====October 21, 2013
==== H'ai, Maryam
==== Oldtimer and Newtimer exchange pleasantries while men bleed and scream in the background. Just another night at The Pit!

Who H'ai, Maryam
What Oldtimer and Newtimer exchange pleasantries while men bleed and scream in the background. Just another night at The Pit!
When There are 0 turns, 11 months and 3 days until the 12th pass.
Where The Pit, Igen Weyr

shai_5.jpg maryamveiled01.jpg


The Pit
One does not enter The Pit so much as descend into it. Why else the name? The Steen ancestors paid for their square footage with sweat, excavating the area and building curved walls up around it. Wide, smooth steps descend into a large entry area that overlooks the pit and galleries. Floors, ceilings and walls have been whitewashed with limestone paste, increasing the amount of light reflected back from the numerous glow baskets hung on the walls. A rounded doorway to the right leads one into the business' office, which is furnished in spartan style: cushions for kneeling or sitting upon, a desk that's low to the ground constructed of the same whitewashed stone as the rest of the building, and niches carved out of the walls themselves for decorative pieces. Here is a small sculpture of men wrestling, there is a wooden carving of a champion with a foot upon his vanquished foe.

Continuing on through the lobby brings one to another set of six stairs that descend into the galleries surrounding the sand-filled pits. A low wall separates audience from combatants, but even at its highest point, those in the galleries are never more than twenty feet away from the action. The sand is raked daily, with fresh sand added whenever the blood to soil ratio becomes too great.

It's early yet, so far as the Bazaar's nightlife is concerned, and though the desert's winter temperatures have plunged, the interior of the Pit is a steamy melange of bodies, sweat, blood and ale. The noise, upon entering, is considerable- upon descent into the arena proper, into the rows of benches that ring the sands, one is faced with a wall of sound as countless men raise their voices to various purpose. Some cheer on the combatants, the current match one of oiled wrestlers whose bodies have been shorn of all hair and who wear only loinclothes. Others are roaring at the Steen men who sit at small tables on each level to accept bets. Still others are simply roaring because that is what one does in here, drinking hard and slapping their fellows on the back at some ribald riposte. Here is male territory; females need not apply.

Of course, women are still present. Rosie's Daughters often supplies girls to act as waitresses, ferrying drinks to members of the audience and suffering more than a few pinches to various portions of their anatomy. And then there is Maryam. In this rowdy riot of masculine life, she stands out for being traditionally garbed in layered robes and a veil, and for being relatively still and silent. Occasionally, small boys will approach the young woman seated by herself to the side of the arena. Runners for the bookies, she'll speak quietly with them to provide fresh odds for coming matches. Mostly, though, she's occupied with watching the crowd. And, as one man finally succeeds in pinning the other- a scream of pain and an audible pop marking the dislocated shoulder that made it possible- she finally stands to begin circulating. As hostess, it is her place to check in on their guests and where she walks, brief quiet falls, proving that yes, women do indeed have a civilizing effect on me. At least for short periods of time.

Off to the side, H'ai leans against whatever post or table or fence or something that's available with a drink. He's a regular to this place; the bluerider enjoying placing bets on those who fight. He wins some, he loses some, but most notably he tends to have a preference for betting not on the winner, but the loser. Even if he loses marks when the loser, well, loses, it's a trend of subversion that tickles his fancy. Tipping the glass back, his eyes might track the girls that wander through the crowd, but he's never dallied with them. This night, he side-steps a drunk spectator, while managing to exchange out his drink for a fresh one with the passing of a few marks. Maybe he's got his mother Shazi's touch when it comes to underhanded things, because the bluerider never seems to lack at least a mark or two to spend here and there. Does he watch Maryam? Insomuch as he watches any of the girls, his attention on the fight, a smile tugging at his lips.

