==== November 2, 2013
====Jovie, Maryam
====Dirty deeds are not dirt cheap but they do often have humble origins.

Who Jovie, Maryam
What Dirty deeds are not dirt cheap but they do often have humble origins.
When There are 0 turns, 9 months and 27 days until the 12th pass.
Where Painted Alleyway, Igen Weyr

sun.jpg maryamveiled01.jpg

Painted Alleyway
The Bazaar is a web of alleys and dead-ends; the unwary or unfamiliar could quickly become lost. This alleyway is a prime example- it can only be reached through a series of seemingly random left- and right-hand turns through increasingly narrow passageways, and ends abruptly with an adobe wall twice as tall as a man. The difference between this place and many of the others in the Bazaar is that some effort has been made by the local residents to spruce it up as a safe place for children to play. As a result, the walls are painted in bright primary colors and the children themselves encouraged to contribute, decorating the lower portions of the walls with painted handprints, stick figures and blobby dragons. White and yellow striped linen flaps overhead, awnings strung with wood and rope to create some protection from the sun. The atmosphere is bright, cheerful and //extremely isolated, the din of the Bazaar a distant dream here.//

-- On Pern --
It is afternoon
It is 4:31 PM where you are.
There are 0 turns, 9 months and 27 days until the 12th pass.
It is Spring and 58 degrees. It is a bright, sunny day.

Spring. Spring in the desert is a more subtle season than elsewhere. There's no lush promise in the air, no sweet breezes perfumed with the explosion of ripe green buds. Those who've dwelt in the desert can tell you when the season has arrived, though- it's something in the sunlight, they say, a softer shade of gold that falls over winter-chilled rock and sand. On a day like this, in newly come Spring, the sun is not an enemy. It bathes the Weyr in a quieter promise, but it's a promise all the same and the people who live within the Weyr answer with a matching enthusiasm- quiet but marked. The Bazaar is bustling. The Spider Queen has risen, the Pit and the Night Flight remain closed, and there's energy aplenty to devote to that perennial favorite, gossip. The Steen family has been scarce, keeping mostly to themselves, but they're not entirely gone. Earlier this morning, a young towheaded lad of no more than six Turns, with a gap-toothed grin and a pug nose, had found Jovie- wherever she was, whatever she was doing- and delivered a verbal invitation: would the lady please be in the painted alleyway at four ticks past noon? There was someone there eager to make her acquaintance.

And, as promised, at four hours past noon, the alley in question stands empty but for awnings left to flap in the early evening winds, and Maryam. Veiled, as she always is, she stands not facing the mouth of the alley but rather looking at the wall. Henna has faded on the fingers that trace the lines of a small blue dragon- or perhaps a firelizard- and whatever thoughts she might be thinking, as she explores that childish scrawl, are hidden behind eyes far, far too reminiscent of the winter that Igen's just escaped.

Maybe Jovie has such requests all the time — random, nameless children finding the scraggly blonde woman amid the crowd, inviting her off to some clandestine meeting — or maybe it's a first. Either way, that dusty pug-nosed boy doesn't have much to report other than a nod, if he even reports at all. As the hour arrives, a pair of hefty boots and spindly legs come strolling down the alley. Her dress is still too short, even with the addition of a skirt beneath, but now the tops of her stockings don't threaten to introduce themselves to onlookers with every step. She has an ill-fitting jacket and a bag slung over her shoulder, her shawl not over her tangled hair, but hanging from the strap and nearly dragging in the dirt. She pays it no mind — nor little else, it would seem — her kohl-lined eyes skimming with bland disinterest over that window and this bit of rudimentary art. She smokes a dark-wrapped cigarette, a faint clove-spice heralding her arrival. And there's the very-veiled Maryam, no doubt a recognizable figure for someone who is good at picking up information, or perhaps even if they aren't. Jovie herself, she says nothing, but her boots come to a halt and her tongue pokes at her teeth.

What a contrast they make. At the first scuff of boothell against swept stone, Maryam turns, leaving the Now regarding the Old but Come Again. At first glance and with that veil as co-conspirator, she shows no outward emotion, no glimpse of what's to come nor sign of why. But should Jovie peer through the silver wisps of smoke curling before her face, before her heavily lined eyes, she might see tension lurking at the corner of eyes already touched by early signs of a lifetime in the sun. Maryam, notably, wears no kohl to disguise those minute signs of stress or tension or simply sun damage. "Someone has told me," she says quietly, "that you are a good person to know, should certain outcomes be desired. In regards to personal conflict."

