A Merciless Meeting of Minds

Fort Weyr - Dragon Infirmary
This huge cavern of smooth stone arches upwards to a rounded ceiling, high enough for even the largest of Golds to fit comfortably. Along the walls of the cavern are many carved out and worn smooth couches for injured dragons to rest on, most with a cot alongside for the dragon's rider to sleep.

Tables line the other walls, movable so they can be taken to the dragon instead of making the dragon come to it. Bolts of cloth, thread, needles and cabinet after cabinet of remedies and equipment take up the rest of the space. Two huge double doors lead out to the Center Bowl.

This log is the day after Favor.

Was there ever any doubt that Velokraeth was a man dragon of his word? Dawn settles upon the Weyr, arriving with as much certainty as the pale bronze’s presence. He’s sprawled comfortably not far from the double doors that normally lead to the infirmary meant for his kind. There’s a smug arrogance about him and the way he holds his misshapen head; something that only intensifies the moment he spots the lady of (his) interest. « Good morning, Candidate! » he greets once she is in view, not having to truly wait on proximity in order to reach. His mental voice is only lightly honeyed in tone but implying much of an impish smirk. There are no visuals, but other tenses are tickled with the scent of woodsmoke and summer and a faint note of fermented berries.

Nothing to worry about, right? Surely there’s no trap to be sprung here, out in the open… right by the infirmary. Velokraeth yields no hints, but as time ticks on, there’s a keen sharpness to the way he observes. Clearly, Tejra is to be tested from the start, to see if she can parse two and two together without a lengthy explanation! Of course, he is already soft on her, so perhaps she can sweet-talk her way out of too critical a review? But there are supplies nearby, closest to one of his stunted, malformed front legs and awkwardly splayed foot. Rags, buckets and a more recent addition of some form of ointment. Which is placed with the rest by none other than a young dragonhealer — they don’t seem the least bit surprised at a Candidate being present and likely their being there has a brief, albeit necessary, purpose.

What had the candidate said the night before about her specialty? Some might have been inclined to think 'dance' and imagine those arranged pieces done at gathers, at feasts, or whatever stuffy affairs host that. That wouldn't be inaccurate, but it would also not be as accurate as the visual description offered on Tej's approach. Where some dragons simply are grace in motion in the air, this human for all her limited scope of limb and lack of tail, is fluid in a way that borders on otherworldly. Not only does her movement flow, but so does the outfit of dusty rose on bottom - some curious confection of ruffles and drapes that only enhances movement - and teal waterfall of fabric on top, twisted at her throat and knotted around the back of her neck. She dressed to impress for all that a dragon may care little for such things. …whether or not it will may heavily depend on whether or not the bronze thinks this is an outfit prepared for whatever he has in store.

Unruly red locks are captured, woven into a crown that keeps it away from her face, but leaves it free to tumble at the back. It doesn't stop her from pushing one of the handful of stray tresses away from her pale face as she misses no measure in her dance crossing to him to dip an elegant half-bow in response to the greeting she waits to return until she has drawn closer. "Good morning, Weyrleader." Is that really how Velokraeth is addressed? Well, he's the Weyrleader's bronze and that's probably good enough for the Candidate. "I see the dawn light suits you handsomely." Is it flattery? From most it would be, given… well, Velokraeth. Yet, from Tej whose smile brightens even before she says the words as she pauses to properly take him in, it doesn't 'read' that way. Her head tilts and pale eyes briefly take in the supplies and the young dragonhealer, flashing them a more muted, benign smile of greeting.

Should she be overdressed for what is in store here, Velokraeth wisely keeps his ‘tongue’ in check on the matter. He’s one of the few who could be impressed (and is, considerably) by her outfit and his greeting is genuinely humoured in tone — warm, with just a hint of something impish beneath. « All this just for me? » he teases, wryly implying plenty more in a variety of potential tangents but not uttering one single word more…

… because if he did, he’d interrupt the entirety of her greeting! While he doesn’t preen, there is a smugness along with his satisfaction, not the least bit lessened by his huffed commentary on the titled address. « Advisor, more like it! Prefer to leave the dull, mundane work to my qualified other half. Let’s do away with titles all together, shall we? We’ll begin! … after a moment of instruction to suffer through. » Then they’ll have their ‘privacy’ and at his chuffed signal, the dragonhealer steps forwards. Returning that same benign smile to Tejra, they cut right to it.

“This won’t be very different from similar tasks assigned to Candidates that involve dragons.” Simple enough too, that she’ll be trusted enough not to have someone looming over her shoulder the entire time! “Just far less water involved.” A stitch of humor, while they gesture to the supplies — many of which need no explanation for their obvious use. Only the key items are pointed out. “Because of his … unusual …”

« You’d think they’re allergic to the term ‘deformed’. » Velokraeth interjects in a neat overlay that may ‘mute’ the dragonhealer’s voice depending on how well Tej is accustomed to splitting her focus at the drop of a hat. « Like I haven’t realized the unfortunate lot given me! » Dry sarcasm now delivered, he relents.

