Doing Things as the Xanadu Do

Xanadu Weyr - Shore of Lake Caspian
The cliffs that run along the shore come and go, various weyrs nestled along the tops of them or dug into the walls, but eventually they recede enough to expose a beach. The white sand echoes the rise and fall of the cliffs with a multitude of sandy dunes, endlessly creating tiny valleys that are constantly demolished and rebuilt by the frequent arrival or departure of dragons. The dunes smooth out as the gentle slope approaches the edge of the deep blue water. The sand darkens, and a shell here and there stands out for children to collect.

The beach narrows to the southwest, leaving a path barely wide enough for dragons in single file before cutting in to a smaller, more sheltered cove. The sands are the same white, the waters the same blue, but they're calmer and more tranquil, more protected from the winds that ruffle Lake Caspian and the currents that tug beneath the surface.

Rough, wide stairs lead up to the meadow above and the road that runs along the top of the cliffs, passing through the fields and heading for the river mouth that can be just barely seen from here. The largest of the staircases up the cliff is located near the docks that jut out onto the peaceful blue waters.

Go to the beach, they said. It'll be fun, they said. It'll be educational, they said. While the afternoon heat of late summer does unquestionably make the waters of Lake Caspian a welcome relief and washing dragons can be both fun and educational for candidates, some might recognize that this "get familiar with dragons" exercise also has the benefit of free labor for riders who have to undertake the scrubbing of nearly endless stretches of hide all too often. All the assorted equipment has been brought and there are a few dragons willing to take up the help of the semi-initiated to get clean all the faster. M'tras is overseeing things. That means he's parked himself on the blanket upon which the supplies have been gathered, wet from not washing his own dragon but rather a quick recreational dip. The newest assistant weyrlingmaster does not bestir himself to greet the latest of those who bear white knots, but Xath does. The brown, larger than some bronzes, gets to his feet from where he was settled beside the blanket with a warble whose timbre, for those of keen ear, can be identified as chipper. Welcome, willing-or-press-ganged helpers!

Somewhere along the line, Ajral probably made the mistake of looking like she was bored or didn't have anything to do; while this is never true, it's also entirely possible that washing dragons is something that sounds much more enjoyable to her than anything else she might do with her day. She's not getting pursued by angry tunnelsnakes and not getting covered in mud and not being punched in the solar plexus by patients. She's also dressed in clothing that will not become see-thru or change colors if it gets wet! See, learning. As she approaches the dragon wash, Xath's enthusiasm is met with a bright laugh of her own. "Hi there," she says, the tone the one she uses with Inasyth — but then she turns to look at the man she assumes is his rider, the one with the Important Knot (she is missing hers, only the white one on her shoulder) and says guiltily, "I'm sorry, sir, if you two prefer people not address your dragon directly." Some people hate it. Even when the dragon addresses them directly.

Fun and educational. Mmhm. Someone once told Shiloh the same thing about looking at some eggs and we all know how that ended! This time, at least, he seems a little more convinced that he won't die from the experience (See? Progress!) as he heads down the beach, hand in hand with Averil. Today is a day of cleaning things; why not add dragons to the list? He's definitely been conscripted, and clearly has drug Averi along with him (Or, well. Maybe Averil is the one dragging him along). He's likewise dressed in something that's more suitable to washing things than training things (alas, no boots. But he still has his hat!) and it, too, will not go see-through on him when he inevitably gets soaked. This is probably by design. "Ah. You again." That's for Ajral. But at least this time there's no muddy dragon or taxidermized tunnelsnake so… winning. The brown gets a glance and a tip of his head; the rider gets a longer look but Shiloh seems content to wait for Ajral's question to be answered before asking any of his own.

Averil is all to happy to go to the beach. He loves the beach. Course, he's still wearing a flowing pair of fawn colored, ankle length culattes, a light off the shoulder shirt in a slightly darker hue, and his sandals. So really? He's already dressed for the beach, so it works. His hair, though, has been freed from it's tidy knot and is now arranged in a jaunty ponytail high atop his head. (Yes, yes, he might look a little bit like a smaller version of I Dream of Jeannie, but that's OKAY!) Point being, he's coming down the beach with Shiloh, the brown's warbled greeting met with a flashing smile and one hand raising in a finger waggling wave. "It'll be fun," he asides to Shiloh as they closer to the seated rider. "Hello," is offered to the seated man, his smile sweeping over to take in Ajral, as well. "Nice to see you, again, Ajral."

