A Tale or Two (Ajral is Searched!)

Xanadu Weyr - Garden
An arch woven from the tendrils of a willow tree stretches overhead lightly creeping with ivy as one steps in from the meadow into this sanctuary of green. Cool gray flagstone carefully spaced enables a soft velvety moss to thrive within the cracks, and creates a single wide pathway that fluidly breaks off into two paths of stone once free of the natural arbor. It is a wonder this place, and meticulously tended from the way it seems not a single leaf is out of place.
On either side of the main path expansive grassy patches are trimmed short and edged behind with natural tan colored stone selectively chosen to stack just right. Beyond these are a line of fine puffed shrubberies in vibrant green intermingled with flowering bushes of brilliant pinks varying in hue from the very light to the very dark, which causes the occasional snowy white blossoms of other scattered here and there without worry to simply pop out of the scenery.
Directly in the center of the garden is another wall of intricately stacked stone, this of muted grays, creating what from the air would prove to be a perfect circle. It's been set high for safety, but not so much as one would not be able to lean over it to admire what lies beyond, either standing or sitting at the smattering of benches whose backs are set every four feet along it. Flush to the ground inside it's protective stone outcropping, is an enormous twenty foot wide fish pond. Within one can glean the metallic glint of playful goldfish, the unhurried cruise of fat koi, and even a frog or three among pale yellow and white flowering water lilies and their thick green pads.
The trees surrounding the entire garden were planted to give the impression that they had always been here, not only lending to a rustic look, but also alluding to the beauty that can be found among the wilds if only one might just look for it. Species vary from the ordinary Birch and Pine, but the flaming red capsules of the Indian Shot to the robust orange spokes of the Firewheel tree suggest the spice of the exotic.

Ajral is taking this hard earned break in the garden instead. There are fish, and it's fish that have her focus: her oversized sketchpad is leaned up against the wall, and she's sitting (tailor-style again, in leggings with a long tunic, demonstrating the sort of nonchalant flexiblity that would make her a yogi if Pern had such things) backward on a bench looking over the stones to glance between actual fish and illustrated fish fairly regularly. She is not talking to herself, though she is talking; she is speaking to the fish, whenever the one she is drawing moves or swims past: "The infirmary would be so much nicer with fish," she observes. "I think you are too big, but maybe we could get a small tank. Perhaps you will have babies."

Rukbat may embrace Xanadu at the moment with her light, but there is still yet a shadow that moves. It's no secret, though, nothing that bides its time around a corner, no question that a presence - his presence- has graced this garden. From farther down the fish pond, shaded by the great trees planted there long ago, a man in no great hurry moves 'long the water's edge. The swagger of him is aloof, dominant, cocky. An authority owned about the whole of him, as if he claims this place- and every place- as his own. The poise, the behavior, doesn't match what's readily apparent of his clothing- a cloak akin to a begger's threadbare and sunbleached brown-tan cloak hangs in rumbled layers across his shoulders, and falling in waves down to almost his knees. But where it shifts, there is stark black and hints, bits of the glint of silver. Metallic clinking is muffled, muted, but there in every stride he takes. Though he makes no effort to hurry, he still seems to have intent to his direction- one that doesn't appear to include even the briefest glance at the floral inhabitants of the garden. The hood of the cloak is down, 'round his neck, revealing the ever-dissheveled black hair of his head, and the chill of sea-blue eyes that contrast so intensely with the kohl 'round them, and the rogue's scruff of his face. There's a grin there, an arrogant one, that only touches the left side of his mouth and doesn't quite meet his eyes. "Young ones do tend to grow." Comes a voice thick in accent, gravel-touched and honey-laced. "Unless it is the tale of the best survivor you are looking for. Fish can be… awfully cruel to one another." The man comes to a pause just off to the side of her, though his attention has fallen from reading her face, to reading her drawings.

"Do koi cannibalize each other?" Ajral looks back over her shoulder, having been instantly aware of someone's presence — and a presence that certainly came with a feeling. Those who easily command a room are often also those who make the hairs on the backs of the necks of people looking away from them rise when they enter a space, and that is certainly what happened here; that, and that Ajral's caught making the foolish statement of a baby huge fish fitting in the space of a small fish. Baby huge fish do become huge fish, it is true, and so she deflects that foolishness with a question she may or may not actually want the answer to. "I could reframe this piece as one of a conquering pond hero, the Great Fish who survived those who tried to destroy him. Even if he had to destroy them in the process." At the moment it is none of that, simply a fish taking a corner-turn, outline done, details and shading beginning to fill in.

