A Well-Timed Absence

High Reaches Weyr - Mountain Slope

A branching of the road to High Reaches leads into the mountains, ending at a steep slope that lies beneath several feet of snow through the Reaches winters. The snow and ice cling to the mountain's face percariously, mounds of white that look as though they might lose their hold at any moment. The trees here are bent and twisted by the wind, where they have managed to cling to the rock. Above, the mountain's peak is white even at mid-summer. Past the road on down the slope, the footing looks treacherous and the grade is far to high for any but a very brave hiker to attempt. The road continues to meander on to the small holds many hours' travel beyond, while a broader though rocky road curls around the mountain and disappears into the wilderness.

Winter in the High Reaches outlasts the seasonal dates on the calendar, with disregard to the comfort of the people and animals living therein. Today is no exception, for it is merely late fall where in the lower elevations the crisp leaves still fall from trees, here the trees are bare and the snow is deep. What? Melted? Ohhhhh noooo. If anything it's deeper than it was before by several inches. The good thing is the snow has been a wet one, followed by a freeze so has formed a thick crust. It's not enough to hold up a dragon. But his rider? Yes. The circle of buried caravan remains the same. Off to one side is the makeshift corral with burden beasts huddled near a hayrack, munching their dinner. The midafternoon finds the skies overcast and threatening more snow.

Thus, Kalsuoth sinks and Mur'dah is able to walk, rather than crawl (how undignified that was) towards the circle of caravan mounds. While the brown stomps himself a nice clearing of space to settle down, curling up for a little nap, Mur'dah peers briefly at the beasts before he looks at the caravans and tries a Cold Stone whistle - the sound used to call folks across the pastures, letting them know their presence is needed. Who knows if anyone will recognize it, but he figures it's better in this isolated place than just walking up and knocking.

But sexy? Although there is no red-clad figure ahead of him this time. The isolated group normally would have a lookout but with the snow like this? It's rare that they'd be snuck up on. Except from the sky. The whistle though, draws movement - or seems to. A small figure darts from amongst the shaggy beasts and runs across the snow in an intercept. It is a small boy of about 8 turns old and he's waving both hands in excited fashion. He appears to be on a collision course with the brownrider and he's chattering a mile a minute, "-dragon yours? He's awesome! Are you Mur'dah? My sis said he's coming back!" He stops for breath and sniffs. Cold. Runny nose. Yay winter.

Not sexy for him! Sexy for her. He blinks in surprise as the boy runs up and then he's laughing, nodding his head. "Yeah, that's Kalsuoth. I'm Mur'dah, who're you?" Raeleigh's brother, clearly, but a name would be nice too. "Came to talk to your folks about the Xanadu job. They around?" Where else would they be? But it's polite to ask, right?

The boy skids to a stop, his slide taking an expert turn at the last minute that brings him circling halfway around the rider with a flourish. He grins, well satisfied with himself. He beams. His front teeth are missing, but he's unconcerned with that. "Thweet!" Someone's excited. He's nodding in answer to the question even while his next words tumble forth, "I'm Piel! C'mon." He's off towards the same snow-bound wagon Mur'dah visited last.

"Well met, Piel," Mur'dah says with a grin and then a laugh as he ambles after the youth. Feeling a bit like a grown up. And it's…disconcerting. But still, he straightens his shoulders and follows along after the youth, his steps placed a /bit/ more carefully than the kid's.

Piel runs, executing more skids every couple of steps, until they reach the area of that incline plane down to the chasm-path that's been carefully maintained. When he's several steps from it, he says over his shoulder, "Watch thith!" And he runs full tilt for the declivity, hops and zips-slides down the thing, smacking hands-first into the opposite wall. He turns then and calls, "You nextht!" Yay?

Mur'dah grimaces. He's going to end up in the infirmary for this…but he runs forward and slides on his feet, skiing down the incline to smack against the wall. He wobbles and then slips, and when the dangerous part is /over/ is when he falls on his ass. "Ooof," he mutters. Bruised tailbone. That'll be fun. But then he's laughing, gloved hands pushing himself upright as he stands and rubs his butt. "Almost made it. Not as nimble as you." But at least he slid fine.

