Fort's Forests - Fort Weyr – Trailhead

The forests around Fort Weyr are tall and lush, filled with evergreen pines which tower above the floor and into the sky. This large clearing is one end of a pleasure riding trail which stretches from Fort Weyr to Fort Seahold. Although the majority of the trail is still under construction, this bit of the road has been completed. Tucked up close against the tree line, a small booth where runners, carriages or sleighs, among other things, can be rented is till unfinished. Several paths go off in different directions here, perfect for meandering. To the west the Amethysts in the Pines children's camp can be found, to the northeast is the weyr's beasthold, stables and indoor runnerbeast complex. The weyr proper is to the east and to the south, the riding trail continues. There is also a Signpost that you can view.

Zapallie sent Edani a note — horribly written, like a toddler's handwriting. "Meet me at the beasthold, if you can make it. — Z" She's so helpful! And not optomistic. She's hanging out in a tree, up on a branch with one leg up on it and the other dangling down precariously. How she got 8 feet up into the air is anyone's guess. Maybe she's part avian, amoung other things. What she certainly is, certainly appears to be at least, is bored. To pass the time, she's humming to herself and carving things into the tree with the blade of a knife.

She's waiting a long time. Edani doesn't come running and there are several reasons for that. One, he's been released to light duties and those come first. Two, she never said when. In fact, he's not even sure when this note was even written, after she got back from Western, after Inyri's turnday party or before… And the third? He's not just not… hurrying. It's late afternoon when he does walk into view, leading a small runner by a lead, hand on the beast's shoulder companionably. He's not expecting anyone in the trees though and so when he's within earshot his words (yeah, he talks to runners) are, "…so she is the strangest girl I've met and that's saying a lot because they're all sort of nuts. You agree? Well you're perceptive. Tell me all about it. I'm listening."

And suddenly said strange girl is there, sheathing her dagger and swinging off the thick tree branch with the fearlessness of a gymnast and dropping the last two feet to land in the road, head tilted. "Oh, strange am I, says the boy asking the runner's opinion. Tell me, what does the runner think of me then?" Zap smirks at him, all amusement and nearly good humor.

Had Edani a-hold of the runner's halter he could have prevented what happens next. Unfortunately, he does not and thus the animal, which isn't expecting an arrival from above either, spooks rearing to hindquarters, tossing her head with whited eyes. The beastcrafter allows the lead to play through his fingers, stepping to reach for the halter as she comes down. But she doesn't simply drop to her forefeet. She bucks and plunges and he's really not in the shape to be fighting a frenzied runner. It hurts when she jerks her head if the set of his mouth and the beads that appear on his brow are any indication. It's more than his ribs can take and the snorting plunging animal jerks the lead from his hand, runs off crashing through the forest in the opposite direction. Edani braces his hand on his knees while the pain subsides, turning to look at Zapallie with a wry sort of smirk a few ticks later, "I guess… that's what the runner thinks of you?"

Zapallie looks genuinely frightened when the runner gets all nutso, and then she scowls at Edani, but in a worried way more than a mad way. "Does she need to be chased down?" she asks, the hint of an offer to do so hidden in there somewhere. And then, with a twitch of a frown at his smirk, she asks, "Are you okay?" and even offers a hand to help him stand up again. "I didn't think you were going to stand me up for a runner."

Edani is straightening back up even as Zapallie steps his way, though it's with a grimace. Ouch! "I'm fine." He lies but he’s sure he's going to be. "Hmm, chased, no. Do I look like I can run anywhere? But we'll track her down. C'mon." Since she startled the beast, he's taking it for granted she's going to help round her up. He moves towards the broken underbrush and at least it's with a steady step rather than a limp. Giving the young woman a sidelong glance that's a touch wary of her teasing, he doesn't reply with anything witty. Instead he asks, "What did you want, Zapallie?" It may be blunt, but it's not said unkindly.

Zapallie falls into step with Edani without complaint. "I was offering to chase her, but this works too." She shrugs and watches her feet, letting the silence stretch between them. Finally she exhales sharply and blurts out, "I just wanted to know if you were still my friend. After… Inyri's party, and you wouldn't even look at me. I sort of figured maybe you were done with me." She doesn't look up to let him see her grimace. "I also wanted to tell you what I found out at Western."

