Lament of the Voluntold

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Xanadu Weyr - Deep Forest
The wooded areas closer to Xanadu Weyr represent a compromise between man and mother nature, but to the north and west, no such arrangements have been made. The deep woods between the Weyr and the mountains are less traveled, the wider paths fit for man and beast less present. The noises of mankind are barely audible here, brief ghosts on the wind, and the quiet thrum of forest life presses in on all sides. The snapping of a twig, a bird's cry, the low cadence of insects; all of these things seem louder. Closer. The deeper one moves into the trees, the more it becomes obvious that one passes through nature only at her allowance.

The cover of trees is more severe in this area of the wood and only occasional shafts of sunlight lance down through the canopy, the sky visible in brief patches. A rough path has been blazed back towards the Weyr. It does not appear to be a heavily frequented path, but the few who have chosen to pass through this area appear to use it more than other avenues available. Only the very foolish or the very experienced would ever wander far from the path.

Note: this scene takes place the day after this egg touching.

It takes Nope to find him, but the brown does not return to Shiloh alone - whether he hisses protest or not. Roderick is … distinctive as firelizards go, with his bulging eyes and slightly grotesque shape, but seeing as how the ugly little brown has been known to helpfully distract Glorioth from the defamation of Shiloh's character on the singular occasion the he was convinced to help oil the great idiot, GREATNESS that is GLORIOTH, he's probably both recognizable and trustworthy (ish). Can F'yr be blamed for not wanting to try to put a note on Nope? Probably not. Roderick endures all with a put-upon air, but the message can be safely delivered to the intended recipient to meet F'yr on the forest path and wear sturdy boots for foot travel. "We're going on a walk," might be slightly suspicious based on the fact that F'yr is wearing his big pack today - the one that actually fits his broad shouldered frame and has enough room for light provisions, water aplenty, and things like a first aid kit, but that being said, the man is dressed in light trousers despite the heat because forest walking has a way of trying to take bites out of bare legs, and the light-weight shirt will help manage the heat along with the dampened rag tied atop F'yr's blond head. He leads off, not waiting for Shiloh really, at a pace that discourages conversation until they're some distance into the forest, where identifiable trails become much harder to come by and where Shy may have to trust F'yr's sense of direction if he hasn't spent much time learning the local-ish terrain himself. Here, where there's verdant summer, not too hot thanks to the thick canopy that only lets sunlight dapple down on the underbrush, F'yr slows enough to glance back at Shiloh, "Talk?" It's an invitation, but it's also, "There's a place not much farther you may've been - the Hollow - that's good for sitting if you'd rather not be on the move." F'yr, of course, likes moving, so there'll be no objection from him if Shiloh would rather do that, too.

Given that Shiloh doesn't like trying to put notes on Nope (and usually gets himself a few fangs in his fingers for the effort — someone needs to tell that firelizard not to bite the hand that feeds it) F'yr is definitely forgiven for sending his own little pet along with the message rather than entrusting it to Shiloh's winged snake stomach. There's even a quite thanks to Roderick for being willing to take on such a task, particularly when it means that he was probably harassed (at least a little, with a few hisses if nothing else) by Nope along the way. Shiloh arrives wearing appropriate footwear — his usual boots left behind because they might be made for walking, but definitely not hiking — but otherwise looking like his normal self; pants and shirt and hat, included. The backpack probably gets a look but he foregoes comment, and either trusts F'yr enough not to get him lost in the woods, or is confident to get himself home, because he trudges in after him without hesitation. If the stable is Shiloh's favorite place, the forest is probably next. Though, really, it would be anywhere quite and mostly devoid of people. Hiking in silence suites him just fine, even if there was probably a reason that he sought out the bronzerider (and not just to walk around in silence with him). And so when the offer to talk comes, it takes a moment or two before he takes it. Even if the first thing he says is, "either one," because he really has no preference there. Moving or sitting. Moving provides an opportunity to look at where one is going rather than their conversation partner, which might be preferable since the talk is likely to go in a direction somewhat deeper than a discussion on the weather. "What was Glorioth's egg like?"

