Diem, M'tej


Diem is looking for a cooler climate and runs into an old flame instead.


It is the twenty-fifth day of the fifth month of the seventh turn of the 12th pass.


Stores, Igen Weyr

OOC Date 17 Mar 2016 04:00


m-tej_default.jpg diem_Coy.png

"But I avoid nearly everyone. Old habits. I considered coming by to talk to you, but the flight…"



Boxes, everywhere: some are buried beneath the fugue of dust and spinner-webs, thrust unceremoniously into unseen corners, full of mysterious contents, their solid lids as yet unbroached. Still others line the dirt-smeared walls, damage evident in the caved-in sides or lids set askew. Littering the floor, debris has been left piled in disorganization, left untouched by inattentive drudges and administrative staff. Dull glows splutter feebly in their worn baskets, and the air is fusty and moist, shrouded in the humidity that is Igen. Moisture collects, languid, in the corners of the cavern, lending their own fragrance of mildew and green, growing things,while the occasional dry scratch of scales suggests inhabitants one might not want to inspect too closely.

Escaping the sweltering heat of Igen’s sands is becoming more of a hassle now that Diem has to have an escort wherever she goes. Normally, it’s her assistant Perrin who follows her every foot step. When it’s not him, it’s F’in, the clutch father she’s sharing a grotto with. A very brief meeting in the Weyr’s council chamber required her presence for a half candlemark, a chore that kindled her hope of finding an excuse to venture into the stores for cooler air. Once dismissed from said meeting, Diem told Perrin she was going into the cellar area to gather some fresh fruit to bring back with her to the sands — but, really, it’s the cold she wants to feel on her skin. Lifting her skirt a bit, Diem descends the stairway and breathes a sigh of relief once she feels the change in temperature. She can relax. A shoulder leans up against the cold stone wall as her eyes close to just… exist. It’s a pleasant escape.

In her reverie, Diem may become aware of the sounds, faintly, of rummaging. Much deeper within this Cavern of Many Things, will distantly echo a thud of movement. A drop of something, and the resulting sneeze from the bomb of dust that wells up. To that, add the distinct but tinier sound of a firelizard sneeze, a disciplinarian churr. And the rumble, as if a disjointed conversation may ensue, of a distinctly male bass tone. Then silence, before — or perhaps just afterwards — the trademark sound of shattering glass, a two-syllable exclamation. The exact word, or words, is lost in the echoy-muffled environment of the musty cavern. More: A murmured request, by tone, before firelizard wings flap. And what might pass as a ‘thank you’; softer, absent. Boots, then, scrape the ground as they head toward the entrance, where a broom stands limned in the faint and fading glowlight that someone forgot to change, by the door.

The distant sounds aren’t worth noting, but the shattering of glass snaps Diem back into lucidity. A spike in adrenaline has her straightening and pushing away from the wall as she peers down one of the rows where the sharp sound came from. Footsteps are heard first and then a dark figure drawing near has the goldrider stepping back and out of the way. Diem stands next to a shelf of glass jars and waits for the figure to step into the light — normally she’d just walk back up the stairs and back to the inner caverns, but she’s not willing to give up the cool air for anything at this point. Her flat sandals grate against the sand on the stone flooring and a hand rests lightly against her midsection as she lingers in silence. Perrin is just up the stairs if she needs him.

The figure that approaches is brawny, on the shorter side of tall, and quite fit. He’s also not skulking; his strides quicken as he steps toward that broom, and his regard sweeps the nearby area for a bin for trash. Once that search image is fulfilled, M’tej hooks a finger around the handle of the bin and catches up the broom, stepping back to clear the space for a quick twirl. It’s the green lizard who rides his shoulder that alerts M’tej to the bystander. As the broom whisks by the man’s head in its arc, his arm having accommodated its length with respect to the cavern ceiling, he starts slightly and his hand clasps the broom-handle, so that its halt leaves a few seconds of vibrating hum in the air. “Diem. Pardon.” M’tej’s eyes flash at her for a second, before he about-faces to head back from whence he came, the relaxation he’d exhibited moments before having been flooded away by a noticeable tension. The green lizard wings now mantling for balance, keeps orange-hued eyes on Diem, even as M’tej has turned.

Diem recognizes the walk and the man soon after he steps into better light. She, too, tenses when he speaks her name as hazel eyes flick toward that little green firelizard on his shoulder. “M’tej.” she manages to rasp, clearly caught off guard yet again. The brownrider has a way of doing that her. “What’re you doing down here?” She watches him turn and head in the direction he originally came from for a split second. He feet follow without hesitation and she doesn’t know why she’s following. She just is. “I… haven’t seen you in a while.” Probably since Zsaviranth’s flight when they saw each other in the Bazaar. The quiet tinkling of wind chimes trace along the edges of Temyrth’s mindscape, testing and feeling whether or not she’s welcome.

