Tara smiled softly. She was lying on her stomach in the grass beside the lake, a hundred lengths down the slope of the old volcano from the Weyr. She was alone, except for Naliath. It was a rough hike to get there, around back of the lake. Most of the weyrlings stuck to the front, barely knowing of the twisting trail through the trees to the far side. There was a small clearing here, and then a wall of trees, and then a stretch of beach before the lake. She lay in the middle of the three length by five length clearing, the trees on three sides and sheer, rocky cliffs, pockmarked with tiny caves, on the side facing the lake.
She picked a blade of grass, twirling it around in her fingers. Four sevendays, she'd been in the Weyr. Four sevendays, and she'd barely made any friends. Sure, Shannen, Illirie and the rest were nice enough, but... there was no one she really connected with. Apart from Naliath, of course. It amazed her how fast the little gold was growing. Already she was four, five times the size she was at Hatching.
They'd learned a lot together, too. It had started with basic dragon care, of course. Oiling, washing. A few trips down to the lake for bathing. They'd even done some stretching exercises, to prepare for flying lessons. They wouldn't be for a long while yet though. Willow had taken them to the firestone room once. They weren't to do their lesson there yet, but she'd wanted them to get used to the ‘reek' of it. Tara giggled, remembering the way the weyrlingmaster had wrinkled up her nose at the smell.
Five days ago they'd begun working on their flying gear. There was a lot of it, so they had to start well before flying and between lessons. It was a whole outfit, and if you made one mistake you had to start the whole piece over with new leather. If you didn't, it could be fatal. Tara sighed. She'd had no idea how much work was involved in Weyr life. Still, she wouldn't give it up for all Pern.
Soon she'd have to go for her private lessons with the old Weyrwoman. While the other weyrlings were helping their dragons learn to chew firestone, she'd be learning how to operate a flamethrower. She figured it would be pretty easy, the ones used from dragonback couldn't be that much different from the ones she'd used while out on ground duty.
Tara rolled over onto her back, tucking both arms behind her head. Closing her eyes, she smiled softly, feeling the sun beat down on her. I think I understand why you enjoy sunning so much, Naliath.
The quiet beat of wings willed Tara's eyes to open. She looked around for a moment, confused. Finally, she looked up. The body of a dragon was fast approaching, the sun shining off the bright bronze hide. Naliath bugled a happy greeting. Love, who is it?
It is Rayenth and his!
Tara smiled softly and stood up, backing away a little to give Willow more room to land. She wondered at Naliath's response; the young queen seemed very excited to see Willow and Rayenth. Was she lonely out here with just Tara? She shook her head and sighed, dismissing that thought entirely. It was just because they were nice, that was all.
Willow leapt down from Rayenth's back, looking around a moment. Spotting Tara, she grinned. "Hey! Tara!" She waved the young woman over.
Approaching with a happy bounce to her step, Tara waved back. "Um, hi Willow. Do you want some, um, time alone? I can leave..." she gestured over her shoulder with her thumb.
"No, that's all right. Wanted to say hi." She smiled, patting Tara's shoulder affectionately. Willow leaned back against Rayenth, tilting her head back to feel the sun on her freckled face. "Having red hair kind of sucks sometimes."
"Why? It's so pretty." Tara bit her lip.
"I don't tan, I freckle. All over the place. I mean, look at this." She rolled up one sleeve and stuck out her arm. It was, indeed, covered in freckles.
Tara giggled. "It's c-cute."
The redhead lifted one eyebrow and shook her head. "It's annoying is what it is."
With a heavy thump, Tara flopped back down on the grass, leaning back to brace herself on her hands. She smiled up at the weyrlingmaster. "So, what brings you out here on such a fine day?"
Willow grinned. "I was thinking of going for a swim. It's damned hot back at the Weyr, out of the shade, and especially in these clothes."
Tara eyed Willow's heavy riding leathers and nodded. "So swim away." She gave a cheeky grin.
"Come with me?"
"Um... o-okay..." Tara stood again.
Willow grabbed the hem of her tunic and tugged it up over her head. Within moments she stood there entirely naked. Not for long did she remain, however, turning and running into the cool water. Up to her thighs in the lake, she launched herself forwards, ducking her head beneath the surface. She came up, spluttering only a little, and turned to face the shore.
Tara was staring, wide-eyed at Willow. She'd agreed to swimming, but hadn't thought of all that entailed. If there was one thing Tara could never do, it was strip in public. Wrapping her arms around herself, she shook her head at Willow's questioning look. "I, um, changed my mind. I think I'll just stay up here."
"Come on, Tara. What, nervous about stripping?" She giggled. "Trust me, Tara. In the Weyr, that'll go away soon enough anyway. After your first flight..." she trailed off, wondering at the pang of jealousy that shot through her. She shook it off. "You'll never be embarrassed like that again."
"I just don't like, um, being... in front of people."
"No people here. Just you and me." She threw herself backwards in the water, kicking her feet. "Nobody here but us wherries."
Tara slipped her fingers under the hem of her shirt. Casting a nervous glance around, she bit her lip and tugged it off, stripping as quickly as she could and bolting into the water. Once in, she ducked low so only her head and shoulders broke the surface. Tara fixed Willow with a glare when the redhead nearly fell over with laughing.
Willow's laughter was infectious. Tara couldn't keep the glare in her eyes, and fought to suppress a giggle. Shortly she was too busy in hysterics alongside Willow to be self-conscious.
Willow lay back on the grass, Rayenth curled around her. The sun was just beginning to set over the trees. Tara and Naliath had left a few minutes ago, meaning to hurry back to the Weyr before dark. Being unable to fly, they had to leave before Willow did.
I'm glad we ran into Tara, Rayenth. I was looking for some time to be alone... but I think it was better with her here.
She's nice. Naliath is pretty.
Egg robber. Don't you go getting any ideas, love. She reached up and scratched Rayenth's broad side. You're enough of a handful, I don't need to go waking up next to some post-proddy goldrider who'll either be ridiculously clingy or run away in embarrassment. With Tara, probably the latter.
Rayenth made a huffing sound, resting his head down on the grass beside his rider. People could be so strange sometimes. His and Naliath's felt attraction for each other. He could feel it, even Naliath, young as she was, could feel it. He huffed again. People were the strangest creatures.