From Soup to Nuts

Inner Caverns

The larger first chamber is at the height of roughly that of three grown adults, with the ceiling and walls rather smooth cut stone. The walls are dotted at regular intervals with metal sconces that are filled and refreshed with glows, the light providing a constant soft ambience no matter the time of day for not all that much light filters in from the outside. Two wooden doors along the southeastern part of the wall are labeled "In" and "Out" are used frequently by the kitchen workers to keep this cavern well stocked. The first chamber appears to act much like a dining hall, rows of tables spread out and worn benches offering a perch to the residents and riders as they cycle through the daily mealtimes. Several hearths have been constructed along the north and west walls, providing both practical warmth and a place for the night hearth to be kept with its simmering stew and hours old klah. A raised dais is set along the north wall, where the Weyr's leaders eat and important announcements are made. Further in are two more medium sized chambers with naturally arced ceilings that act in a multi-purpose capacity, and beyond them tunnels lead even deeper into the depths of the stone to the Weyr supply stores.

The occasional opening and closing of the doors that lead in and out of the Inner Caverns leaves currents of air to play merry hob with the flames of the main hearth, throwing active shadows around corners and forcing the glows to do extra duty. Occasional breaths of air from the nearby bowl area mix with light smoke and stone, fighting to brush away the last pleasant smells of the evening's supper, long cold. It's late, after all. All the more strange, then, to hear a voice.

"I know you like the soup that they leave out this late at night, but Cook would have my eyebrows if I let you in here," a man murmurs quietly. "And that's assuming you could somehow manage to worm your magnificently rotund backside in through the door." There's a soft chuckle after a moment. "No, I don't think there's enough lard on the continent to make that happen. I'll bring you some when I'm finished, alright?" It's a lone man, apparantly talking to himself. He reclines at a table near the firelight, sipping from a mug and looking into the flames.

She is very quiet, wandering in from the bowl outside, her face showing as many storm clouds as those gathering in the skies. Chandi gives a brief smile to a few folks before she finds a spot to settle into and nurse a mug of the bitter night brew, leaving it unsweetened, and seeming not to notice the taste.

Wandering in from the inner caverns is a young teen clad in slippers, flannel pajamas and a nightcoat. She's yawning and rubbing one sleepy eye with the heel of her hand while the other is used to navigate the dim room. There's something on the hearth this time of night and thus Raelli is heading for it, passing right behind the brownrider when she hears the man speak. She freezes, slowly lowers her hand and while staring at him with huge hazel eyes, pats her own behind. "My backside isn't that big," she says reproachfully meek. "And I'll get my own soup."

The man at the table actually jumps a little, his chair skittering up onto two legs for a moment. Chandi is quiet enough, of course, but the younger girl scares the duck juice out of him, causing a brief cough. "Not-" Another cough. "-not you! I wasn't…talking about…" He gestures somewhat lamely at the door leading out to the bowl. "I was…" He takes a breath, holds it for a moment and then puffs an exhale. "There's no graceful way for me to get out of this situation, is there," he finally offers defeatedly.

Chandi shrugs her shoulders, eyebrows slightly raised. "Probably not. I would have thought either Janja, or Sazey would have taught you better by now though than to be commenting on women's backsides. Unless it was on how remarkably nice they were." There's a slightly headtilt toward the newly arrived girl. "From what I can see, your backside is just wonderful. Mind turning around so I can see it better?"

When the rider gestures towards the outer entrance, Raelii leaaaans to one side to see who… but nope, she spots nobody there so looks back at the man, beholding him in utter confusion. Her parents warned her about people who hear voices in their heads and talk back to them. She starts to back away slowly but the woman's voice halts her. The request causes her to blink at her and shoot a pleading glance at the man. Does she have to? "Um, thank you?" she says uncertainly to the woman, after all she's just been given a complement. Awwwkwaaard! "Would either of you like some soup- more soup?" she stammers the correction, since the man has obviously got some already.

Oh, good. There's someone else here too. M'ac's head swivels on his shoulders so that he can eye Chandi. He makes a slightly panicked noise, gesturing to the doors that lead out to the bowl. "My dragon likes soup," he offers weakly, as if that explained the whole situation. Then he looks back at Raelii. "I'm sure it's…fine. Your…it's fine." He looks like he might say more, but simply sets his mug down instead, muttering, "Oh, hell." He glances up at the young woman when she offers. "No, I think I'm done with soup for the evening, thanks."