M'tras' low laugh precedes his deep voice, volume not any more than is necessary to carry to the arriving candidates. "Far be it for me to interfere." That would require him to exert more effort than he's currently displaying a proclivity for, but given that he's only recently out of the water, the frame once-dry clothes clings to thanks to the dampness belies the image of laziness here perpetuated by a stretch and shift to leaning back on his hands so dark eyes can shift from their brief glance over Ajral to move on to Shiloh and … Averil. Okay, listen, the newly arrived's brows hitch ever so slightly up, but he does not look like a man who would know the word 'culottes' let alone be able to identify a beach outfit from one that's not, so perhaps he can be forgiven. It's not a rude look by any stretch of the imagination. This is, of course, where M'tras should go on and do something AWLMy. He should direct them to the dragon they're going to clean or make sure they know the drill, but instead, a hand comes up in a vaguely permissive gesture that does not seem to be directed to the candidates, but rather to the brown, Rau's lips tipping into a totally unthreatening smirk. That's when there's a healding pressure, a lean against whatever might normally separate dragon thoughts from humans that aren't their humans (if there even is such a thing, because honestly, some of these dragons at Xanadu have never known a barrier they could not irreverently ignore). Then, the tickling scent of fresh-brewed klah of some absurdly high quality and a flicker of firelight over and reflected by a flash of sleek chrome. The baritone that manifests is a far cry from some of Xanadu's louder dragons, and might be struggling to find the right tuning to be heard, to make himself so, so maybe there's static, or missing words for one or another of the candidates before, a very normal sort of even human-y voice reaches. « Is this working? » And a touch of relief that's little more than a flip of warm air, « There. I think I've got it. I do, don't I? I'm Xath. » There, the brown head comes down in a way that makes it very plain that the dragon is spearheading this particular training exercise moment in candidate wrangling.

Ajral has only recently learned what culottes are and has fallen in love with them a bit, but that's all thanks to Averil. So anyway: no comment from her either, but she's used to Averil and she gives the other two one of her lazier smiles. "Me again," comes with a wave. Indeed, she's sort of become Ajral the harbinger of disaster, right? But they still helped her, so — they are sort of friends! At least to her. Everything is fine, except that she is waiting for the director to give a bit more direction than he actually seems to be, and this, too, is a test. Inasyth has given these three some experience with dealing with dragon-only orders, but there's a difference. Two, really. One of them is rider supervision. The other one is that Inasyth and Xath are extremely different, and so Ajral only offers a polite smile, and, "Indeed, you do, unless you're getting just me — " a quick glance at the other two to confirm that's not the case, " — hello, Xath, I'm Ajral." Instead of saluting, she bows her head: he's not the clutchsire, but he's a dragon, she'll have respect.

Shiloh has no idea what a culotte is (even after being educated by Avi, no doubt) but this is fine. He knows his job, and that's to tell Avi he looks pretty (because he does!). He's also a cowboy, and so wouldn't know expensive Klah if it splashed him in the face (give him that sludge that requires chewing!). The track of eyes among candidates gets tick of his own eyebrows, though that might be for the task at hand rather than the man assigning it. So. Dragon then. At least that voice doesn't startle him (because Xanadu :| ) and at this point in his tenure, he's able to acknowledge it with another tip of his hat and a polite enough, "Well met," for Xath. And look. Listen. Inasyth was obviously faking which is a ginormous difference to Xath needing a bath (presumably, he's not faking that part) so Shiloh's gonna let it slide. "Shiloh," comes under the assumption that people will understand him to be introducing himself (not a great assumption to make but OH WELL) before there's a tip of his head that introduces, "Averil," as well. He's definitely not bowing (or saluting). I mean, good grief, their supervision is lounging on the beach like a male model so clearly this is not a time to stand on ceremony.

