Storms Of The Soul


Donal.jpg Randi.jpg

Date: 18 July, 2010
Location: Landing, AIVAS Complex - Main Computer Room
Synopsis: Randi tries to settle her dragon with stars not blocked by the storm. In the process, she meets a man with a storm for a soul.
Rating: PG-13
Logger: Randi

This room is large and empty, but for the huge screen at the front of the room. White walls and cream-colored tile floors give it a antiseptic feel, and the small stool in the corner seems completely out of place. Closer inspection of the screen reveals speakers to the top right and top left corners, as well as a small terminal and printer below. Information can be displayed on the screen, showing anything in the AIVAS files, or from any of the terminals via connection or disk.

Late at night, far past when most sane people have gone to bed, a large golden form can be seen lounging in Landing's courtyard. A crazy summer storm crashes overhead, the rain a welcome relief from the day's unusual heat. The occasional lightning bolt illuminates the visiting shape, but at all other times only her large, blue-green eyes can be seen. Inside, a young blonde sits on the lone stool in the main AIVAS room, dripping silently on the floor. The huge center screen has a large star map of what someone familiar with it would recognize as the Rukbat system. Using the center terminal rather than talking - though careful not to drip on the delicate equipment - she seems to be talking to herself. "It's just a big black hole with white dots on it." She flicks her fingers across the terminal and the image starts to rotate, but her brow merely furrows in frustration. "I don't know, I entered what that idiot showed me, but it's not coming up." Now she's managed to zoom in on the Red Star - shown as it used to be, not as it is - but that doesn't seem right either. "I'm sorry, love. I don't think they're here."

"You don't think what is there?" asks a voice unfamiliar to the queenrider.

Even this late, there is a guard on Landing, particularly this precious building. While the watchrider might quail at the notion of questioning a goldrider, the two other men on duty at least nodded after they confirmed her identity. The same as they confirmed the identity of the man Kaseth no doubt saw coming ages ago as he approached and was admitted to the building. His hair is dripping from the rain outside, and he holds himself near the door, waiting until it's safe for him to be near the sensitive equipment. He grabs a dry cloth from the rack near the door, kept for this very occasion, and flings it at the back of Randi's head, pulling a second one down and toweling his short hair with it, the spikes in front standing up even worse than usual through the rough treatment.

The sound of the unfamiliar - and unexpected - voice startles Randi. Whipping around just in time for the towel to hit her in the face, she also manages to fall off the stool. Graceful. "Ta," for the towel. Quick to get up, she uses the cloth to rub out the moisture from her hair first - a true girl, then - and then moves down over the rest of her. "Sorry, did you need the main console?" she asks, grinning at the figure she can't quite make out in the dim light from the main screen. "It's just the stars," she answers a bit sheepishly - a blush rising to her cheeks. "Kaseth gets antsy if she can't see them. I'd seen pictures of them on here before. Wanted to let her borrow my eyes and see that they were still there."

"They are not 'just' the stars," Donal says, his firelizard chittering briefly on his shoulder as he moves forward, into the light. His gaze shifts from the younger woman briefly, hardly considering her appearance beyond the functional business of ensuring the equipment isn't going to be ruined, brown eyes falling on the console itself as if it holds far more interest to him than the rider. "The stars are always there, even during the daytime when the sun is so bright that the sky overpowers them, but they are still there." He continues looking at the screen and after a silent minute remembers himself. "Master Starsmith Donal, weyrwoman. My duties to your Weyr and her queens, one of whom is parked outside." The formal greetings are spoken casually and off-handedly, as if they're of little concern compared to feasting his eyes on the stars. "This isn't a live image," he then observes, reaching forward and quickly tapping out commands on the keyboard, almost too swift to see. The image shifts itself around until another series of constellations are visible instead. "This is what's going on up there above the storm right now."