Chandi hides a smirk before she gets up to wander over and sit down next to M'ac, laughing softly. "It's fine and no you don't have to. And I don't need anymore soup. I need my weyrmate at home, not off with who knows who at all hours of the night." She pouts then. "What has you out and about, when you should be with your latest gold conquest, and well, I didn't catch your name, girl?

Ohhhh, his Dragon! Raelii's head tilts to the side, considering. She's not weyrbred, even though she wears a resident's knot and her next comment makes this clear, "So… it talks to you inside your head then? How come you don't think your answer instead of saying it out loud?" The child is relieved enough about not having to model her backside that her natural curiosity comes to the fore. She does, however give them both a hasty curtsey and gasp, "I'm Raelii (it sounds like she says Ray-lee), Ma'am." And she wants soup but doesn't dare move to get it just yet, though her large eyes slide longingly towards the pot. "I don't think there are any bowls big enough for your dragon," she says at length.

M'ac sighs at Chandi's question, leaning forward a little to more fully settle his chair. "There are days when I miss the hold," he mutters to himself. "And you have no idea how much it drives me crazy to say that." He glances over at Chandi. "The..thing with Sazey is probably not what most people think it is." Despite the fact that it's not really that cold in the room, he weaves his fingers together around his mug and turns back to the fire. Then Raelii speaks and a warm, if somewhat tired, smile slips onto his face. "I could talk to him inside my head, but…some of us like talking out loud. He's not just a voice in my head, after all."

Chandi merely crosses her legs and laughs at M'ac. "Oh? Do tell. We're having so much fun speculating that it's not fair that you're going to ruin that for us." She pauses, glances at Raelii, "Oh, it's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Chandi, rider of green Matajith here." She pokes a finger at M'ac. "He's something here. We're not sure what, exactly. But something. Possibly useful when you need a man."

P'wyn arrives in a whirl of brisk, nervous energy and the weighted feel of the storm. He pushes through the door, surveying a vast array of tables occupied and not and finally settles on several groupings of chromatic riders seated on one side of the room. Moving though them, he stops at one table after another, chatting for a few moments before moving on to the next group. Finally, he arrives at the same table as M'ac, Chandi, and Raelii. "M'ac, Chandi." He greets, with a nod at the unfamilar girl as well. "Yh'val's starting to review the lists again since Xaeth looks to be getting close. Any hints from yours on people to approach or to remove?"

The conversation between the rider pair goes right over Raelii's head. Her mind focuses on these facts while they talk: He, not it. And he is brown. Thus brown dragons are boys. She nods about talking out loud, but asks, "He's not?" Little does she know. "Well-met, Miss Chandi," she says shyly, eyeing M'ac with another one of her wide-eyed expressions of non-comprehension. Need a man? Nono, she's not even going to ask! Her stomach growls and she edges over to the soup, is in the process of ladling some into a bowl when P'wyn walks up. She moves carefully to the table with her soup and sits quietly. Though she smiles at him, she knows better than to interrupt old people when they're talking.

M'ac eyes Chandi when she speaks, his lips quivering for a moment, though if it's with mirth or something else is unclear. "I wouldn't want to spoil your fun. Wouldn't be nice of me at all." Raelii is looked back to with a nod. "And forgive me for my rudeness. M'ac, or Merimac, as you please, rider of…well, a brown that loves soup, actually." P'wyn's entrance is noted with another little start. SOmeone's a little wound tight this evening. When he finally makes his way over to the table, M'ac responds to the hail with a curt nod of his head. To the rider's question, he offers, "Evening. And I have a few thoughts, but they're written down on paper, on account of my lately overfull head. I'll get them to you tomorrow?"

P'wyn nods firmly to this. "That's fine thanks. It's not like we can really get started till she drops the eggs anyways." He glances at the various bowls of soup scattered about and decides to grab one for himself. "Mine if I join you?" is asked on his way past to the kettle. His return, soup in hand, is accompanied with an "I'm Pen, by the way" for the unknown Raeli.

She can't help it; Raelii giggles about M'ac's dragon liking soup. She's regaining her normal perky confidence, so when he introduces himself she boldly says, "Next time you feed him soup, I want to watch. May I?" Sounding like Ray-lee, "Raelii," replies the teenager in reply to P'wyn with a dip of her head and a wider smile. He's not oldold, she decides and so chirps, "It's really good," of the soup.