This is as close as Avi ever gets to beach clothes.. While he owns a few (Very few) pairs of pants, none of them are shorts and none of them will ever be shorts. He doesn't mind the look, though, affording M'tras a sweet smile before twisting around to look up at Xath. "You have it," he assures in tones that, while really no closer to denoting sex then his appearance, are most assuredly welcoming. "It's very nice to meet you, Xath," is offered in the wake of the introduction. "I really want klah, now," is murmured in an aside to Shiloh. If there are tests being issued? Avi's failing splendidly, cause he's just as relaxed as can be, not the least bit concerned with formalities. So much so that he winks playfully at Ajral to assure her that he is hearing the dragon, as well.

That he's quietly pleased with himself seeps into the brown's mindtouch, making it feel somehow lighter. Even as Ajral starts to bow her head though, there's a little mimicry of a human headshake, brisk and rejecting. « Oh, no, none of that, please. You're not weyrlings yet, and even then… » It's not a required kind of formality and if anyone here is not looking for extra respect (OTHER THAN RAU WHO IS LITERALLY DOING NOTHING TO EARN ANY XANADOAN STREET CRED - unless one earns that for imitating male models? - by letting his idle gaze drift over the other dragons being attended in the surf - or maybe just watching the paddle boarders farther out), it's Xath. There's an edge of nonchalance to him, even if there's also an underlying energy that speaks of some sort of private excitement with all this. « Pleased to meet you all, » and the brown goes as far as to repeat back to them as if to prove he's paying attention, « Ajral, Shiloh and Averil. » He'll even add, as an afterthought, « That's Rau, » who will at least lift a hand without looking at the candidates and cut the air with his fingers in passing imitation of a wave. « We're new. Here. To Xanadu I mean. Not to being assistant weyrlingmasters. » The order there got a little awkward, but that idiot, Xath, is trying to wrangle it back into order by brightly instructing, « If you'll all collect some supplies and follow me into the water, we can get started. » A beat before he ventures, not shyly but with a touch of expectation that just maybe they won't want to, « I thought we could chat while you help me get cleaned up. » It's almost a question and someone probably could say no, but he's really being quite a genial sort for a dragon and almost, almost normal (inasmuch as there even is such a thing with dragons. « Maybe you have questions I could help answer…? » He leads the invitation out as he's shifting on his feet a little before backing up toward the surf. RIP that sandhold he just stepped on. At least its builder is long gone (or wasn't there to be trod on instead).

Ajral has gotten used to this idiosyncracy of Xanadu to some extent, and has begun to allow dragons to influence her a little; much like Inasyth can convince her to do stupid reckless things without much difficulty, her mood lightens a bit in response to Xath's touch. Even if M'tras actually does get a salute from her when he raises his hand in the air as if he's pretending to care about them kind of but not really, it's short, and she's gathering supplies as instructed. And being thankful that she had already tossed aside her shoes, please no one step on her feet, "I hope you're liking Xanadu."

Apparently, Shiloh has been in Xanadu long enough to find the idea of a dragon asking permission to converse with him to be the surprising part of this interaction. Most of them just blast themselves into his brain and don't seem to give much consideration to whether he'd like to retain his sanity (trial by fire in Xanadu! Shiloh's made it so far. And still somewhat sane! #winning). Another flick of a glance for Rau and his air-slice, but Shiloh doesn't seem to think this warrants any sort of return gesture, and so none is given. Back to Xath, then. "Okay," comes readily enough, even as he eyes the backing up somewhat warily. A moment more and he's looking around for those supplies and collecting what he needs, passing off another set to Avi, and then trailing Xath toward the water. The idea of questions gives him pause and, while there might be a moment that Shiloh considers asking a few, he ultimately just shakes his head. Either he's got none, or they're not quite appropriate.

Averil slants a glance back at Rau on the blanket at the introduction, his chin dipping in an easy nod. Relaxed is good, relaxed is absolutely /fine/ with him. "Welcome to Xanadu," he offers the human half of the equation. Which is, of course, followed with. "Have you ever considered modeling?" Yes, it is a bit out of context with what is happening, but he is still looking for models for the deck of cards he's working on. (And really, he's absolutely /certain/ Ru'ien would approve this choice) Course, he is not really waiting for an answer, taking the offered supplies from Shiloh with a warm smile. "Thank you," is offered before his attention is back on Xath. "I don't… I don't really know," he admits as he follows the dragon toward the water.