“ … conformation, the front forearms are more susceptible to various chronic discomforts. Regular application of this treatment appears to ward off the worst of it. That’ll be your task for this morning, Candidate. It’s not wholly unlike oiling their hides and I won’t be far, if you require anything or are unsure.” Unless they’re plied then with further questions, the dragonhealer dismisses themselves with a polite nod and a return to the inner yard of the infirmary within sight. So the price of sharing his company is… a massage (in a sense). Velokraeth is looking downright cheeky with his air of naïveté — like he never outrightly planned this in some way! of course he did « So! What enlightening topic shall we start with first? » And once again, there’s a shrewdness lurking beneath, as though he’s gauging the time it takes for her reply to be weighed against the answer itself. There isn’t a moment either where he even considers she may protest the task given her!

The first tease is acknowledged by subtle lift of a single brow and the tiniest quirk at the edge of her smile. The meaning is ambiguous in that it could be one of several things - what, doesn't he already know? Or, as if he doesn't like it~ Or, Why, Velokraeth, surely a bronze of your keen intellect knows a thing or two about making assumptions~~ It's really impossible to say with certainty more than that she's responded somehow and the effect seems to be net positive and just a little cheeky.

She listens attentively to the dragonhealer, pale gaze slashing only momentarily toward the bronze at his interjection, though the very attentive might note the way her head is ever so slightly canted with an ear toward the dragonhealer hinting that splitting her focus without warning and doing so without much outward sign that she's done so are well-honed skills. She has no questions to follow her polished, "Yes, ma'am," to ensure the dragonhealer knows she's been heard before she's on her way.

She turns toward Velokraeth in the wake of the dragonhealer's departure, bemusement playing on her lips. "We could discuss candor's merits compared to consideration," since he already brought that up." Nevermind the way her hand draws gracefully up and tugs free the tie at her neck letting the drapey fabric be drawn up and off, leaving behind a pale pink top that's seen better days— or at least, a number of oilings. It hugs her curves, revealing her midriff but less than many kinds of swim attire, but is still rather more revealing than what Tej's style choices tend to run and that likely explains the fashionable choices worn over top. The pants are doffed similarly, in favor of scarlet short-shorts that have likewise been treated ill by oil and other duties that fall to a repeat candidate's lot.

"Do you prefer candor, Velokraeth?" She queries as she turns toward the supplies to set her things aside and gather what she needs to get to work. Her tone is knit with playfulness, though not dominated by it. "I took you for one who appreciated artifice, even if repeated clumsy avoidance of facts might not be elegant enough for your tastes." From what has she drawn these conclusions? It's hard to say. Perhaps she's asked around about him~

« I see you came prepared as well! » It will be Velokraeth’s sole commentary on the change of outfit, dryly amused and intrigued that she had the forethought to entertain that this would be anything but a ‘leisurely’ affair. Is that how the others have failed, in the past? He doesn’t answer her right away — not for the heartbeat or two it takes him to fill her mind with the distinct sense that he’s smirking all while weighing a few options of his own.

He shifts his weight just enough to allow one of his forelegs to be more readily available for Tejra to start on. One doesn’t have to be well versed in dragon anatomy to understand how these ‘chronic issues’ come about; the muscles and tendons have adapted all they could to a stunted bone structure.

« That depends on a great many things? » Velokraeth remarks, with an outward rumble just short of a sigh. « Candor has its merits in the right time and moment, but — ah, now there’s the issue. Do we trust one another so completely for candor? It would be high stakes to start off our morning! Now, artifice? Has its place and time — and I, for one, don’t think we’re aiming to play such games between ourselves in earnest. » He pauses here, for the mental effect of a wry smirk. « Yet. » His head tilts next, odd-shaped eyes swirling with what could pass as a ‘narrowing’ studious stare.

"When it comes to the lifespan of clothes, it's far better to be prepared than to improvise," Tej intones as she makes that change, though there's a subtle implication in the rhythm of the delivery hinting that she could improvise if she had to. Fortunately, she doesn't now; it's not like a journeyman's salary even with commissions is all that much especially when one has Goals. Arguably, it might be hard for a dragon to take anything away from the mind of one not his own, but if there's anything Velokraeth is able to glean, it's the sense that his smirking and weighing make Tej feel more at home, not more unnerved. And if this speaks volumes about what Tej likes … well, it's not like it's intentionally shared.

Though the candidate is a vastly far cry from a dragonhealer, of all the Harpers that could've been picked for this task, Tej is probably one of the most versed in muscular discomfort, given her specialty and the daily training demands for keeping her body a honed device of muscular control and display of such. With the supplies in hand, she comes to that proffered limb and settles the ointment and so on, but rather than reach for a paddle (certainly warranted~) she opts to begin with her hands, scooping into it and raining it over a section of hide before her hands descend to spread it in practiced circular motions. Honestly, since she moved to a Weyr some five turns back, she's had a lot of practice at this sort of task thanks to her various episodes of wearing a white knot and her own interest in maintaining friendships with dragons in Xanadu (and possibly elsewhere), and Velokraeth may benefit from that experience now.

Tej can talk while she works, though, so there's no hesitation in responding to Velokraeth. "Perhaps not in earnest," she agrees first, but she flicks a pale glance up at him, whether he's in a position to watch her face or not and there's a distinct spark of chaos there in the twist of her slightly edged smile, "But for fun… mayhaps." She might not mean now, though, as she lets there be a touch of silence on her end as she works on the muscles more than the hide - careful but not concerned that she'll hurt him - he is a dragon, after all, and she simply human. Notably, she's strong for her deceptively lithe frame. Not strong like many a man who looks it, but enough that those who assume willowy without understanding just how her musculature has been tamed, tempered and forged to be just what she needs it to be would likely be surprised to find it so.

