Freefall

In the day following the hatching of Chauth’s clutch, there have been all kinds of whispers. Two eggs carried between from the former Half-Moon Senior’s clutch. Three blues hatched, all perfectly healthy and troublesome, but the two largest eggs had not moved, the cost of a disastrous flight. Since then, neither hide nor hair of gold and rider had been seen about the weyr. At least, not until this precise moment. It’s early afternoon at the resort. Cue one goldrider, clad in a jet black pearldiver's wetsuit bearing the crest of Black Moon Bay, a hold of Half-Moon, between the shoulderblades, marching through the backrooms of the Resort like a thundercloud. “I need the Deluge wingleader, now please.” In a tone that expects and brokers no argument. Dark sea-green eyes scanning the kitchens, she is wearing an expression as sharp as a butcher’s cleaver, for said person.

Occasionally, occasionally, I’aija gets a little time to himself - and, when he does, that time is spent at the Resort, pulling a brief shift in the kitchens for old time’s sake. And, after such an unfortunate hatching, it seemed prudent to give his wing a full rest day. Working in the kitchen, familiar and enjoyable, helps. He’s putting the finishing touches on a perfectly cooked steak when that tone cuts across. It’s enough to make his spine straighten and shoulders square as a matter of course. A second or two later, he spots the source and his expression shifts slightly. The plate is slid over to a waiting server and he wipes his hands off on a towel that hangs from the strings of his apron. “Weyrwoman, hey. How can I help you?”

To her credit, she does not drool over the smell and look of the steak. And is not so crass as to steal the thing - but it does wedge a tiny crack in that sharp exterior ever so briefly. To her credit her stomach does not growl. The title is another crack in that exterior - brief but there just the same. Clearing her throat, but her tone blunted now, “Deluge, Are you all trained for open water landing and takeoff? Can your bronze manage it?” Yes, she’s staring at the stake instead of him, but her eyes lift after a moment, assessing.

He knows that look. He’s a cook, first and foremost. He knows. I’aija quirks a brow just the tiniest bit at that ‘Deluge’ but, hey, it works as well as anything else - Wingleader, Chef, Meat Maestro are but a sampling of nicknames he’s acquired over the turns. “We are, indeed,” answers that first question, even as he steps aside and taps in another cook to take over his station. His apron is undone and folded over a forearm along with his hand towel. “And, yes, he can,” is just as confident, if with a wry quirk at the corner of his mouth. “And, yes-” he adds, with a tip of his head to the steak that’s now departing “-I’ll be happy to cook one of those for you any time you’d like.”

“Excellent.” Brain warring with stomach over a hierarchy of needs with that offer of a mouth-watering steak of perfect tenderness and temperature. Focus Tanit. Focus. Her throat clears, forcing her gaze back to the man, still assessing but less sharp than before. “I’aija and -” She frowns for a moment while searching for the matching name. “Elsvruth? Is that right?” A soft expulsion of breath follows the words, as her attention shifts to the door through which she’d entered the kitchens, turning as though expecting him to follow. “Do you do dragon diving drills?”

The offer is a standing one; tonight, tomorrow, heck, she could ask him to do it at 3am the morning before dawn drills and he’d do it. Not that he’s going to say it as such, but there’s just a sense of it. I’aija furrows his brow slightly at the line of questioning - though he is quick to confirm, “Ayup. I’aija and Elsvruth. He’s-” somewhere, though a quick mental ping doesn’t immediately dredge up the location of the bronze. “Around,” is a safe assumption. “We do some dragon diving drills, yeah. For the ones that can do it safely, anyway.” At some point, his apron will find its way to the dirties in need of cleaning. He’ll follow, of course, because that’s just what a body does when a weyrwoman comes a-calling. “What can we help you with?”

“Chauth is still sleeping.” Not a complete explanation, but it’s a start. Winding through the walkways that lead closer toward the shoreline. “Can I borrow you and your life mate for the day?” Her tone falling back into the usual casual cadance. “There’s a reef, maybe an hour or so out by dragon flight, it’s formed around an old shipwreck maybe… 50-60 feet down? There are shallower spots too, the whole thing is near an atoll. I’ll offer all the oysters and shellfish you can eat as payment - but I need someone search and rescue trained, and I need a larger dragon that won’t tire out before I finish or if Chauth wakes up.” There’s something else, but she doesn’t seem quite ready to brave asking that just yet.

