Cullen, M'tej


M'tej calls on his oldest friend as a sounding board. Things don't sound good.

Think Deadpool. Bad language, graphic references.


It is evening of the first day of the sixth month of the seventh turn of the 12th pass.


The Pit - Bazaar - Igen Weyr

OOC Date 19 Mar 2016 07:00


"Mark it now, that Cullen of Nowhere pointed ahead of you, dragonman. He pointed down this brier patch road, and he said 'turn back now."

The Pit - Bazaar - Igen Weyr

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.

A green lizard popped out of *Between* to find Cullen. She, the familiar Mona, flashes an image of M'tej and the interior of The Pit, to the cheesemaker, before circling to alight nearby.

Soon enough, Cullen comes. All bold strides and fisted large hands, his seamed features capable of harboring multiple frowns simultaneously. Dressed in sturdy wherhide tunic, forearm bracers, his once unruly hair close-cropped now that he's been amongst civilization, only adding a thin patina of militant order to the underlying impatient savagery of the man. "'Tej!" He barks, striding into the Ring. Whoever he seeks to summon, it succeeds also to send those NOT called upon to withdraw.

Turns ago, M'tej quit drinking to attempt to solve his problems. He does, however, yet indulge in drinking to blunt the edge of a temper that yet shoves M'tej around from time to time. Yet, the entrance of his oldest living friend has M'tej rising from the seat he's claimed, back to the wall, near the pit. "Cullen." Basso reverberates, much like his dragon's rolling 'rrr' inflections that Cullen's heard from time to time, and the man's features, upon the instant of Cullen's entrance, deadpan, breaks into a huge grin at the characteristic entrance of the brawny traveler. M'tej rises and strides over, clasping the arm of the other man, "Thanks for coming. I'm in the mood to do a whole lot of things I ought not. Come have a drink with me." His Oldtimer accent is strong, this evening. Both lizards are in evidence; the green perched directly above where M'tej had sat, and the bronze near the door, self-appointed lookout.

Most people would not be so quick to approach Cullen in full storm - and wisely. M'tej - well, Cullen cannot be so warm as to greet with grins. His eyes, if anything, barely grace the brownrider's face before scanning past him, then to the left, head turning to rake his hard animal gaze over their surroundings. That doesn't mean he doesn't have a hand out, all but expecting M'tej to clasp wrists with him, firm, hard, with his other hand clapping down briefly to M'tej's elbow. It is a natural order. "You're buying," he grunts low, still not looking at the other. There are a pair of scrappy youths across the Ring. He is eyeballing them narrowly. "Is there occasion. Or be this mad whim."

"Well, if you didn't show up," M'tej admits, turning to nod to the table, but being quick enough to reclaim his back-to-the-wall real estate before Cullen can nab it, "I was going to see if there was a geriatric edition of the Pit games and take a spin." He sends a longing look toward the young fellows that Cullen's regard tagged on the other side of the pit. Please come pick a fight with M'tej. Please, please, please, Please. "I don't have my old contacts for riding bulls. And I still hate hiring whores." M'tej gestures to one of the 'tenders, and nods to Cullen, for the lad to take the other man's order. "Now then. Tell me you're doing well. Tell me you're glad you're back here. Tell me you haven't killed anyone recently?" M'tej's green, ever his mood barometer, belies the man's seemingly casual study of his friend; she paces along the beam and flicks her tail as she continues M'tej's earlier survey of the scrappy kids.

WHUMP! Cullen's palm strikes down against the wall beside M'tej's head. Being two inches shorter only seems to mean he can position his face there just beneath the brownrider's nose, snapping his fingers in the other man's face twice to demanding attention BACK from those lean-scrappy youths, "Tej. Focus. Shit. Together. Do you not hear yourself." His voice, in the face of violent motion… is stone-sober calm, his gaze arid-steady. There are so many, many responsible lectures this could be the beginning of… except that now, only does Cullen grin, "Truly. Had I killed a man, would the admittance ever cross my lips saying so. Be reasonable, fool. — Mead." This is barked at the poor tender, who was miserably trying to withdraw before getting caught up in whatever trouble seems to be brewing.

