Two candidates and a Bronzerider walk into the Forest...

The Lonely Forest
Smack dab in the middle of the Sea of Azov sits a tiny island. Only just big enough to contain a freshwater stream, the Lonely Island is overgrown with trees and shrubbery, all of hardy temperate quality. Evidence of animal life exists, for those smart enough to look, small traces and paths zig-zagging through the dense forest to and from the water source and wild avian roosts perched high in the trees. Mushrooms, berries, and the occasional fruit tree spot the island, along with several other plants that are only edible when one is particularly desperate. To the east, the forest slowly disperses to allow a small, white-sand beach to take over while, to the west, the forest abruptly ends in a steep, dangerous-looking cliff.

Autumn may be coming but still summer lingers. The Lonely Forest is alive with life, mostly small avians and skittering lizardlike things. And the delicate butterfly-like insectoids add a splash of color to the landscape. Down near the beach end of the forest it is sunny and bright, Rukbat's light eaily reaching through the branches to the myriad of paths on the forest floor. Not very far in is a large, old tree with thick, moss-spotted limbs. In this tree, about some 12-15 feet up reclines a certain long-legged Candiate. Zaira is there, reading a large tome, thicker than any of her textbooks, seeming to enjoy soaking up the sun whilst doing a little—-studying mayhap?

D'lei … isn't a candidate! And yet here he is, glimpsed between trees as he makes his way around the island. He's carrying his boots, the toes tucked over his forearm as he makes his bare-footed way along a game trail. He pauses, nearish to that big old tree, and glances around, about - then up - aha! He nods to himself at the sight of Zaira, with a slightly-distant look as if making a mental note (or passing messages along) before returning his gaze to continue taking in the rest of his surroundings.

Somewhere along the trees traverses another candidate in the form of Zachariah. He's not making any effort at being quiet as he tromps along in his booted feet. His sharp whistle is followed closely by a loud call for "Peony! Peeeeoooony where are you?"

Zaira looks up at the call, smiling at the sight of two people she liked. "Afternoon, D'lei, how are you?" she says with a casual salute that becomes a wave. "Heya Zach!," she greets her fellow Candidate. "I haven't seen any firelizards up here except Rhapsody, I'm afraid." The book is closed with a marker inserted in its pages/ As she adjusts it in her lap the title is visible: THINGS THEY NEVER TELL YOU BUT SOULD HAVE, REVEALED! A CANDIDATE AND WERYLING'S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING YOU SHOULD KNOW

"So far, so good!" D'lei replies to Zaira with a grin, then tilts his head to listen to Zach's seeking. There's a crooked smile for that. "…probably decided to go back to the kitchens and beg," he suggests of that wayward firelizard, then glances back to Zaira and notes that book she's got, which makes his mouth quirk all the way into a full grin. "You found out anything interesting, yet?" he asks, with a gesture of one hand toward the apparently-comprehensive volume.

Zachariah huffs out a breath of annoyance as he comes to a halt just under Zaira's tree. "Probably." he's still sans a top , a tunic is tied around his waist. His boots look sturdy though with bright orange laces. A narrowed eyed look is cast towards the book. "I knew there would be a book!" exclaims the candidate.

Zaira laughs to Zachariah, the sound like silvery bells. "And you're welcome to read it when I'm done," she offers. Then to D'lei "Well, I didn't know it was considered elite etiquette for queenriders and greenriders to blunt the claws of their dragons before a Flight. Not a total removal of the point, just filing around to take the edge off. Not sure how good of an idea that is but then the elite I've met outside the Weyr haven't been known for their good sense."

D'lei arches his brows at the advice given, though it's with a lingering smile. "If a dragon wants her claws filed, sure… though I'd rather suggest consulting with a dragonhealer, the first time or two, or you're as likely to injure the lady by cutting to the quick as you are to reduce the chances of one of her suitors being harmed." He shifts his shoulders in a bit of a shrug. "Claws're important for traction, too. If she can't get a good grip on the ground when she tries to take off, she's likely to end up with a strained muscle or even a faceplant."

Zachariah looks slightly perplexed a moment. "Before a flight…" his words trail off in thought then the lightbulb goes on and the teenager flushes a deep red. Ducking his head he mumbles something but lets those two discuss claw filing and flights.

Zaira laughs again. She seems in exuberent spirits today…moreso than usual. "I don't know if I'd want to file my dragon's claws…if I Impress, which I may not…Flight or no Flight, etiquette or not. I wouldn't want to leave her unable to defend herseself at need." Zachariah's head movement gains notice as well. "Are you all right, Zach? You're crimson as a ripe redfruit."

