Day 015: So My Dad Is Dead And Other Awkward Conversation Stoppers
Summary: This scene has everything! Dogs! Bear Jerky! Dead dads! Throw up!
Date: 28 May 2016
Related: None
Veks Rinnan 


Village of Coesbur
The village of Coesbur is a middling-sized settlement of the Trikru clan. It has two major entry points, both of which funnel into the village center. The first entry point is from the west, and is across the Coesbur Bridge which stretches over one of the branches of the divided Potomac. The other entry point is from the east, and provides a direct route to the road to Polis. The village center is really nothing more than a large dirt courtyard surrounded by a variety of structures. While most of these are Grounder-built, there is one that survived the apocalypse. It is a tall, octagon-shaped stone building made of brown and red brick. Its roof is domed, and made of tarnished, greened copper with inlays of colored glass. Broad, white steps lead up to the two-door-wide entrance to the building.
Day 015

When most people think about a conflict zone, they think of a place of nearly non-stop action. Explosions. Foxhole religion getting. Medical high drama. An abundance of snappy patter. The truth about conflict zones? There can be no shortage of utter boredom. Between spin ups of commotion, there are long periods where the mind goes stimulus numb and the outdoors, even with its striking lack of walls and doors, sort of conspires to close in.

As as Coesbur as Coesbur may be, this place is no exemption to the furious boredom that can set in. Out all day on a patrol of the woods to ensure that the fragile accord between the groups stays accordish (spoiler alert: not even a squirrel worth murder), Rinnan has returned to find that Coesbur is excelling at what it does best: not much.

Time to break out the rotgut! What will Warriors drink? Short answer: anything. And this dandelion and apple mishegoss in a bottle in her hand that smells like something you pour on any woman that weighs more than a duck at your neighborhood witch burning to get the party really going. Upside: it's effective. A few swallows and Rinnan's up on her feet, ambling ever so casually towards the kennel with her bottle in hand. There's even a relaxed expression on her face that seems apt to go find a smile. Maybe. Let's not get weird about it.

Coesbur is far enough from the Trikru-Azdega border that wartime shows itself in different ways. Lots of traffic, say, or a dearth of strapping young Warriors. With the tremulous peace to the north, and just now, possibly-maybe, with the Skaikru, the tidal wave of normalcy threatens to come crashing back in.

Inside the kennel, the village houndsman is slopping water. Shouldn't he have a Second to handle the menial jobs like that? Huge buckets dangle from either end of a stout branch slung across his shoulders as he plods over to the depleted barrels to top them up. It's a bit of a careful dance, as several of the dogs mill around to investigate. Might be something special about this water. You never know.

The walk from Seat to the Kennel was going so well. The air was that sweet spot between warm and cool, the insects had ramped down their buzzing for the day, someone's idea of windchimes went CLANG CLANG CLANG in the distance in a not earthshattering way. Alcohol: Environmental Prozac. As such, she probably hadn't seen Veks in the kennel with the waterbuckets immediately. He in his water chore and she being absorbed in her walk to the kennel. Her free hand is mid-dig in a pants pocket and her mouth in mid-another sip, when Vek's presence in the kennel is spotted. The look of surprise wreathing her expression unable to be made casual as she swallows with a hard glup and false starts to zig right and then opts of zagging left. I meant to do that. Totally - hey, what's over here.

New smells at the fence? Best day to be a dog EVER. Three or four of the dogs give up on wringing something interesting out of the water buckets and come over to investigate Rinnan. There's some barking as well as less-friendly growls, but all of it's behind a cross-barred fence that keeps them from reaching out and eating somebody. Maybe they're all just jockeying for a chance at extra food. People are good for that.

Veks, meanwhile, is detangling from the buckets and carrying-branch, and splashing the dogs that kept near with double-handfuls of water. There's a laugh as one of them retaliates by sneezing in his face and shaking its head like it's trying to lose its ears. Something low and fond is muttered at the animal before he lifts the first bucket and dumps the rest into the barrel, followed by the second. The full buckets are a heavy load for him, by the looks of it. Must have been made with someone bigger in mind.

