Cats and Bags (invite only)
Ran sat with Mara on a bench in Vesper Gardens. It might surprise plenty of people to know it about him, but he loved to garden. Nurturing something and making it grow with his own hands pleased him. Not babies and whiny things (he could say with a certain amount of dubious pride that he'd helped raise exactly, hmm, none of his children) but trees and flowers. So when Mara had brought up this site as a place to visit one night Ran wasn't going to say no.
It wasn't terribly unusual for them to hang out, not after having been separated for so long. Mara was Ran's favorite sibling - though he'd be hard-pressed to use the term sibling to describe their relationship, honestly. Mara had loved Amir for as long as Ran had ever known her and she had intervened on numerous occasions when Ran's behavior had irked their Creator. She was his friend and always had been. She'd been a little shy of him at first, particularly because as a human he had been less than suave. They'd spent so much time together on a boat, though, that eventually they'd learned. Ran had to shut his mouth around her sometimes and she'd finally accepted that he was all talk. From there on, they'd been close.
Ran and Mara had enjoyed the scenic sights and smells of Vesper and now sat near the tinkling fountain. Mara had told him about her father long ago - or, more to the point, Ran had discovered her secret because he was nosy and couldn't mind his own business. Since then he had occasionally asked her how it went and she occasionally told him. He knew she was worried about what would happen if this wayward vampire of Amir's ever met him and now here they were in the same city. He understood her stress but he thought she should just let it happen and get it over with. Like a band-aid.
"So does he know you're here? Your father?"
"No," she replied softly. "He doesn't. We still haven't seen each other. Not exactly."
She glanced up at Ran, who was arching a blue eyebrow at her over a biohazard symbol contact lens. Numerous piercings accentuated the angles of his face, which she had admittedly always found attractive. Ran was a good-looking guy - and then he opened his mouth and became a good-looking obnoxious guy. He was, however, generally a very good listener too. He had to be, to succeed in the Order of the Night.
"What's keeping you?" he asked.
Mara explained her fears - Kiamhaat seeing her was like opening up a deep wound and pouring salt onto it. How better to drive home his failure to protect his family than to appear before him sixteen hundred years later? No no, we didn't grow up and have families. Yes, they decided to sacrifice me. Oh yes, your arch-nemesis turned me. By the way, I'm sleeping with him on top of all that and we both regularly share our bed with a tiger.
Yes, that's just how she'd put it.
Ran sat through her explanation surprisingly silently, for Ran. When she finished he shrugged his shoulders and shook his head at her.
"You're just fucking it all up worse," he said bluntly.
"Thank you for that frank assessment."
Ran snorted. "You want subtle, you came to the wrong Nightsman."
"There's something really wrong about that," she said with a soft laugh. Ran always made her laugh.
"Says the woman who's stalking her own father in the form of a small cat."
Mara had a hard time arguing, there.
Mara rolled her eyes at him. "That wouldn't be a good idea," she said.
"Why? Because I can't stay out of sight with a number of methods?" he argued. He could remain a bird and if that didn't work for some reason, he could blend. Blended bird. Not just a breakfast smoothie anymore!
Mara looked away and he sensed some discomfort. No, not discomfort. Embarrassment.
"There's... I mean, his fiance - she, hmm, she has a pet."
"He can be difficult to... to... interact with. Although I suspect Aishe manages fine. Kiamhaat seems to as well."
"What kind of pet?"
Mara was getting squirrelly. Mara was never squirrelly. "It's a.. sort of... a raccoon."
Ran snorted. "What? You don't want me to come along because their watch-raccoon can be a handful?"
Mara pinched the bridge of her nose in her fingers. "Something like that."
"You realize there's no way I'm not going to see this," Ran said. It was like putting a big red button in front of him and telling him not to hit it.
"I warned you," Mara warned him.
Ran just grinned. "So who is this woman we're meeting tonight?"
"Bao's daughter. Pakpao. She belongs to Evenhet, and we've been friends for a couple of years. I think you'll like her."
"Well that's hardly a stunning conclusion. I like everything with breasts," Ran said baldly. He loved getting a reaction from the elder of Amir's vampires.
Mara sighed at him and chuckled. "Try not to scare her off within the first five minutes," she said. "She doesn't scare easily though."