Yes. M'tej does startle and ingrained fighter's instinct has him raising his fist up to slam against Cullen's rock-hard forearm as he's half-risen out of his chair once more before the editorial function barely catches up with the inclination. Yes. Indeed, there's =FOCUS=, with M'tej's soul-black hunter's gaze wide to show flecks of hazel and gold in their depths, staring right back into Cullen's regard, "You are such an asshole." This, growled out, but the leaner man relaxes incrementally back into his seat with another grin, "And you are such the man for the job." Truly, M'tej is wound tight, oozing with the need for manifestation of a currently high prey drive. And yes, "Agreed. Fool am I."

Calling Cullen an asshole only seems to flatter him, with a soft psh, "Sweet words." He'd have willingly withstood whatever impact the other's reflex might hit him with; the brownrider would frankly find him clenched hard in expectation for it. Par for the course, baiting bears. Apparently disinclined, just yet, to take his seat, Cullen stands with a hip leaning against table edge, at such an angle he might keep M'tej visible in one peripheral, and the rest of the Ring in the other. And otherwise directs that stupid-dog-aggressive gaze forward into an invisible middleground. "Struggling to acclimate with the times, old man?" Tej has three turns on him. That was such a wide gape, once, decades ago, when they were young… His mead arrives. He promptly ignores it.

Been a crazy-insane day for M'tej and one of constant physical movement; that's the only reason he can sit, now, and isn't pacing the sand floor of this place. A coin flicks out at the 'tender, to cover the mead and then some, "Tab." M'tej murmurs in explanation. Or tip, should the men find other distraction or get thrown out. His own drink also sits, mostly neglected, in its own sweat ring on the table. "Some. Maybe." His father died a few turns after M'tej Impressed; the man is the last of his line, save for whatever unknown issue he's left across ancient Pern. So moving forward was to entirely graveyard all he knew, with only the connections he'd had with other Oldtimers; then he was promptly moved to isolation at Fort. Maybe it's the times? M'tej considers that for a few moments, reaching to rub his beard lightly, "When you were married… Or before… Did…" Ah, M'tej, usually eloquent, cannot strike the right combination of words, "Did she trick you into agreeing to things you really had no intention to agree to?" M'tej hears his own halting words. "Merry, that sounds stupid. But there it is."

Still staring on, Cullen's chin gradually raises, a single degree. And after a long moment of theoretical thought, he allows a distant, wintry smile of… pride? Irritation? "More than I'd admit." On that, yes, he will take his mead impatiently, holding the battered goblet it comes in beneath his nose to flare NOSTRILS over, "Mir was crafty."

Right now, M'tej would pit Diem versus Mir, but Diem had the unbeknownst ally of M'tej's own lifemate. M'tej was poleaxed. "And what," the brownrider leans forward then, to study the other one closely, "The hell can you do about it?"

Cullen's heavy eyelids can make him look faintly bored in a housefire. Only one eye is visible behind the goblet now tipped to his mouth, meeting M'tej's fiery stare for the appropriate stone he is. Element for element, there's little nurtured, but little harmed between them. And, unhelpfully, the throws that MASTERFULLY crafted pretense right out the window, "What'd you agree to, Tej." And Are We In Trouble Now.

"If you laugh, so help me I will lay you out." M'tej prefaces his answer with that bald threat. "Background: The new weyrwoman, Diem…. When her dragon rose for her maiden flight, Temyrth caught. He's never stopped… Adoring Zsaviranth. Diem…" Does the throaty intonation of that short name suggest M'tej may also share his dragon's infatuation? "Is much too young for me, far too sophisticated, and entirely too addictive. And has a lot better prospects than an illiterate, tempermental, danger-addicted Oldtimer." M'tej's jaw tightens, "She — and Temyrth —" He's still not sure quite how it happened, "Assistant Weyrlingmaster."

