AGE: About 15, but very careworn and aged-looking
OCCUPATION/RANK: A candidate at the Healing Den
HAIR: Brown with wisps of gray.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Tali is tall and thin, her skin browned and leathery from hours of hard work, under the sun and out of it; muscles lie unseen beneath her wrinkled skin. Her face is always troubled and she is haggard, aged beyond her years until she looked to be a woman in her late forties, although she is just a mere slip of a thing. Her thin, gray-brown hair is often knotted up in a bun, and the only exceptions are when she braids it or goes to bed, when it is set free.
VOICE QUALITY: Rough and hoarse. She is a woman of few words.
LITERACY: Tali came from a backwoods, and is inarticulate; she cannot read, she cannot write. In her journal, that was left unopened by the journalist, are only scribblings and sketches, no deep secrets or day-to-day writing.
CLOTHING: Tali is uninterested in the frilly dresses and skirts, and yet she is set in the old ways and is certain that pants and shirt would be unladylike and are better left to menfolk. What is left are work-dresses, brown or white cotton shifts that do nothing to flatter Tali's unflattering figure, or add prettiness to her image. They are not for anything other than getting work done. Boots or rough sandals are on her feet when she goes into public; in private, which is where she likes to be, she goes barefoot. Her feet are tough and calloused.
JEWELRY: Once upon a time, Tali was a younger girl and delighted in fancy dresses, hats, and sparkly jewelry. Older, inexperienced, and scarred by an unforgiving family and too much hard work and good sense, Tali believes jewelry is for the rich and the silly, and only worth garbage to her.
FAMILY: Tali once was part of hardworking family of numerous brothers and sisters, and a father and mother. Her mother and father are dead, now, her siblings either dead or grown up and forgotten. Tali is alone in a world that contains herself and her only friend, Sevai. It is a wonder that she even allows a single person into her life.
SEXUAL ORIENTATION/ RELATIONS: Tali is shocked to hear anything of this nature (and abhors Frenzies--^^), but is decidedly 'straight.'
PETS: Although Tali is stern and tough as nails, she is lonely, so a pet would probably do her good. However, she doesn't have any, although she counts the birds that come to eat seeds she spreads outside (she's got a soft side), and the cats she has to chase out of her home, and the neighbor's goat--??--that keeps getting into her garden, as acquaintances, which are as close as it's going to get.
SKILLS: Tali is a hard worker. She never quits a job and is very industrious. She can clean, and cook; garden, and mend anything, and of course she works in all other ways imaginable. She isn't very good at making friends.
PASTIMES/HOBBIES: Tali is normally working. Working drives away her loneliness, keeps her strong, and keeps her home in peak condition. Other than that, she eats healthy meals and sleeps dreamlessly, the sleep of the exhausted and the dead.
PERSONALITY: Tali is a stern, tough as nails person with an inner soft side. She is often worried and lonely but drives those emotions away with work. She tries not to become too attached to anything and focuses on staying alive rather than getting the most out of life.
Enchanted to see a small hole in the corridor, so small you almost passed it, you step through the doorway. A few paces ahead, a young girl, of about fifteen, hair hanging raggedly around her face, sweeps the dirt across the floor, mumbling savagely to herself about the 'never-ending muck'. Spotting you, she stands the broom against the wall, and stands proudly, hands on her hips. "Hello," you say, "Could you bring me the master or mistress of this cathair?"
The girl scoffs, and answers, "You're lookin' at her. What do you want?"
"Oh! I'm dreadfully sorry..I just wanted to know if you're housing a dragon yet? Or if you even plan to Imprint?"
"Of course, I want to Imprint. You cannot plan on Imprinting. I'd like to be a candidate at the Healing Den." Tali's intense eyes soften at the thought of dragons, but resume their usual hardness soon.
"I don't have a dragon here yet..are you one of those passing 'tourists'?"
"Sort of. I'm writing about the many cathairs I come across. If I may explore...?"
Tali sighs, and knots her dark hair into a bun, gray eyes a little troubled.
"Oh. Well...I wouldn't really like to stick your nose around my place..but I suppose..if you aren't just here to make fun or to take pictures.."
"Thank you, ma'am. I won't trouble you."
Just then, a gust of wind blows through the hall and past you, scattering all Tali's careful sweeping.
"Shards! Blasted wind! I can never get anything done around here...go on, traveler, before I blow me top and I decide that you better just kick yer own behind out the door!"
You nod briskly, and walk to another room in Tali's cathair. It seems to be her sleeping room. You quietly shut the large wooden door behind you, and glance at her unmade bed, a carven dresser, and a closet with a few well-loved dresses inside. Littered upon the floor are boots, a jacket, some leather pants, a helmet and goggles. On top of the dresser is a bottle of oil and a jar of numbing salve. Next to them is a small book you take to be her journal..a key lies underneath it. You ponder..should you open it? You decide against it, and leave the room. Entering another room, you find on a counter some bread, cheese, and a spicy-sweet drink. A note on tanned hide is left:
I have gone to visit Sevai, my dear friend. Feel free to ease your hunger-then, please leave.
