Fort Weyr - Gardens
A sturdy wooden door leads out to a peculiar section of the Weyr that's clearly taken some time to construct. Rather similar to the Weyr's bowl — though much, much smaller in scope — the space has been filled with all manner of garden goodness. Here, the air is redolent with the hum of trundlebugs and the spicy-sweet aromas of the herbs and spices that are flourishing. Sage, spiceroot, rosemary, thyme, and more make their home here; so, too, does comfrey, chamomile, mint, and a smattering of tea plants.
It is, for the most part, a purely utilitarian garden — the herbs grown are for the cooks and Healers alike to put to use. Each row is clearly labeled with plastic signs that are changed out seasonally as old plants are removed and new ones put in. Some plants are potted in half-barrels, while others make their home in the soil itself; all of them are well-tended not only by the gardeners, but also those cooks and Healers with a hand for them. Stone pavers have been used to sculpt walking paths between the rows, giving a further sense of organization to the place.
Yet, no garden would be complete without flowers and a small section has been set aside purely for those with a green thumb to experiment with floral creations that have no useful purpose than to look pretty. A gate leads to that portion of the garden, with a woven trellis laced with delicate pink blossoms arching over it. Across from the flower garden is the vegetable garden, where a large shed and a storage structure can also be spotted.

Surprisingly - or perhaps not so surprising - Harmony's place of escape has become the place where delicate blossoms weave over the trellis that separates the functional from the purely aesthetic plants. If not the kitchens, the gardens have slowly become the sanctuary for a girl who's attitude often leaves her out-of-place. With trimming sheers, the pink-attired Candidate is cutting blooms for an attractive bouquet. The autumn late-morning air is crisp barely touched by Rukbat's weak, watery warmth.

"Oh, that's lovely," comes a voice out of nowhere — or from around a corner toward the gardens' entrance, anyway. Inyri emerges from behind a bush, carrying a small bag of herbs and looking a bit tired; there are slight bags under her eyes and weary creases on her face. It's not apparently stopping her from being out and about and functional, though — she might even be doing chores, gathering herbs for something besides a nice smell. "Those flowers, I mean. You're good at matching colors."

Strictly speaking, it might not be entirely proper for Harmony to be raping the pretty plants of their blooms, hence the quick rise and tuck of the sheers when Inyri arrives. Eyes lose some circumference when giving a narrow look to Inryi, as if to assess the other girl's chance to tell. When complimented, ruffled feathers ease, and the hand holding the sheers drops from behind her back. "Thank you. I like to use them when dressing a formal dinner. Even if they are inedible, flowers add a certain," she pauses, reaching for the word, "class." Astute, Harmony is not. So notice of the other Candidate's condition is something that probably will come at a later time. "Are you here for flowers too?"

While she might unofficially be Th'ero's worm for other purposes than this, telling on candidates isn't really something Inyri's likely to do. Not for something so harmless, anyway! Harmony is safe. "I came to get herbs for soup," she says, with a slight rolled-shoulder shrug, "but wasn't given the whole recipe, so I'm not sure what kind of soup. I think I've seen fancy flowers on plates before, too, but only in drawings — I probably thought they were garnishes, honestly."

"For my exams, I have to know how to dress up or down a course," Harmony explains, simply. "What soup did you need herbs for?" Curiosity overcomes her natural desire to self-indulgence. "I can probably help," primly added but not without an ocean of self-confidence. Finally, the less-than-observant Candidate notices the other's sleep-deprived condition. "Not sleeping well?" It's awkwardly asked, if only because it goes against the desired state of self-discussion and not from any true rancor.

"Some sort of tomato? Tomato and some kind of seed." It might be barley, or something along those lines, but Inyri either has forgotten or wasn't actually told right. She squints a moment, considering the herbs as if they're going to give her more information; they don't, which should be a surprise to no one but seems to be a bit frustrating to her. "Hm? Me — oh. Yes, the barracks are loud," serves as an answer, though a beat later she supplies more information: "I'm a terribly light sleeper and I'm not used to people talking at all hours. /Still/. I feel like I haven't gotten much good sleep in months, though I went to Western for a little while and /that/ was nice, because it wasn't the candidate barracks."

