Old Enough


Bowen.jpg Cheusia.jpg Fiala.jpg

Date: 12/15/10
Location: EW: Main Entrance
Synopsis: Bowen and Cheusia are returning to the Weyr at the end of one of their rides just as a group of traders arrive, bringing with them a girl, Fiala, and her ponies. Introductions are made with the guards and it's learned that the traders aren't quite as noble for letting her come along with them as was first seeming.
Rating: PG
Logger: Bowen

Of course, there are hunters who make their living supplying the tanners of the world with hides, but that doesn’t mean Bowen doesn’t enjoy his own hunting excursion or late morning ride with his own new wife, helping her to learn how, now and again as their schedules allow. Such is this late morning ride with Bowen on his rust-colored speckled gelding, what another world and time would recognize as a blanket-patterned Appaloosa. Cheusia is on an older, sturdy mottled grey gelding. As they approach the Weyr at an easy pace, it’s clear Bowen is keeping a close eye on Cheusia and her runner, ready to reach out and grab the reins should the sedate gelding startle for some reason, but he appears genuinely pleased with Cheusia’s progress so far, and says as much in his soft, sotto voice, thick with an accent belonging to Southern Hold, “Gettin’ bett’r ev’ry day, Che.” When they started out this morning, it was warm and sunny. But they had to cut their ride a little short now that it was drizzling. Still warm, at least, this being the summer months on this continent, but it is a muggy warm now with the drizzle.

Cheusia is at ease on her own runner, more satisfied with her abilities now that more practice has been had. Che smiles over at her husband and nods, "thanks, Bo. It's cause you're such a great teacher." She promises with a loving smile sent over in his direction. The muggy rain has no entirely put a damper on her mood, even enjoying it from the looks of it.

Another party approaches the Weyr, larger than the pair on their geldings. A short line of traders, an ox-drawn wagon, and at the rear, three fine ponies, one drawing a small cart and the other two pack-laden. There is a slight figure leading the ponies, a dusty girl in travel-stained clothing. Though the rest of the group are adult males, brawny, deeply tanned, dark of hair, the girl is tiny in comparison, fair-skinned and red-haired. She stops, looking up, and she shivers despite the warmth of the day.

“Naw,” Bowen says with warmth in his blue eyes for Cheusia, “Yer a pure nat’ral, Darlin’.” He gives Ashes, the grey that Cheusia rides, a surveying look for a moment but quickly returns his attention to the road ahead as they approach the entrance proper, nodding with a little tip to his hat in respect to the men who stand guard there. But a woodsman and survivalist at heart, Bowen recognizes the tale-tell sign of another group on the road behind them, perhaps the way Strider, his gelding, twists his ears at some noise behind them, or the heavy clop of hooves against hard-packed ground from an ox. He turns his head slightly, blue eyes settling a gaze for the road behind them over his shoulder, taking note of those who are coming along, and pulls up alongside the road and out of their way. The fact is, not having a wagon or cart of their own, Bowen and Cheusia could easily move on ahead and at a faster pace, but with recent events as they are, the stocky tanner chooses to wait on the side of the road and hear out what the group has to say to the guards at the entrance by way of introducing themselves and stating their business. He hasn’t missed the ponies or the girl with them, but his interest is plainly on the men in the group. With a slight tension in his shoulders, he motions Cheusia to come alongside him and wait with him.

Cheusia laughs with delight and shakes her head, "nah." She says in response before chuckling. Those approaching behind her are unnoticed, unlike with Bowen, she's not entirely used to paying attention to such things. That and Bowen would keep her safe. The motion is noted and she guides the runner to remain by Bowen's side, giving her husband a curious and questioning look but she says nothing verbally. Looks are enough.

The group comes up to the pair, and one of the traders nods his head. He looks between the riders and the guard. "I'm Orric, a trader out from Southern. Have goods to trade, fine goods to trade. Cloth, boxes, pretty things, eh? And got three ponies to trade too. Fine beasties, originally Keroon stock." He glances back as the girl gives a dry-mouthed squeak of protest. "You can buy out her contract with me, too, if you like. She's useless, but young enough to learn, maybe." He folds his arms, waiting, while the girl shakes her head over and over.

