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Created on 2014-03-02 19:21:50 (#2170710), last updated 2014-03-29 (182 weeks ago)

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Character Info
: Kelis
Age: 20
Gender: female
Birthplace: Blue Diamond Hold territory

Let's get this out of the way: Kelis accepted Search because she's the Hold slut and was going to get her throat cut the next time she slept with the wrong woman's man. She's smart enough to know when to retreat. Also, she was bored. Being bored is the second worst thing in the world, just behind being ignored. She's very bad at accepting either. When she's bored and ignored she goes looking for entertainment and her impulse control is not what you would call good.

Her saving grace, maybe, is that she isn't petulant about it. Avaricious, vain, and selfish, yes, but she's never in her life seen pouting or throwing a fit do her any bit of good. Consequently she approaches life with good humor and a bizarre sort of innocence. It's easy to see her as a hard-eyed seductress, especially if you're one of the women she's cuckqueaned, but the truth is there's no malice in it. She does what she does because she wants to. Period. She doesn't carry grudges and she doesn't act out of spite -- all her worst acts and many of her best are done from pure and simple hedonism. If asked to justify herself, well, she'd probably laugh and change the subject. But is it really her fault, if a woman doesn't provide for her husband's needs and forces him to stray? It isn't as if she's taking anything. She's never blackmailed a lover, nor tried to have his child, nor misled a man into thinking they might marry. (Really, she prefers the ones who are already married. Fewer misunderstandings that way.) She just likes to have fun and own nice things.

Adjusting to life in the Weyr is going to be a shock in some ways, but only some. Despite her talent at filling her free time, Kelis isn't a stranger to hard work. She's had a few turns of leisure, but she grew up in a goatherd's croft. Keeping house, tending beasts, and nursing the sick and injured are all tasks she's known from the cradle, and those jobs have to be done no matter where on Pern you are.


Kelis was born in Sain's Valley, a settlement of about a dozen families beholden to -- but quite some distance from -- Blue Diamond Hold. The same dozen families have lived there for over a century, first as miners trying to tap one end of a rich coal vein, then later as goat herders, after poison air in the mine killed two score men in less than two turns. No one's ever accused the Sainians of giving up easily.

The Pernese have the notion that authority's best inherited, and it so happens that Kelis' great-great or so grandfather lead the pioneers who staked out the scrubby valley and surrounding hills; as a consequence, it's always been a man of Kelis's blood that the settlement's looked to for guidance. She's something like a Holder's daughter, you could say, except that all her father rules is a handful of neighbors and a couple of thousand goats. Kelis spent her first 16 turns there, minding the house and herds, raising the younger siblings and quarreling with the olders, wondering which cousin she was going to marry. And that's where she would have stayed if it hadn't been for Master Miner Elesh.

Born way up North and trained at Landing itself, Elesh was quite possibly the most exotic thing to ever come to the Valley. Balding and past forty, he'd spent most of his life cobbling together ancient hints and hands-on knowledge into a new process* for production of the stinking monya that's needed for making agenothree. (He explained it to Kelis, frequently. There were diagrams. She smiled and made encouraging noises and concentrated on her sewing. ) Having proved that it worked, he need to prove its worth, and possibly make an obscene amount of money in the doing. Sain's Valley had plenty of room for a factory, sure, put it just over the ridge and you didn't even have to worry about the wind blowing something noxious onto the houses. But more important than that, it had the old, ill-omened mine, and the gas that had killed so many. That gas turned out to be vital to Elesh's process.

So there was a great deal of mostly-useless property at stake, and potentially a vast amount of very useful money. Negotiations took months, but in the end the deal was sealed the old-fashioned way: Kelis married Elesh. She wasn't the oldest daughter, but she was the oldest one unmarried; 16 was a little on the young side, but just a little, and besides, she was agitating for it. There's a certain glamor in being a married woman with a household of her own, however small, instead of being her mother's daughter and defacto babysitter. And Elesh was an important man no matter if his plans succeeded or failed. He wore a master's knot on his shoulder and told stories of far-away places, and he had apartments in Blue Diamond Hold and the Minecraft Hall both. Kelis would travel with him and live somewhere that didn't smell of goat!

At 17, she was a widow.

Ground crew, it turns out, isn't a safe job. Those first turns of the Pass? No one knew what they were doing, not in the Holds. No one on Elesh's crew knew what a deep burrow looked like, the signs that Thread was undermining the very ground itself. Elesh stepped, and the earth gave way beneath him, and --

Kelis wasn't there, of course. She was home in their Hall quarters and it was hours later that the crew chief and the Masterminer himself came to tell her what had happened. Another man had been close enough and brave enough to get to him in time and give him mercy. They told her that. She smiled and thanked them politely, and when they finally left her be she looked around the apartment and wondered if she ought to lay out a different set of clothes for Elesh to use when he got him. The Masterminer's wife found her sitting on the edge of her big bed holding a Gather jacket, in tears because the hem had come loose at the back and she couldn't find her shears. (The Masterminer got an earful that night for believing the girl when she'd said she was fine.)

