'The World of Pern(tm)' and 'The Dragonriders of Pern(r)' are copyright to Anne McCaffrey (c) l967, 2000. This is a recorded online session, by permission of the author but generated on PernWorld MUSH for the benefit of people unable to attend.

Fort Weyr - Bathing Cavern

A high, domed ceiling stretches far overhead, voices echoing in the distance. Warm, moist air fills the room, coming from the variety of pools scattered about. Vines have been planted in baskets and grow up the walls, thriving in the soft artificial light provided by glows placed at random intervals about the room.

Despite it being spring, Fort is still chilly and rain is often falling as it is now. Because of that, folks seek out the warmth of the caverns, but not many are in the bathing cavern since it's still before dinner time. But Ezra is, the boy sitting in one of the smaller pools near the back, in a shirt and shorts even though he's bathing himself. He's shy. Zoi rests nearby, her muzzle across her huge paws, watching her human as he fumbles with the sweetsand and gets it everywhere, and then makes idle little bubble towers only to smash them down again.

With rain falling and achy-breaky ribs it's a given that Edani will take a break from doing nothing but studying and taking short walks to soak. And being holdbred himself, bathing pools full of chatty kathys does not appeal despite he is quite male. Squalling babies and pregnant mothers-to-be isn't really up his alley and thus, with a gander at the tables full of kiddos in the living cavern, he deems the majority of those are in there and this place should be fairly deserted. So in he strolls to check it out, bare feet tracking through puddles, towel around his neck, shaving supplies and bag of soapsand in hand. His gaze sweeps the cavern: empty pool…empty pool…empty pool…oh there's Ezra! And Zoi? Hmm. Well to head the opposite way will be just rude so he ambles over, noting in the process that huh. The kid has clothes on. It takes Edani a spilt second to decide and then he's shucking his shirt and slipping into the pool to soak Ezra-style. No sense embarrassing the kid. "Hi Ez," he says, leaning his head against the ledge and shutting his eyes.

Zoi's head lifts and she wags her tail, but she stays where she is like the good little canine that she is /not/. She's a terror. But right now she looks cute. Ezra's head turns sharply at the arrival of another, but he perks up when he sees who it is. "Edani, hi," he says, head tilting a bit when he's called 'Ez'. That's new. "How are you?"

Edani is feeling lazy or something. Or maybe he's just playing overly casual with the skittish Ezra. Cracking one eyelid, he answers, "I've been better. Don't ever let a cow kick you, okay?" And though he's finally managed to soak the wide band of tape the healers wrapped his ribcage with, there are still sticky marks barring his midriff and a fading bruise on his left side that's a bright yellowish tinge. "How's Zoi doing? He looks like he's grown three whole inches since I saw him last." Maybe that's an exaggeration?

Ezra frowns. "You got kicked by a cow?" he asks, looking the older boy over with concern. "/She's/ good. She's big. She doesn't listen to me though, but K…K…this one guard guy said I could bring her to when they train the guard canines, so I'm doing that. But right now she just wants to chase the other canines around. Made some of the guards mad." He shrugs, dismissing it and still watching the other boy.

Right, a girl! Cough. Edani knew that. He opens both eyes, "She," he repeats sheepishly while he gives Zoi a long look. "Her eyes are bright, nose looks moist, paw pads look soft and not dry or cracked…" He'd wriggle fingers at the pup but she's behaving right now so he just checks out her appearance. "Khyonai?" He makes a guess about the guard. "I know a great way to help him with that running around thing." Turning to find the boy watching him, he just raises a brow, a silent prompt if he's wanting to say something.

Ezra nods, "Yeah, that was him," he says, and he finally relaxes back against the wall of the pool, fiddling with the suds again. But he doesn't build anything now. That's kid stuff. Or stuff he doesn't want anyone else to see. "She's healthy. How do I keep her from running?"

"You're taking very good care of her, Ezra," the complement is sincerely-given. Edani cups his hands, dips them into the water and brings it to his face, pausing momentarily to tilt an upward look under brows towards the boy, "Oh you don't." SPLISH. He reaches for his soapsand, pours a handful into his palm and dribbles water into it with the other. Meanwhile he explains, "Zoi is a Mountain Shepard. She's got herding cattle in her blood. It's her nature to run. If you stop her, she'll misbehave and act out in ways you don't want her to. Like… rip things up or chase people." He's working on making a rich lather of that wetted soapsand with two fingers while he talks.

Ezra watches Edani's soapsand method, itching to try it himself because he thinks that way makes a much nicer lather than he's ever been able to get. But he doesn't. Yet. "Oh. So…what do I do? Let her run and chase people?"

"Nope." Edani begins painting his cheeks and jaws with his lather, dips his fingers into the water to rinse, then reaches to fish out his small mirror, propping it on the bag of sand at the edge of the pool ledge and peers in it while finishing the lather job up his neck and sides of his face. "A herding dog should never chase people unless they threaten harm to the herd. Or the herder orders them to. You-" he's reaching for his straight razor as he speaks, "-let him get his energy worked out by chasing calves and learning the maneuvers from the herding dogs. It's also fun for him."