Moving it is, since the choice is left to F'yr. It doesn't mean they won't eventually wind back around to the Hollow, lest Shiloh not have discovered it in his own explorations yet, but for the time being, F'yr starts to choose places where the path offers the chance to walk something like side-by-side. He, unlike some hiking partners, is ever-conscientious to make sure branches that are brushed aside for passage are held until Shiloh's taken them, and the murmur the occasional warning of something like, "Bramble," or, "Rock," if there's a notable shift in the terrain he finds first. Punctuated by these sorts of things, and not all that often, the stillness of the forest invites the comfortable silence… but it also invites talks deeper than discussion of the weather. The bronzerider's lips flicker into a small smile at the question. Maybe he guessed they'd be talking eggs, sometime, given his last quasi-warning, but maybe this is not quite how he imagined it starting. "A bit like he is now." There's a pregnant pause because the next admission is a little quieter, "I've always wondered," and always will, because there's no way to know, "if how he is now isn't a little my fault. Then, he wanted to know about stories and adventures. And I didn't have any, really. The only places I'd ever been was my farm and the Weyr." The next pause is briefer, but there's a moment of gathering, because maybe he's never said it to anyone in so many words. "So I told him about the first time I met Risali and Rhodelia. Rhody was looking for her firelizard in the gardens. I was a gardner then," that tidbit is added, just in case Shiloh hadn't known, for context. "Leirith got her head stuck in one of the arches," of course, "and so we three went looking for the firelizard," letting the gold fend for herself for a while. "Anyway, it was not really an adventure, but it was more venturesome than anything I ever did before and I told it to him like it was one, because there was some discussion of an army of waterfowl…" BECAUSE, OF COURSE THERE WAS, "Anyway, I might've helped shape him with that. Maybe others did, too, if he wanted to know about things like that from the others." He looks back toward Shiloh, "I was in love with a different egg. Sure if I was going to impress it was going to shell my lifemate." There's a wry smile for that admission - embarrassing then because, "I wrote it poetry. Very, very bad poetry," the easy grin now is meant to be putting Shiloh at his ease, offering up small, but very personal things that he might feel more able to do the same. The next words are, "What's it been like for you?"

Shiloh walks. And listens. He'll push aside branches or step over rocks or move through brambles as necessary. There is no complaint for the trek through the woods, probably because he finds nothing to complain about. He's certainly not one to object to the energy expenditure that such a thing requires. Nor is he the type to shy away from the creepy crawly things that might lurk beneath their feet or in the branches of the bushes and trees, more apt to put a spinner back on it's web than to crush the life out of it, should it find its way to him instead of more appropriate places. And the question comes, not because Shiloh doesn't have thoughts about his own experience, but because maybe it is easier to hear about someone else's adventures in egg-touching, before recounting his own. "I don't know anything about eggs," is his answer for F'yr's wondering on whether his own tale of (mis)adventure may have shaped the bronze that's bonded him. But it comes not as a dismissal so much as an almost apologetic admission. Shiloh can't answer that question, and he's not the type to try, really. It's also a rather apt way of explaining his own situation. He doesn't know anything about eggs. Those eggs. These eggs. He's touched a fair few at this point, and still couldn't provide insight into any of it; nearly as clueless now as he was when he first stepped foot onto those sands. What has it been like for him? Another question which requires a few steps of silence as Shiloh chews it over, shoving thoughts and words into different orders to see what might best explain it. "Different," is probably the most basic answer ever. But at least he follows it with, "Overwhelming. Even the ones that're nice are… complicated." How so, Shiloh? "If just an egg can take over like that, what's a dragon like?" Despite that he is asking a dragonrider, the question is rhetorical in nature. "Some of 'em like to make us hurt. I told Kasle they probably didn't know what they were doing but…" That might have been a bit of a white lie to reassure her. "Avi almost quit over it. Messed him up bad for a while."

"I almost quit over it, too," F'yr's casual tone glosses over the seriousness of those moment because, in the moment, it was huge. "Kihatsuth's egg made me feel like I was suffocating." But that wasn't the one that almost made him quit and the slow-drawn, bracing breath says so because he goes on to say, "Ri'tah's Sezoruth hatched out of an egg that… when Sezoruth was some… I don't know, not yet developed form of the playful, mischievous, energetic green she became," cat-like, that one, "she wanted to know why I would be remembered. She reached into me and drew out every honest deficiency by the sheer lack of what I had to offer her, by the fact that I… I don't feel a call to be remembered when I'm gone, and maybe I should." He stops, shifting to where there's space enough so he can turn to look at Shiloh. "Dragons are different once they're shelled. What you're feeling isn't a fully developed being, they've never been taught, and so you can only…" He trails off, seeking words, lips pressing together and blue eyes seek green and brow and all the varied colors of the summer forest before finally finding them. "The first time you interact with a runner that's never been broken, it might snap at you, it might try to kick you, it might be gentle as anything. Every one of them is different. It's not until you start building something with them that you start to know the whys of what they do out of fear, or out of anxiety, or out of just being that kind of a beast." Some of them just are the jerks they appear. "Dragons are a whole lot more complicated because in some ways, they're smarter than we are, they deal in more dimensions, but they need us, need us in a way that you've never been needed nor ever will be needed again." His brows furrow as he settles on the words, "The experience is singular. Indescribable. R'hyn tried to tell me. I'm trying to tell you, and there's just no words for what it ends up like. But the eggs aren't who they will be, just like you and Averil aren't yet who you will be by the time the dragons hum." He stops, really stops, head tilting as his face scrunches a little and he searches Shiloh's face, "Am I making any sense at all? Am I making it worse?" He's clearly not aiming to, but…

