A Dam's Thoughts
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Xanadu Weyr - Hatching Arena
The hatching arena stands proudly at the southern edge of the clearing. Dark stone walls lead to a domed roof of tawny orange, an orb like Rukbat's glow or the shell of an egg. There's a footpath that leads along the outside of the building and passes along a hatchling-sized tunnel cut through the edge of the mountain to the west.

The foyer extends out from the front of that dome, a tunnel grand enough for a queen to enter. The central doors can be thrown open to allow massive amounts of people into the foyer with ease, the well-lit space both having many thick-paned windows as well as spaced lights along the walls. Smooth tile has carefully been laid on the floor, a variety of orange hues reflecting the pale tan of the walls. Wide areas have been left unadorned - perhaps for future artistic endeavors - on either side of a pair of low, bronze doors which remained closed the majority of the time, as they lead to the sands themselves. A pair of wide staircases on either side lead upwards to the observation level.

The Dragonhealers' Annex is a bulge on one side, entered through the foyer or through a pair of outer doors less adorned but no less massive, and to the other side, tucked against the side of the building, are Candidate Barracks.


The tall, broad-shouldered blond man lingering as close to the entrance of the sands level of the hatching arena as good manners allows is hardly an unusual sight. If he were carrying a message of professional importance and directed to, he would've breached that invisible barrier of polite distance granted the dam, sire and their riders when there's no egg touching underway. Though Stefyr's only been training up into his assistant position for about 2 months and only undertaking more concentrated duties in that area for the last two sevens, the young man does come and go in his professional capacity with courtesy and efficiency (for all that Rhodelia has also been training him with some of her very best professional scape goating tips and tricks). That he's lingering (OKAY, he's CREEPING; happy now?) here and not coming or going probably means whatever quest he's on today is of a more personal nature. He hasn't been there all day, given that no candidate not on their rest day has that kind of time, but he has been there a while, waiting, for something. For someone?

Is the only reason that Citayla hasn't emerged before now that she was taking a nice, long nap? Alright, maybe. Probably, considering the rockin' hairdo that the healer emerges from the sands with, bleary-eyed and rumpled. You try being a billion months pregnant and taking a nap in a sauna, okay. The junior still has the werewithal to eye Stefyr up and down like he might be injured, gaze sharp for all that she pauses to yawn massively midway through. "Ily says you've been…waiting? I'm sorry." Cita's smile is apologetic and not at all mocking, in spite of the questioning tone and raised eyebrows, as she makes a beeline for the desk tucked away near that door. Clearly, it's not something that's always there, a little scuffed from whatever move brought the thing to this place and maybe wobbly on one leg, but it does have three chairs, and a somewhat stale pitcher of tea. "Afraid a nap caught up with me. C'mere. Sit. Want some tea?" Don't accept that offer, Stefyr. "It's good." It's not.

HARD PASS. Stefyr will not try it. What he will do is offer Citayla a warm smile that says even if her hair is like that, he's not one to judge. He does have sisters, after all, and aunts who must have been a billion months pregnant once to beget those various cousins he can lay claim to. Maybe he has a soft spot, or just learned early on how to cozy up to the hormone ridden women who would serve as protector against siblings and cousins alike when the need arose. Bribery was probably once a common language of procuring some affection from those women, for he produces from a cargo pocket a small, fragrant box made of thin cardboard and offers it toward the goldrider. He trails her toward the desk and chairs readily enough. "I was only waiting for a good moment," which it clearly wasn't before this one. "I hope she didn't disturb you," notice how he doesn't draw attention to her previous activity or hair, "on my behalf. I just have a question. I mean, questions, really, several. But if you're busy, you and Ilyscaeth, really." Those would be the nerves, all the self-corrections show them well. "I don't want to take time from… your life things. Since you're so busy already." A hand gestures quickly, nervously, to the red and white sands. "But… would it be…? A good moment?" He asks, before committing to sitting. She did invite… but still. He works with so many people who are just so busy and deserve every moment of me time that can be wrung out of a day.

