Zeyta, F'dan


Zeyta and F'dan have an unsettling first meeting.


It is morning of the twenty-fifth day of the second month of the second turn of the 12th pass.


The WhirlieBird Lounge, Igen Weyr

OOC Date


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The WhirlieBird Lounge

High in the center bowl, there is a broad ledge with a large cavern, big enough for a dragon or two to land at once. In the back of that cavern there is a door, which opens into a narrow and rather dank looking hallway. A fork in the tunnel offers two directions. The left leads to a storage room packed full of Whirlwind items. Leather, padding, tools, everything the wing might need. The right fork is the one most traveled, and opening that door leads into the lounge.
The room can accommodate the entire wing, it might be a cozy fit, but it's comfy. Mis-matched furniture giving it a rather casual and thrown-together air. Fireplace and hearth are made of blocks of sandstone, with a large wing banner hanging above. Tapestries are draped over the other walls, covering the patchy limestone. There is of course a fully stocked bar, complete with glass shotglasses with Whirlwind's logo etched onto the side. A rather small alcove provides an office, though the pile of miscellaneous paperwork gives the impression it is rarely used. If it isn't time for drills one could be sure to find a Whirlie or two here, hanging out, day or night.

Hunkered low on the ledge in grim foreboding, Kczyslawborth bathes beneath the weak light of the wintry sun, pale hide supping on golden warmth. A true specimen of Oldtime breeding, his size exceeds all but the largest of Nowtime bronzes, rippling musculature and brutal build of bristling spines and wicked edges dressed in decayed tans and prison-bar silver to construct a slumbering monster. Zeyta rides him, a woman of as severe a disposition with her cold beauty and stiff, formal mannerism. Given an interim between drills and sweeps, she pays a rare visit to the social hub of her wing, stomping past the random assortment of seating and the full bar to slip into the office alcove and rein in order over the chaos of hide work, some of it her own from her various administrative duties (and of course the neatest piles there).

There are people in life who always arrive at work on time, and F'dan isn't one of them: he always arrives early. If something's worth doing it's worth doing well, which is why Kadanth swoops in to land on the Whirlies' ledge well before F'dan needs to arrive for sweeps. Luckily for F'dan's ego Kadanth is as large as Nowtime bronzes come, but that doesn't stop F'dan sizing Kczyslawborth up as he dismounts. The bronze is given a scratch on the eyeridge before F'dan heads in, leaving his lifemate to settle beside that absolute monster of a brown. Inside is surprisingly quiet: store room empty, lounge empty. Seems that no one's — oh. A woman. A woman… with a brown dragon. Just his sharding luck. F'dan's greeting is polite — but that's about as far as it goes. "Morning."

Zeyta is, by default, the earliest bird, punctuality bringing her to not only appear well before needed, but to do extra work during that time. Browsing the small bookshelf, she pulls several missive folders and small volumes, filing away others collected from the desk — until Kczyslawborth lifts a lazy eyelid and broadcasts the impending entry of F'dan. Pivoting, the teeny-tiny brownrider storms from the office into full view. Mistake nothing about her or her decorative leathers: the crimson jacket with flames licking up the sides distinctly belongs to members of High Reaches Inferno wing, the white tunic beneath boasts a proliferation of ruffles across her breasts, and the tight, black pants feeding into bistre boots beginning below the knee leave little to the imagination. Alas, only the black and gold knot tied at her shoulder reveals her as an Igenite, also betraying her of Oldtime origin, factoring in her attire. "Morning." Crisp and heavy, the word falls in terse reply, frigid candor anything but amiable.

In F'dan's experience, the testosterone- and chauvinism-heavy atmosphere of a Weyr makes female chromatic riders go one of three ways: quivering wreck, one of the boys, or full-on bitch. No points for guessing which category this one falls into. F'dan flops down into one of the lounge's mismatched chairs, taking up as much space as possible in the way of particularly cocky men everywhere. No one needs to sit with their legs that far apart. "You know when the sweepriders are coming?" he asks, managing to imply that it's obviously not a woman he's waiting for. As he waits for an answer he lets his eyes drift over her, not bothering to be subtle about it. If she can't deal with men than she shouldn't have come to play with the boys, should she?

