anymore to hunt down risk and adventure out of having idle time … just wise enough to know it's my choice to walk through the door that opens in front of me for it." Which is why she took the knot, because saying no would be staying the same and not walking through that metaphorical door. It was saying goodbye to some freedoms, adding on requirements she likes as well as requirements she doesn't, but the only things Ajral just says no to are things that personally offend her, and that's a very short list.

A conversation isn't what he's here for, but even though what really brought him ashore is hidden in the bottom of that landing boat, his interest- for the moment- has left his original plan. Of course he's right says the expression of his face, that flicker at the edge of his grin interrupted by the way he licks his lower lip. He is always right, after all. "Aye, there's always more for the taking if you desire it enough." Ki'lian's fingers play with the back of his rings, idly, thoughtfully. "You needn't go back to them if you wish not." Cryptic is this beginning of an offer, but doesn't he always have a Deal to spin? When one wants something, it's his wheelhouse to exploit it for whatever it is. The man doesn't bother to adjust to make her bandaging any easier, though he doesn't appear to be imposing on her space for any other reason than he wants to. "You've enough knowledge to put a basic wound back together, enough dealings in complicated men to handle a bunch of scallywags. You would be quite valuable on a ship. You could leave all this behind for the water. Sail far, far away. Far enough that those monotonous halls, dreary responsibilities, and boring stories are just a dream you'd rather forget." It would be so easy. There's no question in his offer, no suggestion that there may be trouble to be had if she would give in. Say yes, and he'd undoubtedly take her right now away from this beach, away from this Weyr. He may have ties, but he can sever hers instantly. He could make her disappear. A cleverly sent firelizard here and there to stifle the questions, a chess game played across Hall and Weyr. What kind of freedom does she dream of?

A dangerous belief, always being right. Ajral had it once herself. It was another thing she grew out of, much like wanting a family — she has become someone who is somewhat proud of having no one to say goodbye to. Disappearance would be as easy for her as for him … mostly. There are a few people who would care, and Rhodelia would likely both be disappointed and understand simultaneously. But the thought is tempting, and holding her attention much longer than the idea of putting on her sock and getting up to leave, so Ki'lian keeps her attention for now. She knows she's being … maybe manipulated, maybe exploited, not exactly played with as everything he's saying is true, but she's pretty sure there's motive behind it besides making her life better. It just doesn't bother her. Equitable exchange is a logical part of human interaction, and makes more sense than goodness ever has. "Tempting," she says, because it is in many ways. "In some ways I might still grow bored, not having a garden of mysteries to press upon people whose minds plague them more than they can handle." Pern's inventor of theoretical psychotropics just couldn't leave them behind, evidently. "It is — not a decision I think I can make right now," she should, really, just say no, but she has fought against her 'what is right' versus 'what sounds more enjoyable' instincts and not made the saving roll. She's been there before, to the point of almost being in this exact conversation before … "But especially if you ever have a true need, like Ressac suddenly did, at least keep me in mind for a short contract. And I'll find out how long I can vanish before anyone actually notices I'm not just somewhere else expected." Letters between Weyr and Halls, indeed: it might take a while!
If he's disappointed in her hedging, and the lack of her blood-writ signature on bottom-line, it doesn't show. Maybe it's because he expects her response, though the reasons why, the little tells in her defense are what are far more enticing than her answer itself. More informing. More.. well, just more. There are flecks of power in everything- he suspects she of all people, knowing the mind as she does, must know that. He takes another drink from his flask, a smaller one, the sloshing of the precious alcohol within providing key intel that the rum is not yet near gone. "Aye, there are moments when the days grow long and the nights longer, when sailors start to forget the beauty and danger of the sea they voyage over. That is when they tell their tall tales. Some true, others.. ah.. less so." His words are captured in the rumbling of his breathy, brief chuckle. He takes a breath, lingering on the next thought before speaking it, "It's the fact that they have made those stories, have lived a life precarious enough to be the night time narrative rather than just hear it that keeps their boredom from stealing the next chance at glory from their grasp." The word glory may be a slip, that devilish grin more prominent for a second in repercussion, amused with himself. Pleased with himself, even if it is in error. "But so be it." He muses further, "If it isn't just escape you desire, love, perhaps you'd prefer something a bit more.. familiar." He has to sit up a little bit to allow himself the space between him and her without jostling her in the effort to fetch something from his tunic's hidden breast pocket. The white, slender simple braid is in his black-covered maimed palm, rather crumpled up simply by consequence of how he had stored it, held between them right before her to be taken if she wants. To be left behind if she wants. Disappointment has discolored this in the past, has it not? Not once, but several times had she been left Standing. Once, even at his side so many turns ago. Surely it is not so white to the mind's eye, not so innocent as it maybe had been the first time. He cannot empathize, doesn't empathize, but his curiosity remains upon her expression as if not just looking at her, but through her. "I believe you to be rather acquainted with what this entails." His intensity strays from her long enough to examine it himself, distaste unhidden from his rugged features. "This is not a burden I'd bestow even upon my enemies, nor would I consider it a token of my debt to you still unpaid." It's neither terrible nor rewarding, he means. "But-" This abruptly seems more personal, an admittance perhaps, if still guarded, "Perhaps with one more time, you can find your own horizon."