"A tomato soup?" Harmony queries, brows drawing together in concentrated frown. "You should," because the baker-Candidate has the power to change what's on the menu, "get the ingredients for a tomato bisque soup. Let's see, you'll need some onion, fingerroots, celery, garlic and some" Trailing off, the well-manicured finger of one hand taps her teeth in thought, " parsley, thyme, bay leaf and I believe, some pepper and salt. Plus everything else. Actually." Some conclusion is come to, "I'll help you get the ingredients in a bit. I've got some ideas for the cook anyway." Only one thing Harmony likes to talk about more than herself, and that's cooking. "Oh, well, yeah. The barracks are obnoxious, but that's why I brought stuff to plug my ears with." Her nose wrinkles, "Most folks have /no/ respect for a girl's beauty sleep."

"Earplugs." Inyri is now staring at Harmony like she's been deified. "That is /brilliant/. Why didn't I think of that, ever? Ages of torture and I could've just tried /ear plugs/." She's annoyed a bit, now, but it's at herself and obviously so, since Harmony is still getting nothing but smiles. And curious, head-tilted consideration as far as soup goes. "There are tomatos ready for use in the kitchen, I know that much already — I'd hate to interrupt the flower-gathering on behalf of someone else's soup, though. I don't even know if we get to eat it, though I'd hope so. Especially as that sounds fantastic." She leans in to take a quick sniff of some fancy pink flower, giving it a satisfied smile.

Harmony /preens/. Nothing the girl likes better than praise. "Thank you. I use an eye mask too." Though an eye mask seems to be a fairly more common choice. "The eggs have got to be hard now," the whining pitch to her tone is not new, but spikes in this context, "I'm really tired of doing crappy chores that I'd never have to do." She holds up one hand for Inyri's inspection, "My nails are all gone. /Gone/." Oh, the litany of her endless tale of woes. She does pause, though, and grudgingly say, "Then lets not interrupt ourselves. I can cook the same soup for us later." A sparkle of mischief comes to eyes of beryl, "Just for /us/." As in, no one else. "Did you," hesitation crests in a pause, "Touch the eggs?"

Inyri can sympathize to the plight of nails, as well — "I have to redo mine daily, and got snapped by a spiderclaw a couple times so I had to cut them all to match, too." Sigh. It is clearly Vanity Fest in the gardens, or at least fingernail commiseration time. "Private soup sounds even better, though I'm guessing you don't need this much of things," she says, waving the list in the air for Harmony to look at if she wants; the requested amounts of herbs are enough to feed a small army. "And. Yes. Just once, but. Creepy, right?"

"And I'm not even going to mention my /hair/," Harmony moans, putting a hand up to her blond locks. "I miss the sweet soap I used at home." She clucks her tongue in sympathy when Inyri shows her own shorn fingernails off. "It's not fair. Candidates should be pampered." A look is slanted from beneath the fringe of golden lashes. "We're about to go through this whole thing and some of us might Impress. So we should be," wait for it, "pampered." It's their right! "Nah, I won't even bother with that list. I have it all up here," she gives a light tap to her temple, "and besides I don't trust the kitchen staff to know how to make a *real* tomato bisque soup." There goes that ego again. "Once for me too," she adds, sheering off a bloom from a bush. It's a pretty lavender one that's tucked away in her bouquet like a prize. "One of them made me feel real good. Like I was on display for all of my accomplishments." Preen. Preen. Preen. Harmony adores self-congratulation!

"I actually sort of agree with that." Inyri doesn't appear to have really considered it much before, but she's had at least one other conversation questioning the validity of chores, and so why not keep doing it? "I mean, we're putting our lives at stake. That's what going out on that sand is. Signing up to potentially die. I know grunt work is supposed to build character and prepare you for weyrlinghood, but some people might get mauled and die rather than Impress and should they not have a nice last few months of their lives, y'think?" Her view on hatchings may be a bit more morbid than most people's. "I most distinctly remember the one that laughed at me affectionately and the one that gave me a splitting headache."

Horror brings a stricken look to Harmony's pretty features. "We could," wait for it, "/die/?!" That last is screeched out as a high-noted sopranic syllable that quivers on the air between the girls. All talk of the eggs and the emits they've given are forgotten in this single, newly uncovered fact. It would seem that this Candidate has lived under a rock - or just hasn't ever paid attention. "We're getting set out like lambs to a slaughter in front of /killer/ dragonets?!" Exaggeration is an artform.