Zeyta was a bitch before the testosterone and chauvinism prevailed; its prevalence in Nowtime only cemented those hostile qualities in her. In the empty lounge her footsteps carry more volume, the forceful impact of soles-on-ground calculated, measured to reverberate. Her critical stare travels along, disapproving first of the decor, finally the flagrant posturing of F'dan reclining on a couch. Mouth pursed, then parted, her monotone answers, "What detail were you assigned," a demand for information more than a helpful line of inquiry. As much aware of the looks of men as of her own beauty and what it garners, she stops in front of him, arms folding above her stomach.

F'dan isn't oblivious to Zeyta's heavy footsteps: is she trying to intimidate him? The idea twists the edges of his mouth into a smirk. He doesn't straighten up as she comes closer, maintaining his relaxed sprawl over the couch while keeping an insolent gaze on the brownrider. "Trade road out to Igen Hold," F'dan replies. "Extra sweeps." His eyes drop again for another once over. Yeah, he'd tap that. If she could keep that scowl off her face. So far every word exchanged has been at least polite — but F'dan has a long history of making women feel unwelcome in fighting Wings. If they can't hack it, they shouldn't be around. The female riders who hang on at 'Reaches despite turns of hazing are tough as nails.

An ice queen in the social arena, interacting with Zeyta is a trial in itself too: she's as bitter and frigid as the highest peaks of the High Reaches mountain ranges. The thunderous roar of her footsteps ceases, economy of motion abrupt in its halt. Her every weighted move comes with quiet deliberation, now effortless after turns of perfecting her self-presentation. Face a blank wall of apathy hollowing out those china-doll features, she reveals, "You are my partner then." Her colorless inflection provides no insight into her thoughts on this — and, having delivered this information, she turns to pace back into the office, resuming her silent industry. Efficient.

Just F'dan's luck: an extended flight with an Oldtime bitch who'd give an ice statue a run for its money. He looks after Zeyta for a long moment, rolling that idea around in his mind before he goes to lean against the entrance to the office alcove. It's slightly too close for him to stand, and he's very much taller than her, but if he's trying to disconcert her he's doing well at keeping a casual face on it: his weight is braced on his shoulder, one ankle crossed over the other, face placid with a hint of a not-very-friendly smile. "We going to do this whole thing in silence?"

A slip of teeth gleams in a smile more predatory than charming, the whole effect adding to self-possession. Zeyta begins to roll an aged yellow map into a tight cylinder, a piece of twine ready to secure it when F'dan invades. Differences in height aside, his closeness yields no outward reaction, her own tyranny of space occupied by loud sounds and deft movements. "No. I expect Kczyslawborth will bespeak yours once we are in the air to coordinate our efforts." Utterly professional in her reply, she affords him a quick, darting glance from the corner of her eye. He must be new: most everyone knows Zeyta is antisocial. For a woman, she sure seems competent, all militaresque and official enough to give those 'Reachians a run for their money.

He wouldn't say it to her but F'dan is grudgingly impressed, not least by her refusal to rise to his provocation. Zeyta's earliness, those neatly stacked hides, the relentless focus on business: it's all very 'Reachian. And her absolute self-possession — F'dan likes women soft and feminine and preferably barefoot in the kitchen, but if they're going to end up on a fighting dragon the least they can do is have balls. As it were. "Kadanth," he offers, though Zeyta didn't ask, and pushes himself up to a standing position. "And I'm F'dan. Transferred from 'Reaches." There's a pause here where a normal social being might offer their own name, but Zeyta might not fall into that category.

