Who

Elonoora, Alyna, Amani, Poedea (NPCed by Elonoora)

What

Something isn't right in the Kitchens and it takes a couple of baker apprentices, a snooping greenrider and a junior weyrwoman to put some pieces of the puzzle together…

When

It is around dawn of the seventh day of the eighth month of the thirteenth turn of the 12th pass.

Where

Kitchens, Stores, Southern Weyr

OOC Date 31 Mar 2018 04:00

 

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"What is it?" Not sweetener, apparently.


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Kitchens

Renowned, the culinary prowress of Southern, and suitable her kitchens to the task. A broad and airy sweep of room, it cannot help the sweat-drenching heat — though hearths are cleverly set within the ground itself to maximize efficiency. Big copper pots gleam along long tables, cooks hustling to and fro to prepare the necessary meals. There is never a candlemark the kitchens are left unstaffed: even in the wee hours of the night, bakers can be seen shaping loaves and mixing biscuits. For those who miss meals, a sideboard brims with leftovers that are easily transformed into portable potables, complete with sweet herbal tea and a large wheel of a soft, white, crumbly cheese.


The day always begins earliest in the kitchens seeing as the Weyr's early risers have expectations of things like breakfast before heading to dawn drills or sweeps or whatnot. Today is no exception and the kitchen is bustling with activity to make sure everything's ready for the day even as early morning light is just beginning to peek through the windows. Over in one corner, the churning has come to a bit of a standstill, quite literally. Elonoora isn't slacking off this time as she's currently closely inspecting one of the butter churns. "I'm telling you, it's not right!" This is said to one of the younger apprentices that was working next to her.

Not usually an early riser, Alyna is strangely alert for pre-breakfast but the greenrider is on a covert mission and what better time to do so first thing when the kitchens are busy and the blond woman can slip in to peek around. Dressed in a simple peasant shirt, sleeves swept off her shoulders and a pair of soft wherhide pants. She's carrying an empty sweetener bowl from the living caverns with her as she wanders around, pale blue eyes scanning those working hard, as she apparently goes in search of something. Perking up thought at an exclamation from the butter churners, she wanders casually in that direction, idly looking through shelves nearby keeping up her pretense of searching, but her ears are alert and listening in on the conversation between the two apprentices.

And in those butter churns is probably unsurprisingly, half churned butter, however upon very, very close inspection, there seems to be a subtle sheen to the butter that Elonoora has been working on that is lacking on her companion's product. Her voice does get a bit lower as she continues to discuss this buttery situation with the other girl, although still relatively heated. "I've been working on this for like twenty minutes longer than you have and your's is like way ahead of mine…" Elonoora points to the other crock which seems a bit more solid, but not by much. The younger girl smirks. "Maybe I'm just a better churner than you-" Which promptly earns her an elbow to the side. But then, there's a rider in front of them and both apprentices straighten up in a bolt. Being senior, El's leads with the talking. "Ma'am. Anything we can help you with this morning?"

False alarm. Alyna thinks as she hears more from the two apprentices and it turns out to be something rather mundane. But then she is spotted and it's only with quick thinking that the greenrider raises the empty sweetener bowl with a genial smile, "There was no sweetener on the table, so I figured I would come in here and fill it myself since everyone is so busy. If you could just point me in the right direction…" she trails off a bit as she looks around, really selling her clever cover story.

Well, this section of the kitchens is pretty much devoted to the bakers of Southern, so flour and sweetener aren't hard to find at all. There's a little bit of mostly silent argument between the two girls, more head nodding and shaking than anything else, but Poedea eventually concedes with a sigh towards Elonoora and gets up to take the bowl. "I'll fill it, ma'am." All polite smiles for the greenrider and she'll take the bowl if it's surrendered. Elonoora however is still not entirely convinced that the much younger apprentice and her scrawny wherry arms could possibly be that much better at making butter. Back to her inspection, she scoops up some her half churned butter to take a sniff at a bit of it, wrinkling her brow as she does so. "Does this smell off to you?" Don't worry, the smelled butter won't go back in the churn. Some sanitary measures are important after all.

