Shadowkitty: The kitchen was as immaculate as ever; the tables were set and the food was laid out for dinner. Succulent slices of tender roaster wherry lay on large platters, accompanied by cooked legumes and fresh red fruit. The smell coming from the place tickled a young canine's nose.
Aloo, escaped from the weyrling barracks, stuck her nose in the air and inhaled the aromas. Then, with a bark, she raced off at full speed, tailing wagging maniacally, toward the kitchens. Without so much as "please," the gray canine went directly for the wherry. She stood on two legs and, without a moment's hesitation, took the largest piece and dragged it towards herself, also sending the platter clattering to the floor in the process. Not minding the mess and after eating her first slice, she carefully began to choose her next bite.
Neshomeh: Kitchen people hurried to clean up the mess, but they were wary of the canine. The commotion attracted the attention of bronzerider O'ma. It was clear the canine was a problem. He cast about for her owner, but there was no sign of her. With a sign to his table mates to carry on, he got up and approached the canine. "Come away," he said, and picked up a piece of meat as a lure.
Shadowkitty: Aloo looked up form her meal and, taking another slice, followed O'ma. The snack had been enough to cool the canine's hunger and, at least for now, the furry creature was far more interested in seeing what other things were available.
Neshomeh: The rider led her up the tunnel and around to the weyrling barracks. If Rahne wasn't there, he could at least tie Aloo outside so she wouldn't get into more trouble. Poking his head through the large barracks entrance, he looked around. "Rahne?" His booming voice echoed in the cavernous space.
Shadowkitty: Mersith titled her head to one side at the voice. Already in trouble, ridermine? the dragon teased. Rahne shook her head and, letting go of the filthy rag, headed straight for O'ma. She got a double surprise, however when she spotted Aloo walking toward her. With a sigh, she grabbed Aloo by the collar and dragged her forward toward the rider, hooking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "Yes?" she asked in an innocent tone.
Neshomeh: O'ma would have thought the sight of the canine with her pilfered meal would be explanation enough. "You should keep control of your pet," he said. "She could get into trouble."
Shadowkitty: Rahne shrugged. "She was in the barracks. Must have escaped." She frowned down at her canine. "Didn't you? You naughty canine, you," she said in a mocking tone as she shook a finger at Aloo. The dog answered with a bark. "I tried tying her up but she bites through the rope. My last resort was jailing her up in the barracks, although I can see that didn't work either." She sighed. "I never had time to train her. I impressed Mersith and..." she looked up at her scarlet dragon. "I have been busy." She smiled slightly.
Neshomeh: O'ma stood still for a moment, looking over Aloo. His expression gave away nothing of his thoughts and when he spoke, it was in neutral tones bordering on indifferent. "I could train her," he said. "She would be properly cared for."
Shadowkitty: Mersith flicked her tail. You know he isn't fooled.
Rahne's smile widened. Now, now. You will ruin the game. This is just for fun. My uncle enjoyed this. Rahne looked at O'ma and nodded. "If that wouldn't be a problem," she answered honestly. "And if she is going to be well taken care of," she looked down at the canine, "I must warn you. She always wishes to get her way."
Neshomeh: O'ma nodded slowly. "She will learn that she is not in charge." That was what training was all about, after all.
Shadowkitty: Rahne nodded in appreciation. "She's all yours, then." She looked down at her canine. "At least until I have enough time."
Back in the Lower Caverns, Sohlen stopped and looked over his shoulder. Rissadel was leaving and, for some reason, the boy did not like this at all. Strangest of things, he thought. With a whistle, he called Redstar to him, who came with a mouthful of meatroll, tail high in the air. With a sigh, Sohlen decided his pet now needed was training. Sure enough, Redstar knew the basic commands--come, go, hunt, and stay. He shook his head and headed outside, Redstar at his heels. He wondered how he'd train his companion when the answer hit him in the face. Before him was O'ma, with another canine. The boy remembered the man's pets and immediately made a beeline for him. Hoping the rider would have forgotten about his "capture," the boy stopped behind the man.
Neshomeh: "Indeed." He would have gone on, but Sohlen's appearance gave him pause. He had not forgotten the boy's capture and wondered if Sohlen had. There was no reason for the boy to approach him. O'ma regarded him expectantly.