You decide to follow her suggestion. Nothing else seems to be of interest in Tali's home.
Tali listened to the sound of the journalist's feet as they departed. She sighed. Tali had not really been gone, to visit her friend Sevai. She had truly hidden out of sight, in a room cut into the ceiling of her cathair. Tali didn't trust strangers. She never had, and as far as she was concerned, she never would. They were always prying into her life, always poking about where they didn't belong. And messing things up, dirtying her home that she had cleaned only hours before. Tali hefted another mighty sigh. Back to the drudgery of life.
Tali had been born on Earth, on a little farm in the United States, in one state called Illinois. Her family was the hardwork kind, her mother a stern and strict one, that never forgave an error and expected Tali, as a middle child, to make due with her awkward place in a large family, without any help. Her father was a silent man that did his work and never complained but was never with any kind or soft word for his children or wife. And his children (including Tali), in turn, never expected any praise or anything but the hard work to which they had been born. As soon as the children could walk and carry things they were set to work, starting out by mending things and cooking, and gradually adding the finding, chopping, carrying, and stacking of firewood, carrying water from the well and the river, and other such tasks, and then working in the garden, plowing the soil to make it rich and soft so that they could stoop for hours, planting seeds and painstakingly watering them, covering them up, and tending them day after day. When the children were strong enough, they worked in the fields, plowing and threshing and rendering crops from the hard earth. Tali learned to use a gun at the age of eight, and she and all her siblings could and would hunt or fish for their suppers. All this and Tali never once looked for anything other than what she got, never asked for anything more of life. She never jumped, ran, laughed, or sang. She never played with any of the other farm children that were allowed some time to be merry. She was a young woman at the age of eleven.
When Tali was twelve, she and her family watched as their crops withered and their animals died of thirst and hunger. They struggled through the drought until they couldn't any more. In the heat anything was prone to fire, and one day a careless cigarette dropped by a passing merchant set fire to the house and all that Tali and her family owned. Not one of them ever cried, even when the younger children all caught pneumonia and died. Even when Tali's oldest brothers were shot by accident by a hunter, or when a drunk man on horseback trampled Tali's eldest sister. But when Tali's father had a heart attack and died, his wife decided that her family had had enough of that kind of strife. She contacted her brother who worked with transportation, and he sent a message to the far away planet of Danach, which, Tali's uncle believed, held a new beginning that was just what his sister needed.
The dragons came. The simple countryfolk gaped in awe as they heard the massive wingbeats and spotted the gargantuan shadows of the draconic giants. Some of them crossed themselves, warding against evil, and others went into their houses and waited for the end of the world. Nothing like that happened. Tali watched as her mother, for once unsteady and afraid, board a dragon the color of the dried out wheat and lift her youngest children, those not dead, to sit in front of her, while she was in front of the rider. Tali was lifted onto a second dragon, one the color blue of what the river had been before it had dried up. It did not speak to her, and she did not answer it.
When Tali was fourteen, she had lived on Danach for a year, and found it to her liking. She had gone off on her own after her older siblings were married, determined not to be courted and carried off like a bag of potatoes, a prize. Her mother, even in her later years, continued to raise the rest of the children until they, too, decided to leave. She died, all alone, of a massive heart failure. Tali recalled thinking that she was finally free--Tali, not her mother. The thought still caused her guilt.
Tali had lived for many bitter years among a family who was too weary and stern to make the best of life and to teach their children what really mattered, not just about staying alive. At fifteen, she was an old woman made of hard outer shell, tough muscle, and a heart that still ached for the nourishment of love.
Tali very carefully edged out of her ceiling nook, backwards, until she was hanging by her fingertips, only a few inches from the ground. She let go, landing in a crouch and straightening without the difficulty you would expect from one who looked so old. Dusting herself off, Tali went to see what the journalist had messed up.
She visited her bedroom, first, crossing the bare stone floor to her bed where she had left the furs crumpled in a heap at the end, and straightening them to perfection, taught over the straw-filled mattress and under the grass-filled pillow. Tali never squandered her hard-earned money gleaned from her garden's crops on anything luxurious. Once in awhile she wished that her pillow was not quite so fragrant or damp or that her mattress did not poke her so at night, but she found contentment in the simplicity of work. Tali looked on the floor at the dragon-riding equipment she had bought once in a frenzy of excitement--something good would happen to her, at last!--but now they were just silly trinkets and she wished that her money had gone for food or warmer clothing. Just the same, Tali oiled and rubbed them down with a soft cloth, then folded the clothing and placed it in a rock shelf hewn into the wall, with the goggles, gloves, and hat on top. A brief memory, unbidden and unwelcome, flitted into her mind: a hot day of work, finding some relief in an ice-cold water from the well, looking up, hearing the thrum of a motor and seeing a plane, where a lady in goggles, hat, and scarf not unlike the dragonriding equivalent looked back down and smiled, and waved..Tali waved, too, not in the memory but in the presence, swatting it away, like a troublesome fly, with impatience. Those days were gone..and yet, in a way and through her own control of herself, still there, stronger than ever.