"I do like stories." Ajral is smiling, now that she's gotten around to making herself move, to putting on her sock and shoe while listening, and then returning her focus entirely to conversation as if she has no deadline to be anywhere. In part because she doesn't; she may still be chained by duty, but she does set her own schedule. Some things, the big knot gives her in waves. "Tall or otherwise, I would make a game of determining truth versus lie, and might get stabbed for prying, but it'd be worth it." In that hypothetical maybe-future, one she can see herself moving toward easily but is afraid of permanently severing ties that protect her. In case she needed to run back again, and couldn't. She's seen knots taken away before, ranks stripped, and she would never be that person; she is too good at what she does, too aspiring to perfection to let it slip away. As he continues to speak her eyebrows raise a little, curious and calculating, and then she squints as a very different knot takes center stage. Six times she's worn one before, and she left that behind a few turns ago. Ajral never looked back. Never missed it. Never thought about that what-if: running off with pirates was more realistic at that stage. In fact: "Well, I think I'm more likely to run off with pirates than Impress," she says, then purses her lips again the way she'd been doing to stop herself from processing pain, except without the biting this time, and impulsively takes the knot. Surprise! Not the expected move. "But I do still have an outstanding study that requires its first author to have a dragon, and I don't think you're going to write it for me. Also, it seems," and here her smile turns a little more teasing, "that Impression doesn't prevent running off with pirates."

"You would make a bloody fabulous show of it, I have no doubt." Ki'lian responds to her deciphering of truths and lies. His fingers curl over his wrap as she makes her answer and leaves his palm empty of that ominous symbol. His hand turns back over, lazily left to relax at his knee. Her balance of chances between an illicit sealife and dragonriding make him look down a second, a breath escaping him in another abbreviated sound that must be a laugh. "No, I don't believe I would be the best choice for such a telling. The stories that follow me tend to lean towards the dramatic." That doesn't mean they aren't true, but it lends to a bit more flavor and spice than a study ought have. Her free use of his less savory title has him watching her once more, one heavy brow risen at her in that precarious entertainment of her actions that never seems entirely benign. "You've my word, my offer is still upon the table. All you need is to ask, though you must not forget the terms will change. You will never be truly free of restriction. There is no unconditional freedom if you don't leave those sands alone again. There's no turning back." For all his usual nonchalance, iced thickly with his amusement, this is as somber, as almost.. grave as when he first revealed that knot for her. It isn't exactly regret, but there's something there, something complex that he won't give just-now.