Piel applauds. Maybe it's for the three-point landing? "C'mon," he says again and skitters for the door. Of course he skid-slides into it with a bang of foot and shoulder against the door and turns the knob at the same time so it swings open and causes him to tumble in. "Hey Raeliiiiiii! Your boyfriendth's back!" he sings out. From somewhere out of sight there's a squeaked wail. "Piiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeelllllll!"

Mur'dah walks more carefully and then he coughs, hanging back until he's invited in. Coughing again into his sleeve, he tries very hard to prevent the blush that threatens his cheeks, but alas…it's there in full, heated force. "Not her boyfriend," he mutters to the boy. "C'mon now…" Man to man? Don't throw him under the wagon like that.

That invitation comes in the gruff voice of Chapar, again seated over at the table working on some ledger of some sort. Piel just giggles back at Mur'dah, high on his own excitement as he steps out of his boots. Over by the stove Lei stirs something in a huge iron pot while back behind her Raeleigh chops something at the counter. Dinner is cooking, filling the wagon with a savory smell. Raeleigh is trying not to look as excited as she obviously is and she avoids peeking over at Mur'dah. Chapar beckons to Mur'dah to join him, adding, "Piel, take the rider's jacket." Piel holds out a hand, waiting for Mur'dah to hand it to him.

Mur'dah ducks his head as he enters, standing by the door and shrugging out of his jacket at the man's words to his son. "Thanks," he says, unfastening it and handing it over. It's not his dress pair but these leathers are nice, smelling of dragon and sweat and wind. "Sir," he says, bowing as he bends to unlace his boots, glancing about to make sure no one else has on their shoes either. Seems to be the custom and he's following Piel's lead. "I brought a sample contract and some questions to answer before a more formal…arrangement can be reached." The hesitation due to searching his brain for the appropriate word, also his eyes have found Raeleigh and he gives her a little smile.

Everyone is in their sockfeet. Boots are all in a shallow tray by the door. It's what keeps mud and/or puddles of melting snow off of the shining wooden floors. Piel takes the jacket and being the eight turn old he is, sniffs it. To him it smells of adventure! says the big grin he wears after doing that. He hangs it on a wooden peg by the door and darts over to snag a piece of whatever Raeleigh is chopping - thankfully the swift, haphazard movements of that knife are paused to smile back at Mur'dah - and the boy keeps his fingers for another day. Lei keeps stirring, though she does nod at the visitor. Chapar, while not unfriendly, is certainly reserved, but nods in reply to that bow, his huge hand beckoning to the rider. "I would see it, then," he says gruffly. "Come join me."

Mur'dah inclines his head and steps forward, ignoring Piel smelling his jacket. Perhaps he expected it, having been eight turns old not /that/ long ago. He reaches….for his inner jacket pocket and with a cough has to return to where Piel hug the coat, retrieving the folded parchment to take to the man, sitting down in a spot that doesn't look to be someone else's "spot".

It's a wide, long bench seat on either side of the table, easily able to seat more than the five in this dwelling at the moment. Chapar holds out a hand for the document, Raeleigh finishes chopping and so takes the roots to dump in that pot Lei is stirring. There's a murmured conversation and it is not long after that Raeleigh appears at that table with an extra bowl and spoon to add to the place settings there. She's also got a steaming mug of hot cider for him. "Dinner will be ready soon. You'll eat with us tonight, won't you Mur'dah?" Piel is, of course hovering near the men, trying to be one of them.

Mur'dah reaches up for the mug with a grateful smile. "If I'm invited, I would love to," Mur'dah murmurs. "Sorry I didn't bring anything to add to the pot," he adds, giving Piel a smile and a wink before he sips the mug of hot cider. YUM.

Raeleigh snorts, though she's smiling as she says, "You're invited, silly. Mama told me to ask." Which is why she's brought that extra bowl and spoon. "Next time!" says Raeleigh of the pot and twirls on one foot to go back to help her mother. Chapar is all business. He's looking over the document. Piel is bouncing on his toes, over-excited still. "What questions did you have for me?" he asks Mur'dah halfway through reading it.