The cigarette comes up for a nice slow drag, unhurried, as is the exhale that follows, aimed up toward the blue sky with her gaze chasing after it. So this, indeed, is who Jovie's been set up to meet? A few lazy steps start toward Maryam, for a more conversational distance. "Maybe I'm just a good person to know. Full stop." The smile is more in her eyes than on her mouth, a bare twist at one corner of her lips. That reply might do little to ease the tension in the shrouded woman's eyes. After all, this probably isn't the great 'solver of conflicts' that she was expecting. "Someone told me you have a problem." Though, really, everyone in Igen knows the Steens have a problem, but who knows what this underwhelming bazaar rat has heard.

The quip is allowed to pass without comment, nor any apparent reaction. Maryam's eyes remain level, and almost unblinking. The effect has been, on occasion, considered eerie- until she finally softens that impassive regard with a slightly narrowing of the eyes to mark a polite smile. "Everyone has problems, my family no more than others. But this problem troubles many people, yes, and Igen deserves…better problems." A pause. "They spoke highly of your discretion. Your creativity. Qualities that we prize in the Bazaar." The unnatural stillness with which she holds herself is broken when she shifts her arm forward, hand emerging from its concealing billowy sleeve to show a purse in the palm. The leather bulges squat and heavy behind curled fingers. "Are these qualities for hire, lady?"

They could have quite a staring contest, those two sets of impassive eyes. Jovie opts to do her watching at a lean, turning her back to one of those close walls and settling her weight into her shoulders as she regards the only part of Maryam there is to be seen. It's the praise that starts a ticking behind those gray eyes. But she says nothing about it. She just looks back at Maryam with an expression all the more steely for the moment it took to ponder and then her glance flicks down at the purse and she brings the cigarette to her lips again without so much as a twist for that bulging little sack. Her reply is laced with smoke, "What are you asking for? Some things, once done, don't get undone."

There. There, surely visible to that most watchful gaze, a shiver goes through the draped fabrics that protect Maryam from both the light chill that remains in the air and from immodesty. It's the only sign that Steen's daughter might feel dwarfed by the immensity of what her mother has tasked her with. Her hand doesn't tremble, the purse remains still and her gaze steady. But that little shiver of silken cloth… "The Weyrwoman. The outsider. She has done things to this Weyr that Vergora would never have allowed. That…she would not allow, were she not…" The young woman trails off as her speech grows stilted, more emotion betrayed in the pauses between the words than in the words themselves. "You would not only be paid for the deed but for the ability to ensure that the path of investigation goes elsewhere. You would be paid well." Her head lowers slightly here, giving the impression if leaning closer to Jovie. A point of emphasis. "The Weyrwoman. And no suspicion cast on us."

It's barely a warning, that tiny shiver, of what the hidden woman utters next, and Jovie's mouth firms faintly at the title. For a beat, there's no response at all, and then her eyes drop to the purse, and she tucks the cigarette between her lips for keeping before she reaches for the payoff. If nothing else, she'd like to weigh just how much is in there. "This is just for having this conversation," she guesses, or perhaps declares, of the money, words mumbled at first around the delicate little roll of smoldering herbs before her free hand comes up to pluck the thing away. A breath of a mirthless laugh slips out through her nose as she hefts the sack. "Tell me about Vergora."

"It is. It is to assure your silence should you choose not to accept the job." And a hefty assurance it is- the Steens, unlike some of their shadier counterparts, have not been hurting for cash in spite of the recent Pit shutdown. So much of their business is done in the open, after all, and their legacy assures a fortune that even the Weyr's coffers have likely never seen. Maryam slips her hand back into its sleeve once the purse is gone. After an ever so polite blink at the smoke that drifts through the air between them, she murmurs, "Vergora." Just that at first. Then, slowly, as if each word was a pearl, "Weyr women do not marry but Vergora…she was wed to Igen. She served her well for more Turns than I have been alive, and she did it alone, with no other juniors to share that weight. She was excellent, everything a woman of her rank should be. But her mind began to slip, when I was a child. My mother says it was if there were something else in her head other than Kohleth, whispering things to her. Terrible things."