Rather than answer his question about whether they trust one another so completely (because isn't the answer obvious?), she returns sweetly, "Why, Velokraeth, didn't you know? Candidates are open books with nary a secret in sight. Well, unless you count the barracks crushes, and the who's sneaking off with whom, and just which childish prank they're about to pull for whatever imaginary slight they've deemed worth retaliation like a six turn old." Distaste embitters her tone only briefly - keeping it largely a light recitation of what can be expected from candidates. "Otherwise, we are all just hoping to find our lifemates on the sands and open to the whole experience." Don't think her ungrateful, Velokraeth, for the touch of wry humor that wrinkles the delivery of the last is grudgingly self-deprecating. Tej may be anything but an open book, but she can't count herself not among the group that that statement candidly describes.

Velokraeth’s going to give Tejra that one on the topic of clothes and being prepared! He even gives an agreeable tilt of the head — or maybe he was merely reaching an itch within reach on his neck. She has passed whatever weighted observations, apparent only in the lack of pursuit in conversation that would likely only be a litany of criticism wrapped in thin-veiled sarcasm.

He likely has a colorful opinion on benefits to this whole arrangement but at this particular moment? He seems to be smug mostly for his correct assumption on gauging her thus far — that she’s set to the task without flinching once has done well by his standards. and you bet this is being shared later to a certain rider

« Do you believe that games bound in artifice can remain wholly ‘fun’? » Velokraeth is quick to muse, his full attention on her while she works. His hide twitches at times, but it could be more an uncontrollable reflex and not a sign of discomfort — and he’s, thus far, been an exemplary patient and not moved. «Oh please! » he scoffs mentally and outwardly huffs. « Don’t think I’m so easily fooled! Candidates are no innocent lot, even if the majority centres around petty gossip and fleeting crushes. Everyone has their secrets! » Ahh, but see? Now there’s a new thread of intrigue, signalled by the swirl of champagne as if he’s contemplating something. « What is it that you hope for then? Much the same or something more? » It’s brash of him but he doesn’t care; nor does he expect her to yield easily. that’s half the fun

"What, in life, is ever wholly fun?" Tej replies with a rhetorical air. And yet, despite the delivery, she appears to dwell on it, squinting at nothing as she works her hands along, perhaps trying to identify a single thing that doesn't come hand in hand with some sort of drawback. Perhaps she comes up empty or perhaps one particular twitch is such that she does feel the need to pause, however briefly, to inquire, "I'm not causing you any more discomfort than usual, am I?" For all her bravado and clever artifice, the concern lightly laced through the question that is, above all, functional is entirely authentic. She wouldn't want to do this wrong and she may be following the instructions issued, but she is a first-timer and owns that with the need to ask.

Nevermind that asking also gives her time to compose a response to the complicated question without seeming to need it. Were it another, perhaps they would miss it entirely; she might not expect Velokraeth to, but it's worth a shot~ Yet, she subverts his expectations by playing no apparent mouse to this game with the cat. "Confirmation of meaning." Has anyone ever received such a blunt and apparently honest response from Tej? Dragons do have a way of getting in her soft spot, despite the inkling that some are gossips report back to their riders.

"Here we all are, lonely in a world of people, trusting in words and actions, deeds and deed-doers, struggling to ensure what we do matters, somehow, if only in some small way. That comes easily, in a basic way, to everyone I've ever known who has impressed. They may be a shitstain of a human being, but because of them, a dragon lives rather than escaping to the nothing of between. Maybe the dragon is a shitstain too, although I've never met a dragon I didn't enjoy," YET, "but it is a rather demonstrable confirmation that they weren't born just to die. Maybe no one is, but dragonriders get to know that." Maybe Tej doesn't.

Rhetorical or not, Velokraeth won’t let that pass without a ripple of amusement and a dry: « Plenty, my dear. » Then he lets it go, in the wake of that pause and her surfacing concern some moments later. This amuses him all the more. « You’ll know if you cause me significant enough discomfort. » he muses, with a rumble not unlike laughter. « You have my word that I will restrain myself in that event and not swat you. That’d be a terrible way to end our delightful arrangement! And I’d never hear the end of it. » Clearly he’d be the one to pity, right?

Did he catch that clever little tactic of buying time? Perhaps and perhaps not — Velokraeth does like to converse when the mood strikes in the right company (or the right moment). Was the blunt and honest response expected? Not in the least. The pale bronze draws back his head, all while making a low, rolling sound as he listens attentively without his usual honeyed sarcasm or witty humor readied.