The sound of cloth is most of the indication of Kaellian's faint shrug, since so much cloth overlies the motion. "Would not most beasts, if confined to an ever-shrinking place. An ever more-" A hand rises from the folds of his ensemble to scratch 'neath his earring'd ear, his left wrapped in black cloth, the glint of silver rings and drop of red jewel on one punctuating a few of his fingers - "Hostile environment, I would imagine." Humans are included in that sentiment, or so it is implied. Intense gaze lingers on that drawing for a moment, though it speaks of no particular reaction, gives away no feelings on the skill she's displayed there thus far. Then, returns to her, drifting over the whole of her in her position on that bench, only to stop again at her face, "Not a bad beginning of a tale, love. Do you fancy yourself a writer as well?"

Ajral's taste for fine things hones in on that jewelry, and she's eyeing the rings with thoughtful curiosity for a moment; not the kind that might want to steal them, but a simple appraisal of how good they look. It's not about value, just — is it a pretty thing, or not? "Most humans would kill one another but not eat the flesh of other humans," she says calmly, as if it's a common conversation topic. "Most. I couldn't speak confidently to what all would do, and I'm sure that it's happened at least once. Probably in a situation where there was nothing else to eat, rather than pleasure, though I could not completely rule that out either," but she can pull the slightest stank-face at it momentarily, "Those who could not kill would probably not be able to cope with eating human flesh either." Making it sound so cheerful, that's Ajral. Everything is a light topic. "No, I think I'd be a terrible writer, but I used to be a babysitter, so I had to do a number of heroic tales on the fly. Drawing I actually had some lessons for." Her knot is a Healer's and not a Harper's, but the halls are close and she's persuasive. "Those are lovely rings."

That hand returns to his side, just barely evident under those layers so not appropriate for the season. Kaellian's eyes, born of a color of the ocean, frozen at their edges from the turns that have come since, watch her, study her, as she speaks. It's as if he's determining something. Something that she must pass, because that little hint of grin that had drawn slight lines into the rapscallion's rugged scruff-lined face broadens a touch. Just a bit. Just enough to seem to touch his eyes. There's nothing lasting about it, however. Whatever thought he'd had is a passing thing. His weight shifts, that same hand reached for the bench's back to lean on it slightly. "What a man wouldn't do and what he couldn't do, I do believe are two very different things. True colors are not often so obvious until just the right… situation.. would you not agree?" That amusement, that dry sarcastic tone, seems to belong there as much as that thick accent itself. Closer as he is now, there is the smell of the sea on him, and the ever-present note of rum clinging there. Wafting, really, in a somehow not entirely overpowering way. "Are your tales of adventure ones of whimsies of lads and lasses, or of wishful thinking?" Does she wish she could see the world too? Live by the sword? Find treasures? Oh how it sounds so romanticized put in such words, the grim and gruesome, the stains and filth and struggle covered by those brief glimpses of highlights. An eyebrow raises at her compliment, "Aye." A breath through his nose takes the place of what must be a laugh never allowed to be, his tongue tracing his teeth in deeper consideration of that adjective than it was meant to earn, "Not what I have heard them called before, but I suppose you could say so."

Ajral is also up against that bench against the wall by the pond, sketchbook balanced against the wall itself, the lines of a well-reproduced koi fish swimming visible on it. She'd been starting to put in shading when interrupted, and now she and Kaellian are having some sort of dialogue that might be a complete agreement and might be a debate. For now it seems more inclined to demonstrate that healer and sailor are on the same page: Ajral, after adding a line to the fish, simply nods once. "Morality is a code in many, an instinct in some. Few. Most people can break their own moral codes if they must, though that smaller number are too sensitive to even get as far as to try. Everyone is their truest self under pressure." That one she can certainly say she's seen many a time in her own form of war zone. "It is true, though, the stone is fine — fine-looking, regardless of actual value." A costume-jewelry girl, here, it seems. "And children like whimsical stoies, more often than not. There are usually heroic grown-up-weyrbrats saving their homes and families, or creating fine empires, but no Lord Holders' daughters or bronzeriders so much. I tried to make ordinary people seem magical to them." For all that at least one of those charges probably is a bronzerider by now.

Right, so speaking of adventure, and morality, and TRUEST SELVES: here comes Risali. Okay, so she's irrelevant to any of those aforementioned things, but she is actually here, and she's moving along slowly. She's got her weight off of one foot bandaged to keep straight, a crutch under a hand opposite to the other hand that's also wrapped in bandages, and her face is a spectacularly angry show of changing colors. The lip is split, that eye and that nose and that cheek have bruising, but it probably looks a lot worse than it is because HERE SHE IS, RIGHT? Smol, determined, calling, "THIS WAY?" over her shoulder and getting back a thunderous boom of answer that doesn't hit just her mind - it hits everybody receptive to it, of course. « YES MINION. GO FORTH. » So she does, and while Risali's eyes fall briefly on Kaellian, there is very clearly a determination for her to not look at him probably in the interests of maintaining her pride, or not having to answer questions, or any combination thereof. Hobble, hobble, and here she is at the bench, lingering awkwardly in a group discussion she was neither part of or invited to, but conjuring up to words to say, "Hello," around a smile (and a bit of a wince - WHAT, HER LIP HURTS) into a break. "Do you mind if I sit? I have plenty of whimsical stories about bronzeriders." That hint of humor comes dry, a hint that she doesn't actually but is surrounded by them and so probably does at least have a tale or five hundred.

