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Xanadu Weyr - Training Grounds
This wide, grassy expanse is nestled into a vaguely bowl-shaped curve, granite walls jagged and misshapen as though something's taken a bite out of the mountain. It's high above the level of the beach, with a lovely easterly view of the sea and a long path leading down to sandy shores. Cliffs surround the training grounds on all other sides, excepting a small archway leading towards the hatching arena.

While much of the grounds are left in their natural state, one area has been trampled and trodden by enough feet that the grass struggles to grow. A running track circles a set of equipment - straw dummies with wooden frames, obstacles of various sizes and shapes, and targets for flaming, archery, and whatever else might be needed to train human and dragon bodies alike.

Candidate access to the combined barracks can obtained by way of a simple door embedded into the wooden half of the structure. Weyrlings are encouraged to make use of a short but massive tunnel that slopes gently upwards into the half of the barracks meant for dragon use. To the right of this opening, a jagged crack in the stone leads to a dim cave, alive with the sound of water.

The barracks have become a point of mingled dread and fascination for Averil. The thought of being in a room with people he does not know and is not particularly comfortable with? DOOM. Then there is the thought of what they represent, which, admittedly, is also DOOM (Exciting, scary DOOM, but still DOOM). And then there is the very real fact that the choreboard is in there and he does make a point to go and look everyday. Having just finished with looking bit of his day, he's stepping back into the training yard, pausing at the entrance to fix his hair and smooth his skirt before going about the rest of the evening.

Shiloh is a creature of habit; of routine. It works for him. Stables run best when there is a routine; when the runners know what to expect and when to expect it. And, much the same way, so does Shiloh. The past few days have been anything but routine. Missing meals (at least, missing taking meals together), unusual schedules, random side-trips and distractions; the weight of responsibility — that white knot — that might technically belong to Avi but Shiloh still feels. It has made for a rather broody beastcrafter, and today is no different. What is different is his seeking out of the artist-turned-candidate. Treading into the hitherto not-quite forbidden, but certainly untrodden, training grounds and towards the barracks that have previously held little of Shiloh's attention. He knew of them. He just had no reason to visit. But now he does. With the evening waning, it's probably not much of a stretch to assume he's here to collect his artist; to insist upon time together since they've had much less of it lately. The sight of him smoothing hair and skirt has Shiloh breathing out, a low sigh that is meant to steady and ground him. A preparatory sigh, as much as it is in relief. "Hey," comes casually enough as he closes the distance between them.

It's the 'Hey,' that brings Averil's head up, a brilliant smile immediately touching his lips at the sight of the approaching beastcrafter. "Hey! I was just about to head out to look for you." Closing the distance, he immediately steps right into Shiloh's space, his arms wrapping around the beastcrafter's waist in a hug. "You didn't eat without me did you?" The words are a little bit worried since he /knows/ he's missed a meal or two along the way.

Shiloh's arms wind around Avi as the artist comes close, pulling him in tight against his chest. His face finds his hair and he breathes him in. Like he's missed him. Like they've been apart far longer than they were. A beat. Two. A third for good measure, before he releases him back to the world. "Of course not," comes with a hint of that crooked smile; an expression that might touch his eyes but doesn't quite linger. "But I'm hungry. So lets go eat." There is probably more he should be saying — maybe about that knot in his pocket — but Shiloh doesn't seem ready to say it. "Caverns or café?"

Averil chews his lip at the choices, his gaze flicking to the side before he settles on "Cafe? I'd rather not sit in a room full of people." Not that there is not likely to be a lot of people in the Cafe, but it'll be less crowded then the living caverns, for sure. With the decision made, he slips right back in at the beastcrafter's side, worming his way under Shiloh's arm without a hint of hesitation. "Is everything okay in the stables? The kitten is doing alright? I have treats for him, but I thought I'd wait until morning to bring them down."