« Oh sure, » Xath's easy answer is both authentic and the path of least resistance to the remark from Ajral. « What's not to like? You have water, seasons other than 'just too cold' pleasant people and dragons, and just enough to do to leave you with leisure aplenty. » That last will surely change when the dragons still growing inside the eggs hatch, but for now, it's the good life according to the brown who slips readily into the water. But speaking of both Xanadu and the eggs, « Are you all from here? » It's the pleasant kind of chit-chat one expects from humans, but perhaps less readily from an enormous dragon settling in the water where it's easy to climb over at least half of him without having to swim. « Are you looking forward to hatching day? » It's the next logical question, right? There's a hint of extra attention given to it, though. The dragon glances in the direction of the beach from whence he came as M'tras turns his head to look at Averil, expression impassive. "Thank you." That's the part that can be heard in answer to Averil's words, but what exactly it means is a mystery given bland neutrality of the man's face. If he offers further answer, it's when the candidate is already too far toward the water to make it out. To Averil, the brown directs (though broadly enough to include all three), « Being in training, questions are a part of it. » Just in case the not knowing is more not wanting to ask than not truly knowing. « Did you have questions about any of the things you're learning? Or the eggs? I admit, Leirith or Xermiltoth are probably better equipped to answer particular things about them, » YOU'RE WELCOME, LEIRITH AND XERMILTOTH, FOR ANY BRIGHT-EYED INQUIRIES THAT COME YOUR WAY, « but more broadly, I might be able to answer them. » Maybe.

The question about modeling has Ajral not actually stopping mid-step forward to position herself in a good place to wash a dragon's haunches, but only because of a lot of self-control. The self-control that is stopping her from covering her face with her hand and giggling awkwardly. Really though she's impressed Averil had the nerve to ask such a question, even if it did strike her as momentarily hilarious; even if she didn't let it strike her hard enough to react outwardly with more than briefly brightening eyes. "I'm from High Reaches," she says, when she trusts herself to talk, "but I've been standing here for — I think this is my eighth clutch." THAT, she maybe has lost track of, it might be the seventh or the ninth. Then she can't resist saying to Averil just: "That was brave."

Ajral might not stop, but Shiloh definitely does. He's also shooting a look at Avi, though it may be misinterpreted. He's not jealous for the question. More like awkward because this is definitely not the time to ask such things (and M'tras is probably not the sort to ask such things of what with the whole… weyrlingmastering thing.). A sigh and he trudges on, grim expression better befitting a soldier headed to war than a candidate headed to dragon bathing. Particularly when this dragon is being so friendly. "How long do I have to be in Xanadu before I'm allowed to answer 'yes' to that?" wonders Shiloh, somewhat honestly. "Been here two turns," is a more accurate answer, at least. A moment of hesitation comes before Shiloh asks, "Can I climb up?" before actually doing so (assuming permission is given) so he can scrub at those hard to reach places. It's only a little awkward, probably. Of the eggs, well… There's another thin-lipped grimace that probably says it all, even if he's not quite in a position for his expression to be witnessed. And then it's his turn to repeat Averil's words with that, "I don't think so," in response. At least, he can't quite think of any questions that Xath might be able to answer (Unless Xath might be able to tell him why dragons pick who they pick? Though prior experience has taught Shiloh that the answer is likely to be vague, if there is one at all).

Averil shakes his head in response to Xath as they wade deeper into the water. Mind you, what is comfortably deep for the others is getting into water treading territory for the artist. "I was born in Ista Weyr," he admits. "And then Harper Hall, but I love it here." So that is nice, at least. It's the other questions, the questions about things he'd rather not think about that has him drawing in a slow breath, his tongue brushing over his lips. He has not, however, missed Shiloh's look and can't help smiling in response. He's going to be himself, no matter what, particularly with his confidence growing in leaps and bounds. It's Ajral's assertion that he is brave that has him suitably distracted enough to flash a wry smile. "Not at all. I was being serious. I'm going a deck of dragonpoker cards.. All male. Granted, they're nude, or nearly so." So, racey pin-up cards. "Just wait, I fully intend to ask the really big man with the eyepatch, as well." He has so /many/ ideas of how to pose that one. Still, a question was asked and it would be rude not to answer, so he turns his attention back to Xath as he steps in close enough to the dragon's side. "Thinking to hard about it feels like wishing for a runner on your turnday," he admits. "I don't know if that makes sense," he admits quietly.

