Madox, N'iel


Madox escapes boring talk with old people, and ends up talking teaching with the less-old N'iel. Also: what makes a chowder a chowder? A stew a stew?


It is midmorning of the thirteenth day of the sixth month of the eleventh turn of the 12th pass.


Nighthearth, Southern Weyr

OOC Date 15 Jul 2017 23:00


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"I don't put tomatoes in chowder"



A comfortable nook, this natural extension of the living room is cozily attired with overstuffed chairs and a couple of well-worn loveseats. All have been covered in various shades of green, giving the very incongruous appeal of a miniature forest hidden away inside… a grove of man-made proportion. Fish stews and spicy white-wherry chili are often kept hot on the minor hearths east and west of the main, for those whose hours defy when meals are kept. Ornate, the largest hearth towers high, rich with carving and utilitarian in fashion: it holds court by providing the weyr with rich klah, the air thick with the scent of cinnamon wafting.

You wouldn't think that an extra fifty or so people suddenly taken into the Weyr would be felt so easily. They get more than that with candidates for each clutch, but the refugees are different. They're needy and stuff. And those old ladies like to talk and talk and talk. To try and avoid having to pretend to be interested in the story of Zida and her onion belt, which was the fashion once upon a time, for the gazillionth time, Madox is just going to try and sneak behind a tallish rider over towards the Nighthearth. Don't mind this harper just trying to clearly avoid something. And obtain some fish stew.

N'iel can feel someone behind him, and the rider turns his head as subtly as he can to try and see who it is. A wildling determined to stab and rob him? A former weyrling come to exact revenge? Oh - no, just a person with the knot of a journeyman harper. Chillll, Al. "You okay?" Cos the guy is like, right behind him, after all. which gets a puzzled look from N'iel - but not an unfriendly one.

"Shhhh. Whatever you do, don't look that way," And to make that an extra hard thing to comply with, Madox is even going to point a thumb back over towards where the gaggle of old ladies, some weyr ladies and some the refugees, are clustered in the living cavern. "If you make eye contact, they'll think you want to talk. And they'll talk for hours!" This harper definitely isn't a wildling. From clothes to accent, everything about him screams FORTIAN!, so you know, the pinnacle of civilization.

Of course, if you tell someone not to look at something, their natural instinct is to look at it. N'iel is no exception to this, immediately turning to look where Madox's thumb is pointing, then catching his mistake and whipping his head back round to stare at the cauldron of fish stew bubbling gently on the hearth. "Shards. I didn't make that too obvious, did I?" The man's voice is quiet, an Istan accent overlaying the faintest lingering hint of a Keroonian one.

Madox just shrugs. "I don't know. To find out I'd have to look and that's double the risk. We'll just have to hope. And maybe pretend like we're talking about serious, boring business and that will keep them off?" So far so good though. They haven't suddenly been ambushed by old ladies, but that might be because they have to walk a good ways and old joints hurt so much when it rains, as they'll tell you if you make the mistake of looking at them and getting caught. But that stew is also within reach, so he'll go ahead and get a large bowl full of the stuff and a roll from the basket next to the hearth.

Chatting to old ladies isn't high up on N'iel's list of priorities, so the man, slightly bug-eyed at his error, will nod. "Real serious stuff." His voice isn't just soft from keeping it low to avoid the old ladies overhearing - this just seems to be how he talks. "Fish stew - fish stew is very serious business." What a subtle actor! After Madox has taken his bowl, N'iel ladles a serving into a bowl and grabs two rolls, propping them against the edge of the bowl to attempt to carry everything. he'll give a little jerk of his head that implies 'follow me', moving to take a seat at one of a couple of seats placed in a loose group.

It's okay though, cause Madox is a harper and is trained for this. Not really, since he's not that sort of harper, but he can improvise. "Fish stew is very serious business. Or chowder is at least. Tillek and High Reaches seems to have a rivalry over who makes the best chowder. Just agree with whichever one the person you're speaking with seems to be from." The tone of voice seems to imply a longer story behind that. The journeyman just plops his roll in the middle of his bowl, grabs a mug of klah and is more than happy to follow this guy over towards the seats. N'iel has one of the bigger and fancier knots. All the better to help give the impression that they're talking about really serious business, right?

"I've always wanted to try Tillek's fish chowder," N'iel muses, as he gets himself settled in his seat, wriggling his butt back and putting the increasingly hot bowl of soup on the little table. The rolls are too good to resist though, and while one makes its way onto the table, too, one remains in N'iel's hand so he can tear a bite out of it. And now they're further away from any chatty ladies, they can have a normal conversation now, right? "So uh, I'm N'iel. Don't think I've bumped into you before?"