While the first portion of M'tej's tale earns that patent dead-weighted neutral stare Cullen employs to abstain from commenting on the bedamned whole of Dragonrider Culture, but by the time the brownrider nears the end of this, the cheesemaker is just kind of saying OVER his M'tej, "On my forsaken word, I swear Thread'll stop falling before you manage to answer a bedamned question." They actually finish speaking at approximately the same time… with M'tej running a little bit past, to the tune of Assistant Weyrlingmaster. So… DEAD SILENCE follows for a long moment. There is apparently not enough MEAD in Cullen's cup for this, because he is abruptly snapping his fingers impatiently at the poor tender again. And holding up his goblet. WAGGLING IT, INDICATIVELY.

"Exactly. Thank you for not laughing. I will still hit you if you do. And probably break my hand against your ugly mug." M'tej's hands come up in a helpless little gesture. "I cannot tell you how it happened!" A faintly accusing stare at the booze. Then an almost pleading glance sent to the two toughs over there. C'mon-please-pick-a-fight! M'tej's chest rises and falls, "Merry, Cullen!" Black eyes meet Cullen's regard, "G'deon is the Weyrlingmaster. I sure as hell can't pull anything over on him." The cagey old bronzer has done it all, seen it all. M'tej's good, but he's not that good. "What the hell… Now?"

Cullen seems for all purposes to be crankily ignoring M'tej's midlife crisis unraveling beside him, leaning forward from his table-side lean to collect his next drink of sweet, sweet honeywine as though he couldn't stand to wait and felt pressed to meet its arrival halfway. "The hell 'Now' is you answer me a better question."

"Speak." M'tej returns, finally reaching for his own drink and taking a draw from it, before settling it deliberately next to where it had sat before. A half-circle of mug-sweat creates a crecent circle on the table now, the rest cut off by the mug. He reaches with an impatient hand, then, and smears the water across the rest of the table, to be quickly absorbed into the dry wood and rain-damp air.

Finally, Cullen looks to him fully, head rolling slowly on his neck. Taking his DAMN time. "D'you wanna?"

"No. I can't read, I can't write. Do I want to be publically humiliated? No. Can't fight thread. Duty day and night. Can't go out playing cards, or flying in storms, or hunting, or trading." He slides the mug around on the table, further 'drawing' a smear of the sweat-beads, until he runs out, then redirects his attention at the other man, "Temyrth wants it. He wants it about as bad as he wants Zsaviranth. They… Connived. Plotted? They absolutely teamed me. So I said yes." After Temyrth said yes. "I don't know what it's like being married, but having a dragon… It can't be all about me, all the time. You aren't a rider, without the dragon."

"Oh, for the love of," Cullen has to actually set his goblet down to free up all nine crooked fingers AND his right pinky nub to scrub his face. "No. It ain't like being married. Cause if my woman - if anyone tried make me do such an endeavor I didn't want, I would unfasten my pants, rider," he gestures to his crotch with BOTH hands, aggressively, like an angry 'da-DA!', "I would FLOP my tackle onto the table," except he is gestures lifting something as big and heavy as an invisible GRAIN sack, slamming it down next to his mead… which he then picks up and almost urbanely lifts it to take a neat little sip, "And I'd invite her to eat me. I would shit on her carpet, 'Tej. It would be on the walls."

M'tej eyes his friend speculatively. "You are so not that big." Just sayin'. But he has to chuckle, and that leads inevitably to a laugh. A big, booming laugh that calls another, and another, and they sink M'tej back in his chair, as he envisions Cullen's rancidly-descriptive verbal theatre here. "And you'd be so out on your ass, Cullen," M'tej manages weakly, "And then what? Go to the next gal lined up to have your children?" He gestures to the equally-invisible women, purportedly oogling Cullen's invisible…Grain sack.