Permission to climb is readily offered in a quick, « Of course, » the brown shifting just a little to help, in fact, with the ease of mounting slick hide. Amusement tinges the brown's mindvoice as he directs a wry, « Ahh, High Reaches, where people live in freezing cavers and like it, » to Ajral. There's a pretended shudder for all that that's another very human sort of expression. To soften what might be taken as insult he adds, « Not a far cry from Telgar where I hatched and we trained up. » So, obviously, for at least some of the time Xath was part of that crowd and is entitled to the thus in-crowd joke. Did anyone know dragons could understand those subtle sorts of social contexts? Probably not all, but this one seems to anyway. Addressing Shiloh's question next, the dragon's mind seems to weigh the question like tossing a ball from one hand to the other and back again, a feeling he must have stolen from, well, someone with hands (probably Rau). « I'd say it probably just depends on when you feel like you belong here. You probably do, » he ventures to the woman who's stood so many times, a slight sense of her there in his thoughts along with a sense of inquiry in place of raising brows since those eyeridges of his will not move. It's his head that's surrendered Averil-wards probably thinking to help keep him in the shallows. « Do you? » inquires of Shiloh, « Feel at home? And you? » Avi, but that's probably easier to guess since Averil has volunteered his love of the place. Perhaps what Averil meant about wishing for a runner for your turnday is a little lost on Xath because reasons a dragon would want a runner are somewhat more uncomfortably carnivorous than what a human might want one for, but he's trying, with his helpful, blithe sharing, « Rau wanted a runner for a turnday once. He got it, though. And then, later, his mother made him give it away. » Forgive his utter obliviousness that this is, in fact, a sad kind of story to tell total strangers.

A sad kind of story, particularly when someone in a very similar position is on his back and scrubbing away at brown hide. Or, pausing in the midst of that scrubbing to frown hard down at his hands. Sure, Shiloh's runner is very much his own, and his mother is in no position to make him give it away, but still. Something about that story hits a little close to home. Ahem. He shakes it off with a literal roll of his shoulders and gets back to scrubbing, scooting ever higher on Xath as he does so. "Not sure," is the much belated reply to the question of whether he feels at home here. "More so than anywhere else, I suppose." This time, the words come with a slide of his eyes toward Avi, where they linger for a few moments longer before he's back on task.

"Yes, I'm still not sure how I feel about cold," Ajral never did make up her mind. She moved to Fort too soon, and then to Xanadu, and then back to Fort, and then back to High Reaches, and then back to Xanadu, and then … right. "I do like runners though, I've got one but I don't feel I care for him well enough and should probably give him to someone else," she rambles, even as she's doing her best to wash haunches. Or haunch. The one right in front of her; she has gotten somewhat decent at dragon-bathing, over the turns. She is not good at it. But she is not terrible or lacking. "It's not a bad place to consider home."

Averil immediately looks grateful for the lowered head, his head lowering as he murmurs, "Thank you," to Xath. Still, his hands are quick to go to work on the brown's head, his touch, however, remains gentle. It's the question, though, that has him glancing up at Shiloh on Xath's back, his expression warming. "Definitely," he answers as he watches the beastcrafter for a few moments before returning to his task. "I more meant…." Trailing off, he shakes his head, lightly clearing his throat as he tries to find the right words. "I don't know what to expect," he admits. "You hear about people getting hurt and that's worrisome… I Imagine the whole thing must go by very quickly, though. And then you are back to your life."