"I'd had Tillek's chowder and it's good. It was what I was expecting at High Reaches, then they give me something with tomatoes in it and no cream. And acted like I was the crazy one for asking where the chowder was when that's what they gave me." The stew might be too hot to take a big bite of right away, but Madox will tear off a chunk of the roll to dunk in the stew before consuming. "I'm Madox. And sorry about that. I normally try and have a little bit more respect for personal space. But trust me, it was for both of your own good and mine this time."

"Tomatoes?" N'iel pauses, considering that, forehead slowly crumpling with confusion. "Chowder…you don't put tomatoes in chowder. Do you?" He's like, 75% sure you don't. as for personal space - N'iel just smiles, shaking his head. "We all have to escape from chatty people sometimes." No hard feelings from this green rider. Mimicking Madox, he'll dip the roll in his own stew, blowing on the roll to try and cool it before he attempts to eat it. "So, are you new here? I assume you're a posted harper?"

"I don't put tomatoes in chowder," Madox does put a very dramatic hand to chest moment with that statement. He actually doesn't cook much of anything since he's usually posted somewhere with a kitchen and folks that will cook food for him (and everybody else). "But apparently they do. And I thought chowders were all cream based or else it'd just be a stew." But he shrugs, he's no baker. There'll be a headshake for the new here question. "Not exactly new. Been posted here about a turn now. I teach, mostly. And other odd tasks. Have you always been at Southern?" Cause small talk while eating is very serious business that shouldn't be interrupted by old ladies.

N'iel cautiously nibbles the roll. Yeah, still pretty hot. So he'll talk instead. "Oh yeah. I'm sure some baker's written the book on the difference between stews and chowders. And probably soups and everything else, too." He gives madox a cheeky smile, before he goes for another attempt with the bread roll. It's cooler now, and he can take a good bite, looking pleased by the taste. Ah, but the conversation continues, so he can't linger too long with his mouth full. "Ah, teaching. We're practically brothers." As for his own origins, N'iel is slightly guarded in his response. "Since it was the New Southern Weyr, yeah." But he has some more roll to eat, so he'll apply himself to that for a moment, looking at his stew bowl.

"I mean, they have to do something to get their journeymen's knots," Madox will nod in agreement about the book idea. Totally sounds like a reasonable journeymen's project to him. He'll also be eating at his food around the conversation, but never chewing with his mouth open or talking with food in his mouth because that'd just be rude. "Guess you like it here since you've been here that long? And yeah, although some of your pupils are much larger than mine." And he has to teach them much more serious things.

N'iel hehs. "Yeah, that they do." Ah yes, the rank he never did make it to! This seems to be a conversation of equally polite people: N'iel couldn't bear chewing with his mouth open, and even talking with his mouth full has him covering his mouth with his hand to avoid flashing half-chewed food to the world. "Yeah, it's pretty nice. We came from Ista originally, so it's sort of similar. Nice and hot, beaches…that sort of thing." He does nod in agreement at the bigger pupils thing. "Ah, but my pupils - the human ones at least - are a little bit older. I don't think I could teach human children." Beat. "Assuming that's who you teach?" Because N'iel is making a big ol' assumption there, and looking apologetic for doing so.

See, it really was for the good of both parties that Madox invaded personal space earlier to hide from some refugees. Now they can have this pleasant little conversation and nobody has to deal with people smacking food or other gross dining habits. Or hear about all the ailments plaguing the older refugees. "Ista's a nice place." He'll nod in agreement. "I was from Fort," clearly, "and posted at High Reaches Hold for about a turn before coming down here. A lot different from either of those places, but can definitely see why people appreciate beaches." He certainly does. And the lack of cold for pretty much all the turn. "I do teach human children, although there are a few I'm questionable about." There'll be a wink accompanying that joke about whether some pupils are human or other. "Most of my students are older, just a hair shy of going off for apprenticeships and jobs and being Searched and what not. Not a bad group usually."

N'iel perks at the mention of High Reaches. "Oh, I spent some time there. Er, not recently, though." More like, decades ago, but N'iel is just gonna eat some more roll and stew and not talk about that time difference. "Yeah, it's different but, you get used to a place, I guess. I was Ista for…quite a few Turns," it's a blur, to be honest. "And been here probably as long now, I guess?" He isn't gonna dwell on that thought, shrugging and getting on with his food, smiling at Madox's joke and wink. "Ah, teenagers. They have actual personalities! Very lucky."

Madox catches the perking and nods. "It seems like half of Southern's spent some time at High Reaches at one point of another." It's a very popular place. "But can't blame anyone for wanting to be here instead of there." There might still be a faint shiver at the memory of High Reaches winter and all that snow. This harper is not a very large man and cold sinks right into his bones. And the stew is continued to be slowly consumed. "Yeah, usually not quite teenagers, but close enough they're figuring out what they want to be like as teenagers." He gets those preteens. Which might be worse?

