Something's a Little Off

Xanadu Weyr - Harpers' Workshop

Through the labeled double doors is this spacious cavern set aside for the Harper craft. It's been completely sound proofed inside and out, but even after hours sometimes you can just pick up muffled voices in song, or instruments being practiced of someone burning the midnight oil. Inside, the large area has been divided up into several smaller places, also behind doors and have been sound proofed. A library of books and records stand upon the many shelves to the left, containing such content as music and Pernese history, law, and even sheet music. There are several access points at the long tables here for laptops to connect to data bases all over Pern, as well as to plug them in for a recharge. Long rows of chairs are pushed up against them. Silence here, is required.

Along the back wall is yet another space, and behind the double doors is a classroom for the practice of Storytelling. The chairs here are comfortable and upholstered, pillows are available as well for sitting on the floor. A projector is available for visual aid, with a white screen that pulls down should anyone need it.

The final space to the right of the entrance is likely the largest. All along the longest wall instruments hang free or on shelves for anyone of the craft to use. Guitars (both acoustic and base), flutes (including recorder and reed), violins, and lap harps. There is a few drum sets, and some standing harps as well. There are stands for music, benches for sitting, and even a corner where repair and maintenance supplies can be found.

Late fall brings with it a foretaste of winter's chill, eddies of current that follow through briefly opened doors to nip at the heels of people seeking to leave it behind for the warmth provided by snug buildings. The craft complex is no exception and there's a be-shawled auntie seated by the door to hasten its swift closure each time a child enters. For entering they are - some leaving the door wide open behind them in their haste to get to morning lessons since they are barely on time. Through the common room and into the harper's workshop they traipse where over at the storytelling area a journeywoman harper and miah, who is helping her, individually greet them and help get them settled.

The door will open again, but rather then the light step of another child entering, it's the far heavier step of an adult that leads in first, followed by the barely heard steps of another. As the door is left to close behind by the shawled auntie, Laris pauses only long enough to give the older woman the barest of glances before scanning the area. It's immediate that he's not from the Weyr and perhaps even the Xanadu region. His clothing looks second hand, but in decent condition and his long hair and beard are neatly groomed. No stranger to the cold, the late fall air seems hardly to faze him and his blue eyes scan the common room with obvious interest. Built stocky and as heavy as a barrel, he'd be an intimidating man if he didn't carry himself slightly slouched and at ease. But here he is out of place and perhaps it puts some on edge, until a small girl peeks from around his side and his wide girth. She looks somewhere between the ages of eight and ten, a little thin and quite obviously shy and meek. Whatever oddity Laris' arrival brings might be eased as he suddenly goes from strange to a loving, but gruff looking father as he crouches by the girl. "Now, now, little bird. You've got to go for your lessons. Been keepin' you from 'em long enough." He rumbles, his accent thick but hard to pinpoint. Up until now, the other children and Mishkia herself have been ignored, but Laris soon darts his eyes their way and the young girl's gaze follows. "See? Nothing to be 'fraid of." But the girl only shakes her head, wide eyed and seems to cling all the tighter to Laris.

It doesn't take long to spot the pair in the doorway and note that they're new as well as pick up on the child's reluctance to enter, even as late-comers slip around them to straggle to the table. Mishkia gives man and child a few minutes, for the time being helping little fingers undo buttons and slip out of jackets, softly commenting on this or that although she sends them a perceptive glance now and then. Journeywoman Jasella meanwhile begins handing out sheets of paper and pencils in preparation for getting things started. Only when she really can't linger any longer, the auburn-haired assistant moves with a silent glide over to the door, expression slightly apologetic for seeming to rush things while her low-voiced greeting is quietly reassuring and welcoming, her smile gentle, "Good morning. I'm Miah- Mishkia." It's mostly aimed towards the child, grey eyes warm and direct as she seeks to make eye contact with her, but a hand offered to the father to shake as she asks, "And who is the young lady joining us?"

