Gemstone Tavern
The dim lighting by the flicker of candles lining the walls is enough to offer a view of a room decorated in such a way as to be tastefully appealing. Each piece of furniture and decoration is chosen to accent another piece, and so on and so forth, matching and tying the whole room together in a theme that's separate, and yet at the same time unified. Tables line one wall, dimly lit by candles hanging in sconces all along. The bar along the far right wall is made of richly toned mahogany, tooled by a master and polished to shine with the soft glow of wood at its finest.
Candles strategically placed add to the atmosphere, accenting, punctuating. Towards the back is an open fireplace, constantly burning with a bright light, warming the tavern on cold nights and serving as a gathering place for patrons' story-tellings. Across the room, lush pillows and soft-covered floors promote relaxation at ease. Just before the pillows is a long stage, so full of its own vigor and memory - nicks here, marks there, scuffs from footware and other things - that it's possible to imagine the shows put on for the patrons without necessarily seeing the performances.

In Fort's early evening, there are revellers celebrating the end of another day at the Gemstone Tavern. There's singing and dancing amidst the drinking and eating, and while the place isn't absolutely packed it is busy. Tables are full, the bar is getting crowded, and even goldriders, such as Thys, can't seem to squeeze past eager patrons to place their orders. She is trying, of course, by standing on her toes and waving her hand at the bartenders to catch their attention, but her drinkless hands suggests she's failed in her efforts thus far.

This would probably be the key moment for someone to come rescue her, right? Like all the strapping young men around the bar, who are elbowing her in the face (or nearly so)? No? Maybe the strapping not-quite-as-young man who comes up behind her, reaches past her head with both arms and calmly shoves everyone away from her, so that she's now front-row-center at the bar and he's immediately behind her. That works, right? The bartender's definitely staring, as an amused, calm voice behind Thys' head says "Ierne's finest, Keiri, now will you give a man a beer?" The answer, apparently, is that actually the bartender in question is squealing and halfway flinging herself across the bar to — not quite hug Thys's head, but it's close; a moment later she's hugging Z'len's arm, at least.

And Thys is not only being pinned between the bar and a body - a rock and a hard place?! - but she's also being squished by the bartender's enthusiasm for the man who got her to the front. Even after he speaks, it takes a moment for her to clock on to who the voice actually belongs to… at which point she half-turns to look at him, nudging Keiri out of the way. "Kazulen… no. Wait. Z'len. Z'len." Her smile grows bright, and she uses her advantage over Keiri to throw her arms around him in a proper hug. "Welcome home! What're you doing here?"

Logically, therefore, Z'len kisses both Keiri and Thys on their respective foreheads, before gently shoving the bartender back behind the bar and returning the goldrider's hug with enthusiasm. "Playing messenger-boy, actually — I heard from one of the drudges you were spotted heading this way," is his easy answer. "I figured it was a perfect opportunity to enjoy some of the best beer on Pern, so thanks for that." His beer is, of course, already poured by the time he finishes talking, and Keiri gets another grin as he accepts it. "What are you having, other than your message?"

"Would you think me terribly uncultured if I said I think Crom's beers are the best?" Thys withdraws from the hug, but keeps a hand affectionately on Z'len's shoulder as she speaks to him. "I'm biased, of course, but they do remind me of growing up." Her smile is easy, her stance relaxed, and her attention entirely upon the brownrider. "I'm having a pint of DarkMine Blond, if you would be so kind… and a message too, apparently?" One brow raises over her dark eyes, curiosity piqued. "Who's sending me a message through you?"

"That's the problem I have with Crom's beers," Z'len counters immediately and easily. "The names are just ridiculous. I mean — if the mine's so dark, why's it a blond beer? Why not have it be a stout? And let's see — " He stops, digging around in the messenger satchel slung across his chest, and pulls out a rolled-up scroll with her name written on the outside edge. "Um. No idea, actually, I don't usually do messenger duty and so I don't recognize the seal — do you?" He holds it out to her.