Temyrth had been snoozing in the glitter of the cavern behind the waterfall, M’tej’s deformed bronze lizard curled between his head-knobs, after Temyrth had conveyed M’tej down for a late breakfast. The brown suffers in the heat of even early summer; he’s a High Reaches bred-and-born dragon through and through. Some incoherent mental jolt from M’tej, upon his having recognized Diem, pulled Temyrth to lucid thought, but did not prepare him for the reach of Zsaviranth’s touch. Perhaps it’s his mindscape that best reflects the psychic state of both rider and dragon: Dark and light flickers, bone-aching frore fogs details, possibly deliberately, until the brown seizes control of himself with a total blackout that reforms, slowly, into his more traditional – albeit featureless – landscape of snow-below, white-blue sky above, with the whispery hints of a breeze chasing a few flakes along Temyrth’s mindscape. « … » The intent of speech happens, without the voice. But the feel is absolutely there. Once more: « Zsavirranth. »

“I am looking for something.” The words, while may be in diction harsh, are softly intoned around a voice that M’tej does not trust to its full extent. Whatever that item is, that he’d been searching has absolutely has lost any significance to M’tej, and could certainly wait until such time as Igen sandstorms ceased or Southern Weyr froze over, or tunnelsnakes flew, for him to find it. Only the broken glass now keeps him from trying to make an immediate excuse and leave. Clearing his throat, M’tej continues winding his way through the increasingly narrow excuses for aisles in this place, until he’s forced to step over several dislodged boxes, to where another dim glow illuminates the shards of broken glass. M’tej sets the bin on the last of the boxes, perhaps symbolic of some shield between himself and this woman, while the green flits off to a higher position, from which she can better straw-boss the proceedings. The man flicks another glance at Diem, fleeting, before setting to sweeping the glass. “And I am good at hiding, Diem. Done it for turns. You know how to locate me, should you need me.” Neutrally spoken, with M’tej’s attention ostensibly on the broken glass and his job there. He clears the burr from his voice again, before adding, “Congratulations on becoming Weyrwoman, and your clutch.”

He’s looking for something. The words ring throughout her mind as Diem follows M’tej into a dimly lit section of the store. The shards of glass glint in the glowlight and she’s quickly softened as it reminds her of the crystal garden in Zsaviranth’s ‘scape — a vision that very few have seen. Temyrth being one of the few having been her first flight winner and forever etched into her being in some form or another. The brown spikes the queen’s senses whenever Diem thinks about M’tej or comes into close contact with the man. The weyrwoman nods politely after M’tej congratulates her, though she still senses a significant strain in his tone. The barrier between them also doesn’t help the chill she feels radiating from the brawny man. “I know you are.” Good at hiding. “I just wish you wouldn’t hide from me.” That last bit spoken softly in Fortian accent.

He straightens, then, to study the goldrider. —Even shifts his position, so the glow-light can cast upon her features, as if that might better help him read them. The sweeping is forgotten, the little glass shards, now dusty, arranged in a pile, except for a few stray pieces over behind a box. Mona, torn between the people-dynamics and those couple of missed glass shards, creeps over to a better vantage, where she can keep an eye on the glass, and on the people. Her wings furl, unfurl, and her tail switches back and forth in the manner of an annoyed feline. “Diem. We were there this time. You,” plural, with emphasis on the sound drawn out, “Chose F’in and Rhakanth. There’s no place for me there. For us. I don’t see the point,” Very soft tones, nearly without any actual voice, except to roughly emphasize, accidently and awkwardly, certain sounds in his words, “Of revisiting what once was, if…” The words run out; the Harper’s son cannot summon any more for that thread of the conversation. He clears his throat, and shifts subjects slightly, “F’in is a fine man, a good rider as far as I’ve seen. His dragon is splendid. His age, history, and experience fit well into a considered plan for your futures, Diem. I wish you the best.” The last, at least, sounds quite sincere. Quiet, quite. Then he’ll break that eye-to-eye contact, to glance down at Mona, then the glass shards, “OK. I’ll get them.” Clearly, this time, he speaks to the firelizard. This might be a habit of people who spend vast amounts of time alone but with draconic companions… Speaking aloud to them. M’tej kneels to nudge the pieces out from behind the box, with a coarse finger.

