[AW] [M] where the grass and the dirt and the gravel all meet

WARNING: This thread contains material exceeding the general board rating of PG-13. It may contain very strong language, drug usage, graphic violence, or graphic sexual content. Reader discretion is advised.

Specifically, this thread is marked mature because of: discussion of marijuana cultivation + use.

Cook and Gaston are starting to dig out some space for a garden outside of La Estrella Roja! Come help them or swing by and trade some seeds with Sawyer! Open for one.

The warm weather meant several things – most importantly for Cook it meant that his production could continue in earnest. He had managed to keep plenty of his plants alive in the room he used for work, and time would tell if his wild crops had taken root, but the theoretical garden lay ahead.

It was still too muddy and too cold to really get into the ground, he thought, but planning didn't hurt. Vivian had a lot of ideas to share, and Cook wanted to ensure that everyone in the Troupe benefited from the project. This was especially important given that he needed others to help with the manual labor end of such a task.

Gaston, as always, volunteered first. The collie dog made a great display about shifting down to four legs and looking like a great fluffy lion – trying very hard to flaunt his figure and catch Adrianna's attention – but then set to digging up the grassy area in the sunniest part of the open space near the building. By all accounts, it looked as if something else had been there before. There were pieces of wood and old broken bricks, and every so often a shining glimmer of glass would bring the whole production to a halt until Cook removed it. He collected these in a wooden bucket, unsure of what to do with them. Throwing them back into the tall grass seemed a poor idea.

As another piece was added to their collection, Gaston scoffed loudly. “Pah, if we could trade in broken glass you would be a rich man.”

“Oh that'd be somethin', wouldn't it? Not sure you'd be able t'do much with this.”

“All of that and it has little use. Unless you want to cut someone. You could throw it at them, eh?”

“I mean yes, that could be done. Don't think it be good for business, ehehe,” the old dog laughed, his wheezy breath trailing out.

The collie-dog shrugged and went back to scratching away at the dry grass, tearing it up with his strong paws.

The older you get, the better you realize you were.
Location: La Estrella Roja || NPCs: Merlin Knight, Ingvldr Knight || Form: Optime

They had arrived the evening before, travel-worn and tired. With as much excitement as she had itching at the surface of her skin, Sólveig was surprised that she had even managed to sleep at all. But her father had strictly forbade them from visiting La Estrella Roja until morning, and only after he had reminded them, for what surely must have been the fifth time already, to be alert and cautious and to stay together if they weren't with him, so there hadn't been much more to do anyway.

The very first symbols of dawn, when bright-eyed birds were starting to practice their morning melodies and the darkness of night was only just beginning to wash away into pastel hues, had awakened Sólveig as though through the breaking of a spell. Sadly for Sólveig, the same could not be said for her sister or her father. Even their hoofed companions, although awake, looked bleary-eyed and sluggish.

It seemed like an eternity before her family finally woke up, and a great deal longer before there was any suggestion of approaching La Estrella Roja. By then, the sun had already risen enough to spill golden light from overhead and warm the earth below. They lead Maggie and Striebro away from their little camp and closed the remaining distance to the entertainment parlor.

The girls chatted animatedly as they walked, eager and excited for this new experience of their adult lives. But as they neared, a pair of dogs toiling in a patch of sunny earth instantly caught Sólveig's attention.

"Hello!" she called out with a soft howl, giving her tail a vibrant wag. After a glance at the wooden bucket, she asked, "Are you searching for something?"

Merlin regarded the men with a respectful nod and a lazy swish of his tail before turning his head to search for a place to where he could park the two equines. Hanging back, Inga offered the old dogs a cool wave with a flick of her wrist and watched them.

[WC -- 346]
OOC: This was too good an opportunity to pass up! :D If Cookie would be willing to tell her about marijuana, that would be cool. But I'd also just be happy to have her help them dig the garden and maybe trade for some seeds?
A youthful cry made both dogs turn their heads, though Gaston's posture became briefly stiff. He relaxed upon hearing the young woman's voice, especially when Sawyer straightened up to greet them.