To which there’s just a slight nod of understanding, his expression softening just a little bit. I’aija follows along without much concern; he knows the way as well as she does, so it doesn’t require a whole lot of paying attention. “Sure,” is prompt; it barely takes a mental touch to get confirmation from the bronze. “We’re at your service, weyrwoman. He’s a lot more durable than he looks,” spare and lean though he might be, Elsvruth is blessed with some mighty endurance. Whatever that something else is, though, he doesn’t press; there’s a faint noise at the back of his throat, some acknowledgement or another, unconsciously offered. Champagne and shadows await on the shore, Elsvruth lurking there as if he’d been waiting the entire time.

It isn’t until she sees the bronze that her brain finally catches up with the rest of her. “You two were the sires for Wendyn and Kiyaszaeth’s clutch.” A flush brushing sun darkened cheeks before shaking a thought away. “I apologize if she caused problems for you two. Chauth was always overprotective on the sands, to be honest I miss the days where I could just order the galleries closed.” She will remember names and attach them to faces eventually, honest! “He looks rather durable.” The faintest of smiles twitching at the corners of her mouth.

“Yeah, he was,” I’aija replies, with a briefly goofy tilt to his grin at something or another. “It was unexpected, to be sure.” But, gauging from his expression, it seems to have worked out well enough for the pair. “Really, he did the work, though. I was just- there.” He rubs absently at the back of his neck and he looks over to Tanit again. “It was okay, I think. Some trouble is to be expected with that many queens and eggs on the sand. Nothing to apologize for.” Elsvruth ambles closer, black straps matte against the latent effervescence of his hide. Assessment follows, inscrutable in his way, before he settles into an expectant position - as if to say ‘mount up already’. “He’s a tough old cuss,” is said with the utmost of affection.

The coordinates are given, and she mounts with all the grace and ease of years of practice. Frowning only slightly when she realizes the strap hooks aren’t in the same places as with her own lifemate and it takes a moment to figure out. “I should have asked if you had a proper wetsuit… I could have sworn I’d seen some electric blue monstrosity - but maybe I’m mistaken? Reya seems to have peculiar taste when it comes to uniforms.” Still she grins, “You like her, Wendyn I mean.” Mischief sparkling in those sea-green eyes. “I suppose that worked out well for her then.”

He waits for her to mount up first, then follows suit. And, speaking of suits, he does have a spare kit in a bag on one of Elsvruth’s straps; he’ll just have to change at some point. Or not at all. It will be a surprise. “Yeah, we have some interesting uniforms,” I’aija replies with a chuckle. “But they do the job and that’s what matters. I have a spare if it’s needed.” No sooner than the man is settled than Elsvruth launches, executed with a particular economy of movement. Nothing is wasted while he’s on the wing. As he angles toward the given coordinates, there’s a low, spare-sounding rattle of a sound in his throat at something or another. I’aija has the temerity to flush a bit, a laugh following after. “Yeah. Yeah, you could say that. She’s- she’s something special.” She might not be able to see it at that angle (or maybe she can!) but his goofy grin has taken on a particularly boyish angle.

“Black is standard, the carbon mixed in with the fabric makes it sunlight resistant, retains heat and cool better too.” A sigh, that melts into a knowing smile. “Ah to be young again.” Not that Tanit is all that old herself really. She points a hand in the direction of the atoll as they near it. “He’s a little rougher in build than Chauth but let's see how this works. Can you glide to about sixty feet above that point over there where the water deepens out?” Click, click, wiggle, go the fastenings as she undoes the hooks, carefully pulling herself into a crouch but still holding on to the straps to steady herself. “I forgot to bring nets.” Muttered.

“Ah, gotcha. I’ll admit, I’m still trying to wrap my head around- well, all of it. I’ll have a chat with the Weavers and see what they can do.” And Seacrafters and Techcrafters - most of his off time really is spent in meetings. And more meetings. Elsvruth tilts his wings a little, adjusting his course with well-trained precision. Altitude is tweaked and I’aija leans a bit, squinting down, to a side, then down again to guesstimate their height. The water is darker below them and, while Tanit wiggles out of the fastenings and settles into a crouch, the dragon holds steady. I’aija blinks, wide-eyed for a moment. “Are you- I could have someone get some nets, but what-” Elsvruth utters a tumbleweed-dry: « Just let the woman do what she’s going to do. And shut your mouth. You’ll let the flies in. »

At the words ‘but what’ she’s off, long legs taking sure strides down the length of the bronze’s ridges to one side reaching haunch before leaping into the air and off into nothing. Her body twists, the dive taking perfect form before she disappears with a splash into the churning water below.