The angriest… grain sack. "What 'next'?" Cullen scoffs, "Dragonman, I did not climb out into this world seeking married life with children. Family is picking up a hot coal and gripping it as it burns you. You take it, you wear its scars, you howl and suffer and huddle to it's warmth 'cause you want it. — But if you don't want it," he holds out his fist out, beneath M'tej's nose, and with ultimate callous… opens his fingers. "You drop it. Kick… fucking, dirt over it. Kill the livestock, burn the house down, salt the ashes and walk the fuck away."

"Yeah, been how many turns and I'm still getting over your having gotten married. How did you get her to put up with you? Then again," M'tej's grin lingers, from his welcome laugh, "You used to be much more pleasant, when you weren't trying to overdose me with fellis. Or maybe that's why you just seemed to be nicer then." —Another grin to that, but note that M'tej established himself at the bar before he invited Cullen? Things that make you go 'hmmm'. "But… Dragons don't work that way. What hurts him, hurts me. What delights him, I feel. But the cuss can still freeze my brains when he wants, and keep me from sleeping, and put me in some truely uncompromising positions with people I had no desire to bed, and he has the luxury of forgetting most of it a sevenday after, when I'm still dealing wtih the aftermath." M'tej doesn't enthuse about the merits of marriage, either. "Look. There was Dex. You remember Dex." Dex was M'tej's first stupid. "Then there was a gal over at Fort. There's a man, if you are ever feeling like killing a man, I'll set you up with him… Anyway. He made sure that ended." M'tej taps a finger on the table. "Then Diem. And mind you… At Fort Weyr, I had a crap reputation to beat crap reputations. Woke up next to her and she looked at me like I'd raped her. Then I got jumped and the crap beat out of me for my troubles. Browns aren't allowed to fly golds, evidently, there." He shakes his head. "Then, my luck, she gets interested in maybe finding out if I'm all that bad. I fell for her. Devious. Wicked. Plotting. Woman." But M'tej has to snicker again. Cullen's 'tackle'. On the table.

"I'm a fucking creampuff, dickhead," Cullen murmurs into his drink. Through his gritted teeth. He's back to maintaining that guard-on-duty stare across the ring as M'tej speaks on. Presumably, as he isn't speaking, as one ear faces M'tej, he is listening in silence. But it's entirely possible he's thinking about… sandwiches. Or maybe his weighty GRAIN SACK. Maybe he's afraid it'll sag the TABLE. "So does he not feel this in turn?" Not looking, he flaps a loose one-handed gesture to just… all of you, M'tej. ALL of you. "Long as I've known you, Tej, just as quick as you can find a brier patch, you'll cast yourself upon it then complain of thorns. You can mark me now, if you want this childqueen," the side of his nose just faintly coils, "You set a sharding poor precedent for the future triple-fucking yourself at Step One."

Well. Cullen has a point. A couple good ones. M'tej considers those, mulls the words, and finally addresses that which he can with authority. "He can feel I'm upset. We used to not be able to separate his upset and my upset as much; that's why the weyrlings are always isolated from the rest of the crazyness of the Weyr. And he knows I'm pissed. But he can… Work on me?" M'tej scratches his temple, and drags fingers through his hair, then blows his breath through his teeth. "Ah, like… He knows I hate flights. So he doesn't alert me to them. Until he's up and after them. So I can't interfere back." M'tej thinks. "It's like trying to control a runner, except you have to keep constant tension, but if it's too much tug, you both hurt like hell." M'tej draws another drink, then calls the 'tender over, "Some food, here, lad. Thanks." When that one hot-foots away, another leery glance cast at Cullen before he goes, M'tej continues, "He's so thrilled right now, Cullen, that it's like he can't 'hear' me being pissed at him." M'tej flicks a long glance at Cullen. "Childqueen. Merry. You are so right. But—" he protests, "I am .not. complaining. I am trying to figure out how the hell I'm going to pull off AWLM, and why the hell I got myself into this. And you're helping."

