'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.

Day 13 of Month 7 of Turn 2694

Oh-dark-hundred in the laundry room isn't an altogether bad time to be stuck there doing busywork. Sure, it's kind of lame. Sure, the people who do this job for a living get pretty irate if you bring klah in, on the grounds that they're completely certain you'll spill it all over the clean clothes. And sure, those of your fellow Candidates on laundry duty who don't know what they're doing are likely to leave things pink all over the place, even if they're washing solely black clothes. That's just the way of the laundry room, really.

But it's also nice and steamy, the lights aren't up too high, and aside from the endless noise of water and machinery, it's pretty quiet — this early in the morning, the full hustle and bustle of the crowds of people who just have to have that one shirt clean by just-after-lunch haven't started to show up, half the workers are dozing on their feet, and for a fellow used to drawing the crappiest shifts as a guard, standing on the side of a cliff in an ice storm, well! This is practically a vacation in and of itself. So Kazulen looks pretty pleased with himself, as he stands on a little raised platform over a giant vat, and occasionally pokes at the stuff swimming in the steaming water by means of a long wooden pole.

Zapallie tends to get water dumped on her in the middle of the night a lot. Which means having to haul all of her soaking bedclothes in to the laundry room at oh-dark-hundred. In that mess of wet bedding is a certain blanket Kazulen might have been missing. Now what was it doing on her bed?

That's a good question, but it isn't one that Kazulen is going to notice in order to ask at first. No, first, someone else is going to see Zapallie, and her soaked heap of bedding, and cluck and be concerned all over her, helping her sort everything into the appropriate piles. Some other person will probably thrust a pot of laundry-workers'-brew klah at her, and leave the fourth and fifth parties to lug the heaviest of the blankets off to the appropriate vats. So all in all, probably five or ten minutes' solid fussing have been going on, with aunties clucking and patting poor Zapallie, before Kazulen notices that the blanket he's just tossed into his vat is… his own. "What the shells…?" he mutters, audibly enough to anyone who happens to have attention turned in his direction at the time.

Zapallie looks distinctly uncomfortable when she's fussed over, but she'll sip the klah anyway and murmur a few thank yous and maybe try to inch out when Kazulen is what-the-sharding over there. Clearing her throat she meanders that-away. "Told you I'd bring your blanket back?" Surprise!

"You did," Kazulen agrees, once he's done gawking at her in surprise. "I kind of thought that you were going to try not to have it be any wetter than it was when I lent it to you, though!"

Zapallie shrugs her shoulders and smiles cheekily. "You ought to tell that to whatshisface's girlfriend. Third time this month she's dumped water on me. No, wait… the last time was burned klah."

Kazulen looks nauseous, now. The smell of klah wafting from Zapallie's mug probably doesn't have anything to do with that, though! Right…? Yeah, no. It does. "That's disgusting," he points out, as if she doesn't already know that.

Zapallie glances at her klah mug, shrugs, and takes another drink. "It is," she agrees. "I'm not a fan. I might start bedding down in the stable with my bovine. At least when she drips slobber on me it's because she cares."

"I… didn't know you had one," Kazulen answers, somewhere between bemused and entranced. Somehow, the idea just tickles his funny bone. "I have to say, though, I'm really impressed at how long you've been keeping up your attempt."

"Neither did I. Her name is Larabelle. She's just a baby. Once she's grown, Edani says I can ride her." Who needs a runner! Not Zapallie. "Which attempt is that?"

"When did you end up with a bovine?" Kazulen tries, before answering: "Your attempt at sweetness, innocence, lightness, et cetera, and not getting buckets dumped on you in the middle of the night."

"Oh, that. I gave up. The twat didn't stop, did she? But she's a handy alarm clock." That's…practical. "I bought her, oh, I suppose it was about a seven back… She was just so cute, and I thought to myself well, if I'm going to be travelling Pern, I should have a friend to take with me, right?" And also she's a softie. Who knew.

"Well, the laundry aunties seem to think you're still bearable." Kaz just shrugs, helplessly laughing, because it keeps him from being thrown out of candidacy for beating up idiots. "Have you ever ridden a bovine before?"

