====October 26, 2013
====Mama Steen, Maryam, Tuli
====There are no scantily-clad mudfighting goldriders in this scene, but there is plotting!

Who Mama Steen, Maryam, Tuli
What There are no scantily-clad mudfighting goldriders in this scene, but there is plotting!
When There are 0 turns, 10 months and 21 days until the 12th pass.
Where The Pit, Igen Weyr

mama-steen.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.

-- On Pern --
It is sunset
It is 5:33 PM where you are.
There are 0 turns, 10 months and 21 days until the 12th pass.
It is Winter and 50 degrees. It is a bright, sunny day.

A winter sunset at Igen sees the temperature outside rapidly dropping, the familiar sharp fluctuation of a desert environment. It's the sort of weather that calls for coats — which is precisely what the leggy young woman entering the Pit is wearing. A heavy, wool-lined thing of obvious expense, it would hint at high rank even if her face (and hair) weren't instantly recognizable: Tuli, gold Elicheritath's rider, in the flesh. And in a rather dubious environment for delicate (hah) weyrwoman eyes, no less. Not that there's a fight on at the moment. Shutting the door securely behind her, Tuli pauses and peers around, obviously expecting someone.

Yes indeed, there's no blood, sweat or glistening manflesh on display this evening. Whether this is a disappointment is left to the viewer. Instead, Tuli is greeted with echoing space and dim shadows cast by half-opened glowbaskets. It's brighter in the office and the shadows there actually move, one of them sliding along the floor to grow larger and larger until it resolves into a woman-shape. A veiled woman-shape, so really just oblong and anonymous, belonging to Maryam. "Ma'am," she greets quietly, before stepping inside to invite the goldrider into the room beyond. Within, Mama Steen sits within her intricately carved chair, the posts used to carry it set against the wall. Her bandaged feet are up on a stool and a goblet of something rich, hot and spiced is in one swollen hand. A matching goblet sits on the desk, just waiting for their guest to have a seat- an invitation which comes with an impatient gesture from the matriarch. "Will you be wanting guest right, then? Salt, bread and water?"

"If I may." Tuli is solemn-faced as she enters the office in Maryam's wake, for all that she flashed the younger Steen a moment's smile outside. She's left her coat out in the room beyond, to reveal austere blacks with a military edge, with only the glint of her bright knot to soften the effect. Despite it, there's no mistaking the restrained humility in the nod she gives the Bazaar matriarch, a de facto acknowledgement that she is very much on someone else's turf. As she takes her seat, hands neatly folded in her lap, she offers up, "The Weyr's duties to you and yours. And thank you for inviting me."

It's clear Tuli knows how best to strike the right first note with Mama Steen. She gives the younger woman a narrow look for a moment before a smile appears that deepens the seams of her face and reveals one or two missing teeth. "The Bazaar's duties to you, madame weyrwoman," she rumbles then, taking a more formal tact. "How could I not? I'm curious. You'll understand why, eh? I'm sure. Girl!" And there's Maryam, fresh from settling Tuli's coat somewhere clean and secure. Without looking at either woman- best behavior on display- she proceeds to the sideboard where a tray is arranged with little bowls of each named item. Ready to be carried, offered first to their visitor and then to Mama for a taste of all three. She murmurs, as she serves, "To your health, ma'am."

Tuli doesn't quite relax, exactly, at passing her first test — but there is a subtle loosening of a few muscles in her shoulders, and a hint of a return smile quirking up the corners of her mouth. "I'd be curious, too, in your shoes," she comments, mild as milk. "My apologies for not having paid a visit when we first were settling in, by the way. To your health, and the prosperity of your family." If she doesn't perform the ritual with quite the same ease as a native Igenite, well… she's at least giving it the old college try, that counts for something, right?

It seems to count for everything, keeping Mama's smile in place and prompting a subtle warming of Maryam's eyes as she glances up to catch Tuli's. A furtive glance, quick but encouraging, before she ducks her head to place the tray before her mother. After that, the weyrwoman is presented a goblet of mulled wine to match her hostess and the quiet young woman bows herself out of the room- no doubt to lurk nearby in case anything is needed. Or maybe to eavesdrop? "Paid a visit," Mama Steen echoes, thoughtful even through the gruff. "Hadn't expected it of you folk but it's nice of you to say. Tidy way of telling me you would've, had you known better. What's this, then? Not a social call. And not W'rin's doing, I'll wager, that you're suddenly of a mind to pay a visit."