But why did it have to be outside at the end of January?
It was her day off, so Pak could dress a little bit more casually and didn't feel an over whelming need to wear four inch heels, three would do. But since she had on pants, no way was she wearing a skirt outside, they were only ankle boots Not that anything really mattered as she was more or less neatly covered by a navy blue pea coat. The only thing that saved her rather neat but neutral ensemble from total boredom was a bright red scarf with a subtle bit of gold woven through it. It had been her Christmas present from Eiryk.
Hearing Mara's voice as she rounded the corner she smiled.
"Who doesn't scare easy?"
She joked having a feeling she was the topic of conversation. Although it might have been anyone, but Pak felt safe in her assumption.
She had been about to make a comment about it not being Halloween yet but... maybe she should check her calendar. Having met two vampires Amir had 'raised' Pak had not expected her 'uncle' to look anything like that. She wasn't sure what was the most disconcerting, the blue hair (even the eyebrows!), the contacts, the chains or the pink. Maybe it was the combination, that was a lot of look for any two people.
Pak was temporarily stunned speechless. Her first thought was that Mara was nuts. But she didn't judge further. She'd been around too many hard core geeks to think that clothes made the man. The grungiest and most outrageous of them could have the most to offer. It was just going to take a second to let her eyes and her brain adjust. Honestly she'd expected some one a bit more like... well Bao.
Ran smiled innocently at her. "Very funny," he said, standing and holding his hand out to Pakpao.
Mara stood as well, to make the introduction formal and official. "Pak, this is Ran Iyala. Ran, Pakpao Metharom. Ran just arrived a few nights ago."
She watched the two interact, wondering how Pakpao would take to Ran. Ran, she didn't worry about. If he could keep from getting himself in trouble with his mouth then he got along with most people. She didn't introduce them, really, witjh the intent of making a match between the two. She didn't even know if Ran was capable of such a thing. But she thought Pakpao could stand to meet some of the other people in their little family aside from Amir and Bao (and herself and Kiamhaat of course). If anything came of it, well, that would be fortunate. If not though Mara thought each one might learn a little something from the other.
To her, they seemed to be almost polar opposites in their outlook of the world. Ran, of course, the outgoing curious one who couldn't resist sticking his nose into everything and trying to jiggle things around to see how they worked. Pakpao, obviously, more conservative, more guarded. They might be able to instill a little balance in each other if Pakpao could learn to be a little more open and Ran a little more cautious.
Ran had dressed himself in typical Ran style, which was, no style at all or many styles at once depending on how you looked at him. He had on black skinny jeans, torn out in places with glimpses of bright pink fishnet showing through from the thighs up. His lower legs were encased in a pair of gorgeous skin-tight leather boots, not terribly heavy but certainly not delicate. There were some items in Ran's wardrobe Mara would cheerfully plunder and those boots were at the top of the list. He wore a cropped tee-shirt that revealed a well-muscled six-pack and two piercings in his navel. Over the tee and jeans he had on a black duster. His hands were in black and pink fingerless gloves. His hair was styled as usual, long spikes on top, brushed forward to a point. Dyed indigo and turquoise to match his roller form. He'd done his eyebrows to match and his golden eyes were, as usual, covered by contacts. These had a biohazard symbol on them.
As claimed, Ran didn't do subtle. Not unless he absolutely had to.
"Nice to meet you Pakpao," he said. "Mara has told me a lot about you."
Which said a lot, really. Mara didn't have many friends outside of their small circle. The fact that she regarded Pakpao so well spoke volumes about her feelings for the woman. If nothing else Ran was inclined to like Pakpao for being Mara's friend. And, perhaps, she got lots of points for giving Bao hell.
"Most of it good," he grinned. "I especially like the parts where you beat Bao at chess consistently. Well done."
He gestured to the bench beside them; this part of the garden was arranged for a small group to actually sit and converse softly. "Do you want to sit down? Or would a warmer place be better?"
For all that he was an Islander, Ran didn't mind the cold. He knew it was chilly out for most people though, and if they were going to sit and talk it might be better to be indoors somewhere.
"Welcome to Nachton. Staying here a while or just passing through?"