"Thanks, but I'm responsible for her. I do appreciate it though," Edani says, eyes on the ground looking for hoof prints, scuffs or anything else that will mark the runner's passage once they’re past the broken shrubbery. Those crashes up ahead in the forest have become more distant and then faded to nothing. He doesn't jump on the news about Western right off. Instead, he just keeps moving forward, sparing her an unreadable look for that blurted comment. "I saw you come in," he says at last. "I saw you trip. I started to go help you get up. In spite of you telling me to butt out of your affairs." His face has become remote, shuttered. "I'm not exactly sure what all that… that curling up was all about, to be honest, Zapallie. But I was not going to let you upset Ezra on Inryi's turnday. It meant a lot to him. It meant a lot to me."

"i was trying to help you," she says with a sigh. "You can't between. If I'd let you, you'd have wound up worse off, and stuck at Western to boot, and … I don't want to be at Western any more than I have to." She makes a face. "Good news is, I never went either. Turns out T'eo transfered to Ista, and took Teila with him. She was nowhere near Western or that fleet." So huzzah? "Khyonai tripped me. Did you see that, too? And I didn't ruin her damn party, did I? I bought her a drink, I wished her a Happy Turnday, I left. I'm not a monster." Nobody even knows Zap's Turnday! Except maybe her mom, if she hasn't forgotten it.

"I had a mother, Zap." Edani's voice is rough with emotion, "But I appreciate the concern. Surviving it is another matter. Whatever you meant, it came across far differently to me at the time. If you know what I mean?" The young man draws a breath, then lets it out deliberately leaking his own wounded pride, hurt feelings, whatever they are. Still remote, though genuine when he says, "I'm glad your sister is alright." He stops and turns to her when she asks if he saw Khyonai trip her. Rather grimly, "I did not. If I'd have seen him do that I would have…" Nevermind, it would have gone badly for Edani. "No, you didn't ruin Inyri’s party. The point is, I was expecting the nasty-to-everyone to erupt at any moment. Can you understand why?" He levels her with a keen look, holding her eyes. No, maybe they don't know when her turnday is, but they might want to know if circumstances were different!

And there's that look again, the one that says he's done something wrong and her attempt at being at least friendly with him is about to go awry. "You know what? Whatever. If you don't want me to care, I won't. If you don't want to hang around my stupid, nasty ass, don't. Go… find your runner." Zap waves a hand down the trail of broken brush, and then folds her arms across herself. "Maybe I /should/ just leave. You'd have laughed like everyone else."

Apparently every time he's around her he does the wrong thing. Edani turns back to tracing the filly, his face closed off completely. "How little you know me," is his short reply to her telling him he doesn't want her to care. He already told her he did! He's obviously been hurt. Can she not tell? "Whenever I tell you what I think, try to understand you, you throw it back in my face. You've told me more than once you don't need or want me in your life. If you're not going to be able to be honest with me then why am I bothering?" He's exasperated and now confused. "Laughed at you? What are you talking about?"

Zapallie lets out a groan and throws up her hands. "Okay. Okay. Let's just…" she frowns, trails off. "Stop the bullshit. Stop assuming everything I do is all about hurting you. It's not about YOU, it's about protecting you or…something. I don't even know. I've been at this so long it just comes out, okay? So ignore what I say." She stomps after him. "I told you, I don't /lie/." She just doesn't always explain her motives! "I want you around, alright? Which means sometimes I have to protect you from yourself." She hurries ahead to get into his way, putting her hands up. "Can we start over?"

Edani rolls his eyes but Zapallie can't see that; he's facing away from her as he continues through the forest. Women! She's not making any sense to him. "Why can't I ever get a straight answer from you, Zapallie?" Those stomping footsteps have him turning his head over his shoulder, half expecting to see her heading back the other way. He doesn't say a word. He doesn't dare. Nor does he try to touch her. She already told him not to do that. So he just stands there. "You asked me some questions," he finally says with a strained note to his voice, "I answered them. You're not going to answer mine, are you?"