"Only help I render is telling a man 'turn back' when he's sprinting for a cliff face. What is there to like in a girl that takes pleasure in thy suffering?" Cullen has a way with words, if nothing elseOH DEAR GOD, they're being brought chicken wings. The bazaar has a glorious penchant for spice, and the arriving food finds the man, still standing, turning to hover over this delightful snackware. Even knocks aside a measly topmost morsel to find a larger chunk beneath. Hunting for the MOST CHOICE PIECE, "Is it so hard to ask for a job assignment you'd Faranth-forbid take a moit of pleasure in instead?"

"I'm very happy as a wingrider." M'tej waits for Cullen to figure out which piece he's going to get, before he'll take a wing. "I do my job. We get to fight Thread. We are unremarkable. We do what we want on the off time. Look," M'tej finally exhales. "She asked. I argued. Temyrth agreed. I agreed for one clutch, to minimize damage. This upcoming one. With any luck I'll get fired before long. She knows I can't read. Got kicked out of my own Weyrlinghood. I have no idea why she thinks this— OK. She told me all kinds of reasons - words, words, words — that she thought I'd be…" M'tej surrenders and just eats wings for a few moments, piling up a set of bones on his side of the table, before he drains the rest of his drink. "Problem is," M'tej admits, "I got it bad for her. I don't have a lot of sense, but it just evaporates when a female is involved, doesn't it? Dex and I — that never was a good thing, was it?" M'tej looks at the man who saw him through that, for his honest opinion, for which he'd never before asked.

For just a moment, this does pull Cullen's attention, a glance, pausing with a strip of meat stretching from gripped teeth and its originating bone. Of all his moments of Blunt Commentary, he'd refrained from speaking on Dex. And turns away to do so, mincing no words, as ever, but taking no joy in it, "No. It wasn't." He breaks into chewing again, and runs it down as though he'd - clearly long-since formed the conclusion, and plays it now like a dog-eared card, "She was a sharding mess and her dragon would've taken no greater delight than to see thee rendered a greasy black smear beneath a gout of dragonfire." Chew. Chew. And, at length, with that same weight of hateful clarity, he murmurs, "You're already decided on it. The childqueen. The fool's post. The conniving dragons. Mark it now, that Cullen of Nowhere pointed ahead of you, dragonman. He pointed down this brier patch road, and he said 'turn back now.'"

"Thank you friend. You will probably be saying 'I told you so' this time next turn, and I'll remember." M'tej has to grin, though his tone is heartfelt. "And I should be practicing how to drop my tackle on the table to punctuate my demands." He nods to the poor 'tender, to refill the wings, and his drink, and offer Cullen more, in exchange for another half-mark on the table. "How did you know it was her, then? Mir? — That she was the one?"

"Mock as you like, it works!" Cullen splays his hand sincerely against his chest front! And, being Cullen, you can't actually be certain he hasn't done it. The man threw a freaking goldrider in a lake once. "Tchhh," this other question finds him less energetic, lips slowly pressing together, as he gives his drink an absent swilling. Watching it slosh against the interior rim until his tongue can be heard unsticking from the roof of his mouth with a soft, flippant 'click'. "—I didn't."

M'tej blinks. Then, in a soft, sing-song tone, he murmurs, "You are not help-ing!" He shakes his head, "Try again."

"I cry thy pardon, brownrider," Cullen is irritably taking another wing, M'tej. It's your fault if he gets FAT, "That my lack of family sharing has not brought thee adequate comfort." Birdflesh is rendered by the gnash of eyeteeth, washed with sweet wine, grimaced after. "When she first grew pregnant with my bastard child, out of wedlock I'd tell you, I wanted it exterminated. I tarnished her reputation til she had to leave her Hall, struck her baby sister about the face in anger, and when she first refused me her hand in marriage, I threatened her livelihood. For the lengths I put that woman through, for the grace of her heart in giving me children, for the many times she fled the home and bed she welcomed me into, to escape the black rage inside me, Matej, I tell you - There is no 'one'. There's just do and dasn't. And she was fool enough to dare." The plate rattles, for Cullen's fist has struck down on it.