If Cita notices the, ah, state of her hair, she doesn't show it — one thing she hasn't grown out of, in all of her time In Diplomacy. She does re-gather it behind her so that it's out of her face as she gets settled in her chair, but that really doesn't do a whole lot, as she fixes the candidate with a look somewhere between concern and exasperation. She takes the box gingerly, though, with a smile and thoughtful squint at it, before she's back to squinting at Stefyr. "I never mind visits, Stefyr. It's boring out there, you know. Ily's great company, but there's only so many times I can hear her compositions on the praises of each egg. Although, I'll admit, the song about the purple one isn't so bad." What's Stefyr supposed to do, shout from the stands? Look, nobody said Cita had to be reasonable all of the time. As for questions, the rider perks a little, sitting up straighter and gesturing more emphatically at the seat. "I'm going to get a crick in my neck looking up at you. Faranth." Cita complains, half-heartedly, sounding uncannily like the old aunties by the hearth as she pours a cup of tea and sips it straight-faced. Sure, it smells like socks and regrets, but…you know what, there's really no excuse, here. "This? Busy? No, no, this is a vacation. Least busy I ever am." It's not much, but look. "Please, Stefyr, any time is good — it's important to me that you're comfortable. Happy. Can't be too comfortable if you're swimming in questions, can you?" The healer reasons, very reasonably, finally opening the box — and beaming, delighted. "How did you know! Thank you, Stefyr, this is very sweet. Faranth, I'm starving, too. I hope you don't mind if I eat while we talk." Because she already is, for clarity, mouth full of crunchy, spicy treat.

Stefyr actually winces when Citayla says what she does about Ily's egg praises, and he colors, his face turning a pretty shade of pink. It's with reluctance that he sinks into the seat indicated, as though he is perhaps rethinking this whole visit and every intention he had when he lingered as he did, with treats in hand. A hand rises to push through his hair, short enough to be tousled and still more or less in place regardless of just how it gets shoved. Boys like him have all the hair luck these days. His lower lip is drawn between teeth to be thoroughly worried while the goldrider speaks. His body shifts in the chair, subconsciously trying to please by adopting a position of ease, only there's tension in every line of his big frame. "It was nothing," he manages for the peppers. Really, the kitchen did all the work - he just thought to ask. Finally, he lets out a breath of defeat, the air blowing through his lips like a runner's huff. HERE'S THE THING, his flush deepens, "I-" he clears his throat; this is so unexpectedly awkward. "I actually wanted to ask… what… Ilyscaeth thinks… of the eggs… each egg." He gives Citayla such a look of apology; he is the puppy who thought they were doing good when they brought their mistress such a treasure, but learned otherwise when shrieks and not praise was forthcoming. His lips pinch together in a very human look of the same ilk as the puppy with its tail firmly curled in shame.

It's lucky that Cita doesn't spit-hand-fix that hair — like a hypocrite, no doubt, but it looks briefly like she's contemplating it. Before the facts catch up: this is not a baby child, and you can't just attack grown-ass men and fix their hair for them. All this takes a moment to conclude, so by the time Cita is back on Pern, the poor guy is looking very very uncomfortable, and Cita is on high alert. "I appreciate it, though." As if to emphasize, the rider takes a very large bite of the remains of the first pepper, smiling beatifically. Or grotesquely. One. The smile only dims a little as the candidate's awkwardness grows, but she doesn't stop eating, gives the poor guy space to collect his thoughts in silence as she scarfs the treats down like some sort of competitive eater. "Well, that's not such a bad request." Cita soothes, after a beat, head tilting all the way sideways — similarly canine, fixing him with a look equal parts searching and concerned. "What's wrong?" She ventures, after a beat, but: "She loves them, for starters. Very much, although it's…different, from how we love ours, of course. Would you like me to get out my notes? I've got specific metrics for each of them. Size. Order of shelling. Color, patterns. Time to readiness for you guys. Ily's initial thoughts, Xermi's, mine, revised every few days —" A beat. "…sorry. It's old habits, really, studying. Ily likes for me to tell her about them, every now and then, once she, ah. Forgets."

