==== January 28, 2014
==== Maryam, Cha'el
==== Straight from his meeting with Mama Steen, the Weyrsecond seeks out Maryam. Does he keep his eyes in his head?

Who Maryam, Cha'el
What Straight from his meeting with Mama Steen, the Weyrsecond seeks out Maryam. Does he keep his eyes in his head?
When There are 0 turns, 1 month and 18 days until the 12th pass.
Where Igen, Tea Room

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Tea Room
The Tea Room
This shop is easy to miss from the street. It bears the same striped awning that most shops have, this one in shades of lilac and sand, but it has no sign save for a plaque of sandstone hung beside the door, on which a teacup has been carved. When open, the heavy curtain that covers the doorway is pulled aside to allow entry. After stepping through, one will find themselves in a tiny space decorated with classic desert touches.
The walls are whitewashed to increase the sense of light within but the floor is tiled in hues of blue and green, with each tile bearing in its center a brilliant red lotus. There are only five small tables, all of them of dark, heavily carved wood set low to the ground. To sit at one requires reclining on the plethora of pillows and cushions and layered rugs provided for that purpose; each seat is provided with a carved wooden back-prop to rest the pillows against, for those who want spinal support. Tea is served from the service at the rear of the room, where a tiny smokeless hearth keeps water heated, and a row of trays are kept loaded with teapots, tiny cups, and containers for sweetener. There is a small selection of fruits, breads and cheeses also available for those looking for a snack but this is not a place for heavy meals.
Though owned by Maryam of the Steen family, the shop is most often staffed by a pair of her unmarried, adolescent nieces- one to tend the hearth, one to serve the tables. An elegant wooden frame, etched with whimsical designs, surrounds a posted list of suggested flavors available for ordering Written in an elegant hand the list reads: ('look flavors')


At this hour it's unlikely that the Tea Room will see customers. It's far too early, for one, save for the occasional tea seeker looking to purchase pre-measured bags of the stuff for their own use. And given the temperatures the day dawned with, even those hopefuls are kept away, unwilling to dare the dazzling white light and matching heat of the streets to make it to the shop. Maryam's nieces won't arrive until later, when the chance of patrons increases, but the young woman herself has come in early- she never could resist the opportunity for quiet privacy, time to spend poring over the books she balances for herself and some few others. Figures come far more easily when performed in silence. So the veiled lady sits on one of the low cushioned couches, foot tucked under ankle, one knee raised and an open ledger in her lap. On the nearby table sits an emptied teacup, the dregs sifted to stillness at the bottom. For hope of business the curtain that covers the door has been drawn back but thus far this morning it has admitted only fitful breezes and a thin drift of sand over the tiled floor.

Straight from his meeting with the matriarch of the Bazaar, Igen’s Weyrsecond winds his way through side streets and alleyways with far more familiarity than that of a few months ago. Or perhaps it’s just this particular location that he’s managed to commit to memory for some or other reason. Despite legitimate excuse to be there, Cha’el nonetheless glance up and down the narrow street before ducking inside, coming to a halt just inside the doorway. There could have been a hundred people crammed into the cozy area and still, he’d be able to pick Maryam out in a heartbeat. So it is that with sea blue gaze latched to the veiled young woman, he takes another step inward. “Got another cup for a thirsty Weyrsecond?” He asks in quiet rumble by way of announcing his presence.

Maryam is already starting to glance up as the light from outside is cut off by the intrusion of Cha'el's body into the doorway. When his voice is heard and his identity confirmed, she slides with alacrity from simply glancing to sliding to her feet, the ledger set aside. A few hasty steps carry her towards the door- and then she stops, robes aswirl around her and gaze probing past the brownrider to the street beyond his person. "If you are thirsty, sir," she says after a second spent gathering her thoughts, "you should have something you will enjoy. I have water if you like. There might even be some ice left though it was melting quickly, last I looked. But if it is tea you want…" The young woman trails off there, silent again as she just looks at the man. Silent, and silent, and then finally with a gentling of the skin around her eyes, she says, "Please come in, sit with me?"