Zsaviranth’s voice manifests from the scent of rosewood that drifts into Temyrth’s mindscape. Her tone is soft, ethereal upon a gentle breeze that carries her presence deeper into the brown’s consciousness. « Temyrth. » She remains where she is as silence lingers between their minds. « I sense when you are on the ledge of the cavern. » The queen is talkative today, a rare occurrence to the general dragon populace at Igen. At Fort. Anywhere. « But I have not seen you this sevenday. Will you visit this evening? »

It’s an immediate reaction when Diem bristles after M’tej’s observation, although she does a decent job at controlling her flinch. “It wasn’t a normal flight, M’tej. She reacted when she sensed danger.” A hand lifts to tuck some wisps of hair behind her ear as she stares up at the brownrider. “Sweet Faranth, she didn’t even blood.” Under normal circumstances, the queen must be forced to take to the pens before rising, but there was no such restriction this time. “Rhakanth caught her when she ran out of energy, it wasn’t that we chose the bronze pair.” She takes a step back, brows furrowing. “But, I shouldn’t have to explain that to you. I thought you understood the manner of flights, that they have very little to do with me.” Fingertips tap against her chest for emphasis. It could be argued, however, that the flight had everything to do with her when Zsaviranth rose to keep her safe.

“Temyrth was right there.” The words snap out before M’tej’s mental editorial feature can strike them. He freezes then, eyes shutting for a moment while he pulls in and releases a deep breath. M’tej’s features are much as Diem has remembered them from when they met in the Archive, except the man has cut that long tail of hair off. Now, wavy curls reach a handspan past his shoulders, thick and unruly (possibly an excellent metaphor for the man himself!). M’tej’s forehead is already smeared with dust, and now he lets loose the broom’s handle so it flops against the nearby boxes, before reaching to draw both hands of fingers through his hair in an intense self-grooming gesture. More dust streaks now his hair, perhaps as an illusion of the grey that may soon accent the black, should M’tej continue to live another few turns. “I am sorry, Diem. I –“ M’tej swallows thickly and looks away, toward a darkest corner. “We tried.” He is not dissuaded that it was the gold’s choice and by extension, her rider’s; the man apologizes for his untoward show of temper. Finally, M’tej’s mellifluous voice returns, though tightly controlled in both word and tone, “You’ve been here for some time, Diem. We are but a thought away, and that thought did not come. Your prospects are much better here than at Fort; we did not begrudge you that.” M’tej had a pretty low opinion of most of the Fortian bronzes and browns, and their riders.

Temyrth’s bugle howls from the mirrored cavern, unheard but for a wince on M’tej’s part as the brown’s rider received the mental version that sends Mona fluttering in hysterics around the cavern. He clears his throat, tones arid, “I misspoke. // I // do not begrudge you that.” The brown has strong opinions on the matter that have not been tempered by M’tej’s twenty more turns of wisdom and experience.

Temyrth shuts down the connection with Zsaviranth for a few moments, while strong emotion flares between himself and his rider. The brown then extends himself to the gold once more, casting open that connection once more. « If you wish. »

Diem swallows the dry lump in her throat when M’tej says that they were there. She remembers seeing him in the darkness of the sidestreet and she remembers hearing him when the assailants fled into the alleyway. Her chest tightens at another memory from Fort that has her grasping at what it is she’s been wanting to say to him. It’s been months since she arrived at Igen, it’s true. “I didn’t think you wanted to see me. Temyrth doesn’t speak to Zsaviranth very much without her prompting him to respond. And…” Her voice steadies as she wills herself to calm her racing thoughts, a task that’s proving to be difficult in the moment. The events of the past Turn are very much present in the flurry of activity in her mind and she lifts hazel eyes to look at M’tej again. “I knew that you didn’t want to be found.”

Zsaviranth lingers within the re-opened ‘scape until the scent of rosewood begins to waft upon that same gentle breeze. She’s withdrawing from Temyrth’s consciousness, much like Diem is admitting to understanding how the brown pair just want to be left alone.

The brown ‘pair’ is not of one mind. Temyrth’s mind cascades into a panic of whirling snow, frostbite and glaring glitter, even as Zsa can probably sense that Temyrth’s attention turns to his rider.

