====December 18, 2013
====Cha'el, Maryam
====

Who Cha'el, Maryam
What Maryam is bringing water to the riders and finds Cha'el.
When After the unexpected Threadfall at Keroon's Gather.
Where Keroon Hold Gather Grounds

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Keroon Hold Gather Grounds
Frivolities and festivity: those are the words to describe the main fairgrounds of Keroon, done in bold colors of yellow, white and green. The runnertrack is in near-constant use, as much of a staple of this Gather as the stockyards where the best-of-the-best livestock can be procured. More mundane vendors have set long lines of tents up: fabrics and dresses, foodstuffs and trinkets, exotic spices and hairdressers - whatever may catch a person's fancy can be found within those stalls. Closer to the Hold, the part of the courtyard opening into The Hitching Post has been cleared and neatly staked off, for-sure delegated to the masquerade ball.


The pavilion that had so recently been a vision of loveliness in the sweet Keroon evening stands emptied now, it's hardwood floor littered with shattered glass, it's drapery pulled down or tattered by the flight of those who had danced here just a scant two hours ago. The action has shifted now to the courtyard of the Hold, and the plains just outside of the gate, where those dragons and riders who are relatively unharmed in the fall have gathered to rest, touch base with their superiors and perhaps look for friends…or family. The most seriously injured returned directly to Igen but even with scores of riders injured, it is still chaos here. Dragons everywhere, riders everywhere, Holders and weyrfolk everywhere. The night carries on, sweet-breezed, clear-skied now, and somehow that beauty has become mocking.

Many of the weyrfolk who had attended the Gather, and the ball this evening, chose to join the ground crews and are out even now hunting burrows. Others are providing minor first aid or, in Maryam's case, the simple act of bringing water to men and women hoarse from thirst and fear and exhaustion. She's lost her veil somewhere but has forgotten the need for modesty. The braids remain, heavy, ridiculously intricate, and the sunset colored gown as well, but that finery is ignored as well- she walks through muck, mud and dust with a pitcher of water against her hip, cradled in one arm, and a wide goblet in the other. From person to person she goes, offering, "Water? Are you thirsty? Here, drink," before moving on, pale winter-hued eyes searching each face for specific features.

Cha’el hadn’t been amongst those dancing. Or at least, he’d meant to be but first there had been a matter of a very personal nature to attend to. On a bluff overlooking the tranquil ocean surrounding Ista, beneath a tree in full summer bloom, its heady scent coating the air with nostalgia, he’d gone to pay his respects to a woman of incredible grace and strength. One turn on and the pain of her passing still haunted the brownrider. Thus it was that when the Ancient Enemy had snuck across the skies of Keroon and poured out its silvery death, he’d not hesitated and arrived with the Istan wings slotting into Arroyo as smoothly as the chaotic reign of destruction had allowed for.

Now, in the aftermath, with those injured being tended to at their home Weyrs, the brownrider is slumped against his stoic dragon’s side. Helmet and goggles dangling around his neck, exhaustion and shock etched in the grim set of ash-burned features, forearms are dangling over the knees of long legs drawn up, his gaze unfocussed as dragon and rider exchange a mental debriefing. Frowning he lifts an ungloved hand and begins to palm it over his face, wincing when reddened skin sends stinging complaint. Seemingly unaware that the groom of his beard is no longer as neat as it had been with several patches showing distinct signs of having been singed, he drops his hand away and leans his head back, eyes sliding shut then snapping open again. “Aye, I’m going!” Cha’el growls aloud, seemingly to no one in particular and pushes himself up off the ground.

It's possible that Cha'el is one of the faces that Maryam was keeping an eye out for. She may not recognize the brown dragon, nor even the man himself, when he was slumped ashen and exhausted on the ground, but she is passing as he snaps that acknowledgement. The voice alone is enough to prompt an immediate stop, with her head turning to locate the source. Seconds later, the young woman has made her way to his side. The goblet is held towards him, the pitcher held at the ready- practical considerations being a convenient veil for the concern that provokes such prompt attention. She has no proper veil to hide behind, after all. "Sir? You should rest a moment longer if you can," she says to him, head lowered to couple strong suggestion with a more submissive aspect. It does not do to give orders. Not here, not now. "I have water, fresh drawn from Keroon's wells. Still cool. Are you thirsty?" Are you well is the question unvoiced.