« You continue to fascinate me yet again. » It’s a compliment that comes with the implied half-smile, of honesty on his part. Even if this is his way of covering for how her words have thrown him off. It wasn’t expected! Velokraeth is still a dragon too, after all, and perhaps this illuminating angle treads too close to what may be (frustratingly) beyond his grasp in full. « That is a difficult belief to hold on to. » And it sounds like he admires her for it, in his own way. « I won’t bore you waxing poetic on how wonderful life is and how opportunity lies elsewhere and — well, you get the idea? » If he could, he’d probably make a joking grimace right about now. Ugh, that was almost unpalatable even for him! « But, whatever made you draw these conclusions so starkly? »

Velokraeth would never hear the end of it because even if others opted to forget or forgive that time he swatted a well-intentioned, considerate and dutiful candidate, Tej would not be remiss in reminding him for as long as the acquaintance lasts. It is known. There are many who would agree under such circumstances that Velokraeth would be the one to be pitied. Then again, Velokraeth could, in all likelihood, swat her again or otherwise deter future reminders by flying off whenever they're offered, so maybe Tej would play a smarter game.

She certainly seems to be playing a smart one as she innocently slants a pale-eyed glance up at the dragon. "Then I fulfill my duties here." After all, anyone could rub the ointment in for the bronze. Being entertained fascinated is why that anyone is Tej today. This time, the pattern of responses is changed up because there's a distinct pause. It may be less for thinking of an answer than thinking of the right way to put the question that comes as her hands continue to work across the muscle under her hands, eyes having returned to the task.

She seems to need to look at him for all that dragon faces give away far less than human when she responds because that's where her attention goes, hands pausing only briefly when she speaks, "What is your understanding of the lives led by people outside the Weyr?" And, because this is really the main point, "Are your sources first- or secondhand?" This is relevant to how she frames a response. Far be it for her to offer him an explanation frustratingly beyond his grasp twice in a row.

Velokraeth rumbles agreement on Tej’s fulfilment of her (supposed) duties, the more empathic sense being that he remains deeply humoured and satisfied with all proceedings. There doesn’t seem to be any nefarious ulterior motives hinted or secretive games afoot! He doesn’t press her for that distinct pause and goes as far to turn his head with half-hearted interest in something in the distance. It’s not until the sense of her looking at him that he tips his oversized, disfigured head downwards in inquisitive slant.

There’s definitely little to go on emotively. Even his eyes swirl with the same blue-green as before, betraying nothing until he bespeaks her. « Frustratingly restricted, I’m afraid. » Velokraeth’s tone ripples with the very frustration that turns his mind a shade bitter. For once, he chooses to elaborate after a considerate pause of his own and only because she has the answer in her second question. « My knowledge is bound to the experiences of my rider. Much of which is, regrettably, his memories. Recent ones may serve me, but anything beyond leave me woefully unsure of validity. » Second hand, then.

Once this question is answered, Tej's own to the one that preceded it is quick in coming. "You could just as easily wax poetic on how unique and precious each human life is," as he elected not to do with the last part of this topic that lends itself to platitudes and dribble. "But most people are as different from one another as one tuber to the next and oft times about as intelligent." Surely, he's noticed~ No doubt this particular observation is added just for him. "And much like a tuber, each exists to be used up whether planted to beget more, or to be sacrificed to nourish the whole of the world. More are used up with little more thought than a cook's use in one recipe or another. And there's nothing wrong with that, if we want the world to keep turning." And they do, don't they?

"Still, there's little enough to take pride in when your work makes about as much difference as anyone else's. Those who impress are as apt as any other to end up in that lot, but there's a critical difference. They've the knowledge that no matter how they're doing it, their life has meant something to their dragon. Some," but not Tej, judging by the briefest wrinkle of nose and curl of lip, "might go on about parenthood being similar in its blessings, but no parent lives in their child's head, nor would want to. It's not the kind of thing that can be shared with any besides a dragon." Thus, she shrugs because that leads back to her previous point. "I was born to utterly exchangeable tubers and I've come to delight in those dragons who will have my friendship. And so I stand. And stand. And stand again in the thus far vain hope that I might prove to be a tuber too distinct to trade." If he were a less intelligent dragon, she might bother to check that he's followed her meanings with this extended metaphor, but she doesn't insult him, not Velokraeth.

He would have been insulted, had she checked! It would have been quickly forgiven, because it was her. Anyone else he wouldn’t have spared so quickly! Mock his physical appearance all they want, but Velokraeth does not appreciate much suggestions made at his intelligence. Her choice of metaphor is an intriguing one! It keeps him invested in her explanation because of how well it works. How clever!

« I believe I am beginning to gain a deeper understanding of your reasoning and view. See, I was expecting the same lacklustre answer often received when one corners a Candidate for reflective discourse. What a refreshing - if complexly unique - take! » Velokraeth’s tone carries that same dryly humoured timbre to it, but sincerity lurks there too. « I’d applaud you, but I do not have hands, nor do I think you would be terribly appreciative. » Some cheekiness at the end, to deter the idea that he pities her — because he doesn’t. More like a rare form of respect in him, and spares any follow up of sarcastic barbs. maybe she really HAS won him over

His wings rustle against his sides, posture shifting by little movements as he arranges himself comfortably. « Humor me? » Velokraeth doesn’t give her much of a choice to protest. The pause is only an unspoken warning that what is following may not be to her liking and he doesn’t sugar coat. She has his curiosity piqued and he does not shy from the hard questions when they’re warranted. « What, then, will you do? If you continue this path to the one end that could see you unsuccessful in what you strive for? »

If Velokraeth will not be insulted, then it's only fair that Tej not take umbrage to the notion that she would deliver some drivel like any old candidate~ Surely, her derisive snort that dismisses that notion in its entirety isn't offense - nor intended to cause it in turn. At least he compliments her after that, even if her lips only twitch into a bemused smile briefly. On brand is the fact that unlike many candidates, she is not hungry for praise or confirmation— at least, not in any way he can provide. Perhaps it's only the eggs that could grant her what she seeks.