Shadowkitty: Sohlen hesitated for a second before he spoke, very fast. "Redstar can know new tricks?" he asked, not really knowing how to ask a favor from anyone.
Neshomeh: "Tricks?" the man repeated after a moment to parse the garbled language. He had an idea that he was about to acquire a second new charge, but it was worth making sure.
Shadowkitty: Sohlen nodded. "Yes. Redstar knows four tricks." He kicked a pebble loose form the dry ground. "He needs to know more, though."
Neshomeh: So as not to be quite so intimidating to the young lad, O'ma crouched in place. "You mean commands. Behaviors." He regarded Sohlen's face with dark, searching eyes.
Shadowkitty: The boy looked straight into the man's eyes and nodded. Somehow feeling he should prove his worth and his canine's, he pointed at a boulder. "Yes, like this one." His tone changed suddenly as he ordered his canine. "Redstar, go!" Immediately the dog followed the command. "He also comes when I whistle," he said, slightly satisfied with his pet.
Neshomeh: "That's good," O'ma said. "I can teach him more. Call him back now." Redstar had good action, that was for sure. Too lean, really, but that couldn't be helped.
Shadowkitty: The boy blew the same sharp note he whistled in the kitchens. Obediently, the canine padded over, tongue lolling, and promptly took a seat beside Sohlen, unaware of what was going on.
Neshomeh: "Good." The man extended his fist for Redstar to smell. The canine would have to know him and trust him before training could be successful. Aloo was no problem, having been socialized as a young pup, but Redstar was different.
Shadowkitty: Redstar stuck his nose straight into the man's fist, clearly not understanding what he wanted. Instead, the canine placed a paw on O'ma's fist and attempted to find out if there was any food inside.
Neshomeh: O'ma obliged his curiosity, opening his fist palm-up. There was nothing there, of course--nothing interesting and nothing dangerous, either.
Shadowkitty: The canine snorted, removed both paw and muzzle from the man's hand and retreated to be at Sohlen's side. The boy couldn't help but smile.
Neshomeh: One eyebrow moved up the man's forehead. So, he'd have to bribe the canine with food. That was all right--he would be rewarded with treats for good behavior in any event. "Will he stay with me to work?" he wondered aloud.
Shadowkitty: Sohlen snorted. "He does what I say. He doesn't like people." he answered, believing the man was actually asking him a question.
Neshomeh: Sohlen was meant to hear the question--O'ma wouldn't have spoken otherwise. "Perhaps Solo and Eru can teach him first. He could live with them." They had the run of the area around his weyr, which was extensive enough to afford him privacy from his neighbors. There was enough room for four canines.
Shadowkitty: Sohlen remembered the two canines and wasn't too happy with the arrangements offered. He placed a dirty hand on the dog's head, as if protecting him from O'ma. "Redstar likes to stay with me. He does not like other creatures," he said, referring to the canines.
Neshomeh: "Getting along is good," O'ma replied, amused at his own simplified syntax. "He should learn."
Shadowkitty: Grabbing a handful of Redstar's fur, Sohlen took half a step back. "Redstar can learn with me," he said, his tone definite. One thing was for sure: the boy wouldn't leave his companion, not for anything on Pern.
Neshomeh: O'ma gave a shake of his dark head. "I wouldn't take him. Only borrow." An instant's thought, and he went on. "Perhaps I could borrow both of you for a short while every day." Sohlen, he realized, was probably settled where he was. He wouldn't mind the boy being under his wing 24/7, but the shift might be stressful for the boy, which would be bad for the canine.
Shadowkitty: Sohlen looked down at his furry friend and nodded. That seemed to be all right. And, if it didn't suit him, he could easily withdraw and attempt to train Redstar on his own. "When do we start?" he asked eagerly, still holding Redstar, who had spotted Aloo.
Neshomeh: "Before breakfast or after dinner is best," the man replied. "You choose and promise to come."
Shadowkitty: Sohlen's answer was immediate. "Before breakfast."
Neshomeh: The man nodded. "Good. I'll see you tomorrow before breakfast. ... When you come, one thing you must do is say 'good morning' to Condarith. He will tell me you're there." And that would serve the second purpose of "Weyr Etiquette 101."
"O'ma's New Students" by Neshomeh and Shadowkitty, June 7, 2006.