"Escaping the snow to catch some sun?" N'iel says softly, jokingly. He's making good progress on the stew now it's cooler - perhaps a bit too quickly, and he sets the bowl down to take a breather from shovelling it into his face. "If I'm honest - I haven't really taught any weyrlings yet. This clutch is my first. I only got the knot a few weeks ago." He leans back in his chair, at ease with Madox, looking across at him. "Any tips for dealing with students? You must get some, uh, unruly ones?" Somebody's worried about the task ahead of him!

"I can't argue with that," Considering while at High Reaches Madox begged and pleaded to be sent somewhere, anywhere, warm, he really can't. It's exactly what he did. Oh, and then the weyrlingmaster is asking for advice on classroom management. They did actually have some serious business and it wasn't all just a ruse! The harper will even set down his spoon for the moment as he responds. "Best advice? Very, very few people can tolerate being lectured at for any considerable amount of time. There's definitely information you have to tell them, but if you can figure out how to incorporate it into activities instead of just sitting and listening to what you say, the smoother things will go."

Madox has a rapt audience in N'iel. The older man may be leaning back in the chair, but he's got an expression of attention, ready to absorb any helpful information Madox will be kind enough to give him. There's a slow nod as the rider mulls over that advice. With humour in his soft voice, he'll note: "Weyrlinghood feels a long time in the past for me. I think I remember getting kinda bored by the lectures, though. Especially when you have an exciting dragon you'd rather spend time with." Roxeauth's touch in his mind is of amusement, and N'iel's smile broadens. "My girl would agree."

Madox smiles and shrugs a little. "I can't really say much of the same since there's never really been a time I wasn't either in class or teaching a class, but you'll probably get used to it pretty quick. But bored by lectures is one of the more common things. I assume weyrlinghood has a lot more hands on type lessons than most harper classes though." But somebody has to teach Pern's children reading, writing and arithmetic. Also, history and about crafts and holds and weyrs and all that good stuff. Madox happens to be one of those somebodies.

N'iel sets about eating again, resting the bowl on his lap so he can stay kinda leaned back and chilled out. "Yeah, lots of hand-son," he confirms, before grinning. "At least most of the people coming my way have had an education from brave people like yourself." He doesn't wink, but there's the implication of one as he looks over at Madox. "I don't think I could deal with teaching them maths and that kinda stuff. I mean, I'm not dumb," he's stumbling all over his words as he tries to not imply he's an idiot, "I just, um, wouldn't know how to explain it to people who don't know it at all." Oh hey, let's eat some stew and try to act like he didn't make a mess of that.

Madox laughs a little (only a little) at the man's stumbling, but at least it's a good natured laugh paired with an easy smile. "Luckily, there have been more brave souls who have taught others before me. There's a lot of ways to explain things, and if one doesn't work, you try the next one and then the next one. And if you eventually run out of ideas, hopefully something can be found in the archives or with talking with your peers." And yeah, he still has a little bit of stew so he'll finish the rest of it up before it gets too cold.

N'iel can take a chuckle at his expense if it's not spiteful, and he grins sheepishly. "I sure hope I get a few more peers soon, actually. There're only three of us at the moment." He looks faintly stressed about that. "The clutches are a lot bigger than I'm used to - I guess I didn't think how much hard work it'd be. I'm enjoying it though," he clarifies. "You probably know that - the good times with the bad times."

The harper actually winces a bit at the mention of only being three weyrlingmasters at the moment. He's seen how crowded those training grounds look, in passing if not up close and personal. "Hopefully. That sounds difficult to manage with just three. Especially if there's going to be another clutch coming anytime soon. But there may be the weyrlingmasters from other Weyrs that could give advice as well, if you need it and your boss here doesn't mind asking?" Cause he's not sure what the current Weyrlingmaster's stance would be on asking outside the Weyr for help. Politics and foreign relations can be weird, man. "Yeah. Although, I've been getting dragged into more and more non-teaching duties lately. Like trying to co-ordinate the smiths and the miners and the dolphineers on trying to figure out a way to make the cataract passages smoother." Thanks, Bailey. Cause that's a task for a harper.

"I'm sure they'll hire some more of us," N'iel says, though there's the implication of false hope in his voice. His bowl is empty now; both rolls devoured, and he sits up straighter in his chair. "Sounds like you'll be sat up with the Weyrleaders running the Weyr, at that rate," he teases the harper with a grin.

At that tease, Madox groans and actually puts his hand to his face. "Don't give the Weyrwoman any ideas. Or the Weyrleader for that matter. She was the one that dragged me into all these extra projects in the first place."

"They won't get the idea from me," N'iel grins, standing with his bowl. "Nice t'meet you, Madox - I'm sure I'll see you around soon enough. And uh, don't make eye contact with any talkative old ladies." He'll take his own advice as he leaves, out and out striding to deposit his dirty dish and leave. No old person conversation with him today, please!

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