==== January 7th, 2014
==== N'cal, Iolarth
==== Iolarth has a few greens on his mind, while N'cal has a certain bluerider on his…and makes a careful decision.

Who N'cal, Iolarth
What Iolarth has a few greens on his mind, while N'cal has a certain bluerider on his…and makes a careful decision.
When Early evening. There are 3 months and 9 days until the 12th Pass.
Where Crater Lake, Igen Weyr

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Crater Lake
Four centuries ago, a chunk of the very comet that drove some Oldtimers forward crashed to the desert near Igen Weyr, collapsing the original inner caverns and breaking through to a new spring that now feeds into Igen’s underground aquifer. The result? Beauty from destruction - a long, crystalline lake of brilliant sapphire blue. Sharp sandstone rings the water in jagged peaks, where sparse desert shrubs cling to steep, sandy slopes and reflect darkly on the pristine, mirror-like surface. Out in the midst of the lake, a small island pierces the glassy plane, umber from azure in a near-perfect cone. A startling break in the stark desert and savannah surrounding the Weyr, the crater lake sits like a jewel in the rough - a picturesque, inviting respite from the rough, dry terrain beyond.


There’s a light breeze tickling at the sand along the shore of the Crater Lake this early evening - not a cool breeze, really, but edged with hints of true autumn, rather than the pretentious change of season Igen presumes to undergo. It’s been a point of homesickness for N’cal; the gradually shifting colors that wash through the forests that cling to the rocky sides and bases of the mountains around Fort, the nip that finds its way into the air right on cue with the solstice… There’s very little of that around Igen, until one flies a bit further north into the Range. There is also a hint of it in the scant, hardy, low-slung evergreens that crop up around the Crater Lake. This, coupled with the spectacular blue of the chilly waters held within those steep shores, is something that the bluerider can enjoy - a whisper of home in the midst of sand and heat.

« We can always return for a visit, » Iolarth reminds his rider, a gentle, warm wind not much stronger than what is physically present blowing gently across his mind in a subtle rustling of stiff pine needles and golden leaves. « You need only to show me where, after all. »

Out for a run in the midst of the solitude the lake offers, N’cal simply smiles at his lifemate’s words as he continues focusing on the pace of his breathing. Wearing simple, tan linen pants tucked into light leather boots and forgoing a shirt altogether, the tall bluerider is only sweating lightly as he rounds the northern cusp of the lake. He’s just one of those people whose build and metabolism makes running seem effortless…but it’s still good exercise, and running like this is a habit he’d fallen out of. Iolarth is trotting alongside him, the handsome blue not puffing in the slightest as he remains even with N’cal.

« You are very quiet today, N’cal, » the blue’s rich baritone states, mildly bemused. « You’ve been answering me with very few words, and must we continue on like this, on the ground? Can I not just fly above you? » Pardon the dragon who can turn on a mark in his topic of conversation as easily as he can in the air.

The abrupt switch makes N’cal laugh, though not for long enough to interrupt the rhythm of his breathing. » You’re the one who told me you wanted to work on how you move on the ground again, you oaf, « he returns patiently to his lifemate. Then he’s teasing. » You have ladies to impress, remember? And I distinctly recall you telling me that you didn’t believe your prowess in the air would be enough to get their attention. Or so you said. Who was it? Vazirynath? «

Iolarth utters a short, almost mournful sound ending in a brief grumble. « I believe she may be afraid of me. Or annoyed by me. I cannot tell. »

» What about Liareth? «

A pointed snort, as if he’s addressing a challenge - albeit a welcome one. « She is worth impressing. But I really must work harder if I’m to grab more of her attention; she seems to give hers so easily…

» And that’s why you wanted to do this, yes? « A pause as N’cal thinks. » Didn’t you mention something about Kehemath, as well? «

This time, Iolarth’s response is a pleased rumble coupled with a brisk rustle of pinned wings. « She is unique. » The statement sounds with gentle definitiveness upon the golden glow of sunlight just breaching the horizon, just brushing the pinnacle of the forest that ripples easily in the sigh of an autumn-brisk breeze. The scent of cedar curls in smoky warmth about the edges of mountain air, and N’cal grins at what, for his lifemate, signifies earnest interest. « Would that she might actually utter words to me. But she does not turn me away when I speak to her, and that gives me hope. I must keep trying. »

» Oh, must you? «

Now the athletic blue gives voice to something sounding remarkably like a “hmph.” « She is a hunter of the earth, and I of the sky. She is silence and scent; I am words and sight. The counterpoint is no coincidence. Yes, I must!