Zapallie lets out an exasperated sigh. "Yes! No? Maybe. I can try." Her hands fall to her sides. "I've never had a friend, okay? I suck at this whole thing. More than I suck at dealing with everyone else." She presses her lips together and looks down. "Try again. I'll listen this time, alright?"

"Thank you." It's simple but heartfelt. Edani softens a little, visibly working at releasing the tension he knows has gripped him. "I know you've never had a friend," he murmurs, dipping his head in an attempt to meet her downcast eyes. "I would have defended you if I'd known Khyonai had tripped you." It's very important to him that she know that first off. "You asked me why didn't I help you up," he continues earnestly. "It's because I thought you were playing some game when you curled up and then didn't lash out and retaliate with some snappy comeback at him." He's still seeking her eyes, "I don't know you well, but I have never seen you with the fight kicked out of you. What happened Zapallie?"

Zapallie makes a face, gets that hedgy look she gets, and lifts her eyes but not her chin, reluctantly meeting his eyes. "Have you actually ever seen me fight, Edani? Abigail punched me and blacked my eye, and all I said was I thought her brother should have done it. Th'ero arrested me, and I went." She chews her lower lip and sighs, shaking her head. "It's not worth defending me over anyway. They're going to do it no matter what, I might as well do something to deserve it, right?"

Edani has to admit, and it's with no little bafflement that he does, "No, all I've ever seen you do is attack. First, I might add, before you even give a person a chance to be either nice or mean." He's working this out in his mind and then, then it's her last statement that enlightens him. His hand lifts, fingertips reach for her chin, hover there, uncertainly then attempt a feather-light touch in attempt to lift her chin a little more to meet his eyes while he bends to assist the effort, "Zapallie." It's breathed with a half-chiding, half entreaty for her to re-think, his island accent thick in the singular word and so comes out sounding like Zah-pah-lay. "It IS worth defending and you don't need to be anyone's whipping post." He waits to see if she will look at him and then whether she does or does not, he says firmly, "They won't do it again." He will see to that!

Zapallie stiffens when he reaches for her and hesitates, and relaxes slowly when his touch is so light, not so very demanding. "Don't need to be," she agrees. "And you don't need to say anything. You aren't doing yourself favors standing up for me, it'll only make them dislike you when they don't need to."

Edani snorts. "You let me worry about that," he tells Zapallie with a casual recklessness. Is she meeting his eyes yet? If not, he's going to keep trying to find hers. She still hasn't answered his question about why she'd curled up but it no longer matters. Besides, he probably already knows the answer to that. His next comment seems to be irrelevant to the conversation. Gently, "Ezra says you're mean; I disagree." Beat. "But you act mean. I think I know why. Just… save it for a defense and not an offense?" It's a suggestion only. There's a puzzled and disconcerted light to his brown eyes, "Now what is this 'I would laugh at you too'?" He wasn't close to laughing when she fell. It's clear that her prior comment bothers him.

Zapallie is looking at him, mostly. It's hard for her to maintain such an intimate contact and so her eyes slip past him towards the trees. "Edani…" she begins, grimacing. "I'm not going to change, okay? I am not staying, either, so I don't give a shit what Ezra thinks of me or tells you or you tell him." She breaths deeply, until her chest expands with all of the air filling it. "If you were smart you'd laugh at me too. Fit in, Edani. It's important. You're too sweet for your own good, much better than I deserve. And tomorrow I'll turn around and be an ass to you and anyone else in the room. It's what I do."

"You might not, but I do." Edani says firmly. Ezra is precious to him, she'll see that by the gentle firmness etched in his face as he says the words. Her litany falls like little bits of sleet. Hitting him but not soaking in. "Then you'll live your life alone and friendless and I won't feel sorry for you. But I will not laugh." So much for him caring about fitting in! Or that she thinks he's stupid. "Right. I need to find that filly. She can't have gone far with that lead trailing her. She's probably up ahead caught with it tangled around a shrub somewhere." And with that he turns and follows the hoof prints until he finds her just as he said and leads her back to the barn in the bowl. Zapallie can come or she can skulk about in the woods. He's silent throughout and if he seems to have withdrawn from her? She'll be correct. No doubt she'll feel sorry for herself. But the plain truth is, if she wants things to be different for her, change will have to come.