Mur'dah points to the documents. "They're on the second page. I asked our Steward to write them all down so I wouldn't forget anything…" He grins a bit sheepishly. "Things like the time you've spent working with camilids, where you've worked before, if you're okay with the pay offer and relocating, that sort of thing. Once I get those, and I can write the answers down if you'd like, then I can bring back a more formal contract, if…the job is still to your liking." He flashes Raeleigh a little grin, and reaches into his pocket to pull out a knotted bit of string. But is it really? It's a dark brown, dyed, and upon closer inspection it's braided and made of fine thread. But it /is/ knotted, terribly, as he holds it to Piel. "Part of my knot got snared, bet your nimble fingers could figure it out in no time."

Chapar flips to the second page. Ah. Questions! He grunts, flips back to the first page and continues reading. He snorts at the offer to have the answers written down for him, reaches up to remove the pen from his ear and a sheet from the ledger. He can write! He does not, however, write on the copy Mur'dah has handed him. While he's doing that, Piel jumps at the chance to do something useful. He beams at Mur'dah and all but pounces the knot in his hand. His fingers dance to right it. It isn't too much after this that Lei arrives with a steaming pot and Raeliegh follows with a basket of crusty bread in one hand and a pot of hot cider in the other. The wagon door opens and another boy stomps in. He's older than Piel, it looks like, by a couple of turns. "Chell, wash and come sit," says Lei.

Mur'dah didn't mean to imply…but he kind of did…so he doesn't bring up writing again. Grinning at Piel, the brownrider whistles softly at how he works it, and then pushes to his feet when the women approach. "Anything I can do to help?" he asks politely, looking hungrily at the meal that's brought to them.

"Yes. You can sit and prepare to tell us about Xanadu while we put some meat on your bones," says Lei with a spirit the large woman hasn't yet shown. Chapar is quick. That document and his answers are finished and tucked inside the ledger along with the copy of terms. "The outline of the terms mention that your steward Jethaniel wishes to interview people. If he chooses me, I will go to Xanadu for the interview." That decision made he roars, "Feed me woman!" And then his laugh booms out long and loud. Chell and Piel plunk down beside Mur'dah. Piel places the untangled knot beside Mur'dah's bowl with a little pat. Lei places the pot on the center of the table and sits beside Chapar, Raeleigh places the bread basket on the table and begins pouring cider. Her eyes are dancing with excitement and she keeps glancing at Mur'dah.

Mur'dah laughs, smiling warmly at Lei. "Thank you ma'am. Everything looks delicious." Back to business talk, he nods. "And Kalsuoth and I would be happy to convey you to the weyr for that meeting." Reaching out, he toys with the untangled knot, looking rather impressed as he slips it into his pocket with a grin of thanks for the kid. "Thanks. What would you like to know about Xanadu?"

Lei ladles out hearty portions of stew, to the guest first, then 'round the table, ending with herself and Raeleigh last. It's a rich, savory brown packed with root vegetables and generous chunks of meat. Raeleigh finishes pouring cider, sets the pitcher in the center of the table and sits opposite Mur'dah, trying and failing to keep from bouncing in her seat a little. Chell and Piel dig in, wordless for now. Chapar reaches for a roll, breaks it in half before dunking it in his bowl. "Where is it besides 'in the South'? What's the climate? Are there felines to worry about?" The north doesn't have them, obviously, so when folks hear southern continent, felines is the first thing that pops into their head.

Mur'dah glances up at Raeleigh, unable to help himself from looking since she's sitting right across from him. He smiles, nodding his head and murmuring thanks, waiting until everyone is served and his hosts have begun to eat. Then he digs in for a few bites, and then swallows before answering (see? He learns!). "Climate is pretty moderate. We have distinct seasons, rain, we do get snow but not /this/ much. Just enough to be beautiful. We get some harsh cold sometimes, and the summers can get hot and humid, but for the most part it's a pretty perfect climate. It's on the Sea of Azov. And we get felines sometimes but it's very rare, that close to the weyr. Our sweep riders are trained to spot their signs and we have trained hunters to take care of them, and to keep our lands safe and secure."