"I remember being told that, once," Randi admits. "Didn't believe him then." She grins, her tongue poking out the corner of her mouth. "Guess I'm too old to believe they're dragons' eyes, hmm?" She's just playing, but there's truth in there as well. "Randi, Kaseth's rider. My duties to you and your stars." The grin only widens. "Which, as you pointed out, seem to be parked above the storm." To borrow his phrasing. When the picture comes up, however, her eyes go wide, her mouth hanging open just a little. "Wow." Unabashedly impressed. "See? They haven't gone anywhere." Realizing that she said that last part aloud, she blushes still deeper and ducks her head. "Sorry, meant to keep that in my head. She gets lost in all her big thoughts, you see, and if she comes 'back to earth' and something's changed - especially if it's cloudy and she can't see the stars - she gets a bit panicky."

Donal's expression tightens, closing against the emotions that well up within his tortured soul. "You don't need to explain it to me." The words are curtly spoken, not sharp, just hollow. Whereas an apprentice awed by his companion would have been stumbling over his words to deny himself access to a rider secret, this man has no need to do so. "If your queen has trouble with the stars during inclement weather, may she never fly in the High Reaches during winter." The suggestion is offered with the rote emotionless manner of the computers around them. He turns away from the woman and goes to one of the secondary consoles and turns it on, fingers flashing over the keyboard at reckless speed as he calls up his last calculations, settling on the stool and hunching over it in a way that would give his personal healer a fit if he had one.

Something in that tightened expression and in that emotionless tone hits Randi in the gut. "I'll keep that in mind." Her voice is soft there, not really enough air behind it to carry it across the room, but if he's listening, it's there. Hesitant and unsure of whether or not she should just leave, Randi chooses to follow instinct rather than decorum and step closer. Her right hand moves to push in gently on the spine just below his shoulderblades while the left moves to grip and lift his left shoulder in a manner which - so long as her doesn't violently fight her - should adjust the spine to a more comfortable - and possibly less hunched - position. "My mum used to sit like that," she offers with a soft smile. "Pouring over hidebound records for some patient or other who just wouldn't get better."

Donal blinks with amazement, too startled by the touch to fight it, then realizing that things are indeed better. Spindly fingers hover over keys long disused until recent turns. And somewhere in that vast mind of actions and reactions and proper responses, Donal ponders what he should say, his mouth half-open, discarding half-formed words until he settles on, "Thank you, weyrwoman." The thoughts percolate some more, and he queries, "Your mother was a healer, I take it?" It's a theory that fits the facts he knows for now. For a moment, he fishes in the breast pocket of his duster for a pair of one of the new-fangled devices coming out of the glasscraft of late: spectacles, with rough dark plastic frames holding things together. Perching them on his nose, he squints at his calculations some more.

"Dragonhealer," Randi corrects amiably. "She was just a greenrider, but she had the gift." She taps the side of her temple with a somewhat rueful grin. "Could hear and talk to all of them just like they were her own. Bloody useful come Fall." Her mouth opens to say more, but she did notice the apparent correlation between his mood shift and her talk of dragons. It could be something else, but now is not the time to test it. She lets the silence drift for a moment, watching him grab his glasses and fiddle with his work some more. She's seen the specs before on some of the older crafters, but… "What're you working on, then?" Incurably curious, as always.

Donal's jaw grinds for a moment at the thought of multiple dragon voices in one's head, and of course he doesn't immediately leap to the 'just' part of being a greenrider. "Tracking the Red Star's pieces to try and map when to expect Fall again. And again, and again." The blue firelizard on his shoulder hisses at the mention of the star and seems agitated, so Donal plucks the critter from its perch and soothes him by stroking the soft hide. "This is Tarrie." The firelizard gives the queenrider a perfunctory chirp, but is still in the process of being mollified and calmed down. "The old maps that Benden cobbled together at the beginning of the Pass are officially useless. No fault of theirs," he adds as an afterthought in case the rider takes umbrage to his seeming disparagement of Benden's leadership in the quest to stop Thread forever.

At Tarrie's introduction, Randi is torn. It's a flying shit-dropper, but at the same time, she actually finds herself not wanting to alienate this strange person so soon after meeting him. "Um. Hello," she offers awkwardly. Her fingers are offered for a cursory sniff or rub against, but then dropped away as she quickly leaps on the change of subject. "We noticed that at Igen." That the maps were useless. "Got to the point where we had shifts running sweeps at all hours just so we'd know where it was hitting in time." There are frown lines that draw themselves along her mouth, such a shame on someone so young. "I've never seen a set of people so scared as I saw the wingleaders and our Senior then." Her frown deepens and she folds arms over her chest to try and stave off the chill her damp clothes have engendered. "I may not agree with their choice of stance in all of this, but I do respect them for pulling us through that."