Trust that the regulars are known, including details such as drink preference and patterns of wagering. And if there's one thing a gambling establishment loves even more than high rollers, it's those people who are willing to steadfastly commit to losing money. That's probably why, when the waitress who's just served H'ai is about to walk away from him, Maryam appears to touch the girl's elbow and murmur a few words. The marks he'd just exchanged are secured in hands decorated with fading henna, those wooden coins cupped in her palm as the veiled woman turns back to the bluerider. "Sir? I apologize, this drink was meant to be on the house," she offers quietly, the marks extended towards the rider for retrieval.

Swirling the glass, watching the amber liquid move around, H'ai is both surprised and pleased when Maryam returns his marks, brows lifting slightly as he palms the wooden pieces stamped with the harpercraft's sigil (a higher value than his neighbor who attempts to wager two farm craft marks against his table-mate's harper craft marks). "My thanks to you," he murmurs, over the rim of his glass. "The little guy. I have high hopes for him, this time." Little could be entirely subjective, but it's clear the bluerider means the guy getting his face pounded on.

Normally she might have moved on, after wishing him a pleasant stay. There are so many guests to greet, after all. But when H'ai says what he does, her eyebrows lift as well and she turns to face the sands. The match isn't one that's drawing a lot of attention- filler for the others to come, the night still being young, the "little guy" is a hopeful, someone who wants to one day have the name that will draw the large crowds. And, of course, the huge sums of money wagered on his success. "He is new to the stable," she muses aloud, "with no special training or experience to make him a likely prospect for winning. May I ask why you have high hopes for him, sir?"

"Desperation?" H'ai seems to pose that as a question, though he's watching the young hopeful with a critical eye. "He's raw, but he's got good form and even though he won't win this fight," because clearly he's already getting his face punched in, "If you watch closely, you'll see he's got the instincts, but doesn't know how to use them. See there." He gestures with his glass, the ice in it clinking musically against the sides. "See how he knows he should duck, but second guesses himself. His opponent is good, but he's at the peak. Got no brains for seeing, but that guy? In a few turns? He'll have the brains and the skill." Brown eyes glance to the veiled girl. "Or so I think anyway. What do I know? I'm just a guy that bets on the losers." A sardonic smile curves his lips.

While H'ai watches the fight, Maryam returns her attention to him. The explanation is focused on, though she gives no external sign of approval or disapproval for his assessment. The self-deprecating follow up, however? That causes her to tilt her head in apparent curiosity. "I had been under the impression that Oldtimers were none too fond of our fights. But you seem to know a great deal about assessing prospects." There's a hint of small, polite smile about her eyes. "He is slated to see his odds improve in the coming month, for those same reasons. His trainer is optimistic. Were you a guard, sir?"

"I suppose the Oldtimers you've met were prudish," H'ai's amusement is clear, though his expression is good for giving little away, minus a touch of dark brooding. "Then again, not all Oldtimers are cut of the same cloth, as the same could be said of your folk. My father was Guard Captain. His lover was a Lieutenant. His best friend was guard captain after he became Weyrsecond. My brother was a guard. I ran away from home and joined the herders. Peopleflesh is no different from knowing runnerflesh." Scandalous as that may sound to some folk. A good chunk of the liquid is consumed, dark eyes straying to the pit and the men fighting. "But see that guy in the crowd? Second time he's been here when the little guy's been fighting. If my suspicion is correct, your little guy's career might be short-lived." Does he sound too worried about that? Not so much.

Scandalous indeed, for talk of lovers and flesh and (shock and horror!) running away. Unexpected, enough so that Maryam draws a small breath, the thin fabric of her veil pressed briefly to parted lips before she releases it. "I have only met a handful," she admits quietly, after gathering her wits about her again. For the sake of manners, she turns to survey the sands as well. "But thus far they have not seemed a varied lot." This is offered without apology- what need for a sorry, when she's simply speaking of anecdotal evidence, her own impressions? Throughout, winter blue eyes are scanning the crowd and when H'ai summons her attention to that fellow, she studies him a moment. "He is not one of ours but his trainer was. Rivalries are common here."

