'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 - Living Caverns

This cavern, having been created by bubbles in the volcanic flow of this extinct volcano, has a breathtaking ceiling — a vast dome that arches high above the heads of the weyrfolk that scurry around beneath it. A hollow echo can be heard from loud enough noises, and the chatterings of various firelizards are consequently multiplied into a chaotic babble. All in all, the living cavern is a loud place.
Tables are scattered around the room, apparently in no particular order. Over to one side near the kitchens, two medium sized serving tables are constantly spread with snacks, klah, and other goodies. The tables look worn, yet perfectly fitted to the atmosphere of the caverns. In the 'corners' of the cavern, smaller two and four place tables are set up for more private talks or just a less chaotic atmosphere in which to eat.

Winter evenings in Fort Weyr come early with dusk a brief thing and blackness settling much too early. Outside the wind continues to screech around the bowl, sending wisps of snow racing over the ice that coats the frozen mud. It's been one of those days with lessons, drills and exercises enough to leave one both mentally and physically drained. Thankfully Dremkoth is snoozing, so D'ani has been able to have a relaxed hot bath and catch dinner in the caverns tonight. He's seated before the roaring fire with a plate heaped high with roast beast, mashed tubers, rich brown gravy, peas and soft, buttered rolls. Beside that is a small plate with several cookies stacked neatly - dessert - awaiting his clean plate.

"Can I have a cookie?" asks a little girl. She's about ten turns old, with auburn hair and almond-shaped dark brown eyes, and creamy golden skin. She's holding a little bit of sandwich, the rest is presumably in her stomach. She's dressed in a pair of purple curdoroy overalls over a violet sweater. "You're a Weyrling, right? Didn't you get a bronze dragon?"

D'ani has just forked a heaping bite of meat and gravy into his mouth and is savoring that when the voice reaches him. He's fairly zoned out on the fire, too, so it takes him a moment to realize it's him the voice is addressing. "Hmm?" Blink. He turns his head noting the child, doing a quick scan for a parental figure and seeing none, return to her and his brown eyes crinkle in a smile as he hastily chews, swallows and answers, "Ah, sure. Here." And he lifts the small plate, extending it so she can take one if she wants to. "That's a lot of questions, which I'll be happy to answer if you answer one of mine." Dark brows lift questioningly, asking, 'Deal?' "I am a Weyrling and I did. His name is Dremkoth." Now his question, "What's your name?"

"Meat is stinky," the child observes with a wrinkle of her delicate nose. "I don't like it." She grabs one of the cookies and takes a delicate little bite, happily nomming. She nods at his proposed deal. "My name is Daniela," she tells him. "But everybody calls me Dani. What's your name?" She takes a bigger bite of the cookie, leaving crumbs all over her chin and lips.

D'ani has never heard that sort of sentiment before and it takes him momentarily by surprise. He doesn't quite seem to know what to say for a moment. Then he's curious, "Fish too?" He replaces the small dish on the side table after she's taken her cookie and then points to them. "Cook says those are brown sugar with caramel bits in them. Which I've never had before. How are they?" He's worked hard today, growing boy needs growing boy food, so he eats his next bite of meat and tubers with relish. Mmmm! When his mouth is clear, "Dani, is it?" His lips twist in a teasing grin and his eyes dance with an impish light. "Would you believe you've just met a boy with a girl's name? That's my name too." He waits for her response by reaching for one of his rolls and breaks it open, popping half into his mouth.

"Fish is /extra/ stinky," Dani affirms around her mouthful of cookie. "I /hate/ fish." She chews for a few more seconds and swallows, and answers his question. "The cookie is good. I like it a lot." Nomnom coooooookiieeeee. Then she stares at him. "Your name is Dani, too? Oh, eggshells! Do you know what this means?" She props one hand on her hip and cocks her head at him, and sighs.

"I guess… that means you won't be trying sushi with me then," D'ani says in a false-mournful tone. He swipes the second half of his roll in the puddle of rich brown gravy, eats that while listening to her. He swallows again - far be it for him to speak to a lady with his mouth full - and eyes that stance of hers with some trepidation. "Uhhh, not really?" He draws a breath and adds, "If it's bad, though, you can blame Dremkoth. He named me." There's a placating smile for her, both hand lift in a pantomime of 'don't hit me' which also hides his amusement of her.