She asked politely taking a second to size him up outside of the shock value. It was a little bit like looking at Kem, not that they looked much alike but you had to take in the startling appearance and then actually see the man. Ran wasn't a bad looking sort, but you didn't meet many (if any) vampires who were. She applauded his decision to show off the abs though, it was... nice and the duster she wouldn't mind having in her closet. The contacts and the blue eyebrows (not the hair just the eyebrows) were still throwing her a bit though.
"I'm glad to hear it wasn't all good, I have a reputation to think of."
Pak grinned at Mara teasing her friend. She didn't get into nearly as much trouble as she could but she wasn't a saint. Most of her trouble making was related to her work though, either for Meridian, Evenhet or the occasional free lance client she took.
His little compliment made her grin again, just a touch savagely.
"He doesn't like to think outside the box."
She agreed. Pak was certain that it pissed Bao off to no end that she didn't follow traditional strategies.
"You get points for totally shaking all my preconceptions about Anantya if that counts for anything."
In an effort to be polite Pak tried to ignore the biting cold. She didn't want to chase everyone in just because she was freezing to death.
"Maybe we could walk?"
If they moved she wouldn't think so much about the cold.
He mimed the walls of the box around him, as if making sure they were still there. Then he swiped a hand across his forehead. And then he dropped the pretense and grinned at Pak.
"I think I know a little bit about being outside the box. Bao and I don't always see eye to eye. Imagine that."
Mara coughed softly into her hand, covering a laugh. Ran shrugged at her.
Ran gave Pakpao a little bow when she spoke of broken preconceptions. "Shame on you for having preconceptions. And shame on them for probably fitting right into them most of the time."
Ran wasn't oblivious to the fact that many of his Clanmates did, indeed, seem to fit the 'stuffy old vampire' mold. But for every one that did he could name at least one who didn't, maybe even two.
"Walking works," he said. "Maybe we'll find someplace interesting to stop at, get out of the cold."
Mara stood and joined them, smiling quietly. Ran poked her. "You don't have to stay and babysit," he said. "I won't let anything bad happen to her."
She laughed. "Maybe I'm protecting you," she said. "I want to come."
"All right then," Ran said cheerfully. "I can handle two hot chicks."
Pak quipped lightly rather than making a crack about him never having seen a box. On appearances alone she would have had a very difficult time imagining that Ran and Bao saw eye to eye on much. Amir had sure turned two extremely different people in her maker and her 'uncle'. She suspected there was a story here, but they didn't know each other well enough to ask. She guessed that Mara wouldn't tell her either, probably tell her to ask Ran.
At least it wasn't windy and even if it was the vegetation would have broken thinks up fairly well, still she was grateful for the walking. She was also just as glad Mara was tagging along, not that Pak was afraid of Ran (or any man really) she was just a bit shy and it helped to have some one she knew about.
Ran seemed far too pleased and far to confident about having two 'hot chicks' with him. She wasn't offended, he was far too chipper for her to take offense. But Pak raised a challenging, teasing eyebrow at him. She looked at Mara and cocked her head questioningly.
"Honestly, I don't think he has a clue what he'd be getting into..."
But that was enough about that.
"Shall we get the clichÃ© out of the way? I should ask you what you do and what brought you here?"
Pak managed to work in just enough humor and irony to keep the question from being too sharp or rude. He was family and other than Bao she tried not to be deliberately insulting or offensive with her new family. Bao, however, occasionally deserved it but he seemed to deserve it less as they went.
At any rate he let it go and addressed Pak's next statement. "I could be cliche and tell you that I'd have to kill you, but in reality it's not so exciting. Amir asked me to come. I'm a linguist. Nothing fancy, just a language nerd. Every few decades we check in with the Boss and let him know we're still alive. Still behaving, in my case."
Then, remembering what Mara had told him about Pakpao, Ran smiled at her and said,"I was on assignment in Tokyo for my Clan but it wasn't urgent business that couldn't be handled by someone else. So here I am."
It was spoken in flawless Siamese, several years outdated so it would be as close as he could guess to the time of Pak's turning. Ran's accent was such that he was both fluent, and had the tone and cadence of a native speaker.
Swapping back to English, not that either woman present would have any trouble understanding him in either language, he headed toward the exit of the Garden. "Aside from that I have very few useful skills."