Not one to get fussed about much, H'ai doesn't seem too bothered by her observations of his "kind", even though he seems to subtly set himself apart from the old and new timers more than cleave to either. "Rivalries are common everywhere," is his return, pausing to finish the rest of his drink before he so courteously sets it on a passing tray. The wink he gives the girl is more perfunctory than not — he's never been one to spend his marks on women. "It's not surprising to find it here. People are people, after all." A quick glance to the girl next to him before his eyes track back to the fight. "The now timers I've met are prudish with little to see past their own noses, so I s'pose it's good we're all individuals." Is that a sardonic humor touching the corners of his lips and the edges of his eyes?

"It is the veils that make it so difficult to see past one's nose," Maryam quips, quietly, without a hint of humor to prove that this is indeed an attempt at making a joke, "they draw the eye, one constantly has to refocus." Once said, she turns her head to catch the eye of one of the runners- they're everywhere, these boys, many of them with the same blues and dirty blond hair as the older Steen man. A fingertip grazes her cheek through the veil, then touches her ear, before she inclines her head towards the man pointed out by H'ai. The boy sets off immediately, leaving her to look again at the bluerider. "You set yourself aside. An observer of people rather than someone in the thick of things."

"I never would have guessed," H'ai's deadpan response is droll, dry but with an aged sort of humor to it. Whether she intended amusement or not, the bluerider lives on the edge of always laughing at some, private humor. "It's how I prefer things. Observation gives you so much more than action." At least in terms of the offal of the human condition; though as the fight winds down, the 'little' guy doing mostly as predicted, the bluerider turns his attention fully to Maryam. "Why be involved? What's there in it for me? Nothing." Given that he's given up his glass, he folds his arms across his chest. Always careful, this one, to not get wasted at these events. In fact, for all the apparent lack of care, a lot of attention to detail is kept to his actions.

Maryam's veil flutters again, this time with a ripple of breath that would be laughter, if it carried any sound with it. She's too modest even for that, alas. "You have the outlook of someone raised in the Bazaar, sir. Small wonder you seem so at home here. A token…" Those layered robes provide more than protection; how many pockets are hidden inside? Enough that she's able to pull a small wooden disc from what seems like thin air. Thinner than a mark, stamped with the symbol of a fist, she offers it to him from the tips of her fingers. "Free admittance to a prize fight, redeemable at any time." Her eyes show a deeper smile, this time. Not warmer so much as more engaged. "Sometimes action is necessary, and sometimes involvement does win a person some advantage."

H'ai's eyes crinkle, that internal amusement surfacing again. "My thanks," nimble fingers slip the small disk from the girl's fingers, watching her carefully though whatever thoughts he may have are easily hidden behind a brooding expression. "Sometimes it does. I consider myself schooled." A tease direct that as the bluerider slips that into the pockets of his leathers. At least he does not dress entirely like an Oldtimer nor Newtimer, given to his own kind of style that's different from everyone. "I look forward to the next one." Sincerity could almost be trapped in those words.

"That is kind of you, sir. Many prefer not to accept tutelage from young ladies." There, that might well be another stab at humor. Maryam's eyes do narrow, to imply the joke now that he's shown himself receptive to suffering amusement. "Though young ladies really should not be lecturing honored patrons. We look forward to seeing you at the next one, sir. May the odds favor you and your purse," she adds, sliding so easily back into a guise of quiet formality. She even inclines gently in a gesture that would be a bow, if it weren't standing room only in here. "If you would excuse me."

"Then they would be missing a few screws to not accept valuable tutelage should they come across it, no matter what's betwixt the legs of the messenger." H'ai slants another look to Maryam, unable to stop himself from returning the subtle teasing with, "Although the veils could easily hide a young boy as they could a girl." Not that he thinks she's a boy, mind, but the point remains. "The odds will not favor my purse, but they'll favor what I'm after." Which never seems to really be winning. Or rather, the bluerider doesn't seem intent to only, always place winning bets. Perhaps he has bigger fish to fry. "Of course. My thanks to you for the drink." Because it's given him two more marks to do with as he will, but for now he'll go back to leaning and people watching. Which includes the fighters, of course, but also some folks that linger within the crowds closest to them. All in all, H'ai returns to brooding.

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