When the latecomers slip around them, it's noticeable how closer the young girl moves to the man who is supposedly her father. Her nervousness seems to border on fear, but that could be chalked up to the usual anxieties of an overly shy little girl. And Laris plays his part perfectly of a patient and loving father trying to reassure his daughter on what could be her first day alone in a strange new place. So when Mishkia glides over, Laris slowly straightens though still in a slightly slouched and comfortable position. He slips his one arm around his daughter's shoulders, as if to hug her close. Laurali lifts her head up just enough to peek up between her long black hair and her brown eyes, still wide and nervous, meet hers briefly before dropping again. Laris gives her a little squeeze to the shoulder, loving perhaps to most eyes but only he and the girl know better. "Little bird… what do you say?" he says, words still oddly accented as he does as any parent would do while gently correcting and encouraging an errant child. "Good Morning, Mishkia. I-I'm Ilarua." Comes the tinest of voiced replies and if Laris hadn't been holding her, the girl would likely duck behind him again. Sighing, the man gives Mishkia an apologetic half-smile while similarily reaching to shake her hand with a firm and sure grip. "You'll have to forgive mah daughter. We only just got to Xanadu Weyr not long ago and I'm 'fraid she's havin' some tough time adjusting to it all. Don't mean to arrive so late, but would there be room for her in your group?"

It could certainly be chalked up to the normal new-to-the-class anxieties if one hadn't developed an acute sense of observation - necessary for surviving in the swamps as Mishkia has had to do where things that bite and sting could kill a person and even the plants might be lethal. Thus it's with a keen sharpening of grey eyes that the woman takes in the child's stance though she keeps her face openly welcoming as she completes the handshake with the child's father, answering, "We have room for her, yes. We've expected over-wintering folks to join, and have divided the classes to accommodate some additions." Her hands are not the hands of a harper by any means. Though callus-free and slim with long fingers that grip gracefully, they are firm enough to be accustomed to work. Dropping Laris' hand, she crouches down in front of the child, "Ilarua. What a lovely name." Her own words are accented, though it's clear she has worked hard on her diction to iron out the drawl. Behind them Jacella calls the class to order and she turns her head over her shoulder, checking in with the harper, receives a nod before turning back. Aiming for reassurance, she says lightly, including the father in the comment, "They're taking a quiz, so you don't have to go over right away. We can get acquainted, hmm?" She doesn't recognize the accent, this much made clear when she says, "Where are you from, Ilarua?"

Laris has similar acute senses, borne out of a hard life and necessary for survival, though not against things that would bite and sting, but rather among unsavory sorts who would kill you all the same. But he keeps all well buried and masked and his glances seem nothing more then idle interest and casual. His hands are callused and rough as well and even though his grip is firm, there's an underlying sense of strength there. This is a man very used to heavy labor and despite his barrel-shaped build; he's powerful - physically at least. With the charade he plays now, he acts just like any normal minded laborer looking out for the well being of his child. Mishkia may notice too that the hand that rests lightly on Laurali's shoulder, while gloved, seems oddly stiff and some of the fingers aren't quite bent naturally. "Ahh, just our luck then. That puts mah mind to ease, knowing she can get her lessons and be watched for proper while I'm up in the forests." Laris rumbles in a friendly enough tone, idle banter passing between father and teacher. Laurali's grip on Laris has eased a little, under Mishkia's welcoming and friendly presence. The barest of smiles is given for the compliment, but there's a touch of sadness lingering there too. "Thank ya, ma'am." When asked of her previous location, she suddenly glances up to Laris, who only nods with what seems an encouraging look. "East. We're Traders or… were…" The girl falters a bit and her expression twists to one of a child frustrated but nervous. Laris only gives her shoulder a small pat with the not-quite right hand and murmurs. "It's alright. Apologies again, Harper Mishkia, but we've fallen on some bad times on top of all the stress of moving so far south. I'm afraid we're both trying to adjust to a change."

