New Acquaintances (and New Puppies)

Stone Barn
Fashioned from the same volcanic material that houses the caverns, these square-cut stones have been laid by a mastercrafter stonemason turns ago to house the implements necessary in caring for Fort Weyr's stock. Large enough to stable several runners, there are also stalls for ailing herdbeast, with straw-covered stone floors within the stalls, the aisle outside swept clean. Overhead is a loft full of hay, grain bins, and other supplies. Large double doors open wide on either end and smaller windows higher up along the walls allow for light and the free flow of fresh air.

At either end of the structure are two work stations, one for leatherwork and another for healing: the waist-high counter of stainless steel with shelving above contains gadgets and tools, jars, bottles and boxes of salve, potion and powders - some of it fairly scary-looking like saws, clippers, clamps and needles. Mingled with the scent of animals and hay is a pungent medicinal smell that marks this as the healer area. The other has a wooden workbench with a rack of snippers, blades, mallets, awls and an anvil beside which are pegs with strips of leather, half-finished harnesses, whips, aprons and wide-brimmed hats. Overhead, shelves with jars of finish - dyes and oils, boxes of coiled rawhide thread for stitching and handtools indicates this is the leatherwork station.


It's a clear, winter evening in Fort, with the day's work winding down as the sun sinks below the bowl rim and heads towards the distant horizon. The barn is calm and quiet despite the beastcrafters doing their evening feeding and cleaning of the creatures that live in here. And in the back corner, in a wide and deeply bedded converted stall, Zoi rests, feeding her litter of six puppies. Sitting in a corner is Ezra, just watching for the moment and occasionally reaching out to touch his beloved canine. "They're beautiful, Zoi, you're such a good mom," he murmurs to the massive canine.

Was Aifric here to visit her sister, or did she have personal reasons for being at the Weyr? Who knows; it's just as likely she's been staying in Inri's weyr in order to avoid other relatives. Nonetheless she's now a few months older than Inri was when she first moved to Fort, and Aifric shows no signs of running away to stay like her sister did. She has quiet footfalls as she sneaks into the barn, expression clearly indicating a motive — that is promptly derailed as she spots Ezra, Zoi and: "Oh goodness. That's a lot of puppies."

Ezra looks up, a bit surprised to see an unknown face looking down at him. It's a good thing Zoi is friendly, and the canine mother just gives a thump of her tail before stretching out on the straw to allow her pups more access to her belly. "Hello," Ezra says, pushing to his feet and brushing his hands against his trousers.

"Hi — sorry, rude of me to invade your space like that and with her having young to protect," Aifric rambles quickly in a reflection of Inri, then more smoothly stops talking and smiles. She really isn't anywhere near as talkative, promise. "It was just quite a surprise sight when I came in to look at runners; suddenly, tiny puppies." She does cast an adoring look over her shoulder at the runners in question, quickly.

Ezra glances down the aisle and then back down to the puppies with a little smile. "They're a few sevens old now…" About to reign terror on the weyr, no doubt. Bundles of cute, destructive energy. "Ezra Stonehaven," he introduces, extending a hand to the young woman. "And it's fine, they're kind of hard to resist."

"Aifric," is accompanied by a shy smile as well as placing her hand in Ezra's and letting him determine if he wants to shake it or kiss it, as her mother taught her. Proper, unlike most of the rest of her family. "I hope they don't all get loose in the Living Cavern or something. That would be a sight."

Ezra looks a bit surprised when she leaves the handshake up to him, and immediately his brain pegs her as a holder as he bends over the hand to kiss it, light and brief before letting it go. "What hold do you hail from?" He noted the lack of last name. Not blood then, he's guessing. Then he laughs. "Faranth. I hope that never, ever happens."

"Some people might find that kind of chaos fun, but I'm certainly not one of them — oh, Breakwater," right, he asked a question, and Aifric's tendency to seize on only the last thing someone said isn't going to do her well in remembering to answer it. "All the way about as north as it gets Breakwater, not the other one."

Ezra looks a bit surprised, giving her a closer look - not enough to be /staring/ - but closer. "Related to Inri?" he asks, a smile pulling at his lips at the mention of his friend's name.

Aifric nods, though here's still something shy about it; it's not quite /shame/, but it's timidness. "She's my sister." She does smile at this revelation, but it's quick and almost nervous. "Two of my siblings live here, now." Both riders. This is not exactly shame on the family either, but it's certainly nothing their parents wanted for them.

Ezra's smile widens as the connection is revealed. "Oh, have you moved here too?" Perhaps forgetting that Inri has a brother here already.

Most people do, to be fair — Se'ras is even quieter than Aifric, and was an extremely young Impression. The young woman, on the other hand, actually /laughs/. It's not a mocking laugh or the sort of laugh that thinks the idea is horrifying, but a couple quick bursts of amused laughter. "Oh, no. I couldn't. I'm just — staying a few days, helping her with. Things. Stores things." Someone is not telling the whole story, evident by her expression, but everything she's said is true.