They hadn't been a love match, but Kelis hadn't been raised to think romantic love had anything to do with marriage. Elesh was a good husband, and the life he and Kelis had ahead of them was one she'd just gotten used to. (Looking back, Kelis thinks she might not have been entirely honest with herself. She hadn't expected love, but was friendship anything less? Elesh had been her friend.) Their children were supposed to take over the factory at Sain's Valley, and they hadn't even had time to make children. Twice in that turn and a bit she'd been married, her courses had been late and then flowed heavily, and the Healers said that might be a sign that she'd tried to make a baby but hadn't quite managed. It was natural, they said, and healthy, and a strong girl her age could expect an easy time of it when she finally caught. But she'd run out of time, so so much for that.

(She did get pregnant finally, about a turn ago. That's why she has a firelizard, a dainty blue named Summer. His egg was hush-money from the man who was most likely the father. When he'd given it to her, she'd privately thought he was a fool, though a charming one. She'd've done what he was asking for free -- she didn't want his baby, or anyone's at all. But she took the gift graciously and went to see the old woman who sold the medicines the Healers wouldn't. A month later, when she'd recovered enough from the abortifacient to think clearly, she realized she'd been the fool. She should have held out for a gold egg at the very least.)

Whatever her feelings about Elesh really were, her rebound was spectacular. She was at the end of the day a woman of means. Modest means, but still a world away from the rural life she'd left. She was heir to none of the land or work that Elesh had owned -- she was in his will mainly as conservatrix for their children. The contract that deeded the land to Elesh hadn't been written so carefully after all, it turns out, and was ambiguous about what would be done after the sudden death of the man in charge, who was also owner of the buildings and the chemmical process itself. (That contract is still being adjudicated, with Blue Diamond, the Minecraft, and Sain's Valley all in dispute, and the researchers at Landing making noises. It's clear that however it turns out, though, Kelis will be the heir to precisely none of it.) But even with that oversight she was undisputed mistress of her husband's homes in Hall and Hold, all their household things, and enough money that, carefully managed, she would be secure for turns to come, until she could remarry.

Much to her displeasure, the Masterminer took it upon himself to see to that security. The Craft itself manages her annuity and Kelis receives an allowance. A comfortable one, but still, an allowance.

Remarrying is easier said than done, too. She's well-off but not rich, pretty enough but not beautiful, and neither educated nor particularly accomplished. And, of course, she's not a virgin. Men die faster than women in the dangerous Pass and in the Minecraft, too, and it's a buyer's market for husbands seeking wives. None of the offers she's gotten -- there have been only a few -- were worth the time to think about. But Kelis didn't need to marry. In her time with Elesh, brief as it was, she'd learned what was really important to her. She liked sex and she liked having nice things, and she knew how to get both of them from men.

Married men, in particular.

Not terribly pretty and not terribly accomplished might hurt her in the marriage market, but neither of those things matter much when she's just seeking a companion. A pretty-enough young woman who listens well and giggles becomingly, and makes it very clear what she wants to do, can go a long way towards finding friendship. Warm, temporary, lucrative friendship, with fun and presents. That's how she's spent the last few years. Making ... friends.

And enemies, among the older women and no few men who don't find easy sex tempting. Young, unmarried women find her fascinating. She independent and glamorous and scandalous! She's definitely one of the more interesting things that's happened in Blue Diamond Hold in their lifetimes. Their mothers would happily see her dead. Literally. Things have been said, and a few tokens of earnestness have wound up at her door. The Hold authorities are not terribly concerned with the safety of a whore who lacks the wit to restrain herself.

When she was 16, just a month or two after she'd come to Blue Diamond with Elesh, a Search rider had called her out of a crowd. His dragon liked her, the man had said. His dragon had Searched her and wanted her to come to Dorado Weyr to be a Candidate. Of course she said no, and thank you! She was a married woman, not a girl who could run off to be a wild dragonrider. (She said no after she had a good long pet of the dragon's snout. She'd never even seen one on the ground back at the Valley, and here she was, being invited to touch! The green hide was nothing like she expected, suede-like, not slick at all despite how the dragon nearly glowed.) So this time, when the Searchriders came, Kelis walked up to the dragons without fear and made sure they had a good long look and smell at her. And of course when the rider said she'd been Searched, she said 'yes.' Actually she said it before the woman had finished speaking.

Attitude towards Search/Impression: Cautiously optimistic. Thread killed her husband, yes, but he was on solid ground at the time so as she sees it not being a rider is no guarantee that you'll be safe. And the life of a dragonrider has its appeal. She's working mostly on teaching ballads and Holder gossip, but she thinks it's pretty certain no one tells dragonwomen who they can sleep with or where they can go. And besides, it's not as if she has to Impress. Lots of people don't, she's heard, but the Weyr will let you stay on if you're useful or well-liked. And Kelis is very good at making herself liked, by the right people.

*[Elesh re-invented the Haber Process, which produces ammonia on an industrial scale. Ammonia is used to produce HNO3, so this is a big deal to Pern. I'm leaving it ambiguous as to whether or not Elesh's invention survived his death, because if it did then Pern's looking at a possible agricultural revolution from nitrogenous fertilizer. Collecting the methane that's needed for the job is probably the limiting factor -- that's what's in the mine in Sain's Valley, but I don't think the Pernese can specifically mine for natural gas yet. ]

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