Log:Caring And Feeding of a Troll

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Caring And Feeding of a Troll

Ardis and Zephyr

11 May, 2018

Ardis and Zephyr meet for the first time and get to know each other.


Jack's Cabin

Early afternoon in the Tamarack Falls Wilderness Preserve. It's a clear, beautiful day. No rain; snow becoming an ever more distant memory; and only the softest and puffiest of pale clouds drifting through the blue spread of the sky. Ardis is standing by the gate on the road that leads to Jack's cabin and stable. Car parked off to one side. She has big black sunglasses on, but by the movement of her head it looks like she's peering up the way for the first hint of a new arrival, having invited Zephyr to meet here and spend some time with Troll together.

Zephyr is not late. That's just not how things work when one has near perfect timing. Her little car, some eight years old perhaps, arrives at precisely the agreed upon time at the gate, pulling in just behind Ardis's own. Out from the car comes the woman with pale hair bound back in a loose pony tail, a dark purple shirt with burnished golden gears printed across the chest, and a pair of torn, close-fitting black jeans and chunky heeled boots. "Ardis?" she asks, smile already blooming.

There just might be a lot of smiling about to go down here. When Zephyr steps out of her car, which looks about as old as the one it's parked next to, although maybe fewer moth wings can be spotted lying around the trunk, Ardis smiles right back. She has a big, white, unself-conscious looking smile that shows quite a lot of teeth. Not in a threatening way, per se; just in a way that suggests she's never learned to manage it down. "Zephyr! Phenomenal to meet you." The scientist wears matte lipstick in oxblood, a charcoal gray T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, black duffle coat, black jeans, and black boots. Boots and jeans already spattered with dirt and bits of foliage, like maybe she's already done some walking today.

"That is some fantastic lipstick!" Zephyr speaks up, closing the gap between them. "Where did you get it?" The scientist is given a quick look over while hurried steps are bring Zephyr into personal-space-invasion range. There's a hug attempted, as if the two were not strangers that are meeting for the first time, and likely a kiss given to a cheek if Ardis isn't running away yet. "Thank you soooo much for reaching out. This has got to be better than meeting someone at a bar."

"Let's!" Zephyr agrees with the suggestion that they visit the mutual horse. She keeps an arm slung around Ardis's waist, hand on the other woman's side, and starts walking through the gate. "It's a bit of a drive out here, but it's so pretty right now. Did you see the row of trees with all the red blooms growing on them on the way? I think that's my favorite part for now, but I think that will change season to season." There were so many questions that Zephyr's sure to leave some of them out by accident. "I ran into Jack at that craft store in downtown, the tiny one with the cramped eyes. I mean, not literally ran into but, you know. And do I come here often?"

Zephyr turns her head towards Ardis and her glossy lips grow into a teasing grin. "Are you hitting on me already, Ardis, darling?" is asked. The flutter of lashes is for comedic value. "How did you meet our friend Jack?"

"Do you mean the red maples?" asks Ardis. She seems to want to be precise about just what those trees might be. "They are beautiful, aren't they? Are you new to the area? Spring is extraordinary here. Magical, even." This last word comes out without a hint of irony; just one more compliment for the season. Like 'very good and special' is all that it means to the scientist. As they walk through the gate and Zephyr asks her own question, she starts to laugh. "I could be persuaded," she answers, quite cheerfully. It's hard to tell if she's looking at Zephyr or not with those sunglasses on; certainly, she seems comfortable enough. "I'd dropped into CAT-22 for coffee and a book when Jack came by."

"If you showed me timber from a tree, I could probably tell you what kind of tree it was," Zephyr admits, "but just from the outside with the leaves? I have no idea." At being told persuasion was possible, Zephyr does hug herslef closer to Ardis, but it lasts only for a pair of steps before she's resumed a more loose half-hug walk. "I moved here from Seattle at the end of last year. Still trying to get my bearings. And you, my darling... look far more sophisticated than I would expect of a local."

