Distant Shores

Xanadu Weyr - Wanderin' Wherry Tavern
It is often whispered, in the crowds that converge here, that a certain Weyrleader was asked what he wanted in the remodeling of the pub that was not so long ago given a refreshing. He muttered back over the rim of his ever-present mug, "I don't care what you do with the place, just so long as there is plenty of ale." With that in mind, cask after cask of ale lines the walls of the tavern, the remodeler's idea of a jest. As they age, the casks bring a real rustic atmosphere to the pub, along with the deeply wooden flavor that seems to be the theme throughout.
The lighting is dim, as it should be in all good pubs, and the tables and chairs are plentiful. A long mahogany bar, intricately carved with runner beasts, stands vigilant duty at the head of the bar, lined with stools for those patrons that seek the bartender's company. Behind it are drinks for those not inclined toward ale, as well as a door leading to the small kitchen where snacks are made and a back room that probably holds yet more ale.

Between's Black wasn't going to return Lake Caspien for another sevenday at least, but unfavorable, frightful weather had swollen the Southern Sea in no sailor's favor. While a crew like her's were used to the savagery of storm seasons, the ship whose colors were risen only far out to sea had returned to Xanadu's waters earlier than planned. Waves of the size of mountains and black as night as they rose with the depths themselves and the horrors they held were not always easily traversed, even for her captain. Damage to the ship had left the dark-clad and kohl-eyed man with few options, and a bitter mood. From wherever he left her to be repaired over the last few days, he and a small band of his merry men had returned to Xanadu soils just hours before. It's early yet this day- just shortly into the afternoon, with stormclouds darkening the sky and soaking everything without a roof over its head. Pitter patter thrums into the melody of the background, the higher pitch of the leaves catching the rain drops, and the lower rhythm of the sand and soil taking the rest. Intermittently does a flash streak in blinding brilliance across the sky, to be followed many seconds later by the crash-rumble of lightning - the worst of the storm is far off, leaving only this song for the Weyr itself. Despite this being a tavern, this is not quite the fitting group to partake in it for being part of the Weyr proper. A table in the the Wandering Wherry has been taken over by a loud group of men- Kaellian and five others. His grinning, though not quite as broadly as he should be with a mostly full bottle of rum in his hand. The expression comes off of the raucous behavior of the others, clearly inebriated, probably already had been over the past many hours. One smaller man of fire-red and greasy hair with freckles spattered across every visible inch of him has a twenty-something turn lass in his lap who seems to be utterly enjoying herself, though her hand flies down to smack him in the face for something. The other men erupt in louder laughter than before. Kaellian leans back in his chair, somehow maintaining that square-shouldered arrogant poise that bares no question to who runs this bunch of hooligans. Black-leather covered legs are man-spread, one arm rested on the tabletop, the other on the arm rest. He seems removed a bit from his crew, his black-wrapped and silver-ring'd hand scratches slowly over his scruff, distracted by thoughts bidding him elsewhere.

And so the sky sings her fury, rage splintering in brilliant flashes of light to emphasize danger in so much beauty, an answering explosion of super-heated air crescendoing from an ear-rending CRACK to a rumble of sound — a warning come too late, a command to yield before the next strike comes, before death finds a suitable bride and claims them for his own, welcoming them to a bleak eternity of nevermore. Risali comes in from the rain, hooded for once, dressed in her own blacks: in leather boots, and fitted pants too soft to be her usual leathers; in a tunic of midnight that hangs uneven about her legs, the longest lengths reaching her thighs and the shortest her hips, left unlaced at the breast without becoming an illicit invitation to look. She's even abandoned her riding jacket for that hooded top, wet and clinging, offering little protection, being pulled to fall towards her back and reveal her own kohl-rimmed eyes - smeared, just a touch, but almost artfully so. And perhaps Risali never intended to be in the rain for long because those eyes search with a purpose, but she was in the wet long enough to have rivulets of water dripping from her hair, making a spectacle on the floor while Risali scans the crowd, finds Kaellian, and for just a moment… drips at him. There's an intensity in her gaze, a determination that comes in the set of her shoulders, in the set of her jaw as it comes up a fraction of an inch in defiance, as if to dare him to say something. And then she moves. Strides not nearly long enough carrying her with the confidence borne to a woman with strength, who knows what she's capable of, who knows what society expects of her and doesn't care. She wears it like armor, cloaks herself in that dismissive regard for propriety and expectations and rules, her gaze fixed and unwavering on Kaellian, every step steady, every step intentional. And then she's there at the table, putting herself between men and girls and Kaellian, leaning down to twist fingers in his tunic as she leans close - much too close, close enough for the tips of noses to bump, to taste alcohol when lips part after an aching moment of non-contact near his own that could have been something more. Maybe she's helping him save face with his men, because she draws back just enough to turn her head, to take in all those men and to smile in a way that colludes with the imagination to conjure up dark sheets and the press of bodies between them. "I'm borrowing this, gentlemen." And there's a tug, an expectation in the gesture that he'll follow as she rights her posture, as those grey eyes go to the woman and something mischievous comes across lips, scrunches up her nose, lingers as she strides away without looking to see if Kaellian follows her. TO A BENCH! A piano bench because there is a piano in here now, FIGHT ME. And she starts to play - perhaps an ode to the weather, or a testament to her mood, but she lays into the keys with movements of body that say she was born for this. WELL COME ON THEN, KAELLIAN. SIT.

