Merakh, Cha'el


After a long day both on the ground and in the air, Weyrsecond and guard recruit find themselves at the same watering hole. More rum than talk is shared.


It is the fifteenth day of the second month of the first turn of the 12th pass.


Igen Weyr, Dustbowl Cantina

OOC Date


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To enter the Dustbowl Cantina is to descend: the heart of the ancient tavern lies half underground, at the foot of ancient steps, insulated from summer heat and winter cold by the volcanic rock surrounding it. A windowless place well-lit by glows, it is homey, even cozy, with a certain bijou charm - but for the deep gouges worn in wooden table and solid stone, some clearly lingering evidence of boisterous brawling. The wall behind the well-polished bar, though, remains free from scars or graffiti, as does the door into the small kitchen, and the stairwell up into the owner's quarters: the barkeep and his staff reign, and they guard their territory well. After all, only a fool angers the source of the booze.

Once upon a time, people thought that lunacy came from the moon. These days, with the wings almost constantly out of the Weyr and the rest of the residents rustling in the lull, Merakh would attest to it personally that Thread brought all the howling savages to the fore. She's finally off-shift, with lines of fatigue chiselled into the beautiful form of her face, and there's little sense of the forthright, witty woman that she normally is as she slumps over one of the smaller tables in the back. Her jacket is haphazerdly untied, and she's resting most of her weight on one elbow, with a palm supporting her chin. The slow slosh-slosh-slosh of rum occupies her thought now, and every so often she tastes, shudders and exhales as the sting warms down her spine, turning taut muscles liquid with a little fermented ease.

Aside from drills, sweeps and now, fighting Thread when the call goes out for the wings to meet the ancient enemy, Igen’s Weyrsecond hasn’t been seen around in public much. Rumor has it that meals are taken in his weyr and the hidework that goes with the job is conducted in the relative privacy of the Council Chambers. Thus it is that it might be a surprise for some to find Cha’el the next to come through the door of the Cantina. In need of a shave to neaten that not-so neat line of beard and moustache, hair in need of a trim and looking like he hasn’t slept in days, the brownrider mutters something at the barkeep and then turns to survey the tavern with dull disinterest. Such surveillance draws his eye to one female guard skittering away again as soon as recognition dawns. Yeah, so not in the mood for that.

To be honest, she doesn't even spot him. Her situational awareness is possibly that of a mouldy cheese at the moment, and it's not about to get better with what she's drinking. So, she ignores him entirely, just as she does the rest of the cantina, caught too much by the amber in the container to think nasty thoughts. Even the barmaids' titter doesn't penetrate.

“Sorry, Weyrsecond. That particular label is in the back. I’ve sent Rayn to get it for you. If you’ll just take a seat, he won’t be a minute.” Too tired to bother voicing his discontent, or really to even have any, Cha’el merely grunts and pushes away from the bar counter. A hot soak in the baths and rum. Hopefully not together or he may well wind up without his pants again. Moving on, his directionless meander takes him passed the table where Merakh is nursing her drink. “You look about as good as I feel.” With filters down the first thing that comes into his head is drawled and then he’s ambling on by again.

It's good to lose one's pants sometimes. Then again, from the rumours she's heard Cha'el is more a tights man. Merakh gives the man a brief look, up-and-down, before her shoulders shrug expressively and she salutes that statement with her glass. One foot lifts to push a chair out, which he may make use of or not, as the mood strikes. There's still an almost-full bottle on her table, of no particular label: Weyrseconds may get drunk in style. Guards do it with whatever they can afford.

Those rumors of tights are likely never to be confirmed by another viewing. Probably just as well. Having almost traversed passed the table; it’s the scrape of wooden legs of stone that flicks Cha’els attention backward. The silently offered chair is given a brief appraisal, which then switches to the woman extending the invitation to join her. With little more than another of those a-typical grunts, the brownrider backtracks and plonks his butt into it to wait for his order to appear so that he can go and get drunk in style, on his own. Leaned back in the chair, weary sea-blue eyes latch to the dark-haired recruit. Yup, he’s staring but more through Merakh than actually at her.

"Another mug," she requests of one of the barmaids nearby, voice a hoarse, breathy alto — alcohol, perhaps, or something else. When the mug appears, she takes the bottle, pours him a more-than-healthy dram and pushes it over the table. It's only then that she looks up at him; they likely both have dark circles underneath the eyes, and it doesn't do either of them good. Still, her eyes stay on his, letting him look his fill of the back of her brain without comment about it. "Your health," she finally says as she lifts the mug in toast. Yes, it it's probably rotgut, no fancy palates here.