Bowen makes no threatening gestures, and the geldings for that matter look more interested in getting out of the drizzle and getting some oats in their bellies. Tugging his hat down a little lower as more rain dribbles off the brim, he gives Che a reassuring look that belies the tension remaining in his shoulders, and then looks back at the group. As Orric speaks, Bo looks to him, giving him a nod in return. But he remains quiet and he doesn’t look to Fiala as she squeaks in protest. It’s one of the two burly guards who speaks back, nodding in return, “Well met, Orric. Traders are welcome here, even the independent ones.” He presses his lips together a little at the talk of the girl and buying out her contract, then says, “I’ll leave that detail up to the Headwoman. Afternoon meal should be set soon in the Living Cavern,” and the guard gestures in that direction, “You’re going to want to put the ponies and the oxen in one of the paddocks the Beast Manager runs, that’s Max, unless you want to pay for stabling. If you’re going to be staying longer than a few days, you need to meet with the Headwoman. That’s Indira.” He makes a point to get the names of all the other men in the trading party and then adds, “You heard about our troubles several months ago?” The guard’s mouth working as if tasting something bitter, “Keep your noses clean and you’ll remain welcomed here.” Then the guard stares down the line of the group to the girl, “What’s your name?”

Cheusia looks to the group, looking to the girl for a long moment before looking back to Bowen and returning the smile. A hand is held out towards her husband, and she tilts her head upwards, looking to the rain and attempting not to eavesdrop on the conversation.

The girl gives another squeak, and she shrinks against one of the ponies a moment. Then she draws herself straight, and she licks her lips. "Fiala," she manages, her voice breaking. She takes a water-skin and drains it, swallowing briefly; there was not much water left. "Eldest child of Finn, cotholder at Southern. I… I've run away, sir…. and these… these be my ponies, given me by my father, and I've let them be used for burden-beasts… in change for 'llowing me to come with them. Ain't had any of their food nor drink nor anything, sir. Please don't let them sell me, or my ponies." The words tumble out of her mouth, and she takes a few heaving breaths when she has finished, trembling like a leaf.

Bowen’s lips curl up in a faint smile, and as Cheusia reaches for him, he takes her hand in his own. His other hand remains on the reins of his mount. Bo makes no bones about eavesdropping. His attention returns to the head trader, or at least the mouthpiece for the rest of them. That is until Fiala begins to speak of Southern and running away and all of that smacking too familiar for comfort. He looks down the line at her at the end and frowns thoughtfully. The guard, meanwhile, narrows his eyes a little, “Given to you, not stolen? That better be the case, girl and we not find out otherwise.” The guardsman looks over at Orrick as if to see if the mouthpiece means to challenge anything the girl said, and then to Bowen then, the guardsman arching his eyebrows a little in silent question, and the tanner just nods, “I reckon we’re headin’ in th’ same d’rection an’ ken help y’all get sorted an’ settled den, mebbe.” He glances to his wife, “Whuddya think?” There’s a twinkle of humor in his eyes now, and some of the tension eases from his frame.

"She had their papers, the transfer to her name, that she showed us, and she signed them and herself over to us," counters Orric, and he snaps his fingers. One of the other men brings over some parchment, transfer papers and a contract.

But again Fiala shakes her head. "I… I can't read. I can write my name, sure, but I can't read. They said they'd keep the papers in case there were questions." She turns to look at the two riders, then, and gives them a hopeful smile. "I'm good with runnerbeasts, though, been working with them all my life. I'd be happy to take care of yours. Really." Then she bites ar her lip. "Please?"