What -is- over there? Well, in short: a spike of weeds, some sort of metal object that was probably a Radio Flyer wagon now without wheels before it was abandoned a century ago and currently left upended in the grass, and a well worn path that leads further on to another part of the village. In short, nothing. There is nothing over here, except Rinnan, her drink, and her relief that the foible goes unnoticed for now. But just in case, she's going to toe at the upended wagon in the grass while leaning over just slightly to take up way too much interest into what everyone will agree with ease is just rotting metal.

The barking at the fence line, the bobbing of a few dogs heads that manage to momentarily bounce upward to get a better look at the human who smells like strange, far away, city smells. The impatient yet eager yet violent yet hungry chorus of perimeter alarms earns their attention after now that she's spent a cool number of minutes examining this ever so absorbing object. She steps a few paces closer, testing the soundness of the fence— familiar in its placement but perhaps not its strength 15 years gone. With calamity a non-starter, she reaches into her pocket and chucks something brown and dried into the pen. Humans -are- good for treats!

Immediately, there's an eruption of scrabbling paws and snapping jaws, along with the chorus of basso barks and higher-pitched yips. TREAT. It may be the last treat in their life. That makes it of utter importance to fight over. Then, just as quickly as it erupted in bloody murder, it's over; the victor bolts out of the group, circles at a save distance to drop the bit of dried flesh — I WON! WAIT WHAT DID I WIN? — and sniff it, then snap it up to finish chewing it.

The tempest in a teapot pulls Veks's attention over. "Oi! Fang!" he shouts. One of the larger dogs looks over, his ears out at puzzled angles. Totally not his fault. At least this one time. Veks starts to stalk over, slapping his hands dry on his pants as he goes. Bare-chested, his collection of ink is stark against the faded remains of last summer's tan. A bundle of teeth, claws, and shiny bits of metal dangles heavy on the end of a cord around his neck. "Don't listen to them," he says as he nears the fence. There's no grin as of yet, but the tone is easy enough. "They're not hungry."

Squinting downwind towards Veks at the fence, Rinnan delays an immediate response. Her expression, minus the squint, is one of semi-caughtness. The drink in her hand has semi-granted courage to throw bear jerky at a pack of dogs who are familiar but maybe not granted the realization that there's no stealth involved in such an action. Her eyes shift downward to contemplate the mouth of the brown glass bottle in her hand as her free hand pushes the strands of hair blown into her face by the breeze. This bottle contains no instructions on what to say. P.S. Don't drink and drive!

Finally, her shift upwards to focus on Veks at the fence and she shifts forward a few steps to draw in closer. Not technically on duty, she's dispensed with the outer layer of sleeveless, short tunic leather armor to reveal black, tight pants and a cropped tank top cobbled together from the remnants of other scraps of clothing sacrificed for the cause. A faded green remnant that once read 'Georgia is for Lo-' is visible but sideways on the left strap. "I thought dogs were always hungry," she observes, in a tone that's trying to be conversational but distracted by being wary.

"Pff." Veks snorts, attention cast down to one of the dogs with its muzzle poked through the gaps in the fence. It probably couldn't even open its mouth far enough to eat a treat, that way, but that's no reason not to try, right? Right. "Just like a trader always giving their best price." He reaches a hand down, digging fingers into the furry ruff of the shameless moocher. "So where's your man?" he asks as he scratches. There's a quick little flicker of a look as he says it, sly as a peek up a wind-flicked skirt.

"Sweet talking some villager out of their virtue," Rinnan explains casually, as she lifts the bottle to her lips and takes a swig. She swallows the semi-pleasant smelling jet fuel in such a way that avoids stopping to savor the layers of flavor. "He's not my man," she adds, as a point of steadfast order as she wipes her mouth with the back of her free hand as she paces those remaining steps to the fence line. Her eyebrows raise, with just a shade of gloating, at Veks slightly for her boldness as to stand at this very fence. I'm-at-your-fence-look-at-me-at-your-fence. Her free hand digs into her pocket and produces another piece of oily, earthy-smelling bear jerky that is tossed over the fence for the dog trying ardently to make his face fit through the slats.