Thunder shudders against the tavern, suggesting a frailty of manmade structure versus the wrath and plight that dances 'round it. The neutral brutality of nature at her finest. The men bare no notice of what rages beyond those walls, absorbed in their dalliances, their reprieve from long oceanic tedium broken up by those short adrenaline-ridden acts that award them their grim title. The young woman stands, twirling out of the man's grasp with a swirl of long white skirt and gold-touched bangles, giggling with red-flushed cheeks in a mix of inebriation and coy flirtation. She's anything but subtle, though, as her obvious familiarity with this group and her actions land her on the next man's thigh with a reach towards Kaellian, pleading his attention. However, his distant look has returned to now, and seablue eyes have focused on Risali at some point when the wave of crowd shifts as the ocean tides, revealing a hooded figure which captures faint recognition spilling into the sharp glint of curiosity. Annoyance is in the look of the woman, maybe who had wanted a tale to tell as so many rumors in more seedy seaside taverns have boasted of him before. Maybe it is just blatant jealousy. Either way, there is a silence that becomes the table. The cacophony of the rest of the bar seems to grow louder as their boisterous chatter is no longer a part of it. The clinking of glasses, the sharp sudden laughter of someone else at the far end of the bar- it rises around them but not quite invades the bubble of tension of those men, that woman. It is unclear if that arrest of mood is won by the defiant confidence of the woman who approaches their captain, or how he might react. Perhaps this alone speaks volumes of his past, whether that be violence, or the rapscallion's womanizing behavior not sitting so well with some. Kaellian barely moves when Risali is suddenly there. It's aloof intent, observation, a dangerous patience letting her take what she's going to take. Only his head straightens a little bit, his hand falling back to the chair from where it had been thoughtfully stroking that scruff of his. He smells of leather, and seaspray, and rum, and him from this distance. Those too-light eyes flick down to her lips first, then up to her eyes. The edge of his lips curling just to one side in his crooked, mischievous devil's grin. The tug bids him forwards once that moment breaks, and he gives no more to his crew, than "Men, as you were." And he's gone. After her in that swagger that has long-since become him, sitting beside her too-close. Shoulder to shoulder on that piano bench. First, he watches her expression, then down to the keys she strokes with intimacy. His posture shifts slightly, and as a few moments more pass and the score starts to escalate, bloodringed fingers lay upon black-and-whites. He falls into a complimenting address at a higher note- far more simple than her score. Aye, he plays, but as no harper-trained lad. No, only what has befallen in the likes of spaces such as these in turns and turns before, in reprieves such as this one.

Lions do not concern themselves with the opinions of sheep - at least that very Lannister mindset is what seems to follow in Risali's wake, a lack of concern for the jealousies of women or the concerns of men. Her focus is on Kaellian, on abducting him away from his men and absconding with him here, where they are still out in the open but afforded privacy by the din of a piano they both play. If there is surprise for Kael's talents, Risali's fingers never falter in their song, merely continue in their press of keys to coax melody from those ivory sirens. But the brush of shoulders does have Risali shifting, coming to a slower momentum in that song, concentration less on her fingers and more on the man beside her as she breathes out, "Odd, that a monster might have intimate knowledge of something so beautiful." But there is humor in Risali's voice, not a calling out or an accusation, but an observation made in within the confines of a conversation long past. But that song does come to an end, and Risali's fingers remain poised for one, two, three moments before they drop to her lap, fingers twining in them, a shift of her body as that head tilts up just enough to find seablue with grey. For a moment too long the goldrider simply stares, and then she reaches out to trace his brow with the gentle tips of fingers. There's something communicated there, but it goes unstated as Risali's gaze tracks the work of her fingers. "I'm sorry," come softly, awkwardly, delivered on a twist of lips that's self-deprecating and wry, that falters when her fingers pause and Risali fixates back on seablue. "For…" An exhale. "What I did. Not the dancing, or the drinking," and now her hand is dropping, back into her lap. "But for the rest. I wasn't…" Words. She is so bad at them, and suddenly her attention is on the door, a rattle of thunder marking the silence, emphasizing the subtle jump it draws even when Risali says, "Can we… go for a walk?" OUT THERE, RISALI? IN THE STORM, RISALI? "I didn't… I didn't know what I should do to apologize, but… ah. I… had an idea." Out there. IN THE RAIN.

The flicker of something passes over his expression, much like the brief silhouette of the kraken waiting in the deep. But there's no anger that comes next, only a tone faintly amused and schooled with difficult coloring his gravel-touched and honey'd venom charmed voice. When he speaks, it's low and private, despite already being masked beneath the interlaced notes that flow from fingertips, "Is it not worse, then?" For a monster would be easy to hate if all that came was that which elicits fear and nightmare. It is much harder when just one stride beyond that is that allure, that promise of something more, something beautiful, only to be then trapped, taken. As the big bad wolf would say, all the better to charm you with, my dear. If he notices that she slows on brush of shoulder, the only response to it is that his part in this duet matches her adjustment in tempo. Yet, he does not move. Does not grant her more space. When she looks for that gaze, he's already watching her. Probably already has noticed the way her clothing is done, the lack of riding attire, the hooded piece he's not yet seen. The kohl of her own eyes. Amusement is found in the lines of his face, the small way his eyes narrow just a touch as her silence spreads. When she touches his face, the amusement fades, a slight flex of his jaw changing the contour of it slightly. "Risali-" Is it a warning? It perhaps sounds like one. For a man who cares not for any sort of boundaries, he still claims himself a gentleman. Still finds a heavier burden of caution with the eyes of this Weyr ever-watching. Then comes her apology, and he tips his head to let his gaze fall for just a second. A hand leaves the piano to scratch 'neath earring'd ear before he looks back to her, "There's no reason to apologize to me. I'm not familiar with-" The scratching hand lowers, gestures with a flick of his fingers to indicate all of this. "But I harbor no regrets for our night. Quite enjoyed meself, actually." It's of course intentional the way he states it, that suggestion that it was much more than dancing and drinking in this exact tavern with whatever people around that hadn't been scared off at the start. "Really?" At her request, his brows rise a bit, he glances towards the doorway and the wetness that had been tracked in by the taverngoers that has somewhat puddled at the threshold, then back again. Then, a dismissive deep inhale, then exhale at the concept of braving the storm for whatever she's planned, "As you wish." He'd rise first, stepping 'round the piano bench, his good hand held to her. And he'd follow. YOU WOULD THINK HE'D HAVE LEARNED BY NOW NOT TO FOLLOW XANADU WOMEN.