"I would have," Tuli agrees, drily, taking the wine with a smile and a nod to the departing (or 'departing') Maryam, "had I known better. You'll have to forgive us -" oh, it's us, is it, not just the goldrider herself? "- but the rules were a little… um, different. In our own time." So it's the Oldtimers she's speaking of, then. A fact that is confirmed when she says, "No, it's not the Weyrleader's doing at all. And," her mouth twitches, "I'd be rather obliged if you see fit to keep word of my visit from reaching his ears." There's a pause here, under the excuse of taking a sip of wine, to collect her thoughts. "It's my understanding that the Pit employs a Healer. I'd like to borrow her, if I may."

"You, I'll forgive." Because Mama is feeling generous and appears to like the woman's manners. She tilts her goblet at Tuli in a way that says 'good on ya' before taking a sip, settled in to listen to the rest. Almost nonexistent eyebrows lift at the first request. The second just causes them to shoot higher, trying to become one with her hairline and carving interesting wrinkles in her brow. "That's a lot of obliged there, missy. Just one would be cause for wondering but both?" Her chair grumbles and groans as Mama levers herself forward at the waist, an elbow perched on the sleek wooden arm. "This is the part where I ask you what in the world you're planning?"

"Well," says Tuli, frankly, though there's just the slightest hint of humor to how she says it, like she's having the boring diplomat equivalent of fun, "I'd be happy to share — but are you sure you want to know?" Let that one sink it for a second, while she takes a sip of wine. "It may be in your best interest to be able to claim ignorance, just in case W'rin and Corelle -" oh ho, so it's BOTH halves of the Leadership pair, "- take the time to trace how Sadaiya and I -" oh ho again, so it's BOTH juniors, and there's no way she's dropping so many juicy details by accident "- got the Healer in the first place." After a moment, her brow wrinkles, before she adds, rather cheerfully: "Or I s'pose you could just claim I lied to you. Although, you'll have to forgive me, I'm not sure what the long-term ramifications of that would be in Bazaar politics. You would know better than I."

"I didn't get to where I am by sticking my thumb up my ass and whistling through life." That…probably makes more sense with some sort of cultural context. Mama provides no illumination on the matter; far too busy being well and truly piqued on this matter of juniors versus leadership! Her eyes might be a little faded by the Turns, dishwater blue instead of sky, but they can twinkle with the best of them. She's enjoying this. "What good is plausible deniability if you use my Healer to poison that great icy bitch who thinks she's in charge here? Oh, the little junior lied," she says, turning up the octave of her voice to a youthful register, "and I had no idea what she was about." Aaand back to the gruff. "Like that'd save me a trip to the brig and a long walk into the desert while you sit pretty with a shiny new knot on your shoulder. Out with it, missy. What're you looking to pull the Pit into?"

"Goldriders don't murder each other, so have no fear of that." Tuli even looks genuinely, if somewhat academically, scandalized at the thought. Holding her goblet between her hands to soak in the warmth of the mulled wine, the young woman leans forward, slightly. Out with it, indeed. "It's nothing so terrible. Only, Corelle is hidebound on the matter of girls on the Sands - and certain of the Oldtimer women have decided to not let that stand." She snorts, horselike, a slight break in the front of Smooth Diplomat Tuli. "We Oldtimers make up over half of the wings of this Weyr, and she's going to have to learn to accommodate our ways, just as she's going to have to learn to accommodate the Bazaarfolk. And Sadaiya and I won't allow our chromatic sisters to be sidelined." The speech of justification comes first: the reason Mama Steen comes into it follows immediately thereafter. Never let it be said Tuli keeps her audience waiting. "Sadaiya is sneaking a few willing girls onto the Sands. We need your Healer because we need someone to sign off on their physicals without asking questions. And we think your Healer might be better poised to do so than any of the regular Healers in the Infirmary." The young goldrider lifts her eyebrows, after: a silent question.

Scandalizing the young woman is an excellent start, the look she wears setting off some wheezy chortling. Unfortunately, everything after that just seems to bore the matriarch. Girls, Sands, wings, blah blah blah: if Mama weren't so intent on sipping from her goblet, and pretending she's the mannerly sort, she might well have been doing the hand gesture about halfway through Tuli's justifications. "I thought you were going to do something interesting," she laments when the weyrwoman finishes. But fear not! It takes only a moment for thoughtful to creep back in, hand in hand with a glint of devilry. "…she'll be furious, won't she?" Equality? Piffle. Pissing off Corelle? Now they're talking. "How much is this worth to you?"