Thys laughs, giving Z'len's arm a little squeeze before she half-turns to make way for someone else to squeeze into the bar alongside her. When she's given the scroll, she runs a thumb over the seal, pouting thoughtfully. "I'm not sure whose it is, actually… but isn't the flower mark -" isn't that what the stylised seal is meant to be? "- a symbol for a Southern smallholding?" Which confuses her even more. She holds the scroll to her chest for the moment. "Perhaps it would be prudent to open it where there's a tad more privacy. Care to join me in a booth?"

Both beers in hand, Z'len nods, all while grinning at the other bartenders on duty, and then the other people he knows from a lifetime of being Fortian born and bred, even if he's still posted at Ierne right now. "After you," he tells Thys in something of an undertone — a very loud undertone, admittedly, but it's still not likely to carry far.

Thys steers their way through the tavern towards one of the few empty tables that line the wall. It's not a booth as such, but it offers a quieter spot than they were in. She slips into a chair, setting the scroll on the table in front of her and fiddling with it. "Maybe it's not from Southern. I don't really know anyone down there, outside of diplomatic visits." And that, it would seem, suggests that diplomatic ties are not strong enough for one of them to send her a note. "And it's definitely for me, not for me as a representative of Fort?"

Z'len just shrugs, setting the glasses down as he sits opposite her, and points at her name on the edge: Goldrider Thys. "Your guess is probably as good as mine," he admits. "I mean, I didn't even see who handed it off — I just got handed the bag, and saved you for last because I figured that way I'd get to spend more time here visiting with people." Maybe he isn't the very best choice for a messenger, but hey — at least he's delivered everything else?

"You ought to come back here. Full-time." Thys is procrastinating, fiddling with the scroll as she smiles at Z'len. "Come back, join Thunderbird - you'd make a good S&R leader, if not a Wingsecond. Rhenesath's has a 50-50 preference for browns, you know." … is she suggesting he get involved in her dragon's next flight? Thys reaches across for her beer, raising it in cheers to the brownrider before taking a sip, and wiping the foamy head from her lips. "I'm going to keep wondering who this is from until I open it, and yet I sort of don't want to open it in case it's something I don't want to read."

"Well, what's the worst it's going to be?" Z'len suggests, eyes laughing at her. Was he planning to be a clutchdaddy any time soon? Was Tisjadoth? — He's not saying. "News about a murder, from someone you don't know? Maybe someone died and left you a lot of money. Or it's a paternity claim against you, maybe."

"Sssh, Kaz, don't make jokes about murder! Knowing my luck…" Shaking her head, Thys looks from the scroll up to him, chewing on her bottom lip nervously. "It couldn't be a paternity claim… I have no children. And all the men I've… well, I say all, but there's only… well, only one is not in Fort, and… I'm not a slut, I don't sleep around, there's not as many as I made there seem to be." Her cheeks colour, and she quickly picks up her beer to drink down a hearty gulp.

Z'len is, of course, now laughing his ass off at her, but it isn't cruel, right? Right. "Thys, oh my goodness your face," he gasps, wheezing and nearly knocking the beer over onto the letter in question. "You do realize, I hope, that if you had some kid you didn't know about, that would be, oh, physically impossible, say? And if you had some kid you'd fobbed off on its dad, he still wouldn't be suing you for paternity."

"I… well… yes. Yes, I know that, yes, but…" Flustered Thys is flustered, and she blinks at Z'len as she tries to get the redness in her cheeks to die down. "I definitely have no children. Definitely none. Zero." Her dark eyes narrow as she looks closely at him. "Do you have any? Not that it matters, of course, but… why would someone have a paternity claim against me? What would make you say that?" She curls her fingers around her pint, drawing it close to her to drink from it. "It doesn't make sense."

"Well, Rhenesath," Z'len explains glibly, and nods. "Yeah, I grew a couple after I went down to Ierne. Year and a half ago, now, I got a nine-year-old son and a daughter who's almost four." He shifts in his seat, and finally blushes a little. "And a daughter who's actually my fault — sixteen months old. Her mom's on green."