Risali considers that question for a moment, for a long moment before she answers with a softly amused, "Maybe if I believed you were a monster." But she hasn't decided yet, and Kaellian hasn't tried to hurt her despite ample opportunity (and one very justifiable instance). Ergo: not a monster. It's the warning in his voice that earns him a muted smile, the kind that meets her eyes, and curls at the corners of her lips, that departs as she breathes his name back to him almost as a reassurance before she continues with apologies and requests. Requests that he is amicable to because one must keep up the pretense of being a gentleman… and perhaps Risali is taking full advantage of that fact. But for as much as she leads, Risali finds equal footing, equal ground. The Weyrwoman hooks her arm through Kaellian's, presses into his side as she strides forward through the tavern and then pushes open that door. OUT INTO THE RAIN, with a brief respite as she pauses by the door to lean down and pick up a rucksack full of something. For a time, Risali is silent, merely allowing her feet to guide them down past the tavern, jumping every time lightning streaks and reaches across the sky with macabre fingers, rumbling more threats that echo and rebound, reverberating in a way that's eerie as they find their way back to the beach, towards the yellow-mustard of one blue-eyed queen who waits in silence this time. For now, anyway. And in the rain, Risali is pulling open that bag, is pausing once they're close enough to Leirith for one extended wing to provide them shelter before she starts to dig out the contents. "If you could go anywhere, Kaellian, where would it be?" she asks while she works, pulling away from him to pull out… a helmet? Yes. A helmet, one that she pulls on over her head before pulling goggles on over that. There is her riding jacket, and she pulls it on, pulls on gloves with the use of teeth before extending a helmet to him, another set of goggles in her free hand, waiting for him to take it before she continues. "Anywhere," she says again, because the implication is probably obvious now. "Unless you're afraid," comes the gentle taunt, the challenge for him to face his boundaries if any lie here and conquer them. If he takes helmet and goggles, then she's digging out a riding jacket, one that clearly doesn't belong to her, but probably belongs to either D'lei or K'vir. "Because I would hate to walk back into that tavern and tell your men how you got bested by a girl." Rude, but that smile is playful in its mischief as she holds out necessary articles between them. BOOM! Yeah, Risali totally just jumped again, but shut up.

Could it all be chalked up to the title hung upon her shoulders? Has that mantle, perhaps, stayed his blade, his tongue, his actions even during the heightened instances they've already found themselves in? He wants something. Needs something. However, that doesn't explain everything. Doesn't entirely paint every detail of the facade he's crafted. Kaellian doesn't delve further, letting that amusement of her response smooth it over and wick it away, submerged again beneath that surface where it belongs. That smile of hers draws his own back into the cocky, mysterious grin that belongs there, seablues watching her movements, and holding his arm bent as a gentleman would to let her hook hers through without trouble. If she's taking advantage of it, he's only promoting it further. "You pick an interesting time for a stroll. Let me guess, you've brought us a picnic." There's a somewhat silken note to his otherwise rough accent, now spoken to her at his side, head tipped down to watch as she stoops to collect her satchel and return to their walk. There is a moment where he even offers to carry it, though he doesn't take it unless it's dumped into his possession. His strides are easily curtailed into something easier to match, that swagger despite lengths of step is one that tends to be slower anyway in unrushed intent, of claiming domain, of a flagrant display of his arrogance. It's only dampened by the literal dampness that soaks them now with the skies fully opened up to drench the world as far as the eye can see. When she jumps, the arm she holds tightens as if to hold her grip more secure. There may also be a broadening of that smug look of his. "I imagine," He interrupts the silence, speaking just as a crash of thunder subsides, talking over the eerie rumble that fades for too-long off into the distance, "It is one thing to out fly a storm to go back to your weyr, but it is a wonderful thing- beautiful, really- to hang on to a wheel for hours, only to finally see the sky break open. It gets so dark, you cannot tell the waves from the sky they rise to meet. Then, the light comes, and it's as if Rukbat herself passifies the sea. And you chase that edge, until you're suddenly free." This story bridges the time before the mustard-yellow queen comes into view, and the man physically hesitates a step after they've passed under her outstretched wing. He doesn't immediately answer her question- only when she's held out the riding gear for a prolonged moment does he reach for it with a rise of one brow. "I can think of a few." And this is truth, but it must not be the first few that comes to mind that he's willing to share. "Are you certain of this?" Of taking him on a dragon, on the senior queen meant to clutch. Then she's challenging him, and he reaches to scratch 'neath his earring'd ear again with his wrapped hand. "There will be no need for that, m'lady." The title is prolonged, curled thickly in that accent. "I have never seen the coast near High Reaches. I've heard tale it is spectacular." And cold, but so what. "And plenty far away from this storm." That would a tease just after she jumps again, a wink at her- sly and cocky. He's dragging that pilfered riding jacket on, then, looking up towards Leirith. "The last time I went up there, it was to drag you off."

