Cullen, Merakh


A chance. tense meeting in Corks and Works, with space invaded and tempers tempted.


It is the twenty-second day of Spring and 52 degrees. It is overcast and cloudy.


Corks and Works, Igen Weyr

OOC Date


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Corks and Works

Day or night, this shop is well lit on the inside, by day with Rukbat's beams, and by night by the grace of many glowbaskets that are very liberally used to maintain lighting. When a chance is gained to look about the shop, one easily sees why - there are shelves upon shelves of wine here. The perimeter of the wine shop is lined by shelves four high, and each shelf is carefully stacked just short of bursting with wine of various vintages, regions, sweet or bitterness, and even more importantly, price. But lo, wine is not the only thing to be found on the shelves here - one wall is dedicated to other liquors, from ale to brandy to vodka, and many in between. A carefully written sign nearby says, 'if you don't see what you're looking for, let us know!' There are also a couple of shelves on the wall of the main door, dedicated to things not of vintner make. Although they are bare at the moment, a portable chalkboard plaque says, 'Sienna's Cheeses'.

Even the wall behind the counter has wine bottles on it, but it's the counter itself that is more of note. Approximately four feet high, there are wine bottles underneath as well - empty ones this time, as if to display the wines that have passed through here in the past. Many of which are highly remarkable in either name or vintage. The top of the counter is typically kept clean and polished to shine. A heavy book for keeping track of sales is atop the counter, as well as a stylus for writing with, and an inkwell. One of the shelves behind the counter has been reserved for clean wine glasses, and there is a tub for dirty glasses beneath it; next to it are small clothe bags with the shop's name embroidered into them, for the customers who buy more than a single bottle of wine.

In the middle of the room is a circular wooden display with spaces for wine bottles to be inserted, while the card on the little shelf below tells the name of the vintage or wine of the sevenday. A table and chairs are sometimes brought out from the storeroom to the front room, when there are particular customers about, or when there is a particular event going on. The shop itself is manned at all times, even during the night, sometimes by the feared Eollyn herself, and sometimes by Mayte or other apprentices.

Under a rare oppression of gray cloud cover, the desert heat now dwells in the baked sand, rising up in dry thermals over the stone roofing of the Weyr. Inside stone walls, a blessed cooling to the temperature finds Corks and Works appreciable - making the presence that is Cullen more jarring by existence, standing to one corner of the room like a rock slide, arms and ankles crossed with a shoulder fetched up against a shelf. He and Eollyn have their heads bowed over thimble-sized sampler cups of wine like vultures, each solemnly rotating their jaw around a faint mouthful of a deep redfruit wine. On eventually swallow, Cullen compresses his mouth, "-bites tart, t'end. I'd bathe a washed rind in it sooner." Eollyn makes no shift in shrewd expression, licking her own lips and nodding thoughtfully as she makes her way back behind the counter to aid a customer. Leaving Cullen all alone with his empty sampler cup. Woe.

Is there any sight as lonely as an empty cup? Still, there are other sights to be appreciated or studied curiously in the shop, and another enters a few seconds later. The woman is tall, as tall as some men, and dressed in an impeccably clean guard's uniform, with a hip-long braid that swings lazily behind her. A female guard, indeed, and one that walks with the idle, graceful gait that any fighter will recognise, so totally different from most women born to this time. Her knuckles don't show signs of damage, which argues for something other than bare-fisted fighting. She nods to Eollyn over the distance between them, a small smile forming on a lush mouth, and waits, idly glancing around the shop. Despite the casual nature of the gaze, it might be hard to imagine anything slipping past it, and indeed Landslide Cullen isn't so lucky, as blue-grey orbs find, then measure him curiously.

Cullen's return summary stare (snapping to the door the instant the woman enters, running a look back and forth between either of her eyes, darting to the set of her shoulders, assesses the tension of her hands, the weight of her footing) has that shallow lack of complication nor curiosity one might find in a guarddog. As is the bouldered canine-readiness in his otherwise lazy shoulders. Off-duty, but not switched off. In a glance, he's a man of heavy hangdog eyelids, a latticework of scarring cluttering his face, a beaten leather jerkin faded from sun and dust, leather bracers encasing his forearms, a belt of numerous pouches and practical utilitarian beltknife. The type of dry-cured complexion that might at some point have harbored a muddy freckle or two, but they have since expanded and melted together. After a heartbeat's moment of consideration, he unrolls from his slouch. It's difficult to call his movements graceful so much as spare and economized, performing a foreign Trader's salute that thumps his fist into his opposite hand's open palm, "Hile, guardswoman." Even an Oldtimer would find he greeting archaic. But look into his features and guess whether he'd care. "How fares."

the guardswoman, being of the nowtimer persuasion if not personality, finds the greeting even more archaic, and for a moment there's a quixotic quirk of thin, neat eyebrows. "Good day," she murmurs in a low, almost husky alto; the nod that accompanies it is pleasant enough. She idles closer, never quite coming within arm's reach; still, a decision is apparently reached, because one hand frees itself from the twine through her belt and she holds it out to him for a greeting. "Merakh." Her hand, if he takes it, doesn't immediatly clamp down to try and prove her strength, nor is it a limp-wristed salute. Instead, the strength there is considerately kept to a mere firm press, and her stare direct. "A wine connoisseur?" she asks indolently, finally looking at the tasting cup. "Perhaps then you might recommend something, good sir."