Jovie moves, a haphazard, careless sort of thing as if she were nothing but a random girl, and this nothing but a lesson she's only half-interested in. She peels herself from the wall and starts to unsling her bag. "Keep talking." And then she drops to sit in the dirt, legs crossed, purse disappearing beneath the flap of her carryall as she rummages around inside of it for a moment. A few things come out, the deck of tarot cards, a case for her cigarettes that looks to be made of silver beneath the heavy tarnish, a rather dry-looking orange, and finally a little handful of pebbles are scraped from the bottom and then everything else goes back in. There's no explanation at all for what she does now, arranging the small stones in the dirt before her, then rearranging them again.

That was…unexpected. Both the sitting on the ground and the unpacking of her bag. Maryam, therefore, doesn't oblige the other woman in her instructions, choosing instead to simply gaze down upon that bowed head. Taken aback? Certainly. Shocked? Not so much that it prevents her from continuing on after a moment. "That is the Weyrwoman that you Oldtimers would know. Someone for whom suspicion, even paranoia, became reality. Your people's coming, however it may help us once Thread begins to fall, did a great harm to what little peace of mind she had remaining. Instead of just whispers in her mind, suddenly she could see that her Weyr was being taken by others. Interlopers. Outsiders. That is what led to her urging Kohleth to rise with Jivayath. That is what led to her queen falling from the skies and then to leaving her here. She became lost."

"I'm not an Oldtimer," Jovie says with the dull correction of someone who had heard the assumption many times before. She's probably just as used to the fumble that follows her admission, too, the moment when someone tries to imagine what could make a woman of this time behave and live as she does: playing with rocks in the dirt, her knees covered only by dingy stockings, the cigarette all but forgotten in her hand before she takes another quick drag and snubs the ember out. "I know of Vergora. And I saw her at that masked party. And Sadaiya. They had an exchange." She moves a pebble precipitously and lifts an arched brow at Maryam. "What of Corelle?"

"I see." But by the hesitation before this, Maryam shows that she really, really doesn't. Time is spent looking at Jovie's hair, attire, her comfortable but immodest sprawling on the ground- and then she draws herself back to the matter of hand. Business. "Corelle is…a flower whose roots grip ice," she says, betraying a poetic turn. "She is cold. Intelligent. Ruthless." Another pause follows, this one more delicate than those preceding. It marks a shift in focus that matches the way her gaze slides to the pebbles. "What is it you do there?"

"Come down and see," Jovie says with a wry curl of that cool smile, daring Maryam to play in the dirt with her. "How soon?" She wonders, moving one pebble back toward her crossed legs, then forward again, then sweeping them all up and starting over, though the configuration looks exactly the same. She picks on up and holds it between thumb and forefinger between herself and the shrouded Steen, so that her focus can shift past that little stone to the woman who wants to hire her. Is she feeling more or less confident about this venture? "I'll need time."

Can Maryam even bend? It seems unlikely given the ramrod straight posture she keeps at all times. Now, kneeling…kneeling she can do. So when Jovie invites her to the ground, her hands appear again to gather her robes about her legs as she sinks to take a seat on knees and heels. It is important to keep one's hired murderer's appeased, after all. "As soon as you can arrange it. We can provide you with the necessary tools. Poison. Unless you prefer something else," she murmurs before asking once again, "What are you doing here?" She lifts one hand from its place curled over her knee and tilts it at the stone, to leave no doubt as to what she's asking.

"Perfect," Jovie says of the poison, with hardly any more thought than if she'd just found out that Maryam was bringing the fruit salad. "This," she says, turning the pebble in her fingers, "is your poison." And then it goes down among the others and a quick-pointing digit taps them in turn. "Corelle, Vergora, Saidaya, Tuli, the cleaning girl, me, the girl in the kitchen, the girl in the baths." Does that explain what she's doing yet? She hesitates, and adds three more stones. And then she pauses to look Maryam dead in the face with a quiet kind of surprise and a rather giddy sounding little chuckle. Whatever thought has struck her, now, one by one the stones disappear into the palm of her hand, until just two remain. And she names a price. It's not as steep as it could be, certainly not as much as the Steens were probably figuring, but one might have to wonder what a girl like this, who looks to be wearing all her worldly possessions, would even do with such a sum. But she follows it up with, "Probably." And there it is at last, the weight of it reflected in her eyes and in the faint slack of her mouth. "I'll need a little time. To be sure."