"You just said hearing about her pride in the eggs gets…" IS THERE A NICER WORD THAN TIRESOME? Stefyr lets the sentence dangle, clearing his throat. "I just feel… badly, that I came asking you to talk about the thing that you're probably a little…" SICK OF, but he won't say those words aloud either. He just flashes her another apologetic smile. He presses his lips together again, "Actually, that sounds… like just what I was interested in hearing about. I mean, maybe not the metrics so much, but even that… I mean, if my lifemate is out there this time… do you think I could have a copy of that information? About the egg? Afterward?" He looks adorably hopeful now, and is looking less awkward now that it appears the goldrider isn't unwilling to talk about her lifemate's pride and joy. "If it's too much trouble now, I can always come talk to you when it's a better moment. I just… I talked with R'hyn a seven or so again and he mentioned something about duties taking a rider away from time with family. And I mean," it's obvious that Citayla has that. Since the family R'hyn was speaking of is, in fact, the same one he's worried about now, more, some of whom he's even met while assisting the Harpers with classes for the Weyr children. "Is it always this way? That you spend your time as a rider here while she's on the sands? Is that part of what you do for the we?" How does that work for her, anyway? Unease is all but gone as his blue eyes focus on the older woman, expression thoughtfully and thoroughly searching her face.

Cita huffs something like a laugh, pausing in her destruction of Delicious Snacks to take a sip of sock-tea. "I mean, I love talking to her, but she's, ah. Well, you know. Her brand of enthusiasm is a lot." It's SO LOUD, for one. "Don't be sorry. Those eggs, they're for you, being curious about them is natural. You know? I'm nearly as proud of them, of you, as Ily is." The goldrider beams, seems to savor the tea for a stretch as he works out his feelings. By the time he's finished, she's chowing down on the pepper again, doing her level best to make cooing noises. LOOK. "Please. I would love to share it with you, afterwards, if yours is out there. Ily would love that, too." In fact, Ilyscaeth already loves that — the dragon's loud music has grown in volume, as she regales Teimyrth or Xermiltoth, one, with the good news of one of Her Eggs' interest in Her Eggs. Cita glances in the direction of the sands briefly, shaking her head in amusement. The next, though, skitters eyes away again, a little downcast and tugging up something like a rueful smile. "I'm afraid so. Weyr comes first. It's not so bad, though. Can get a lot done, with a baby strapped to you, hm? Golds don't clutch so often, though, so this doesn't last for long, in the grand scheme of things." She echoes a long-ago conversation with an amused tilt of her head, and by the end is content again, sorting through her drawers for a beat. Finally, a somewhat-battered leather-bound noteboook is drawn out, and the rider flips through a good portion of the thing to the ribbon marked section. "Here we are. Do you have one in specific that you want to know about first, maybe? A favorite?" The healer asks, brightly.

If Stefyr doesn't know the 'you know' of Cita's first words (he doesn't), his bemused smile doesn't really blatantly say so, but his smile grows a little as she speaks of Ilyscaeth. "I don't have anything to compare them to, but I'm impressed by them." This isn't empty flattery, though the words are the sort of thing that could be. Stefyr says them with a candor that resists any varnish more intentionally charming people might add. The added volume of Ilyscaeth isn't missed, and it results in a broadening of his smile into a grin briefly before he shifts until he's a little more comfortable in his chair. "Yeah. It was that way on the farm, too. With the babies," and he makes a gesture of one who knows just where a baby gets strapped so work with two hands is still largely possible, "but my mum was always there to see us to bed at night. Seems like that's not always possible when there's duties bigger than farm and family." It's certainly something he's giving some real thought to, but he doesn't linger over the topic as such. His eyes go to her notebook, unconsciously shifting forward on the seat and leaning a little, his eagerness betrayed in small movements. "Um," his thumb comes up to scratch the back of his nail to his forehead. "Yeah. I mean, they're all… quite… something," GOOD? BAD? Hard to say. "I feel…" WHAT? He starts over. "The one that looks like it belongs on a farm?" The Prize-Winning Produce Egg. HIS FIRST EGGLY LOVE.

