Runnerbeasts and Forestry

Western Weyr - Hot Springs Cavern
Created by the fires of the volcano a pocket of ancient air has created this huge open cavern in the black stone. Most of the floor is covered by bubbling mineral water that gleams azure in the dim light of glows. Swirls of green, blue, red, yellow, black and white are awash on the walls and floor, earmarks of earlier times when the hot water boiled out of its bed and rose to fill the dark cavern.
A few signs of humanity can be found. A trunk with soft fluffy towels, soap and a boardwalk erected through the middle of the four pools so that people can find their way to the hot water without burning their feet along the way. It is rumoured that an hour in the hot water can melt away even the worse of troubles, leaving a person relaxed and ready to face a new day with vigor.


It has been a long and hot day for Kayse, apparently, for when the woodcrafter enters the hot springs cavern she looks utterly exhausted and quite grimy. Her simple tunic is sweat- and mud-stained and sticks to her skin, while her trousers are similarly spattered. The girl follows the boardwalk over to the pools, discarding her dirty clothing into the appropriate basket along the way. Soap is selected, then the apprentice slips into the pool further from the entrance with a quiet sigh of relief.

It seems to have been a hard day all around. Qiana is only a few minutes behind Kayse in entering, and looking just about as grimy. Though one side of the beastcrafter's clothing is far muddier than the other side, the mud actually caked on her right side and back. If people are looking while she's disrobing or entering the springs, one might notice the yellowing of an outer thigh. That wonderful coloring which will turn into a marvelous bruise later. She's not limping quite yet at least as she eases herself into the bath with a soft hiss. And the first thing she starts working on? The mud on her braided hair.

Kayse is so busy scrubbing herself that at first she does not notice Qiana's arrival, but the hiss as the other apprentice enters the pool catches her attention. Glancing over she winces in sympathy for the mud caked onto the older apprentice. "You look about how I feel," she comments, continuing to work at getting ingrained dirt out from under her nails and the creases of her palms. "Though I think you got the short end of the stick. I don't have much in the way of bruises, and it seems you'll have a nice one there."

For a few moments, Qiana seems not to realize that someone was talking to her. With a quick shake of her head to slough off whatever daydream had claimed her mind she looks at Kayse for a moment, before her lips spread into an easy, if lopsided smile. "I'll take the bruise, frankly. It's a lot better than having a broken leg." Thankfully the mud is still moist enough to wash off fairly easy, though her hair still gets a vigorous scrubbing. Must. Get. Clean. Qi stops and lifts an arm, which is also sort of caked with mud, and looks at it. "I must look like I tried to take a bath in the mud."

"I can't argue with that," Kayse says, shaking her head slightly. "A broken leg would certainly cause a lot more trouble for you than having a gimpy leg for a few days." Tactfully, she doesn't comment on Qiana's appearance further. Instead, she takes a moment to thoroughly wet her own hair and start washing it before she speaks again. "Since you didn't actually try to take a mud bath, what /were/ you doing before you came to clean up?"

Qiana rotates her arm around, looking at it, before she looks up to her bicep, noticing another bruise starting to form, and she groans. "Well, I was supposed to be training Awakening on the track. Apparently, that wasn't on /his/ agenda for the day." It could be that if Kayse has ever made her way to a runner race, she might have seen the apprentice riding as a jockey, or possibly riding runners on the local track to help keep them in shape.

"Awakening? Track?" Apparently Kayse is not the sort to follow runner races. Or maybe she just hasn't had time. Either way, she looks entirely mystified by Qiana's response, an expression that is made a bit comical by the soap sliding down her nose. She wipes at the offending material, then rinses her face off as more soap threatens her eyes. "I seem to be thinking a little slowly this afternoon, so I'm afraid I have to ask what you mean?"

"Oh, sorry." Qiana apologizes to the slightly younger woman, sinking up to her chin in the water before dunking her head completely under as well, to help get the soap out of her hair. It's a few moments before she pops back up, but her hair seems a bit cleaner than it did a moment ago, though it's due for a second scrubbing. "Awakening is an older colt down in the stables. I'm supposed to help train him on the track." There's a pause there, before Qi remembers Kayse might not know the track. "For racing." More soap is applied to her hair and she starts the scrubbing for a second time. "He's had some… attitude problems."

Kayse digests this information as she finishes washing up her hair, moving down to scrubbing shoulders and neck. "Runner racing, huh? I've heard a little about that, but I've never had much to do with runnerbeasts. Never learned to ride, though my mentor has been threatening to make me so we can see more of the nearby forests," she says finally, nose wrinkled with distaste at the idea. "So these attitude problems resulted in a visit with a mud puddle today?"