Ezra blinks in surprise, head tilting, but he doesn't pursue the issue of Se'ras. He'll figure it out later. "Oh. Needed back home?"

"Expected, more than needed. I'm sure others could do my work just fine, but I'm kind of a homebody I guess. Certainly not cut out for Weyr life." Meaning that Aifric is scandalized easily. Inri would tease her for it, and no doubt will tell Ezra stories later. "Everyone'd be pretty horrified if I never came back. She's the bold one."

Ezra ahhs, nodding with a smile. "The weyr is not for everyone," he says with a quiet chuckle. "I for one am looking forward to going back home to stay." And at the same time he isn't, which is a whole other issue of guilt.

Again, Aifric nods; she looks almost intrigued, thoughtful. "I've heard Stonehaven's — exciting. Beautiful masonry. And a lot of dangerous weather." Oh, there's the family spirit in her! The idea of a harsh season (along with pretty rocks) is what gets her looking inspired.

Ezra smiles, nodding his head as he reaches out to lift a puppy into his lap, settling down against the edge of the stall. "Stone and weather, that's what we have in abundance," he says with a small smile. "What does your cothold specialize in? Other than strong women?"

Though it comes with a less-shy laugh, because the compliment-as-it-were either very much amuses her or doesn't seem quite right (though who could argue Melyssra's strength, or even Inri's?) Aifric does also answer the question. "Fish," she says first, with a little bit of an implied by expression rather than actual groan, "And wood. But mostly fish."

Ezra nods, "Important things. Life sustaining, unlike stone." He lifts a black and white puppy up, smiling. "Would you like to hold one?"

Aifric's eyes are much more excited than she lets herself be: her expression is all YES!, but other than the wide eyes she manages to keep herself relatively collected and say, "Oh, certainly," in a calm tone as she holds arms out for puppy. "And stone is certainly important. Less so without Thread, but — important."

Ezra holds up the puppy, all wiggles and licks, tail and fur, and grins at the expression in her eyes. Puppies = win. "No doubt about it, but fish is important too. What brings you to the weyr this evening?"

Puppies are the answer to all the world's problems, and however iffy Aifric's mood had been before it is all better now. "Inri was teaching me about stores management," she relays, managing to keep her voice the same conversational tone even while she's rubbing squiggly puppy belly. No baby talk for this one. "So I was helping her — stores manage, while she showed me things."

Ezra ahhs with a nod. "Learning a lot? So you can take over someday for your hold, or run another?"

"Either. Both? I'd like to be Headwoman for Breakwater," and there's Aifric's secret, so she bows her head and blushes into the puppy's neck, "but I wouldn't object to ending up somewhere else either, really? I've never traveled much at all."

Ezra smiles. "Headwoman is a good position. A lot of organizational skills needed for that," she compliments with a nod. "Hopefully that works out for you. Oh? Even with Inri, you haven't traveled? That's a shame. You should. There's so much to see."

Petting petting petting. It takes Aifric about twenty seconds or so to speak again because she's distracted by cooing at the miniature dog. "Dragonriding isn't something my family is really all that fond of, it took — some time before they were really okay with it."

Ezra frowns slightly, though it's more in thought than in judgement. "So they'd not approve of you traveling around with your sister?" he asks carefully.

"They might more now; they let me visit here, especially with Sey a rider as well," though Se'ras' impression caused more problems before it became a softening point from Inri's perspective, Aifric just isn't going to overcomplicate anything, "But they weren't too pleased at first. She wasn't meant to /stay/ at the Weyr, and then she Impressed and it had to be /gold/ which meant she wouldn't be doing any delivery work."

Ezra looks curious. "They wanted her doing delivery work?"

"Why not? That's how we even knew any dragonriders to begin with — why Breakwater /tries/," Aifric knows they haven't always succeeded, especially when Roc Wing's former wingleader gets runners killed, "to maintain good ties with the Weyr. It's so far north we can't get shipments of anything out easily at all without dragons. My parents may run the tavern but my dad's also a fisherman and he does like it when his fish get sold."

Ezra ahhs, nodding a little bit. "I see. Well, maybe now…traveling truly is something to be, uh, done." That came out awkwardly, and he plays with a puppy to ease the awkward.

It might be hard to get Aifric to give the puppy /back/ now that she's so besotted with it. But young creatures need their moms. "If I ever have time and she does, maybe. Could go see Stonehaven, sometime, perhaps."

Ezra dips his head. "Certainly. Come spring there will be a lot of work to be done. We always need extra hands." Stonehaven isn't open for leisure visits yet, it seems. If it ever will be.

"Happy to help, if you need organizational skills." Aifric is thin and wiry, not exactly the best person for, say, heavy lifting. "Or someone to — I don't know, feed puppies." Clearly she's a big fan of that idea.

