Tea delivered, table set, Weyrwomen pleased, Libby felt a pleasant satisfaction at serving the Weyr both old and new. She had taken a trade for a time at least, to be placed in the south for some amount of time. The heat was brutal and took some getting used to, with all the ice in her blood, but she was happy enough to be away from the ever darkening skies of Ice Stone. It was about time to move along and try somewhere else for a while, grey Iron flitt in tow, to escape the dark and cold winter nights. At least this Turn. So she returned to the kitchen for a time, to check on some sweets and make sure they were well arranged and decorative to bring back out in some time.
“Excuse me?” Shri spied Libby arriving to the kitchen. “Do you know if there are any scrapes of meat available? I need-“ Shri cut herself off and slammed her hand right in front of Panero’s nose, who hissed and scrambled off the table, away from the sweets he had been eyeing. “Sorry. I need something to keep these ones out of trouble and I ran out of my own snacks.”
Analis looked down at Panero, prim and disapproving. Dea rumbled on her perch, while Selt merely observed, patient in the knowledge of future snacks. Panero himself recovered quickly and started to skitter about the floor, chirping to the unknown Iron in a friendly manner. Analis and Dea eyed the Iron before eyeing each other.
The four firelizards looked up at Shri, silent and still. If only for a moment.
Libby stopped to address the woman. She prepared to speak but the slam on the table startled her and without thinking about the loud noise her reflexes moved her back and a little lower, hand hovering to where her little knife hid. The woman continued to scold the flitt, the pounding in her ears quieted, and Libby straightened up. She felt the tops of her ears heating up. Of all things why did that get her to react? There were loud noises in the kitchen all the time. Not a day went by that someone didn't drop something.
Doing her best to salvage appearances, Libby swept the half filled tray of sweets away to a counter across the way. After setting it down she slipped her hand into a little pocket with similar treats for Anchor. He peered down, expectantly. Libby gave him an idle scratch but instead placed the scrap in front of the red firelizard who had nearly ruined the Weyrwomen's cakes.
"See to it he doesn't bother those cakes," Libby instructed. She surveyed the other firelizards and now her own Iron, and decided it best to check for other undesirable scraps waiting for firelizards. "Just a moment," she ducked further back into the kitchen, willing her embarrassment to go. She removed herself from the woman's line of sight, took a few steadying breaths, found some meat for the firelizards to eat, and returned in an unremarkable amount of time. She grabbed a piece and gave it to Anchor as they returned. "This ought to do," she said, looking to Shri for approval.
Panero, being presented with a treat, trilled out his delight and ate greedily. Shri would call him a glutton if he didn’t move at a mile a minute. She suspected his proclivity for eating sweets was a form of mimicry on her own habits. Why that might be escaped her though. He peered upward expectantly, finishing the treat all too soon.
“Of course.” Shri appeared not to take offense, though there was the slightest hint of confidence in her voice. She reached for her shoulder to pet Analis, who was now giving Panero an imperial stare. She did have a Gold for good reason. It helped with the rest.
Shri’s patience was rewarded when she returned soon enough with meat. She took it, measuring it mentally.
“It will, thank you.” Without looking, she tossed a piece to Panero, who caught it before it hit the ground, and then reached behind her to give a piece to Selt. She then gave a piece to Dea, only barely holding it, since Dea had a tenancy to snap first and apologize later. Finally a bit for Analis, who took it most gingerly. Selt, finishing his piece, crawled out from the back of Shri’s sash and chirped to the other three. A ripple of quick communication occurred, though Shri merely seemed to understand rather than participate. Then the Flame leaped off and vanished in a blink of the eye. Shri tossed another piece to Panero before trying to converse.
Libby paused a moment to admire the fair of firelizards. There were certainly more of them, it seemed, down south. Perhaps it was easier because food was more available? Or the weather? Or the Weyr? Or perhaps it was simply that more people lived here and thus more firelizards with them. They were fantastic colors too, though the Auroras of the north had color enough for any distinction.
"Oh, um. This is Anchor," Libby said, she held out her arm and Anchor moved to it. She held him further forward for inspection. The well grown Iron flared his wings, now conscious that he was the center of attention. He noted the Gold and the Copper, giving his wings a little flutter.
Shri examined the presented firelizard. Irons were a good sort, generally. She imagined that having one in her fair would be problematic though, considering she had a Copper and therefore a combat fair. Unlike her eggs though, she couldn’t get a general sense of Anchor’s personality so it was all built on guessing and observation. She spoke again, as deadpan serious as ever.
“Hello Anchor, it’s nice to meet you.” Her fair echoed greeting, Panero doing so with meat in his mouth. Analis puffed out her chest a little, and Dea raised her head higher in response to the little bit of movement from the Iron. Shri suppressed a sigh.