Alyna definitely does not surrender the bowl strangely enough, "No Ma'am please, it's Alyna, green Haquith's. And I used to work in the kitchens at Telgar Hold when I was younger, I kind of hate asking others to do it." Her eyes trail around and wonders out loud, "I can mange fine, but I remember Telgar having an area specific for refilling these kinds of things…" And again she trails off as she has a bowl stuck under her nose and she sniffs, "You're better off asking someone else, over a decade of sniffing firestone has left me with a dull sense of smell. But as far as I can tell it smells fine." she adds helpfully.

Poor Poedea doesn't really know what to do and so just sort of stands there awkwardly holding part of the bowl while the rider holds the other. Her voice is kind of squeaky as she voices her objection. "But I can do it ma- Alyna, ma'am!" Apparently someone has been harping on the apprentices about showing proper respect lately. Elonoora did not fully get the memo or maybe it's that she's disappointed that nobody seems to agree with her as she sets the bowl over to the side after Alyna dutifully sniffed it and declared she couldn't smell anything. "It's there. I've been churning butter for turns. It shouldn't look like that. It shouldn't take this long and it definitely shouldn't smell that… acidic? It's not any citrus I've ever smelled…" Both the bowl and the entire churn of half-made butter in front of her is getting a very dubious look.

Alyna pulls very gently until the bowl is carefully plucked out of the girl's fingers and wraps two hands around it carefully, "Of course not, I've already taken you away from your work too long. I can do it really. Not all riders are above doing menial tasks you know." Alyna offers in a low voice just for the apprentice's ears before smiling again. To Elonoora, the greenrider will narrow her eyes slightly, as if pondering for a moment before piping up with, "Well acidic is definitely not something you'd think of with butter. I know it's mostly milk, but does anything else go in with it?" she offers helpfully.

Seeing Amani in the kitchens - and everywhere else around the inner caverns - isn't uncommon, though that doesn't mean she regularly crosses paths with everyone who works in there. So she does note a few new faces as soon as she enters, intent upon crossing the space with a purpose, when she notices the apparent kerfuffle over butter going on. "Everything alright here, ladies?" she questions Elonoora and the other apprentice before klah-dark eyes flick to the other rider in the room. "Wingrider Alyna, what brings you down here?" A dark brow lifts with faintly amused curiosity at the bowl in the other woman's hands. "Trying your hand at baking?"

"But, but, but…" Poeda stammers, but doesn't actually lead Alyna towards the sweetener. The poor girl is incredibly flustered, especially when one of the weyrwomen makes an appearance as well. She's just going to flutter her hands off to the side while silently debating what to do. Elonoora is much more decisive and shakes her head at the question. "No, nothing else in the churning. It's literally just cream. After it's fully churned, then you can skim off the buttermilk and add some citrus to that for baking, or salt or herbs to the butter if you're not going to bake with it, but this…" She waves at the churn in front of her. "Is not right. And I know I cleaned them all spotless after we finished yesterday." Once Amani brings herself into the conversation, she rises and gives a little polite nod to the goldrider. "Good morning, werywoman. Everything is uh… okay." Despite her very loud protestations that the butter is not right.

Alyna shoots the younger apprentice a bright smile and is about to reassure her, but the approach of the junior weyrwoman causes the rider's ingrained training to take over and she straightens with a smart salute. "Weyrwoman Amani, good morning." For her part in the younger woman's query, she holds up the empty sweetner bowl, "Nothing so ambitious ma'am, just trying to help out when I saw that this needed refilling." She's keeping it simple for now in front of the apprentices, but she assesses the goldrider briefly, considering pulling the younger woman aside for a quiet word. Turning back towards the bakers though, she furrows her brow, "What about the cream, did you sample it before starting? Could it have been off?" It's obvious Alyna knows very little about the practice of turning cream to butter.