A finger taps against that bench, louder than it would be otherwise without the blunt-sharp sound of the metallic band on that finger rapping against something solid. But it's an idle motion, a thoughtful thing. "One for philosophy, are you. Or perhaps one of the mind in other ways." Kaellian's head tips slightly, probably in indication of her knot. "And what about your morality? Do you believe it's instinct, or.. bendable?" Quite a question for an I-just-met-you conversation, but there is something about darkness that whispers, hushed and unhurried and beckoning. It wonders, it tugs lightly. It doesn't need to demand, because it simply looks for what is already there. And for this man whose cloak hardly covers what is really beneath seems far too earnestly interested in that answer, and likely the next; "That wasn't my question, love." That smirk flickers at its edge, his gaze turned towards the water beyond them. Perhaps he even looks at those koi for the first time for real, though more likely just at the water. It may not be salt water, but there would forever be favor to it, "Are you inspired by your own desires?" Though maybe the man of the sea could have written off the one who comes 'round the garden towards them as someone else (maybe. unlikely), but he can't miss the booming mindvoice that shatters the tenuous, tainted calm that feigns over the two conversing by the bench. Kaellian's presence looms, of course. That heavy, pregnant thing that's hard to miss in the room, the space, wherever he is. That 'announcement' makes that gaze travel, to watch Risali as she hobbles her way on over to them. "Risali." When she's close enough, of course, does his low tones nigh hum her name in a curiously interested tone. He doesn't particularly sound concerned of what he sees, but there's no doubt he looks over her, pausing at the marks on her face longer than the crutch at her side or the bandaged hand. "Looking fabulous as always, I see." Had he heard the rumors? Had he just come back from a comparatively prolonged stint at sea and missed whatever befell them? "Of course." To her sitting, though there is a look past her as she does so, as if expecting someone to be chasing after her, looking like this. Proven wrong for now, he adds, "Only of bronzeriders? I'm quite certain you've more than one of your own."

Ajral, dodging questions by providing answers that might totally be sufficient answers for people who weren't completely paying attention? Never. Or, really, always, but Kaellian gets points for not just running with it. She is distracted from answering him, though, however transfixed she may have been for mere seconds by the consideration (it is possible she doesn't actually have a good answer to the question, and maybe she hasn't thought about it before — she'd have a good answer to the second, if she were taking a moment to actually answer it instead of being distracted). The distraction, of course, is not entirely Risali but first Leirith, who is even more startling than her rider's calling to her; that has her easily able to notice the Weyrwoman's arrival. "Help yourself," she says with a carefree but respectful sort of smile. "Though you may have to tell us one. A story about bronzeriders, or yourself, or both, bonus points for making it up on the spot." She never got to use things that actually happened when she was babysitting, after all, even if embellishments were fair game. As for her morality? They'll get back to it, won't they? Kaellian can't possibly be planning to let it go.

SHOULD RISALI HAVE BROUGHT A SQUIRT BOTTLE TO THIS CONVERSATION, Y'ALL? Because she can go back for one, you know. If you need a minute. Or thirty. (FINGERGUNS, PEWPEWPEW.) As it stands, those grey eyes roll slow to Kaellian for his greeting and his observation of her appearance, a slow smile coming that speaks to her usual mischief and penchant for humor as she drawls out, "You should see the other guy." Except… maybe that knee-jerk rejoinder hits too close to home, because Risali's smile falters, her chin drops, and then those eyes cast towards the bench as if she's found much more interest in making sure she doesn't make a spectacular fool out of herself when she sits. Which she does. She sits right there on that bench, and she pulls her crutch to settle between her legs, and then she wraps arms and legs around it like some kind of restless child while using the handle of it to rest her chin upon. Whatever plagued her moments ago fled in the wake of moving, and so there's that (wince-inducing) smile again as her attention jumps between Kaellian and Ajral, as she parts with soft, breathy laughter and scrunches up her nose in humor except that hurts too so ends in a kind of grimace. "I do believe that I have no idea what you're talking about," comes smoothly for Kaellian, a tease and a challenge all in one as she tilts her head to take in Ajral a little better. "Right, a tale." A beat as Risali's eyes go skyward, as if trying to see far, far back and settle on something good. "To be honest, I think we're all heroes in our own rights," she starts with, "because we all have things we need to overcome. Some of us have darkness inside of ourselves, and sometimes our enemies are more corporeal and tangible, but." A beat, a bite down on that already sore lip in thought and then those shoulders tuck in as Risali releases her hold on her crutch to lean backwards on the bench, to place her good hand back and slightly behind her as those shoulders shift and her attention drops back to Ajral. "I did know a bronzerider who very nearly gave up his life trying to save the children in his weyr. And I knew a few bronzeriders who went to save him when the odds stacked against his favor." A beat, a hint of smile. "And a goldrider, too." But it could literally be anybody. The who, and the what, and then when and the where is entirely too vague. "There were riders of other colors, of course, but. It did start with the daring and brave of one bronzerider." One finger of Risa's bad hand comes up then, pointing on Kaellian before she's even looking. "Okay, go. Daring, heroic tale." Not because she is serious; probably to take the attention away from herself and put it back on the two originally participating in this conversation.