"Cheesemaker," Cullen whuffs, his hand coming down not to clasp hands but to clasp wrists, though his own may be guarded by bracers. His own pressure has that same level of uncompromising firmness that doesn't compete - it communicates, though. Some undefined and inexorable message, watching the woman's eyes, "I'd be forsaken, to not know its pairing. You aim for dining or to grow messy." It's - kind of a grin? That he makes?

Merakh has seen bigger smiles on a tunnelsnake than that, and it only makes her answering grin all the wider. "Something to sip lazily by myself, and then something to share with… a friend. I trust you take my meaning, sir?" For a moment her hand squeezes down on his arm, a pinch of strength to acknowledge something seen inside him, but she pulls away soon afterwards. "A cheesemaker, hm? Pardon my saying so, but you look more like you wrestle large and ornery bovines for a living." The shoulders, you see. "I had wanted to ask Eollyn, but I see she's busy. I'd appreciate any recommendations."

The guardswoman does follow, though there's a subtle pinkening of her cheeks for a few seconds, indicating a temperament not quite used to the looser morals at the weyr despite her attempts to fit in. It's some few moments before she feels composed enough to step up to his side, looking at the racks of wine with dawning confusion. "I admit to having a bit of a sweet tooth," she admits cautiously. "My palate is not educated enough for cheese and wine, unfortunately, though I've had caprine milk and survived that." Idly, looking over her shoulder in case Eollyn objects, she trails her fingertips over a rare vintage's curve, sensory-intent in that moment and reluctantly fascinated. "Perhaps I'll try one then — the dry red, I mean."

The corners of Cullen's eyes flex deeper into crows feet when he senses the woman fall in beside him - rather than, say behind him? Who knows. What this constriction means isn't clear; that same hard business smile and forward-directed gaze as ever, "Reds can go sweet, if you can face the dryness. Lady Eol's got a pretty stock of dessert wines as well. The type you'd call 'blushing'," so naturally he'd fallen on the word, turning his head towards Merakh, "Y'not from these parts." It's not really a question so much as he's telling her this. While pressing a bottle into her hands.

Ah. Merakh's had men poking fun at her expense before, but rarely whilst looking at her and not lower than her shoulders. She takes the bottle, cups it between her fingers, eyelids lowering a little as she enjoys the cool, smooth feel of the glass. "Thank you," she finally murmurs, endeavouring the keep the bottle in the same position as when he handed it to her. "If you'd care to suggest something for an, ah, friendly wine I'd appreciate it as well."

"I'd press a white on you," Cullen draws on, his current pulling the both of them along. "We'll make an education of it." The way his stride falls into step with Merakh's, the way the swing of his arms seems to respond to hers, is less a militant procession than it is an environmental annexation, all things apparently his territory by existence - he scans the shelves, though his roving gaze periodically marks the entrance as well. And the counter, with negligent turns of the head, eyes duck-duck-goosing along faces of other patrons without much interruption to his goal. Considering he hits the shelf he'd intended without clotheslining anyone (even if he might have shoulderchecked an obstructing young man from his path rather than move around.) "S' a mead - honeywine. They've a sweeter note yet, light for guestwork." The curious snarl of his archaic dialect makes this final word closer to 'geistwork'. It's not the accent that makes it sound like he's taking an unsavory bite out of the word. "I'm Cullen. Cullen of ," his tongue can be seen pressing at the backs of his teeth, "nowhere. Traderguard, de la Chadey." And since many of these words are too heavily dialected to backwater Bitran, he adds, "Chadey caravan."

Merakh is taut muscle and caution; her posture might be loose-limbed, but there's a crackling tension to her that no fighter would miss — her personal space is sacrosanct, and there's something about the man that makes it clear he's in the mood for breaching it. "Chadey caravan," she says shortly. "Not, I think, that I've ever seen you on the caravan grounds before, and I patrol through there a lot." She prudently takes a step away, then another, before she accepts the bottle and this time with a furious blush. Guestwork makes it all sound worse somehow, despite the fact that she's heard a great deal more uncouth directed at her for the double sins of being a woman and a guard. "Of nowhere," she repeats, tasting the words on her tongue, and nods once, decisively, to claim them for herself as well. "I'll try both and let you know whether you predicted correctly," she finally murmurs. "There's a superb cheesemaker here, one of the riders — any recommendations?"

