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Sleep

Time: Mid-afternoon, day 5, month 3, turn 19 of Interval 10.
Place: Weyrling Barracks, Fort Weyr.
Players: Hattie, Jantha.
Scene: Jantha teaches Hattie relaxation.




Mid-afternoon finds little Elaruth curled up on her couch, sleeping peacefully, her slow breaths in and out her only movement. Hattie, however, whilst reasonably good at keeping up with what time of day or night it is and keeping up with her dragon's sleep cycle, lies awake across her cot, one elbow propped up under her head. Her eyes narrowed to slits, it's as if she might fall asleep at any moment, though her gaze remains fixed on Elaruth and doesn't wander.

Padding down the row of couches with a near-silent tread so as not to rouse sleeping dragonets, Jantha approaches Hattie and Elaruth, and stops. She too watches the sleeping gold for a few moments, then turns towards the rider and mouths as much as speaks. "If you're going to sleep, sleep - don't just lie there staring at her. If not, this would be a good time to cut more meat. She'll be hungry again soon. Don't waste time that could be useful one way or another."

"I already cut more meat," Hattie immediately argues in a low voice, slurred a little by almost-sleep. Her eyes snap open properly then and she scrambles to sit up and fold her legs beneath her. "Ma'am. Sorry," follows curtly, and whilst she makes eye-contact in that moment, she looks away, obviously embarrassed, her jaw set. "I can't sleep," she says, staring absently.

"No?" Jantha raises her eyebrows slightly. "Hasn't she been keeping you awake at night? They're a bit too young to fit a human schedule yet: half your classmates looked as if they were sleepwalking this morning." Her unsurprised tone suggests that this is entirely to be expected.

"You ever hit that point where you're /so/ tired, you can't sleep?" Hattie questions, absent stare going a little bleary. "I can keep up with her, I can," she says determinedly, "but I'm so tired I'm wondering if I'm missing things when I'm awake and what if she wakes up when I'm asleep and gets into a tangle somewhere and I don't notice because I'm sleeping and..." She frowns. "My mind just won't shut off when it should."
Jantha nods. "That's normal. You must have known people with brand new babies - they're usually in much the same state." She purses her lips. "You could try some relaxation. Have you ever done it? You know, when you make all the parts of your body relax and let go of the tension? If not, I'll teach you."

Hattie manages a wry - if somewhat wobbly - half-smile. "I don't really do 'relaxed', Ma'am," she quietly admits. But by the looks of her, she's getting a little desperate and blinks dark eyes back into focus. "I ain't ever actively tried to do it, no. Not often thought to." She folds her hands in her lap and shoots a glance over to Elaruth. "I'd appreciate the lesson, though."

"All right," Jantha replies, and perches on the end of the neighbouring cot, which is currently not occupied. "There are several different ways to do it; we'll try a simple one. First, though, is there some place you remember that's peaceful? Maybe some calm, beautiful place outdoors? Can you think of somewhere like that?"
Hattie goes back to staring a bit blankly, her head tilted a little towards Jantha. "I don't..." she begins, but then she grimaces and closes her eyes, holding her back utterly straight, which isn't entirely the aim of the game. "...By the river," she eventually murmurs. "When we were kids, my sister and I used to sneak down there in the summer, right where the water was deep. We weren't meant to be there, but we just sat on the bank with our legs in the water."

Jantha grins. "That sounds fine. We'll come to that." She's serious again, and her voice takes on a calm, even tone. "First, I want you to lie down properly and get comfortable. On your back's easiest. Don't cross your legs, and let your arms just lie by your sides. When you're comfortable, start taking slow, deep breaths."

The weyrling frowns again and looks distinctly uncomfortable, but she slowly uncurls her legs and lies down flat, arms at her sides and palms down flat on her cot. Jantha is the recipient of a wary look that then gets directed at the ceiling. Hattie isn't that quick to start taking steady breaths and doesn't seem to breathe at all for a few moments; yet the first of her attempts is the loudest and sharp, soon to fall into a slower pattern.

Jantha waits for a while, until the girl's breathing steadies. "Now, you're going to tense and relax each part of your body in turn. Start with your feet. Clench them up, and make all of them tense. Then let go, let the tension flow out of them, think about them feeling warm and heavy. Then the same with your calves, then your knees... tense, then let go."

Hattie's breathing gets knocked out of rhythm as she tenses again in entirely the wrong way in which she's being instructed. She opens her mouth to protest, then clamps it shut with some effort before she settles properly again. Once her breathing steadies out again, she attempts to follow the Weyrlingmaster's instructions and just as she gets to curling and tensing her fingers, she just has to murmur, "I feel stupid, Ma'am." Irrelevant comment aside, her shoulders get squared against her cot and her head lolls to one side.

"That's it," Jantha encourages. "Now your thighs, then the lower part of your body, your middle. Then start at your hands, and work up to your shoulders, then your neck and head. Just keep breathing deeply."

A newcomer to the world of relaxation, Hattie tries to do as she's told rather quickly as though expecting everything to fall into place once she's finished. Her shoulders shift again as she reaches them and her head dips a little more against her pillow. Still taking slow breaths in and out, she closes her eyes or they fall shut of their own accord.
Softly, Jantha says, "Now imagine you're in your peaceful place by the river. Don't strain, just let yourself see it. Don't think about anything else; any other thoughts, just let them float away on the river so that they don't bother you."

Hattie barely moves at all, so it's debatable whether she manages to comply or not. At least initially, for what must be a few minutes of silence later, the pattern of her breathing changes again to become less forced and more even. The weyrling's facial features relax even further and her hands don't lie quite so flat against her cot; fingers curving into little peaks at the knuckles as the tension drains away and she finally succumbs. She's asleep. On her couch, Elaruth sighs faintly in her sleep and no longer seems to be curled up quite so tightly, relaxed along with her lifemate.

There's scarcely a whisper of sound as Jantha gets to her feet and pads away as quietly as she came.

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