For a moment, there's something simply off about Kaellian's glance over Ajral. Nothing about him is entirely kind, the hardness there trying to read into something not yet given. As if he expected an answer, expected something that now he has to wait for. And waiting is what the world is supposed to do for him, not the other way around. However, his display of impatience is…. patience. A filing of possibility of usefulness done in the back of that mind, if it exists at all. A judgement left unspoken, as always, and to be determined whenever is most convenient for him. "It is a shame I did not." An enigmatic statement granted that could mean so many different things that he leaves just as that for Risali rejoinder that lets her smile falter as it does. His smirk broadens a touch, perhaps an uncontrolled thing, true humor in the light of her tease and challenge. He straightens as she cradles that crutch, his hand vanishing into a pocket at his chest 'neath all those layers to fish out the flask that lives there while she begins her story. He's finishing the second of a long drink from it with a long liquor-induced exhale added to his bluntly teasing return to the weyrwoman, "That doesn't count, m'lady." He drawls his disapproval. "Where be the gritty details, the lead up to a captivating turn of events?" He is the master of the story, afterall. It comes with the territory. "Heroic, ey?" A dark, low chuckle arises from his low in his chest, "I'm not so sure me tales have the same lessons to offer as yours." That's not a no, per se, not at all.

Ajral, making trouble for the troublemakers, here. Or at least for Kaellian; while there's probably no doubt Risali is also a troublemaker, she's not making any trouble for her. At least not so far. She's impressed more than anything with Risali's commentary, at least the beginning of it. While technically it is a story with very few details, there's certainly the bones of a good yarn for children. Which, by the way, Ajral no longer works with, but it never hurts to gather detail. "That you're right about," she confirms with a steady nod, "That's people, in a nutshell. I would know. I am an expert." Her confident statement comes with a laugh-y type of smile, a single exhalaton and the facial expression of a laugh without much actual laughter, but it's there — it's more an eyeroll at herself than true deprecation, especially since the statement is technically true. "Most people's greatest enemies are themselves." Again, she always says 'much' or 'most' or 'many' because … she can't generalize. That never ends well. Kaellian also gets a curious glance again, a hesitant smile, a thoughtful, "You could still tell us one. I'm not sure any of mine had real morals, they were — entertainment. And yes, maybe one or two were things I'd have loved to do with my life, but the kids found those a little less easy to understand, so I generally talked about them." Weyrbrats who are 5 certainly do not care about what 16 turn old healers want to do with their days.

Risali's expression doesn't change, but there is a question there for Kaellian's response - one that is not voiced, one that does not go further than the shift at the corner of her lips and those brows knitting in because she decides that it's probably better if she doesn't know. Instead, she focuses on stories and bronzeriders and rolls her eyes around another slow smile for Kaellian's JUDGEMENTS OF HER STORYTELLING ABILITIES. "Well, go on, then. Show me how one tells a real story." PUT HER TO SHAME. It's not hard anyway, and knowing Risali, there's probably gaps in her story because it's true — not because she just made it up on the spot. But she does nod to Ajral, she listens and then leans towards her and forward, as if she means to see the woman better. "An expert?" A flicker of eyes for knots. "What is it that you do? And what is your name?" But then she lets her speak to Kaellian, nodding her head towards THE ROGUISH ONE with a serious look that says, 'YEAH, TELL US YOUR STORY.' But in a sarcastic way, because he didn't like hers. Or, well, he didn't shower it in praise and clap, anyway.