Remaining where he is, Cha’el watches Maryam’s approach in a fashion something akin to a feline watching a small creature boldly crossing its path and then bearded features warm at the offers of hospitality being made. A chuckle follows and the proprietor of the tea room is lent a lopsided smile. “I like tea. There’s nothing quite like it to start the day out right or end it on a good note.” Somewhere Sikorth is rolling his eyes and uttering a rumbling snort. With another sweep of attention about the small area, the Weyrsecond lends the veiled young woman a knowing look and heads directly to the couch set furthest back from the others. He even manages to look less awkward about curling his frame down onto the low seating. Maybe he’s getting used to the strange arrangements of the Bazaar. “You have been well?” A simple question yet loaded to the hilt with those unasked.

Tea it is, then. Maryam steps aside and while Cha'el is busy in settling himself, she is busy in simply observing him doing so. It's a lapse in the finest service that the Bazaar can offer but eventually shaken free of the reverie caused by his significant look, she hastens to where the brazier heats water for the tea services. "It is kind of you to ask. I have been very well," she confirms as she collects a tray of the necessaries. Once assembled she bears it over to the table and kneels before the brownrider before sliding it onto the polished surface. "Though I find myself wishing there were more hours in the day." This remark accompanies a look veiled by lowered lashes, another implication of a smile, before she returns to filling a cup for him- and seasoning it with sweetener to remove the bitter edge. Once the cup is ready she cradles it in both hands and twists to face him again, the offering made with all due formality. "To your health, Weyrsecond, and a long happy life."

Tropical eyes track Maryam’s movements as she goes about the ritual of preparing and brewing the tea. “More hours,” the Weyrsecond echoes through an amused twitch of lips. “I could definitely go with more…hours.” Is that a private smirk he briefly wears? Lifting his hands to accept the sweetened tea, they cup over Maryam’s for just a few moments longer than is necessary and then Cha’el’s tweaking the delicate china ear between large thumb and forefinger. So tiny!! But he doesn’t drink yet and with his cup held awkwardly in one hand, holds the other out for the veiled young woman to take, “Come sit with me, we have business to discuss.”

Maryam casts her eyes down once the tea is taken, giving the impression of flushed cheeks even if they're impossible to see beneath the soft drape of her veil. When the sight of his fingers intrudes on her field of vision though, there's no hesitance in the way she sets her fingers over his and lets him help her over, from knees to the cushion beside him. And once settled, she doesn't rush to flee his hand. Instead her smaller one curls loosely around his- ready to be snatched away at any moment but held all the same. "Business," she echoes, lifting cooler blue eyes to warmer. This time, her smile isn't a fleeting thing. Oh, how business affects her! "Is it business that brings you here then?"

She may be ready to snatch her hand away but it doesn’t stop Cha’el from lacing his fingers between hers and giving her hand a quick squeeze. Shifting to draw long legs up, bent at the knees, the brownrider utters a short chuckle, features limned by a roguish cast. “This is where business and pleasure get to make legitimate acquaintance.” Wink. “Your mother sent me.” That’s all as he takes a careful sip of his most unfavorite beverage of all time, eyes glinting with amusement as he monitors Maryam’s reaction to that little gem.

Is he trying to give her a panic attack? If so, it's working! No sooner has he mentioned those fateful words, "your mother", then Maryam does pull her hand away. Sharply and with deceptive strength for someone so very skinny. With understandable alarm she looks at the doorway again. "My mother sent you?" That is less a question and more a demand for elaboration, delivered quietly but with a certain blade's edge steeliness that threatens glacial ice. "That is not a thing to tease me about, sir. She would have your hide and for me…" A fate too terrible to even put into words! But gradually it dawns on her- the wink, the sparkle in his eyes, the chuckling. The brownrider doesn't appear to be worried. Which means that she subjects him to a look of suspicion that would make Mama Steen proud. "What have you done?"

Well now, that wasn't exactly the reaction he'd expected. The sudden turn of shock, yes, the loss of her smaller hand twined about his? Not so much. And it probably shows in the flash of sad puppy dog eyes. There and gone again so quickly it's like it never happened. Replaced by a chagrined smile. "Calm your heels, sweetheart. She knows nothing." There's a pause in which he wets his whistle with another swallow of tea after which a cunning smirk appears. "Found a way to get the Bazaar and the Weyr working together to the benefit of both but I'm going to need your help," Cha'el finally reveals. "According to your mother, I'm supposed to keep my eyes in my head and watch my tongue," beat, "though I do believe I might go squint if I tried." Smirk. "So how 'bout I don't," watch his tongue, "and we'll say I did, aye?"