Mara chuckled at him and said to Pak, "You should enjoy this. He's not usually so modest. He has skills, they're just hidden. Well hidden."
((ooc: Red, of course, is Siamese))
She gave him a quick smile trying to take any possible sting out of her words. Pak had picked up on how loyal and how prickly about it her 'aunts' and 'uncles' could be. No sense starting a misunderstanding.
This notion of reporting in to your maker was an odd one to Pak. Of course she'd made her own way for a long enough time. Certainly she responsible to Evenhet now, just not to any one person in particular. She wondered if Amir gave them grades, and if she'd put a black mark or three on Bao's record. It was just random speculation though, she knew Amir well enough that understand he genuinely cared for the vampires he'd made (although the jury was still out on how he felt on Kem, Pak only had Mara's side of that story but all the others she knew about he seemed to actually take care of).
When he switched to Siamese here eyebrows rose appreciatively. Lots of vampires learned other languages but Siamese, or Thai as people called it these days, was an odd one. It was a small country and not the most useful language ever. So she was always impressed when someone who wasn't born there had taken the time to learn it.
"Impressive. How many can you manage?"
Speaking only three languages some people would consider Pak only half literate. But she wasn't three hundred yet, plenty of times.
"Are we talking Diamond in the rough hidden? Like a ninja? Or just up on a closet shelf waiting for the appropriate time?"
Pak wasn't sure exactly who she was addressing that question to. But they were both big vampires who had known each other for a while, they could work it out. It didn't even occur to Pak to wonder why he was being modest, it was what she would do.
Ran looked at Mara for confirmation and Mara nodded with a smile. "You'll get to meet a lot more family, Pak," she said. "The twins are coming, and there's one more 'uncle' to meet. And some cousins."
Ran tilted his head at Mara. "Cousins? Who turned who?"
Mara wasn't surprised Ran hadn't met his entire family either. His love of languages and his knowledge of very rare ones led him to some incredibly remote locations. If nothing else, she was impressed with his ability to survive in them. "The twins turned a young woman a few decades ago," she said.
Ran gave an 'oh' and then grinned. "Finally, another girl."
He glanced at Pakpao. "We're mostly boys. I maintain Amir is trying to make up for his excessive prettiness with an overabundance of butchness."
On the topic of languages he smiled at Pak again. "Most of them," he said. "I'm missing a few of the really obscure ones but I'll track them down sooner or later. I'm still working on reading and writing in a few too. Mara told me you work with computers? I do some programming here and there, also. Any language works for me."
He let Mara address his many dubious skills since she'd first mentioned it, although he did say, "Ninja. I'm totally a ninja."
Mara laughed her soft, musical laugh and added, "The brightest ninja ever. Not many of them are brave enough to wear hot pink. You'll see, Pakpao. Eventually he'll demonstrate his keen ability to get himself and everyone around him in a heap of trouble, and somehow no one will be hurt or angry by the end of it and Ran will look like a saint. It's his superpower."
Mara had said that Ran had just arrived a few days ago so Pak remained quiet while they caught up a bit. She'd asked, in a round about manner, about some of Bao's other offspring and he'd answered but she'd yet to meet any of them. She still wasn't sure if she wanted to or not. It wasn't that she wanted keep Bao to herself or anything, Pak just didn't want to be judged.
She sniggered a little at Ran's theory.
"I'm not sure Bao helps that theory."
Her maker had a very pretty face and very pretty hands. She didn't think that he'd ever be called feminine and there was no questioning he was a man but he didn't qualify as butch. Sizing Ran up she wasn't sure he exactly qualified as butch, again not feminine and not 'pretty' but not butch.
The mention of computers got her attention; it was something else she wouldn't have expected of Anantya. Of course they couldn't all still be living in the dark ages, she just figured they would mostly buy off the rack and hire people to put in their wifi.
"What kind of programing?"
She couldn't help but ask, it was an occupational hazard. Fortunately the ninja idea and Mara's laugh kept her from going off on a tangent.
"Pink is the new black."
A trouble maker? That wasn't much of a surprise. Pak was slightly jealous thought. When she caused trouble people always knew it was her, well at least the people she would take that kind of liberty with. Her expression was completely neutral but she looked up at her 'uncle'.