When things are the same-old same-old around Coesbur — you know, between the Reaper attacks and territory squabbles and honour feuds and the myriad whimsical varieties of unexpected death the world provides — there's time for Veks to indulge in 'idle' work. Things like keeping the fence in good trim. Sure, it's constructed from a dozen different materials, but it's solid enough to hold up against half a dozen dogs jumping up against it whenever someone hauls a fresh kill by.

"That so?" says Veks. He doesn't actually say /I think you're lying/, but the slightly teasing lift of brows all but says it for him. "I heard-" It stops short as his scritching-target tears away for the scrap of jerky. He watches the furry squabble for a second before finishing: "-I heard they sent you here because of the Skaikru." Either word travels fast, or he's been asking around.

Rinnan takes another light, untasted sip of her bottle as her eyes watch Veks for an unfiltered moment. Well, not watch so much as pointedly study. Her head even cants just so to one side as though she were one of his dogs trying to make sense of a matter before her. The bottle departs her mouth and a mirthless, closed lip smile is replaced in answer to the lifting of his needling brows. "They're not sure what to make of the illness they bring. No upside to letting them get near the Mountain Men," she informs him, through that light, too polite smile that doesn't match her analytical gaze.

"He probably wouldn't be adverse to you," she adds, with a light clip in her voice for the magnanimous exception Arlin would be sure to make on Vek's behalf. Without Facebook or the internet or anything like regular electricity, defending ones for true relationship status has gone medieval. Her eyes drop from Veks' face, scanning the part of his bare chest observable over the fence with charitable approval before she raises her eyes back to his.

Veks's eyebrows shoot up in a combination of surprise and unexpectedly-stroked vanity. Wouldn't be adverse? Damn straight he wouldn't be adverse. He snorts, teeth showing in a lopsided little smirk, and shrugs ink-capped shoulders in a show of false modesty. "Not my type," he says, the smirk lingering as if there's some private joke hidden in the words. His eyes slide over toward the spot in the village square that he, Arlin, and Rinnan occupied hours before, then snap back into short-range focus. Rinnan. Bottle. Rinnan. "You like dogs, or just like spoiling them?" It's asked out of no where, and his turn toward the gate is just as abrupt.

Her feet immediately take her backwards in a reflexive countermove spurred by Vek's turn towards the gate. It barely gives her time to roll her eyes at his casual refusal of the generally not refused Arlin. Jumpy much? Her bottle free hand curling slightly into an peremptory fist as her answer is delayed by his action of movement. "I like them," she acknowledges with a slightly stiff tone that matches the nod she provides. "Can't keep a personal pup in a conflict zone too long," she adds, with a tinge of regret that might portend a long ago attempt that ended badly.

"Just had some extra jerky," she provides, pulling the answer card out before Veks can ask what her interest in /his/ dogs might be. Her shoulders, already slightly fixed in a small, apprehensive hunch forward, slide up and down in a menial shrug. Her eyes watch Veks for a moment longer, in that same analytical stare that seems to allllmost be trying to stare right through him. Her mouth forgets itself for the trouble, until it doesn't. "You like to drink?," she asks, the question half blurted out.

"Horse'll travel more hours in a day than a dog. Forced march and they're fucked, unless you got room to carry 'em. Makes it tough if you're travelling light and gotta push it." It's all matter-of-fact practicality on the logistics of dogs in a battlefield, as opposed to more visceral concerns like arrows. Veks issues a soft, three-tone whistle as he unlatches the gate, and one of the dogs, grey and gangly with enormous ears, lopes over and squeezes out of the kennel ahead of the houndsman. It parks its furry behind at Veks's side, staring intently at Rinnan as its human closes the gate behind him. "You ever heard anyone say no to that?" he asks as he turns to look at her, his earlier smirk widening to a grin — then dropping suddenly off as he cranes his neck and tries to scrutinize her bottle's contents. "Unless you got that fermented goat's milk shit." Cue a sharp, suspicious sniff of the air near her.