There's a snap of twine as Zeyta finishes with the map, placing it amongst a pile of other similarly stowed charts. Tidying her personal items gathered, she flips open to the page of the topmost book, picking up a stylus to tick off a task on a list written there. "Mm. F'dan of bronze Kadanth, transferred from Nowtime High Reaches. Sired several clutches by junior golds. Yes, I've read your file." It should be unsurprising to find someone as ostentatious as Zeyta — now offering him full attention of her haughty gaze — to have researched this, but it could just as well be the gossip surrounding the newcomer. As to the question of her own identity, she indulges, "Zeyta, bonded to brown Kczyslawborth. Also transferred from High Reaches." Just a High Reaches 400 turns in the PAST.

One of F'dan's eyebrows goes up. Zeyta just managed to make herself one to watch. He has to respect someone who does their research — but he's not sure how much he wants his wingmates knowing about his personal history. The mention of Oldtime High Reaches is a lucky one, because it gives F'dan the chance to steer conversation away from his own exit from the Weyr. "No shit? You know Linny then." A big grin: he obviously knows the weyrwoman well. Very well. "Your Oldtime Weyrwomen are something else." In fact, all the Oldtime women are something else. F'dan's never seen so much flesh on display outside of a brothel.

Pry and prowl Zeyta does, like a languid feline poised to strike at any time. See how she smirks, glossing over their pasts to look forward to the future. Not without one last nostalgic indulgence, however, "Ah. I served the weyrwoman on diplomatic errands turns ago. Before I ever Impressed." Putting her on somewhat intimate terms with Linny too. Noting his grin, she counters with her own schooled, neutral expression. "Mm. It is because of my Oldtime Weyrwomen and the rest of us that High Reaches still stands and Igen and Southern thrive." Is that a resentful note in her voice? Someone may have been unceremoniously expelled from Nowtime HRW herself. Whups.

Willingness to let sleeping canines lie: that's another point in the pro-Zeyta column. Badmouthing Nowtime anything: several points in the negative column. Where F'dan had softened slightly he tenses again, a set to his jaw and a frown catching the skin between his brows. "High Reaches is the best Weyr we have. Didn't need Oldtimer blood for that. And Southern I grant you, but Igen —" his nostrils flare for a moment in disbelief and anger. Just thinking about it is offensive. "The greenery around the leaderships' weyrs is a disgrace. And that's before you look at anything else." Obviously a man raised on the old Harper songs, all freeing flame and searing grasses. If he had his way they'd raze all the greenery in every Weyr and Hold.

Zeyta almost snorts. "Never forget those who came before; not all of my Oldtime fellows ventured forth, and it is their sacrifice that has High Reaches standing now." Values upheld in thanks to the training she received, once upon a time, and saw continued after she left. Clearing a portion of the table, she leans against it, hitching one buttock on the corner to support herself. Contrary to her former words, her pride dies down as their discussion concentrates on Igen. "Mm. There's much to improve around Igen," is her level-headed, diplomatic answer, conceding to his point. "But considering the state it was in when we arrived…" She winks, entirely humorless, not even an evidential smirk remaining to prove that smug gesture occurred.

F'dan has no problem with the Oldtimers who stayed back in the 10th Interval. It's the ones who came to his time that he has an issue with. Thankfully he keeps that particular thought to himself. "To be fair, it was a fucking disgrace before you arrived," F'dan concedes. "I'll give you that. Leadership couldn't have organized a piss-up in a brewery. Was amazed they could tell the difference between their arses and their elbows, let alone get a full-strength wing in the air." It seems unlikely, but it appears that F'dan's talking to Zeyta as if she's a man — which is to say with some sort of respect. The wink is ignored, because it is gives F'dan the creeps.

"I am well aware." As harsh and condemning of it too, even, although Zeyta exercises censure at the moment. No rants from her, not with her inner-calm rippling outward, glacial strong. "Mm. Quite. Whirlwind was the sole wing among them with any competence. W'rin has retained that, since beginning his tenure as Weyrleader. Although Igen seems unable to keep a Weyrsecond." And they keep skipping over her, but for once she hides her ambition insofar as it's indistinct from her general arrogance, the confidence she exudes gripping the edge of the desk to scoot further back, feet dangling. Sucks to be short.