"Walking and trotting are easy." Qiana assures the other woman, rotating her shoulders in a circle to help ease some of the forming stiffness. "But racing is something else. /All/ of your weight is on the balls of your feet in the stirrups; you're not sitting." Kayse's comment about the forest makes Qi think for a moment. "If there are game trails in the forest a runner might work alright for that. What do you do?" But Qi is also easily sidetracked. "Ah, yeah. Bucking me off didn't work, so he was going to ram me into a railing. I chose to … gracefully … dismount, rather than see my shin in two or three different pieces." In other words: she jumped.

Kayse listens with polite attentiveness, but she doesn't seem all that interested at first. It isn't until Qiana mentions the game trails and asks about her work that she starts really paying attention. "That does sound like an attitude problem. I'm glad you made it off mostly sound. But what do you mean about the game trails? I thought there were roads through the forest. I mean, if I'm supposed to be heading out to logging camps and places like that there should already be paths, right?"

Qiana cocks her head for a moment, pausing in her scrubbing. "My bad." She supplies, shortly resuming her scalp-scrubbing to try and oust all of the dirt and mud. "I thought you actually meant going into the.. the… thick of the forest. Not like, taking a road to a logging camp." There's a small apologetic smile offered to the other person. "I'm sure if you came down to the stables and asked, someone could find the time to teach the basics of staying on a runner."

Kayse shrugs, dismissing the apology as unnecessary. "That's alright, I wasn't very clear about what I'll be doing. I'm learning about forest management, so I get to visit the logging camps, tree farms, and those sections of the forest that are considered in need of overview. Most aren't in the middle of nowhere, I'm happy to say." The suggestion has her shifting uncomfortably in the water, and she dunks under the water to rinse her hair first before finally responding. "I'm not sure I want to learn to ride," she admits. "The idea of falling off a runner is not one I care for, and it seems like an awfully long way down."

"Don't let falling scare you from riding runners." Qiana says, trying to assure the woodcrafter. "There are lots of sedate, loveable runners out there, meant for riding, not racing." She's working the second round of soap to the base of her skull now, and then to the tips of her hair. "Racers tend to be rather… high strung sometimes."

Kayse looks dubious at this reassurance, though she can't really argue with Qiana's assessment. "If you say so," she replies instead, then gives her arms a final inspection. Being largely clean now, the apprentice sets her soap aside and rinses, making sure to get every bit of foam off. "Are race runners your expertise, then? You said you train them and you race them, right? Have you won any races?"

Qiana merely bobs her head in a nod at first before she dunks herself again to rinse out the second round of soap in her hair. "My main expertise is riding and training racers, yeah. I'm also learning how to breed them." And hopefully one day she'll have a nice line of racers. "I've.. placed in races, but I haven't won any." And there's something in her tone that definitely isn't satisfied. Apparently placing second or third in a race is just not good enough for what she's looking for. "I'll get there." She promises with determination in her voice. "But what's forest management all about?" Cue clueless girl.

"Is breeding them complicated?" Kayse asks, actual curiosity beginning to show. The qualifier on race performance mostly eludes the younger woman, who simply nods and says, "Good for you." But now Qiana has opened Pandora's Box, asking Kayse about her speciality. "Forestry is the management of timberlands, which means forests that are specifically used to produce lumber. I am learning how to maintain the existing forests, start new growth areas, and bring in outside tree species in an ecologically sound manner," Kayse declares, appearing absolutely delighted by this fact.

"Partly complicated, partly luck on the genetics passed on." Qiana supplies, not entirely willing to confuse the girl with the talk of breeding runners. And speaking of confusing people, Kayse manages to do that quite well with Qi. One can practically see 'Huh?' written across her face. "What does that mean?" Is all that the beastcrafter manages to get out. At least there's a little smile in all that confusion.

"Luck is the worst part of anything," Kayse says. "It makes everything more complicated." That small smile is returned as the woodcrafter admits, "Forestry is a little complicated too, I guess. Basically, we make sure that the forest stays healthy enough to keep producing wood. If you cut down too much, too fast, you run out of forest. So I'm learning how to balance harvesting the wood with continuing to grow more, and rotating where the harvesting is done."

"Huh." Is all that Qiana can manage to say for a few more moments while her mind attempts to wrap around what Kayse is saying. "I suppose that makes a certain amount of sense, doesn't it?" It's pretty much a rhetorical question, but Qiana gives the woodcrafter a smile. "I never thought about where we get the wood for repairing the stable stalls when someone breaks something."

Kayse giggles at Qiana's expression and words, nodding slightly. "There are a lot of people on Pern who need things made out of wood, so the Woodcraft has to make sure there is enough to go around without wiping out the forests. It's a lot like what Beastcrafters do for herd management, except that we don't have to do much in the way of breeding. But we have a much longer commitment to get a single tree compared to you getting a runner or herdbeast."