Now Inyri looks a little bit surprised, as well as a little bit concerned — somehow that detail went past people? "They — yes," she tries to explain gently, expression softening. "Dragonets kill people sometimes. I don't think it's that common, but it happens. The unimpressed hatchlings are really dangerous! Did nobody /ever/ tell you that? That's negligent. Person who Searched you should have." Not that Th'ero or Dtirae told /her/, but on the other hand, she had made it pretty clear that she already knew. "Getting hurt is something I almost thought we were supposed to expect. Claws and starvation everywhere and all. I want it to be over, but I'm also not really looking forward to being talon bait."

Regardless of being told, it's not like Harmony's all that sharp at paying attention to the details. Hence the continued expression of comical horror. "Dear great Faranth! You're saying," now she straightens so that what slight height she has is used in maximum, "that we're going to be standing in front of /killer/ dragonets?!" Nope, that point is getting hammered home. Imagine, CSI: Pern. The case of the killer dragonets. "Um." Flummoxed, Harmony bites her lower lip and then: "I think we should form a plan." Wait, what?

"Like an escape? I don't think we could," Inyri answers honestly, though she's definitely interested in where this conversation might be going. She's also started actually idly chewing on one of the long, stalk-type plants she's got in her hands without even realizing what it is. It's safe to eat, at least. "I don't know that anyone here has died in a very long time," is added, gently. "Though I suppose we could ask. Do we really want to know?"

"No, no, no, not escape," Harmony waves that thought away. "I'm talking about /protection/." She motions Inyri closer, high-pitched voice dropping to a sweet whisper. "You see, there are a lot of us," presumably, Candidates, "and even if we escaped, we're here to see if we'll become dragonriders so that's moot anyway. I think what we should do is use the others to our advantage." Dramatic pause. "Meat shields." Get it now? "We'll just hang back behind everyone and if the dragonets go on a killing rampage," again with the exaggeration, "they'll get hacked up first." See where this is going? "Pff. Do you think they'd actually tell the /truth/? I'd imagine that weyrs would downplay this. So we gotta be prepared." Not always the brightest crayon in the box is our Harmony.

That is — actually not a bad idea, as far as Inyri is concerned. Standing in the back isn't really conspicuous or anything! Someone's always in the back, right? "That's actually what I said, if I'm remembering right; that of course people see candidacy as an honor but it can also be a death trap and it's bad for public relations — it makes sense not to talk about something that's bad PR, though. And that's not a bad plan; there are enough really tall people that they'd definitely not be too hard to just stay behind." Faranth forbid one of the dragonets wants Harmony or Inyri enough to actually kill someone in order to get them out of the way.

Imagine the chaos that would ensue should a dragonet want either girl that much! Harmony nods her head, eyes bright, "See? This way we'll protect ourselves and not have to find out if anyone's actually died." Because it's not like Harmony really wants to know. Not really. Confidence is quick to return, however, in the face of having A Plan. "Now we can't tell *anyone* about this." She pauses, intensity of gaze resting firmly on Inyri. "Or otherwise, they'll do it too and before you know it, all the big ones will be in the back. And the small fries," the 'littler' candidates, "are easier to take out. So you want the big dumb meaty ones up front." Like Khyonai.

"Secret keeping is one thing you can count on me for." Which may seem like a strange statement when Inyri is the go-to for Weyr gossip — or else, she was when she worked at the tavern — but even with that, she does know a lot of things she doesn't pass on, and so a lot of people /have/ come to trust her. Rightfully. "I'd rather not get mauled, so I'm not going to encourage huge people to try to hide behind me." There are a million guards in this candidate class. They can die.

The firm head nod is all that's needed to show that Harmony's in agreement. "Exactly. Perfect." She sweeps up her bouquet and offers, "Now, let's go make that soup. I know a secret stash of ingredients that I found" Eyes sparkle as lips curve into a knowing grin. And if Inyri will allow, Harmony'll lead the other Candidate back towards the kitchens. Talking non-stop about food and herself and whatever Inyri might be able to interject in. Quite possibly mentioning killer dragons. Yes, the army of guards can totally die for a good cause: Inyri and Harmony's continued non-mauled safety!

'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.