"What's sushi?" Dani asks. But then she shakes her head, loose auburn curls fluttering around her shoulders. "It /means/ that when I grow up we have to get /married/," she explains, like that's the most obvious thing in the world. Then she takes on a thoughtful pose, weight on one foot, one arm across her stomach, the other hand on her chin, which she taps thoughtfully. "Hmm, except that you're a dragonrider so I guess we can be weyrmates, instead. I'm going to be a rider, too, you know. Someday." She says this like it's a foregone conclusion.

"Sushi is raw fish wrapped around chewy cake of rice and it's delicious-" Then he nearly chokes on the bite he's just taken as he regards Dani with eyes that widen a little and might even be bulging a touch. What IS it with these Weyr girls? "We…do?" So eloquent, isn't he? Absently reaching for one of those cookies he ponders this situation. What to say, what to say? "That's a rule I've never heard of before," he hedges.

"Ewwwwww," Dani says eloquently, not at all impressed by the idea of raw fish. She nods at his question. "Well, I mean, everybody knows that," she says. "You can ask my sister. Of /course/ we have to get married or become weyrmates." She shrugs. "But not until I'm old enough. I have to be at least sixteen, first, okay? So you can have girlfriends until then, but then we have to fall in love."

D'ani won't argue with her about the sushi. To him, most of the time anyway, raw fish is bait. "Everyone but me," murmurs D'ani about knowing the rule as he squints at the cookie for help. It… remains impassive, however. Girlfriends? He peers up at her with a baffled little smile, "That's generous of you, Dani." Pause, "That's really your name, huh?" He lifts a hand to rub the back of his neck. How does he get into these messes anyway?

Dani nods decisively when he compliments her. "Thank you," she says. "Yes, that's my name. Daniela. Everyone calls me Dani. I have a twin sister, you know, except she's not my identical twin. She's taller and her hair is black and she has green eyes. Koven said she's gonna be a knock-out when she grows up, and I think he's right because she likes to rough-house. But /I/ like to draw like my daddy. What do you like to do?"

Oh Daniela! D'ani's mind had been casting around in the dark all this time but now - ah HAH! A glowlight blinks on. "Loophole," he says holding up one finger. "Nicknames do not count to the marry rule. So your REAL name is Daniela, then officially our names are not the same." He considers his cookie. He considers her question. "I like to fish. And eat meat." He smirks and takes a bite.

"My name is Daniela /and/ it's Dani," she says, turning big brown eyes on him. "Nobody calls me Daniela except for Mommy when she's mad." She scuffs her foot. "People called me Dani a long, long time before your dragon named you. He was /just/ born. I mean, hatched." She ignores the comment about the meat. "My gramma has pet fishes. Their names are Kibbles and Bits and Bobs. They're pretty and they make little kissy faces like this." She puckers up her lips, fish-like, and demonstrates. "They eat out of my hand."

Well, that was a fail. D'ani would starve as a lawyer, wouldn't he? His next question is a chipper, "What's it say on your birth certificate?" Hah! He's got her there…right? He can only nod as she elaborates on her name, though he does clarify, "Mine's not quite the same in another way, though. Mine has an apostrophe between the d and the a." Does that get him off the hook? He chuckles at her fishy face, drops his hand back to his lap, munches the cookie while she talks. "I only catch big fish, not pet-type fish. Like this-" he measures about three feet with one hand and the cookie. "Or like…. the giant one Ezra caught. That one could have swallowed you whole, probably." Now she'll probably have nightmares.

"What's a birth certificate?" Dani asks, tilting her head and widening her eyes. She looks longingly at the rest of the cookies. "We /still/ have to fall in love and be weyrmates when I'm grown up." She'll try to pat his shoulder comfortingly. "Don't worry, you have lots of time to get used to it. I'm only ten." She watches him demonstrate the fish sizes. "And… then you let them go, right?" she asks hopefully, and innocence and doe-eyes. "Fish don't eat people. If they tried to eat me Irelanth would scare them away. He loves me, he told me so."