The two guards and Bowen exchange looks to suggest something about all that doesn’t sit right with them, but they aren’t exactly kicking the group out. Yet. It’s when Fiala talks again that Bowen’s general unease shifts to downright displeasure and he looks from her to Orric. There’s a few heartbeats pause and then he asks, “Dat true?” in a tone to suggest he doesn’t brook any nonsense on the matter, even though it could very well look like he is usurping some of the guard’s authority here. Of course, few would know that Bowen makes enough trips in and out of the Weyr for small game or riding practice with Cheusia that he’s gotten to be on familiar terms with all the guards, even if most of them are in Max’s security circle and most know that he and Max are sort of on the outs right now. It doesn’t keep him from looking sternly at Orric right now. Something has sort of set the tanner off, well, about as much as anything can set the usually stoic, quiet man off. Meanwhile, one of the guards steps over to Orric and the other trader, seeking to take a look at these supposed papers Fiala signed. The other guard who has been quiet so far casts a speculative look at Fiala, “Ya said you ran away? How old are you?” Perhaps thinking the Headwoman might be able to figure out some kind of protection for the girl.

Cheusia is quiet, more for the fact that she's uneasy than anything. She's letting Bowen do the talking and leading, simply looking like the submissive wife.

Grumbling, Orric hands over the papers. "Just trying for a few more marks off of the journey. That's all…" He glares at the girl, a venomous expression, but he warily and wisely keeps his distance.

The girl lifts her head a little more to look up and the guard, and then she flushes and looks down again. "F-fourteen, sir," she stammers. "Old enough to be promised to someone with land. Old enough to be married off in a couple of years. I heard them talking about having found someone, so I ran. Please… may I stay? I promise I'll be useful!"

Bowen’s blue eyes harden at Orric, but he is his usual slow self in making a verbal response. Those few heartbeats pass and he leans forward a little in his saddle, “Ya dun took ‘vantage uhva girl whut cain’t read, fella?” He seems to be thinking of saying more, but Fiala’s follow-up words break through and it draws his attention from Orric to Fiala. Bowen frowns a little more, lifting a gloved hand to draw down over his face under the brim of his hat and sighs audibly before he looks at Cheusia as if to ask her ‘what the shards is this world coming to?’ though it remains unspoken.%R%R”That’s not a call for us to make,” the guard who asked Fiala her age says, though appears sympathetic, “Not long term, I mean.” The first guard is reviewing the papers he’d been given, frowning a moment before shrugging and handing them back to Orric. “Go on through, get settled, get a warm meal in your stomachs. I’ll let the Headwoman know and she’ll sort it all out.” Then he offers a reassuring smile to Fiala, “Don’t worry. I bet it will work out fine. Welcome to Eastern.” Then both guards resume their posts around the tunnel entrance, and the one who had been speaking most waves them on through.

"I'd like my papers back, please," Fiala says primly, looking to Bowen, then the guard, then back again. "They ain't his. Aren't." She sighs, biting at her lip, then offers a weary smile to the man and woman horse-back, then the guards. "And I'm sorry. Thank…." She folds her hands. "Thank you for your gracious welcome, and health and… pro… pros… prosperity to the Weyr." She takes the ponies' reins, stumbling a little in weariness, then looks to the other two. "Shall I take care of your runners, too? I know how. My father's speciality is racers. So I know full-sized ones too, not just ponies."

Cheusia is narrowing her eyes at Orric, slowly coming to glare. But, again, saying nothing and remaining the submissive wife. She looks to Bowen, shrugging in response for his look and then heaving a sigh. To Fiala, she smiles sweetly and shakes her head. "I don't think we'll be needing it." She glances at Bowen for confirmation.

“Give ‘er her papers back,” Bowen says after a little pause, “now,” which is practically growled out while looking at Orric again. He doesn’t put his hand on his knife or anything so blatantly threatening, just lets his stocky size and rough tone do all the intimidating necessary. He keeps his blue-eyed gaze on Orric until the papers are back in Fiala’s hands and assuming they do get returned, Bowen then looks over at her, nodding with Cheusia’s words. He’s still not looking terribly happy, only now he’s turning that displeased look onto Fiala, “Ya should be back home, under yer Ma and Pa’s roof, is whut ya should be doin’, fool girl, not lookin’ aft’r runners an’ ponies an’ gettin’ fleeced by ne’er-do-wells, but yer here now an’ I reckon t’aint nuthin’ ta be dun fer it. I reckon ya ken show me whut ya s’pos’d ta know by handlin’ our runners now, an’ I’ll tell Max if’n I think ya might do well as one of ‘is stablehands. Aw-right?”