M'ac gestures to a spot at the table. "Seems like the storm is bringing more people inside tonight," he offers to no one in particular. "I confess, I'd thought that most of you would have been in bed by now after the day." Raelii's request gets a more active smile. "It's nice to meet you, Raelii. And I rarely feed him soup. As you say, there aren't any bowls big enough for him. He usually only gets it when he steals some from me, and I've taken to guarding my bowl quite closely when I'm eating near him."

P'wyn smirks as he takes a seat at the table. "Valtheoth?" he guesses while placing the soup in front on him. "Enolth is fond of sweets. He'd be happy to snitch bubblies or cookies, given half the chance." Pen takes a sip of the soup after a cooling blow and smiles. "Raelii, did you say? You're correct, it's very good. And warming after the cool of the approaching storm. So Raeli, I haven't seen you around before. Are you a recent arrival to the weyr or am I just that scatter brained?"

Chandi gives a jump, then slowly gets up from the table. "I'm really sorry all. But it seems I'm needed for something. I hope I'll catch up with you all later?" With that, she's heading out the doorway, into the night.

Anyone perceptive enough can just see those wheels turning in Raelii's mind as her large eyes flick from bowl, to M'ac's face, face to bowl several times: biiiiiiig dragon tongue stealing soup from his iiiiiiiitty bitty soup bowl. "How's that work?" she blurts before she thinks the better of it, and her cheeks color faintly pink. He's pulling her leg, right? But then P'wyn chimes in about his dragon with the cookie-snitching. She spoons a mouthful of soup absently into her mouth, eyes blink and follow the hasty exit Chandi makes, then she swallows and nods to P'wyn. "The caravan left me behind," she explains. Or rather doesn't. Typical teenager, she figures the dots are easy to connect.

M'ac watches Chandi scamper off, a slightly amused expression on his face. "She comes in, starts a fire, and leaves. Why didn't I think of that?" This, to himself. Then he's grinning and looking back at Raelii and Pen. "How does it work? Usually with me leaving my bowl to set while I'm up and about, doing something else. He's an opportunist, really. Makes you consider how quickly you eat."

P'wyn's face is nicely blank as the greenrider up and runs out. "I'm not certain which of them is scarier. Her or the other one." With that cryptic remark, P'wyn settles back to eat and sort through the conversation. "I would say they were all opportunists, especially the weyrlings." He sighs gustily. "I swear there are times I wished all impressions were to older candidates only. One youngling is bad enough without impressing him onto another!" Pen shakes his head and then turns his regard to Raeli. "You're caravan didn't notice you were missing and left?" he asks in a surprised voice. "That seems a little careless for traders."

"Sorta like canines, you gotta watch 'em every second," muses Raelii. Only nothing like canines. If M'ac and P'wyn notice a teenager eyeing their dragons during outside feasts? That'll be why. She snickers around her spoon at P'wyn's cryptic remark. She isn't the only one who found Chandi a little scary. Just why he finds the woman scary is either irrelevant or she assumes he's been asked to model his backside by the woman in times past. So she doesn't ask. She swallows her soup hastily to answer, "Oh, they knew." She's not going to cry, but she does sniff. It's more from wounded pride than grief. "They left me here on purpose!" She glares briefly towards the bowl where the caravan last was before pulling out without her.

M'ac smiles somewhat knowingly to P'wyn. "Once they're in the same room together, does it really matter? You're on the defensive at that point, no?" Then he's leaning towards Raelii a little more noticably. "You know, if you go around telling people, especially established riders, that your caravan just left you here and don't offer up any more detailed explination, you might just find yourself on dragonback to chase them down." He grins and holds up his hand in a weighing motion. "Just a thought."

P'wyn snorts at M'ac's comment regarding the greenrider. "I think I've been on the defensive with one or the other since I left Tillek." Raelii's statement earns her an uncomfortable but sympathetic, "I'm sorry to hear that." and a quick withdrawl by the young man. Then M'ac's wisdom helps to defuse the tense situation and P'wyn offers him a thankful smile. "I'd say that was highly likely with some of the riders around here." He seems about to add something to this when a strange 'listening' expression crosses his face. "Oh that pair!" With a sigh, the man stands, taking the bowl with him. "Our loan remaining weyrling pair is into mischief again. If you'll excuse me.." And like the greenrider before him, he runs out.