"I couldn't say I have first-hand knowledge," Cita prevaricates, smiling lopsidedly as she leans back in her chair a little. "But I'd say they're pretty impressive. But then, I could be biased." The goldrider snickers, because she totally is biased. Don't worry about it. The next doesn't quite wipe away the amused look, but it goes wistful on a glance back towards the general direction of her own weyr — where, no doubt, at least a few of those kids are just now. "Well, we try and make sure one of us is. Usually. Sometimes…well, it's difficult, being a parent and a rider. Not a lot of riders commit to full-time parenting." Cita explains, gently, like he doesn't already know this; hasn't been taught by one or other of the Weyrlingstaff. She shifts gears just as easily as the candidate, though, glancing back down at the notebook with a proud kind of look. Which is fair: Cita's good at taking notes, good at the minutiae of it all. "Oh, they sure are. I think Ily and Xermi are, ah, very…impressive, to a young mind. Makes for interesting babies. That's my theory, anyways." Cita explains, on a little shrug — there's nothing to back up this, just a feeling. A Mom-Feeling, though, which totally counts for something. "'It's so green!'" The rider recites, amused. "Surprisingly calm. I'm sure Ily's had ones that were calmer, but this one, well…it's interesting. Xermi thinks it takes after him. Ily thinks that it's sweet. She said that yesterday, it sang with her for the first time," A beat. "That was oh, a seven before you guys were on the sands? Since then, she says it's been quieter. They get quiet, after a while."

The candidate listens to all before speaking, only making a sound of thoughtfulness in loose agreement or just a 'still listening' noise when the goldrider expresses her theory about the minds of the parents and their influence on the clutch. When he speaks, he starts from the top. "It's something to think about. I'd like a family someday. One of my own, I mean." Does that clarification clarify anything? Likely not. "There's a lot to consider in standing." Stefyr's voice has a little more of a rumble to it than the usual clear timbres of his baritone, but he seems to realize that these words may sound misleading. "I'm not having second thoughts. Well, not real ones, just trying to wrap my head around what all is bound up in a sentence that sounds so simple when it's said: 'I want to be a dragonrider.'" IT SOUNDS EASY, NO? NO. DEFINITELY NOT. "I think it's admirable that you… all of you have chosen to try. To do. Despite the challenges." Not that they need his seal of approval, but they have it anyway. His admiration is adorable, though, so maybe that's something worth hanging on their trophy wall. It might be worth keeping that focused look that he gave her all while she spoke of his egg-love. But instead of asking more about that one, he has to ask. "What about… The black one?" Favor the Dark Egg has given such a terrifying experience to so many of the candidates.

Finishing her pepper snack with a deeply satisfied kind of hum, Cita sits back in her chair, arms settled loosely on the impressive bulk of her abdomen as she contemplates the candidate. "If you want to do it, you'll figure it out. There's always a way." The healer nods, once, certain. "Our first two had just been born, when I Stood the second time. I understand. It's a lot…to process, Standing, a lot to learn. Come to terms with. You've all done admirably. I'm not just proud of the eggs." Cita lifts her chin, like it's a challenge — she absolutely would throw down, no doubt, but look. Maybe now isn't really the time. She probably shouldn't fight Stefyr, one of the ones she's proud of. PROBABLY. "Sounds easy, doesn't it? Sign me up, what's a half-turn, in the grand scheme of things? Then the eggs get to you." The rider makes that sound like a horror story, but it's playful, theoretically, good humor sparking in a little snort of laughter. She doesn't quite go back to cooing over the candidate, but she does favor him with a thousand-watt smile, sipping at her tea daintily. Probably because the tea is wretched. Right? Has to be. "Thank you, Stefyr." Clearing her throat, a little, Cita glances down at the notebook, contemplates the notations for a moment. "'Ily hasn't let it out of her grasp since it was shelled. She laid the next three with her wing around it. I think she's worried about it. Dragonhealers checked: it's fine. Still. We worry.'" Cita hums, head tilting, eyes narrowed a little. "I remember that. She was so concerned for that first devenday. I suppose you can see why, hm? I'm told that it's…an experience." Beat. "'Egg won't talk with either Xermi or Ily. Ily's very offended. It made a candidate lose their dinner, today.' Ah." WELL. Look.