Chapar absorbs the news intently, "So it's not tropical then," muses the man aloud and this seems to please him. He takes a huge bite of his stew, chews and swallows and voices why this is so, "The type of camelids you'll want for Xanadu do not do well in tropical heat. They produce thicker wool where there is a changing climate." Chell and Piel continue eating as if they are in a race. Chell hasn't said a word since arriving in the wagon, though he has smiled shyly at the visiting rider a few times. Lei speaks up, "Will we be able to bring the wagons?" This has been her home for many turns, after all. Chapar places a hand on her arm, a comforting gesture while Raeleigh reaches to pass the basket of rolls towards Mur'dah. she's eating neatly, without fuss but can keep up with her brothers. In one of the pauses, she asks, "Are there other girls around?" Besides her moooooootherrrrrrr.

Mur'dah nods. "Right. I believe my - our Senior has already placed an order for the sort that will do well in Xanadu's climate. So I know we'll have the right animals for the location." He takes small, polite bites between answering, forcing himself not to get caught up in the race the boys seem to be having. Taking a roll, he nods his thanks and passes the basket on to Piel, returning Chell's shy smiles as they come. "Other girls?" he asks, blinking in surprise at that question. "Well…yeah. It's a weyr. There's hundreds of people there. As for the wagons," he's a people pleaser, "I'm sure we could work something out."

Chapar's spoon pauses halfway to his mouth as he stares at Mur'dah. The right sort. He chuckles. "I'm sure she did. The other sort she'd have to get from Igen, not the High Reaches." The spoon goes into his mouth. Piel perks at the mention of the Weyr. "Papa, we can go pleeeeease?" Chapar grunts. He doesn't know yet. "Depends on what the steward decides, boy." Raeleigh bobs her head at Mur'dah. Yes, she knows the Weyr will be near, but she also knows that camelids don't do well around dragons. "But we won't be in the Weyr, right? So other girls… wherever we will be? Or are we going to be the only ones?" She has no idea, but the mention of that spurs Chapar to ask, "Where will the herds be located?"

Mur'dah ohs. He shakes his head at Raeleigh, clearing his throat. "No, you won't be. We've got high pastures…and I'm not sure how many people our Steward wishes to hire, truth be told." He's just the messenger, really, learning how all this works by doing.
So there are unknowns! Raeleigh loves mysteries. She beams back at Mur'dah regardless of where they'll potentially be. She is itching to find out more, but of course that all depends upon what the Steward decided and then Chapar's decision. Her father gets a hopeful glance but no questions. This doesn't mean they'll all stop badgering the poor man if Mur'dah returns with an invitation for an interview. Chapar had better either be very patient or very firm. Maybe both! Piel and Chell are poking at each other, so it's likely they're finished eating. "You boys take that outside," Lei says sternly as she rises and begins cleaning the table. Chapar pulls his ledger back off the shelf where he's tucked it and looks like he's going to resume his accounts as soon as a spot is wiped clean for him to do so. Raeleigh reluctantly follows suit, stacking empty bowls and gathering silverware. She looks wistfully at the jackets hung by the door and it's clear she wishes she could go out also. But there are dishes Lei wants done. Girls get all the sucky jobs!

They do indeed, but Mur'dah doesn't notice. His attention is on Chapar as he rises. "Thank you for the meal," he says, looking to Lei to include her in that. Then he /does/ notice Raeleigh's wistful look, and he clears his throat as he holds out his hand for Chapar's documents. "Raeleigh? Would you walk me back to Kalsuoth? He wants to see you again."

The taciturn man glances up from his ledger and nods somberly at Mur'dah. He retrieves the documents - and his page of answers to those questions - from the inside cover where he'd tucked them and hands those over. "I expect I'll hear something back from your steward before the snow melts," is all he says. It… might be an attempt at humor? Because they've months left to go before winter looses it's grip in these mountains. Either that or he's patient enough to understand that the search for potential herders is still on-going and he's but one of other possible candidates for the job. Lei is busily cleaning the table, but acknowledges the thanks with a dip of her head and a smile. Raeleigh has her hands full of dishes when Mur'dah speaks to her. She pauses, brown eyes lighting up then seek her parents. Lei and Chapar exchange a long look and then Lei nods grudgingly to her daughter. "Go on. Don't be too long." Piel and Chell are already out there, so they won't have much of a chance to talk without being overheard, but Raeleigh doesn't care! She'll skip to yank on boots and jacket and walk the snow crust to go see Kalsuoth, maybe think of a hundred questions to pepper Mur'dah with on the way. When she gets back those dishes will still await her!

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