If only Merakh knew the kind of rotgut his now more refined palate had been abused with back when he was still in the craft. But that would require conversation and this night, neither of them are exactly Chatty Kathy’s. It’s the slide of mug and the toast spoken that finally jerks Cha’el from that deep reverie. Dark lashes women would kill for sweep down and then up once, twice and then a third time before his mouth twitches about a wry line. “And yours,” the brownrider returns, the barest flicker of gratitude there for the sharing of what passes for rum.

It's the kind of night when even bedsport will take effort. Merakh's eyes shut for a moment as she sips at the alcohol, grimacing as it warms her stomach enough to fight, just a little, the deadly cold of fatigue and mental weariness. There are courtesies due drinking partners though, the slow refill when a mug empties, the little 'mhm' to give to say that you're thinking of them, but respecting them enough to be alone with their booze. Those she gives readily if quietly, and if, after a while, she's staring at him through a haze of softened responsibility… well, it's a nice view. Better than some of those in the tank.

The lift and fall of mug bearing hand comes by rote. The mug goes up, the rum goes down, exhale, repeat. But the third offer of a refill, Cha’el flattens his hand over the top of the mug. A silent, ‘No, thank you’ followed by the vague impression of what might have been a smile if allowed to come to fruition. Just then, a lad of not more than fourteen turns arrives at the table and sets down a bottle wrapped in cloth bearing the insignia of an Istan brewery. “Thank you, Rayn. Tell Jharlodar to put it on my tab.” Ah, he speaks! Once they’re alone again, Merakh will find herself put under closer study. “Long day?”

As he studies her, she studies the wrapped bottle's shape, trying to make out whether she recognises it. It gives him time enough to study the rest of her: the tiny knick of a knife round the side of her neck, the still-straight, neat braid. "Yes," she answers vaguely as he speaks. It takes effort to summon a smile up for him, but it eventually manifests, unexpectedly sweet. "Two ornery drunks, and an incident with an ornery husband down in the back alleys." Pause. " He wasn't happy." She leaves it at that. "You?" The mug wiggles skyways. "Yours? Still safe?" Concern? Odd, perhaps, but there.

“You know, it’s not very nice to take other women’s husbands down a back alley. The wives tend to get all bent out of shape.” There’s no acid in that, merely a tired half-smile as he pays homage to supposed insult he’d made the last time they’d met. “Sorry. Bad joke. I’m tired.” While the questions that follow are clearly well intended, they’ll find Cha’el slipping back into that tight silence with light lines creasing between his brows. “Aye. For the most part. Some got hit.” He’s obviously taken the ‘Yours?’ part of that on a far broader scale than it was meant to be taken.
She might be tired, but not too tired to stare at him, stink-eyed. "Don't start," she mumbles into her handpalm. One finger-tip traces a slicking of rum around the mug's lip as she thinks. Tries to think. "Oh. If I can do anything…" She trails off, uneasily aware that there's nothing. He's keeping to his part of the rider-resident deal, after all: one part fights Thread, the other supports. Her support tonight, however, is as wiggly as a pillar on sand. Her glance flicks away; if there's one man she doesn't want to see her sadness, it's this one. "How was the Hold?" she asks hoarsely.

Cha’el doesn’t bother to point out that he’d been joking. A bad joke but pulling her leg nonetheless. He’s too tired to care if she thinks otherwise. A quick smile. There and gone and again, barely formed is given to the quick offer of help. Its over and now the Weyr tallies losses and injuries and drills and drills some more until they’re once again called on to do their duty. “Still there,” the brownrider replies on Igen Hold tired eyes reflecting the attempt at dry humor. Merakh’s in luck this night for any hint of sadness is probably put down to exhaustion or not picked up on for the same reason. With his bottle delivered, Cha’el gathers his legs beneath the chair and makes ready to stand and head back out again. “Thanks for the drink.” At least he still has manners.

What a pity. She'd not care if the entire place got eaten down to the ground. So she feels tonight, in any case. "Yes." Again her glass lifts to salute him; when he gathers his things to leave the table she doesn't protest. "I wish you a dreamless night, Weyrsecond. Wind to thy partner's wings." She still has more drinking to do, apparently, and so she sets to. Perhaps, one day, she might even be able to out-drink her memories.

Merakh’s parting words find Cha’el pausing and fitting her with a long, long look from out of an expression that gives nothing of his thoughts away. He says nothing but instead tips a salute to the guard recruit and then he’s gone as quietly as he’d arrived.

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