Fine. But he's going to sit for this. AND SIT HE DOES. Oh don't get him wrong, though, he adores telling stories. What sailor doesn't? Those wild kind that are as much fiction as fact, as much wild and magic and wonder as they are riddled in truth of the dirty things he's likely done himself. Kaellian joins the two women on the bench, finally, not bothering particularly to give anyone space. He considers Ajral once he's seated, but Risali asked the questions he would have, so he waits. Doesn't comment on the likely all-true statement of greatest enemies, and lets his cloth-wrapped hand drag fingers through his perpetually but intentionally messed hair before a roll of a shoulder adjusts his cloak, letting his arm in that long-sleeve tunic despite any weather rest across the back of it behind Risali. "I imagine one could find some sort of moral to any story, or at least some fashion of a lesson, aye?" Good or bad. One doesn't always have to learn to be a better person from a story, afterall. "As you wish." To both of them, though whatever exasperation is present in those worse is feigned, obvious by the fact there's still a smirk there. A dramatic pause begins the tale, mainly because he's going to take another drink. "It was a morning unlike many others, where the night lingered longer than it should, and the fog rose higher and higher until it spilled over onto the decks of the ship. The captain of this particular one had sought an island. Not just any island, but one that nobody had ever seen before. He was the fifth generation. Not of fathers and sons, but rather of men taken. Plucked from their own vessels and their previous precious lives. Should they not wither under the older captain's eye, they would be told of the what lay on that island, and without fail every single one took up the calling. The crew never learned what they had spent decade after decade searching for. Maybe it was a pool of infinite life. Some imagined glorified treasure. And others, an oasis of women who lusted for the sight of man." His thumb strokes slowly over the back of his rings, and while a glance falls to the mindhealer to test her reaction, then to Risali with a sly wink, for the most part he watches the water as if every word is drawn from memory, "The captains never bothered to correct them. Whatever made them driven to stay the course, they let them believe it. And this particular morning, a hush had befallen them all. One could hear every lap of water against the hull, every creak of the ship's ropes against the riggings. Even the crew who had been left in the dark knew they were there. A massive shadow befell them, as the island abruptly appeared, looming. The ship lurched as it hit ground. The captain was the first to descend onto the beach. A beautiful voice arose from the distance, and the captain followed it. He walked forward ahead of his crew, disappearing into the fog." Another pause, a finger tracing the monogram of his flask. Assuming no dramatic interruption, he continues, "Not wanting to be left behind, his first mate rushed after him- only to run hard into a cliff face. The rest of the crew joined him, running their hands all over the rocks to try to find an entrance, a passage- anything. But there was nothing. The singing drifted away as if the wind itself, and they were left to that still silence. The crew stayed on that beach for a few nights, even tried to sail around the island- but there was no way in without an impossible climb up sheer cliff. Some tried, out of desperation of course, and they fell to their deaths for it. Eventually, they sailed away empty handed, and a life's adventure without reward."

What with everyone crowding her and all that, Ajral turns around and sits to face forward, instead of being backward on the bench, and for once both legs dangle (though her long-leggedness means her feet are definitely touching the ground and then so) instead of being bent in some unusual yoga-pose-like arrangement. "You could probably find at least a thin moral for most stories," she agrees, settling in to focus her attention on Kaellian. Oh yes — and her knot. She is wearing it. She is totally a Healer Journeyman. Which she even says: "I'm a mindhealer. Ajral. I have been at the analyzing the human condition thing a while, but for now — " She bows her head to the storyteller, and falls silent until he is done with it. "Perhaps the adventure was part of it," she says quietly, not sure how much she wants to try to interpret A Good Story With A Solid Mystery And A Downer Ending, but it's enough to get her contemplating.