"Apple," she informs him just a wee side of resentful as the bottle is thrust in a 'here, take it, peasant' fashion. Sharing, check. Caring, needs work. The contents of the bottle splash around but don't splash out but its enough to invoke the less than delicate notes of earthy, grass notes with a apple orchard holocaust finish. "Dandelion wine, too. S'what the girl at the stand said," she follows up, as though its a waiver of responsibility for what his insides might do in response.

The dog, though? Wellll that's another thing, entirely. She may hover within reluctant reach of bottle handoff distance to Veks but the dog is an immediate magnet that has her suspending her policy of always wary to come in closer, within petting reach of the dog. Her free hand twitches just a little, resisting the urge to reach out and scritch the head of the dog immediately. Some familiar impulses don't die, they just roll over and take a long nap for 15 years. The barely policed impulse conjures slightly sheepish look out of her, a slight lapse in the cloud of faint menace and free range fuming that seems to follow her around.

Ninety-seven years of post-nuclear wild yeast have struggled to adapt and survive, only to die in the name of liquid entertainment.

Cheers.

Veks gives the mouth of the bottle another sniff — hey, he'd laugh his ass off, too, if he managed to prank someone into drinking something horrible — before upending it for a large gulp. He holds it in his mouth like a boozy chipmunk for a second, swishing it from one cheek to the other, before swallowing. "Shit. Strip rust off with this." It's a little airless from the fumes. The dog, all ears and curious amber eyes, leans forward to sniff at Rinnan's fingers. Pretty sure that was an abortive scritch, there, human.

"You're not supposed to taste it," she advises him with a tone that's almost friendly. Wait, was that an actual grin lurking somewhere in the corners of her mouth? But then it remembers itself and tacks on just a small hint of snark on the backend. Ohho! Nice try, Veks, but I will not be tricked out of this furiosity just yet! The warm, wet nosed attached to the amber eyed dog bumps gently at Rinnan's hand, as it gets the full review of all hitchhiking smells she bares. The greasy remains of the bear jerky still a light film on her hand, the dog's pink tongue tests the bounty with a tentative, pink tongued lick. Meaaaaat.Meat!Meat!!MEAT!! All circuits overloaded, switch to evolutionary programming in 3…2.. 1… as the dog goes to town on Rinnan's hand in a full blown assault of wet dog tongue.

And just like that, the fuming cloud of spikey plumaged furiosity evaporates in a swift, unagonized death. A sound lilts from Rinnan's mouth, that to the average ear sounds like a slightly alcohol infused amused laugh. Her now entirely free other hand accepts the dog's head with a well practiced rub to the margins just around its right ear and then its left. "Hi there," she says softly, to the dog, in a tone usually reserved for dogs, babies, and the village-to-village alcohol salesman. It's a beat before her eyes are back on Veks, but nowwwww…

Well nowwwww. There's just a little thing. A hint. Just a smidge. Just a little pinch of >.< of thing of amenability. The kind that men with dogs or babies get out of the ladies upon encounter. The man meets instant humanitarian upgrades for keeping this machine of adorable cuteness alive. The dog (or baby) bathes in the glow of its beatific cuteness. All is right in the world. Maybe in a few levels, the pre-decision to allow pants to come off happens. Hate optional.

Veks's sidekick is no guard dog trained to expect trouble and remind humans they're one thumb away from being less threat than a deer. A few of those kind are in the kennels; heavily-built beasts that barely deign to growl and never wag a tail. She might even have been the runt of her litter, given the drawn-out and almost scrawny frame. Right now, though, she's all happy ears and diligent hand-cleaner.

The post-apocalyptic sommelier routine Veks is pulling with the bottle of de-greaser slows down as he watches Rinnan scratch the dog's ears. She may be judging him on his dog. He may be judging her on her treatment of his dog. "I named her Smoke," he says, and finishes swirling the contents of the bottle before drinking again. Once Rinnan looks his way again, he holds the bottle out, wiggles it slightly as if /he's/ the one graciously sharing with /her/.