"Can I borrow you then?"
Maybe he could be turned lose on Kem or Eiryk ... that would be interesting.
He shouldn't tease Amir so badly when he wasn't around to retaliate but who was he kidding? Mara was right here and Ran was convinced Amir's spies were everywhere. No doubt word of this would reach his creator and Amir would find something unpleasant to repay him with. Ran supposed he was sort of sick and twisted, but he was actually looking forward to it.
He shrugged at Pak. "Any kind of programming. I'm no computer genius but I can talk to a machine or three."
Ran realized Pak had avoided talking about herself almost exclusively, while asking for a lot of information about Ran. Ran was naturally an open sort of person, so he recognized pretty quickly the opposite trait in others. It didn't particularly bother him personally but he didn't see how Pakpao would ever achieve any sort of closeness with someone if she weren't willing to open up a bit.
Maybe that was why Mara wanted them to meet though. Ran's personality, if it didn't turn someone off immediately, tended to engender trust and affection. Amir was undead proof. he might abuse Ran on a regular basis, but it was the abuse of love. Ran knew it.
He raised dark blue eyebrows at Pakpao whens he asked to borrow him. "Borrow me? Sure. What for? Is it going to cause trouble? I mean, trouble is good but I'm kind of supposed to be on my best behavior here and you're not um, exactly playing for the same team as me."
Ran glanced at Mara. He was well aware that any pranks pulled on fellow Anantya were not necessary acts of war. The same couldn't be said for pranks played upon other Clans. Ran might be the rebellious sort but he wasn't the kind to cause warfare.
There had been that one time, but it hadn't been intentional. And he'd talked his way out of it... kind of. After he'd nearly gotten Amir burned as a witch.
"And do they talk back?â€ It wasn't a joke, Pak meant it quite seriously. Big or small, network or stand alone, a computer would talk back and tell you what the situation was. You just had to listen right. "If you ever get stuck I might be able to help... as long as it doesn't require a security clearance you know.â€
Obviously if it was clan business she couldn't be involved but she didn't feel bad making the offer of assistance. It wasn't something she'd offer just anyone either, she wasn't an IT support desk. Slowly she was extending the definition of 'family' to incorporate Bao, Amir and Mara ... a bit. This was more that he was Mara's friend not just someone in the same clan or someone she shared a creator with. And since she was very -very- good with computers, there were better certainly but she wasn't a slouch, Pak would offer that assistance to a friend.
"And before you ask, I am that good."
It was a T-Rex thing. You had to have a little bit of ego, a little bit of arrogance to run with the big boys. Sometimes it showed. Sometimes it showed a lot.
She considered her options with Ran. He wasn't exactly subtle and as the people Pak tended to mess with didn't know him it was possible they'd take any trouble started by him the wrong way, even Eiryk had his limits.
"I don't know yet. Maybe just a distraction. I promise to keep you posted and not throw you under a bus without at least a little veto power."
Plans took time. Other than that she couldn't quite remember whose turn it was to get who.
It was funny the longer they walked and talked the less aware of Ran's rather outrageous appearance she became. It pretty clearly became apparent that, it was just who he was and it suited him. A tiny part of Pak envied that, she didn't have quite as much courage with her appearance.
"That would be nice," Ran replied when Pakpao offered her hypothetical computer programming assistance. He never turned down offers like that. He wasn't working on any programming projects at the moment but you never knew when it would be handy to call in a favor from an expert.
A distraction, huh? "What sort of distraction? I really need to know the nature of the trick if I'm going to lend you my own expertise."
Ran wiggled his eyebrows at Pakpao, ignoring Mara's pointed cough. Ran shrugged. "What can I say, you're the programming aficionado but I've rarely ben beaten when it comes to troublemaking. We're talking epic proportions here."
Mara finally laughed and looked at Pak. "Be careful what you wish for," she cautioned. "Ran isn't exaggerating. You might think you're asking for a grenade but you're going to get an atom bomb. Ask Amir some time."
Ran grinned. "Oh, no need to ask Amir. I'll gladly confess to anything I was responsible for."
He took a certain amount of pride in his ability to cause mayhem. And no small measure in his ability to get back out of it again. Mara laughed again. "But it's a lot more fun to hear Amir tell it," she pointed out.