Zapallie doesn't seem to be impressed by her own bearability in regards to the laundry workers and doesn't comment. Instead, and quite cheerfully she says, "Oh, Edani has been giving me riding lessons in his spare time. You should SEE the bovine he's got me riding. His name is Holder, and he's a steer, and he's got horns that stick straight out…" she puts her arms up, sticking straight out from her shoulders with her neck pulled in. "And they're about as big around as I am."

At least it's a steer, and not a bull, and at least Kazulen is mostly oblivious to the complexities of the situation anyway! His eyes widen, impressed, right on cue. "I always thought they were supposed to be pretty uncomfortable to ride, though," he tries.

"Oh, well, it's much different than a runner, but with the saddle…" Zap shrugs. "It's not that terrible, at least. And she's very cute." Which makes up for all of it.

"Can you milk her?" Because of course Kazulen thinks that's the most important part of having a riding beast around, other than the comfort of one's pelvic bones. He pokes at the laundry-vat again with his stick.

"I suppose I could, but she'd have to have a baby first." Zapallie ponders this for a moment. "But yes. Theoretically, of course I could milk her." But who wants to drink Yak milk? "So. Laundry duty huh?"

"Somebody's got to do it," Kaz answers vaguely. Does he mean laundry, or yak-milking? Who knows? "Even if it really is just a means of keeping us out of the way for the day." He pauses. "I take it you heard, huh."

Zapallie hasn't, so her head tilts. "Heard what?" (Yes. Shortest pose ever. SORRY.)

"Why I'm on laundry duty." Kaz frowns, looking quizzical. Hasn't she?

Zapallie's eyebrows furrow and then she lets out a huff of disgust. "No. I haven't heard. Who would have told me?" really, does she look like the kind of girl people gossip to? "I assume you're on laundry duty because you're a candidate. Unless you got in trouble and they decided to throw you in a steamy cavern full of cackling aunties just for fun?"

"I'm pretty sure some of the guards I've been working with for the last few turns would consider it a reward, instead of a punishment," Kazulen laughs, while still telling the full truth. (Kinky, huh.) "But yeah. Candidacy once again. This time, I'm going to Impress, though. I can feel it."

Zapallie gives Kazulen a sour look. "Can we not talk about it, please?" Yes, someone's a little angry. "I would have Impressed. If I hadn't been kicked out. They wouldn't even let me stand this time."

"Are they letting you into the stands?" Kaz asks, after wincing apologetically, and busies himself with his stick once more.

"They don't have a reason to keep me out of them. So I guess I'll get to watch all of my friends Impress." Zapallie sighs and downs the rest of the klah, ditching the mug somewhere where she can grab it again later, and then folds her arms, glaring at nothing in particular.

"Or maybe you'll get booted down to the Sands at the last minute to keep your dragon from dying," Kazulen points out, somehow both optimistic and cynical.

Zapallie gives Kazulen an unfriendly look. "That happens… almost never." Alas, Zapallie, not a rider now or possibly ever. Unless she's riding cows.

"True," Kazulen admits, looking guilty. And uncomfortable. And, on the other hand, just because he's certain that he's going to Impress this time, that doesn't mean that he hasn't been Standing again and again for turns already, without luck. "But it does. Ever."

Zapallie shrugs her shoulders. "There's a lot of Candidates, Kazulen. Anyway…" her mouth puckers sourly. "I should go put on something dry and go give Larabelle her morning bottle."

"Auntie Maybelline has been making new sweaters from old yarn," Kazulen tells her abruptly, feeling guilty about spoiling her mood. "I'm pretty sure there's a pretty dark brown one in about your size, and since she's already spoiling you with klah, she probably would be happy to give you the sweater, too."

Somebody feels guilty… about making Zapallie feel bad? This is a historical first. The blond girl gives Kazulen a funny look and admits, "I do like brown." Still, she's not about to go hunt down a stranger to demand a sweater.

"Auntie May!" Kazulen calls, awfully loud for the early-morning hour, without a care in the world for Zap's reticence. Soon enough, the old auntie bustles over, clucking her dismay over the state of Zapallie's sweaterless person, and — as she goes to work — Kaz barely gets a chance to say "I'll see you later, I guess!" before he disappears, with his vat, behind an endless procession of aunties.