Shri looked grimly at the work ahead of her this evening. She did not like stealing for the Aerie. She could only vaguely feel the progress it was getting her, so as of yet it was only hurting her pride. She knew WHY she was doing it, but the number of times she had to remind herself of the fact was tiring. Analis landed on her shoulder and gently rubbed her head against the woman’s check. Shri took a breath and settled herself. At least her firelizards were here.
Shri lugged the healer’s kit while her fair was flitting the other items today. It was not her choice to have to drag everything to the Weyr, but it was the drop point, and therefore the destination. She had only been able to get vague images from the person who was picking up the items, as they picked them up at hours firelizards should not be roaming and thus it had been hard for her to get her fair spying on them. Still, she had to move forward. She started to weave in the tunnels, and then to an unused storage room. Well, mostly unused. Shri expected to see some preserved foods that wouldn’t be used for a while.
Tonight was different though. Tonight, she was not as alone as she thought she was.
Since the attack Libby had not been sleeping well. The loss of security compounded with her reaction to it left her someplace between adrift and on edge. So when she had failed again to find sleep she got up. In the storage room she roamed with a cracked glow basket in the corner, the inventory list in hand. So many sacks of tubers, and flour, and grains, counting stacks of crates with fruits and vegetables, and so on. So when Anchor started and leapt up into the shadows of the top shelves, Libby dropped into a crouch, and replaced her writing board with her knife. No one else should be up at this hour. It was clear she saw her, and worse she had firelizards of her own. What was she doing? "What?!" she barked.
Shri’s eyes flickered to the quick movement of a firelizard, and Analis carried her will through. The Gold made a beeline for the Iron and tried to soothe the other firelizard. Relax, don’t go, just stay, be at ease. These were the ideas she tried to convey, in a very firelizard way, complete with chirps and croons.
Shri’s attention had only for a moment flickered, and looked to the girl, scared, and holding a knife. She had…ways to handle this, but she didn’t like most of the more complete solutions. Which left her with other options. Talking options. She was bad at those.
“I don’t mean harm.” She lifted an empty hand, trying not to aggravate her, while also not drawing attention to what she held in her other hand. Well, sorta.
Meanwhile, three other firelizards moved to their positions. Shri’s mind had to be divided between focusing on the knife and between keeping Dea at bay. The Copper was not happy letting a knife be pointed at Shri. Not at all.
Anchor recognized the pretty Gold. She was beckoning him to stay. How could he not want to be around such a beauty? He crooned back, flitting below the ceiling.
Libby felt Anchor's reaction and frowned, what? She squinted at the woman, now holding up a hand and shifting away the other. She knew this one, at least briefly. But what in Faranth's name was she doing here? "Ach, I know you. You're that nosy firelizard woman," Libby remarked, standing up to her full height. Normally it wasn't much, but this other woman was slim and not too tall either. She tipped the knife down. "Tell yer Gold to leave Anchor alone."
Shri’s natural reaction was to refuse. She didn’t want to have the Iron able to escape and warn someone. However, she wasn’t being called out on anything, as much as we was being questioned. She wasn’t confident that further questioning would leave her in a good position though. And she’d been positively identified. She did vaguely remember this one. Analis’s vision informed her on an Iron. Shri remembered firelizards. Oh, right. She had the sweet trays.
She was basically sunk, since there were few enough people with four firelizards and even fewer who sold them. Which means she could be told on regarding a nighttime excursion. She wasn’t supposed to be here, not really. She had no family in the Weyr and no particular reason to be skulking in the lower caverns. So what did she do? She refused to let things get back to anyone who could punish her, she had to see this through.
Shri was also not great at thinking up stories. It was the one issue with lying like this. She could try lying, but a good chance it wouldn’t work. She could try telling the truth (part of it anyway) and see where that got her but honestly she didn’t know if Libby could be trusted. She could try bribery, but that had the issue of blowing Shri’s cover if word of that got back to the people she was trying to investigate.
She hated all of these options.
She could also try to kill this person. That was an utterly repulsive idea. She was acting like a villain, she had no intention of acting THAT well.
What she settled on was boldly honest.
“My name is Shri Kestrel.” She tilted her head down in a nod and added, “I will in a moment but I have a question first. What would you do with a thief?” She stood straight again, giving no indication at all that she had said anything odd.
Anyone who doubted Shri’s confidence didn’t know the woman at all.
Libby tensed in the silence. She didn't launch into explaining herself. The Gold was still chattering at Anchor. She turned the knife over, squeezing the grip. She didn't like this and started doing the odds. This woman had her out numbered, and Anchor had never been in a scrape. She had gotten him from Kyuuki in her new life, or well, one of them anyway. So while Libby didn't shy from Shri, the firelizards on her side made Libby balk at the odds. Without meaning to her mind added that dreadful thought of I never should have moved here.
And then the woman announced her name. Loudly. What should she even make of that? And would she really let Anchor alone if she answered?