"Except for your butter, apparently," Amani notes, gesturing toward what Elonoora is working with, brows hiking in question as she continues on across the room with slower steps. "I've never tried my hand at churning, but…is it possible something could've gotten in your churn between when you cleaned it yesterday and now? To make it not what it ought to be?" Alyna's reply earns a smirk. "I think you're flustering our kitchen apprentices. Routines being hard to break and all." She's here to keep one of her own, after all, and makes her way to a spot just to the side of the entry to the stores, where the ledger sits. Flipping it open, she leafs through to the most recent entries, turning to look at the greenrider questioning the two bakers and wondering a bit before turning her eyes downward. Stopping on the requisite page, she pulls a finger down the list, expression settled at an easy neutral. After a moment, however, she frowns in thought, a soft hum of consideration attending.

There's a lot of frowning going on today as Elonoora frowns too as she looks down at the churn, arms crossed as she thinks. "I mean, the lids seal up." She picks up the top of the churn and sets it right, demonstrating that it is indeed a pretty good seal. About as solid as most jars anyway. "And we used the same cream in this batch as that batch." Her head tilts towards what was Poedea's churn. "If something were to have gotten into just this one, someone would have had to put it there?" The girl's eyebrows furrow a bit as she glances between weyrwoman and greenrider. Sure, people have been asking an awful lot of questions around the kitchens of late but there are some conclusions that seem awfully heavy to jump to. Poedea, since she can't get the empty sweetener bowl from Alyna, solves her conundrum by just going to the far shelf and retrieving one of the full spares.

"Me? I'm not anyone to get flustered about." Alyna says with a soft chuckle before she watches Amani carefully as the woman looks through the ledger, noting the frown with interest. But just when she is considering asking what it is, the baker's words about someone putting something in the churn intentionally snaps her head back in Elonoora's direction, furrowing her brow considerably. She's only prevented from questioning the girl further when Poedea hands her the full bowl. Uh oh, there goes her reason for being in here. "But who would want to sabotage one crock of butter? It seems a little farfetched don't you think?." Alyna mentions casually, maybe playing devil's advocate, if Pern ever had the concept of a devil.

Amani is paying attention to all the facts about the churn, honestly. She's also juggling that with some of the numbers she just read and coming up with some interesting possibilities. "Yes, that's what I'm getting at," she says to Elonoora's last. "One crock of butter can go out to every table. Other things that can get around to every table - salt, pepper…sweetener. Almost the entire Weyr sits at those tables. Would you set that sweetener down a moment please, wing rider?" she asks as she considers the ledger once more. "Apprentices…pardon me for not getting your names," and she does look honestly chagrined at that, giving them both the opportunity to do so before going on. "Do either of you know of anyone who might have come on to the kitchen staff recently who might have been from Black Rock, maybe?"

Elonoora eyes the crock in front of her and looks up at Alyna. "Well, it does make a couple pounds of butter at once. A little goes a long way and gets mixed in with almost anything. The bread, the fish, the gravy… even the vegetables." Heart disease, shmart disease. Butter on or in EVERYTHING. Plus fats tend to bind to things… like poison? Elonoora is standing up now and wringing her hands. There's a look sent to her fellow apprentice who just happens to be standing on the other side of the two riders, holding the extra sweetener bowl. "I'm uh, Elonoora ma'am. And that's Poedea. And we haven't had anybody new join the staff in a while, definitely not from Black Rock, That I know of. At least not with the bakers. But well, there are a couple of folks with family in Black Rock that have been here ages."

Alyna tilts her head consideringly when the weyrwoman asks her to put down the sweetener, she does so without protest before stepping closer to Amani, "I think you're coming to the same conclusion R'zel, Z'bor and I came to the other night." She remarks softly before her own eyes drop to the ledger to see if she can get an idea of what may have struck the goldrider so. As the younger rider questions the apprentices, she looks up again in their direction, considering the older apparentice's words. Looking around though, the greenrider does notice that their conversation is attracting glances from the many people milling around at their own tasks. With eye unfocusing for a moment, she reaches along the constant buzzing connection to her lifemate. « Haquith. Can you please, respectfully, suggest to Zymuraith that her rider might want to move questioning of kitchen staff to somewhere a little more private before we scare off whoever might be behind all this. » Alyna knows she's taking a risk by telling a weyrwoman what to do, and she's already on the outs with most leadership, but she really doesn't want to risk alerting a possible poisoner who has made so many riders ill.