Tarrie seems to realize he's not welcome and at an encouraging word from Donal, goes to seek his own entertainment sheltering from the storm with other firelizards out and about at Landing. "It's different down here," Donal observes as he continues adding new figures at breakneck speed into the program, only pausing once or twice to check his typing. "With Southern abrogating its duty for Turns before it got cleaned up, and because of the grubbing, you almost don't have to ride Fall down here… just make sure things are under cover when it hits." A snort presages the comment, "People have been utterly stupid about Threadfall for millennia, after all."

"To a point," Randi half-agrees. She shifts her weight from foot to foot, using the movement to keep herself warm. Ish. She turns her back on his programming and walks along the back wall, eyes trailing over the various maps of both northern and southern continents. "The higher altitude land doesn't support them as well. And that's where some of the best farm turf is." Which brings up potentially serious problems. Looking at the vast amount of land to be covered if their Weyr is going to survive, Randi finds her head begins to ache and both hands raise to massage her temples. "I only hope Southern holds their end of the bargain." This, to herself, but still audible. "We won't be ready for this…"

"You will be ready," Donal mutters, half to himself, half to the weyrwoman, not looking over his shoulder at first, until some instinct tells him to do so. "Here," he says, rising to his feet and shucking the waterproof outer duster and proffering it to her. It's warm inside, and without thinking, he drapes it over her shoulders. "But if you focus on the areas where the grubs are least effective, you have less ground to cover than the whole mass of land. And Southern /will/ hold their end of the bargain," he adds firmly before going back to his tapping away on the keyboard. "The dragons wouldn't let them otherwise. Not younger beasts that lead there. The lazy Oldtimers are all but gone, after all."

Suddenly cloaked in dry warmth, Randi looks over her shoulder to smile softly at the slightly-odd crafter. "Thank you," she mumbles, reaching her arms to pull each side closer until she's surrounded by the coat. "We have less than fifty that came down with us. All told, that's not even a full wing - especially when you take out the two queens and the few old ones who came along." Warm brown eyes dart back and forth over the map, their expression deeply worried. "Two clutches will give us maybe another fifty, since it was Kaseth's first, but they won't be flying for a turn and then if even half of them survive, we're still a wing and a half short of even a single flight." The hand holding the front of the coat shut clenches into a frustrated fist. "If we could work it out so the greens could last a full Fall… Some of them are certainly big enough."

Donal remains uneasy discussing dragons, and without the presence of his soothing firelizards, his leg jiggers against the stool, foot restlessly touching the floor in a pattern he's entirely unaware of, the beating of a dragon's heart. "Fort would send spare riders if you asked," he informs her without revealing how he knows… it's a comment far sharper than what a crafter should be able to make. "Perhaps the others, I don't know. But Fort would." He shrugs at the mention of greens lasting longer. "You could try incrementing their flight times gradually, more rigorous training as weyrlings, but you're still going to run the risk of overstretching them."

"But why would we be overstretching them?" Randi wants to know. "If the stuff in that … AIVAS is right, our greens now are bigger than the bronzes and the golds were in the early Passes, and they fought full Falls." She turns a little to look into Donal's face. "So wouldn't it make sense that they should be able to fly full Falls now?" The mention of Fort makes her appear thoughtful. "So would Telgar, if it came to that, but I hate to ask it of them when they have it worse than we do, even." And finally it hits her, square in the stomach exactly what that tapping reminds her of. The pieces of this odd conversation click eerily into place and the color drains from Randi's face. From outside, a low, mournful keen echoes across the courtyard as rider's realization is inadvertently shared with dragon. "I. Oh shards, I…" Really bad at being able to say just the right thing and afraid she'll say something awful while trying, the young rider just turns around and gives the Mastersmith of Pern a big, tight hug. She doesn't say anything else, just squeezes around his chest. Rather a bit like a crazy person, if one were to stop and consider that.