When further distance is gained, Cullen does not pursue. He only steadily watches the ground given with a sliver of grin, and if she isn't using it he very well will. It takes hardly a sling of hips, setting the line of his belt diagonal, a hook of thumb into a belt loop, and it's HIS now. For all that Merakh says, the only answer Cullen gives, through his teeth, is, "You speak of Sienna."

What an outrageous space-thief the man is! Merakh, noting that annexation with less than indolent glee, tries for a bit of space again, though her eyebrows arch at his tone. "I think so, but I might be wrong. I didn't ask for a name the last time I took any cheese from the caverns." There's an irritated twist to her lush lips, "I barely get time to snatch a sweetroll for dinner these days, the way crime in the bazaar is going." This time, twisting her hip as well, she leans against one of the shelves, position perhaps idle, but eyes anything but. "I take it you are well-acquainted with the lady."

"In no warm way," Cullen intones, coarse vocals making the words sound like snow breaking loose from a mountain side. Content to allow the woman to withdraw, he's nowhere near generous enough to surrender a thin inch to the guard's reclamation, standing right where he is, feet planted heavily apart. "She's my accursed sister-in-law. As prime a company as a slap to the ballsack." His head tips up, all the easier to look down, over the deep scar bisecting his nose, at this company. Hardening to something more solemn, "…what's become of the bazaar."

He's married? The thought is surprising enough to make Merakh's brows arch, and this time when she steps away she does so firmly, leaving at least two feet of space between them. "You sound … very taken with her," she finally murmurs. "As to the bazaar, the introduction of female guards can't solely be blamed for the increase in crime and hostility. With all the refugees from the hold, it's not surprising someone's trying to scratch open opportunities that should be left alone." Her gaze transfers past his, turns distant and pensive. "I've been around enough shitty places to know what they feel like, and the atmosphere in the bazaar feels like one of those black-green thunderstorms, ready to burst at any moment. Heavy." There's a thread of frustration in her tone, impotency of action abhorred. "It's enough to make me wish for rum instead of wine." Evidence of an earthier, more in-your-face side, perhaps.

"We were never warm even while her sister lived," implication suggests probably, then, there's been a bit of loss and increased awkwardness since. Though Cullen appears more stonefaced and maybe a little bored than anything else, moving on with only a rotation of head to stretch a few vertebrae, "…Heavy." He turns that shallow dustpan gaze towards the exit, presumably the world beyond, the bazaar for all its turmoil. He does a good thousand-yard stare. "Doesn't shock me. Do you know, it t'was the guard themselves that brought this on. Was a time once, it was organized - a pat machine. Till the Weyrleader broke it." He Terminator-swivels his head back to Merakh, "Do you know the contenders?"

There's a flicker of concern. Women. So emotional at times, especially when loss is hinted at. Merakh leaves the subject delicately alone, however, choosing to concentrate on cradling the wines carefully instead. "The guard was a pathetic mess under the previous Captain, I hear, but things have started sharpening up again recently. There is only so much progress we can make so fast." Her pause, when it comes, is delicate. "Unless you are hinting that all the guards are still incompetent?" Her mouth twists, bitterly, at the mention of the Weyrleader, but nothing is said about him yet.

It might be interesting to watch her lips flatten with pique, then return to their shape as she breathes out, irritation flowing out on the exhale. "Guard-Captain Ladivos runs the show now," Merakh finally says, leaning indolently from one hip to the other. "If you're talking about the Weyr, it's run by Weyrleader W'rin and Weyrwoman Sadaiya. It sounds as if you know more about it than I though… I am certain they'll welcome you back. Excuse me for a second." She turns simply, idly stalking to the counter to haggle over the price of the two bottles with Eollyn; all seems to go well, and she soon returns with them wrapped in a large twist of cloth, much easier to carry than the way they were. Then, with a small smile, "Cheese? Or were you just boasting, Chadey?"

"Hn," Cullen puts a bitter ratchet to this mirth sound, "We'll needs must see. I've seen the inside of thy brig by the Weyrleader's hand. Though Sadaiya…" It's a strange transformation, to see a smile truly pleased among these harsh features - it's fierce and immediate and deepens new lines in his seamed face. "This could be interesting." When he folds his hands behind his back, elbows sharp at either side, it presents something rather soldier-esque as a front - or a private body guard, since he's jerking his head towards the front counter, where a shallow wooden box is set waiting, "Phah, woman. See my trade and then speak of boasting." By idle curiosity, it would seem, he inquires, "…is M'yck still a guard here."

"So far," Merakh says silkily. "I've seen nothing but boasting. But I tell you what, I'll look into the matter of M'yck for you; I'm new and I don't know all the guards personally yet." She wanders closer, curious, to the box, and prepares to Talk Cheese, which will likely be as oddly edifying as the wine had been.

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