"Then I suspect you're not just here helping refill sweetener bowls," Amani murmurs back to Alyna, the smirk and lift of a brow she aims the greenrider's way taking on a sly air. Huffing out a decisive bit of a sigh, she straightens from the ledger, flipping it shut. Whether or not Haquith reaches out to Zymuraith, it clearly isn't Amani's intention to start an interrogation in the middle of the kitchen. There's action to be had instead. "Ladies, would you please follow me down to the stores?" she says, including all three of them in her invitation/order. "I think I'm going to need your help with something."

The middle of the kitchens right around dawn is probably not the best time to start any sensitive discussions, that's something they can all agree on. And while a couple hands might be missed for a moment, Elonoora's not going to say no to the order. She knows better than that. She'll give a nod and then grab up the bowl that had the questionable butter in it. Wordlessly, she and Poedea will both trail along to the store rooms. The more frequently used shelves closer to the kitchen proper will still see high traffic at this hour, but the girl grabs a glow basket and beckons for the riders to follow her. "This way… nobody ever comes over here." She probably shouldn't be giving away her secret hiding places, but El's is going to lead to an awkward corner that shouldn't really even be a corner as the walls join pretty funny and make a little hidden alcove that's been filled with random pickled vegetables one cothold or another tithed once upon a time. Not anything needed for breakfast usually.

Alyna shrugs mildly when Amani manages to suss out her real reason for being there, but the small smirk that plays on her lips mimics the sly air of the goldrider. At her invitation, the greenrider bobs her head and just waits for someone to lead the way. When Elonoora seems to be that person, Alyna will take up the rear and follow the rest of them to the Stores, relieved when the apprentice leads them far from the bustle of the Kitchens. She parks herself between the others and way they had come from the Kitchens, her eyes travelling back in that direction often even though she still pays attention to Amani, Elonoora and Poedea, obviously taking up the position of guard easily.


Stores
A vast and sprawling cavern, the main storage area of the weyr is well-tended by the loving and stern hands of those who oversee the bounty stored within. Depending on the time of day, it is a place of illuminated neatness, stacks of dry goods and foodstuffs labeled clearly… or it is a place of werelight and stygian darkness that taunts those who would dare challenge the depths thereof.


Amani, though she knows the stores rather well at this point, is content to let Eloonora lead now, dark eyes taking in the odd little corner they end up in curiously. She certainly won't fault apprentices for having their own little secret nooks…but all things considered, the stores might not be a good place for that right now. "Interesting little spot," she notes amusedly, moving over to examine the various jars there. "We've been taking on a lot of supplies down here lately, some obviously for helping with repairs and whatnot." Glass tinkles as she shifts an empty jar to the side with some others. "We've also taken what looks like an overabundance of tunnelsnake poison, even though it's not the season for it. Not that stocking up is something to be frowned on, but…things might get mixed up somehow." She glances to Alyna. "Wingrider Alyna, can you suss out where the tunnelsnake poison is being kept? It shouldn't be hard to spot - clear labels, lots of it. And nowhere near anything edible." Which should help narrow things down. Her attention turns back to the apprentices. "You said some of the workers her have family in Black Rock. Do you know if in any of them might have been…grumbling over the way things have been handled since the storm? Or since the boat brought the refugees here?"