Mishkia's eyes drift to that gloved hand on Laurali's shoulder and linger there long enough that Laris might notice while the easy smile for the child slips subtly into something just a hint on the neutral side of concern before her eyes meet Laris'. Her smile returns to what an observant person would notice as being a touch on the deliberate side. "She'll be well taken care of," the harper's assistant tells Laris carefully. In her grey eyes there's a vague questioning but no words to go with it - a brief flicker that's gone as soon as the child speaks. Once more her eyes seek Laurali's face, noting the girl's frustration as she tries to answer where she's from. Mishkia tries to ease her with a lightly laughed, "Well you know what Ilarua? I grew up in a little hold so far from everywhere that the rest of Pern might well not even exist. It's in the wild swamps south of here, so I'm afraid east doesn't really help me much. You'll have to show me on a map sometime, eh?" She draws a breath after Laris speaks of hard times, hesitates only fractionally then offers a hand palm up for the child to take, murmuring to her soothlingly before saying sincerely to the pair, "I'm sorry to hear it and if I can help, you may be sure I will."

The lingering gaze is noticed by Laris and there's a subtle tightness to his expression then, as his eyes flicker with some underlying emotion, suspicion most like and wariness bred well and hard into him. But he doesn't move his hand abruptly away, keeping it there so as not to draw further attention to it. It's not until Laurali will move forwards just enough to accept Mishkia's hand that the man will let it fall to his side and held just in a way that the normal fingers rest naturally in plain view. "My thanks then," Laris returns politely, nodding his head and a pleasant enough smile curving along his lips. The young girl peeks up again at the Harper and some calmness seems to settle over her. She only nods her head to the offer though, a silent agreement that it will be done and likely when her "father" has left for his work. And she'll play her part well, pointing out some plausible location east of Xanadu that could cement their story to truth - for now. The man however turns his head subtly, interest well hidden but his mind committing the details Mishkia described to memory, tucking it away for later use. "Yer already helping by taking my Ilarua in to yer fold. She's a good girl, shy, but good. Aren't you, little bird?" Laurali peeks over her shoulder then and nods with the barest of smiles. By then though, Laris' attention has focused primarily on Mishkia and with one last lingering look, he gives a gusty sigh. "I won't pester you further and leave you to your teachin'. Be good now, hear?" The last is directed to the young girl, as any father is wont to do and his tone almost seems teasing and comforting all in one. To the Harper, he nods. "I'll be by later to pick her up. M'thanks again."

Ah woman's intuition! Mishkia reads the wary tension in the man, but of course can't discern why it is there, that much is clear by her attempt to put him at ease even while her mind sets the vague uneasiness she's feeling to one side. All this is evident from her facial expression and posture as she rises, keeping Laurali's hand in hers. "You're quite welcome," she says, truly meaning it from the way it is said. She does, however gently correct his earlier title given to her, "I'm not a harper though. I'm just taking some training to better help Mire Hold since harper nor healer want to go anywhere near the swamps. I'm just Mishkia. Or Miah. You can call me that, right?" The last said to the shy girl coaxingly with a little squeeze to her small hand while saying to the departing man's second thanks, "My pleasure." And when the map is shown, she'll believe the child because she's never really been anywhere but home and Xanadu save for a very brief visit to Fort's Harper Hall, something she's likely to chatter in a low-voiced conversation to the girl while helping her feel at ease about being new. When the others finish their tests, she'll make introductions, settling her with a few of the friendlier girls in hopes 'Ilaura' makes a friend or two.

"My apologies then, Mishkia. I hadn't known of Mire Hold or your situation. No offence meant." Laris corrects with just enough of a sheepish look and a hurried tone to play the part of a man a little abashed by his slip up, awkward as most new folk may be when trying to find a foothold in a new area they're aiming to call home. Laurali, as shy as ever, only looks up in silence to the woman, but unlike before she seems a little more trusting. There's only one last darting look given to Laris, as the man gives a final parting nod of farewell before reaching for the door and slipping outside. The girl had tensed then, but perhaps it's only the returning flicker of anxiety of being separated from one's parent. But she is lead easily by Mishkia and proves to be very well behaved. Too well behaved, for one her age and when the other kids engage her in talk or in play, she'll join them but remained distanced and awkward. For this first day, it may be tolerated but as she'll continue to come for her lessons, she'll become the outcast, quiet and withdrawn but causing no mischief to draw unwanted attention to herself. And true to his word, Laris will always return to collect her, always playing his role of a caring father well but the subtle undercurrent that something is wrong and off lingers on.

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