N’cal laughs aloud again. » You’ll forget you said that tomorrow. «

« Your point being? » A swift, chill gust of disgruntlement is sent across N’cal’s mind. « Do you take issue with Kehemath’s, that you wish me not to try catching her eye? »

With a chuff and a shake of his head, N’cal slows and comes up to buffet his lifemate’s side, catching his breath for a moment. » Oh, calm down, « he urges the sky-washed blue fondly. » I’ve no qualms whatsoever with Sienna, and if you like Kehemath that much, then work your many charms, you great rogue. I have every confidence you’ll win her over eventually. «

Iolarth stops as well with a snort, butting his rider affectionately. « Of course I will, » he asserts confidently, the wind of his mind returning to normal mildness. « Besides, you’ve given me a good example to follow. You can’t expect me not to try some of your strategies, you know. »

In the midst of a brief haul up the straps to pull a towel from one of the pouches tied to it, N’cal pauses, eyebrows rising. » What? «

« Oh, don’t pretend you haven’t any idea what I’m talking about. » the blue scoffs, a quiet roll of draconic laughter vibrating his hide. « Jovianth’s has been on your mind more than anyone else today, and she is why you have been so quiet, I would wager. »

The smile that forms on N’cal’s lips over the renewed thought of Vashae is completely unwitting. Dropping back to the ground, he chuckles quietly, rubbing the towel over face and chest before draping it over his neck and leaning against Iolarth’s muscular shoulder. » Well, I do apologize for my silence, Ill. But this is something I…really do have to take the time to make sure I approach correctly. «

He’s still trying to figure it out. Figure her out - what it is about Vashae that makes him willing to step beyond the shroud of caution he’s been so well hidden behind for all these Turns. That is what it’s been, since he came to terms with Brigea’s disappearance over a decade ago - a shroud built upon his flirtatious nature. A grin here, an invitation there, a touch, a kiss, a night for sanity’s sake every once in a while - at Iolarth’s urging, more often than not. Just enough to let himself and others know he’s alive, but never truly getting close, or allowing anyone very far past the surface.

All for fear of losing someone again…and not wanting to know the pain of that loss a second time.

« I have never seen her before. » Iolarth inserts his observation about the woman in N’cal’s memory gently, as if loath to interrupt.

The bluerider sighs, his brow creasing slightly. » She was someone from before you, Ill. A long time ago. She’s gone. She reminds me why I need to be careful. «

Iolarth rolls that memory around upon the breezes of his mind, turning it over and over as keen raptor’s eyes examine every facet. « I do not understand. Her vanishing was not your fault. »

“I thought it was, at the time,” N’cal murmurs aloud, suddenly feeling an urge to interrupt the silence that has fallen as Rukbat wanes, turning high clouds orange and pink far above the lake that mirrors them. “Somehow. But…” With another sigh, he pushes away from Iolarth’s shoulder, pulling the towel across his neck and giving one more scrub to his face. “I’m a much different man than I was then. I have you, I have Arroyo, I have this bloody sandblasted Weyr I’m still getting used to…” He chuckles ruefully at that; the desert is most definitely not somewhere he intended to end up, and while it has not proven to be an easy adjustment, it isn’t unbearable. And with its newfound bright spot, calling it home may come more easily than he initially imagined.

He shakes his head again, hopping up to fish his shirt out of another pouch this time. That girl. The woman met by moonlight who made him forget his original intent in talking to her, who snuck up on him in the stores and had only to smile to stop him in his search…who he asked to dance and was accepted by. How did she manage to get stuck in his head this way?

Well, aside from simply being beautiful and amusing and subtly charming and flirtatious in her own right, which he most definitely appreciates…

Shirt replaced, N’cal shoves a hand through his hair, smiling again. There is an air of mystery to Vashae, as well - one that he can’t place, and yet finds somehow familiar. He has his secrets, and she undoubtedly has hers; perhaps that is the source of what’s he’s sensing.

So long has he been uncertain that anyone might trust him fully again, worried that his past might come back to strangle him. For so long, he’s wondered whether or not he ought to risk his heart again - especially as a rider. But now, for some indefinable reason, he feels he indeed ought to take that risk, to at least find out if someone might be willing to trust him once more - that someone, he cautiously hopes, being Vashae, eventually.

But would she ever be willing to risk trusting him, if she views such a thing as a risk herself? Only time will reveal that…and since she did agree to have a drink with him, he can only assume it’s a good start.

« Whatever risk you’re going on about, take it, » Iolarth butts in to N’cal’s ruminations, though it’s with the quiet fervency that the bluerider has come to recognize as his lifemate at his most approving. Particularly when it comes along with a steady, warm, cedar-sweetened wind across N’cal’s mind. « I haven’t felt this much light from you in ages. »

There’s a grin for the blue’s poetic sentiment, but N’cal rather agrees - he’s feeling something he hasn’t in quite a long time. The idea of rediscovering it honestly scares him somewhat…but not as much as the prospect of not doing so and losing the opportunity to define it with someone wonderful. Especially now.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” So the old saying goes. With that pronounced, N’cal scales up onto his perch between Iolarth’s ‘ridges, his mind made up as hope and intention sparkles in his eyes.

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