To say both the apprentices look reluctant to answer that last question would be a bit of an understatement. Poedea stands on her tiptoes to whisper in the older girl's ear. Elonoora looks slightly shocked at whatever was said and like she was about to argue but well… she can't. Now's not the time for secret conversations, so she will turn back towards Amani, wringing her hands on her apron as she's does so. "You've had to have heard some of the arguments between the Headwoman and Ardstelle, right?" The look Elonoora is imploring them to please not make her go into a recounting of that. Sure, she loves gossip as much of the next baker, but talking about two of your bosses and possible reasons to poison folks is not the fun sort! But she will go on with another nugget of information that seems especially pertinent. "The Headwoman's son-in-law and granddaughter were in the group that had claimed the candidate barracks a couple sevens back. They're back in Black Rock now."

Alyna listens intently to the weyrwoman as she keeps a look out but then something she says turns her head back in a snap, "Tunnelsnake poison? That's worrying." she remarks as her ice blue eyes grow stormy. When given the task of finding it is given to her, the greenrider's lips press together in a fine line as her usualy easy-going mien becomes serious and she nods affirmatively. "I'm on it." And then she is, grabbing a nearby glowbasket, eyes travelling over the shelves nearest to them as she wanders down the aisle, her eyes sharp as she scans the shelves. While passing a shelf on which is stored a bunch of empty jars, her gaze catches on something that looks decidedly out of place, a pretty ceramic sweetener bowl pushed all the way behind some of the jars. Putting the glow basket on the shelf, she carefully pulls it out, opening the lid and holding it up to the light of the glow. With one finger, she gently pokes the fine powder inside, but something feels weird about it, it's not quite the right consistency. None too cautiously, Alyna puts the tip of her finger to the tip of her tongue, quickly spitting it out when she tastes something metallic. "I may have found something." she speaks up as she brings her discovery back to the others where they are gathered.

"Yes, I've heard," Amani confirms, a certain flatness to her tone indicating that she, too, would rather not do any unnecessary recounting of things. "Poedea, this wouldn't be a good time to try whispering secrets; I'm standing right here." And she's going to want to know what was said, of course, as the uptick of her brows indicates. News about Laeiva's son-in-law and granddaughter earns a nod. "I remember hearing about that…" But in all her interactions with Laeiva, nothing has seemed amiss beyond the expected depression stemming from her losses and frustrations with all that's happening. Unless there's something else going on… Then Alyna is back with that blue bowl, and the goldrider frowns. "What is it?" Not sweetener, apparently.

Elonoora eyes the sweetener bowl with a sudden recognition as she tugs on Poedea's sleeve. Unlike the younger girl though, she's going to say her piece loud enough for the four of them all to hear, but hopefully not carry much further. "Wasn't that the bowl that went missing like months ago when all the sweetener was replaced with salt that one day?" A trivial sounding detail, but is anything really trivial at this point any more. The younger girl just holds a hand to cover her mouth that's dropped with her surprise.

"It's sweetner, but there's obviously something mixed in with it, it tastes metallic." Alyna says as she wipes at her mouth with the back of her hand to try and get that taste out of her mouth. When Elonoora speaks up, she tilts her head consideringly to one side before her ice blue gaze slides over to the weyrwoman, one pale brow hiking further up on her forehead as she looks to the younger woman for what they should do next, since she is the ranking person in this little party of 4.

Amani doesn't hesitate to dip the tip of her pinky into the sweetener and taste, warily spitting it away once she registers the flavors on her tongue. "It does," she agrees notes. "It might not be readily noticeable mixed in with other things. People usually don't taste-test before spooning it into their klah. Good work, Alyna." Noting the apprentices' expressions well, she beckons them and Alyna along with her, back toward better lighting and the non-edible portion of the stores. "I need you both to tell me everything you know surrounding this bowl," she tells Elonoora and Poedea as she walks. Soon enough, however, she stops where the tunnelsnake poison is and goes about opening a container. Once that's accomplished, she gets some of the contents of the sweetener bowl into her palm and holds it side by side to the visible poison. "Rather similar-looking at a quick glance, don't you think?" she questions the three.