"Do I strike you as the type of woman who does picnics, Kaellian?" Risali inquires, genuine humor in that question because have you met Risali? That's a very domesticated thing to do, and you'd be pretty hard pressed to find a human alive that'd consider the woman domesticated - even if you asked her weyrmates. To date, Risali has received several titles: Force of Nature, Hurricane, Helcat, Wildcat, and a few less polite descriptors… but never domestic. It's irrelevant; what is important to the here and now is that story that Kaellian weaves as they walk, that Risali listens to with a singular attentive focus on his words, on his face when that chin tilts and grey eye seek him out through the onslaught of rain to see if there is more than what the simplicity of spoken language allows to be conveyed. But Risali doesn't say anything, opting instead for a tug of her lips that doesn't carry humor but something else - something understanding, something that is empathetic to storms and the light on the horizon because maybe she's never been on a ship, but she has certainly seen enough sunrises to know just how impacting they can be in the heat of the moment, in the seek of a thrill, in those times when you were sure tomorrow was never going to come and she came anyway. "Maybe one day you can show me," she whispers, perhaps impossible to hear over the rain as she squeezes his arm a little tighter in hers. Then they break away, then Risali offers escapes, and challenges, and addresses that first question that comes: is she sure of this? Those grey eyes come up, take in Kaellian from boots, rake up, up, up over legs, across the expanse of tummy and chest and arms and neck, trail over his lips, up his nose, until grey eyes settle on seablue again and Risali answers with an honest, hushed, "No." Because no, she's not sure about this. "But that's half of why I want to." Because she's not sure, because Risali is the type of person to take risks and leap, to fall trusting that whatever is there to catch her at the bottom will be worth it. Sometimes it's not, sometimes the impact hurts, but sometimes, sometimes, the rewards outweigh the risks. But she's quiet again, emitting soft laughter for talk of High Reaches and then nodding. "We will have to warm up before we can between again." Not a hesitation, merely a statement. They are already risking a jump between wet, nevermind flashing back into the real world somewhere perpetually cold. So they will need to seek out HOT DRINKS, and DRY CLOTHES, and wait. Not the worst! But there goes Risali, smacking Kaellian open-handed near his ribs for the, 'm'lady' dig before she starts to scale her dragon. FROM THERE, it's a matter of ensuring that Kaellian is properly strapped in before she tends to herself, then that uncomfortable moment of lurching stomachs (that has Risali laughing already) as Leirith shifts, as she moves with a lack of grace unusual to dragons and then leaps, unfurling those wings to catch the wind and push her higher, climbing towards the storm with wind, and rain, and that tingle of gathering electricity thrumming before - POP! Between they go, into that forever cold and eternal black, where lungs seize and one, two, three uncomfortable moments span until - POP! They appear over High Reaches, Leirith tipping just enough as she descends to carry them over the coast, Risali choking down air and laughing as they fly. This is what she was born for. This is what she was meant to do. But Leirith does, eventually, touch down into High Reaches. Now the getting down part.

High Reaches Weyr - Southern Bowl
The size of the High Reaches bowl can be overwhelming, especially to those just seeing it for the first time. To the north are the Seven Spindles — high, crownlike points formed by the extinct volcano and erosion — a good reference point for weyrlings that are learning to go between. The Weyr's lake, a large body that extends all the way to the opposite wall, dominates this part of the bowl. Occasionally, a large shadow interrupts the path of Rukbat's or the moons' light as dragons pass by overhead.

That story was of many meanings, but once it's over.. there is no more. No conclusion, no revelation. And he is content to leave it there. One can imagine he has gone to many places, has seen many things. Has done many things. Has left rumors and scars on coasts near and far. But of all the things he's done, like he had admitted some time before, this isn't one of them. A man of the sea. Barely considered a man of the land except when he's taking from it what he and his men need- or, more specifically, whatever they want. The sky is not one of these places. And this is no ship. There is no wheel for him to guide, no riggings for him to pull, no sails for him open into the winds to take them where the compass points. No crew to direct. He doesn't do helpless, he doesn't do not in control. And for all the bundle of arrogant confidence, profuse pride and dark wrath that composes him, he looks at Leirith as he had the first time, masked only by way of carefully schooled expression and pulling that helmet on. He's distracted by all this, only belatedly looking back to Risali as she's looking him over. "I know I make this look good, but the goggles-" Not quite as sexy as he'd prefer. A low chuckle follows her after she smacks him, storm-touched sea blue eyes tracking her as she climbs up, up, up. His hand rises, adjusting the helmet in place of running his fingers through his hair in the uneasiness that doesn't sit well with him. He watches in a way of shameless appreciation as he has before, that intensity that comes with the rest of him as a package, won by the chilly hardness that lives in his gaze, and this continual attempt to understand. Once buckled, he leans towards her, his hands at her sides, "I am all for terrible ideas, but you have out done me." There's more, there's always more but he is silenced as they lurch into the air. And he's holding her tighter, probably too tight. "Bloody hell." He hisses sharply when lift off changes to thermal riding, clearly not willing or able to look down yet. His voice growls something else, but it's right when Between cuts off everything. Sound, Sight, Touch. It makes him silent still as they reappear over somewhere else. Feeling returns, slowly, the pirate peeling his hands from her waist to flex his fingers, rub them over the tops of his thighs as if he's not sure that feeling's returned. "Warn a man next time, love." Amusement is at war with the remnants of that growled tone, a little unpleasant, but there's a thrill there. That clear love of adventure that defies life and death, that toys with that thin line, that craves it, is addicted to it, and hell if that wasn't just what that seemed to be.