Thys wasn't expecting that answer, and a hint of disappointment slips in past the expression of surprise. "Oh. Wow. Three? Huh. And a new one, too… Hrm." She's thinking as she says it, chewing more on her lip. "I think Ralik is keen to pursue fatherhood, and Rhenesath certainly feels I ought to do it." There's an unspoken 'but' there, which she tries to mask by skipping the conversation along. "Why don't you put in your request to transfer back here, while you're in Fort? I'll fast-track them for you, if you'd like. I'm sure we could make room for your, ah, brood, too, if you wanted them here." The scroll is fiddled with some more, though she's still reluctant to open it and therefore buying time before she has to.

"Well." Okay, that flush isn't going away, is it. "It's — a little more complicated than just me and the kids, really," Z'len mutters. "Their other father. And both their mothers. Even with two dragons involved, and their grandparents' dragons, it's still kind of — far — for someone to move without bringing everyone along, you know? And Ghantin's shop really wouldn't move easily. He's a vintner," and there's that certain something in his voice that says — well, then, apparently the mothers don't live with the kids.

"Hrm. That does sound complex." Thys's nose wrinkles as she tries to work out the exact complexities from that confusing explanation, then she simply exhales with a gentle shake of her head to dismiss it. "Well, I for one would love to see you back here, Z'len, if only so I can snag a dance or two with you when the music's playing like it is now." Indeed, the music in the Gemstone has turned to something a little more danceable, though the young goldrider makes no move to get up to participate. She drums her fingers on the tabletop, blow gently to roll the message-scroll across the wood towards the brownrider. "You've really got no clue who sent this?"

"Like I said," Z'len offers apologetically, toying with the glass between his fingers, "the scroll was already in the bag when it was handed to me — I really have no idea at all, but if you don't open it soon I may have to do something creative and unwieldy."

Thys's nose wrinkles even more as she reaches out to nab the curious piece of paper, dragging it back towards her. "Well, then, I suppose I ought to open it, oughtn't I?" She does so slow, carefully trying not to break the seal by slipping her nail under it to prise the wax free. It comes loose in almost a whole piece, and she unrolls the note to read it. It's short, though she spends a few moment analysing the handwriting before dropping the scroll to the table, and letting it curl up naturally. "Well. That's interesting."

"I," Z'len tells her conversationally, "am never buying you a drink ever again, Thys."
Thys narrows her eyes at the brownrider, looking from him down to her nearly-empty pint. "Well, it should be my round anyway… but never say never, Kaz. I'd be awfully upset if I was getting them in from now until eternity." She winks at him, then waves at the bar to hopefully order them another round. Then she settles back onto her chair, fingers steepled over the scroll where she rests her hands on the table. "I'm sorry - did you want to know what the note said?"

"Yes, well, that would be the cause of the threat," Z'len points out. Dryly. He still has most of his beer, too. "So are you going to actually tell me, ever?"

"I'm not used to messengers asking the content of the messages they deliver; what if this was something super-confidential for the eyes and ears of the Weyrleaders only?" Except the way Thys toys with the rolled-up paper, it clearly isn't. And her tone is too playful, besides! "Would it irritate you for the rest of forever, Z'len, if you never knew what it was I'd just read?" Her scroll-fiddling turns to rolling it back up into a tight little cylinder, which she pops into a pocket on the inside of her light jacket.

"Probably," Z'len admits, and sighs, and drinks his beer. "You'd break my heart if you didn't tell me at least a little bit of what it's all about, Thys."

Thys looks faux-shocked. "Oh, Faranth, I can't have that on my conscience now, can I? Breaking your heart would make me a monster." She plucks the scroll out from her pocket again, wiggling it about in her fingers. "What'll you give me to know what's written on it?"