It's not the hug that startles him so much as the keen from outside. A sound he never wants to hear again. Ever. The sound of his heart breaking for all time. The stricken expression on his face, the tears in his eyes, and he says over and over, "Stop it, stop it, make it stop, I can't bear her keening… please stop." Not exactly sane there, his mind tearing in all directions as that gaping hole is shoved to the forefront, and he's seized by an undeniable urge to fall into it. Breaking from her grasp, he leaps away, hands over his ears as if that would ever help, out into the rain, heedless of the storm, screaming, "MAKE IT STOOOOOOOOOOP!"

Startled and thrown off balance by the violence of his reaction, Randi tumbles backwards until she's sitting with her back against the map wall, tangled in his coat and breathing heavily. Her adrenaline-spike causes her queen to become even more alarmed and so it's a feedback loop for the full minute it takes Randi to grapple control of her own mind back and start soothing her upset dragon. With the absence of Kaseth's keening, even the storm outside seems to have been silenced. Everything is still and though she can feel her own heartbeat in her ears, Randi is quick to move. Scrambling to her feet, she takes off after the fleeing crafter, letting the coat fall to the floor behind her. Out into the rain she goes and while he may have the desperation of a cracking, shattering mind behind his speed, she has turns of habitual twice-daily runs behind her. "Donal, stop!" she screams into the storm. "DONAL!" It's dark and there's water pouring down her face and into her eyes and it is really hard to see, but she's dogged if nothing else.

It's not the silence that stops the fleeing Masterstarsmith, but tripping over a rock in his way and going flying in that rather unpleasant way that eventually scrapes up his face upon impact. Panting heavily with both the adrenaline rush and the exertions in his headlong careening across Landing, he remains on the ground, fingers clawing at the ashy earth, face pressed to the dirt, his thin form wracked by sobs. Heedless of the rain or any potential gossiper who might witness the scene, he remains there, a wretched creature in the mud, his soul torn afresh.

No better equipped to see in the dark than Donal, Randi's foot hits that same rock, but where he went flying, she blinks and finds herself still on her feet rather than sprawled in the same mud. Confused by the slightly smug feeling coming from her queen, she shoves it to one side and drops to her knees in the dirt next to the sobbing Mastersmith. Both hands grip his shoulders and she uses what brute force she has to try and roll him towards her onto his back. Hands wet and slick with rain clutch at clothes and limbs, slipping off only to try again.

Thankfully, Donal's something of a stick figure and not very weighty, his arms flopping into the mud as Randi twists him over so his face is cleaned bit by bit by the rain, leaving the runnels of blood from the scrapes to drip. It's a long long time before his shoulders stop heaving, his crushed expression settling from outright agony to deepest sorrow to merely deep sorrow, mouth closed into a thin slash across his face, eyes staring up into the rain, blinking only when a raindrop hits them. Even longer still for his breathing to settle down, listening to the patter of rain, letting it chill him to his very bones. Finally, in a hoarse tone of voice, he murmurs, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." Whether he's talking to her or someone else is unclear.

Settling herself in the mud and bracing the Mastersmith's lanky shoulders against her lap, Randi reaches her left hand out to softly brush his fringe away from his face as he cries. Her right rubs soothing circles over his jerking chest, both motions she vaguely remembers her mother using to soothe her nightmares as a child. Given that his terror and pain seem on the verge of the dream-esque states she herself still struggles with, Randi treats it that way. "Shhh, hush now. Nothing for you to be sorry for, dearling. It's over now, you're back with your feet on solid ground. None of them can hurt you here." It's muttered nonsense that has no purpose other than to try and soothe raw nerves and assuage open wounds.

Sometime during her vigil, a blue form wings its way out of the darkness and settles against the starsmith, the firelizard crooning soothing things as well, eyes whirling with some distress that lessens over time. Eventually, there is a soft sigh, and the unseeing expression on Donal's face shifts, his eyes focusing on the here and now once more, and he realizes where he is, and that he's cold and wet and… what is Randi doing there? "Oh. Your pardon, weyrwoman." And he scrambles upright, dislodging Tarrie with a squawk, grimacing at all of the mud practically covering both of them, as if they'd decided to wrestle in it or something. The haunted shade of his eyes is still there as he glances back to where he knows Kaseth must be in the gloom. "It's been awhile since I had… an incident like that…"

And the dragon is there, but aside from the occasional flash of worried yellow as she peeks around a wing, Kaseth might as well not exist. Not a whisper of sound does she make, for Randi's had time enough to explain that even though she means well, it wouldn't help in this case. "No pardon necessary, Mastersmith," she returns with a slightly cheeky smile, relief showing through warm brown eyes that he's no longer staring vapidly into nothing. Seemingly un-fazed by the mud, she simply crosses her legs tailor-style and watches the skittish crafter. "How long?" she asks quietly, breaking the conversational silence. Somehow the impression is left that she doesn't just mean since his last 'incident'.