"It's a document the harpers write when you are born. It has your real name, your parents names, where and when you were born. You legal name is on there. Have your mom show it to you." He's not getting anywhere, is he? Speaking of Ezra… D'ani's question is hopeful, "Do you know him? He's much closer to your age and a whole lot cuter than I am, I'm sure. I could… introduce you?" Oh Faranth, there she goes with the doe-eyes. How can he tell her he nearly always keeps his catch? "Um… sometimes." Which is the truth when they're too small or junk fish. He nods about Irelanth. "I'm sure he does-" then it sinks in. "Irelanth is the Weyrsecond's dragon….which makes M'lo your dad?" Well, it's a Weyr, after all, so he won't assume.

"Okay, I'll ask her," Dani promises. She blinks. "Do I know who?" Ezra what, now? She totally missed his name, you know, because she's ten and she was thinking about fish trying to eat her. She'll try to pat his shoulder again. "I think you're very handsome, don't worry," she says reassuringly. She beams and nods. "Yep! He is. And my Mommy's name is Ely, she rides greet Maglinoth. I have my Daddy's eyes." And his lips and chin, and more than a few expressions in common. "Do you know him?"

D'ani turns to look at his patted shoulder, somehow worrying even more when he's called handsome. By a ten turn old. The Weyrsecond's ten turn old. Not reassured here! "Uh, we haven't formally met." The trepidation he's feeling now has nothing to do with the big fancy knot, however. He tries a different track. Distraction, thy name is cookie. He offers her the plate she was eyeing a minute ago. "Cookie? Have the rest, even." There are three or four more there. Ely he doesn't know but he tries to redirect her to Ezra. "He caught the monster fish, the one that fed the whole Weyr - er, except you, of course. It was as long as that table over there." Which is a good seven feet long. "Wouldn't you like to meet a boy who could catch a fish bigger than he is?" Grasping at straws? You betcha!

"My Daddy is so nice," Dani says, all grins. Clearly, she's Daddy's little girl. "He can draw like whoa! He painted our weyr, and it's so pretty. And he has long, pretty hair. I braid it for him in the morning." She looks over at the table that held Ezra's legendary fish, and shrugs. "Irelanth could catch a bigger fish than /that/," she says dismissively. "And anyway, fish is /stinky/. Why would I like a boy who catches stinky fish? They make better pets than food, anyway." Little Dani is near to a roaring fire with Weyrling D'ani, who is holding out a plate of cookies for her. She takes one more. "I don't want that many," she tells him, leaving about three on the plate. "If I eat too many, they make my tummy hurt."

Daddy's little girl, is she? Great! It just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it? Read the headlines: 'Weyrling Shot by Doting Daddy Weyrsecond, News at Eleven'. D'ani squirms a bit in his chair, "Yes, but dragons can do lots of things people can't. Like fly, so it's not really fair to compare them. Besides, Ezra caught the fish with nothing but a hook, a line, his own two hands and… a squid." He replaces the dish on the end table after Dani has taken one and points out, "Actually fresh fish doesn't stink."

Ezra ducks in from outside, lanky limbs and black, turquoise and PINK jacket making him hard to miss even though his lowered head, hair over face and slouching posture all scream 'don't look at me I'm awkward'. Also difficult to miss is his enormous canine that pads along behind him, her ears perked and nosing her boy's pockets. And, surprise, she finds half a sandwich. Nom. Slouching his way to the food tables, Ezra gets in line with a plate, head still down. No one look. Maybe he has a pimple or something.

"Cooked fish is stinky," Dani says. "And I don't like to eat it. Yuck." She wrinkles her delicate little nose again. "Are you going to be Weyrleader someday?" she suddenly asks him. "Look! A dog!" She points to the canine Ezra's got following him, and crouches down. She sticks out a hand that is still holding about two bites of the last bit of a sandwich (egg salad), and says, "Here, doggie! You're so cuuuuuute! Can I pet you? I have a puppy, too!"

"Not if you cook it correctly." D’ani's arguing with a ten turn old, go figure. At least he doesn't mention how sushi is nearly scent-free. But at least D’ani hasn't mentioned the M-word again. "That's Zoi. Ezra must be around-" Spotted! The head down stance is familiar enough to him that he isn't put off one bit. Besides, he's desperate over here. "Hey Ezra," he calls casually, though he doesn't shout it or anything. Zoi gets a low whistle and the offer of one of the cookies the little girl didn't take.