"Oh you do have a point. He gets all broody and scowl-y and honestly, all dark and pretty. If he starts sparkling I'm going to pull a muscle laughing."
He laughed at that idea, too, totally unconcerned about his fangs. They were impossible to hide but really, most people were so distracted by his overall look the pointed teeth never even hit the radar and if they did, they were just taken in stride.
As they passed a shop, Ran caught a whiff of the food and stopped. "Oh. Ethiopian. Can we go in?"
Food was another language, after all. Ran enjoyed eating and had explored many kinds of cuisines. He knew Mara wouldn't mind but he wasn't sure about Pak. This place was a tiny little cafe-style restaurant though, way casual. It only had a few tables and he doubted they even really needed to sit by the looks of the food they were making.
She was also glad that he more or less accepted her offer. Even if he never took her up on it, it had been the polite thing to do. Some people wouldn't have for one reason or another, vanity, pride, they just didn't believe women could manage coding, whatever. Apparently Ran was above that.
It was distressingly easy to like Ran, Pak realized about then. Some people just had an easiness about them that clicked. She laughed lightly.
"OK how about I just call you for a consult. I have two targets and need something unexpected that doesn't connect back to me."
You used your resources, and as she didn't currently have a plan maybe she could get some help.
Again she watched the little by play between he and Mara. Even though she didn't share these memories, and really had trouble imagining Amir as a storyteller (although, she had no issues imagining him as broody and scowly), she didn't feel like an outsider as they discussed it.
"Story time with grand dad? That might be fun."
Pak both grinned and rolled her eyes, goofing around with him. It was hard not to laugh at the idea of a sparkley Amir though. It was far too easy to imagine. But, as she didn't think she was Amir's favorite person, he didn't hate her, Pak had that much confidence, but she had evidence that she rubbed him the wrong way from time to time, she didn't want to push her luck.
She smelled the food as well, it wasn't something she was terribly familiar with. Although Pak ate only rarely she didn't mind making an exception here and there.
"Sure, it smells good."
If nothing else it might be warm in there. Not that she'd been shivering cold or anything but warm would be nice.
"Oh yes," Mara said. "I don't come cheap."
"No, Amir's taught you too well."
Mara smiled innocently. "I choose my sides carefully."
Ran chuckled. They all seemed agreed that Ethiopian food would be good, so Ran opened the door for Mara and Pakpao. The man behind the counter greeted them enthusiastically. Ran noted that his accent was definitely Ethiopian, as was his appearance. He greeted the man in Amharic, which may or may not have been his native language but was the official language of Ethiopia so it was a good starting point.
The man's name was Mulu, and he had lived in Nachton for two years with his wife, who was in the kitchen cooking. She smiled cheerfully at them and waved, and expressed surprise, the same as Mulu, to hear her native language being spoken fluently by a man with blue hair and biohazard contacts. Ran was used to that.
After a brief conversation he asked them to recommend something to eat, since they clearly knew what they were doing. Mulu waved a hand at him and told them to have a seat, they would provide food.
Ran loved that sort of situation. he trusted the two to make them a decent meal and didn't care about the cost, himself. He loved to try new things. He brought Pak and Mara to a table.
"They're going to bring something out for us to try," he said.
It didn't strike him as unusual that he'd immediately been comfortable with strangers; that was what he did. He might not be the best fighter or the most subtle spy, but Ran was a people person and he had his place.
"I hope you don't mind hot food," he said to Pak. Then he paused. "Or eating with your right hand. No silverware, and no left hands. It's disrespectful to God."
Ran looked piously upwards for a moment until Mara kicked him in the shin. "What?" he asked. "It is!"
Maybe not his god... but customs should be respected, after all. Another thing Amir and Mara had taught him. Almost immediately, Mulu came around to their table with three cups of tej, the strong honey-wine common in Ethiopia. It would definitely take the edge off the chilliness from the cool air outside. Ran raised his cup to Pak and said, "To future diversions."
That really was key as far as Pak was concerned.
The little restaurant was very homey and comfortable. Even though the spaces looked nothing a like it reminded her of her favorite hole in the wall Thai place. None of that sterile impersonal restaurant feeling.