Next, Tali gathered the assortment of jars and bottles that lay scattered all over the floor from when she had dropped them, and placed them in a drawer of the little dresser that stood, massive and ugly, near her bed. Tali looked at the dresser, frowning thoughtfully. It was very ugly, but it had been very cheap. And then again, the plainest things often held for her the most ability to be used. Like herself. She was no beauty, and yet she was stronger and tougher than the fairest in the land. Tali laughed bitterly, and slammed the drawer shut.
A book fell from the dresser, a key left where the book had been on top of it. Tali stared. It had been a long time since she had opened that book of scribblings. They were childhood scribblings, rough sketches of where she had lived and her family, before the hardships--before the terrible hardships, anyway; her life was always full of hardships. Tali kicked the book and it slid under her bed.
"No use for memories," Tali said out loud, but her voice was hoarse and quiet. She bent down, got on her hands and knees and fished under the bed with one arm. Her callused fingers touched the rough leather cover, and she pulled the journal out, grabbed the key, and with trembling fingers and quavering heart, unlocked the journal.
A simple scene greeted her eyes; chickens pecking and scratching in the dirt for grubs and beetles. There was the chicken that as a younger girl Tali had favored, a brown hen, scrawny as they came, that she had named Henrietta. They had eaten Henrietta, before their home burned. Tali hadn't cared; she had been too hungry. Now, Tali smiled fondly at the penciled hen. She turned the page.
Her brothers and sisters stood, all in a row, varying emotions expressed on their faces. Her father and mother she could see at either end...it had been so long, that she had forgotten all of their faces. Now they came back to her with startling clarity. Tali wiped her eyes and dismissed the tears as dust.
There were more pictures; ones of her old home on Earth, ones of the animals they had, including cows, her favorite..they didn't have cows on Danach, it seemed, only those horribly ugly old ryanths. Tali hadn't raised an animal since her home in Illinois burned. There were pictures of the well and the cow pond that neighboring children had swum in...she had never...and pictures of the little town three miles east that her mother sometimes took her to, to buy fabric and thread and supplies that they couldn't make at the farm..she had always loved the little sweet shop, that she had gone into once as a small child, and the plump and motherly lady there gave her a licorice whip. It was delicious. Her mother had been a little offended that her child was being given free food--she was very much against charity, too proud--and Tali never visited the sweet shop again.
On the last page that had anything on it, before all the rest of the pages were blank, there was a very clear picture, well-drawn. Power radiated from the huge beasts in the picture, and Tali held her breath just to see the sketches. They were the dragons that had come to fetch her family. She didn't remember sketching that, or anything else, but it was so long ago, too long for an old woman-girl to remember. Tali shut the journal, and locked it carefully, placing the key in the shelf, under the riding equipment. She left her room.
Tali picked up her broom and returned to her sweeping. She'd gone for so long without remembering her home, but now she couldn't stop. The swish of the broom against the dust-covered rock floor became a monotonous rhythm that Tali didn't hear; she wasn't even paying attention to her sweeping, just moving the broom back and forth while she pondered the sketches. Finally, her mind returned to her work, and she finished sweeping, dumped the dust outside, and placed the broom inside a closet.
Tali changed out of her indoor work dress, and into one of a rougher material, stained with dirt and grass from kneeling in the garden. She went outside.
Five orbs shook themselves almost off the sands. Among them, the first to actuall shatter was on Kalinith's nest area, the last of her eggs. A forest green nose poked out, sniffed at the air, and rolled out of the shell in search of someone. Her dark-sailed wings clung into the shell, making her drag the mostly intact egg along with her. People laughed, but one wasn't laughing so much as chiding the green.
"Quanquath, you've got egg shell all over you. Let me get that off of your wings. Sit still you silly dragon!" Tali complained and fretted over the small green's inability to remain clean for half a minute. The shells off, finally, Quanquath looked deeply into the grey eyes of a girl far more aged than her years.
Will you draw me? It was such a simple question - but suddenly Tali realized that all her work, her diligence and training... it would pay off? She would be allowed to ride, because now...
She didn't waste any time before throwing her arms around the dragon. Tali was still just a girl after all, even if she'd been denied her childhood. Quanquath obviously intended to help regain some of her innocence.
Kalinith and Eniath's offspring - part two
Dark Green Quanquath (hard work, vietnamese) bonded to Tali
A dark skinned but standard sized (35 feet long) green, she will keep her rider from working herself to death - and will help remind her of the life everywhere.