“Well, fuck.” I’aija isn’t much for cursing, generally; the sound of it makes Elsvruth chuckle in that dry, dry way of his. It’s a rusted out rattle of sound, reverberating in his rider’s head like sun bleached bones on cracked earth. He rubs the back of his neck and, after a full three minutes, Elsvruth is persuaded (badgered, more like) to wing down to the water below, sketching out as tight a gyre as he can manage. No body surfaces, which is probably good; that Chauth hasn’t gone between is better. « Just wait. »

Chauth is still napping quite soundly, so who knows at this point. Three minutes, Five minutes, at the ten minute mark Tanit breaks the surface with a gasp and a small string of swear words that would likely make a seacrafter blush as she lays back to float in the water, catching her breath. “Forgot how much it hurt hitting the water from that high,” is muttered to no one in particular. Looking none the worse for wear for all the excitement. She scans the sky for signs of dragon and rider, grinning like a madwoman.

She won’t have to look long, fortunately; the moment the water breaks, Elsvruth closes the distance, eventually winging down to land in the water and paddle his way closer. There’s likely some dry observation about his straps, gauging from the wrinkling of I’aija’s nose. He’s already gone through several stages of worry and panic and worry again; by the time they get to Tanit, he just looks tired. He scrubs at his face as if that might help, then leans over the bronze’s side, holding out a hand. “What.” He can’t even shape the whole question. That’s all he can get out of his poor face.

It takes a moment to register the panic and worry, as she swims over to the bronze’s side taking up the hand for a moment and settling with a wide grin, running a hand through her wet dark hair. “You said you were trained in Dragon-diving? Granted, I wouldn’t recommend that height to anyone who wasn’t properly trained as a diver, but 30-40 feet should work in storm conditions for sea rescues.” She grins at him. “I guess you didn’t know I was a blackmoon pearl diver and a dolphineer before I impressed?”

“You,” is aimed squarely at Elsvruth, “can hush.” By all accounts, Elsvruth does not hush; there’s a dull twang of guitar strings in a wordless ‘I told you so’ that spreads across minds for just a moment. “And you- I thought you meant dragons doing the diving, not that,” I’aija turns his attention to Tanit, though relief does much to undo the brief - and horrifying - glimpse into a well-aged I’aija. His future is probably going to be very gray indeed. “Honestly, I don’t know much about you.” It’s apologetic. “I mean, I know some, but between everything else- it’s hard to keep track.”

“Well there’s that too, but sometimes they can’t quite get into the spaces that you need to reach.” Tanit gives the bronze an affectionate pat as he’s being chided. “He’s got a good head on his shoulders.” So helpful. “It is fine. We haven’t exactly gone out of our way to be known here, and if I’m honest with myself, it wasn’t until Chauth rose - that I finally accepted Half Moon Bay’s loss.” A frown, some other thought left unspoken flickering across her sun dusted features. “Which brings me to why I asked you specifically out today verses another of the bronzes in your wing, I apologize by the way for doing this on your day off - but I need to settle some things before she wakes up.”

Elsvruth wouldn’t say he was a smug beast - but he is. Praise gets a thin rumble of a sound, while he continues to drift in the water for a time. I’aija works his straps loose and carefully swings around, the better to look at Tanit now that they’re mostly stationary. “Fair enough,” seems to cover a fair bit of conversational ground; from dragons not being nimble enough to the notion that Tanit wasn’t making much effort to be known. His expression grows pained at her frown, though, and instinct has him reaching over, reaching to take her shoulder if she’ll allow it. He doesn’t have words for it, so the offer of touch, of sympathy will have to do. “Okay, but first- you don’t have to apologize. We do aquatic search and rescue - and you needed that. So. We’re just doing our job.” His grin rises, lopsided. “So. What else do you need? What can we do for you?”