"IF I WARNED YOU, IT WOULDN'T BE FUN!" Risali calls to be heard over the wind pushing back against them, attempting to swallow words whole as Leirith soars, a bombastic and malformed queen that is at least agile in this one respect: she can fly. She can fly well. And there she is, that giddy rush of warmth and joy, of drums and bass that collude to form headaches in the most cheerful way that any mind can imagine. But she doesn't speak, it's simply that impression of laughter amid a clatter of noise, that dims as she goes for land and comes down harder than one might imagine after such smooth sailing. But she does, into the bowl, into the snow and freezing cold of High Reaches that offers little relief from that stark nothingness of between. "R-Race you," Risali offers through a chatter of teeth, flexing fingers to try and coax blood back into phalanges that are still going numb because it's cold. She gives up, works them them to undo straps, struggles to get down from Leirith (and okay, it's only once she's already started that she issues the challenge, because she's a cheater cheater pumpkin eater). And once she's down, she moves. If Kaellian's BIG BODY gives him the advantage of winning that Risa, Risali will knock shoulders into him with a soft laugh, will push her hands into her pockets as she shivers and stomps through snow on booted feet towards the promised warmth of the caverns. But if she beats him? Well, she will wait for him, smiling too big, much too cheerful over her victory - and then she will do the same: shoulder bump, laugh, walk. There's nothing about her that screams damsel in distress, merely a woman at ease trying not to freeze to death in a High Reaches winter before she can at least gloat. Of course, gloating is not in Risali's nature, but neither is dying and so here we are: Risali sweeping into the caverns, brushing a light dusting of snow and ice from her hair, shivering more as hands frozen despite gloves curl around the heat of one klah-ready mug and she makes her way towards the fire. PLOP. Right onto the ground she goes, occupying the space by setting down her mug, and pulling off her boots, and letting out a low hiss of satisfaction when her toes start to thaw just a little. But once Kaellian joins her? If he does? That is when she starts talking. Those grey eyes will fix ahead, knees pulled up to her chest, the weyrwoman alarmingly tiny for somebody in possession of a personality so big. "What were you afraid of?" Soft, curious. "When I touched you, you said my name. It felt like a warning, or…" A beat. "What were you trying to tell me?"

High Reaches Weyr - Living Cavern
The lower caverns of High Reaches Weyr are unnaturally straight and smooth, accentuated by the centuries of traffic through their tunnels. Rugs are laid through the more frequently-traveled passages to protect the stone. Though the halls themselves are of ancient construction, much has been added for the convenience of the Weyr's residents. Electric lights are fixed every few yards on the wall, the power for them carried through wires secured on the ceiling.Signs have also been posted with arrows pointing toward the different tunnels and caverns.
The main corridors intersect here to form a large chamber that is almost never empty — even at night. Seating is available around the perimeter of the space in the form of benches and chairs with some small side tables. A small hearth provides some heat during the colder months. One of the corridors off to the sides leads to an administrative hallway where several 'offices' are located. Down another corridor lies the residential caverns and the public baths.

The view though. Finally, Kaellian is no longer looking at the queen's mustard-yellow hide below him, or Risali's back in front of him. He looks beyond that and finds his request on full display beyond the golden neck and dramatic expanse of wing. Mountains he would have never seen, a coastline he could have never reached. It isn't just the Black Spot writ on his fate. Even without it, there's only so far one with a lifestyle such as he can get to without starving half a crew. There's an obvious grunt when they land, the hardness of it clearly unexpected. The realization of holy hell this is cold hitting him kind of all at once since he had been flushed, despite the utter Nothing of Between, with the adrenaline of adventure, danger- the unexpected. When his attention is returned to her, he follows her eyes and he helps expedite the process of those buckles. 'Ladies first' down the straps only ends with him placed into a race he hadn't signed up for. A huff of an amused breath, a puff of warmed fog in the depth of winter's cold air. She wins, because he does not rush even if he does drop the last few feet from Leirith's side as if descending to the deck below from the last rung in a rope ladder hung from the mainmast. He walks in her footsteps created deep into the drifts of snow, that face protection hiding whatever expression has come across those eyes that speak for him. He wants to see her. He watches her as she speeds for the cavern's entrance and the comfort it promises. Comfort even he can claim because of her and this disguise. Bump, laugh, walk- Kaellian lays an arm over her shoulders amidst one of those contacts until either she escapes from it, or when she descends to sit beside the fire. His jacket, at least, isn't soaked as hers was, and he runs warm, despite the fact he always wears clothing that covers so much of his skin- much like someone else we know. "You seem familiar with this place, or- fortunately for me- at least not opposed to it." He hums in a low voice. If there's agitation there for being somewhere he can't easily escape, it's subdued, only perceived by the way he looks past her at weyrfolk chattering to eachother excitedly about something walk by them. Kaellian sits, still close. Still in that bubble he's invaded and not yet left. It's a much more controlled sit than her respective plop, one leg bent to his chest where his elbow would rest, the other outstretched- somehow able to claim this place too. The question goes without an answer for some time, his gloves pulled off one at a time, letting the silver of his jewelry glint starkly in the light of the flames. "The closer you examine something, the more you will find." there isn't amusement with this part, just a statement, "Nobody has.. dared to touch me like that before. And you, who has two men and a Weyr to return to, needn't look so close." His eyes have left the fire for his hands, "Why did you feel the need to make amends with me?"

