'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.

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.

For once the weather is actually nice with blue skies, fluffy clouds and a bit of a breeze to keep things from getting too hot. The ground has dried out, the sweet scent of pine and sunwarmed grasses lies heavy in the afternoon sunshine. The beast pens are a peaceful sight with animals grazing, calves either cavorting or sleeping. The barn beyond is open, both sets of doors and all of the windows to let in the fresh air, It's quiet within, save for the occasional stomp of a stalled animal resounding to break the silence. Other than that there is no movement save for a brief glimpse of someone working at the healing table.

That weather, it has been rather odd. Luckily for Zapallie, it's once again dress-wearing weather. The legs get mighty cold when it rains, you know. Today, it's black. The dress, that is. It's got a square neck and a wide skirt. She's got her stomper boots on with it though, which is probably just as well if she's going to be tromping around in here. "Edani!" she yells as she approaches the open barn doors. She stands there with her hands on her hips, waiting for him to appear.

Edani doesn't appear. He's busy apparently, for at that sudden peace-shattering shout there's the sound of scrabbling, heavy breathing and then a somewhat laconic, "Back here," floats out a second later. It's followed by a low-voiced cursing, the words not quite coherent. That is all.

Zapallie raises an eyebrow, hearing that scrambling, and struts on back to find out what the Journeyman-Beastcrafter-Candidate-Whatever is up to. "You aren't, like, fornicating with animals back here, are you?" she asks warily for all that cursing and shuffling and not-appearing. "Because I can always come back later after you're, um… done."

Hear the exasperated eyeroll in the singular answer, "No!" This is probably the only time Zapallie will ever here Edani snap at her. When she comes into view, she'll see him at the workbench, gritting his teeth with a feline teeth-locked onto his hand. He's got the animal by the scruff of his neck but yeah, sorta stuck here. He nods to a folded cotton square, with a suspicious spot of fluid soaking the center, "Grab that cloth there? Yeah, that one. Hold it over his nose, please?"

Zapallie frequently deserves to be snapped at. In this case, she doesn't mind. She /did/ just insinuate he was borking bovines. Upon seeing his predicament she tilts her head, and then starts laughing. "Sorry, sorry," she appologizes around giggles, coming forward to grab the cloth. The other hand slips around, grabbing its skull gently but tightly between her fingers so it can't turn its head away.

Indeed. It's a very good thing that Zapallie is not a guy, just sayin'. Even the patient Edani has his limits. "As you should be, yelling like that around skittish prey animals," he grunts. Not that the feline is, but the cattle certainly are. The feline rolls its eyes to follow Zapallie’s hand, growls and lashes his tail when his head it grabbed. "That's good, now the cloth?" He's speaking through his teeth because the animal has tightened his jaws, sinking those fangs deeper into his flesh. He shuts his eyes, "Hurry already?"

Zapallie has already got the cloth coming for the feline's face. "I was sorry for laughing, not sorry for scaring my next hamburger." Well, he might want to smack her anyways. Still, here she is, saving his bacon. Kind of. The hand holding the cloth is bandaged up to her wrist but it doesn't seem to hurt or anything. "Now how did you get stuck wearing a feline on your hand?"

Really? The look of disbelief Edani shoots her way says it all. "He sort of bit me when you yelled?" He'll leave it to her to figure out what might have happened if he'd been working with a 700 pound animal. Meanwhile the feline's yowling tapers off and finally subsides altogether, his eyes glaze over, roll back in his head and the body slumps limp. The beastcrafter-candidate is able to release the scruff and pry those jaws off his hand. "Keep that cloth there," he instructs while giving his hand a quick swipe of redwort and snapping on gloves. He's then reaching for the animal's body to shift it onto its back. "You might want to look the other way," he warns. Then, while reaching for a syringe asks casually, "What happened to your hand?"

"Maybe you shouldn't work with felines who bite," Zapallie says without repentence. She does as instructed, keeping the cloth in place. Rather than looking away when he reaches for the syringe she watches, head tipped to the side. It's like a train wreck! Who can look away? "Somebody put glass in my underwear drawer the other day. Cut my hand up when I reached in there. But, uh, better my hand than, well…" you get the idea.