D'lei nods to Zaira. "I can certainly say… it's not claws that worry me, when it comes to a flight." He shrugs a bit, but his expression and tone are serious. "Most serious injuries come from collisions… and honestly, that's another reason to keep those claws sharp. Make sure the boys don't think they can crowd without consequences." The corner of his mouth tugs with an expression of thoughtful concern, and while he glances to Zach and that flush … he doesn't jump in on it.

Zachariah makes a face towards Zaria with a hissed "Hush you." nothing to see here. Nope. Oh look…his boot is untied. He bends down to futz with his laces, his face bent down out of anyone's gaze.

Zaira takes Zachariah's hint and talks no more of his complex. "You've got a point, D'lei. I know two ojects running on the ground can be injured or even killed…why would the same not be true for up in the air?" For a moment her expression grows solemn for perhaps the first time in a sevenday. "You were right, you know," she offers to the bronzerider.

"Air's worse," D'lei says, because apparently he's just being today's ray of sunshine. "Even if they're just stunned for a moment… that means gravity takes over." A grimace, but only for a moment, because this is all hypothetical, and then he shrugs one shoulder before his brows arch. "Was I?" he asks, as if not quite surprised but certainly interested. "What about?"

Zachariah is listening and eventually he straightens up with no more blush showing. Leaning casually against the tree he merely listens to their conversation cause he knows little about dragon flights or anything. A brow arches curiously though as Zaira declares the bronzerider was right about something and that he doesn't seem to know what.

Zaira 's gay laugh comes back. "When you said I'd find all sorts of inspiration and experiences as a Candidate the day you Searched me." She spreads her arms out as wide she can, hands splayed and palms up to the light. "You were so right. Inspiration? I have found more here than my last three Turns at the Hall. I'm working on several songs, each inspired by a different egg. One is already what I would consider ready to play before others. I'd hoped to get all eleven songs written to playability by the Hatching but my muse doesn't always work quickly I fear."

"Ahh!" Right. Yes. That does sound like something that D'lei would say, and he nods to Zaira, grinning a bit as he does. "They're really something, aren't they? So many voices, tumbling inside the space of a shell and so eager to reach out and connect…" His smile is fond, partly reminiscing about his own experiences of being a candidate. "I'm glad to hear it." A beat, and then - "Or to hear them, as it were. Once you've got the songs to where you want them and are ready to share!"

You say, “I'd like to hear your songs. How many eggs have you songs for?" Zach reinserts himself into the conversation once it's turned away from flights. "We could do a bonfire on the beach and you can play 'em.”

Zaira bobs her head like a small avian to D'lei's words, making the branch move gently up and down and her long hair ripple like a chocolate syrup river. "Of course, D'lei, gladly. And even gladder to play them round the bonfire some night after dinner on the beach. I just would need a lift back to the barracks to get my guitar. I didn't bring it with me since I was supposed to be "on vacation" as I think they said and either one is too big for Rhapsody to fetch for me. But that's an excellent idea, Zach. I like it! I have three ready to play but I've done enough writing as a Candidate to have a whole evening full of songs to play."

"Well, if you get the bonfire ready and gather people for the occasion, I could probably be convinced to help with a guitar." D'lei grins. "Not sure if it's quite within the intended lesson plans here, but… well, what use is clutchsire privilege if I don't use it occasionally, mmh? Way I see it, making friends with the rest of these folks is a good use of your time, since you might end up stuck with them for a while longer."

"Are there intended lessons here?" Zachariah inquires with a tone that implies he can't imagine what kind of lessons will happen on this small island. "You mean I might have to be stuck with…" he glances around. "Lokialia longer?" He speaks of the older, blond haired candidate who is a bit bossy and demanding.

Zaira flashes a radiant smile. "I can help Zach with getting the people. I have a small following among the more musically inclined Candidates. And Lokialia is probably not on the invite list. Sounds like the type to stir up trouble and I was hoping to relax a little during our island lessons. Though I'm going to be a bit more wary of the advice in this book. It sounds like some of it wasn't well-thought out."

"You'd have to ask the weyrlingstaff," D'lei replies to Zach. "Well. And then they'd have to feel like answering you, which… mmh. You might just have to get comfortable with mystery." He's not speaking ill of the weyrlingstaff, nope. Not him. "Mmhmm," he says to Zach's concern, then looks back to Zaira and arches a brow. "If I'm fetching a guitar, it's for a candidate activity, not a party for your friends." His tone's mild, but firm. "If this Lokialia decides she's not interested, that's fine… but remember that, yes, you might be stuck with her. She might even impress gold." Both brows arch with that implication, and D'lei glances between both of the candidates. "It's best to figure out how to get along."