That's probably not what Shiloh was expecting in terms of what type of egg would make F'yr want to quit. "I don't care to be remembered, either," he admits. So, perhaps some solidarity there. And Shiloh, at least, doesn't seem to be upset at the idea that he's supposed to. "There's one I touched that was… sorta like that." Sorta but not quite. "Those ones didn't bother me as much. The ones that try to get under your skin." That want to pick at you, and draw all your failings into the light. "S'the ones that make me actually hurt that…" Might have made him change his mind about the whole thing. "S'hard to understand how something could want to do that. Something not even born. Runners have a reason, at least. Fear, usually. But this didn't feel like fear." But he's willing to allow that they are unborn creatures. "I can read runners." Body language. Where they're holding tension. "I can predict what they're likely to do. But these… There's nothing to say whether it's gonna bite or hug until you touch it." And that's a good deal off-putting. Is he making sense? "As much sense as anyone makes when talking about dragons and eggs." Which is to say… no. But also, that Shiloh doesn't really expect it to make sense. "What's the point?" is the next question, and it's something of an honest one, because Shiloh really would like to know. "What's the point of touching 'em if they're not even gonna be like that once hatched? If we're supposed to get to know the eggs, but the eggs aren't gonna be like the dragon that hatches, then why all this fuss over touching 'em? I don't get it. It's a lot to go through for—" For nothing? At least he doesn't finish that sentence.

The noise F'yr makes when Shiloh says it didn't feel like fear is non-commital, but he doesn't interrupt further until the BeastCrafter's had his say. The last bit, that last bit, makes F'yr blink, surprise touching his features and then he laughs. He doesn't mean to, not really, and it's short-live, and it's not really at Shiloh except it also is. The taller man shifts on his feet and moves to place a hand on the Journeyman's shoulder, expression both apologetic and somehow kind. "Shiloh," this is important, "The life of a dragonrider is and always has been a life of service." He gives that time, weight, space to be and to be absorbed, but not enough to encourage interruption in that moment where he gives a little shake to the man's shoulder, a meaningful squeeze and then he's dropping it away. "The definition of service has changed immensely since the time of Thread, but it's never stopped being a volunteer to serve. Dragonriders have more autonomy, more ability to strike out on their own and be less tied to one common cause, but you're signing up to serve all the same. Your dragon can't care for itself. It learns to go between to take a shit so you don't always have to muck out their couches," but that takes time, "and they learn to hunt for themselves, but for the whole of their lives from the time they crack their shells to the day they go between because the time has come, they never don't depend on you, on their rider, on the person that helps them keep clean and healthy. Some can between on their own, and others need their rider. No dragon has a memory that keeps everything they need, and that's a blessing and a curse because they need you for that, too. Glorioth routinely thinks Xermiltoth is dead - his dad." Oops, did F'yr just remind Shiloh that these eggs are biologically little siblings to Glorioth? It's fine. "Where he got the idea, I'll never know. He's thought it since he was days old and is rarely unsurprised to find Xermiltoth living and well, and legendary, when he recognizes Xermi as his father at all." It's fine. This is just part of it all. "You going to touch the eggs is about them. It's about you, too, in that if you can't manage on those sands before hatching day when everything is still but you, you won't manage when there's chaos and you need to be calm." That's almost all, but there's one more thing: "If you're serious about this, if you and Avi are… it took me time to sort this, but if your dragon is out there, then all those eggs are its brothers and sisters. And thirteen," HOPEFULLY, "of those other candidates are going to be people you live, learn, and work alongside for more than a turn - more than two if you count candidacy and all. Whatever help you can give each other, can give those eggs, however misguided they might seem— who knows if all this seems like some dream to them, if they even have control over what they're sharing?" He tangents, but maybe that was his hesitation to agree to begin with and maybe it's important, too. "Point is, if you're choosing to volunteer for this, learn to read them. All of them. The eggs, the candidates, the dragons who'll make up their world. The more practice you get in now, the better a start you'll have on those very few things you can be prepared for if you're stepping into this life on hatching day." This life, his life, the life of all people who share their days with dragons.