Zoi is all about free food, the gigantic canine lumbering happily over to lick the sandwich from Dani, and then presssss her body right up against D'ani's. She KNOWS him. Lick and nuzzle and all that good canine stuff. Food plate full, Ezra looks around to see where Zoi went, and then D'ani is calling him. The boy perks up immediately, walking with quick strides - until he sees Dani. And then he slows, hesitating, and giving D'ani a 'Uh…what's this?' look. "Um. Hi, D'ani." You other person. Hi.

"Zoiiiiiiii," Dani croons, petting the dog with the kind of happy abandon that kids have. She's smiling so big that the gap of a missing molar is easily seen. "You're a good doggie, yes you are, aren't you?" She beams up at Ezra. Not quite three years younger than him, she's a pretty little girl with an obvious preference for purple, if one can judge by her clothes - purple curdoroy overals and a violet sweater. "Is this your dog?" she asks. "I have a puppy, too. His name is Boots because his feet are white."

D'ani willingly gives Zoi a good ear-rubbing. His empty plate is right there with all sorts of good meat scraps and rich brown gravy, bits of mashed tubers - left unguarded while D'ani makes introductions. "Dani, this is Ezra, Ezra, Dani." And before (hopefully) they go into how similar their names are, he adds brightly, "I was just telling Dani about your fish."

Zoi is in canine heaven, sneaking some licks off D'ani's plate, getting ear rubs, /and/ a pretty girl is patting her. Ezra just blinks at the girl, and then at D'ani. "My fish? Why?" And he sits down beside the bronze weyrling, and blinks at Dani. "Boots is a stupid name." Hi, he's socially awkward.

"Hi, Ezra," Dani says brightly. She wrinkles her nose over the fish again. "It's just a /fish/," she sighs. "I don't even like fish unless they're /pet/ fish like my Grandmother's Kibbles and Bits and Bobs and they make kissy faces and eat out of my hand." Then her lower lip comes out when Ezra insults her dog's name. "It — it is /not/," she says, her voice trembling and water welling up in her eyes. "Why would you say something so /mean/?!"

Why? "Uhh, partly because we were talking about sushi and one subject led to another," D'ani says, rubbing the back of his neck again with one hand. "Well, it was an amazing feat, though Dani. It pulled our canoe for two hours before we finally-" Yeaaah, she's not impressed and there's no awe for Ezra. He fails. Hoping to avert more tears from her, he soothes, "Hey, Dani he wanted to name a cute calf Meat, so don't feel bad." That's his fumbling attempt to comfort the girl while giving Ezra a surreptitious poke and an under his breath sing-songed warning, "Iksnay in the oopidstay?"

Ezra looks totally out of his depth and confused, shooting D'ani another look. And then he looks back at Dani, utterly /baffled/. "What?" What's going on!? Then back to D'ani, while Zoi steals some food off of his own plate. "And then D'ani smashed its head with a bat." See? He can tell a story, too. Though he doesn't get why. "What?" he asks again, blinking at D'ani. Poor boy doesn't even know pig Latin. "Don't cry," he adds, awkwardly. Though it's more for his own sanity than hers.

Dani looks absolutely /horrified/. "You hit a little baby cow on the head with a bat? What is /wrong/ with you? YOU'RE SO MEAN!" She bursts into tears and runs away. Somewhere in there might be something about telling her Daddy. On the plus side, she doesn't want to marry D'ani any more.

"Nono! Not the calf, the… fish…" He trails off as she cries more. He's just as awkward as Ezra when it comes to the waterworks. She's running away. Which might be a relief, except she's probably running to her daddy crying. That bodes ill for him, doesn't it? He could run the other way but M'lo knows where he lives, so there's really no point. He just melts into his chair, slides down, stretches his long legs out and closes his eyes. "Just kill me now," he mutters to Ezra. "I was trying to sidetrack her and get her to forget our names are so alike because she says it's a rule…" he says the next part darkly, "…that we have to be weyrmates someday." After a pause he cracks an eyelid and peeks at Ezra, daring him to point and laugh.