“Hello there!” He woofed back. The girl who had run up to them seemed full of moxie when compared to her companions, an older looking wolf with a dark pelt and what looked like a cousin or sibling. Cook returned the man's nod with his own sign of acknowledgment. The pasture was decidedly off limits to most visitors, but there were trees for shade and places a horse could be left behind. Sawyer imagined they'd find something suitable – this early in the day, the danger of any thievery was lessened. Whichever Guard was on duty would keep an eye on things too.

Sawyer returned his gaze to the interested adolescent.

“Oh, not so much,” he said, and let her have a look at what they had collected. “I'm going to plant a garden here, but there's glass in the dirt that we need to remove first, before anyone cuts their paws up. Call me Cook,” he added, and wagged his tail. “Are you folks here to visit our fine establishment?”

The older you get, the better you realize you were.
Location: La Estrella Roja || NPCs: Merlin Knight, Ingvldr Knight || Form: Optime

If Sólveig's eyes might have become sunbeams if they could get any brighter.

"A garden?" she echoed through a squeak, clasping her hands together at her chest. Her tail had become a wheaten blur at this point and Inga shared a look with her dad that suggested they were not the least bit surprised by her visible excitement.

"We are, yes," Merlin replied. "We've heard quite a lot about it in New Caledonia, where we live." He paused, looking from Cook to the other man in the field. "Do you help to run La Roja, then?" 

"Oh, they must!" Sóli chimed in eagerly. She turned back to the shaggy Dealer. "Could I help you with your garden, Mister Cook? I don't mind getting dirty!"

Potential educational benefits aside, there was also something so soothing and so uplifting about playing in the dirt. She reveled in the cool feel of soft soil between her fingers and toes. And was there anything better than that ancient, complicated smell of upturned earth? Sólveig often wondered if every secret and every memory from every plant, animal, and Luperci was locked away inside that deep, heavy, intoxicating aroma.

"I'm going to find a place for them," Merlin said to Inga, who appeared to understand his unspoken meaning and, with a nod, remained where she stood while their father lead the equines away without haste.

Ignoring the quiet interaction between her father and sister, Sólveig beamed at Cook, who she hoped had the most authority over the decision. "I'm an herblore apprentice, you see," she added by way of explanation. "And if I could help you, then maybe I'll learn some useful things about gardening for New Caledonia, too. It would also make your job go faster!"

But she mostly wanted to get dirt between her paws and maybe make some new friends.

[WC -- 317]


The old man laughed, at first. When he saw the bright-eyed girl was serious, Sawyer's expression softened and he wagged his tail again.

“I'm part of The Troupe, a'yeup – both me and Gaston here,” he jerked his thumb over at the fluffy collie-dog. “He's the real muscle of the place, you know, big strong fella like himself helps keep things all together. Me, I run the salad bar.” Before he explained exactly what this meant, however, the dog paused to better get a look at the young woman. Was she even old enough to know about all this sort of stuff? She looked no older than a yearling, but she sounded well educated for someone so young.

“Ooooh, you're from New Caledonia!” Cook exclaimed. “We've been seein' lots of you folks, well met indeed! Though I must say, usually people come here t'play and not t'work, ehehehe,” he chuckled. His wheezy laugh dragged out while Gaston came to join them.

“He is right,” the big dog said. “But if she wants to help, you should let her help. Maybe she likes to work, hah?”

“Oh, you're just lookin' for an excuse to take a break. As far as you helping out, miss,” Cook said directly to the herbalist-in-training. “Y'promise t'be careful diggin' around? Don't want t'end up with any cuts on your fingers now, that sure won't be fun for any of us. I don't mind explaining about what I know about the plants I keep, if that's somethin' your interested in. Me, I've been growin' things on the road. It'll be nice t'get 'em down in proper soil this season, things always do better in the ground.”

The older you get, the better you realize you were.
Location: La Estrella Roja || NPCs: Merlin Knight, Ingvldr Knight || Form: Optime

She soaked it all in like draught-parched soil in a downpour.

Gaston she regarded with an attempt at fervid respect, her brows gently furrowed and the dip of her nose sharp, that was distinctly softened by the unrestrained broadness of her smile and the energetic movement of her tail. She had to bite back the urge to tell him about all the big strong fellas who helped to keep thing in new Caledonia all together, too, like Teagan and Inara and even Naomi, who, young as she still was, Sólveig nonetheless respected for her fighting prowess.