"Café, then," agrees Shiloh. He's quick to set them on their course, arm wrapped around the artist's shoulders as Avi worms his way against his side; a familiar position. Routine, even. It brings another breath, a longer exhale as the beastcrafter sets their pace and moves with unerring step back the way he'd come. "Stables? Oh. Yeah, of course," comes with a dismissive little shrug. "They're fine. Cat's fine." And clearly, not the thing that is on Shiloh's mind at the moment. "Don't bring him too many treats, or he'll lose his appetite for mice." He's probably teasing. Is that kitten even big enough to chase mice yet? "So. Uhm," comes with all the subtlety of a brick to the head, Shiloh's attempt at nonchalance falling flat as he squints toward their destination (as if he could see it from here. He can't). "I met Leirith."

Averil couldn't possibly look more shocked then he does at the suggestion that the kitten should hunt mice. "Cat's a /baby/," he points out with a merry laugh. That he's accepted that the kitten is named Cat is something he hasn't quite realized, yet. Fortunately, he's absolutely certain that the apprentices will make sure that the kitten gets enough to eat even without treats. But, there /will/ be treats. It is the questionable attempt at nonchalance that has him tilting his head, his expression curious as he regards Shiloh before following the squint toward.. Well.. Over there. "Oh? I haven't had the chance," he admits. "I hear she's an event." Looking back at the beastcrafter, he tilts his head to the side, aiming his squint /that/ way. "How did that go?"

"Still bigger than the mice." Poor Cat. Shiloh apparently intends to make him earn his keep. But curbing his artist's (and his apprentice's) treat-giving is a task for another day. Today — now — is a time for discussing… other things. "Well 'nough," he decides with another little shrug. "She's nice. Either rumor's are exaggerated or she was holding out on me." Which, could very well be the case. "She did insult my hat, though." And he's not at all offended by this, if just because it was done in fun rather than malice. Shiloh's still squinting ahead, somewhat avoiding Avi's gaze as they move toward the beach. A clearing of his throat and he halts them on the threshold of training ground and sand. "They asked me to stand. For the clutch." It shouldn't be so difficult to say this, particularly since Avi is already a candidate. And yet, it is.

While there are a thousand protests in Avi's head about why Cat shouldn't have to hunt mice, they're bouncing around, disorganized and cluttered and definitely requiring thought before offering /any/ of them to the beastcrafter. Fortunately, he's distracted by the mention of the hat, his expression turning wry. "She had to be teasing," he decides. "That hat is impossibly sexy." But he's being stopped and Shiloh is looking all serious and while he hears him, it still takes a moment for that to sink in. It is obvious when it does though, his hands reaching up to curl in the beastcrafter's shirt, his smile blossoming like a flower facing the sun. "Really? That is.. /Perfect/," he decides. "You'll have to see the barracks. And we can go and look at the eggs. We should probably pick cots before there are no good ones left…"

Shiloh grimaces, shooting a look toward the barracks behind them. "Later." Much later, if his tone is any indication. "I'm sure all the cots are fine." Or he'll make due if they're not. The excitement in Avi may be obvious, but it's not terribly contagious. At least, Shiloh does not seem to share it. "Let's keep walking," he says, never minding that it was he who stopped them in the first place. "I don't know how I feel about it," is admitted before the question can be asked. "This isn't a game. This is serious. I should have asked more questions." There's a flash of something harder in his expression, something tripping dangerously close to loathing, before it smooths out again.

Averil lets his hands fall, his finger tips smoothing wrinkles out of Shiloh's shirt as they resume walking. "I get that," he admits quietly. "It is serious, it could be life changing." Falling silent, he watches Shiloh's profile, his concern at the emotions there tempered with a sigh. "You can still ask questions, Shiloh. I'm sure that any of the dragonriders would be willing to answer them. What has you most concerned," he asks as he finally slips his hands in the pockets of his skirt and turns his gaze straight ahead.