Cue eyerolling for reals now. Muttering under his breath as he injects the poor feline’s privates with numbweed he then reaches for pair of wicked-looking clamps. Edani's lips form a flat line at this news, "Glass. Shards that's-" He flicks her an unreadable look, then adds, "No pun intended!" He's concentrating on his task, clamps the appropriate part (or, well, parts), reaches for a pair of tiny, but very sharp clippers, snips skin, snips tissue and flicks it into the waste pan then dabs the area with redwort. "Who did it?"

Zapallie watches Edani 'fix' the feline silently, her nose wrinkled. Gross! But fascinating. "Poor guy never saw it coming," she says with sympathy. "Don't worry about it," she adds dismissively when asked for names. "I'll take care of it."

It's all over in a matter of seconds. Edani adds a single stitch, dabs a generous dollop of numbweed and injects a bit of fellis under the feline’s loose neck skin. Stripping his gloves he straps on a neck cone, gently gathers the limp feline from Zapallie and places him into a small crate-cage, tenderly arranging him on the bed prepared for him. "He's had his fun. We're overrun with the results. You wouldn't want a kitten would you?" Snapping the cage door closed, he turns to prop a lean hip against the table, giving the young woman a lingering look before answering finally, "I'm not worried. I want to know if you let them live, that's all."

While Edani is finishing up with the feline she's wandering to look inside the stalls, seeing what's inside. "What would I do with a kittne?" she asks, brows furrowing. "What are these shaggy things?" Mind like a goldfish. His last has Zap looking over her shoulder, all sarcastic smiles. "Why, have you heard of someone gruesomely murdered recently?"

Edani crosses his arms and simply watches Zapallie wander. "I'd be the last to hear," he says simply, unconvinced. "At least let me add locks to your drawers?" Again - no pun intended! "They're… baby… cows?" is his answer to her question. He smirks, pushes off to stroll over to where she's standing. "Wooly bovine," he clarifies, reaching his hand into the stall to lure one of them over. Wide of forehead, snub-nosed and short-legged, the rest is fuzz that sticks straight out all over the place. They hardly look like bovine.

Zapallie waits for the bovine to approach and then offers her hand to it over the stall like one might for a canine. "They're cute," she tells him, eyebrows raised and mouth open slightly. "And no, you can't put locks on my drawers. I'm not staying anyway."

The calf snuffles Zapallie's hand with its wet, slippery nose and grunts, the sound causing the other three calves to stir, awaken and bleat questioningly as they struggle to get their footing in the straw. They too, make their way over, nosing her hand before one of them latches onto a finger and tries to suckle. Edani folds his arms on the top of the door and watches with a chuckle. "They are cute," he agrees. "These came from the High Reaches." He doesn't argue about the locks or ask about her leaving. "So what's with the dress, really, Zapallie? Which, I think looks great on you, by the way." Straightforward and to the point as always.

Zapallie giggles when the little bovine tries to latch onto her finger. "Are you hungry?" she asks it. Though briefly distracted, she can at least answer his question. "Well… see. I told you all my clothes go thrown out in the dung heap out there, right?" Maybe he noticed! "So I had to get new clothes. And I thought, well, if I have to get new clothes, I might as well try something different. So I've been seeing if being nice to people and looking nice will change how people feel about me. It, uh, isn't really working. This Candidate the other day picked a fight with me. I just came to watch the littles dance. He wasn't very nice."

Edani chuckles, "She probably is. Wait a sec." He steps away, leaving her with the calves, returns with three large, squared bottles, still shaking the powdered formula into the water. "Here," he hands her one of them, nodding to the calf on her finger as he reaches for the door latch. "Come on." He slips inside, holding the door for her, then pulls it shut and kneels, pressing the nipples into the mouths of the other two calves. "It works for the ones who matter," he says quietly while watching her out of the corner of his eye.