Maryam folds her hands over her heart as if there were risk of it trying to escape her chest. They remain there as her pulse slows gradually towards a more normal pace. In the meantime, she does listen to what he has to say- and finds herself puzzles. "I thought you…" No, strike that. She pauses then starts again, after a shaky little laugh. "I have no idea what to think. You…have found a way to get my mother to work with you? And she told you to come to me, if you mind your manners? That is…" Beyond anything she has words for. The young woman ends up trailing into silence instead, studying Cha'el's face, eyes shifting quickly back and forth as she takes in the smallest nuance. "You are certain she knows nothing? And she…truly sent you here? To me?"

Reaching for one of those folded hands, Cha’el will boldly lift it and brush a kiss to the back of its knuckles before letting it fall and turning his attention to the tea, because tea, YUM! Right. Back to matters of business, and yes, the Weyrsecond is indeed looking a tad smug for his accomplishment no matter how small it might be in having managed to get Mama Steen to hear him out. It slips at Maryam’s last, fond reassurance casting out in its place. “Do you think I’d be sitting here with all my dangly bits still intact if she knew?” He asks, a brow hiking up in pointed manner. “It’s about rounding up those lazy fu…erm, refugees that refuse to work and have been causing problems in the Bazaar. The Weyr has a use for them. In order to make such a raid possible, we need to work in close unison with those of the Bazaar. Your mother said I should come to you about speaking to them,” the list of names is rattled off, “as she doesn’t have the time to do so herself.” See? All quite safe. Not a trap at all. By Faranth’s good graces.

"One never knows with my mother," Maryam murmurs. With her hand returned to her, she brushes the pad of her thumb over the knuckles that had been so favored by his lips, as if her skin still tingled there. "I thought perhaps you might have lost your mind and gone to her but…she likely would not have let you leave if so." There, she's successfully restored what passes for a sense of humor with this odd young woman. She lifts her head and lets her eyes narrow at him in a smile that shows some small measure of amusement. Mild, at best; the majority of her thoughts are being given over to more practical considerations, ticking briskly along in their machine-like fashion. "How very like her to assign that work to me, as she knows I am trying to establish the shop and that takes most of my time. Six people, none of them likely to hear the word raid…:

“Gone to her? About…?” It’s Cha’el’s turn to wear an expression of bemusement now. “Oh. Ooooh.” Now he’s just staring at Maryam as if she may have grown another head. “Shit, I know I can be a dumbass sometimes but I do rather like my head,” and other bits, “attached to my body,” the Weyrsecond gives back with dryly amused roll of eyes. “What do you take me for, hmm?” That asked as he leans, drawn as if by a magnet to those smiling eyes, “Some wet-behind-the-ears pup?” Teasing, low and gentle, fallen away when business is back on the table, a frown dipping brows toward one another when she goes on to paint the distraction form purpose her dam is obviously trying to implement. “Hey,” a quiet demand for her attention, “we can split ‘em up. I’ll take some, you take some, aye?” The brownrider offers. “And we don’t call it a raid we call it a….purge?”

"You are not, but I am," Maryam quietly interjects into his teasing- it's as near an apology for leaping to assumptions that he'll get. That and her smile, which comes steadier now as she dips her head and lifts her eyes to meet (and hold) Cha'el's. "And you are not a…that word. Not at all. This, what you did, getting my mother to agree…" That defies the label of dumbass. It isn't long before she's slipped back into considering practical matters. "That could work. N'thu…perhaps you might approach him? He is like We'bey, caught between Weyr and Bazaar. It is a position that could be used well in something like this. Grayden supplies my tea, I can approach him…"

Quiet long moments, captured in the refreshing sea of cool blue, Cha’el eventually retreats back to a safe distance, a low chuckle slipping free. “No, sweetheart, you most certainly, are not,” a roguish smirk allowed to appear before being tucked away again. Though amusement yet lingers when Maryam can’t bring herself to say the word ‘dumbass’. “Your mother is an intelligent woman,” he points out, “she wouldn’t have agreed if she didn’t see the value of what was being proposed.” Of that he’s under no illusion. “And apparently, she likes seashells.” Okay so that draws a sly curl of lips. “N’thu, eh?” The name and explanation are filed away with a nod followed by another swallow of cooling tea. At least he’s not grimacing nearly as badly as before. “Your mother also suggested we speak to her personal medic…Taryn?”