"So love suits fools?" M'tej leans into those words, setting an elbow on the table to steady it from the other man's violence, and catching the plate with a whisper-quick motion from dexterous fingers. "I seriously doubt, friend, that many women would put up with you, Cullen, and it's been quite obvious that few put up with me." No line behind M'tej, either, of waiting women who want to bear his children. Once upon a time, maybe, when he was a dastardly rake, speaking whatever lies would get him laid. "So maybe the better question is, 'what are they getting out of it'?" Soft-spoken now; M'tej's anger has never been marked by volume or vulgarity; indeed, his fury is candid and quick, efficient and oft accompanied by a joyous, effective violence.

"What they'd get," Cullen's opens his fingers next to his jaw, to make a straight line from middle fingertip clear to the point of his elbow, "Is the back of my sharding hand."

"Nah. I'd never hit a woman." M'tej settles back, palming his restored drink and rolling his shoulders back until he hears popping. An exhaled sigh before he casts another wanely-hopeful look at the two youths that he would consider laying fists on, but they're still not biting. "Or if I did, I'd fully expect her to hit back." M'tej does tend toward the warrior women, and older women, when his dragon isn't driving the lustwagon. "And a goldrider. Kill me now, Cullen." M'tej leans forward again, to simply faceplant onto the table. He was weary before he went to see Diem. Another unfair advantage — how'd she know he'd spent the whole afternoon doing physically-exhausting wher-stupid-ass risk-his-neck crap anyway? M'tej is running on pure nerves right now. "So, so, so stupid. I should be happy hiring whores. I should be happy hiring whores. I should be happy hiring whores…" Maybe he's finally listening, Cullen?

Not if that's what he's taking away from it. At least Cullen doesn't seem to be celebrating a breakthrough. He's just king of gnawing a chickbone now gripped in his teeth and watching M'tej dispassionately down the bridge of his nose. One hand negligently extends his goblet for a refill at some point, but otherwise just kind of letting him go on for a while. "Tej." He says in his own time. "You're a fuckin' mess. Go home." Maybe because those Scrappy Youths are noticing poor M'tej's hangdog posture and are… snickering? It's POSSIBLE they were just sharing a joke anyway. But the battered old bailiff in Cullen isn't particularly interested in finding out. So he's going about a M'TEJ extraction. It involves taking the whole table and dragging it back to give him full M'tej ACCESS. "Where's your thrice-dammed brown monster." Watch out. Cullen's moving in to take M'tej by the elbow.

*Sigh* M'tej shakes his head. There's a reason that he doesn't wear a knot most times. He can't reflect that badly on the Weyr if there's still a question about who he belongs to. "Doting over a bunch of eggs in the cavern and baking his few brains out, I believe." M'tej does rises, elbow taken or not. He's certainly not had too much to drink, but the day and now night is catching up to him, painting his features turns older. "I need to install a ladder to my weyr. That way," M'tej grumbles, "All those other women can find their way up, as well. A goldrider. Like nearly getting killed the first time didn't teach me a thing, Cullen." He thinks. "The second time." Dryly. "Obviously the first time didn't teach me. Three's a charm? If the AWLM doesn't kill me, I'll wise up? What are the chances?" He'll send one more look at the youth, a lift of his chin challenge: C'mon. Right now. Neither of you are women! Or goldriders! Bring it bloody well on! —But, M'tej will also let Cullen usher him away, if those two don't finish M'tej's day on a bright note, too.

The kids might, on a different day - these are Pit kids, bold and brash. But M'tej's reckless energy hangs alongside Cullen's almost methodical grinding-boulder stare that doesn't harbor the jovial spirit of an organized match. It just looks mean. Hard. And steady. Though training has seen him, a few rare times in these parts, he's only participated in a single formal match - against the once Weyrleader W'rin. Turns ago. A different time, a different world. W'rin dead now, as so many others. Don't worry. Good old KILL JOY Cullen will make sure M'tej stays out of fun. Er. Trouble. At least for a while, before crawling back into whatever gator pit he's taken up in these days.

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