« The nice thing about being a dragon, » jokes the brown his baritone rich with the good humor of it, « is that you're never without your home because your home is your lifemate and they're always right there. » There's a flash, but only the one, of the profound depth of the vital connection he shares with his lifemate. It's something so complex that it's impossible to appreciate in a lifetime let alone in the half-second it's available to his conversational partners, but maybe that half-second is enough to give a person pause or at least food for thought. People hear riders talk about their lifemates, but how often does a person get to feel it - from that end? Well, Xath probably didn't exactly mean to share, but there it is and he's hardly ashamed of it, or the indolent Rau whose face is upturned toward the sun, eyes closed at this point. There's the sense of a throat clearing though and Xath is bringing his mind back to other things. « It's been described as both fast and forever-long. Injuries do happen, » of course, « but they're the exception, not the rule. » His head tilts as though to look toward Ajral. « Ajral's stood enough. She can probably tell you better than I can remember, » about how it feels to be on the hatching sands, he means. Though, of course, she need not do so now. « Rau stood for a clutch before mine hatched. » He offers as though this might help, what with M'tras being so involved in their conversation right now. (Although, maybe he is, despite all appearances to the contrary.)

If Ajral's distracted for a minute from answering that question, it's simply because she's distracted by Xath's input — or is it output? That feeling that she's found herself wanting to feel far more than she's willing to admit: she keeps standing for work, really, but there is a distant longing created by the experience itself, and for a split second she's pretty sure that she knows why in a way that she can't ever put into words. But it lasts a fleeting moment, and then she's back in her mind, washing a dragon, getting a little bit of soap on her face, and talking about hatchings: "It isn't quite — I mean. When you're left standing, it's not always so easy to go back. It's a little bit jarring. But that's … not what the question was." Try again, Ajral. "The actual hatchings always felt fast to me but it also feels kind of like it falls into slow motion sometimes. So much going on, so hard to process because it is in a way bizarre — and I've not seen a serious injury, ever, just read about them."

A crack of the door — a little, tiny peek — into that bond. Is it something Shiloh is expecting? Of course not. And it gives him pause much like it does Ajral, even if there's a distinctly different sort of reaction. Is getting a peek at what a bond between dragon and rider is like… the same thing as feeling it? Or is it more like looking in on something that could be but isn't yet and might never be? And how does Shiloh feel about this potentially new and very impactful information? Well. He's not about to say, and given his current position on high, any slips of expression will be easy to miss. He'll just scrub away, happy to let Xath, Avi and Ajral chat, by all appearances content to simply listen in rather than contribute anything himself. He's got some thinking to do.

That momentary flash from Xath is enough to still Averil's hands on the Brown's eyes ridges and inspire a little gasp that has him craning his neck to glance at the man on the shore. It's the hugeness of it all that has him stunned, the tip of his tongue brushing over his lips as he tries to take in what came and went in a flash. There is talk about injuries and standing and in the end, he finds himself remaining silent, trying very hard not to think about being left standing and never feeling that 'something' again.

NEVER SAY NEVER, AVI! Not only are chances even odds come hatching time, unless the bookies say something different, if that idiot, Xath, slipped up once, he might well do it again~ That would help, right? No? The dragon, it must be said, has noticed the all-around pause, but there's briefly a touch of blankness because he's failing to grasp the whys and wherefores of what he's seeing. Rau's dark eyes slit open and he tips his head toward the dragon and candidates. Now, he chooses to assert some authority, though he doesn't actually rouse himself from his spot in the sun. "Less talk, more scrubbing!" The shout comes from a throat used to needing to make itself heard over, say, high wind, or roaring surf. Still, the bark of it lacks any kind of bite and Xath's touch holds bemusement, clearly taking no real chastisement from the instruction. He does quiet some though, even if he might continue to tease out some details about Xanadu or their candidacy experiences thus far and just who they are in their lives outside of all the white knot has added to their lives while they finish scrubbing him clean under— well, M'tras' theoretically watchful eyes (that are mostly closed so long as they're staying on task, but then, these candidates are all adults, so he probably thinks they can handle that much if Xath isn't helping to distract them).

The shout is a welcome thing for Averil. Not because he is uncomfortable, but because it helps keep him focused and on track. He has a lot to think about, though. In fairness, he has a lot more then he had before coming down to the beach. That being the case, while he's assuredly listening to anything Xath has to say, and answering as best he can? He is mostly focusing on the task at hand rather then the thoughts bumping around in his brain. It's all good, though. He'll live, Xath will get bathed, experiences will be had by all!

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