Ezra blinks, his meal forgotten as Zoi slowly eats it alllll. Sneaky little licks and nibbles, then looking to see if he notices. And he doesn't, so another sneaky bite. Ezra frowns, but his initial response of 'I'm not going to kill you!' is stopped by his recently acquired understanding of sarcasm and when someone isn't being serious. So he lets it slide, and then blinks, and then frowns. "You can't weyrmate her," he says firmly. As if it's up to him. "She cries way too much. And you're a bronzerider now. You can do way more better."

D'ani actually groans and rubs his eyes, now closed once more. "She's fourteen turns younger than I am. She'll need someone more her age someday." It's probably a little telling that he starts laughing helplessly then. He… may have lost it? But no, his next comment explains it, "Hotaru latched onto me and started calling me boyfriend and she's ten turns younger. You know that back home I'd have a fishing spear though my guts from over-protective fathers for this sort of thing?" He snorts into a sniggering attempt to quit laughing and utterly fails. Faranth help him if M'lo finds him laughing after his daughter weeps about 'mean boys in the caverns'.

Ezra doesn't quite get the joke, but he chuckles along with. His friend is laughing, so he'll laugh too. "It's because girls like you because you're great," he finally says, when the laughter has eased a bit. "But…um. Yeah. Someone…closer to your age. Like…" Inri? "Someone your age." He pauses, and then frowns. "Why? You haven't done anything with them. You're too good a guy to do that."

And speak of the devil. M'lo sweeps into the cavern, locks his eyes on D'ani and Ezra, and comes toward them with a deadly calm, his gaze laser-sharp. He's a good-sized man, in the prime of his life, well-muscled and long-limbed. "D'ani," he says. Yeah. He knows who he is. "And… Ezra, I presume?"

He's great? Wow. "Thanks buddy," D'ani really means it. "I'm not even worried about hooking up, man. Dremkoth keeps me pretty busy." As for doing anything with little girls, "I haven't," D'ani assures Ezra vehemently with a snort. As if! "Are you kidding? They're just babies! Holders are pretty strict about things like that. And most dads are too." Ut oh! He spots the Weyrsecond - the knot is a dead giveaway - and he’s sort of expecting him anyway. He rises, stands ramrod straight and salutes, one of D'ani's smartest ones ever executed. "Yessir!" He doesn't even try an ingratiating grin. Nope. He wants to live.

Ezra turns his head when M'lo arrives, and he sets his plate down and scrambles to his feet to stand solidly beside his friend. Got your back, buddy. "Hi, yeah, I'm Ezra Stonehaven," he says, tacking on his last name like he usually does. "He didn't do anything!" he adds.

M'lo folds his arms and does his best to look imposing. He's had this job for turns, and practice has made perfect. "Would you boys mind telling me why my little girl ran to me crying about you calling her dog's name stupid, and braining cows, and being, as she put it, 'mean'?

D'ani is nothing if not truthful. "Dani is a sweet, cute little girl," he says evenly. He shoots Ezra a sidelong look. "Sir, Ezra is as entitled to his opinion as Dani is to hers; she feels meat is stinky and Ezra feels Boots is a dumb name; that's pretty much it. But she simply misunderstood the cow part." He takes a deep breath. "It was a actually… a stinky fish. If you tell her that I'm sure she'll feel better?" He's not exactly sure of that, so he tacks on helpfully, "She, ahhh… proposed to me and I wasn't as enthusiastic as she'd have probably liked." It's all as clear as mud now, isn't it?

Ezra frowns at M'lo, crossing his arms over his scrawny chest. "I thought it was a stupid name. And she thought fish were stupid. And yeah, I was talking about D'ani hitting the /fish/ on the head. The huge fish I caught. It was this big." Arm spread, and streeeetch. "She thought I was talkin' about the cow. Calf. Baby cow. But I wasn't. D'ani would never do that to a baby cow. Never ever. And then she cried and ran away." And he rubs a hand over his forehead, still looking baffled as he tries to figure this out. "Are all girls that…confusing?" he asks, looking hopefully up at M'lo and then to D'ani.