She accepts the touch with a soft smile. “It’s ok, she doesn’t blame me but I know deep down it was my fault. Or at least that’s what the dragon-healers seem to suspect.” Tanit shrugs. “What matters is what happens going forward, and part of that means making a place for ourselves here.” She frowns, trying to find the right words. “There are four juniors, now and I can’t really help feeling like we are just - surplus.” She sighs, “What I mean to say is that both Chauth and I need something we can throw ourselves into, she will forget in time as all dragons do but it will go faster with work that she’s suited to. She’s active, acrobatic for a gold and I think if we joined Deluge, we could bring more experience and options to the wing. As wingriders.” She grins, “After all, Half Moon was founded on Search and rescue, and I know a lot of freediving and dive techniques from being a diver back home and with the Dolphin Craft.” There’s a pause and a rather wicked grin. “I’m also pretty sure if I taught you the proper way to hold your breath while diving, you could go anywhere from 9-11 minutes without gear, and Wendyn would be rather appreciative.” Cue the suggestive eyebrow wiggle.

Blame is a tricky thing to apply, especially in times of tragedy. I’aija briefly opens his mouth, as if to speak, but a faint sound from Elsvruth seems to be enough to still his tongue on the matter. Instead, the bronzerider is silent for a time, listening with a look of pensive attentiveness. His hand lifts to briefly pull through his hair, only to pause at the back, one eyebrow hiked up very high for those implications of breath work. “I don’t think that’s really an issue-” is mostly muttered under his breath - but there’s enough concern there to potentially raise some questions. Elsvruth provides a bit of side-eye, in the way that only he can. There’s a snort and then he starts moving, pulling toward the nearest bit of solid ground. With a slight shake of his head, I’aija gains his verbal footing again, “We’d be happy to have you, Tanit. I mean, I’ll have to run it by R’en and Reya,” because protocol, “but we could use someone with your experience and drive, absolutely.” His grin gets a bit tilted. “It’s unorthodox, but that’s… that’s Monaco Bay in a nutshell. And if it helps you feel more at home - then all the better.”

Tanit laughs, “I’m sure you get no complaints, I’m just - illustrating the unexpected benefits of a particular skill set.” She makes a face at the mention of R’en but nods at Reya. “I intend to discuss it with Reya myself - R’en and I haven’t exactly always seen eye to eye.” Brows knitting at a memory perhaps. “But I wanted your thoughts first since, well it is unorthodox and I didn’t want you to just suddenly get saddled with us without understanding the why behind it.” There’s a soft chuckle, “There is one other demand that comes with it though, a weekly potluck for the whole wing, I’ll happily bring the shellfish if you cook.”

I’aija does his best impression of a fish for just a few moments before deciding not to open that particular can of worms. He clears his throat and settles back a bit, folding his arms around the neckridge in front of him. Wisely, he doesn’t touch on those nerves, either; instead, there’s a slight nod and an amused, “That’s probably well enough. Reya’s the one that knotted me, so if you get her blessing, that’ll be good enough for us.” His expression softens. “We appreciate it, though. Trust is a tricky thing and I’m glad - we’re glad - you trust us and what we do enough to want to be a part of Deluge.” And then, suddenly, there are demands and he laughs despite himself. “I was already trying to work out the logistics of a monthly roast- but, you know, that could work better. It might encourage the lot of them to get their diving skills up to snuff, too.” More hands means more shellfish! And speaking of hands, he offers his over again: this time to seal it. “Deal.”

Tanit’s whole demeanor seems to fully relax, “You won’t be saying that once Chauth wakes up, but thank you.” Lips curve wickedly at mention of the roast, approval and warmth painting the words, “Disguising extra training as a fun event for the entire wing, that’s a veteran Wingleader move right there.” Accepting his hand with a grin. “Hopefully you won’t come to regret this.”

“Probably not, but, eh. I’ll live.” Maybe. I’aija, once past all of the panic and worry, settles right back into a comfortable state of laidback-edness. The clasping of hands is firm and the deal is struck. “I learn quickly,” he laughs before swinging around to face front and fixing his rigging up. “He wouldn’t suffer anything less. No risk, no reward - and no regrets, Tanit. Welcome aboard.” Maybe it’s premature, but he’ll risk it. Elsvruth will eventually find his wings and carry them home - for food and rest and plotting planning for the future.


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