"I loathe her with the fiery heat of a thousand desert suns," says Tuli, with great enthuasiam. Poor Corelle hasn't even DONE anything to her (yet). She's just got one of those faces, you know? The kind of face that looks best when contorted in rage. "And," her tone turns more practical, the flowery rhetoric of justification left smoothly in the dust, "I have to put my foot into this, somehow - else she'll target Sadaiya, maybe transfer her out." On the matter of price, the woman looks thoughtful. "Well," she says, tapping absently on the rim of her glass. "It's not life-threatening crucial. But it would improve my general happiness. What can a weyrwoman do for a Bazaar shopowner, ma'am? Have you use of my paltry connections to the South? My marks?" A thought hits her, and her mouth twitches with a suppressed snicker. "A desire for Sadaiya and I to have a scantily-clad mudfight in your pit?"

"You want to play those games, you just go on down to Rosie's Daughters. I've no interest in whoring out the Weyr's juniors, we keep standards here." And only real whores get to play the silly fun matches on their miniature sands. Can't have the unwashed masses leering at respectable women out there- even if they don't seem to appreciate proper respectability. Mama settles back in her chair and commences with the eyeing of Tuli while pondering a suitable price. "Truth be told, girl, I could give two shits about what that woman does to you and yours, who goes, who stays. But for this? I'll get you a healer on two conditions." Beefy fingers are raised to count them off, wrinkling like stressed sausages as she bends each down. "First, my name doesn't come into it. The Pit doesn't come into it. When she comes roaring at you after, it's you who takes that flaming. Second, I'll take a purse. Make it fine, fat and appropriate to making your ideals a reality, eh?"

"Thank goodness," says the younger woman, with what passes for her personal brand of joviality. "Sadaiya's little, but I'd wager she bites." Just like that, she's Diplomacy Kung Fu Grip Tuli again, taking a measured sip of wine and nodding with a composed and thoughtful calm. "Understood. I doubt they'll even ask, honestly. I expect Corelle and W'rin will be a trifle distracted -" a weird statement, which she does not go into any details regarding, "- but you can rest assured no mention of your part will pass my lips." As for the matter of the marks, there's a nod for that, too, one of good-natured resignation. "Naturally. Sent here directly, or shall I see that it reaches you by way of your daughter?"

A weird statement that draws a sharper look from Mama but she doesn't press. Some things are done the same no matter what time one lives in. "Through the girl, that's fine. She handles the marks." And she'll handle the blame if things go awry as well! Bwahaha! Finishing her wine, Mama leans forward again- moooooan, goes the chair- to set the goblet down on the table. "In a day or two, you'll have a visitor come knocking to arrange the details. That's plenty of time, yes? They're not likely to hatch within the next seven?"

"Within the next two sevens," Tuli says, shrugging. "Eggs can be unpredictable. But in a day or two should be fine - no longer than that, though, if you can. Send them to my office; people are in and out all day, no one will raise a brow." A final sip, and she sets her own goblet down as well, smiling. She's not rising until she's dismissed, though there's a certain 'soon to depart' quality about her, regardless. "You'll find us very grateful." Read: profitable. "And, of course, discreet." After a brief pause, the goldrider asks, "Before I go, and merely out of personal curiosity - if you were me, ma'am, and wishing to pay a few social calls to the local Bazaarfolk… to get to know you all better, of course… how might you go about it?"

"So it shall be," Mama declares as she settles back into her chair. "I'll make sure they hustle. Young folk these days, you practically need to stand with a whip at their backs to get anything like expediency." Her fingertips drum thick and heavy against the arms of the chair and her lips purse out while considering this more personal request. "First, were I you, I'd recognize I'm likely to forge boon friendships from Bazaarfolk, you've too many marks against you. But if it's learning us you'd like to be about, I'd contract a guide to escort you through and testify to that curiosity being the harmless sort. Maryam!" From conversational to bellowing in half a blink, she looks past the weyrwoman to the veiled one who appears in the doorway. She must have been eavesdropping, no one's that fast. "Show the lady to the door."

"Noted." Tuli rises from her seat, pausing to offer a graceful bow. Never let it be said she doesn't have manners, for all she's a wild-eyed outsider with Foreign Ways. "Thank you for your time, ma'am, and your assistance. It's greatly appreciated." Smile! A smile that almost-but-not-quite twitches into a grin at the sudden appearance of Maryam… whose expedient appearance does not appear to surprise the goldrider. TULI KNOWS HOW THIS GAME IS PLAYED, YO. She waits patiently for the younger girl to lead her off, as aware of being on the Steens' turf now as she was when she entered.

The matriarch has a queenly nod of her own in answer to the bow; Corelle has nothin' on Mama Steen. "Can't wait to see their faces," she admits in lieu of parting words, her grin sudden and fierce- and her words likewise acknowledging that yeah, Maryam was probably listening in the entire time. But with no one mentioning that, the veiled young woman glides smoothly to Tuli's side and then juuuust as smoothly leads on towards the exit. It isn't until they're near the front door that she finally speaks up and then only to say, "It was a pleasure, ma'am."

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