She suppressed a little laugh when Ran immediately started a conversation in a language she didn't know at all. She couldn't even guess what it was. Pak turned to Mara, who seemed unsurprised by this turn of events.
"He does this a lot then?"
She asked as she loosened her scarf and removed her gloves. Pak would admit to being a bit jealous if that was true. Even having lived outside of Siam for better than a century Pak still felt a bond, some warmth, for anyone who would take the time and trouble to speak to her in her native language. No doubt this was a skill that opened a lot of doors for Ran. Bao had touched on the idea of the three orders in his clan. Pak had occasionally wondered if her maker was trying to mentally place her in one, but now she found herself trying to place Ran as they sat down. The idea was quickly shelved for later consideration.
As a leftie Pak wasn't thrilled with this no left hand thing. She was going to have to work on remember thing, it wasn't her tradition after all, and so wasn't ingrained into her. She didn't think it would be too big of an issue. She hopped. Well maybe God would forgive her if she slipped a little.
Again she laughed as Mara and Ran had a little tiff. It was, she thought, a bit like watching she and Kem interact, maybe not quite as violent. As her thoughts wandered a bit, Pak also reflected, that Mara seemed considerably more settled and relaxed than when she'd first met her friend.
Following his lead Pak also raised her cup and echoed the sentiments.
"And to leaving no evidence."
The wine, she thought it was wine, was sweet and spicy. It reminded her a little of Eiryk's mead. Even one small sip left her licking her lips.
"I have a friend who might like this.... what is it?"
While he conversed with Mulu, Mara addressed Pak's question with a nod and a smile. "He does," she said in a soft voice so as not to distract from Ran's conversation. "It's a little uncanny. It's like he's trying to make up for Amir's total lack of social graces."
Amir had social graces, of course, but one thing they could say about Ran was that he had it all over Amir in that department. But Amir had chosen the vampires he'd turned for a reason. Mara knew her purpose. Bao for his logic and his ability to both reason and utilize the legal system. Ran could talk to anyone, anywhere, about anything, and integrate himself like a family member.
Ran finished speaking, and they headed to their table. When Pak made her addition to his toast he laughed. "Oh we can leave evidence," he said, "but none of it's going to point to us."
As they sipped their wine, Ran explained the beverage to Pak.
"It's a honey wine," he said. "Little stronger than mead but kind of similar."
Their food came out shortly and Ran explained that, too. "The bread is injera," he said. "The stew served with it is called wat, and as you can see there are different varieties. You take a piece of injera like so, dip it in the wat, and..."
Ran demonstrated, popping the strip of bread in his mouth. It was spicy and delicious, full of lentils and herbs and meat that tasted like chicken.
"Mmm," he said, washing the swallow down with a little tej. "This is great."
"A very wise idea."
Pak grinned as Mara explained Ran a bit. It made sense, so far the man was almost the polar opposite of Amir. She wouldn't commit to anything without knowing Ran better, for all she knew he had the capability of being a vicious killer and totally driven and focused. It seemed unlikely just now, but it was possible.
"Just to Professor Plum in the Hallway with a lead pipe?"
Pak quipped. She didn't often show this much humor or lightness to someone she barley knew. While she might not be exactly what someone would call warm and fuzzy she was having fun and was letting it show. Maybe it was Mara's presence, maybe it was that she had vouched for him or maybe Ran's good humor was just infectious.
"Mmmm... then he'll like it, but berate it I'm sure."
Eiryk was very proud of his brewing abilities. No doubt he'd find something inferior about this. That or he'd already learned how to make it and just didn't.
This, Pak decided, was going to be messy. But she did her best to imitate Ran's actions, with only a brief hesitation when she started with her left hand and had to switch to her right. Once she managed though it was very good. The spiciness wasn't overwhelming and it didn't make her nose run.
"It is very good." She smiled her thanks a little shyly at the owner. "I never really eat when I travel. I'm sure I've missed quite a bit."
Not that she didn't try some of the local cuisine, especially when it would have been noticeable if she didn't eat something. But as a lot of her traveling had been before she had more than two coins to rub together, it had been an expense she could spare at the time.
"I don't think I'll make that mistake again."
She added as she tried another piece with equally satisfactory results.