The mention of "salad" elicited a marginal tilt of her head and forged a slight crease between her brows, but she was quickly swept back up in the progression of their conversation and pushed her curiosity aside.

"Oh, I'm here to play, too," she assured him, more or less innocent to the definition of "play" as it pertained to the patrons and workers of La Estrella Roja. Her bright expression and the liveliness of her tail began to dim with Gaston's initial response but sparked up again with renewed enthusiasm when he continued.

Sólveig could hardly contain her jubilation when the old dog at last offered his approval.

"I promise! I'll be super careful!" she barked cheerfully, giving a half-composed little dance that ended up looking more like an uncontrolled wiggle. She waited until she was given proper permission before she officially began to help. The ground was cool and sodden from spring's thaw and it felt like home to feel it between her fingers. "You can grow things on the road?" It was plain that this mystified and awed her. "What sorts of things do you grow, Mister Cook?"

When she came upon the unnatural edge of a shard of glass, she picked it carefully out of the ground and dropped it into bucket with pride.

[WC -- 321]

Given that she was being accompanied, one might imagine Sólveig would enjoy the music and play some games before being ushered on. They did not host people overnight, though the nights were shorter now that spring had begun to settle in. There would be cold nights still, and maybe another frost or two, he thought. His bones told him as much, though experience and an upbringing on a lake had plenty to do with this.

Sawyer watched the young woman work carefully, and when he determined she was indeed being careful with her hands, eased his hawkish gaze to other matters.

“Well, it's mighty hard,” the old man admitted. He was quite serious about the matter, and spoke to Sólveig plainly – not like a child, and not like a student, but instead a fellow colleague. “I wouldn't try it if y'were on foot, but the boys here helped me haul everything around in that old wagon. Hey, Gaston,” Sawyer called. “Y'mind fetchin' me a pot? Get me one from inside, with one of the little fellas in it.”

The collie-dog waved his hand but headed back towards the entrance of the building without argument. He seemed eager to take a break. Cook imagined he wanted to get a better look at their guests – from this far away, he probably hadn't seen them much at all.

That was one thing Sawyer was glad for. Of all the things aging might have brought to ruin in his body, his eyesight had remained sharp and intact.

“Well, this year me an' the gals will be plantin' some spices an' peppers. Vivian – you'll probably see her inside – she's a real hot tamale.” He looked exceptionally proud of himself for using this word, having picked it up during his travels. “Well, her cookin' is just as spicy as she is, so we're gonna see what'll grow. Aside from foodstuffs, I grow weed. Figure I'll stick a big ol' crop of it in here, keep the salads comin', ehehehe.”

The older you get, the better you realize you were.
Location: La Estrella Roja || NPCs: Merlin Knight, Ingvldr Knight || Form: Optime

There were a good many things yet that she did not know about the world, and the Realm, with its great prosperity and its high walls (proverbially speaking), had cast a protective shield around the Dawnrunner girl for much of her young life. Naive and unsuspicious, certainly, but Sólveig was not a fool. Her father's stories and the history of New Caledonia, along with the reality of her own birth, helped her to understood that there were unpleasant truths about life and living and the inner workings of Luperci society.

But children and adolescents learned best through first-hand experience, and for Sólveig there had been little evidence or reinforcement of the kinds of terrible and dangerous things she had been told of and warned about. This might have driven some to fear and fret about everything and everyone unknown, but not Sóli. Rather, she chose to embrace these unknowns and to learn from her own experiences.

If she didn't, she never would have met these new Luperci -- who she already thought of with some fondness -- and she never would have been given the opportunity to learn the old man's wisdom.

Dark dirt clung to the short fur at her fingers and turned them into a rich chocolate hue. Sólveig swung her head to look at Gaston, smiling gratefully, and then turned to Cook again. Spices and peppers? She was unfamiliar with these things and the crease in her brow showed that plainly. "Oo, a hot tamale?" she asked, enjoying the way it rolled off her tongue and giving her tail a wag. "Is that something good?" She would have to give that new word a try sometime, she decided.

Carefully prizing another shard of glass from the cool earth, Sóli dropped it into the bucket and sat down.