Zapallie takes the bottle and follows him in. Black dress, barn? Not the greatest mix. Oh well. This is much more fun than keeping her skirt clean. She laughs as the calf presses up against her to get to the bottle, angling the nipple so that the milk will flow down. "It really hasn't, actually. But the people who are nice to me now were nice to me before, too."

"The difference is the people who were nice to you before like being around you more now," says Edani earnestly while concentrating on keeping the bottles firmly in-hand as the calves try to butt them. "And it takes awhile to live down a reputation." He shoots her a questioning look. "But I guess you're not staying long enough for that, hmm?"

Zapallie lifts her free hand, the bandaged one, and raises an eyebrow. Does he really think she's sticking around with this sort of thing to look forward to on a weekly basis? She returns her attention to the bovine, stroking its shaggy head absently. "I kind of like my reputation, if it's all the same. You don't have to be around me if you don't like me, Edani."

Edani sighs. He's not even going to argue with her. He's told her more than once he likes her fine, he’s just is uncomfortable with some of her behavior. "Then why are you bothering with the 'experiment' at all?" He's striving for calm; on the outside he looks unruffled but she's getting under his skin. He raises a skeptical brow at her hand. "People who do dangerous things- and don't tell me it isn't, you could get an infection from that- should be reported and stopped." He's looking ominous now, brows lowered. She may take it in stride as deserved, but that doesn't mean he has to!

"It's silly," Zap finally says, a touch defensive. "You know, you have this way of making me feel… completely reprehensible. It wouldn't matter what I said, you'd make me feel like I was doing the wrong thing." The bovine grunts greedily, formula dripping down her fuzzy chin, onto Zap's dress. She doesn't seem to mind. "I said I'd take care of it, didn't I? The guards know it's happening. Don't count on them to be terribly proactive. They don't like me either."

"Maybe," says Edani in a neutral tone for her experiment, then he listens intently to what she says next. "Hmm. I'm not trying to do that on purpose, Zapallie. We're of very different mindsets, that’s all. Would you prefer I be less than honest?" Though after that question he holds up one finger to forestall her, "For the record, I do like you." He'll remain silent about the guards, whether they'll help her or how she's handling it. Instead he changes the subject, "She seems to like you too." The young wooly bovine.

"I know you aren't," admits Zap. "And no, you know I don't like liars. And I know you like me. Well. Sort of. I think you like the idea of me, or rather, the idea of changing me." She allows the subject to change though, back to the snuffly-nosed calf. "She's sweet. Better than any silly old kitten."

Edani scrunches up his nose feigning a grimace, "Wrong. That would be far too much work and I can't do the impossible." He grins as he ducks, obviously teasing and expecting a smack, not that he's thinking she can hit hard. She's a girl, after all. "She's going to get a lot bigger than a kitten," he says with a snort. It's a gentle, indulgent sort of tease, for he approves of her appraisal of the calf, being the bovine healer that he is. "Big enough to ride," he adds with a smile.

Zapallie hits pretty hard. Just because she doesn't hit people first doesn't mean she won't defend herself if someone came at her head on in an attack. Still, she definitely doesn't hit Edani, she just gives him an unkind look. "I know /that/," she says in exasperation, appraising the calf. And then she perks up. "Big enough to ride?" she repeats eagerly. "You can ride them?"

Edani wouldn't know - he's never seen Zapallie in action. So he pretends that the hard-eyed look alone wounds him. His hand covers his heart, he falls dramatically against the wall and groans, eyes shut - ded. They flutter open a second later, the goofy impulse passes and he nods enthusiasm to her eager questioning. "They do in the High Reaches and the Barrier Ranges, yeah. They make saddles and everything. They're more surefooted than runners in rough terrain."

Zapallie snorts at Edani's performance, especially because those two bovines he was feeding were less than impressed. But then she turns her attention back to her own calf speculatively. "Hmmm…" she muses. "That is very very interesting." Isn't it though?