M’tej blinks twice, in quick succession, partially squinting his eyes as he is distracted by the interior dialogue. “Alright — stop.” Not to Diem; M’tej’s regard is unfocused; his features register a hint of pain. “Diem. Wait. Listen.” M’tej speak quickly, though he’s not gotten his own considerations compiled in coherent fashion. “There’s no G’ston here, Diem.” M’tej just goes for blunt, and he actually reaches to touch his temple lightly; his eyes have not quite fully focused on the woman yet. “Moment— Please. Wait.” M’tej then shuts his eyes and both hands press against his brows, as if he battles a wicked headache. After a few minutes of his stillness, the lines of M’tej’s shoulders relax noticably, and he squeezes his eyes closed a bit more, before opening them to study Diem: “There’s no G’ston here,” M’tej picks up on that line, extends it, “No one is out to get me. Well…” He considers, “There is probably someone, but I’m looking for him, too.” M’tej’s grin flashes — the one where he is absolutely plotting mischief. Then it’s gone. Sober regard of the woman: “I never liked why you broke with me, Diem. I was willing to risk it.” He made that abundantly clear at the time; M’tej had all but begged her to reconsider. “When you came here again… When it was made permanent. I had hopes.” The last three words choke. M’tej draws in a breath. “When Zsaviranth went up. Temyrth told me to go to you. I know the bazaar very well, sent the lizards out, but they were all there first. The rest. I’m sorry I didn’t — wasn’t there for you. They were.” He adds, then, without malice, “I’m glad they were. He was.” F’in.

“Look. No one hopes like an old fool, and that I am.” M’tej reaches for the broom again and then drops it, sending a look, instinctively, toward the direction where the mirrored grotto lays. “He is telling me that I better make peace with you or he will make my life miserable.” M’tej intones. “And for the record, he’s agreeing with the ‘fool’ part. But he did — he flew his heart out, and …” M’tej lifts and drops a shoulder. “At least you were safe. And F’in is a good man. A good wingrider. He’ll do right by you. So I just go do what I do, Diem. That’s who I am. When they sent me away, every time she rose.. I just came back and did what I do. There, I didn’t bother to hope. Here, I did. That’s the only difference.”

Diem blinks when M’tej growls ‘stop’ and recognizes that double handed motion of pressing palms against brows. The silent commune between rider and dragon is given a moment and she takes another step back like she’s about to leave when M’tej finally starts speaking again. “I know this isn’t Fort. I know G’ston isn’t here…” She wavers, lips pursing at the memory of when she left M’tej. “I made the decision to leave because G’ston wouldn’t have stopped. You know he wouldn’t have left you alone, he targeted you. He made your life miserable. I only made things worse for you.” She swallows again and blinks a few times before lowering her gaze to the shards of glass on the stone flooring. Silence lingers. “I didn’t want you to risk anything anymore. I didn’t want to be the source of your pain.” When in fact… she was. The aftermath of their separation was raw for months. The weyrwoman lifts her gaze to him once again, this time with a glint of remorse in her tawny colored eyes. “You don’t need to apologize, M’tej.”

The tinkling of wind chimes make known in Diem’s consciousness again and she nods after the draconic reminder. “F’in is a remarkable man. He’s been a wonderful support even if I haven’t been as gentle in return.” Another pang of regret tightens deep down in her belly and she shifts. “I wish… I knew what to say to make things right between us. I’m sorry.” Her voice rasps again. “I’m sorry for hurting you, M’tej. My intention was to keep you safe from G’ston, and not to cause you pain.”

M’tej so doesn’t want to know about the details of Diem and F’in’s relationship. His eyes narrow just slightly, the only exterior reaction to what feels like a punch to the gut. And he takes another respite before trusting himself to words, “Diem. You were worth it. I’m sure,” he tries not to sound like he’s gritting the words out, “You are still worth it for him.” M’tej steps sidelong so the full force of the glow’s dim light lands on her, and his own features are fully shadowed. “You were the high point of my existence at Fort Weyr, Diem. I never regretted you. Ever. Temyrth was… “ Again, M’tej is at a loss for words, weakly proposes, “Joyous. We two snakes in our weyr had, for a few months’ span, everything — I’d never, ever trade that. Not for a shorter life. Not for anything. Don’t ever,” M’tej’s tone draws low, quiet, “Apologize for that. I just…” His swallow is audible, not visible, “I didn’t want you to leave me. But I understood why you did. I’d have done the same, if our roles were reversed.” This is likely new information; In his raging arguments, M’tej never said as much in the aftermath of that fateful day when Diem told him it was over, and why. “What I do regret is not trying to cut the man’s arm off turns before I did.” Temyrth’s chill in those words.

For his part, the brown sends tendrils of whispery cool toward the sands-ensconced gold. Much as he did, once-upon-a-time when he shared the sands with her. Flakes of hoar-frost, set free from solid support, whisper along the invisible currents of Temyrth’s mind. A thrumming, distant, reminiscent of his ‘rrr’s, provides the draconic backdrop for M’tej’s words. He flicks his attention along the periphery of Zsaviranth’s, aware of a territoriality that may well be imagined, or may be ascribed to the gold’s current mate.