Reeking of firestone and wobbling on his feet slightly, Cha’el puts out a hand with the intent of steadying himself against Sikorth’s sturdy frame. Just as well for Maryam’s sudden appearance almost has him keeling over in the opposite direction. “Sharditall woman, don’t sneak up on a man like…” Weary eyes do a slow blink as if the glows are open but no one’s at home. For several moments, the brownrider simply stares, his fogged out brain struggling to communicate what his eyes are telling him. Maybe it’s the intricate weave of braids that finally does it. Or perhaps it’s the gauzy layers of her attire. No, it’s those eyes, cool winter-blue. Oddly soothing. “Maryam.” Hoarse identification followed by the attempt at a smile. But that hurts! She’d made it through the horror. Unscathed. And flame his hide, but she’s a looker! Staring a while longer a low thrumming rumble from the lump of rock he’d been leaning against snaps Cha’el out of it. « You’re staring. » - “Shut up!” Pushing away, gratitude warms ocean depths. “You come as if sent by Faranth.”

For all that Maryam is Weyrbred, the Bazaar has limited her exposure to riders. W'rin, Sienna, We'bey…these she's spoken to in more than passing. None make a habit of staring, though all have seen her unveiled. So here, with her long, arched nose on display, her thin mouth visible, she truly feels the lack of cloth in front of her face. But with no spare hand to hide behind, no veil to draw before her expression, all she can do is dip her head even lower and raise the filled goblet in a bid to distract the brownrider. "I apologize for startling you, sir. And I wish I had enough for your Sikorth as well. There is a paddock with troughs, to the west," she murmurs. "Someone said they were running buckets there to keep them filled, for the dragons." The pause that follows is pregnant, heavy with a host of unspoken statements, unasked questions. It's only after a lightning-quick glance between the solid brown and his rider's expression does she add, "I am glad to find you both unhurt. You…are unhurt?"

The moment Maryam dips her head lower, Cha’el does a mental faceplam. Idiot!! “I uh…sorry.” Frown. Ow! Ocean blues skitter off to the side, then flicker back up again, then off to the other side. Somehow he gets the feeling he’s just glimpsed forbidden fruit and risks being turned to stone. Where’s he supposed to look, dammit!? Clearing his throat, he finally finds somewhere safe to deposit his weary attention - The pitcher of water and goblet being held in slender hands. “We’re fine,” Cha’el assures, “Just got a face full of ash.” Unlike some of the other poor bastards forever gone Between or twisting in agony. Exhaling a heavy sigh, he thumps a fist to Sikorth’s shoulder. “Go on, go get yourself watered up and then we’ll start ferrying folk back to where they came from.” Many of those scattered about now without the lifts they’d arrived with. Stepping back as the big brown lumbers to his feet, the former Istan turns a careful look onto the blonde woman at his side. “You shouldn’t be here,” he states quietly.

It seems the natural thing to do, to step back when Sikorth rises. Something that large needs as much space as possible, after all. But Maryam doesn't retreat entirely. Cha'el remains there and the exhaustion that has dug lines around his vivid eyes makes the pangs of concern that much deeper. She stays, and holds the pitcher at the ready should he still be thirsty after drinking…or rinsing off. The statement levelled her way puts concern on hold, however, replacing it instead with surprise. Sandy eyebrows are lifted, her head lifting enough to allow a cautious and solemn study of the brownrider. "Where should I be? There is nowhere else." Not entirely true, but… "Those I care about flew here," she finds herself explaining. "Were hurt here. This changes everything."

Stretching out stiff muscles, Sikorth slowly makes his way toward the west where a circle of other dragons are slaking their thirst. Attention trained to his ‘mate until the brown is settled at a trough, Cha’el allows his gaze to slip back to Maryam. Long his regard holds to her, reddened features revealing little of what’s going on in his head, he finally indicates the water she holds at the ready. “Could with some water,” he states, usually smooth baritone a scratchy rasp. As to her reply, the brownrider once again slips to silence, seemingly engaged in loosening the fasteners down the front of his jacket. Exhaling a sigh of relief when cool air hits the damp cloth of the billowy white shirt now clinging to his skin, he offers her the idea of a lopsided smile. “Wherever you want to be,” he tells her. “And I for one am glad that you’ve chosen that to be here.” Whether he means watering exhausted riders in general or right there with him, is left undetermined.