"Whirlwind's not bad," F'dan agrees, which is extremely high praise from a 'Reachian about anything in Igen. "W'rin's good. Should've been at Reaches." That just might be a joke, which seems further proof that against all odds F'dan thinks Zeyta's not awful. Extremely sharding strange, and a woman on a brown — but more like one of his own people than anyone else F'dan has met at Igen to date. F'dan might not think much of women riding fighting dragons, but he does think a lot of efficiency and duty and people with high standards. "So how'd you end up on the Weyrleader's wing, Zeyta?" Is it possible to emphasize the lack of an apostrophe? F'dan certainly makes a valiant attempt at it. "Would've thought other wings might be more… welcoming."

"…They tried to recruit him, rumor says," Zeyta says in deadpan, devoid of any comedic notion, though she's certainly not unable to detect it in others. Her torso tilts back, at an angle held up by her arms, tensing under the weight of her upper body. Efficient, dutiful, brutally high in her standards, she's the exception to F'dan's sexism, it appears. "Mm. I excel when it comes to administrative tasks." In other words, she's a paperpusher. "I've over a decade of experience in goldrider diplomacy and serving as an assistant weyrlingmaster." Pause, and then, blunt and cutting, "But I'm tired of women and weyrlings. So I've transferred my skills to serving under the Weyrsecond." A woman trying her own against a political world ruled by men. Seizing upon the opportunity for her own interrogation, she pounces, ferociously inquiring, "Why are you in Igen, F'dan? A bronzerider such as yourself seems more suited to the northern Weyrs."

'Tired of women and weyrlings': Zeyta sounds just like a standard guy back home. F'dan's never met any woman quite like her before. Sure, out of the tiny number of 'Reaches fighting women there were some that could hang with the guys — but none of them had this…. coldness in them. Like there's ice under her skin. "Fair enough. Your lifemate looks up to it." Not going to try saying Kczyslawborth, apparently. At Zeyta's question F'dan pauses for several moments, toying over which answer to give. "Friendly gesture of support from High Reaches to Igen," he finally says, smoothly seguing into the answer that doesn't insult her intelligence: "the Weyrleader and I didn't see eye to eye." During this recap F'dan raises his hands and cracks his knuckles. He's unaware of the gesture or the look on his face, but Zeyta might recognize the heat of ambition temporarily thwarted.

"Kczyslawborth cares little for power." No, he's a sinister aid Zeyta enlists at a cost. Voice lacking affection for her lifemate, Zeyta shows no soft side, not even where one expect vulnerability. She shifts, pushing forward off the desk to settle on the balls of her feet, light and agile and she rolls into a pounding step, emptying the office of one person. "Fri—" His secondary explanation mollifies her, interjection ready to launch in acerbic suspicion at his first alibi. "Hm. If he's the disagreeable sort, he must have been trained by Q'ila." The Reachian Weyrlingmaster; it's no secret that Zeyta was banned from High Reaches after requesting a transfer and was then not only denied but implicated in the murder of Igen's Weyrlingmaster. Excuse her for harboring grudges — the fiasco still rests uneasy with her. Ambition thwarted indeed. For a moment, she shares an expression with F'dan, sympathy peeking through.

Zeyta's been weird since the beginning, but the way she talks about Kczyslawborth makes the hairs on the back of F'dan's neck stand up. He's met a lot of not-nice people, but he's never heard that tone of voice about a lifemate before. His mind reaches out instinctively for Kadanth's: that soft twilight silence of an ancient forest, still and soothing as ever. In the end, the sheer awfulness implied by the way Zeyta speaks of her lifemate makes F'dan sure that he's misunderstood her. The alternative is unthinkable. "Everyone in the last hundred turns was trained by Q'lia," F'dan responds, not exaggerating much. "J'llor's a bastard all on his own. And he shouldn't be…" The sentence trails as F'dan remembers diplomacy, but the matching 'I should be' hangs there as heavy as if it's been said. Somehow F'dan is sure that Zeyta understands anyway — understands much more than he would have expected. He holds her gaze for a long beat as things fall together. "You're that brownrider," he says finally. It's not a question, it just took a while for the pieces to fall into place.