“Don’t apologize. Diem, you’re doing what you can. And I don’t know much about flights, except that I hate them.” M’tej admits to the earlier accusation she’d made, about his understanding the manner of flights. “What do you want of me?” Now he’ll study her, with the advantage of the light on her features, his own nearly inscrutable.

Once Zsaviranth departs from Temyrth’s wintry ‘scape, she remains distant while Diem’s conversation continues with M’tej. The tendrils are felt and passed along to her rider, causing a visible cold chill to prickle the weyrwoman’s skin as she stand in the glowlight. M’tej presents her with a loaded question and it takes her a moment to collect her thoughts once more. There were times after her separation from the brownrider when she thought about what she’d say to him if they ever spoke to each other again. There are questions she wants to ask. She had everything listed in her mind but now that the moment has come, everything goes blank. Her mind empties of the careful planning she had previously made.

“I don’t want you to hide from me anymore.” Diem says quietly. It’s the first of many requests she’ll ask of him. A pause follows and she looks at M’tej in the dark corner where the glowlight does not reach, even though her mind can recall the contours of his face regardless of what she cannot see. “I don’t want you to be angry with me anymore.” She steps back again and bumps into a shelf, pressing her back up against it as her pulse begins to quicken. The spike in adrenaline returns and she lifts her chin slightly to draw in a calming breath all while keeping her eyes focused on him. “I want us to regain a sense of normalcy.” Whatever that may be.

“Merry! Diem! It’s not you I’m angry at!” M’tej rejoins, quickly. He steps forward as she steps back, reaching for her hand—wrist-shoulder-arm with a predatory movement, to try to catch her hand, even while Mona hisses a warning. Diem will feel the green’s concern register with M’tej, through the firm grasp of his fingers on whatever part of her he managed to snag, “Wait, wait, please. Hear me out. I am not angry at you, Diem. I am not.” He hesitates, knowing she tends to take what he says and secrets it away somewhere, only to press those words back into service at a later date. Carefully: “Maybe I was angry with you, now and again – because you wouldn’t stay with me, because I wanted you to stay with me… But I always knew… Why you did what you did. I’m angry at the situation. Was angry at the situation — Best thing I ever had, and I couldn’t have it, because of that piece of wher-crap.” M’tej releases her now, “I came here,” he continues simply, “And just put it away from me. Because there was no point. Then you came.” M’tej’s frame straightens, loses the demeanor of hunter, “We didn’t know what to think.” There’s a twitch of a smile, perhaps it might leak through into otherwise earnest words, “I’ve indulged in no few fantasies as to your reasons, or the consequences. But then you … Just did business. So I figured I was – we were – old business, Diem. The flight – Thought that was a possible door opening again. Temyrth was up there with the best of the bronzes. Right there.” And the gold chose F’in’s bronze, at least in Temyrth and M’tej’s mind. “If I am avoiding you,” his voice drops, “It’s because I am avoiding my own …” His big hand goes to rub the back of his neck lightly and M’tej turns, absently, back in profile to the light, so his features are backlit, “My own fantasies. Much, much easier that way.” He coughs lightly, then slants a look at her. “But I avoid nearly everyone. Old habits. I considered coming by to talk to you, but the flight…” He shrugs. “Not going to step on your and F’in’s toes. So normal, for me, is to generally not be around. Brownrider, wingrider. Duties. You, goldrider. If it makes you feel any better, I have never actually had a single conversation with Mayte. I’m not entirely convinced she knows I am a rider. That… Is normal. For me.”

Temyrth withdraws, quiets. He is, absolutely, listening.

There’s no where else Diem can step with her back already pressed up against the shelf, which allows M’tej easy access to her arm. His hand curls around her bicep and she locks eyes with his without making any attempt to jerk herself away from him. Her heart might beat wildly in her chest, but it’s not out of fear. It’s a different set of nerves that causes her to swallow another lump of hesitation when the brownrider is close. He releases her after a while and her skin tingles from the touch, a familiar sensation that keeps her frozen in place. She doesn’t move. Her expression softens while M’tej offers an explanation and she finds herself nodding every so often. “You left Fort in a hurry.” Her voice is still quiet. “I was part of the meeting.” When R’nli decided to let M’tej leave. “But, you never said goodbye.” The goldrider stiffens a bit and lowers her chin very slowly and then finally looks away down the aisle of shelving. “Zsaviranth and I arrived at Igen for… a number of reasons. Temyrth must’ve known we arrived, but we never heard from you.” Misinterpretations all around. “I know that you prefer to have your space and I knew that I was the last person you wanted to see.” After M’tej mentions Igen’s Senior Weyrwoman, Diem wilts slightly and looks down at the floor again in what should be considered shame. “I’ve been avoiding her.” she admits. “Mayte isn’t happy that I disobeyed her order to have a chaperone at all times. I’ve been thanking the stars that I’ve been on the sands so that she has time to cool off.” The last thing she needs is a written transfer back to Fort.