Risali doesn't shake the arm around her shoulders; if anything, the tiny woman leans into it, perhaps content to reciprocate a display of companionship, perhaps because Kaellian's warm and she is freezing. It does end when she sits, when hands free feet, then pull goggles and helmets away to settle beside her. She pulls all that hair that's down forward, to brush more snow free, to tame the bit that suffered an unfortunate meeting with her gear by way of fingers as she lets the fire bleed through a chill still making her bones ache. That's why she's still shivering, why Kaellian's joining her on the floor sees Risali scooting closer until shoulders press because GIVE HER YOUR WARMTH, DAMN IT. "I'm a dragonrider, Kaellian," Risali answers, amusement in her choice of words, a hint of laughter for the obviousness of that statement. "I can go anywhere I want…" A snap of her fingers. "That quick." She just has to brave between and make sure she can picture where they're going well enough to prevent Leirith from slamming into something unexpected and killing them both. See, there's always an edge of danger to it, and perhaps that is what drew Risali in to the lifestyle, what keeps her beyond merely the unbreakable, inexplicably complex bond she shares with her lifemate. And then she listens as she watches the fire dance, as flames lick at wood and burn, creating shapes and smoke and warmth that has Risali shivering again, even as she reaches for her klah. She holds it between her fingers, tucks hands in towards her chest as if to warm her core and… she blinks, brows knitting in confusion as grey eyes land on Kaellian's face and she studies him for a moment too long. "Are you threatened by me?" Risali asks, and there, a hint of mischief in the pull at the corner of her lips, that she hides by ducking down towards her drink, by bringing it to her lips and looking away. She is trying to stifle laughter, okay. IT IS RUDE TO LAUGH. But she does manage it, clearing her throat, fingers drumming idle around that mug. "I can't tell if you're scared I'm going to seduce you, or if you're scared I'm going to unveil you as a monster." And there's a lapse, as if waiting for him to answer, as she considers his question and… that smile diminishes. "Because it was the right thing to do," comes soft, honest as those grey eyes jump, seeking out seablues to hold. "Why did you come?"

After helmet and goggles come off, set beside his hip opposite of her, ring'd fingers undo the top bit of the 'borrowed' jacket, letting his hand slide into that space at his chest that he keeps his flask. That object of brown-tinted glass wrapped in a piece of finished but well-worn leather, embellished with an imprint of CK. It's full, probably only because he just came from a tavern and had a bottle that he left there for this trip. That was a hard loss, okay. The amber liquid in it nearly matches the glass, only looks like a swirled faint ethereal shadow with firelight backlit against as he tips it back against his lips and draws long of it. He swallows, the rum's delightful bite bringing about an exhale, his stare on that glass first as he answers, "Aye, but you're bound to a place. You, more than most others. The responsibilities, the flights, the eggs, the politics. Is that too what you've always wanted?" More than to live, to love? She had shared with him something similar before, but not in respect to her position, and he wonders. Eventually he raises that flask a little towards her, in offer. The next question draws an odd smirk on his face, only the left edge of his lips, crooked. It only-just touches kohl-rimmed eyes that turn down as the rogue's head tips forward a bit. It's not the most pleasant thing, a dichotomy of possibility of him saying something inappropriately funny, or gruesomely horrible. He opens his mouth as if to speak but it comes a bit delayed, as if debating to give her the right answer, or the truthful answer. "You ask as if you don't know." That deviant gaze looks her over at this close proximity, studying her in the touch of firelight, waiting to see if she had to stifle that laugh because she jokes or because it is indeed a revelation. She's not wrong. Risali herself could ruin everything in just as quick a snap of her fingers, and he is acutely aware of it in every step he's made. "You are quick to not pry too far, and I imagine that to be.. difficult. Still, you recognize what others don't see. It would be easier if you were not a weyrwoman." To what he means by easier, it's ominous, haunting. A flicker of his smirk dissolves some of that underlying swell of dark and brooding in regards to seduction, "I do believe you came looking for me, however. I know I'm hard to stay away from. The crackle and pop of the fire becomes louder in the stretch of silence that comes in the wake of her last question, and it's just as long that he stares forward, only eventually finding those greys, "You swept me away from me men as if you might decide to ravage me, and offered me a horizon I hadn't yet seen." That's the simpler answer, not the full one. "And now-" The sinister amusement comes lightened slightly when humor returns to him more fully, as he looks around them as if examining it for the first time, "You've me here as long as you wish until a ransom is paid, no doubt."