Shiloh listens. What else is he gonna do? That's kinda why he's here, isn't it? To listen? To get advice? It's not just to unload all the thoughts in his head, because he could probably do that somewhere else (and *to* someone else; or probably no one at all). But this someone has a dragon, and has done it before, and maybe knows what he's talking about (BUT DOES HE THO?). So he listens, even if he might not be particularly pleased with the words he's being given, he'll take then. And chew on them. And eventually come to some conclusions, even if there's a bit of a pinch to his expression; a wrinkle in his brow and a little purse of his lips. The eggs might have been the original subject of debate, but it's the last bit that Shiloh is going to latch onto a little. "What do you mean, choose? There's not really a choice, is there?" And this time he's quick to keep going lest that point be contested. "I mean yeah, I could say no. I could hand it back." That white-knot on his shoulder. "But everyone makes it sound like doing that would be… potentially condemning a dragon to die. What choice is that? Even you," he adds, though it is not accusation so much as calling back on a conversation. "You said not standing would be leaving him when he needed you most, even if you didn't know it at the time. So how can I choose not to stand?" Shiloh's definitely feeling like this is more of a voluntold gig, rather than a volunteer one. "Not saying I don't." Want to stand. "Just sayin… I don't think it's as simple as that."

Shiloh isn't the only one listening. F'yr might be the advice-give here, but he is listening to what's being offered to him, what's asked and this time there's no quick contest. His expression holds not only intent focus on Shiloh and the meaning of the words and the tone, all that comes together to communicate the question. His lips press together just slightly, not finding words this time, but waiting. His hands come up in front of him, palms up and open before they spread wide in to a gesture that asks the universe why because there is no why that will be good enough to answer this question, and his answer is one word: "Yours." The choice is Shiloh's. The choice is Averil's. It's every candidate's, just as it was once F'yr's. Just because the BeastCrafter wants to rail against the consequences nature, not F'yr, has set for this particular choice doesn't make it any less his and F'yr, who believes the potential cost could be a dragon's life, will not prevaricate to make the stakes seem any less dire than he believes them to be. The choice still belongs to Shiloh. There's words behind the press of his lips, but he is going to give Shiloh that one word, that one oh-so-heavy weight, and let him sit with the discomfort of it before offering anything more.

"That's not a choice!" There's definitely some anger now, even if it's not directed at F'yr but rather the impossible decision he's been given. It is a choice. It's just not a choice that Shiloh would make. To condemn a dragon to die because he didn't want to take on the responsibility that came with it? "What kind of man would I be if I did that?" A rhetorical question, because Shiloh already (thinks) he knows the answer to it. There's a sound of frustration and the balling of fists but it's more for the bite of nails against his palm than it is out of a desire to hit something. Because even furious with himself or the world, Shiloh is not the kind to express anger with violence. So while he won't kick at the trees, he will put his back against one, if just so he can pull the hat from his head and rake his fingers through his hair and take a moment just being really pissed off. "That's not a choice," come again, but this time it's not angry. More defeated. "No sane person would do that."

"It never was for me either," is quiet in the face of that anger. F'yr is not unaffected by it, but he's not moved by it. "If you chose other than as you're choosing, you wouldn't be the kind of person who should get a chance like the one you've been offered. You won't understand it on the side of this you're on. Can't, I don't think. I never did, badly as I did want to." There's empathy for the position Shiloh finds himself in. "But just because you don't like to think of it as a choice doesn't mean it isn't one." And therefore, shifting slightly so he appears all of his 6'3", as much like an at-attention dragonman as he's going to get for this conversation, F'yr nails Shiloh with a calm look that seems like it can bear any response with grace. He gives each word weight, "You are making this choice. If you keep thinking it's been made for you by being offered, you're going to spend the whole time thinking yourself a sharding martyr for a cause you don't even know you support, when you damn well know in your heart of hearts that you do support it, or you'd have considered opting out." Does Shiloh need someone to safely push against? Here's F'yr drawing the line, playing advocate for some of the thoughts that might be fencing Shiloh in.

There is too much feeling for Shiloh to be rational right now. Too much anger and fear and frustration and resentment. Too much feeling like this is not a choice because what choice is it? And all on the presupposition that there might be a dragon that would miss him if he wasn't on the sands come Hatching. That is a very big might. But gambling with a life is no game, and so Shiloh isn't going to pretend it is. Even if he's still going to glower daggers at F'yr in all his six-feet-three-inches of dragonrider. Maybe he did consider opting out. Played that option in his head a few times to try it on for size. And maybe it makes him sick to think of it. Because how can Shiloh pick his own happiness over the life of a sentient creature? So there are no words for a while, even as Shiloh's glare falls from F'yr to the forest floor instead, to try and incinerate leaves and sticks with the power of his fury for the unfairness of life.

F'yr lets him. He lets the candidate hold that impotent rage and direct it where he will, if not at the man himself, then the forest floor. He says nothing for long moments, and then, "C'mon," and Shiloh can follow or not as it pleases him. There might be more talking later, but for now there can be walking, there can be silence, there can be engaging in those things that are a little lighter when enough time has passed, enough distance both physically and figuratively has happened. No doubt, they'll talk again, but it doesn't need to be now. There's time yet, both once-farmers have a way of knowing that in their bones.

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