"Um, Mister Cook?" she asked, lowering her ears in deference. "What are spices and peppers? I'm not familiar with those." She paused a beat, looking away politely and thumping her tail appeasingly. "And... Well, it's just that I heard you don't want weeds in the garden. How come you grow them?"

She glanced at him meekly and smiled softly, hoping that she hadn't offended him.

[WC -- 377]

“It's food!” Sawyer explained with delight. “I ain't tried it before myself, but it sounds good. You mix up some meat, some dough, and wrap it up in leaves. Maybe if I find somethin' big enough I'll try it – sounds like y'need corn, and I ain't seen corn this far north. Deer mighta eaten it all, a'course,” he laughed. This seemed very possible. Deer were ravenous and seemed to consume anything they could. In Pennsylvania, they had been a plague.

Sólveig seemed a nice, if sheltered girl. From what he knew of New Caledonia, the place seemed eager to live up to noble ideas. It sounded like a near-mythical place, in some ways, though all the people that had come through seemed real enough. Sawyer wondered if this was the first journey the young woman had made, but chose not to ask.

Partially, this had to do with his newfound excitement in talking about subjects he truly loved.

“Oh! Well, let's see...spices are things that add smell and flavor t'other things. Y'know what herbs are, yeah? A spice is kinda like an herb, except they mostly come from seeds or roots instead of leaves an' flowers. Most of 'em grow where it's hot, so they're harder t'find around here. Traders usually have 'em, especially folk down in Portland.” The dog nodded his chin in a vaguely eastern direction. “That's down the way aways from here, on the other side of the big water. Be nice if it was right across the lake,” he added with a gentle laugh.

His smile lingered as he tried to figure out how best to explain his work to her. Would her parents take offense? Plenty of New Caledonians had walked away with his salads, so he assumed not.

“Now y'ain't wrong – in a garden like this, y'dont want weeds that y'didn't put there on purpose. Lotta stuff folks say is weeds ain't all that bad, like dandelions. Anyhoo, what I'm talkin' about isn't exactly like that, folks just call it weed. Y'might call it pot, flower, or grass. Here we call it salad,” he added with a wink. “Most folk know it as marijuana, or cannabis. Gaston went t'get one of my little plants, I'll show you when he comes back.”
The older you get, the better you realize you were.
Location: La Estrella Roja || NPCs: Merlin Knight, Ingvldr Knight || Form: Optime

"Mmm!" she hummed brightly, thumping her tail. She considered the context of Cook's use of the word and decided that, if hot tamales were probably good, then calling someone a hot tamale must be good, too. "So a hot tamale is food and a compliment?" she asked, lifting her eyes skyward in thought. Corn was unfamiliar to her as well, but if deer ate it then it seemed reasonable to assume it was a plant. And, being as she had never heard of it before and Cook hadn't seen it growing this far north, she decided that she probably wouldn't be able find it around here either.

Sólveig nodded vibrantly when asked about herbs, but kept quiet and otherwise listened as the old man continued to talk. She turned her head to follow the direction of his chin, acutely aware that she knew very little of what lied beyond New Caledonia let alone the greater terrain that expanded out all around the Realm. She knew of Portland, however. "I'd like to go to Portland someday," she said dreamily, looking back at him. "Maybe not for spices, but if traders there have things like that then they probably have herbal supplies too, right?" She smiled sweetly and tilted her head just so. "That's what I'd like to trade for."

Rolling into a more comfortable sitting position, understanding and realization lit in the youth face. It was the name of something, specifically a plant, it seemed that people had given it many others as well. All different names for the same thing. She hummed thoughtfully, the sound fleeting. "Is it a spice, too? Actually, no, because you said those grow where it's hotter." And she decided that it must not be food, either, since Cook said he grew weed in addition to foodstuff. She pursed her lips and twisted them gently, thinking that maybe weed was used to treat ailments or to heal the infirm.

And then, with a bud of eagerness and excitement blossoming inside her chest, Sólveig looked at the elder with a nearly feverish glint in her warm blue eyes. "Mister Cook," she began, her voice almost a squeak. "Are you an Apothecary?"

[WC -- 373]

I marked this M because he's talking about weeeeeed.