This is clearly becoming a game where tit-for-tat is allowed, if not expected, so his cheek earns a quip of, "I only accept applause for performances worthy of it. If this was that, you need to raise your bar, my dear dragon." The very subtle arch of a brow might just be a playful challenge to that end, her tone nothing more than teasing with a featherlight touch. But then, to raise his bar, he'd have to endure how many candidates that couldn't reach this one already? Perhaps best to just ignore the troublemaker redhead.

The warning is enough to bring pale eyes up, though her hands don't slow this time. Whatever he was expecting in her reaction though, it was likely not what manifests. Her smile becomes lazy, in a way that suggests plainly enough, 'oh, is that all~' She twists to recoat hands before continuing on, but her words need not wait because she has that answer ready to hand. "I have turns of failure in my future before I truly need to worry. I'm young yet," this might be a courtesy addition just in case he has a touch of trouble gauging the exact ages of candidates.

"This will be my fourth should things not prove out in my favor. I imagine I could endure twelve or more before my age will eliminate me as an option, so long as I manage not to wear thin my invitation." If he catches it, this is an admission: she's on her best behavior here. It might raise questions about just what her worst could be, if she were freed of consequence for causing chaos~

The last is simple and the real answer: "And I'm never without my Harper's knot." There's more there, but whatever it is is not yet offered; perhaps she wants to see if he'll ask, or perhaps it's simply an evasion. Maybe Velokraeth's newest distraction is deftly seeking to test the bounds of what can capture his interest… and with how much effort.

« Are you saying I’ve set it far too low? My dear, whatever are you implying? » Velokraeth does enjoy volleying tit-for-tat as much as he is a relentless tease. It could be that Tejra continues to prove unflappable and he’s delighting in such a rare gem (in his opinion)! So he ‘bites’ at the offered challenge in play, as she’s far surpassed the chance that he would ever ignore her. Perhaps there are future visits in store? how much sway and say does a bronze dragon truly have? Tejra may not escape his notice so easily after this day.

Yes, that is all! The sigh he gives says as much without him having to reply with a mental translation. Velokraeth isn’t intentionally trying to pry at her, but neither will he ignore the paths their conversation lead to. There are limits, of course, but the pale bronze hasn’t felt the approach of any lines not to be crossed. « Hmm, I see. » he remarks thoughtfully (whether genuine or not). « Valid points once more! » From the lack of argument, perhaps Velokraeth does not quite grasp the exact nature of aging. Or he merely agrees! He leaves that thread in favour of the one concerning her knot. He can tell there is more and he’s intrigued. Lowering his head, he tilts it in a manner that is an obvious invitation. Well? Elaborate.

The pale eyes that turn on Velokraeth are wide with entirely feigned surprise, this time done with exactly enough exaggeration for it to be plain. Who, her? Surely not~ When she looks away, however, she does respond, words laced with a light humor, "I am merely suggesting, my darling," because two can play at that game~ And maybe she even means it, what with dragons being her Achille's Heel and all, "that you will exhaust yourself with all the clapping you can't do if you continue to expect so little of me." Not that she is claiming he should expect great things, but the turn of her head so she can arch a single brow and give him a distinctly cheeky smile is no accident.

With such claims so immediately before, it should come as no surprise that Tej is turning the tables on the bronze as she shifts to get a better angle for the next section of muscle to be tended. "Do you do much thinking about how you will spend your eventual retirement if such a time ever comes?" IF~ Not just because Tej wouldn't want to imply Velokraeth might ever become incapable of flying a senior queen, or serving in a wing, but because there is always risk to the life of a dragonrider, no matter how experienced. It's not a full departure from where his invitation was meant to lead, however, for implicit in the question and the way she glances at him, there's a clear implication that should he allow her enough rope with her own potentially objectionable question that its answer will lead them back around to whatever more was just moments ago skipped.

He’s not buying any of that! Not in the slightest~ Velokraeth rumbles in his way of laughter and he would mimic that distinctly cheeky smile if he could. Instead, he makes an abrupt shift with his foreleg to catch her off guard. Not too much! His goal is not to completely disrupt things, but just make an utterly playful ‘warning’ that holds no threat in the least with the feigned gesture. Weren’t they just discussing swatting?

The momentary deviation from his original question doesn’t seem to cause upset and he’s willing to play along. It’s a distraction that suits his tastes — or it could be that no one has ever asked him before and he cannot resist it. « If such a time ever comes, » Velokraeth is no fool, but let’s not tempt fate earlier than necessary, yes? « I’d imagine doing much of what I do now — simply with less headaches and demands on my time. More for me to devote to my interests! Retirement will do little to stop me from living. As long as I’ve my wits about me, good food, good company and a green or two to keep me warm? It’d be a fine way to go! » we’ll ignore the objections from the other half Now that he’s shared, he’ll watch her expectantly for her turn to answer what is owed.