“I don’t know the woman, Diem. Been here how many months - I’m not worth her trouble. So I have no idea what goes on with her or the court of bronzes or whatever happens here. We - Temyrth and I — just do our job and stay low, when we’re not working. We’re careful not to look too good, careful not to draw notice, careful not to draw ire. N’tael figured me out, but he’s not …Half bad. He had the duty list color-coded, when he found out I couldn’t read.” M’tej shrugs, “I’m told that the powers that be are having me watched, but I think it’s N’tael, not Mayte. He’s my wingleader, but mostly leaves me alone.” Probably, M’tej figures, because he set a spy on M’tej, to do the watching. Thus, M’tej now travels far afield as often as he haunts the bazaar.

M’tej reaches for the goldrider again, this time to draw his fingers along Diem’s cheek, to tilt her face toward him, “Diem. Would you please believe me when I tell you that you are quite wrong, when you say that you are the last person I want to see. But, in seeing you, it’s reminding me of what I had, what is gone.” Rusty tones offer those words, “And when they transferred me out of Fort, I was told to contact no one, get my stuff and leave instantly. I did not say goodbye to you, or to L’mek. We could not. Temyrth was muted and I was afraid they’d change their mind, keep me there.” His regard returns to her, steadily now, even as his fingers drift off, and reach to brush through her hair, before he remembers himself and that arm drops, like it was shot.

“Besides,” M’tej’s tone turns arid, “I am going to get myself in trouble, if I see you.” His offending hand reaches for the green lizard, and Mona hops upon his hand, clambering quickly up his arm to her usual post on his left shoulder. M’tej draws his fingers over her sleek hide, drawing a few breaths before he speaks the question that begs to be asked: “Are you and F’in a couple?” M’tej doesn’t quite look at her, though black eyes won’t betray emotion in a cavern-dark storeroom. The lizard, however, is his mood-barometer; her regard swirls oranges and reds, flecked with livid purple and ash-grey.

Diem lifts her shoulders into a shrug along with her gaze when M’tej steps closer. “I don’t know the woman that well either. And we work together.” There is still much bonding to be done between both goldriders, but the junior is taking her time. Right now she’s focused on the sands and the eggs that Zsaviranth so carefully protects from anything and everything. She, too, has seen Temyrth perch upon the ledges above the hatching cavern every so often — but, the brown hasn’t been near as of late. Hazel eyes blink when M’tej lifts a hand to her cheek and tilts her gaze toward him.

It isn’t long until he withdraws again and she’s left with that tingle from the light caress of his fingertips. Diem nods and exhales a silent breath she didn’t realize that she was holding when M’tej asks about her relationship with F’in. It’s not something she wanted to bring up again, but since M’tej asked, she shakes her head. “No. We are not.” It’s then that she pushes forward from her lean against the shelf to step into the center part of the narrow aisle. How does M’tej fit in here? “F’in has been very kind to me while we’ve been sharing the sands. He had a hammock installed for me and he’s brings back flowers for Zsaviranth whenever he returns to the sands.” The weyrwoman smiles at the thought. “He’s been as devoted as a clutch father can be,” There’s a slight pause that follows. “But, we are not a couple.”

And because Diem wants to feel the blood rush through her being, she studies M’tej’s face and the emotion tinged upon his expression. “Why do you ask?

M’tej fits with little margin for error, in these narrow, messy walkways. But whatever lacks in the man’s mental make-up, that he cannot read, that he has that quick temper that age has finally given him the wisdom to control — mostly — is made up in his physical gifts: The athletic 6’1 frame is tall, but not towering, and his bulk is contained, controlled, effective and enduring, not showy. But dust is getting all over his clothes, his hair, his arms and features. The light will show those smudges, once the brownrider vacates the stores with whatever he had been hoping to find, should he locate it.

Faint amusement curves M’tej’s lips, as he commits, again, to another step toward the woman. Now a handspan separates them. Now, he leans down, shooing the green off his shoulder as she mantles and flares and hisses. Mona flies up, circles, and settles on a wobbly perch of a box someone must have hefted to a precarious position without settling. The little green’s wings flick out to catch the air, while the box threatens to teeter, but her attention remains on M’tej and Diem.