Edani doesn't deprive them for more than a few seconds since they grunt and their sticky, milky noses are in his ear and neck looking for more. Now he’s got formula trickling down inside his shirt. "Okay, okay here you go," he says lifting those bottles once more. Zap's speculation is not lost on him. "Are you planning to trek the higher elevations in your travels, Zapallie?"

"Hadn't decided yet," she admits. "I sort of just…go. Wherever. Mountains might be good though. Can really get lost up there, you know?" Zap glances over at him. "Why?"

Edani shugs. "Just curious, I guess. You seem so… intent on that calf there." He can only agree with her about getting lost. "No kidding, lost. And dead from starvation and exposure." Oh there he goes again acting all concerned! "At least take a dog with you, hmm? Want a puppy?"

"I like her," she says with a shrug. "She's… different." She shoots him a strange look when he now offers her a puppy. "Oi. i am not going to die of starvation or exposure. I've got sense, you know." And survival skills to boot! "Not a puppy but…" she nods to the calf. "What about her?"

Edani should never under-estimate a Zapallie! He just sort of blinks when she asks about the calf. He stares at her like he's never quite seen her before. "Seriously?" His voice almost squeaks there and he coughs, adding, "Would you take it as a compliment if I say you are one of the most unique girls I've ever met?" Because, they usually want fluffy kittens, not fluffy bovines. She seems serious and so he says, "I'd have to clear it with the 'hall. These are supposed to go to one of the Fort’s mountain holds. And they're not cheap. The hold paid five marks apiece for them." Which is like $100 dollars back on Old Terra.

"Of course it's a compliment." Somehow though, the odd girl and the odd bovine would make more sense than a kitten. That's just as out of place as the flowers and dresses and that one day where she even put on lipstick. Now that was odd. "I can pay for her. I'd pay that much for a runner."

Edani just sort of stares at Zapallie, bemused. She's befuddled him by the request far more easily than she did with the dress, though her recent and sudden about-face in her recent behavior sure has confused the heck out of him. He missed the lipstick entirely, sadly. As for the marks, all he knows is her parents are riders and she may get an allowance or something so he doesn't question her ability to pay. "You'd have to stay long enough for her to be weaned from the formula. And be trained to ride. And have her nose ring put in." He's doing rapid calculations in his head, adding, "Might take a full turn." Then, "Suppose the 'hall can send another in her place for the hold. What would you name her?"

"You haven't named her yet?" she says in disapproval. And more disapproval as she backtracks. "Wait? Ring in her nose? She doesn't need a ring in her nose." Fingertips gently touch that wet, soft, wuffly nose. "For shame, a ring!" Zap presses her lips together. "A turn?"

"They just got here this morning," Edani notes, but he chuckles with a headshake nonetheless. He likes bovines, really he does. But he doesn't usually name the ones slated for shipment out. "Well, yeah," he says casually about the nose ring. "Bovines chew cud. So they need their teeth free to do that. A bit would interfere with that. And you need a way to prevent… y'know… stampeding when you’re astride them while in high mountain passes. That could sort of ruin your day. The ring doesn't hurt once healed - as long as they don't pull on the reins." He coughs. Awkward! "You want to think about it? I need to get to class."

Zapallie continues to look disapproving. "That's cruel," she informs him flatly. "Anyway. Let me know if you can sell her to me. We'll talk about it then." She flicks her fingers dismissively. "Get to class." And then after a moment she adds, "Thank you…Edani. For being my friend. I know I'm a pain."

"It's really not. It's like having pierced ears. Really. And it's really for her protection too." How to explain the intricacies of controlling an easily-spooked animal? Instead Edani defers to her whim assuring her, "I'll check on other methods if you'd rather." He's rising then because he's a little late. At her word of thanks a lopsided grin tugs on his mouth and he teases, "How fortunate I'm tough and used to pain, eh?" Then more seriously, while giving her a nudge on the shoulder he adds, "Welcome." And then he steps out quickly, his voice floating back over the door, "Spend as much time as you'd like with her, just let yourself out when you're done.” His boot heels click on the swept stone aisle outside the stall as he heads off on his way.