"Other than the beer I already bought you?" Well, convinced the bartender to give them for free. Whatever. Z'len raises a provocative eyebrow at Thys. "How about the promise that someday, I'm going to come back?"

"Promises aren't something I'm keen to accept, darling. You do know I've had to train in diplomacy since Rhenesath chose me?" Thys puffs up her chest a little, then leans in towards her friend. "And diplomats don't accept promises as currency, unfortunately." Their order arrives; Z'len has a refill if he wants it or not. "But there is a promise I'll accept from you, if you can make it."

"— Erk. Yes?" Z'len looks wary; he may have a very good reason for it. "What promise would that be?" He's not actually promising to promise, mind.

"Promise me you'll be there when Rhenesath flies next." Thys keeps one hand on the scroll, while curling the other around her pint of beer. "Promise, and you can read the scroll."

Z'len reaches up and scrubs a hand over his face, laughing dryly. "You don't actually remember that I was there last time, do you."

Thys purses her lips, caught out by that. "Um. Well, these things happen so quickly, it's hard to, ah…" But the diplomatic response is weak, so she waves it away. "Alright. No, I don't. Sorry. But… promise me?" Her expression's all hope as she picks up the scroll, unfurls it, and sits ready to read it upon his word.

With the tiniest of groans, Z'len yields — sort of. "If it is at all possible for me to be here, I will be here," he promises. "If she goes up without warning, though, you're on your own. If we're injured and can't get here, you're on your own. But if I can, we'll be here. Okay?"

"Oh, she rises with plenty of warning, and we'll amend the terms to say you promise you'll be here when you're physically capable of participating successfully in a flight." Thys seems happy enough to accept that change on behalf of the brownrider, as she takes a breath to start reading: "Dear goldrider Thys," and here she pauses for dramatic effect, looking up at Z'len as she reels off the rest without needing to read it. "Your saplings are ready to collect at your convenience."

Z'len stares, as she finishes, and remains utterly silent almost long enough for his beer to go flat. (Well. Not really.) "I," he announces — just a little bit melodramatically, maybe, hand on his heart and all — "am incredibly disappointed nobody's suing you for paternity. Well. Rhenesath. Whichever."

Thys totally gives Z'len a troll-face. U mad? "Unfortunately - or fortunately? - fruit vine saplings are unable to sue for paternity, Z'len, and thank Faranth Rhenesath hasn't mated with a plant." How that would work is left to the imagination. "If you're still playing messenger-boy, perhaps you'd like to collect them for me sometime? They're down in Greenheart Holding."

"I really wish I could, but I don't want to!" Well. Not really, but that's what she gets for making troll faces at Z'len, right? "Now, if you were ordering them on behalf of Ierne, I might go pick them up," he adds, and reaches across the table to pat her hand, half-apologetically, half-I'll-get-you-for-this-just-you-wait. "Fair's fair." Fair is also pointing out that he probably needs to get home to feed his kids soon — he finishes his first beer and neglects his second, right about now.

"Sadly I'm a Fortian goldrider, not a Iernian one." Thys rests her hand atop Z'len's to squeeze it affectionately. "And I should finish my beer and then find someone to pick my plants up for me. They grow the most glorious grapes. I'll invite you to try some when they're ready, of course."

"I may have to bring Ghantin along, then," Z'len suggests more cheerfully. "He's got a much better tongue for grape varietals than I do — he's trained it, after all." Will that entendre remain remorselessly undoubled? Well, Z'len is going to escape the table before finding out. "It was lovely to see you, Thys," he adds, and — as he stands — leans across to kiss her cheek. "I'll see you again soon, I promise!" One way or another.

"Promises have to be kept, Z'len!" Thys half stands to squeeze his shoulders as he kisses her cheek, so she can whisper in his ear. "It was lovely seeing you. Come back soon, and clear skies until we see each other again." She presses a quick kiss to his cheek, then draws away, crossing her arms over her chest and smiling.

Right up until she has to pay the tab for those extra drinks, anyway. She'd meant to buy a round for the whole bar, right…?