"Don't mean any disrespect, sir, but I don't see much difference being bargained off by traders or being married off by my parents for land," answers Fiala, taking the papers and tucking them inside her dress. She eyes the traders, then sets about unfastening the packs and the small cart. "All right, sir. I'll do my best, sir." She leans against her dusty pony, closing her eyes a moment, then nods. "Could you show me the way?"

Cheusia turns a look to Bowen as he speaks, narrowing her eyes on her husband now. "Bo." She starts, "she's old enough to make her own decisions on where she wants to go. This is a learning experience for her on being alone." She tilts a look to Fiala, smiling. "You should see the Harpers and learn to read so that you don't have this happen again, should you ever decide to leave again."

Frowning again, Bowen looks from Fiala to Cheusia, muttering something incomprehensible under his breath a moment that probably falls just short of accusing women of having some kind of magic mental link akin to the one dragons and riders have that has them all in cahoots together. Women. Hmph. The weyrtanner still has his moments, it seems. After a long pause, he just shakes his head a little, then knees Strider forward, back onto the road, forcing a few of the traders to move back or get stepped on, “Come on, den,” he says to Fiala, and then looks to Cheusia, slightly grumbling, “Let’s get outta dis drizzle b’fore I end up sick in one of yer ‘firmary beds with Jon’van lookin’ at me all funny. I don’t wanna hafta punch him out. It’ll mean you’ll hafta work more shifts.” Then he gives a meaningful look of warning to Orric and the rest of his band of traders, and trots Strider on through the tunnel, leading Fiala and Cheusia to the Beast Caverns.

"Aye, sir," answers Fiala, nodding her head. She offers the woman a shy smile. "Thank you. And… I s'pose I should. I… I should have learned. It's a… a long story." She hunches her shoulders, then leads her ponies, following after Bowen. Her stomach growls loudly, and she gives a shake of her head. "Thank you… both of you."

Cheusia laughs softly at her husband. "You can punch him out if it makes you feel better, love." What a lovely Healer she is, offering up her fellow Healer like that. Orric is also given a look before she's making to follow after her husband. "You're welcome. There's food in the Living Caverns after we get settled." She turns to smile at the girl before focusing forward.

Once they get through the tunnel and up into the Beast Cavern's proper, Bowen dismounts, giving Fiala and her ponies a look before letting Strider's reins go, knowing the steady gelding wasn't going anywhere, and stepping up next to Ashes and Cheusia, holding one hand out to help his wife dismount. "I'm Bowen," he practically grunts to Fiala, "Dis is m'wife, Cheusia. Journeywoman Cheusia ta yerself, though."

"Yes, sir. Bowen, sir. And Journeywoman Cheusia. Aye." Fiala bobs her head, then looks around. "May I know where I might keep my ponies, and I'll just get them watered, if I might, and then tend to yours? They've had a long journey and they're thirsty." She takes off her pack and sets it in a corner, shaking a bit, looking far more tired than the ponies. "And any spare corner'll do for me, honest. Past few years I've slept in the stables; Father said 'tweren't proper for boys to be sleeping with girls once girls got their chests filling out."

Cheusia takes Bowen's hand and dismounts easily, smiling lovingly at the man. Even if he may still be a little bristled with her. The introductions are met with a sigh, but this time she doesn't offer protest for him stating for her to be called by her rank. "You will speak with the Headwoman. She'll get you sheets for your cots in the Dorms and then you'll see Max about getting a job as a stablehand. You're not going to be sleeping in a corner."