Cita's pride in eggs and candidates alike draws a chuckle from Stefyr and a look that says he's not about to fight a pregnant woman for any reason. HE SURRENDERS. In fact, there's the smallest smile betraying the smallest hint of personal pride for the work he's been doing to actively engage in all this ridiculously hard change. One hand comes up to scrub it off his face, though, and then rub at the back of his neck. "That's interesting, about that egg. I don't know that it got much better on second acquaintance, but I'm sure…" IS HE SURE? "I'm sure it'll work out. That egg. Somehow. The whole clutch will work out." His fingers drum on his thighs. "I think I ought to go check in at the office," as he usually does, frequently even when he's not technically on duty, "See if Risali remembered to eat." It's probably his day to make sure her dinner got to her, if she's still at her desk or near it. "Do you mind if I come back another day to hear about more of them? I'd like to know about them all." There's a little wistfulness there, as if fitting everything he'd like, with eggs and eggs aside is a lot to juggle and some things must, per force, be let go.

GOOD. Cita nods, like she gets it, catching that little smile and returning it tenfold. She doesn't say any more — has at least some sense of when singing praises crosses over into Gross, Grandma, Keep It to Yourself — but she nods some more, sage. Yes. Be proud. As for the egg, the rider huffs, lifting one shoulder in a helpless gesture. "They've all been fine so far, in her clutches. It's not the first difficult one. How they are in the egg doesn't…necessarily dictate how they are, on the outside. It just needs to sort some things out, probably. They'll be fine." Cita's sure, there, confident as she is that she's proud of them all; but then, she is, of course, biased. The surety falls away quickly to worry, though, the healer leaning forward to fix Stefyr with a hopeful look. "Please make sure she does. Tell her I asked, to see if she was." Because Cita's Big Sadness And Disappoint is totally a looming specter, obviously. "I worry about her. I'm glad she has good people like you guys keeping an eye on her." Beat. Frown. "Not that she can't take care of herself! She's capable. Don't think she isn't. I just worry." About her eldest? IT'S NOT WEIRD, OKAY. IT'S NOT. There's a little pause of collecting-herself before Cita answers, glancing back towards the sands with a warm smile. "Please do. We love talking about them. Any time." The rider fixes Stefyr with the stern look, now, just in case he doesn't think she's being Serious. "Or anything else. I'm here to talk."

"Entirely capable," Stefyr agrees, and he actually sounds and looks earnest when he says it. This is not a man who doubts Risali's capability. "It's a good feeling, to be looked out for. Sometimes. Often." A flash of a smile means that he's felt that too, probably here, with this team of people he's lucked his way into being a part of. "I'm sure it will be okay. She seems like she's…" He shrugs. But the shrug doesn't imply bad, bad would have a frown. This has a bemused sort of accepting smile. She's Risa, obviously, but he'll add, "Doing better, I think, overall," as more direct reassurance. He rises from his seat. "I will do that, then. Thank you for entertaining my questions. It's helped me." And obviously he appreciates that. "I'll bring more peppers if they have them, then next time, too." JUST IN CASE BRIBES HELP WITH ANYTHING UP TO AND INCLUDING CRAVINGS. Then with a smile, nod, and actually a reach to touch to Citayla's shoulder that is just friendly contact, nonverbal appreciation and reassurance as one, he'll be off.


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