"Her," Ezra corrects again, leaaaaning to one side to try and sneakily watch the man shave. Curious, and a little bit jealous. "So I just take her for runs? I don't think the Beastcrafters would like it if I let her loose in the pens…" Then he blurts something else out. "I asked Inyri on a date." That might not have been a good thing to say when Edani has a blade so close to his face.

Absently,"Hmm? Oh right, him!" Someone's a bit preoccupied maybe. The blade makes rasping sounds as Edani scrapes the lather from his skin, swishes to rinse the stuff gritty with stubble in the pool. The globs float towards the intake drain, forgotten as he resumes scraping. "Mmm. Not a good idea to just do it on your own. I can supervise. We'll set a time and have her work with an older dog. And wee baby calves who don't kick hard if she misjudges." The blade is juuuust scraping his jaw when Ezra blurts out his news and those brown eyes lift, blink and then crinkle while the beastcrafter grins. "Smooth going!" He lets go from pulling his cheek taut, curls his hand in a fist and offers it to Ezra to fistbump. "Where are you taking her?"

Ezra smiles a little bit, tentatively and hopeful. "Really? That would be really great if we could…" Then he blushes, but hides it by pulling his wet hair down over his face. The fist, though…baffles him. Clearly he doesn't know how to fist bump, as he just stares at it for a moment and then awkwardly tries to shake it. "I don't know. I said I'd buy her a drink. How much is a drink?" He knows nothing, and looks to Edani to educate him, hopeful the older boy won't laugh or scoff.

Edani realizes his mistake a moment later, "Her, I meant. Zoi is a girl." Maybe saying it out loud will help him focus better? Whatever is on his mind, he strives to get it set on a back burner somewhere. "Like this," he shows Ezra, re-making his fist and offering his over again. "You bump it." If Ezra allows, he gives the boy a little prompt by guiding his hand to make a fist, then nudges under his forearm with fingertips until their knuckles touch gently. "It's the cool way to say, 'Nice going!'" He resumes shaving, appearing to give the question some thought. "Well, drinks for two are between a thirty-second Mark and an eighth mark depending on what you get," he says seriously. “Beer is the cheapest, but girls usually don't like beer. I'd get her an ice cream float."

Ezra pays close attention to the fist bump, committing it to memory for next time. "Oh," is all he says, though he's secretly thrilled to have learned something. Then his nose wrinkles and he snorts. "Ice cream floats are for kids. I want to get her a /drink/. Somethin' she wants. Whatever she wants…" He trails off, scratching his nose with a fingernail.

Edani headtilts this and that way to see in the mirror if he's got all the lather off. Nope! Missed a few little spots. While working on those, he considers and finally says, "Like with booze in it, you mean." Matter-of-fact. "Sometimes girls like the fru fru drnks. They're a little more. Like an eighth mark for just one." Pause, "And a gentleman never lets a lady drink alone so you'll want to get something too." He rinses the blade, flicks a serious look Ezra's way, "Any idea what you'll want? You don't want to seem indecisive."

Ezra nods, "Yeah. If that's what she wants. I just want to get her what she wants. And pay for it." Isn't it that easy? "I'll get juice or something cheap," he says with a shrug. "They won't sell me booze, I'm too young." Nose wrinkle.

"Good for you!" Says Edani about the boy having thought though that potentially embarrassing faux paux. His next question: "Do you have the marks? Because if you don't, I have a few errands I need done that I'll gladly pay you for doing while I'm laid up." And then it dawns on him to answer the fore asked question, "Yep, because of the cow kick." Man is he ever off his game today! He works at rinsing his face, feeling his cheeks for smoothness. Satisfied, he finally kicks back and sinks in to just soak.

Ezra shakes his head, "I don't have any marks. Spent my last on stew there today, when I went to ask her…" He shrugs a little bit, and then perks up. "I'm good at errands. Real good. What are they?" He looks relieved to have a source of marks for this 'date'. He was worried quite a bit about that.

"I need someone to run up to check the gates in the pens after dinner every night and make sure they're shut tight - and locked if the Weyrleader's order came through. Just rattle it and make sure the latch came down fully." Whether it's busy-work he's inventing or paranoia is anyone's guess. “I'll pay you an eighth mark for each trip you make. And if you check on the calf pen - remember the baby I showed you and Inyri? He's bigger now. Anyway, I need someone to visit him and give him scritches and talk to him so he doesn't get skittish." Him he says. Never mind that they named it Lady.

Ezra nods to the gate checking. That he can do, and was probably one of his jobs back in Stonehaven. But the calf one…The boy frowns. "How much do I get for visiting the calf?" It all comes down to marks for this kid. He's got a date to produce!

"Her, I mean," Edani self-corrects. He's batting 2 for 2 today. "I'll give you another eighth mark for every time you visit her. That one's as important as making sure the stock doesn't get out to wander because we want her gentle so she can be handled by the breeders. So if you go up three times a day, you'll get three eighth marks a day plus another for checking the gates, which is a half-mark per day." Edani had better heal and quickly. He'll be cleaned out if it takes him much longer.