Now that she's not so busily engaged in trying to hide her face, Maryam is able to make a more accurate assessment of Cha'el's condition. What she sees is distressing. The filled goblet is pressed into his hand that he might drink. And, while she hopes to busy him with that, she sets the pitcher down and bends to seize the hem of her gown. The material is so fine it takes no effort at all to rip a strip free of the rest. That scrap is then folded to make a pad, and wet from the pitcher to make a poultice. It is all very efficient, naturally, done with the same solemn focus always shown. "I would rather be here. May I, sir?" She holds the dripping makeshift pad up towards his face, hesitating until given permission. "You are burned. Those should be cooled. Burns become infected easily and…and perhaps you will have difficulty growing your beard again." It's a poor attempt at humor, her facility with jokes unsteady at the best of times, but this is a rare occasion- one in which Maryam tries to publicly offer a relatively unknown male both smile and jest.

Water!! A thing taken for granted until your throat feels like the Igen desert and its surrounds that you defend. The goblet is barely pressed into his hand and Cha’el is lifting it thirstily to his lips all but inhaling that first quenching swallow. But then that rip and the goblet is jerked away, eyes widening when he realizes where it had come from. Her dress!! “Maryam, what the shells are you doing!?” But before he can add anything further she’s got the delicate fabric wadded up wetted down and is holding it up toward his face. Instinct almost has him jerking away. Self-restraint keeps him in place, ocean blues locking to wintry hues of the same spectrum. Rather than respond verbally, he dips his head, leaning toward her slightly, presenting his face for tending. Her attempt to tease, a thing he realizes to be a rare thing, is met with a lopsided curl of lips. “I thought I could smell something burning.” At least it wasn’t his hair. “Does it look bad?” He shifts his head one way and then the other, scruffy patches on one side, smooth neatly trimmed beard on the other. Sexy! Not.

What? Maryam freezes at the first emphatic question, eyes wide, hand locked around the wad of wet sisal. That she holds that position until she's ascertained that he isn't properly pissed off at her is likely a hint it isn't the first time she's dealt with such outbursts. "It was already ruined," she says to reassure- not seeming to find it odd to have to reassure a man on matters of clothing. There's We'bey to thank for that. It helps that the brownrider consents to treatment, poor measure of assistance that it is; even with the threat of eye-contact, she focuses on those reddened patches of skin and presses the pad to them to offer a deep, cooling touch. Then to the next, and the next, as if this were a task done frequently, to wash the ash from a man's skin. She is ever grateful for the shadows that help hide the shade of her own cheeks. Her hand hovers shy of his face with the mock preening. "Ten minutes with a razor and you will be your handsome self again." Intoned solemnly, this is truth instead of compliment. But that hint of smile lingers, gratitude that he's accepted humor. "Next time, you will remember to fasten your collar?"

Clothing such as that which Maryam is currently attired in, was a luxury his mother could ill afford and had refused when once he’d tried to make a gift of such a thing perceived as an extravagance by the humble woman. “Not possible,” Cha’el murmurs to her attire having been ruined, but doesn’t expand, falling to silence as she tends his burns. Compared to the seemingly fragile and uncertain young woman he can’t help feeling like somewhat of a clumsy herdbeast. The Beast to the Beauty. The manner in which she then goes on to couch reassurance on the matter of his beard, is unexpected and finds him fitting her with a curious look. That is until her last. “Next time we won’t be caught with our pants down,” Cha’el returns with a low growl, a sliver of the emotional toll the rogue Fall has taken on him, leaking through otherwise tight constraints.

A misstep, certainly; an unwise choice of phrase; poorly chosen jest. Chastened, Maryam falls silent to concentrate on a task that has shifted from cooling the relatively minor burns suffered by the brownrider to dabbing the ash from his face. Her gaze follows her hand, watching the progress of her work, save when she ducks her head while re-wetting the cloth. Perhaps, some moments after that growl has been voiced, she runs the sisal over the curve of his cheekbone in a gesture meant to soothe- but that is a brief, and uncertain foray into offering comfort. Brief, uncertain, and inappropriate, which would be why she retreats not long after. Thus far she’s shown admirable control over her own expression but there is something shamed in the tension lurking at the corners of her eyes. The cloth she’d used is pressed on him, so she can lift the pitcher in an offer to refill the goblet. “Are you still thirsty, sir?” And, after another pause, “I thought it would be months yet until Thread returned. Were the calculations wrong? Do the dragons know if this is the beginning of the Pass or just…just an aberration?”