Ardis responds, "That's odd." She pulls away just a little bit, not dislodging herself from the half-hug or taking her own arm from Zephyr's shoulders, to get a better look at the woman that she's walking next to. The sunshine illuminates the pale sheet of Zephyr's hair. "Why do you know wood so well?" she wants to know. But as for their origins, she simply smiles. "Why," she says, "what do you expect of a local?" One eyebrow goes up just a little bit, looking rather teasing, although the tone of her voice doesn't change. "It's true," she admits then, "that I'm not from Tamarack Falls. But I don't come from a big city, either. I was born in New Hampshire. In Bow." Whatever her study of the other woman reveals, it only makes that big white smile grow even bigger. "But what a change for you!"

"Un-ironic flannel," Zephyr answers without hesitation, whether being baited or not. She turns her head back towards Ardis, gives a quick wink, and continues on with the conversation. "I work with wood and metal frequently in my hobbies and employment. Restoring old clocks usually keeps me liquid through the year, even if my passion is more in mechanical wonders and steampunk fashion for cosplay and conventions. What do you do when not tending to horses?"

"How exciting!" says Ardis. She sounds as though she means that; no irony here. "Are you interested in time? Do you belong to the Long Now Foundation? Have you ever built a perpetual motion machine?" The words tumble out of her before she seems to catch on that Zephyr indicated something else was her passion. "But then... The things that you build for your costumes... Do they work?" she asks, still sounding entirely sincere. As for her own occupation, she answers, as they walk through the riot of flowers just beginning to push color back into the landscape after a long winter toward the stable, "I'm an entomologist. But all the natural sciences interest me."

"The Long What?" Zephyr asks, apparently knowing nothing about whatever it is that Ardis is on about. "Does perpetual motion really exist?" is asked with some further skepticism, her brow furrowed to go with it. "I am pretty good at making things that work, yes. Sometimes the clockwork is just for appearance, though. A mechanical dog that takes simple commands doesn't really have a brain of springs and gears, after all, and you have to hide the more modern robotics behind the facade of brass." While tromping through the flowers, "Entomologist. You study the origin of words? No! No! Bugs! That one's bugs, right?"

"True perpetual motion?" asks Ardis. "We're unlikely to find it. But a target is instructive regardless, isn't it?" She reaches up to drag a loose lock of black hair out of her face, fighting the spring breeze. "The Long Now... Well!" Here she laughs. A bright, unstudied sound. "It's a group of people who want to build a 10,000-year clock in the desert. Among other things." She beams over her shoulder at Zephyr as the pair step around a rock in the path. "I'd like to see your work," she says. "And yes, bugs, not words. Though there's nothing wrong with words. But they can't crawl or fly or roll up in a little ball, can they?"

"Words can do all those things. Words can crawl under your skin, wriggle into your mind. You can write them on paper, crumple it, throw it through the air," Zephyr points out. "A 10,000-year clock, though. That's a goal, to be sure. But no, it's not a group I belong to." Zeph's arm drops away from Ardis and she leans a bit away and looks the woman over. "Are you more interested in things mechanical, or being put into a custom corset and dress?" she asks. "Either way, you're welcome to come see my work. All Wound Up, in the Eastern Markets."

Ardis smiles at her. "Metaphorically," she says, "words can do those things. Insects can do those things, actually. There is a difference." Then she laughs again. "Though I do love words, too." She slips away and starts to walk a little more quickly toward the stable. The pasture is already in view, a vast expanse of fresh green grass, still a little bit damp from the morning dew, though Troll doesn't seem to be out at the moment. "The former!" she says, looking back at Zephyr. "I don't prefer to be looked at... Ordinarily." There's that big, sunshine-catching grin again. "The Eastern Markets. Yes-- I'll look for you!"

"Is there a difference between reality and metaphor? Between fiction and non-fiction? Seems like every year we find out something we held as scientific truth is proven false as our understanding of reality changes." It's a rhetorical statement more than an argument, Zephyr's look off to the side and far away. She nearly stumbles in a small dip in the ground for her lack of attention!