The girl picked up on things fast, and Sawyer nodded to answer her question. He, as a chef, thought there surely was no praise higher than the comparison of a person and a quality piece of good food. Of all their pleasure centers, was the mouth and the stomach not the most important to fill? Well, the young woman was certainly not here for such red-light discussions, he gathered, and so he instead focused only on the matter of growing things.

Oh, her enthusiasm was so obvious it struck like a blinding glimmer. Sawyer sucked in a breath of air between his teeth. “Well,” he began. “I ain't nothin' as fancy as all that. I can't really make medicine for people the way a real herbalist could – I can make food taste good, or I can make a person feel real good, but that's not the same as what I think you must be talkin' about.”

“What are you talking about?” Gaston called a beat later, his big arms full of goods. It seemed he had taken it upon himself to bring back both something for the old man to sit-upon and a bag that smelled suspiciously like food. The little container in his hand – a crudely made wooden planter – held a small green plant whose long, pointed leaves formed a star-like shape.

“Ah, here, let me –,” Sawyer called. He reached out and took the potted plant while Gaston made a show of preparing his spot for the old man to sit, after which he presented the little bag of smoked meat to their guest. If Sawyer was one to judge, it looked like the collie-dog was attempting to show his noble ways. Despite his rough-and-tumble life, Gaston had come from royal bloodlines. The way he preened and flexed his muscles was indicative of his blue-blooded narcissism. Luckily, most of that had been washed out during his more trying seasons, and this seemed like a genuine display of manners.

“Now, I was just explaining to our guest here how what I do isn't the same as what an apothecary might be doin'. As for you, young lady,” the old man winked when he said this, and turned to present the potted plant to her.

“This is a small one, but what you're lookin' at is little miss Mary Jane herself. Some people call it weed or grass, but it's actually a flower. Now, you said you're learning about plants, right? What sort of things do you gather when y'go out an' harvest what you need?”
The older you get, the better you realize you were.
Location: La Estrella Roja || NPCs: Merlin Knight, Ingvldr Knight || Form: Optime

She drooped, the fever breaking from her eyes and the blossom of excitement shriveling fast. "Oh," she said, and if her disappointment wasn't plain enough in the sinking of her expression, then her crestfallen inflection made it clear. But she gathered herself up again quickly and brightened visibly once more. "That's okay! I think its still super fancy being able to cook and grow plants and... well, however you make people feel good, I think its really nice of you to help others."

Because she didn't really understand what his meaning was behind making people feel good if it wasn't meant in the way a healer or an apothecary would. Maybe what he did was more related to what a Heartward's role was. Giving a gaping smile and wagging her tail to herself, she decided that, yes, that must be exactly what he did.

When she heard Gaston's voice from across the way, and saw his arms full of items, Sólveig rose quickly and started toward him to offer help. But Cook's voice cut in and she hung back, uncertain, and watched as the old man took the pot into his hands. When Gaston offered her a sack of smoked meats, her soft belly urged her to accept and she nibbled the flavorful strip quietly after passing dog an utterance of gratitude.

Sinking back into a comfortable sit, the young Dawnrunner considered the proffered plant with interest while Cook spoke. Silently, she tried to commit these names to memory. Mary Jane; weed; grass; flower. And what were the others he had mentioned before? Pot; salad; marijuana; cannabis. Why were there so many names for the same thing?

Finishing the last of her snack, Sólveig focused on the appearance and, more importantly to a canine, the smell of the plant. She flicked her pretty blue eyes up at Cook and nodded exuberantly, her smile jubilant. "Well, things that can help chase away pain or heal an illness mostly. Like willow bark: that can be steeped in hot water and then, when you drink the water, it'll help with the pain." Sólveig offered the old dog a rueful expression. "That's really been the only thing, because its still too early for many other plants. Oh! But I did harvest rose hips last fall!" She wagged her tail. "Mister Ridgewell said that they're not very useful for healing, but they taste good!

Returning her attention to the cannabis plant, the young Dawnrunner gave it another thoughtful smell. "So, do you use this to make food taste good, Mister Cook?" she asked, looking up again at Cook. If he wasn't an Apothecary and, as she assumed, he behaved as a Heartward would to make people feel good, then she couldn't think of any other use for this little plant with so many names.

[WC -- 484]
OOC: Good call!

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