After one of his customary pauses, this one with Bowen cringing a little as the girl talks of chests filling out, the tanner says, “Max is th’ Beast Manager. I reckon he’s gonna have ya put ‘em in th’ north paddock,” and Bowen nods in that direction, down the aisle, “he rents out th’ stables. Fer now, though, ya ken get some of th’ buckets of water they keep down that way fer personal runners kept in here.” Luckily, Che has slipped her way into Bo’s heart to such a degree that the man can’t really stay irritated with her for long, or he just wasn’t as mad as he looked to begin with and wanted to put on a little more show for the sake of the traders. He nods in agreement with Cheusia’s words, “Ayup. Dat’s Indira. Th’ Headwoman. As long as ya work an’ live at th’ Weyr, ya ken stay in the Residential Dorms. Ya will have yer own cot an’ press, an’ a storage trunk.” He tips his hat back to lean in and kiss Cheusia on the cheek before taking the reins of both geldings and leading them toward their assigned stalls, “If’n ya want me ta put in a word with ya fer Max, I’ll need ta see ya break down Strider an’ Ashes’ tack here, an’ rub ‘em down.”

"Yes sir." Fiala leads the ponies to the paddock as he leads the geldings, and then darts back for the water. She is still trembling, though it is hard to say whether it is from exhaustion or sheer nerves. "I'll just be but a moment, I promise." She goes to get the buckets, straining to lift two at once. "Maybe a couple of moments. Just that the traders set a cruel pace, and so they need to water much. And thank you, thank you. Just… to have a place, no matter where, or what crumbs. Thank you."

Cheusia returns the kiss quickly to her husband's cheek before she's watching him move. It is brief as she's quickly looking to the direction in which Fiala went. "You don't need to thank us. It's just how the Weyr is. Besides, you could use it all. The protection of the Weyr, a place to sleep, and food. And your beasts will be able to be with you."

Bowen doesn't seem to have much of a soft heart, or he is simply oblivious to any trembling going on in Fiala. Or maybe this is just his way of letting her learn to be more self-reliant. Whatever the case, he puts Strider and then Ashes in their neighboring stalls, closing their doors with their saddles and bridles all still on them, and leans against the short stretch of stall wall between them while he waits, patiently, for Fiala to finish. Crossing his arms over his chest, he nods a little to everything Cheusia says, reasonably certain for all of it even if he still harbors the belief that the girl shouldn't have left home on her own without an escort, especially if she couldn't read. Although part of that is his own hang-up with his sister and nothing to be helped, right now. He does add a few heartbeats after Che's words, "Dunno if Max'll charge ya fer keepin' th' ponies here or not. He might be willin' ta buy 'em from ya, though, or know someone who'd be wantin' ta buy 'em. Dat's sumpthin' ya ken work out with him." He tilts his head back a little, crushing the back of his hat a little against the wall behind him while he scratches at the growth under his chin that he's already starting to develop today.

"I don't have any money," says Fiala. "The ponies are all I have in the world. If I have to pay for them… well… I'll have to find somewhere else to go. Because I ain't selling them." She lugs the third bucket to the ponies, then grabs a stool and lets herself into Strider's stall. Though she is still shaking, she moves confidently, speaking softly, letting the runnerbeast know she's there. "Hey, hey there. Strider, isn't it? Good boy…" She lets the gelding get used to her before she gets to work, her motions calm, confident, though the shaking intensifies as she works. "You're a fine laddie, aren't you." She drapes the tack over the side of the stall. Horses first, then tack.

Cheusia shrugs, "maybe they could work something out. Instead of making marks she's working to keep them in the stables." She looks to Fiala and smiles, "Max is reasonable. So you'll be able to work it out with him. And if you end up needing new clothes, I'm sure you can ask the Headwoman about getting some from the stores." Though, knowing Che… Mother mode will click on and she'll get the girl some clothes made.

Even among easy-mannered geldings, Strider is considered the epitome of calm and steady, pretty much taking a drooling dragon landing in front of him to startle him. And when Fiala gets to know Bo, she’ll likely understand the strong bond he has with Strider, and why. The runner and his master are quite a lot alike, though perhaps not as much as they used to be since Bo got himself hitched. “Max is a runner’s arse,” Bowen says a few moments after Che comments on Max’s reasonability, seeming to have some beef with the Beast Manager for some reason right now, “a feller whut can’t keep his hands ta hisself,” grumble grumble, “But I reckon he is fair.” Beat pause. “Usually.” And if Che ends up buying Fiala clothes, one can be sure her grumpy husband will have something mean to say about it. Right now, however, the tanner is carefully not looking at Cheusia. Making a point of avoiding looking at her, in fact, and instead peers over the stall wall to look at Fiala’s progress.