"I can see that. You not wanting to be seen. It makes it easier to observe, to not influence the experiment around you, right?" Zephyr isn't judging, just calling her initial impression. "How long have you been in town, Ardis?"

"Careful!" Ardis cries out. She darts back and puts a hand on Zephyr's arm as if it were likely that the clockwork-maker would stumble again. Keeps it there, supportive, as she starts to walk down the path again, head turning back and forth as she scans the way ahead and the woman at her side. She doesn't address the difference between reality and metaphor, perhaps caught up in the small drama of that little dip in the dusty earth. "You can't help but influence things," she acknowledges, though, with a slightly smaller smile than before. "No matter whether you want to or not." Then the smile grows back to its usual size. "I came here... Yes. It would have been last July. Right around my birthday."

There's a grateful smile, if a little embarrassed, given for Ardis's supportive gesture. "A July birthday? Are you a fan of large celebrations? Or... No, I think you might be more than quiet dinner with a few close friends sort." Zephyr continues towards the horse without further incident, giving Ardis's hand a squeeze before pulling away to retrieve a bucket of oats for the animal.

"If you haven't run back to Seattle by July," says Ardis, cheerfully, "perhaps you'll find out!" She watches Zephyr go to fetch oats for Troll. "How about you, Zephyr? When is your birthday?" After calling her question out to the other woman, she heads over to the horse's water trough to check the amount and cleanliness of the water inside.

"You just missed mine. It was back in April." Coming back with the oats she fills the feed trough for the horse and then hangs the bucket back on whatever nail holds it. "I don't imagine I'll have a reason to run away in two months. So I'll just wriggle myself into your birthday festivities." Her grin is bright.

"April!" Ardis looks disappointed. She tips the old water out and refills the trough with a nearby hose. Standing over the thing as it slowly starts to fill up again, she says, "Well... There are always half-birthdays. And of course, you'll be invited! Anyone that Troll likes will be welcome to attend." Although what sort of 'festivities' Ardis might possibly have planned is a little hard to guess.

Zephyr just might have a flash of fear that Ardis's birthday will involve a tea party in the middle of a bug-infested pit. But that goes away very quickly. "Well, half birthdays in October could be a thing, but we could just roll that into a Halloween party. Do you do Halloween parties?" Reaching behid herself, Zeph tugs on her ponytail to tighten it in the grip of the scrunchy.

"Oh, yes," says Ardis. "If there's one about! I don't recall any parties of note taking place around here at Halloween last year." Water continues to run into the trough. She tests it with a finger and winces slightly; it must still be very cold. "But change is good for places like this." She smiles up at Zephyr, watching her tighten that light ponytail.

Pursing her lips for just a heartbeat of time, Zephyr launches into, "If you could change one thing in this area, what would it be?" Waving her hands around, the changeling encompasses the world around them in her gesture. "Any one thing, as long as it would make the world around you a better place in your opinion." There are no sunglasses on her nose to hide her eyes, and the curiosity of them burns bright.

Neither the question nor the intensity of Zephyr's gaze seem to put Ardis off. In fact: she takes her own sunglasses off and folds them to the collar of her T-shirt, revealing large black eyes that stare straight back at the blonde. There's a kind of dark glitter to that stare. Curiosity, or simply the activity that that question provoked? Ardis shuts off the water, saying, rather thoughtfully, "Hmmm!" before she begins to coil the hose up again. Heavy and slippery, the long loops of rubber fight the compressing movements of her hands. "This area... " Coil, coil. "Well," she says, after a moment or two for thought. "One finds the same difficulties here as in many small towns. Too little for those who live here to learn and to do. Too few ways to earn a living. Too little reason to stay and perpetuate the history of the town. Too many reasons to leave." That's not exactly one thing that would make Tamarack Falls--or Fort Brunsett--a better place, but perhaps it's already beginning to be clear in which direction Ardis' mind is turning.