"Long enough to learn a craft afterwards to make master," he answers as the firelizard once more lands on his shoulder, but he takes the critter and places it in the crook of his arm so he can in turn calm the thing. Eventually, Tarrie's eyes are whirling a normal shade and speed and the crisis is past. Keeping his mind forcibly emotionless so as not to re-scare the poor firelizard, Donal says in a monotone, "I was Prydonith's rider at Fort. Bronze," he adds in an afterthought. He had impressed long enough ago that the accident in Fall is merely one of many, but still somewhat notable. "But now I'm… just the Masterstarsmith. Finding another way to save all of Pern."

The information is processed and filed away, but the name doesn't ring bells. Too long before her time, then. She nods silently, her fingers playing idly with a few small, muddy pebbles as the rain beats down on her head and drips down her face. "You are, though," she finally answers. Water is shaken from her hair, even as more pours down, and she tilts her face upwards to look at him through the curtain of rain. "You're working on Thread maps that will save hundreds of lives and livelihoods. You pointed out one more avenue of help we can look to if things start to go sour." She smiles hesitantly. "You convinced Kaseth that the stars aren't going anywhere tonight, so you've already saved me." A half-shrug, then. "From a headache at least. I know it may not seem like much, but half the Weyr would kiss you for it." Randi with a headache tends to mean heads roll.

"Er…" Getting kissed has never been high on his list of priorities, even as a young man in the prime of his life. Then Donal frowns a bit. "The Weyr has reason to be afraid of your temper? Must make for a very tense atmosphere. Can't abide that sort of thing. No… I work best in a tense situation, but not walking on eggshells. I refuse to do that. You did close the door to the facility, didn't you?" he asks in a complete mood-switch, gesturing through the gloom to where the AIVAS building is. The guards might have done so, but who knows? And then he realizes the guards would likely gossip about his little fit, and he sighs and says an arcane swear word softly under his breath.

"Figures that would be the thing you focus on," Randi grumbles half-heartedly under her breath. Louder, then, she adds; "Not all the time." She holds her own until something causes her hand to twitch and she waves her fingers in the air as if they'd just been burnt. "Well, okay. Most of the time when Her Ladyship was proddy." Her hand jerks again. "Fine, okay! I'm not a morning person. Better?" If the guards are going to gossip about anyone, it'll probably be the crazy dragonrider who talks to herself. "No, but it is now. One of the guards must have gotten it." And remembering the speed of gossip in the Weyr, Randi's jaw sets and she makes a mental note to bully a couple of night watchmen. "I don't think anyone walks on eggshells around me usually. Unless they know they're in trouble." She considers this. "Or L'han, but he's just shady all over." Randi; not hesitant to give her opinion at all.

Donal's used to the running commentary that some riders do, or what seems to be running commentary, so he doesn't question it, instead shifting about to let the rain wash more of the mud away as it will. "Who's L'han and why should he matter?" It's a shrug given more than anything else as the crafter closes his eyes and turns his head to the skies, running a hand through his already-messy hair. "He's not Weyrleader, is he?" Clearly the practice of teaching leader-names to everyone passed him over, or else he never bothered to ask who he was beholden to at Landing or didn't care.