"I'll earn my keep, somehow," murmurs Fiala. "If I'm allowed to stay. I mayn't have learned reading, but I learned about needing to earn my keep. S'what a girl's s'posed to do, is what Mother always says." Fiala is rubbing down the gelding, and even despite the shaking, her hands move quickly enough, as if she is more used to working on beasts who can't stand to stay still. "Do you want them brushed, hooves oiled, manes and tails combed out? Or just the rub-down for now? How long were they out? I could make up a mash if it was long?" Under her hands, the drizzled-on coat is dried.

“’Course ya did,” Bowen says to Fiala after a few moments, as if he raised her himself. How would he know? “J’st cuz ya cain’t read don’ mean yer stupid or a lazabout.” Could he be warming up to the girl now? He seems to take something like that a bit too personal anyway. After he watches her work a few moments, he shakes his head, “Naw, we wuzn’t out dat long. J’st th’ rub-down an’ gettin’ their tack off.” The look in his blue eyes might spell out that he’s impressed, either by her methods or by the fact that she asks the right questions and seems to know what to do, or is willing to, anyway. He adjusts his hat, steals a look at Cheusia, and then moseys down the aisle to get two buckets of water for Strider and Ashes, returning a few moments later with one from each hand.

"Yes, sir," replies the girl, crooning a little under her breath to the horse. She carries his tack out from the stall, then carries his bucket in and fastens it in the proper place. She lays out the tack so it can dry some by airing, and then she lets herself into the other stall. She moves a bit slower now, but still with willing patience, despite the growling of her stomach that can be heard quite more than once.

Cheusia is mostly quiet, moving out of the way and off to the side to watch the two with a mild look of interest.

Following her in, Bowen sets Ashes’ water bucket up, himself, and then turns and leans against the wall to watch her with the grey gelding. Ashes is not quite as sedate and calm as Strider, but it’s really hard to tell when there’s nothing too startling going on to begin with. Ashes doesn’t seem bothered by the presence of a stranger as long as the saddle gets off him and he gets a nice satisfying rub-down. “When we’re done here, we’ll show ya how ta get ta th’ Livin’ Cavern fer lunch, an’ th’ Headwoman’s office fer aft’r yer dun eatin’.” There’s a brief pause and he says softly, “Me an’ my kin come from Southern, too. I reckon yer gonna settle in here j’st fine, Fiala.”

"I remember Keroon," murmurs Fiala, though she does not look over, intent on rubbing down the second horse. "Oh, lunch. I'll be allowed some? I ain't eaten in a couple of days. Wasn't part of my bargain, that's what Trader Orric said. And some of the food in my pack went missing. So… I could use lunch, sure thing. Once the tack is cleaned, that is. Oh, are you ticklish there, boy? Easy…" The girl works steadily, and finally nods, running a hand over the gelding's coat before stepping down and then out of the stall. "Do you want them soaped down and then oiled, or just brushed off and oiled?"

Bowen goes really still as Fiala talks of starvation, but his gaze moves as Fiala moves, watching her break down the tack and rub Ashes down. There’s a few moments after she finishes talking that he lets the silence linger, and then he sighs, shoulders slumping, “Che?” The man just seems to give in, running another hand over his face, muttering something about girls driving him to drink, “Ya wanna take this starvin’ girl off fer lunch b’fore she passes out?” Then he nods to Fiala and pushes off, answering her question by saying, “Go on, den, girl. Get sumpthin’ ta eat. I got th’ rest o’ dis.” And likely that includes tracking down that trader Orric and pummeling his face in a little bit. Hey, Che is always looking for interesting cases in the Infirmary. Right?

"I… I can just nip a bit and come back," Fiala offers, her eyes widening some. "I'll…" Her stomach growls again, and she covers her face with her hands for a brief moment. "I won't fail you again, sir, I promise." Then she gets to her feet, for a moment wobbling like a foal. Then she goes to the Journeywoman's side, nodding again, too tired and hungry to protest.

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