Still learning the nuances of the self-contained young woman, Cha’el misses the reason for her silence, lapsing into that of his own. Quietly studying fragile features whenever she appears absorbed in her task, glancing away when she isn’t, he’s still beneath Maryam’s gentle touch. Just as he’s raising a hand, of a mind to capture hers at the side of his face, she withdraws. A light frown, barely even there and the brownrider dips his head, trying to find her gaze but failing. “Aye,” he replies to the offer of more water even although he knows he should let her go to tend to others. “No bloody clue,” Cha’el goes on to give in gruff reply. “Everything points to still having time.” Except the destruction strewn about them. Hands find their way to his hips and shoulders tense his gaze picks across the aftermath on the ground, lips pursed about a frown. “Until the starsmiths can tell us more, we’d do well to treat this as the beginning.”

Maryam steadies the goblet and tilts the pitcher, sending water gurgling into the smaller container. Once filled, however, it isn’t immediate offered- she is looking at him, squarely, courtesy of the brownrider’s current posture, the way he looks off away from her. She looks her fill and it is a bittersweet luxury given the circumstances. After a moment, her head turns so she can look to the distant drinking dragons. This far away, they looked to her like any flock of creatures, dozing, nosing each other, no longer keening, no longer lifting their heads to the heavens to mourn those passing. She took an unsteady breath and extended the goblet towards Cha’el but gives no verbal hint as to what thoughts might have provoked that airy shiver. Instead, she says aloud, “Then you and yours will need your rest, and I should not trouble you longer. I will go, they will be…there will be a line. To return to Igen.” The pitcher is hefted higher on her hip, its weight now negligible, and a backwards step is taken- before she pauses again. Unable to stop herself, the words emerging in an uncharacteristic rush, she asks, “Will you be all right here, sir? Should I send someone?”

Unaware that he's being put under intent study, Cha'el returns his gaze to Maryam just in time to catch that light shiver. Off to the west, one of those clustered about the trough, the one postured upright and still as a stone, swings his head back toward brownrider and blonde companion. Mentally, Cha'el berates himself. Stuck down on the ground and helpless to do much other than try to find shelter, the poor woman must be just as traumatized if not more than those that had risen to meet the deadly threat. The goblet is taken by matter of rote but he doesn't drink from it, a frown pressing across reddened features. No. He's very much not alright. And neither could she possibly be either. "Maryam, wait," quiet entreaty, a step is taken toward her when she begins her retreat. "Are you…" okay? Words suddenly fail him. Any other woman and he would simply have folded her up into a reassuring embrace. Probably taken her back to his weyr and spent an hour or so trying to forget the mayhem and destruction but Marym…Suddenly the parallel between her and K'vvan strikes home. A comparison that would be wryly amusing if not for the pall of death that cloaks the air with the thick stench of firestone and ash, the keening of the dragons forever seared in his mind. "I uh…give me a few minutes to check in with Trek and I'll take you home."

Entreaties are near enough to commands that Maryam does stop where she is, waiting for whatever follows. With her head bowed and the pitcher shifted in her hands to be held before her, she looks like any maidservant…though one dressed in ruined finery. There’s comfort to be had- for her and her alone- in that sort of posture, that stillness. The interrupted question causes a mild stir, an adjustment of posture to allow a veiled glance at the man- but she offers up no reply until his last remarks. That wasn’t an offer and so she nods in compliance, eyes wide and solemn. “Yes sir. I…I would like that.” Which, in retrospect, sounds ridiculous under their present circumstances. So it’s perhaps no surprise when she gathers herself to stand at full height- she is tall for a woman- and offers a formal nod. “I will go tell my sisters and return here shortly,” she says with careful composure, before turning on a heel to proceed back to the watering station.

It’ll take some time for Cha’el to navigate his way around the idiosyncrasies that are Maryam, but make no mistake; he’s a patient man. The subservient pose she adopts, however, is cause for concern. Did he scare her? Had he said something inappropriate? Deepened by her use of respectful title rather than his name. There’s a short nod of head given when she accepts his offer. For that’s how views it. Her sisters? Faranth’s arse. He’d momentarily forgotten about the disapproving Steen sisters. But beggars can’t be choosers and right now all he wants to do is get back to the Weyr and ensure that Maryam safely does so too. “My name’s….”Cha’el. But she’s gone before he can finish the reminder.

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