The assurance deepens her smile, albeit briefly. Not much can drag Maryam away from work once she's been given the scent. Singleminded, she folds her hands in her lap once more and nods thoughtfully as he continues on. "Taryn. She works for the Pit, seeing to the fighters." But there, there's a crack in the businesslike facade. She hesitates- and then says, "I showed her the shop before I purchased it. And she guessed there was someone I had my eye on. She is very perceptive. I can speak with her, it is probably best."

Finishing his tea but careful to leave those nasty bitter dregs behind in the cup, Cha’el turns an interested look on Maryam when she expands on Taryn’s work and what appears to be a friendship. Now wariness etches across the Weyrsecond’s features. “You told her? About us?” There is more business to be discussed, people to decide which of them should approach but right now, there’s a cold snake of dread coiling in the pit of his belly.

The look on his face is warning enough that Maryam hesitates- a pause that is every bit as telling as an answer might have been. This time, it’s she who reaches for his hand, though she remains aware enough of their location to shift forward on the cushions, turning to face the man so her body hides the view of anyone who might step inside. No one will see the way she works to link her smaller fingers through his. “Before us,” she says quietly to explain, “I told her that…there was a man who had turned my head. So yes. She knows I had interest in you. But Taryn has kept larger secrets than this. She will not tell, I swear to you, Cha’el.”

Glancing over his shoulder as if expecting to see a lynch mob busting through the door, Cha’el’s attention is drawn back to Maryam by the surreptitious slip of slender fingers between his. Long he examines cool wintry hues before finally giving a short nod and a quick smile. “I trust your judgment,” he tells her forcing his shoulders to relax. “So Eollyn or Mayte?” The Weyrsecond queries on two of the names handed to him turning back to the safer topic of business. “Your mother seemed unsure as to which should be approached.”

It isn’t the response she might have preferred but Maryam must content herself with it. She continues to study his face a moment longer before echoing that short nod. Her fingers loosen and slip away. “Eollyn is great with child,” she murmurs, “and so Mayte might be better suited to thoughts of business. There is Sara as well, she is woman to…ah…the man who held the knot before you. If you take one, I can take the other.”

With a squeeze of fingers about his, the Weyrsecond listens attentively as Maryam explains about Eollyn and then gives a nod to seeking out Sara, “A’lory’s weyrmate.” The term clarified though to what purpose goes without explanation. But Cha’el’s not done. Something she’d said flickers at the forefront of his mind and is enough to draw a glint of roguish amusement. “You were checking me out.” Statement not question. “Minx,” he accuses quietly, frustrated by the wrap of veil that enforces propriety. “So this, Taryn. She is a close friend of yours? Like We’bey?”

The accusation draws a heightening of color behind her sheltering linen. Maryam tucks her chin low. “I was having certain thoughts,” she murmurs confirmation, “and perhaps I ought not to have shared them but…” There’s a slight hitch in her voice, a hesitation. “She is a friend, yes. But not like We’bey. We’bey is almost family, she is more-”

But further elaboration is interrupted. There’s a flicker of shadow at the door, giving the young woman only a second or two of warning. She’s on her feet in a flash and arranging herself as if caught in the act of lifting the tea tray from the table, just before two smaller linen-wrapped figures burst into the shop. The girls- for they prove to be Maryam’s nieces- are all a-chatter, at each other, at Maryam, until they realize there’s a man sitting right there. Then they stop, suddenly still, silent and wide-eyed, staring at the Weyrsecond.

A grin, somewhat cocky at the edges peels out at Maryam’s confession followed by a husky chuckle. “Mmhm.” A pause and then interest hikes a brow. “She’s more…?” With his upper torso starting to lean toward the veiled young woman, Cha’el abruptly straightens when two twittering little avians in the form of linen-wrapped girls arrive and the proprietor of the tea room leaps up. Careful to keep his attention from, the Weyrsecond, pushes up to his feet and offers the girls a polite smile. “The Weyr’s appreciation,” he intones with a short dip of head as he takes his leave, glance lingering only briefly at the older of the trio before heading back out into the sidestreet and on to duties that await attention.

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