“Yes, very nice. I apologize if I seem nosy, I would like ask where you got him. I trade in firelizard eggs myself, so it is nice to know who I might have as a business partner, or competitor as the case may be.” Well, she might be smaller scale than most, but Rainbow Mists was her territory.
Anchor let out a chirp that the others acknowledged him. Libby gave him a pat and pulled him back, focusing on calm. She was still at work, he should know to behave. She listened as Shri went on about her business. It reminded her again how big this Weyr was.
"Oh, well, you see, his egg was a gift. And furthermore we're from up north, so he hatched out up there. Is the market of yours that competitive?" She asked to be polite, but her eyes darted to the stacked cake trays. If the woman, Shri, wanted to keep talking, well that was fine as long as the kitchen staff didn't mind. But even so, Libby needed to be working to stay in their good graces, so she moved the trays back over. Libby arranged her work station and started cutting pieces of cake and placing them on the tray, or keeping them back to embellish with this or that. Anchor lost interest in food that wasn't his very quickly and removed himself from Libby's shoulder to better socialize with the other firelizards.
Shri didn’t say anything for a moment, before forming her answer. There was an opportunity to reinforce the cover she had created for herself, so she debated it. It was hard to balance the way she presented herself while continuing to still act like herself. After all, she was supposed to be heavily in debt (and for certain purposes she was) but that didn’t mean she started to act timid.
“A northern gift, I suppose that doesn’t affect anything here then. To answer your question, it is difficult with as much supply as we have here. Cutthroat might be the wrong word though, since for a merchant, it is easy to move from the weyr, to the Aerie, or to Cliffside if things aren’t selling. However I ask because if there is someone else up to my standards I would be able to move more firelizard eggs while still managing at the Aerie. Not everyone takes so much care to pair firelizards to those who purchase them.” Shri stifled a sigh. That had come out much more neutral then she would have liked. Perhaps…
“It is difficult to sell Copper eggs when you want to both match them correctly and not unduly anger your firelizard.” That might hint at her troubles. Perfect, nothing too obvious and it would fit if there were eavesdropping. She did hate the part of her that was now devoted to keeping this whole thing up.
It would be worth it though.
Panero was more than happy to greet Anchor, and after finishing his food went to join him. Analis and Dea seemed to consider moving, glancing at each other heatedly for a moment. Shri merely glanced once at Analis, and then at Dea. Then, oddly enough, it was Analis that glided off of Shri’s shoulder. Dea, usually angry at such a thing, continued to cling to Shri’s sash and eyed all the humans in the area. Shri’s mood was making Dea a bit more suspicious than usual, and Dea preferred to be closer to a potential fight. The tiny Copper rumbled faintly.
Analis greeted Anchor properly, but kept an eye on Panero. The Crimson-Brick merely chirped all friendly-like. He clearly wasn’t up to anything. Probably.
Libby listened and considered. This woman certainly knew the firelizard trade. She seemed to be putting a lot of thought into answering, probably on account of Libby's utter lack of knowledge about the topic. Anchor had simply arrived into her life, and since he fit so well she had put very little thought into the particulars.
"I didn't know there was an art to matching 'em," Libby thought aloud, carefully arranging a pair of cake slices to mirror one another on the tray. Satisfied, she brought forward a fruit filled slice and placed a few bright green leaves about it onto the tray. Maybe it was like arranging food? No, certainly more complicated than that with living things. She took another look at Dea. There were so many colors she wasn't sure if she'd seen this one before. Regardless, this one looked like a spitfire spirit so perhaps that was all she meant. "What's that like? Do you care for this job or did it just find you, the way cooking did for me?"
Shri paused. It wasn’t something she had ever really thought about. Not because she didn’t have an answer, but probably more that she felt the answer was so obvious. Yet never said aloud. A small smile slipped onto her face.
“Both. I blundered into it with a turnday gift.” She motioned to where Analis sat, primly sitting up. “Analis was gifted to me by way of egg when I saw young. We butted heads a lot, she very much wants things her way. That trial by fire gave me the inspiration for pairing her eggs properly.” Her hands went back to her sides and her small smile drifted away, though the slight warmth remained in her final words. “And I do love pairing eggs to people. A good relationship with one’s firelizard is a great thing.”
Dea rumbled. Shri eyed the Copper, who she suspected would have made a snide comment if she were capable of it. Though firelizards did not use words, they were very emotionally aware, and very smart. Of course, she had done no small amount of training with her crew as well.
Libby listened to her explanation. How nice that she enjoyed her work, it was good for people. Sure, she'd had a few rough jobs, and using a dainty little cake knife was far less dangerous, but she wouldn't change them. They had made her, ship and shore alike. It remained for her that the only changes she would make were to have her loved ones back.
"I got lucky with Anchor," Libby reflected. The Iron trilled at mention of his name. Libby finished placing cakes on the bottom tray and started into the next tier. And the next. "I'm about to deliver this out for the Weyrwomen. Do you need anything else from the kitchens?"