Risali shifts just enough to not be sat on, but otherwise yields no ground for Kaellian — the bare minimum required to be polite, making it perfectly clear that his permeation of SPACE and the subsequent owning of it does not have any effect on her. Not on Risali, who may not be nearly as commanding with her presence, but who certainly does not cower; no, Risali is rapt with attention the moment that Kaellian starts to weave his tell — who leans closer and holds her breath as if the simple act of breathing might disrupt the mood his story sets or deafen her to words important for interpretation. But there is something else there too, something inquisitive and challenging, something that is looking a little too closely at a man who adorns himself in clothes inappropriate for summer climes and ensures that his hair is unkempt in a manner aesthetically lazy rather than true negligence. It's as if Risali sees that indolent phlegmaticism and knows that it's little more than armour meant to deflect and now, now she is using his story to piece together parts of a puzzle in a way that makes her understand him more. Or it could very well be nothing. But the spell is broken, that wink curbing intensity as Risali momentarily yields to humor instead, nose scrunching up with humor and feigned disgust as she reaches out with her good hand to smack the back of it in against Kaellian's bicep gently. "Shut up, Kaellian," she whispers (though it is NOT to be confused with a request for him to stop talking, just a playful response to fawning, mindless women and the winks that follow). But then he's talking again, and those grey eyes fixate, seeing less this time, hearing more. The Weyrwoman draws in her breath at those appropriately theatrical moments… and then the story ends, abrupt with nothing gained for the nameless characters on their fruitless journey, leaving Risali almost bereft with the understanding that she will never know what came next — or, more appropriately, what it was. "You were supposed to be a better storyteller," Risali issues on a stage whisper. "So what the hell was that?" TRASH. IT WAS TRASH. She didn't like the ending so IT WAS TRASH. Maybe that's why Risali is leaning to see AROUND him and catch Ajral's gaze, tilting her chin towards the man between them. "Can you check his head?" A STAGE WHISPER OF MISCHIEVOUS COLLUSION. "I think he's broken." But hey, she gave an introduction earlier, and so Risali is RUDLEY REACHING OVER KAELLIAN like THIS IS NORMAL, EVERYTHING IS FINE to extend her hand for the healer. "And I'm Risali, by the way," if, you know, you somehow missed that. She is distinctly void of her knot (as ever). "And now it's your turn." TO WEAVE A TELL. "Just make it better than Kaellian's." BECAUSE YOURS WAS TRASH. By which we mean Risali never getting to know what the hell that ish was.

In his own stories does he become enamored. The lines are greyed wherever truth meets whimsy, where mystery is woven by both recounted experience and imagination. So much so are those eyes of his, usually so characterized by hardness and cold and the abyss of the sea that creates the depth of them, instead there's some faint animation to them as that gaze pulls words from the very water itself in front of them. That water, that should be so calming, so un-imposing with its goldfish and koi and frogs and the various plants and whatever Pernese algea exists growing within. The smack on his arm only encourages him, of course, some of his words intermingled with the breath of a chuckle that is subdued only for the sake of the tale being told. When he's through and there is displeasure, Kaellian's grin only broadens, that darkly mischievous look of him deepened, and not in the least put out by that reaction. "That, love, was perfection." NOT TRASH, you see. Clearly the best story is not appreciated as it should be. "There is no better." Storyteller, of course. But that statement could include a number of his qualities he sees as unsurpassed by others. When he includes the mindhealer in assessing him, he rolls his eyes, and shifts to lean back a bit more. "I believe you mean dashing rapscallion. Scoundrel, perhaps." Broken is just not the right adjective, you see. It's not that he isn't broken, but that's far beneath this surface. Leagues beneath the ocean's crystalline waves, sundered by the weight of the water and the pressure of the absolute darkness where light could never reach. Where bones of ships lie, and treasures are lost forevermore. Well, at least, until the mask cracks and hints are granted. But that's not here nor there at the moment. As Risali reaches over him, he glances away, sighing, tongue tracing his lip in amused yet tolerant exasperation. Then his attention falls on Ajral, expectant of said challenge to be met.

"A pleasure," Ajral returns a firm-but-not-handbreaky shake, smiling with a bow of her head. She doesn't bother with any titles or ranks or ma'ams because it seems as if Risali doesn't expect or more importantly doesn't want any. "And I could, but he'd have to consent to it and to be honest most people don't because they are afraid of being found vulnerable. Or just being vulnerable, which is the case for most people …" It is, though, something every person is. "But if you want a good story with a downer ending, I think his was fine. If you didn't want a downer ending, though — " Well: "Most of the ones I know or have come up with are silly and for children, but did you know," and she leans forward a little, hooks a piece of her hair behind her ear, "about the tunnelcats that can take a human shape? No?" She smiles just a little, and the continues: "They're far away from here, and possibly far away from everywhere, and possibly long gone, but they lived once. And once there were some men who were best described as rakes," HELLO, KAEL, but no, that's a coincidence, she isn't actually making this one up on the spot so much as it's not a story she can tell children and she made it up before so she gets credit for it. "Though they could also have been described as jerks, or chauvinists, or just selfish, and while they had wives and children of their own, they decided to go capture some of these tunnelcats because htey heard they'd turn into beautiful women who would serve them. They caught two, bound their front paws together with rope, and told them that they were to take a human shape and serve them wine and then they would release them, all while threatening them with knives, because this is a wonderful way to convince someone of what you want. One of them cried, and they did not take a human shape, and so the one who was crying was killed, throat slit by the knife. Then the other took a human voice, and said, 'I have no clothes and no shoes,' and the men said they cared not at all, and so she took the form of a beautiful, naked human woman. Of course this delighted them, nad they made her serve them wine and food and do other terrible things, al with a rope still around one of her wrists, and eventually she convinced one of them — likely in a seductive fashion — to remove the rope." Very, very brief dramatic pause. "At which point she took one step backward and completely disappeared. The men thought that was the end of that, ad what a terrible end, too, but when they returnd to their homes they found their houses burned to the ground, and the wife and children of the one who slit the killed cat's throat burned in the fires." Ajral's smile now is a little bit wickedly feline around the edges, for all that a tunnelcat isn't actually a cat, and she appears satisfied with her moral, which is likely something about not bothering innocent animals even if they are also magical creatures, because they could definitely set you on fire.