"Depends on why they're thievin'," Libby started, wondering what she could give away. She supposed Ice Stone would take her back now regardless. "I done it for stayin' alive. What's your excuse?" Libby stared her down. She had taken to stay alive between employment in places that didn't want her, and once she had means she had worked hard. She had protected herself... the thieves that hurt her brother... the man she hurt... it was different. No time for tangles. She leaned into Anchor's artificial sense of calmness.
Shri’s expression remained surprisingly neutral. Okay then. This could work. Why was she doing it? Well. Shri’s response was to take one step and close the door behind her. There was no one in the hall, thanks to Selt’s marvelous observation, but she expected it to get into it now. So the door was closed.
“If I don’t, I will be killed.” Shri, as agreed, motioned, and Analis gave a parting chirp to the Iron before she returned to Shri. Analis did he job well, She would have to be given some extra treats. “Surprisingly straightforward when it’s your life, isn’t it?”
Shri’s gaze rested on the girl and she attempted to read her. Her response had given her hope, since trading thief for thief information meant that neither of them would want to talk about this conversation going forward. Good. But she wasn’t out of the woods yet.
Libby knew that one too well. She'd done something she wasn't proud of to stay alive. And the forwardness and matter of fact presentation from Shri made her claim believable. Why would she lie about something like this? Anchor turned in the air and came back to her shoulders, folding back in defense. The dust wasn't settled yet.
"Yes." Libby agreed. Was she clever enough to have explored all the ways out? Libby imagined most people in that circumstance would have at least tried. And she wasn't about to tangle herself up in the specifics. "Since that's the case, why don't you switch spots with me here," Libby gestured with her open hand to further back in the store room. "And we keep this between us survivors."
Shri’s eyes flickered to where Libby’s hand motioned. Yes, she did need to place her ill-gotten gains back there. There was a question in her mind though. It was about trusting this conversation going outside these walls, she expected that it wouldn’t. It was the more mundane curiosities that were revealed now that immediate threats were less troublesome.
“Do you always do inventory at this hour?” She moved, walking forward while hefting up the kit in her hands. Analis remained more or less relaxed on her shoulder. She watched the Iron, but not intently. Shri relied on Analis to be keeping a watch, but in a different way than her other firelizards. That was neither here nor there. Shri paused, turning fully to Libby as a thought struck her.
“Is someone making you work at this hour?” They had just been talking about doing things they didn’t want to. Shri’s eyes were hard. If it were the case she might have to do something about it.
Libby moved aside, eyeing Shri as she walked past. She didn't want to spook her, though she took a lazy step away from the depths of the storage room. She shrugged off her question as uninteresting and not worth discussing. "Couldn't sleep," she commented, glancing away and then thinking better of the uncomfortable gesture. All these irksome trusting habits she had picked up over a few Turns of living amongst polite society. Her days in Icy Caverns would be ashamed. "And no, no one living, maybe some old ghost..." Libby amended, growing quieter as her loosening tired tongue shared more than her alert brain would deem wise.
Shri turned back when the girl mentioned it was merely insomnia. Huh. She placed the healers Kit in the back, where she had been told to. As she moved it to be inconspicuous she heard the low addition, and turned back. An old ghost? She dissected the implications. Nothing her from Rainbow Mists would be considered ‘old’ to this person, since she hadn’t been here long. Some northern issue? Perhaps she was being more literal then not. Hmm. Shri finished the job of hiding the healer’s kit before speaking.
“Well, I can’t dispel spirits.” She turned back to Libby, gently stroking Analis. “But I find the best way to keep your mind off the past is devoting yourself to a good person, a good cause, or a good job. So I guess you are doing the last of those.” She wondered idly who the ghost was exactly. Someone friendly who died? She imagined the north could be harsh. Or was it something else?
"As you say," Libby agreed, shrugging towards the shelves. She remained wary of Shri and her firelizard fair. She didn't like being outnumbered, and she didn't trust yet this idea of simply keeping it between them until it was over. She leaned into Anchor's presence for comfort, though they were both alert. Though if there were a person who could ward away spirits, Shri certainly had a presence for it: Cool, emotionally powerful from the way her firelizards were managed. How had she been caught up into thievery for her life? Shri seemed too clever for that. Though so many poor situations in life took but one bad decision. Could Libby find simply one thing that had lead her life in places she had been leaving behind? She would be ahead of the past but pieces found a way to haunt her. If she had to be plagued by specters, couldn't it be Lirie, healthy and whole again? Libby blinked hard, the wave of sleep rolling over her. She was tired to start with, more so now that the alarm of running into Shri was fading. "You'll excuse me, I should be going."
Shri nodded and motioned to the door. “Feel free. I am sorry I startled you.” She then waited a moment and added, “I will remain a moment and then be off.” Shri stood, stroking Analis. That was not the most important thing she was doing. The most important thing was mentally fighting the tiny Copper in her will to strike now while the others were distracted.
While this wasn’t the perfect resolution, Shri felt this would work out. Perhaps add a little color to her growing persona as a criminal. As long as there were no real issues. She felt as though there would not be. Still. She was tempted to have Libby followed. Selt was a master spy. However, she shook off the thought. No, if things went sour, she would deal with it. Her instincts told her that she should let things go here.