Rinnan swipes it back with a more forced note of ferocity than was there before. She grimaces at him through slightly narrowed eyes as she raises the bottle to her lips with an authority that seems to be reasserting the rightful and true owner of this bottle of absolutely fucking rotgut swill. That's -my- bottle of any-moment-I'm-going-to-go-blind, thank you.

Her other hand, the one not dominating the bottle, but instead being dominated by Smoke's affection stays with Smoke's head until its time to move down the track of the dog's spine and apply a firm, affectionate butt scratch to that patch of fur where rump meets tail. "Hello Smoke," Rinnan offers, her greeting far more pleasant and happy to meet this dog than Veks or likely anyone outside of Arlin has received in at least 18 months. Butt scratch over, her hand is back on the dog's head— perfectly content to find every pleasant stimulus button the dog might possess. Her eyes, otherwise possessed of admiring Smoke, flicker back up to Veks. "So, your wife and kids also share in the hounding work?," she asks, the question almost conversational in its lein and seems to expect that Veks has wife from which the kids were jointly originated.

Huge ears. Enormous ears. Ears a kit fox would bitch enviously about. One of them has a split along the outer edge from some previous injury, long since healed. It flicks if the bare cartilage is touched, but otherwise? Otherwise Smoke's all-l-l about sitting there and looking as scritchable as possible.

Wife and kids. /His/ wife and kids. Rinnan actually earns a beat of blank stare for that, before it registers that the implication is being made of /him/. "Hah," he says. There's a snort of what's supposed to be amusement, but it falls a little flat. "Hah." His grin sours, but before it curdles entirely to a scowl, he half-turns and waves one inked arm at the 'house' adjoining the kennel fence. It wasn't there, fifteen years ago; a row of half-height shacks for the dogs to shelter in stood there instead. "No." There's a moment of pensiveness given the clapped-together shack, before he pushes the sentiment away with a shrug. "They never stay long." His grin starts resurfacing. "Smoke gets jealous." Oh, sure. Blame it on the dog.

"Oh." The response sounds genuinely surprised as it tumbles out of Rinnan's one-fourth of the way into the bottle mouth. She blinks hard and then squints a little, watching Veks and his souring expression claim its full scowl. Grounder Village Life: Get born, try not to die by calamity or highly preventable disease, find someone who is at least mostly down is down for you and won't fuck your friends, have a few kids and then have a few more kids to pad the odds that some of them make it through the childhood gauntlet, make it to the highly auspicious age of 40 maybe, and then die.

And whatever long running narrative in Rinnan's head about the life that Veks has been supposed to have been living has gone off script. The tale she spins up in her head in those fleeting moments between awake and asleep that review the facts: betrayal, Polis, Second life, Warrior life, and Veks and every one of relations all living their fat and happy lives full of wealth and health and dogs. But. He is not fat and happy and surrounded by screaming tow headed children. He doesn't have two wives. Not even one! He does have the dogs, at least. So that's… something.

It's Rinnan's turn to scowl openly, even if her attention is barely on Veks of the actual for Veks of the spectre world. Her gaze ticks up to his face just in time to snag on to the end of his joke about Smoke's jealous tendencies and she smiles by wrote, the kind of thing you do when someone has just said something you mostly didn't hear but they're smiling now, so now you smile. Smile now, Rinnan. It's careworn and ragged. Entirely disappointed.

Caught unexpectedly on the wrong conversational foot, with two gulps of Dandapplelion Apocalypse in an empty stomach to assist him, leaves Veks silent and staring back at Rinnan for several seconds longer than intended. It's strained enough that Smoke turns to look at her human with puzzled ears.