At least one of those hands will be claimed by Shiloh, if he can manage it, fingers twined as he tugs the artist closer. "Yeah," he agrees, for those questions he can still ask. Another shrug, like maybe he can just dismiss the whole thing entirely if he keeps moving his shoulders, and another sigh. Even if it means very little. Most concerned. That has him hesitating again, quiet as they walk along the sand toward the café. "You," he admits at least, sliding a glance toward Averil. "How it'll affect you. Us."

Averil smiles as his hand is taken, his fingers lacing with Shiloh's as they stroll toward the cafe. "I think you are good choice," he decides as he slants a glance at Shiloh's profile. "Leirith has good taste." It is the rest, though, that has him frowning faintly, his brows drawing down in a slow furrow. "Why would it affect me? Or us? I mean, if anything I'm less worried about the entire process /because/ you will be here." The thought of being in the barracks is far less stressful knowing Shiloh will be there, as well. "Or do you mean if you impress?" The question, though, has him halting his steps, his expression serious as he sweeps his gaze up to Shiloh's face.

Xanadu Weyr - Rustic Treetop Cafe
Perched on the cliff overlooking Xanadu's beach is a gnarled and massive skybroom tree. The bark and outer layers are sturdy enough to support the thriving, brushy top, but the interior, which is hollow, contains a spiral staircase that leads to a cafe built on a high platform amongst the branches. With a panoramic view of lake, sky, Weyr and the mountains beyond, the treetop eatery offers both sheltered seating just inside the trunk and tables on the wide deck that encircles the old tree.

The cafe's decor is comfortable and rustic, but closer inspection shows the smallest embellishments to be artfully combined into one detailed masterpiece. The wood of the doors, floor and walls of the trunk have been stained a dark mahogany that lends the space a sense of intimacy. Tables in various sizes have been carved to mimic driftwood, the chairs and benches padded with oiled sailcloth cushions to provide weather-proof comfort. Each table has an aged brass lantern filled with shells and agates gathered from Xanadu's shores, the sparkling natural mosaics holding tapered candles upright in their embrace. Lamps hang from the ceiling on silver poles, the thick frosted glass carved into intricate pastel shells or swirling white-capped waves. At night the colored glass softens the glowlight to enhance the ambience.

During the day, the retractable doors allow leaf-spattered sunlight to fill both the outer deck and the smaller interior with green and gold light, as well as allowing pleasant breezes to cool the interior. On clear nights, farviewers perch on the elaborately carved railing are free for use to enhance the gorgeous view of the stars over the Caspian Lake, the Sea of Azov beyond and the rock formations of the Weyr.

"I mean if either of us Impress." The very possibility brings a swell of conflicting emotions, Shiloh's expression tightening in a bid to keep them at bay. Another sigh. A slant of dark eyes toward misty-grey. "But yeah," he agrees. "That's…" What's on his mind. For sure. The café coming into sight he hesitates again before plowing forward, determined, if nothing else, to get them some food before the evening is too far underway to get a table.

Averil nods in lieu of speaking, his gaze lowering to watch the ground as they move. It is after a long silence that he looks up, his expression serious as he meets Shiloh's gaze. "I think you'd make an exceptional dragonrider," he admits. "It would be hard, because Weyrlinghood is a lengthy process, but we both know I'm not going anywhere." He's not going to even consider pretending otherwise. "Things would be different. But change is normal, it would happen, regardless of the circumstance." With the cafe in sight, his own steps quicken, the desire for food and maybe something to drink stronger then he had anticipated.

Shiloh's lips press into a thin line. Thinking. "I don't know anything about that," he points out, eyeing Avi beside him as they climb the stairs. "Haven't paid much attention." Certainly, there have been clutches and weyrling classes since Shiloh was posted to Xanadu, but he really didn't pay attention to any of that, beyond the cursory curiosity of eggs and Hatchings. "If you say it's fine, then… it's fine." He'll have to take Avi's word for it; he certainly has no experience himself.