Elonoora begins to turn as white as a sheet when it turns out there really was something being slipped in the food supply, but she'll follow as Amani beckons. She takes a very deep gulp before summon the courage to pour out every last tidbit of knowledge she has about the bowl. "Well… way back in I think it was the beginning of spring or maybe summer?" Time is a little bit dubious there, but she'll continue on, "There was a bunch of stuff that kept going missing. Both Laevia and Ardstelle seemed furious about it, trying to track down all the missing items. People just assumed it was some kids, ya know?" She shrugs but then points back to the sweetener bowl. "But that one in particular is one that normally only gets brought out for the fanciest of guests. It matches some of the fancy porcelain that Weyrwoman Bailey had brought back from Benden or something." And really, with all the people getting sick right now, what other Weyrleaders or Lord Holders in their right minds would want to visit Southern for dinner at a time like this?

Alyna follows along smartly after Amani and the apprentices until the weyrwoman stops at the actual tunnelsnake poison. Lifting her own glow basket to add to the light as she inspects the two powders next to each other. Sharp blue eyes wander from one pile of white stuff to the next and back again. Listening to Elonoora's recounting, she sighs lightly, "This is looking worse every moment. But how to catch the person involved?" Her gaze drops to the bowl again and then back at the shelf where she had found it in the first place, the wheels obviously turning as she begins to put together a plan.

"The Weyrleader and another of our wingleaders caught those kids," Amani points out. "So there are clearly others involved. Now, this particular bowl, set aside for important guests…held in wait to poison them, too? And the rest of the supply's likely poisoned, or at risk." She closes the poison back up with a thump of her fist and looks to Alyna. "We'll know that better after there's a little chat had with Laeiva and Ardstelle, I think. Meanwhile, we need to make sure no one else gets sick. Will the three of you please round up a few more hands and take all the sweetener out of the living cavern and Nighthearth and anywhere else it might be. If anything's being made with sweetener in the kitchens right now, it's not going out, and no more's to be done with sweetener until we get this sorted. There's no telling just how much of this got out there, but we can't risk anymore. I'll make sure word gets around to the rest of the cooks."

"We can definitely do that," Elonoora will nod enthusiastically as gathering up dishes seems much simpler than whatever other tasks will come of this conversation. "And uh, just to be safe, we might want to take the butter out as well? It was definitely tasting off in a way I can't put my finger on," But this girl is not volunteering to put her own finger in tunnelsnake poison to compare. Especially when two other folks already had in front of her. "Maybe just grilled meat and fresh fruits and vegetables until things are sorted? Fewer things that could have been tampered with?" She'll look to Amani to make that call since it's something Senior Apprentice bakers definitely don't have the authority to do!

"What about the person responsible though?" Alyna can't help but ask after she is given her task which she will gladly hop to once she is satisfied that the culprit, or culprits, are not going to get away with this, "As soon as we start rounding up the sweetener it will get back to those responsible and you can bet your last mark they will be long gone." She taps one finger to her chin thoughtfully. "I'd like to put the bowl back where I found it and set my gold firelizard to watch it. At least then, if the culprit comes back for the evidence, we might be able to catch them at it." Her blue eyes flitter between the weyrwoman and the two apprentices while she silently calls for Jem to join them.

"If you're suspicious of it, then yes, I think we should," Amani says of the butter, and she smiles at Elonoora's suggestion about what they ought to eat in the meantime. "It's a good call, I think. I'll pass that along as well." People are going to get cranky without sweetener for their klah and tea, and pastries…but it's better than dying. Her gaze flicks to Alyna then. "Or they'll leave it be and think of something else. Either way, it would be worth trying. Go ahead and put it back where you found it. I'll have my Qahua come watch with your Jem, just for another angle." The brown appears shortly after she speaks, coming to rest on her shoulder with an alto rumble. "Alright. Let's put a stop to all this, shall we?" She'll help the apprentices and Alyna get some of the sweetener pulled before touching base with the kitchen staff…and then she'll be off to call a little meeting. This is something worth pulling all the fancy knots and the Headwomen together for, indeed!

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