"The- village Houndsman died two years ago," Veks abruptly puts out there, like a wet load of rags dropped messily between them. Just Some Random Guy, that once-Houndsman. "I…" Another arm wave, pantomiming something vague and aimless that's squirming away just out of reach. "…haven't- There's no Second yet." Way to sound in charge, Veks. The inward cringe is written plain across his face as he turns, scrubbing at his hair as he looks toward the kennel-house.

Something tracks across Rinnan's expression, replacing that look of abject disappointment with another less straight forward expression. There's no cleanliness around the margins of this one. It just looks uncertain of where to go, the more her favorite bedtime fantasy that usually ends with setting the 15 years ago version of Veks' house on fire after she bars all the windows and doors. It's a pretty great fantasy, if she would say so herself— full of levels and nuance. Not this one note goon shit that the Azgeda call revenge.

Stad is dead? Stad is dead. The event confirmed by the aimless and squirmy way the Veks speaks about it. Rinnan's hand has stopped petting Smoke, a gobsmacked neglect idling her hand where another emotion moves in and settles. This one entirely unexpected. It tugs around the corners of her mouth and the small squint around her eyes. Utterly sideswiped by grief for the loss of man, who was fatherly to her.

Her head snaps up to follow the aimless track of his signifying arm of the building behind him, forcing herself to pay attention the mouth that's moving and the words coming out of Veks. She nods, faintly at his explanation. No Second yet. "That's… sad," she tells him with an almost robotic labeling that belies the struggling beneath. Her free hand, no longer with Smoke, reaches up and tugs lightly on the strap of her belly-shirted tank top as if it were a sudden vice. It weighs too much. The bottle in her hand too heavy. The ceiling of the sky is pressing them down. The earth is going to stop and fling them off. Her gaze slides to Veks, the living remnant of once Stad. She huffs in a breath, as if the air is in short supply as her head swims and the panic climbs up every rib with tenterhook hands.

Fifteen years ago, Stad was a mountain of a man who served as living monkey-bars for the sibs. The older ones would get thrown what felt like miles, shrieking with exhilarated terror, into the river on hot summer days; the younger ones would get tossed in the air and caught, or allowed to clutch his neck and down his back like a cape made of kicking feet and giggles. He was sterner than Piri, but gentler than Ibem, and the loudest noise he ever made in the household was his laugh.

Two years ago, he was a charred pile of greasy ash and bone scraps.

Veks shrugs at Rinnan's observation, the broad shoulders tense as if the lines of ink were trying to pull him in on himself. "Yeah," he finally permits, the syllable freed only after long internal negotiation. His mouth squirms as he sucks on his teeth, and the awkward silence drags on a few seconds more. "I gotta get things done," he blurts. Turning, he starts to beat a retreat toward the kennel-house, summoning Smoke with the same three-tone whistle as before. She looks up at Rinnan for a second, ears still out at puzzled angles, before she dutifully trots after Veks.

"Okay." That's all Rinnan says. It's affluent in a kind of disjointed panic that sounds off a beat too late and a wobble too unsteady. Her face is flushed with a disconcerted disconnect as she stares at Veks like she's looking at an animal through glass. That mysterious zoo building that she's been told about. The place where they put humans in boxes and the animals stared at them in the before. Her hand tugging at the strap of her tank top tightens around it, her knuckles going white as the tension in her clouding over eyes strains not to break open. Her head turns to the left, more accurately snaps— looking for some expected threat on the horizon but netting herself only the distant structure of someone's house and the bleat of a goat from somewhere.

"Bye." She forces out next. It's the thing when an interaction ends. The thing you say. So she says it as she sort of staggers in the direction her head turns with an aimless lurch. Smoke, not unloved but thrown over for this round of Panic: The Psychological-ing is left to con treats out of his actual master. She'll holla back at you Smoke, soon.

Rinnan makes it two or three paces at best before Swamp Breadbasket shoves and heaves. The rancid smelling contents of flower-wine-apple-swill not at all improved after its mellowed in her stomach acids a while. The contents of her stomach lands on the grass with a casual slosh that without the sound of her retching could be confused for someone tipping over a bucket. She's really got to stop gracing the village like this.

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