He has his wicked moments, does this brownrider. That same raffish urge that draws him to the tawdry back alleyways of Nabol, Karoon and now, the Bazaar, that sets M’tej in the middle of bar-fights and brawls, that has him pleasantly threatening, with grinning whites, a man who accuses him of cheating, flares again. She asked why he asked. M’tej knows, full well, Diem is not stupid — far from it. Lack of confidence, once upon a time, yes. Easily discombobulated - absolutely. Charmingly, disarmingly naive, several turns ago. But she cannot have sustained that. Why does he ask…!?

The handspan closes to finger’s width, and M’tej’s breath is warm on the woman’s cheek. Feather-light fingertips caress her elbow, pull her hair back from her neck. “Why?” M’tej breathes the single word in his full Oldtimer accent. More tone colors the second repetition, “Why?” His beard brushes over her hair as he inhales her once-familiar scent.

Outside, Temyrth roars, once more in the cave, but this time, the sleek and angular predator bursts through the waterfall cascades into the lake, and battles gravity and the viscous medium to rise into the air.

“Do…” M’tej dips his head to touch his forehead lightly against hers, “I…ask?” Because…! Another brief grin, fuller, but quicker. “Because I am no longer at Fort. Because if anyone has a problem with a brownrider’s pursuing a goldrider, they never told me about this. Because I don’t listen much anyway, to what I’m told.” His fingers, on her elbow, slide warm and light up her arm, to her shoulder. “And because F’in seems a decent sort, and I’ll not step on his toes. But if,” lighter, “His toes aren’t around. And you are amenable, perhaps …?” Tease, is M’tej. Now his other hand sketches a skittering path toward her hand, to capture it, to bring it up so he might know if she’s wearing perfume where she used to, a dab on the wrist.

“Or you could tell me to back off. Go away. There are plenty of fine young men here, who would no doubt be delighted to entertain you.” This, too, is spoken lightly. Warmly. “Most of them are in my wing, so I know of which I speak. But there is, you know, a certain allure to men who ride dragons of darker, less sparkly colors.” M’tej’s basso reverberates with a distinct humor; no doubt this is an old joke.

The flutter of Mona’s wings captures Diem’s attention just as M’tej moves closer to place fingertips upon her elbow, then up a little higher. The little green is busy staring at them both from atop the teetering box with familiar flecks of orange in whirling faceted eyes. Diem recognizes that look from the dainty green, although she’s not entirely concerned about the firelizard’s actions at this point. She has a much larger predator to tend to when her focus returns to the brownrider.

Because he is a predator. A delightful one that stirs memories from a Fortian past when their lives were both bitter and sweet together. The goldrider attempts to keep her knees from buckling when M’tej’s breath is felt warm upon her cheek. His presence is powerful to her and she tries her best to remain strong even when all she wants to do is fall into his arms to hug and hold and…

A visible cold chill tingles Diem’s skin and she finds herself leaning back ever slightly from M’tej with a slight curve to her lips. “We’re not at Fort anymore.” she confirms in a tone that’s almost a purr. Not quite. For as much as M’tej is a tease, she’s learned a few things on her own since their time together. No longer naive, no longer oblivious to the tricks and convenient words of men. She asked him why because she wanted to hear him say it. It’s the confirmation that sends blood rushing through her being. “F’in is a decent man.” Another confirmation. “But, when have I ever been interested in one?” A tease, that. Diem’s grin widens.

M’tej collects her hand and there’s a light scent of rose upon her wrist. And behind her ear when he was close enough to note the floral fragrance, though she’s moved back so that she can look up into his dark colored eyes. “I could tell you to back off,” Her free hand lifts to brush featherlight fingertips down his cheek. “I could seek the company of one of those ‘fine young men’.” Her hand drops and she’s taking a step back while her eyes remain fixed upon his. “I could do a lot of things…” She tugs her hand within his to test him again. “But, I should be getting back to Zsaviranth.” A tease ever still!

Immediately, to Zsaviranth, Temyrth’s presence, winter-intense and crackling: «Arrrre you well?» Purple illumination sets eerie the snowscape, alien with flecks of whirling, twirling, blizzarding flakes dancing over the near and far horizons. The brown himself circles the high spires of the volcano, ebon-splashed wings angling to catch the updrafts, while he attends some point distant, within the rock, with purple-scintillating eyes.