Grey eyes seek out that CK, focus on it, linger until his words draws her attention back to his face, into silence while she listens. There - a hint of self-deprecation, a soft huff of laughter that carries no humor as Risali turns her eyes back to the fire, watching the misstep of flames as they leap in unpredictable constants. "No," Risali whispers, "but I wanted to make a change." There's a flicker of a smile there, an empty shell of what it could be because its very nature communicates more of that self-deprecation, something that she turns into humor by way of words. "So far I have changed what people expect of me." A lean, a bump of shoulders, a scrunch of nose that says, 'it's not very much.' But that humor falters in the wake of things more serious, in a tilt of her head and a roll of her shoulders that doesn't deny Kaellian's words, but certainly does not commit to the possibility of honesty within them. "To what, Kaellian?" A beat, and softer, "To hate me? To use me? To kill me?" There's nothing to depict a joke in the works, but her expression changes, becomes something almost pained as he tells her that she came looking for him. Still, she lets him finish, tucking in on herself, watching the fire as she collects her thoughts and finds words both difficult and forthcoming. "I hated Kyzen." What? But the corner of her lips pull as grey eyes flicker sideways and then away again. "He hated me too, but we kept running into each other. Over, and over, and over again, like some really bad joke." A beat, as if Risali is going back through memories to find glimpses of turns past. "My life… it… wasn't making sense at the time. I was angry, and he was to be angry with - a distraction, somebody I didn't have to pretend around. And one day he kissed me." Another smile, a bump of Risa's shoulder into Kaellian's as she tilts her head to look at him, affection and amusement lingering as grey jumps between seablue. "To shut me up." Because details are important. "I wish that I could be romantic and say that my world started to make more sense after that but it didn't. It made me hate him more." And away she looks again, pulling her klah closer. "But the longer I stayed away, the more I found I missed him. The more he was around, the more I found I wanted him to stay." And that smile fades, becomes something painful — perhaps a memory. "I had to make a choice, Kaellian, about what I wanted my life to be, about… how much of myself I was willing to sacrifice to see another person happy and still be okay. I didn't grow up with friends; the first boy who kissed me laughed at me in front of the other weyr children. 'Who dares to kiss the wild one? Who can stomach the monster?'" One, two, three, another faint flicker of humor. "So I broke his nose." And now Risa's looking to Kaellian again, taking in his face, hesitating only a moment before reaching out to trace along his jaw - if he doesn't stop her. "Then I met Leirith, and while I would never, ever give her up, there was a part of me that had to accept my body and my mind were no longer mine alone; that sometimes I would wake up next to strange men and not remember anything, that maybe someday, I would be stuck with those strangers as Weyrleaders and clutchfathers." And her hand shifts, to delineate his nose if he hasn't pushed her hands away yet. "But before that day came, I met D'lei. At first he was my best friend — just my best friend. I had K'vir, and he… had somebody else. He was the one who ran with me on a whim, who threw mud at me, and laughed with me, and danced in the snow until we couldn't catch our breath. He was the first person who saw me as a woman, but saw my strength too - who wasn't afraid to throw me in the dirt or take a swing trusting that I could keep up with him in a spar. He knew I would hold a title, he saw my queen, and he didn't care." And then she's catching his bottom lip between her fingers, pinching without doing it too hard, pulling as she leans in a little closer and then… lets him go. "I love them both, very much, and I am very lucky to have those incredible men love me too. So I promise you that you're safe, Kaellian. And if you're not, well… I promise it will take turns of leaping and falling for me to figure that out." Another shift, another bump to his shoulder with hers as she retrieves her mug, and takes a drink, and then laughs into it. "Right, a ransom." A beat, and… "What are you afraid of, Kaellian?" This, apparently, is her toll. "Why did you really come?"

There isn't a lot of him that is ever used to empathy. That was an area he thought was sealed off long ago. He's used to taking other's stories and dismissing them- they don't change him, they don't affect him, they don't matter. Becoming invested means his selfish, precious time is used. Becoming attached means wounds. The sort of wounds that don't heal. He's a man that bleeds from somewhere at least a few times a month, but those are pink and silver'd scars won at at a cost that's not the same. There are some among many that mean something else, but they are hidden just like the rest. And with this woman, it's becoming more of a dangerous game than he had planned. Not by means of romance, but by closeness, by this bold evaluation he didn't anticipate facing that seems oddly difficult to walk away from. And because he listens, and when she asks specifics of what he meant, he licks over his bottom lip where the remnants of rum linger. "Is it something you really want to know?" That in and of itself is an answer, the humor faded from him when honesty bids its ugly head. Of the arm that sits on his knee, his thumb rubs o'er the back of his rings. Thoughtful, an old habit that has worn the shine from them, if they had ever had it, on whoever else's hands once owned them. A slight huff of sound that ought to be a laugh follows the fact that she broke the kid's nose. "As you should." It's offered in the midst of her story, though he otherwise is not so quick to interrupt. For awhile, he stares at his flask, though isn't looking at it. That focus remains on her, even if he can't.. won't.. look at her. There's a little bit of anger there, and with it the hint of what's beneath that mask. A chip, a crack. The sense of him grows a little colder, darker. Distant. And then, her touch. Only then does the sea return to find grey, as waters of Caspien look up at Xanadu's weather-touched skies. And he's too still under it. As if the very nature of her doing so is scrutiny of the sort he only does to himself. Allowing it, but just barely. This is not some playful lass he's taken to his bed for a nightcap. Yet, he finds he cannot leave, not even to rise or to look away, and that bothers him. But somewhere in there, he does dip his head, throwing that tracing finger off her mark when he doesn't seem to be able to take it anymore. "You cannot make that promise, not to me. Not when I haven't yet answered that question." That last one that she gives him, the one that ties this all together. It doesn't matter whether she means here as in for this ride to Winterfell, or Xanadu, because his statement includes them both. She's granted a long pause, one which has him looking back at the fire as it dances, though he doesn't see it, doesn't hear it any longer. "I cannot say you are not in danger near me, but I-" He hesitates as if he needs to be sure what he next states is more true than the rest of his half-truths, "I have no reason to harm you." He speaks lowly, too-thickened in that accent with how harsh it becomes in this near-whisper. "There are some things I must do, and there are only a few people who can get my way. You happen to be one of them." He shifts a little bit, boot scratching on the floor mutedly. He'd not moved for quite some time through her whole story and part of his own. "I do whatever it is I want, go where I please. I don't get attached." There it is. "You are never what I expect, Risali, and I had to see this. Whatever came of it." Whether she was taking him to the mines, maroon him on some island, or actually to the coast he'd asked, he wasn't entirely convinced.