'Dashing rapscallion,' Risali mouths back to the man of sea and TRASH TALES. TOTAL TRASH. Then she mouths it to Ajral, with a look that says, 'Did this man just say, 'Dashing rapscallion' to us?' because THE SISTERHOOD. THE SISTERHOOD GETS IT. And she doesn't have words for him, but she does place a playful hand over his face and push as if to shut him up because shut up, Kaellian. But there's another tale coming, and Risali is just as rapt for this, leaning forward, tucking her arms in against her stomach, peering around Kaellian and punching him (very gently) to make sure that he knows HE IS ALL THOSE DESCRIPTOR THINGS AND DEFINITELY NOT A DASHING RAPSCALLION (he is totally a dashing rapscallion YOU CAN BE WHATEVER YOU WANNA BE, BOO). Did she know? A headshake, more holding of her breath, more theatrical intakes of breath and shakes of her head because even in this story, WHAT IS INFINITE? The universe and THE GREED OF MEN. But that story comes to an end too, and Risali as exhaling as she settles back and rolls her eyes up towards the sky. A beat, two, three, and - "It's good she escaped, but the wife and child were probably just as trapped." Okay, Risali. ENOUGH WITH THE SYMPATHY FOR FICTITIOUS CHARACTERS. "But it was a better story than Kaellian's." TRASH. JK, it was not trash, it was very good but SHE STILL HATES THE ENDING. "So here, I have a prize." And she's producing… a white knot? Yes, a white knot, that she extends across Kaellian as she leans forward to give Ajral a smile (that turns a bit into a wince). "We do things a little differently here. We ask that you be discreet in your relations with men or women as opposed to abstinent - though, the no pregnancy rule remains. You can even drink, if you want, so long as your vice doesn't interfere with your ability to show up and do what you need to." A pause. "And you can continue your craft, just in case this dashing rapscallion over here ever decides he's up to feeling vulnerable." A wiggle of that knot. "And maybe you walk away with a dragon, or maybe you don't, but either way, you definitely have a tale at the end of the day. So what do you say?" Because there is a GUARD SOMEWHERE HAPPY TO SHOW YOU 'HOME'.

Instead of rolling his eyes again at the concept of being afraid, the man of the sea just raps his fingers on the back of the bench behind Risali. He's not afraid, okay. He probably is, but he's sure as hell not going to come anywhere close to admitting it. Or putting himself in that position. So ultimately, he's quiet after Ajral clarifies in what vein she would go about 'fixing' him, drinking to bridge the gap of explanation and handshake that takes place more or less across him, and the beginning of the story. The mouthed words from Risali earns another wink from him. A confirmation. A reassurance that he speaks truth and gospel, and he is Faranth's gift without any doubt. He's going to go wear those descriptors, and damn proudly too. He leans with that shove, but there's a story being told, and he's not about to interrupt it. So he shuts up indeed THIS ONCE. There is NOTHING BETTER than tales, you see, because all of them have some thread of truth. Not just his. Not just Risali's figments of a real happening. Everything comes from something, and at the end of a thread could be a treasure unlike any other. This is where he goes, you see, this is what guides him towards those horizons. The description of the men in the tale earns a huff of breath. Almost disapproving, but humored. And somewhere in here, Risali is leaning in and there's a soft punch, at which point, Kaellian's arm moves from the back of the bench to around the weyrwoman's shoulders- lightly-, his hand squeezing her arm. This time, it probably isn't a warning, just a return of this 'fight', this challenging back and forth. "I disagree." That he lost, obviously, "But it was a bloody good story. And here I thought you'd be sending everyone away with a happily ever after." And be scorned for such a tale, no doubt. Then, Risali is handing over a white knot as prize. There's a thing about trophies, prizes- it draws his attention a little more intensely than it really should, only belatedly flicking that chill-touched and kohl-rimmed gaze up to Ajral's face to watch her reaction. When his vulnerability comes up again, he raises his flask in vague indication, "She might be waiting something of an eternity for that."