M’tej follows the tug of that hand, until his body touches hers, but does not press. Thus, she is captured with either the presence or the reality of his frame, and his fingers will release her hand. Perhaps because his find a new moment’s occupation in combing through her hair, letting the strands draw through his fingers, even as they seek her scalp in easy caresses, “Of course. I’m sure,” his inflections husky, “And the hot sands, and the glaring light of day, and all those people staring at eggs. Your absence,” lips touch her ears, brush a kiss to that spot of faint scent, “has been noted.” —Just as her presence here crashes into M’tej, invokes his full attention.

Once those coarse hands free from her hair, they find her shoulders, slide to her ribs and then down. Her configuration remembered, reconfirmed with noted changes, until M’tej’s hands come to rest not-so-chastely on her hips, the round of her rear, and his teeth touch the curve of her neck, “Merry, Diem.” Her name becomes part of his routine oath, before M’tej corrals himself and, reluctant tension ascribes an awkward separation. His warning, growls: “Go now. Or I’ll keep you here for quite a while.” Boxes? Narrow aisles? Imaginative M’tej will make room, if necessary. His boots draw him back from her, until one knocks against the box that he didn’t remember stepping over, to halt him. Again, the greenish glow limns his silhouette, though no doubt that soul-black regard takes her in with his advantage of her being in the light. Mona, near frantic with her rage conflicting with M’tej’s bombardment of high emotion, flicks off the box, letting it crash among its brethren, as she finally blinks *between* to reappear by the brown dragon.

The purple geodes within the hidden crystal garden of Zsaviranth’s mindscape glitter when she senses the wintry chill of Temyrth’s presence. The gold moves to the northern tip of the sands where she rests to keep better watch over her eggs, and where the brown might have a better view of her from a vantage point high above the cavern. If Temyrth lands upon one of the ledges, he’ll note Rhakanth lying on the eastern side with twenty-six eggs scattered between she and bronze. « I am. » And without hesitation, she continues. « I feed at dusk. » Zsaviranth rumbles even though Temyrth won’t hear her. « Join me? » Her time to leave the sands might coincide with his preference to venture into the darkness of night. Mirroring scents of her lifemate, she carries rosewood and vanilla into the wintry ‘scape to help persuade the brown should he need further convincing.

Diem’s hair is longer than it was at Fort, spiraling lightly to her midback in dark tendrils that catch within M’tej’s fingertips. She’s aware that Zsaviranth is communicating with Temyrth as she, too, receives the same fragrances that are shared with the brown. Familiar hands trace the curves of her body and brush in places they have not explored in the better part of a Turn. Perhaps longer, really. She rises up on tiptoes slightly to meet M’tej when he’s close as warm breath spills onto the tender areas of his neck. It’s there that she lingers until he withdraws and thinks better of his roaming hands.

Mona’s ruckus is heard after M’tej bumps into a box behind him, both actions jarring Diem back into lucidity at just the right moment — had a few more heart beats passed, she might’ve let him keep her in the stores. The weyrwoman turns with a flare of her skirt and flashes M’tej a smile that’s caught in just the right lighting from the glow in the corner. She doesn’t audibly bid him farewell. A smile is enough and given freely with a glint of something in tawny colored eyes before she turns with dark tresses sweeping over her shoulder. Sandaled feet carry her swiftly through the stores and up the stairs with nothing but the scent of rosewood in her wake.

From above, a howling bugle responds to the queen’s silent inquiry. The brown dragon, angles and motion, shadows against the morning’s light, and himself the center of orbit of M’tej’s green and bronze lizards, dips his wing to the junior gold, plummets to dive-bomb the lake and send up twin sprays of water with his wingtips, before he powerstrokes upward once more on copper-and-gold peppered near-black wings. « I will. » He will not feed; M’tej and he were hunting the other day in Southern, but Temyrth will be there, crouching and watching, adoring from anear. Rhakanth is neither noted nor considered; Zsaviranth is the Oldtimer dragon’s focus. And M’tej is once again in his unruly brown’s good graces.

M’tej thought better of his roaming hands, and he thought worse of his roaming hands. None-the-less, the journey was worth it, and M’tej leans, perhaps unwisely, against the boxes as his back as he watches the weyrwoman sashay off with that sassy-quick smile. When she’s gone from his light, he’ll straighten to see the glow-light at the entrance catch her, hold her briefly before the brighter light of the tunnel’s hallway spills in and blazes through M’tej’s night-wise eyes, stealing his vision and replacing it with so many burnt images of nameless shapes. The man closes his eyes, and calls to mind the flurry of before-images, the feel of this woman, and how she smelled. Whatever the hell M’tej was looking for in here, he didn’t find. But what he found has far exceeded his expectations.

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