Ezra's eyes gleam with eagerness and greed. "I can do that. I'll do that /real/ good for you." And take all of Edani's money with a big ol' smile. At least it's going to a good cause? "How do you talk to a girl on a date?" is his next blurted question. "Are you and that mean girl dating?"

Not that Edani has that much in his savings to employ Ezra for long, but. "You could even get her some flowers," he encourages with a half grin tugging at his mouth. "Talk to them just the way you would a friend. But the most important part isn't the talking. It's the listening. And just be yourse-" The last question has him jerking to a halt. "Who Zapallie? Don't think I'd call it that, no." He scrubs a hand through his hair, plopping his arm back down on the edge of the pool rim. "I think? I'm her friend. Which is sort of like being friends with a- a beehive."

Flowers. Now there is an idea. Ezra nods, looking a bit nervous but also a bit excited just the same. Then he frowns. "I wouldn't be friends with her. She knows something about Stonehaven and she's not telling. She's mean. Why would you want to be friends with someone who's so mean all the time? Do you feel bad for her or something?" He scowls, sliding low in the water until it laps against his chin.

"Or a volcano." Edani isn't sure which. "Yeah, see before you get those, ask her about her favorite colors. Then chances are, you can get the kind of flowers she'll like." Ezra's frown and comment draw a similar expression in the beastcrafter. "Stonehaven? How do you know that? Her parents are riders, and I know she was born in Xanadu. Isn't that a long way from Stonehaven?" He considers saying more but instead falls silent. He wants to give the boy an answer he'll understand. "No, I don't feel bad for her. Zap can be her own worst enemy. She makes things worse for herself than they have to be." He drops his eyes to stare at the wobbling surface of the water. Finally he says slowly, "Zapallie pretends to be mean."

Ezra crosses his arms and then pushes himself out of the pool, his clothes stuck to his body as he grabs a towel and Zoi sits up. "Because she knows something, I /know/ she does. She acted so weird when she found out where I was from. And /I/ heard she got taken to the /jail/ so she could be questioned about it by /Th'ero/." The kid is working himself into a right temper. "Why would someone pretend to be mean? That's stupid and I don't like her." Roughly toweling himself down, he then wraps the towel tight around himself and shoves his feet into his shoes. "I think you should go on dates with Inyri, she's much nicer, but I'm going on dates with Inyri so you need to find someone else." NOD. "Someone not Zapallie."

Of the arrest, "You'll have to ask Th'ero about that. Or Zapallie. It's not my story to tell," Edani says calmly in the face of that pint-sized temper. "Even if I knew all of it, which I don't." The male-comrade bubble pops - poof. He sighs, rising from the pool. About Inyri, he nods silent agreement to that, yes she is nice, then he says quietly, "Ezra, do you know what faith is?" Maybe one so young and hurt might not, so he answers it for him. "It's believing in something you can't see. I see something behind that prickly wall of mean she uses. Something… else. She just needs someone who will encourage her to see it too."

Ezra shifts his weight, looking awkward and hiding behind his curtain of hair. "But…I thought we were friends…" And he edges back towards the door. A tough lesson to learn for a kid, that your friends don't have to all like each other. Of course he only cares about how Edani's friendship with Zap might affect /him/.

Noticing that hair hiding while padding in his dripping shorts around the pool to pick up his towel and apply it, Edani adds to the boy's curtain. Muffled through his towel as he mops his face, "We are," he assures Ezra. "Would you like Zoi less if he growled at a feline you liked? Or took a dislike to Inyri?"

Ezra sighs. "Zoi is a /girl/. And…no…I wouldn't…" He doesn't quite see where this is going, as he watches the older boy somewhat suspiciously.

Prodding gently Edani asks, "You'd still be friends with Zoi if she didn't like being around Inyri?" Yeah, psych 101 wasn't really part of the beastcraft curriculum. Animal behavior will have to do as a substitute.

Ezra nods a little bit, but now he's frowning. "But Zoi is nice, and Inyri is nice, and you're nice. Zee isn't nice. She can't have friends if she's not nice, that's a rule!"

What can Edani say in the face of such logic? "Should she go find someone as not nice to be friends with? Like… Laris?" Edani stoops awkwardly and scoops up his shaving things and sack of soapsand. Straightening up, he just watches the boy for a moment. "Zee is a bit like a wild animal. I don't think anyone has ever tried to understand her. And it's made her… skittish. So instead of acting mad like you do when you're scared, she says mean things."

Ezra bristles. "I think she /was/ friends with Laris," the boy says, getting a little red in the face. "I'm not scared!" And with that childish outburst that does, in fact, prove that he's a rather terrified individual, he's storming out of the baths and back to his room.

Edani doesn't go running after Ezra, though he does heft a long sigh. Only after a long, still moment does he move to head to the privacy of his cubicle to peel off sopping shorts, dry off and dress, then lie on his cot with his arm over his eyes while he thinks. Thinking of tumultuous flash-floods, of a ravaged hold, of lost family, of indifferent parents… and gentling wild wide-eyed calves.