Which won't stop Ajral prying: "I know you won't tell me," she says matter-of-fact, because it would not stand to reason that he would suddenly be remarkably forthcoming, "But I am curious what it is besides my own career arrangement that is playing behind your eyes." When one's eyes are made of such strong contrast as his, it's easy for someone who has made that very same career reading micro-expressions to find the changes. But to be able to read the changes they have to know that person inside and out, and while she might know Ki'lian better than some people do, it isn't that well. "I think it may be worth the tradeoff. Most riders I know," emphasis on most being very slight, blink and you miss, "Don't consider the dragon itself a restriction, and not all dragons need to be parts of Weyrs. Though it is true most do, and I think even I am the sort who needs to have a home to return to — though that home has always been what I make of it. A dragon can travel to the other side of the world in an instant and take advantage of timezones to be back before lunch, though." So what if that results in sleep deprivation: when does Ajral sleep, anyway, and for how long? It's certainly rare, though maybe not as rare as physical human contact.

An exhaled breath through his nose is the confirmation that he isn't prompted to divulge anything significant. His thumb continues to tease the back of one of his rings, though slower than before. "Perhaps one day." Perhaps then he'll speak more than on wounds to be patched back together or innuendos or teasing jokes. But he's even less inclined now that he's the one to blame for sending her back to Stand, potentially to have a mind attached to hers that wouldn't keep its mental-mouth shut. "Zyddagath has made me a better captain than any man could ever hope be. None other can out sail me, none can catch me off-guard. I have been to lands I could have never found by virtue of sailing alone, lest I starve on my way trying to get there. He is everything I deserve." There is weight in this, spoken deliberately, the word chosen carefully. "But should Leirith or Tineangrath, Inasyth or Ilyscaeth ground us, I have no say. For as much as you will gain, there are chains, lass." The leathery sound of his adjusting comes again as Ki'lian rises to his height, looking down at her, holding out his hand once more, this time to help her up like the gentleman he knows he is. "Need you time to get your affairs together, or will you join me in my return?"

Eventually, were she to Impress, Ajral would train that mental mouth in how discretion works — but even she knows, having known Inasyth in her earliest days, that weyrlings do not understand that. And Xanadu has a particular tendency to breed dragons who are loud. It is a justifiable concern for mindhealing in general, and one that she'll maybe have to reckon with. Later. Because it is not where her focus lies now. "You have a point," she concludes, instead, "about the queens." And she knows at least one of them will be thrilled she's agreed to Stand again, once she gets the chance to tell her. Which will come along sooner than later, but perhaps not soon enough — she accepts the hand offered her, anyway, and nods her head once in thanks. "I've got to get the runner back, and I don't think he can go by dragon, or I would."

"It can't find it's own way home?" Ki'lian has a very clear lack of understanding of animal behavior, mostly because he doesn't care to know. And while his dry sarcasm is as thick as his accent in that question, he's also partly serious. "It has a fair chance of outrunning any Felines out here, I'd imagine." That unlikely assumption is as far as he'd press, however. He does have a few loose ends to tie up before he returns to the Weyr, after all. He'd not leave that landing boat to the next shady group of scoundrels that passes by. The man lightly pulls her to her feet and almost right into him, his head tipped in the piratical rogue's quite unnecessary sort of partial bow, lined by his grin and a wink. But he would let her go shortly after, taking up the brief task of retwisting the lid to his flask, and stowing it away in the pocket from whence it'd come. "As you wish." The man starts to step away, leaving with no further fanfare to delve back into this twisted life he's made for himself, but he stops just before the brush curtain between her camp and his beach landing. "But I do have one request. Before the eggs grow too hard, and you can't venture too far, allow me to show you what you've been missing." And then he's gone, at least from immediate view, his bootfalls soft-crunching against the sandy gravel in a slowly fading rhythm.

End Note: Whistle for the wind – hope for the impossible. This possibly derives from the nautical superstition that the wind could be summoned to help a becalmed vessel by whistling for it. Possibly it was thought that the wind would blow in sympathy with the sailors’ blowing. Conversely they should refrain from whistling during a gale. Some sailors believe that whistling raises not a fair wind but a storm.

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