This gesture is not nearly complete enough to warrant a larger reaction than the one where pale eyes narrow and she bares teeth as if she were any kind of predator enough to contend with a dragon. She probably knows better than to bite one. It may simply be that the utter absurdity of the gesture in response is meant to amuse. The look of it is gone by the time he's responding to her inquiry. "Your interests?" The tip of her head and slight lift of brows indicates interest, invitation, even, for him to elaborate (even, likely, at length).

Before he does, however, the redhead will reward him with an answer. "It is a luxury to be able to do as you do in your working life in retirement with ease. Dance is demanding of the body, if you do it with any skill." She does not say (because she need not say, every graceful, controlled move that looks effortless in her movements says it for her) that she is skilled. "So what happens to dancers," not harpers, "when they get old? When they're broken? What is left for them, then?" She doesn't need him to answer, because she will, "They go the way of all tubers, consumed by the world that needed them while they were consumable and relegated to rubbish for whatever's left of them after the world has chewed its fill." BLEAK, but at least she doesn't sound the least bothered by it. Sound.

"As a Harper, I would be expected to teach the young if I am too young myself to retire, if I have saved too little to indulge in ease in old age," and if she lets her touch become a little harder, firmer, because there's some feelz to work out there, that's reasonable. She does turn her head pointedly to nail Velokraeth with a no-nonsense look as she deadpans. "I am an exceptionally bad teacher of the young and a worse example to them. The tales my master could tell~" It's innocuous enough a remark to make given the context. Mind the trap, dear.

She dares bare her teeth at him!? Velokraeth cannot let such audacity slide without retribution! Lips will curl back to flash his own display of much larger, sharper teeth. Definitely the predator and the effect dampened only because it does come off with an utterly playful edge. It’s not unlike two poking their tongues out at one another, honestly! Just a fleeting moment of childish behavior and then it’s back to sober conversations and difficult, deep topics. Beginning, of course, with her first invitation to elaborate.

Velokraeth does not yield so readily this time and huffs, not-quite apologetic. « Can I not hold to some of my secrets? » There’s a weight to his tone, a small hint that, perhaps, if she pushes just the right way, he may yield! Or they can save that dance for another date meeting. He can be truly terrible at times with his scathing bluntness, but none of that comes into play here. Tejra must have gained considerable respect from him, with how attentive he has been. No interruptions, no sharp interjections with dry sarcasm or bored dismissals. Just quiet simmering focus as though she’s presented him with tempting riches.

Or, more simply, she’s challenging him intellectually (and yes, Velokraeth would not spare calling a Candidate dull or dumb-witted and probably has in the past). « Not all are suited to guide young minds. » He at least sympathizes with that. « And I am sure they are gloriously scandalizing tales! » But that’s not what he wants from her. « How unfortunate a fate, indeed, to face being cast off when no longer useful. At least you’ve acknowledged it and not let yourself be fooled by fantasy. » Has he noticed how sound she is, despite the bleakness of such thoughts? He must have. « No quiet retirement, then? Find some corner of the world to make your own? » Gentle teasing to ease some humor into their discussion, before he adds with a little more seriousness.

« And so that is why you are determined to stick to this until the end. » Velokraeth confirms. « Admirable! I’m sure there are many individuals who would disagree — and I’ve a great repertoire of choice phrases for them! I can’t say that I fully understand, » because there might be some truth in it! « But I commend you for not wavering despite having not yet succeeded. » There is a lull of silence then, broken only when the bronze can no longer resist speaking in jest. « … have you considered a career in dragonhealing? » There may or may not be an obvious movement of his head to indicate the work Tejra is doing.

She dares! She dares yet more as she turns her head as he huffs and asks the question, slow-blinking just once at the dragon and letting a distinctly laconic smirk tug her lips as a single brow rises, to return sweetly, "I don't know, can you?" Can he resist the temptation to play these games when the opponent playmate can offer real sport? "You might keep most and still tell me one," she wheedles with a saccharine smile, sweetly feigned with that bat of lashes that is probably wholly ineffective on dragons anyway, but at least the joke shouldn't be lost on Velokraeth. "With one, I might find myself better prepared to entertain, should you ever find yourself wishing to requisition my time and labor before my tenure here is done."

Her warm timbre threaded with cheeky humor continues as she answers his own tease with a light, "Perhaps I'll run off with a pirate~" The way she tips her head to look at her hands at work may be solely to hide the fleeting smile that brushes likeness with tenderness, an unlikely look from such a wild creature, but there it is. And then it's gone before she even moves on to throw her head back and grin up at him. "Live out my days on a tropical shore with no shortage of rum. There are worse ends I can imagine." Many of them.

She doesn't challenge his confirmation so it must be accurate, if not, perhaps, entire. Omissions are allowed in games such as theirs, yes? Trick question: it doesn't matter because Tej will cheat. Quipping with the sudden and exact mimic of an eager-to-please, wide-eyed candidate likely to swallow every jest as true praise, "Do you think I have a talent for it? I do find I'm quite capable of not heeding those with complaints and being merciless with those not willing to pay in pain for progress." By the end she's returned to more familiar rhythms and variety of voice, dipping low and dour at the end there. But then, she'd have to be good at such things to be a dance instructor, no? … Maybe she'd get more commissions if she were not quite so demanding? Temperance does not seem a truly likely quality to come from the redhead but whimsy might offer erratic reprieves for her pupils.