"Lovely," Zephyr murmurs when Ardis reveals those eyes, the gaze met without any form of flinching away. "And how would you change that?" she asks, driving towards an answer now that Ardis has framed the problem she'll be addressing. or multiple problems, depending on how one views it all. She hooks her thumbs into her pockets.

"There are jobs you can do from anywhere," says Ardis. She hangs the water hose up on its hook. "And there are many things unique to this place, beautiful things... The trees, the flowers, the earth, the animals, the birds, the insects... The clean air... The dark skies at night... " She looks up, though it's the middle of the afternoon, as if the stars were right overhead. "These can all be invested in. Not everyone is fortunate enough to possess such treasures." Looking back down at Zephyr, she grins, broader and brighter than ever. "Not that they belong to anyone!" After a little laughter, her thought narrows down enough to say, "Personally, I'm fond of the old observatory. If it were better supplied and used, it would greatly gratify me."

"There's an observatory?" Zephyr asks. She perks right up (not that she was looking particularly downtrodden) at hearing this. "Well, now I think I know where we shall have to have our second date, darling!" There was a first? "I would like to see this; and you can tell me your plans to ensure it's used more often, in the way it's supposed to be." Because Dawn Court.

"Well!" says Ardis. "Then do something we shall." She follows Zephyr over towards Troll's stall. "Yes," she answers. "You, too, I should think? You're familiar with horses, aren't you? You must be, if you volunteered to help with Troll." Another bright smile at Zephyr. Then she steps into the horse's stall and reaches up to pat the horse's smooth withers, stroking in a gentle, repetitive way. "Hello, your magnificence," she says. "And just what would you care to do today?"

To this, Zephyr shakes her head negative. "Nah. I'm doing this in exchange for lessons. Jack says I'm too much a danger to myself just yet to ride when he's not around." While Ardis takes the approach of talking to the horse, Zephyr goes to the side of the creature and gives it a few long pets.

That makes Ardis laugh. "Well," she says. "Then what interested you in taking care of Troll? Have you wanted to learn to ride for a long time?" Hand still smoothing gentle circles over Troll's soft hide. She keeps to the side of the horse where he can see her easily. "I think Troll would like some time out of doors," she says, "whether anyone rides him or not. We can take him to the pasture for a while?"

"Sure," Zephyr agrees on letting the horse run around in the pasture for a bit. "I've wanted a horse since I was a little girl. But I've never lived anywhere where that was practical. So, Jack will teach me to care for horses and ride one and maybe...maybe some day, I'll get myself one." Zeph shrugs. "But for now, I don't think my landlord would like me having a horse that eats all the roses."

Ardis attaches Troll's lead and starts to walk the horse out of the stable. "I'm sure you could stable a horse somewhere," she says. "There are so many good places for horses out here. It's a wonderful plan." She gives Zephyr an encouraging smile as they head back out through the door to the sunnier area of the pasture.

With a laugh, Zephyr assures, "I have plenty to keep me busy before I go buying a horse. What about you? Why are you doing this?" Ardis seems to be the more experienced of the two with Troll, so Zeph seems happy to follow the other woman's lead for now.

"Because Troll is such good company!" answers Ardis straightaway with a big grin. Once they reach the pasture, she lets Troll off the lead and he canters away, straight to the border of the pasture and back before he starts to browse on the grass and the clover. "I like animals. All kinds."

"Not just the creepy-crawly ones, huh?" Zephyr flashes another grin at Ardis. It's around then that her pocket starts to make some noise. Or rather, the phone in said pocket does. She pulls it out, taps the screen. "And that, my darling Ardis, is my warning that I have an appointment with a customer I need to leave for. But it has been fab-u-lous meeting you!"

"Anything that walks, crawls, flies... Swims... " says Ardis. After that message shows up on Zephyr's phone, she nods. She's straightening out the lead and wrapping it around one hand. "It's been a dream," she answers, still smiling brightly. "Absolutely. Please-- Don't be tardy on my account! I'm sure that we'll see each other again soon."