Speak to Kczyslawborth and see for yourself: he'll flash images of dank dungeons with a background of keening prisoners wailing in despair. Zeyta works in tandem with him, sharp and rigid as she is, constituting a formidable pair. Headed towards the bar, she extracts a glass from the cabinet, fetching a pitcher of water from the main lounge area to pour. "There are many who should not be." In existence, in their positions; asked to clarify and she'll validate either line of thinking. Catching F'dans eyes, she meets him with her own bright intensity, shrugging, "If I did it, there would have been no body to find." Not very assuaging, but it's the only defense she (confidently!) offers. "Drink?" He can watch her pour to ensure it's not poisoned.

F'dan won't be hearing any details of Kczyslawborth's thoughtscape: Kadanth refuses to reach out, just the proximity of the other dragon's mind enough to make him unusually unsettled. Instead the bronze waits, not yet afraid but certainly aware of what's beside him. So F'dan is innocent for now at least of Kczyslawborth's depths — though Zeyta is hinting at it. F'dan follows her into the lounge, remaining standing this time and nodding as she offers water. It feels abnormally cold when he takes it, though perhaps that's just in his mind. "J'llor knew in a fair flight Kadanth would knock Khraeeth from the sky," he says, anger a live wire under the words. Perhaps that's why what F'dan recognizes in Zeyta is harder in her than it is in him: perhaps her ambition, denied a socially sanctioned way to reach, carries knives. Her gender now is almost entirely forgotten, far less important than the fact that she's impressive and — though he doesn't seriously think she'd commit murder — threatening. Cold. "Why did you want to come back to Reaches?"

Luck for all, Kczyslawborth keeps to himself, no cerebral probes conducted as he opts to doze instead, waiting until sweeps to rouse himself. Zeyta pours a generous amount of fresh water in each glass, technique flawless without a single drop spill. From behind the bar, she drops forward on her elbows, drink held in front of her mouth. "Mmm." She says little, listening to F'dan recount his cheated opportunities in respectful silence, observing him all the while. Sure, it is there: so many turns of not being allowed to rise to power, whether because of her gender or otherwise. "High Reaches is my home. It continues today on the legacy my family built. I am the daughter of its guards, its wingleaders, a Weyrleader. My lineage on one side traces — traced dragonriders for generations. I—" should be running it, but lest her frigid bearing melt, or ridiculous outcries escape her, she stops herself, mouth pressed into a thin line, tirade cut prematurely.

F'dan listens as intently to Zeyta's grievances as she listened to his. When she stops abruptly the silence holds for long moments, something crackling in the air. F'dan has the feeling of a shocking familiarity, a jolt of not-quite-sameness — like walking past a mirror in a dark hallway and catching a vision's edge glimpse of a twisted, darker other self, keeping pace one step to the right. Background, pride, hunger: he knows her story. He knows what she wants. The click of his now-empty glass as it's laid down is sharp and loud, the normally bustling room thick with silence. "I understand," he says, low and quiet. And he does — in a way he's never understood a woman before. But then Zeyta is not like any woman he's ever met.

Lips sealed and flattened, Zeyta buys into the void in conversation, stewing inwardly, mustering composure to solidify her grim exterior. She drinks, gulping down water to set the empty vessel down with a small, melodic clink of its own against the wooden counter, wiping the condensation on her jacket. Straightening herself, she revolves around to the front of the bar, contemplating the figure of the man in front of her. If unnerved, perhaps a lifelong twin has inoculated her to the shock of dark likeness to another, creating a sharper image upon which she might reflect. "Yes. Well." The words fail her, brevity supplanting verbosity where sympathy brings her close, on an even plane of emotion.