"I have contemplated simply making myself indispensable to Raaneth and Alexa," who will probably never really be out of a job unless she wants to be, "even if she does have a rather horrifying number of offspring." This is no secret from Alexa that Tej feels this way. "By the time I want to retire," if she gets a say in it, "I should hope she'll have lost the knack for breeding them." What was that she said about a lack of mercy? Mercilessness may be a more universal trait than she saw fit to indicate moments before.

« I can and I have! » Velokraeth huffs, playing at being affronted by the idea that he could not (or cannot) hold secrets. It depends on the nature of them! Those that are truly secrets - the harmful, messy kind - he will keep and no amount of game or temptation will break him from that. Gossip, however? Another matter entirely. Some discoveries are better to be spread for amusement along social grapevines! How else to suss out what one may truly be looking for? Tejra is very much a worthwhile opponent distraction and so he takes the bait again with his own humored twist. « And just what kind of secret would you want of me, my dear? I am but a humble bronze dragon! Surely there is nothing I have that would be unsurprising to one as clever as yourself? »

Does he catch that secret smile? He could have, while slyly feigning being preoccupied! There’s even a low, thoughtful sounding hum from him that is likely the most genuine part. « A pirate! » Amusement there, with the smirked wryness of his tone. « Certainly the rum is the appealing part there. And I wager a pirate would offer more in excitement and adventure than, say, the average Renegade? » Innocent, right? Definitely not a ploy to see if it garners a (damning) reaction!

And then cheating! How deplorable! How disappointing! How wonderful and unsurprising! he approves Velokraeth laughs again in that strange way of his over the mental link, while outwardly it may show in the way he holds his head. « With those credentials? Well, I am no expert on what is required in a dragonhealer but to me that sounds ideal! Oh? » Do tell, Tejra! Velokraeth is listening. « That could be a … fruitful endeavour. » Was that hesitation doubt or consideration?

« Then I must positively appall you with the amount of offspring I’ve sired! » Teasing, so much teasing! Right before he sobers again and dives right into topics that are probably not best to broach but when has that ever stopped him? « From what I understand, mating between humans is not always fruitful? » What is he getting at here, with such a pointed look. « Perhaps you’ll be lucky in that regard! » He huffs, affording her something of a mental shrug. « I’ve given Th’ero plenty of variety in suitable female partners, » Was that TMI, Tejra? « and yet I’ve seen no abundance of squalling babes of his ilk. Only five. Five! » PITIFUL.

"Really?" is intrigued, impressed even. "Like what?" It's so simple a ploy and deployed with such graceful insouciance that one might be impressed in turn by the delivery, even if Tej is much too smart to expect the bronze to fall for it. But then, sometimes the best bait for those of substantial ego intelligence is the one that seems too rudimentary to yield rich returns. "I would take any you're willing to part with," beggars cannot be choosers after all. "But I may point out that I merely requested, as a friend, to have your interests illuminated. You, my dear Velokraeth, are the one who began to offer secrets." Did he offer tho', Tej? No, but she must— just as he must— enjoy tickling at tolerance for jest.

"A pirate must get points for adventure. There are tales enough that imply so. And who doesn't love a good adventure?" It's rhetorical. We all know the answer is Th'ero, you don't need to say it. "Renegades get their fair share of attention on the page, too, to be sure." When exactly did the conversation turn so flawlessly into something couched comfortably in the hypothetical realm of fictional literature? "One might venture that the pirate would smell better of the two with more ready opportunities to bathe, but mayhaps not." DIRTY STINKING PIRATES. The most entertaining part of all of this is likely to be how philosophical a timbre and rhythm pattern the redhead's speech has taken on, and so easily, nothing missed in the smooth shift from one aspect of personality to another, despite how they may seem disparate when encountered elsewhere.

The only correction she offers to Tejra, a name she wrinkles her nose at, is the tapping of two fingers on his limb and an ominously low-voiced purr, "Tej." It's not that he can't call her Tejra, simply that her friends call her Tej; it's what she prefers and here, there should be a reminder. Probably getting bad habits from that pesky formality-loving rider of his. It's quickly overridden by her dismissive, "Tch."

Scooping up more ointment she asserts, "Dragons are different. Dragons are lovable and adorable." Yes, she means exactly what she implies. "No doubt you have. I can't imagine a female that wouldn't find your company stimulating." Conspicuously absent is any speculation about how those suitable female partners find Th'ero's company. And yet, the way she shamelessly slants him a look complete with game grin and wiggled brows says she's not afraid to go there. Do be careful what you ask for, though, dear Velokraeth; not all have such courageous hearts!

That threat of being swatted is only implied this time, not with his raised limb but just the movement of his head and how it’s held just-so at an angle, all while he stares down at her. Much too simple a ploy! He snorts, rumbling in a dismissive air as he looks away — not in bad spirits but more joking shared between them. Enough on interests and secrets with their blurred lines between! Other better topics are at hand.

« I supposed a point can be awarded to pirates for adventure. » Velokraeth agrees with minimal reluctance. « Wouldn’t it be fair to say renegades also see adventure? Or are we better to judge them both by the amount of danger and risk their livelihood see? » Are they couched comfortably in the hypothetical realm of fictional literature? Was it ever literature based? He seems to enjoy this entertaining shift and is willing to pursue it for just that much more, so long as she’s willing.