Qiana responds with a small giggle of her own, which brings about a little wince from recently abused muscles. "I suppose that's true. Even if a four-turn-old herdbeast is a bit puny, they can still start breeding." A small pause. "I doubt a four-turn-old tree would be good for much more than kindling in a fire?"

Kayse nods, saying, "Kindling, and maybe some whittling, but you're not getting much out of a tree for at least ten Turns. It can easily be fifty or more Turns to get some kinds of wood, and then depending on what you do with it, it needs time to season and dry out." A shrug, then, "But probably aren't really that interested in the trees. And you can't spend all your time with the runnerbeasts. What do you do for fun?"

Qiana coughs, looking a little abashed, her cheeks tinting pink. "I spend more time with them than I should, sometimes. Especially since I own one myself." But then she's following the switch of topics. "I draw, mainly, when I have spare time." And the subject that she draws would likely not be surprising. "And if S'rorn is off duty, I try to catch him." And the cheeks get just a little bit rosier, but that could also be the heat from the Springs. "And what about you with your free time?"

"Well, at least you like them so spending time with them is fun, right?" Kayse asks and smiles. "Drawing. I've never really tried that. Maybe I should. I don't have very many hobbies." She climbs out of the pool, quickly wrapping herself in a towel and using another to start drying her hair. "I swim a lot. And run. And sometimes I read, but that's mostly when I'm studying. I had someone tell me I don't know how to have fun and I'm afraid they might be right."

Qiana is still working at freeing herself from the last remnants of her spill into the racing track mud. "It really is. Sometimes I'll take Staccato out for a run. Not around the track, but just in general." After another dip-rinse she takes a careful look at herself, just to make sure the mud is gone. "Everyone can have fun. You just have to find what it is you like doing. Swimming is fun, isn't it?"

"That's good," Kayse says, then pauses in toweling her hair to think about the question. "Well, sort of. Swimming is a good way to stay fit, but really, I like the way it makes me look. I enjoy having the tightness in my stomach and legs that muscle tone provides, without having bulky muscles," she admits. "It does feel great to swim, though, so I guess that counts."

"Nothing says that working out can't be fun." Qiana chuckles. And finally the beastcrafter is dragging herself from the hot spring with a low groan of effort. Yup, that fall is going to smarts. "What do you think of when somebody mentions 'fun'?"

Kayse winces in sympathy as she sees the bruises clearly, now that they are cleaned off. "You should get some salve for those. See if you can keep them from puffing up too badly," she advises as she fetches out a towel for the older apprentice. "Uhm, I think of fiddling around in the dirt with plants, mostly. I really do like what I'm learning, since I get to help plant trees and trim up the ones that need dead branches removed." She chews on her lower lip for a moment, thinking. "Maybe I should take up gardening again. I haven't done that in a couple years."

"Gardening sounds like it could be interesting." Qiana mentions, grabbing a towel to wrap herself in, and another for her hair, much like Kayse did. And Qi is looking at the bruise forming on her arm and makes a sound somewhere between a chuckle and a sigh. "I should have enough salve left from the last time I did this."

"Then that's what I'll do," Kayse says firmly, resolution achieved. "I'll start a flowerbox and see how I do with that." Qiana's comment about the salve draws a slow blink of surprise from the girl. "You mean you jump off runners regularly? Or that you get bruises regularly?" There's a momentary pause, then, "Or both?"

Qiana at least has the grace to look mildly embarrassed. "A little bit of A, a little bit more of B." Her shoulders lift in a stiff shrug. "It comes with training runners. Especially the ones like Awakening. They can be a little unpredictable sometimes." She continues to dry herself off, before offering a smile. "That's why when you learn to ride, you ask for one of the sweet older runners."

Kayse finishes getting her hair dry, fluffing it with a hand to be sure it falls straight with minimal tangles. "I hope he settles down for you, at least enough to save you some any more big bruises." Qiana's word choice, when instead of if, has Kayse grimacing, but then she just nods. "I'll make sure to do that. Even better, I'll ask you to help me find the right one to learn with."

Qiana nods her head, still toweling herself dry. "I certainly know some sweet old ladies down in the stables that we use for children wanting to learn." And Qi's progress is slow, but eventually she is dry, and ready to move on… likely to dinner. "I'll see you around, miss. If you should come down to the stables looking for me, ask for Qiana."

"Thank you, Qiana," Kayse says warmly as the other prepares to depart. "Oh, and I'm Kayse. Have a good evening, and I hope those bruises heal quickly." She too finishes drying off and heads on her way, murmuring to herself about possible flower species to load her pot with.

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