Ezra smiles, "I might just take you up on that," he warns. Then he grins. "Well they won't stay puppies forever, but any time you feel like helping out, please. Let me know and I'll send a rider to fetch you." Because he can do that.

"Sounds like you've got your own wing," Aifric laughs, for — well, it does, but she also doesn't actually imagine he's really got that many. Even having a couple riders on call seems glorious to her, though. "And I don't mind feeding big dogs. Was Dad as big as their mother?"

Ezra coughs, glancing down, a bit abashed. "Well, I mean, I have friends…I can ask…" Cough. "Yeah, their father is another canine like her. Mountain dogs. Herding breed. Good for Stonehaven winters and helping in the fields. Protectors."

"Sounds excellent. We don't have that many animals back at Breakwater, though I got to keep Inri's canine for a sevenday," little does Aifric know the two are related! "and that was fun, he helped us clear off fallen leaves from a bad wind. Funny what you can train them to do."

Ezra grins, "Her canine is Zoi's sibling. So you're an aunt to these puppies." Kiiind of? Or a cousin? Darn family dynamics, so confusing. "Any time," he says again, smiling.

Aunt would, presumably, be right — no, second cousin? Let's stick with confusing. Either way, Aifric is happy to keep ear-ruffling. "Really. Well. That's excellent — automatic friends. He doesn't have any puppies she didn't tell me about, I hope!"

Ezra laughs, though he keeps it quiet so's not to startle the dozing pups. "I'd hope he didn't have puppies. That'd be hard to explain." Snicker.

Okay, fair; Aifric also laughs a little, and she'd probably have rolled her eyes if she were Inri. "Well. You know what I mean. Not — him, but."

Ezra grins, setting his sleeping puppy down by Zoi and pushing to his feet. "Right." He gestures to the door with a smile. "I can walk you back to the weyr if you'd like? Then I should get going, I'm due to have dinner with my brother at Harper Hall this evening."

"That sounds lovely," Aifric can't help but gush a tiny bit — another place she's never been! — but she begrudgingly divests her puppy back to her mother as well, giving it a last kiss on the forehead and a scritch. "Harper Hall, I mean, and dinner there, though I would also appreciate the escort, I still get easily lost." Hadn't she come there to look at runners? Never mind /that/, she has company now.

Ezra smiles, even offering her his arm once he puts on his Stonehaven coat. "I will see you back to the caverns then," he says. As they move down the aisle the young heir calls out, "Cori? Could you ready the gelding? I'm going to the Hall again this evening." "Yes, sir," the young stablehand says, bustling off to prepare said gelding for travel.

Oh, and there's a runner — Aifric can't help but ask, "Your gelding? Where is he from, is he simply for travel, or — I'm a jockey, that's what I do now. I've been riding for Breakwater in the races." She is small enough for it.

Ezra shakes his head quickly. "No, he's not mine. He's just the one I borrow from the weyr when I ride." As they step out into the cold air he laughs. "A jockey and an expert at organization?"

"Well, the organization thing's new! I did jockeying growing up, the Lady Holder does love her runners." And Aifric has the right build and the right temperament for it. "A lot of jockeys are actually crafters, I'm not. I don't have extensive knowledge of the species or anything. So it isn't a lifetime occupation, just something else to do besides chores at the tavern."

Ezra nods. "Well, if you enjoy it, why not do it as often as you can?" Out into the cold and the snow, he begins to lead her back towards the warmth of the caverns.

"Not much call for it except in foreign races — I'll be racing at Keroon, though." That has pride on her face, even as Aifric winces a little at the temperature. Though the Weyr is /warm/, compared to Breakwater, it's still a bit shocking.

Ezra grins, "Will you? Well I should be there, so I'll cheer you on from the sidelines."

"So I'll see you then," Aifric tells him, with her expression turning back to a shyer smile. Shyer, but still more confident and friendly than at first. "Once I'm done racing, though I'll be sweaty and tired, I'm sure. Unattractive in the extreme."

Ezra nods, "Absolutely. I'll find you. Buy you a drink after the race, so you can relax and enjoy the rest of the party. Hear Fort's going to have a turnday thing too, at the same time. Big gather party." Then he laughs. "Hard work is attractive."

And Aifric bows her head, again blushing a little but now having nothing but her coat to hide in — no convenient puppy's fur! "If you say so. I'd like that, though; even if I'll look funny next to Inri in her gorgeous gown. Least my riding coat's nice."

Yay for the darkness? "Consider it done, then," Ezra says with a smile, stopping outside the door to the caverns. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Aifric. I look forward to the gather."

Darkness my old friend indeed. "Thank you," Aifric replies, and curtsies a little — air-curtsies, as she isn't wearing a skirt, with a quick bow of her head. "I will see you then. Good night!" And she's off into the — well, into the warm.


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