But what is this? The correction is met with a deep hum and then a smugness about him. « My apologies, my dear. I mean no offence!» He’s not sorry at all! She just gave him something useful. Not that he seems keen to wield it — because truly, he is fond of her. She’s done nothing (yet) to pique his temper or warrant such low striking childish retaliation, so he merely holds on to it for now. Playing just contrite enough at being caught and reminded of his oversight.

« How many dragons have you come across to come to that opinion? » Velokraeth’s mind is rippling again with honeyed laughter that can only mean that she’s genuinely amused him once again. « Do you find me adorable? » He doesn’t comment further on the females finding him suitable, though he does puff up a little and perhaps would preen if the motion wouldn’t disrupt her work. Her slanted grin and wiggled brows bring more rumbled ‘laughter’ but he does not divulge more on that this time. Instead, he ‘sighs’, recovering from his mirth. « Ahh, you truly are delightful! » So no regrets yet in his 'choice'!

It is an implication that goes entirely over Tej's pretty red head~ That is, if one is inclined to believe the dewy-eyed look that goes with the sweet smile that seems to recognize nothing amiss. Surely, Velokraeth knows better by now. She's looking away by the time he snorts, though, so if, perchance, he missed the gambit, he'll have to catch the next showing. There's sure to be another moment such an expression comes in handy in the course of the long game, is there not?

She appears to weigh the question, if only briefly. "I suppose if one were feeling generous of imagination, one could skip over all the times when pirates are merely sailors and renegades merely men outside of the usual system. I suppose it would be fair to say that land has as much potential for disaster as the sea, but I would say the sea is known more for her temper than a mountainside is noted for its. Water is ever so much more fickle." If it was not literature-based, she's making a compelling case for it firmly being so now. At least, there does not appear to be any particular empathy for the rogues and wastrels that might fit this description and her increasingly playful imaginings. This is probably a comfort for a dragon leading a Weyr who's seen its share of issues. Here is no sympathizer. Unless she's just a very good actress~~ But then, she has that reassuring craft knot, so surely not.

"None taken," may take the wind out of his sails a little. "I just thought we were better friends than that," the 'tch' sound returns on the heels alone with her entirely feigned moue of disappointment. That he would want to call her Tejra when he's been invited to the ever-so-much-more-melodic Tej. For shame~ Give it time though; this promises only that that sentence about having done nothing deserves a solid YET attached.

"I lost count sometime after I was posted to Xanadu Weyr." Take note, here, Velokraeth. Not only does Tej find dragons adorable, but she must have a penchant for the weird ones. Surely, that doesn't say anything about Velokraeth for being associated with her~ "One of my very best friends I watched hatch." The dragon she means. And since he's not close enough to NOSE-BOOP (sigh~), Tej settles for a saucy wink in his direction rather than confirm aloud that yes, Velokraeth certainly meets her low bar for adorable.

"Speaking of the darling dragons who put up with me, I am afraid I must interrupt my task here, albeit briefly," this, as she squints at the sun starting to peek over spires. "Seeing as how I have promised to keep Raaneth and Alexa company-" IN EXCHANGE FOR HER KNOT, "-while I'm here, I am in the habit of bringing Alexa her morning klah and saying good morning to the queen and her eggs. Will you spare me for the moments it takes to do just that? I promise to return presently." And she will, but even as she //asks him, she's starting to wipe salve from her arms in anticipation of his agreement because are they not both at the whims of the queen who clutched at least for a little while yet while she broods over those babies-to-be?

Alas! Their bickering debate over pirates and renegades will have to wait in the interim! If he’s disappointed or had the wind knocked out of his sails, there’s no sign of it! Velokraeth will, of course, play it up when it’s warranted. There are still so many questions! And so little time. It’s enough to make a bronze sigh! Pity.

Of course, he bestows much trust in her to return! For now, Velokraeth zealously marks all of interest that he will be certain to resume with once she has finished with her other duties. What is that saying about absences and growing fonder? Her absence will give him time to truly mull over what was thus far discussed; will she be similarly prepared?

Huffing, he makes a dismissive flick with a taloned toes. Yes, yes! « Far be it from me to cross a brooding gold and her rider’s desires! » Why can’t Velokraeth do that himself? much sus, in that request He picks his battles well and it just so happens he has no desire this morning to stir the pot quite in that manner! « Go on with you, then! » he adds with a faux-impatience to match the sudden bored inflection to his voice. Yet that smile still lurks there beneath, cunning and knowing. « Don’t keep me waiting too long, my dear! » Why? No reason given, as he plays at such an innocent air.

He will be there upon her return, of course, having kept the dragonhealers at bay by some clever means. Along with the unfinished task, their conversation too will resume, and even more lively and rife with hidden games woven between. Velokraeth had time to think while she was gone and was well prepared. Would she expect anything less? And if she happened to catch him initially dozing in the sun, he will vehemently deny such claims! him? fall asleep at a whim? NEVER Just how long they remain there, it’s difficult to say. Velokraeth may well try to delay a second departure, when Tej has finished with the last of it. It is only through cleverness, or yielding on his end, that she will be set free to resume the rest of her day. Not, perhaps, without some promise assurance of another meeting in the future.

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