At that, Randi has to laugh. It's amusing, sure, but it also just feels good to let the tense situation - and the stress from the past few months - roll out of her in waves of sound. "No, not the Weyrleader. That's J'cobi, and though he's pretty short on manners, he's got a good head on his shoulders and is a damn fine wingleader." She winks. "Don't tell him I said so, though. No, L'han is a pain-in-the-arse greenrider who never got taught well, much of anything." She stands, then, letting the rain start to wash her clean as well. "He's generally dumb as a square fuck," Thank you, T'ryn, "But there's something about him I just don't trust." She shrugs, not really interested in spending more time on the obstinate rider than necessary. "Don't suppose you've got a Smith-y sort of gadget that can dry clothes with air pressure or something? Fellow over at the Weyr has one that uses water pressure to get you wet, but…" She trails off, feeling a little sheepish for her lack of knowledge. "Didn't know if it worked both ways or not."

"There might be something or other that might help with that… same basic principle, really, compressing air through a small tube instead of water," Donal answers absently. "But it's not my strong point… I make better telescopes than anything else these days," he adds with a sigh, rubbing the back of his now-cold neck. "But it could be done with the right tools, or even half of them, I suppose." He gestures toward the computer facility and offers the weyrwoman a hand up, his gaze stony as he passes Kaseth, other than a twitch of a cheek muscle and a muttered, "Sorry," because he knows it's not her fault he can't bear being near her. He lets Tarrie clamber back up to his shoulder as he nods to the guards that allow them passage back inside where it's a bit warmer, and he fetches his duster once more, offering it to Randi again.

"Like the big folded thing they use to blow air on forges?" For all her … rough edges and less-than-polished demeanor, Randi's not an idiot. She mimes the accordion-like motion with both hands. "With the big handles?" She accepts that hand up and walks with him back towards the complex. That muttered 'sorry' makes her chest hurt and she is silent a little while; trying to catch the breath that left her. Once they're inside, however, she gratefully accepts the offer of the coat and does her best to smother a yawn. "What's a telescope?"

"The bellows, yeah," Donal affirms to her description of the blacksmith's favorite tool. "And a telescope is the Ancient name for a distance or far-viewer. Sounds a bit more elegant and less tongue-twisting than distance-viewer, doesn't it?" he asks, managing a slight smile, one finger stroking the blue firelizard into happy somnolence. "If you're that tired, you should get back to the Weyr, weyrwoman," he says, all formality and politeness.

With the rush of adrenaline now tapering out of her veins, Randi is rapidly tiring, and also amazed that she just ran out into pitch darkness without even a second thought. "Probably ad - ad. Yeah, that," she mumbles. Some of her mother's lingo stuck, but not all. "It does seem easier to say," she admits. "Why'd they call it that?" Randi reaches up to push wet hair out of her eyes and pulls his coat closer about her shoulders. "I mean, distance-viewer makes sense, even if it is hard to say fast. Why 'telescope'?" And then he goes all stiff and polite on her and - after all that just happened - that … well, it hurts. Randi's back stiffens and her chin lifts. "I think I'll just speak to your Headwoman about a bunk for the night." Her stiff facade is ruined by another yawn, but she tries valiantly to hold it together long enough to leave the room. "I'm in no mind to jump, tonight. She'll let Rauzath know."

Donal realizes what had changed, but he knew it had to be done. For his own selfish sake and not hers. "No, you're right," he acknowledges, nodding his chin to accede to her suggestion, which actually had been his first impulse, but he'd stifled it. He doesn't bore her with trifles about the naming of a device he uses in his current life's work. "You can leave that," he says, gesturing to the duster, "with her and she'll get it back to me. I've taken up enough of your time."

"Not at all, Master Donal." Randi's voice - so unused to the arch tones she's forcing through it now - is flat and cold; a far cry from the melodic nonsense she'd spoken soothingly not so long ago. For a moment, she simply stares at him, as if she expects someone to yell 'Shinanigans' or for him to let her in on some joke that involved this uncanny change in him, but when it doesn't come, she bites the inside of her cheek, convinces herself that she doesn't care and turns on her heel. "Eastern's duties." And she is gone, with only the echo of the slamming door to speak to her having been there at all.

Donal makes no move for long minutes after she darts out of the room, his face composed into an utter mask that denotes his most intense suppression of emotion. Then, with a great sigh, he turns away and moves back to the computer terminal and resumes his work, face impassive, the screen illuminating his face in hideous fashion if he but knew it, hunched down the way that was sure to give him a backache in the morning. However, there's a faint hint of relief about him. … She's gone. But which 'she'?

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