It takes only a few seconds for Maryam to realize the meaning, a few seconds, a name or two. Something eases around her eyes. "I do this sometimes. With numbers. Not people though," she says, tone more thoughtful than disturbed, "not lives." She looks up, meeting Jovie's regard squarely and calmly through the surprise, the chuckle, the pricing that follows. It's impossible for someone who's spent her entire life in the Bazaar to not remark on how that number is, "A great many marks," but no haggling follows. Just like that, the pricetag is accepted. And then? Then, finally, the pair of them in spite of all their differences mirror each other, somber, heavy, serious. "Of course. Success does not come on fast winds. But know that the one hiring you is also not known for patience. She will know the difference between time spent ensuring success and time spent hesitating."

Jovie spares a droll look for the comment on the price, a hint that she's aware she could get more. Maybe it's just another thing about her that makes no sense. But her glance falls to the stones again, the draw of her breath deep but stiff. "You can put a price on the tide, but never the right price." Two can play the game of mystical metaphors. "I've met worse things than impatience." So Mama Steen is going to have to get scarier before this waif quells, but that doesn't mean the weight of their undertaking or the poignancy of those two lonely pebbles has lost its edge just yet. With the blow of a deflating breath, she looks to Maryam again, very much as though she would like to ask a question, but it never seems to make it further than her eyes. Instead, a slow, dusty hand reaches out for that veil, calm and sure and fully intending to slip it away from her face.

"You have not met my mother," Maryam has time to say. Something a little more human creeps into her voice, with her unawares of it. A touch of humor, a bit of rue, a dash of wry. Then she's fleeing before Jovie's questing fingers in a way that makes it seem a natural and unintentional evasion- Maryam rises smoothly, rocking back off of her knees and then lifting herself from her heels. A quick tweak of that same veil once she's standing is the one cue allowed to show she knew full well what the young woman sought to do. Not allowed, unfortunately. Never allowed. "Send word to me when you feel the time is right, and I will make sure you have what you need to proceed," she says, as if there had been no break in the conversation.

Those kohl-smudged eyes narrow faintly, the slow click of calculation happening behind her gray gaze as Jovie watches the veiled woman draw up and away. Taller, now she towers over the girl on the ground, who stretches out one skinny leg and leans back against her wall again. "There might be requirements," she warns, but it seems, otherwise, that some agreement has been reached. However, before Jovie will consider herself done with these stones, she pulls out her cigarette case to light up afresh. Because otherwise, in a few moments time, she might otherwise be indistinguishable from any old impoverished bazaar kid, fiddling with make-shift toys in the dirt.

"One does not expect that the killing of a goldrider, much less a Weyrwoman, would come easily. You may make your requests. If they seem reasonable, they will be granted." There. Maryam has put it baldly, and though she keeps her voice so soft as to be almost inaudible in comparison to flapping linen- or even the distant hum of the Bazaar- she says it all the same. "And should you perform admirably," as opposed to simply acceptably, "we are prepared to provide even more." Though she doesn't speak so plainly in that regard- let Jovie turn the idea over and see what falls out. Maryam will simply observe her quietly, once more the cloth-draped statue with living eyes.

It's entirely possible, giving the ease that slowly seeps back into the fall of her arms, the tip of her relaxed foot, that it's not the Weyrwoman who the dusty tramp considers now, but that covered statue in front of her. One set of silent eyes meeting another — though Jovie also takes a thick drag of her cigarette, opening her mouth to let the smoke curl off her tongue before its sucked away. She exhales to the side and flicks at the cigarette with a flash of her thumb, but it would seem she has nothing more to say. With a rather weary breath, she turns her mind toward the stone again, the other pebbles reappearing as she attempts a new configuration.

As if the discarded cigarette were a sign- dismissal, perhaps?- Maryam inclines her head by slight degree and once more gathers her robes. This time, she lifts them to step over and around the leg stretched over the ground, making it also stretch over the path she has to take to exit. After a few steps are taken, she pauses and completes a half-turn to study Jovie again. "It was a pleasure to meet you," she says in afterthought. No introduction, no pleasantries exchanged, and yet it seems a genuine statement, though it comes just before she turns to depart in earnest.

She finds that honesty a little curious; it's there in the tip of Jovie's head as she turns, expression quiet and tangled hair hanging free, to look at Maryam again. Perhaps it's harder to say such a meeting is a pleasure, what with the topic they've discussed, but the little flick a dark brow isn't without a touch of humor and there's something unspoken in the curve of her mouth that might just be a smile. And then she's just some kid, playing marbles in the dirt.

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