Is it something that she wants to know? Risali deliberates mentally, remembers looks, and smiles and moments when masks slipped - for both of them. But she doesn't answer him; Risali doesn't coax him towards honesty or away from it, she simply watches him. And she talks, and she listens. Risali watches him with the kind of attentiveness that says she's hanging onto every word, that she is invested in this conversation as if Kaellian is, perhaps, the most interesting person she's met. And in this moment, for this brief interaction, he is — he's the one that matters, the one whose ambiguous statements and admissions find her holding her breath as if afraid she might miss what's next. And then she exhales, then Risali shifts to her knees even though Kaellian through off her touch before because Risali is a fighter; because Risali doesn't give up, and because she has always been better at communicating through touch than by application of languages so failing in words to define this. Risali catches his face between her hands, to trap him, to find seablue with greys that jump between them as brows knit. It's not an expression of sympathy on her face, there's no pity in silvered-greys, but there is a storm. There's determination, and something gentle in the sweep of thumbs over cheekbones if he doesn't dislodge her again. She doesn't fight him if he does, but her hands will remain in the air between them, seconds away from contact. She answers his very last statement first, because it's important. "Neither are you, Kaellian." What she expects, she means. "I see shadows, and secrets, and promises in the dark." A pause as her eyes take in the whole picture, something there, something that she shuts out by closing her eyes, by blinking them open to find his gaze with. "But I see something… vibrant too." And now she drops her hands if he hasn't done it for her, settling back on her heels as she watches him, as she looks away, then sits once more and retrieves her mug. There is something wounded in her expression, something that she fights back with sheer will, that she stamps out with another sip of her klah before she sets it down again and speaks. "It's not me that I'm worried about, Kael." Being in danger? Coming to harm? "And I will get in your way," stark honesty as her eyes find his, "if it means saving you from yourself, or protecting the people who depend on me to keep them safe." One, two, three, four, five. Risali watches him, does not cower or flinch away, does not refuse to meet his gaze. She lets the weight and honesty of her statement settle between them. And then she smiles, humor that doesn't quite meet its mark. "And anyway, I like having dangerous enemies. It makes me feel important." DON'T WORRY, KAELLIAN. She is teasing. It's clear as day in her expression.

Caution of losing whatever he's done thus far holds him back from being all so much more with her, creates barriers that he presses against as if to test if they're really so necessary. When she's so close to him, taking his face in her hands, he lets his too-light eyes contrasted so heavily by his dark take hers. The dark strands of hair that fall askew over his forehead, the roguish scruff that deepens every line, those heavy brows that shade what is already made so dark by the kohl that surrounds the eyes taken by the ocean and every horror swarming in the leagues beneath. But it's not the chaotic sort of monster, this has been evident all along. As much tormented by his demons as he is one, there is calculation in everything. Patience. Always patience in following suit of someone else's demands, where a deeper impatience drives him absolutely mad. His gaze flicks over her, down her face and up again to her eyes. Her expression, every little change studied, written down as if in that journal he holds so dear far, at the moment, from here. "Vibrant." That menacing, smug grin comes as soaked as his words do in dry sarcasm and distaste, skewing his expression from that careful passive with cracks and hints of beneath to something a little less-so. It's only obvious for a moment, which passes when his head is shaken slowly when she releases him and sits back. Something about it loiters, though, the hardness that has been seen to soften by degrees between them not doing so now. "What would happen if you're only seeing what you want to see?" He would reach to catch her arm with his wrapped hand before she goes all the way back to her mug unless she fends him off, pulling her back if she allows, he heaving leaned forward to meet her nigh halfway. He would touch his forehead to hers for a second. For privacy? For.. affection? "You should always be worried about you. You know better than most that this world isn't kind, and all the love there is, isn't always enough to save you." It's not a threat.. It feels.. like a misdirected memory. Something he'd wish he'd known? Something he believes now to be true. The tension that holds her lessens, lets her go. A slow uncurl of his fingers, almost like he doesn't quite want to let go. "I would be disappointed if you didn't." A flicker of humor, is quickly squandered, "Not everyone is meant to be saved. I am not your father."

And Risali pushes back, takes those same risks people who know her well enough expect she will always take because D'lei said it best: Risali is kind, but she is not weak. Risali stares down danger with a kind of reckless determination that refuses to be afraid; she finds those spots of light in the darkness and clings tight to the belief that everybody is worth a second chance, that somehow those pinpricks of hope can eradicate those demons that haunt the eyes of too many good men - that they will spark fires that can never be put out, not by the judgements or ignorance of men, nor the linger vestiges of self-doubt. Risa looks for the best in everybody, accepts the worst in most, so while menace and smug and sarcasm become Kaellian, Risali reiterates her choice of words without an iota of discomposure. "Vibrant." And there's almost a challenge in her voice, something not quite angry, but firm in the reapplication of conviction. "And good." JUST TO SPITE HIM. And what if it's only what she wants to see? She's drawing back, looking away, distracted by the answer to that question when Kaellian's hand captures her arm and Risali's muscles tense. The goldrider jerks her head back to Kaellian, a flare of temper, a spark of that anger she spoke of before, that she's come so far in being able to temper now. And she does it, remaining, relaxing. She closes her eyes when he presses his forehead to hers, listens when he speaks, blinks those grey eyes open when he lets go and follows his progress. But she is reaching out now, to curl fingers along the back of his neck, to pitch herself forward and not stop, to collide with him, hug him if he isn't quick enough to pull away and dislodge her. She holds tight if he does stay, a press of her tiny body to his, as if she might absorb some of his hurt and his anger, communicate his importance in that contact. Or maybe she's just sapping up his body heat. "I know," she whispers, though it's hard to tell what she means. "But I don't want to save you, Kaellian. I'm more of the… 'stand by your side and watch you save yourself' type." The one that has faith. The one that offers support because it's okay to not be okay, but it's important to be better. But then she's pulling back, pushing hair from her face as she grabs her helmet and her goggles and hugs them to her body. It's seconds before those grey eyes are back on Kaellian again, holding for a beat, two, three, four. There's something painful there, something muted that comes into her smile when she speaks again. "And I don't want to be saved, either. I want to protect those people who are so much more important than me, no matter what the cost." Give her a moment, and then she's setting her things aside again and getting to her feet, clearing her throat as she finds mischievousness again in the wake of so much serious. "Now's the part where we dance." Because dancing is one of those things that Risali does when she doesn't want to think. "And then I will consider freeing you from this absolutely wretched hostage situation." A lop-sided smile. "Deal?"

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