Averil trains his gaze back on the ground, his chin dipping in a faint nod as they walk. It's fine. Everything is fine, except that it is not and he knows that it would be unfair to bring that up. It is a thought that has his hand tightening in it's grip, his head giving a mild shake as he lightly clears his throat and slants a glance at Shiloh's face. "I don't want to stay in the barracks," he whispers. "I don't.." Being surrounded by strangers, unable to be himself? Its enough to have him sucking in a shallow breath before clearing his throat. "It'll be fine."

"But you're not staying in the barracks," points out Shiloh, a confused little frown tugging at his lips. He slants a look at Avi briefly before his attention is caught on finding a table. It's no contest, really. He heads straight for the patio and the view of the water. "It will be," he agrees, a squeeze of the artist's hand given before he's reaching to pull out his chair and nod him into it. "Sit," comes in gentle insistence.

Averil nods as he slips into the chair, his hands folding in his lap. "Not yet." Eventually, he will have to, they both will. "And then we'll be seperated when you impress." And he doesn't know what to do with himself. That he's skipping entire parts of the conversation has occured to him yet, his lips twitching in a little frown as he shakes his head and lightly clears his throat. "I don't know what to do when that happens. But, I'll be /fine/," he repeats firmly. "You can't be worrying about me through any of this." It isn't fair.

Shiloh's fingers slip through Avi's hair; a gentle caress followed by a quick kiss to his crown before he moves to take the chair opposite him. The mention of Impression gets a twitch of an eyebrow, a look shot across the table to the artist. "I've been a candidate for all of an hour and you've already Impressed me in your head," he drawls. A firmer expression comes as he leans ever so slightly across the table, fixing Avi with a look. "Stop. We're not gonna do that." Not yet. "I'm gonna worry about you regardless. But we're not having this talk right now. No one has Impressed anything yet, and we've a long way to the Hatching." A beat and he circles back. "You said you were worried about the barracks. But I'm gonna be there, now. I won't let anyone touch you, Avi."

Averil lowers his gaze, his fingers lacing in his lap tightly enough that his knuckles turn white under the table. He's listening, though, that much is clear from the faint nod of his head and the glance flicked up toward Shiloh's face. "I don't think that anyone would touch me," he admits. "I just.. I don't.." Trailing off, he shakes his head, his teeth worrying at his lower lip. "It's different." Everything is different and he hates it. But worrying about right now, when it is not even happening seems pointless. Still, he can't help smiling sadly as he looks up to meet Shiloh's eyes, his expression softening.

"Not that different," counters Shiloh. But his voice is gentle, pitched to soothe rather than argue, his expression soft and affectionate as he regards Averil over the table. "It'll be fine," he reminds, harkening back to Avi's words but meaning it, and not just as a platitude. "Right now, the only change is… well. I don't know," he admits. "Maybe we gotta see the eggs a bit more. But…" But other than that, seems like life as usual. Even if that white knot sits a bit heavy in his pocket. "What do you want do you want to eat?" comes as a means of distraction. "You said you were hungry."

"Fish." The answer is quick and coupled with an exhale as Avi unclenches his hands and reaches across the table for Shiloh's hand. "Breaded and deep fried with fried potatoes." He is definitely seeking comfort food and not at all ashamed about it. "Is it silly that I haven't gone to see them, yet," he asks in a quiet whisper. "I thought it would look to anxious to do that." Never mind that he is anxious about the whole thing.

"You tell me. You're the weyrbred one," reminds Shiloh, a faint smirk at his lips. "Last time I tried to look at anything in those sands the sire wanted to eat me." Not true. Not even remotely true. He's also conveniently forgotten the second trip to visit those eggs in which Avi was with him and nothing bad happened. "We should. Go see them. We'll do that tomorrow." And just like that the decision is made. But right now? Fish. Battered and deep fried. Because comfort food is the best kind of food.

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