Zachariah stifles a long suffering sigh. "I do try." he assures the older rider. He leaves it at that though. "He's right though. You should play your song for all the candidates, not just a select few that are invited." is said matter of factly. "I'm going back to make sure my tent didn't collapse or if anyone needs help with theirs." with that he turns and heads towards the beach area.

Zaira nods. "You are right again, D'lei. This whole thing is for the Candidates and we are set apart from others to be trained and taught different things from others. I even took a leave of abscence from the Harper Craft so I could focus on my Candidcy. It's important that I learn and learn well and the music lessons were distracting me too much." She waves farwell to Zachariah and looks to D'lei. "Have no fear, I will do as you say. Candidates only at the bonfire and if Lokialia decides to show then that is well. One more ear to listen and enjoy."

D'lei nods to Zach, and even gives him a sympathetic smile. The lad does seem to be trying, and D'lei definitely understands that some people can be very trying, so he's more than willing to accept the intent even when it comes with occasional groans. "Good luck," he says as Zachariah heads off, with a hand lifted in farewell before he turns his attention back to Zaira. "It's a big change… and I'm sure there's a lot to get used to. But it's because you might have an even bigger change to your life, and… well, we certainly don't know everything about how to help you be ready, but we're certainly hoping that some of the things that helped us will do the same for you." He gives an earnest, if slightly lopsided, smile, and a bit of a shrug to go with it. "The weyrlingstaff, too. They've helped a lot of people through this, successes and struggles both."

Zaira inclines her head a little more gravely. "I try to fly under the weyrlingstaff's attention. So far I've done pretty well. Leave the wild practical jokes and scheming to others. I don't want to get in trouble with any of the staff. I try to do what is required of me and make it to all my lessons on time, though there was some objection at first about Rhapsody attending class with me."

"Generally a reasonable idea," D'lei says of Zaira's goal of avoiding weyrlingstaff attention. "So long as you're not keeping so far away that you don't tell them if there are problems, that is." He grins, somewhat lopsided. "They are here to help you, as candidates or as weyrlings if things go that way. I know they can seem pretty ominous… but they do care." Or at least, D'lei thinks they do. Maybe he's just out of touch… it's not like he's been a candidate (or weyrling) for a long time… and never under this particular staff.

Zaira laughs again in silvery tones. "If I run into a problem I will let them know. Right now the only problem I have is that the boy in the cot next to mine tends to sleep with his mouth open so he can snore loud enough to rouse a…a…drunken dragon." She shrugs, clearly resigned to the situation, even if she need not be. "Somtimes I want to stuff a sock in his mouth so he'll stop…for a little while at least.

As problem goes… that one makes D'lei laugh. "Yeah, that sounds like it'd drive you up the wall. I suppose this trip might be extra relaxing… unless he managed to still end up in the tent next to yours, of course." He grins. "No luck finding someone else to swap with you to spare your harperly ears?"

Zaira shakes her head and amusement is writ large on her face. "No, he didn't end up in a tent near mine thankfully." A moment's pause before she answers the question. "Not yet but I'll keep trying. It might help if I don't mention why I want to change cots. Father said there can be such a thing as too much honesty."

"Mmm. That's true enough…" D'lei muses, then grins. "Though, on the flip side of it, there's also the risk of someone feeling like you tricked them into things. Something else to balance, I suppose." He shrugs a bit, like the unhelpful moral compass that he is, and then hehs. "You could try earplugs, too. Do harpers use those to block out the music when they need to sleep? I know we used them in some of the equipment rooms for tech."

Zaira nods her head. "They do wear earplugs so they can concentrate better and someone's playing too loudly in the next room. I don't actually have some but they shouldn't be hard to find or perhaps I could make a set myself." Then she sighs. "Rhapsody wants a bath," she explains as she tucks the book under one arm and stars a slow climb down the tree. Once her feet are on the ground she flips D'lei a casual salute. "Farewell for now, I hope we meet again soon. I enjoy your insight." And then she is gone down the path leading to the camp with a light, springy step.

D'lei nods, then grins as Zaira reports on Rhapsody's imprecations. "It's good practice!" he assures the candidate, then lifts his own hand in reply. "Farewell, Zaira. I'll see you around… and if your book says anything else you're not sure about, I can certainly chime in about it." Another grin, and then he turns in a different direction to continue his survey of the island and its (current) inhabitants.

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