For a long second M'lo just levels them with a Look. Then he lifts a hand to rub his chin, /exactly/ the same way his daughter did not ten minutes ago. "Alright, that sounds plausible. I'll explain the misunderstanding to her, and tell her to lay off with the marriage proposals." He gives D'ani a curious look and quirks his eyebrow. "Why… did she want to marry you?" he asked. "You've got to be twenty-five turns old?" Then he turns to Ezra. "Yes. Girls are confusing. Their brains are more highly developed than ours are… they think in mysterious ways. I'd advise you to find more tactful ways of telling little girls that you don't like things that they obviously do like. Calling things 'stupid,' especially their beloved pets, will seldom end well. You're lucky it was Dani. Mila would have punched you."

Oh they are! Make no mistake about that, says D'ani's return look to Ezra. But he's wise enough not to say aloud that girls are nuts most of the time right in front of her father. Highly-developed though. That nearly makes him choke. "They think with their emotions, which isn't necessarily more developed." It's stated firmly with the "Sir" tacked onto that respectful disagreement. "Uhmn," he's back to uneasy, rubbing the back of his neck again, "Dani thinks that because our names are the same that means we have to get married." Confusing? They're NUTS. But he won't say that. Not with the father of the girl in question standing so imposingly RIGHT there. Though he will blurt out, "You have to explain to her that I can't promise to weyrmate her when she's sixteen, Sir. She'll listen to you." Won't she? That teenage insanity-thing hasn't kicked in yet, so in his mind, she'll listen and believe her own father. If she doesn't, he's DOOMED.

Ezra perks up immediately. "There's girls that punch? I woulda understood THAT!" It's the crying he doesn't understand. He turns to blink at D'ani, and then to M'lo. "That's a stupid reason to weyrmate someone! She can't trap him like that! Just 'cuz their names are the same. That'd be confusing, too. Saying, 'Hi, Dani,' and them together and not knowing who you're talking to…"

"Oh, yes, and men are nothing but pure logic," M'lo drawls sarcastically. He shakes his head a bit at D'ani. "Women can do everything we can. We can do everything they can… except bear children. There's just something about their brains that makes them that much more fit for the job. So yes, in my opinion, more highly developed. Not exponentially, or anything. But still." He shrugs. "That's besides the point. They are mysterious. So be nice, and you'll mostly be safe, got it?" He blinks at D'ani for a second, and then tosses his head back and laughs. "Yes, yes, don't worry. I'll convince her that you're no good for her. She'll lose all interest in you soon enough, anyway. She's only ten, man." He turns to Ezra and nods. "Dani's twin, Mila. A little taller, with brownish black hair and green eyes." So, not identical twins, then. He listens patiently to Ezra's little rant, eying the boy in a fatherly sort of way. "There you go with 'stupid' again. Look, you two. I have to get back to work. Next time you encounter a little girl, just be nice. Go along with what she says, treat it like a fun game you're playing and so will she… and for Faranth's sake, don't call her stupid. Or the things she likes." He shakes his head at them and turns to go.

D'ani didn't quite mean that logic was better than emotion, nor did he mean to imply men are never emotional or women are never logical. He merely meant that neither male nor female brains were 'more highly developed' than the other. "Absolutely," he agrees about women doing everything a man can do, even if he'd beg to differ on a point or two. Like their brains have anything to do with child bearing. Now is not the time. He just nrrrgs quietly about the 'more fit for the job' comment. The Weyrsecond is entitled to his opinion too, even if D'ani doesn't agree. His "Thanks Sir" is dripping with sarcasm that he doesn't try to hide. He's got his pride and the label 'no good' is an insult. If they were in a hold and he hadn't impressed, he'd challenge that with a duel. His eyes flash and he asserts firmly, "We were nice. I will not be false just to placate an overly-sensitive female who jumps to the wrong conclusion. We are as entitled to our opinions as she is. Sir." He salutes curtly and also turns to go, not stopping even if he is recalled. He'll comment that Dremkoth is calling and continue on out if the man tries to stop him.

Ezra is very confused, looking between M'lo and D'ani. But in the end, of course he hastens after his friend - and hope that he can explain everything to him.