F'dan is equally unable to find words, if he even wanted to. Perhaps at High Reaches itself this conversation would have been more competitive as well as more treasonous. But here at Igen what holds him still and quiet is the shock of recognition. The only thing that brings him out of it is duty — and that he's sure she'll share too. "Sweeps," he says simply. The shared confidences of before are gone, and instead he is watching, absorbing.

If only the usual veneer of scathing words and harsh attitude buffered Zeyta against the awkward result of compassion. Fortitude dissolved, some iron shell remains, and it is this vestige that slowly remembers itself, obligation always first and foremost on the mind. "Ah, I believe we are due for those," she echoes in quiet elaboration, monotone presiding. He'll have to look with so much scrutiny, little slips her stonewalling face as she begins to mechanize, shedding her vivid, flame-bright jacket to hang on a peg, a much more functional, streamlined brown one chosen. "Faranth knows they are pointless when no one listens on how to outsmart the raiders." There's a neutrally agreeable topic they can saturate in their shallow contempt of: Igen.

Zeyta's expression might be under careful control, but F'dan's still watching close as she changes. He's already prepared, but he fastens his jacket as he waits for her, the gestures so familiar after almost twenty turns that his eyes can stay on Zeyta as deft fingers work. Under control she might be, but he remembers the way she cut herself off at the peak of her complaint, pulling herself together. There is something in there under all that ice, something F'dan knows. "It could be handled better," he agrees, voice copying Zeyta's neutrality — though perhaps in the context of their conversation the suggestion of a different management is more incendiary than his tone suggests. "What would you do?" It's a genuine question, asked with a respect not normally afforded to women.

Zeyta dons her plainer garment, tugging the zipper up without resistance, then hitching the toggles to further insulate herself. No more vibrant hues or decorative shirt-fronts, she is dressed for labor, securing her belt and then primping, fingers swiping away lint. Preened, and settled into this image, from clothing to the cultivation of her facial animation (or lack thereof), all that's left is her hair: loose curls, already being gathered and woven into a quick, tight braid. "I've already advised Arroyo wingleader N'cal. Falsify sweep routes last minute. Not all of them, only some, so the culprit disseminates information that's accurate as well as forged; then it's easier to track the fake routes without arousing suspicion on our part. I'd also have the guards investigate members of the Weyr coming from outlying areas, especially people who were formerly Holdless." The knowledge garnered from countless hours spent in the archives shows its worth here, tactical expertise shining as she shares her ideas with F'dan, divulging detail with an unheard of pause at the end, glance checking his and voice falling silent to solicit feedback. Confidence still reigns, but that she'll listen to suggestion is an acknowledgement in itself.

She's good. Not words F'dan ever imagined himself thinking, but there it is: Zeyta has the cold hard intellect of a man, and an impressive one at that. There's none of the softness or emotional clouding that F'dan normally associates with women, just a brutal Reachian clarity. "Tell W'rin," he replies firmly. "We need to catch whoever's doing this and crush these rumours. Holders are too quick to forget their debts as it is." It's evident what his views on Weyr and Hold hierarchy are. With Zeyta dressed, F'dan heads to the entranceway, pausing there and nodding for Zeyta to go first.

"Mmm. We'll see." Zeyta doesn't actually get along well with the Weyrleader, despite their regular association. Wearing everything but helmet, goggles and gloves, all of which she keeps stashed in cargo bags affixed to Kczyslawborth's straps, she's prepared. "Mm. Don't get me started on those insufferable conservatives and their greedy ways." Another chord of similarity struck. Tying her hair, she flicks her braid over her shoulder and heads for the ledge, beckoning for F'dan to join her. Soon, they are airborne, aloft on another fruitless sweep over Igen lands…

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