Raelii 's eyes brighten, a touch devilishly at M'ac's suggestion. "Really?" she says a slow grin growing at the thought of the awkward resulting from that. Her interest is definitely perked. Like any teenager full of woe-is-me-it's-the-end-of-my-little-world, she'll soak up sympathy like a sponge and P'wyn's is certainly appreciated. She starts to say, "Thanks-" but he's off and running. With a little sigh, she leans back against the back of her chair. M'ac is still here, however, sooooo she says, "They're on their way to High Reaches Hold. After that they'll be going to," she lets go of her spoon to tick off the order on her fingers, "Tillek, Crom, Nabol and Ruatha." Hinthint. When do we leave?

M'ac mms quietly, steepling his fingers and leaning back. "You know, I … have an open line of communication with the weyrwoman. Rather than actually flying you anywhere, I could probably have her send a fast messenger to bring the caravan back." A pregnant pause. "Unless you'd care to tell me why you were left here?"

Ack! Weyrwoman! Raelii looks a mite panicked at that. She drops her eyes and begins mushing the lone fingerroot bits left in the bottom of her nearly-empty bowl with the back of her spoon. She could make something up, play the sympathy card, but something tells her he's not going to fall for it. "They wouldn't come back anyway," she admits truthfully and quite reluctantly. And he's asked why, so with a cough, she adds, "One too many accidents with the burden beasts." None of which were her fault, if you ask her.

M'ac ahhs quietly after a moment. He's still then, those fingers still steepled in front of his mouth. His eyes search the girl's face, never really looking into her eyes in turn. He just takes her in for a time, absorbing something. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, he speaks, his voice calm and quiet. "I don't remember much about my father, if I'm honest. It's not that he was a bad man, but he was busy, as weyrfolk tend to be. He said something to me once that I'll never forget, however. He said to me, 'Seek first understanding, and only then to be understood.' Do you understand what this means, Raelii?"

Raelii can probably feel his eyes upon her while she so studiously mashes the remnants of her soup into paste. In fact, she squirms a little, but doesn't raise her eyes until the question is posed to her. Then he gets the wide-eyed regard that is her norm and he'll see the hazel colored by total bewilderment. Honest most of the time, unless a fib will get her out of a tight spot, she squints a little, takes a deep breath like she's going to wax wordy on a well-thought out and educated answer. Then she lets it all out in a deflation of defeat. "Nope, not really."

M'ac's lips turn up even more at the corners, though his eyes retain that thoughtful seriousness from moments ago. "It means that before you do or say something, you should understand what you're doing or saying, and how it will affect the world around you. Only once you understand that can you proceed forward in a responsible manner and get the results you want." He gestures to her with one hand. "A girl who seems to have trouble with burden beasts, for example. Should you blame her for those accidents, or wonder if there's a reason as to why she's having so many of them?" He spreads his hands a little. "It may be that your purpose in life is not to tend to beasts. It may be that you have not been properly educated. It's been my experience that people seldom tend to wonder about such things where children are concerned." Then he extends a hand to her in offering. "Perhaps we can do better for you here. Welcome to High Reaches."

Raelii's eyes take on a bit of a glazed look while she listens to M'ac. Is she… supposed to answer that question? Her lips part as if she might do so but then he's speaking again and in the pause wherein his hand is extended, she says oh-so-intelligently, "Huh." She drops her spoon to shake his hand; it clinks against the crockery bowl. Her handshake is firm, even if her hand is soft; no calluses and certainly not as much worked as it should be for a trader. "Thanks!" Gulp? Brightly she tells him, "I'm helping in the infirmary." Poor them? And then she yawns. "'Scuse me. I guess I ought to go back to bed now." She rises, takes her bowl and spoon to the bin and on passing him offers a bemused sort of smile. "Night M'ac." What's she thinking? Deep philosophical thoughts? Nope! Why, of soup-stealing dragons, of course! If anyone sees her outside with a bowl of soup, asking, "Are you M'ac's dragon?" Well, blame… uhhh… M'ac?

M'ac grips that hand for a moment when Raelii shakes it. "I'm sure they're better off for your presence there, and I certainly appreciate your willingness to be helpful." When she gets up to scamper off, he offers a little wave. "Goodnight, young one. Sleep well." Then he's picking his own mug back up and returning to what the evening found him doing in the first place: staring into the flames. The difference? He's smiling now.

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