Ajral is not going to outright laugh at anyone's self-descriptors, but she definitely does mirror Risali's expression back at her because she can't not, it is absolutely one of those moments. Rapscallion also sounds like it should be a vegetable, though sh won't say that out loud either because she is not an asshole. Actually, she's a very nice person. Mostly. Usually. "Wild animals," Ajral qualifies sagely. "Wild animals are not that good at judging appropriateness of revenge actions, or they thought it would be better to be dead than attached to that particular man. Can't really hold her and her ilk," because WTF is the plural for a ferret? The answer is 'business,' but Ajral doesn't know that and also the sentence would still sound pretty stupid. "Responsible for that one entirely on the same way you would a human." Or a real person because we are still talking about made up people. But Risali is not a made up person, and she is now holding a highly unusual prize for the story contest out to her. One that was wholly unexpected for all that she is Weyr raised and bred and all those things people expect from candidates. "Oh," she says. And then, "I'm not likely to get pregnant anytime soon," because what is shyness, she doesn't have ANY of that, and so it's totally fine to blurt that out, "But," maybe because she is late for getting back to the infirmary (again) and being escorted elsewhere will get her out of trouble for it. Maybe just because she essentially takes any opportunity presented to her so long as the odds are greater than fifty per cent that she won't die. "I think I can accept that prize. If my being late for my work is excused." Which of course it will be because she has to MOVE ALL HER STUFF since Leirith magically summoned someone, or so she assumes. She shoots Kaellian a single finger-gun for the eternity comment, which could be interpreted a number of ways, but NOW it's also a challenge. A challenge that is being interrupted dead on, because she is allowing the kind guard to escort her away from being in trouble for being late and onto new things like 'abandoning your nice private space to return to communal living.'

But the arms around her shoulders don't bother her (even if she gives a playful bite to the fabric on his upper arm and then another gentle poke-poke with one finger near his ribs). SHE WILL BREAK YOU. Instead she meets Kaellian's gaze with her own for mere seconds, mischief and humor before she lets go of his sleeve, smooths it down with one hand, and carries on with business. SO DIGNIFIED, THIS ONE. "Well you don't get to be the judge," comes Risali's rejoinder, playful in tone as she hands over knots and turns her attention back to Ajral and her acceptance of those knots. There's a flicker of a smile for not getting pregnant, a huff of laughter about being late, but no real answer because the woman is being retrieved (OR SUMMONED, OR ALL OF THE ABOVE), and Risali is leaning to lift a hand up in a wave, dropping it back into her lap as the mindhealer fades from view and Risali tilts her head to look up at Kaellian now. "I'm telling Ness," she accuses, playfully. "You were very clearly flirting with that woman." BUT THAT'S NOT HER BUSINESS. And Risali is shifting her position, unsteady as she balances her weight on one foot and uses her crutch to stand. It takes her a second to get into position, but then she's looking down at Kaellian with a raise of brows and a slow, wicked, playful smile. IT'S PROBABLY HER CHALLENGE. AND THERE SHE GOES, HOBBLING AWAY, not nearly fast enough for it to be serious. In reality, she's probably been doing a damn good job of staying out of his hair since that mudding - more now that she's in no shape to run fast, regardless of whether or not prolonged exposure might conjure questions, or guesses, or render another apology from her for her conduct. SO SHE FLEES INSTEAD, FAR FROM HIM, UNDER THE GUISE OF TELLING NESS ABOUT HIS RAPSCALLION WAYS.

A patient something which may be tolerance, may be something else entirely, earns Risali another brow-raise at the 'bite', and a shake of his head while his study shifts again to the mindhealer as she's shuffled away to the beginnings of candidacy. "I should be." He hums quietly, that accent and his tone low and for absolute on that fact. "You're what?" Comes after the accusation, looking down at her as if he wasn't sure he heard that right. He only appears vaguely surprised, that expression of his otherwise schooled more firmly than it should be to not give away anything. It couldn't possibly be that he still has a cog in his pocket, a particular cog that hit him square in the chest at some point or another. Couldn't possibly be one that was tied up in a lock of hair before that occurred. No, for he couldn't be that sentimental. Or still intent on bothering someone with whom life-ending threats have crossed both ways and the last collision was exactly that, explosion and all. "Whatever shall I do." He doesn't deny what he was doing, but as she slips out from his arm- which puts no pressure on her, doesn't restrict her already restricted movements- his hand rubs over his face, the sound harsh as rough hands scrub over scruff. As she starts to hobble away in all her glory, Kaellian rises behind her as if he would stop her, as if he would follow her. The layers of the cloak unfolds as he straightens, falling about his form again, haphazardly. And for a heartbeat's time, he watches after her, with something left to be said that doesn't sit in as-playful a trend as that almost-light-hearted story-telling moment. His jaw works, those little muscles of his neck tensing, but his gaze turns away after Risali has already made some sort of progress in the direction of wherever she's headed, and he aways in his unhurried, maybe a bit on the drunk side now, stride towards the coast line.

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